Manchester Metropolitan University


Conservation Biology

2017 entry

Features and benefits of the course

  • Optional two week field course in Northern Tanzania with visits to Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park. Many of our MSc students collect data for their research projects abroad.
  • You will have access to recently refurbished laboratories, project facilities and resource rooms with state-of-the-art audio visual equipment.
  • The course is taught by a vibrant community of research active staff. Tutors are currently involved in research in Tanzania, Kenya, Mauritius, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Indonesia as well as the UK  and every year many of our MSc students work within this project.
  • Flexible course delivery. Most lectures, even for full-time students, take place in the evenings and some units are available in blocks, by self-study or by distance learning. The online virtual learning environment (using Moodle) gives you access to lectures, other course materials and assessment information.

Placement options

There are optional three month placements for those taking MSc Zoo Conservation Biology and these can take place at many different zoos in the UK.

About the course

The course has an international outlook and provides opportunities for students to gain conservation experience overseas. There is a residential field course which can be in either Poland or Tanzania.

Course delivery is flexible and most lectures take place in the evening. Lectures, other course materials and assessment information is available via our online learning platform, Moodle. You will be assessed mostly through coursework, although some units have a formal examination.

MSc student research projects

You will be able to stay for six weeks at one of our research bases in Tanzania or Kenya and collect data for your own research project.

You can also join our two-week Tanzania Field Course, which takes place in June every year. There are visits to some of the most famous wildlife sites in the world, including the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park. We study some of the human impacts on, and management issues in, these protected areas as well as some of the factors affecting group size and mating systems of large mammals.

We are currently undertaking a number of research studies on:

  • The ecology and genetics of the black rhino to try to understand why their breeding rates are very low in some Kenyan reserves.
  • The distribution of crop raiding by elephants and strategies for reducing predator attacks on livestock.
  • The impact of pastoralism and other habitat changes on animal behaviour and biodiversity conservation.

Read the Biology Student blog: Carly Morris - Seal Research

Typical units of study may include

Year 1

Click below for this year’s unit information

Core Units
Masters Project in Conservation and Behaviour

This unit allows you to undertake a novel research project appropriate to your programme of study and to practise the skills of research design, analysis, and scientific communication. You will be allocated an appropriate project supervisor. At the beginning of the course we will provide an extensive list of projects in the field, laboratory and in the UK and overseas. If you have your own project idea, we can help you develop it. Projects undertaken at a distance will normally be preceded by an intensive period of preparation and planning with the supervisor. 

Practical Techniques

The unit provides you the practical experience and techniques essential for your chosen field. Animal Behaviour and Zoo Conservation Biology students can choose between a work placement (at least two months) and a residential field course within Europe or the tropics. A field course will normally be compulsory for students on all other MSc courses and the content will be appropriate to their particular MSc programme.

Species Conservation

This unit will address the evolutionary and ecological background to species conservation and critically evaluate the role of natural and anthropogenic factors in promoting extinction. The ways in which species are selected for conservation action will be addressed and the reasons for success or failure in conservation programmes evaluated. A number of animal groups and habitats will be selected for case studies.

Statistics & Research Design

In this unit we will address problems and solutions associated with the analysis of ‘real’ ecological and behavioural data sets. We will use a problem-based approach, centred on a large data set, to investigate methods of data manipulation and transformation, exploratory analyses (numerical and graphical) and hypothesis testing. Lectures will deliver background information, relating to experimental design, hypothesis testing, exploratory data analysis and statistical model building. Practical computer-based exercises will support topics covered in lectures and used to demonstrate data handling and analytical techniques.

Likely Optional Units
Avian Biology and Conservation

This unit deals with the evolution, biology, and biogeography of birds and how evidence from these different research themes is utilized for avian conservation management. The unit will involve: an introduction to avian taxonomy and phylogeny; examination of the evolution of avian communication and life-history strategies; an introduction to avian biogeography and possible impacts of climate change and habitat modification; quantifying anthropogenic threats and avian extinction risk; human-avian population conflicts; and exploring possible solutions for applied avian conservation management such as habitat restoration schemes, agri-environment schemes and ecosystem services.

Behavioural Biology

This unit provides an overview of the contemporary study of animal behaviour and applied animal behaviour, together with detailed case studies. The unit prepares you for further study or employment in animal behaviour and related fields by providing experience of research design and scientific communication. The unit is underpinned by evolutionary thinking and the four levels of analysis Niko Tinbergen put forward for the study of Animal Behaviour, namely development (learning), mechanism (neurological and hormonal underpinnings), function (how does it help an individual survive and reproduce?) and evolution (how did it evolve?).

