BSc single honours Ecology 2020/21

Year of entry

This course places a particular emphasis on developing your field skills, and you will have the opportunity to gain practical experience, spending a minimum of 30 days in field-based study or experimentation. You will be encouraged to interact and work with a range of employers in the field, including: The Environment Agency, Natural England, Kent Wildlife Trust, The Aspinall Foundation, and Wildwood.

Ecology encompasses the study of organisms and their interactions with the environment, and as such, has implications for many aspects of human society and development as we tackle major global issues.

You will explore areas including:

  • animal ecology
  • plant ecology
  • molecular ecology
  • conservation biology

Our Ecology degree takes an interdisciplinary approach and incorporates applied modules designed to increase practical skills with modules giving you vital background theory. Our aim is to enable you to work as a thinking, flexible, modern ecologist. You will be trained to explore important aspects of ecology, population genetics, the ecology of animal behaviour and other biological disciplines while also learning how they relate to geology, landscape as well as local and global ecosystems.

The course is actively supported by the University’s Ecology Research Group (ERG). This research group offers you opportunities to collaborate with lecturers on their research from the very start of your undergraduate career. The ERG has close links with environmental organisations, including Natural England, the Environment Agency and Kent Wildlife Trust, creating opportunities for you to network and speak with professionals about employment and career advice. You can even apply for Associate membership of the ERG, subject to completion of a set programme of research training.

As you progress through the course, you will have the opportunity to hone your skills in conducting independent research, analysing data statistically and presenting them effectively in writing and in oral presentations.

You will study topics relating to how living things interact with each other and their environment (their ecology), how these interactions are shaped and determined by local and global environmental factors and how this affects our efforts to preserve and protect species of conservation interest.

You will learn practical skills in the field and in the laboratory that are required for surveying, identifying and assessing environments and the organisms living within them.

Core modules 

In line with good practice, module content is regularly updated and module titles may on occasion change to reflect updated content in the advances in the field of study.

Year 1

Biochemistry (20 credits)

The aim of this module is to introduce the basic concepts and chemical foundations of biochemistry and cell biology to develop an understanding of structure and function at the molecular level. This module prepares students for further study in more advanced cell and molecular modules.

Diversity of Life (20 credits)

This module aims to equip students with a fundamental understanding of evolutionary relationships between living things, their shared evolutionary history and the physiological and anatomical features that groups of organisms have in common. The module also aims to develop skills in identification of organisms and the use of dichotomous keys.

Genetics and Evolution (20 credits)

This module aims to give students the necessary background in genetics and evolutionary biology, providing broad knowledge of Mendelian genetics and the mechanisms of evolution which are essential for the study of biological and environmental sciences.

Introduction to Ecology (20 credits)

The module aims to develop student’s field skills and introduce a range of ecological sampling methods while developing a student’s wider appreciation an understanding of a range of different ecosystems.

Science Skills and Introduction to Statistics (20 credits)

This module aims to develop the necessary background in science communication, skills and methods essential for the study of biological sciences. This module will also provide the background knowledge required for the Level 5 Data Handling module.

Soil Science and Plant Nutrition (20 credits)

The aim of this module is to introduce the basic concepts of soil science, focussing on the physical properties of soil, the fundamentals of soil chemistry and hydrology, and the way in which soils and plants are inextricably interlinked.  This module prepares students for further study in more advanced aspects of soil science, plant physiology and land management.

Year 2

Animal Behavioural Ecology (20 credits)

The module aims to introduce students to the ecological side of animal behaviour.  The students will learn about the main influences on behaviour and how these can influence animal behaviour at an individual, group and species level. Students will be able to use the content of this course to design and carry out animal behaviour studies in an ecological context.

Chemistry of the Environment (20 credits)

The module aims to provide students with an understanding of the fundamental theoretical concepts and practical applications of environmental chemistry.  The students are introduced to the chemistry underlying the aquatic, terrestrial and atmospheric environments. It will also aim to make the students familiar with some of the different chemical analytical methods that can be used in the monitoring of these environments and to encourage a critical approach to these methods. In addition to becoming familiar with the natural chemical processes in soil, water and air, the students will also be encouraged to critically analyze and discuss environmental issues, such as smog, acid rain, global warming, ozone depletion and water pollution.

Data Handling (20 credits)

This module aims to develop the techniques necessary to handle quantitative biological data analysis and introduce the beginnings of bioinformatics. Central to the first aim will be introducing the powerful statistical programming language, R. This “programming” language is critical to current approaches to handling/analysing data, particularly “big data”. The module will also introduce critical biological sequence analysis techniques that form the foundation of the more complex bioinformatics techniques and knowledge (much of which will be introduced in the level 6 Bioinformatics 1 and Bioinformatics 2 modules). The module will also conclude with a brief session introducing R as a potential bioinformatics tool. This module will enable students to become comfortable with the console-based software and to use it for their statistical and data display needs.

Plants in the Environment (20 credits)

The aim of this module is to build upon the basic concepts of plant science from level 4, considering how plants differ in space and time and how plant communities are managed. Students will have the opportunity to study natural and agricultural systems in the field during the five-day field course section of the module. The module allows students to apply a cross-disciplinary approach to the management of problems in the area of plant ecology. The strong fieldwork element also gives them practical skills that can be used throughout their undergraduate studies and beyond.

