Introduction

Interested in wildlife and natural ecosystems, the relationship between the natural world and people, the impacts of climate change and other environmental problems?

This programme is studied on campus.

If you answered yes to the above question, an Ecology degree at Aberdeen will enable you to explore the science of all these topics, taught by experts who are actively involved in ecological research and its applications to environmental management and nature conservation. It will also provide you with opportunities to gain practical field experience in Scotland and abroad, on field trips, expeditions and through doing your own research project.

Our graduates have proven that an Aberdeen Ecology degree gives students a great start for careers in which they can make a difference to the world, working in wildlife research, nature conservation, environmental protection, environmental education and science communication.

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Key Programme Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
BSc
Duration
48 months
Study Mode
Full Time
Start Month
September
UCAS Code
D430

What You'll Study

Each year you take a selection of compulsory courses and optional courses that can be chosen from those on offer across the Institute. The first two years lay a foundation for the more specialised third and fourth years.

Year 1

Year 1

You will take eight courses in year 1. You also choose four courses from across the university, e.g. Cell Biology, Chemistry, Geography, interdisciplinary Sixth Century courses, or a language. At the end of the year you will attend a one-week field course on Plants and their Habitats in Northern Scotland at our field centre in Sutherland.

Compulsory Courses

Plus 45 credit points from courses of choice.

You are required to choose 60 credits from Sustained Study, Discipline Breadth or Sixth Century courses across levels 1 and 2.

Professional Skills Part 1 (PD1001)

This course, which is prescribed for level 1 students and optional for level 2 students, is studied entirely online and covers topics relating to careers and employability, equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing. During the course you will learn about the Aberdeen Graduate Attributes, how they are relevant to you and the opportunities available to develop your skills and attributes alongside your University studies. You will also gain an understanding of equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing issues. Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’ (non-completion will be recorded as ‘Not Achieved’). The course takes approximately 3 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks and it will be available to you throughout the academic year.This course, which is prescribed for level 1 students and optional for level 2 students and above, is studied entirely online and covers topics relating to careers and employability, equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing. During the course you will learn about the Aberdeen Graduate Attributes, how they are relevant to you and the opportunities available to develop your skills and attributes alongside your University studies. You will also gain an understanding of equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing issues. Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’ (non-completion will be recorded as ‘Not Achieved’). The course takes approximately 3 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks and it will be available to you throughout the academic year

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Frontiers in Biological Sciences (BI1009) - 15 Credit Points
  • Eleven themes are explored in engaging lectures, exploring organismal biology and introducing you to the science that underpins current understanding of biology.
  • Structured practical sessions and class activities help you to develop your study and laboratory skills, and provide you with a strong foundation for a successful transition into university study.
  • Regular assignments, a mix of online tests, practical reports and reading assignments, structure your activities and help you progress through the course material.
  • Weekly guest lectures about current research helps you to see how basic biological concepts are being applied to real world problems.

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Diversity of Life 1 (BI1012) - 15 Credit Points

A walk through the evolutionary tree of life, examining the amazing diversity of major groups of organisms from plants through fungi to invertebrates.Learn about how each group of organisms arose, their characteristics, and how they achieved success.

Practical activities provide hands on experience of materials demonstrating the diversity of plants and invertebrates.

You will be assessed by a combination of laboratory reports, on which you will get detailed feedback to help you develop your skills, and an exam.

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Ecology and Environmental Science (BI1511) - 15 Credit Points

This course will take you on a journey through the physical workings of the Earth, the interactions between species and their environments and then on to the effects humans are having on the planet, potential solutions and thoughts on the future.

Teaching is by staff with different subject specialisms who give both variety and immediacy to course material.

Exposure to the problems we are facing both now and in the future will help you make informed choices in their everyday lives.

A range of ‘wet’ and computer-based practicals enhance the classroom teaching and develop generic scientific skills.

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Diversity of Life 2 (BI1512) - 15 Credit Points
  • A walk through the evolutionary tree of life, examining the amazing diversity of advanced invertebrates and vertebrates.
  • Learn about how each group of organisms arose, their characteristics, and how they achieved success.
  • Practical activities provide hands on experience of materials demonstrating the features of amphibians, fish, birds and mammals.
  • You will be assessed by a combination of laboratory reports, on which you will get detailed feedback to help you develop your skills, and an exam.

