MSc Biodiversity and Conservation

MSc Biodiversity and Conservation

As the pressure on natural resources and ecosystems increases, the urgent need to protect and encourage the sustainable use of these ecosystems grows. Biodiversity conservation is a global priority, with a UN Sustainable Development Goal devoted to sustainably managing forests, combating desertification and halting the loss of biodiversity. In order to influence change in this area, training future ecologists, researchers and policy makers in the skills and knowledge to be able to address these challenges needs to be a priority.

The MSc Biodiversity and Conservation course brings together our research expertise across ecosystems; from the tropics to the Arctic, and from forests to seas. You’ll develop fundamental knowledge about today’s major conservation issues and their human and environmental drivers including urbanisation, tropical logging, climate change, marine pollution, and the balance between sustainable food production and biodiversity.

Through field biology training in the Peak District National Park, you'll learn how to carry out conservation first-hand, from researchers who are applying the same techniques in their own studies around the globe in locations including Malaysian Borneo, Colombian and Ecuadorian Andes, and the Amazon. You'll even get the chance to carry out your own independent research project in the field or the lab. Throughout your training, guest speakers, which in the past have included NGOs, will help you to expand your understanding of biodiversity and conservation with real-world insights, preparing you for an exciting career protecting biodiversity around the world.

Experts in plant and animal biodiversity and conservation

At Sheffield, our expertise span major ecosystems including terrestrial, freshwater and marine systems, diverse natural ecosystems as well as managed agricultural and urban ecosystems.

We'll share our first-hand experience of global conservation issues and train you in the most advanced field and lab methodologies, from data science for conservation, to the latest molecular techniques, so you can conduct your own research.

Top 20 for Ecology in the world

Academic Ranking of World Universities 2018, ShanghaiRanking




To apply for this course, complete the University of Sheffield's postgraduate online application form.

Online application form

Early applications are encouraged. Any applications received after all places have been filled will be deferred for entry the following year.

You can find more information about the application process on the University's postgraduate webpages.

How to apply: applying essentials


Course Director: Dr Tom Webb

If you would like to know anything else about this course, contact:

You can also visit us throughout the year:
Postgraduate open days, visit afternoons and online chats

International students
Don't meet our entry requirements? Pre-Masters at our International College

About the course

This 12-month MSc course is designed to train you for a career protecting biodiversity in a range of natural, agricultural and urban ecosystems around the world. Throughout your course you'll be in the field learning first-hand about conservation issues and the constraints posed by budgets, policy and legislation. Through fieldwork in the Peak District, you'll become familiar with environments and receive training in the principles of experimental design and data collection, equipping you with the key skills to plan and manage your own scientific projects.

During your studies you'll develop an understanding of how environmental change can impact biodiversity and how effectively managing ecosystems can have a positive impact on both biodiversity and the ecosystem itself. Modules include: Agricultural Ecology in a Changing World, Changing Global Ecosystems, and Biodiversity in Space and Time. A full module list can be found below.

The biggest part of the course is the Independent Research Project. Here you'll spend three months researching an area of biodiversity or conservation that matches your future career aspirations. You could be field-based, lab-based or complete a computational data driven project. Topics may include urbanisation, ecosystem services, tropical deforestation, and marine conservation.

In addition to technical skills and specialist knowledge of biodiversity and conservation, throughout your course you’ll also develop transferable skills around critical thinking and communication, sought after by employers around the globe. In order to build these skills, you’ll learn through field work, laboratory classes, lectures, seminars and problem-solving classes. Assessment includes, but is not limited to, oral presentations, essays, fieldwork, reflective journal entries, examinations, coursework, a portfolio and a dissertation.

Within the department and across the university there's a large community of students and staff working to find innovative ways to contribute to a more sustainable world alongside their research, through societies and volunteering. Whether you're interested in contributing to the Hedgehog Friendly Campus campaign to safeguard their future or you want to find out more about Our Zero Waste Shop in the Students' Union, alongside your studies there's plenty of activities to get involved in.

