MSci Wild Animal Biology
We will not be accepting any more applications, however an exciting new course in Wildlife Health Sciences at both BSc and MSci level is now available.
The MSci in Wild Animal Biology is an undergraduate integrated master’s degree, the aim of which is to give you a thorough foundation in biosciences, with further specialisation into wild animal biology in the fourth year (Masters) of study. This degree is delivered together with the Zoological Society of London.
In the first year, you will learn about normal animal physiology including all major body systems and biological processes. In the second year, you will explore disease processes, pathogen biology and an introduction to wild animal biology, as well as carrying out a short wild animal biology focused research project.
In the third year, you will be able to choose the future direction of your course by following a programme of advanced study chosen from a range of optional modules. You will also carry out a longer wild animal biology research project, supervised by a member of academic staff, during which you will continue to develop your practical, analytical and reasoning skills as well as communication, teamwork and professional development skills.
In the fourth year, you will gain practical exposure to wild animal species and an understanding of their health and welfare as well as receiving training in research methodologies relevant to the study of wildlife. The research projects in your second, third and fourth years are all relevant to wild animal biology and this focus aims to make sure that you are ‘work ready’ for a career in a wild animal biology setting, either in an academic role or in industry.
“I chose Wild Animal Biology as I wanted to study a course that would give me a good understanding of veterinary sciences and research with the prospect of working with wild animals such as big cats.
"There are opportunities to conduct your own research on any area that you are interested in. I have conducted a literature review on hypercholesterolaemia in captive meerkats at London Zoo, carried out research to identify whether the mara at Whipsnade Zoo has parasites (including the collection of faecal samples that were later analysed using the McMaster technique), and my third year research project is investigating the influence personality has on novel object recognition in captive lions, tigers, leopards and cheetahs.”;
Olivia Smith, MSci Wild Animal Biology
This programme has received Advanced Accreditation from the Royal Society of Biology following an independent and rigorous assessment. Accredited degree programmes contain a solid academic foundation in biological knowledge and key skills, and prepare graduates to address the needs of employers. The accreditation criteria require evidence that graduates from accredited programmes meet defined sets of learning outcomes, including subject knowledge, technical ability and transferable skills.
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Our biosciences courses follow a ‘pathway’ approach. This means that in your first year, you study a broad range of modules providing you with a fundamental understanding of biosciences.
As you progress through your course, additional study options become available to you, culminating in a final year research project that provides you with the opportunity to choose, with a supervisor, the subject of your choice for further study.
This MSci includes a large research project in the fourth year of the course. Throughout this research experience, you will be challenged by, and stimulated to challenge, the currently accepted wisdom in biological sciences. It is important to note that you will be responsible for developing your hypothesis for your fourth year project.
Please note that these are indicative modules and may be subject to change.
- Biology of Cells (15 credits) - Inheritance, Genetics and Evolution (15) - Developmental Biology (15) - The Moving Animal (15) - Integrated Physiology I (15) - Integrated Physiology II (15) - Problem Definition and Investigation (30) - Basis of Disease (15 credits) - Ageing and Degeneration (15) - Principles of Infectious Diseases (15) - Control of Infectious Diseases (15) - Wild Animal Biology (15) - Research Project (30) Optional modules: - Applied Pharmacology (15) - Imaging of Disease (15) - Introduction to Animal Behaviour, Welfare and Ethics (15) - Introduction to One Health (15) - Interventions (15 credits) - Detection, Surveillance and Emerging Diseases (15) - Wild Animal Biology Research Project Optional modules: - Advanced Concepts in Bio-business (15) - Advanced Concepts in Reproduction (15) - Advanced Skeletal Pathobiology (15) - Animal Behaviour and Cognition (15) - Animals and Human Society (15) - Applied Animal Welfare (15) - Applied Molecular Microbiology (15) - Comparative Animal Locomotion (30) Animal locomotion is an integrative, dynamic field of study and it is currently at an extraordinary juncture. You will need a willingness to think conceptually about how animals move, and examples will be drawn across the animal kingdom so you can appreciate the breath-taking diversity of movement strategies. - Comparative Models of Disease (15) - Development and Disease (15) - Endocrine and Metabolic Syndromes (15) - Epidemiology: the Bigger Picture (15) - Infection and Immunity (30) - Parasitology of Human and Veterinary Tropical Diseases (15) - Science of Animal Welfare (15) You can also choose from several optional modules at King’s College London during your third year. - Advanced Research Methods (15 credits) - Conservation Biology (15) - The Impact of Disease on Populations (15) - Research Project (60) Optional modules: - Health and Welfare of Captive Wild Animals (15) - Ecosystem Health (15)
Gain understanding of cellular structure and function, placing particular emphasis on cellular architecture, cell communication and the processing of signals received by each individual cell, and how cells are affected by the structure and function of the specialised extracellular matrix environment. This will be combined with an introduction to homeostasis at the cellular, extracellular, tissue and organ levels of the body.
