MSc Animal Behaviour

Duration Full time 1 year
Part time 2 years
Discipline
  • Psychology
LocationExeter (Streatham)
Start dateSeptember

Overview

Our MSc Animal Behaviour is unusual in that it is offered within a Psychology department. This benefits you by providing a strong background in a broad cross-section of research methods used by researchers studying human and animal behaviour, a strong training in statistical methods and multidisciplinary study environment. You will learn how to formulate and test relevant research questions, and critically evaluate the research carried out by others in the field.

The programme will give you an insight into the varied means of performing animal behaviour research in a wide array of locations with wild and (semi-)captive animals – in the wild, laboratory, zoo or under human management. As part of the taught component you will be exposed to lectures and seminar discussions, research talks and discussions with speakers, boost and consolidate your knowledge and skills in statistical data analysis, participate in a one-week residential field course (during the Easter break) and in research skill training sessions. During the course you will continuously develop your abilities in critical analysis of the literature and of scientific evidence, project development, communication and scientific writing.

You will be part of the lively, internationally-recognised Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour and will have the opportunity to work alongside our experienced researchers on a research apprenticeship which is a central component of the course. The apprenticeship enables you to develop your research skills further and write up the research in the form of a journal article for potential publication. Apprenticeships can also be undertaken under the supervision of researchers at various institutions with whom we have developed long-term relationships.

On successful completion of the MSc you will have the skills to pursue a PhD, work as a research assistant and project manager or follow a career working in zoos, research centres, nature reserves, wildlife and other animal-related offices, education, scientific media and the expanding field of eco-tourism.

I’m interested in the nature of the cost/benefit trade-offs made by animals during foraging and food storing in relation to things such as cues of predation risk, presence of competitors and food value. I’m currently investigating social influences on foraging and food caching decisions made by eastern grey squirrels both in the laboratory and in the field. In the lab I conduct cognitive and spatial memory experiments and in the field look at natural social, foraging and caching behaviour of marked individuals.

Dr Lisa Leaver, Behavioural Ecologist.

I chose to study at Exeter because it has a good Animal Behaviour course with opportunities for practical research experience. I also liked the social and friendly feel of the campus, and the city. I wanted to study Animal Behaviour to help me to get a job in my chosen field, which is working with animals in a zoo setting. I also wanted to learn more about the ways we research and view the behaviour of animals and get some practical experience in zoo and field research. The course itself was very interesting and the staff very helpful. I was able to network with other researchers and people working within local zoos and rescue centres, for example. The student life was also a lot of fun, there was always lots going on.

Emma Godsell, MSc Animal Behaviour graduate Senior Zoo Keeper, Noah's Ark Zoo Farm.

Programme structure

The following tables describe the programme and constituent modules. Constituent modules may be updated, deleted or replaced as a consequence of the annual programme review of this programme.

180 credits of compulsory modules

Compulsory modules

You are permitted to take the five credit module PSYM906 Psychology Research. Registration on this module is subject to a competitive application process. If taken, this module will not count towards progression or award calculation.

CodeModuleCredits
PSYM201Advanced Statistics 30
PSYM202Behavioural Science Research Skills 15
PSYM205Advances and Methods in Animal Behaviour 30
PSYM210Research Apprenticeship 90
PSYM213Current Research Issues in Animal Behaviour 15

My primary research interest lies in understanding the structure, function and implications (ecological and evolutionary) of social interactions in animals.

I take inspiration from the social sciences and physics literature, and have applied social network theory to investigate social interactions in wild animal populations.

Dr Darren Croft, Animal Behaviour Senior Lecturer.

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.

Research Apprenticeship

A distinctive feature of all our taught Masters programmes is the Research Apprenticeship. The Apprenticeship enables you to develop your research skills by working alongside experienced researchers or practitioners. You will also gain experience of writing up your research in the form of a dissertation.

Many students undertake their apprenticeship with researchers in the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour in our School, both in the labs and in the field around the campus, Devon and abroad. Students work on a wide range of topics and with different animals, for example:

  • Social behaviour, animal welfare and enrichment, zoo research, animal cognition, navigation, sensory ecology, behavioural ecology, ecotoxicology
  • Fish (guppies, sticklebacks, killifish), mammals (primates, squirrels, whales, donkeys, dogs, meerkats, coyotes), birds (pigeons, chickens, pheasants, magpies, flamingoes,  wood and sea birds), invertebrates (crabs, honeybees, bumblebees, desert ants, wood ants) 

But apprenticeship opportunities may also be available outside the University. Previous apprenticeships with external research partners include:

  • Knysna Elephant Park, South Africa
  • Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
  • Bristol Zoo
  • University of West Indies, Trinidad
  • Dartmoor, Natural England, Devon, UK
  • National Wildlife Research Center, Logan Field Station, Utah, USA
  • Newquay and Paignton Zoos and Living Coasts, Devon, UK
  • Mankwe Wildlife Research, South Africa
  • Donkey Sanctuary, Devon, UK
  • Budongo Conservation Field Station, Uganda

Read the full module specification for the Research Apprenticeship.

