MSc Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology

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


MSc Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology video

Find out more from staff and students about the MSc Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology programme. View full size.

At Exeter we host one of the largest and most active groups of 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. We have drawn on this expertise to design a world-leading MSc programme:

  • Delivered by leading international researchers in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation
  • Designed to prepare you for a future research career with excellent graduate employment opportunities
  • Provides extensive training in current research techniques
  • Develops knowledge and critical awareness of current problems and new insights in evolutionary and behavioural ecology
  • 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

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, with particular emphasis on social mammals, birds, turtles and insects. 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.

Programme structure

We have carefully designed a series of modules that give you the best possible grounding in the fundamentals of behavioural ecology. There are no optional modules, but a great deal of choice in research projects with one of our leading behavioural ecology research groups.

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 also compile and read scientific literature on the topic of your research project, which you will pursue during the remainder of the academic year.

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.

Every student has the personal and academic support of the programme director, as well as their academic tutor, module leaders, and project supervisors. The Centre for Ecology and Conservation fosters a close-knit community where postdoctoral researchers and PhD students can interact closely with postgraduates to provide more personal support during the research phase of the programme.


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.


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.

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.

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


Our MSc Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology programme ensures the training you will receive links directly to relevant employment opportunities within the UK and abroad. The programme is designed to prepare you for research; indeed the majority of our students go on to study for PhDs.

Graduate destinations

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:

  • Assistant Ecologist
  • Assistant Ecologist/Fieldwork Co-ordinator
  • Communications Assistant
  • Conservation Project officer
  • Ecological Planning advisory intern
  • Ecologist
  • Environmental consultant
  • Employability and Field Course Assistant
  • GIS and Social Technician
  • Graduate Ecologist
  • Graduate Research Assistant
  • Impact Support Assistant
  • Impact Tracker Intern
  • Junior Researcher
  • King Cobra Telemetry Project Intern
  • Marine and Environmental Consultant
  • Medical Writing Intern
  • Procurement graduate (graduate buyer)
  • Programme Assistant, Conservation Science and Design
  • Project Assistant
  • Research Assistant
  • Research Field Assistant
  • Research Leader, FEMBE Project
  • Researcher
  • Science Researcher
  • Senior Interpreter
  • Technical Assistant

Recent graduates are now working for:

  • A Rocha
  • Bayer Crop Science
  • Biosphere Magazine
  • Blackdown Environmental
  • Blue Ventures
  • Bournemouth and Poole College
  • Brook Lyndhurst
  • CSa Environmental Planning
  • Devon Wildlife Trust
  • EDF Energy
  • Field Studies Council
  • FX Plus
  • Gibraltar Vet Clinic
  • Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust
  • Greengage Environmental LLP
  • Hyder Consulting
  • Institute of Zoology
  • IUCN John Wenman Ecological Consultancy Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute (MRCI)
  • Oxford Scientific Films
  • PorterHouse Medical
  • RSPB
  • Seamarc Environmental Consultancy and Engineering
  • Somerset Wild Life Trust
  • Sparrow-Weaver Project
  • Stark Ecology
  • Sustainable Restaurant Association
  • Taylor Woodrow
  • The Civil Service
  • Thomson Ecology
  • Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
  • Wiley and Sons
  • Xsilon

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. 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
  • Doctor of Philosophy
  • PhD Institute for Bee Health
  • PhD Environmental Sciences
  • PhD in 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

Further information

Further information is available through the Careers pages of the University’s Postgraduate Study website.

Entry requirements

Normally at least a 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent in a science subject, although non-science backgrounds may be considered.

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 2020/21

  • UK/EU: £13,500
  • International: £23,400 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 £10,609 are now available for Masters degrees. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.

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.

Global Excellence Scholarship

We are delighted to offer Global Excellence Scholarships for students of outstanding academic quality applying to postgraduate Taught programmes starting in autumn 2020.
Please note that this scholarship isn't offered for all our masters programmes.

Contact us

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

Web: Enquire online 
Phone: +44 (0)1326 371801

The Programme Director is Professor Michael Cant.

Apply for 2020 entry

Apply online

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