The MSc in Conservation Biology provides you with a knowledge base and the practical experience to address issues relating to biodiversity conservation and biodiversity management.
Modern conservation science transcends the traditional boundaries of biology, ecology and environmental management. Today’s managers of biodiversity need to be versed in a broad range of specialist fields, from population ecology and human community development, through to international wildlife trade and the economics of conservation, as well as the latest techniques in endangered species recovery.
Our MSc in Conservation Biology is an interdisciplinary pathway that integrates all of these aspects of conservation biology. It is designed for wildlife managers with practical experience in international conservation work looking to acquire formal scientific training, as well as students with academic qualifications looking to develop a career in conservation.
Why study with us?
- One-year taught Master's programme
- Teaching which integrates natural and social sciences
- Formal lectures and seminars supported by residential courses and day trips including to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Jersey, previous fieldtrips have also taken place in Scotland and Malta (these change annually)
- Mix of formal academic training and practical field conservation experience
- Research-led pathway taught by academics rated as world-leading and internationally excellent (REF 2014) who are members of DICE
- Benefit from DICE's extensive links with international conservation organisations
About The Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE)
Conservation programmes offered by the School of Anthropology and Conservation are delivered by members of DICE.
DICE is Britain’s leading research centre dedicated to conserving biodiversity and the ecological processes that support ecosystems and people. It pursues innovative and cutting-edge research to develop the knowledge that underpins conservation, and sets itself apart from more traditionally-minded academic institutions with its clear aims to:
- Break down the barriers between the natural and social sciences in conservation
- Conduct research that informs and improves policy and practice in all relevant sectors
- Disseminate knowledge and provide expertise on conservation issues to stakeholders
- Build capacity in the conservation sector through research-led teaching and training
- Strive for sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity conservation that benefits people
Our staff have outstanding international research profiles, yet integrate this with considerable on-the-ground experience working with conservation agencies around the world. This combination of expertise ensures that our programmes deliver the skills and knowledge that are essential components of conservation implementation.
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Anthropology and Conservation was ranked 10th for research power and in the top 20 in the UK for research impact and research power.
An impressive 94% of our research was judged to be of international quality and the School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.
In the latest Student Barometer survey 100% of our postgraduate students were satisfied with the academic content of their course and 97% said they found their programme intellectually stimulating.
The MSc consists of six months of coursework and five months of research. The optional modules allow you the flexibility to devise a pathway that suits your specific interests, with an appropriate balance between natural and social sciences.
Please note that not all modules necessarily run every year. Please contact the School for more detailed information on availability.
|Modules may include||Credits|
DI1001 - Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Conservation
This module is designed to provide students from a diverse range of disciplinary backgrounds with a broad overview of different natural and social science approaches to conservation. It will introduce students to the fundamental concepts that underpin biodiversity management, as well as facilitating the development of professional skills that will enable them to work successfully with individuals/organisations operating across the environmental and conservation sectors. The focus will be on understanding how different disciplinary perspectives can contribute to problem-solving in practice.Read more
DI884 - Research Skills for Natural Sciences
The curriculum will review the approaches used by natural scientists in the design and analysis of research projects. The principles of experimental design and how these can be applied to field projects will be explained, together with the nature of both quantitative and qualitative data. An introduction to sampling strategies and the role of probability in inferential statistics will lead into the role of descriptive statistics and measures of variability in data exploration. This will be complemented by consideration of the application of both parametric and nonparametric statistics in data analysis (i.e. t-tests, ANOVA, regression, correlation and their nonparametric equivalents), coupled with training in the use of a statistical package to carry out such analyses. Finally, the rules underlying the appropriate presentation of statistical data in research reports will be discussed.Read more
DI876 - Research Methods for Social Science
The module will begin with a broad overview of social science approaches to research, highlighting contrasts with standard natural science techniques and focusing on the qualitative-quantitative divide. Subsequent sessions will introduce individual methods such as participant observation, qualitative interviewing, questionnaire surveys and focus groups. Sessions will also be devoted to processing and analysis of qualitative data, but not with statistical analysis of quantitative data, since this will be covered elsewhere in the programmes. Towards the end of the module, we will examine the principles of integrated research design and mixed-methods approaches.Read more
