Faculty of Biological Sciences

What is a Biodiversity & Conservation Masters?

The University of Leeds has twice been recognised by the European Union as a "Centre of Excellence" for biodiversity and conservation training. We believe biodiversity can only be managed and conserved when it can be measured and interpreted properly. Our postgraduate biodiversity and conservation courses are distinct from similar courses offered in the UK in their concentration on the biological principles underlying biodiversity, its assessment and management.

Why study a Biodiversity & Conservation Masters?

The MSc and MRes courses at Leeds are designed to prepare recent graduates for a PhD programme or to begin a career in conservation. For established conservation professionals our modules provide additional skills to support them in their work. An increasing number of students treat the MSc as a conversion course, after having taken degrees in non-biological subjects.

The biodiversity masters degrees offer a wide range of options allowing for personalised courses of study that lay the groundwork for further academic work and/or professional development in the field. We aim to provide our graduates with:

  • An understanding of the biological principles and institutional framework underlying biodiversity and its conservation
  • A core body of analytical and practical skills required to operate effectively in an academic or professional career
  • The ability to identify plants and animals
  • Experience in biodiversity and/or conservation-related research

MSc or MRes – what’s the difference?

In a nutshell, MRes students have fewer taught modules, but carry out two major research project assignments rather than one. Most students taking the MRes are planning to probably go on to do a PhD or have an MSc degree already. Many of our MSc graduates also subsequently do PhDs, but initially prefer to widen their skills base through the additional taught elements that are available.

Part time or full time?

The programmes fill a full year, from September to September. Part time options are also available, over two years.

Overseas students

The majority of our participants are from the UK, but we strongly encourage overseas applications. Each year we are very pleased to receive students from a variety of countries, both in the EU and beyond. Our experience is that they bring a fresh perspective to issues relevant to the course, and many have useful or even unique knowledge and skills.

Many overseas students already have positions in nature conservation and their time in Leeds not only benefits themselves, but also everyone else, because they bring skills, experience and background that are quite distinct from those brought by British students. For example, past overseas students have experience of managing hundreds of square miles of forest, have been involved in reducing the impact of elephants on agriculture, and have been authorities in Mediterranean turtle conservation.

Many of the Biodiversity and Conservation Masters research projects take place overseas. It is often possible for fieldwork to be conducted in the country of origin of the project student, if so desired.

 

Qualification Master of Science (MSc); Master of Research (MRes)
Duration 12 months full-time
24 months part-time
Entry requirements Normally a 2:1 honours degree or equivalent, but relevant experience may be taken into account
English language requirements If English is not your first language, please check our minimum English language requirements.
Start date September annually (one intake only)
Admissions enquiries Postgraduate Taught Admissions
Tel. +44 (0) 113 343 1418
Email: fbsgrad@leeds.ac.uk
Department Faculty of Biological Sciences Graduate School
Programme leader Dr Steve Compton
Course brochure Download our Taught (Masters) brochure

 

Students may study for an MSc or MRes (what’s the difference?). It is possible to study on either a full or part-time basis. Teaching methods include project work, field courses, lectures, practicals, tutorials and workshops. Compared with undergraduate degrees, more of the work is carried out in teams. Typically between 40 and 50 students enrol each year, with about 25% taking the MRes degree. The course lasts 12 months, with activity broken into three parts:

  • September - December (teaching semester 1)
  • January - May (teaching semester 2)
  • May - September (exclusively project period)

MSc: Compulsory Modules

Biodiversity & Conservation Skills 1

The Skills modules provide practical training and exercises in a diverse range of transferable skills and topics applicable to ecological research. Skills 1 is taken by both MSc and MRes students, and starts with a residential weekend at Malham Tarn Field Studies Centre in the Yorkshire Dales, which provides the opportunity for students to get to know each other, and to be introduced to the ecology of Yorkshire with a range of practical exercises. Back in Leeds, the module covers the use of statistics to analyse ecological data, and oral presentation skills, with associated tutorials.

Semester: 1  Credits: 10

Biodiversity & Conservation MSc Skills 2

The second MSc Skills module covers a broad range of topics including Fieldwork First Aid (a one day accredited course), Fieldwork Risk Assessment, Public Understanding of Science, ethical issues in ecology, preparing a grant application, participatory ecotourism, biodiversity sampling in Yorskhire, and freshwater invertebrate surveys. These are taught by a combination of internal and external lecturers, using lectures, workshops, practical sessions and field visits.

