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More in this section Biological Sciences

Ecology and Conservation BSc

UCAS code C150
Year of entry 2018
Course Length
3 years full time
Department Biological Sciences »

Ecological considerations factor among the key concerns facing our planet today. The decline of bee populations, for example, poses a real threat to agricultural crop yields and the health of flowering plants, and groundbreaking research at Royal Holloway, University of London is helping to uncover the reasons behind this crisis.

Studying Ecology and Conservation at Royal Holloway will teach you the fundamental principles of how plants and animals interact with each other and the wider environment, applying both theoretical and practical tools to understand diverse aspects of ecology including both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, behavioural ecology and conservation.

The first year of Ecology and Conservation provides a strong foundation in plant, animal and ecosystem topics, including vertebrate evolution and diversity, plant evolution, form and function, cell biology, genetics and biomes and ecosystems. Acquiring skills in biological data analysis and practical field ecology form a key part of the second year, alongside studies in evolution, invertebrate biology, and insects, plants and fungi. You can also choose to study animal behaviour, microbiology, or to attend the residential field course on marine biology. The final year includes the study of population and community ecology, and marine ecology and biodiversity. There are options to study conservation biology, evolutionary ecology, entomology, extreme animal physiology, circadian biology, as well as to take part in the overseas field course that examines Mediterranean conservation and ecology. This flexible programme allows you to tailor your learning in years 2 and 3, to suit your own interests.

Our biodiverse campus is in easy reach of sites of special scientific interest including Windsor Great Park, Box Hill and Chobham Common, providing the opportunity for rewarding field work and independent study. You will gain practical experience across all three years of the degree, with many laboratory-based or field-based practicals in years 1 and 2, and an individual research project in year 3. The project can involve laboratory, field, or computer-based approaches, but whichever project you choose, you will join our renowned research culture. The School of Biological Sciences was ranked 25th in the UK for influential research output by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.

  • Join a biodiverse campus in reach of sites of special scientific interest including Windsor Great Park, Box Hill and Chobham Common.
  • Make use of first-class facilities including marine and freshwater aquaria, plant and animal cell culture facilities and glasshouses.
  • Take part in world-class research led by renowned academics, with 76% of our Biological Sciences research ranked world-leading and internationally excellent.
  • Join a close-knit and supportive learning community with a high staff-to- student ratio.
  • Gain invaluable transferable skills to take into the workplace, including lab and fieldwork experience, numerical skills and communication skills.
  • Graduate with a Royal Society of Biology accredited degree.

Core modules

Year 1

Becoming a Bioscientist

In this module you will develop an understanding of key scientific concepts and effective science communication. You will learn how to process and critique different forms of information, and how to communicate science to both scientific and non-scientific audiences using diverse media, forms and methods. You will also examine ethical issues surrounding research and intervention.

Cell Biology and Evolution
Genetics
Ecology and Conservation
Green World - Plant Evolution, Form and Function
Biology in a Changing World

In this module you will develop an understanding of how biological and ecological principles can help develop sustainable solutions to the problems encountered in the 21st Century. You will look at how ecological principles can be used to tackle conservation challenges, and consider the importance of ongoing management of ecosytems which have been altered by humans. You will gain practical experience in using ecological sampling technniques and learn how to apply and interpret elementary statistical tests.

Vertebrate Evolution and Diversity

In this module you will develop an understanding of origins of the vertebrate classes and their evolutionary history. You will look at functional aspects of the key morphological and physiological adaptations of vertebrates to life in water, on land and in the air. You will examine the processes of evolution, phylogeny, physiology and biomechanics of vertebrates, and consider the general anatomical organisation of chordates and vertebrates.

Biomes and Ecosystems

Year 2

Invertebrate Biology - Structure, Behaviour and Evolution

In this module you will develop an understanding of invertebrate phyla, looking at their structure, diversity, levels of complexity, life styles, and evolutionary relationships. You will primarily examine body-plans and how structure relates to behaviour, but also consider invertebrate diversity and their ecological importance. You will learn to stain, mount, and interpret microscopic specimens and enhance your skills in scientific illustration, microscope use, identification and animal handling.

Plant Life - From Genes to Environment

In this module you will develop an understanding of the life cycle of flowering plants, considering their evolution, developmental and functional biology. You will examine the role and biology of meristems in the structure and building of a plant muticellular body, and the role and mode of action of plant hormones in coordinating development. You will also consider a range of environmental and biotic factors affecting plants, including light, time of day, temperature, drought, and other organism, and how plants respond to the challenges they pose.

