Animal Behaviour Applications for Conservation MSc

Postgraduate (12 months, 15 months full-time, part-time)


January, September

Course duration: 12 months full-time or 28 months part-time (September starts), 15 months full-time or 33 months part-time (January starts).

Apply online

Applications take just ten minutes


Gain an understanding of the application of animal behaviour to conservation, and develop the practical skills you need for a career in animal conservation. You'll train in the technologies and scientific methods used in animal behaviour research and how these can be applied to solve modern conservation problems.

Find out more about teaching options and studying during COVID-19 in the Entry requirements section, below.

Full description


Our graduates build successful careers in many roles including conservation biologist, scientist or curator at a zoo, conservation educator, ecotourism or environmental consultancy. A number of graduates also go on to study for a PhD. As a conservationist you can choose work with many organisations, from private companies to NGOs and government departments. You're also in the perfect position to continue your academic career and move up to our Animal and Environmental Sciences PhD.

Modules & assessment

Core modules

  • Technology and Techniques in the Study of Animal Behaviour
    New methods available for understanding animal behaviour can provide important insights that aid in understanding vulnerability, and help in the formulation of novel approaches to conservation. Students will develop confidence and autonomy in the selection and use of appropriate laboratory and field based methods for studying animal behaviour relevant to conservation initiatives in zoos and in the wild. As we aim to introduce students to the latest cutting edge technologies and techniques for studying animal behaviour, using leading expertise from inside and outside Anglia Ruskin University, the exact content of the module may differ from year to year.
  • Current Topics in Wildlife Conservation
    This advanced module in conservation aims to provide an awareness of the multi-disciplinary nature of conservation, and the socio-political dimensions of conservation problems and solutions. Topics will be updated from year to year but examples include the uses of environmental DNA in conservation, current issues in marine conservation and endangered species case studies. The module offers the opportunity to apply your understanding of conservation science to current issues at multiple spatial scales (global, European, national and local). This module is delivered largely through distance learning, coupled with regular research seminars at the Cambridge campus.
  • Behavioural Ecology and Conservation
    Consider how the behaviour of individual animals will affect the survival probabilities of the species in an increasingly human-altered landscape. An understanding of behaviour can be critical to conservation initiatives. For example, consider how ranging patterns of individuals can affect the success or failure of reserve design; how sex ratios and mating strategies can influence the outcome of a reintroduction; or how models of human harvesting behaviour can be used to predict patterns of wildlife exploitation.
  • Communication Skills for Conservation
    One of the biggest challenges that we face as scientists is being able to translate complex, sometimes uncertain information into language understandable to a range of audiences with little or no specialist knowledge. Communication is key, and as Albert Einstein himself once said, “If you can't explain something simply, you don't know enough about it”. As scientists or conservationists, if we want to reach our goal of educating the public or effecting societal change, we need to be able to convey information that engages our target audience. Using real conservation case studies and big datasets, you will analyse and summarise complex information and learn how to deal with uncertainty. Our teaching team will guide you on how to effectively communicate data to a range of audiences, from children and the general public to NGO’s and policymakers, using visual, verbal and written mediums in government reports and on social media.
  • Research Methods
    Gain support and foundations in the research skills needed for your Masters level dissertation. You’ll investigate research activities including project management, research project design and analyses, ethical considerations and dissertation preparation.
  • Research Project
    You now have the opportunity to select and explore in-depth, a topic that is of interest and relevant to your course in order to develop a significant level of expertise. You will: demonstrate your ability to generate significant and meaningful questions in relation to your specialism; undertake independent research using appropriate, recognised methods based on current theoretical research knowledge, critically understand method and its relationship to knowledge; develop a critical understanding of current knowledge in relation to the chosen subject and to critically analyse and evaluate information and data, which may be complex or contradictory, and draw meaningful and justifiable conclusions; develop the capability to expand or redefine existing knowledge, to develop new approaches to changing situations and/or develop new approaches to changing situations and contribute to the development of best practice; demonstrate an awareness of and to develop solutions to ethical dilemmas likely to arise in their research or professional practice; communicate these processes in a clear and elegant fashion, and evaluate your work from the perspective of an autonomous reflective learner.

