MSc Conservation Biology

With climate change and environmental damage at record levels, there’s never been a greater need for conservation biologists. This masters will give you the vital skills to play your part in one of the key issues of our times.

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The world’s habitats are undergoing rapid transformation. The impacts of climate change are causing species extinction at an unprecedented rate. Conservation biology as a discipline looks at the science behind these changes – including the identification of ecosystems at risk, ways of conserving biodiversity, and the role of genetics and demography.

With our masters, you’ll tackle all that and more, gaining the knowledge and skills for a career at the forefront of conservation. You’ll explore the scientific background to species conservation and the factors driving extinction. You’ll also look at the sustainable use of resources and learn valuable statistical techniques for analysing ecological data. With a range of option units, you’ll be able to specialise in areas like species recovery and behavioural biology.

But this programme is as much about practice as it is about theory. While the core units include a field course to Poland, Ecuador or East Africa, your masters project also has a practical focus, demanding in-depth research before you present your findings.

Throughout it all, you’ll be supported by experienced academics, who’ll bring their real-world expertise direct to the classroom as you prepare to make your own way in the world of conservation. And with the international focus of this degree, it’s a career journey that could take you literally anywhere.

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Features and Benefits

Career Prospects

This is a course that can open a wide range of career paths and professional possibilities, providing a route into animal management, pest control, teaching, environmental education and more. While it provides the skills and understanding you’ll need to take your first steps in this area, it’s also a valuable option if you’re already in a relevant role – with many students taking our masters courses as part of their professional development.

You’ll have careers support from the moment you join us, and for up to three years after you’ve finished our course. We have a variety of services to help you take the next step, from dedicated employability advisors to careers fairs and networking events.

By the time you leave us, you should be equipped to pursue a career with organisations like environmental consultancies, government research and advisory bodies, zoos and NGOs, or to continue your studies onto PhD level.

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 experience in a related field.

International students please see

Overseas applicants will require IELTS with an overall score of 6.5 with no less than 5.5 in any category, or an equivalent accepted English qualification. Accepted English qualifications can be viewed here.

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

Course details

Whether you opt to study full or part time, you’ll cover a total of 8 or 11 units – including your field course and your dissertation project. As such, you’ll start off with core units exploring areas like biodiversity conservation, statistical research and sustainability.

It’s also a programme with the flexibility to delve into the specialist areas that interest you most, including option units like Behavioural Biology, Species Recovery, and Avian Biology and Conservation.

You’ll take a field course unit, travelling to Poland, East Africa or Ecuador, while your final masters-level dissertation project could also involve international travel for gathering data and conducting research.

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:

Read the Biology Student blog: Carly Morris - Seal Research

Core units

  • Statistics and Research Design
  • Masters Project in Conservation
  • Practical Techniques and Analysis
  • Biodiversity Conservation
  • Field Course
  • Topics in Conservation and Sustainability
  • Topics in Organismal Genetics

Option Units

  • Behavioural Biology
  • Species Recovery
  • Avian Biology and Conservation
  • Earth Observation and GIS
  • Monitoring Habitat and Species Responses to Environmental Change

Read more about this year of study

Core Units

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.

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.

Field Course

This unit will introduce students to applied ecological techniques and behavioural data collection.  Students will design and deliver a research project during a residential or non-residential Field Course.

Biodiversity 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. 

Topics in Conservation and Sustainability

The unit will examine biological theory and environmental policy underlying the sustainable use of resources to maintain their productive capacity and protective function. Example topics covered include: harvesting; soil management; tourism; genetic modification; tragedy of the commons.

Topics in Organismal Genetics

Within the context of modern population genetics, this unit will introduce the application of molecular genetics tools to a range of problems in conversation biology and evolution. Equal emphasis will be placed on background theory, data handling and generation and surveying modern applied generics through case studies and primary literature. 

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 utilised 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?).

Species Recovery

This unit focuses on conservation actions that aim to reverse declines in threatened species. These include reintroductions of endangered or extinction species, ex-situ conservation breeding, post-release monitoring, habitat manipulation and biological control, and research underpinning knowledge of the causes decline and recovery priorities. The unit will draw on case studies from the tropics, and from species recovery efforts for UK and European plants and animals. 

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.

Earth Observation and GIS

This unit provides students with an introduction to the principles of Earth Observation and explores its role in data gathering (including recent sensor developments) and information extraction for GIS applications.

Assessment weightings and contact hours

10 credits equates to 100 hours of study, which is a combination of lectures, seminars and practical sessions, and independent study. A masters qualification typically comprises of 180 credits, a PGDip 120 credits, a PGCert 60 credits and an MFA 300 credits. The exact composition of your study time and assessments for the course will vary according to your option choices and style of learning, but it could be:


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: Full-time fee: £9,250 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).

Fees for this course have yet to be confirmed and will be updated shortly.

Non-EU and Channel Island students

Non-EU international and Channel Island students: Full-time fee: £17,000 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).

Fees for this course have yet to be confirmed and will be updated shortly.

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

Specialist 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 PPE.

Other Costs


Manchester Metropolitan University now provides free travel insurance for students when they travel in connection with their programme of study, for example, placements, field trips, exchanges etc. However, students should also take out personal insurance cover for belongings as items such as mobile phones are not covered by this policy. Our courses have field-based elements of delivery so students would be expected to dress appropriately (i.e. purchase waterproof coats and trousers, sturdy footwear/walking boots). 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. We currently offer the opportunity, subject to demand, of carrying out project field work in Kenya or Tanzania, if available this would carry and additional cost of between £1,800 - £2,500, depending upon whether taken in conjunction with the residential optional Tanzania based field course.

Postgraduate Loan Scheme

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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

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.