DI877 - Population and Evolutionary Biology
This module provides an introduction to evolutionary and population biology, starting with the main evolutionary processes that influence populations and how they evolve, and leading into the established demographic theory that underpins population biology. Associated topics also covered will include evolutionary phylogenetics, comparative analysis and meta-population dynamics. Following this, population genetic mechanisms are considered, such as natural selection, genetic drift and inbreeding, and how they interact to influence populations of threatened species. A practical component of the module focuses on molecular genetic techniques, and how to interpret such genetic data.Read more
SE993 - Advanced Topics in Primate Behaviour
The purpose of this module is to provide students with an understanding of primate behaviour and ecology, and how this allows us to better understand the evolutionary biology of human behaviour. Set within an evolutionary framework, this course combines established findings with the latest research. Seminars will critically examine classic and recent journal articles, considering the quality of research and presentation, and the utility of models derived from primate studies for understanding specific aspects of human behaviour.Read more
DI883 - Special Topics in Conservation
This module provides the opportunity for students to undertake a detailed analysis or review of a specific topic of interest that relates directly to their programme of study. The topic will be decided upon after consultation with the relevant member of staff and agreed by the Programme Convenor and Director of Graduate Studies. The topic of interest may be explored using one or more of the following approaches: comprehensive literature review, systematic evidence review, collection and analysis of a small field data set, analysis of an existing data set, laboratory practical exercise, computer modelling. The topic of interest must be addressed by framing it within a clearly defined goal, and the approach used must allow a clear conclusion to be reached.Read more
DI885 - Ecotourism and Rural Development Field Course
The module will is based on a 5 day field trip and is designed to complement other modules by offering the students an opportunity to learn first-hand from local businesses and government agencies about practical aspects of rural development and biodiversity conservation. Using questionnaires and structured interviews the students will work in teams and will equip students with the analytical skills and methodologies required to effectively manage conservation projects in a manner sympatheic to livelihoods and rural development objectives The module will include daily field trips to local sites to understand environmental impacts of visitors to natural areas and heritage sites and to discuss emerging business thinking regarding conservation and livelihoods, exploring relationships between different stakeholders from cultural, policy and socio-economic perspectives and gain practical insight into different management tools to resolve conflicts. The module will therefore provide practical learning to complement theoretical issues taught in other modules. Students will become familiar with practical tools for successful management of conservation embedded in local communities, and will analyse the strengths and weaknesses of conservation in a rural development context. The emphasis throughout will be on learning from the experience of people and organisations directly engaged in conservation and economic development.Read more
DI888 - Economics of Biodiversity Conservation
Effective biodiversity conservation relies on an understanding of how markets work and also how they fail. In this module students will be introduced to key economic theories and concepts such as the laws of demand & supply, market competition and economic efficiency, and the market failure paradigm (property rights, public goods, transaction costs and externalities). We will explore the economic causes of biodiversity conflict and loss such as habitat loss and wildlife trade, and using case studies, we will learn how to identify possible solutions using analytical approaches and techniques such as cost-benefit analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis and multi-criteria analysis.Read more
DI889 - Leadership Skills for Conservation Managers
The success of conservation projects at the species or ecosystem level is determined by the ability of those in charge to manage the teams and the individuals involved in delivering outputs. The failure of conservation projects worldwide to deliver pre-determined successes is in part due to the absence of sufficient people with these skill sets. We need to match the desire for scientific understanding about biodiversity with an appreciation of the social skills required to manage and lead conservation programmes if we are to make more efficient and effective use of the limited resources at our disposal. In this module students will begin by reflecting on the qualities required within a leader and how a leader's management style can impact on others within an organisation. Students will consider the extent to which we can apply management theory to the practice of endangered species and habitat recovery and the people involved in making it happen. They will go on to consider different approaches to managing conflict within teams and balancing organisational and individual expectations and motivations. By drawing on examples from both the business world and conservation community students will consider different models for developing and managing teams and consider how to optimise performance within an organisation.Read more
