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Course content

Open Day

visit course pages for more information about the next Open Day at NHM on Wednesday 7 June 2017.

Course Overview

Taxonomy and systematics provide the foundation for studying the great diversity of the living world. These fields are rapidly changing through new digital and molecular technologies. There is ever greater urgency for species identification and monitoring in virtually all the environmental sciences, and evolutionary ‘tree thinking’ is now applied widely in most areas of the life sciences.

This course provides in-depth training in the study of biodiversity based on the principles of phylogenetics, evolutionary biology, palaeobiology and taxonomy. The emphasis is on quantitative approaches and current methods in DNA-based phylogenetics, bioinformatics, and the use of digital collections.


This course is a collaboration of Imperial College London (Silwood Park) with the Natural History Museum. This provides an exciting scientific environment of two institutions at the forefront of taxonomic and evolutionary research.

The MSc in Taxonomy and Biodiversity comprises two terms of taught modules, mostly based at the Natural History Museum, and covers core areas in biodiversity, palaeobiology, phylogenetics, molecular systematics, phylogenomics and taxonomic principles. This is followed by a 16-week laboratory or field-based research project at the NHM or Imperial College’s Silwood Park or South Kensington campuses.


• Taxonomy of major groups and the Tree-of-Life: An introduction of major branches of the Tree, including identification exercises, presented by NHM experts
• Statistics and Computing: A two-week intensive course at Silwood Park
• Field course: trapping and collecting techniques for terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems
• Phylogenetic Reconstruction: the principles of building phylogenetic trees
• Molecular Systematics: generating and analysing molecular data; model-based phylogenetics
• Phylogenomics: Genomic techniques for studying evolutionary processes and biodiversity
• Biodiversity (Concepts): speciation, radiation, macroevolution
•Biodiversity (Applied): Measuring biodiversity, geospatial analysis, collection management and biodiversity informatics
• Palaeobiology: Studying the fossil record and what we can learn for biodiversity

Post Study

Students on the course will become the new generation of taxonomists in the broadest sense. They will be familiar with these new tools, as well as the wider concepts of biodiversity science, evolutionary biology and genomics. Most importantly, students gain the abilities to work as an independent scientist and researcher, to be able to solve questions about the future of biodiversity and to communicate them to peers and the public.
Students have many options for future employment in evolutionary and ecological research labs in industry, government and non-governmental organisations, conservation, and scientific publishing and the media. The courses are an excellent starting point for PhD level careers, feeding into various Doctoral Training Programmes available at NHM and Imperial, or elsewhere.

Visit the MSc Taxonomy and Biodiversity page on the Imperial College London website for more details!





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