School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

Postgraduate menu

Aquatic Ecology by Research

MSc ( 1 year Full-time / 2 years Part-time )


Our Aquatic Ecology by Research programme provides comprehensive practical training by application in the laboratory or field, rather than by formal tuition in the lecture theatre. The format is designed to equip you with the skills and experience to undertake further academic or applied research.

Students will take three taught modules and conduct a nine month extended project. The extended project is an integral part of this programme and will provide students with the skills required to undertake further academic or applied research. During the research project you will be co-supervised by either established PhD students or by potential employer organisations. You will also be encouraged to publish your project work.

Research and teaching 

Students will have access to ‘state of the art’ analytical research facilities within our Centre for the Aquatic and Terrestrial Environment and at the Freshwater Biological Association’s River Laboratory on the River Frome in Dorset, through our River Communities research group.

By choosing to study at a Russell Group university you will have access to excellent teaching and top class research. You can find out more about our research interests and view recent publications on the Aquatic Ecology Research group page.

MSc students on a recent aquatic field trip:

Facilities and events

Centre for the Aquatic and Terrestrial Environment (CATE)

Recent investment of over £1.8 million in analytical equipment and specialist laboratory facilities has established The Centre for the Aquatic and Terrestrial Environment (CATE) at Queen Mary, University of London. This is an exciting new interdisciplinary collaboration between the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences and the School of Geography.

CATE builds on existing research strengths in areas of environmental research such as biogeochemistry, freshwater and marine ecology, terrestrial ecology and conservation.

These facilities are used either in the formal teaching of this programme or are available for individual research projects.

Dorset Field Facilities 

The Aquatic Ecology Group has a complementary unit (the River Communities Group) who do more applied research, based at the River Laboratory of the Freshwater Biological Association in Dorset. For example, we have a suite of ponds, 50% of which are heated above ambient, in which we have long-term climate change experimentation running. Students have the opportunity to conduct both field and lab work for projects at this site.

Aquatic Science lectures in London

Students will also be able to attend a number of relevant lectures in London including those of the:

  • Queen Mary Aquatic & Whole Organism Biology Group seminar series
  • Queen Mary Geography seminar series
  • UCL Centre for Ecology and Evolution
  • London Freshwater Group
  • Institute of Fisheries Management
  • The Linnean Society

A programme of relevant lectures is communicated to students by email.



If you have any questions about the content or structure, contact the programme director Dr Christophe Eizaguirre

Taught modules

  • Ecosystems: Structure and Function: Ecosystems are under continued and growing threat from human activity (e.g. habitat loss, invasive species and diffuse pollution) and if we seek to preserve them then we need to understand how ecosystems function and how they respond to either enforced or natural change. Here we focus on the structural and functional elements of many ecosystems, from shallow lakes to tropical forests, with a particular focus on contrasting aquatic environments.
  • Quantitative Techniques for Surveying and Monitoring in Ecology: Includes lectures, workshops and practical data analyses classes where you will learn the theory behind designing and initiating surveys and monitoring campaigns for research projects and also for conservation and management. You will be able to put the theory into practice in the field at a location such as Lake Windermere and environs: here you will undertake electrofishing and hydroacoustic surveys for fish populations, zooplankton and benthic invertebrate surveys, a census for aquatic birds, and camera-trapping for aquatic mammals. Other skills such as the use of the modern telemetric tools will be demonstrated.
  • Statistics and Bioinformatics: Covers core statistics methods, within the R statistical computing environment. R has become the de facto environment for downstream data analysis and visualisation in biology, thanks to the hundreds of freely available R packages that allow biological data analysis solutions to be created quickly and reliably.


In addition to three taught modules, you will conduct a 9 month extended project aligned to one of the following active research areas:

  • Impacts of invasive species, particularly crayfish or amphipods, on UK waters
  • Climate change and sentinel species / ecosystems
  • Methane and its role in food webs
  • Biogeochemical cycling and up / downwelling in lotic ecosystems
  • Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning
  • Physiology of aquatic organisms in a changing climate
  • Conservation genetics for species management

Student handbook

Find out more about this programme in the Aquatic Ecology student handbook.

Examples of recent student projects

  • Effects of invasive crayfish on aquatic ecosystems
  • The role of methane as a novel carbon resource in river food webs
  • Implications of groundwater-surface water connectivity for nitrogen transformations in the hyporheic zone
  • Impacts of climate change on body size distributions

Examples of recent published papers resulting from student projects

Entry requirements

A minimum of an upper second-class BSc (Hons) degree (or equivalent international qualification) in biology or other relevant natural sciences subject.  Applicants with relevant professional experience in science will also be considered.

English language requirements

All international students are required to provide evidence of their ability in English language.

The minimum level required for entry to our postgraduate programmes is:

  • IELTS (International English Language Testing Service) - 6.5 (with a minimum of 6.0 in writing)
  • WELT (Warwick English Language Test) – BBC/BCC
  • TEEP (Test of English for Educational Purposes) – 6.5
  • Cambridge ESOL Certificate in Advanced English – B
  • Cambridge ESOL Certificate of Proficiency in English – C

For further information about our English language requirements please visit the QMUL international pages.

