MSc Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation

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


Marine research at Exeter comprises nine major interdisciplinary themes.

› Exeter Marine website

  • 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

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 a significant experience. The University support for overseas students (e.g, English class, support in English correction for the 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. 

Ana, Centre for Ecology and Conservation graduate.

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

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 diversity of top academics and get to know about their ongoing research.

Research project

A large number of Exeter academics will be involved with this programme and they will offer a great diversity of research topics within their projects in the UK and overseas as well as with collaborating organisations.

Significant funds will be made available to support each research project whether it be for travel or laboratory consumables. Such is the diversity of expertise among the Exeter academics, that we are confident that we can find a supervisor for any tractable self-generated student projects.

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, oral and video presentations.

Learning from experts

Postgraduate students join a community of world-leading experts working on fundamental and applied research that supports the conservation of fish, marine turtles, marine mammals and seabirds.

Each year, supervisors will be drawn from the following academics:


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.


Image credit: Philip Doherty

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
  • Ecological Planning advisory intern
  • Ecologist
  • Environmental Consultant
  • GIS and Social Technician
  • Graduate Research Assistant
  • Marine and Environmental Consultant
  • Programme Assistant, Conservation Science and Design
  • Research Leader
  • Science Researcher

Recent graduates are now working for:

  • Blue Ventures
  • Devon Wildlife Trust
  • EDF Energy
  • Institute of Zoology
  • IUCN
  • Oxford Scientific Films
  • RSPB
  • Seamarc Environmental Consultancy and Engineering
  • Somerset Wild Life Trust
  • Thomson Ecology
  • Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust

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 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


Research areas

In recent years the University of Exeter’s marine education and research has been growing fast. Our interdisciplinary marine 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. Staff from most of these themes are involved with marine vertebrate ecology and conservation. This means you will be learning at the leading edge, interacting with the experts and benefiting from complementary interdisciplinary activities from other academic units on campus and their extensive network of collaborators.

Marine research themes

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.

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.

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.

MSc Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation Scholarship – USA and Canada

We are pleased to be able to offer a scholarship for one successful applicant to the MSc Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation programme starting in September 2020. The scholarship will be awarded as a 50% reduction of the international 2020 tuition fee.

Open to USA and Canadian applicants, the successful applicant will be selected on academic merit, based on the information you have supplied on your programme application. Awardees will be expected to demonstrate that they have achieved the equivalent of a UK First Class degree.

For more information and details on how to apply please visit our scholarship website.

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 Brendan Godley.

//unibuddy popcard script