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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  Study  /  Graduate Taught  /  MSc Aquatic Science

MSc Aquatic Science


Combining the fields of catchment hydrology, geomorphology and ecology with those of aquatic conservation and restoration, the MSc Aquatic Science gives students the fundamental interdisciplinary training necessary for a career in aquatic environmental research, consultancy and environmental protection.

Environmental issues such as pollution, habitat degradation, invasive species and climate change threaten the sustainability and quality of aquatic ecosystems. Responding to these threats the MSc Aquatic Science at UCL equips students with an interdisciplinary understanding of the structure and functioning of aquatic environments from upland catchments to the coastal zone, encompassing lakes, ponds, rivers, floodplains, wetlands, groundwaters, estuaries and shallow seas. The MSc takes an “aquatic landscapes” approach and places special emphasis on the transferal of science to practical conservation and restoration.

The MSc Aquatic Science provides an ideal foundation for PhD research, or for employment within environmental protection and conservation agencies and environmental consultancies. Students taking the course have considerable interaction with aquatic conservation professionals, who give guest lectures and take part in fieldwork. Species identification, both in the field and laboratory, is an important part of the degree as is fieldwork with major residential field classes to the North Norfolk Coast, Scottish Highlands and Dorset. Students can specialise in subjects such as water pollution, palaeolimnology and environmental reconstruction, Geographical Information Systems, hydrological modelling, restoration ecology and freshwater and marine conservation as related to current-day legislative frameworks. They will also gain transferable skills in project, survey and monitoring design, environmental governance and working with stakeholders, science report writing and communication and numerical analysis. The MSc has a substantial alumni base who attend regular course social events allowing past and present students to mingle and learn from each other. Aquatic Science students work closely with students from the MSc in Conservation and have access to a whole range of internal talks and events arranged by UCL Geography and the UCL Conservation Group.


The MSc in Aquatic Science can be undertaken full time over a full year or part time over two years. Core modules take place in Term 1 (autumn) and consist of four courses which establish the fundamental principles of aquatic ecosystem science, key conservation issues and approaches, aquatic monitoring principles and application, study design, and data analysis. All courses take an integrated approach to aquatic ecosystems recognising catchment-based approaches and linkages between fresh and coastal waters. In Term 2 (spring) students chose from a substantial list of expert-taught specialist options, tailored to key interests and future plans.


All students take four core Aquatic Science modules in the first term and choose a further four modules from a range of options in the second term. Additionally, students undertake a piece of original research leading to a dissertation (60 credits) of up to 15,000 words with the support of an academic supervisor.

Term one will include two residential field courses.

The following modules will be available 2016/17. Please note these may be subject to change.

Module codeModule titleUCL Credit value
GEOGG070 Aquatic Systems 15 credits
GEOGG072 Aquatic Monitoring 15 credits
GEOGG104 Scientific Basis for Freshwater and Coastal Conservation 15 credits
GEOGG102 Environmental Data Acquisition and Analysis 15 credits
Module codeModule titleUCL Credit value
GEOGG043 Politics of Climate Change 15 credits
GEOGG057 Wetlands 15 Credits
GEOGG061 Marine Conservation 15 Credits
GEOGG065 Environmental GIS 15 credits
GEOGG074 Lakes 15 credits
GEOGG095 Ocean Circulation and Climate Change 15 credits
GEOGG100 Coastal Change 15 credits
GEOGG101 Surface Water Modelling 15 Credits
GEOGG103 Aquatic Macrophytes 15 credits
GEOGG123 Climate Risks to Hydro-ecological Systems 15 credits
GEOGG135 Biological Indicators of Environmental Change 15 credits
GEOGG136 Non-biological Indicators for Environmental Reconstruction 15 credits
GEOGG159 Introduction to Citizen Science & Scientific Crowdsourcing 15 credits

Students on the MSc Programme also embark on a dissertation after the examinations in May, which lasts until the end of the programme in September. The department enjoys strong links with the conservation and environmental protection sector and each year dissertation placements projects are offered with a number of key organisations including PBA Applied Ecology, British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), The Rivers Trusts, Thames Estuary Partnership and the National Trust. Combined with the wide range of aquatic science expertise available in the department, this leads to great variety of possible research topics for investigation.

Information on fees and funding can be found on the main UCL website.

  1. Fees
  2. Scholarships

Please note that the optional Aquatic Macrophytes field-based module in term 2 has modest additional costs associated with accommodation and transport.


You can apply for a place on this Programme via UCL Admissions.

Potential applicants are expected to have a first or upper second-class Honours degree in a relevant discipline (e.g. Environmental Science, Geography, Oceanography, Biology, Chemistry or Engineering) from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Applicants with relevant professional experience in aquatic science or environmental management will also be considered. Advice is available from the programme tutor Dr. Carl Sayer. Overseas applicants will need a recognised English language qualification. Some information relating to your country and UCL can be found here.



Our graduates have secured positions across a broad range of destinations including various environmental consultancies, Natural England, The Wildlife Trusts, Field Studies Council, Environment Agency, Defra and The Rivers Trusts. A high proportion of our students have also gone on to undertake PhD research both in the UK and overseas. Take a look at our Careers page to see where some of our students have gone on to work.

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