MSc Applied Ecology and Conservation
Specialise in conservation ecology on our established MSc course, which provides you with tuition from world-leading experts from across our Schools of Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences and external organisations. You’ll benefit from our strong academic expertise in Ecology and Conservation, based around UEA’s Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation (CEEC) – one of the largest groups of its kind in Europe with strong links to major conservation organisations and institutions such as the RSPB, CEFAS and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI).
Our MSc Applied Ecology and Conservation offers a flexible course structure that will equip you with the skills necessary for a range of careers in conservation and applied ecology. The interdisciplinary training forms an ideal platform for continuation to doctoral research, for direct access into conservation-related employment or for pursuing careers in a field such as science communication, education or policy development.
You’ll benefit from our strong academic expertise in conservation and ecology, based around UEA’s Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation (CEEC) – one of the largest groups of its kind in Europe with strong links to major conservation organisations and institutions such as the BTO, RSPB,CEFAS and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative.
In the first half of the year, you’ll study core taught modules in ecological survey methods, evidence-based global conservation and statistics, complemented by a broad range of optional modules. These cover topics including Geographical Information Systems (GIS), practical conservation and work experience, evolutionary biology, conservation genetics and statistical modelling using R.
In the second part of your MSc you’ll conduct a 5-month research project exploring some of the most pressing biodiversity issues within an area of your interest – often in collaboration with an external conservation organisation in the UK or abroad. Examples of recent projects include:
- Interspecific competition between translocated species: The case of two island endemic passerines (with Nature Seychelles)
- Exploring the unprecedented recovery of passerines within Rodrigues (with the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation)
- Exploring the distribution and inter-specific interactions of the newly discovered Cambodian Tailorbird (with the Wildlife Conservation Society)
- Differences between fallow plots and wet grassland during lapwing chick rearing (with the RSPB)
Many of our research dissertations are subsequently published in peer-reviewed journals (> 60 publications to date) , and this cv-boosting feature of this UEA Masters is a major feature of the success of our alumni in gaining PhD places to continue research. We also greatly encourage presentation of MSc research at conferences.
In addition to in-depth exposure to global conservation issues, you’ll develop transferable skills and establish valuable contacts with potential employers through work experience and research interactions with international and national conservation organisations.
During your first week here at UEA, you will be able to get your boots muddy while exploring some of the unique and biodiverse habitats across East Anglia. You will learn about the threats facing some of these habitats and, weather permitting, you will also be able to join in with trips to catch small mammals and birds. For many students, one of the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of their MSc experience is conducting their research project. You are encouraged to develop your own research ideas, with support from faculty, and most of our research projects are conducted in collaboration with conservation organisations around the world. Research projects often make use of the extensive network of MSc alumni, to address some of the most pressing issues facing biodiversity conservation. In addition, up to £1000 of the course fees are used to support your dissertation research costs. Recent project topics have explored competition between translocated bird species in the Seychelles, the effects of agri-environment schemes on hoverflies in the UK, the effects of heathland management on predation of snakes and many, many more topics.
The course runs over a full calendar year starting with a series of field trips. You will take a combination of taught modules between October and March before starting on an individual research project, often overseas.
Your compulsory modules will give you a strong grounding in both practical and theoretical skills and knowledge. The Ecological Survey Methods module is designed to train you to carry out ecological research and interpret and evaluate the results of ecological surveys carried out by a third party. It’s ideal vocational training and gives you first-hand experience in a variety of methods for surveying plants, animals and habitats, including the use of remote census techniques such as radio-tracking and trail cameras.
In Evidence-Based Global Conservation you’ll critically evaluate scientific evidence as a basis for effective biodiversity conservation policy, strategy and interventions, in a world challenged by climate change, population growth and the need for socio-economic development and environmental justice.
You’ll cover statistical concepts and practice, and the links between statistics and experimental design, in the modules Multivariate Statistics and Univariate Statistics. You’ll learn simple tests for trends, associations and differences and how multivariate statistics are used in advanced ecological analyses – including General Linear Models, Mixed models, Logistic Regression and Principal Components Analysis.
Alongside these core modules, you’ll also be able to select from a range of optional modules covering topics such as Conservation Genetics, GIS and its Applications for Modelling Ecological and Environmental Change, Practical Conservation and Work Experience, Statistics and Modelling for Scientists using R.
After the taught component of the course, you’ll apply your learning in a real environment through your dissertation study – conducting a research project in an area of your choice.
Teaching and Learning
All our teaching in the Schools of Biological and Ecological Sciences is research-led. This means that you benefit from the teaching expertise of a large group of enthusiastic, friendly academic staff with world-leading research reputations in ecology, evolution and conservation, along with input from staff in leading conservation organisations who ensure that the most recent conservation issues and ideas are incorporated into all our courses. It makes for engaging programmes that our students love.
