Oxford University, UK
Posted: 1 year ago

£5,350 per course

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(6 Reviews)

Learn to effectively assess and monitor biodiversity and ecosystems across all biomes.

The Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques aims to provide the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to conduct effective ecological field surveys for a range of key taxa, and to analyse field survey data with confidence.

The PGCert is taught via a mixture of face-to-face, online and experiential learning. A choice of modules enables students to explore areas of interest and specialism relevant to their professional needs.

Drawing on a rich pool of expertise, teaching is conducted by a highly knowledgeable and diverse team of practitioners and academics engaged directly with ecological issues.

Who is the course for?

The course (taught part-time, normally over one year) is designed for a wide range of both students and professionals needing to up-skill in: Environmental management; Environmental assessment; Biodiversity monitoring.

Many of our PGCert students are professional ecological consultants, environmental managers and rangers, research and postgraduate students, educators as well as volunteers and those looking to make a career change. The course suits those looking for flexible study combined with expert training.

The techniques covered are universal using international case studies and examples. Past students have joined from the UK, the USA, Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe.

Charter Status

The course can help you to apply for Chartered Status (such as Chartered Environmentalist and Chartered Ecologist) and to meet relevant professional competency thresholds. Further information can be found in our Chartered status and essential skills guide.

Course content

Face-to-Face Week in Oxford: Introduction to Ecological Survey Techniques

Dates for 2020 to be confirmed.

This five day Core Module provides a practical introduction to: Geographical Information Systems (GIS); an overview of approaches to plant and animal identification; an introduction to selected surveying techniques; University facilities and resources; and the Field Project.

It is a mix of classroom and field-based teaching, with two days spent in the field at Wytham Woods, Oxford’s ‘living laboratory,’ with activities including the use of GPS, bird netting and ringing, and surveying bats and vegetation.

The week will build toward a formative (no credit) assessment.

Online Modules

Students take four tutor-led online modules of five weeks in duration and will take no more than 100 hours to complete.

Core Online Modules:

Option Modules (select two):

Option modules are subject to availability, which includes recruiting sufficient student numbers to run successfully.

Content is roughly equivalent to one week full time study.  Modules include research and discussion activities, multimedia tasks, practical exercises, revision activities and an assessment. Class sizes are small with less than 25 students.

Assessments are normally due two weeks after the final class

Module tutors usually engage online for 6 hours per week distributed across each week and will focus on particular topics, questions and activities. There is no set time to log in to accommodate students in different time zones.

The online modules are also available as standalone modules, PGCert students can therefore expect to share their learning with a wide range of other professionals and researchers looking to develop their skills in a particular area.

Field Project

The Field Project consolidates and further develops the skills gained during taught modules by enabling students to apply them to their own research topic and undertake their own field work

It consists of 1 month preparation time, 1-2 weeks full-time (or equivalent) field work and 1 month project writing for submission in September.

Four one-hour online tutorials will be provided to help students design, develop and implement their projects.

Course aims

The course aims to equip students with the techniques to survey, measure, quantify, assess and monitor biodiversity and ecosystems in the field. It is essential for conservation practitioners and volunteers worldwide to make evidence-based decisions about a site or species. Equipping environmental conservation practitioners with the capacity to collect and analyse field survey data in order to understand, interpret and, therefore, make informed decisions in environmental conservation is critical to the future of ecosystems and ecosystem services in all biomes.

In particular, the course aims to create a hybrid programme of experiential and online learning in environmental conservation practice for practitioners and volunteers worldwide, that will:

  • Focus on the use of survey techniques for measuring, quantifying and monitoring biodiversity; Develop a critical understanding of how to analyse field survey data to answer particular research or management questions;
  • Enable conservationists to make informed decisions on, and assess the status of, a species or habitat;
  • Enable conservationists to evaluate which field techniques to use for measuring and monitoring the impacts of environmental change on biodiversity;
  • Build capacity and communities of practice among environmental conservationists worldwide;
  • Prepare students to progress onto a Postgraduate Diploma or Masters programme.

Assessment methods

The course is modularly assessed reflecting the learning objectives of the course.

Students are required to submit:

  • One 2500 word formative (marked with feedback but no credit towards formal course results) assignment
  • Four 2000 word assignments, up to two of which may be submitted as PowerPoint poster or slide presentation – Option Module dependent (10 CATS points each)
  • One 5000 word field project and 1000 word online journal (20 CATS points)


Dr Thomas Hesselberg

Course Co-Director and Departmental Lecturer

His research focuses on behavioural ecology and comparative biomechanics of invertebrates primarily using spiders and their webs as model organisms. In particular, he is interested in how behavioural plasticity has evolved to cope with the constraints imposed by a relatively limited brain capacity and with the biomechanical constraints imposed by morphological and external environmental factors as well as silk material properties.

Dr Ada Grabowska-Zhang

Course Co-Director and Departmental Lecturer

Ada is a behavioural ecologist with a special interest in social evolution and cryptic kin selection, and used the great tit as her model organism to study social interactions. Her current research focuses on citizen science plant breeding, focusing on overcoming day length sensitivity in Oxalis tuberosa using participatory breeding protocols.

IT requirements

As the course is delivered mostly online students will need access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification. Certain modules will also require an assessment produced in Microsoft PowerPoint.

Face-to-Face Week

Students are required to bring a personal laptop computer

  • The free open source Geographical Information Systems software ‘QGIS’ (installation is simple and guidance will be given during the course).
  • QGIS is used by many environmental scientists and employers, and further details are available at the QGIS website.