Optional modules (subject to availability)

  • Practical Applications of DNA Based Technologies
    Increasingly, conservation genetics is central to strategies for protection of the most endangered species, and for designing programmes of captive breeding and the reintroduction of virtually extinct species to the wild. This is a laboratory-based module introducing students to various DNA-based technologies that have become pivotal in assessing the conservation status of endangered species. The module will develop a theoretical understanding of a range of DNA-based techniques and their applications. It will then train you in the practical skills necessary to conduct these techniques and analyse the data obtained with them.
  • Study Tour: Understanding Biodiversity and Sustainability
    Explore the issues central to wildlife conservation on an exciting residential field trip (often to Borneo, but this may vary). You’ll integrate an understanding of the natural world and ecological processes with current conservation problems, including their socio-political and ethical dimensions, in a practical context. Please note that this module includes a compulsory field trip. Please see the 'Additional costs' in the 'Fees and funding' section for more information
  • Animal Communication
    Animals communicate in many ways, from scent to touch, using visual displays and sounds. These signals can be physical or biological in terms of how they are produced or received. We will explore the cognitive underpinnings of animal communication and examine the processes animals use to convey information to others. We will see how the receivers can factor this into their decisions making and subsequent behaviour. You will explore fundamental questions in animal communications, such as how do signals evolve, how are they produced and which functions do they serve? Animal communication is a rapidly growing field of research in a variety of disciplines including animal behaviour, behavioural ecology, neurobiology and animal cognition. You will consider how an understanding of animal communication can impact on many aspects of animal behaviour, such as emotional expression, learning, and sexual behaviour. You will be exposed to tools and skills that will allow you to conduct independent research in this area - through lectures, practical demonstrations and exercises. We will consider the similarities and differences between animal and human communications as well as evaluating theories of language evolution. The experience gained in this module will support you in your future career goals, regardless of industry, giving you the ability to research a problem, think critically, and present your arguments.
  • Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare
    From pest control to captive breeding and the management of wild populations, you will apply your theoretical knowledge regarding the science of animal behaviour and show how behavioural theory and research can be applied to a range pf practical problems. You will apply your learning of behavioural research to both vertebrate and invertebrate husbandry. You will discuss the historical, philosophical and development of the science of animal welfare, including the variety of ethical approaches to the use of animals by humans varying purposes. There are a number of methods on how to assess animal welfare through animal behavioural and physiological indicators, and we will address these controversies and review specialist techniques. You will be taught by lectures and active learning sessions, with guest lectures from industry-relevant professionals (e.g. RSPCA, laboratory animal welfare organisations, companion animal specialists). The knowledge gained here will help to prepare you for careers in both animal-focused industries, and postgraduate scientific research. You will build your understanding of the application of the scientific study of animal behaviour and its relationship with other measures, particularly with respect to the evaluation of welfare, in a range of animal management scenarios. In addition, you will learn many relevant transferable skills such as critical thinking, IT, word processing, self-management and organisation skills.
  • Cognition Evolution and Behaviour
    How do animals learn? Can they count? Do they think like us? You will be taught an advanced knowledge and understanding of the study of animal cognition, combining ‘proximate’ and ‘ultimate’ perspectives. We will discuss two main topics: physical cognition, covering space, time, number, physical causation; and social cognition, including social knowledge, social learning and cooperation. Through a series of lectures and discussion sessions, you will develop key skills, such as critical evaluation and synthesis. You will learn how to approach your critical evaluation through breaking down concepts into their core components to see how each have an effect. You will then evaluate the evidence for specific cognitive abilities in nonhuman animals, involving development of a conceptual definition of that ability; identification of alternative explanations; critical evaluation of existing studies in the literature; and drawing conclusions about our current state of knowledge on that cognitive ability. This type of approach is relevant to most other fields of scientific research. The knowledge you will gain in this module will prepare you well for any career in pure or applied animal behaviour, including welfare and conservation.
  • Sustainable Land Management
    The way in which we manage our land has profound implications for biodiversity and ecosystem function. If you are interested in halting the degradation of our ecosystems and building a sustainable future, then this module is for you. Following on from your earlier learning, you will develop the practical and theoretical skills needed to evaluate the ecological impacts of land management practices. You will learn through a combination of lectures, field trips and computer workshops that will address the sustainability of current UK land management practices and teach you about the policies that influence nature conservation. Topics include national and international legislation, urbanisation, ecological restoration, agriculture, national parks, charity-led initiatives, and trade-offs in ecosystem service provision. You will also develop key skills relevant to those considering careers in ecological consultancy. In particular, you will learn how to conduct your own UK Habitat Classification Survey and prepare a report assessing the ecological impact of a proposed housing development. You will also critically evaluate and debate the environmental and social trade-offs associated with alternative land management practices. Guest speakers will provide first-hand insights into how different organisations (ecological consultancy firms, local councils, charities) influence land management and conservation.