Semester: 2  Credits: 10

MSc Summer Research Project

Semester: 2  Credits: 60

Example MSc module selection

 

Module

Credits

Compulsory

Conservation Masters skills (transferable skills etc)

20

Summer research project

60

Optional

Conservation genetics

15

Practical Conservation with the National Trust

10

Habitat Management

10

African Field Course

20

Plant Identification

15

Conservation Skills

5

Community Ecology

15

Population Dynamics

10

Total

 

180

MRes: Compulsory Modules

Biodiversity & Conservation Skills 1

The Skills modules provide practical training and exercises in a diverse range of transferable skills and topics applicable to ecological research. Skills 1 is taken by both MSc and MRes students, and starts with a residential weekend at Malham Tarn Field Studies Centre in the Yorkshire Dales, which provides the opportunity for students to get to know each other, and to be introduced to the ecology of Yorkshire with a range of practical exercises. Back in Leeds, the module covers the use of statistics to analyse ecological data, and oral presentation skills, with associated tutorials.

Semester: 1  Credits: 10

Biodiversity & Conservation MRes Skills 2

The second MRes Skills module covers a broad range of topics. There is a one week course in Advanced Statistics, which extends the skills acquired in semester 1 to cover a range of advanced statistical modelling techniques, implemented in the package R. This component is available as a separate module for MSc students. Other topics covered include Fieldwork First Aid (a one day accredited course), Fieldwork Risk Assessment, Public Understanding of Science, ethical issues in ecology and preparing a research grant application. These are taught by a combination of internal and external lecturers, using lectures, workshops and practical sessions.

Semester: 2  Credits: 15

MRes Research Project

Semester: 1  Credits: 40

MRes Summer Research Project

On completion of this module, students should have an understanding of the theory describing changes in population size in animals and plants and be trained in techniques for the estimation of population sizes and the description of factors influencing population sizes. They should be able to contribute to the planning and execution of studies on the population status of target species and make informed contributions to management discussions.

Semester: 2  Credits: 60

Example MRes module selection

 

Module

Credits

Compulsory

Conservation Masters skills (transferable skills etc)

25

Two research projects

100

Optional

Community Ecology

15

Conservation Genetics

15

Population Dynamics

10

Insect Identification

15

Total

 

180

Optional Modules

Population Dynamics

Provides students with an understanding of the theory describing changes in population size in animals and plants and training in techniques for the estimation of population sizes and the description of factors influencing population sizes. The aim is for students to be trained in how to contribute to the planning and execution of studies on the population status of target species and how to make informed contributions to management discussions. Specific topics include the dynamics of single species populations and of simple interactions, the dynamics of metapopulations, case studies of selected species and population modelling.

Semester: 1  Credits: 10

GIS and the Environment

This module looks at the many ways in which GIS can be applied to the study of the environmental sciences including modelling terrain, hydrology, ecology and land use. The module considers important issues in the application of GIS such as sampling strategies, scale and generalisation, error and uncertainty, and grid-based modelling before moving on to look at how these methods can be applied to gain a better understanding of landscape processes. The module concludes with a look at how GIS is being applied to inform better decisions about the natural environment within the human dimension of the planning process. The module is assessed through the completion of practical assignments and an individual project report.

Semester: 2  Credits: 15

Community Ecology

The purpose of most conservation efforts is the preservation of biodiversity. This module focuses on understanding biodiversity: what it is, how it is measured, where it is found, how it may be maintained in natural systems, and how human management may help to preserve it. Specific topics include: Global patterns of biodiversity, latitudinal trends & scaling, the measurement of diversity, sampling effects and spatial scale, community invasibility & succession, reserves as ecological islands, conservation corridors, edge effects and reserve shape, beta-diversity and reserve complimentarity.

Semester: 1  Credits: 15

Conservation Genetics

This module aims to enable to make informed use of genetic data in biodiversity management decisions and contribute to the planning and execution of conservation genetics investigations. It covers a range of issues in conservation genetics including the maintenance and measurement of genetic variation within populations., inbreeding and its consequences, genetic management of populations, genetic markers and hybridisation.

Semester: 2  Credits: 15

Advanced Statistics

This module is intended to further develop students statistical skills within the context of current research and practice in biodiversity and conservation, building on those statistical skills acquired during the semester 1 Skills module. The module will consist of practical training and exercises in the use and interpretation of modern statistical methods including General Linear Models, Generalised Linear Models, General Linear Mixed Models and Multivariate Analysis, and their application to biological problems using the statistical package R. This module forms part of the Biodiversity & Conservation Skills 2 module for MRes students.

Semester: 2  Credits: 10

Habitat Management

An introductory lecture, followed by a series of site visits to meet land managers and Natural England representatives. The module concludes with a series of student seminars where groups present their vision of how one particular reserve should be managed in the future.

Individuals provide executive summaries of their proposals. Groups also organise their own field visits to assess reserve quality from the perspective of dead wood feeding organisms.

