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This programme is designed to equip you with a range of contemporary ecological and transferable skills that will provide an invaluable basis for your career.
This programme is studied on campus.
Our MSc programme provides flexibility to enable you to gain knowledge and skills to meet your career aspirations, whether in research or as a practising ecologist. The programme runs through a full year, starting with a field course and culminating in a major research project. You will have the opportunity to gain hands on experience of everything from field survey to chairing discussions, from statistics and modelling to report writing and from identifying important ecological questions to researching them and writing a scientific paper. Previous graduates have gone on to the top of their chosen profession in research, consultancy, conservation, policy, education and advocacy.
You will get to know your peers at the outset on a week-long field research skills course held at our field centre in the stunning surroundings of Bettyhill on the north coast of Sutherland. This is followed by core training in plant community ecology, animal population ecology, GIS and experimental design and analysis (which includes use of R). Thereafter, you select from our broad palette of courses. Students wishing to gain research training may take advantage of our renowned advanced statistics course and join our informal ecology research group seminars throughout the year. Those interested in applied ecology may choose to study catchment management, marine spatial management and conservation management planning, amongst others. A key course for those aiming to work in consultancy is Environmental Impact Assessment. The opportunity to place your ecological study in a broader, interdisciplinary context is provided through a very popular course on ecology, conservation and society.
In the final semester you will all complete a research project which enables you to develop expertise and contacts in a topic of your own choosing. Preparation may begin as early in the year as you like, as you discuss ideas with staff and external organisations.
This course is uniquely tailored for biologists and will
provide students with the required background and skills relevant to modern
ecology and biology. The unique format of example-led lectures and real-world
based practicals will provide you with a foundation to become confident and
proficient in dealing with real data. Throughout this course, we will introduce
you to using the programming language R (an industry standard) to implement
modern statistical modelling techniques. You will use the flexible linear and
generalised modelling framework to analyse biological data.
Integrated lectures, field trips, data exercises and discussions provide a broad overview of theoretical plant ecology and its practical applications. You will participate in data collection in sand dune, heathland and woodland habitats becoming familiar with a range of plant species. Key skills in vegetation survey, monitoring and research are taught. Class field data are used as the basis for understanding ecological processes and for learning vegetation analysis methods. You will practice writing skills in a data report and essay, supported by “clinics” and by individual help to students. Detailed feedback helps your writing in subsequent courses.
The course is structured as a series of weekly themes, which each reflect areas of current research in animal ecology. The content of the course is research-based, drawing on case studies from research-active staff within the School of Biological Sciences. The topics cover a range of ecological and spatial scales: from single species’ population dynamics to community dynamics, and from local to macro-scale processes, with a focus on the application of current ecological knowledge and theory.
Statistics for Complex Study Designs (15 credit points)
This course will provide you with the skills and confidence to analyse complex biological data. Lectures, computer practicals and group work will help you understand how to deal with pervasive issues in the analysis of real world data such as heterogeneity of variance and spatial and temporal non-independence. Hands on computer tutorials will allow you to apply statistical models, using R, to real biological data.
The course will develop your awareness of how molecular genetic techniques, including ‘omics technologies, inform our understanding of aspects of ecology, evolution, population biology and conservation science. The course will describe the central dogma of molecular biology that explains how genetic diversity arises and can be harnessed as molecular markers. We then review the contribution of molecular genetics in individual, population and species level studies.
Intro to Ecological Field Research in Northern Scotland (15 credit points)
In this 7-day trip to our Bettyhill Field Station, you will be introduced to a variety of ecosystems and will learn to develop and assess hypotheses about the ecological patterns and processes that we encounter, using a range of sampling techniques. We will identify ecological techniques used to address local conservation issues, and you will carry out a small independent research project.
Forest ecology is a science concerned with the form and function of forest ecosystems. As a science, it recognises that forest ecosystems vary in their ecological characteristics with location, and that the forest in any particular location is continually changing – sometimes quite rapidly and sometimes very slowly.
