MSc Conservation Biology
Why choose this course?
As the number of species facing extinction continues to grow at an alarming rate, conservation biologists are in greater demand than ever before. This MSc is your pathway to a worthwhile career tackling one of society’s most pressing concerns.
- Deepen your understanding of the scientific principles underpinning conservation biology and explore practical solutions to environmental problems
- Study a course recognised for its high academic quality: this MSc is accredited by the Institution of Environmental Sciences
- Gain the practical experience you need for a fulfilling career in conservation or environmental management
- Undertake a training-based placement to build the skills and qualities most valued by employers
- Conduct fieldwork and research in some of the country’s outstanding natural environments: the Peak District National Park is right on our doorstep
- Take a global perspective: in the past our students have even studied in Singapore as part of our Tropical Conservation Biology module
- Be inspired by our highly qualified and experienced teaching team who are conducting influential national and international research
Course code: MD4AA Start date: September and January Course length: Full-time: one year. Part-time: up to three years. Campus: Kedleston Road site, Derby Campus College: College of Life & Natural Sciences
This course is available to international students
About this course
If you have your sights set on a career in conservation, habitat management or environmental consultancy, this MSc offers an excellent grounding in the skills and knowledge you need.
Expertise to make a difference
Over 15,000 species are now threatened with extinction, according to theWorld Conservation Union Red List. In fact, current extinction rates are estimated to be up to 10,000 times higher than they would naturally be. There is an urgent need for skilled, forward-thinking conservation biologists who can help reverse this trend.
Our MSc Conservation Biology combines strong theoretical knowledge and practical abilities. You’ll explore the reasons why so many species are endangered and develop vital skills in the management of wildlife and environments. Building on a firm understanding of theory, you’ll find practical solutions to environmental management problems.
The course is accredited by the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES), which means that it reflects the high standards, ethics and values expected of environmental professionals.
Practical challenges throughout
In the field and the laboratory alike, you’ll have the chance to hone your practical skills in everything from species identification to ecological surveys, sampling methods to statistical analyses.
Our facilities have recently been modernised to offer a first-rate learning environment. They include a glasshouse featuring plants from diverse habitats, an insectary housing many different species, and specialist laboratories. The latest addition to our facilities is our Aquatic Research Facility, which has been developed in collaboration with the Sealife Centre, Birmingham. We also have a student research lab where you will have a dedicated space to pursue your independent studies.
Exciting fieldwork in great locations
We bring theory to life with fascinating fieldwork opportunities. You’ll take full advantage of studying close to the stunning landscapes and diverse habitats of the Peak District National Park.
Conservation is a global priority so some students have ventured overseas to conduct their investigations. Groups taking our Tropical Conservation Biology module have, for instance, explored the primary rainforest, mangrove communities and seashore wildlife of Singapore.
To enhance your employability, the MSc includes an optional training-based placement. You’ll work with a host organisation such as a local authority, environmental consultancy, zoo or educational institution to experience ‘real world’ scenarios.
The focus of your placement will be on linking theory with practical investigations and problem-solving. You could find yourself exploring issues such as biodiversity, conservation, flood defence, or environmental contamination and remediation.
Our experienced teaching team
You’ll be taught by a highly qualified team who are supportive, friendly and approachable – keen to pass their knowledge on to you. They include active international researchers whose work has heralded important new approaches to conservation biology and environmental management.
They publish influential papers, speak at global conferences, serve on the editorial boards of scientific journals and are in demand as media commentators. In just one example, our Programme Leader Prof. Karim Vahed gave a Key-note lecture at the first European Conference on the Conservation of Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets), and has featured on TV programmes such as the BBC documentary Spider House.
We have an Environmental Sustainability Research Centre which confronts the issues resulting from climate change, amongst other areas.
In a new venture, our Nature Connectedness Research Group, a multidisciplinary team working with Natural England and national conservation groups, helps to foster enthusiasm for the environment, promote wellbeing and encourage conservation action. A highlight of its work so far was the Nature Connections Festival, described by BBC Springwatch presenter Chris Packham as “a brilliant, imaginative, innovative and intelligent project”.
