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BSc (Hons)

Conservation Biology

A guide for students joining in September 2019


An introduction to the course… 3

Conservation biologists who will teach you 6
Other biologists who will teach you 11
The support team 12
Course structure 13
First year module descriptions 14
Field course in Plymouth (First Year) 15
Field course in Spain (First Year) 16
Second year module descriptions 17
Field course in Mexico (Second Year) 18
Optional placement year 19
Final year module descriptions 20
Final-year projects 21
RSB Accreditation 22
Entry requirements 23
Career opportunities 24
Facilities at Plymouth University 25
Extra-curricular activities 26
Our marine conservation charity 27
Around Plymouth 28
Conservation biology research 29
Scientific publications with students 30
Not sure yet? 31
Any questions? (and contact details) 33

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 2

An introduction to the course...
The aim of BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology is to train a new
generation of conservation biologists, arming them with effective
knowledge and practical skills to study and conserve biodiversity at
home and abroad.
One of modern society’s greatest challeng-
es is the sustainable management of the
world's biodiversity and the ecosystem
services it provides. The planet’s natural
capital is estimated to be worth trillions of
pounds each year to our economies, and
governments and other organizations in-
vest billions each year in conservation ac-
tion. But well-qualified, competent biolo-
gists are needed to make this investment
count. This course provides training for
jobs in government agencies, non-
governmental organizations and consul- Plymouth provides excellent access to coastal biodiversity. The course covers ma-
rine, terrestrial and freshwater conservation.
tancies. The combination of high-quality,
experiential learning with opportunities Then students focus on specific skills and
for skills development makes this course techniques so that they can apply their bi-
ideal for a rewarding career in conserva- ological knowledge to real-world conser-
tion. In addition, the course provides an vation issues. In the middle of the degree,
excellent basis for a career in ecotourism an optional placement year provides a
(the fastest-growing sector in tourism, it- great chance to gain hands-on conserva-
self one of the world’s biggest industries). tion experience in the UK and elsewhere.
By the final year, each student carries out
At first, students
a personal research project and chooses
study the essentials
more specialist conservation biology topics
of ecology, behav-
of particular interest.
iour, evolution, and
genetics. This The course is designed to be “hands-on”,
builds a solid foun- with plenty of practical work. Not surpris-
dation for under- ingly, the course makes good use of the
standing how or- outstanding range of local habitats (from
ganisms, popula- the marine reserves to Dartmoor National
tions, species, com- Park’s uplands). The course has excellent
munities and eco- links with conservation organizations such
Observation and note-taking are valua-
ble skills for a good conservation biologist. systems function. as the Devon Wildlife Trust, the Eden Pro-

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 3

ject and Dartmoor National Park. But, the
course also promotes an international out-
look, with field courses to Spain and Mexi-
co, so that students can learn about con-
servation in other parts of the world.
The BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology
degree is taught by over 30 full-time
lecturers, most of whom are specialists in
conservation biology. They all carry out
cutting-edge research as well as teach, so
they speak from personal experience and
are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic Several students have studied fire ecology of high-altitude
Andean grasslands, helping to conserve of one of the
about their subject. They regularly incor- world’s biodiversity hotspots. (© Paul Ramsay)
porate their own research into classes and
encourage you to do your own research
cal Sciences, Animal Behaviour & Welfare,
too. Few other universities offer this level
and Environmental Biotechnology.
of expertise and support. Some of these
staff are personal tutors for conservation BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology is accred-
biology students, acting as a kind of men- ited by the Royal Society of Biology, the
tor, meeting up regularly to discuss the UK’s professional body for biologists. It
course, helping to sort out problems and guarantees the course is of high quality
offer advice on careers and opportunities. and provides potential employers with
confidence that our graduates are well-
The programme shares some classes with
trained and worth employing.
related degrees such as Marine Biology,
Marine Biology & Coastal Ecology, Biologi-

Lowland heaths have high conservation value in the UK. Here, final-year students are collecting invertebrates to assess the
diversity in several different experimental areas. This kind of survey work helps to decide what kinds of conservation manage-
ment work best. (© Paul Ramsay)

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 4

We expect our graduates to be knowl-
edgeable, rational and creative, with the
ability to put what they know into prac-
tice. Their confidence, adaptability and in-
dependence makes them readily employa-
ble. But most important of all, our gradu-
ates will enjoy learning for the rest of their
lives, whatever comes their way, and will
be ready to play a responsible role in

Conservation biology students in Mexico. (© Paul Ramsay)

Woodland invertebrate identification, Mount Edgcumbe

Country Park. (© Paul Ramsay)

Learning forest survey techniques in a mahogany plan- One of the students “rescuing” Steve Burchett as part of a
tation in Mexico. (© Paul Ramsay) canopy access course. (© Paul Ramsay)

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 5

Conservation biologists who will teach you

Dr Rob Puschendorf Programme Leader

Research interests: ecological and evolutionary consequences of the loss of am-
phibians in tropical areas, linked to the disease known as chytridiomycosis.
Teaches: animal physiology and disease; conservation biology.

