MSc Wildlife Biology & Conservation

Postgraduate, Full-time

Wildlife Biology & Conservation MSc



Our course is the first course in Scotland to be accredited by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management

Overview

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.

This is the first and only degree in Scotland to be accredited by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM).

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

Mode of Study:

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

Duration:

1 year

Start date:

JanSep


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Course details

This course has been designed in conjunction with employers and professional bodies. The main focus is on the development of practical employability skills. In recognition of the strong practical and employability focus, this the first and only degree in Scotland to be accredited by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM), meaning you'll graduate with an accredited MSc.

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

Field course

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.

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

    This is a full-time course.

    The academic year is split into three trimesters with the taught modules running in either trimester 1 or 2 only. 

    You can choose to start in either September (trimester 1) or January (trimester 2). 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.

  • 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 lead a guided tour and present a research proposal pitch.

  • library Facilities

    We are based at the Sighthill Campus where we enjoy excellent well equipped laboratory and IT facilities. In addition, the good transport network around the city allows us to visit and study a range of terrestrial and aquatic habitats within easy reach of the campus.

Modules

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 and environmental education. Aspects of urban ecology, community engagement and social research in conservation, relate directly to the challenges of land management in an urban setting which forms one of the assessments. Agricultural ecology and examples of human-wildlife conflict around the world are also studied in relation to wildlife law and economics. The Yellowstone National Park reintroduction of wolves acts as a 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 )

A range of Likelihood and Information-Criterion based modelling techniques used in modern population analysis and management. Both open and closed population models based on multinomial probability functions will be covered. Advanced modelling of recovery data using robust-design models with integrated link functions for co-variate inclusion will be used and built upon to create multi-state stochastic models. Variants of these models will be employed in assessing presence-absence data and occupancy estimations. Parameters derived from modelling will then be used in matrix models and population viability analyses.

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

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 )

This module has three strands: philosophy and practice of science; statistical analysis and the use of R; an introduction to taxonomy and species ID. Content will include the nature of the literature and scientific method including survey and experimental strategies and the need for replication and controls. Working with people and qualitative research methods involve a different set of ethical and regulatory issues which will also be discussed. Statistical and related methods for analysing and presenting data will be covered in the first half of the module together with taxonomic theory and field and lab sessions looking at a range of taxa.

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.

RECOGNISED BY

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 2018/19 2019/20
Home/EU £5,850 £6,084
Overseas £15,150 £15,755


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

Careers

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