School of Biological and Marine Sciences

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology

Why should we conserve biodiversity? How can we manage and restore habitats? With a hands-on approach, we’ll give you the scientific tools to address these issues, developing your understanding of plant and animal biodiversity in the UK and abroad. Develop your knowledge of key areas such as population ecology, evolutionary processes, behavioural ecology, conservation genetics and habitat management, and prime yourself for a career in ecology, conservation or environmental monitoring.

This programme focuses on conservation in terrestrial, marine and freshwater environments. You will experience two compulsory overseas residential field courses in years one (Spain) and two (Mexico), giving you first-hand experience of a range of ecosystems in other parts of the world. There’s no extra to pay: it’s all included within your tuition fees. You’ll participate in an optional work placement year, giving you the opportunity to apply your knowledge in a real world context.

Other courses like BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology

The skin of the jewelled chameleon, native to the central highlands of Madagascar. It has been declared as 'vulnerable' on the IUCN Red List due to bush fires and habitat loss caused by both local human activity and anthropogenic climate change.

Key features

  • We’re very proud of our National Student Survey (NSS) 2017 return. All of the student respondents said our staff are good at explaining things, 93% said that the course intellectually stimulating and 92% also expressed overall satisfaction with the course.*
  • Explore the varied natural habitats for fieldwork on our doorstep in Devon and Cornwall.
  • Experience two compulsory overseas residential field courses in years 1 (Spain) and 2 (Mexico), giving you first-hand experience of a range of ecosystems in other parts of the world. There’s no extra to pay: it’s all included within your tuition fees.
  • Benefit from enthusiastic, committed, and approachable staff whose expertise is endorsed with years of research and work in the private conservational sector.
  • Participate in an optional work placement year, giving you the opportunity to apply your knowledge in a real world context. 
  • Benefit from our strong links with local organisations such as Paignton Zoo, the Eden Project, the Devon Wildlife Trust and Dartmoor National Park, along with various countryside management teams.
  • Equip yourself with the academic background and skills training for careers in ecology, conservation, environmental monitoring and habitat management. 
  • LABplus is a unique open access laboratory and resource centre designed for students studying science and engineering courses. The lab provides a flexible workspace, computing facilities, specialist software, access to microscopes, microscope cameras and bespoke resources. 
  • Take part in small group tutorials running throughout Years 1 and 2.
  • Boost your practical skills using our specialised facilities including controlled environment chambers, experimental glasshouses, and an electron microscopy unit.

Course details

  • Year 1
  • In your first year, you’ll establish a solid foundation in ecology, biodiversity, natural history, taxonomy, genetics, evolution, microbiology, animal and plant physiology, and animal behaviour. You will gain essential practical field skills through local field trips and a residential course in southern Spain. You’ll also begin to develop useful personal and transferable skills through individual and one-to-one meetings with a personal tutor.
    Core modules
    • BIOL111 Animal and Plant Physiology

      You will gain an understanding of the key principles that underpin comparative physiology, gaining an understanding of the structure and function of animals and plants. You will also develop an understanding of how organisms have evolved to be able to respond to their environment.

    • BIOL119 Introduction to Biology

      You will undertake an intensive 4-week induction to your future as an independent biologist, working alongside all first year students in the School. You will gain core transferable skills in searching for and reading scientific literature; study design; data evaluation, interpretation and presentation; academic writing and oral presentations. You will undertake field/laboratory activities relevant to your degree programme during this module to gather data for your assessments.

    • BIOL122 Behaviour and Ecology

      You will develop an understanding of the fundamental aspects of behaviour and ecology, including the mechanisms, development and evolution of animal behaviour, and learning to apply these concepts to the scientific study of behaviour. You will examine patterns of life on Earth past and present and will understand how to apply this to the conservation of biodiversity and the management of resources.

    • BIOL123 Field Biology

      In a field setting in Spain, you will explore natural history and taxonomy and will gain an understanding of sampling methods and hypothesis development. You will be introduced to the collection of scientific data in the field and the application of knowledge of major groups of organisms and the environment they inhabit to conducting field research.

    • BIOL127 Evolution

      You will be introduced to core concepts of evolution, working from the fundamentals of DNA structure and function in relation to inheritance ranging from genome to individual to individual to population and exploring taxonomic groupings such as species. You will explore patterns of biodiversity that evolutionary processes have given rise to - both in terms of the fossil record and the present day.

    • BIOL129 Professional Development in Biological Sciences 1

      This module runs alongside your other modules in the first year of study, and captures and tracks the skills that you will develop during your other modules - namely those that are highly sought by employers across the biological sciences, including both field work and laboratory work.

