BSc Ecology


The School of Biological Sciences is a vibrant and friendly academic community firmly embedded in the internationally renowned Norwich Research Park. It boasts extensive state-of-the-art research facilities as well as modern teaching laboratories.

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Key facts

(2014 Research Excellence Framework)


Knowing how tumours form helps us to break them down. Biologists at UEA have shown how cooperating cancer cells help each other survive by sharing growth factors; understanding this process could lead to new forms of cell therapy that would make breaking down tumours easier.

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Join our internationally renowned School of Biological Science, with 100% of research recognised as ‘internationally excellent’ (REF 2014). UEA is an ideal place to study Ecology, as it’s in a region with a diverse range of habitats that provides you with great opportunities for field-based projects. It also brings together one of the largest teams of ecologists and evolutionary biologists in the UK at the Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation.

Our school has world class academics and some of the best facilities in the country, including our undergraduate laboratories. The majority of learning will take place in lectures, seminars, practical laboratory classes and fieldwork providing you with invaluable contact time with lecturers, while learning through first-hand experience. You will also receive specialist teaching from two of our affiliated institutes, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science and the British Trust for Ornithology.


Ecology is the study of how organisms behave, evolve, and interact with their physical and biological environments. It seeks to provide the basis for understanding life’s diversity, abundance, and distribution of organisms. As an Ecology student, you will study the richness of the biosphere and how it is affected by human activities like climate change, pollution and the destruction of natural ecosystems.

This single honours programme is recognised as one of the finest and most comprehensive in the country, incorporating the teaching expertise of the School of Biological Sciences and the School of Environmental Sciences. The School of Biological Sciences brings together one of the largest teams of ecologists and evolutionary biologists in the UK in the Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation.

Academics from the Schools of Biological Sciences, Environmental Sciences and International Development teach the core modules of our ecology programmes, with additional tuition carried out by scientists from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. You will also receive specialist teaching by the staff of our two affiliated Institutes, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science and the British Trust for Ornithology, amongst other local organisations.

Our unique research opportunities allow you to study population biology, conservation and related topics. These range from the molecular genetics of populations, plant science and animal behaviour, to environmental management and aspects of economics and politics. Furthermore UEA is based in a region with a diverse range of habitats, which provides great opportunities for field-based final year projects. You are also given the chance to participate in optional field courses in East Africa in the final year.

Course Structure

This is a three year course, which introduces you to key concepts of ecology through seminars and practical work in the first year. Throughout your second and final years you begin to specialise and tailor your degree programme to suit your interests thanks to the increasingly varied module options. You will also complete a substantial independent research project in the final year.

First Year
Your first year of study introduces key concepts in the study of ecology including biodiversity, evolution and behaviour. You will take part in seminars, workshops and field trips in order to carry out numerical analysis.

Second Year
During your second year, alongside the core modules, you will have the chance to select optional modules in order to begin tailoring your studies according to your developing interests. 

Final Year
Specialisation continues in your final year, with a list of up to fourteen modules from which to shape your curriculum, from Biodiversity to Social Evolution. You will also undertake a substantial independent Ecology research project relating to your academic interests.

Course Modules 2017/8

Students must study the following modules for 100 credits:

Name Code Credits


An introduction to the evolution of the major groups of microorganisms, plants and animals. The module considers structural, physiological and life-cycle characteristics of these organisms. It charts the development of life on land and interprets evolutionary responses to changing environments.




This module introduces the main ideas in behavioural ecology, evolutionary biology, and ecology. It concentrates on outlining concepts as well as describing examples. Topics to be covered include the genetic basis of evolution by natural selection, systematics and phylogeny, the adaptive interpretation of animal sexual and social behaviour, population dynamics, species interactions, and ecosystems.




What are the most pressing environmental challenges facing the world today? How do we understand these problems through cutting-edge environmental science research? What are the possibilities for building sustainable solutions to address them in policy and society? In this module you will tackle these questions by taking an interdisciplinary approach to consider challenges relating to climate change, biodiversity, water resources, natural hazards, and technological risks. In doing so you will gain an insight into environmental science research 'in action' and develop essential academic study skills needed to explore these issues.




A programme of field trips to a range of habitats will introduce students to local biodiversity and landscapes and give practice in useful techniques of project planning, data collection and analysis. Field skills will be reinforced with lab based identification and skills workshops. Small group seminars and essay writing are used to introduce a variety of ecological concepts and scientific writing styles focusing on current issues and approaches to investigating these issues




The aim of the module is to provide a broad range of teaching relating to skills students will need as biologists and in future employment, including a working knowledge of mathematics and statistics, and skills relating to information retrieval, structuring writing and arguments, data analysis, team work, presenting work verbally and visually and an appreciation of the role of ethics in science. THIS MODULE IS ONLY AVAILABLE TO YEAR 1 STUDENTS. THIS MODULE IS NOT AVAILABLE TO VISITING/EXCHANGE STUDENTS.



