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Aquatic Science - MSc/PGDip/PGCert

Course Description

Environmental issues such as eutrophication, habitat degradation and climate change threaten the sustainability of our aquatic resources. Responding to these threats the Aquatic Science MSc equips students with an interdisciplinary understanding of the structure and functioning of aquatic environments, encompassing lakes, ponds, rivers, wetlands, groundwaters, estuaries and shallow seas.

Degree information

Students focus on integrated freshwater and coastal systems and gain extensive training in field sampling, study design and species identification. Distinctive features include: integration of aquatic ecology with hydro-geomorphology, aquatic landscape ecology, analysis of sediment cores for environmental change reconstruction, design of aquatic monitoring programmes and modelling of aquatic system dynamics. Students come away with a sound knowledge of current-day links between aquatic science, legislation and conservation.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.

The programme consists of four core modules (60 credits), four optional modules (60 credits) and a research dissertation (60 credits).

A Postgraduate Diploma - 4 core modules and 4 optional modules all 15 credits (120 credits, full-time nine months, part-time two years) is offered. A Postgraduate Certificate - 4 core modules only at 15 credits (60 credits, full-time twelve weeks, part-time two years) is offered.

Core modules
-Aquatic Systems
-Aquatic Monitoring (includes field-trip to Scottish Highlands)
-Environmental Data Acquisition and Analysis
-Scientific Basis for Freshwater and Coastal Conservation (field-based module in Norfolk, England)

*modules running are dependent on staff sabbaticals.

Optional modules - students choose four of the following:
-Coastal Change
-Politics of Climate Change
-Marine Conservation
-Surface Water Modelling
-Aquatic Macrophytes (field-based module in Dorset, England)
-Impacts of Climate Change on Hydro-ecological Systems
-Biological Indicators of Environmental Change
-Non-biological Indicators for Environmental Change
-Environmental GIS
-Ocean Circulation and Climate Change

*modules running are dependent on staff sabbaticals.

All students undertake an independent research project which culminates in a dissertation of 15,000 words. Dissertation placement positions are offered linked to external conservation bodies and research-orientated consultancies.

Teaching and learning
The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, practical classes, laboratory sessions, case-studies and residential field classes. Assessment is through coursework and the dissertation, which includes an oral presentation of the research proposal.


This programme provides an ideal foundation for PhD research, or for employment with environmental protection and conservation agencies, the water industry and environmental consultancies.

Top career destinations for this degree:
-Education Officer, Norfolk Wildlife Trust
-PhD in Pond Conservation, UCL
-PhD in the Macroecology of Deep Sea Jelly Fish, University of Southampton
-Land Use Adviser, Natural England
-River Catchment Planner, Norfolk Rivers Trust

The MSc provides students with the science background and practical skills necessary for a career working in aquatic conservation and environmental protection agencies, environmental consultancies and stakeholder agencies. The MSc is also an ideal platform for further PhD study. We aim to expose students to potential employers from the outset and students receive expert tuition in field sampling and monitoring programme design, conservation biology, taxonomy of key species groups, knowledge of important conservation principles and legislation and working with stakeholders.

Why study this degree at UCL?

The Aquatic Science MSc is run by UCL Geography which enjoys an outstanding international reputation for its aquatic environmental research and teaching. The degree has a strong emphasis on field working with three major residential classes to the North Norfolk Coast, Scottish Highlands and Dorset.

The programme is taught by research groups specialising in Environmental Change & Biodiversity, Environmental Modelling & Observation, and has specialist input from the Thames Estuary Partnership, and in-house aquatic consultancy Environmental Scientific Services.

Speakers from environmental organisations including the UK Environment Agency, the Rivers Trusts, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, the UK Wildlife Trusts, National Trust and Natural England lecture on the programme and take part in fieldwork. By bringing together students, researchers and practitioners, a vibrant and informal academic environment is created encouraging mutual discovery and ongoing debate.

Visit the Aquatic Science - MSc/PGDip/PGCert page on the University College London website for more details!

All Available Videos:

(Student Profile)

Tom Eldridge

"I have been impressed with all aspects of the Aquatic Science MSc at UCL. Lectures have been fascinating, with guest speakers bringing together different aspects of the subject. The field trips have been informative and I believe I have gained skills that would be of value to employers. During my dissertation fieldwork there have been many opportunities to network with different organisations and university institutions."


UCL Graduate Support Bursary - 20+ Awards

UCL is making 93 individual bursary awards available. Each bursary will cover the full tuition fee cost for the programme and provide £10,000 in maintenance funding per year.

Value of Scholarship(s)



The scheme is aimed at supporting traditionally under-represented groups to progress on to graduate study at UCL. All applicants will be required to demonstrate that their annual household income is currently under £42,611. This scheme is open to prospective students domiciled in the UK (that is, UK is your country of "ordinary residence”) who have "Home" tuition fee status.

Application Procedure

This initiative is funded through the HEFCE Postgraduate Support Scheme. The UCL Graduate Support Bursary scheme forms part of UCL’s wider initiative to support graduate Master’s students.

Further Information


Entry Requirements

Normally a minimum of an upper second-class Bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Applicants with relevant professional experience in aquatic science or environmental management will also be considered.

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