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PalAss Home > Postgraduate Careers > Current MSc opportunities
Current MSc opportunities


Masters Courses:

If you co-ordinate a masters course that you would like to see listed below, or you want any information updated, please contact webmaster@palass.org

Courses by subject (links will take you to more details further down this page)

Palaeobiology  Vertebrate Palaeontology  Micropalaeontology  Earth Science / Geology  Others  
Bristol MSc
Uppsala MSc
Southampton MResPlymouth MSc/MResBristol MRes (Earth System Science)
Royal Holloway MSc (Geology)
Imperial College MSc (Taxonomy/Biodiversity)
Plymouth MSc/MRes (Global Environmental Change)



Alphabetic list of courses by institution providing more details and links for further information:



M.Sc. in Palaeobiology: University of Bristol, Department of Earth Sciences

    The Bristol MSc in Palaeobiology is the longest-established and most successful Masters programme of its kind in the world, with over 200 graduates since it was founded in 1996, many in excellent jobs around the world. Students are mainly British, but there are four or five overseas students each year, from countries as diverse as the United States, Iceland, Venezuela, Belgium, France, and Mexico. The programme is unique in the success of students in research and the number of projects so far published.

    The programme is designed for students with a BSc in either a biological or earth sciences subject, and conversion courses in evolutionary biology and sedimentology are offered. The MSc offers a broad-based overview of modern approaches in palaeobiology. Students study core taught units in current controversies, research and systematic methods, taphonomy and palaeoecology, and scientific communication, and (4) optional units, from vertebrate palaeobiology (2), early human origins, biomechanics, to the marine record of past climate change, geobiology, and the evolution of the biosphere.

    Then there is a six-month independent project, and students are offered a wide range of topics. The project is a major component of the degree, and we encourage students to carry out cutting-edge work and to present it in publishable form. So far, some sixty MSc projects have been published, all in leading international journals, and we aim to help and encourage students to publish as many as possible. Students receive training in writing scientific papers, and applying for PhDs and jobs (both in Britain and overseas). So far, many graduates have gone on to rewarding careers in palaeontology and related scientific areas.

    Full details of the programme, of former students, and how to apply, are available on the course website. Application forms may be downloaded from the website, or they can be provided by earth-msc@bris.ac.uk.



M. Res. in Earth System Science: University of Bristol, School of Earth Sciences

    Concern about global environmental change has never been greater. The University of Bristol’s Master of Research (MRes) degree in Earth System Science is tailored to meet the growing demand for strongly numerate and technically able graduates who can apply their skills in this challenging policy-influencing domain.

    The Masters is an interdisciplinary program which is run across 3 departments, that each have world-class research groups in three key areas of the science:

    • Observation and tracing of Earth System change
    • Modelling of the Earth System, from simple box models
    • Understanding past climate change, and making predictions of future change.

    The course reflects this tri-partite strength and seeks to produce a new kind of graduate who is comfortable with the technology required to make 21st century observations, who is able to quantitatively analyse the data produced by these observations, and who can apply their skills and knowledge both to understanding past climate and to laying out scenarios for future climate.

    Taught units (60 credit points, October-December)

    Tracing and observing the Earth System: Making quantitative observations that help us to understand the physics and chemistry of the surface of the Earth, including the techniques used to track past climate change. Assessed by an exam in January.

    Quantitative modelling of the Earth System: From the basics of environmental modelling to models of the carbon cycle and ice sheets. Assessed by coursework involving real hands-on experience with models

    Case studies of past climate and using complex models of the Earth System to predict past and future global change

    These courses will synthesise everything learnt in the more analytical early parts of the course. This will include one module on the marine record of past climate change,and one on using complex models of the Earth System to predict future global change. Assessed by a mixture of coursework and an exam in January.

    Project Phase 1 (60 credit points, February-April)

    Researching background material and acquisition of basic practical skills, in preparation for the main phase of project starting in May. A substantial part of this phase will involve a review of the cutting-edge literature. The remainder will depend on the exact nature of the project – e. g. a pilot project in the laboratory, the acquisition of more advanced modelling skills, or analysis of published data relevant to the project. Students will be assigned to their main project supervisor at the start of Phase 1.

    Assessed through a literature review and a seminar that both outline the background to the project and the work to be carried out in Phase 2.

    Project Phase 2 (60 credit points, May-September)

    An independent investigation of a chosen topic, supervised by one of the academic team across the three departments. The project is to be submitted as a written thesis and the main findings to be presented in a final Research Colloquium.

    The subject matter covered in the integrative field of Earth System Science is wide, encompassing Chemistry, Physics, Earth Sciences and Geographical Sciences. We welcome candidates with a good first degree (at least a 2.1) in a scientific or engineering discipline. Earth System Science involves observations, as well as data analysis and modelling, so candidates should be strongly numerate whatever their background. The programme is open to International students. For those with English as a foreign language, an IELTS score of 6.5 is required.

