Quantitative Methods in Biodiversity, Conservation and Epidemiology MSc

Today more than ever, quantitative skills form an essential basis for successful careers in ecology, conservation, and animal and human health. This Masters programme provides specific training in data collection, modelling and statistical analyses as well as generic research skills. It is offered by the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine (IBAHCM), a grouping of top researchers who focus on combining field data with computational and genetic approaches to solve applied problems in epidemiology and conservation.

Key facts

Why this programme

  • This programme encompasses key skills in monitoring and assessing biodiversity critical for understanding the impacts of environmental change.
  • It covers quantitative analyses of ecological and epidemiological data critical for animal health and conservation.
  • You will have the opportunity to base your independent research projects at the University field station on Loch Lomond (for freshwater or terrestrial-based projects); Millport field station on the Isle of Cumbria (for marine projects); or Cochno farm in Glasgow (for research based on farm animals). We will also assist you to gain research project placements in zoos or environmental consulting firms whenever possible.
  • The uniqueness of the programme is the opportunity to gain core skills and knowledge across a wide range of subjects, which will enhance future career opportunities, including entrance into competitive PhD programmes. For example, there are identification based programmes offered elsewhere, but most others do not combine practical field skills with molecular techniques, advanced informatics for assessing biodiversity based on molecular markers, as well as advanced statistics and modelling. Other courses in epidemiology are rarely ecologically focused; the specialty in IBAHCM is understanding disease ecology, in the context of both animal conservation and implications for human public health.
  • You will be taught by research-active staff using the latest approaches in quantitative methods, sequence analysis, and practical approaches to assessing biodiversity, and you will have opportunites to actively participate in internationally recognised research. Some examples of recent publications lead by students in the programme: Blackburn, S., Hopcraft, J. G. C., Ogutu, J. O., Matthiopoulos, J. and Frank, L. (2016), Human-wildlife conflict, benefit sharing and the survival of lions in pastoralist community-based conservancies. J Appl Ecol. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12632. Rysava, K., McGill, R. A. R., Matthiopoulos, J., and Hopcraft, J. G. C. (2016) Re-constructing nutritional history of Serengeti wildebeest from stable isotopes in tail hair: seasonal starvation patterns in an obligate grazer. Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom., 30:1461-1468. doi: 10.1002/rcm.7572. Ferguson, E.A., Hampson, K., Cleaveland, S., Consunji, R., Deray, R., Friar, J., Haydon, D. T., Jimenez, J., Pancipane, M. and Townsend, S.E., 2015. Heterogeneity in the spread and control of infectious disease; consequences for the elimination of canine rabies. Scientific Reports, 5, p. 18232. doi: 10.1038/srep18232.
  • A unique strength of the University of Glasgow for many years has been the strong ties between veterinarians and ecologists, which has now been formalised in the formation of the IBAHCM. This direct linking is rare but offers unique opportunities to provide training that spans both fundamental and applied research.

Programme structure

The programme provides a strong grounding in scientific writing and communication, statistical analysis, and experimental design. It is designed for flexibility, to enable you to customise a portfolio of courses suited to your particular interests.

You can choose from a range of specialised options that encompass key skills in:

  • Monitoring and assessing biodiversity – critical for understanding the impacts of environmental change
  • Quantitative analyses of ecological and epidemiological data – critical for animal health and conservation
  • Ethics and legislative policy – critical for promoting humane treatment of both captive and wild animals.

Core courses

  • Key research skills (scientific writing, introduction to R, advanced linear models, experimental design and power analysis)
  • Measuring biodiversity and abundance
  • Programming in R
  • Independent research project

Optional courses

  • Molecular analyses for biodiversity and conservation
  • Biodiversity informatics
  • Molecular epidemiology and phylodynamics
  • Infectious disease ecology and the dynamics of emerging disease
  • Single-species population models
  • Multi-species models
  • Spatial and network processes in ecology & epidemiology
  • Introduction to Bayesian statistics
  • Freshwater sampling techniques
  • Invertebrate identification
  • Vertebrate identification
  • Human Dimensions of Conservation
  • Principles of Conservation Ecology
  • Protected Area Management
  • Animal welfare science
  • Legislation related to animal welfare
  • Enrichment of animals in captive environments
  • Care of captive animals
  • Biology of suffering
  • Assessment of physiological state.

Core and optional courses

Core Courses

Key Research Skills

Course Aims: The aims of this course are to ensure that all students enrolled in the MSc/PGdip programme in Biodiversity, Conservation and Animal Welfare receive advanced and evidence-based training in the key skills essential for any modern ecology/evolution-based research career and for the courses that they will take later in the programme. This includes principles of Scientific Writing and Effective Communication in English, Introduction to the Programming Environment R, Advanced Statistics, and Experimental Design and Power Analysis.

