MSc Applied Ecology

Duration Full time 1 year
  • Biosciences
LocationCornwall (Penryn)
Start date September


  • Designed in consultation with multiple external agencies to ensure relevant training that maximises graduate employability
  • Offers substantial field work opportunities in the UK and Africa
  • Provides opportunities to connect with external agencies and organisations throughout the programme to further enhance your training
  • Delivered by leading international researchers in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation, who regularly publish in peer-reviewed journals
  • Offers access to excellent facilities including state-of-the-art research laboratories, greenhouses and controlled environment rooms
  • Ideal for individuals wishing to work in related consultancy and non-governmental organisations
  • Includes modules that target both research and practical applied ecology skills

This one-year full-time Masters programme is taught by faculty at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation, the fastest growing institute of its kind in the UK.

The course boasts a significant research component, with substantial fieldwork opportunities in the UK as well as a fieldcourse in Africa. Through taught modules and practical application, you will develop advanced skills in scientific method, ecological censusing techniques and quantitative biology.

A distinctive and integral feature of our MSc is the high degree of input from ecologists 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, Food and Environment Research Agency and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Professional field biology and career development skills are embedded in the programme to enhance your employability. You will learn how to use geographic information systems, perform first aid for expeditions and field work, and produce wildlife photography, as well as how to publish your own website, secure funding and communicate science to the general public. Presentation skills, CV writing and interview techniques are also covered.

Programme structure

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.

Learning and teaching

The taught component of this programme is delivered in the first five months. During this time you will be encouraged to develop your census research projects, to which the remainder of the academic year is dedicated.

Teaching and learning methods

All material is designed for Masters level and will involve fieldwork, seminars and group discussion. Within modules there is considerable scope for you to direct your learning towards fields of particular interest, especially through your choice of research project.


Taught modules will be assessed through formal oral presentation, written reports and discussions, during or upon the immediate completion of these modules. A significant proportion of the assessment is based on the research project and associated literature review and oral presentation). Modules run by other departments may have formal exams.

Advice and 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.


Kenya field course

Join staff and students on their MSc field course in Kenya from the University of Exeter where they are focusing on the biodiversity and conservation of this exciting region. View full size.

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 such as  the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and South West Lakes Trust.

This programme includes a two week field course in Kenya, where 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 ecologists in developing nations. You will observe a variety of wild animals and learn about the data collection techniques used to quantify their numbers and behaviour. Travel and subsistence costs for this part of the programme are included in the programme fee.

Find out more about our field course modules.

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

The Africa field course was one of the most amazing trips I have ever undertaken and it was not only brilliant fun but also a good opportunity for honing my international conservation knowledge.

Nick Phillips, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate, now a Biodiversity Policy Officer with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds


Through integral collaboration with key external agencies, this MSc ensures that the training you receive links directly to relevant employment opportunities within the UK and abroad.

The programme also prepares you for research and it is expected that a significant proportion of graduates will go on to PhD study.

Find out more about our career support schemes for postgraduate students.

Graduate destinations

Below are a few examples of initial jobs undertaken by graduates of University of Exeter Biosciences Masters programmes in Cornwall. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey (2011-2016). Please note that, due to data protection, the job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Job titleOrganisation
Assistant Ecologist
Community Ranger
Environmental Consultant
Turtle Project Scientist
Endocrinology Intern
Project Coordinator
Freelance Ecologist
Lab Technician
Associate Marine Research Fellow
Cetacean Research Co-ordinator
Residential Warden
Research Technician
Science Officer
Membership Development Assistant
Conservation Assistant
Programme Manager
Editorial Assistant
Research Assistant
GIS Analyst
Research Analyst
Marine Wildlife Observer
Field Ecologist
Trainee Ecologist
Spalding Associates
Cornwall Geo-Environmental Ltd
JBA Consultancy Services Ltd
Field Studies Council
Surrey Wildlife Trust
Cornwall Wildlife Trust
Cook Island Turtle Project
Explore Learning
The CARIBSAVE Partnership
SAFE Project
Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum
University of Exeter
SLR Consulting Ltd
Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
Mammal Research Institute
Wildlife Conservation Society
Ahern Ecology
Cambridge University
National Scientific Research Centre, France
University of Edinburgh
Leopard Ecology and Conservation
ANSR Source
Natural History Museum

Further study

Further study is a popular choice for a number of students following graduation from a Biosciences Masters degree in Cornwall. Below are a few examples of further study undertaken by recent graduates of our Masters programmes. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey 2012/13 and 2011/12. Please note that, due to data protection, the subjects of study and institutions are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Subject areaInstitution
PhD Evolutionary Biology
PhD Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology
MPhil Biosciences
PhD Biological Sciences
PhD Biology
PhD Disease Dynamics
PhD Microbiology
EngD Engineering and the Environment
University of Oxford
University of Exeter
New Mexico State University
John Hopkins University
Imperial College London
University of Queensland
University of Cambridge
University of Southampton
Durham University
University of Sheffield

Entry requirements 2017

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 the first degree contained an empirical component, and/or if the applicants have had work experience in the field of conservation/wildlife management.

Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

Overall score 6.5. No less than 6.0 in any section.


Overall score 90 with minimum scores of 21 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

58 with no less than 55 in all communicative skills.

Other accepted tests

Information about other acceptable tests of linguistic ability can be found on our English language requirements page.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2017/18

  • UK/EU: £11,900
  • International: £21,700 full-time

The fee includes costs of all field trips including 2-week residential course to Africa.

Fee information

Fees can normally be paid by two termly instalments and may be paid online. You will also be required to pay a tuition fee deposit to secure your offer of a place, unless you qualify for exemption. For further information about paying fees see our Student Fees pages.

UK government postgraduate loan scheme

Postgraduate loans of up to £10,000 are now available for Masters degrees. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.


Find out about funding opportunities available to students on our taught Masters programmes in Biosciences.

University funding

The Funding website has information on all available options for funding open to prospective students of taught Masters programmes. You can also use the searchable database of all Scholarships and Bursaries to find funding for which you are eligible.

Contact us

We welcome enquiries about the course. For further information contact:

Phone: +44 (0)1326 371801

The Programme Director is Dr Andy McGowan.