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Plants and Their Habitats in Northern Scotland (BI19P5) - 15 Credit Points

The week-long residential course is based at the University’s Bettyhill field station in the far north of Scotland. The location is stunning and, for many students, a new experience of unfamiliar plant communities.

You are introduced to representatives of the local flora. We teach skills in recognising key features of plant species and how to identify them.

You are encouraged to consider the reasons why and where plant species are found within the northern landscape and how plant communities can be sampled.

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The Cell (SM1501) - 15 Credit Points
  • cells are the fundamental unit of life – without them life could not exist, and as such understanding how they function is crucial to our understanding of biology and medical science;
  • this course provides theoretical knowledge in a diverse range of topics covering the fascinating world of cells, from molecules like DNA, to how different cell types function within our bodies;
  • all practical classes are research based and will provide theoretical knowledge and skills training in many areas of molecular and cell biology;
  • employability skills will also be explored through a highly interactive session run by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise

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Optional Courses

  • Select a further 30 credit points from courses of choice
Year 2

Year 2

Core courses in year 2 include Biological Enhanced Skills Training, Ecology and Topics in Plant and Soil Biology. You choose five further courses; options available include Genes and Evolution, Ocean Biology, Conservation Biology, Animal Physiology, Sixth Century Courses and other courses across the university. You will also take a field trip, choosing between animal ecology in Yorkshire, the North-East Scottish coast or Mediterranean ecosystems in Spain.

Compulsory Courses

Genes and Evolution (BI2017) - 15 Credit Points
  • look at how instructions in genes are transformed by natural selection to produce the diversity of life on Earth;
  • learn how species evolve, how we determine evolutionary relationships;
  • why populations change, understand why humans (and other organisms) must carry genetic diseases;
  • meet enthusiastic staff; each teach about areas we are expert on;
  • take 3 Genes & Evolution Practicals to gain hands on experience of approaches used by researchers to map genes, estimate rates of evolution, and determine evolutionary relationships;
  • keep up to speed with in-course tests, understand basic statistics, see why mutations are not the only evolutionary currency

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Biological Enhanced Skills Training (BEST) (BI2018) - 15 Credit Points

The course will help you consolidate and develop skills in experimental design, sampling, analysis, presentation, and interpretation of data. You will be encouraged to seek to improve your academic writing and develop other transferable skills.

Each week, there is one 1-hour introductory lecture. In two 2-hour sessions when will work through a series of computer-based data tasks, using relevant and realistic biological and environmental themes.

Teaching is informal and friendly. During sessions, staff will chat to you about your progress and provide help where necessary.

Assessments are two online multiple-choice tests (each 25%) and an individual project (50%).

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Ecology (BI2020) - 15 Credit Points

A range of practical and workshop classes will enable you to consider information from lectures in more detail and develop ideas.

A range of types of continuous assessment allow you to consolidate learning throughout the semester.

Weekly opportunities to practice writing skills needed for the exam and regular feedback provided on writing exercises.

Detailed feedback on practical assignments will help you develop essential scientific writing skills

You will use Peerwise to write multiple choice questions, requiring thorough engagement with taught material and developing an extensive set of questions for use in revision

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Plants, People, and the Environment (BI25P4) - 15 Credit Points

A course in which several researchers explore both core and emerging issues in the plant sciences, focusing in particular on the inter-dependence of plants, people and environment. Students are encouraged to develop a range of important generic and applied skills, through lectures, practicals and seminars. Two practicals and one seminar contribute 50% of the course mark. An exam contributes 50% of the overall course grade and consists a choice of multiple-choice questions and short, structured questions.

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Zoology Field Course (BI29Z4) - 15 Credit Points
  • Residential field courses designed to provide you with training in field identification and sampling techniques.
  • Choice from four locations each with different themes: Shetland Islands (Fish and Shellfish Biology), Cromarty (Costal Biodiversity), Loch Lomond (Freshwater and Terrestrrial Biodiversity) and Kindrogan Field Centre (Parasitology).
  • Group based project work provides skills in team working, data collection, analysis and presentation.
  • Hard work throughout the days is rewarded through the development of deep understanding and the enjoyment of spending time with peers and staff.