    Optional modules
    • BIOL124PP Biology of Sex

      This module will introduce you to the following topics; the evolution of sex, competition for mates, sperm competition, mate choice, sex & disease and other elements of the biology of sex. Each week will start with a discussion of the main areas of exciting research on that topic, across a range of species including humans. Students will then develop their learning in supervised workshops.

    • BIOL125PP Scientific Method and Ethics in Biology

      This module explores how modern scientific research is conducted; the importance of professional ethics in science, based on principles of rigour, respect and responsibility; the essential elements of effective science communication; and the development of critical scientific thinking involving graphical, numerical and statistical approaches. It includes examples of reliable (`good') and unreliable (`bad') science.

  • Year 2
  • You will develop a deeper understanding of animal behaviour, population and community ecology, population genetics, and ecosystem monitoring. You will also tailor your skills ready for the workplace, by specialising through optional modules in aquatic systems or plant-environment interactions. During an overseas field course to Mexico (which is included in your tuition fees), where you will experience a wide range of ecosystems from mangroves to rainforests, you will put these concepts into context, developing your practical and transferable skills, 
    Core modules
    • BIOL204 Principles of Conservation Biology

      You will understand core biological principles that are central to successful conservation. The conceptual aspects of population, molecular and evolutionary ecology will be explored, along with their role in understanding the dynamics of and threats to extant populations of organisms.

    • BIOL205 Animal Behaviour

      You will understand why animals behave in a particular way and the methodology involved in studying them. You will understand causation, development, function and evolution of animal behaviour, along with the means of applying these to practical situations.

    • BIOL214 Ecology

      You will understand the basic concepts needed to solve ecological problems - individual, population and community ecology. You will explore a range of examples from terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, which will provide a useful insight into the search for general theories of ecology.

    • BIOL215 Methods in Behaviour and Conservation

      You will be equipped to carry out a range of laboratory and field studies using appropriate methods and taking into account health and safety through the medium of hazard and risk assessments. You will gain an understanding of experimental design, data handling and analysis.

    • BIOL219 Ecology Field Course

      In a field setting in Mexico, you will explore ecology, biogeography, and resource management in a range of ecosystems not found in the UK. You will investigate and characterise the ecological communities encountered and will explore the consequences of different types of habitat management.

    Optional modules
    • BIOL217 Environmental Plant Physiology

      You will understand plant-environment interactions in a range of habitats, including those impacted by human activity. You will understand and explore the challenges associated with each environment as well as stress responses of plants growing there. You will understand features of plants well-adapted to exploit the opportunities of particular habitats.

    • MBIO220 Applied Aquatic Biology

      You will understand human impact on freshwater and marine ecosystems around the world as well as strategies for monitoring, conserving and sustainably using these ecosystems.

  • Optional placement year
  • You’ll be encouraged to undertake an optional placement year in order to gain experience of the professional world of conservation biology. Successful completion leads to the Certificate of Professional or Work Experience.
    Core modules
    • APIE303 Biology:Placement

      All students on our degrees have the option of undertaking a (minimum of 6 month) work placement at a company or university anywhere in the world undertaking some kind of work (usually research-based) relating to their programme of study.

  • Final year
  • Your personal research project forms a major part of your final year. Alongside this, you’ll build on advanced skills and concepts in biological disciplines as well as skills in applied conservation biology. You’ll select modules from a range of options including plant biotechnology, environmental policy, global change biology, behavioural ecology, marine vertebrate ecology and conservation and biodiversity, which will prepare you as a conservation biologist ready to enter the workplace.
    Core modules
    • BIOL307 Advanced Skills and Concepts

      You will select 3 'podules' - short courses of study that revolve around a particular set of advanced skills or concepts not typically found in undergraduate programmes but often highly desired by employers. In each 'podule', you will be assessed both in the form of coursework (usually addressing the conceptual basis) and in a practical assessment of your ability to carry out a particular method.

    • BIOL308 Applied Conservation Biology

      You will focus on the application of biological theory to the management of populations of wild and captive animals. You will understand how theory feeds into, and informs, practice, whilst developing knowledge of the major approaches, analytical tools and techniques, and software used in the public and private conservation sectors.

    • BIOL315 Personal Research

      You will undertake a lab or field-based research project relevant to your programme of study, supervised by a member of academic staff. Projects are open-ended research in an area usually dictated to some extent by the research interests of the supervisor. You will undertake a period of study gathering and interpreting data, and will write this up in the form of a manuscript for a scientific journal. You will also present your data at a poster presentation at the end of the academic year.

    Optional modules
    • BIOL301 Plant Biotechnology

      You will understand the role of plant biotechnology in food security with consideration of both scientific and social matters, such as ethics.

