School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

MSc ( 1 year Full-time / 2 years Part-time )

Overview

Global ecological change is occurring at a rapid rate and we are seeing an unprecedented spread of diseases, collapses in biodiversity and disruption to ecosystems. We aim to understand not just patterns in the natural environment, but the ecological and evolutionary factors that drive them, from the behaviour of individual organisms to population- and whole-community dynamics.

You will study the concepts and theory that will help you understand factors underpinning global ecology and evolutionary change, including modern techniques for environmental process research, invasive species ecology and conservation genetics.  Students also learn techniques important for environmental policy and management; and, as such, our graduates are well-placed to progress onto PhD research or careers in industry, consultancy and conservation. 

You will conduct your own substantive six-month research project, which may be jointly supervised by contacts from related institutes or within industry. Students also take part in a field course in Borneo - see photos from a recent trip on Flickr - giving you the opportunity to develop first hand experience of theory in action.

You will have access to advanced analytical research facilities at the Freshwater Biological Association's River Laboratory on in Dorset, through our River Communities Research Group. You will have the opportunity to conduct both fieldwork and lab projects at this site.

Programme highlights

  • Two-week tropical ecology field trip (currently in Borneo), as well as fieldwork in Dorset, UK
  • Modules that develop pure research and applied practical skills
  • Guest lectures by stakeholders and potential employers
  • Opportunities for research projects in UK and overseas, and in conjunction with collaborators such as the Institute of Zoology; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; and the Natural History Museum

Student Experience

In this blog, we spoke to Ana Cecilia Híjar Islas. Ana, from Mexico is studying an MSc in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences (SBCS). She joined Queen Mary University of London in September 2017, on a scholarship from the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT) - Read more

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology postgraduate student Jacqueline Bond began her study in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences (SBCS) at Queen Mary University of London in 2017. We spoke to Jacqueline to learn more about her experience of the course, her field work in Borneo and her research project on bees - Read more

Research and teaching

By choosing to study at a Russell Group university you will have access to excellent teaching and top class research. You can find out more about our research interests and view recent publications on the School of Biological and Chemical Science's Biology research page.

Informal enquiries 

If you have questions about this programme which you would like to put to Dr Christophe Eizaguirre, MSc Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Programme Director, please contact:

Tel: +44(0)207 882 6982
Email: c.eizaguirre@qmul.ac.uk

Structure

If you have any questions about the content or structure, contact the programme director Dr Christophe Eizaguirre

Your taught modules take place in blocks of two weeks of full-time teaching (normally 9am-5pm), followed by weeklong study breaks for independent learning and coursework. This structure  allows for an intensive learning experience, giving students the opportunity to immerse themselves in their subject.

This programme combines taught modules with individual and collaborative research projects. You will apply the knowledge and techniques from your taught modules in a practical setting and may be able to publish your project findings.

