MSc Biological Recording and Ecological Monitoring

Build a host of specialist collection, identification and analytical skills with our part-time masters. You’ll not only help to shape environmental policy – you’ll shape your future career too.

Attend an open day How to apply
Attend a course fair How to apply


Biological recording is vital for biodiversity conservation. In this period of rapid climate change, the ability to collect, manage and interpret information about our natural world has never been more important. This highly practical masters will give you all the skills you need to make a valuable and rewarding contribution in this specialist area.

Developed in association with the Field Studies Council (FSC) and the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, this course is largely field-based, as you’d expect with a focus on biological recording and identification skills. You’ll study part-time over a minimum of two (but usually three) years, taking your core theory units at the FSC headquarters in Preston Montford, near Shrewsbury. You’ll add to these with six field-based option units, delivered as weekend courses at FSC centres around the UK.

It’s a highly vocational course that offers an ideal way to sharpen up the field skills you’ll need to take your career in the direction you want. With advanced knowledge of the ‘why’, ‘where’ and ‘how’ of collecting and maintaining biological records of the areas that interest you most, you’ll leave us equipped with the expertise to pursue a rewarding future in a specialist field.

We will be holding an Open Day for this course at the Field Studies Council Preston Montford Field Centre on the 19th August 2020. 

For more information and to register your interest in attending, please email

Course Open Day

Wednesday 19th August 2020 Field Studies Council Preston Montford Field Centre

For more information and to register your interest in attending, please email

Features and Benefits

Accreditations, Awards and Endorsements

Career Prospects

With the high-quality field and record interpretation skills you’ll develop on this course, you’ll
be ready to apply for specialist roles in ecology and biological recording. Our former graduates
have an excellent record of recruitment and promotion in these fields.

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 Department of Natural Sciences and the University Careers Service including dedicated careers and employability advisors.

Learn more about graduate careers

Entry requirements

You’ll need a good UK honours degree – at least a 2:2 – or the international equivalent, in a relevant subject such as ecology, biology, zoology, botany, animal behaviour or environmental science. We might also consider your application if you have several years’ professional or voluntary experience in a related field.

Course details

Because of the seasonal nature of this work, you’ll study part-time over a minimum of two (but usually three) years.

You’ll study four core units – two per year. Three of these units are delivered at the Field Studies Council (FSC) headquarters in Preston Montford, near Shrewsbury and a final second year unit is run at Manchester Metropolitan University’s All Saints campus in central Manchester. This is followed by an in-depth dissertation which can be completed remotely with the help of your allocated University supervisor. All core units run on a total of four weekends each year between October and March, with dates dependent on the unit in question.

You’ll also study six option units in total over two years, choosing from a list of around 30. These are delivered as weekend courses at FSC centres around the UK and you can attend on a residential or non-residential basis. Depending on which ones you choose, you’ll be away for two or three nights.

Core units

  • Biological Recording and Surveying - 2nd - 4th October 2020 and 30th October - 1st November 2020
  • Research Methods and Design - 4th - 6th December 2020 and 15th - 17th January 2021

Option units
Students may select six units from the list below during Years 1 and 2:

  • Difficult higher plants
  • Difficult Invertebrates
  • Bird Survey Techniques
  • Bryophytes
  • Site Assessment using Vegetation
  • Site Assessment using Invertebrates
  • QGIS
  • Using a Flora
  • Identifying Mosses and Liverworts
  • Surveying Terrestrial Invertebrates for Biological Recording
  • Identifying Woodland Plants
  • Identification of Bats
  • Identification of Solitary Bees
  • Aquatic Plants
  • Grasses, Sedges and Rushes
  • Plants of Bogs and Mires
  • Land Mammal Identification
  • Songbird Identification
  • Identification of Macrofungi
  • Identifying Hoverflies
  • NVC Grasslands
  • Reptiles and Amphibians
  • Introduction to Phase 1 Surveys
  • Identifying Lichens
  • Identifying Odonata and Lepidoptera
  • Identifying trees
  • Identifying the Sedges and their Allies
  • Fern Identification
  • Identifying Coastal Plants
  • Identifying Marine Species and Habitats: the Biotope Approach
  • NVC Mires and Heaths

Click below for this year's unit information

Read more about this year of study

Core Units

Research Methods and Design
This unit extends your knowledge and understanding of the research process and develops your ability to carry out independent research and critically appraise literature.
Biological Recording and Surveying

Students will gain an understanding of the methods for managing data in biological recording and its context and use within the wider environmental and conservation sectors. Through theoretical and practical applications, students will learn best practise in data creation, compilation, organisation and dissemination of records as they apply to a variety of taxonomical groups.

