MSc in Wild Animal Biology

Wild animal health has become increasingly popular among non-veterinarians with a first degree in zoology and biology. Recognising this, the RVC, together with the Zoological Society of London, has developed a unique course aimed at non-veterinary biological science graduates and leading to the MSc in Wild Animal Biology.

The course will provide you with practical exposure to wild animal species and an understanding of their health and welfare, as well as provide training in research methodologies relevant to the study of wildlife.

You will benefit from working and studying alongside veterinary graduates taking the MSc in Wild Animal Health as well as learning from internationally renowned experts in their field.

Objectives:

A graduate of the Certificate in Wild Animal Biology must demonstrate:

  • a conceptual understanding of population dynamics, threats to wildlife populations and how resources can be allocated for wildlife conservation
  • a critical understanding of epidemiology and the impact of disease on wild animal populations
  • the ability to evaluate interventions for the management of captive and free-living wild animals including their ethics
  • a systematic understanding of the biological principles underpinning wild animal management, and the husbandry, care and welfare of wild animals

A graduate of the Diploma in Wild Animal Biology must demonstrate (in addition to the achievements of the PG Certificate):

  • a critical awareness of methods to detect disease, disease surveillance systems and the effects of emerging diseases on captive and free-living wild animal health
  • conceptual and practical understanding of the diagnosis, management (WAB), investigation (pathology) and control of disease in captive and free-living wild animal populations
  • a comprehensive insight into the interdependence of human, domestic animal and ecosystem health
  • a creative approach to the evaluation of the health, welfare and reproduction of captive and free-living wild animals

A graduate of the Master of Science in Wild Animal Biology must demonstrate (in addition to the achievements of the PG Certificate and Diploma):

  • a comprehensive understanding of research and inquiry including (i) critical appraisal of the literature, (ii) scientific writing and (iii) scientific presentation
  • the ability to design and analyse hypothesis-driven laboratory and/or field studies
     

Course Content:

This specialist Masters course is completed over one-year full-time study, commencing in Autumn. Certificate and Diploma levels are available.

The course provides participants with:

  • a critical awareness of current problems in wildlife diseases with implications for wildlife conservation and welfare
  •  a new insight into veterinary interventions for the management of captive and free-living wild animals
  • a systematic understanding of the biological principles underpinning wild animal conservation and management, and the epidemiology, diagnosis and  control of wildlife disease
  • basic competence in veterinary techniques and preventative medicine for wild animals
  • a conceptual and practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create knowledge in the field of wild animal health
  • a comprehensive understanding of scientific skills, including a critical review of the scientific literature, and design and analysis of laboratory or field studies.

The course is delivered through two terms of lectures, seminars, tutorials and problem-based learning, with modular examinations, followed by a research project over the summer months (June-September), prior to final assessment.

Teaching covers taxa e.g. mammals, reptiles, birds and the disciplines that influence these taxa, such as epidemiology, infectious diseases, conservation and management.
 

Duration of Course Study

Full-time for one year, with exit points at Certificate and Diploma.
 

Career Prospects

Graduates of the MSc in Wild Animal Biology have gone on to pursue successful careers in wildlife management (with government agencies in both developing and developed countries), wildlife rehabilitation, wildlife-related research (at universities and zoological collections) and zoo management.

Some graduates continue to study towards a PhD, either with ZSL, the RVC or with other leading scientific research institutes.

Alternative Routes

If you are an undergraduate applicant but interested in this degree then you may be interested in the MSci Wild Animal Biology an undergraduate integrated masters degree where your first 3 years are spent at the Royal Veterinary College. Here you will be exposed to fields of research in Comparative Physiology and Medicine, Livestock Production and Health and Animal Welfare Science and Ethics, with at least 18 weeks of practical research experience available during the second and third years of study and the opportunity to carry out research projects at ZSL in your fourth year. 
http://www.rvc.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/msci-wild-animal-biology#tab-overview

Academic Staff

Course Directors:

  • Dr Tony Sainsbury, Institute of Zoology

    Tony Sainsbury is the course director based at the Institute of Zoology. He is a Senior Lecturer in Wild Animal Health. Tony’s interests lie in the epidemiology of infectious diseases and the surveillance of diseases in wild animal populations. He is a European Recognised Specialist in Zoological Medicine (Wildlife Population Health).

  • Michael Waters, Royal Veterinary College

    Mike Waters is a lecturer in Clinical Pathology and is the RVC-based course director for this MSc course. He graduated from Sydney University and holds an MSc in Wild Animal Health from the University of London.
     

