BSc Conservation Biology and Ecology

UCAS codeC190
Duration3 Years
Typical offerAAB-ABB; IB: 34-32
Location Cornwall (Penryn Campus)


Conservation Biology and Ecology video

Find out more about the Conservation Biology and Ecology programme from staff and students. View full size.

You’ll gain knowledge and skills that are essential for working conservationists and ecologists, including wildlife identification and data handling. In the first year, we take full advantage of Cornwall’s rich landscapes with many one-day field trips around the South West Peninsula. In the second year, wider experience comes as a result of a variety of field courses in the UK and Europe, while in year three there are opportunities to go overseas. In all these locations we teach vital identification skills and census techniques while at the same time studying local ecology and conservation issues.

The degree is delivered by internationally-recognised, research active staff in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on our Penryn Campus in Cornwall. The Centre hosts a large and thriving group of scientists who work at the cutting edge of research on conservation and ecology and run field research projects across the globe, from Cyprus to Australia.

The programme is available as a four-year degree with the third year spent studying at a partner university abroad.

Why study Conservation Biology and Ecology at the University of Exeter?

  • led by some of the UK’s foremost biologists working in evolution, conservation and ecology
  • field work opportunities in the UK and overseas
  • close links with a wide range of conservation organisations
  • state-of-the-art research facilities
  • low student-staff ratio, so you won’t get lost in the crowd
  • four year programme with study abroad available
  • graduate with outstanding employment prospects

Programme variations

My non-uni friends and family are quite envious when I say that I've spent a few days at the Eden Project learning about environmental issues, and a day out whale watching to learn about ecotourism, and what better way to learn about nature reserve design and all that it entails than to spend two weeks in Africa!

Rebecca Huxham, BSc Conservation Biology and Ecology student.

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.

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.

You may take optional modules as long as any necessary prerequisites have been satisfied, where the timetable allows and if you have not already taken the module in question or an equivalent module.

You may take elective modules up to 30 credits outside of the programme in the second and final years of the programme as long as any necessary prerequisites have been satisfied, where the timetable allows and if you have not already taken the module in question or an equivalent module.

If you have mobility or health disabilities that prevent you from undertaking intensive fieldwork, reasonable adjustments and/or alternative assessment can be considered. This could include replacing a fieldwork module with an alternative in agreement with the Director of Education.

You are also permitted to take the five credit module BIO3406 Biosciences Research Internship in any year. Registration on this module is subject to a competitive application process. If taken, this module will not count towards progression or award calculation.

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Entry requirements 2017

Typical offer

AAB-ABB; IB: 34-32

Required subjects

GCE AL grade B or IB HL5 in one of the following subjects: Biology/Human Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology or Maths/Pure Maths/Further Maths. GCSE Maths at grade B.

Applicants studying one of the following BTEC Extended Diplomas will be considered without GCE AL science: Applied Science, Animal Management, Agriculture, Countryside Management, Fish management, Forestry and Arboriculture, Marine Biology

International students

International students should check details of our English language requirements and may be interested in our Foundation programmes.

Further information

Please read the important information about our Typical offer.

For full and up-to-date information on applying to Exeter and entry requirements, including requirements for other types of qualification, please see the Applying section.

Learning and teaching

We believe every student benefits from being part of a research-led culture and being taught by experts. Learning and teaching is through lectures, seminars, tutorials, field work, laboratory sessions and independent study with internationally recognised, research-active staff. You will have the opportunity to undertake challenging independent research projects dealing with questions and issues at the cutting edge of life science research. Regular research seminars, by our staff and visiting lecturers, bring you the latest issues on a wide range of research topics.

In your final year you will become an active member of our research team. We have very close links with a wide range of conservation organisations in the UK and overseas, such as the British Trust for Ornithology, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Marine Conservation Society. These links mean you will benefit from frequent guest lectures, placement opportunities and project work.

We’re actively engaged in introducing new methods of learning and teaching, including increasing use of interactive computer-based approaches to learning through our virtual learning environment, where the details of all modules are stored in an easily navigable website. You can access detailed information about modules and learning outcomes and interact through activities such as the discussion forums.