Measuring Biodiversity & Abundance

Course Aims: The aim of the course is to provide students with evidence-based core training in the use of a wide range of sampling techniques currently available for invertebrate and vertebrate organisms in a terrestrial environment, as well as to explore techniques used for the quantification of biodiversity and the measurement of abundance.

Programming in R (prerequisite for all modelling and epidemiology)

Course Aims: The aim of this course is to provide hands-on training in programming in the R environment, and teach students to use the data structures and libraries provided by the R project appropriately to solve problems.

Research Project

Course Aims: The aim of this course is to have students undertake a quantitatively oriented independent research project, in which they will use the knowledge gained in the taught course components to design a feasible experiment, write a proposal, and implement, analyse and write up a discrete project.

Optional Courses

Modelling and Epidemiology

Infectious Disease Ecology & the Dynamics of Emerging Disease

Course Aims: The aim of this course is to equip students with the mathematical and programming skills and theoretical background to be able to create simple epidemiological models, to interpret

Introduction to Bayesian Statistics

Course Aims: The aim of the course is to provide the student with an evidence-based founding in the basic theory and practice of Bayesian statistics, using Markov Chain Monte Carlo approaches and Metropolis-Hastings and Gibbs sampling procedure.

Multi-species Models

Course Aims: This course will introduce students to the theory and practice of formulating multi-species population models. It will aim to introduce students to the different ways these models can be formulated in theory, and implemented in practice (this will be undertaken in the R programming environment). Students will be asked to review a range of previous uses of these forms of models, and be asked to develop critical views of them. Emphasis will be placed on identifying the key assumptions of these different models, and when different formulations are most appropriate.

Single-species Models

Course Aims: This course will introduce students to the theory and practice of single-species population models. It will aim to introduce students to the different ways these models can be formulated in theory, and implemented in practice (this will be undertaken in the R programming environment). Students will be asked to review a range of previous uses of these forms of models, and be asked to develop critical views of them. Emphasis will be placed on identifying the key assumptions of these different models, and when different formulations are most appropriate.

Spatial and Network Processes in Ecology & Epidemiology

Course Aims: The aim of this course is to introduce students to the importance of spatial processes in ecological and epidemiological interactions. There is a substantial change in the assumptions of models that are ‘well-mixed’ and essentially ‘non-spatial’, and a spatially explicit representation – be it in continuous or discrete, point based, network-based or patch-based. The primary aim of this course is to equip students to critically appreciate, understand, describe and work with these different model formulations and their correct interpretation.

Biodiversity Measurement and Informatics

Molecular epidemiology and phylodynamics

Course Aims: This course will introduce students to current analytical methods for answering applied questions in evolution and epidemiology based on pathogen genetic data. Topics will include tree building, molecular clocks, inferring demographic histories using coalescent approaches, ancestral state reconstruction and phylogeography, focussing on the widely used software BEAST as well as other computer programs.

Molecular analyses for biodiversity and conservation

Course Aims: To provide practical training in and the theoretical basis for analytical techniques used for the molecular identification and characterisation of biodiversity. Hands-on training will be integrated with the theoretical underpinning of the manipulation and analysis of DNA sequence and microsatellite genotype data, as applied to problems in the assessment of biodiversity. This will include approaches to DNA barcoding for identification and population genetics analyses of population structure and genetic history. The goal will be for students to learn these analyses at a level sufficient to perform independent analysis of their own data. The course will also highlight recent advances in sequencing technology and approaches to genotyping, along with the new challenges that this will bring for analytical approaches.

Biodiversity informatics

Course Aims: To provide evidence-based advanced practical training in using web services to aggregate and visualise biodiversity data, using an interactive and open-access based approach.

Vertebrate Identification

Course Aims: The aim of the course is to provide students with core evidence-based training in techniques for identifying key vertebrate groups, including bird songs and mammalian scats.

Freshwater Sampling Techniques

Course Aims: The aim of the course is to provide students with core hands-on training in the use of a wide range of sampling techniques currently available for invertebrate and vertebrate organisms in a freshwater environment.

Invertebrate Identification

Course Aims: The aim of this course is to provide students with in depth hands-on training to enable them to identify key vertebrate groups, using field guides, identification keys, and vocalizations, as required for assessment of biodiversity.

