MSc in Plant and Fungal Taxonomy, Diversity and Conservation

Gain in-depth understanding of plant and fungal taxonomy and diversity alongside evolutionary biology and conservation theory and practice.

Plant and Fungal Taxonomy, Diversity and Conservation 

Our MSc is designed for biology graduates or graduates of other relevant natural science degrees. We will also consider applicants with relevant professional experience in science. 

This one-year, full-time course will provide you with an in-depth understanding of plant and fungal taxonomy and diversity, along with a thorough grounding in molecular systematics, evolutionary biology and conservation policy, theory and practice. 

After graduating with our MSc, you will have the knowledge and skills for PhD training in any area of taxonomy, molecular systematics, ecology, evolution, or more applied conservation work. The cross-disciplinary skills acquired during the course also open up career opportunities in academia, government, industry, consultancy, public engagement and non-governmental organisations.

Course structure

The course is run by RBG Kew in collaboration with Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). Three of the teaching modules are held at Kew, in west London, two at QMUL at Mile End Campus, east London. In addition, you will have access to Kew’s extensive Herbarium and Fungarium, as well as the research expertise at Kew. Over 80 per cent of your time will be 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. You will be assessed on coursework throughout the year, and on your final year project. 

The five modules are taught in two-week blocks with a subsequent week’s study break for independent learning. They follow a logical progression through the subjects. 

Plant Taxonomy and Diversity. Global plant diversity, with a particular focus on flowering plants

Topics will range from taxonomic principles and methodology, plant systematics and comparative biology (including morphology, chemistry and genomics), phylogenetics, biogeography and evolution. Taught at Kew. 

Fungal Taxonomy and Diversity. Fungal diversity, taxonomy and conservation

An overview of the systematics and taxonomy of major fungal groups, with an evolutionary perspective. It will also cover basic concepts in mycology, field collecting and culturing, and fungarium techniques. Fungal ecology, biogeography and evolutionary genomics will be explored. Taught at Kew. 

Statistics and Bioinformatics

Essential training in experimental design, data handling and data analyses in a context appropriate for environmental and evolutionary biology. 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. Taught at QMUL. 

Research Frontiers in Evolution 

Topics include: gene trees versus species trees, phylogenomics, neutral versus selective forces, molecular convergence, the origin of angiosperms, the evolution of sociality, the significance of whole genome duplication and hybridisation. You will learn to ask relevant questions, and design approaches to seeking answers to those questions. Taught at QMUL. 

Conservation and Ecosystem Science

The role and application of plant and fungal science in integrated conservation and management of biodiversity; the delivery of ecosystem services and livelihoods; and the development of mechanisms for their maintenance and restoration in the context of a changing planet. An introduction to: policy development, species and habitat prioritisation, protected area management, conservation genetics, ecosystem service research, seed banking and propagation. Taught at Kew. 

Field Study Skills in a Biodiversity Hotspot

Students should expect to undertake physically demanding fieldwork in remote locations. The current location for the fieldwork module is Madagascar. 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 part of the course. We reserve the right to change the location of the fieldwork module in exceptional circumstances. Taught by botanists from Kew, the Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre (KMCC) and local researchers. 

Individual research project

This enables students to focus on an area that interests them, with the Kew's vast scientific collections available for investigative research. Projects can be based at Kew, Queen Mary University of London or Wakehurst in Sussex (home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank), depending on the area of specialism. Laboratory facilities are available at each of the locations, including Queen Mary's supercomputing and informatics resources. Most students complete their research project at Kew. 

For full details see the Kew MSc Programme Student Handbook and reading list

Two co-directors are responsible for the structure and content of the course: Andrew Leitch from QMUL and Richard Gianfrancesco from RBG Kew. If you have any questions about the MSc content or structure please contact them. 

How to apply 

The course starts each September and applications are now being accepted for the 2019/2020 academic year. 

To apply, contact Queen Mary University of London.
Postgraduate Admissions Office, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London 

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 3328 

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A number of bursaries are available for students accepted to study on our MSc.

Find out about bursaries

Student case studies

Meet two of our postgraduate students who share their experiences.

Meet previous students