Assessment methods vary depending on your choice of modules, but are likely to include examinations and coursework-based assessment.

You must pass your first year assessment in order to progress to the second year, but the results do not count towards your degree classification. For three-year programmes, the assessments in the second and third years contribute to your final degree classification. For four-year programmes the assessments in the fourth year also contribute to your final degree classification.

From our research, my colleagues and I are able to bring real world examples to our students of cutting-edge conservation projects in action. But we don’t just teach our students about our research – student conservation biologists need to be actively involved right from the start. We encourage our students to do this extensively through field work, summer placements and our extensive guest speaker series.

Brendan Godley, Professor in Conservation Biology.

The expertise of the staff at Cornwall really influenced my decision to apply to study here. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to get out of the classroom and actively learn about insects, sea life, rocky shores and plants. After I graduate I would like to work as a Conservation Botanist, and this course has given me key skills for conservation and ecology which I know will benefit me in my future career path.

Finn Raven, BSc Conservation Biology and Ecology graduate.


Academic support

We pride ourselves on providing a very high standard of care and support to our students. You will have a Personal Tutor who is available for advice and support throughout your studies. There are also a number of services on campus where you can get advice and information.

Peer mentoring

At the University of Exeter we are committed to creating a supportive learning environment in which you will be able to reach your full potential – whatever your ambitions may be. One of the best examples of this has been the introduction of a successful peer tutoring scheme, run by Biosciences students in Cornwall, for students.

As a first year student, you will have the opportunity to join dynamic weekly groups, hosted by both second year and PhD students, which span a range of key areas, such as social and pastoral care, key skills, employability and discipline specific support. One of the main aims of these groups is to give you the opportunity to gain advice from your peers who have been in your position before, and can help ease your transition into university life.

The subject of the inaugural meeting is decided by the group leader, but you then have the opportunity to suggest subsequent session topics. This allows the sessions to be tailored to the direct needs of you and your fellow students. Social media outlets, such as Facebook and Google groups, are also utilised to host dedicated pages that promote continued group discussions and communication outside of the weekly meetings.

In its first year, more than 70 Biosciences students took part in the peer mentoring scheme, being coached by students who are further along in their course and who act as guides to study and university life and offer an additional layer of support. Despite its success, the scheme is continually evolving. In order to ensure you make the most of the groups, there are now more direct links between session content and modules, they will immediately follow lectures where possible, and a large scale awareness campaign will take place at the beginning of the academic year to encourage as many students as possible to participate.

The peer mentoring scheme gives you a wonderful opportunity to help shape your time at University and truly make your mark – your future really is in your own hands.

From the beginning we asked the students to help shape the peer mentoring project. This is a scheme that is run by students, for students, so it is important that we know it is reaching its full potential. I think a lot of students feel that getting advice from their fellow students is both worthwhile and beneficial, and we are keen to actively promote this as much as possible.

But more than that, we want to make sure students are full engaged and thinking not only about their time here, but also their career options once they leave. It is more important than ever to be switched on about making the most of opportunities such as work experience and volunteering, as well as meeting the challenges their studies present.

Already, this scheme has proved popular and successful, and we will ensure that it is always designed with students as the primary focus – we rely on the students not only telling us what is useful but also how to drive it forward.

Dr Andy Pye Senior Academic, Pastoral Tutor and Educational Enhancement Link Advisor Biosciences, Penryn Campus.


Field work video

Find out the importance of field work to undergraduate programmes in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation. View full size.

Field Course Fortnight

290 students. 27 academics. 7 field courses. 5 countries. 4 continents. January 2015. Join us!

Field work is an essential aspect of all undergraduate programmes offered by our Centre for Ecology and Conservation in Cornwall and for the majority of our programmes you will have opportunities to undertake field courses in both the second and final years.

Second year students can choose from the following destinations*:

Third year students can choose from the following destinations*:

* Field course destinations may be subject to change.