Read more about this course on the University of Sheffield's webpages for postgraduate students:

MSc Biodiversity and Conservation

After your degree

With first-hand experience of global conservation issues across animal and plant biodiversity, MSc Biodiversity and Conservation graduates will be well equipped to pursue a range of career opportunities in policy making, research and academia implementing positive change in this area.

Graduates will develop the specialist knowledge and transferable skills to pursue careers working around the world or further study to PhD level. 

Possible career paths include: working on conservation or sustainability programmes within government, NGOs including environmental bodies or wildlife trusts, or in the private sector, inspiring the next generation as a university teacher, or solving pressing problems through research in higher education.

If you choose to continue your research training, graduates will be well equipped to pursue PhDs in ecology, evolution and conservation and beyond. Doctoral Training Programmes like Adapting to the Challenges of Changing Environment (ACCE) train PhD students in these areas.

Throughout your course, external lecturers will visit to give talks on their chosen career paths, allowing you to gain a better understanding of the vast range of careers available to an MSc Biodiversity and Conservation graduate.

The University's Careers Service runs workshops on CV and application writing, job hunting and preparing for interviews. They offer events where you can meet employers, and opportunities to get work experience while you study. The Careers Service will even continue to support you for three years after you graduate.

Entry requirements

For this course, we usually ask for a 2:2 degree in biological sciences or other relevant science subject.

Applicants with professional experience may also be considered following interview.

We can also accept qualifications from other countries. You can find out which qualifications we accept from your country on the University's webpages for international students.

Prospective international students: Your country

International pathway programmes

If you are an international student who does not meet our entry requirements, the University of Sheffield International College offers a Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering programme. This programme is designed to develop your academic level in your chosen subject, introduce you to the study skills that will be vital to success and help with language if you need it.

Upon successful completion, you can progress to this degree at the University of Sheffield.

Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering

English Language Requirements

If you have not already studied in a country where English is the majority language, it is likely that you will need to have an English language qualification. We usually ask for:

  • International English Language Testing Service (IELTS): Overall grade of 6.5 with 6 in each component

You can find out whether you need to have an english language qualification, and which other English language qualifications we accept, on the University's webpages for international students.

English language requirements

The English Language Teaching Centre offers English language courses for students who are preparing to study at the University of Sheffield.

English Language Teaching Centre

Funding and scholarships

Funding is available, depending on your fee status, where you live and the course you plan to study. You could also qualify for a repayable postgraduate masters loan to help fund your studies.

Funding your postgraduate course

UK/EU scholarships

100+ scholarships image

We're offering 100+ scholarships worth £10,000 each for home students starting a taught postgraduate course in 2019 that can be used towards fees or living expenses.

Find out more

International scholarships

International scholarships image

We're offering 100 International Postgraduate Taught Merit Scholarships, each worth 25% of the original tuition fee for a postgraduate taught programme starting in September 2019.

Find out more

Alumni rewards

Alumni rewards

If you’ve previously graduated from the University and intend to pursue further studies with us then you may be eligible to receive a 10% discount on your tuition fees.

Find out more

Up-to-date fees can be found on the University of Sheffield's webpages for postgraduate students:

Tuition fees


Nathaniel worked with the RSPB, travelling across three upland sites in the UK to study the recent rapid decline of breeding upland waders for his masters project.

The aim was to understand how targeted management interventions had affected food availability for Eurasian curlew. The mix of field and lab work allowed me access to a breadth of different scientific processes.

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This year we were proud to publish our first sustainability strategy. From world-leading climate change research, to food security initiatives like the cafe co-op run by like-minded students, sustainability at Sheffield is a priority.