Dr Paul Ramsay Deputy Programme Leader

Research interests: biodiversity, conservation, and sustainable management of
terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems; mountain ecology.
Teaches: ecology, restoration ecology, statistics, scientific writing, field ecology (in
the UK and overseas).

Dr Mairi Knight
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 (in the UK
and overseas).

Dr Mick Hanley
Research interests: plant-animal interactions and their influence on ecosystem
structure and function.
Teaches: habitat management; conservation biology; field ecology (in the UK and

Dr Jon Ellis
Research interests: molecular ecology in connservation.
Teaches: conservation biology and conservation genetics, molecular ecology, evo-
lution & biodiversity, terrestrial invertebrate ecology, esp. insects and moss inver-

Dr Alex Wilson
Research interests: marine and freshwater ecology
Teaches: applied conservation biology, field biology, fish biology

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 6

Conservation biologists who will teach you

Dr Sarah Collins
Research interests: mate choice in birds and humans; the evolution of vocaliza-
tions in birds; stress and animal welfare, how the social environment affects be-
Teaches: animal behaviour, acoustics.

Prof. Dave Bilton

Research interests: aquatic biology; geographical distribution and evolutionary
differentiation of organisms.
Teaches: macroecology and biogeography; aquatic conservation; speciation; ar-
thropod zoology.

Dr Andy Foggo
Research interests: spatial pattern in marine and freshwater organisms; plant and
algal interactions with herbivores .
Teaches: invertebrate ecology and identification; numeracy and statistics.

Prof. Camille Parmesan

Research interests: biological impacts of climate change in natural systems (one of
the team awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 ).
Teaches: impacts of climate change on ecosystems.

Dr Louise Firth
Research interests: marine ecology and conservation, restoration ecology
Teaches: biodiversity and community ecology in urban and natural systems, re-
sponses of organisms to global climate change

Dr Michael Thom
Research interests: behavioural ecology, especially sexual selection and the evolu-
tionary consequences of mate choice and intrasexual competition among males.
Teaches: behavioural ecology.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 7

Conservation biologists who will teach you

Dr Kerry Howell
Research interests: deep-sea ecology, conservation and sustainable management;
marine habitat mapping.
Teaches: marine biology and conservation.

Dr Pete Cotton
Research interests: behavioural ecology; predator-prey interactions and contest
Teaches: vertebrate biology; evolution and animal behaviour.

Prof. Martin Attrill

Research interests: Conservation, management and marine renewable energy
Teaches: Marine ecology, marine protected areas.

Prof. Michael Singer

Research interests: plant-insect interactions.
Teaches: plant-insect interactions.

Dr Lucy Turner
Research interests: marine ecolphysiology, impacts of climate change.
Teaches: ecology and physiology of marine organisms, impacts of climate change
on marine ecosystems.

Prof. Mark Briffa

Research interests: behavioural ecology, especially aggressive behaviours.
Teaches: behavioural ecology; evolution & behaviour; ecology of shallow water
marine habitats.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 8

Conservation biologists who will teach you

Dr Abigail McQuatters-Gollop
Research interests: marine conservation and ecology, conservation policy.
Teaches: marine conservation, bioindicators, conservation policy and science.

Prof. Richard Thompson

Research interests: plastic debris in the marine environment; ecology and conser-
vation of shallow water habitats; biodiversity of marine engineering projects.
Teaches: ecology of shallow water marine habitats; experimental marine ecology;
field ecology; statistics.

Dr Clare Embling
Research interests: ecology and conservation of marine vertebrates, bioacoustics
and the impact of noise on marine vertebrate behaviour.
Teaches: ecology and conservation of marine vertebrates

Prof. Jason Hall-Spencer

Research interests: seamount ecology; fisheries; ocean acidification; aquaculture;
Teaches: sublittoral ecology; fisheries science; macroalgae; climate change; ma-
rine conservation.

Dr Simon Ingram
Research interests: conservation ecology of marine mammals.
Teaches: marine biology; marine conservation.

Dr Stacey DeAmicis
Research interests: Marine botany, natural history and coastal ecology.
Teaches: seagrass ecology, catchment management, and human impacts on
coastal ecosystems .

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 9

Conservation biologists who will teach you

Dr Antony Knights
Research interests: marine population dynamics and ecosystem-based manage-
ment and risk assessment models.
Teaches: marine population and community ecology.

Dr Benjamin Ciotti
Research interests: marine ecophysiology, fisheries biology.
Teaches: physiology and behaviour of marine animals, coastal ecology, fisheries

Prof. John Spicer

Research interests: marine ecophysiology.
Teaches: physiology and ecology of marine organisms, biodiversity.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 10

Other biologists who will teach you

Dr Katherine Herborn Shaun Lewin

Research interests: environmental Research interests: mapping for
impacts on animal welfare. conservation and environmental
Teaches: animal physiology. science.
Teaches: geographic information
systems, use of drone imagery.