Appreciate how different characteristics are inherited leading to a fuller understanding of the mechanisms underlying all biological processes in health and disease. This module will provide a comprehensive overview of genetics from molecules to populations, and how genetics can be applied to increase our understanding of diseases and in the design of new therapies to treat them.
An introduction to the principles of developmental biology in humans and other vertebrates. By the end of the module, you will understand the concepts of how a single cell forms an embryo and how genes control this process.
Locomotion is one of the primary behaviours of daily living in humans and animals, and healthy locomotor function is essential to well-being. The aim of this module is to introduce you to the principles of movement across the range of organisational levels: from the whole organism interacting with its environment, to integrated systems, tissues, and cells. This module will provide a framework to recognise healthy and impaired locomotor function, and highlight interactions among different body systems in the whole organism. You will explore how many fundamental structures and mechanisms are shared between different body systems, and how the different systems interact and influence one another.
Explore the reproductive physiology in humans and other mammals from fertilisation to an adult capable of reproduction, and study the basic concepts in immunology by defining the components of the immune system, and how they work in concert to eradicate pathogens.
A comprehensive introduction to the fundamentals of physiology using a systems-based approach. Units on fundamentals of cellular biochemistry and metabolic processes, digestive physiology, cardiovascular and respiratory systems, neurology and renal physiology, will provide a good overview of how biological processes at the cellular, tissue and organ level contribute to function of the organism as a whole.
Develop your critical and analytical thinking whilst consolidating the biological principles learned in Year One. You will work in small groups to answer scientific questions in different areas of current research strength within the various departments of the RVC. Then, you will undertake an in-depth independent library-based project focused on an active area of research, under the supervision of an academic member of staff. Through independent analysis of the scientific literature, you will review why the scientific question that you are focusing on is important, describe the methods by which it is being investigated, and provide an analysis, with appropriate conclusions, drawn from published data.
This module is divided into three units: Genetics, Protein Malfunction, Cell Cycle.
This module is divided into three units: Ageing, Degeneration, Immunopathology.
Students will gain insight into how pathogens enter the host and establish infectious. Students will study examples of bacterial, viral and parasitic infections and will focus on principles and general concepts, with some illustrative examples.
This module will provide an introduction epidemiology. Students will analyse various strategies that can be used to prevent spread of the different pathogens (including prions). You will appreciate how the understanding of the epidemiology of pathogens leads to better control strategies.
Explore the important topics in conservation as well as reviewing the basic anatomy and physiology of the non-captive animals. Topics will include anatomy and physiology of non-domestic animals, principles of decision making in conservation, and assessment of currently running conservation projects.
Undertake a pathway-specific research project. These projects involve a topic selected by an RVC supervisor in light of the areas of expertise and cutting-edge research found within the college. However, you are welcome to propose specific topics for investigation to a supervisor in that area of expertise.
Build on the knowledge gained in ‘Principles of Pharmacology’ and discusses issues that are relevant to the clinical use of drugs. These include drug development, registration and post-marketing surveillance. The module is divided into three units: selectivity of drug action, drugs and diseases, and from drug discovery to patients and beyond. This module will be supported by guest lecturers from the pharmaceutical industry.
An overview of the different ways in which disease processes can be visualised at the molecular, cellular, tissue and whole animal level. It is organised into three week-long blocks covering the principles of pathology, the imaging techniques used in vitro to study cells and tissues, and the techniques used in vivo to study whole animals. The module will be of interest if you plan to develop a career in biomedical or comparative research using whole animal models and/or in vitro modelling systems.
An introduction to the concepts of animal behaviour, welfare science and ethics. You will learn how to scientifically measure behaviour and welfare, how ethical frameworks can help you decide how animals should be treated, why animals behave as they do, the physiology of stress and pain, and more. Practical sessions will include quantifying animal behaviour, applied farm animal behaviour (stockmanship), and husbandry of common livestock species.