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Optional Courses

  • Select a further 45 credit points from courses of choice
Year 3

Year 3

There are four core courses in year 3; Statistical Analysis of Biological Data, Ecosystem Processes, Animal Population Ecology and Advanced Community Ecology. You also choose four from a range of courses including Animal Evolution and Biodiversity, Animal Behaviour, Conservation in Practice, Life History Evolution, Environmental Physiology and Sustainable Resource Management. You may take a field course in Field Ecology Skills, Mediterranean ecosystems or Conservation Issues in Scotland.

Compulsory Courses

Field Ecology Skills (BI3002) - 15 Credit Points

The field course will be non-residential, based around Aberdeen and involved day trips to local sites. Students will learn about and practice a range of approaches and techniques used by ecological consultants and those working for conservation organisations to assess vegetation quality, presence/absence of various animal species and estimates of population size. Techniques will include: Phase 1 Habitat Survey (plants), bird identification and census techniques, terrestrial invertebrate sampling, surveys of mammal populations (e.g. bats, badgers, otters, red squirrels), freshwater macro-invertebrate sampling and camera trapping.

Please note this course will take place during Welcome Week.

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Statistical Analysis of Biological Data (BI3010) - 15 Credit Points

Review of basics of probability theory, data exploration and analysis using the linear modelling framework; depending on the option taken - fundamentals of using geographic information systems (GIS); bioinformatics and their application; statistical computing with R; capturing data; experimental design.

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Ecosystem Processes (PL3304) - 15 Credit Points

Terrestrial ecosystems play a pivotal role in modulating the fluxes of energy and matter at the Earth’s surface, including the cycling of carbon, nutrients and greenhouse gases. Understanding the structure and function of terrestrial ecosystems is critical for understanding environmental challenges such as global warming, biodiversity loss, sustainable development and pollution. This course develops principles of systems ecology and biogeochemistry, focusing on the fundamental role played by living things in regulating key ecosystem processes such as carbon cycling, nutrient dynamics, trophic transfers, and land-atmosphere exchange of greenhouse gases.

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Animal Population Ecology (ZO3307) - 15 Credit Points

The students will learn about the basic ecological theory and modelling approaches required to understand population dynamics, and which are great importance for the successful management of animal populations to meet conservation or sustainable exploitation objectives. Students will have the opportunity to apply the theory learned in a series of field- and computer-based practicals. The course will provide the students with valuable analytical skills and an in-depth knowledge and understanding of population dynamics of animals.

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Experimental Community Ecology (EK3803) - 15 Credit Points

This course builds on theory studied at L2 and enables students to develop their lab skills whilst studying fundamental ecological principles such as herbivory, predation and competition. Students will keep detailed lab books to improve note-keeping skills and gain experience of analysing data generated from their own experiments as well as writing this up in a journal format. Use of model experimental systems will allow students to manipulate conditions to alter experimental outcomes and relate this to real-world settings.

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Optional Courses

  • Select a further 45 credit points from courses of choice
Year 4

Year 4

In your Honours year you will carry out a research project and write an extended essay, each on a topic that you select to match your interests from a wide range offered. We encourage students to undertake their project in collaboration with an external ecological/conservation organisation and to undertake fieldwork during the summer. You will also choose four advanced courses from a wide range available and can opt to take any field trip that you have not taken before if places are available.

Compulsory Courses

Either BI4017 SBS Honours Essay (Semester 1) OR BI4517 SBS Honours Essay (Semester 2).

SBS Honours Project (Semester 1) (BI4016) - 45 Credit Points

This independent research project develops your skills in scientific inquiry and critical analysis, as well as important generic skills, including presentation and time management.

Projects are field-, lab- and/or desk-based, developed on a topic of your interest under the direction of a supervisor.

Training in skills needed to perform your project is provided by world-leading researchers and their teams.

Workshops and drop-in sessions provide training in data analysis and thesis production.

This skill set will be appropriate for advanced study in the field of biological science or other careers where the generic skills that you will develop are highly valued.

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Optional Courses

  • Select EITHER BI4017: SBS Honours Essay (Semester 1) OR BI4517: SBS Honours Essay (Semester 2)
  • Select a further 60 credit points from courses of choice
SBS Honours Essay (Semester 1) (BI4017) - 15 Credit Points

You research a topic and write an extended essay, developing specialist knowledge and refining your synthesis and evaluation skills.

You choose your topic from a list that includes fundamental and cutting-edge issues, providing you with flexibility and an opportunity to pursue your interests.

