MSc in Plant and Fungal Taxonomy, Diversity and Conservation

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

MSc talk Credit: David Rabehevitra/RBG Kew

This MSc is a partnership between Queen Mary University of London and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and 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 provides 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. 

Graduates of this MSc develop the knowledge and skills to conduct 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 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.

Three of the taught modules are delivered at Kew, in west London and two at QMUL at Mile End Campus, east London. The final taught module occurs in the humid tropical forests of Madagascar.

Students can decide where to complete their six-month research project. In addition, students will have access to Kew’s extensive collections including the Herbarium and Fungarium, as well as the research expertise at Kew. Over 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. 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 

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

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 Evolutionary Biology

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 will spend two weeks in a humid tropical forest learning key fieldwork skills. Training is provided by Kew's fieldwork experts as well as scientists from the Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre (KMCC).

Working in groups, students learn how to conduct full botanical and mycological surveys, and explore local conservation challenges. Working with local guides and botanists, students gain real-life experience of conducting research in one of the world's most diverse and unique biomes.

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.

Students should expect to undertake physically demanding fieldwork in remote locations. We reserve the right to change the location of the fieldwork module in exceptional circumstances. 

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), with the opportunity for fieldwork both in the UK and further afield.

Laboratory facilities are available at each of the locations, including Queen Mary's supercomputing and informatics resources. Most students choose to complete their research project at Kew. 

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

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: Andrew Leitch from QMUL 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. 

For further information about the course and how to apply, visit the QMUL website

You can also contact the Postgraduate Admissions Office, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London 

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 3328 

Explore more