Animal Welfere Science, Ethics & Law

Animal Welfare Science (core for AWSEL; option for QMBCE)

Course Aims: The aim of the course is to provide students with an evidence-based critical and detailed understanding of welfare assessment methodologies and practical experience of how welfare issues are addressed at sites that keep animals for different forms of human use, including research on wild animals.

Assessment of Physiological State

Course Aims: The aim of the course is to provide students with an evidence-based understanding of methods and techniques used to assess physiological state of wild animals and provide them with the competence to identify the health state of wild animal and to respond appropriately to this.

Biology of Suffering

Course Aims: The aim of the course is to provide students with an advanced understanding of issues on consciousness, sentience and suffering in animals and how this relates to ethical and legal considerations.

Care of Captive Animals

Course Aims: The aim of the course is to provide students with a critical awareness of issues relating to care of captive animals and relate these to legislation and welfare science.

Enrichment of Animals in Captive Environments

Course Aims: The aim of the course is to provide students with the underlying principles that will guide enrichment and the design of enclosures and encourages students to creatively think about their own solution to welfare issues.

Legislation Related to Animal Welfare (core for AWSEL; option for QMBCE)

Course Aims: The aim of the course is to provide students with a rigorous evidence-based understanding of the different pieces of legislation underlying the use of animals in scientific research, in zoos and in farms.

What our students say



"I honestly cannot recommend Glasgow's QMBCE program enough. I had a great experience here. Regardless of whether your interests lie in ecology, genetics, conservation, or epidemiology, the program can help prepare you to move forward with your career, either further into academia or into the public and private sectors. As someone who had never coded before, the coursework's heavy focus on R really helped me to get comfortable with coding and tailoring my analyses to the data. More and more these days, as datasets grow in size and analytical techniques become more sophisticated, the sciences are looking for researchers with a strong, quantitative and computational background, and the QMBCE program does a great job of establishing that foundation."



“Being a vet working on diseases that involve wild animals, this course was what I was looking for. The combination of epidemiology and ecology methodologies allowed me to deepen the (very light) smattering of ecology I had and to freshen up some of the concepts I had been exposed to before. I found no other University in Europe offers such a mixture of disciplines, which is very useful for either the animal health worker that needs to have some smattering in ecology or the biologist/ecologist who needs to learn methodologies applied to epidemiology.

I think one of the strengths of the course is the mixture of different disciplines, I did not find any similar offer when I was collecting information on the possible courses in Europe.”



“The combination of practical biodiversity techniques and quantitative measurements elements attracted me to this programme. I learned much more than I was expecting. It was very interesting to learn about other subjects that I originally thought wouldn’t be that important to me. It is a course that teaches multiple skills. The staff involved in the course did actually have experience on every topic taught and knew very well their subjects. It is also a great opportunity to learn from top quality research leaders.

This course involves lots of subjects that in many ways can be useful for any area we would like to focus on. It’s good to learn about statistics along with laboratory work and writing for example.”



“This course has greatly exceeded my expectations. I now have an advantage in today’s job market. It has expanded my knowledge base and given me the skills needed to excel further in this field. This course also provided me with the knowledge and skills needed to pursue a PhD and the opportunity to get hands on in the field of animal welfare through a variety of field trips and lectures from leading individuals in the field. Whether you are looking to get ahead in today’s job market or wanting a stepping stone into a PhD, this course covers it all. It will provide you with the practical knowledge you need while introducing you to some of the leading individuals in the field.”

To hear students talk about the programme, listen to this podcast: https://naturallyspeakingpodcast.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/episode-33-masters-of-science-quantifying-life/ 

Career prospects

You will gain core skills and knowledge across a wide range of subjects that will enhance your selection chances for competitive PhD programmes. In addition to academic options, career opportunities include roles in zoos, environmental consultancies, government agencies, ecotourism and conservation biology, and veterinary or public health epidemiology.

Entry requirements

At least a 2.2 Honours degree or equivalent (eg GPA of 3.0 or above) in a relevant subject. Professional experience may be taken into account.

In your application, please submit a personal statement (200-300 words) outlining why you want to study this programme in particular and what you hope to get out of it. Please explicitly explain why you have chosen a programme with a focus on developing quantitative skills, such as statistical analyses, modelling and computer programming. 

Please also submit a copy of your CV.

