|Duration||1 year full time
2 years part time
- Designed in consultation with multiple external agencies to ensure relevant training that maximises graduate employability and targets both research and practical conservation skills
- Offers substantial field work opportunities in the UK and overseas, including a field course in Kenya
- Provides opportunities to connect with external agencies and organisations to further enhance your training
- Delivered by leading international researchers in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation
- Offers access to excellent facilities including state-of-the-art research laboratories, greenhouses and controlled environment rooms
Top 10 in the UK for world-leading and internationally excellent research
Research Excellence Framework 2014 based on the percentage of research categorised as 4* and 3*
7th in the world for Ecology
ShanghaiRankings Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2019
10th in the UK for Biological Sciences
The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020
High-quality research supervision, with ongoing research worth more than £50 million
Normally at least a 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent in Biology or a relevant science subject is required, although a 2:2 with relevant experience will be considered.
Applicants from non-science backgrounds will be considered, provided that your first degree contained an empirical component, and/or if you have had work experience in the field of conservation/wildlife management.
I've really enjoyed the flexibility and variety of module choices on the programme and the amount of skills I developed in each one. I’m learning about current marine scientific research and getting to meet founders of conservation NGOs and science-communication organisations. I have found the teaching to be excellent.
The lecturers promote discussion-style lectures so I really feel I am engaging with the topics taught, and am never afraid to ask questions or talk about ideas. The academics are genuinely supportive, and are very happy to talk and help whenever it is needed. My personal tutor has been particularly helpful, not only academically, but also on personal matters and has given very useful career advice.
The University of Exeter has a fantastic reputation, especially for Biosciences! The idea of studying at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall really appealed to me because of the natural beauty of the area and the wide range of career possibilities within my field (wildlife conservation).
I have really enjoyed meeting people from different backgrounds, of different nationalities and ages, and with very different interests and styles. I feel part of a big, friendly and very inclusive community.
After I graduate I would like to pursue a PhD and then work in science communication or education. Meeting academics and scientists at Exeter has made me realise what a broad range of options I actually have, and I’ve already made some connections.
The MSc Conservation and Biodiversity programme is excellent, whether you have an interest in marine or terrestrial wildlife, want to go into academia or gain skills in ecological consultancy; there are so many options!
MSc Conservation and Biodiversity
This Masters programme is taught at our Penryn Campus in Cornwall by staff at the renowned Centre for Ecology and Conservation.
The course boasts a significant research component, with substantial field work opportunities in the UK as well as a field course in Africa. A distinctive and integral feature of our MSc is the high degree of input from conservationists in collaborating governmental and non-governmental organisations. This participation takes a variety of forms, including guest lectures, field visits and specific training courses, but may also include providing research projects in their organisations. Collaborating organisations include: Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Marine Conservation Society, Natural England, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Zoological Society of London.
This applied degree provides excellent employability, with our recent alumni moving onto ecological consultancy work, government conservation programmes, NGO conservation projects and fully funded PhD positions in ecology and conservation.
The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.
UK/EU fees per year:
£13,500 full-time; £6,750 part-time
International fees per year:
The fees include costs of all field trips including a 2-week residential course to Africa.
Teaching and research
The taught component of this programme is delivered in the first five months. During this time, you will also compile and read scientific literature on the topic of your research project, which you will pursue during the remainder of the academic year.
How will I learn?
- Field work
- Group discussion
- Independent study
There is considerable scope for you to direct your learning towards fields of particular interest, especially through your choice of research project. Research seminars will see you interacting with a diversity of top academics and get to know about their ongoing research.
A large number of University of Exeter academics will be involved with this programme and they will offer a great diversity of research topics within their projects in the UK and overseas. There is also the option to work with an external collaborating organisation as a placement student during your research project, which could be located anywhere in the world.
Each student is allocated a personal tutor who is available for advice and support throughout your studies. There is also a postgraduate tutor available to help with further guidance and advice.
Taught modules will be assessed through formal oral presentation, written reports, essays and discussions, during or upon the immediate completion of these modules. The research project makes up a significant proportion of the assessment and is mainly based on the dissertation write up.
Brendan is a conservation scientist with wide ranging interests in biodiversity conservation. His research largely focuses on the study of marine vertebrates (turtles, mammals, birds and sharks). In the last few years, Brendan has spent ever more efforts on interdisciplinary approaches to conservation research, including focusing on the issue of microplastics in our oceans.
Programme Director and Professor of Conservation Science
The census research projects will see you spending a considerable amount of time in the field collecting data at several key research sites in West Cornwall and interacting with local NGOs (Cornwall Wildlife Trust, South West Lakes Trust).
This programme includes a two week field course in Kenya, during which you will visit some of Africa’s largest and most important game reserves, and receive an introduction to some of the day-to-day problems faced by conservation biologists in developing nations. You will study the behaviour of a variety of wild animals, focusing particularly on large mammals, birds, and insects. Travel and subsistence costs for this part of the programme are included in the programme fee.
You can keep up to date and share the experiences of our current students in the field on our Global Field Course website.
Kenya field course options:
This field course presents the philosophy, sociology, ecology and practice of large-scale conservation. You will develop a practical understanding of these issues through visits to some of Africa’s most important protected areas, as well as by an introduction to some of the day-to-day problems faced by conservation biologists in developing nations.
