School of Biological and Marine Sciences

BSc (Hons) Zoology

Zoology is the science of animals. In this course, you will develop an understanding of all aspects of animal biology in terrestrial, marine and freshwater environments. You will gain in-depth knowledge of animal ecology and evolution, and develop the key lab skills in animal behaviour, molecular biology, physiology, and cellular biology that are sought after by employers and are necessary for postgraduate education.

You will gain key practical experience in diverse laboratory and field practicals across your studies and have the opportunity to participate in residential field courses in years one and two, giving you first-hand experience of a range of ecosystems. Recent field course locations include Slapton in Devon and Kenya.

The pink feather colour of Flamingos is due to carotenoids they obtain through crustaceans and Cyanobacteria in their diet. The pigments in the diet are protein bound and blue/green but turn pink when dissolved in lipid. The same effect occurs between raw and cooked lobsters and shrimps.

Key features

  • Study the biology of animals in marine, terrestrial and freshwater aquatic habitats. A spectacular range of these habitats are right on our doorstep.
  • Gain a strong foundation in theoretical aspects of ecology, physiology, anatomy, behaviour, evolution and genetics.
  • Develop high-level laboratory skills across animal biology in a wide range of taxa and habitats and gain key transferable skills that are sought after by employers.
  •  Undertake in-depth field studies of animals, which could include residential courses in the UK and abroad or alternatives that develop field techniques and familiarity with a wide range of ecosystems and fauna. 
  • Undertake self-study throughout your course, using our well-equipped library and range of online scientific journals, as well as LABPlus, our unique laboratory and resource centre designed for science and engineering students.
  • Have the opportunity to boost your employability by taking a placement year between your second and final years of study, working in the industry, anywhere in the world – you can read more about this in the 'course details' section of this page.
  • Undertake an extended personal research project on a range of topics, often linked to ongoing staff research, in your final year. 
  • Benefit from our strong links with external organisations such as the Wildlife Trusts, the Natural History Museums in London and Plymouth, the National Marine Aquarium, the Field Studies Council, Whitley Wildlife Trust, the Donkey Sanctuary and Dartmoor National Park.
  • Explore a range of contemporary issues in zoology.

Course details

  • Year 1

  • In your first year, you'll learn the core skills and fundamental science required to be able to study zoology. Study evolution, behaviour, physiology, microbiology and ecology, whilst developing your skills in experimental design and interpretation. Understand the importance of statistical analyses in scientific studies. You'll gain these skills and through a mix of lectures, tutorials and laboratory practicals. You'll also have the possibility to undertake a field trip to Slapton Ley in South Devon or an alternative to study the ecology and behaviour of organisms in the wild. 

    Core modules

    • 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.

    • Behaviour and Ecology Field Biology (BIOL136Z)

      This module provides an introduction to basic natural history, including identification of key groups of plants and animals. It allows students to explore how the environment can impact animal behaviour, distribution and welfare. The module introduces learners to the systematic collection of scientific data in the field, and apply their knowledge to the design of a field research study.

    • 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, comparative zoology, ecophysiology, phylogeny and scientific investigation skills. You will also tailor your skills for the workplace, by specialising in optional modules in conservation biology or the biology of marine organisms. A field course will allow you to put skills and knowledge gained in the lectures to us, developing your practical and transferable skills. 

    Core modules

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Animal Ecophysiology (BIOL226Z)

      We will investigate the life history and associated normal physiological processes in animals and examine how the environment, including pathogens, affect development, survival and reproduction of animals.

    • Zoology Field Course (BIOL230Z)

      On this field course, and in associated lectures and workshops, you will learn to collect field data in a safe, rigorous and meticulous manner. Students will learn how to design appropriate field experiments, observational techniques, animal and plant identification and taxonomy, data recording and analysis, interpretation of data, and report writing.

    • Comparative Zoology (BIOL232Z)

      This module will immerse students in traditional comparative zoology, developing a deep understanding of the morphology, development, and taxonomy of a wide range of vertebrate and invertebrate groups. Students will focus on the evolution of definitive morphological and physiological features within each group, including examples from both extant and extinct taxa.

    • 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

    • 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.

    • Biology of Marine Organisms (MBIO228Z)

      This module will provide an introduction to fundamental aspects of the biology of marine organisms. Particular attention is paid to the diversity of form and function within key groups of marine chloroxygenic organisms and animals and how this allows them to inhabit different marine environments.

  • Optional placement year

  • 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 considering speciation and the diversity of life. You’ll select modules from a range of options including behavioural ecology, global change biology, conservation physiology, fish and fisheries and animal welfare which will allow you to tailor your studies and prepare you as a zoologist ready to move onto the workplace or further study.

    Core modules

    • Speciation and Diversity (MBIO324Z)

      This module deals with the nature, generation and significance of biological diversity through a discussion of recent species concepts and mechanisms of speciation in a range of organisms, with emphasis on the evolutionary processes at work. This is followed by an investigation of the nature and significance of biological diversity; how it is assessed, and how it is distributed.

    • 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

    • 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.

    • Animal Nutrition (BIOL320Z)

      This module examines the principles and practice of animal nutrition for a range of animal species. It provides an understanding of feds, feed evaluation, diet formulation and feeding. The module also examines the impact of ingredient, physical, manufacturing and legal constraints on the production of diets.

    • 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.

    • Fish and Fisheries (MBIO363Z)

      This module explores the biology of fishes and its application to the science of fisheries management. There is a focus on seminal works and recent advances in the primary literature.

    • Conservation Physiology (MBIO364Z)

      This module introduces learners to this emerging field of conservation through a lecture-discussion based format. This module explores fundamental physiology principles and approaches that have been used to inform the conservation of marine species and ecosystems challenged by natural and anthropogenic stressors.

    • 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 Zoology Programme Specification September 2023 6698

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 at grade B 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

Male lion sitting on a rock in the desert. Shutterstock image.


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. 


As a part of our BSc (Hons) Zoology course, you will have the opportunity to participate in field trips both locally and abroad. 
Recent field course locations include southern Spain and Kenya.
Watch the video to find out more about our field course location in Kenya.


We have well-equipped undergraduate laboratories, with specialised facilities including:
Access to these means you will enter the workplace familiar and confident in the use of the latest technologies.
Marine station

Student placement insight

For three-months at the end of 2022, third-year student Louisa Watson spent time working at Merazonia – a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre situated on 250 acres of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest – as part of her placement year.
Louisa was actively involved in the one-to-one rehabilitation of three animals – a young tamandua, a baby giant anteater and a baby woolly monkey. Louisa witnessed the tamandua successfully be released and thrive out in the wild.
It is incredibly rewarding to see animals going from being on the brink of death to thriving and living the life they should be.
Louisa Watson in the Ecuadorian rainforest.
Red birds in Africa.

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