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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.
The University of Kent was awarded a highly prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for the work of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE).
DICE leads projects in over 50 countries, including research on human wellbeing and nature, human-elephant conflict, oil palm deforestation, online illegal trade in protected species, national park planning and ecotourism projects and the mapping of biodiversity through eDNA.
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:
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.
You are more than your grades
For 2021, in response to the challenges caused by Covid-19 we will consider applicants either holding or projected a 2:2. This response is part of our flexible approach to admissions whereby we consider each student and their personal circumstances. If you have any questions, please get in touch.
A second class honours degree (2.2 or above) 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.
Please note that if you are interested in multiple pathways for this programme, you only need to apply to one. We offer flexibility in switching between pathways before and after starting the programme. Please contact email@example.com if you are undecided and we will be happy to provide further guidance.
The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Some typical requirements are listed below. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice.
If you are an international student, visit our International Student website for further information about entry requirements for your country, including details of the International Foundation Programmes.
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.
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.
Duration: One year full-time, two years part-time
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Protected areas are a mainstay of global conservation policy, with more than 14% of the terrestrial realm and 4% of the marine realm under some type of protection. In this module students will be introduced to the key concepts needed to understand protected area management and policy at the national and international level. The following indicative topics will form the basis of lectures, seminars and field trip around which the module will be taught: the history of protected areas and relevant international policies and commitments; current definitions of protected area based on management categories and governance types; management planning and measuring protected area management effectiveness; economic issues relating to protected areas; designing protected area networks to form representative ecological networks.
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.
Wildlife trade and use contributes on the one hand to peoples' livelihoods but on the other may threaten species. Management of such trade relies on a number of multilateral agreements including CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Such management requires an appropriate policy, legislative, management and scientific framework for its successful implementation at national and international levels. Details of each these aspects will be examined and students will have the opportunity to examine a number of multilateral organisations as well as legal aspects of eco-labelling and Intellectual property rights. This module will guide students through the steps of implementing a legal framework, from the adoption of national wildlife trade policies, prioritization of species for management intervention, making sustainability findings and providing incentives for conservation through to the multilateral governance structures. The module will be delivered through combined methods, of lecture, discussion, and practical exercises which will contribute to achievement of the module specific learning outcomes as well as developing key skills.
The curriculum will aim to give an integrated view of theoretical and practical approaches to conservation and community aspects of rural development. Indicative themes to be covered include:
An introduction to rural development, with a focus on community aspects
How do they see you? Community perspectives on researchers and project workers
Who sets the agenda? Consultation, collaboration and technical support
Community organisation: Institutions, representation and decision-making
Incorporating rights: indigenous peoples and conservation
Building on local knowledge systems: the role of technical expertise
Working with communities: and technical support
Community-based tourism: benefit-sharing and private partnerships
Wider perspectives: project cycles and multi-stakeholder processes
Policy and practice: the relationship between conservation and rural development.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This module provides an understanding of primate behaviour and ecology at an advanced level, and how this allows us to better understand the evolutionary biology of human behaviour. Set within an evolutionary framework, this module combines established findings with the latest research. Seminars will employ critical analysis of 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. The field trip will allow for an opportunity to observe primate behaviour and practice methods of data collection.
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.
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:
You will gain knowledge and understanding of:
You develop intellectual skills in:
You gain subject-specific skills in:
You will gain the following transferable skills:
The 2021/22 annual tuition fees for this programme are:
For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.
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.
The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.
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In The Complete University Guide 2021, the University of Kent was ranked in the top 10 for research intensity. This is a measure of the proportion of staff involved in high-quality research in the university.
Please see the University League Tables 2021 for more information.
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.
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:
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
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.
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.
Learn more about the applications process or begin your application by clicking on a link below.
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