BSc single honours Ecology 2017/18

Year of entry

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.

This programme of study 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: Howletts and Port Lympne Zoos, Wildwood and Wingham Wildlife Park, and Natural England.

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.

94% of School of Human and Life Sciences graduates were in employment or further study six months after completing their studies.

DLHE 2013-14

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.

This course ideally suited to individuals with a passion for the natural world interested in developing field-based skills and deepening their knowledge of fundamental scientific processes of living organisms.

The course prepares you for roles in ecology based enterprises. 

There is a growing need for professionals with a strong ecology and conservation background in many occupations. Practical skills and experience are central to gaining employment in this field.

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.

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


As a complete ecologist an understanding of what is happening in organisms at the molecular level is increasingly vital.  The aim of this module is to introduce to you the basic concepts and chemical foundations of biochemistry and cell biology.  We will also develop your understanding of structure and function at the molecular level. This module prepares you for further study in more advanced cell and molecular modules.

Diversity of Life

The ability to identify organisms accurately is one of the keystones of ecology. This module can equip you 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

The extra dimension of molecular biology will give you depth and versatility as an ecologist.  From eDNA to population genetics and use of microsatellites, molecular biology will only become more relevant to ecology as we move into the future. This level 4 module aims to give you 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

Another pillar of ecology is learning how to carry out high quality investigations in the field.  The module will develop your field skills and introduce a range of ecological sampling methods.  We will also develop your wider appreciation and understanding of the range of different ecosystems and the effect of different environments on organisms.

Science Skills and Introduction to Statistics

Lovely satisfying statistics!  In this module we will gently introduce you to all the beauty of nature rendered down to numbers for the purpose of analysis.  This module could mark the start of your journey to independent competence as an investigator of nature.  We aim to develop the necessary background in science communication, skills and methods essential for the study of the biological sciences (in your case, ecology). This module will also aim to provide the background knowledge and self-belief required for the Level 5 Data Handling module.

Soil Science and Plant Nutrition

A much under-appreciated and hugely understudied component of ecology is the soil, and the interactions between soil and plants.  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 will prepare you for further study in more advanced aspects of soil science, plant physiology and land management. You may also get muddy at some point in the module.

Year 2

Animal Behavioural Ecology

Underpinning much of ecology is behaviour.  The behaviour of different organisms, coupled with their physiology, dictates factors such as where they sit in the food chain.  This module aims to introduce you to the ecological side of animal behaviour. You will learn about the main influences on behaviour and how these can influence animal behaviour at an individual, group and species level. You 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

This course aims to provide you with an understanding of the fundamental theoretical concepts and practical applications of environmental chemistry. You are introduced to the chemistry underlying the aquatic, terrestrial and atmospheric environments. It will also aim to add an extra dimension to you as an applied ecologist by making you familiar with some of the different chemical analytical methods that can be used in the monitoring of these environments. We will foster in you a critical approach to these methods as part of your journey towards becoming a deep thinking, self-aware scientist. In addition to becoming familiar with the natural chemical processes in soil, water and air, you will also be encouraged to critically analyse and discuss environmental issues, such as smog, acid rain, global warming, ozone depletion and water pollution.

Data Handling

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”, and is in the process of becoming an industry standard for complex data analysis. 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). This module will enable you to become comfortable with the console-based software and to use it for your statistical and data display needs.

Optional modules

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

One of the most exacting habitats is that inside an animal.  This module will encourage you to develop the necessary knowledge to enable them to make reasoned arguments on current issues in the field of animal pests, parasites and pathogens. You will be encouraged to 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

You will be introduced to the quiet slow, violent contest taking place between plants and the organisms that seek to exploit them. Plants respond in extreme and unexpected ways to invasion by other organisms. This module will enable you 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 your ability to analyse and interpret published data through student led discussions about specific pests and diseases and their control.

Plants in the Environment

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. You 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 you 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.

Work Placement

This more open and student led module provides you with the golden and employment enhancing opportunity to develop key skills and experience while working in a commercial environment. You should develop critical reflection skills as you review your own competencies and development requirements.

Year 3

Conservation Biology

The aim of this module is to further develop and deepen your understanding of ecology and its utility as an aid to plant and animal conservation. The world of conservation is one of regular conflict and 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

This module aims to develop your wider understanding of how science influences and affects society. You will develop your independent research and analysis skills as you study and comment on important contemporary science issues.

Molecular Ecology

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. Many of the really sticky questions in ecology, for example how much are different species affected by habitat fragmentation, can be investigated using molecular methods. 

Honours Project

This module is where you showcase your learning from the rest of your degree.  You will be let loose (with support and encouragement from your own dedicated project supervisor) to undertake a piece of commercially/socially relevant research.

You will be helped to identify an area of research directly relevant to your degree pathway.  You will then design and undertake appropriate experiments and field work to investigate this area. As a BSc (Hons) Ecology student you will be are required to undertake field based research evidencing a minimum of 10 days fieldwork. The module aims to give you experience of independent research, analysis and experience of presenting findings in two styles: a written scientific paper and a presented poster or presentation to a non-specialist audience.

Optional modules

Options are subject to availability and may change
Animal health and husbandry

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

This module aims to provide you 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 2018/19 have not yet been finalised - please read the 2018/19 Tuition Fee Statement for further information regarding 2018/19 tuition fees and year on year fee increases.


The 2017/18 annual tuition fees for this course are:

Full-time £9,250*  £11,000** 
Part-time £4,625  N/A 

Tuition fees for all courses are payable on an annual basis, except where stated.

*Full-time courses which have a Foundation Year 0 will have a 2017/18 UK/EU tuition fee of £6,165 in Year 0.

**Tuition Fee Scholarship discounts of £1,500 are available to eligible overseas students. Visit the International webpages for further information.

Please read the 2017/18 Tuition Fee Statement for further information regarding 2017/18 tuition fees and year on year fee increases

Further information

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

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) Yes, if the trip contributes to the course (whether it is part of an optional or compulsory module), but not including food and drink. Yes, if the trip is not an essential part of the course but is offered as an enhancement or enrichment activity, or for a student’s personal development.
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.

In the Section of Life Sciences, we practice ‘research-involved teaching’. This means that all of the modules you will study are led by experienced academic staff who are specialists and active researchers in relevant areas, including animal scientists, biochemists, ecologists, chemists and physicists. The programme is designed to give you opportunities to develop skills and experience by engaging with research as part of taught modules or via extra-curricular internships and volunteering. 

The emphasis of the programme 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 students’ feedback from their 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.

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 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.

Assessment is by both coursework and examination. Individual modules are assessed either solely by coursework or by an equally-weighted combination of coursework and examination. Examination allows assessment of a student’s understanding of important key concepts and accounts for less than half the assessment of the programme. Coursework assessments permit students 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.
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 improved 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.

Fact file

UCAS code

  • C180 Ecology
  • C181 Ecology with Foundation Year

Institutional code

  • C10


  • 3 years

    4 years full-time including a Foundation Year

    6 years part-time


  • September 2017

Entry requirements



Print or share this page

Connect with us

Last edited: 26/06/2017 09:37:00