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Masters Degrees (Plant Systematics)

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Be in demand. There is a shortage of applied plant breeders in New Zealand and overseas - you will be in demand in the industry. Many graduates have employment before they graduate. Read more

Be in demand

There is a shortage of applied plant breeders in New Zealand and overseas - you will be in demand in the industry. Many graduates have employment before they graduate.

Find out more about the Master of Science parent structure.

When you study the Master of Science (Plant Breeding) at Massey University you will become a member of a significant international scientific community responsible for global food security.

This plant breeding major is a unique qualification in New Zealand. This course will provide you with training in quantitative genetics & applied plant breeding methods, multisite experimental design, data analysis & interpretation, application of molecular tools in plant breeding and visits to field programs & interaction with applied plant breeders.

Take advantage of our globally-renowned expertise

This course will be taught by highly-skilled internationally-recognised and active researchers with expertise in; plant genetic resources, quantitative genetics, applied plant breeding, plant molecular biology, evolutionary biology, systematics and taxonomy and plant physiology. During the course of your studies you will visit applied field programs and learn from practicing scientists and experienced field breeders.

A multi-disciplinary approach

The modern plant breeder is one who has not only to have a good understanding of genetics and plant breeding methods, but also know how to apply new tools such as molecular marker technologies and also interact with other significant disciplines such as agronomy, plant protection, plant physiology. This is why our course takes a multi-disciplinary approach. The students are taught the importance of a team approach to plant breeding. They are also given a global prospective of the significance of the international plant breeding community responsible for food security of the human population.

World-class equipment and facilities

As a plant breeding student you will have access to Massey’s world-leading equipment and facilities such as our extensive glasshouses and farms, moleculAar labs, the Dame Ella Campbell Herbarium, the Palynology Laboratory, Plant Growth Unit, Seed Testing Services, Massey Genome Service and the Manawatu Microscopy and Imaging Centre.

Relevant and topical

We work to ensure that our teaching fits with the changing environment, which means that you will emerge with a relevant qualification valued by potential employers. 

During the course of your study you will get the opportunity to visit and work with organisations working on plant breeding, like the AgResearch Grasslands Research Centre, Plant & Food and SCION. Some of our students are able to conduct their projects at these organisations whilst undertaking their postgraduate study, benefiting their career and gaining real-word experience in the process. Masters and PhD students from Massey are often co-supervised by experienced scientists from these organisations, most of which are physically located very close to Massey’s Manawatu campus.

Why postgraduate study?

Postgraduate study is hard work but hugely rewarding and empowering. The Master of Science will push you to produce your best creative, strategic and theoretical ideas. The workload replicates the high-pressure environment of senior workplace roles. Completing this course will also provide you with the opportunity of undertaking a PhD.

Not just more of the same

Postgraduate study is not just ‘more of the same’ undergraduate study. Our experts are there to guide but if you have come from undergraduate study, you will find that postgraduate study demands more in-depth and independent study. It takes you to a new level in knowledge and expertise especially in planning, undertaking research, improving scientific skills and also presenting scientific information to an audience.

Complete in 2 years

Massey University’s Master of Science is primarily a 240 credit master qualification. This is made up of 120 credits of taught courses and a 120 credit research project.

Or if you have already completed the BSc (Hons) or PGDipSc you can conduct a 120 credit thesis to achieve your masters qualification.



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Make a difference. From protecting our native biodiversity to identifying key traits to improve crop plants in an ever-changing climate, plant biology research can solve the world’s major global issues. Read more

Make a difference

From protecting our native biodiversity to identifying key traits to improve crop plants in an ever-changing climate, plant biology research can solve the world’s major global issues.

Find out more about the Master of Science parent structure.

Massey’s Master of Science (Plant Biology) will give you the knowledge and skills to understand and help solve some of the world’s most important current issues, such as the effects of climate change on our native species and crop plants, how to preserve native biodiversity, and understanding fundamental physiological aspects of plants.

You will build upon your undergraduate degree and conduct original, independent research under the guidance of a leading plant science academic.