Taught modules

  • Ecological Theory and Applications: In this module we look at the theory behind our understanding of ecological systems and how that theory can be applied to ecological problems in the real world. Starting with populations of a single species we will progress to understanding two species interactions including predation, competition and parasitism and then to whole communities of interacting organisms. We will then study how ecological theory, used in concert with population genetics and evolutionary theory, can be applied to understanding ecological issues such as the conservation of small populations, harvesting natural populations and predicting responses to environmental change.
  • Ecosystem Structure and Functioning: While we have long appreciated the structure of ecosystems, the importance of ecosystem functioning has lagged behind somewhat. This module aims to redress the balance by exploring the use of modern tools which allow us to thoroughly integrate measures of ecological structure and functioning. Aspects of the Metabolic Theory of Ecology, body-size relationships, stable isotope analysis and DNA bar- coding will all be covered in relation to topics such as photosynthetic and chemosynthetic primary production; the impacts of invasive species; aquatic-terrestrial linkages and cross ecosystem boundary subsidies; biogeochemistry and nutrient dynamics; plankton dynamics and organismal physiology in a changing world.
  • Statistics and Bioinformatics: This module is focussed on teaching data analysis using the statistical programming language R. The module covers the basics of using R; drawing publication-standard graphs with R; experimental design; exploratory data analysis; the fundamentals of statistical testing including t-tests and chi-square tests; ANOVA and Regression; fitting and interpreting general linear models; the basics of bioinformatic analysis in R. The module is taught with a mix of theory and practice, with a typical day including roughly two hours of theory instruction in the morning followed by a practical session in the afternoon, often involving hands-on analysis of real experimental data sets.
  • Research Frontiers in Evolutionary Biology: This module will explore the frontiers of research in evolutionary biology. Topics covered will include: incongruence in phylogenetic trees, neutral versus selective forces in evolution, the origin of angiosperms, the origin of new genes, the evolution of sociality, the significance of whole genome duplication and hybridisation. Current method being used to tackle these areas will be taught, with an emphasis on DNA sequence analysis and bioinformatics. This module aims to inspire students to seek a career in scientific research, and equip them to choose areas of research that are of current interest. Whereas undergraduate degrees commonly focus on what we know, this Master's course will shift the focus onto what we don't know. Students will explore the current frontiers of knowledge, and the questions that currently lack answers, or whose answers are currently debated. Students will learn to ask relevant questions themselves, and design approaches to seeking answers to those questions.
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Field Course - The module comprises a residential field course lasting approximately 12 days, designed to allow students to develop their field skills in situ. Teaching will comprise a combination of lectures, demonstrations and practical assignments. These will span topics in taxonomy, ecology, biogeography, conservation and evolution. Students will also undertake their own mini-project. This field-based module will include coverage of ecological processes in tropical rainforests (decomposition, pollination and seed dispersal), rainforest structure and defining characteristics (including the importance of rainforests as centres of biodiversity), and anthropogenic factors affecting rainforests (including disturbance, forest fragmentation and agriculture).
  • Science into Policy and Management: Without knowledge, there can be no application. This module is designed to bring you 'face to face' with the regulators, policies and their science base, as these potential employers (e.g. CEFAS, Defra, the Environment Agency, Natural England) will give lectures on topical issues. The focus is on human impacts upon ecosystems, including pollution and habitat alteration and how these can be mitigated. National and international legislation and directives are considered (e.g. EU Water Framework Directive). Guest lecturers will also include consultants who will be able to advise on career paths. As a detailed case study, you will visit the River Communities Group based in Dorset for one week and investigate the link between successful science and policy: for example, contemporary aspects of the EU Water Framework Directive will be considered, including underlying methodology behind bioassessment and biomonitoring (e.g. RIVPACS). This will be closely linked to how the Environment Agency is working with Defra Test Catchments (DTCs).

Research module

  • Research project (90 credits)

The final dissertation is your chance to conduct in-depth and independent research on a topic that is of direct interest to you and your career goals. Recent dissertations include:

  • The study of sensory genes in echolocating bats and whales
  • Identifying the genes and evolutionary mechanisms involved in the evolution of social behaviour
  • Trophic interactions between sympatric amphipod invaders in the River Thames
  • The evolution of mating systems and especially of sexual ornamentation

Part-time study

You can take the MSc over two years via studying part-time; you should aim to register for 50% of taught modules per year. You can discuss the exact combination of modules with the programme director, Dr Christophe Eizaguirre

Projects can also be undertaken over a two-year period, subject to finding an approved schedule of work which equates to the same time requirements as a full-time MSc. You may also enrol on a Postgraduate Certificate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (60 credits),  which is comprised of four taught modules.

Entry requirements

A minimum of an upper second-class BSc (Hons) degree (or equivalent international qualification) in a relevant subject, such as ecology, environmental science, biology or zoology.  Applicants with a good lower second class degree may be considered on an individual basis, taking into account relevant background and related achievements.

This programme includes one compulsory overseas field course to Borneo, during which students should expect to have to undertake physically-demanding work in remote locations. Applicants for the programme from outside the UK should ensure that there are no residency or travel restrictions that would prevent them from attending this course. Applicants with any disability that impacts upon their ability to undertake such activities should seek advice from the School before applying for this programme.

Costs for flights, accommodation and meals are fully covered by the tuition fees - you will not have to contribute additional funds towards this field trip.

English language requirements

All international students are required to provide evidence of their ability in English language.

