MSc in Ecological Applications
This full-time, one-year course provides broad training in the applications of ecological and evolutionary theory and skills to real world problems. The course is designed and taught in partnership with leading organisations in the field of ecological applications and conservation, including the CABI, Surrey Wildlife Trust, Thomson Ecology, and the British Trust for Ornithology. These close links to industry and non-governmental organisations will provide students with experience ideal in preparing for either a PhD or career in applied ecology and conservation. There is a strong emphasis on developing the practical, analytical and management skills required by public and private sector ecologists in a core framework of ecological theory.
The course is based at the Silwood Park campus, internationally renowned for ecological research, and notably integrates work with diverse external partner organisations. The course comprises lectures, practicals, computational courses, fieldwork, group workshops, and a long research project. Students will be encouraged to carry out their research project with an external partner organization, either in the UK or abroad, with support from supervisors at Silwood Park. The degree is awarded on the basis of written exams (30%), assessed coursework (20%) and the project (50%). The course is intended for graduates with a first degree which is equivalent to at least a second class honours in a biological, environmental or related science subject.
The taught course comprises a series of topical modules. We provide core training in fundamental ecology and evolution. This is supported by modules that address computing and analytical skills, whilst 50% of the modules have a strong applied theme. All taught components are compulsory and cover the following elements:
Fundamental Ecology and Evolution
Effective ecological management and conservation requires a strong evidence basis provided through theory and research. In a rapidly changing environment, a solid knowledge of ecological theory will enable broad application to developing issues. In particular, we deliver modules that focus on fundamental ecological science that is relevant to applied ecological or environmental issues: namely population and community ecology, biodiversity, and global change biology. Throughout the course modules will integrate core theory into lectures and discussion workshops.
Environmental Impact Assessment, Planning & Policy
Implementing policies that are aimed at conserving biodiversity or reducing environmental impacts of human activities requires good data as well as active engagement with local communities (or ‘stakeholders’). Practical Environmental Impact Assessment on this course is taught by a leading UK environmental consultancy, Thomson Ecology. Engagement with and the ability to inform, develop and apply policy are essential to successful ecological management. In a module delivered in collaboration with local government, students will prepare a policy document for a local planning issue and present their findings to local residents and their representatives.
This course puts a strong emphasis on working in the field and experiencing a wide range of practical skills that are actively sought by researchers and employer. There is an initial fieldcourse at the Silwood Park campus focused on designing field experiments. Four weeks of the taught course will be spent on fieldwork based at a National Nature Reserve (Chobham Common). Fieldwork each year will be guided by a local conservation organization, Surrey Wildlife Trust, which manages this reserve.
Microbiological skills are widely valued in the environmental sector. Microbial ecology is a strong research area at Silwood Park, with several groups specializing in this field. Students will learn current research techniques for understanding microbial diversity and functioning, this will include next generation sequencing of bacterial meta-genomes.
Biological control AND agroecology
Two modules in this course address important ecological and evolutionary issues in pest management and agroecosystems. We will address sustainable pest and weed management with modules on biological control. A module on agroecology covers mitigation of the environmental impacts of agriculture.
Data Management, Visualisation & Analysis Tools
Quantitative skills are essential for a career in ecology, and are highly valued by employers. In the first term the course provides an introduction to GIS, statistics, the R language and experimental design to enable students to begin developing these skills at an early stage and apply them to their own experimental designs and field data. This is followed by an extended statistical computing course in the second term designed to provide strong analytical skills that will be implemented in the independent research project.
Together, these modules cover many of the skills gaps in environmental sciences identified by the Natural Environment Research Council, including modeling, data management, fieldwork, taxonomy & systematics, microbiology, freshwater science, and tra nslating research into p ractice.
Each student completes a 22 week research project in applied ecology. Projects are around a month longer than typical for MSc degrees and receiving higher weighting in the final allocation of marks (50%). The projects are chosen by students to give practical experience of field-work, molecular lab work, experiments, and/or theory i n a specialty of their choice. Students are actively encouraged and supported to develop projects with external NGOs or industrial partners to provide them not only with research skills, but management and policy skills key to pursuing a career in applied ecology.
Term 1 (Oct-Dec)
Course induction; Field Ecology Skills, Computing and Analysis in R, GIS, Social context and policy, Ecology and Global Change, Environmental Microbiology, Biological Control and Integrated Pest Management
Term 2 (Jan – March)
Advanced topics in statistics, Agroecology, Environmental Impact Assessment, Field ecology and conservation miniproject at Chobham Common National Nature Reserve.
Term 3 (May - September)
Individual research project in academic lab or with research, industry or NGO partner organisation
Personal and Transferable Skills
Modeling, experimental design & statistics, fieldwork, policy & planning, laboratory skills, microbiology, freshwater science, translating research into practical applications, written and oral communication, independent research, team work.
Scheme of Examination
Taught course: Examinations contribute to 30% of the final mark, there is one 3-hour paper in January, and one open 3-hour paper in April. Coursework involving written work, oral presentations and computer based assessment makes up 20% of the final mark. Research project: 50% of the final mark.
The course is based at Silwood Park, an attractive postgraduate campus near the historic towns of Windsor and Ascot, one hour from central London. Silwood is at the forefront of international research on ecology, evolution and conservation biology and has a long history of research in insect pest management and applied population biology. The site has excellent scientific facilities plus unrivalled opportunities for fieldwork afforded by its extensive grounds. Students will be exposed to a world-class research environment, attend seminars by leading international researchers and be trained in state-of-the-art research techniques. We can offer accommodation on site to Masters students in reasonably priced single rooms. A limited number of shared flats are also available. The campus is entirely postgraduate, providing the opportunity for intensive supervision and support.
How to Apply
All applications to the programme must be made online through the Imperial College application site. You should read the application instructions carefully before submitting your application. If you are applying from overseas, please take note of any English requirements and the country by country guidance on which degree grades are equivalent to a UK second class honours.
For additional information please contact the Postgraduate Administrator; telephone +44 (0)20 7594 2251; email Mrs Amanda Ellis. For further information specific to this course please contact the Course Directors, Prof Tim Barraclough or Dr Lauren Cator.
Fees and funding
- "I think the MSc Ecological Applications provided me with a good set of skills which will be applicable in the next stage of my education as a PhD student. The interdisciplinary nature of the course was a major factor that made me choose the EA MSc. This has been very helpful for me and will probably continue to be in the near future. The course provided a taste of “real-life” scenarios such as dealing with a development appeal to a protected area and interactions with an ecological consultancy as well as cutting-edge research. In summary, a highly recommended course."
Luis, graduated Sept 2014
- "I decided to come to Imperial because it offered an ecology course that seemed to be structured in a way that I was looking for, with classes, field experience, and a project with lots of options. I also chose Imperial because it has a very good reputation and ranking among Universities. The variety provided by the Ecological Application course has provided me with experiences and knowledge that have allow me to focus my interests.
I really enjoyed Silwood because it acts as a community and a home while you are there. Everything you need is accessible, including the lecturers, library, gym, beautiful grounds for walking, residences, friends, computer lab, etc. It is a comforting place and a good environment for studying in general and especially for studying ecology."
Claire - graduated 2014