Undergraduate Course

BSc Ecology and Environmental Biology

BSc Ecology and Environmental Biology

Overview

The details
Ecology and Environmental Biology
C520
October 2023
Full-time
3 years
Colchester Campus

Our BSc Ecology and Environmental Biology course explores the diversity of the living world, across levels of biological organisation from genes to individuals, their populations and the communities they form, up to entire ecosystems.

Building on research produced in our School of Life Sciences, you will examine these concepts across terrestrial, marine and freshwater systems, examining taxa from smallest microbes to the largest organisms on Earth.

You will investigate the crucial role of biodiversity in supporting ecosystem functions and securing the flow of ecosystem services on which humanity depends. The strong theoretical, practical and data-handling skills you develop will help you to understand how biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are changing in response to multiple interacting stressors in the Anthropocene (eg climate change, chemical pollution and habitat loss). You will be equipped to design management solutions to tackle current and future challenges to ecosystems and have the option to train in tropical marine biology in Indonesia, as well as environmental biology and ecology on our new Arctic field course.

Sustainability at Essex

To learn about the initiatives and actions the University of Essex is taking to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises, visit our sustainability page.

Why we're great.
  • You’ll have the option to study in the Mediterranean, Indonesia and the Arctic
  • You have the opportunity to carry out your own unique ten-week research project under the supervision of our leading academics
  • Be part of a university that is taking the climate and biodiversity crises seriously

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you in expanding your education through offering the opportunity to spend either a year or a single term studying abroad at one of our partner universities. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend an entire year abroad either at a partner University or employed in a relevant job (see below).

Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are adaptable and mature.

If you spend a full year abroad you'll only pay 15% of your usual tuition fee that year. You won't pay any tuition fees to your host university.

Our students currently study abroad at universities in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, Germany and Sweden.

Placement year

Alternatively, you can spend your third year on a placement with an external organisation. This is usually focused around your course, and enables you to learn about a particular sector, company, or job role, apply your academic knowledge in a practical working environment, and receive inspiration for future career pathways.

Organisations our students have recently been placed with include CEFAS, IFCA, ecological consultancies among many others.

Our expert staff

As one of the largest schools at our University, we offer a lively, friendly and supportive environment with research-led study and high quality teaching, where you will learn from and work alongside our expert staff.

Our research covers a wide spectrum from the cell right through to communities and ecosystems. Key academic staff for this course include:

You will also work with many others from our Ecology and Environmental Microbiology Research Group.

The University of Essex has a Women's Network to support female staff and students, and our School was awarded the Athena Swan Silver Award (2020), which reflects the work carried out by staff in our School to continue to improve all aspects of equity, diversity and inclusion.

Specialist facilities

Our School of Life Sciences has world leading research facilities for aquatic biology, environmental biology, molecular ecology and genomics.

Depending on your choice of pathway and research project you have the opportunity to use these facilities, which include:

  • Local field sites and collaborators including CEFAS, Lowestoft
  • Overseas field sites with our collaborators in Indonesia, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean
  • Remote-sensing drones for field surveys
  • A 10.5m research and education vessel
  • Aquariums, mesocosms and other facilities for ecology and behaviour studies
  • Oxford Nanopore MinION portable genome sequencers, the latest digital and quantitative PCR, and Illumina sequencing platforms
  • An advanced bioimaging suite to visualise and process images of biological processes in real-time
  • Laboratories with robotic liquid handling systems and equipment for cell culture, molecular biology and gene editing
  • Suites of analytical equipment (ICP-MS, GC-MS, LC-MS/MS) for quantifying chemicals in the environment and metabolites from living organisms
  • In situ sampling of carbon dioxide, methane and water vapour flux from sediments, soils, and terrestrial vegetation

Your future

Graduates from this degree will be well equipped to tackle the global ecological crises we face in the 21st century.

Demand for qualified life scientists continues to grow and our course will equip you with the analytical and computational skills that are in high demand by employers.