English language requirements

For applicants whose first language is not English, the University sets a minimum English Language proficiency level.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module (not General Training)

  • overall score 6.5
  • no sub-test less than 6.0
  • or equivalent scores in another recognised qualification:

Common equivalent English language qualifications

All stated English tests are acceptable for admission for both home/EU and international students for this programme:

  • ibTOEFL: 90; no sub-test less than:
    • Reading: 20
    • Listening: 19
    • Speaking: 19
    • Writing: 23
  • CAE (Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English): 176 overall; no sub-test less than 169
  • CPE (Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English):  176 overall; no sub-test less than 169
  • PTE Academic (Pearson Test of English, Academic test): 60; no sub-test less than 59
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English: ISEII at Distinction with Distinction in all sub-tests

For international students, the Home Office has confirmed that the University can choose to use these tests to make its own assessment of English language ability for visa applications to degree level programmes. The University is also able to accept an IELTS test (Academic module) from any of the 1000 IELTS test centres from around the world and we do not require a specific UKVI IELTS test for degree level programmes. We therefore still accept any of the English tests listed for admission to this programme.

Pre-sessional courses

The University of Glasgow accepts evidence of the required language level from the English for Academic Study Unit Pre-sessional courses. We also consider other BALEAP accredited pre-sessional courses:


What do I do if...

my language qualifications are below the requirements?

The University's English for Academic Study Unit offers a range of Pre-Sessional Courses to bring you up to entry level. The course is accredited by BALEAP, the UK professional association for academic English teaching; see Links.

my language qualifications are not listed here?

Please contact the Recruitment and International Office: pgadmissions@glasgow.ac.uk


For further information about English language requirements, please contact the Recruitment and International Office: pgadmissions@glasgow.ac.uk

Fees and funding

Tuition fees for 2017-18


Home and EU
Full time fee£7700
Full time fee£19500


Home and EU
Full time fee£5133
Full time fee£13000

Fees are subject to change and for guidance only


International applicants (from beyond the EU) are requested to pay a deposit of £1000 when an offer is made.

Deposits terms & conditions

The University requires a deposit to be paid by International (beyond the EU) applicants in receipt of an offer to this programmes and who require a Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from the University in order that they can apply for a student visa. This is required where the programme is competitive and the deposit is required in order to demonstrate your commitment to attend the programme should you meet all the conditions of your offer.

If you are made an offer for this programme the University will write to you and request a deposit with information on how to pay your deposit and the deadline for making the deposit payment. Please note that if you are unable to pay a deposit because you are planning to fund your studies through an official financial sponsor then you should upload a copy of your scholarship application or award letter to your application by the deadline date.

The following guidelines will apply in determining whether or not a deposit will be refunded. Where the deposit is refunded, a 10% handling fee will be deducted.

Deposits WILL be refunded to applicants under the following circumstances:

  1. Where the University is unable to offer you a place.
  2. Where the applicant has personal circumstances such as illness, bereavement or other family situations that has prevented them coming to the UK. Medical or other proof may be requested.
  3. Applicant can prove that they have applied for a visa to attend the University of Glasgow, but the VISA has been refused. The applicant must have shown ‘real intent' to study at the University of Glasgow but has been unable to obtain their visa.
  4. Applicant does not meet his / her conditions of offer: this may be academic or language test requirements. Satisfactory evidence must be uploaded to the student’s online application to prove that they have not met the conditions of their offer (note that applicants who do not meet the language condition of their offer must show reasonable attempt to meet this, i.e. they must provide a language test which was taken after the date that the deposit was paid).

Deposits WILL NOT be refunded to applicants under the following circumstances:

  1. Applicant decides to go to another institution.
  2. Applicant cannot be released from work to study at the University of Glasgow.
  3. Applicant does not send completed documentation as requested in the condition of the offer: this may be required in order to prove that the offer has not been met for academic or language test conditions - failure to respond to requests for this information will result in no refund.
  4. Applicant has not secured funding to attend the University of Glasgow: this may be as a result of not being successful in applications for scholarships, OR simply not having sufficient funds in bank at time of visa application. This condition will apply unless it can be proven that there are clear mitigating circumstances which have significantly changed the applicant’s position since the time of application.
  5. Applicant has decided to defer – in this situation the University will retain the deposit and credit it against the applicant’s account for securing their place for the following year of entry. 

Refund requests must be made within 60 days of the programme start date stated on your offer letter: requests made after this date will be subject to discretion.

Additional fees

  • Fee for submission by a research student: £460
  • Fee for re-assessment of a dissertation (PGT programme): £300
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work: £1,000
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed: £200
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship: £680
  • Research students registered as non-supervised Thesis Pending students (50% refund will be granted if the student completes thesis within the first six months of the period): £260
  • Registration/exam only fee: £110
  • General Council fee: £50

Alumni discount

A 10% discount is available to University of Glasgow alumni applying to the MSc. This includes graduates and those who have completed a Junior Year Abroad, Exchange programme or International Summer School at the University of Glasgow. The discount is applied at registration for students who are not in receipt of another discount or scholarship funded by the University. No additional application is required.

