BSc Ecological and Environmental Sciences
UCAS code: CF17
Duration: 4 years
College: Science and Engineering
Introducing BSc Ecological and Environmental Sciences
Are you passionate about interactions between humans and the natural world?
Are you concerned about our impact on the planet?
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 the greatest environmental challenges facing our planet.
What is ecological and environmental science?
- Ecological sciences study how organisms interact with each other, as well as their physical, chemical and biological environment.
- 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 vital for managing changing environments for a more sustainable future.
Making a difference starts here. Are you ready?
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 a range of employment sectors.
We will teach you to:
- understand environmental issues
- design robust strategies for sample collection
- make ecological and environmental measurements
- realise the significance of results to manage conservation and environmental protection assessments
- use enhanced planning and management skills to develop solutions to environmental problems
- understand the science to contribute to difficult management questions and policy
- be aware of conflicts between humans and the natural world - and how humans are changing our planet
- learn about the human pressures attached to natural processes in our modern world
We also have an extensive network of experts contributing to this degree. They can help you gain valuable real-world experience to effect meaningful change. Our links also provide you with valuable networking and potential employment opportunities.
Open to a world of possibilities
We are one of the largest and most successful groupings of geographers, Earth and environmental scientists in the UK. Many of them are world experts in their field. Our staff will incorporate the latest research in your teaching, and share our discoveries with you.
Join us and help tackle today's greatest challenges.
- We are 16th in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2022.
- We are in the world's top 50 and the UK's top 10 universities for natural sciences, environmental sciences, geography, earth and marine sciences (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022).
- Learn from ecological and environmental scientists at the forefront of their fields. We are delivering world-leading research in a range of areas from the tropics to the poles.
- Enjoy access to a world of experience with our research and industry networks.
- Get advice and guidance with our dedicated Careers Service.
Our Centre for Sustainable Forests and Landscapes is linked to this degree.
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 practical experience. It also gives you valuable field skills prized by employers.
What do you do on a field trip?
Oh, the places you will go! The real world is your most important classroom. So, we place a great deal of emphasis on delivering practical and field-based experiences.
But, what do you actually do on a field trip? The answer is...a lot!
Our field courses and day excursions are hard work and fun. Often they will provide some of your most memorable moments. So you will have many opportunities to get your hands dirty!
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 in-demand skills by using as many types of field equipment as possible. With our range of tools and modern high-tech equipment, we are able to bring your subject to life.
You will become familiar with using field tools to obtain and interpret ecological and environmental measurements.
- 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 enrich you with a broad understanding of how the world works.
Our compulsory field trips or field courses are free, including travel and accommodation.
Want to know more?
You can find more information about field trips within our courses by accessing them through the 'Programme Structure' link.
You can also access our blog posts and videos about fieldwork experiences on the School of GeoSciences website.
What is it really like to study with us?
No one knows what it is like to study here more 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
Edinburgh is your ideal base
Edinburgh is ranked 2nd in the UK and 12th in the world in the QS Best Student Cities 2022. Our vibrant capital is an irresistible blend of history and modern city life.
Edinburgh is not only a fantastic city to live in; it's 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.
Immerse yourself among rugged coastlines, misty mountains, forest glens and sparkling freshwater lochs.
We will also take you on day trips throughout your studies to help you make the most of your local surroundings.
It is no surprise we are regularly voted one of the most desirable places to live in the world!
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 immersing yourself in a Scottish forest collecting plant samples the next.
- You will learn the general principles and key methods in ecology and environmental sciences.
- We will also help you develop in-demand skills in data science and computational data analysis.
- And you will have a lot of fun outdoors!
What (and how) 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.
One of the most exciting things about a Scottish undergraduate degree is option courses. 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, please be advised that there may be changes to course options and delivery. All decisions are made to ensure we can provide the highest standards for your educational experience.
Although we endeavour to provide a wide range of optional courses to choose from, these can be subject to change or cancellation at short notice. Places on optional courses can be limited due to course capacity and timetabling constraints. It may not be possible to guarantee every offer holder their top choice of optional courses.
Changes to field trips
Field course locations may change for a variety of reasons, including due to Covid-19. Where suitable, fieldwork will be relocated, rescheduled or alternative arrangements provided. Decisions will be made to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and community - and to ensure the highest standards of educational experience.
Accessibility on field trips
We are committed to making our degree as accessible and inclusive as possible. In the event that you cannot attend all trips or only some of them, we will provide similar alternatives.
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.
Approximately half of your courses will be in ecological and environmental sciences on the BSc programme. The other half will be your chosen option courses.
You will gain an understanding of the interconnectedness of nature.
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.
You will start Year 3 with a week-long summer field course.
Through fieldwork, you will learn a variety of measurement and evaluation techniques.
Your coursework will focus on specialised aspects of your degree, learning at the cutting edge of various ecological and environmental disciplines.
You can also choose from a wide selection of option courses.
A significant focus will be on your honours 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.