Dr Anne Plessis Dr Rich Billington

Research interests: environmental Research interests: biochemical
crop physiology. pharmacology; ecological bio-
Teaches: plant physiology and chemistry.
biotechnology. Teaches: biochemistry.

Dr Chiara Boschetti Dr George Littlejohn

Research interests: genomics, Research interests: plant diseases
stress-resistant micro-organisms. and imaging.
Teaches: evolution, animal physi- Teaches: plant physiology and
ology, molecular biology biotechnology.

Dr Rich Boden Dr Alistair Bishop

Research interests: ecophysiology Research interests: microbiology.
and taxonomy of microbes. Teaches: microbiology.
Teaches: microbiology; environ-
mental pollution.

Prof. Richard Handy Prof. Awadhesh Jha

Research interests: ecotoxicity of Research interests: molecular
nanomaterials and metals. genetics; ecotoxicology. Teaches:
Teaches: animal physiology, eco- physiology; ecotoxicology.

Dr Dan Merrifield A wide range of guest speakers

Research interests: fish nutrition; Most weeks during term time, we invite ay
least one speaker from another university or
Teaches: fish nutrition; aquacul-
ture. relevant organization to tell us about their
work. We also organize careers sessions with
invited professionals who can talk about their
careers and what it is really like to work as a
conservation biologist.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 11

The support team

Chris Scanlon Matthew Hoddinott

Senior Support Administrator School Technical Manager
Coordination of support from Coordinates the technical
our School Office. staff to assist with teaching
and research.

Jenny Hicks Donna Wells

Clerical Assistant Assistant Administrator
Student support from our Student support from our
School Office. School Office.

Jane Akerman Fliss Thom

Senior Ecology Technician Senior Ecology Technician
Assistance in field and labora- Assistance in field and labora-
tory; equipment supplies. tory; equipment supplies.

Richard Ticehurst Alex Fraser

Senior Technician for Marine Senior Technician for Marine
Biology Biology
Assistance in field and labora- Assistance in field and labora-
tory; equipment supplies. tory; equipment supplies.

Darren Crosby Alison Austin

Biology Senior Administrator Placements and Employer
Central record-keeping and Liaison
administration for the degree Placement year assistance
course. and administration.

Kim Davis Claire Guy

Information Specialist Careers Advisor
Assistance with library use Provides information support
and resources. and skills training.

BSc Conservation Biology 12

Course structure
Taught material will be given during two 13-week teaching periods,
each followed by an exam period. You should not make other plans
for weeks in which teaching or assessments are scheduled
(including field courses, see later). This course meets the academic
standards set out in the National Subject Benchmark Statement for
Biosciences, and is recognized by the Society of Biology.

First Year modules choose one from two options

Introduction to Ecology and the Principles of

Biological Sciences 1

Conservation Biology Diversity of Life Physiology

Development in

Field Evolution and Cells: the Building

Biology Behaviour Blocks of Life

Second Year modules choose one from two options

Methods in Environmental Plant

Biological Sciences 2

Behaviour & Conservation Physiology
Development in

Principles of Human Impacts on

Ecology Field Course
Conservation Biology Aquatic Ecosystems

Animal Behaviour

Placement Year optional six months or more of work experience in conservation biology

Final Year modules choose two from five options

Personal Research
Behavioural Ecology Global Change Biology
(final year project)

Ecology and Conservation of

Applied Conservation Biology Plant Biotechnology
Marine Vertebrates

Advanced Skills & Concepts

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 13

First year module descriptions

First Year choice of one from two options

BIOL135Z Introduction to Conservation Biology 100% coursework

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.

BIOL132Z Ecology and the Diversity of Life 50% coursework and 50% exam
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 remark-
able variety of organisms with which we share the planet.

BIOL133Z Principles of Physiology 50% coursework and 50% exam

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.

MBIO161Z Evolution and Behaviour 50% coursework and 50% exam

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.

BIOL131Z Cells: the Building Blocks of Life 50% coursework and 50% exam
This module will introduce you to the structure of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and the various processes of cell
biology that allow different cells to do different things including some of the highly specialised cells required in multi-
cellular organisms. The module will then focus on the biochemical basis that underlies cell function introducing you
to metabolic pathways and the biomacromolecules that allow cells to work the way they do.

BIOL123Z Field Biology 60% coursework and 40% in-class test

Introduces the main ecosystem types, emphasising the diversity of ecosystem types throughout the globe. Includes a
residential field course to Andalucía in Southern Spain, where students work on their natural history and taxonomy
skills, and design and present their own short experimental projects.

BIOL129 Professional Development in Biological Sciences 1 pass/fail

A portfolio of professional skills related to the course, developed during the year on the other modules.

Lab work at Plymouth. Giraffes at Paignton Zoo. A “fungus foray” near Plymouth.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 14

Field work from Plymouth (First Year)
During the first year, you will have the opportunity to carry out a
variety of field trips to develop your skills. These can vary a little
from year to year, but here is a good idea of the kind of thing you
can expect. The tuition fees you pay cover the cost.

