The objective of this MRes is to provide a cutting-edge interdisciplinary programme that attracts and trains to a high level the best students from around the world, who are interested to pursue a research career in tropical forest ecology.

The aim is to provide students with high-level research training in the latest developments in tropical forest ecology, covering the physical and biological aspects of the forest ecosystem and with an emphasis on understanding the linkages between these two components. This will best prepare students for a career in tropical forest ecology research and possible PhD studies.

This MRes involves a taught field course in Malaysia, and it is anticipated that students will work in a wide range of additional tropical nations for their project work. The field course will provide an opportunity for students to interact with Malaysian and international students and lecturers conducting research at the Maliau Basin Field Centre and working on one of the world’s largest ecological experiments, the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) Project.  Training on the field course will include working collaboratively with researchers at the SAFE Project, directly embedding you in an active global network of more than 150 researchers.

External projects will further expose you to tropical forest research in an international context. We strongly encourage students to seek out international partners to work with on their projects; ensuring project work has direct relevance to national and international needs in this discipline.

Importance and relevance of the course

This course is the only postgraduate programme within the UK that focuses solely on tropical forest ecology. This programme forms part of the Grand Challenges in Ecosystems and the Environment Initiative (GCEE). The GCEE is a global hub for addressing key environmental challenges for humanity, carrying out internationally excellent science with a focus on finding solutions to these challenges in a collaborative manner, and acting as an interface between science, practitioners and policy makers.

A key objective of the GCEE initiative is to train the next generation of scientists equipped to carry out the research required to address the grand challenges we have identified. This MRes will provide students with the theoretical background and practical skills to tackle these challenges in tropical forest environments.

This programme is embedded within the GCEE initiative that promotes interdisciplinary research and partnerships, bringing together natural scientists, engineers, mathematicians, medics, economists and social scientists.

In addition the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) identified a set of 15 ‘Postgraduate and Professional Skills Needs in the Environment Sector’, termed critical skills gaps. This MRes programme will give you training explicitly designed to address eight of these 15 gaps:

  • Modelling (incl. physical systems and GIS)
  • Multi-disciplinarity (incl. experience working in multi-disciplinary teams)
  • Data management (incl. data protocols and assimilation)
  • Numeracy (incl. statistical methods)
  • Fieldwork (incl. sampling techniques, protocols and survey skills)
  • Taxonomy and Systematics (incl. identification skills and links with ecological functions)
  • Soil Science (incl. soil carbon monitoring)
  • Freshwater Science (incl. physical and biological aspects).

Students at workWe have talked to potential employers about the rationale behind the MRes Tropical Forest Ecology programme and its training aspirations. The response has been positive, and our programme design comes from this (such as the longer project period, the development of a range of interdisciplinary skills, and the emphasis on both technical and transferable/communications skills).

The taught aspect of this course is based at Silwood Park, a postgraduate campus of Imperial College located 25 miles west of London set in 100ha of parkland. Perks of studying here can be viewed here.

The programme aims/objectives are to provide:

  • A thorough understanding of a range of theoretical and practical aspects of interdisciplinary research in tropical forest ecology
  • A thorough understanding of a range of modern field techniques used in tropical forest ecology
  • An ability to design an appropriate research plan to answer a particular science question
  • An ability to generate and interpret ecological data of various kinds
  • A sophisticated approach to designing scientific data collection to test ecological theory
  • Training in all aspects of scientific communication, including writing scientific manuscripts and preparing them for submission, dealing with reviewer comments, communicating results in scientific conferences and to the general public
  • A broad appreciation of the scientific opportunities within Imperial College as a whole
  • ·A range of transferable skills

More information

Course structure

The course involves three months of full time teaching, a three week field course in Sabah, Malaysia and a 30 week independent research project.

Taught element

  • Statistics and Programming in R
  • Experimental design and advanced statistics
  • Environmental data and Geographic Information Systems
  • Scientific writing and science communication
  • Forests as linked ecological systems
  • Understanding and modelling climate systems
  • Understanding and modelling hydrological systems
  • Understanding and modelling biogeochemical systems
  • Understanding and modelling biodiversity
  • Understanding and modelling metabolic ecology
  • Field skills: sampling methods and taxonomy
  • Field skills: hydrological measurements
  • Field skills: meteorological measurements
  • Field skills: biogeochemical measurements
  • Field skills: community ecology

See MRes Tropical Forest Ecology modules (pdf) .

Additionally, MRes students are able to attend many transferable skills courses.  Courses likely to be particularly useful for our students include the following:

  • Academic Writing
  • Note Taking and Efficient Reading
  • Preparing and Writing a Literature Review
  • Presentation Skills
  • Public Speaking
  • Research Ethics
  • Research Skills and Reference Management
  • Time Management
  • Information Posters – Layout and Design
  • Interview Skills
  • Job Search with a Difference
  • Stepping Up: Master’s to PhD


This course is an MRes, meaning there is no formal written examination.  Assessment is by coursework (40 %) and by dissertation (60 %).  Coursework may include components such as writing grant proposals, developing a product for scientific communication (including written, audio and video formats), and assessment during the field course will involve a taxonomy test and compile short reports.

The dissertation, or project, element will be assessed for its scientific quality as a publishable research paper and for your ability to communicate the message emerging from your research. We expect a high proportion of dissertations to be of sufficient quality to allow them to be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals at the end of the course.

Who should apply?

StudentThe programme would be ideal training for students who want to pursue a career in academic, governmental or non-governmental organisations engaged in research into tropical forest ecology, biodiversity and conservation. In these sectors employers are increasingly looking for students with real-world experience of projects, relevant research and a solid grounding in a range of academic, professional and transferable skills, which this programme will be able to offer.

Academic requirements

The minimum qualification for admission is normally an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) degree in a science-based subject (biology, ecology, physics, engineering, geography) from an UK academic institution or an equivalent overseas qualification.

If your first degree is from a country other than the UK, you may find the guidelines within our Country Index helpful. Please note that these guidelines indicate the College minimum. Our requirement is usually higher.

Extensive relevant work experience with a lower degree will be considered in special cases.

The College also has a minimum English language requirement for postgraduate study;  see more details.

If you are in doubt about your eligibility, then do either make an enquiry or apply!

How to apply

 Applications for the programme must be made online through the Imperial College appliation site. You should read the application instructions carefully before submitting your application.

For additional information please contact the Postgraduate Administrator; telephone +44 (0)20 7594 2251; or email Mrs Amanda Ellis (

For further information on the course please contact Dr Robert Ewers (


  • UK/EU: £12,800
  • Overseas: £25,600

Fees are inclusive of all field course expenses including flights and accommodation. Fees may also contribute to the costs of fieldwork and overseas project placements.


Read some information on accommodation at Silwood Park.