Course Tutorials

  • Typically conducted via Skype
  • Students will require suitable hardware and Internet connection to take part

Further IT Requirements

  • Students are required to download and install R and QED Statistics in the Data Analysis course.(full instructions on how to download this software is available from the R website).
  • Access to QED Statistics is provided as part of the course, this software is not compatible with Mac or Linux operating systems.
  • Alternative software to QED Statistics is currently being researched; where possible, students are encouraged to use R in the Data Analysis course if they are using Mac or Linux systems.
  • Students wishing to use QED Statistics on Mac or Linux systems are advised by the programme developer Pisces Conservation Ltd to consider Windows emulation software, such as Bootcamp, to run a Windows system on their machine. For further information and a full system specification please visit the Pisces Conservation Ltd website.


Please note that accommodation and catering are not included in the course fees.

The Department offers a full residential and catering facility, with a range of both 3 and 4-star campus accommodation. ‘Number 12’, the Department’s recently refurbished Victorian townhouse on Wellington Square, right next to Rewley House, offers superior en-suite bedrooms.

How to apply

Applications for this course should be made via the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions website. This website includes further information about this course and a guide to applying.

Early application for the programme is strongly advised. All applications must have been fully completed before the application deadline in order to be considered.

If you would like to discuss the programme please contact:
Tel: +44 (0)1865 286924


6 reviews on “Ecological Survey Techniques

    Harriet Bennett on

    Value for Money

    Career Preparation

    Satisfaction with Training

    I have just finished this course. The teaching was an excellent standard and the course interesting. I have just landed my dream job so it was well worth it! The course isn’t cheap but that’s probably because it’s at Oxford University and that gives you access to wonderful facilities and it is a great thing to have on your CV.

    Emma Gardner on

    Value for Money

    Career Preparation

    Satisfaction with Training

    I wholeheartedly recommend this course! It gave me the fundamental grounding in ecological survey techniques that I needed to help change career direction. The course material is excellent and the tutors are always helpful and approachable. The face-to-face week provides a great opportunity to get first-hand experience of a wide range of survey techniques and meet other students on the course. The online learning environment then makes it easy to keep in touch and interact with other students and tutors throughout the course. I found there was a good balance of online theoretical work and practical work; the field project module allows you to get stuck into a practical research project of your own on a topic that really interests you. I recently published my field project results in an academic journal – even after the course had finished, my tutors continued to offer support and advice to help me achieve this. I would recommend this course to anyone looking to increase their knowledge, experience, confidence and employability in ecology and ecological surveying.

    Betsy Brown on

    Value for Money

    Career Preparation

    Satisfaction with Training

    I’m currently studying this course and I’m very glad I decided to apply. The standard of teaching is fantastic and I’ve found that with the online module format you can go largely at your own pace while the structured topics mean you don’t feel like you’re on your own. Being able to discuss the topics with other students on the module forums makes you feel like you’re in a tutor group and encourages further understanding of the topics and further questions. The face-to-face week was very enjoyable and gave us a chance to meet the tutors and other students on the course alongside learn some hands on ecological skills. This meant that for the remainder of the course, all online conversations felt more personal as we knew the other students we were learning with. I’m very excited to be planning my project at the moment which I’ve been able to link to work outside of the University, so the course provides great opportunities not just for training but for boosting your career. I highly recommend this course to anyone thinking of applying!

    Christina SEKERES on

    Value for Money

    Career Preparation

    Satisfaction with Training

    Being a mature career changer and coming from an unrelated field, I am thankful to the University of Oxford for admitting me to the PG Cert course. It was challenging and demanded a lot of self-discipline because I was also working, but it certainly paid off. The course helped me bridge the knowledge gap and access further postgrad study that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

    Celeste de Kock on

    Value for Money

    Career Preparation

    Satisfaction with Training

    I received much more from this course than I could have ever hoped for. Apart from learning useful, practical theory surrounding ecological survey techniques, I gained many skills that made me grow as an academic. I made many useful contacts – multiple conservation organisations and landowners. I got a sense of what other employment options exist outside academia and teaching by encountering local conservation agencies and learning from my fellow classmates (who ranged from a high school teacher to working environmental consultants and academics). I became much more independent and gained the confidence to conduct fieldwork on my own and to organise everything myself. The field project was of such a standard that I managed to publish it in a local journal a year after submission. Lastly, I made many friends and valuable contacts during my fieldwork and during the EST course. The face-to-face module in Oxford grounded the course and allowed us to meet fellow classmates and some of our tutors in person. The balance between practical and theoretical components of the course was good – the absence of overlap between modules and the field project helped with effective time management. The staff was incredibly supportive throughout and offered help long after graduation regarding publication and advice for future endeavours. I would highly recommend this course since it added so much value to my academic career.

    Picket Chabwedzeka on

    Value for Money

    Career Preparation

    Satisfaction with Training

    I’m a wildlife manager in Victoria Falls In Zimbabwe and i couldn’t have found any better course than this one. The course is very practical based and very applicable techniques to use in my field work and highly recommend it to any wildlife manager and ecologist out there. It is an online course with very supportive lecturers who are experts in their fields and together deliver an amazing course. Through the different lecturers assistance and guidance,i have already started developing survey techniques to help manage my reserve better and seek to improve our management approach and achieve our national sustainable management goals for our wildlife and conservation areas. I’m very appreciative to have been accepted on this highly competitive course and hope to achieve a lot by the end of the course and look forward to great results in my field projects and improve my research skills. This is a very important course for anyone wanting to improve their career in ecological research.

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