Survey of Ideford Common SSSI. The lowland heath of Ideford Common is consid- Vist ot the Eden Project, Cornwall. Good communication with the public is an
ered of special importance for its invertebrates. However, some of the rare species are important part of science. The Eden Project is a famous example of an attraction that
disappearing from the site. Some experimental management trials were started engages the public in the science of biodiversity conservation. During this visit, you
several years ago, and we carry out an annual survey to see what is happening. The will appreciate the range of species and habitats it contains and consider the value of
results are given to the site managers to help them refine their management plan for places like this for conservation in a wider sense. (© John Moody)
the site. (© Paul Ramsay)

Visit to Paignton Zoo. We work closely with several local zoos, and this is the Field work is great fun. Although the science is serious and the results valuable, we
largest of them. On this visit, you will be able to familiarize yourself with the zoo, its enjoy ourselves. Field work is a great opportunity to develop all kinds of skills (like
animals and various approaches to studying animal behaviour and their welfare. team working). (© Pete Smithers)
(© Sarah Collins)

Rocky shore ecology, Plymouth. Of course, Plymouth Dartmoor ecology and management. We have many Pollution monitoring at Cadover Bridge , Dartmoor.
provides an ideal location for looking at coastal habitats nationally and internationally important reserves on our You will assess water quality and the use of freshwater
and biodiversity. doorstep. Dartmoor National Park is one of the biggest. invertebrates, like this dragonfly nymph, as indicators.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 15

Field course in Spain (First Year)
This compulsory residential field course takes place after Easter. It
gives you first-hand experience of a range of ecosystems, and is a
lot of fun. It is also a great opportunity to get to know your col-
leagues and lecturers. There’s no extra to pay: it’s all included with-
in your tuition fees! See the video here.

The field course location offers a wide variety of One of the key habitats in southern Spain is the
habitats and species to investigate. Mediterranean vegetation, dominated by shrubs.

A team of students carrying out a field study in an The field course continues into the evening, over food and
Andalusian dune system. drink...

The impact of habitat management on biodiversity is also considered, such as grazing (left) and fire (right).

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 16

Second year module descriptions

Second Year choose one from two options

BIOL214Z Ecology 30% coursework, 20% in-class test and 50% exam
An understanding of basic concepts is needed to solve ecological problems. This module explores key concepts in
ecology at the levels of individuals, populations, communities and ecosystems. The concepts are supported with ex-
amples taken from terrestrial and aquatic systems.

BIOL219Z Ecology Field Course 50% coursework and 50% in-class test
This module employs a two-week-long residential field course to familiarise students with the history, structure and
function of a range of ecosystems not found in the UK. Students have the opportunity to develop their field biology
skills through a variety of exercises at individual organism to community level scales.

BIOL205Z Animal Behaviour 50% coursework and 50% exam

The four key questions concerning the causation, development, function and evolution of behaviour will be exam-
ined. We will cover how animals communicate, find a mate, form social groups, develop, find food etc., and why
there are differences between species.

BIOL215Z Methods in Behaviour & Conservation 100% coursework

Provides core skills and techniques that will equip students to perform field and laboratory studies in biology. Stu-
dents will be introduced to the appropriate methodologies for the collection, handling and analysis of data; the scien-
tific principles underlying experimental design; and the effective communication of scientific information.

BIOL204Z Principles of Conservation Biology 50% coursework and 50% exam

The underpinning theoretical concepts of conservation biology: population and community ecology, the genetics of
small populations, and behavioural ecology.

BIOL225Z Professional Development in Biological Sciences 2 pass/fail

A portfolio of professional skills related to the course, developed during the year on the other modules.

BIOL217Z Environmental Plant Physiology 50% coursework and 50% exam

Considers plant-environment interactions in specific habitats, including those affected by human activity.

MBIO220Z Applied Aquatic Biology 50% coursework and 50% exam

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.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 17

Field course in Mexico (Second Year)
This compulsory residential field course takes place at the end of
November, when 14 days in the tropical sun is a welcome relief
from the British winter. You will see a range of tropical ecosystems
and many of the animals and plants that live there. It is one of the
highlights of the degree and it’s included within your tuition fees!

Identification of tropical tree species from bark characteristics, Puerto Morelos.

Ant-plant interactions are the

focus of several activities.

A selection of animals, Alfredo Barrera Botanical Garden, Puerto Morelos.

Swimming in a cenote.

Rainforest survey and ecology. Hardwood sawmill at X-Hazil.