We study the behaviour of animals in a natural ecological setting with a focus on large mammals, birds and insects, while guided by input from local practitioners. Practical work is conducted in part during a safari through contrasting African ecosystems and you'll acquire techniques for monitoring populations and communities.
We will see an amazing wealth of biodiversity, from mountains and forests to lakes and savannahs, meet a range of conservationists and develop a deep understanding of the complicated nature of conservation in the developing world.
In the field, with tutoring from experienced academic staff, you will develop skills in taxonomy, ecology, biogeography, conservation and evolution while collecting data on the abundance and behaviour of a variety of species across a range of different habitats. Safari observations are reviewed, synthesised and analysed during small group seminars in structured discussions of the ecological, sociological, political and economic issues relating to conservation in Africa. After returning to the UK, you will present a poster that discusses one of the major conservation themes observed during the trip.
Amongst the many skills you'll develop during the field course is the ability to describe, systematically and critically, current problems and new insights in conservation and biodiversity. You will also develop the confidence and skill to deal with complex issues in a rigorous but creative manner, make sound judgements in the absence of complete datasets, and communicate conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences.
This field course seeks to explore and understand the implications of conservation policy for Kenyan ecosystems and the humans and wildlife who live within them. Central to this goal is an analysis of Kenya Vision 2030, a framework developed by the Kenyan government to promote both economic prosperity and environmental health – two achievements that are often in conflict. Keeping in mind the aims of this influential policy document, you will travel to a range of Kenyan habitats and debate how to balance ecological and economic goals.
While exploring savannahs, lakes, and montane forests, we visit with a variety of stakeholders, including industrialists, conservationists, government officials, and NGO employees. You'll also have a rare opportunity to interview Maasai tribespeople in order to understand how indigenous peoples are affected by urban growth – and to hear about conservation solutions that can simultaneously help protect both the Maasai culture and the ecosystems in which the tribespeople live.
In the field, we expect to see charismatic fauna such as hippopotami, elephants, lions, and cheetahs. Expert academic staff from the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus provide information on ecology, biogeography, and evolution, while also discussing whether these species are best served by top-down or bottom-up conservation approaches. Game drives, boating trips, and hikes allow students to see first-hand the effects of a wealth of conservation policies enforced – or not – by agencies at the local, regional, and national level.
On this field course you will learn how to interact with a range of stakeholders, interpret policy, evaluate scientific and sociological data, and navigate difficult discussions about conservation. This endows you with the confidence needed to critically engage with complex management issues not just in Kenya, but anywhere in the world. After returning to the UK, you will have an opportunity to share your newfound knowledge and expertise at a poster session where you individually present an analysis of one of the issues you learned about during the field course.
On this field course you will have an opportunity to visit sites where many of the leviathans of behavioural ecology conducted some of their most iconic research. At beautiful locations such as Samburu, Lake Nakuru, and Amboseli, we observe fascinating animal behaviours and consider the evolutionary processes that have shaped traits such as communication systems, mate choice, and cooperation.
Whilst exploring Kenya’s biodiverse Afro-tropical habitats, we encounter an array of species ranging from widowbirds and sparrow-weavers to hyaenas and lions. You'll even have an opportunity to get up close and personal with a troop of habituated baboons at the Twala Cultural Centre.
Tutored by our experienced academic staff, you will learn how to develop hypotheses, make predictions, collect and analyse data, and interpret their findings in order to explain the world around them. By conceiving, designing, and executing a research project, you'll gain a better understanding of the scientific process, a firmer knowledge of field techniques, and a greater sense of independence. You'll also hone your skills in describing and effectively communicating the practical and theoretical issues surrounding animal behaviour and ecology, and in applying theory to practical problems in the field.
These skills are evaluated during the field course through assessed project discussions and presentations. After returning to the UK, you will performs a statistical analysis of data collected during the trip, and create a poster presentation sharing the results and conclusions of this work.
Employer-valued skills this course develops
This programme will provide you with a diversity of skills that will equip you for a range of sectors of work and further study of marine environments. Skills include:
- Scientific writing and poster preparation
- Grant writing
- Public speaking
- Short film production
- Press release and the professional use of social media
- Data analysis
- Writing scientific information for a lay audience
- Use of “R” and GIS.
The programme will prepare students for careers in environmental NGOs, fisheries management bodies, government agencies, consultancy companies and marine-related businesses such as aquaculture, shipping, offshore energy, etc. The degree also offers a thorough training in research skills and methods so provides an excellent basis for an academic career.
Our careers teams at the Career Zone can help guide you through a wealth of information to match your skills and interests to a career that will suit you. Our staff work with regional, national and international employers to develop new work placement, project and graduate opportunities.
Supporting your career
Being part of a large research intensive department such as the Centre for Ecology and Conservation means there are multiple extracurricular research seminars per week and frequent on-campus symposia and employability focused seminars involving invited external stakeholders offering extensive networking opportunities.
After working for several different organisations, I now work for the Joint Region Marianas Office (at the Guam National Wildlife Refuge) as the Conservation Resource Program Manager. Through my 10-plus year career since graduating, I would say that all of the coursework we studied in the MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity has surfaced at one time or another.
During the MSc, I gained some really invaluable basic skills that are rarely covered in most Masters programmes such as: how to design and present oral and poster presentation, preparing a quality CV, writing a grant proposal, etc. I still have the instruction and templates from when I was a student and have referenced them several times during my professional career.
MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate
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One University, two locations
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