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MSc Species Identification and Survey Skills -
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  • Species identification


MSc Species Identification and Survey Skills -

Programme Director: Dr Graham Holloway


MSc Species Identification and Survey SkillsPeople are becoming more detached from the natural world and the problems it faces. One consequence of this is that the skills required to work in the field with wildlife are in short supply, such as the ability to identify species under field conditions. Several sectors demand people with these types of skills and find it hard to fill positions. This includes ecological consultants, conservation organisations and biodiversity recorders. This programme provides students with the skills and opportunities necessary to develop careers in these sectors. There are two routes that students can follow through the MSc course: either they can target ecological consultancy and take modules offering material required by this sector (including professional skills and the final placement) or they can go down the wildlife conservation/recording route that ends with a project rather than a placement.

The ecological consultancy sector is buoyant as legislation and land management restrictions are becoming ever more stringent, forcing developers to go through consultants prior to construction and to carry out any mitigation required. Consequently there are extensive employment opportunities. This MSc is unique in the UK and is designed to offer students a stepping-stone into Ecological Consultancy. To ensure that appropriate training is provided to achieve this, Biological Sciences has established a partnership with RSK to jointly deliver material. RSK is one of the largest ecological consultants in the UK.

A frequent complaint by ecological consultants is that students with the desired level of identification and field survey skills are not available for recruitment. This means that the consultant must spend many months getting recruits 'up-to-speed' which costs time, money and resources. In addition to providing information and carrying out exercises, the principal aim of this MSc (SISS) is to offer students an outstanding opportunity to develop their CV appropriately to facilitate interview and subsequent employment. The SISS MSc is designed to provide everything required to enter a career in consultancy or employment in wildlife conservation.

Associated Institutions

The MSc course is supported by a variety of other organizations including Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Hawk Conservancy Trust.

The University has well-established collaborative links with most of these organizations and elements of teaching are delivered by all of them. In addition, Reading MSc students have a long history of carrying out their projects with these organizations, quite often as a prelude to employment.

Consultants actively engaging with the MSc programme include: RSK, Ecosa, EPR, ECUS, AECOM, Jacobs, Southern Ecological Solutions and Froglife. RSK in particular deliver a significant proportion of the taught component of the programme for those students targeting the ecological consultancy route. 

The Centre for Wildlife Assessment and Conservation

CWAC_2The Centre for Wildlife Assessment and Conservation (CWAC) is a facility that offers students the opportunity to explore the world of wildlife and its conservation. There are various web-based elements to CWAC, web pages, blog etc, but the main portal we use to bring issues to student attention and to access other parts of CWAC is a twitter site:


CWAC is about wildlife and this is not the jurisdiction of any one University. Through CWAC we will also showcase examples of conservation research carried out by Reading students. Another role that CWAC plays is to encourage students to learn how to identify species and to submit their records to the national database. The species identification and recording work is carried out in the CWAC laboratory; a lab dedicated to students research work.

Transferable Skills

By the end of the course, students will have developed the following transferable skills:

  1. Field and laboratory identification of a wide range of species across several taxonomic groups
  2. Ability to deploy appropriate survey techniques depending on the species concerned
  3. Ability to use database/library resources
  4. Data analysis using univariate and multivariate statistics and other techniques
  5. Preparation of tender proposals and final reports
  6. Communication skills, written and verbal, poster presentation and use of PowerPoint
  7. Word processing, use of the Internet and World Web, statistics packages and other computer skills

Contact us


+44 (0)118 378 5393

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