Insects, Plants and Fungi - Ecology and Applications

In this module you will develop an understanding of the effects of herbivorous insects on plants and the ways in which plants defend themselves against attack. You will consider how insects can be beneficial to plants, examining their role in pollination, and how fungi mediate interactions between insects and their hosts, including pathogens, endophytes and mycorrhizas.

Practical Field Ecology

In this module you will develop an understanding of how to design and analyse ecological experiments. You will perform simple investigations into several different taxonomic groups such as mammals, invertebrates and plants, and consider the difficulties of designing experiments in the field, compared to controlled conditions. You will gain experience with techniques such as field sampling, identification using keys, and quantitative population estimation, as you carry out fieldwork in and around the College campus, with some daily excursions.

Biological Data Analysis and Interpretation

In this module you will develop an understanding of the use of statistical methods in biological sciences. You will examine how questions in biology can be answered using quantitative methods, looking at key concepts of statistical sampling and experimental design. You will consider how to select appropriate tests, how to apply them, and identify what can be deduced from them.

Evolution

In this module you will develop an understanding of how organisms have changed through time. You will look at the historical origins of the modern concept of evolution, examinining the evidence for it and the processes that have shaped faunas and floras. You will consider Darwinism and its development, the origin and maintenance of variation, and adaptation and selection. You will analyse how evolution can be studied using phylogenetic methods and the mechanisms of speciation, with a focus on human evolution.

Year 3

Individual Research Project

You will carry out an individual laboratory or theoretical investigation, supervised by an appropriate member of staff, who will provide guidance throughout. You will apply the knowledge and skills learned throughout your studies, and learn to organise data in a logical, presentable and persuasive way. You will produce a report, around 8,000 words in length, and will deliver an oral presentation with a summary of your findings.

Conservation Biology

In this module you will develop and understanding of the major threats to biodiversity, including habitat loss and fragmentation, alien species, global climate change, intensive agriculture, pollution, and over-harvesting. You will look at the population and ecological processes that lead to species and habitat decline, and assess how conservation biology can be applied to redress this. You will also examine current areas of research in conservation biology, their ethical implications, and agri-environmental management plans.

Population and Community Ecology

In this module you will develop an understanding of the principles of population and community ecology, focussing on the forcs which structure communities of animals and plants. You will look at population growth, inter- and intra-specific competition, trophic relations and the factors which regulate populations, and will examine the ecological processes that contribute to community organisation, such as food web structure, body size, succession and natural disturbances. You will also consider the role of population and community ecology in the maintenance of biodiversity.

Climate Change - Plants and the Environment

In this module you will develop an understanding of the effects of climate change on the interaction between plants and the environment. You will critically evaluate the application of novel technologies to crop improvement, and assess the relationship between growth and reponses to the environment. You will also consider issues surrounding human uses of plants and conservation.

Optional modules

In addition to these mandatory course units there are a number of optional course units available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course units that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new units may be offered or existing units may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

Year 1

Only core modules are taken

Year 2

Microbiology

In this module you will develop an understanding of some of the key concepts in microbiology, including the study of bacteria, viruses, and eukaryotic microbes. You will look at how microbes are distinguished and classified, and discuss bacterial growth and differentiation. You will examine the importance of microorganisms in health and disease, including human welfare issues such as opportunistic infections and the role of microorganisms in cancer.

Animal Behaviour

In this module you will develop an understanding of the causation, development, function and evolution of animal behaviour, assessing the variety of behaviour occurring across the range of animal taxa and in different ecological situations. You will examine the major theories that seek to explain animal behaviour, such as kin selection, optimal foraging and game theory. You will look at the main methods used to study behaviour, including observation, experiment and the comparative approach, and consider how they can be applied to the study of different types of behavioural questions.

Applications of Molecular Genetics in Biology

In this module you will develop an understanding of the molecular tools and techniques currently available to investigate the genetic diversity of a range of organisms. You will examine how genetically modified organisms can be produced via a number of methodologies, and will consider their application in areas such as crop improvement, pest management, and vaccine development. You will also look at how molecular genetics has improved our understanding of human inherited diseases, and led to development of human gene therapies.