Students will select 20 credits from the following modules:

Name Code Credits


Striking a balance between societal development, economic growth and environmental protection has proven challenging and contentious. The concept of `sustainability' was coined to denote processes aiming to achieve this balance. This module introduces sustainable development, and examines why sustainability is so difficult to achieve, bringing together social and ecological perspectives. It also explores sustainability from an ecological perspective, introducing a range of concepts relevant to the structure and functioning of the biosphere and topics ranging from landscape and population ecology, to behavioural, physiological, molecular ecology, and biodiversity conservation at different scales. This module is assessed by coursework and an examination.



Students must study the following modules for 60 credits:

Name Code Credits


This module introduces the major community concepts and definitions, before looking in some detail at community patterns and processes including: species interactions; energy flows and productivity; and the hierarchy of drivers influencing community assembly, structure and diversity. Progression through these topics culminates in a macro-ecological perspective on community patterns and biodiversity. Throughout the module, there is an emphasis on the relevance of ecological theory and the fundamental science to the current environmental and biodiversity crisis. Anthropogenic impacts on natural communities through land-use, non-native species and pathogens, and climate change, are a recurrent theme underpinning the examples we draw upon.




Students explore the ecology of moorlands, bogs, sand dunes, rocky shores, estuaries and woodlands. Students should develop skills in identifying plants and animals using scientific keys, carrying out quantitative surveys and statistically analysing their data. Strong emphasis is placed on student-lead project work. The bulk of the teaching takes place on a two week field course in Western Ireland, that runs immediately before the start of the Autumn Semester.




We live in a human dominated era recently designated "the Anthropocene". Humans harvest more than half of the primary productivity of the planet, many resources are over-exploited or depleted (e.g. fisheries) never before it was so important to correctly manage natural resources for an exponentially growing human population. It is, thus, fundamental to predict where other species occur and the sizes of their populations (abundance). Population Ecology is an area dedicated to the dynamics of population development. In this module we will look closely at how populations are regulated, from within through density dependent factors and from external density independent factors. We start the module with a global environmental change perspective to the management of populations and the factors that affect the population size. We then extend these ideas to help us understand population properties and processes both intra-specifically and inter-specifically. Finally we examine several management applications where we show that a good understanding of the population modelling is essential to correctly manage natural resources on the planet. Practicals include learning to survey butterflies and birds using citizen science monitoring projects and will be focused on delivering statistical analyses of "Big data" using the programme R. The projects will provide a strong training in both subject specific and transferrable skills.



Students will select 40 - 60 credits from the following modules:

Name Code Credits


An analysis of how chemical, physical and biological influences shape the biological communities of rivers, lakes and estuaries in temperate and tropical regions. There is an important practical component to this module that includes three field visits and laboratory work, usually using microscopes and sometimes analyzing water quality. The first piece of course work involves statistical analysis of class data. The module fits well with other ecology modules, final-year Catchment Water Resources and with modules in development studies or geography. It can also be taken alongside Aquatic Biogeochemistry, other geochemical modules and hydrology. Students must have a background in basic statistical analysis of data. Lectures will show how the chemical and physical features of freshwaters influence their biological communities. Students may attend video screenings that complement lectures with examples of aquatic habitats in the tropics.




In this module, the interrelationships between animal behaviour, ecology and evolution will be explored. Students will examine how behaviour has evolved to maximise survival and reproduction in the natural environment. Darwinian principles will provide the theoretical framework, within which the module will seek to explain the ultimate function of animal behaviours. Concepts and examples will be developed through the lecture series, exploring behaviours in the context of altruism, optimality, foraging, and particularly reproduction, the key currency of evolutionary success. In parallel with the lectures, students will design, conduct, analyse and present their own research project, collecting original data to answer a question about the adaptive significance of behaviour.