Birdwatching in the
Environmental assessment of tourist ECOSUR research mangroves, Laguna Leaf-cutting ant study at Dzibanché
development at Mahahual. station. Guerrero. Mayan ruins.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 18

Optional placement year
One way to develop new skills is to take a placement year between
the second and final year of the course. Most of our students do
this, helped by staff to find suitable positions that enhance their job
prospects. If you are thinking of taking a gap-year before starting
university, you might want to consider postponing it for a couple of
years and do our placement year instead. The quality of the experi-
ence is usually better and, with the extra maturity that comes from
two years’ university education, you will get more out of it. Here is
a selection of recent placements on Conservation Biology:

Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area, Devon Wildlife Trust,


Development of educational materials for schools and university

courses, with LabPlus, Plymouth University

Research Assistant, with Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust,


Countryside Ranger in the South Hams of Devon, with Teignbridge

District Council

Scientific observer on fishing vessels, with States of Jersey Depart-

ment of the Environment

Surveys of forest microscopic animals and related laboratory identi-

fication for forest habitats, Japan

Assistant to Senior Reserves Manager, with Natural England, East


Ecology and conservation of high-altitude Andean ecosystems,

Huascarán National Park (Peru) & El Angel Reserve (Ecuador).

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 19

Final year module descriptions

Final Year choose two from five options

BIOL315Z Personal Research 40 credits, 100% coursework

Comprises a research study which includes collecting, analysing and interpreting data, researching the relevant litera-
ture, and writing a report. (40 credits).

BIOL307Z Advanced Skills & Concepts 100% coursework

Teaches advanced skills in a number of areas aligned with the degree programme. Students choose three ‘podules’
from six to eight options which might include, for example, GIS, bat survey and ecology, sustainable forest ecosys-
tems, species distribution modelling, invertebrate ID and ecology, citizen science.

BIOL308Z Applied Conservation Biology 30% coursework and 70% exam

Focuses on the application of biological theory to successfully managing populations in both wild and captive envi-
ronments. The emphasis is on gaining a working knowledge of the major analytical tools, techniques and software
that are currently available to practicing conservation biologists.

BIOL301Z Plant Biotechnology 30% coursework and 70% exam

Explores key current aspects, issues, and trends in the growth and uses of plants and their derivatives.

MBIO320Z Ecology and Conservation of Marine Vertebrates 30% coursework and 70% exam
Discussion of recent advances in selected topics within aquatic biology. There is a strong emphasis on critical evalua-
tion of relevant primary literature.

BIOL310Z Global Change Biology 30% coursework and 70% exam

In a changing world, conservation priorities and approaches need to be flexible to be fit for purpose. This module will
explore topical developments and issues in the variety of contexts that compose conservation biology.

MBIO317Z Behavioural Ecology 30% coursework and 70% exam

Examines the theory underpinning key conceptual models in behavioural ecology (e.g. optimal foraging, ideal free
distribution, game theory). Models are critically discussed in relation to empirical studies.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 20

Final-year research projects
In the final year of the degree, all of our students (not just a chosen
few) carry out their own personal research project. Here is a selec-
tion of recent projects, illustrating the range you can expect. The
topics are selected to make the most of staff and student expertise,
but vary from year to year, reflecting current opportunities.

Soil macrofauna biodiversity across woodland-heathland

boundaries in the New Forest

The effects of pesticides on behaviour of British insects

Explaining leopard predation using Global Positioning

System tracking collars and habitat analysis

Sighting frequency of Pelagic Thresher shark, Manta Ray

and Grey Reef Shark at Monad Shoal, Philippines

Temporal changes in occupancy, diet and prey abundance

of urban wall spiders in Plymouth, UK

A comparison of spring leaf phenology in trees

at Widey Woods, Plymouth

The public's attitude, awareness and knowledge of sea

turtle conservation

The distribution of British butterflies: sampling intensity

and current trends

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 21

RSB Accreditation
BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology has been accredited by the Royal
Society of Biology, the UK’s professional body for biologists. It
shows the course is of high quality and graduates from it can be
trusted as professionals in their field.
Accreditation is a useful badge of quality for our  Final-year projects are allocated in a way that
courses and the students who graduate from them. It offers students a wide range of possibilities, mak-
guarantees the course is of high quality and employ- ing this crucial part of the degree a more valuable
ers can be confident that our students know what learning experience.
they are doing. Accreditation applies to all students
graduating from the course, and remains current until  Final-year podules, although costly for us to run,
2022, when it will need to be reviewed. are especially useful for giving our students em-
ployability advantages across a diverse set of top-
The accreditation team visited us in 2017 and were ics.
particularly complimentary about certain aspects of
the degree. For a start, they were very impressed with  The Royal Society of Biology’s scheme of Continu-
the students they met. They also highlighted several ing Professional Development is built into our cur-
things that they thought stood out when they com- riculum. Students gather at least 50 points per
pared us to other universities: year for professional activities they do both within
the course and of their own accord in their own
 Creative thinking is embedded naturally within time. It demonstrates the professional nature of
our degree programmes and we were outstanding our graduates and highlights their skillset.
in providing an environment where it was nur-
tured and valued. Creative thinking is one of the Our top graduating student across our biology de-
top three things employers of biology graduates grees will have the opportunity to receive a prize from
look for. the RSB at their annual meeting of accredited de-
grees. In recent years, those awards were made inside
 LabPlus provides our students with a unique facili- the Palace of Westminster. All graduates get a year of
ty. It is a cross between a library and a laboratory. free membership of the Royal Society of Biology,
Students can turn up and check out particular ma- which grants them access to extra information about
terials to work with in their own time, making use career opportunities and developments in biology.
of specialist equipment such as microscopes, and They are also able to put it on their cv, and get to use
following custom-made study packs to get the the letters AMRSB after their name.
most out of the experience.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 22