Am I eligible?

To check your eligibility contact our Postgraduate Admissions team:

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 3328

Learning and teaching

As a student at Queen Mary, you will play an active part in your acquisition of skills and knowledge. Teaching is by a mixture of formal lectures and small group seminars. The seminars are designed to generate informed discussion around set topics, and may involve student presentations, group exercise and role-play as well as open discussion. We take pride in the close and friendly working relationship we have with our students.

Independent study

For every hour spent in classes you will be expected to complete further hours of independent study. Your individual study time could be spent preparing for, or following up on formal study sessions; reading; producing written work; completing projects; and revising for examinations.

The direction of your individual study will be guided by the formal study sessions you attend, along with your reading lists and assignments. However, we expect you to demonstrate an active role in your own learning by reading widely and expanding your own knowledge, understanding and critical ability.

Independent study will foster in you the ability to identify your own learning needs and determine which areas you need to focus on to become proficient in your subject area. This is an important transferable skill and will help to prepare you for the transition to working life.


Students are assessed by a combination of coursework and exams. A few modules are assessed by coursework only. If a module is assessed by means of coursework alone, this is usually in the form of a research project or dissertation, and the tutor project supervisor offers guidance and support in the researching and writing of this piece of assessment.


You will also be assessed on a supervised 10,000-word dissertation. Students are currently researching a range of topics for their dissertations including:

  • Effects of invasive crayfish on aquatic ecosystems
  • The role of methane as a novel carbon resource in river food webs
  • Biodiversity & ecosystem functioning
  • Implications of groundwater-surface water connectivity for nitrogen transformations in the hyporheic zone
  • Impacts of climate change and acidification


Tuition fees for Home and EU students

2017 entry
Full time £8,700

Tuition fees for International students

2017 entry
Full time £17,450


There are a number of sources of funding available for Masters students.

These include a significant package of competitive Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) bursaries and scholarships in a range of subject areas, as well as external sources of funding.

Queen Mary bursaries and scholarships

We offer a range of bursaries and scholarships for Masters students including competitive scholarships, bursaries and awards, some of which are for applicants studying specific subjects.

Find out more about QMUL bursaries and scholarships.

Alternative sources of funding

Home/EU students can apply for a range of other funding, such as Professional and Career Development Loans, and Employer Sponsorship, depending on their circumstances and the specific programme of study.

Overseas students may be eligible to apply for a range of external scholarships and we also provide information about relevant funding providers in your home country on our country web pages.

Download our Postgraduate Funding Guide [PDF] for detailed information about postgraduate funding options for Home/EU students.

Read more about alternative sources of funding for Home/EU students and for Overseas students.

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 5079

Other financial help on offer at Queen Mary

We offer one to one specialist support on all financial and welfare issues through our Advice and Counselling Service, which you can access as soon as you have applied for a place at Queen Mary.

Our Advice and Counselling Service also has lots of Student Advice Guides on all aspects of finance including:

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 8717

Graduate employment

On completion of the programme you will have:

  • An advanced, interdisciplinary understanding in aquatic sciences and biostatistics, and an appreciation of the current research issues.
  • Training in cutting-edge research techniques, contemporary approaches, and practical skills.
  • An enhanced experience of a working research environment.
  • A range of transferable and generic skills including research planning and experimental design, data analysis and statistics, reporting and research paper preparation.

These assets provide a strong foundation for further PhD research, or for prospective employment with environmental protection and conservation agencies, the water industry and environmental consultancies.

What are our graduates doing now?  

The range of skills gained through our programmes, coupled with opportunities for extra-curricular activities, has enabled students to enter careers such as:

  • NERC funded CASE PhD studentship - Environment Agency
  • Internship - NERC
  • Curator - Natural History Museum
  • Community Learning and Engagement Officer - London Wildlife Trust
  • Aquatic Ecologist field post - Consultancy firm Ahern Ecology
  • Fisheries Ecologist - Brown May Marine
  • Research Chemist - Xention
  • Research Scientist - Phosphonics
  • Ecotoxicologist - ADAS UK Ltd
  • Consultant - HR Wallingford
  • Technical Officer - Environment Agency
  • Research Intern - Zoological Society of London

Career support at QMUL

Throughout the course, postgraduates have access to a careers programme to prepare them for applying for work after graduation. This programme includes workshops on job hunting and job applications as well as employer events to facilitate networks and help students to explore their options. Recent career events open to the School’s postgraduates include the SBCS Industrial Liaison Forum featuring small and medium sized employers, and workshops on applying for and doing a PhD.

Queen Mary’s location between Canary Wharf, the City and the Olympic Village redevelopment means that there are substantial opportunities for on campus and local part time work and work experience. On campus there are 1200 job and volunteer opportunities ranging from E-learning Assistant to Website Administrator and from Society President to Student Mentor. QTemps job agency offers work suitable for current students and recent graduates, QMSU Volunteering facilitates volunteering and QM JobOnline hosts over 800 part time and full time job vacancies.

  • Read more about our careers programmes and range of work experience opportunities on the QM Careers pages.



Return to top