Forest The human race is entirely dependent on the ecosystems that feed us, regulate our environment and recycle our wastes. They provide all we need to survive and thrive. Over the past 100 years, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period in history. There have been net gains in human well-being and economic development, but these gains have been achieved at growing cost in the form of environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity and depletion of natural capital.

Many options exist to reverse ecosystem degradation, but an understanding of the ecological systems and science is just a starting point. Understanding how the science interacts with policies, institutions, and practices is vital to achieve real change.

The Environmental Resource Management* option is designed to provide students with a thorough understanding of how ecological principles can be applied to the management and conservation of natural resources and ecosystems, as well as practical skills and techniques.

Throughout the option emphasis is placed on how best to inform management and conservation decisions using tools that range from geographical mapping software and biodiversity appraisal to life cycle analysis. The important influence of institutional arrangements and economic forces on resource use and management decisions is also a key theme.

Practical applications of ecological, institutional and economic concepts are illustrated by case studies, practical sessions, seminars and workshops. These are augmented by field trips and frequent contact with outside organisations responsible for environmental management. The option draws on a wide range of speakers with first-hand experience of environmental and ecological management in both the developed and developing world.

 Students graduating from this option will be well placed to make informed decisions relating to real-world problems and able to identify and evaluate practical management options.

Further information

Aims and objectives


  • To equip students with the interdisciplinary knowledge and skills to embark on a career in natural resource management and to engage and interact with professionals in these disciplines.


  • To provide students from natural science, engineering, social science and other backgrounds with a broad understanding of issues, methods and underpinning philosophies in contemporary natural resource  and ecosystem management.
  • To produce graduates capable of combining the scientific, economic and policy aspects of resource management and conservation, so that they can draw conclusions of strategic significance for governments, companies and NGOs.

This course is particularly well-complemented by the Climate-KIC Added Value programme. Successful applicants onto our MSc, regardless of Option, can apply to attend the Journey summer school and work to develop innovative solutions to climate change problems with like-minded students from around Europe

(* Prior to 2015 this option was called Ecological Management)


Four main themes run through the option:

Theme 1: Understanding natural resource systems and human interactions

Explores renewable resource systems that are critical to human survival, ecosystem functioning and conservation. Focussing on specific examples we examine how these systems function and investigate the scientific, policy and practical issues involved in their management. Dedicated lectures and case studies include:

  • Tropical and temperate forestry & woodland  conservation and management; conservation of ancient woodlands
    • Fisheries management in Europe and developing countries
    • Sustainable agriculture and sustainable intensification, agri-environment schemes and managing farmland for wildlife
    • Conservation and management  of wildlife populations
    • Soil and water conservation and restoration
    • Bio-energy, sustainability assurance, and land use conflicts
    • Invasive species threats and responses

Theme 2: Management tools and applications

Introduces and provides practical experience of some of the key tools and techniques used by environmental management professionals. Applications of these tools include gathering data, structuring and analysing problems, and communicate insights. Dedicated sessions include:

  • The use of modelling to analyse environmental problems and systemsAn introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • Life Cycle Assessment and ecological foot printing
  • Participatory appraisal
  • Citizen science
  • Decision tools, expert systems and ecological risk assessment
  • Project design and management, and presentation skills and techniques
  • Practical sessions provide students with experience in the use of modelling to support decision making in complex resource management problems.

These tools can be used during the option in case-studies and course work and may also form the basis of thesis term projects.

Theme 3: Policy, Assessment and Law

Informing the design of better policy is the objective of a great deal of research in understanding ecosystem processes and responses.  Many conservation and resource management initiatives are also underpinned or impeded by legislation. This theme examines the interaction between policy processes, the legal system and conservation objectives. Key aspects of the national, European and international legal system and the role played by international law in the protection of the environment are identified.  Regulatory instruments including Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment are also examined. Aspects addressed by this theme include:

  • international treaties regulating the use and conservation of biological resources and wildlife
  • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) principles and applications
    • Evidence based policy techniques
    • Biodiversity assessment and offsetting

 Theme 4: Management in Practice

Based around the fieldtrips and case-studies provided by external speakers and ecological management professional, This theme provides an opportunity to engage with professional working in the field and better understand what happens when theory and ideology meets practical barriers and resource constraints. Not all professionals agree, or even think about problems in the same way. This is your opportunity to question them and find out why. Visits include forest management; farming and wildlife management, heathland management, ancient woodland and grazed pasture, ecosystem rehabilitation and wetland creation. Though these visits we explore the role of wildlife trusts in local conservation, the role of volunteers in managing sites of scientific interest, and the role of estate management in sustainable agriculture.


The Environmental Resource Management option  (formerly  called Ecological Management)  has been running since 1978 and has more than 480 Alumni that can be found throughout all levels of Government, Industry, International agencies, Consultancy and NGOs.

Graduates are excellently placed to gain employment in a wide range of organizations dealing with natural resources, conservation and international development. Over 80% of graduates gain employment in the environmental field within months of graduating.

Common destinations include consultancy, NGOs, international organisations and government, a few people each year also go on to further study. In the following list, we have tried to include a representative example of the current roles held by students who have graduated from the option in the last three years.

  • Operations Leader - Conservation Volunteers (a UK NGO)
  • Research Officer at Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
  • Senior Program Officer, Environment and Climate Change at International Council on Mining and Metals – ICMM
  • Project developer at Partnerships for Renewable Energy
  • R&D Consultant – Energy Management Systems – Total
  • Analyst, Deloitte Sustainability, Australia
  • Researcher at British Antarctic Survey
  • PhD Student - ETH Zurich
  • Programme Officer, Business and Biodiversity at UNEP-WCMC
  • Waste and Environmental Consultant – AECOM
  • Environmental Scientist – Cascade consulting
  • Carbon monitoring officer – a London borough council