Recent graduates have gone on to work in a range of different careers in organisations which include the Sainsbury Laboratory (University of Cambridge), Suffolk County Council, Essex Wildlife Trust and Natural England. Others have chosen to enhance their career opportunities by studying for MSc, MSD (Masters by Research) or PhD degrees.

We also work with our University's Student Development Team to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

GCSE: Mathematics C/4

A-levels: BBB, including Biology or Environmental Science (or equivalent). Acceptable A-level equivalents are Environmental Technology, Geography, Life and Health Sciences and Marine Science.

BTEC: D*DD, depending on subject and units studied - advice on acceptability can be provided.

IB: 30 points or three Higher Level certificates with 555. Either must include Higher Level Biology.

Plus Standard Level Mathematics, if not taken at Higher Level. We will accept grade 4 in either Standard Level Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches or Standard Level Mathematics: Applications and Interpretation.
Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.

Access to HE Diploma: 6 level 3 credits at Distinction and 39 level 3 credits at Merit, depending on subject and units studied - advice on acceptability can be provided.

T-levels: Merit, depending on subject studied -advice on acceptability can be provided.

What if I don’t achieve the grades I hoped?

If your final grades are not as high as you had hoped, the good news is you may still be able to secure a place with us on a course which includes a foundation year. Visit our undergraduate application information page for more details.

What if I have a non-traditional academic background?
Don’t worry. To gain a deeper knowledge of your course suitability, we will look at your educational and employment history, together with your personal statement and reference.

You may be considered for entry into Year 1 of your chosen course. Alternatively, some UK and EU applicants may be considered for Essex Pathways, an additional year of study (known as a foundation year/year 0) helping students gain the necessary skills and knowledge in order to succeed on their chosen course. You can find a list of Essex Pathways courses and entry requirements here

If you are a mature student, further information is here

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

Structure

Course structure

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The following modules are based on the current course structure and may change in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.

We understand that deciding where and what to study is a very important decision for you. We’ll make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the courses, services and facilities as described on our website. However, if we need to make material changes, for example due to significant disruption, or in response to COVID-19, we’ll let our applicants and students know as soon as possible.

Components and modules explained

Components

Components are the blocks of study that make up your course. A component may have a set module which you must study, or a number of modules from which you can choose.

Each component has a status and carries a certain number of credits towards your qualification.

Status What this means
Core
You must take the set module for this component and you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component but you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
Compulsory
You must take the set module for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
Compulsory with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
Optional
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.

The modules that are available for you to choose for each component will depend on several factors, including which modules you have chosen for other components, which modules you have completed in previous years of your course, and which term the module is taught in.

Modules

Modules are the individual units of study for your course. Each module has its own set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria and also carries a certain number of credits.

In most cases you will study one module per component, but in some cases you may need to study more than one module. For example, a 30-credit component may comprise of either one 30-credit module, or two 15-credit modules, depending on the options available.

Modules may be taught at different times of the year and by a different department or school to the one your course is primarily based in. You can find this information from the module code. For example, the module code HR100-4-FY means:

HR 100  4  FY

The department or school the module will be taught by.

In this example, the module would be taught by the Department of History.

The module number. 

The UK academic level of the module.

A standard undergraduate course will comprise of level 4, 5 and 6 modules - increasing as you progress through the course.

A standard postgraduate taught course will comprise of level 7 modules.

A postgraduate research degree is a level 8 qualification.

The term the module will be taught in.

  • AU: Autumn term
  • SP: Spring term
  • SU: Summer term
  • FY: Full year 
  • AP: Autumn and Spring terms
  • PS: Spring and Summer terms
  • AS: Autumn and Summer terms

COMPONENT 01: CORE

Molecular Cell Biology
(15 CREDITS)

The building blocks of life, plants and animals depend on the actions of individual cells. Investigate the biochemical characteristics of the small molecules and large macromolecules that allow cells to function. You examine the origins of life, cell structure and function, energy transductions, synthesis of molecules, and the eukaryotic cell cycle.