Learning and teaching

The teaching and learning methods are a mix of lectures, seminars, research talks, discussion sessions with researchers, practicals and field trips (short trips and residential). Overall an active learning style is emphasised and individual interactions between students and staff fostered throughout the programme. The School's and University's teaching facilities, such as an online learning platform, various 24/7 computer pools and audio-visual suite, 24/7 library, study spaces, animal labs and specialised equipment, support the learning process effectively.

Taught classes take place in the first two terms of the year, with class times scheduled across the week on average on four days a week leaving you a fifth day for preparatory work on your research placement. For part-time students this will be less and depend on the selection of taught modules taken in each of the two years.

Furthermore, you have the option to apply to the Psychology Internship Scheme, one of the School's Employability activities, to gain further research and practical experience under the supervision of a member of staff.

Assessment

External examiners have praised our imaginative variety of assessments. Advanced Statistics is assessed by written examination; the other taught modules are assessed by coursework. There is a wide variety of coursework from essays and reports to seminar diaries and written quizzes. The Research Apprenticeship requires a research project to be written up either as a dissertation or as a research paper.

Careers

The programme will give you an insight into the varied means of performing animal behaviour research in a wide array of locations with wild and (semi-)captive animals – in urban and rural field settings, laboratory, zoo or under human management.

On successful completion of the MSc you will have the skills to pursue a PhD, work as research assistant or project manager, or follow a career working in zoos, industry, research centres, nature reserves, wildlife and other animal-related offices, education, scientific media and the expanding field of eco-tourism.

You will have acquired the necessary scientific skills to enable progression into research posts, further developed communication skills required for roles in the education, media, animal administration and natural environment sector, and practical skills to work as research or animal technicians or animal keepers.

We have long-standing experience teaching this course. Examples of our graduate destinations include PhD research, research assistants, zoo research officers, lecturers, animal keepers, research and animal technicians, warden trainee, staff in a research centre, an animal welfare charity, a wildlife filming company, a scientific editorial, education and wildlife officers.

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 our MSc Animal Behaviour. 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 job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Job titleOrganisation
Natural History Researcher
Research Assistant
Technician
Advancement Assistant
Animal Behaviour Researcher
Editorial Assistant
Trainee Assistant Warden
Research Technician
Aquarist
Trainee Dog Behaviour
Frontier
Wessex Water
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Wildlife Aid
St Andrews University
Springer Publish
Cardiff Council
University of Exeter
Wildlife Reserves Singapore
Alpha Dog Training
Barnewood Boarding Kennels

Further study

Further study is a popular choice for a number of students following graduation from our Masters programmes. Below are a few examples of further study undertaken by recent graduates of our MSc Animal Behaviour. 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 Animal Behaviour
PhD Psychology
University of Exeter
University of Nottingham
University of Aberdeen

I work at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, near Bristol, as a senior zoo keeper on the Big Cat and South American sections. The way I look after the animals almost always links back to their natural behaviours. Everything from the enclosure layout and design, how and what we feed them, how we administer medicines and the enrichment we give them all comes back to what motivates the animals and how they respond to different stimuli. Completing an MSc in Animal Behaviour gave me a better understanding and insight on how to provide animals with an optimal level of welfare.

Emma Godsell, MSc Animal Behaviour graduate Senior Zoo Keeper, Noah's Ark Zoo Farm

Entry requirements 2015

Normally a 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent in Biological Sciences, Psychology, Ecology or a related discipline. If you apply with a different background, e.g. natural and social sciences, or humanities, you should provide evidence for a strong interest in Animal Behaviour, preferably study and/or work experience, and preferably experience with statistical methods.

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.

TOEFL IBT*

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.

Cambridge English: Advanced & Proficiency

Overall score 176. No less than 169 in any section.

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 2015/16

  • UK/EU: £7,000 full-time; £3,500 part-time
  • International: £18,000 full-time

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.

Funding

Find out about funding opportunities available to students on our Psychology taught Masters programmes

University funding

The Scholarships, Bursaries and Studentships 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

If you have any queries about this programme, please contact:

Tel: +44 (0) 1392 724611
Email: psychology@exeter.ac.uk

The Programme Director is Dr Natalie Hempel de Ibarra.