DI836 - Integrated Species Conservation and Management
Tackling conservation problems at the species level of organisation is both attractive and popular. In order to achieve this, it is important to understand how ‘species’ are defined and how they have evolved and gone extinct over evolutionary time scales. Certain species may be used to provide political or financial leverage in conservation programmes, while others may play fundamental roles in ecological systems – students will evaluate the different criteria used to assign species into these categories. This will lead into an appraisal of the role of conservation genetics in conservation planning, and how genetic and population parameters can be used to build predictive models of extinction risk. Islands provide special challenges for practitioners of species conservation – these will be discussed and illustrated with the aid of case studies. Assigning priorities in species conservation is essential to the planning process when resources are in short supply, and various quantitative and qualitative methods of achieving this will be presented, including the IUCN Red List system. The role of organisations such as NGOs and zoos will be discussed and evaluated, and current protocols for captive breeding, health monitoring, translocation and reintroduction presented. The module will draw together the various approaches to species conservation by appraising the structure, function and implementation of species recovery programmes.Read more
DI841 - Managing Protected Areas
Protected areas have a long history. From time immemorial, human communities have conferred special status on sacred sites, set certain areas of land aside as hunting preserves, or reached agreements on the management regime for communal lands. This module aims to review the practice of setting land aside for such activities and managing protected areas. The following topics will form the basis of lectures, seminars and field trip around which the module will be taught: The concept of a protected area; The significance of size in protected area design; International designations of protected areas; Sustainable use of protected areas; Planning and management; Common threats to protected areas; Governance; Sustainable development and protected areas; Economics of protected areas; Management effectiveness evaluation.Read more
DI849 - Principles of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing
The overall aim of this module is to provide an applied introduction to the use of GIS and remote sensing in biodiversity conservation and management and more broadly in environmental sciences. This module will provide an introduction to the theory and practice of GIS and remote sensing as well as an introduction to a range of methods for collection, management and interpretation of spatial data. Particular attention is paid to the development of students' analysis skills of to deal with spatial data using GIS.
GIS are increasingly being used in biodiversity conservation and environmental sciences in general to help solve a wide range of "real world" environmental and associated social problems. As the current trend in ecological and environmental studies moves towards the acquisition manipulation and analysis of large datasets with explicit geographic reference, employers often report shortages of relevant GIS skills to handle spatial data. Thus, this module will introduce the use of GIS as a means of solving spatial problems and the potential of GIS and remote sensing techniques for biodiversity and environmental studies providing the student with marketable skills relevant to research and commercial needs.
• Principles of cartography, coordinate systems and projections
• Introduction to the fundamental principles of GIS;
• Introduction to remote sensing
• Data sources and methods of data acquisition
• Types of spatial data, working with raster and vector data
• Mapping (how to create and transform maps),
• Elementary database management
• ArcGIS -overview of ArcGIS, ArcMap, ArcCatalog; ArcToolbox, Spatial Analyst.
• GIS operations (Calculating area, Intersection of polygons etc)
• manipulation, spatial data query and analysis of a wide range of environmental and socio-economic information relevant to biodiversity
conservation and environmental sciences
• Spatial analysis in GIS
• Introduction to the application of GIS in systematic conservation planning.
These topics will be taught using a combination of lectures and practicals. The practical classes will provide hands-on experience using ArcGIS which is the most widely used GIS system. Students will be able to use knowledge and skills acquired in this module in practical project work.Read more
DI998 - Dissertation - Conservation
The dissertation project represents a piece of independent research carried out by the student which is written up as in two reports: a review of relevant literature and a research paper. Before undertaking the research, students are trained in research design and planning, statistical analysis and writing skills. A project supervisor is allocated to each student and students are expected to produce a research plan and budget for their proposed programme of research in conjunction with the supervisor. The programme of research may consist of a literature review, analysis of existing data sets, analysis of newly-collected field or laboratory data, or a combination of these approaches. Students are provided with training in the writing-up of the dissertation which should be submitted in mid-September. The topic of the dissertation must be directly relevant to the programme of study.Read more
Teaching and Assessment
Assessment is carried out primarily through coursework with written examinations for some modules. The research dissertation is written up in the format of a paper for publication.
