Postgraduate taught

MSc Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation - 2021 entry

Please note: The below is for 2021 entries. Click here for 2020 entries.
UCAS code 1234
Duration 1 year full time
Entry year 2020

Programme Director: Professor Brendan Godley
Web: Enquire online 
Phone: +44 (0)1326 371801 

Entry requirements

A 2:1 or 2:2 degree or equivalent in Biology or a relevant science subject

View full entry requirements

Campus Penryn Campus
Discipline Biosciences


  • Delivered by internationally recognised experts
  • Opportunities to undertake research projects within world-leading research teams in collaboration with NGOs and government bodies in the UK and overseas
  • Extensive skills-based field learning within the UK
  • Gain transferable skills in marine vertebrate ecology and conservation
  • Study in a location surrounded in coastal and marine biodiversity
Apply for Oct 2020 entry

Apply online

View 2020 Entry

Fast Track (current Exeter students)

Open days and visiting us

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Professor Brendan Godley and current Biosciences Masters students discuss the programme in a Facebook Live Q&A.

Marine research at Exeter

Our marine research comprises nine major interdisciplinary themes. Find out more on the Exeter Marine website.

7th in the world for Ecology

ShanghaiRankings Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2019 

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*

2nd in the Russell Group for Biosciences in the National Student Survey 2019

92% of Biosciences students agreed they were satisfied with the quality of their course in the NSS 2019

10th in the UK for Biological Sciences

The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020

Entry requirements

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.

Entry requirements for international students

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

Course content

Delivered by internationally-recognised experts with global reputations in marine ecology and conservation, 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 vertebrates.

Through workshops and field trips you will develop identification and survey skills and an appreciation of the conservation and management of marine vertebrates. Research seminars will see you interacting with a wide range of our renowned academics and their research. This will mean that you will be exposed to many of the research topics being offered by staff for research projects.

You will undertake a marine vertebrate research project within the research groups of our world leading academics. These projects will be in the UK or abroad and many will be in conjunction with our extensive network of partner organisations in the UK and around the world.

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 biggest highlight of studying at Exeter was that it was a key milestone in my career to broaden my view on biodiversity conservation and ecotourism. The lecturers were very dynamic and the several field trips allowed students to gain significant experience. The University support for overseas students (e.g, support in English for essays, etc) was also very useful.

I enjoyed the dynamism of the course. It was a very intensive year with a lot of learning.

After graduating from Exeter, I came back to Cabo Verde and worked at the National Directorate of Environment. My role was to follow up the management plans of protected areas and species conservation, I was also the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Political Focal Point and Ramsar Convention Focal Point.

I then left the government and founded an NGO called Lantuna. I have been implementing biodiversity conservation projects in Cabo Verde and I also do consultancy services. At the present, I am coordinating the Cabo Verde seabirds project for BirdLife International.

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Centre for Ecology and Conservation graduate


UK/EU fees per year:

£13,500 full-time

International fees per year:

£23,400 full-time

Teaching and research

Image credit: Philip Doherty

Our research

Our marine-related research spans the humanities, physical, social and natural sciences. Marine research groups, containing over 350 researchers, can be found in all of our Colleges and Interdisciplinary Research Institutes.

Research is organised into nine major interdisciplinary themes which sees us working collaboratively with a wide range of partners locally, regionally and across the world’s oceans to shape positive changes in practice, policy and innovation. The research groups include:

How will I learn?

  • Seminars
  • Workshops
  • Field work
  • Group discussion
  • Independent study

Within modules 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 wide range of our renowned academics and their research. This will mean that you will be exposed to many of the research topics being offered by staff for research projects.

Learning from experts

Postgraduate students join a community of world-leading experts in subjects ranging from evolutionary biology, conservation and ecology, through whole organism biology and microbiology, to molecular and cellular biology, computational biology and biological chemistry.

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 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.

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Image credit: James Duffy/Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust.

We will undertake extensive fieldwork in waters of the UK including Cornwall and locations such as Isles of Scilly and Lundy. You will become proficient in marine vertebrate identification, become a qualified marine mammal observer (MMO), become a trained marine mammal medic as well as becoming familiar with marine vertebrate necropsy protocols, baited remote underwater video and passive acoustic monitoring.



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 vertebrates. Skills will include:

  • GIS and marine spatial planning
  • marine mammal rescue
  • post-mortem techniques
  • Marine Mammal Observer qualification
  • use of passive acoustic monitoring
  • bycatch mitigation
  • drones (aerial/underwater)
  • and animal tracking.

Generic transferrable skills include:

  • Scientific writing and poster preparation
  • grant writing
  • public speaking
  • short film production
  • press release
  • and the professional use of social media.

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.

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 focussed seminars involving invited external stakeholders offering extensive networking opportunities.

Recent graduates

Below are a few examples of initial jobs undertaken by graduates of our Biosciences postgraduate programmes. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey 2016/17. Please note that, due to data protection, the job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Recent graduates are now working as:

  • Conservation Project Officer
  • Ecologist
  • Environmental Consultant
  • GIS and Social Technician
  • Graduate Research Assistant
  • King Cobra Telemetry Project Intern 
  • Marine and Environmental Consultant
  • Programme Assistant, Conservation Science and Design
  • Research Leader
  • Science Researcher

Recent graduates are now working for:

  • Biosphere Magazine
  • Blue Ventures
  • Devon Wildlife Trust
  • Greengage Environmental LLP
  • Institute of Zoology
  • IUCN John Wenman Ecological Consultancy Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute (MRCI)
  • Oxford Scientific Films
  • RSPB
  • Seamarc Environmental Consultancy and Engineering
  • Thomson Ecology

Further study

Further study is a popular choice for a number of students following graduation from our Biosciences Masters programmes. Below are a few examples of further study undertaken by recent MSc graduates. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey 2016/17.

  • PhD investigating the effects of species interactions on species distributions
  • PhD Sustainable Agriculture
  • PhD Institute for Bee Health
  • PhD Environmental Sciences
  • PhD Biological Sciences
  • PhD Structural/Molecular Biology
  • PhD Dispersal at Low Densities
  • PhD Crop Biology
  • PhD Ontogeny of foraging behaviour in grey seals
  • PhD Diversity and Evolution of Wasps and Bees Along an Altitudinal Gradient in NW Ecuador

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