MSc Wildlife Biology and Conservation

Postgraduate, Full-Time

Designed in conjunction with employers, this practical course will provide you with the skills and knowledge to help manage and conserve biodiversity.

  • Napier code:

    74706MM

  • Course type:

    Full-Time

  • Duration:

    1 year, or 18 months for January start

  • Award:

    MSc

  • Location:

    Sighthill campus

Ask about this course
About you
Enter first name
*
Enter last name
*
*
*
*
*
*

Course introduction

The greatest challenge facing conservation biologists today is the preservation of the world’s biodiversity in the face of considerable human demands on space and resources.

By combining the disciplines of wildlife biology and conservation biology, experienced staff will help you develop and apply both the theoretical knowledge and practical skills required to address this challenge.

Our graduates have gone on to work for government agencies and independent wildlife organisations nationally and internationally.


wild life biology

This course has been designed in conjunction with employers and professional bodies. The main focus is on the development of practical employability skills.

In addition to studying relevant theory, you’ll have the opportunity to develop:

  • advanced analytical skills for population investigation and management
  • practical skills used in identifying, quantifying and assessing biodiversity
  • transferable skills including communication, IT (GIS, R, Mark, Estimate S), problem solving, research and team working

You’ll need to be available to participate in a three-week intensive field course based in Scotland to help embed practical skills in sampling, identification (plants, aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, small mammals, birds) and data analysis.

In addition, guided visits to several sites and talks from managers will highlight how conservation and management are informed by the aims and objectives of the site owners. This usually takes place in early May.

Our staff have years of experience working worldwide in wildlife conservation and consultancy and are keen to help you develop your potential. In addition, external speakers from a range of government agencies, charities and consultancies share their experiences and give insights into career options.

This is a one year full-time course split into three trimesters. You can choose to start in either September or January. However, the development of theory and practice are best facilitated with a September start.

You'll learn by a variety of teaching methods including lectures, tutorials, laboratory sessions, field trips and independent study, supported with information on the virtual learning environment.

As your interests develop through the taught course you'll be able to design a final research project to suit your individual goals.

Subjects include

  • Principles of wildlife management
  • Scientific methods
  • Humans and wildlife
  • Biodiversity and conservation
  • Management of aquatic protected areas
  • Field and laboratory skills
  • Modelling wildlife populations or case studies in applied ecology

Study modules mentioned above are indicative only. Some changes may occur between now and the time that you study.

Full information on this is available in our disclaimer.

Returning graduates, who share their experience of the work environment each year, have emphasised the importance of the skills gained from the course in their subsequent success.

You could develop a career with government agencies such as Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural England, non-governmental agencies and charities such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Wildlife Trusts or private consultancies.


Bachelor (Honours) Degree at 2:2 or above, preferably including aspects of ecology/biology.

English language requirements

If your first language isn't English, you'll normally need to undertake an approved English language test and our minimum English language requirements will apply.

This may not apply if you have completed all your school qualifications in English, or your undergraduate degree was taught and examined in English (within two years of starting your postgraduate course). Check our country pages to find out if this applies to you.



Our entry requirements indicate the minimum qualifications with which we normally accept students. Competition for places varies from year to year and you aren't guaranteed a place if you meet the minimum qualifications.

International students

If your qualifications aren't listed above, visit our country pages to get entry requirements for your country.

Please note that non-EU international students are unable to enrol onto the following courses:

BN Nursing/MN Nursing (Adult, Child, Mental Health or Learning Disability)

BM Midwifery/MM Midwifery

Admissions policies

We are committed to being as accessible as possible to anyone who wants to achieve higher education.

Our admissions policies will help you understand our admissions procedures and how decisions are made.


Tuition fees
Students from 2017/18 2018/19
Home/EU £3,750 £5,850
Overseas £14,690 £15,150

Frequently Asked Questions about Fees
Information of Bursaries and Scholarships

Modules that you will study as part of this course*

Biodiversity and Conservation ( ENV11100 )

Why should we conserve biodiversity? Indeed, what is it? This module looks at levels and patterns of biodiversity and how they are measured using estimators & indices. You will use R to carry out biodiversity measurement and consider how to use such data to prioritise areas for protection. You will study aspects of conservation biology such as speciation and extinction and debate the challenges around reintroduction programmes and conservation in the face of climate change.

