Ecology is the science of relationships, amongst organisms and between organisms and their environments. It is a vital science of the modern age because it underpins how best we can interact with, use and conserve the natural resources of the planet.
It is also concerned, at the largest scale, with the role of organisms as components of the ‘Life Support Systems’ of planet earth. Humankind is totally dependent on the 'goods and services' provided by organisms and ecosystems: Food, fibre and fuel; clean air and water; recreation, and even cultural identity.
Ecology underpins sustainable development and as such it is mainstream in policy development and planning. The Ecology degree at Stirling is designed to give a robust introduction to the subject, making it well grounded in theory and strongly relevant to real-life situations and improving students’ employability prospects.
ABBB - one sitting.
AABB - two sittings.
To include one of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics or Physics.
SQA Adv. Higher:
To include Biology and one of Environmental Science, Geography or Geology.
General entrance requirements apply
Mathematics Standard Grade (2), Intermediate 2 (C), GCSE (C) or equivalent.
If examinations are taken over two sittings, or there are repeats or upgrades, the entrance requirements may be higher.
Modes of study
Full-time (three modules per semester). Part-time (one or two modules per semester).
Find out more
The Ecology degree at Stirling is designed to give you a rigorous introduction to the science of ecology as well as providing training in essential field and laboratory techniques.
Semesters 1 - 4
In Years 1 and 2 you will take core modules in:
- Biological Sciences: Cell Biology; Physiology; Ecology; Evolution and Genetics; Biodiversity
- Environmental Sciences: Building Planet Earth, or People and the Environment; Landscape Evolution, or Global Environmental Issues; The Biosphere
- Practical Skills in the Natural Sciences; Statistical Techniques; Biology or Environmental Field Course
Semesters 5 - 6
In Year 3, you will take the following advanced modules:
- Animal Ecology
- Plant Ecology and Physiology
- Field and Laboratory Techniques
You will also take two or three modules from a wide range of options including: Animal Physiology, Microbiology, Environmental Policy and Management, Marine Biology, and the field class in Spain (see below).
Semesters 7 - 8
In your final year you will undertake an independent research project and attend the overseas field course in Switzerland (see below). You will also take between four and six advanced modules from a range of options which currently include:
- Conservation Biology
- Molecular Evolution and Phylogenetics
- The Evolution of Sex
- Conservation Genetics
- Cell Birth, Life and Death
- Agriculture and Food Security in the 21st Century
- Conservation Management
- Restoration Ecology
- Geographical Information Systems
- Reconstructing Quaternary Environments
Fieldwork is an essential part of an ecologist’s training. Stirling’s campus location is an ideal base from which to make field excursions, whether to study lekking Black Grouse in the Highlands, the growth of trees on the sides of the Ochil Hills, or the distribution of animals in the Forth Estuary.
As well as fieldwork in Scotland, the Ecology (Hons) course includes field courses to France and Spain (the latter is optional). The 10-day field course in ecology and animal biology takes place in the Cévennes of France; a rugged mountain landscape of exceptional natural beauty and tremendous biodiversity. The organisms that live there include over 2,300 flowering plant species (24 of which are endemic), 2,000 invertebrate species and 300 vertebrate species. Notable among these are wild boar, otters, three vulture species (including endangered Cinereous vultures), and grey wolves. The region exemplifies the deep historical connection between humans and the natural world, and is recognized as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site. Here you will learn techniques in identification, field sampling, experimental design, data analysis and presentation. Students participating in the week-long field course in Spain stay at a field station 2 km away from the traditional hill-top town of Sorbas, near Almeria, in one of the driest parts of Europe. Through a series of excursions and intensive field projects students are introduced to environmental processes and resource management in arid environments.