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.
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.
You will have access to the University's facilities across all University sites.
- 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 various campus locations in Edinburgh.
King's Buildings campus
Most teaching occurs within 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 several collaborative centres of research excellence.
- 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
You will become familiar with many of these facilities and techniques while studying here.
We also host the NERC Field Spectroscopy Facility.
College of Science and Engineering
The College and University's central units provide many essential services at the Kings Buildings campus.
- 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:
The Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) runs several facilities at the Kings Buildings campus, for example:
- KB House has extensive sport and exercise facilities
- KB Advice Place provides a range of information for students
A cluster of 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 located 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.
You 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).
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.
How will I learn?
The exciting nature of your degree means you will have a diverse learning experience throughout your years with us.
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 incorporates the latest developments. Our staff will ensure the latest research in your teaching and share our discoveries with you - keeping your degree up-to-date, diverse, and exciting.
Teaching can be through a mix of:
- practical classes
- field trips and field courses
- project work
We also have a wide network of experts who will contribute to the programme. They can help you gain valuable real-world experience to effect meaningful change. Our links also provide you with valuable networking and potential employment opportunities.
- 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
You will also design and execute your own project dissertation in your final year.
You can find more information about teaching methods for individual courses by accessing them through the 'Programme Structure' link.
How will you support me?
We will support you with individual guidance from an academic with experience in your chosen subject area.
A Personal Tutor will support you during your studies. We also have Student Support Coordinators for additional pastoral support.
How will I be assessed?
You will be assessed in a variety of ways. The types of assessment depend 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
- individual or group projects and presentations
Details about assessment methods for individual courses can be found through the 'Programme Structure' link for this degree.
Our programme will prepare you for diverse, specialised roles.
Your integrative 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. So, many of your activities simulate those that professionals perform in the real world.
Our programme equips you with sought-after 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
- the private sector
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 - core skills in environmental impact assessment are particularly relevant in these industries
Our graduates are not confined to science-related careers. You can also move into areas such as:
In these roles, you can change how business, government and communities impact the environment.
Where do our graduates find employment?
We have an extensive 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
- 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
- London Wildlife Trust
- National Trust
- Loch Lomond National Park
- East Devon Council
- Cambridgeshire Council
- WYG Group
- Scottish Power Renewables
- EnergieKontor Wind Farms
- IKM Engineering
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 seventeen 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
- 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.
By studying with us, you'll join one of the UK's largest groupings of ecological, environmental, and Earth scientists.
This means you will have access to our wide range of research and industry networks. We have excellent relationships with various organisations. These range from local communities to government, industry, and academia.
They can help you gain valuable real-world experience to effect real change. Our links also provide you with valuable networking and potential employment opportunities.
All of this ensures your degree has real-world relevance.
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
We support you to recognise the wealth of possibilities ahead.
Our award-winning Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience. We also support you after graduation.
- 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. Whatever shape that takes.
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.
Standard entry requirement
The standard entry requirement is:
- SQA Highers: AABB - 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.
- IB: 34 points with 555 at HL - 32 points with 555 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 555 at HL.
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/Studies, 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). If you do not have Mathematics please contact the College of Science and Engineering Admissions Office via the Enquiries link below.
We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.
We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.
For direct entry to second year the standard requirements must be exceeded, including the following:
- SQA Advanced Highers: AAB to include Biology, plus one of Chemistry, Mathematics, or Physics, plus one further Higher from Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics, or Physics. Higher Applications of Mathematics is not accepted in place of Higher Mathematics.
- A Levels: A*AA in one set of exams to include Biology, plus one of Chemistry, Mathematics, or Physics, plus one further A Level from Chemistry, Geography, Geology, Mathematics, or Physics or AAA in one set of exams to include Biology, plus two of Chemistry, Geology, Mathematics, or Physics.
- IB: 38 points with 666 at HL to include Biology and Chemistry at 6.
Other entry pathways
Entry to many degrees in Science & Engineering is possible via other qualifications (eg HNC/D, Access, SWAP).
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.
SQA, GCSE and IB
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
- SQA Standard Grade at 3
- 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.
- 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 62 with at least 54 in each component.
We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.
English language qualifications must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the degree you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.
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.
The School of GeoSciences does not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips or field courses.
This degree involves a significant element of field study. We are proud to be able to support you as you learn practical and highly-prized skills.
Costs of travel, accommodation and subsistence on compulsory field trips are covered by the programme, thanks to the continued support of our generous alumni community.
- you are responsible for any incidental/personal expenses
- excursions as part of optional courses entail extra fees, which vary depending on the nature of the field trip
For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.
2 degrees in Ecological and Environmental Sciences
- Ecological and Environmental Sciences (BSc) CF17
- Ecological and Environmental Sciences with Management (BSc) CN12
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2 degrees in Ecological and Environmental Sciences
- Ecological and Environmental Sciences (BSc) CF17
- Ecological and Environmental Sciences with Management (BSc) CN12