The course comprises a series of compulsory modules covering the fundamental concepts and applications of ecological theory:
- Fundamental ecology and evolutionary biology
- Field courses in ecological survey skills and experimental design
- Ecological planning and policy
- Environmental microbiology
- Environmental impact assessment
- Biological control of pests and weeds
- Population biology and management
- Resistance management and applied evolution
- Quantitative skills for ecologists
- Global change biology
You will also undertake an individual research project (22 weeks) in applied ecology.
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. 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, agroecology and resistance management
Three 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 and the evolution of resistance to pesticides. 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.