Current theory and application of forest ecology will be covered in a series of lectures to allow you to explore the science of forest ecosystem dynamics.
Discussions during lectures will encourage inquiry and informed argument.
The main assignment based on actual forest ecosystems allows you to demonstrate individual thought and analysis.
This course will give you an understanding of fundamental concepts in geographical information systems (GIS), an appreciation of the ways in which GIS can be used in ecology and environmental science, and practical skills in using ArcGIS software to answer questions and solve problems in a spatial context. The course is designed to broaden your portfolio of research skills and enhance your employability. Most of the activity involves practicing on a range of real-world examples from research in terrestrial and marine ecosystems, before choosing a case study and devising your own questions to demonstrate your command of the conceptual underpinnings and proficiency with the software.
The course catalogue will be updated with this information shortly.
Plus 30 – 45 credit points from the following
Marine Mammalogy (15 credit points)
You will take a comparative perspective to develop an understanding of how marine mammals live in the Anthropocene through a series of lectures, practicals and assessments. Field visits and practical sessions will provide opportunities to develop skills and expertise in identification and comparative anatomy and taxonomy.Through a student-lead learning approach, you will gain skills in collaborative work and time management and apply your knowledge and understanding of marine mammals to problems related to their ecology and conservation.
The course catalogue will be updated with this information shortly.
Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a process for providing information about likely effects of certain human activities on ‘the environment’, and for identifying ways of minimising adverse effects and enhancing any positive effects.
Case studies, workshops and field visits are used to encourage participative learning related to components of the EIA process.
Oral presentations and written reports provide opportunities to develop your communication skills and to master the theory, policy and implementation elements to EIA.
Visiting speakers from the local area provide practitioner perspectives on the role of EIA in development decisions.
This course aims to enable students to appreciate the level of understanding of physical & biological oceanography, biodiversity, trophic interactions, species survival and reproduction issues that are required to implement spatially explicit, sustainable marine conservation. Students will be able to problem-solve in small groups and integrate diverse data sources. This course will also explore the driving forces underlying changes in the abundance and distribution of marine top predators and consider how potential changes in their populations can provide indicators of ecosystem change. The course will outline policy and management measures aimed at reducing human impacts upon ecosystems and top predators.
Six themes that reflect current theory and practice in the interface between ecology, conservation and society are explored through structured in-class activities challenging you to consider problems and evidence from different perspectives.
Case studies drawn from different disciplinary perspectives (e.g., anthropology, economics, human geography, philosophy) increase capacity for self-reflection and awareness of ethical and moral issues embedded in problems often framed as ecological.
Four short discussion essays are required; you will get detailed feedback for improving your writing skills.
Weekly student-led discussions allow you to develop your capacity for attentive exchange, informed argument and reasoning, and skills in facilitating discussion.
Field visits to examine river systems and forested catchments provide
context and opportunities to discuss a diverse set of environmental
management problems with professionals working in the field.
Practical sessions provide structured activities focused on the
identification of freshwater invertebrates and applications of GIS approaches
for analysing data to support catchment management planning.
You apply theoretical and practical knowledge to a case study,
demonstrating your capacity to evaluate site specific data and to interpret
relevant legislation and regulation.
individually and with a group you will write and present a management plan for
a location of your choosing.
Effective engagement with conservation of marine biodiversity requires an open mind, creativity, patience and an appreciation of shared learning. This course is structured to help you develop those essential skills while building your understanding of current issues in marine conservation and how conservation professionals engage with these issues.
The three-month individual Research Project can cover any area of ecology and/or conservation and is undertaken under the supervision of a member of staff who is an expert in your chosen field. Many projects are also done in collaboration with an external organisation. The project provides opportunities for you to develop your abilities and skills, generate hypotheses and design ways of testing them and to analyse, report and discuss your findings. You will learn to take responsibility for implementing your own plans and modifying them as necessary. The project is written up in the form of a scientific paper manuscript.
We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.