This module is for students on relevant courses in the Schools of BIO, ENV, DEV and NAT. NOTE: There will be a significant additional cost to this module to cover the costs of transportation and accommodation in the field. Costs will be detailed at an initial meeting for interested students and clearly advertised. Conservation ecology and biodiversity are central areas of research in the biological sciences and they share many theories, concepts and scientific methods. This module intends to take a practical approach to the commonalities in these areas using a combination of seminar work and fieldwork. The seminars will develop ideas in tropical biology and students will research issues affecting conservation of biodiversity in the tropics, considering the species ecology and the habitats, threats and challenges. There will be a significant component of small group work and directed, independent learning. The field component of this module will be a two week residential field trip to the tropics, one of two field sites (depending on numbers of students and availability).The field sites are run by expert field ecologists and during the two weeks we will explore the local environment, learn about the ecology of the landscape and about the species that inhabit the area. We will develop and run practical sessions on survey and census techniques, use of technology in modern field biology and the role of protected areas in species conservation. Students will conduct original research on the field trip, informed by prior research at UEA, to gain a deeper understanding of an aspect of tropical biology. There will be an assessed presentation on the field trip and many opportunities to develop the students own interests. All student participants will take an active role in the organisation and running of the module in order to gain project management and field logistics experience. Students will be responsible for the procurement, storage and transport of field equipment on the way to the field site and of samples on the return to the UK. Students will gain experience of travelling to a remote area and of working through licensing and customs processes. At the end of the module a report is written on the field project in the style of a journal article addressing specific questions in ecology conservation or biodiversity. Throughout the module students will be expected to maintain a modern-media record of their project from the initial desk based work at UEA, through the field component to outcomes and reporting.




This module investigates the principles of evolutionary biology, covering various sub-disciplines, i.e. adaptive evolution, population ecology, molecular and population genetics, speciation, biogeography, systematics, and finishing with an overview of Biodiversity. This module will enable you to understand, analyse and evaluate the fundamentals of evolutionary biology and be able to synthesise the various components into an overall appreciation of how evolution works. Key topics and recent research will be used to highlight advances in the field and inspire thought. Weekly interactive workshops will explore a number of the conceptual issues indepth through discussions, modelling and problem solving.




Pre-requisites: Students must have taken BIO-4003A and either BIO-4001A or BIO-4004B to take this module. A broad module covering all aspects of the biology of microorganisms, providing key knowledge for specialist Level 6 modules. Detailed description is given about the cell biology of bacteria, fungi and protists together with microbial physiology, genetics and environmental and applied microbiology. The biology of disease-causing microorganisms (bacteria, viruses) and prions is also covered. Practical work provides hands-on experience of important microbiological techniques, and expands on concepts introduced in lectures. The module should appeal to biology students across a wide range of disciplines and interests.




The module aims to provide an appreciation of modern plant biology, with a molecular perspective and an emphasis on plant development and plant response to the environment.



Students will select 0 - 20 credits from the following modules:

Name Code Credits


The most significant obstacles to problem solving are often political, not scientific or technological. This module examines the emergence and processes of environmental politics. It analyses these from different theoretical perspectives, particularly theories of power and public policy making. The module is focused on contemporary examples of politics and policy making at UK, EU and international levels. The module supports student-led learning by enabling students to select (and develop their own theoretical interpretations of) 'real world' examples of politics. Assessment is via seminar presentations and a 4000 word case study essay. The module assumes no prior knowledge of politics.




This module aims to provide an understanding of the themes and principles of physiology and a detailed knowledge of the major human organ systems. Topics include: Information transmission by the nervous system and the integrative processes of the spinal cord and brain; Reaction to the environment through perception of external stimuli by sensory receptors, including the eyes and ears; The muscular and skeletal systems, including muscle contraction and its control, bones and joints; Respiration, gas transport, blood circulation and heart function; Kidney function in excretion and in water and mineral homeostasis; Nutrition and the digestive system; The endocrine system and its role in human disease. A central principle in physiology is the concept of homeostasis. An understanding of how disease affects the ability of organ systems to maintain the status quo is an important part of this course.




This module will combine lectures, practicals, seminars and fieldwork to provide students with an appreciation of the soil environment and the processes that occurs within it. The module will progress through: basic soil components/properties; soil identification and classification; soil as a habitat; soil organisms; soil functions; the agricultural environment; soil-organism-agrochemical interaction; soil contamination; soil and climate change; soil ecosystem services and soil quality.



Students must study the following modules for 40 credits:

Name Code Credits


Students design and undertake an independent research project under the supervision of staff members from the Centre for Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation (CEEC). Students may choose to conduct fieldwork in the summer vacation preceding the 3rd year or during the Autumn semester. Project topics should be selected during the spring semester of your second year (or beginning of the third year, in the case of Year Abroad Ecology students), in consultation with CEEC faculty. Students are strongly encouraged to develop their own project ideas. Recent issues of ecological journals in the library can be consulted for ideas.