The minimum level required for entry to our postgraduate programmes is:

  • IELTS: 6.5 overall including 6.0 in Writing and 5.5 in Reading, Listening and Speaking
  • TOEFL: 92 overall including 21 in Writing, 18 in Reading, 17 in Listening and 20 in Speaking
  • PTE Academic: 62 overall including 57 in Writing and 51 in Reading, Listening and Speaking
  • Trinity ISE: Trinity ISE II with a Distinction in Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking, or Trinity ISE III with a minimum of Pass in Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking
  • C2 Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE): 176 overall including 169 in Writing, and 162 in Reading, Listening and Speaking
  • C1 Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE): 176 overall including 169 in Writing, and 162 in Reading, Listening and Speaking  

For further information about our English language requirements please visit the QMUL international pages.

Am I eligible?

To check your eligibility, contact our Postgraduate Admissions team:

Email: sbcs-pgadmissions@qmul.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 3328

Learning and teaching

Our Ecology and Evolutionary Biology programme combines traditional lectures and practicals with a diverse range of learning formats. Group work, student presentations and open discussion/debate are an integral part of the programme, giving you the chance to develop communication and team-working skills. We take pride in cultivating a close-knit and friendly working relationship between academics and students on this programme.  You will benefit from small group teaching, normally no more than 15 students in each seminar, allowing for a more intensive learning experience and increased interaction.

Teaching and assessment

You will take six taught modules (four in Semester A and two in Semester B), which make up 50% of your final grade. These will be assessed through a mixture of reports, essays, practicals, presentations and multiple choice questions.

Your taught modules take place in blocks of two weeks of full-time teaching (normally 9am-5pm), followed by weeklong study breaks for independent learning and coursework. Most modules are taught through lectures during the morning, with practicals, seminars, discussion groups and workshops taking place in the afternoon.

You will also have a tropical ecology field course, usually in Borneo, which is one of your taught modules and takes place in Semester B.  Much of the theory covered in your taught modules you will apply in a real research context during this field course.

Your research project and dissertation is 50% of the final grade and typically involves field sampling, experimentation, laboratory work and data analysis.

Independent study

You are encouraged to use your independent study time to engage with current researchers in the labs, or volunteer for extra fieldwork, thereby giving you first-hand experience of the research environment. You will also have opportunities to attend lab meetings, shadow PhD students and gain a full understanding of the research taking place in our department before deciding on your own research project.

Dissertation

You will also undertake an individual research project and dissertation.

Fees

Tuition fees for Home and EU students

2019/20 Academic Year

Full time £11,200
Part time £5,600

Tuition fees for International students

2019/20 Academic Year

Full time £21,950
Part time £10,975

Part time fees are charged per annum over two years for a two year programme and per annum over three years for a three year programme. A percentage increase may be applied to the fees in years two and three.

This increase is defined each year and published on the intranet and in the Tuition Fee Regulations. A 3% increase was applied to the unregulated university fees in 2019/20. Further information can be viewed on our University Fees webpage, including details about annual increases.

Funding

There are a number of sources of funding available for Masters students.

These include a significant package of competitive Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) bursaries and scholarships in a range of subject areas, as well as external sources of funding.

Queen Mary bursaries and scholarships

We offer a range of bursaries and scholarships for Masters students including competitive scholarships, bursaries and awards, some of which are for applicants studying specific subjects.

Find out more about QMUL bursaries and scholarships.

Alternative sources of funding

Home/EU students can apply for a range of other funding, such as Professional and Career Development Loans, and Employer Sponsorship, depending on their circumstances and the specific programme of study.

Overseas students may be eligible to apply for a range of external scholarships and we also provide information about relevant funding providers in your home country on our country web pages.

Download our Postgraduate Funding Guide for detailed information about postgraduate funding options for Home/EU students.

Read more about alternative sources of funding for Home/EU students and for Overseas students.

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 5079
email bursaries@qmul.ac.uk

Other financial help on offer at Queen Mary

We offer one to one specialist support on all financial and welfare issues through our Advice and Counselling Service, which you can access as soon as you have applied for a place at Queen Mary.

Our Advice and Counselling Service also has lots of Student Advice Guides on all aspects of finance including:

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 8717

Graduate employment

Our postgraduates students go on to work in a wide variety of careers. Some apply their degree knowledge directly, working as conservation officers or research assistants. We have developed modules accommodating pure research and applied practical skills developed to promote graduate employability. The transferable skills gained through this enable graduates to work in areas beyond those directly related to their degree. These include government, education and retail. Other graduates pursue their subject interest by undertaking a PhD.

