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 be 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.
Our online learning technology is fully interactive, award-winning and enables you to communicate with our highly qualified teaching staff from the comfort of your own home or workplace.
Our online students not only have access to Edinburgh's excellent resources but also become part of a supportive online community, bringing together students and tutors from around the world.
The programme has been designed to use a range of assessment tools, both formative and summative, with multiple feedback opportunities across the programme.
Summative assessment and feedback have been designed to help students develop the key skills associated with the learning outcomes and tied to practical applications such as report and grant writing.
Formative assessment (e.g. MCQs and discussion groups) will be included in each course to provide opportunities for feedback before assessment deadlines.
Opportunities will be provided for formative feedback on assessment drafts.
The programme is composed of 180 credits divided over eight taught courses (6 core and 2 electives chosen from 4) plus a Master’s dissertation.
It is designed to be taken part-time over three years (20 hours per week), with an option to complete the course 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) and Deputy Programme Director: Dr Lucy Webster (SASA).
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 study 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.
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.
This applied programme should equip students with the knowledge, skills and global networks necessary to use DNA analysis as a tool in wildlife conservation. As a post-graduate degree from one of the world’s leading universities, it will be recognised as a valuable, hard-earned qualification that demonstrates both scientific acumen and an ability to translate research into conservation management practice.
A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in biological, biochemical, forensic science or veterinary sciences or a related science discipline.
We may also consider your application if you have a minimum of 3 years’ work experience in a related scientific area, for example, molecular biology research/ forensic laboratory work. You may be admitted to the certificate level only in the first instance. Please contact the programme team to check before you apply.
English language requirements
All applicants must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of their English language ability:
- an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration
- IELTS Academic: total 6.5 (at least 6.0 in each module)
- TOEFL-iBT: total 92 (at least 20 in each module)
- PTE(A): total 61 (at least 56 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections; the "Enabling Skills" sections are not considered)
- CAE and CPE: total 176 (at least 169 in each module)
- Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components
Degrees taught and assessed in English must be no more than three years old at the beginning of your degree programme. Language tests must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.
Scholarships and funding
UK nationals, those with settled status, and some EU nationals not resident in the UK could be eligible for a postgraduate loan towards fees - and in some cases living costs.
About the School
Together we form a unique grouping in the UK where vets, medics and biomedical scientists work together and study the common causes of disease that affect our populations.