Expertise in an area of your choice

The plant biology team at Massey have expertise in plant molecular biology, evolutionary biology, systematics and taxonomy, and plant physiology. During the course of your studies you can choose to further your knowledge and apply your learning on an exciting research project such as:

  • Evolution of plant genomes
  • Molecular development of plants
  • Population genetics and conservation genetics of native plants

Take advantage of our globally-renowned expertise

Let our experts help you develop your own expertise. You will learn from, and research with, highly-skilled internationally-recognised and active researchers in plant biology and related areas, with a huge depth of knowledge and experience. Postgraduate study and research in plant biology at Massey spans evolutionary biology to physiology. You will have the opportunity to learn about the fundamental aspects of plant growth and function, as well as the molecular evolution and classification (systematics) of plants. You might choose to conduct research focused on the native New Zealand flora or a model organism, like Arabidopsis thaliana, or even a crop species.

You will also be able to take advantage of Massey’s expertise across the sciences. We have a wide and relevant group of expertise within the university, from fundamental sciences like microbiology and biochemistry, to agriculture, engineering, horticulture and environmental management. 

This means no matter what your research interest you will have access to a broad range of experts to assist you develop your own research.

Use world-leading equipment and facilities

As a plant biology student you will have access to our world-leading equipment and facilities such as the Dame Ella Campbell Herbarium, the Palynology Laboratory, Plant Growth Unit, Seed Testing Services, Massey Genome Service and the Manawatu Microscopy and Imaging Centre.

Relevant and topical

We work to ensure that our teaching fits with the changing environment, which means that you will emerge with a relevant qualification valued by potential employers.

Making industry connections for you

Massey has strong connections with the Crown Research Institutes in Palmerston North and across New Zealand, especially AgResearch, Landcare Research, Plant and Food Research, and Scion. Some of our students are able to conduct their projects at these organisations whilst undertaking their postgraduate study, benefiting their career and gaining real-word experience in the process.

Why postgraduate study?

Postgraduate study is hard work but hugely rewarding and empowering. The Master of Science will push you to produce your best creative, strategic and theoretical ideas. The workload replicates the high-pressure environment of senior workplace roles.

Not just more of the same

Postgraduate study is not just ‘more of the same’ undergraduate study. Our experts are there to guide but if you have come from undergraduate study, you will find that postgraduate study demands more in-depth and independent study. It takes you to a new level in knowledge and expertise especially in planning and undertaking research.

Complete in 2 years

Massey University’s Master of Science is primarily a 240 credit master qualification. This is made up of 120 credits of taught courses and a 120 credit research project.

Or if you have already completed the BSc (Hons) or PGDipSc you can conduct a 120 credit thesis to achieve your MSc qualification.



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Goal of the pro­gramme. Life on Earth depends on solar energy captured by plants - they are the base of most food webs and underpin the functioning of all major ecosystems. Read more

Goal of the pro­gramme

Life on Earth depends on solar energy captured by plants - they are the base of most food webs and underpin the functioning of all major ecosystemsPlants release the oxygen we breath. They convert solar energy into chemical energy, providing us with food, fibres, renewable energy sources, and raw materials for many industries. Plants do not carry out these processes in isolation. They interact with other organisms and the physical and chemical environment, communicate and actively adjust to their circumstances. How do they do these things and how can we profit from understanding them? When you have graduated from the Master’s Program in Plant Biology you will have the answers to these big questions, and more, such as:

  • How one plant cell develops into a complicated organism and how plant cells, tissues and organs communicate with each other
  • How plants avoid, tolerate or defend themselves from external stress factors such as diseases, drought and excessive solar radiation
  • How plants sense their environment and communicate with each other and with other organisms
  • How plants, interacting with microbes, fungi and animals, maintain ecosystems and thus life
  • How the genotypic, functional and morphological differences between plants allow them to thrive in vastly different habitats

You will also be able to:

  • Understand how research in plant biology and biotechnology can contribute to plant breeding and production
  • Plan, coordinate and execute high-quality basic and applied scientific research
  • Have a good command of the scientific method and critically evaluate research across scientific disciplines
  • Use the basic skills needed to expand your knowledge into other related fields and communicate with experts in those fields
  • Act in working life as an expert and innovator in your field, supported by your language, communication and other transferable skills
  • Be eligible for scientific post-graduate (doctoral) studies

After earning your degree, you can continue towards a PhD or move directly into a career. If you have a Bachelor’s degree in a field of biology from another Finnish university or from a foreign university anywhere in the world, you are welcome to apply for the Master’s programme in Plant Biology. Based on your previous studies we will evaluate the possible need for supplementary studies, which will be included in your degree.

Further information about the studies on the Master's programme website.

Pro­gramme con­tents

The Master’s Programme in Plant Biology is a joint programme of the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences and the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, which ensures an exceptionally comprehensive curriculum. You will be able to study the diversity of wild and cultivated plants from the Arctic to the Tropics, as well as plant functions from the molecular to the ecosystem level.

