MSc Wildlife Biology & Conservation

Postgraduate, Distance learning

Wildlife Biology & Conservation MSc

Gain the opportunity to develop relevant skills for employment in the fields of wildlife biology and conservation while studying remotely


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.

This is a distance learning course, offering you the flexibility to learn at your own pace and place, possibly alongside a role in the conservation industry.

Mode of Study:

Distance learning (available as Full-time | Part-time)


3-4 years

Start date:


About you
Enter first name
Enter last name

Course details

This course has been designed in conjunction with employers and professional bodies. 

The main focus is on the development of practical skills to equip you to work in this field.

Although it cannot replicate the experience of on-campus students, your attendance and participation on the field course, together with independent field work will help to develop your competence in these essential aspects. 

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), problem solving, research and team working

As one of your last taught modules, you'll need to be able to join with full-time students for 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.

Lead academics and short bio 

The core academic team boast a wide range of skills and research interests. Staff include: 

  • Patrick White  (population dynamics, habitat utilisation, GIS, birds) 
  • Jason Gilchrist (behavioural ecology and biodiversity) 
  • Rob Briers (conservation planning, GIS and aquatic ecology)
  • Jay Mackinnon (botany, environmental education, social research)
  • Gavin Ballantyne (pollination ecology) 
  • Paul Ward (population and habitat modelling).  
  • calendar How you’ll be taught

    The course is studied part-time by distance learning utilising a range of online learning materials. The course can take up to 4 years to complete. It takes 3 academic years to complete the taught modules (PGDip) and then another 2 trimesters to complete the research project. 

    The number of modules taken each trimester can vary to suit your time availability. The typical rate is 20 credits in trimester 1 (Sept –Dec) and trimester 2 (Jan – April) each academic year which means you will take three academic years to complete the 120 taught credits.

    You'll then have a further two trimesters in which to complete a research project which you can develop to suit your geographic location and goals. This may include trimester 3 (May-Aug) which does not otherwise require any study while you are completing the taught components. These ‘free’ summers are a good opportunity to get involved in conservation projects locally and build your networks.

    If your commitments are such that you feel you can study more than 20 credits per trimester, an individualised programme of study can be discussed with the Programme Leader.

    On this distance learning course, you will need to commit to an intensive 3 week Scottish based fieldwork where you will join our full-time students to consolidate your ID and field sampling skills.

  • note and pen Assessments

    There are no traditional centrally timetabled exams. Instead you will work on a variety of relevant professional tasks, both written and oral. Assessments include a development proposal for a brown field site, a zoning document, a site management critique and several data driven reports.

    Taxonomic identification and statistical analysis are key skills. In addition, you will produce a self-guided tour brochure and present a research proposal pitch.


Modules that you will study* as part of this course

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

Principles of Wildlife Management ( ENV11116 )

Disciplines covered initially include wildlife population dynamics and wildlife meta-populations. Practical techniques covered in detail then include mammal and bird capture techniques, and sampling design in wildlife population monitoring We then discuss the foundation of more complex analytical techniques such as information theoretic modelling and maximum likelihood estimation in wildlife studies, use of generalised linear modelling in wildlife studies and life table analysis.

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.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

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.

International students

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.
Entry requirements by 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’re committed to admitting students who have the potential to succeed and benefit from our programmes of study. 

Our admissions policies will help you understand our admissions procedures, and how we use the information you provide us in your application to inform the decisions we make.

Undergraduate admissions policies
Postgraduate admissions policies

Fees & funding

The course fees you'll pay and the funding available to you will depend on a number of factors including your nationality, location, personal circumstances and the course you are studying. We also have a number of bursaries and scholarships available to our students.

Tuition fees
Students from n/a 2019/20
Home/EU-Taught modules n/a *£922
Home/EU-Dissertation module n/a £553
Overseas Taught Modules n/a *£2,028
Overseas Dissertation n/a £1,352

Fees for modules are calculated according to the number of credits (multiples of 20). The rate shown in the table is for 20 credits*.
This course comprises of 180 credits from taught modules and a dissertation. The total fee you will pay is dependant upon the exit award you wish to achieve.
Frequently Asked Questions about Fees
Information of Bursaries and Scholarships


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.

Jobs include:

  • Ecologist
  • Wildlife ranger
  • Education officer
  • Conservation project officer
  • Wildlife Technician
  • Species licensing officer

Our network of alumni have developed  careers with organisations such as:

Students learning at Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden