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Applied Conservation Genetics with Wildlife Forensics (Online Learning) (MSc/PgDip/PgCert/PgProfDev)

Programme description

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

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

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

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

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

Suitable participants include wildlife professionals interested in learning how DNA analysis can be applied to conservation management, from captive breeding programmes to reintroductions and natural population management.

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

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

Programme structure

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

Year 1

  • Essential population genetic theory and techniques (20 Credits)
  • Introduction to Applied Conservation Genetics (20 Credits)
  • Introduction to Wildlife Forensics (10 Credits)
  • Genetic Data Analysis for Conservation Management and Wildlife Forensics (10 Credits)

Year 2

Applied Conservation Genetics and Wildlife Forensics (20 Credits) The role of wildlife genetics in global conservation challenges (20 Credits)

Elective courses currently offered:

  • Quality management in wildlife forensic science (10 Credits)
  • Reporting forensic evidence (10 Credits)
  • Population genetics for conservation breeding (10 Credits)
  • Conservation genetics for reintroductions, translocations and population monitoring (10 Credits)

Year 3

Dissertation Element (must be written within a 12 month period).

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

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

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

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

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

Postgraduate Professional Development

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

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

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

Learning outcomes

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

Knowledge and Understanding

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

Practice: applied knowledge, skills and understanding

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

Generic cognitive skills

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

Communication, ICT, Numeracy Skills

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

Autonomy, accountability and working with others

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


Visit the Applied Conservation Genetics with Wildlife Forensics (Online Learning) (MSc/PgDip/PgCert/PgProfDev) page on the University of Edinburgh website for more details!

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