The teaching is diverse, consisting of modern laboratory and computer courses, field courses, seminars and excursions. The curriculum is intertwined with research. You will be introduced to the research groups from the beginning of your studies, so you will become familiar with research methods as your studies progress. Much of the study material is in various learning platforms (such as Moodle), which allow distance learning. You will have a personal tutor who will help you tailor an individual study plan according to your requirements.

Within the programme you can choose among several optional study modules and focus on, for example:

  • Plant biotechnology and breeding
  • Molecular biology and genetics
  • Regulation of growth, reproduction and differentiation of tissues
  • Biological basis of crop yield
  • Plant ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Evolutionary history and systematics of plants and fungi
  • Species identification

All modules are worth at least 15 credits. They are interlinked to ensure a coherent and balanced degree that allows you to obtain a broad perspective. Alternatively, you can focus on your primary research interest while acquiring the skills needed to follow your career goals on completion of your degree.

A translational perspective is emphasised in courses in which it is relevant. That will allow you to apply the acquired basic knowledge in problem-based research, bridging the gap between basic and applied research.



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With only a small percentage of the planet's diversity formally described by science, it is more important than ever to train a new generation of taxonomists who will go on to describe, understand and conserve biodiversity. Read more
With only a small percentage of the planet's diversity formally described by science, it is more important than ever to train a new generation of taxonomists who will go on to describe, understand and conserve biodiversity.

Of critical shortage are skilled scientists in plant and fungal taxonomy, scientists that underpin much bioscience, nature conservation, plant breeding work, as well as underpinning the development of environmental policy. This course delivers vital training to fill that skill shortage. The course will provide training in plant and fungal identification skills, in combination with a thorough grounding in molecular systematics, evolutionary biology, and conservation policy, theory and practice.

Collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

This MSc course is delivered in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and you will be based there for some of your teaching. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew was founded in 1759, and has the largest and most diverse collections of plant and fungal specimens and associated biodiversity databases in the world. The combination of extensive specimen collections, databases, and scientific research conducted on a global scale is unique, and means that Kew plays a leading role in facilitating greater access to basic plant information, underpinning science and conservion activities worldwide.

Other taught modules will be based at Queen Mary, Mile End campus. You will also take a fieldwork module based in Madagascar.

Research

Queen Mary and Kew have a number of long-established research links, and these have led to research papers in leading science journals such as 'Science, Trends in Plant Science', 'Trends in Ecology and Evolution', and 'Plant Journal'.

You will be taught by world-leading experts, internationally recognised for cutting edge research in plant and fungal sciences, applying new technologies to answer fundamental questions about the diversity of plant and fungal life on the planet, how it evolved and how we can best conserve it.

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Designed to deepen your understanding of the diversity of plants and their conservation. Taught by staff from academia and industry. Read more
  • Designed to deepen your understanding of the diversity of plants and their conservation
  • Taught by staff from academia and industry
  • Emphasises hands-on experience with plants, so theoretical understanding is matched by practical skills including plant identification
  • Excellent record of graduates going on to higher (research) degrees or employment in the sector

What will you study?

Sample modules:

  • Diversity and identification of plants
  • Vegetation survey and assessment
  • Global biodiversity and conservation
  • Critical discussion
  • Molecular systematics

Please note that all modules are subject to change. Please see our modules disclaimer for more information.

What career can you have?

All our master’s programmes emphasise the practical skills that employers need, whether that is the ability to identify plants, carry out environmental assessments or use the latest cutting-edge molecular techniques. As a University of Reading MSc graduate, you will be well equipped to work in the field or the lab, and in the private or public sector. Many of our graduates go on to study for a PhD and pursue a career in research either in industry or in universities. 

Typical roles of graduates from our ecology and wildlife-based MSc programmes include conservation officers, project managers, field ecologists and environmental consultants. Graduates from our biomedical MSc programme typically go on to pursue PhD studies or work in the pharmaceutical industry.



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The two year MSc Biology concerns understanding the complexity of biological systems, at scales ranging from single molecules to whole ecosystems, provides a unique intellectual challenge. Read more

MSc Biology

The two year MSc Biology concerns understanding the complexity of biological systems, at scales ranging from single molecules to whole ecosystems, provides a unique intellectual challenge. The biosciences aim to understand living systems and to help preserve biodiversity and our environment and simultaneously produce sufficient healthy and safe food.