An introduction to One Health principles and current disease challenges, and the application of a One Health perspective to disease prevention and control. You will explore the relationships between animal, human and ecosystem health using examples of infectious and non-communicable diseases to illustrate One Health principles within an evolutionary and ecological context.
Problem-based learning examples: Boas and orangutans
Problem-based learning examples: Seals and amphibians
Undertake an investigative hypothesis driven project or dissertation that covers your own research interests in wild animal biology, and at the end of the year present the results in the form of a written report and as an oral presentation. These projects involve a topic selected by an RVC supervisor in light of the areas of expertise and cutting-edge research found within the college. However, you are welcome to propose specific topics for investigation to a supervisor in that area of expertise.
Develop a work-relevant theoretical and practical understanding of commercial innovation, within the context of human and veterinary bio-medical sciences. You will learn and experiment with the knowledge, skills and attitudes scientists need in order to play a more effective and integrated role during the development of innovative life-saving and life-enhancing products and services including new medicines, diagnostics and healthcare provision. You will be required to solve commercial problems in small groups and further develop your understanding of bioscience business, management and enterprise.
Build upon the knowledge you have gained in the first year in Reproduction. You will concentrate on the veterinary applications of research and highlight how it makes a real impact on animal health and welfare. You will learn cellular and molecular aspects of reproductive biology from gonadal development and function to ovulation, fertilization and embryo and germ cells development, and establishment and maintenance of pregnancy and placental immunology in animals.
Failures in the skeletal system, such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, provide one of the major challenges to human and animal welfare. Research activities in skeletal pathobiology are commonly directed at understanding the development, growth, ageing and functional maintenance of the skeletal system as well as the evolution of bone and joint pathologies. This module will introduce you to a broad range of skeletal tissues, and explore the anatomy, physiology and functional failure and on occasion include comparative aspects of the skeletal system across species.
Conduct theoretical and applied training in animal behaviour science and animal cognition. You will focus on wild animals, but relevance to domesticated animals will be made clear and examples will be given. You will cover mammals and birds in depth, but will also build your understanding of reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates. This module includes a dog training demonstration and a visit to a professional animal behaviour conference.
The use of animals within society, and ways of influencing change in societal views. The module will be divided into the different areas of animal use, such as companion, sporting, working, industrial, research and agricultural. We will apply ethical, legal, religious and political frameworks to discuss what defines a ‘reasonable’ use of an animal, and how the ways in which we use animals differ between societies, and according to the type of animal and its legal status.
Examine important animal welfare issues from a national and global perspective. Investigate and critically evaluate the demands of current and future practices on the welfare of animals under the domain of humans. This module will include visits to an abattoir, livestock market, London Zoo and to a farm.
In addition to their importance as pathogens, microbes have many beneficial uses. This module will give students the opportunity to explore the beneficial biotechnological use of microbes in the food industry, and in human and animal health. The module will explore the use of microbes as factories, microbes and food, microbes in research and microbes and health. The module will highlight the historical and state of the art applications of microbes as useful organisms, and you will have hands-on opportunities to explore how microbes can be used for the production of biopharmaceuticals.
An exciting, hands-on introduction to the field of comparative animal locomotion at all levels. If we can understand how brains, muscles, and skeletons work together to produce locomotion, in the full context of other animals and the natural environment, then we will not only have solved one of the great mysteries of the natural world, but we stand to improve the lives of all animals, including humans, through treatment of neurological and musculoskeletal disease.
The role of animal models in the understanding of human and animal physiology and in the treatment of infectious diseases is controversial. Modern society is increasingly re-evaluating the value of animal life and, consequently, questioning the use of animal disease models. In this module, you will be introduced into the rationale behind the use of animal models and the increasing number of alternatives, including cells, isolated tissues, zebra fish and drosophila. You will examine the key aspects that need to be considered when developing and analysing models of disease and its uses and limitations.
The nervous system is by far the most complex tissue in any animal. By understanding the molecular and cellular basis of nervous system development, we aim to understand how changes in these processes result in developmental defects – both morphological and function. For example, significant change in the morphology of the brain can be seen in conditions such as holoprosencephaly whereas functional changes are seen in autism and schizophrenia. This module will give insight into the latest research in nervous system development, and will give you the opportunity to develop your understanding of how researchers employ animal models in this research and inform you of the latest applications of developmental biology research, including the use of stem cells and molecular editing techniques.
