MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation

Develop essential skills in conservation and restoration of biodiverse plant habitats, and conduct research across the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems.

Two researchers in the woodland at Wakehurst surrounded by bluebells, working with cameras and a computer

Join Kew and Queen Mary University of London on a new and exciting MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation, where you will learn the fundamental science and practical application to restoring and maintaining natural habitats.

Kew scientists contribute to two streams of activity in the MSc Biodiversity and Conservation, one with focus in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, and the second in Conservation and Restoration.

In the second of these streams, student activity, supervision and teaching is focused at Kew, where students will have most access to its facilities, collections, databases, global networks and staff expertise.

Students on this MSc programme will become experts in biodiversity science, including the factors affecting biodiversity and solutions to stopping biodiversity loss.

From global to local, students will learn how to collect and utilise data to inform understanding, alongside the methods and techniques to conduct in-situ and ex-situ conservation.

A six-month research project, supervised by a Kew scientist, allows students to explore a research challenge to inform and support conservation practices.

This MSc stream provides students with applied skills in conservation and restoration, focussing on terrestrial plant habitats.

Graduates of this MSc are well equipped for the workplace, ideally suited for roles with environmental NGOs, government bodies, ecological consultancies, conservation charities, botanic gardens, independent research organisations and universities.

Course structure

The course is delivered by scientists from both RBG Kew and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), and is a mixture of taught modules and a six-month research project.

Around half of the modules are delivered at Kew, in west London and the other half at QMUL at Mile End Campus, east London.

One module occurs in a tropically biodiverse country where students get to experience conservation in action.

As part of their six-month research project, students will have access to Kew’s extensive collections including the Herbarium and Millennium Seed Bank, as well as the research expertise of Kew’s 350 science staff.

Many students select projects that involve field work, which may take place in the UK or further afield. Overall, around 80 per cent of a student's time is typically spent at Kew. 

The course structure comprises: five taught modules and a field study module.

Together, these form 50 per cent of the final grade; an individual research project forms the remaining 50 per cent of the final grade.

Students will be assessed on coursework throughout the year, and on their final year project. 

The five modules are taught in two-week blocks with a subsequent week’s study break for independent learning and assessment. 

Research Frontiers in Conservation, Biodiversity and Evolution

It’s important for researchers to be able to critically assess research and to develop their own research questions.

This introductory module teaches key knowledge in the area of conservation, biodiversity and evolution, and looks at cutting-edge research in these areas.

Key skills in writing and research are also taught, where students will learn to ask relevant questions, and design approaches to seek answers to those questions.

Statistics and data analysis

Essential training in experimental design, data handling and data analyses in a context appropriate for biodiversity and conservation science.

The module focuses on how to select the appropriate method of analysis, how to analyse data using the statistical programming language R, and how to interpret the output of that analysis. 

Biodiversity Loss: Challenges and Solutions

Students will study the direct and applied aspects of biodiversity loss and its mitigation across a range of ecosystems. 

First, examining the reasons behind biodiversity loss, from the global to the local scale, students study some of the causes in detail including climate change, land use change, pollution and the impacts of non-native species.

Approaches to assessing quality of biodiversity data and measuring biodiversity loss will be covered including relevance of fieldwork survey and experimentation. 

Later in the module, students will examine the challenges facing science and policy development through a series of topical case studies.

Biodiversity Survey and Spatial Analysis

Students will learn how to collect and work with genetic, geographical and biodiversity record data and how to draw conclusions about species distributions, status, and potential conservation approaches. 

Students will learn the main approaches to vegetation surveying and securing good quality data on which to base analysis of species distribution and status.  

Following this, the importance of conservation genetics examines, through case studies, how genetic diversity information can inform conservation decisions.  

Finally, students receive training in the requirements for assessing extinction threat in plants and animals.

The work includes preparing a conservation report and a preliminary red list assessment for one species. This is a professional competency using IUCN endorsed materials and approaches.

Conservation, Recovery and Restoration

Here students will learn the latest approaches to preserving plant diversity, the recovery of priority species, and restoration of habitats using UK and overseas case examples.  

Student’s will learn about the practice of seed banking and cryopreservation, focussing on the use of ecological horticulture for species reintroduction and recovery.    

Students will go on to examine the opportunities and approaches for restoring functional biodiverse habitats that will be resilient to climate change and will contribute to livelihoods and natural capital values.  

Field Study Skills in a Biodiversity Hotspot

Students will spend two weeks in a humid tropical forest learning key fieldwork skills, and how to put these to use through conservation projects. 

Working in groups, students learn how to conduct full botanical surveys. Working with local guides and botanists, students gain real-life experience of understanding species diversity in one of the world's most diverse and unique biomes.

In-country conservation projects are examined and explored to understand how to develop successful conservation projects overseas.

Students will have the opportunity to learn about the political and social aspects of setting up conservation projects, as well as how to develop partnerships and collaborations.

Gaining local knowledge and community support in the practicalities of land management and horticulture will be explored.  

Individual research project

Projects can be based at Kew, Queen Mary University of London or Wakehurst in Sussex (home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank).

Each year there are opportunities for national and international fieldwork, as well as the use of Kew’s collections, gardens, landscapes and laboratory facilities at both Kew and Queen Mary.

Most students choose to complete their research project at Kew. 

As the majority of the course is taught at Kew, it is more appropriate for students to live around Kew Gardens in West London.

Two co-directors are responsible for the structure and content of the course Chris Eizaguirre and Richard Gianfrancesco from RBG Kew.

If you have any questions about the MSc content or structure please contact them. 

QMUL logo

How to apply

The degree is awarded by QMUL and all applications are conducted through QMUL. 

Applications are now open: for more details and to apply to the course, visit the QMUL course webpage.