MSc Plant Diversity

Our focus is on professional-level training in the essential skills required to equip students for careers in plant diversity and conservation. Our former students are employed across the world in botanic gardens and major conservation bodies, in field botany and education, ecological consultancy, plant taxonomy and molecular systematics.

The course is offered both full- and part-time and can suit those seeking a professional career-change. It involves taught modules, field work and an individual research project. Teaching takes place both within the University of Reading's Whiteknight's campus with its species-rich meadows, ancient trees, woodland areas, Herbarium, glasshouses and Harris Garden, as well as in site visits to RBG Kew, RHS Wisley and nature reserves.

Msc Plant Diversity



The MSc Plant Diversity was established in 1969 and is the longest running of its kind in Europe. Over these fifty years it has developed high-quality professional, botanical training from specialists within this major UK University with its world-renowned centres of excellence in biodiversity research, ecology and evolution, climate change and soil science, and from external staff with links to major botanical institutions such as the Royal Horticultural Society, Wisley, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Natural History Museum, and RSK Group Ltd. (a major Environmental Consultancy).

The MSc Plant Diversity focuses on key skill areas: Msc Plant Diversity

  • Plant identification skills:
    You will be taught how to identify plants to family, genus and species level, we focus on major plant groups and global plant families and on UK species but transferable skills, such as the use of keys and other identification aids, will give you the skills to identify plants almost anywhere in the world
  • Field botany skills: You will learn how to carry out Phase 1 habitat survey and Phase 2 vegetation survey using the UK National Vegetation Classification (NVC), a residential field course at The Lizard biodiversity hotspot in Cornwall, UK will consolidate your learning and develop your skills of analysis of vegetation data
  • Herbarium skills: You will learn about the day to day use and running of a herbarium collection, how to curate collections, mount specimens and what data to record when collecting and preparing herbarium material Msc Plant Diversity
  • Biodiversity and Conservation skills: We focus on the theory and practice of red listing, the role of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the development of modern techniques of in-situ and ex-situ for the sustainable management of plant resources and conservation policy and practice in the 21st century
  • Molecular systematics - the handling, analysis and interpretation of DNA based data including a range of phylogeny building techniques and the interpretation of phylogenetic trees
  • Research skills: You will be part of a diverse group of plant scientists and we will help you develop your skills of thinking and working as a scientist including the critical analysis of scientific work and literature, the scientific method, experimental design and project planning and scientific writing and presentation skills
  • Communication and outreach: You will learn about the appropriate use of social media in scientific communication and in approaches to make your work engaging to non-scientists

As a student on the University of Reading MSc Plant Diversity you will:

  • gain a full UK university experience based at the University of Reading which is ranked in the top 200 universities worldwide (QS World University Rankings 2018)
  • be part of a long-established and world-renowned MSc alumnus network 
  • be taught by plant diversity specialists on a programme designed to skill up the new generation of plant diversity scientists for the demands of the 21st century
  • benefit from high quality resources including our award-winning green campus, botanical garden (Harris Garden), tropical glass house and >300,000 specimen Herbarium (RNG) including a comprehensive collection of bryophytes and lichens, ferns, conifers and flowering plants 
  • Formal links with the major botanical collections: The Royal Horticultural Society, Wisley, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (MSc Partnership with Kew), The Natural History Museum and the Eden project and a major environmental consultancy, RSK Group Ltd.
  • benefit from our location in Reading just 25 minutes from central London (by train) but without the associated housing and other costs of the capital city
Msc Plant Diversity

The MSc provides training in direct support of the educational targets (Objective V) the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.

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