2022 start September 

Biodiversity and Conservation

School of Biosciences, Faculty of Science

Develop fundamental knowledge about major conservation issues and their human and environmental drivers, including marine plastics, urbanisation, tropical logging and the balance between sustainable food production and biodiversity.
Biodiversity and conservation

Course description

This MSc course prepares 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 about conservation issues and the constraints posed by budgets, policy and legislation. Through fieldwork – either in the Peak District National Park or further afield – you'll receive training in the principles of experimental design and data collection, equipping you with the key skills to plan and manage your own conservation projects.

You'll develop an understanding of how environmental change can impact biodiversity and how the effective management of ecosystems can positively impact both biodiversity and the ecosystem itself.

You’ll conduct an Independent Research Project, spending 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, tackling topics such as urbanisation, ecosystem services, tropical deforestation, and marine conservation.

Example research projects include:

  • How is call type or structure related to site level factors in an endangered parrot?
  • The Peak District: a study system for biodiversity and management
  • Effects of increased CO2 on ecosystems
  • Traits in space and time: mobilising biodiversity data for conservation, macroecology, and macroevolution
  • Logging in tropical forests: a conservation and ecological study system


The modules listed below are examples from the last academic year. There may be some changes before you start your course. For the very latest module information, check with the department directly.

Core modules:

Field Biology

Students will participate in a range of field visits to representative ecosystems in a location appropriate to their programme, which may include Sheffield region and the Peak District, elsewhere in the UK, or overseas. During these visits they will learn about the habitats, wildlife, and human context of the landscape, and will gain 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 published work from the scientific literature. The module will develop subject-specific knowledge, as well as skills in experimental design, critical thinking and writing.

15 credits
Global Conservation Issues

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. , as well as a short, structured non-technical summary of a global conservation issue This will also give them insights into the science-policy interface, and the skills of writing about conservation issues for policy makers, journalists, and the interested general public.

15 credits
Agricultural Ecology in a Changing World

This unit will introduce the concept of agriculture as an ecological system and explore 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.

15 credits
Global Sustainability

This course examines the historical, social, cultural and political dimensions of sustainability, focusing on food production and natural resource management on the land and in the oceans. Students will learn how key historical developments led to sustainability issues, how geopolitics perpetuates these in the modern world, and how an understanding of these issues can help us to develop more sustainable ways to live in future. Learning will be achieved through lectures and videos, independent study and classroom discussion sessions.

15 credits
Biodiversity in Space and Time

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.

15 credits
Scientific Skills and Project Management

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; conducting research in an ethical manner; and communicating results orally and in writing to different audiences. There are also workshops explaining key aspects of the research process, introducing peer review and describing the science funding landscape. The module also covers advanced principles of experimental design, data interpretation, and graphical presentation, introduced in the statistical computing environment R using a series of workshops and student-centred learning assignments to develop skills and proficiency.

30 credits
Literature Review

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.

15 credits
Individual Research Project

This module gives students the opportunity to develop to high level skills relevant to a career in research or management. Based on their interests and career aspirations, students will conduct either a laboratory of field-based research project, a computational project, a theoretical modelling project or a systematic literature review. There is the potential to work with external organisations. A common element is the independent production of a piece of research and its presentation, with guidance from an academic supervisor in the department.

60 credits

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 are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.


1 year full-time


You’ll learn through a combination of fieldwork, laboratory classes, lectures, seminars and problem-solving classes.


Most assessment is through coursework with some written examinations. Your assessment includes, but is not limited to, essays, extended project reports, policy briefing notes, online statistics exams, oral presentations and written grant proposals.

Your career

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

Possible career paths include:

  • working on conservation or sustainability programmes within government
  • NGOs including environmental bodies or wildlife trusts
  • the private sector
  • inspiring the next generation as a university teacher
  • 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.

Entry requirements

A 2:2 honours degree, or equivalent, in biological sciences or a related subject.

Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.

Pathway programme for international students

If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for a pre-masters programme in Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

We also accept a range of other UK qualifications and other EU/international qualifications.

If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

Fees and funding


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.


You can apply for postgraduate study using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

Apply now

+44 114 222 2341

Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

Our student protection plan

Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.

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