    • BIOL309 Environmental Policy and Conservation

      You will understand the complex issues associated with the implementation of policy for conservation of habitats, species and sustainable land management. You will use case studies to reflect on policy initiatives and their impact on the conservation of global biodiversity.

    • BIOL310 Global Change Biology

      You will gain an overview of the state of the art understanding of the consequences of climate change across all three domains of life. From this, you will understand how climate change biology is essential in conservation theory and practice and the impacts of climate change and both local and global scales.

    • MBIO317 Behavioural Ecology

      You will understand the theory underpinning key conceptual models in behavioural ecology such as foraging, distribution and game theory. You will critically discuss and evaluate these models in relation to empirical studies.

    • MBIO339 Ecology and Conservation of Marine Vertebrates

      You will understand the risks of depletion of marine vertebrates owing to fishing, industrial development, pollution and habitat degradation. You will examine the ecology of these organisms in their natural environments and will explore methods for surveying, monitoring and managing populations and species.

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

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

BScConservationBiology ProgrammeSpecification September2017 4453

The modules shown for this course are those currently being studied by our students, or are proposed new modules. Please note that programme structures and individual modules are subject to amendment from time to time as part of the University’s curriculum enrichment programme and in line with changes in the University’s policies and requirements.

Entry requirements

UCAS tariff

120 - 128

To include grade B in A level Biology, Environmental Science, or Environmental Studies and a C in a second science (Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Psychology, Geography or Geology). For candidates that do not have a second science subject at A level, please contact: admissions@plymouth.ac.uk.

18 Unit BTEC National Diploma /QCF Extended Diploma in Animal Management - 128-144 points (DDM-DDD) - note that this is subject to the exact modules you have studied - please contact admissions@plymouth.ac.uk, stating explicitly the full list of modules within your qualification.

International Baccalaureate 30 diploma points overall, to include 5 diploma points in Biology (Higher Level) plus 5 diploma points in second science at Higher Level. English and Mathematics must be included.

Science-based Access To Higher Education diplomas, 33 credits in science-based units at merit including a minimum of 12 credits in biology units.

We would usually expect GCSE English and Mathematics at grade C / 4, or equivalent.

For a full list of all acceptable qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.

English language requirements

For candidates that do not have traditional qualifications, our BSc (Hons) Biology with Foundation Year programme provides a route onto this degree.

Please note that we do interview some applicants for this programme, at the Admissions Tutor's discretion. 

Fees, costs and funding

New Student 2017 2018
Home/EU £9,250 £9,250
International £12,500 £13,000
Part time (Home/EU) To be confirmed To be confirmed
Part time (International) To be confirmed To be confirmed
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per a number of credits. Fees are correct at the time of publication and may be subject to change.

How to apply

All applications for undergraduate courses are made through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). 

UCAS will ask for the information contained in the box at the top of this course page including the UCAS course code and the institution code. 

To apply for this course and for more information about submitting an application including application deadline dates, please visit the UCAS website.

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email international-admissions@plymouth.ac.uk.



Undergraduate study in the School of Biological Sciences

Watch and find out more about studying in the School of Biological Sciences at Plymouth.

Additional fieldwork and equipment costs

This course includes residential fieldwork. Typically, where the fieldwork is a compulsory part of the course, transport, accommodation and the majority of food costs are paid by the Faculty.

Some courses offer alternative or optional field courses with an additional cost.

Find out more information

More information on conservation biology

We promote an international outlook, with field courses to Spain and Mexico, so that you can learn about conservation in other parts of the world.

Find out more about conservation biology.

Dr Paul Ramsay - Programme Leader

Research interests: biodiversity, conservation, sustainable management of terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems; mountain ecology. Teaches: ecology, restoration ecology, statistics, scientific writing, field ecology.
Find out more about Dr Paul Ramsay

Dr Mairi Knight - Deputy Programme Leader

Research interests: gene flow and dispersal in and between populations, species delineation, mating systems and speciation mechanisms. Teaches: molecular ecology and conservation genetics; field ecology.
Find out more about Dr Mairi Knight

Potential High Achievers Scheme

In the School of Biological and Marine Sciences we are passionate and committed to both teaching and research and we are looking for talented and motivated students to share in this passion for biology in all its forms. We know that our applicants will thrive in the hands-on environment we can provide, and we want to ensure our best applicants become our future.

The scheme is now open for students who have applied to study, from September 2017, a range of full-time undergraduate courses across the biological sciences subject areas. We will be contacting applicants who are not only on course to achieve top marks but who have an outstanding personal statement, in order to offer them a chance to receive an unconditional offer immediately.

Find out more about the scheme.

*These are the latest results from the National Student Survey. Please note that the data published on Unistats is updated annually in September.