The increasing problem of obesity in the human and pet population has resulted in a dramatic increase in research efforts to understand and influence metabolism, and treat associated side effects. We will seek to integrate the basic science of endocrinology into more translational topics relating to the diseases and syndromes associated with disorders of endocrinology and metabolism. The module will focus specifically on clinical abnormalities affecting blood glucose regulation and feeding, growth and metabolism, endocrine-related cancers, and reproductive disorders including those affecting sex differentiation and intersex.
Discover more about how diseases affect animal and human populations, and how to select the best ways to try to control diseases. You will explore what One Health is, how to investigate a disease outbreak, pandemic prevention, and what the challenges are of working with wildlife. You to discover the patterns, causes, and effects of diseases in animal populations. The key concepts of epidemiology are taught in a structured way, and case studies of pets, livestock, horses and wildlife will show you how to apply what you learn in the real world.
Infectious diseases continue to be one of the major challenges to animal and human health worldwide, and new pathogens are emerging and spreading to new geographical ranges. An understanding of the biology of pathogens, how they behave in the host animal and animal populations, and an understanding of how the host combats infection are all requirements of modern and successful control strategies. This module will introduce you to key aspects that need to be considered when defining and controlling infectious diseases in individual animals and populations, using examples from virology, bacteriology and parasitology.
Study major human and veterinary parasitic tropical diseases from the viewpoints of immunology, epidemiology, pathology, treatment and control. This module will cover major human tropical diseases caused by protozoan and helminth parasites. Major veterinary tropical parasitic diseases that cause significant production losses and/or are significant zoonoses will be covered. For each disease, interesting aspects of research conducted on these organisms will be highlighted.
Undertake theoretical and methodological training in animal welfare science, which is broadly equivalent to the biology of sensations, motivation and emotions. This module will cover a range of behavioural, physiological and other indicators of diverse welfare states, illustrated with examples including wild, farm, companion, and laboratory animals. As part of this module, you will take small group tours of appropriate animals in the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals to observe behavioural indicators of pain and sickness and the efforts made to alleviate suffering.
Training in research methodology, analytical skills and academic writing so that you are well prepared for your extended research project and future research you may be involved in within academia, industry or a graduate career.
Problem-based learning examples: The kakapo; The agony of choice
Problem-based learning example: Avian malaria and avian pox in Hawaiian birds
A hypothesis driven, laboratory or field-based research project, which will be undertaken within the RVC.
Problem-based learning example: An African exhibit
Problem-based learning examples: Rio Grande and Amazon
- Biology of Cells (15 credits)
- Inheritance, Genetics and Evolution (15)
- Developmental Biology (15)
- The Moving Animal (15)
- Integrated Physiology I (15)
- Integrated Physiology II (15)
- Problem Definition and Investigation (30)
- Basis of Disease (15 credits)
- Ageing and Degeneration (15)
- Principles of Infectious Diseases (15)
- Control of Infectious Diseases (15)
- Wild Animal Biology (15)
- Research Project (30)
- Applied Pharmacology (15)
- Imaging of Disease (15)
- Introduction to Animal Behaviour, Welfare and Ethics (15)
- Introduction to One Health (15)
- Interventions (15 credits)
- Detection, Surveillance and Emerging Diseases (15)
- Wild Animal Biology Research Project
- Advanced Concepts in Bio-business (15)
- Advanced Concepts in Reproduction (15)
- Advanced Skeletal Pathobiology (15)
- Animal Behaviour and Cognition (15)
- Animals and Human Society (15)
- Applied Animal Welfare (15)
- Applied Molecular Microbiology (15)
- Comparative Animal Locomotion (30)
Animal locomotion is an integrative, dynamic field of study and it is currently at an extraordinary juncture. You will need a willingness to think conceptually about how animals move, and examples will be drawn across the animal kingdom so you can appreciate the breath-taking diversity of movement strategies.
- Comparative Models of Disease (15)
- Development and Disease (15)
- Endocrine and Metabolic Syndromes (15)
- Epidemiology: the Bigger Picture (15)
- Infection and Immunity (30)
- Parasitology of Human and Veterinary Tropical Diseases (15)
- Science of Animal Welfare (15)
You can also choose from several optional modules at King’s College London during your third year.
- Advanced Research Methods (15 credits)
- Conservation Biology (15)
- The Impact of Disease on Populations (15)
- Research Project (60)
- Health and Welfare of Captive Wild Animals (15)
- Ecosystem Health (15)
You will be exposed to a wide range of learning experiences in all four years of the course that include lectures, seminars, workshops, and a variety of directed and self-directed learning activities that will include practical exercises and self-assessment tools.