Students will select 40 - 80 credits from the following modules:

Name Code Credits


The global biodiversity crisis threatens mass species loss. What are the implications for society? How can communities solve this problem in a world that is facing other challenges of climate change, food security, environmental and social justice? This inter-disciplinary module focused on the interactions between biodiversity and human societies is designed for students of Geography, Environmental Science, Ecology and International Development who have an interest in biodiversity and its conservation.




This module explores the evolution, biodiversity and ecology of bacteria, diatoms, coccolithophores and nitrogen fixers, and the physiology and distribution of zooplankton. Example ecosystems such as the Antarctic, mid ocean gyres and Eastern Boundary Upwelling Systems will be studied in detail and predictions of the impact of environmental change (increasing temperature, decreasing pH, decreasing oxygen, and changes in nutrient supply) on marine ecosystem dynamics will be examined. Biological oceanographic methods will be critically evaluated. The module will include a reading week in week 7 and a voluntary employability visit to the Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS). Students are expected to have some background in biology, e.g. have taken a biology, ecology or biogeochemistry based second year module.




The aim of this module is to give students a deep understanding about conservation genetics / genomics based on an evolutionary / population-genetic framework, thereby covering 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 students who plan to continue with a postgraduate degree in ecology, genetics, conservation, or evolution, plus students wishing to deepen their knowledge in 1st and 2nd year conservation / evolution / genetics modules.




This module examines the complex interactions between parasites/diseases and their hosts and explores how the selection pressures that each side of these interactions impose lead to coevolutionary processes. We will take an overview of the role that such parasitic interactions may have played in the development of key biological traits. The module will include traditional parasitology (to set the scene and understand the complexity of the interactions), introducing the major groups of parasites and their hosts. We examine the role of parasites and host-parasite interactions in evolution, drawing examples from conservation, behaviour, current medical research, theoretical predictions and models.




This module brings an understanding of how science is disseminated to the public. Students on the module will be made aware of the theories surrounding learning and communication. They will investigate science as a culture and how this culture interfaces with the public. Students will examine case studies in a variety of different scientific areas. They will look at how information is released in scientific literature and how this is subsequently picked up by the public press. They will gain an appreciation of how science information can be used to change public perception and how it can sometimes be misinterpreted. Students will also learn practical skills by designing, running and evaluating a public outreach event at a school or in a public area. Students who wish to take this module will be required to write a statement of selection. These statements will be assessed and students will be allocated to the module accordingly.




Life is organised hierarchically. Genes aggregate in cells, cells aggregate in organisms, and organisms aggregate in societies. Each step in the formation of this hierarchy is termed a major evolutionary transition. Because common principles of social evolution underlie each transition, the study of altruism and cooperation in nature has broadened out to embrace the fundamental hierarchical structure common to all life. This module investigates this new vision of social evolution. It explores how principles of social evolution underlying each transition illuminate our understanding of life's diversity and organisation, using examples ranging from selfish genetic elements to social insects and mammals.



Students will select 0 - 20 credits from the following modules:

Name Code Credits


This module introduces some key principles of economics for students who have not studied the subject previously. It then explores how these principles can be applied to address a number of economy-environment problems including air pollution and over-fishing. The framework of cost-benefit analysis as a framework for decision-making is also introduced.




What do you know about the drivers of climate change? Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the greenhouse gas that has, by far, the greatest impact on climate change, but how carbon cycles through the Earth is complex and not fully understood. Predicting future climate or defining 'dangerous' climate change is therefore challenging. In this module you will learn about the atmosphere, ocean and land components of the carbon cycle. We cover urgent global issues such as ocean acidification and how to get off our fossil fuel 'addiction', as well as how to deal with climate denialists.



Students will select 0 - 20 credits from the following modules:

Note that you may select no more than 20 credits of Level 5 modules to enrol on during your Stage 3 studies.

Name Code Credits


This fourteen-day field course is based at Marich Pass Field Studies Centre, in a remote part of north-western Kenya. The course is set provisionally for early July 2018 and will only run if 24 students, that must be in their second year, accept a place. Students work in three-person groups and with the help of a local guide, carry out a field project of their choice that may range from geography, social sciences, natural resources to ecology, depending on modules taken in YR2. Students are asked to contribute approximately 50% to the cost of the field course.




This module will examine the development of the English countryside from late Saxon times into the seventeenth century. Topics covered will include the archaeology and landscape setting of castles, monasteries, parish churches, vernacular buildings and deserted settlements, alongside an examination of 'semi-natural' landscapes including ancient woodland, wood-pastures, heathland and moorland. The module will allow you develop practical skills in the analysis of earthwork plans, building surveys and historic maps both in seminars and on field trips.