View Molecular Cell Biology on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 02: CORE

Animal Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour
(15 CREDITS)

The diversity of life on planet Earth is breath taking. We share our home with a vast number of species, a large portion of which are animals. We will discover the diversity of animal forms and functions and the role of natural selection in determining individual behaviour such as foraging, breeding and predator escape. You also investigate the idea that nothing in ecology and evolution makes sense in isolation.

View Animal Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 03: CORE

Genetics and Evolution
(15 CREDITS)

Why do we all look different? Are some illnesses hereditary? Are animals born ready-suited to their environment? From the early theories of Mendel to modern studies in molecular genetics, you explore how scientists have answered these questions over the last 150 years. Examine how the structure and function of DNA allows genetic material to be expressed, replicated and inherited, and consider how genetic variation leads to adaptive evolution. From developing new technologies in gene cloning to the applications for modern medicine, you explore how geneticists are building on the earlier achievements in this fundamentally important field to enhance our understanding of life on earth.

View Genetics and Evolution on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 04: COMPULSORY

Transferable Skills in Life Sciences
(15 CREDITS)

You will develop your transferable skills in scientific writing (including referencing and avoiding plagiarism), teamwork and communication through oral presentations, study and research skills (including essay writing, lecture note taking, use of library and databases). Teaching and learning will be through a mixture of lectures, classes, and tutorials. The emphasis will be on small group, tutorial-style teaching and interaction with other students on this module, with assessments tailored to your degree subject area.

View Transferable Skills in Life Sciences on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 05: CORE

Plant Biology and Ecosystems
(15 CREDITS)

Living life on a knife’s edge – explore the vital role plants play in our biosphere, their diversity and intricate relationships that support our planet. Examine the value of these natural resources; examine the consequences we face when the balance is disturbed. From studying how plants affect and are affected by their environment you learn what we can expect from a changing world. Examine how we influence the world around us. You apply this knowledge to the field, learning to collect, present, analyse and eventually interpret data. Understanding the fundamentals of ecology and plant diversity allows you to explore possible solutions to our environmental problems.

View Plant Biology and Ecosystems on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 06: CORE

Quantitative methods for Life Sciences
(15 CREDITS)

Develop your skillset and boost your CV. This module prepares you for the coursework, laboratory practicals and research projects that you will encounter during undergraduate study. Get to know referencing systems and learn how to effectively communicate scientific information. Use scientific units and simple algebra and demonstrate understanding of logarithms, exponentials, geometry and elementary calculus. Learn how to design experiments, handle data and display, interpret and analyse basic statistics. Teaching and learning will be through a mixture of lectures, classes, practicals and tutorials, with an emphasis on developing the key transferable skills needed for a career in biosciences.

View Quantitative methods for Life Sciences on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 07: CORE

Microbiology
(15 CREDITS)

Microbes are essential for life, and they connect the health of humans, other animals and ecosystems. They help us digest our food, provide us with vitamins and are contribute to our health and wellbeing. Marine microbes provide about one-third of the oxygen we breath. And, by cleaning up pollutants and synthesising valuable products such as antibiotics, microbes are essential for the delivery of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. On the other hand, some microbes cause devastating diseases. Despite major advances in treatment and prevention, incidences of infectious disease continue to rise. You will learn about the vast diversity and evolution of these mostly beneficial microbes and learn about the pathogenicity of the harmful ones. You will examine how different viruses and bacteria invade, interact and replicate within their hosts. A series of four practical sessions in our new teaching laboratory will give you hands-on experience of growing, observing, purifying, counting and even killing microbes. This will provide you with sought-after skills, such as aseptic technique, serial dilution and data analysis.

View Microbiology on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 08: CORE WITH OPTIONS

BS112-4-AU or BS106-4-AU
(15 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 01: COMPULSORY

Biodiversity: From Genes to Ecosystems
(15 CREDITS)

Examine how competition, predation, herbivory, mutualism, disease and parasitism affect the distribution, abundance and growth of populations, and how populations interact to affect the structure and dynamics of ecological communities. You apply this ecological knowledge to real-world problems, such as pest control and conservation.