Year 3

Conservation Biology (20 credits)

The aim of this module is to further develop and deepen the students understanding of ecology and its utility as an aid to plant and animal conservation. The module aims to enable students to develop a deep understanding of the issues, techniques and legislation concerned with conserving plant and animal species.

Current Science Issues (20 credits)

This module aims to develop a student’s wider understanding of how science impacts and affects society. Students develop their independent research and analysis skills as they critique important science issues.

Honours Project (20 credits)

This module allows students to undertake a piece of commercially/socially relevant research in the field of Ecology. Students are required to identify an area of research directly relevant to the field of Ecology and design and undertake appropriate field based experiments evidencing a minimum of 10 days field work. The module aims to give students experience of independent research, analysis and experience of presenting findings in two styles: a written scientific paper and a presented poster to a non-specialist audience.

Molecular Ecology (20 credits)

The aim of this module is to develop a conceptual and systematic understanding of molecular ecology as a multidisciplinary research area, as well as its applications, bringing together concepts and techniques from molecular biology, genetics/genomics, population and evolutionary genetics, behavioural ecology, conservation biology, taxonomy and systematics.

Likely optional modules

Year 2

Options are subject to availability and may change. The work placement module is offered based on suitable work placement being available and the student being accepted by the employer offering the placement.  

Animal Pests and Diseases (20 credits)

This module will encourage students to develop the necessary knowledge to enable them to make reasoned arguments on current issues in the field of animal pests, parasites and pathogens.  It will develop a holistic view of the relationship between pests, parasites and pathogens, their target host species and their environments.  It will also cultivate an understanding that human needs and activities can have a profound effect upon the prevalence and evolution of virulence in pests, parasites and pathogens.

Plant Pests and Pathogens (20 credits)

This module enables students to develop a knowledge of common important plant pests and diseases, their effects on plant growth and yield, and how to recognise them in the field. The module also aims develop the ability of students to analyse and interpret published data through student led discussions about specific pests and diseases and their control.

Work Placement (20 credits)

This module provides students with the opportunity to develop key skills and experience while working in a commercial environment. Students develop critical reflection skills as they review their own competencies and development 

Year 3

Options are subject to availability and may change

Animal Health and Husbandry (20 credits)

The aims of the module are to explore the importance of animals in society and the scientific background to animal health and welfare issues, including nutrition, good husbandry, pain perception, the ability of animals to cope with their environments and the physiological and behavioural aspects of health and welfare. It further develops an objective and questioning approach to the evaluation of health and welfare issues.

Animal Reproduction and Development (20 credits)

This module aims to provide students with an understanding of both reproductive and parental strategies, and the various stages of embryogenesis in a range of vertebrate and invertebrate organisms.

The Ecology course prepares you for a diverse range of careers in environmental conservation organisations, such as the RSPB and Natural England; for careers in environmental and ecological consultancy or for work with government environmental agencies. The course also provides you with the necessary skills and knowledge to go into further study toward a postgraduate degree (MSc, PhD) and a research career in ecology, conservation and environmental sciences.


Tuition Fees for 2020/21 have not yet been finalised. Course webpages will be updated with Tuition Fee information once these have been agreed.

Additional course costs

Although we aim to minimise any additional costs to students over and above the course tuition fee, there will be some additional costs which students are expected to meet.

Costs applicable to all students

Text books Own purchase text books
Travel to other sites Where travel to other sites is required, this will be payable by the student
Library Fees and Fines Where students fail to return loaned items within the required time they will be responsible for the cost of any Library Fees and Fines applicable
Printing & Photocopying The cost of printing and photocopying undertaken by students to support their individual learning are payable by the student
Graduation ceremonies It is free for the student to attend the ceremony itself. Guest tickets and robe hire / photography are additional costs payable by the student
All residential field trips that are part of your course are paid for as part of your course fee. We do offer non-compulsory extra-curricular trips to India and Iceland that do incur a fee.

General principle policy

The University’s general principles policy for additional course fees are set out here

CategoryIncluded in the tuition feeAdditional cost to student
Field trips (including trips abroad and trips to museums, theatres, workshops etc) No, if the trip contributes to the course as an optional module. Yes if the trip is optional.
Travel and accommodation costs for placements  No

Travel and accommodation costs for professional placements within the Education and Health & Wellbeing Faculties.

Travel and accommodation costs for other work placements. 
Text books No Own purchase text books.
DBS / Health checks No Yes
Professional Body registration No Yes
Travel to other sites (e.g. travel to swimming pool for lessons) No Yes
Clothing / Kit Yes, where the clothing / kit is essential for Health & Safety reasons. Yes, where the clothing is kept by the student and not essential for health and safety reasons.
Learning materials Essential learning materials (excluding text books) in connection with the course. Additional materials beyond the standard provision essential for the course or where the costs are determined by the student’s area of interest and the outputs are retained by the student.
Library fees and fines No Yes
Printing and photocopying No Yes
Social events No, unless the event forms an essential part of the course. Yes, unless the event forms an essential part of the course.
Graduation ceremonies It is free for the student to attend the ceremony itself. Guest tickets and robe hire/ photography are additional costs payable by the student.