  • Professor Mark Fox, Royal Veterinary College

    Mark Fox qualified as a vet at the Royal Veterinary College in 1977 and, after a period in small animal practice, returned to study for a PhD in veterinary parasitology. He then went on to set up the MSc courses in Wild Animal Health (1994) and Wild Animal Biology (2003) with the Institute of Zoology (ZSL).

  • Professor Andrew Cunningham, Institute of Zoology
    Andrew Cunningham joined the Institute of Zoology in 1988 as Veterinary Pathologist for the ZSL. In 2001 he became head of Wildlife Epidemiology at the IOZ.

Entry Requirements:

Applicants must have (or expect to receive) a university first or second class honours degree in Biology, Zoology, Animal Biology or the veterinary sciences.

We are particularly keen to see evidence of relevant work experience in a zoo, wild animal hospital or in wild animal research.

English Requirements:

See here: MSc Wild Animal Biology - English Requirements

Fees and Financial Support:

See here: MSc Wild Animal Biology - Fee Support

How do I apply?

See here: MSc Wild Animal Biology - How Do I Apply?

Or contact:

The Graduate School
The Royal Veterinary College
Royal College Street
London NW1 0TU
United Kingdom

Email : admissions@rvc.ac.uk
Tel : +44 (0) 20 7468 5134
Fax : +44 (0) 20 7468 5060

Each MSc student will be required to undertake an individual research project, between May and the middle of August, and to submit a typewritten report not exceeding 10,000 words in the form of a grant application and a scientific paper suitable for submission to a peer-reviewed journal. Over 100 publications have resulted from research projects undertaken by MSc WAH and WAB students. The project will encompass a practical study on an approved aspect of wild animal biology. 

The research project provides the opportunity to study a topic suited to the student’s desired career. A wide variety of topic areas have been chosen including projects in welfare, behaviour, infectious diseases, reproduction, nutrition, rehabilitation and management of both captive and free-living wild animals.  The project may be undertaken at any place approved by the Zoological Society of London/Royal Veterinary College with the guidance of a course supervisor.

The research project can be carried out abroad and the map below shows the locations of research projects undertaken by MSc Wild Animal Biology students.

Wild Animal Biology Research project locations 2003-2016
Wild Animal Biology Research project locations 2003-2016

Recent Research Projects

Ka Yiu (Michael) Hui

Using Wildlife eco-park to unite tourists and communities for wild elephant conservation: A study from Wild Elephant Valley, Xishuangbanna, China

Human-wildlife conflict is an increasingly important issue in many conservation circles and the economic and emotional impact these conflicts can cause is still being understood. Michael’s project aimed to study the human-wildlife conflict issues between villagers and Asian Elephants in rural villages in China where severe economic loss caused by elephants resulted in the lack of support for conservation from local communities. Michael travelled to China to evaluate the current situation of human-elephant conflicts and to find out how local people mitigate their loss. He also broached into the potential for eco-tourism in the area as a way to sustainably support villagers and simultaneously protect the elephants in order to achieve human-elephant coexistence.

Student carrying out surveys

Rebecca Lewis

The Effects of Visitor Density and Noise on the Behaviour of Western Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)

Rebecca’s project was designed with the aim of quantifying the effects of visitor presence on the gorillas housed at London Zoo to determine if visitors impact welfare. Behavioural observations are important in captive wild animals as they can provide insight into an animal’s mental wellbeing, highlighting potential problems, as certain behaviours or patterns of behaviour can be linked to increased stress. By using a focal scan sampling technique and continuous observations, Rebecca determined activity budgets and frequencies of stress-related behaviours in the gorillas at different categories of visitor density, frequency and noise volume.

Male gorilla, london zoo

Surabhi Sharma

What are the risk factors contributing to adverse surgical outcome in zoo birds & reptiles and does surgical outcome varies with the amount of surgical caseload and holding numbers of the zoological collections?

 Zoological collections house a large variety of different species. Hence, veterinary teams have to be well equipped and well versed in a variety of surgical techniques because when surgical intervention is required, it may be in a species of conservation importance, and thus individual of value. Surabhi decided to evaluate the risk factors leading to adverse surgical outcomes in zoo birds and reptiles, so that the findings could be used in decision making for future surgical cases. 

The MSc in Wild Animal Biology is completed over one- year full-time study, commencing in the autumn. It is taught jointly by the RVC and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

  • Postgraduate Certificate
  • Postgraduate Diploma 
  • Master of Science Degree

All three levels start at the same time, towards the end of September each year, and can be broken down broadly into three terms. The Certificate consists of term 1 only (September to December), the Diploma goes on to include term 2 (January to May) and the MSc also includes the research project which is undertaken during the summer months, finishing in mid-September.

None of the levels are available as part-time or distance-learning courses.

