School of Biological and Marine Sciences

MSc Zoo Conservation Biology

Are you passionate about animal welfare and keen to shape the management of the zoos of the future? Our unique programme is the first of its kind in the world. Study factors affecting animal behaviour, conservation and welfare plus international zoo management and collaboration. Our partnership with Paignton Zoo gives you regular access to their connections, research and expertise – so you’re primed to make a difference.

Meet the lecturers

Register now and join our virtual drop-in session to speak with our postgraduate programme leaders. Find out more about course content, placements, industry links, and more.

Thursday 28 April 2022: 13:00-14:00 (GMT)

Find out more about this event.

Key features
  • Delivered alongside industry partners at Paignton Zoo and its parent body, the Wild Planet Trust which also owns Newquay Zoo and Living Coasts.
  • Develop your scientific knowledge, professional and technical skills as a zoo biologist. Learn how to manage animals and environments for the purpose of education, conservation and wildlife research.
  • Study aspects of animal breeding, behaviour and ecology, as well as how welfare, housing, nutrition and health all have a part to play in species management. 
  • Learn to troubleshoot problems at the level of a social group within a particular zoological collection, right up to the level of a species globally. Explore how breeding programmes for endangered species are international in scope.
  • Benefit from the knowledge and guidance of University of Plymouth's expert staff with specialisms including the behaviour of captive animals, animal nutrition, the welfare of captive birds and the application of population genetics to captive and natural fish populations.
  • Find out how the science of zoos is used to inform government policy. Two of our teaching team are the only academic representatives on the government’s Zoos Expert Committee.
  • Get behind-the-scenes insight with a number of days each week with our partners at Paignton Zoo. Deepen your understanding of the business and conservation work of zoos, and how networks and collaborations work between them.
  • Access the latest research and information from the Wild Planet Trust including information on their co-ordinated breeding programmes for endangered species. 
  • Get a behind the scenes insight into Wild Planet Trust zoos: Paignton, Living Coasts and Newquay, and be inspired by the diversity of zoos in the area, including Shaldon, Dartmoor, Longleat, Bristol, and the National Marine Aquarium. Many students choose to conduct immersive research projects within zoos both locally and internationally.
  • Graduates work in zoos as educators, researchers, managers and keepers. Many go on to PhD study or work in further education. Other employers include the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the European Association for Zoos and Aquaria; the Natural History Unit (BBC); national and international conservation organisations.
Course details
  • Programme overview

  • As a full-time student, you’ll study seven modules taking in everything from genetics to environmental enrichment, preventative health to budgeting. We update modules to reflect current thinking and you can specialise within them. For example, you can tailor your coursework to species of personal interest. You’ll be assessed through coursework with practical tasks focused on your future career. You cover a range of topics that are of central importance in managing animal collections. As a trained zoo biologist you study conservation, nutrition, welfare, behaviour, and overall zoo management. You then conduct a final three month research project of your choice. Previous research projects have covered topics ranging from  female mate choice in white-faced saki monkeys to how visitor disturbance and keeper interventions affect the behaviour and enclosure use of captive sand tiger sharks. 

    Core modules

    • Zoo Animal Behaviour and Welfare (ANIM5005)

      This module explores fundamental principles of evolution and behavioural function as well how these processes underpin the concepts of animal welfare and well-being. Understand the critical application of animal behaviour to the captive environment and environmental impacts upon behaviour, physiology and positive and negative welfare.

    • Contemporary Zoo Management (ANIM5006)

      The contexts within which modern zoos function are introduced. These include but are not exclusive to: the history of zoos; the aims and ideals of contemporary zoos; national and international zoo networks and advocacy concerning zoos. Likewise the principles of business management are introduced in the context of public, private and voluntary sector conservation and environmental organisations.

    • Small Population Conservation (ANIM5007)

      The principles and problems of managing small populations of animals are explored both in situ and ex situ. The methods by which species can be conserved are explored and critiqued. In particular this module addresses obstacles and considerations for captive wild animal population management for conservation using a range of perspectives including reproductive, genetic, behavioural and practical considerations.

    • Conservation Ecology and Society (ANIM5008)

      The principles and applications of conservation science are introduced and examined with respect to the role of zoos and conservation organisations. An interdisciplinary conservation framework is presented to incorporate different perspectives including ecology, human behaviour and project management.

    • Zoo Animal Health, Nutrition and Management (ANIM5009)

      This module addresses the fundamentals of metabolism, nutrition and disease. These are contextualised in a range of captive wild species. Particular focus will be placed on exemplars of taxa/species specific conditions and understanding how environments and diets may be managed to minimise risks to health.

    • Research Project (BIO505)

      Aspects of animal management will be studied encompassing the relationships between ethological concepts and techniques, learning, training, and enrichment.

    • Postgraduate Research Skills & Methods (BIO5131)

      The module provides the research- and communication-related skills that biology postgraduates require to carry out an original research project at the forefront of their academic discipline. Emphasis is given to the philosophy, design, ethics and management of research, effective communication to a range of audiences, and advice on career management and presentation skills involved in job applications and interviews.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

MSc Zoo Conservation Biology Programme Specification September 2019 2678

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.
Entry requirements

A 2:1 undergraduate degree or equivalent in a relevant discipline is usually required. Candidates with experience in a relevant area are also encouraged to apply.