Funding opportunities

How to apply

We ask that you apply online for a postgraduate taught degree. Our system allows you to fill out the standard application form online and submit this to the University within 42 days of starting your application.

You need to read the guide to applying online before starting your application. It will ensure you are ready to proceed, as well as answer many common questions about the process.

Guide to applying online

Do I have to apply online for a postgraduate taught degree?

Yes. To apply for a postgraduate taught degree you must apply online. We are unable to accept your application by any other means than online.

Do I need to complete and submit the application in a single session?

No. You have 42 days to submit your application once you begin the process. You may save and return to your application as many times as you wish to update information, complete sections or upload additional documents such as your final transcript or your language test.

What documents do I need to provide to make an application?

As well as completing your online application fully, it is essential that you submit the following documents:

  • A copy (or copies) of your official degree certificate(s) (if you have already completed your degree)
  • A copy (or copies) of your official academic transcript(s), showing full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained
  • Official English translations of the certificate(s) and transcript(s)
  • Two supporting reference letters on headed paper
  • Evidence of your English Language ability (if your first language is not English)
  • Any additional documents required for this programme (see Entry requirements for this programme)
  • A copy of the photo page of your passport (Non-EU students only)

If you do not have all of these documents at the time of submitting your application then it is still possible to make an application and provide any further documents at a later date, as long as you include a full current transcript (and an English translation if required) with your application. See the ‘Your References, Transcripts and English Qualification’ sections of our Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Do my supporting documents need to be submitted online?

Yes, where possible, please upload the supporting documents with your application.

How do I provide my references?

You must either upload the required references to your online application or ask your referees to send the references to the University as we do not contact referees directly. There is two main ways that you can provide references: you can either upload references on headed paper when you are making an application using the Online Application (or through Applicant Self-Service after you have submitted your application) or you can ask your referee to email the reference directly to pgadmissions@glasgow.ac.uk. See the 'Your References, Transcripts and English Qualifications' section of the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

What if I am unable to submit all of my supporting documents online?

If you cannot upload an electronic copy of a document and need to send it in by post, please attach a cover sheet to it that includes your name, the programme you are applying for, and your application reference number.

You may send them to:

Postgraduate Admissions
Marketing, Recruitment & International Office
71 Southpark Avenue
G12 8QQ
Fax: +44 141 330 4045

Can I email my supporting documents?

No. We cannot accept email submissions of your supporting documents.

What entry requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

You should check that you have met (or are likely to have met prior to the start of the programme) the individual entry requirements for the degree programme you are applying for. This information can be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab on each individual programme page, such as the one you are viewing now.

What English Language requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

If you are an international student, you should also check that you have met the English Language requirements specific to the programme you are applying for. These can also be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab for each specific programme.

Further Information

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions for more information on applying to a postgraduate taught programme.

Guidance notes for using the online application

These notes are intended to help you complete the online application form accurately, they are also available within the help section of the online application form. If you experience any difficulties accessing the online application then you should visit the Application Troubleshooting/FAQs page.

  • Name and Date of birth: must appear exactly as they do on your passport. Please take time to check the spelling and lay-out.
  • Contact Details: Correspondence address. All contact relevant to your application will be sent to this address including the offer letter(s). If your address changes, please contact us as soon as possible.
  • Choice of course: Please select carefully the course you want to study. As your application will be sent to the admissions committee for each course you select it is important to consider at this stage why you are interested in the course and that it is reflected in your application.
  • Proposed date of entry: Please state your preferred start date including the month and the year. Taught masters degrees tend to begin in September. Research degrees may start in any month.
  • Education and Qualifications: Please complete this section as fully as possible indicating any relevant Higher Education qualifications starting with the most recent. Complete the name of the Institution (s) as it appears on the degree certificate or transcript.
  • English Language Proficiency: Please state the date of any English language test taken (or to be taken) and the award date (or expected award date if known).
  • Employment and Experience: Please complete this section as fully as possible with all employments relevant to your course. Additional details may be attached in your personal statement/proposal where appropriate.
  • References: Please provide the names and contact details of two academic references. Where applicable one of these references may be from your current employer. References should be completed on letter headed paper and uploaded on to your application.

Standard application deadlines

  • International applications (non-EU): 21 July 2017 
  • UK and EU applications: 25 August 2017

Classes start September 2017 and you may be expected to attend induction sessions the week before.

Apply now