View Biodiversity: From Genes to Ecosystems on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 02: COMPULSORY

Professional skills for Ecological and Marine Scientists
(15 CREDITS)

In this career-focused module you develop skills specific to your discipline, such as information retrieval, data-analysis and interpretation techniques, as well as a broader range of transferable skills, such as communication, team-work, numeracy and attention to detail. Learn how to best approach job applications, including CV and cover letter writing, aptitude testing and the interview process.

View Professional skills for Ecological and Marine Scientists on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 03: COMPULSORY

Molecular Ecology
(15 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 04: OPTIONAL

Option(s) from list
(30 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 05: OPTIONAL

Option(s) from list
(45 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 01: COMPULSORY

Research Project in Life Sciences
(45 CREDITS)

This module aims to prepare you for carrying out an individual scientific investigation on a topic relating to your degree. Develop skills to identify a suitable question and then design an experimental approach to obtain data addressing this question. The assessment focuses on your analysis and presentation of these data in a suitable scientific paper format report, on the research, understanding and critical writing about the scientific literature relating to your project. Your oral project presentation skills and response to questions, the planning and management of your project work, your progress reflection and your employability skills will also be evaluated.

View Research Project in Life Sciences on our Module Directory

COMPONENT 02: COMPULSORY

Biogeography
(15 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 03: OPTIONAL

Option(s) from list
(30 CREDITS)

COMPONENT 04: OPTIONAL

Option(s) from list
(30 CREDITS)

Placement

On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.

Year abroad

On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.

Teaching

  • Learn through a combination of lectures, laboratory sessions and coursework
  • Gain experience collating and interpreting data, and reporting findings clearly and concisely
  • Participate in specialist field trips

Assessment

Degrees are awarded on the results of your written examinations together with continual assessments of your practical work and coursework.

Fees and funding

Home/UK fee

£9,250

International fee

£21,050

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

Home/UK fees and funding information

International fees and funding information

What's next

Open Days

Applying

Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: www.ucas.com. Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.

Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.

The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are 'L' and 'S' respectively.

You can find further information on how to apply, including information on transferring from another university, applying if you are not currently at a school or college, and applying for readmission on our How to apply and entry requirements page.

Applicant Days

If you are an undergraduate student residing in the UK who has received an offer to study with us in October 2023, you will receive an email invitation to book onto one of our Applicant Days. Our Colchester Campus Applicant Days run from February to May 2023 on various Wednesdays and Saturdays, and our Southend Campus Applicant Days run from March to June 2023 on various weekdays and Saturdays. Applicant Days provide the opportunity to meet your department, tour our campus and accommodation, and chat to current students. We appreciate that travelling to university events can be expensive. This is why we have increased our Applicant Day Travel Bursary cap, allowing you to claim up to £150 as reimbursement for travel expenses. For further information about Applicant Days, including Terms and Conditions and eligibility criteria for our Travel Bursary, please visit our Applicant Days webpage.

If you are an overseas offer-holder, you will be invited to attend one of our virtual events. However, you are more than welcome to join us at one of our in-person Applicant Days if you are able to, so if you’d like to book a place, please contact our Applicant Day Team at applicantdays@essex.ac.uk

Colchester Campus

Visit Colchester Campus

Home to 15,000 students from more than 130 countries, our Colchester Campus is the largest of our three sites, making us one of the most internationally diverse campuses on the planet - we like to think of ourselves as the world in one place.

Set within the 200-acre award-winning beautiful parkland - Wivenhoe Park and located two miles from the historic city centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded development. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.

Whether you are planning to visit us at one of our Open Days, or coming to an Applicant day. Our campus conveniently located and easy to reach by car, train or bus.

View from Square 2 outside the Rab Butler Building looking towards Square 3

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tours allows you to explore our University from the comfort of your home. Check out our Colchester virtual tour and Southend virtual tour to see accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

Exhibitions

Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

Open Days

Our events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. We run a number of Open Days throughout the year which enable you to discover what our campus has to offer. You have the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates aren’t suitable for you, feel free to book a campus tour here.

At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.

Find out more

The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications. The University would inform and engage with you if your course was to be discontinued, and would provide you with options, where appropriate, in line with our Compensation and Refund Policy.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.

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