An introductory workshop reminds you of good practice in writing an extended essay and a meeting with your essay supervisor provides you with feedback on your essay plan. You also have the opportunity to submit a draft essay for comments from your essay supervisor.

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SBS Honours Essay (Semester 2) (BI4517) - 15 Credit Points

You research a topic and write an extended essay, developing specialist knowledge and refining your synthesis and evaluation skills.

You choose your topic from a list that includes fundamental and cutting-edge issues, providing you with flexibility and an opportunity to pursue your interests.

An introductory workshop reminds you of good practice in writing an extended essay and a meeting with your essay supervisor provides you with feedback on your essay plan. You also have the opportunity to submit a draft essay for comments from your essay supervisor.

View detailed information about this course

Course Availability

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

Combine practice and theory

Typically, one third of your class time is practical and many courses include full-day practical classes and field visits. Ecology students take at least two residential field trip during their degree and can choose to take up to four; these trips bring the subjects to life and provide the opportunity to make great friendships and get to know staff members.

Research experience

You are actively involved in scientific research throughout your degree. In Year 4, you conduct independent research which can be pivotal to your career choice whether it be in dolphins, water voles, rare plants, tropical forest ecology, climate change in the Arctic, or any one of a diverse range of other exciting topics!

Engaging and inspiring teaching

Our teaching methods are diverse, innovative and based on research on how students learn. For example, we use problem-based learning approaches, creative presentations, peer and self-assessment, presenting posters in public meetings, writing and editing wikis, writing grant proposals, science writing for publication, and the creation of portfolios using multi-media.

Opportunities for Study Abroad and work-related learning

You can take advantage of an optional year-out on a work placement in any of our degree programmes. Study Abroad is encouraged for students in their second year; we have established partnerships with institutions in the USA, Canada, Australia, China and numerous countries in Europe.

Learning Methods

  • Field Work
  • Group Projects
  • Lab Work
  • Lectures
  • Research
  • Tutorials

Assessment Methods

Students are assessed by any combination of three assessment methods:

  • coursework such as essays and reports completed throughout the course;
  • practical assessments of the skills and competencies learnt on the course; and
  • written examinations at the end of each course.

The exact mix of these methods differs between subject areas, year of study and individual courses.

Honours projects are typically assessed on the basis of a written dissertation.

Why Study Ecology?

  • This degree combines the biology and ecology of plants, animals and ecosystems, with the opportunity to include our particular specialisms in marine biology and conservation biology in your curriculum.
  • The University of Aberdeen has long been renowned for teaching and research in Ecology and is home to one of the largest and most vibrant groups of staff in this subject area in the UK.
  • The degree is taught by a wide range of staff who are active in field ecological research from the Tropics to the Arctic, and from the deep sea to the mountain tops; our teaching reflects our research and is always up to date and relevant.
  • Students have the opportunity to get involved in our research through summer research assistantships and project work.
  • Ecology students attend at least two residential field courses selected from our range of courses in the Cairngorms, Shetland, Yorkshire, Spain and at our own Oceanlab on the Ythan Estuary, sea mammal research centre on the Black Isle, and field centre at Bettyhill, on the North coast of Sutherland.
  • Students benefit from contact with practising ecologists from a number of research and conservation organisations based in and around Aberdeen.
  • At our regular careers events you will have the opportunity to listen to and meet prospective employers from outside the university, giving you excellent opportunities to get a fulfilling and challenging job in a biological field.

What Our Students Say

  • Heather George
    Heather George

    Heather George

    Ecology has covered many riveting aspects of environmental biology whilst stimulating a thought-provoking insight into current controversies. Ecology has been taught with enthusiasm and members of staff have been helpful and supportive.

Entry Requirements

Qualifications

SQA Highers - AABB*
A Levels - BBB*
IB - 32 points, 5 at HL*
ILC - 5H with 3 at H2 AND 2 at H3 OR AAABB, obtained in a single sitting. (B must be at B2 or above)*
*including good performance in at least two Mathematics/Science subjects.

Advanced Entry - Advanced Highers ABB or A Levels ABB or IB 34 points (6 at HL), including Biology and Chemistry, one of which must be at A-grade.

Further detailed entry requirements for Sciences degrees.

English Language Requirements

To study for a degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

Fees and Funding

You will be classified as one of the fee categories below.