Examples of recent MSc Ecology and Evolutionary Biology student employment include:

  • Assistant Ecologist at Atkins
  • PhD Student at Queen Mary University of London
  • Assistant Ecologist at RammSanderson Ecology

Careers support

Throughout the course, postgraduates have access to a careers programme to prepare them for applying for work after graduation. This programme includes workshops on job hunting and job applications as well as employer events to facilitate networks and help students to explore their options. Recent career events open to the School’s postgraduates include the SBCS Industrial Liaison Forum featuring small and medium sized employers, and workshops on applying for and doing a PhD.

Queen Mary’s location between Canary Wharf, the City and the Olympic Village redevelopment means that there are substantial opportunities for on campus and local part time work and work experience. On campus there are 1200 job and volunteer opportunities ranging from E-learning Assistant to Website Administrator and from Society President to Student Mentor. QTemps job agency offers work suitable for current students and recent graduates, QMSU Volunteering facilitates volunteering and QM JobOnline hosts over 800 part time and full time job vacancies.

Read more about our careers programmes and range of work experience opportunities on the QM Careers pages.

Profiles

Gemma Golding - MSc Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (graduated 2017)

Now Assistant Ecologist at Atkins

I came to Queen Mary in 2016, having completed a BSc in Zoology at the University of Bristol, followed by a year working in an unrelated field at Imperial College London. I originally didn’t really consider postgraduate study as an option but missed the thrill of taking part in new research and learning about the natural world around us. My masters project used molecular techniques to identify the presence and evolutionary history of bacterial symbionts across a range of ant species, originating from all of the world. Ants are one of the most abundant and speciose organisms in the world. In comparison to other insects, very little is understood about any endosymbiotic relationships they exhibit, with only a few known examples of bacteriocyte-associated endosymbiont relationships. From the moment I arrived at Queen Mary, I felt at home and any worries about whether I had made the right decision to return to university immediately disappeared. While returning to study was ultimately to improve my employability in an area that I am passionate about, it gave me the freedom and ability to complete a much larger research project and get to know and learn from others working in the lab around me.

One of my best memories was a field trip to Borneo. We saw so many amazing animals, (including orangutans!), and really saw the effects deforestation has had on the landscape and wildlife first hand. The staff who went with us were absolutely amazing, making sure we all took as much from the experience as possible but making sure we had a great time too. After finishing at Queen Mary, I spent six months as a Seasonal Ecologist, assisting with the ecological surveying of great crested newt, water vole, bird, bat and barn owls, whilst volunteering one day a week at Rudiger Riesch's lab at Royal Holloway. I assisted a PhD student in processing fish data collected from Italy, Spain and Trinidad. This research looked at the circumstances influencing the predictability of phenotypic evolution in response to environmental variation. I then gained a full time role at Atkins, where I have further gained experience in Phase 1 habitat surveys and surveys for dormouse, badgers and reptiles in addition to more desk-based work. My time at Queen Mary really enabled me to meet great people, stretch my mind, find a career I enjoy and will always be a special place for me.

Samadi Galpayage MSc Ecology Evolutionary Biology (graduated 2016)

Now PhD student in Cognitive Ecology at Queen Mary University of London

I started my MSc in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Queen Mary in 2015 as a full-time student, just a couple of months after graduating with a BSc Biology from the University of Bristol. For me, the highlights of the taught modules of the course were the field trips and the opportunities to talk to both academics and relevant stakeholders outside of the university. I found the practical focus of the course appealing because I gained a deeper insight into how science is applied in the real world, such as carrying out ecological surveys to inform policies. Dedicating half of the academic year to do my own research project was extremely rewarding because I experienced a very steep learning curve, not only about my topic of interest, but also about being a good scientist. I learned about bee vision and behaviour and found myself training bees to compare their short-term memory to their long-term memory. I was surrounded by knowledgeable and friendly people that were always keen to discuss fascinating scientific questions or just to help out if I needed it. These experiences made me determined to advance my skills in scientific research and led me to do a PhD in cognitive ecology of bees. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as an MSc student at Queen Mary because I felt that the course provided a great opportunity to immerse myself in a field that I found fascinating, as well as to really develop as a person.

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