Marine Biology

In this moudle you will develop an understanding of the physical and chemical characteristics of the marine environmental and their influence on marine organisms. You will look at of a broad range of marine taxa, in particular invertebrates, but also vertebrates and algae, sampled alive from their natural habitats. You will carry out intertidal sampling (rocky and sandy shores) and sampling from a research vessel (plankton and subtidal benthos), gaining experience of collecting and identifying a range of littoral organisms. You will consider behavioural, ecological and physiological aspects, morphological adaptations, systematic relationships and also the economic significance of selected groups.

Year 3

Special Study - Dissertation

You will carry out a literature research project on a biological or biochemical topic of your choice, producing a written report around 7,500 words in length. You will critically evaluate recent scientific literature on your chosen topic, highlighting how data has been used to generate and test hypotheses.

Biology of Parasitic Diseases

In this module you will develop an understanding of the principles of parasitism and the protective mechanisms used by immuno-competent hosts to limit the spread of infection. You will look at the biological strategies used by a range of unicellular and multicellular organisms to colonise host causing disease in human and non-human hosts. You will consider studies on the pathology and the cellular immunity elicited by various parasites, and the immune evasion strategies used by widely distributed human parasites to protect themselves from immune attack. You will also address the principles and prospects of anti-parasitic vaccination in the 21stCentury.

Entomology - Pure and Applied

In this module you will develop an understanding of insect biology, addressing aspects of their physiology and biology. You will look at why insects are the most numerous animals on the planet and examine the practical applications of entomology. You will assess modern methods of crop production and pest control, and will analyse the conservational importance of beneficial insects such as pollinators and saproxylic (dead wood feeding) species, considering reasons for their decline.

Mediterranean Conservation and Ecology

In this module you will develop an understanding of the ecology of the Aljezur region of Portugal, and the conservation threats presented by tourism, infrastructure development and agricultural change. You will look at conservation ecology in marine, aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, with a focus on key species and habitats. You will carry out practical work, including an ecological risk assessment for coastal ecosystems, invertebrate sampling in native cork forest, bird monitoring, river-based surveys for invasive crayfish and otters, marine surveys, pollinator surveys on invasive plants, and kayak-based surveys for aquatic infauna.

Behavioural Ecology

In this module you will develop an understanding of how ecologists investigate the behaviour of animals, looking at recent advances in behavioural ecology research. You will analyse the functional and evolutionary hypotheses that seek to explain how animals find and use key resources, such as food, breeding territories and mates, and consider how simple models, such as game theory, can be used to test these.

Marine Ecology and Biodiversity

In this module you will develop an understanding of the diversity habitats in the marine environment and the range of responses seen in marine biota. You will look at the diversity of organisms, considering the key processes operating in coral reefs, the deep ocean and hydrothermal vent systems. You will consider the behaviour and conservation of marine species, the impact of marine pollution and climate change on marine biodiversity, and examine the adaptation of mammals to marine life.

Evolutionary Ecology of Vertebrates
Extreme Animal Physiology
Circadian Biology
Seed Biology - Molecular and Conservation Biology to Industrial Applications

In this module you will develop an understanding of the importance of seeds and fruits for food chain security, the seed industry, and ecosystem conservation. You will look at the principles and importance of seed banking and the seed conservation work at Kew's Millenium Seed Bank to mitigate against climate change. You will examine the developmental and biochemical processes of seed storage reserve deposition, germination and reserve mobilisation, including the environmental control of seed germinsation. You will analyse the key advantages of the seed habit, considering the morphological diversity of modern seeds and fruits which have evolved.

Each year you take module worth a total of 120 credits. Most module are worth 15 credits; in the final year, your Individual Research Project is worth 30 credits.

You will attend a mixture of lectures, seminars and small-group tutorials, with class sizes that range from 6 students to 180 students. Practical classes are a major part of all first and second year module and include experiments that are integral to the subject, helping to familarise you with material and augment your understanding of key topics. These are either laboratory-based or field-based with laboratory follow-up. In your third year, you will complete an individual research project supervised by one of our academics, which may lead to you contributing to a published scientific paper. The individual research project is assessed on the basis of a written report, supervisor in-course assessment and an oral presentation.

You will be assigned a personal tutor who will provide support, guidance and advice throughout the three years of your degree programme. You will also have access to the comprehensive e-learning facility Moodle, which features lecture handouts and other supporting materials including lecture slides, self-test quizzes, relevant video clips and scientific papers.