Entry requirements
We are willing to look at a variety of qualifications and experience,
but the applicant’s ability to complete the course is key. Up-to-the-
minute entry requirements can be found on our website, or from
the admissions team:
 A-levels For a full list of all acceptable qualifications please
We require UCAS points of 112–128 (typically refer to our tariff glossary, as well as our English lan-
120) to include one A-level at grade B in biology, guage requirements.
environmental science or environmental studies
and another A-level grade C in either mathe- Most of our students come directly from school or
matics, physics, biology, environmental science, college, with an average points score above what we
environmental studies, psychology, geography, require. However, not everyone does as well as they
geology, applied science or chemistry. Please note hope at school or college—for a variety of reasons—
that we do not consider general studies. and we are happy to consider students with different
qualification backgrounds. For candidates that do not
 18 Unit BTEC National Diploma /QCF Extended have traditional qualifications, our BSc (Hons) Biology
Diploma in animal management, applied science with Foundation Year programme provides a route
or other relevant subjects onto the BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology degree.
We require 128–144 points (DDM–DDD) but we Please note that we do interview some applicants, at
will consider each applicant on an individual basis the Admissions Tutor's discretion. All applicants are
because it depends on the exact units studied. If expected to have GCSE Mathematics and GCSE Eng-
you have any queries or concerns, particularly lish, or equivalents.
when making your unit choices, please contact Students may be allowed to transfer from a “sister”
degree: Marine Biology, Biological Sciences , Animal
 International Baccalaureate Behaviour & Welfare. Transfers in the other direction
We require 30 diploma points overall, to include 5 may also be permitted. All transfers depend on the
at Higher Level Biology plus 5 in a second science availability of places and at the discretion of the rele-
at Higher Level. English and mathematics must be vant programme leader.
Entry into the second year of Conservation Biology
 All Access To Higher Education diplomas in sci- will be considered for holders of an FdSc in an appro-
ence subjects priate subject, or with a completed first year of a simi-
We require 33 credits at Level 3 in biology and lar degree at another university.
science based units, with at least 33 credits at
merit and to include at least 12 credits in biology We have exchange schemes with universities in other
units with merit. The remaining merits should be countries, including continental Europe, the USA and
biology/science-related, with GCSE English and Canada. Students may spend all or part of the second
Mathematics grade C or above, or equivalent. year on such a scheme.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 23

Career opportunities
There are solid job prospects for students with good degrees in
conservation biology. You might be surprised by the range of ca-
reers. But, one thing is clear: students who work hard during their
degree have the best chances to get the careers they want.
Conservation management consultants work, directly or indirectly, for
construction, engineering, mining compa-
Jobs in this category involve managing
nies and others to ensure their projects
habitats for biodiversity conservation.
are environmentally sound. The consult-
They are largely responsible for managing
ants also advise on ways to balance nega-
protected reserve networks and working
tive impacts with more positive action.
with landowners to achieve conservation
benefits. Ecotourism
A variety of employers operate in this The ecotourism market makes up 6% of
field. National and local government em- the GDP all over the world. The yearly
ploy teams of conservation scientists to growth rate is about 5%. But it needs qual-
advise them and make decisions where ified personnel to design and lead opera-
conservation is an important considera- tions. One definition of ecotourism is "the
tion. Some of this work is contracted out practice of low-impact, educational, eco-
to private companies who do some of this logically and culturally sensitive travel that
work on behalf of government. Then there benefits local communities and host coun-
are the non-governmental conservation tries." Many of the ecotourism projects
organizations, such as the wildlife trusts, are not meeting these standards. Is this
RSPB, and WWF. As you might imagine, something you would like to change?
they are frequently looking for good con-
Conservation research
servation biologists.
Around 10–20% of our students go on to
(Although there are plenty of manual jobs
do postgraduate studies in conservation
associated with conservation work, they
biology. These careers can be immensely
do not pay very well and do not need
rewarding, but are only options for the
someone to hold a degree. We do not ex-
pect our graduates to be looking for these best graduates.
kinds of jobs.) UK or overseas?
Consultancy You will see that these careers transfer
easily to other parts of the world. Many of
Conservation biologists operate in the
our students work abroad, or come to us
business world within the wider frame-
from other countries before returning
work of environmental consultancy. Such
home at the end of their degree.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 24

Facilities at Plymouth University
Plymouth University is one of the largest in the UK, with more than
25,000 students. As you would expect, we have cutting-edge re-
search and teaching facilities, but there is plenty more on offer.