This programme aims to:
- produce postgraduates equipped to play leading roles in the field of international conservation and biodiversity management
- develop new areas of teaching in response to the advance of scholarship and practice
- provide you with opportunities to gain a interdisciplinary perspective on conservation issues through collaborative exchange between DICE and the wider University
- develop your competence in applying theoretical and methodological skills to the implementation of conservation practice and biodiversity management
- develop your critical and analytical powers in relation to policy formulation and data analysis and interpretation
- provide you with the skills to adapt and respond positively to change
- develop critical, analytical problem-based learning skills and the transferable skills necessary for professional development
- enhance the development of your interpersonal skills
- assist you to develop the skills required for both autonomous practice and team-working.
Knowledge and understanding
You will gain knowledge and understanding of:
- fundamental ecological concepts and how they apply to conservation biology and biodiversity management
- conservation at the species, population, community and ecosystem levels
- fundamental social science perspectives on conservation, and the principles of interdisciplinarity
- principles and significance of resource economics
- biodiversity law, policy and legislative frameworks
- principles and practice involved with sustainable resource use
- principles and practice involved with managing protected areas for conservation
- principles of conservation research design, implementation and analysis, including problem-led interdisciplinary approaches
- principles and practice in conservation, business and rural development.
You develop intellectual skills in:
- the ability to marshal ideas and examples into well-organised written and oral presentations
- critical analysis of case studies
- reflective evaluation of theoretical and methodological frameworks
- design, implementation, analysis and write-up of a substantial research project (your Master’s dissertation)
- linking theory to practice in conservation science and social science.
You gain subject-specific skills in:
- field biology skills
- social science methodologies
- experimental design and statistics
- methodologies for analysing and appraising conservation case studies
- population assessment and assessment of threat status
- methodologies for estimating sustainable wildlife management
- methodologies for protected areas management and planning.
You will gain the following transferable skills:
- IT: Word, Excel, statistical and modelling programmes, email, bibliographic and web searches
- presentation skills
- writing reports and funding proposals
- time management
- using a library
- working in groups
- the skills to exercise initiative and personal responsibility
- independent learning skills required for continuing professional development.
The School has a very good record for postgraduate employment and academic continuation. DICE programmes combine academic theory with practical field experience to develop graduates who are highly employable within government, NGOs and the private sector.
Our alumni progress into a wide range of organisations across the world. Examples include: consultancy for a Darwin Initiative project in West Sumatra; Wildlife Management Officer in Kenya; Chief of the Biodiversity Unit – UN Environment Programme; Research and Analysis Programme Leader for TRAFFIC; Freshwater Programme Officer, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); Head of the Ecosystem Assessment Programme, United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC); Community Based Natural Resource Manager, WWF; Managing Partner, Althelia Climate Fund; and Programme Officer, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
The School has a lively postgraduate community drawn together not only by shared resources such as postgraduate rooms, computer facilities (with a dedicated IT officer) and laboratories, but also by student-led events, societies, staff/postgraduate seminars, weekly research student seminars and a number of special lectures.
The School houses well-equipped research laboratories for genetics, ecology, visual anthropology, virtual paleoanthropology, Animal Postcranial Evolution, biological anthropology, anthropological computing, botany, osteology and ethnobiology. In addition to various long-term study sites around the world we maintain an ecology field trials area and a field laboratory on the University campus.
The DICE postgraduate student body is global. Since 1991, there have been over 500 taught MSc graduates from 75 countries, most of whom now have successful full-time conservation careers. The PhD research degree programme has produced over 90 graduates from 27 different countries. Several graduates have gone on to win prestigious international prizes for their outstanding conservation achievements.
Global Skills Award
All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.
A good second class honours degree, or better, in a relevant subject; a good honours degree in other subjects together with relevant practical experience.
In exceptional circumstances we admit applicants without a first degree if their professional career and experience shows academic achievement of a high enough standard.
