Postgraduate study

Applied Conservation Genetics with Wildlife Forensics (Online Learning) PgProfDev

Awards: PgProfDev

Study modes: Part-time Intermittent Study

Online learning

Funding opportunities

I recommend the program to anyone who is looking to work in conservation genetics, wildlife crime prevention and /or wildlife DNA forensics. They will have the benefit of the highest standard of learning and a network of conservation giants.

Bwalya Chibwe Current student from Zambia
Bwalya Chibwe               Current student from Zambia

Within conservation science there is increasing recognition of the value of genetic data to support management decisions. However, scientists and managers with the skills and knowledge to apply population genetic theory to conservation practice are lacking. Within this arena, wildlife forensics is an exciting new field that is attracting increasing global attention in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.

Theoretical and practical learning

The PPD/Cert/Dip/MSc in Applied Conservation Genetics with Wildlife Forensics aims to provide a blend of theoretical and practical education in the application of genetic data to wildlife management and conservation law enforcement. The programme will cover all essential aspects, from population genetic theory and data analysis to the considerations involved in the interpretation and transfer of scientific findings to management, policy and criminal investigation.

Choice of specialism

You will have the choice to specialise in either applied conservation genetics or wildlife forensics, with both options providing transferable scientific skills relating to knowledge acquisition and application, problem solving, science communication and decision making. The overall aim of the programme is to equip current and future wildlife professionals with the knowledge, skills and global networks to address modern challenges in conservation management and law enforcement.

Learn from internationally recognised specialists

The programme is designed as an institutional collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture), a government facility which houses the UK wildlife DNA forensics laboratory. Students will have a unique opportunity to learn from internationally recognised specialists in the application of genetic analysis to conservation management and wildlife forensics.

In addition, individual courses will engage a number of external tutors from local and international organisations with specific expertise in the subject matter. Course materials will based on actual examples from wildlife management projects and forensic casework.

Who this programme is for

This programme may be for you if you are a wildlife professional interested in learning how DNA analysis can be applied to conservation management, from captive breeding programmes to reintroductions and natural population management.

The programme will also be appropriate if you are working in wildlife law enforcement or wildlife policy sectors and want to understand how genetic data is relied upon to inform conservation decision-making, trade regulation and criminal investigations.

As a comprehensive introduction to the fields of conservation genetics and wildlife forensics, the programme is will also provide a valuable stepping stone if you are seeking to pursue an advanced scientific career in these fields.

Our online learning technology is fully interactive, award-winning and enables you to communicate with our highly qualified teaching staff from the comfort of your own home or workplace.

Our online students not only have access to Edinburgh's excellent resources, but also become part of a supportive online community, bringing together students and tutors from around the world.

The programme has been designed to use a range of assessment tools, both formative and summative, with multiple feedback opportunities across the programme.

Summative assessment and feedback has been designed to help students develop the key skills associated with the learning outcomes and tied to practical applications such as report and grant writing.

Formative assessment (e.g. MCQs and discussion groups) will be included in each course to provide opportunities for feedback before assessment deadlines.

Opportunities will be provided for formative feedback on assessment drafts.

Studying online at Edinburgh

Find out more about the benefits and practicalities of studying for an online degree:

The programme is composed of 180 credits divided over eight taught courses (6 compulsory and 2 electives chosen from 4) plus a dissertation.

Year 1

  • Essential Population Genetic Theory and Techniques (20 Credits)

Year 2

  • Applied Conservation Genetics and Wildlife Forensics (20 Credits)
  • The Role of Wildlife Genetics in Global Conservation Challenges (20 Credits)

Elective courses currently offered:

  • Quality Management in Wildlife Forensic Science (10 Credits)
  • Reporting Forensic Evidence (10 Credits)
  • Population Genetics for Conservation Breeding (10 Credits)
  • Conservation Genetics for Reintroductions, Translocations and Population Monitoring (10 Credits)

Year 3

  • Dissertation Element (60 credits; must be written within a 12 month period).

Course availability will be dependent upon numbers of students and availability of places on non-programme owned courses. We cannot therefore guarantee that all courses will be available to all students, each year.

The programme is designed to be taken part-time over three years (20 hours per week), with an option to complete in up to six years if required.

Students may exit the programme after completing 60 credits (Certificate) or after 120 credits (Diploma) and courses will also be offered as standalone Postgraduate Professional Development (PPD) options.

Programme staff all actively work in applied conservation science alongside their academic posts and include members of the IUCN SSC Conservation Genetics Specialist Group, the Society for Wildlife Forensic Science and the UN, US and UK wildlife forensic advisory groups.