Semester: 2  Credits: 10

Introduction to GIS Skills for Ecologists

GIS is becoming increasingly important as a tool in landscape ecology and conservation, leading to a need for more training in this area. This module provides an introduction to GIS for ecologists that assumes no prior expertise. It acts as a more thorough stepping stone to the more advanced GIS modules available in The School of Geography. It consists of a series of lectures and practicals intended to provide students with the skills and tools that will enable them to answer simple ecological questions through basic modelling and additionally gain the confidence to tackle more complex problems.

Semester: 1  Credits: 10

Biodiversity and Conservation Internships

This module allows Masters students to participate in a sandwich year scheme, providing a 12 month period of work experience in the middle of their Masters programme. Internship placements (normally either one 12-month placement or two 6-month placements) are usually found by the student, and agreed if it is relevant to the degree scheme (with e.g. conservation organisations, statutory agencies, consultancies, research centres, or nature reserves).

Semester: 2  Credits: 15

African Ecology Field Course

The African field course is usually based at Mpala, Kenya. It provides a firsthand appreciation of the ecology and conservation concerns of an African savannah community.

Semester: 2  Credits: 20

Mediterranean Ecology Field Course

The Mediterranean field course takes place over the spring recess at a research station in southern Spain.

Semester: 2  Credits: 15

Insect Identification Skills

This module focuses on developing applied taxonomic skills. It comprises an intense week of study and assumes no prior knowledge of insect identification. On the first morning an introductory lecture on survey and identification techniques is followed by practice in telling insects from other terrestrial arthropods and distinguishing the Orders of insects. The rest of the module concentrates on an order of insects that is used regularly in site assessments. The material is identified to Family and then species. Assessment is on the basis of an identification test taken on the last day.

Semester: 1  Credits: 15

Plant Identification

This module is taught jointly with staff of Natural England Professor John Rodwell. The ability to identify plants has been identified as one of the key skills for conservation biologists. Based around a series of field visits and lectures, this module aims to develop both plant taxonomic skills and NVC (National Vegetation Classification) communities, assuming no prior experience. The use of floras is demonstrated, along with the basics of plant anatomical characters, but this is essentially a hands-on module aiming to introduce students to the plants found in a range of habitats. Assessment is based on a test of identification skills carried out at the end of the module, together with a 'phase one' style exercise that makes use of plant identification skills.

Semester: 2  Credits: 15

Conservation Skills

This module comprises a series of hands on specialist practical skills options, some taught by staff outside the school and leading to recognised certificates of competency. The options available may vary from year to year and only one option is available to each student. In some cases students are required to provide a financial contribution. Current options include mist netting for birds, small mammal trapping, practical bat conservation, practical fish conservation, chain saw use (certificated), back pack spray use (certificated) and single rope tree-climbing techniques (certificated). Each option is assessed on the basis of a practical skills test at the end of the module.

Credits: 5

Practical Conservation with the National Trust

This module introduces the complexity of nature conservation in a practical setting with the National Trust, one of the UK's largest conservation bodies. The module includes a series of six full days of fieldwork on National Trust land in the Yorkshire Dales National Park in one of a number of large-scale monitoring projects (e.g. grazing assessments of calcareous grassland on tenanted farms; habitat condition assessments; mapping pollution risk in the catchment for Malham Tarn National Nature Reserve).

Credits: 10

Visit the Why Leeds pages for an overview of the Faculty of Biological Sciences Graduate School.

Please be aware that course details do change from time to time...

... If in doubt, please contact us to verify course content and availability. Whilst the University endeavours to ensure that the information on this website is accurate at the date of publication it does not accept liability for any inaccuracies. The University reserves the right to change or cancel its courses or services at any time without liability even after students have registered at the University. The University's contract with its students does not confer third party benefits for the purposes of Contracts (Right of Third Parties) Act 1999.

Field work

There are also opportunities to work overseas with leading researchers during your research project and field courses in African Ecology and Mediterranean Ecology. Leeds has an unrivalled location for study sites: the Yorkshire Dales, Lake District, North York Moors and Peak District National Park are all close by. The Leeds University Farm facilities are also available for projects and fieldwork.

African Ecology

The African field course is based at Mpala Research Centre, Laikipia, Kenya. It provides a first-hand appreciation of the ecology and conservation concerns of an African savannah community, both for the wildlife and the people who live in the area. As well as learning about the local environment, flora and fauna, and field safety procedures, most of the time is spent designing and carrying out group research projects. Project reports are produced on return to the UK. Additionally, short presentations about key topics in the ecology and conservation of savannas will be given by students, but where possible we also ask resident researchers to provide guest lectures. These are always fascinating accounts of the science being undertaken at Mpala.