This module will examine the development of the English landscape from early prehistoric times to the late Saxon period. We will examine the field archaeology of the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages, discuss the landscapes of Roman Britain, and assess the nature of the Roman/Saxon transition. We will then investigate the development of territorial organisation, field systems and settlement patterns during the Saxon and early medieval periods. The module provides an introduction to the theory and methods of landscape archaeology, as well as giving a broad overview of the development of society, economy and landscape in the period up to c.1100.




Whilst 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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Entry Requirements

  • A Level ABB to include Biology/Human Biology. Science A-levels must include a pass in the practical element.
  • International Baccalaureate 32 points with HL 5 in two subjects including Biology
  • Scottish Highers Only accepted in combination with Scottish Advanced Highers.
  • Scottish Advanced Highers BCC including Biology. A combination of Advanced Highers and Highers may be acceptable.
  • Irish Leaving Certificate AABBBB or 2 subjects at H1 and 4 at H2, to include Higher Level Biology.
  • Access Course Pass the Access to HE Diploma with Distinction in 30 credits at Level 3 and Merit in 15 credits at Level 3, including 12 Level 3 credits in Biology
  • BTEC DDM in a relevant subject. Excluding Public Services and Forensic Science. Applied Science and Applied Science (Medical Science) preferred. BTEC and A-level combinations are considered - please contact us.
  • European Baccalaureate 75% overall, including 70% in Biology

Entry Requirement

GCSE Requirements:  GCSE English Language grade 4 and GCSE Mathematics grade 5 or GCSE English Language grade C and GCSE Mathematics grade B.  

General Studies and Critical Thinking are not accepted.  

UEA recognises that some students take a mixture of International Baccalaureate IB or International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme IBCP study rather than the full diploma, taking Higher levels in addition to A levels and/or BTEC qualifications. At UEA we do consider a combination of qualifications for entry, provided a minimum of three qualifications are taken at a higher Level. In addition some degree programmes require specific subjects at a higher level.

Students for whom English is a Foreign language

We welcome applications from students from all academic backgrounds. We require evidence of proficiency in English (including speaking, listening, reading and writing) at the following level:

  • IELTS: 6.5 overall (minimum 6.0 in any component)

We will also accept a number of other English language qualifications. Please click here for further information.

INTO University of East Anglia 

If you do not meet the academic and/or English language requirements for this course, our partner INTO UEA offers guaranteed progression on to this undergraduate degree upon successful completion of a foundation programme:

INTO UEA also offer a variety of English language programmes which are designed to help you develop the English skills necessary for successful undergraduate study:



The majority of candidates will not be called for an interview. However, for some students an interview will be requested. These are normally quite informal and generally cover topics such as your current studies, reasons for choosing the course and your personal interests and extra-curricular activities.

Gap Year

We welcome applications from students who have already taken or intend to take a gap year, believing that a year between school and university can be of substantial benefit. You are advised to indicate your reason for wishing to defer entry and may wish to contact the appropriate Admissions Office directly to discuss this further.


The School's annual intake is in September of each year.

Alternative Qualifications

We encourage you to apply if you have alternative qualifications equivalent to our stated entry requirement. Please contact us for further information.

Fees and Funding

Undergraduate University Fees and Financial Support

Tuition Fees

Information on tuition fees can be found here:

UK students

EU Students

Overseas Students

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to ensuring that costs do not act as a barrier to those aspiring to come to a world leading university and have developed a funding package to reward those with excellent qualifications and assist those from lower income backgrounds. 

The University of East Anglia offers a range of Scholarships; please click the link for eligibility, details of how to apply and closing dates.

How to Apply

Applications need to be made via the Universities Colleges and Admissions Services (UCAS), using the UCAS Apply option.

UCAS Apply is a secure online application system that allows you to apply for full-time Undergraduate courses at universities and colleges in the United Kingdom. It is made up of different sections that you need to complete. Your application does not have to be completed all at once. The system allows you to leave a section partially completed so you can return to it later and add to or edit any information you have entered. Once your application is complete, it must be sent to UCAS so that they can process it and send it to your chosen universities and colleges.

The UCAS code name and number for the University of East Anglia is EANGL E14.

Further Information

If you would like to discuss your individual circumstances with the Admissions Office prior to applying please do contact us:

Undergraduate Admissions Office (Biological Sciences)
Tel: +44 (0)1603 591515

Please click here to register your details online via our Online Enquiry Form.

International candidates are also actively encouraged to access the University's International section of our website.

    Next Steps

    We can’t wait to hear from you. Just pop any questions about this course into the form below and our enquiries team will answer as soon as they can.

    Admissions enquiries: or
    telephone +44 (0)1603 591515