Programme summary

Biological issues are at the forefront of the technological progress of modern society. They are central to global concerns about how we effect and are affected by our environment. Understanding the complexity of biological systems, at scales ranging from single molecules to whole ecosystems, provides a unique intellectual challenge. The MSc Biology allows students to get a broad overview of the latest developments in biology, ranging from genes to ecosystems. They learn to critically discuss the newest scientific developments in the biological sciences. Within their area of specialisation, students deepen their knowledge and skills in a certain subject. To prepare for a successful international career, we strongly encourage our students to complete part of their programme requirements abroad.

Specialisations

The MSc Biology offers nine specialisations:

Animal Adaptation and Behavioural Biology
This specialisation focuses mainly on subjects as adaptation, mechanisms involved in these adaptations and behaviour of animals.

Bio-interactions
In this specialisation, you obtain knowledge about interactions between organisms. You learn to understand and interpret interactions on different levels, from molecular to ecosystem level.

Molecular Ecology
In this specialisation, you learn to use molecular techniques to solve ecological questions. You will use, for example, molecular techniques to study the interaction between a virus and a plant.

Conservation and Systems Ecology
This specialisation focuses initially on fundamental processes that play a key role in ecology. You learn to interpret different relations, for example, the relation between chemical (or physical processes) and bioprocesses. Furthermore, you learn to analyse different ecosystems. You can use this knowledge to manage and conserve these ecological systems.

Evolution and Biodiversity
The systematics of biodiversity in an evolutionary perspective is the central focus of this specialisation. Subjects that will be addressed in this specialisation are: evolution, genetics, biosystematic research and taxonomic analysis.

Health and Disease
This specialisation focuses on regulatory mechanisms that have a central role in human and animal health.

Marine Biology
Choosing this specialisation means studying the complexity of the marine ecosystem. Moreover, you learn about the impacts of, for instance, fishery and recreation on this ecosystem or the interaction between different species in this system.

Molecular Development and Gene Regulation
This specialisation focuses on gene regulations and the different developmental mechanisms of organisms.

Plant Adaptation
This specialisation focuses on the adaptations that different plants gained in order to adjust to various conditions. You learn to understand the regulation processes in plants that underlie these adaptations.

Your future career

Many graduates from the MSc Biology study programme enter careers in fundamental and applied research or go on to become PhD students. Some find a position as communication officer, manager or policymaker. Compared with other Dutch universities, many biology graduates from Wageningen University find a position abroad.

Alumna Iris de Winter.
"I work as a PhD student at Wageningen University. In my research, I aim to understand the effect of human disturbance on the parasites prevalence in lemurs. I also look at the potential risks of the transmission of diseases and parasites from lemurs to humans, but also vice versa, from humans (and their livestock and pets) to wild lemur population. I alternate my fieldwork in Madagascar with parasite identification, analyses and writing manuscripts in the Netherlands. With this research, I hope to gain more insight in the factors that increase parasite prevalence in natural systems and hereby to improve the protection of both lemurs and their natural habitat."

Related programmes:
MSc Molecular Life Sciences
MSc Animal Sciences
MSc Plant Sciences
MSc Forest and Nature Conservation
MSc Biotechnology
MSc Plant Biotechnology
MSc Aquaculture and Marine Resource Management
MSc Organic Agriculture.

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USF’s Master of Science in Biology is research-intensive, providing personalized, hands-on training in a faculty member’s laboratory. Read more
USF’s Master of Science in Biology is research-intensive, providing personalized, hands-on training in a faculty member’s laboratory. Working together with their advisers, students design an independent, faculty-directed research project that culminates in a formal written thesis.

The focus of USF’s Master of Science in Biology program is hands-on lab research with full-time faculty and the completion of a major lab research project. Students who have successfully completed the program are prepared to pursue further postgraduate work or to enter into a technical position in a related research or industrial laboratory.

Spring 2018: Areas of Research

Unlike other programs, students are required to apply for a concentration and an opening in a specific faculty member’s laboratory. To qualify for admission to the MS in biology program, you must be interested in pursuing research in one of the following areas:

Conservation Genetics & Systematics - Jennifer Dever
Microbial Ecology, Mycology & Bioinformatics - Naupaka Zimmerman
Marine Biology & Physiology - Nicole Thometz
Parasitology - John Sullivan
Plant Evolution & Ecology - John R. Paul
Virology - Juliet Spencer

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