Problem solving exercises, case studies, reflection and role modelling will improve your reasoning skills whilst your practical skills will be developed through demonstration, observation, prosecution, feedback, and experimentation. Other key employability skills will be taught through group work, structured learning, practical work, presentations (oral and written) and problem-solving exercises. Regular tutorials will encourage you to reflect on your learning and provide opportunities for feedback on your progress.
You will spend your fourth year on a placement. This lasts a minimum of 36 weeks and you will complete a placement provider report, project report and associated viva, which will form a significant part of your assessment. Your supervisor will be asked to provide a mark that will contributed to your overall assessment for the year. You are required to be proactive in searching, applying and securing your own placement, although support and guidance on finding a placement will be provided in specific timetabled sessions and further advice will be available during lecturers’ office hours.
The RVC has renowned researchers and scientists delivering each module. Our staff are passionate about their field, and they are highly qualified. All RVC students are assured teaching of the highest standard.
Teaching contact hours
In a typical week, you will have between 15 - 20 contact hours of teaching. These contact hours are usually made up from:
- Personal tutorial, small group and practical teaching: 8 – 10 hours per week
- Large-group teaching: 8 – 10 hours per week
- Self-direct learning: 5 hours per week
Assessment and feedback
You will be continuously assessed throughout your course, followed by final examinations. You will also be assessed on in-course work, such as completing tests, analysing data and samples, delivering presentations, and writing essays. A major part of your biological sciences courses is the undertaking of a research project.
The estimated breakdown of assessment for your final grade is:
- Written (coursework, which may include essays, presentations, journal clubs) - 20%
- Examination (practical, written) – 33%
- Projects (individual and group work, research) - 47%
The tuition fees for students commencing the course in 2022/23 are as follows:
Home Tuition Fees including Island Fees (Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
The UK Government has confirmed that EU/EEA and Swiss national students who have started an eligible course in the 2020/21 academic year or earlier academic years remain eligible to pay the “home” rate of tuition fees and claim any financial support for which they are currently eligible for the duration of that course.
EU/EEA and Swiss national students starting studies in the 2021/22 academic year or later academic years may no longer be eligible to pay the “home” rate of tuition fees and claim any financial support for their studies - but this depends on your personal circumstances (including immigration status and residence history in the UK) and UK government rules which are currently being developed. For further information on this emerging situation, please visit UK Council for International Affairs Brexit pages.
Tuition fee amounts are subject to increase each academic year, please be aware of this when making your calculations and planning how much money you will require.
- For Sandwich/ Placement year fees for UK, EU and international students see link
- Students from countries outside the European Union (EU) who wish to undertake full-time study at the RVC are required to pay the international fee for their programme of study (please see Fee status section).
- Information on Fees & Funding for existing students can be found here
The following course-related costs are included in the fees:
- Student affiliate membership of Royal Society of Biology for course duration
- Access to books and journals essential to your course (print and digital)
- Open access and bookable IT equipment such as PCs and laptops
- Largely paperless curriculum plus £10 p.a. printing allowance
- Annual membership of College gym (both campuses)
The following course-related costs are not included in the fees:
- £16 Howie laboratory coat
Accommodation and living costs are not included in the fees. Our Housing Advice pages provide further information on College and private housing.
Loans and Grants - 2022/23 Government Financial Support for Undergraduate UK and EU Students
Please note: SLC issues guidance for prospective students and answers common questions related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Including information for part-time undergraduate and postgraduate Master’s students.
Alongside the bursaries and scholarships offered by the RVC, there is financial support available from the Government to help cover the costs of living and studying. Financial support is available for students from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and other EU countries.
Financial support is made up of four main elements
- Fee Loan
- Maintenance Loan
- Maintenance Grant - this is only available to full-time UK undergraduate students who commenced their studies on or before 2015/16 academic year.
For further details visit;
NB: UK students considering studying on the BVetMed Graduate Accelerated or the BVetMed as a second degree are entitled to a variable means tested living cost loan and RVC bursary. However they are not eligible for tuition fee loans so please consider how you will pay the tuition fees for each year before enrolling. For more info see money-matters.
RVC Bursary for Home Undergraduate Students
RVC Bursaries are customary to assist students from lower income households with the cost of undergraduate study.