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in September

Join us in September

School of Biological and Marine Sciences

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology

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UCAS tariff 104 - 128
UCAS course code C152
Institution code P60

3 years

(+ optional placement)
Course type


Study location Plymouth

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.

Careers with this subject

Our conservation biology students have tremendous opportunities to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for employment in a variety of work settings. Our hands-on approach to teaching and learning throughout the course will provide you with the topical skills and experience that you can apply to the wide range of career options as graduates.

Key features

  • We’re very proud of our National Student Survey (NSS) 2020 return: 100% of the student respondents said our staff are good at explaining things, 100% said that the course intellectually stimulating and 97% also expressed overall satisfaction with the course.*
  • Explore the varied natural habitats for fieldwork on our doorstep in Devon and Cornwall.
  • You will have the opportunity of experience two overseas,  residential field courses or an alternative in years 1 and 2, giving you first-hand experience of a range of ecosystems. Recent field course locations include Spain, Mexico and Costa Rica.
  • 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 field course. You’ll also begin to develop useful personal and transferable skills through individual and one-to-one meetings with a personal tutor.

    Core modules

    • Field Biology (BIOL123Z)

      This module provides an introduction to the natural history, taxonomy, identification and sampling methods for the major groups of organisms with opportunities to explore and test hypotheses based on these concepts in the field.

    • Professional Development in Biological Sciences 1 (BIOL129Z)

      Skills in fieldwork, e.g. in identification, or in the laboratory, e.g. in liquid handling, are an important aspect of any biology degree, and can contribute to the employability of graduates. The purpose of this module is to track the progressive acquisition of a range of basic field, laboratory and transferable skills of relevance to each degree programme, and delivered in the other Level 4 modules.

    • Cells: The Building Blocks of Life (BIOL131Z)

      The cell is the basic building block of life. This module introduces you to the structure of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and the cell biology that allow different cells to do different things including some highly specialised cells of multicellular organisms. The module will then focus on the molecular basis that underlies cell function introducing you to the metabolic pathways and molecules that allow cells to work.

    • Ecology and the Diversity of Life (BIOL132Z)

      This module introduces the fundamental principles of ecology and the diversity of life. It examines patterns of life on Earth, past and present, and how an understanding of these supports efforts to conserve biodiversity and manage resources sustainably. The module also provides an overview of the domains of life on Earth, introducing the remarkable variety of organisms with which we share the planet.

    • Principles of Physiology (BIOL133Z)

      This module is an introduction to the fundamental principles of comparative physiology, and the structure and function of the body systems of plants and fungi as well as animals. The module also introduces the concept of environmental physiology, how organisms respond to their environment.

    • Evolution and Behaviour (MBIO161Z)

      Covers the principles underpinning evolution with a special focus on animal behaviour as adaptive traits. Module covers concepts of the genetic basis of inheritance, population genetics, selection, adaptation, function, fitness and speciation. We will use key examples and practical classes to illustrate key ideas and consider the development of some of the ideas in a historical context.

    • Introduction to Biology (BIOL119Z)

      This module is designed to give you some fundamental basic skills and information to help you start to become an independent biologist. The module will cover data and information gathering, analysis, evaluation and presentation. Much of the module will be based around field/lab activities providing you with data for analysis and presentation.

  • 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 a field course, you will experience a wide range of ecosystems and put these concepts into context, developing your practical and transferable skills.

    Core modules

    • Principles of Conservation Biology (BIOL204Z)

      Successful conservation is dependent on a thorough grasp of fundamental biological principles. The conceptual aspects of population, molecular, & evolutionary ecology which are central to understanding the dynamics of, and future threats to, extant populations of organisms are reviewed.

    • Animal Behaviour (BIOL205Z)

      The module addresses why animals behave in a particular way and the methodology involved in studying them. This involves understanding the causation, development, function and evolution of behaviour. We will also discuss how this knowledge might be applied in practical situations.

    • Ecology (BIOL214Z)

      An understanding of basic concepts is needed to solve ecological problems. This module explores key concepts in ecology at the levels of individuals, populations and communities. The concepts are supported with examples taken from terrestrial and aquatic systems, and provide a useful insight into the search for general theories in ecology.

    • Ecology Field Course (BIOL219Z)

      A field course to familiarise students with the ecology, biogeography and history of resource management of a range of ecosystems. Students investigate and characterise the ecological communities encountered and explore the consequences of different types of management hands on.

