UWE Bristol and Bristol Zoo link up for new Wildlife Conservation MSc

Issue date: 30 June 2015


A lemur, in a tree, looking at the camera

UWE Bristol and Bristol Zoological Society (BZS) have joined forces to create an exciting new MSc in Wildlife Conservation.

Students will be based at Bristol Zoo where they will work with international conservation experts in new state of the art facilities. The course will also link up with the Bristol Zoological Society's sister attraction 'Wild Place Project' as well as other local and international conservation projects.

Dr Mark Steer has led the development of the course material in collaboration with the Head of Conservation Science at Bristol Zoological Society, Dr Grainne McCabe.

There will be a 50:50 split in teaching and delivery between BZS and UWE staff, which will be enhanced through input from other conservation organisations such as the RSPB and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge.

The course will include the development of key skills including species identification, habitat surveying, GIS and stakeholder engagement. In addition, there is a focus on emerging sectors which could become vital to practising conservationists including contemporary skills such as genetic survey techniques and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Dr Steer is a senior lecturer in conservation biology with extensive experience of conservation projects in the UK and the tropics. He believes that the MSc will appeal to biological, environmental and conservation science graduates as well as people already working in the environmental sector who want to upskill.

Dr Grainne McCabe is a field primatologist who has worked all over the world and is currently leading a project based in Tanzania focused on the conservation of endangered Sanje mangabey monkeys.

Dr Steer said, “Wildlife conservation now encompasses a huge range of practical skills so this course will be very hands on. Alongside a research project the students will study four modules; two on species and ecosystem conservation topics, one on communications for conservation and a fourth module, which we believe to be unique, that focuses on innovation and enterprise in conservation.

“The innovation and enterprise element is all about spotting new opportunities presented via emerging technologies. These could include anything from using drones for habitat analysis to identifying the presence of invasive species from DNA free-floating in water, or using outputs from remote cameras to engage the public.

“The public engagement element is very exciting as we know that many people are fascinated by the world we live in, and technology enables a wide participation in conservation research projects.”

Dr Steer emphasises that it is vital for conservationists to understand emerging technologies and to be able to work out how to integrate these into projects to maximise many elements not least participation, communication and efficacy.

“A great example of a project that uses technology to enable a wide participation is the Chimpandsee project, through which people can contribute vital data to the research by quite literally watching chimpanzees via the live streaming of film footage, shot on cameras located on the other side of the globe.”

Dr McCabe and her team will lead the modules on species conservation and communications for conservation. She said, “The Zoo is linked to conservation projects all over the world and we are very well placed to provide insights into individual species identification, biology, habitat and the kinds of work done to protect species both in captivity and in the wild.

“A vital element of conservation work is the focus on communications. We need to ensure that visitors to zoos and participants on education programmes, from pre-schoolers through to PhD students, receive information in a range of formats that is meaningful and integrates key messages effectively.

“The students will have access to experienced science communicators and conservation biologists who are experts in getting the right messages across to a range of audiences.

“This course is very practical-based, we are not focusing on turning out pure academics – the primary objective for this course is to equip students with a range of useful skills that they will have learned through 'hands-on' relevant activities that will enable them to become practitioners in conservation projects.”

Students will meet many conservationists and ecologists from a wide range of organisations, providing the chance to develop a network of useful contacts. This access to a range of different organisations will also help the students to hone their skills towards the kind of job that suits their interests as they gain unique insights into a full range of conservation projects.

The course has been timed to enable summer working at the Zoo and will be launched in January 2016. For further details please visit the MSc in Advanced Wildlife Conservation in Practice course page.

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