Your work will be assessed in a range of ways to reflect the scope and aims of our course. These include written assignments such as scientific reports and essays, field-work, case studies, group work and presentations.

Where you'll study

Your faculty

The Faculty of Science & Engineering is one of the largest of the four faculties at Anglia Ruskin University. Whether you choose to study with us full-time or part-time, on campus or at a distance, there’s an option whatever your level – from a foundation degree, BSc, MSc, PhD or professional doctorate.

Whichever course you pick, you’ll gain the theory and practical skills needed to progress with confidence. Join us and you could find yourself learning in the very latest laboratories or on field trips or work placements with well-known and respected companies. You may even have the opportunity to study abroad.

Everything we do in the faculty has a singular purpose: to provide a world-class environment to create, share and advance knowledge in science, technology and engineering fields. This is key to all of our futures.

Where can I study?

Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK students starting 2021/22 (per year)


UK students starting 2021/22 (part-time, per year)


International students starting 2021/22 (per year)


International students starting 2021/22 (part-time, per year)


Important fee notes

The part-time course fee assumes that you're studying at half the rate of a full-time student (50% intensity). Course fees will be different if you study over a longer period. All fees are for guidance purposes only.

Additional costs

Walking boots - £60
Waterproof coat - £50
Wellingtons - £25
Waterproof trousers - £20
Poster printing - £20
Cost of printing dissertation/individual project

Additional field trip costs

Field trips that are a compulsory part of your course have no additional cost.

Optional residential field trips have an additional cost, these will be updated as it becomes clear what is possible in 2021/22 due to the current Covid-19 situation.

How do I pay my fees?

UK students

You can pay your fees upfront, in full or in instalments – though you won't need to pay until you've accepted an offer to study with us.

How to pay your fees directly

International students

You can pay your fees upfront, in full or in two instalments. We will also ask you for a deposit of £4,000 or a sponsorship letter. Details will be in your offer letter.

Paying your fees

Funding for postgraduate students

It’s important to decide how to fund your course before applying. Use our finance guide for postgraduate students to learn more about postgraduate loans and other funding options.

We offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships and bursaries, which provide extra financial support while you're at university.

International students

As well as a number of scholarships, we offer an early payment discount. Explore your options:

Entry requirements

Loading... Entry requirements are not currently available, please try again later.

Important additional notes

Whether you're studying entirely online or through a blend of face-to-face and online learning in September 2021, you'll need a computer and reliable internet access to successfully engage with your course. Before starting the course, we recommend that you check our technical requirements for online learning. Our website also has general information for new students about starting university in 2021-22.

Our published entry requirements are a guide only and our decision will be based on your overall suitability for the course as well as whether you meet the minimum entry requirements. Other equivalent qualifications may be accepted for entry to this course, please email for further information.

Teaching options

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our students can choose to study face to face on campus or online only. They're also able to change their mode of delivery on given dates in each trimester.

For on-campus teaching, we offer at least four hours face-to-face teaching related contact time per week for our undergraduate full-time courses, supported by online learning using our established online learning systems. The number of contact hours varies course by course, and you can contact us for further information. The provision offered is subject to change due to the possibility of further Government restrictions, however we remain committed to delivering face-to-face teaching and ensuring a safe and inclusive environment.

In the event that there are further changes to the current restrictions that are in place due to the pandemic, we may need to move some courses online only at short notice to remain in line with Government guidelines and ensure the continued safety of our students and staff.

International students

We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.

Whether you're studying entirely online or through a blend of face-to-face and online learning from September 2020, you'll need a computer and reliable internet access to successfully engage with your course. Before starting the course, we recommend that you check our technical requirements for online learning.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you'll need to make sure you meet our English language requirements for postgraduate courses.

Check the standard entry requirements for IELTS requirements for this course.

Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry.

We also provide our own English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) in the UK and overseas. To find out if we are planning to hold an ELPT in your country, contact our country managers.

Suggested courses that may interest you

Applied Wildlife Conservation

Full-time, part-time postgraduate (12 months, 15 months)


January, September


Full-time, part-time postgraduate ()




Full-time, part-time research ()


January, April, September

Get more information

UK & EU applicants

01245 68 68 68

Enquire online

International applicants

+44 1245 68 68 68

Enquire online