During your first and second year, continuous assessment (based on essays and reports you write during the course unit) makes up 25-30% of your course mark. The remaining 70-75% is based on written examinations. Marks from most third year lecture course units are 20-30% by continuous assessment and 70-80% by final examination. Third year assignments include a range of activities such as preparation of posters, oral presentations, creation of leaflets and podcasts, coursework essays, mock research grant applications and scientific news-and-views articles, as well as analysis of data from online repositories in mini-research projects.

The first year is formative, while outcomes of your second and third year contribute one third and two-thirds of your final degree classification respectively.

Typical offers

Typical offers
A-levels

ABB-BBB
How we assess your application:  predicted grades lower than our typical offers are considered.  Read more about what we look for here.

  • Where an Applicant is taking the EPQ alongside A-levels, the EPQ will be taken into consideration and result in lower A-level grades being required. 

  • Socio-economics factors which may have impacted an applicant's education will be taken into consideration and alternative offers may be made to these applicants.

Required/preferred subjects

Required subject: Biology, plus a Pass in the practical element.

At least five GCSEs at grade A*-C or 9-4 including English and Mathematics.

Other UK Qualifications
International Baccalaureate

5,5,5 at Higher Level including Higher Level Biology, with a minimum of 32 points overall.

BTEC Extended Diploma

Not normally accepted.

BTEC National Extended Diploma

Distinction, Distinction in a relevant subject and grade B in A-level Biology. A Pass is required in the practical element of all Science A-levels taken. 

BTEC National Extended Certificate

Distinction plus A-level grades BB including A-level Biology. A Pass is required in the practical element of all Science A-levels taken.

Welsh Baccalaureate

Requirements are as for A-levels where one non-subject-specified A-level can be replaced by the same grade in the Welsh Baccalaureate - Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate.

Scottish Advanced Highers

ABB-BBB including Biology 

Scottish Highers

AABBB including Biology

Irish Leaving Certificate

H2, H2, H3, H3, H3 including Biology.

Access to Higher Education Diploma

Pass with at least 24 level 3 credits at Distinction, including all Biology units at Distinction, and the remaining level 3 credits at Merit.

Please note that the Access to Higher Education Diploma will only be acceptable if the applicant has had a considerable break from education.

Other UK qualifications

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International and EU entry requirements

Please select your country from the drop-down list below

English language
requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall and a minimum of 5.5 in each subscore. For equivalencies please see here.

For more information about entry requirements for your country please visit our International pages. For international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements, we offer an International Foundation Year, run by Study Group at the Royal Holloway International Study Centre. Upon successful completion, students can progress on to selected undergraduate degree programmes at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Follow your passion for Ecology and Conservation at Royal Holloway, University of London and you’ll graduate with a portfolio of skills to make you an attractive prospect to potential employers.

You’ll gain invaluable lab experience from year 1 onwards, and pick up transferrable skills including scientific and academic writing, logical thinking and presentation. You’ll join our renowned research culture as you complete your independent research project in year 3. Take these experiences in to the workplace and you could join our alumni in sectors including practical conservation, environmental monitoring and nature reserve management.

Our close-knit graduate network means that Royal Holloway alumni often visit to share their knowledge and experience with current students, while opportunities including internships, research project placements and outreach events help you to make the first step towards your future career.

  • 90% of Life Sciences graduates in work or further education within six months of graduating.
  • A close-knit graduate network to draw on, with alumni often visiting Royal Holloway to share their experiences.
  • Summer placements offered to help students gain invaluable work experience.

Home and EU students tuition fee per year*: £9,250

International students tuition fee per year**: £18,900

Other essential costs***: £303

How do I pay for it?  Find out more about funding options, including loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries.

*Tuition fees for UK and EU nationals starting a degree in the academic year 2017/18 will be £9,250 for that year, and is shown for reference purposes only. The tuition fee for UK and EU undergraduates starting their degrees in 2018 is controlled by Government regulations, and details are not yet known. The UK Government has also announced that EU students starting an undergraduate degree in 2018/19 will pay the same level of fee as a UK student for the duration of their degree.

**Fees for international students may increase year-on-year in line with the rate of inflation. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see fees and funding and our  terms & conditions.

***These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.

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