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Ecosystem Services (MSc)

Course Description

Programme description

Studying how ecosystems benefit humanity and how we use and manage them, this programme assesses the trade-offs involved in our use of the environment.

This is a rapidly developing area, involving both natural and social sciences, and an increasingly common approach to environmental policy-making and management in government agencies and businesses.

On this programme you will study the complex relationships between ecosystem functions and how humanity uses and values ecosystems.

This programme has typically included a field trip which takes place in the spring, giving you insights into methods and approaches that will be useful for your dissertation work. The field trip has historically taken place in the Cairngorms in the Scottish highlands.

Programme structure

The programme has been designed with a focus on building up skills that are in particularly short supply in the environmental sector. The full-time programme is divided into two semesters of taught courses, followed by a field trip at Easter before the dissertation period over the summer. We are happy to accommodate different working patterns for part-time students, including a half day a week schedule for three-year part time study.

Compulsory courses typically include*:
•Ecosystem Services 1: Ecosystem Dynamics and Functions
•Analysing the Environment
•Ecosystem Services 2: Ecosystem Values and Management
•Analysing the Environment Study Tour
•Research Project in Ecosystem Services

Option courses:

In consultation with the Programme Director, you will choose from a range of option courses*. We particularly recommend:
•Culture, Ethics & Environment
•Environmental Geochemistry
•Foundations in Ecological Economics
•Frameworks to Assess Food Security
•Human Dimensions of Environmental Change and Sustainability
•Integrated Resource Management
•Principles of Environmental Sustainability
•Principles of Geographical Information Science
•Encountering Cities
•Fundamentals for Remote Sensing
•Soil Protection and Management
•Values and the Environment
•Marine Systems and Policies
•Research Skills in the Social Sciences: Data Collection
•Understanding Environment and Development
•Climate Change and Corporate Strategy
•Environmental Impact Assessment
•Forests and Environment
•Hyperspectral Remote Sensing
•Integrated Resource Planning
•Introduction to Radar Remote Sensing
•Land Use/Environmental Interactions
•Participation in Policy and Planning
•Political Ecology
•Soil Science Concepts and Application
•Sustainability of Food Production
•Water Resource Management
•Waste Reduction and Recycling
•Energy & Society
•Novel Strategies for Carbon Storage in Soil
•Applications in Ecological Economics
•Research Design

Field trip

A spring field trip will develop students’ practical experience and skills. Historically this field trip has taken place in the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands.

Career opportunities

UK research councils cite the skills gained on this MSc as those ‘most wanted’ in the environmental sector. As demand for sound evidence of ecosystem services increases, so does demand for graduates who can translate complex science into policy and business opportunities.

We have strong links with businesses and key industry players who want to make use of these skills. Committed to helping you meet prospective employers and network with those active in the field, we organise careers events, and encourage dissertations conducted in partnership with external organisations.

Student experience

Would you like to know what it’s really like to study at the School of GeoSciences?

Visit our student experience blog where you can find articles, advice, videos and ask current students your questions.

Visit the Ecosystem Services (MSc) page on the University of Edinburgh website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Samuel Brear

Aspiring environmental scientist, currently balancing part-time study (MSc Ecosystem Services) with fulltime employment. Undergraduate study of Environmental Geoscience provides a background in Environmental Problems and Issues, Biogeochemistry, Oceanography, Hydrogeology, and GIS. Studies, combined with additional, ongoing lab work equip me with a strong record of gathering, analysing, and presenting, technical information to make it explicit to the required audience. Work has given me valuable management, budgeting and planning skills within a large organisation turning over in excess of £8 million a year.
Practical Training

Analytical Techniques:
• Pore water analyses of: Nitrogen, Manganese, Phosphate, Hydrogen Sulphide using Photo spectrometry;
• Water Column Analyses of Oxygen (Titration), Phosphate and Silicate (Photo spectrometry) , and Fluorescence(Turner Fluorometer);
• Diatom isolation using Mechanical and Chemical cleaning techniques;
• Opal analyses using photospectrometry;
• Analysis of Samples using Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and Inductively Couple Plasma - Optical Electron Spectroscopy (ICP-OES);
• Determination of Chloride Ion Concentration by Titration (Mohr’s Method);
• Clay mineral analyses using XRD;
• CN analysis;
• Extensive Microscope use;

Data Collection:
• Use of Niskin bottles for Water collection of water samples;
• Use of Sediment Cores for sediment sample collection;
• Use of Drogue probe to collect surface water flow data;
• Use of CTD for collection data throughout water column;
• Surveying Marine biota in Shallow Marine Environment (both temperate and tropical settings);
• Use of luminescent particles for bay bottom water circulation analyses; and,
• Analyses of flow in riverine settings.


Head of School Scholarship - GeoSciences - 5 Awards

Three scholarships worth £5,000 towards tuition fees are available to applicants of any nationality. A further two awards covering full tuition fees are available to applicants who are liable for the overseas rate of fee.

Value of Scholarship(s)



The scholarship will be awarded on the basis of academic excellence. Candidates must have, or expect to obtain, the international equivalent of a UK 2:1 Honours degree at undergraduate level. Applicants who have already commenced their programme of study on the closing date are not eligible for this scholarship.Applicants intending to study part-time or online distance learning courses are not eligible for this scholarship.

Application Procedure

Please see our website for instructions on how to apply.

Further Information



Highly Skilled Workforce Scholarship - No. of awards TBC

The scholarships will cover the UK/EU tuition fee for eligible programmes.

Value of Scholarship(s)

The scholarships will cover the UK/EU tuition fee


Scholarships are available to UK nationals who are permanently domiciled in Scotland, as well as EU nationals (excluding UK nationals) domiciled in the EU or Scotland but not elsewhere in UK. Applicants must be accepted on an eligible full-time or part-time Master’s degree programme beginning in the 2017-2018 academic session. Scholarships cover the full UK/EU rate of fee for the duration of the programme.The scholarship will be awarded on the basis of academic merit and the benefits to the student. Candidates must have, or expect to obtain the international equivalent of a UK first class or 2:1 Honours degree at undergraduate level.

Application Procedure

Eligible applicants should complete an online application
This scholarship has two rounds of applications. The first round will close on 2 May 2017; the second on 30 June 2017.Please note you will not be able to access the online application form unless you have applied for admission to the University of Edinburgh.

Further Information


Entry Requirements

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a relevant subject in the natural sciences (such as botany, zoology, ecology, biodiversity, geology, biology, geography, environmental studies, hydrology, conservation) or the social sciences (such as anthropology, political science, economics, development, resource use) or in another relevant subject.

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Recipient: University of Edinburgh

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