A vibrant scientific community
We pride ourselves on alearning community which sparks curiosity and nurtures active minds. You’re encouraged to pursue your own specialist interests and, as part of the MSc, you’ll undertake a major independent project to produce a piece of original research which contributes to the world of conservation.
The University hosts an exciting range of special events and talks by leading scientists which will give you insights into latest research and developments within conservation. Subjects have covered everything from the threats facing our bumblebee populations to the evolutionary origins of the dodo. We also have wide-ranging academic collaborations with national and international partners which could open doors for you.
What you will cover
This course is made up of three stages: Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma, and MSc. Some modules are available in a distance learning format - if you study through distance learning, you will have access to the course notes and assignment details online.
You’ll study modules such as:
Conservation Biology in Principle and Practice
You’ll look at the current state of the biosphere and the reasons why conservation biology is needed. You’ll study the wide range of problems that conservation biology needs to address from a theoretical perspective and contrast this with the realities of conservation biology in practice.
You’ll explore different approaches to surveys for ecology and conservation, including Phase 1 habitat survey, GPS surveying, GIS mapping, and the analysis and classification of freshwater and terrestrial habitats. You will also look at sampling methods and census techniques for a range of freshwater and terrestrial plant and animal groups.
Identification for Conservation Biology
In this module, you will examine the importance of individual species identification to conservation biology. You’ll consider the relative importance of different species to the conservation of ecosystems, exploring concepts including keystone species, indicator species and flagship species.
You’ll study this core module:
Analytical Methods for Ecologists
During this module, you’ll become confident and proficient at applying basic univariate statistical analyses and basic multivariate visualisation and analysis methods. Towards the end of the module, you’ll learn about more sophisticated univariate analysis techniques to cope with more complex data structures. The module will also introduce you to the widely used analysis software ‘R’.
You’ll also choose two modules from the following:
- Environmental Impact Assessment
- Environmental Policy and Law
- Environmental Pollution Management Strategies
- Habitat Management
- Tropical Conservation Biology
Practical Training-Based Placement Module
This placement module is an opportunity for you to work with a host organisation, experience real world scenarios, and gain experience towards future employment.
The module provides links between theory and problem-solving through practical applications. This will be achieved through investigation of current aspects of the environmental sector in a range of areas such as biodiversity, conservation, flood defence, and environmental contamination and remediation.
You’ll study this module:
Independent Scholarly Activity in Biosciences
In this triple module, you will plan, conduct, and present a piece of original research on a topic of your choice within the area of Conservation Biology. This is a major part of this course and can be designed to suit your individual interests. You will have the flexibility to research into a topic of your choice, so you can tailor it to meet your career aspirations. Previous students have researched areas such as ecological tipping-points of woodland butterflies, the effect of the diversity of hedgerow plants on insect diversity, the effects of urbanisation on bat ecology, and impacts of human habitation on lion distribution in Kenya.
You will need an undergraduate degree (lower second or above) or equivalent in a relevant subject.
International students should have the above or an international equivalent. If English is not your first language, you will need to hold IELTS 6.0 or above
- How to apply
Fees and finance
2018/19 Fees (August 2018 - July 2019)
Full-time Part-time UK/EU
£825 per 20 credits*
£825 per 20 credits*
£13,500 for the full programme
*Note – at postgraduate level, you’ll need to gain the following number of credits in total to obtain the awards below.
Postgraduate Certificate 60 Credits Postgraduate Diploma 120 Credits MA or MSc 180 Credits
This means you will gain 180 credits in total to complete the full MA or MSc. If you are studying part time you will normally complete your studies over two or three years, depending on the course structure.
Please note that all fees may be subject to annual increase.
Funding your studies
Alumni discount for Derby graduates
Scholarships and bursaries
How you will learn
You’ll be taught through lectures, guest lectures, workshops, practical sessions in the field and laboratory, and tutorials. There is also the opportunity to go on site visits.
The majority of modules are assessed by coursework rather than by exams. A wide range of assessment methods are used, from oral presentations and poster displays, to scientific and professional reports.
During this course you'll have the opportunity to go on fieldtrips, allowing you to gain first-hand practical experience and learn new skills, such as site surveying and species identification.
Our course also gives you the opportunity to apply the theory you learn to a working environment. If you take the optional module 'Practical Training Based Placement Module, you will have the opportunity to complete work placements. Examples of organisations you might work with include: local authorities, industry, businesses, HE institutions, zoos, or environmental/ecological consultants.
Learn from an expert teaching team
Dr Nel Beaumont - Special interests include individual photo-identification of seals and other animals, and wildlife conservation education
Debbie Alston - Special interests include monitoring biodiversity and habitat management for specific species
Graham Rowe - Special interests include the use of molecular genetic DNA markers to answer ecological and evolutionary questions
Dr Mark Bulling - Special interests include biodiversity and community structure, and ecosystem functioning across spatial scales
Dr Maren Huck - Special interests include the evolution of mating systems and male care in neotropical primates
Dr Michael Sweet - Special interests include coral biology and immune responses to specific diseases
Dr Andrew Ramsey - Special interests include conservation ecology, especially in woodland systems
Professor Paul Lynch - Special interests include plant biotechnology
Professor Karim Vahed - Special interests include sexual selection and sexual conflict in arthropods; ecology and conservation of Orthoptera
Like most universities, we operate extended teaching hours at the University of Derby, so contact time with your lecturers and tutors could be anytime between 9am and 9pm. Your timetable will usually be available on the website 24 hours after enrolment on to your course.
Careers and employability
Our MSc equips you with a wide range of skills and knowledge in both biological conservation and environmental management. It could pave the way for rewarding roles in habitat management or environmental consultancy, with conservation agencies or with local or national government.
There are also opportunities to move into industry in roles which bridge environmental management with broader conservation issues – so you could pursue a career in areas such as waste management, energy efficiency or recycling.
This programme is an ideal stepping stone to an academic research career too. You could undertake a PhD to advance knowledge in this critically important field.
What our students say
Peter Cowley, Ecologist at Clear Environmental Consultants
"MSc Conservation Biology was perfect for me because it offered a combination of modules incorporating academic, vocational and practical skills, as well as providing a valuable background of environmental law and legislation. I chose the course specifically to kick-start a career change, although it offered a natural progression of my interests and experience in biology and life sciences."
Graduate, Vanessa Amaral-Rogers, worked on an event for the new BBC1 series of Stargazing Live, which features TV physicist Professor Brian Cox:
"As a Zoology graduate, the MSc Conservation Biology has provided me with the additional practical skills and knowledge to take the next step in my career. Each module was interesting, well-structured and with a manageable workload. For me, the Tropical Conservation module was a highlight of the course, with the fieldtrip to Singapore providing a valuable insight into conservation methods in other countries. The lecturers were extremely knowledgeable and always willing to help. I would recommend this course to anyone who is looking to work in conservation. After the success of the Live'n'Deadly event, where thousands of families enjoyed a host of adventure outdoor wildlife activities, I was able to secure my role on Stargazing Live."
Ben McIlwane, PhD Student
"The MSc Conservation Biology course really helped to provide me with a range of practical and real-world skills - particularly statistics, learning how to write a research paper, and developing presentation skills (amongst many others). It has, without a doubt, helped prepare me for my PhD in so many various ways. Too many to list! I will always have very fond memories of my studies at Derby."
Luke Bamforth, Policy officer for Greater Lincolnshire Nature Partnership
"All of the lecturers are incredibly passionate about the subjects they teach and were able to engage me in topics that I would otherwise not have considered. It was inspiring to be taught by some of the country's foremost experts in their fields, but also by people that had real world experience, those that had done the jobs we wanted to do, especially considering that their experience and knowledge was valued as highly as academic knowledge."