    Full details of the programme and how to apply are available on the course website. Application forms may be downloaded from the website, or they can be provided by earth-msc@bris.ac.uk



M.Sc. Advanced Methods in Taxonomy and Biodiversity: Imperial College London

    Imperial College London and the Natural History Museum are jointly offering a Masters degree course in Advanced Methods in Taxonomy and Biodiversity.

    The one-year full-time M.Sc. course provides essential skills for all concerned with taxonomy and biodiversity. The course is composed of nine taught modules followed by a four-month research project. The series of modules seeks to provide as wide as possible an overview of the theory and practice of modern taxonomy and systematics, with associated biodiversity studies. During their four-month research project, students can specialise in their chosen area.

    The course is based at the Natural History Museum, London, one of the world’s premier institutions for research on the diversity of the natural world. The collections include over 68 million specimens, 800,000 of which are type specimens, and the Museum houses a world class library covering all areas of taxonomy and systematics. The Museum is situated next to the main South Kensington campus of Imperial College, and there are close research and teaching links between the two establishments. Students will therefore be situated in the heart of London, and are able to make full use of the facilities at both institutions.

    Students are trained to a high level of competence in systematics and a detailed understanding of the various uses and problems involved. The course provides methodological background, including quantitative skills, computer applications and practical skills in morphological and molecular techniques of taxonomy and systematics. The most up-to-date ideas and research in taxonomy and biodiversity are taught, to a large extent from primary literature. Hands-on training in conducting research in this area will be provided by project supervisors, with specialisation in the student’s field of choice.

    After completing the course, students will be able to:

  • apply a wide range of techniques to the study of systematics, including collections management, identification, key construction, taxonomic revision, phylogeny reconstruction and comparative methodologies;
  • understand the diversity of living organisms in space and time, and be familiar with methods for measuring this diversity and monitoring changes due to both anthropogenic and natural factors, and in Earth history;
  • select appropriate methods to solve taxonomic and biodiversity problems, and be able to acquire and analyze taxonomic data, including both traditional and molecular data;
  • understand fully the conceptual basis of taxonomy and phylogenetics and in particular, cladistics, and to understand “biodiversity” within this framework;
  • apply these concepts to issues of biodiversity and conservation management and research, to set priorities for sustainable development, environmental assessment and inventories; apply these concepts to other areas of biology such as parasitology and epidemiology.
  • Who is this course aimed at?

    The course is aimed at anyone concerned with taxonomy and biodiversity. It is relevant to those involved with biodiversity assessments, conservation and sustainable development, from biomedical sciences to agriculture and fisheries, as well as to those intending to pursue academic careers in systematics and related fields.

    Entry requirements:

    Applicants should normally either have or expect to gain at least a lower second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a biological or environmental subject (e.g. zoology, botany, microbiology, agriculture and veterinary science). Exceptionally students with different backgrounds or with related work experience will be considered.

    Further details are available from:

    Ms Amoret Whitaker. Department of Entomology, Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, UK. Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 5998 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +44 (0)20 7942 5998      end_of_the_skype_highlighting fax+44 (0)20 7942 5229. E-mail: a.whitaker@nhm.ac.uk



MSc/MRes in Global Environmental Change: University of Plymouth, School of Earth, Ocean and Environmental Sciences

    The MSc/MRes Global Environmental Change is a one-year, full-time course which aims to provide opportunities within a multi-disciplinary environment to gain both theoretical knowledge and practical experience in understanding the scientific basis of past, present and projected future environmental change. A quantitative, multi-disciplinary training is provided for Earth, Marine and Environmental Scientists together with graduates from other scientific or engineering disciplines.

    The course emphasises applying scientific knowledge largely through practical application to real environmental problems. The key objectives of the course are to provide: an understanding of the operation of the climate system, and its interactions with other elements of the Earth System (oceans, biosphere, etc); an understanding of variability in the global environment, now and in the past, and the methods by which long-term temporal variations can be reconstructed and explained; experience of the fundamentals of key data gathering processes and methods (e.g. electron microscopy, remote sensing, marine and non-marine palaeoenvironments, isotopic and geochemical techniques); aspects of biological diversity; and an assessment of the basis of future climate prediction, primarily through numerical modelling experiments. The Global Environmental Change course provides an interdisciplinary approach designed to evaluate the potential impacts of global change; a critical assessment of the political responses to scientific advice on 'global warming'; and aims to develop and promote of a sense of independent enquiry and the development of investigative and research skills, addressing particular aspects of environmental change.