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Current modules

Field Biology (15 credits)

Students will participate in a range of field visits to representative ecosystems in the Peak District, learning about the habitat, wildlife, and human context, and gaining experience in a range of appropriate methods for data collection. Applying this knowledge, they will identify a research question and present this to the group. They will develop this into a written proposal for a field project, using independent research to generate preliminary data and to place it in the context of previous work. The module will develop subject-specific knowledge, as well as skills in experimental design, critical thinking and writing.

Global Conservation Issues (15 credits)

This course provides an overview of the principles of conservation biology through lectures which focus on major real-world conservation issues and specific case studies. Critical thinking is encouraged throughout as students are encouraged to understand the complexity of conservation issues behind simple narratives. Students will further develop their skills in accessing, interpreting and synthesising both the primary scientific literature and official ‘grey’ literature in the field of conservation, as they independently produce a policy briefing on a major conservation issue. This will also give them insights into the science-policy interface, and the skills of writing for policy makers.

Agricultural Ecology in a Changing World (15 credits)

This module introduces the concept of agriculture as an ecological system and explores agriculture in the context of global change. Specifically, this unit will consider the value of biodiversity in agricultural ecosystems, the role of ecosystem services in the sustainability of food production and the vulnerabilities of agriculture to a changing climate.

Changing Global Ecosystems (15 credits)

Human impacts on the world’s ecosystems are profound and without precedent in Earth’s history. Ecosystem science addresses the need to understand the impacts of overexploitation, land-use change and anthropogenic climate change. This module introduces students to the principles of ecosystem science, showing how human impacts combine with natural processes to drive change in a range of tropical, temperate, boreal and marine ecosystems. Lectures and group discussions cover topics such as climatic tolerance, trophic interactions, and carbon sequestration. The practical application of theory will be demonstrated in field visits to long-term experimental sites, where students will conduct a group project.

Biodiversity in Space and Time (15 credits)

Biodiversity varies enormously from place to place, from hyperdiverse systems such as tropical rainforests to more species-poor systems in polar regions. The evolution of diversity has also not occurred at a constant rate, with bursts of diversification punctuating periods of more stability. As a result, not all areas are equal, and not all species are too: some represent far more unique evolutionary history than others. This module shows how these large-scale patterns can be studied using the methods of macroecology and macroevolution, and will provide both theory and practical training in how to quantify diversity in space and time.

Scientific Skills and Project Management (30 credits)

This module provides training in the skills and approaches necessary to design, manage, conduct, analyse and present research in whole organism biology and environmental science. Generic skills involve designing and planning an effective and reproducible study, making best use of available resources; collecting and managing data to address study aims; and communicating results orally and in writing to different audiences. The module also covers advanced principles of experimental design, data interpretation, and graphical presentation, introduced in the statistical computing environment using a series of workshops and student-centred learning assignments to develop skills and proficiency.

Literature Review (15 credits)

The literature review requires the student to write a critical review of a biological topic of choice. The literature review will involve extensive reading of original research papers, reviews and books together with information extracted from other media. The student will be required to critically analyse hypotheses in the field and critically analyse the quality of the evidence used to support them. Where controversies exist the student should be prepared to indicate which side has the stronger case. The literature review should also identify gaps in our current knowledge and understanding and make suggestions for the future developments in the field.

Independent Research Project (60 credits)

This module gives students the opportunity to develop to a high level skills relevant to a career in environmental research or management. Based on their interests and career aspirations, students will conduct either a laboratory of field-based research project, or a desk-based literature review and dissertation, with potential to work with an external organisation. Common elements include the independent planning and production of an original piece of research, under the guidance of an academic supervisor. The project write-up is targeted to a specific audience – either a scientific research or review paper, or a report aimed at a specific sector.

The cost of all core fieldwork and practical project work is included in your tuition fees, this includes both one day field trips and compulsory field courses as well as obligatory safety equipment. Travel to field sites for project work may incur additional costs.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

We timetable teaching across the whole of our campus, the details of which can be found on our campus map. Teaching may take place in a student’s home department, but may also be timetabled to take place within other departments or central teaching space.