Undergraduate study - 2025 entry
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

BSc Ecological and Environmental Sciences

UCAS code: CF17

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering

Study abroad

Introducing BSc Ecological and Environmental Sciences

If you are:

  • passionate about the environment

  • the relationship between humans and nature

  • concerned about our impact on the planet

Then ecological and environmental sciences may be for you.

Our world is suffering from:

  • rapid climate change
  • the over-exploitation of natural resources
  • the degradation of natural habitats

This degree will help you address some of our planet's greatest environmental challenges.

What is ecological and environmental science?

  • Ecological sciences study how organisms interact with each other and their physical, chemical and biological environments.

  • Environmental science is an integrated science. We apply biological, chemical and physical sciences to understand the natural environment and how it is changing.

Understanding both is important for managing changing environments for a more sustainable future.

What will I learn?

Our programme has a strong focus on data-driven innovation and computational analysis. Demand is growing for these data skills across many employment sectors.

We will teach you how to:

  • understand ecological and environmental issues
  • design strategies for sample collection
  • make ecological and environmental measurements
  • critically evaluate ecological data sets using modern statistical analysis
  • measure progress and efficiency of conservation and environmental management plans
  • use enhanced planning and management skills to develop solutions to environmental problems
  • understand the science to contribute to difficult management questions and policy
  • understand conflicts between humans and the natural world and how human pressures are changing our planet

Video: Ecological and environmental sciences

An extraordinary reputation

We are one of the largest and most successful groupings of geographers, Earth and environmental scientists in the UK. Many of us are world experts in our field and can help you gain valuable real-world experience to produce meaningful change. You will have many networking and potential employment opportunities.

Our staff will include their latest research in your teaching and share our discoveries in a range of areas, from the tropics to the poles. Your dissertation also offers practical experience and a chance to align with potential employers and real-world issues.

  • We are 22nd in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2024.
  • We are ranked in the world's top 50 universities for natural sciences subjects, and 4th in the UK. Across Earth and marine sciences, environmental sciences, geology and geophysics, we are ranked top 10 in the UK (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2024).

Through this programme, you are directly linked to researchers from world-leading research centres such as The Centre for Adapting to Changing Environments (ACE). ACE is a leading centre in multidisciplinary research to address how populations can adapt to our rapidly changing world.

Visit the ACE website

Our Centre for Sustainable Forests and Landscapes is also linked to this degree.

Visit the Centre for Sustainable Forests and Landscapes website

Life-changing field trips

Field trips are at the heart of this programme.

We know that getting out in the world is essential for understanding how it works.

We will take you beyond the classroom so that you can apply your learning to real-life situations.

Our hands-on approach to learning helps build your confidence and gives you practical field skills valued by employers.

Video: Ecological measurement field trip

What do you do on a field trip?

The real world is your most important classroom. Therefore, we deliver practical and field-based experiences.

Our field courses and day excursions are challenging and fun. Often, they will provide some of your most memorable moments.

For example, you could be:

  • splashing through rivers, counting insects
  • trekking through the forest, measuring trees and taking leaf samples
  • applying your skills to field conservation in wild and remote areas
  • learning how people manage land for conservation, forestry and agriculture

We also want you to gain valuable skills by using as many types of field equipment as possible. With our range of tools and high-tech equipment, you can obtain and interpret ecological and environmental measurements.

For example:

  • assessing biodiversity and water quality
  • taking climate and trace gas measurements
  • estimating carbon stocks of forests
  • collecting water samples
  • calculating and measuring rates of photosynthesis
  • detecting water stress in plants
  • evaluating the influence of soil chemical properties on vegetation

The locations and experiences of each trip will vary. We want to give you a broad understanding of how the world works. Our goal is to reduce our carbon footprint while providing you with the best training opportunities.

Our compulsory field trips or field courses are free, including travel and accommodation. To make sure our degrees are accessible and inclusive, we offer alternative learning experiences where necessary.

You can also find our blog posts and videos about fieldwork experiences on the School of GeoSciences website.

School of GeoSciences website: field trips

Edinburgh is your ideal base

Edinburgh is ranked 2nd in the UK and 16th in the world in the QS Best Student Cities 2024. Our vibrant capital is an irresistible blend of history and modern city life.

Edinburgh is not only a fantastic city to live in; it is also the perfect location to see the subjects you study first-hand. We have rich ecological and environmental locations to explore right on our doorstep.

We will also take you on day trips throughout your studies to help you make the most of your local surroundings.

Explore rugged coastlines, misty mountains, forest glens and sparkling freshwater lochs.

It is no surprise we are regularly voted one of the most desirable places to live in the world.

What is it really like to study with us?

No one knows what it is like to study here better than the students themselves.

Our students are sharing their experiences, from studying to living in Edinburgh and everything in between.

Get social with us:

I was attracted to this degree programme by its uniqueness. It offers an integrative understanding of the global Earth system and insight into cutting-edge approaches to mitigate ever-pressing ecological and environmental issues. I've developed many quantitative, field and software-based skills, opening up a range of career opportunities. The best aspect: my experience in the vibrant and inspiring environment of Edinburgh!

William Wrench, BSc Ecological and Environmental Sciences

The exciting nature of your degree means you will have a diverse learning experience during your years with us.

You could be discussing animal adaptions to habitat in a tutorial one day, or in a Scottish forest collecting plant samples the next.

Throughout your degree, you will:

  • learn the general principles and key methods in ecology and environmental sciences
  • develop in-demand skills in data science and computational data analysis
  • have a lot of fun outdoors

The way you learn will depend on the courses you take, and the nature of the topics explored.

You can find details for individual courses through the 'Programme Structure' link.

Option courses

One of the best things about a Scottish undergraduate degree is the amount of electives (called 'option courses') you can study. You have the opportunity to take a significant number of courses outside your degree in Years 1 and 2.

You can choose courses related to your degree. Or you can try something completely different and new to you.

Changes to teaching and learning

We are committed to offering high-quality education to all our students. However, there may be changes to course options and delivery. All decisions are made to make sure we can provide the highest standards for your educational experience.

We try to provide a wide range of optional courses to choose from but these can be changed or cancelled at short notice. Course capacity and timetabling constraints can limit places on optional courses. Therefore, we cannot guarantee every offer holder their top choice of optional courses.

Changes to field trips

Field course locations may change for various reasons, including the health and safety of our students, staff and communities, and to make sure we can maintain the highest standards for your educational experience.

Where suitable, fieldwork will be relocated or rescheduled. We will also look at alternative arrangements that will make sure you achieve the quality learning outcomes of your degree.

We will announce any changes as soon as possible.

Accessibility on field trips

We are committed to making our degree as accessible and inclusive as possible. If you cannot attend all trips or only some of them, we will provide alternatives with similar learning outcomes where necessary.

Year 1

We will introduce you to fundamental aspects of ecology. This involves both theoretical and practical studies.

You will explore the diversity of living organisms and the evolutionary forces that created them.

About half of your courses will be in ecological and environmental sciences on the BSc programme. The other half will be your chosen option courses.

Year 2

You will learn how aspects of nature are connected.

We will give you insights into the diversity, distribution and abundance of life on planet Earth.

As in Year 1, you will have significant flexibility in your option course choices.

Year 3

You will start Year 3 with a week-long summer field course.

Through fieldwork, you will learn different measurement and evaluation techniques.

Your coursework will focus on specialised aspects of your degree, learning at the cutting edge of different ecological and environmental disciplines.

You can also choose from a wide selection of option courses.

Year 4

The main focus will be on your dissertation. This is an independent, original piece of research in your chosen specialist field.

  • You will receive individual supervision from an academic with experience in your chosen subject area.
  • Often dissertations are undertaken in partnership with companies or UK research centres.
  • Most students will do outdoor field data collection as part of their project.

Here are some recent honours dissertation titles to give you an idea of what you can do:

  • Does cacao drive deforestation in Amazonian Peru?
  • The effect of speed bump presence on potentially toxic element concentration in road dust in Edinburgh
  • Competition interactions in a neotropical cloud forest
  • Carbon payback times of wind farms on the Isle of Lewis
  • Investigating the relationships between the European otter and the invasive signal crayfish
  • Plant detritus decomposition in a Mediterranean lagoon
  • How does charcoal production influence wealth and natural resource use in Mabalane District, Mozambique?
  • A critical review of land reform polices in devolved Scotland

You will also continue to study compulsory ecology and environmental science courses. This includes a week-long summer residential field course. We will help you develop skills in designing and conducting your own field experimental project.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2024/25)

Our facilities

You will have access to the University's facilities across all University sites.

For example:

  • laboratories
  • libraries
  • study spaces (some study spaces are open 24 hours)
  • computing facilities
  • social spaces
  • leisure facilities

Depending on the option courses you choose, you may study at different campus locations in Edinburgh.

King's Buildings campus

Most teaching occurs in the School of GeoSciences, located at the University's King's Buildings campus. The King's Buildings (KB) is the main campus of the College of Science and Engineering.

The King's Buildings campus is around 15 minutes from central Edinburgh. It is easily accessible by bus. You can also cycle (10 minutes) or walk (25 minutes) from the central area.

The School of GeoSciences houses a wide range of cutting-edge facilities and services. We also provide many collaborative centres of research excellence.

You will:

  • have access to a range of high-tech facilities, letting you analyse various types of samples
  • collect some of these samples during field excursions
  • conduct field measurements using various techniques used in ecological and environmental sciences

Visit the School of GeoSciences Research Facilities

We also host the NERC Field Spectroscopy Facility.

Visit the NERC Field Spectroscopy Facility website

College of Science and Engineering

The College and University's central units provide many essential services at the Kings Buildings campus.

For example:

  • library and study facilities
  • catering outlets and shops
  • our Careers Service

You can find out more about Kings Buildings campus on the College of Science and Engineering website:

Visit the College of Science and Engineering website

Some science and technology companies are also located on the campus. Many of these companies are spin-out companies based on College research. There are also start-ups which have set up base here to build close ties with the College.

Take a virtual tour

You can take a closer look at the School of GeoSciences and explore our facilities and campus on the University's Virtual Visit site.

Discover our city's landmarks, our campuses, accommodation and get video tours - all in one place.

Take a virtual tour of the School of GeoSciences


There are no compulsory placements or internships as part of this degree. But you will have opportunities for work-integrated learning during your studies.

For example, we can help you with self-arranged summer placements. These can be with established researchers in our teaching team.

There are also placement opportunities with external institutions. For example, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH).

Visit the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

Your research dissertation project can provide a further opportunity to collaborate with an external partner.

Study abroad

There are exciting opportunities to study abroad as part of the University's exchange programmes.

Many of our students spend their third year abroad in Europe or further afield. A year abroad can give you invaluable academic and life skills.

Visit: what are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

The types of learning styles depend on the courses you choose and the nature of the topics explored.

You will learn from a wide range of experienced academics at the forefront of their field. Our research-led, industry-informed teaching draws on the latest developments. Our staff will include the latest research in your teaching and share our discoveries with you, keeping your degree up-to-date and exciting.

Teaching can be through a mix of:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • practical classes
  • workshops
  • field trips and field courses
  • project work

You will also design and execute your own project dissertation in your final year.

Our experts

We also have a wide network of experts who will contribute to the programme.

They may:

  • be invited as external speakers on our field courses
  • deliver guest lectures
  • contribute to discussions
  • highlight links between in-class materials and real-world projects
  • provide possible dissertation opportunities

How will you support me?

We want to help you make the most of your studies with us.

You will have access to a range of resources and activities to support you during your studies. You will be assigned a Student Adviser for the duration of your degree, who will be your main contact if you have any questions related to academic or pastoral support.

The Student Adviser works with academics in your degree and the wider University support services. They can also help you with a wide range of administrative and practical issues, and can direct you to relevant resources or people.

Find out more about student support

You will also be assigned a Cohort Lead who will organise activities to help you get to know the other students on your degree. They will also advise and support you on a range of topics including:

  • course choices
  • how to develop and improve your academic skills
  • how to effectively use feedback
  • advice on your future career opportunities

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed in different ways, depending on the courses you choose and the nature of the topics explored.

Assessment can be through a mix of:

  • written or practical exams, including multiple-choice exercises
  • laboratory reports and field project reports
  • practical evaluation in the field or field notebooks
  • coursework such as essays
  • posters
  • individual or group projects and presentations

Our programme will prepare you for diverse, specialised roles.

Your integrated thinking will become valuable to:

  • managing environmental impact
  • monitoring and addressing environmental problems
  • engaging, informing and educating specific groups and the general public
  • developing new environmental technologies and systems

We want you to develop practical skills for future employers. Many of your activities are similar to what professionals do in the real world.

Our programme equips you with valuable data skills, computational analysis and quantitative skills. Demand is growing for these skills across a range of employment sectors.

By studying with us, a range of career opportunities are open to you. Our students have embarked on a diverse range of occupations after graduation.

For example, you could work in:

  • local, national and international agencies
  • non-government organisations (NGOs)
  • environmental consultancies
  • research and development
  • environmental, social and corporate governance
  • government
  • the private sector

Career pathways

Our degree opens up a range of career pathways.

For example, you could:

  • pursue a career focused on the sciences, placing you at the forefront of the climate challenge
  • work for an environmental consultancy or conservation organisation
  • work in forestry, land use or water resource management industries

Our graduates are not confined to science-related careers.