    • Professional Development in Biological Sciences 2 (BIOL225Z)

      Skills in fieldwork or in the laboratory, as well as other transferable skills, e.g. in data handling, are an important aspect of any biology degree, and can contribute to the employability of graduates. The purpose of this module is to track the continued acquisition of a range of field, laboratory and transferable skills of relevance to each degree programme, and delivered in the other Level 5 modules.

    • Methods in Biology (BIOL234Z)

      Using core and programme specific activities this, module equips students to perform key laboratory and field techniques in the biological sciences using appropriate methods with regard for safety and risk assessment. The module embeds core skills such as data analysis and presentation, the use of statistical analysis software (e.g. R) for analysis and data presentation, searching and use of literature and bioinformatics.

    Optional modules

    • Plant Ecophysiology (BIOL235Z)

      This module looks at plant-environment interactions in specific habitats, including those affected by human activity. In all cases the challenges associated with the particular environment or biotic interactions are examined as well as the stress responses which may occur in the plants growing there. The features of plants which are well adapted to exploit the opportunities provided by particular habitats are explored.

    • Applied Aquatic Biology (MBIO220Z)

      This module introduces the main effects that humans have on key freshwater and marine ecosystems throughout the globe, as well as strategies for the monitoring, conservation and sustainable use of these systems.

  • 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

    • Biology:Placement (APIE303)

      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

    • Applied Conservation Biology (BIOL308Z)

      Focuses on application of biological theory to successfully managing populations in wild and captive environments. The emphasis is on how theory feeds into and informs working practice. Along with advancing their theoretical knowledge, students develop knowledge of the major approaches, analytical tools, techniques and software that individuals working in the public and private conservation sectors apply in practice.

    • SoBMS Project (PROJ302Z)

      This module provides an opportunity to undertake a research project on an individually developed topic and experience the entire process of scholarly research: from problem formulation, through the design and execution of an investigation, analysis of results and presentation of outcomes. It will develop skills in independent working and self-awareness in relation to personal, professional and academic development.

    Optional modules

    • Plant Biotechnology (BIOL301Z)

      Despite the increasing importance of 'food security' in a changing world, plant biotechnology has had much negative publicity. This module will give students an appreciation of the science and also the ethical and social issues that surround the subject and show why these techniques are so important to secure our food supply.

    • Global Change Biology (BIOL310Z)

      This module provides the student with an in-depth overview of the likely consequences of climate change for plant and animal species biology and distribution over the coming century. From this starting point we will show how an understanding of climate change biology is vital for conservation theory and practice over coming decades.

    • Behavioural Ecology (MBIO317Z)

      This module examines the theory underpinning key conceptual models in behavioural ecology (e.g. optimal foraging, ideal free distribution, game theory). These models will be critically discussed in relation to empirical studies.

    • Ecology and Conservation of Marine Vertebrates (MBIO339Z)

      Marine vertebrates are vulnerable to depletion through over fishing, industrial development, pollution and habitat degradation. This module will examine the ecology of these animals in their natural environments and explore methods for surveying, monitoring and managing populations and species. There is a strong emphasis on current research and hot topics with numerous case studies used throughout the module.

    • Advanced Behaviour Analysis Techniques (BIOL323Z)

      Learn to use a range of modern animal behaviour analysis techniques in a variety of settings, such as labs, farms, zoos etc. Cover how you identify and follow individual animals to collect social data and construct a social network, how to analyse animal movement and how we can test and train animals to assess behavioural changes - and how to communicate, to a wider audience, the importance of these techniques.

    • Advanced Bioinformatics and Phylogenetics (BIOL324Z)

      Technological advances have generated a substantial increase in the amount and speed of data production. You will build expertise in skills used for data analysis, essential for working in the life sciences (big data sets, bioinformatics, phylogenetics, image analysis and genomics etc.) to address questions in biology, ecology, evolution and behaviour; and communicating these complex ideas to the wider public.

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:

BSc Conservation Biology Programme Specification September 2024 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

104 - 128

To include A level Biology and a second relevant subject (Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Geography, Geology, Environmental Science or Environmental Studies, Applied Science, Marine Science, Psychology).
BTEC National Diploma/QCF Extended Diploma/RQF National Extended Diploma: DDM to DDD in Science. Note that this is subject to the exact modules you have studied, please contact stating explicitly the full list of modules within your qualification.
International Baccalaureate: 28-32 points overall to include Higher Level Biology and a second relevant  Science subject. English and Maths can be considered within. 
Access To Higher Education: Science-based diplomas, 33 credits in science-based units at merit including a minimum of 12 credits in biology units and 21 credits in a second science subject. 
We would usually expect GCSE English and Mathematics at grade C / 4, or equivalent.
We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary .
For candidates that do not have traditional qualifications, our BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences with Foundation Year course 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

Student 2023-2024 2024-2025
Home £9,250 £9,250
International £16,300 £18,100
Part time (Home) £770 £770
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.

Additional costs

This course is delivered by the Faculty of Science and Engineering and more details of any additional costs associated with the faculty's courses are listed on the following page: Additional fieldwork and equipment costs.

Undergraduate scholarships for international students

To reward outstanding achievement the University of Plymouth offers scholarship schemes to help towards funding your studies.

Tuition fees for optional placement years

The fee for all undergraduate students completing any part of their placement year in the UK in 2023/2024 is £1,850.
The fee for all undergraduate students completing their whole placement year outside the UK in 2023/2024 is £1,385.
Learn more about placement year tuition fees

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

Progression routes

International progression routes

The University of Plymouth International College (UPIC) offers foundation, first-year and pre-masters programmes that lead to University of Plymouth degrees. Courses are specially designed for EU and international students who are missing the grades for direct entry to the University, and include full duration visa sponsorship. You can start in January, May or September, benefitting from small class sizes, top-quality tuition and 24/7 student support.
Find out more at or contact our team at


As a part of our BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology course, you will have the opportunity to participate in field trips both locally and abroad. 
Watch the video to find out more about a recent 2nd year trip to La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica.

Unravelling the amphibian and reptile habitats of Costa Rica

Alex Edwards, in the third year of his BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology degree, spent five months exploring the tropical forests of northwestern Costa Rica for his dissertation research.
“It was fantastic to get the experience to design my own research project and to execute it in the field, to get the results back and then get something out of that, which is my dissertation and hopefully a paper afterwards.”
The bare-hearted glass frog (Hyalinobatrachium colymbiphyllum).

Spreading the message of wildlife conservation in Greece and South Africa

Victoria Coulton used her BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology placement year to make a difference to contrasting conservation projects – working for the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece and conducting experiments of flora and fauna in the Oudeberg Nature Reserve in South Africa.
“I would definitely recommend doing the placement year option because you have fifteen months, the support of the University and you can get as much experience in as many different places as you can.”
Victoria Coulton looking at the scenery

My course has inspired me to pursue a career in genetics and DNA

"The course I chose, BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology, provides me with both practical field experience and lots of fun, supportive lectures and activities that I feel will help me succeed."
Niccolet Guerrero adjusted to living in the UK and found career potential in BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology.
Niccolet Guerrero, BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology

An introduction to the Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates Lab

“The purpose of this still developing facility is to support both our undergraduate and postgraduate teaching – students use the lab when they set up projects or during specific training practical sessions within courses. I think not only does it give them very strong practical experience, it gives them a greater appreciation of how you actually care for species and the amount of work and planning that goes into that.”
Professor Richard Preziosi
Head of School of Biological and Marine Sciences


Meet our school technical staff   

Our technical staff are integral to the delivery of all our programmes and bring a diverse range of expertise and skills to support students in laboratories, workshops, and the field. 

Scholarships available to students on marine biology and conservation courses

The University of Plymouth is joining forces with the Ocean Giants Trust to create a series of exciting new opportunities for its marine students.
Students will be able to complement their studies with work for charities in locations such as Mexico, Mozambique, the Philippines and Tanzania.
Pilot whale pod - image courtesy of Getty Images
*These are the latest results from the National Student Survey. Please note that the data published on Discover Uni is updated annually in September.
This course has been accredited by the Royal Society of Biology following an independent and rigorous assessment. Accredited degree programmes contain a solid academic foundation in biological knowledge and key skills, and prepare graduates to address the needs of employers. The accreditation criteria require evidence that graduates from accredited programmes meet defined sets of learning outcomes, including subject knowledge, technical ability and transferable skills.