Staff and students are rewarded with a spectacular view of the Mpala ranch after walking to the top of the nearby hill of Mukenya During an optional excursion to Samburu we will likely see elephants crossing the Ewaso Ng'iro river. Elephants are increasingly common at Mpala, where they can cause a lot of damage. Predation in action! A black-backed jackal with the head of a very common ungulate, a dik-dik. A small group of giraffes. Such groups move freely about Laikipia and come and go at Mpala. Grevy's zebra are increasly rare, but they are often seen at Mpala. View of Mount Kenya from Mpala Research Centre. Staff and field guide deterred from herbivory of swollen thorn acacia by its ferocious resident ants. Students can study these fascinating ant-acacia interactions as one of the projects. Typical student accommodation. View of the dormitory at Mpala Research Centre from the dining room during a brief, but heavy, shower. The alfresco dining room at Mpala, where we will have our meals with other staff and researchers. View of the Mpala Research Centre offices and labs from the dining room. Leopards are often seen at Mpala and Samburu, but rarely so spectacularly as this female during the day. Students are counting ungulates along a transect around the Mpala ranch as part of their project. A very early morning game drive is rewarded with an amazing encounter with wild dogs close to the Mpala Research centre. Enchanting view of a female lion and 3 cubs at Samburu.

 

Mediterranean Ecology

The Mediterranean field course takes place over the spring recess at a research station in southern Spain.

Ahead of the visit, students working in small groups develop a research topic and produce individual literature reviews. The research work is then carried out during the field course. The field course ends with team seminars;back in the UK short research papers are produced.

The Bee eaters have a colony close to the Urra field station. Harvester ants are characteristic of Mediterranean ecosystems. Mediterranean Lacerta lizards are the largest in Europe and quite common The Tabernas Badlands Most of the trip is spent working as a pair or group of three on a research project. The Urra field station Oil beetle - flightless beetles, they use an oily excretion to dissuade predators. Mediterranean field course group Polistes paper wasp - the foundress queens are just starting their nests when we're at Urra.jpg Scorpions can occasionally be found under stones if you're (un)lucky



Teaching - An outstanding scientific education

We provide students with the very best learning resources and academic support possible, and our teaching draws on the world class research base of the University of Leeds and highly-qualified professionals from industry, non-government organisations and charities.

All our Masters programmes contain core skills courses, specialised subject-specific courses and research projects. Plus our more ecological Masters programmes contain field courses. Very few of our courses contain unseen examinations, and most are assessed entirely by continual assessment exercises.

Core Skills

Our core skills courses include topics that enable you to learn efficiently, to improve your study and research skills and to perform well in the world of work after graduation (e.g. communication skills, professional development, enterprise, experimental planning). They also give you the skills needed to cope with the subject-specific courses and your independent research project (e.g. practical techniques in molecular biology in the MSc Bioscience programmes, use of statistics in ecological research in the MSc/MRes Biodiversity and Conservation programmes). They are all taught in a very practical way, with exercises carried out in our modern, well-equipped laboratories, in the field or on computer, and with additional teaching in workshops and seminars.

Specialist Modules

These cover the entire range of subjects within the programmes that we offer. We teach across a range of areas, from molecular biology and microbiology to whole systems biology and ecology. Specialist modules range from " Topics in Cancer Biology" in MSc Human Disease and Therapy and "Computational Biology of Genomic Systems" in MSc Bioinformatics and Genomics to "Habitat Restoration" on our Biodiversity and Conservation programmes. Module information appears under the "course structure" tab for each individual programme.

Projects

All our Masters students carry out at least one original research project. The entire period from May to September is devoted to project work, and students are able to work with professional research groups within the faculty, many of them internationally renowned. The projects are carried out within our superbly equipped research laboratories, in industrial research laboratories or in the field.

Field research projects are undertaken by students on the Biodiversity and Conservation programmes and are often in association with conservation bodies and government agencies. Approximately half the projects are carried out in the UK, the rest overseas - from Ecuador to Indonesia and New Zealand to the Azores.

Field Courses

MSc/MRes Biodiversity and Conservation students receive much of their teaching in the field. Leeds has a large number of temperate ecosystems within close range, and many of these are visited in the specialist subject-specific courses. To give exposure to a bigger range of ecosystems there are also residential field courses available in other parts of the world.

Independently reviewed teaching standards

The standard of our teaching is very high, as is expected of a leading “Russell Group” university. UK universities operate a system of external examiners to ensure standards are maintained, and all of our Masters programmes have an external examiner from another university. We are subjected to regular audit of our teaching standards called the Student Academic Experience Review. There are also regular meetings of a Student:Staff Forum, where student representatives from each of the degree programmes can raise issues with staff, and our modules are assessed by student feedback.

Student Support

All our students are assigned a personal tutor to guide them during their time at Leeds. The programme leader is also responsible for helping students achieve their academic goals. The staff in the Student Education Office give a friendly welcome to all our new students, and help them feel at home when they arrive here.

 


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