Further information

Case Studies in Applied Ecology ( ENV11115 )

The module will present 3 case studies within wildlife management and conservation. Case-studies will be introduced with a lecture that gives the background to a conservation/management issue and the techniques that could be utilised to provide new information. Each case-study will have computer practicals during which students would be presented with a dataset that is either from, similar to, or a subset from the appropriate case-study and follow a tutorial that explains how they can analyse and present these data in R. Students will be expected to follow tutorials in class time and outside of class, and additionally complete a short piece of work analysing some ecological data, presenting results and interpreting those results in an applied context. Finally, in a discursive tutorial we will go through the results and interpretation, and discuss how the results might inform new management decisions. Case-studies will cover a range of management issues, and will be based on real scenarios that can be drawn from research experience of staff or drawn from the literature. Indicative areas are: the impacts of predator removal on nest success of birds, habitat selection analyses to inform habitat management, monitoring populations using distance sampling, and camera-trap surveying.

Further information

Field and Laboratory Skills ( ENV11108 )

A series of practical sessions in the field and lab will be followed by a residential field course during which students will conduct (under supervision) sampling/monitoring in terrestrial and aquatic habitats with identification and enumeration of various taxa. Habitat and species specific methods related to terrestrial invertebrates, aquatic invertebrates, small mammals, birds and plants will be covered. Students will be tested on the key employability skills of species identification and report writing.

Further information

Humans and Wildlife ( ENV11101 )

Topics include ecotourism; wildlife guiding; environmental education; community engagement; wildlife law and economics; human-wildlife conflict; urban ecology; agricultural ecology; social research in conservation; case study in protected area management.

Further information

Management of Aquatic Protected Areas ( ENV11112 )

The module will cover the following topics: marine and freshwater protected area planning, legal and legislative frameworks for the designation of aquatic protected areas, assessing and managing water quantity and quality issues, aquatic-terrestrial linkages, landscape scale approaches and management at the catchment level, the DPSIR (Drivers-Pressures-State-Impacts-Responses) framework for analysis of environmental state and management, catchment management plans, coastal zone management, marine spatial planning, the ecosystem approach to aquatic resource management, including fisheries and sustainable use of aquatic protected areas. Students will also gain skills in the use and application of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in the context of managing aquatic protected areas.

Further information

Modelling Wildlife Populations ( ENV11114 )

The module will cover: Multinomial probability and closed capture models. Link functions, ß-functions and odds ratios. Known-fate, tag recovery and open CJS models. Robust design and time symmetry models. Patch occupancy models and patch dynamics. Matrix algebra and matrices as management tools. Multistate, density dependant and stochastic models. Population viability analysis.

Further information

Principles of Wildlife Management ( ENV11116 )

Disciplines covered will include: - Wildlife population dynamics - Wildlife meta-populations - Mammal capture techniques - Bird capture techniques - Information theoretic modelling and maximum likelihood estimation in wildlife studies - Use of GLM/GLMM in wildlife studies - Population/demographic monitoring - Sampling design in wildlife population monitoring - Life table analysis

Further information

Research Project ( ENV11117 )

In this module you will design and conduct an independent research project. This may be a field or lab based study, a data analysis project or a piece of qualitative research (e.g. questionnaires). This involves design, development and implementation of a programme of research in a particular field of study relevant to your interests. You will critically analyse data/information generated, and communicate the outcomes in a research paper, which will develop your skills in scientific writing. You are encouraged to develop a project which meets your constraints in terms of location, funding and interests. Projects can be undertaken independently (provided health and safety concerns are met) or in collaboration with organisations locally or around the world. As a full-time (FT) student, you will have one trimester to complete the module. If you are a part-time or distance learning student (PT/DL), you will have 2 trimesters to complete. In either case, you will develop a project proposal and complete any necessary risk assessments and ethics procedures prior to getting under way. In the case of FT students this proposal should be submitted by week 3 of the trimester while PT/DL students submit by week 5. In all cases, you should submit your final research paper by the end of week 13 of the appropriate trimester. If your project idea cannot be completed in the trimester when you are due to take this module e.g. your focal species is not active at that time of year, you should consult staff as to possible options.

Further information

Scientific Methods ( ENV11109 )

Philosophy of science, the nature of the literature and scientific method including survey and experimental strategies, the need for replication and controls, working with people and qualitative methods, ethical and regulatory issues in scientific research, developing a research proposal, statistical and related methods for analysing and reporting data. Taxonomic theory and practice across a range of taxa; plants, invertebrates and vertebrates, mainly birds.

Further information

* These are indicative only and reflect the course structure in the current academic year. Some changes may occur between now and the time that you study.