Programme Director: Prof Rob Ogden (University of Edinburgh) Deputy Programme Director: Dr Lucy Webster (SASA) Programme Co-ordinator: Dr Silvia Perez-Espona (University of Edinburgh)

Postgraduate Professional Development

Postgraduate Professional Development (PPD) is aimed at working professionals who want to advance their knowledge through a postgraduate-level course(s), without the time or financial commitment of a full Masters, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate.

You may take a maximum of 50 credits worth of courses over two years through our PPD scheme. These lead to a University of Edinburgh postgraduate award of academic credit. Alternatively, after one year of taking courses you can choose to transfer your credits and continue on to studying towards a higher award on a Masters, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate programme.

Although PPD courses have various start dates throughout a year you may only start a Masters, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate programme in the month of September. Any time spent studying PPD will be deducted from the amount of time you will have left to complete a Masters, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate programme.

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PgProfDevUp to 2 YearsPart-time Intermittent StudyProgramme structure 2022/23

Beyond gaining factual knowledge of the immediate subject matter, programme participation is designed to achieve a series of key learning outcomes:

Knowledge and Understanding

The student will be able to demonstrate a critical understanding of practical and ethical issues relating to the application of conservation genetics and wildlife forensics.

Practice: applied knowledge, skills and understanding

The student will be able to demonstrate how to plan, apply and interpret the outputs of appropriate research and forensic techniques.

Generic cognitive skills

The student will be able to analyse complex issues and identify solutions, even in the absence of complete or consistent information.

Communication, ICT, Numeracy Skills

The student will be able to communicate relevant scientific concepts and results, using appropriate methods, to a range of audiences with different levels of knowledge and expertise.

Autonomy, accountability and working with others

The student will be able to manage complex wildlife conservation and law enforcement issues and make or contribute to informed judgements that address current challenges in these fields.

This applied programme should equip students with the knowledge, skills and global networks necessary to use DNA analysis as a tool in wildlife conservation. As a postgraduate degree from one of the world’s leading universities, it will be recognised as a valuable, hard-earned qualification that demonstrates both scientific acumen and an ability to translate research into conservation management practice.

When I applied for the MSc in Applied Conservation Genetics with Wildlife Forensics programme at the University of Edinburgh, I had a list of personal requirements. Namely, a master’s programme that would consolidate my background in biological sciences, but also facilitate my career progression in wildlife forensics. I was also looking for a top-ranking institution to attend and a different learning environment from that which I attained my undergraduate degree. Finally, I wanted all this while being able to keep my job or travel the world, during the 3-year period that I would be able to complete it.

I am happy to say that I have had all these requirements met with the programme. My experience so far has been better than I anticipated. I have been supported by the faculty through my studies, as though physically on campus.

The programme lectures are conducted by conservation genetics and wildlife forensics experts; comprised of the full-time faculty and visiting lecturers. This has widened my professional network to include some of the top researchers and practitioners in the field.

I recommend the programme to anyone who is looking to work in conservation genetics, wildlife crime prevention and /or wildlife DNA forensics. They will have the benefit of the highest standard of learning and a network of conservation giants.

Bwalya Chibwe, current MSc ACGWF student, Zambia

The MSc in Applied Conservation Genetics with Wildlife Forensics provides a perfect opportunity to acquire up to date knowledge on conservation genetics whilst remaining at work and with family. The programme helps to inform my everyday work as a forest manager. At the same time, its interactive nature allows me to contribute to the programme with my experience and knowledge. This creates a stimulating and motivating learning environment.

Cordula Walderdoff, current MSc ACGWF student, Austria

These entry requirements are for the 2022/23 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2023/24 academic year will be published on 3 October 2022.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in biological, biochemical, forensic science or veterinary sciences or a related science discipline.

We may also consider your application if you have a minimum of 3 years' work experience in a related scientific area, for example molecular biology research/ forensics laboratory work. You may be admitted to certificate level only in the first instance. Please contact the programme team to check before you apply.

Students from China

This degree is Band D.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified*:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 59 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

(*Revised 17 November 2021 to add accepted PTE Academic qualifications.)

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

Application fee




Additional programme costs


Living costs

You will be responsible for covering living costs for the duration of your studies.

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PgProfDevUp to 2 YearsPart-time Intermittent StudyTuition fees

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the Roslin Institute
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Easter Bush
  • Edinburgh
  • EH25 9RG

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding we strongly recommend you apply to the programme as early as possible.

You must submit one reference with your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the Roslin Institute
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Easter Bush
  • Edinburgh
  • EH25 9RG