How You'll Study
The programme comprises a combination of taught modules, each of which will involve lectures/seminars and practical work. There is a one week residential field course (at Bettyhill, Sutherland) plus several day-long field trips from Aberdeen. Emphasis throughout is on active participation in class discussions, presentations and group work. The individual research project is developed by the student in consultation with a supervisor (a member of the School of Biological Sciences) and often with an external collaborator. The project title can be selected from an extensive list or based on the student’s own suggestion.
The programme is assessed entirely by continuous assessment. There are no exams. The assessments have been developed to provide training in key transferable skills. For example, a conference presentation, paper review, debate, preparation of a policy brief or chairing a discussion. Assessments for more applied courses include an environmental impact assessment and management plan. The final assessment is your project report submitted in the form of a scientific paper manuscript.
Why Study Ecology and Conservation?
Aberdeen provides you with a unique learning environment with unrivalled access to coastal, mountain and freshwater habitats for both fieldwork and recreation.
The University has a long tradition and excellent reputation for teaching and research in Ecology and is home to one of the largest and most vibrant groups of academics in this subject area in Britain. Masters ecology has been taught here for over 50 years and our generations of graduates are to be found in leadership in ecological professions around the world.
You will be taught by ecologists who are internationally renowned researchers and experts in their field, and who are actively involved in the application of ecological research to environmental management and nature conservation. Our plant and soil ecology group is ranked number 1 in the UK for overall research excellence (REF 2014).
The programme is flexible so that you can choose the extent to which you wish to focus on gaining research skills or applied ecology skills, or to combine both.
The programme is skills-based, meaning that as well as learning theory you will be continually applying that knowledge to real world tasks and situations.
Your project will become a key feature of your CV and is often a first step to further research or a job. In helping you develop your project we enable you to link in to our vast network of colleagues and organisations within the academic, non-governmental, government and industrial sectors.
The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.
A minimum of a UK 2.2 honours degree (or non-UK equivalent) in a biological, environmental or physical science, geography, or other relevant subject. We also consider applicants with degrees in other disciplines who are clearly motivated by the programme and have some relevant work experience.
Please enter your country to view country-specific entry requirements.
English Language Requirements
To study for a Postgraduate Taught degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:
In addition to acquiring discipline-specific skills, the course work activities within our programme are designed to provide you with ample opportunity to develop generic skills required by employers including critical thinking, problem-solving, team work, written and oral presentation, time management and interdisciplinarity.
University of Aberdeen ecologists collaborate with colleagues in research institutions all over the world and have active involvement with local, national and international governmental and non-governmental organisations including, for example, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Marine Scotland, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, British Trust for Ornithology, Forestry Commission and Forest Research, International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.
ERM are a global consultancy with a good reputation… Within the ecology team, they were aware of the Aberdeen MSc Ecology course and knew that it was comprehensive and intensive. I would not have got the job without my MSc.
Assistant Professor in Population Ecology
My education at Aberdeen, specifically the excellent quantitative training, has completely shaped my career. Ecology and environmental sciences in general is becoming increasingly quantitative. I think Aberdeen has been ahead of this curve.
My confidence in my own abilities improved greatly after studying this course at Aberdeen and deciding to continue studying to Masters level was one of the best decisions I have made.
The programme will be delivered by a multidisciplinary team of world renowned and vastly experienced experts in ecology and conservation.
You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.
1st in UK for Soil and Environmental Science
Soil and Environmental Science research at the University of Aberdeen is ranked number 1 in the UK (REF 2014)
Our plant growth facilities include controlled environmental growth chambers and glasshouses for teaching and experimental work.
Cruickshank Botanic Garden
The Cruickshank Botanic Garden is situated on our King's College campus. It is used to support both our teaching and research; existing to promote the diversity and importance of plants and their role in the natural world.
Bettyhill Field Station
This field centre located in Sutherland, one of the most scenic areas of Britain, is used for teaching and research in ecology and environmental sciences.