Fee Waiver

For international students (all non-EU students) entering in 2017/18, the 2017/18 tuition fee rate will apply to all years of study; however, most international students will be eligible for a fee waiver in their final year via the International Undergraduate Scholarship.

Most RUK students (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) on a four year honours degree will be eligible for a full-fees waiver in their final year. Scholarships and other sources of funding are also available.

Fee information
Fee category Cost
Home / EU £1,820
All Students
RUK £9,250
Students Admitted in 2018/19 Academic Year
International Students £18,900
Students Admitted in 2018/19 Academic Year

Additional Fees

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.

Our Funding Database

View all funding options in our Funding Database.

Undergraduate Open Day

Our next Open Day will be on

Find out More

Careers

Our Ecology degree provides you with academic training and transferable skills relevant to both specialist employment in ecology and the wider biology graduate job market. Our graduates have gone on to develop specialist careers in ecological research, nature conservation, local government, environmental protection, forestry, ecological consultancy, environmental law, outdoor education and the media. Very helpful information on careers in ecology is available in the booklet ‘Rooting for a Career in Ecology and Environmental Management?’

One of the great advantages of a degree from the University of Aberdeen is that it provides you with a very broad range of skills to offer employers. Not only do we train students in scientific methodology in the laboratory and in the field, we incorporate what we call 'graduate attributes' into the whole curriculum, including communication, working with others, use of specialist IT and time management.

Students in the School of Biological Sciences have the opportunity to collaborate with external organisations such as Scottish Natural Heritage and RSPB, for example whilst undertaking an Honours project. In addition to allowing you to develop a valuable link with a potential employer, this gives you the opportunity to experience the application of your learning in the 'real world' and to develop a range of skills, all of which will make you a more effective employee following graduation.

Career Opportunities

  • Ecologist
  • Ecology Researcher
  • Environmental Lawyer
  • Environmental Protection Officer
  • Graduate Ecologist
  • Nature Conservationist

Industry Links

We have strong local, national and international links to industry, government bodies, charities and other research institutions. You will benefit in several ways:

  • Exposure to policy-makers, practitioners, regulatory professionals and experts.
  • Our curriculum is informed by an employer advisory board that provides insight into changing requirements of employers.
  • You can take advantage of our collaborators' facilities and expertise for your research projects or placement.

What our Alumni Say

  • Kirsty North
    Kirsty North, at Scottish Natural Heritage

    Kirsty North

    Job Details
    Scottish Natural Heritage
    Graduated
    I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the University of Aberdeen as I was able to explore a wide range of subjects encompassing many different areas of natural history giving me a great knowledge base which helped my career.
  • Andy Scobie
    Andy Scobie, Upland Mapping Project Officer at

    Andy Scobie

    Job Details
    Upland Mapping Project Officer
    Graduated
    My degree equipped me with a solid foundation and essential practical skills for the future. I have since pursued an interesting and varied career in plant conservation, botanical survey, and habitat mapping.

Our Experts

Director
Professor Michelle Pinard
Other Experts
Dr Sarah Woodin
Professor Xavier Lambin
Professor Stuart Piertney
Professor David Burslem
Professor Rene Van der Wal
Professor Stephen Redpath
Dr Lesley Lancaster
Professor David Lusseau
Programme Coordinator
Dr Clare Trinder

Information About Staff Changes

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.

School of Biological Sciences Showcase

Our showcase film highlights the benefits for students who choose to study here, the breadth of research carried out at the School and the superb facilities on offer.

Facilities

Fantastic facilities support our teaching and research, both on- and off-campus.

Image for Research facilities
Research facilities

Research facilities

Our research facilities on campus include animal holding facilities, greenhouses, fresh and salt-water aquaria, an insectarium, molecular and analytical laboratories, and a state of the art genomics lab.

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Field Centres

Field Centres

We have three field centres in Scotland that support our marine, ecology and conservation work. You have the opportunity to spend time at each of these during residential field courses

Image for Teaching laboratories
Teaching laboratories

Teaching laboratories

Students in all degree programmes carry out practical experiments in our recently redesigned teaching laboratories.

Key Information Set (KIS)

Unistats draws together comparable information in areas students have identified as important in making decisions about what and where to study. The core information it contains is called the Key Information Set.

You can compare these and other data for different degree programmes in which you are interested.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

Address
Student Recruitment & Admissions Service
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
Aberdeen
AB24 3FX