We deliver the course through two terms of lectures, seminars, tutorials and problem-based learning, with modular examinations. The MSc level includes a research project over the summer months, prior to final assessment.

Teaching covers taxa, such as mammals, reptiles and birds, and the disciplines that influence these taxa, such as epidemiology, infectious diseases, conservation and management.

To confirm the exact start date please email admissions@rvc.uk.

Microsoft Office document icon Wild Animal Biology and Wild Animal Health MSc content 2013-14 (183 KB) 

Certificate in Wild Animal Biology

  • Introductory week

You will be introduced to the course objectives, the mission of the partner organisations running the course, and the services you can receive at the ZSL and the RVC.

  • Conservation Biology Module

You will develop a conceptual understanding of which species and populations are vulnerable to extinction, how we can monitor their population dynamics and how resources to conserve species can be allocated most successfully using a scientific approach.

  • The Impact of Disease on Populations

The effects of diseases on populations can be complex but even subtle influences can markedly unbalance free-living and captive populations of wild animals. An understanding of these effects requires a critical evaluation of epidemiology and the population biology of infectious agents. Armed with this knowledge you will be equipped to make informed decisions on control methods, where these are considered an ethical approach.

  • Health and welfare of captive wild animals

Considering the enormous diversity of animal species, the management of healthy populations in captivity is an exacting challenge. In this module, you will gain a critical understanding of the principles of animal management and preventive medical approaches to maintaining healthy populations and enhance their welfare.

  • Interventions Module

Where anthropogenic threats endanger free-living populations of animals, people increasingly see a need to intervene for the conservation or welfare of these populations. However, given the need to understand complex ecological systems, the disease risks of manipulating them and the potential stress of intervention methods, such activities require detailed planning, highly skilled input and scientific evaluation to ensure lessons are learned. Using real examples this module will help you to develop a conceptual understanding of intervention methodology.

Diploma in Wild Animal Biology

  • Detection, surveillance and emerging diseases

Morbidity and mortality in free-living populations of wild animals are difficult to detect and monitor given ecosystem processes and the bias of convenience sampling strategies. In this module, you will learn about the complex methods required to detect and monitor changes in endemic diseases, detect emergent diseases, and interpret the findings in a scientific manner.

  • Ecosystem Health Module

The strong interdependence between the health of people, their domestic animals and free-living wildlife (the one-health concept) is a rapidly advancing field of scientific inquiry as illustrated by studies on globally emergent zoonoses and the health of ocean fauna. Here, you will develop your understanding of this concept through examining these examples and how they have developed policy changes.

  • Evaluation of the health and welfare of captive wild animals

In the Certificate, you will have gained a critical understanding of the management and preventive medical care required to maintain healthy populations. In this module, we investigate the scientific evaluation of wild animal welfare and critically analyse the relationship of health with both reproduction and nutrition.

  • Practical Module

This module covers the complex set of skills required to effectively maintain healthy captive populations of wild animals, and to monitor and intervene in the health of free-living populations. You will gain a conceptual and practical understanding of critical aspects of pharmacology and anaesthesia, pathology, dentistry, and surgery and imaging in wild animals.

Master of Science in Wild Animal Biology

A graduate of the Master of Science in Wild Animal Biology must demonstrate (in addition to the achievements of the PG Certificate and Diploma):

  • A comprehensive understanding of research and inquiry including (i) critical appraisal of the literature, (ii) scientific writing and (iii) scientific presentation
  • The ability to design and analyse hypothesis-driven laboratory and/or field studies

Research Planning

In this module, you will develop the extensive skills required to design and conduct practical research projects, critically appraise and review the literature, deliver effective scientific presentations, and write scientific papers suitable for submission to peer-reviewed journals.

Project

You will be required to undertake an individual research project, between May and mid-August, and to submit a typewritten report not exceeding 10,000 words in the form of a grant report and a scientific paper suitable for submission to a peer-reviewed journal. The project will encompass a practical study on an approved aspect of wild animal biology. The project may be undertaken at any place approved by the Institute/College with the guidance of a course supervisor.

Assessment

You will be assessed by seven written papers, coursework (scientific review, critical review, scientific presentation, scientific poster and a case report), an individual research project report and an oral examination. All candidates will undertake a full assessment irrespective of their performance in other parts of the course.

Project reports are submitted in mid-August and oral examinations are held in mid-September.

Graduates go on to pursue successful careers in wildlife management (government agencies, developing and developed countries), wildlife rehabilitation, wildlife related research (universities, zoological collections) and zoo management. Some continue to study towards a PhD, either with the Institute of Zoology or with another leading scientific research institute.