Core units

  • Monitoring Habitat and Species Responses to Environmental Change
  • Research Analysis

Read more about this year of study

Core Units

Monitoring Habitat and Species Responses to Environmental Change

Environmental change exerts constant pressure on our ecosystems. Drivers such as climate change and atmospheric pollution shift species gradients, alter plant community composition and wildlife populations, and affect the integrity of some of our most valuable semi-natural habitats.

In this unit, we explore the methods used by conservation agencies to monitor ecosystem responses to long-term environmental change and consider how we quantify the effectiveness of site management in mitigating change. We will examine weather, air & soil chemistry, plant & soil communities, birds & butterfly populations that are regularly surveyed, to understand the nature of environmental change and the techniques used to monitor responses to change including field survey and remote sensing methods.

Research Analysis

The Research Analysis unit is intended to provide students with a general awareness of, and practical utility in, statistical analysis and experimental design.

Core units

  • Project Dissertation in Biological Recording

Read more about this year of study

Core Units

Project Dissertation in Biological Recording

This unit allows students to undertake a novel biological recording research project and in doing so, practise the skills of research design, analysis, and scientific communication.

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.

Department of Natural Sciences

Our Department of Natural Sciences is a research-rich academic community with a well-established reputation in biology, chemistry, geography and environmental science.

The department works with research institutions, industry partners, national organisations and NGOs worldwide to address the challenges posed by environmental, socio-economic, cultural and political change, as well as health and advanced materials.

More about the department

Taught by experts

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.

Meet our expert staff


UK and EU students

UK and EU students: Part-time fee: £1542 per 30 credits studied per year. Tuition fees will remain the same for each year of your course providing you complete it in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

Non-EU and Channel Island students

Non-EU international and Channel Island students: Part-time fee: £2834 per 30 credits studied per year. Tuition fees will remain the same for each year of your course providing you complete it in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

Additional Information

A Masters qualification typically comprises 180 credits, a PGDip 120 credits, a PGCert 60 credits, and an MFA 300 credits. Tuition fees will remain the same for each year of study provided the course is completed in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

Additional costs

Professional Costs

Students often choose to buy a laptop for their degree (costing approximately £300 to £400) and a printer (costing £50 to £100 including print consumables) but there are numerous drop-in computer facilities across campus and laptops for loan in the library. Lab coats and safety glasses are provided free of charge and expected to last for the duration of the course. Students will have to purchase replacements for lost or damaged items.

Other Costs

This programme is delivered in association with the Field Studies Council and utilises FSC facilities across the UK. Core modules are delivered at Preston Montford (near Shrewsbury) and have 2 night residential/non-residential options of attendance available at additional cost. The optional field units (6 x 10 credits) are available from a wide portfolio of short courses delivered across FSC facilities in the UK. These field unit weekends also are offered as either 2/3 night residential/non-residential options of attendance, depending upon the choice of field unit taken.

Your Manchester Metropolitan University main campus unit will have accommodation costs associated, although this must be arranged independently of the University and therefore costs can vary year on year.

 Students will be expected to print out assessments (including dissertations (with binding) and posters). Travel expenses associated with independent data collection for final year dissertations are not reimbursed by the School. Students will be advised to undertake low-cost local fieldwork at the design and planning stages of a project if necessary. Core modules: Min £40 - Max £560. Depending on non/residential arrangements. Optional Field Units (6 x 10 credits) £75 to £280 / 10 credits depending on option and residency arrangements.

Postgraduate Loan Scheme

Loans of up to £10,906 for many Postgraduate Courses

Find out more

Alumni Loyalty Discount

Rewarding our graduates

Learn more

Want to know more?

How to apply

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

We run a number of information days to which you and your employer are more than welcome to attend you do not have to put in an application beforehand.

For more information, please email: for additional paperwork or to book yourself a place at an information day.

Manchester Metropolitan University Shrewsbury Office
The Gateway
Chester Street

Telephone 01743 355137

If you are unable to apply online, you can apply for postgraduate 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.

You can review our current Terms and Conditions before you make your application. If you are successful with your application, we will send you up to date information alongside your offer letter.


Programme Review
Our programmes undergo an annual review and major review (normally at 6 year intervals) to ensure an up-to-date curriculum supported by the latest online learning technology. For further information on when we may make changes to our programmes, please see the changes section of our Terms and Conditions.

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. Please check back to the online prospectus before making an application to us to access the most up to date information for your chosen course of study.

Confirmation of Regulator
The Manchester Metropolitan University is regulated by the Office for Students (OfS). The OfS is the independent regulator of higher education in England. More information on the role of the OfS and its regulatory framework can be found at

All higher education providers registered with the OfS must have a student protection plan in place. The student protection plan sets out what students can expect to happen should a course, campus, or institution close. Access our current Student Protection Plan.