An extensive research project takes up one third of the final-year course. A wide variety of project topics are available and these reflect the active research interests of academic staff in Biological and Environmental Sciences. These include:
- The behavioural ecology of birds on the University campus
- Climate change and the altitudinal limits of native montane plant species
- The effects of habitat enhancement of stream invertebrate communities
- Assessment of wildlife-friendly farming initiatives on invertebrate abundance and bat foraging
Teaching and assessment
Teaching is delivered in the form of formal lectures and practical classes, tutorials, seminars, computer-based learning and guided reading and research. Modules are assessed by a combination of coursework and examination, completed during semester. For many modules the marks awarded for coursework contribute 40 – 50 percent of the final grade but for some modules this is as high as 100 percent.
Biological and Environmental Sciences (BES) within the School of Natural Sciences is a multi-disciplinary division that participates in research and teaching in a broad range of subjects in the biological and environmental sciences. The principle focus of the research is at the interface between the environment and society. Within BES, staff conduct research in areas as diverse as the reconstruction of past landscapes; conservation, environmental impact assessment and environmental management; evolutionary ecology of plants and animals; and cellular biology and immunology. BES is a friendly, vibrant, and dynamic place in which to learn and research with a great sense of belonging engendered in our students from their very first days at the University.
Research-led teaching is the key to deep learning and understanding. The academic staff in Biological and Environmental Sciences at Stirling are typically world leaders in their respective fields, thus ensuring that research-led teaching is at the core of all of our courses. Many students work closely with academics throughout their time and benefit from actively participating in research programmes. We have strong contacts with external conservation and environmental organisations who also contribute to the undergraduate experience. This approach ensures that our students appreciate the transferable nature of a science degree and see how their learning can be applied to the real world.
Students may spend all or part of Year 3 abroad. There is a well-established reciprocal exchange programme with the University of Guelph in Canada where you will take subjects equivalent to those at Stirling. In addition, there are exchange opportunities with a range of universities in the USA, Australia and Europe.
Studying Ecology at Stirling has been a very rewarding experience. I have gained a lot of practical experience in both labs and in the field, including a trip to Portugal. The lecturers create a supportive and friendly atmosphere and are always willing to help solve any problems I encounter. My final-year project involved studying the mating behaviour of seaweed flies. This involved spending a lot of time in labs as well as several trips to the seaside. My project research contributed to a PhD thesis and was submitted for publication. I really enjoyed undertaking a large project where I could utilise the knowledge and skills which I had gained from the previous three years of studying.’
Jamie Hutchinson BSc (Hons) Ecology, graduated 2006.
Studying Ecology at Stirling appealed to me because of the range of interesting topics covered throughout the course. In addition to this, the campus provides a beautiful environment for studying natural sciences. As someone who loves to be outdoors, for me the highlight of the course has been the field work. Most notably I enjoyed the Swiss field course which was both challenging and rewarding. With the encouragement and enthusiasm of lecturers at the uni, I have achieved my goals – I am now equipped with the skills I need to progress in my chosen career.
Viki Bates 4th year Ecology student 2012
Mario Vallejo-Marin is an evolutionary ecologist who's research focuses on determining the role of adaptation in the evolution of plant reproductive strategies. Managing and conserving natural populations requires an integrated understanding including knowledge of their ecological interactions and evolutionary dynamics, thus understanding how and why plants mate the way they do is key in helping us understand how they evolved - but also to ensure their persistence. In addition to studying natural populations, Mario's research uses introduced and invasive species as models to analyse rapid evolutionary responses to new environmental challenges.
94% of University of Stirling 2012 graduates have found work, or are in a
further programme of study within 6 months of graduation. The Telegraph
ranks Stirling in the top 12 UK universities for getting a job.
The Stirling Ecology degree is well-respected and our graduates have gone on to a range of jobs in academic and applied ecology, including roles as university and government researchers, nature reserve managers, policy makers and consultants with both environmental agencies and conservation bodies, natural history film makers and journalists. Graduates have also obtained posts unrelated to ecology. These include careers in management, the media, finance, law, computing, and the leisure industry.
The skills learned in the Ecology degree – such as the ability to gather, interpret, synthesise and present information in an interesting and original way – mean that you will be well-qualified to work in a broad spectrum of careers.