Skip to main content

Postgraduate taught

MSc Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology

Please note: The below is for 2022 entries. Click here for 2021 entries.
UCAS code 1234
Duration 1 year full time
2 years part time
Entry year 2022
Campus Penryn Campus
Discipline Biosciences

Programme Director: Professor Andrew Young
Web: Enquire online 
Phone: +44 (0)1326 371801 

Typical offer

View full entry requirements

Normally at least a 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject

Contextual offers


  • Develops knowledge and critical awareness of current problems and new insights in evolutionary and behavioural ecology
  • Designed to prepare you for a future research career with excellent graduate employment opportunities
  • Offers a behavioural ecology field course in Kenya
  • Provides extensive training in current research techniques, delivered by leading researchers in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation
  • Offers access to excellent facilities including state-of-the-art molecular and genetics labs with a full range of microscopy equipment, greenhouses, and controlled environment rooms

Apply online

View 2021 Entry

Fast Track (current Exeter students)

Open days and visiting us

Get a prospectus

Professor Brendan Godley, Dr Sarah Hodge and current Masters students answer questions about our Biosciences Masters courses in this Facebook Live chat

11th in the world for Ecology

ShanghaiRankings Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2021

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*

14th in the UK for Biological Sciences

The Complete University Guide 2022

Entry requirements

Normally at least a 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject is required, although a 2:2 with relevant experience will be considered.

Applicants from non-science backgrounds will be considered, particularly where applicants have had work experience in the field of conservation/science/policy management.

Entry requirements for international students

English language requirements


Please visit our entry requirements section for equivalencies from your country and further information on English language requirements.

Course content

At the University of Exeter we host one of the largest and most active groups of evolutionary and behavioural ecologists in the world. Our academics are at the forefront of research on animal behaviour in the lab and in the field, and work on animal populations around the globe.

This Masters degree is taught by the Centre for Ecology and Conservation (CEC), whose evolutionary and behaviour research groups are amongst the most dynamic in the UK. You will be integrated into these groups and conduct cutting-edge research projects that can make genuine contributions to the field of evolutionary and behavioural ecology and prepare you for a career in research.

The Centre is the fastest growing institute of its kind in the UK. Research is almost exclusively organismal, using a range of iconic model systems in both the field and lab (from wild social mammals, birds and fish to insects and microbes) to address key questions at the fore-front of the field. We also specialise in modelling animal behaviour and species interactions and see this as essential and complementary to our whole approach. The other area of emphasis which underpins much of our work is quantitative and molecular genetics, which is fundamental to the evolutionary process and to conservation biology and policy issues.

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.


2022/23 entry

UK fees per year:

£14,500 full-time; £7,250 part-time

International fees per year:

£25,500 full-time; £12,750 part-time


The fees include costs of field trips including a 2-week residential course to Africa.

When participating in field courses, where necessary, you will be required to cover any visa costs and purchase anti-malarial medication and relevant immunisations.

You will also need to provide your own specialist personal equipment appropriate to the field course destination, e.g. walking boots, rucksack, mosquito net, sleeping bag, binoculars. You may incur additional costs dependent upon the specific demands of the research project chosen.


We invest heavily in scholarships for talented prospective Masters students and have over £2.5 million in scholarships available, including our Global Excellence Scholarships* and Green Futures Scholarships* for international fee paying students.

For information on how you can fund your postgraduate degree at the University of Exeter, please visit our dedicated funding page.

*Terms and conditions apply. See online for details.

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?

  • Seminars
  • Workshops
  • Fieldwork
  • 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 getting to know about their ongoing research.

Research project

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.

Tutorial support

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.

Read more


This programme includes a two-week field course in Kenya, during which you will go on safari in areas of incredible biodiversity, allowing you to study the behaviour of a variety of wild animals. You will have an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of pioneering evolutionary biologists, visiting their field sites, observing their study species, and discussing their ground breaking research. These experiences will allow you to develop your own research questions and undertake a short project while in the field. Travel and subsistence costs for this part of the programme are included in the programme fee; however there may be some additional costs such as equipment - see the Fees section for more information.

You can also keep up to date and share the experiences of our students in the field on our Global Field Course website.

More about the Kenya 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.

The field trip was a fantastic experience. Kenya is bursting with wildlife and was the perfect setting to learn and discuss how this fascinating diversity evolved. The highlight of the trip was the research project: I spent four days studying zebra social behaviour in a National Park – amazing! It really sparked my enthusiasm to pursue life as a scientist.


MSc Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology


Our MSc Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology programme is designed for individuals who are interested in pursuing post-graduate research in these burgeoning fields. Indeed, the majority of our graduates go on to study for PhDs.

We are committed to providing you with personal support throughout your degree to ensure that when you leave us you feel informed, prepared, and well equipped to reach your full potential in your future career.

Employer-valued skills this course develops

The core programme will develop strong skills across a range of current field, laboratory and statistical methods, with the depth and breadth in your favoured areas being determined in part by your chosen research project. You will also develop the strong transferable skills needed to advance your career, including scientific writing, public speaking, grant writing, press release preparation, and the professional use of social media.

Supporting your career

Being part of a large research intensive department, with multiple extracurricular research seminars per week and frequent on-campus symposia and employability-focused seminars involving invited external stakeholders, will also ensure that you have outstanding networking opportunities during your time with us.

Careers services

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.

Graduate destinations

Below are some examples of the positions held by recent graduates from our Biosciences MSc programmes:

  • PhD Researcher
  • Field Research Leader
  • Research Technician
  • Research Assistant
  • Ecologist
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Conservation Scientist

Read more