Example of field work - South Africa

The South Africa field course, frequently described as the ‘trip of a lifetime’, includes visits to a range of important habitats and reserves. You will gain first-hand experience of many of the organisms, concepts and principles that you have spent the previous few years learning about. We spend a week in the Western Cape which is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots followed by a week in the game reserves of the Kwazulu-Natal. We aim to cover a range of subjects from the problems of conservation in a developing country, through population ecology to animal behaviour and you will have the chance to see a huge variety of species from Great White Sharks to the Big Five.

Elements covered on the Africa field course include:

  • Safari
  • Contrasting African ecosystems
  • Philosophy, sociology, ecology and practice of large-scale conservation
  • Population/community and behavioural ecology
  • Project design, supervision and management

I've visited South Africa twice before and this trip out shadowed them by miles. Unbelievable value for money, the experiences had could not be repeated for the price charged for this trip. The amount of amazing experiences had made the two week trip feel like it must have been a month long. Rising before the sun to pack up camp with the anticipation of what would be encountered that day gave us students a taster of the demands and excitement of field work in biologically diverse areas. The amount of species encountered was awesome and inspiring. Nothing can beat seeing a pair of Crown Eagles in courtship display from the side of a valley or seeing a truly wild cheetah.

Lucy Smith, BSc Conservation Biology and Ecology student


A degree in Conservation Biology and Ecology will help you to develop a wide range of essential skills such as analytical problem solving, team work and organising and communicating information. A number of our students continue their studies in the subject by following a further degree and research in their chosen area, or by training as a teacher. Many of our graduates are employed in discipline relevant roles in the UK and overseas including laboratory-based positions, conservation management, ecology, teaching and nursing. Others use the skills gained on their course to enter widely different career paths in law, business or management. Whatever you choose to do after graduation, your Conservation Biology and Ecology degree will stand you in good stead, with excellent employment prospects and transferable skills.

Developing your skills and career prospects

Biosciences provide a range of support and opportunities to help you develop skills that are attractive to employers. Visit our Careers and Employability web page for more information.

Graduate destinations

Below are a few examples of initial jobs undertaken by graduates of University of Exeter Biosciences undergraduate programmes in Cornwall. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey 2012/13. Please note that, due to data protection, the job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Job titleOrganisation
Assistant Scientist
Campaign Organiser
Project Assistant
Conservation Volunteer
Environmental Instructor
Taxonomist Assistant
Assistant Field Director
Copy Editor
Park Assistant
Media and Communications Manager
Practical Countryside Ranger
Assistant Ecologist
Wild Publishing
Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre
African Horseback Safaris
Wessex Water
Orang-utan Health Project
Inga Foundation
University of Exeter
The Royal Parks
RPS Group
Oxford Real Farming Conference
National Trust

Further study

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

Subject areaInstitution
Conservation and biodiversity
Aquatic biology/ecology
Survey and land management
Environmental sociology
Animal behaviour
Conservation science and policy
Evolution of pathogens
Evolutionary biology
Food security and sustainable agriculture
Sustainable tropical agroforestry
University of Exeter
Queen Mary, University of London
Massey University
University of Rennes
University of Reading
University College London

Find out more

Further information about the opportunities the University of Exeter offers to maximise the employment prospects of our graduates employment prospects can be found on the CareerZone website.

The course was packed with fascinating and inspiring insight into conservation and ecology, presented by expert and extremely supportive staff. Their encouragement and motivation has given me the strength and determination to achieve my potential, above and beyond what I had believed possible. As well as supporting me to attain a first class honours degree, they facilitated my undertaking of extra-mural study including cetacean research and a professional qualification in marine mammal observation.

Experience I have gained during my time at University has secured me a well-paid position as the Environmental project co-ordinator for an offshore survey company immediately upon graduation. The company were impressed by the range of report writing and analytical skills developed at university, along with my experience of coordinating cetacean research. I look forward to the work environment and only hope the experience can compare to my time in Cornwall!

Sally Wagner, BSc Conservation Biology graduate

Contact us

Penryn Campus, Cornwall

Phone: +44 (0)1326 371801

Website: Visit the Biosciences website