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Natural Sciences

MSC in Conservation Behaviour GMIT

MSc in Conservation Behaviour

One year taught MSc degree that focuses on how animal behaviour can be applied to wildlife conservation

Discipline: Natural Sciences

Location: Galway - Dublin Road

NFQ Level: 9

Programme Duration: One year

Mode of Study: Full time

Application Route: Apply direct to GMIT

Entry Requirements: See "Essential Information" below

Why Study?

This one-year MSc degree focuses on how animal behaviour can be applied to wildlife conservation. This is an exciting new area of study, known as Conservation Behaviour, and is suitable for those interested in careers in animal behaviour and/or conservation.

You will study the behaviour of a wide range of species from marine, freshwater and terrestrial habitats, and you will learn how an understanding of animal behaviour can contribute to the conservation and management of those species.

You will acquire a range of applied skills, such as camera trap surveying for terrestrial mammals, visual and acoustic monitoring of marine mammals, abundance estimation of marine mammals using mark-recapture and DISTANCE, geographic information systems (GIS), and data analysis using R and RStudio.


Staff Publications

Teaching on the course is closely linked to the research interests of staff, who are also members of the Marine and Freshwater Research Centre at GMIT. Some recent publications by the course co-ordinators, Martin Gammell and Joanne O’Brien, include:

  • McFarlane, A., O’Brien, J. & Gammell, M. (2018). Observations on breeding of native Irish White-Clawed Crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) in captivity. Irish Naturalists’ Journal 36: 18-22.
  • Baker, I., O’Brien, J., McHugh, K., Ingram, S.N. & Berrow S. (2018). Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) social structure in the Shannon Estuary, Ireland, is distinguished by age- and area-related associations. Marine Mammal Science 34: 458-487.
  • Perez Tadeo, M. & Gammell, M. (2018). Activity budgets in different habitats of a species of conservation concern in Ireland, the Light-bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla hrota. Wildfowl 68: 84–103.


Course Highlights

  1. Teaching by research-active staff working in the field of Conservation Behaviour, with particular interests in marine and freshwater species.
  2. A week-long residential field course in the west of Ireland, where the behaviour of a number of species will be studied in a natural setting.
  3. A major research thesis on a real conservation problem, in collaboration with a supervisor from GMIT and a supervisor from an external organisation.

Programme Modules

The course consists of six taught modules (5 ECTS each) and a major research thesis (60 ECTS).


The taught modules are:

  • Studies in Conservation Behaviour: Through guided and independent study, students will produce a literature review on a selected topic in Conservation Behaviour, thereby gaining an in-depth knowledge of that topic, while also learning effective techniques for reviewing the scientific literature. Practical skills in conservation will also be taught, giving students a good overall knowledge in collection and analysis methods.
  • Data Analysis using R and RStudio: The powerful, free and open-source R statistical environment is becoming the statistical tool of choice for increasing numbers of scientists. Students will learn how to easily import their data into R, and how to then manage, manipulate, explore, graph and statistically analyse their data using R and RStudio.
  • Residential Field Course: The residential field course provides students with opportunities to develop practical field skills and independent learning. The location for the residential field course (e.g. Aran Islands/Inishbofin, Co. Galway; the Burren, Co. Clare; the Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry) will provide opportunities to study a range of animals in a variety of habitats.
  • Applied Geographic Information Systems: This module covers the use of geographic information systems (GIS) as a tool for field biologists. Students will learn to store, manage, analyse and display data that has both spatial and attribute components, using ArcGIS.
  • Animal Behaviour: Recording and Analysis: Students will learn to address conservation questions within a behavioural framework, observe and record the behaviour of animals in the field and laboratory using appropriate equipment and techniques, and analyse behavioural data using dedicated behavioural software and suitable statistical methods.
  • Acoustic Monitoring as a Marine Conservation Tool: Cetaceans use sound for navigating, finding food and communicating. Therefore, through the study of underwater acoustics we can get an insight into cetacean occurrence and behaviour. This module will train students in acoustic monitoring technologies, and the analysis and interpretation of acoustic datasets.


The research thesis:

Students will undertake an approved research project under the direction of an internal supervisor and, if appropriate, a supervisor from a relevant external organisation.

Research projects may be drawn from any area within the course, or from an area of expertise of the supervisors, while also taking the interests and future career of the student into account.

Research projects to be carried out in 2019 involve collaborations with the Marine Institute, Inland Fisheries Ireland, and the Coral Restoration Foundation (Florida, USA), among others.

Career Opportunities

Graduates will be well prepared for careers in wildlife conservation and management, or may continue to PhD research.

Potential employers may include:

  • Ecological Consultancies
  • Non-Governmental Organisations and Charities
  • Research Institutes
  • Government Agencies

Essential Information: 

Course Overview

Level: 90 ECTS taught MSc, Level 9

Duration: 1 year, starts September


Entry Requirements: 

The minimum requirement is a 2.2 in a cognate Honours Degree, e.g. Animal Behaviour, Conservation Biology, Zoology, Ecology, Environmental Science, etc. If you are not sure whether your degree is cognate, please feel free to email the course co-ordinators (contact details below), and they will be happy to advise.

Non-EU, non-native English speakers, must have a score of 6.0 in IELTS or equivalent.



Approx. €6,000 (EU) and €12,000 (non-EU).

For current information on fees see

Applicants may be eligible for a SUSI grant (see SUSI website).


Other Information:

There is an additional charge of approx. €250 associated with the Residential Field Course.

Students on the course are required to have their own laptops.

Contact Us

Apply today

To apply, please complete our online application process (external site).

Or, if you are an International student, apply online HERE.


For any queries about the application process please contact:

Admissions Office

Tel: +353 (0)91 742305



For any queries about the course please contact the course co-ordinators:

Dr Martin Gammell

Email: Martin Gammell

Dr Joanne O'Brien

Email: Joanne O Brien

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