Femke Broekhuis 
Femke Broekhuis - MSc in Wild Animal Biology
Femke Broekhuis
Femke Broekhuis graduated from the Wild Animal Biology (WAB) course in 2007 which launched her career in cheetah research. Supervised by Dr. Sarah Durant, Femke conducted a dissertation on cheetah habitat selection after which she was awarded the Tom Kaplan Prize scholarship do a PhD with the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) at the University of Oxford. She then conducted 4/5 years of research on cheetahs in the Okavango Delta assessing cheetah interactions with lions and hyaenas. Femke is currently Project Director of the Mara Cheetah Project in Kenya where she aims to determine the current cheetah population in the Greater Mara Ecosystem, identify major threats and mitigate against them by implementing a science and community-based conservation approach.

​Kristen Steele

Kristen Steele - MSc in Wild Animal Biology
Kristen Steele
Kristen Steele is Programmes Coordinator at the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC), overseeing the Economics of Happiness Project, including organising a recent international conference in California. She also works on fundraising and writes articles and reports on the environmental and social impacts of economic globalisation and localisation.

Xinli Yap

Xinli Yap - MSc in Wild Animal Biology
Xinli Yap
Xinli Yap, who graduated from the course in 2010, now works as Conservation and Research Officer in Wildlife Reserves Singapore. Her main duties include: liaising with governmental and non-governmental organizations and individuals on local and regional conservation projects; organizing seminars, talks and conservation events; preparing materials and conducting public outreach programmes; and conducting in-house scientific research.

Lydia Tiller

Lydia Tiller - MSc in Wild Animal Biology
Lydia Tiller
Graduate from the 2008/2009 class, is currently carrying out research on elephant cognition in Thailand. She is working for a scientist called Dr Joshua Plotnik who is a Newton post-doctoral research fellow from the University of Cambridge. She is also field team leader for the Earthwatch programme that is run at the field site.

Paul Rose

Paul Rose - MSc in Wild Animal Biology
Paul Rose
Paul Rose at Martin Mere 2012, MSc Wild Animal Biology 2004/05 writes: I graduated from the MSc WAB in 2005 and went straight into academia teaching undergraduate animal science/animal management at Sparsholt College Hampshire. Since then I have developed my PhD in the Animal Behaviour group at the University of Exeter, together with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and I am researching the social organisation of captive flamingos. I teach part-time still at Sparsholt College, as well as guest lecturing for a number of other institutions around the UK. Through my links to zoos I am a member of the BIAZA Research Committee and the BIAZA Bird Working Group, and the IUCN SSC Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group. Without the stepping-stone of the MSc to help me develop my own research skills, experience of working with captive wild animals and contacts in these disciplines, I would have found my career path much harder to develop.

Nicola White 

Nicola White - MSc in Wild Animal Biology
Nicola White
Graduated from MScWAB in 2004 and is Senior Scientific Officer: Exotics & Wildlife Trade for the RSPCA, responsible for leading science-based projects, activities and programs relating to the welfare of exotic pets and wildlife trade. Prior to this she was Scientific Information Officer for the RSPCA's wildlife department, responsible for researching and checking wildlife content for the Society's publications and website, compiling reports, providing wildlife data and responding to wildlife enquiries.

 

 

 

 

The MSc in Wild Animal Biology is a unique opportunity to benefit not only from the knowledge and experiences of experts from around the world, but also from the exchange of ideas between the zoologists and veterinarians that come to the course from a variety of backgrounds. I learned far more than I expected to in the space of just one year.'
Avanti Wadugodapitiya, Sri Lanka.

‘After several years of searching for the right graduate program, I was inspired to pursue the MSc Wild Animal Biology course. I had been working as a big cat keeper at Busch Gardens in hometown of Tampa, Florida for six years. While it was a difficult decision to leave a career I loved, I went on the journey to study abroad to gain a greater understanding of conservation and wild animal management on a global level. This unique course encompassed all aspects of conservation -- in situ and ex situ wild animal management, veterinary medicine, epidemiology, and research. The lecturers were amazing, truly leaders in conservation. The research component of the degree was exhilarating as we could design any project based on our interests. I chose to study polar bear behaviour, where I spent time at zoos in five different European countries, gaining insight into their ex situ management. The very best part of the course was collaborating and developing close friendships with people from all around the world.’

Ashleigh Lutz, USA.

Ashleigh Lutz - MSc in Wild Animal Biology
Ashleigh Lutz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘It was really fantastic for me. I got theoretical as well as practical knowledge from this course which proved invaluable in my career when working on the rehabilitation of native wildlife. My MSc dissertation provided me the opportunity to study a particular species, the Common Swift, which has since been my main focus of interest and further, future research ( www.falciotnegre.com ).’
Enric Fuste, Spain.

 

Enric Fuste - MSc in Wild Animal Biology
Enric Fuste