You will learn through lectures, seminars, workshops, and fieldwork, where you’ll perfect your practical field skills.
You will conduct your own unique research project for your dissertation – and you’re in the ideal place to do so. 100% of our research environment was rated world leading and internationally excellent at the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) for Biological Sciences.
You’ll also get the chance to attend regular seminars and workshops conducted by world-leading scientists to keep up with the latest research in Conservation and Ecology. These are organised by The Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation (CEEC) and you can follow some of their activities here.
How you will be assessed will vary depending on the modules that you choose but may include a combination of written assignments evaluating a recent research article, research posters, presentations and reports incorporating statistical analysis.
After the course
You will graduate as a skilled conservation ecologist ready to work or continue with doctoral studies nationally or globally, using what you have learned at UEA to make a real difference.
You could go on to a career in many different areas – from ecological research to environmental management, consultancy and conservation. You might also consider education or science communication and engagement. Many of our students progress to PhD study after their Master’s degree.
Examples of careers that you could enter include;
- Ecological research
- PhD study
- Ecological Consultancy
- Agriculture and horticulture
- Environmental management and conservation
- Science communication and engagement
Course related costs
Please see Additional Course Fees for details of course-related costs.
Course Modules 2019/0
Students must study the following modules for 140 credits:
A full-time research project that runs from mid March to early August. This entails an extensive, original and quantitative investigation on a conservation or applied ecology topic carried out in the field or laboratory, or may involve analysis of existing data. The project may be undertaken in the Schools of BIO or ENV, or with an international, national or local conservation agency. Projects are supervised by faculty. The research project is written up as a c.10,000 word dissertation with a submission deadline in early August. This is a compulsory module.
ECOLOGICAL SURVEY METHODS
This is a practical module that provides training for anyone who intends to carry out ecological research or who needs to interpret and evaluate the results of ecological surveys carried out by a third party. It offers vocational training for work with conservation agencies and ecological consultancies and preparatory training for students who will do ecological fieldwork for their MSc dissertation, or subsequent PhD. The module includes lectures, workshops, practical classes and field trips and covers the key considerations underpinning effective ecological survey design and implementation. Following initial lectures on research planning and study design, you will explore and gain first-hand experience in a variety of methods for surveying plants, animals and habitats, including the use of remote census techniques such as radio-tracking and trail cameras.
EVIDENCE-BASED GLOBAL CONSERVATION
This interdisciplinary module focuses on the critical evaluation of scientific evidence as a basis for effective biodiversity conservation policy, strategy and interventions, in a world challenged by climate change, population growth and the need for socio-economic development and environmental justice. You will attend an initial block of lectures examining socio-economic drivers of biodiversity loss and motivations for conservation, challenging common assumptions and outlining conceptual frameworks for conservation interventions. A series of seminars by global conservation practitioners provide insights to implementation and employability. Coursework assessments designed to develop skills of evaluating, synthesising and communicating scientific evidence, are supported by feed-forward formative exercises.
You will cover multivariate statistics used in advanced ecological analyses in this module. These include General Linear Models, Analysis of Variance, Logistic Regression, and Principal Components Analysis. You will learn how to run these tests using the statistical package SPSS and how to critique, interpret, and present the results.
Whether this is an introduction or a refresher, you will study simple tests for trends (correlation, regression) and for differences (Chi-square, t-tests, ANOVAs). You will be introduced to these using a friendly statistical package (SPSSx for Windows). The link between statistics and experimental design is stressed.
Students will select 40 credits from the following modules:
CONSERVATION POLICY, COMMUNICATION AND KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE
This module sets conservation in its real-world context. You will explore how the science and techniques learned in other modules feed into decision-making, and reflect on the complexity of achieving societal change to save species and habitats. You will gain a range of essential skills and background knowledge that will enable you to implement conservation in the workplace (rather than the field). You will learn through a series of lectures and seminars over six weeks, starting with an overview of conservation policy and how to influence it. You will explore how to synthesize scientific and other forms of knowledge to inform conservation policy and debate, how to engage stakeholders and influence people and how to frame conservation messages for maximum impact. You will experience different methods and approaches in action, and see the science-policy interface from many different angles through interactive workshops and practical exercises. By the end of module, you will be confident to draw on disciplines of economics, psychology and meta-analysis, as well as ecology, to inform conservation actions. At the end of the course, you will be assessed on a single piece of coursework, which will be your own synthesis of knowledge relating to a conservation issue, clearly communicated to a defined audience or set of audiences.
EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY AND CONSERVATION GENETICS
The aim of this module is to give you a deep understanding about conservation genetics / genomics based on an evolutionary / population-genetic framework. We will cover contemporary issues in conservation biology, evolution, population biology, genetics, organismal phylogeny, Next Generation Sequencing, and molecular ecology. A background in evolution, genetics, and molecular biology is recommended. This is an advanced course in evolutionary biology / conservation genetics that will benefit you if you plan to continue with a PhD in ecology, genetics, conservation, or evolution. If you wish to deepen your knowledge in conservation / evolution / genetics you will also benefit from this module.
GIS AND ITS APPLICATIONS FOR MODELLING ECOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE
This module will provide essential GIS tools and principles that will be applied to modelling ecological responses to environmental change. Core GIS skills will be delivered. These include field data collection and extraction of data from national and global databases. It will include the manipulation of such files and particular attention will be paid to understanding the uncertainties associated with such analyses. These skills are important in many areas of ecological and environmental research, but are particularly useful for the creation of variables needed for modelling environmental change. There will be extensive emphasis on practical GIS skills.
PRACTICAL CONSERVATION AND WORK EXPERIENCE
This module entails 5 days of unpaid work placement in various international, national or local conservation organisations and ecological consultancies. The days may be carried out with more than one organisation, need not be consecutive and may be spread across both semesters or Christmas vacation. Students can receive help from module organise in setting up placements but will be responsible for their transportation to and from the workplace.
STATISTICS AND MODELLING FOR SCIENTISTS USING R
How do you test a hypothesis? How do you compare biological traits between wild populations? And how do you best test and visualise differences between samples? Scientists use a wide array of methods for statistical analysis and plotting data, and increasingly, these tasks are carried out using R. R is a free programming language for statistical computing and graphics, including general and generalised linear models, time-series analysis, and community analysis, and also specialised analyses in many scientific subfields. Learning R will equip you with a flexible statistical, modelling, and graphics tool. Learning the basics of running R in the RStudio programming environment, you'll spend most of your time on general and generalised linear models, which unify the range of statistical tests that are classically taught separately: t-test, ANOVA, regression, logistic regression, and chi-square, plus residuals analysis. Additionally, you'll learn how to use R to write simple programs and carry out community analyses such as principal components analysis. Finally, throughout the class, you'll learn R methods for data formatting, graphics, and documentation. On successful completion of this module you'll be able to use R to carry out and present results from the most widely used statistical tests in current scientific practice, giving you sufficient knowledge to continue learning statistical analysis on your own. A pre-requisite of first and/or second year statistical modules is required.
DisclaimerWhilst the University will make every effort to offer the modules listed, changes may sometimes be made arising from the annual monitoring, review and update of modules and regular (five-yearly) review of course programmes. Where this activity leads to significant (but not minor) changes to programmes and their constituent modules, there will normally be prior consultation of students and others. It is also possible that the University may not be able to offer a module for reasons outside of its control, such as the illness of a member of staff or sabbatical leave. In some cases optional modules can have limited places available and so you may be asked to make additional module choices in the event you do not gain a place on your first choice. Where this is the case, the University will endeavour to inform students.
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- Degree Subject Biology-related subject plus evidence of additional conservation experience. Bachelors degrees in geography or environmental management are also accepted if these contain a strong ecological component.
- Degree Classification Bachelors degree (minimum 2.1 or equivalent)
- Alternative Qualifications Non-scientists wanting to retrain may take the one year Diploma in Ecology and enter the MSc Applied Ecology & Conservation the following year.
Students for whom English is a Foreign language
We welcome applications from students whose first language is not English. To ensure such students benefit from postgraduate study, we require evidence of proficiency in English. Our usual entry requirements are as follows:
- IELTS: 6.5 (minimum 6.0 in all components)
- PTE (Pearson): 58 (minimum 50 in all components)
Test dates should be within two years of the course start date.
Other tests, including Cambridge English exams and the Trinity Integrated Skills in English are also accepted by the university. The full list of accepted tests can be found here: Accepted English Language Tests
INTO UEA also run pre-sessional courses which can be taken prior to the start of your course. For further information and to see if you qualify please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Fees and Funding
Tuition fees for the academic year 2019/20 are:
- UK/EU Students: £9,200 (full time)
- International Students: £19,400 (full time)
If you choose to study part-time, the fee per annum will be half the annual fee for that year, or a pro-rata fee for the module credit you are taking (only available for UK/EU students).
We estimate living expenses at £1,015 per month.
A variety of Scholarships may be offered to UK/EU and International students. Scholarships are normally awarded to students on the basis of academic merit and are usually for the duration of the period of study. Please click here for more detailed information about funding for prospective students.
How to Apply
Applications for Postgraduate Taught programmes at the University of East Anglia should be made directly to the University.
To request further information & to be kept up to date with news & events please use our online enquiry form.
If you would like to discuss your individual circumstances prior to applying please do contact us:
Postgraduate Admissions Office
Tel: +44 (0)1603 591515
International candidates are also encouraged to access the International Students section of our website.
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