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. Please note that international fee-paying students cannot undertake a part-time programme due to visa restrictions.
English language entry requirements
The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Need help with English?
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.
Dynamic publishing culture
Staff publish regularly and widely in peer-reviewed journals, conference proceedings and books. Articles have recently been published in prestigious periodicals including: Nature; Science; Biological Conservation; Conservation Biology; Conservation Letters; Journal of Applied Ecology; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; Ecological Economics and Human Ecology.
Recent or current projects cover topics such as:
- Ecology of flagship Amazonian species – red Uakari monkeys and giant river otters
- Monitoring population trends in tigers and their prey in Kirinci Seblat National Park, Sumatra
- Chameleon trade and conservation in Madagascar
- Global biodiversity hotspots and extinction risk
- Conservation genetics of the critically endangered Seychelles paradise flycatcher
- Traditional knowledge, intellectual property rights and protected area management
- Collaborative wildlife management and changing social contexts in Amazonian Peru
- The economic value of mammals in Britain
- Estimating extinction dates of plants, birds and mammals
- Habitat loss and fragmentation at different scales across Europe
- Mapping the Falklands: facilitating systematic conservation planning and implementation
Staff research interests
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Dr Peter Bennett: Reader in Biodiversity and Evolutionary Ecology
Evolution, ecology and conservation of birds; biodiversity hotspots; life history evolution and extinction risk; marine mammals; wildlife disease.View Profile
Dr Richard Bodmer: Reader in Conservation Ecology
Population dynamics and community ecology of rainforest mammals; community-based conservation, sustainable use, wildlife management in tropical ecosystems.View Profile
Dr Ian Bride: Senior Lecturer in Biodiversity Management
Conservation education; biodiversity management; PA and visitor management; nature tourism; guiding and interpretation; community-based conservation; and restoration ecology.View Profile
Professor Zoe Davies: Professor of Biodiversity Conservation
Conservation planning and practice; conservation financial and investment; urban ecology and human-wildlife interactions; biodiversity and ecosystem service relationships; species and assemblage responses to environmental change (eg, climate and habitat loss/fragmentation).View Profile
Professor Richard Griffiths: Professor of Biological Conservation
Ecology and conservation of amphibians and reptiles; effects of environmental change on threatened species; survey and monitoring protocols for biodiversity.View Profile
Dr Jim Groombridge: Reader in Biodiversity Conservation
Conservation of highly threatened bird species; conservation genetics of small populations; parrot conservation, genetics and biogeography.View Profile
Dr Tatyana Humle: Lecturer in Primate Conservation
Primate conservation and behavioural ecology; ethnoprimatology; cultural primatology; primate rehabilitation and reintroduction; human wildlife conflict and resource competition.View Profile
Professor Douglas MacMillan: Professor of Conservation and Applied Resource Economics
Economics and wildlife conservation; environmental modelling; economics of collaboration in land and wildlife management; forest resource economics.View Profile
Dr David Roberts: Senior Lecturer in Biodiversity Conservation
Species detectability and extinction; international wildlife trade; perception of biodiversity; the response of orchids to climate change; epiphyte community ecology and modelling epiphyte seed dispersal.View Profile
Dr Bob Smith: Senior Research Fellow
Designing conservation landscapes and protected area networks, especially as part of long-term projects in southeast Africa and the English Channel.View Profile
Dr Freya St John: Research Associate
Interface between biodiversity conservation and human populations who use natural resources.View Profile
Dr Matthew Struebig: Lecturer in Biological Conservation
Ecology and management of tropical mammals; species response to climate change; biodiversity impacts of land-use change, disturbance and fragmentation; conservation value of degraded lands; oil palm and biodiversity.View Profile
Dr Joseph Tzanopoulos: Senior Lecturer in Biodiversity Conservation
Biodiversity conservation using a landscape approach to assess impacts of policy scenarios; reconciling biodiversity conservation and sustainable development on rural areas; landscape ecology and GIS; conservation policy and governance; agro-ecology and agricultural landscapes.View Profile
The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:
|Conservation Biology - MSc at Canterbury:|
For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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