Applicants with overseas qualifications can check their comparability with the UK equivalent through Ecctis, which provides an advisory service.

If your first language is not English then evidence of English proficiency is required. The level of proficiency that is required can vary with the type of programme for which you are applying. For further advice on the appropriateness of overseas qualification and proficiency in the use of English, please contact our International Office.

The minimum IELTS score for acceptable English proficiency for entry is normally 6.5 (with a minimum of 5.5 in each element).

We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.

Fees, costs and funding

The UK is no longer part of the European Union. EU applicants should refer to our Brexit information to understand the implications.

New Student 2021-2022 2022-2023
Home £9,950 £10,200
International £16,200 £16,700
Part time (Home) £550 £550
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. More information about fees and funding.

Tuition fee discount for University of Plymouth graduates

If you studied your undergraduate degree at Plymouth, you may be eligible for a fee discount if you complete your postgraduate studies here as well.

  • 20% discount on tuition fees for home students

  • £2,000 discount on tuition fees for international students
Read our alumni discount policy

Postgraduate scholarships for international students

We offer several scholarships for international students who wish to study postgraduate taught (PGT) degree programmes.

Find out about the postgraduate scholarships available to you as an international student

How to apply

When to apply

Most of our taught programmes begin in September. Applications can usually be made throughout the year, and are considered until programmes are full. 

Before you apply

Familiarise yourself with the information required to complete your application form. You will usually be required to supply:
  • evidence of qualifications (degree certificates or transcripts), with translations if not in English, to show that you meet, or expect to meet the entry requirements
  • evidence of English language proficiency, if English is not your first language
  • a personal statement of approximately 250-400 words about the reasons for your interest in the course and outlining the nature of previous and current related experience. You can write this into the online application form, or include it as a separate document
  • your curriculum vitae or résumé, including details of relevant professional/voluntary experience, professional registration/s and visa status for overseas workers
  • proof of sponsorship, if applicable.
If you require further information take a look at our application guidance.

Disability services

If you have a disability and would like further information about the support provided by University of Plymouth, please visit our Disability Services website. 

International students

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email

Submitting an application

Once you are happy that you have all of the information required you can apply using our online postgraduate application form (the blue 'Apply now' icon on this page).

What happens after I apply?

You will normally receive a decision on your application within four weeks of us receiving your application. You may be asked to provide additional information; two academic/professional references, confirming your suitability for the course; or to take part in an interview (which in the case of overseas students may be by telephone or video conference) and you will be sent a decision by letter or email.

We aim to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Admissions and Course Enquiries team is on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail.

If you would like any further information please contact the Admissions and Course Enquiries team:

Telephone: +44 (0)1752 585858

Admissions policy

More information and advice for applicants can be referenced by downloading our Student Admissions Policy Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.

Academic staff

With field experience from Kenya to Mexico, our team brings together the academic expertise of lecturers and researchers, with the insight of key members of the research team from the Wild Planet Trust.

Zoo conservation staff talking to students at Paignton Zoo

Paignton Zoo

Our partnership with Paignton Zoo means you’ll benefit from an exciting blend of classroom-based and real-life activities as you progress through your programme – as well as links to international conservation research and initiatives.

Find out more about Paignton Zoo
Gorillas at Paignton Zoo
<p>Paignton Zoo</p>
<p>Paignton Zoo</p>
Giraffe at Paignton Zoo

Think about your future

Careers with zoo conservation biology

Our programme equips you with the skills needed to build a successful career in wildlife conservation. The unique blend of zoo-based learning and academic teaching delivers the vital knowledge and understanding needed to thrive in this competitive arena.

<p>Alana Kiss, placement student at Dartmoor Zoo&nbsp;</p>

Let our graduates inspire you

Sarah Curtis

After graduating from Plymouth, I was incredibly lucky to be offered a job with African Impact as their Principal Researcher at their Kruger location in South Africa

I run their conservation projects, collaborating with local and international partners and NGOs to collect data on species including the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, buffalo) to further assist with conservation efforts in the field – while also living only 30 minutes from the incredible Kruger National Park.

Read Sarah's full story

<p>Sarah Curtis portrait</p>

Read some of our graduate stories

<p>Contact the Graduation Team</p>

Alumnus loyalty reward for postgraduate study

Automatically awarded – no need to apply

The University applies a discretionary alumnus reward where alumni meet certain criteria on particular postgraduate taught courses.

  • A 20% discount on home tuition fees (10% for MSc Research Methods in Psychology, MSc/PgCert/PgDip Clinical Psychology, MSc/PgDip Psychology and MSc Occupational Therapy Pre-Registration, MSc Physiotherapy Pre-Registration).
  • Or a £2,000 discount on international tuition fees.

If you have previously studied at the University of Plymouth or at one of our partner colleges, you may be entitled to our Alumnus discount to help towards the tuition fees of your Postgraduate Taught course. For further details, programme exclusions and contact information, please see our alumnus discount policy.