You will be taught in state-of-the-art teaching labora-

tories, with access to specialist research facilities for
particular projects.

There is always lots going on around the campus...

from careers fairs to art exhibitions. For example, in
It’s not all work. There’s time for relaxation with late 2013, we hosted an exhibition about Alfred
friends, too. Wallace, one of the great Victorian natural historians.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 25

Extra-curricular activities
The course aims to provide essential training for conservation biol-
ogists, but it should be balanced with activities away from the lec-
ture theatre and lab. We encourage all kinds of activities which look
good on your resumé, but most of all are really fun to do!

A trip behind the scenes at London’s Natural History

Museum with our Zoological Society.

The OPAL South-West team is based with us, and runs

all kinds of biodiversity-related events for the public.

Conservation Biology student volunteers help with

an invertebrate open day at the University.

If you would like to see more of what is

happening in our biology group at Plym-
outh University, visit our blog. It’s regu-
larly updated with stories from staff and
students, attracting thousands of visitors
from all over the world:
Students at Dartmoor Zoo with Ben Mee, recently
played by Matt Damon in the Hollywood film “We
Bought A Zoo”.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 26

Our marine conservation charity
In partnership with the Ocean Giants Trust, and with our colleagues
in marine biology, we have opportunities for our students to apply
for funded scholarships to develop a marine conservation charity in
Our charity works alongside five marine conservation charities:

Each year, five students from several relevant degrees (including

Conservation Biology) will be selected to receive scholarships and
help to develop the charities activities. These students will receive
training on how to run a conservation charity from the Ocean Gi-
ants Trust, and will work throughout their degree to raise funds and
develop research to support our conservation partners.
There will be opportunities for other students to get involved with
fund-raising, research and trips to work in the field.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 27

Around Plymouth
Plymouth is a great location for a degree in conservation biology. It
combines the advantages of a city without the drawbacks of a very
large city. It is surrounded by spectacular scenery, and a wide range
of habitat types. Whether for professional reasons, or your own
personal enjoyment, life in Plymouth is hard to beat!

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 28

Conservation biology research
Your course is given by active scientists who do cutting-edge re-
search. In terms of conservation biology, our research group works
on a wide range of topics, and we have an active postgraduate pro-
gramme, with more than 40 PhD and 30 masters students in our
This means that you are taught by people who know what they are
talking about, rather than teachers who are passing on things they
read in textbooks. Our staff can help you with your own career in
conservation biology. You will see from our staff list that you can
learn from all kinds of conservation biologists, one of the biggest
teams you will find in any UK university. We do not pass our teach-
ing on to postgraduate students—we do it ourselves. And we are all
qualified teachers.
Since we are all professional scientists, we want you to contribute
to science yourself. Therefore, we encourage you to get involved in
research from the start of your course.
Rather than giving you “exercises”
merely for the sake of doing some-
thing, we offer you the opportunity to
get involved in real-world conserva-
tion projects. You can help out with
existing research projects in your
spare time, and if you fancy volunteer-
ing, we can help you find genuine con-
servation projects around the world,
including the UK, of course. Routinely,
we include our own research in our Detailed measurement of the characteristics of
teaching. It makes it more meaningful invasive species helps us to understand why
they are a problem and suggests ways to
for you and for us. manage them.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 29

Scientific publications with students
An indication of the quality of our course is that
our undergraduate students regularly produce
outstanding research. As you have seen, our
staff are active researchers them-
selves, and you can look up their publi-
cations on our web pages. But they
will also encourage you to publish your
work if it is good enough. Apart from
the warm glow it gives you, it looks
great on your cv! Here are some re-
cent examples of published work by
conservation biology students with
staff in the scientific literature.

Hanley ME, Franco M, Dean CE, Franklin EL, Har-

ris HR, Haynes AG, Rapson SR, Rowse G,
Thomas KC, Waterhouse BR & Knight ME
(2011) Increased bumblebee abundance
along the margins of a mass flowering crop:
evidence for pollinator spill-over. Oikos, 120: Pitman RT, Mulvaney J, Ramsay PM, Jooste E &
1618–1624. Swanepoel LH (2014) Global Positioning Sys-
tem-located kills and faecal samples: a com-
Hanley ME & Wilkins JP (2015) On the verge? parison of leopard (Panthera pardus) dietary
Preferential use of road-facing hedgerow estimates. Journal of Zoology, 292: 18–24.
margins by bumblebees in agro-ecosystems.
Journal of Insect Conservation, 19: 67–74. Pitman RT, Swanepoel LH & Ramsay PM (2012)
Predictive modelling of leopard predation us-
Pitman RT, Kilian PJ, Ramsay PM & Swanepoel ing contextual Global Positioning System clus-
LH (2013) Foraging and habitat specialization ter analysis. Journal of Zoology, 288: 222–230.
by female leopards (Panthera pardus) in the
Waterberg Mountains of South Africa. South Sutton L & Puschendorf R (2018) Climatic niche
African Journal of Wildlife Research, 43: 167– of the Saker Falcon Falco cherrug: predicted
176. new areas to direct population surveys in
Central Asia. Ibis.