    Further details and application forms are available from:

      Postgraduate Admissions Team, Faculty of Science, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, United Kingdom, Tel: +44 (0)1752 233093. Email: science@plymouth.ac.uk



MSc/MRes in Micropalaeontology: University of Plymouth, School of Earth, Ocean & Environmental Sciences

    This programme in Micropalaeontology operates within a scheme involving a range of M-level subjects in the Earth, Marine, Environmental and Biological Sciences. In the first term a range of taught courses are offered including both subject-based topics and skills training. After this is completed satisfactorily students then pursue a major research project through from January to mid-September. This may be based on field samples collected by the student, samples provided by an industrial sponsor, samples requested from the Ocean Drilling Program or other samples in the collections of staff. Projects undertaken by students in the last academic year include estuarine foraminifera, sea level change in S. E. Italy, foraminifera of the Cambridge Greensand and the use of foraminifera and stable isotope stratigraphy in dating volcanic activity on Montserrat, Caribbean Sea. During this period of research students have to generate assessed reports and give a full seminar presentation on their research.

    For further information, contact the Course leader, Professor Malcolm Hart or use the University website. Application forms for postgraduate study can be downloaded from this website. Some University bursaries may be available.



MSc in Geology by Research: Royal Holloway University of London, Department of Geology

    This programme is offered to prospective students who wish to pursue research in a selected field of the Geological Sciences for a period of one calendar year full time or two calendar years part time and be awarded a Masters degree. Students will receive training in research skills, including data collection, data handling and analytical techniques as well as transferable and presentation skills. Students will take a course in a subject area closely related to the chosen field of research, selected from a menu of masters level courses offered by the department. The main outcome of the programme is a piece of independent research presented in the form of a dissertation. Upon completion of the programme students will have gained experience of research and presentation of material in the geological sciences which equips them to publish work in international scientific journals.

    Prospective students should contact individual members of staff in the department in the first instance to discuss potential research projects. The research interests of staff are available on the department website http://www.gl.rhul.ac.uk/staff/acad.html.



MRes in Vertebrate Palaeontology: University of Southampton, Ocean and Earth Sciences

    The new MRes in Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Southampton is now accepting applicants for September 2013. This course offers you the chance to work on specimen-based research projects (10 month duration) drawn from a portfolio of contacts with local Museums and collections, including Dinosaur Isle (Sandown, Isle-of-Wight) and the Jurassic Coast World Heritage site. The small but tightly-focussed taught component of the MRes includes: (1) a bespoke fieldcourse to key sites on the Isle-of-Wight, led by local personalities, collectors and geologists; (2) a detailed grounding in vertebrate anatomy and evolution; and (3) in depth immersion in current topics in vertebrate palaeobiology. You will also have the chance to dip in to other courses taught across the University of Southampton (Biosciences, Ocean and Earth Sciences and Engineering). The south of England ranks among the most productive fossil-bearing areas globally for Jurassic and Cretaceous vertebrates and the University of Southampton boasts one of the UK's leading Earth Science research facilities (http://www.soton.ac.uk/oes) housed in the National Oceanography Centre (http://www.nocs.ac.uk).

    Please visit http://www.southampton.ac.uk/oes/postgraduate/taught_courses.page for more information, or email Gareth Dyke (gareth.dyke@soton.ac.uk).



M.Sc. in Palaeobiology: University of Uppsala, Sweden, Department of Earth Sciences

    The newly-established two year Palaeobiology Masters programme in Uppsala University, Sweden, draws on the combined strengths of the palaeobiological research in both the Earth Sciences and Evolutionary Biology departments. The taught components include an introduction to earth system science and global change, followed by in depth examinations of palaeobiological principles; evolution and development including a significant practical training component; special topics in the origins of major ecosystems and specialist vertebrate topics. The last six months of the programme entail an independent research project across a broad range of possible topics, with the aim of eventual publication. Please note that Swedish universities do not currently charge any fees for EU students, and all courses are taught in English.

    Current research staff include Profs Ahlberg (tetrapod origins, evo-devo); Budd (Cambrian explosion, arthropods, theory of evolution, evo-devo); Moczydlowska-Vidal Proterozoic-Cambrian organic-walled microbiota, early evolution of phytoplankton and environmental evolution); Peel (Cambrian explosion, molluscs, small skeletal faunas) and Holmer (early evolution of the Lophotrochozoa with particular reference to brachiopods). Recent recruitments include Drs Streng (Cambrian stratigraphy, early brachiopods, calcareous dinoflagellates); Blom (early vertebrates); Ledin (zebrafish development); Henderiks (climate change and nannoplankton evolution), Janssen (arthropod evo-devo) and Kear (Mesozoic vertebrate faunas).

    For further details please contact Professor G. E. Budd (graham.budd@pal.uu.se) or visit the MSc webpage





Created by Alan R.T. Spencer on the 2010-08-25. (Version 2.0)