You will be taught through a combination of lectures, laboratory practicals, field trips, visits to employers, seminars, invited speakers and practical workshops. At level 4 you typically have 18 contact hours per week.  The emphasis is on developing independent learners and learning by student experimentation and observation. At level 4 two thirds of each module is delivered as practical experimentation either in laboratories, IT labs or in the field. These sessions are supplemented by lectures, and seminars/workshops in which you feedback from your structured independent study. By level 5 laboratory and field based experimentation is complemented by analysis of published research and by level 6 the emphasis is on learning being driven by student led workshops discussing published research papers. All teaching material is posted on the internal VLE Blackboard. Learning is supplemented at all levels by tutorial sessions with an individual personal tutor and small group seminars (I2 sessions) which are requested by students to address specific topics.  All programmes are informed by the University’s Learning and Teaching Strategy 2015-2020.  Your actual contact hours depend on the option modules you select.

Independent learning

When not attending lectures, seminars, workshops or other timetabled sessions you will continue learning through self-study.  Typically, this involves reading journal articles and books, undertaking research in the library, working on projects, and preparing for coursework assignments/examinations, workshops and seminars.  Your module director will direct you towards specific readings and/or activities to complete before class through the VLE blackboard.

For the 40 credit individual study at level 6 you will undertake independent research. You will work under the supervision of a member of the programme team. You will meet with your supervisor regularly.

Overall workload

Each 20 credit module requires 200 hours of study which comprises of formal contact (lectures, practicals, tutorials, workshops), structured independent learning (prescribed reading and/or online exercises) and independent learning. Each module at foundation level and level 4 has 60 hours of formal contact, supplemented with 40 hours of structured independent learning. As students develop and become more independent formal contact and structured learning reduces to 50 hours of contact and 30 hours of structured independent learning at level 5, and 40 hours of contact and 20 hours of structured independent learning at level 6.

Academic input

The team consists of highly qualified academics. They have a range of expertise and experience.

All our core team members hold doctoral qualifications and most hold or are working toward postgraduate teaching qualifications. They are research-active and encourage students to become involved in their research. They have experience in delivering research-informed teaching. You can find out more about the current teaching on our Meet the Team webpage. You should note members of the teaching team might change.

Postgraduate students sometimes assist in teaching and assessing some modules. However, experienced academics teach the vast majority of lectures and seminars.


Assessment is by both coursework and examination. The course provides you with opportunities to test your understanding of the subject informally before you complete the formal assessments that count towards your final mark. Each year you will be set formative assignments to go through with your tutor.  There will also be 'formative' assessment within some of the modules.  Practice assessments are developmental and any grades you receive for them do not count towards your module mark.

There are also formal or 'summative' assessments.  Assessment methods include written examinations and a range of coursework assessments such as essays, reports, portfolios, performance, presentations and your final year individual study project.  The grades from formal assessments count towards your module mark.

Coursework assessments permit you to develop key scientific and transferable skills and assignments include: scientific lab/log books, written reports, written scientific papers, discursive essays, PowerPoint presentations and poster presentations. There is a maximum of two assessments per 20 credit module studied.

Percentage of the course assessed by coursework

The balance of assessment by examination and assessment by coursework depends to some extent on the optional modules you choose. The approximate percentage of the course assessed by coursework and exams is as follows:

Level 4

60 per cent coursework 40 per cent written exams

Level 5

50 per cent coursework 50 per cent written exams

Level 6

65 per cent coursework 35 per cent written exams


You will receive feedback on all practice assessments and on formal assessments undertaken by coursework. Feedback on examination performance is available upon request from the module leader. Feedback is intended to help you learn and you are encouraged to discuss it with your module tutor.  We aim to provide you with feedback within 15 working days of hand-in.

You will often be able to use modern, research­ grade equipment during taught modules and for your individual research on your dissertation project. 

The Ecology course was developed and continues to be enhanced by speaking to employers and other stakeholder partners. We have established numerous links with local and regional wildlife parks and organisations e.g. Wildwood, Howletts, Aspinall Foundation, The Powell-Cotton Museum, Natural England, Kent Wildlife Trust. They either collaborate with our researchers or provide opportunities for research projects for our students.

The Life Sciences Industry Liaison Lab at Discovery Park in Sandwich, Kent was launched in March 2016. Discovery Park is a fabulous site with well over 100 companies now based there, many of which are active in the science sector.


Full-time study

Apply via UCAS

Part-time study

Apply directly to us


Full-time study

Need some help?


For advice on completing your application please contact the Course Enquiry Team:

Tel:+44 (0)1227 928000 (0)1227 928000


Contact our International Team

Fact file

UCAS course code

  • C180 Ecology

UCAS institution code

  • C10


  • 3 years full-time

    6 years part-time

    Professional placement option available


  • September 2020

Entry requirements



Last edited 02/07/2019 11:21:00

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Last edited: 02/07/2019 11:21:00