Other work is published each year in our own scientific journal, The
Plymouth Student Scientist. Follow this link to see the latest issue:

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 30

Not sure yet?
Choosing the right university for you is important. Other universi-
ties offer conservation biology courses, and maybe they would suit
you better. However, before you make your mind up, make sure you
have asked some good questions about the courses.
Is the course accredited by the RSB? How much fieldwork does the course in-
Not all university courses in conservation clude and in what range of habitats?
biology are accredited. The location of many universities limits the
BSc Conservation Biology at Plymouth is kinds of fieldwork they can do. The aca-
accredited , which guarantees the course demic year causes problems for all conser-
meets the quality standards of the UK’s vation biology courses in the UK because
professional body for biology. most of the teaching happens over the
winter months. What does the course
How many conservation biology staff
offer to get round this problem?
teach on the course? Are they active re-
In our course, we pack as much fieldwork
searchers? Are parts of the course taught
as we can into the early part of the first
by teaching assistants or postgraduate
term, and use the winter months for extra
students, rather than the lecturers?
trips to look at things which are not so
Some universities employ very able re-
badly affected by the seasons. We have an
searchers, but students rarely meet them.
amazing variety of habitats on our door-
For parts of the course, they are taught by
step. In addition, we escape from the
postgraduate students or lecturers who
British climate on overseas field courses.
are paid just to teach. Other universities
employ lecturers who do no research of Will you be charged extra for field
their own. If you want to be taught by ac- courses?
tive conservation biologists, check the Most universities charge their students ex-
publications of the teaching staff. tra for field courses. This can be more than
All the lecturers who teach BSc Conserva- £1000 for an overseas destination.
tion Biology at Plymouth are active re- On our course, both field courses (a week
searchers and regularly publish in interna- in Spain and two weeks in Mexico) are
tional, peer-reviewed journals. They rou- completely covered by your tuition fees.
tinely include their research in their teach-
Does the course offer placement opportu-
ing, and students are able to join in some
nities? For how long?
of that research themselves. Every year
Some courses do not offer placements at
some of the students publish in interna-
all, while others include short work-
tionally-respected journals too.
experience modules of limited value. Our
experience is that employers are not really
interested in short-term placements of 4–

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 31

6 weeks. What are the career prospects like for the
Our placement scheme is for a minimum of course, and how well will you be pre-
six months (though two three-month pared for a real-world job when you
placements are also acceptable). We work leave?
closely with our partner organizations to Check out the facts and figures for the
ensure the experience is worthwhile for courses and then make up your mind. You
employer and student. Sometimes we plan should ask whether the course includes
long-term projects across several years of those key skills that employers want (such
placements to achieve useful conservation as communication and numeracy). Is there
goals for all parties. We also avoid place- a clear attempt throughout the course to
ments that use volunteers to replace paid cover such skills and provide you with
staff positions—this would not be good for practical experience along the way?
our students when they are looking for Employability should be an important part
paid jobs when they graduate! of your decision-making process. Many
people are surprised at how many conser-
Does everyone get to do a final-year
vation biology jobs are available, but only
research project?
the well-qualified stand a chance of
Some universities restrict this important
getting them. Our course provides a good
part of the degree to those students who
starting point, but we encourage all of our
get the best marks in the rest of the
students to make themselves into attrac-
course. Sometimes, less than half the stu-
tive employees with additional activities
dents do research projects.
like conservation volunteering, working
All students do a final-year research pro-
with the public, and active skills develop-
ject on BSc Conservation Biology at Plym-
ment. Our students have all kinds of op-
outh University. portunities throughout the degree to do
What is student satisfaction like for the these things.
Are you going to enjoy the course?
Some courses are better than others.
This is not as trivial as you might suppose.
League tables are not easy to interpret
Students who love their subject (and the
well (they often measure things badly),
course they are doing) tend to get the best
but they are worth looking at, for a rough
grades, and then the best jobs. So choose
idea of course quality. Check out the facts
a course you will enjoy doing.
and figures before making your choice.
We think our course is great! The vast ma-
Plymouth University’s BSc Conservation
jority of our students agree. Now you have
Biology is rated well above average for UK
had a chance to see some detail about the
degrees. We take the student experience
course, we hope this course will be just
very seriously. In fact, the course has been
what you are looking for.
held up as a model within the university,
since the scores have been so good.

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 32

Any questions?

We have tried to answer your questions here, but we might have

missed something. If you haven’t already visited us, you can come
along to an Open Day or Applicant Day and speak to staff and stu-
dents in person—check out the website for details. Or, for specific
questions relating to the course, feel free to email the course leader,
Dr Rob Puschendorf ( For more gen-
eral admissions enquiries, contact
We hope to see you on the course soon…

BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology 33