Genetics of Populations

Within the context of modern population genetics, this unit will introduce the application of molecular genetics tools to a range of problems in conservation and evolution. Equal emphasis will be placed on background theory, data handling and generation and surveying modern applied genetics through case studies and the primary literature. Lectures will deliver background information and will include population genetics and molecular genetics, with applications including the conservation management of small populations, identification of taxonomic units at the population level and inferring species biology using molecular data.

Zoos and Conservation

This unit will consider the role of captive animals in conservation from both a biological and management viewpoint.  It will examine how a range of biological research techniques have contributed to the maintenance, successful breeding and welfare of zoo animals. It will consider the ethical issues associated with zoos and evaluate the value of in situ, ex situ and reintroduction programmes for conservation generally. In addition, the unit will examine the management of captive breeding programmes and the factors that affect collection planning.

Programme Review

Each programme of study that we offer undergoes an annual review to ensure an up-to-date curriculum supported by the latest online learning technology. In addition, we undertake a major review of the programme, normally at 6-yearly intervals, but this can take place at a more frequent interval where required. Applicants should note that the programme currently provided may be subject to change as a result of the review process. We only make changes where we consider it necessary to do so or where we feel that certain changes are in the best interests of students and to enhance the quality of provision. Occasionally, we have to make changes for reasons outside our control. Where there are changes which may materially affect the current programme content and/or structure, offer holders will be informed.

Assessment details

You will be assessed mostly through coursework, although some units have a formal examination. Formal teaching begins in September and finishes with the field courses in mid-May or mid-July. Student research projects are usually completed by the end of September.

Additional Information About this Course

Students are expected to comply with the Schools codes of conduct and behaviour on field courses, placements and exchanges. Placements and study exchange opportunities are dependent on passing each stage at the first opportunity and being of good standing.

Teaching Staff

Your studies are supported by a team of committed and enthusiastic teachers and researchers, experts in their chosen field. We also work with external professionals, many of whom are Manchester Met alumni, to enhance your learning and appreciation of the wider subject. Details of departmental staff can be found at:

Typical entry requirements

At least an upper second-class UK Honours degree (or international equivalent) in a subject such as ecology, biology, zoology, botany, animal behaviour or environmental science is normally required. Applicants from different academic backgrounds or without formal qualifications – but with equivalent experience – will also be considered.

International students please see

Applicants from the Commonwealth countries may be eligible to apply for the Commonwealth Shared Scholarship.

There’s further information for international students on our international website if you’re applying with non-UK qualifications.

How do I apply for this course?

The quickest and most efficient way to apply for this course is to apply online. This way, you can also track your application at each stage of the process.

Apply online now

If you are unable to apply online, you can apply for full- and part-time taught courses by completing the postgraduate application form. There are exceptions for some professional courses – the course information on our on-line prospectus will give you more information in these cases.

Please note: to apply for this course, you only need to provide one reference.

Career options after the course

Graduate career routes include: animal management and captive breeding, pest control and agriculture and environmental education with organisations such as environmental consultancies, teaching, government research and advisory bodies, zoos and NGOs.

We also support students setting up their own research projects abroad. Some students are already in relevant jobs and take this programme as part of their in-service training. Others will carry on to PhD level study.

Careers support is available from the moment you join us, throughout your time here, and for up to three years after the completion of your course. We have a range of services available through the School of Science and the Environment and the University Careers Service including dedicated careers and employability advisors.

Confirmation of Regulator

The Higher Education Funding Council for England is the principal regulator for the University.

Important Notice

This online prospectus provides an overview of our programmes of study and the University. We regularly update our online prospectus so that our published course information is accurate and up to date. Please note that our programmes are subject to review and development on an ongoing basis. Changes may sometimes be necessary. For example, to comply with the requirements of professional or accrediting bodies or as a result of student feedback or external examiners’ reports. We also need to ensure that our courses are dynamic and current and that the content and structure maintain academic standards and enhance the quality of the student experience.

Please check back to the online prospectus before making an application to us.

The provision of education by the University is subject to terms and conditions of enrollment and contract. The current Terms and Conditions Applicable to the provision of the University’s Educational Services are available online. When a student enrolls with us, their study and registration at the University will be governed by various regulations, policies and procedures. It is important that applicants/students familiarize themselves with our Terms and Conditions and the Key Contract Documents referred to within. Applicants will be provided with access to an up to date version at offer stage. This can be found within the Information for Offer Holders document.