The most important laboratory for Ecological Science is the outside world and high importance is given to practical and field-based teaching.

Field courses form an important component of teaching and are a good way of getting to know staff and fellow students on the course. Edinburgh is ideally suited for field work in ecological and environmental science with a wide range of environments and land use systems within easy reach; from mountain to coastal habitats, from intensive agriculture to forestry, and from urban to open moorland.

Field courses

In the Ecological and Environmental Science degree programme students attend three field courses (each lasting approximately 10 days).

Field Ecology

Held between Years 1 and 2, this course aims to familiarise students with the flora and fauna of Scotland through trips to freshwater, woodland, grassland and heath/moorland habitats near Edinburgh.

Ecological Measurement

This is a two-part field course in which students learn and apply a variety of ecological and environmental techniques in field and laboratory investigations in the Highlands and in Edinburgh.

The first part of the course is held before the start of year 3 at the University's Outdoor Centre, by Loch Tay in the Southern Highlands. There are opportunities for watersports, such as windsurfing, sailing and canoeing, when the day's work is done!

It then continues for one half day per week in Edinburgh during Semester 1 of year 3.

Ecological Science Field Course

A residential field course based in Argyll, west of Scotland, is offered between years 3 and 4. An ability to communicate with professional level peers and senior colleagues and specialists will be developed through the peer-to-peer presentations and field visits with practitioners, which will also enable students to gain an appreciation of the contexts and challenges associated with ecological and environmental management.

Self study

Students are also encouraged to gain practical experience of their chosen field of study during the summer holidays. This may be through relevant jobs with companies, conservation organisations and research institutes, or through ecological and environmental science projects while on student expeditions. All students can take a year out between study years, which could be for a professional placement.


Field courses are subsidised, but students need to pay a contribution towards the costs. Field course costs over four years do not normally exceed £150; the exact cost depends on the degree programme followed.

Students should also provide suitable clothing and equipment for field courses, including:

  • waterproof jacket and trousers
  • walking boots
  • wellington boots
  • warm clothing
  • a small rucksack

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