You can also move into areas such as:

  • consultancy
  • policy
  • communications
  • education
  • media

In these roles, you can change how business, government and communities impact the environment.

Where do our graduates find employment?

We have a large network of graduate alumni within our programme. They can provide you with direct opportunities for projects, placements and job applications.

Our graduates have gained employment in roles such as:

  • Conservation Scientist
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Sustainability Coordinator
  • Project Director
  • Ecology Inspector
  • Research Assistant
  • Ranger
  • Offshore Environment Manager
  • Field Ecologist
  • National Park Manager
  • Environmental Advisor
  • Renewables Project Officer
  • Forestry Consultant

In the environmental sector, the range of occupations is expanding. There is also increasing demand for more environmental roles across other job sectors.

Our graduates work in a variety of organisations, including:

  • Birdlife International
  • Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation
  • Linklaters
  • London Wildlife Trust
  • National Trust
  • Loch Lomond National Park
  • East Devon Council
  • Cambridgeshire Council
  • WYG Group
  • Scottish Power Renewables
  • EnergieKontor Wind Farms
  • IKM Engineering
  • Bidwells

One of our alumni, Piers Sellers, went on to become an astronaut for NASA.

A sustainable future

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are a call for action to address the significant global challenges of our generation.

There are 17 overarching goals with a timeline set to 2030. Nearly all countries in the world have committed to this plan.

They address challenges such as:

  • climate change
  • environment
  • water
  • food inequality
  • protecting our planet

Changes are taking place in every sector, including government, civil society, and the private sector.

With this degree, you can work in fields that directly contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

Careers Service

We support you in recognising the many possibilities ahead.

Our award-winning Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience. We also support you after graduation.

We provide:

  • tailored advice
  • individual guidance
  • internships and networking opportunities (with employers from local organisations to top multinationals)
  • access to the experience of our worldwide alumni network

We invest in your future beyond the end of your degree. Studying here is about laying the foundations for your future success.

Visit our Careers Service

Further study

Our programmes also prepare you for competitive entry into relevant postgraduate degree programmes. A significant proportion of our students progress to further postgraduate study and research.

This degree attracted me as it engaged with some of the most important issues of our time. I've been able to explore and investigate these issues from scientific, political, ethical and economic perspectives. I have developed professional skills such as scientific writing, experimental design, and critical analysis. Throughout my studies, I have been inspired and encouraged by my fellow students and staff members and feel confident and prepared for my future career.

Matthew Logan, BSc Ecological and Environmental Sciences

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5 or AAAB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: AAA - ABB in one set of exams.
  • IB: 34 points with 666 at HL - 32 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 32 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: two of Biology*, Chemistry*, Environmental Science, Geography, Mathematics/Applications of Mathematics*, or Physics* (*include at least one) at B. National 5s: Mathematics or Applications of Mathematics at B and English at C.
  • A Levels: two of Biology*, Chemistry*, Environmental Science, Geography, Geology, Mathematics*, or Physics* (*include at least one) at B. GCSEs: Mathematics at B or 6 and English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: two of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics Analysis and approaches, Mathematics: Applications and interpretation, or Physics at 5. SL: English at 5 and Mathematics Analysis and Approaches or Mathematics: Applications and interpretation at 5 (if not at HL).

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

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


For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • GCSE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate at C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

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

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • 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 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 65 with at least 54 in each component. We do not accept PTE Academic Online.*

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

Unless you are a national of a majority English speaking country, your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start of the month in which the degree you are applying to study begins. If you are using an IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE test, it must be no more than two years old on the first of the month in which the degree begins, regardless of your nationality.

English language requirements

(*Revised 24 May 2024 to change PTE Academic requirement from total 62 with at least 54 in each component, and to clarify that we do not accept PTE Academic online.)

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for BSc Ecological and Environmental Sciences

Additional costs

The School of GeoSciences does not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips or field courses.

Costs of travel, accommodation and general upkeep on compulsory field trips are covered by the programme, thanks to the continued support of our generous alumni community.

However, you are responsible for any incidental/personal expenses. This may include suitable outdoor clothing and footwear.

Excursions as part of optional courses have extra fees, which vary depending on the nature of the field trip.

Dissertation costs

There may be some costs associated with your dissertation research project, including field costs.

You can design your dissertation project to reduce costs.

The School of GeoSciences also provides a £150 allowance for using facilities to support your dissertation project.


For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding

More information

How to apply

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering