The first year of Zoology provides a solid basis for the programme. Six core modules cover cell biology, biodiversity, evolution and practical and research skills to ensure you have an understanding of the fundamental principles that underpin zoology. You will use multi-disciplinary approaches ranging from genetics to whole-organism biology and ecological surveys. You will also be able to broaden your zoology perspectives by choosing three optional modules, such as vertebrate evolution, applied biology, immunology and the biology of the mind.
For the Year 1 compulsory field course, Zoology students spend a week at Castle Head or Blencathra in Cumbria, studying terrestrial field zoology at the scale of the individual organism, to the population and whole ecosystem
By the end of year 1, you will understand the structure and functioning of life on earth and will be able to demonstrate a wide range of practical and research skills in the lab and in the field. At the end of year 1, our flexible degree structure offers you the opportunity to transfer onto other suitable degree courses.
Living Planet (20 credits) - You’ll be provided with an overview of the evolution and diversity of life, the key features that define each group and the role of those taxa in ecological processes. Each group of organisms will be linked to a major global challenge including food security, disease, and wildlife conservation, to demonstrate how fundamental science informs important societal issues.
Introduction to Cell Biology (10 credits) - You'll develop a basic understanding of cell biology and the underlying biochemistry, which underpin the fundamental processes of life. You can apply this knowledge in later optional studies in applied biology or plant biology.
Practical Skills for Zoology & Ecology (20 credits) - You will develop core scientific practical and field research skills that you will use throughout your degree program. A broad range of standard laboratory skills will be developed, including the essential fundamentals of good laboratory practice, routine calculations, and analytical methods. Field work will address processes at the whole organism and population level within the broader areas of zoology and ecology.
Skills in Research, Study & Data Analysis (20 credits) - You'll develop core research, scientific and study skills that will underpin your degree. You will gain in-depth understanding of the scientific process, the formulation and testing of hypotheses, and making best use of scientific literature. Hands-on computer practical sessions will help you develop an appreciation of scientific data, and the key skills needed to solve problems.
Introduction to Genetics (10 credits) - You’ll be provided with essential foundational knowledge in genetics, exploring the different meanings of ‘genetics’ and how this concept has changed over time. More importantly, you will explore what genetics means for us as organisms. To what extent do genes determine our inheritance? And how do our genes make us the distinct and unique organisms we are?
Coastal & Uplands Field Course (10 credits) - You’ll take a combination of field studies at various sites on the Isle of Cumbrae, Scotland, followed by laboratory-based analysis to develop skills in sampling and monitoring field populations, and identification of diverse organisms. Projects will involve developing hypotheses related to their ecology and testing these using appropriate analytical techniques.
30 credits from the following
Molecules of Life (10 credits) - You will study areas of Chemistry that are of direct relevance to the understanding of biological processes and develop an understanding of how simple inorganic elements are organised into the large macromolecular structures and polymers (nucleic acids, proteins, polysaccharides and lipids) that are crucial for life.
Discovery Modules (10 credits) - As well as the compulsory and optional modules that make up your programme of study, you may be able to choose something different to your main subject as a Discovery Module.
Applied Biology & Agriculture (10 credits) - You’ll consider foods from animals, plants and microorganisms, systems of production and the use of biotechnology for crop improvement. You’ll discuss the opportunities and challenges for agriculture, including the process of domestication, the livestock revolution, systems of animal production and the use of biotechnology for crops and microbes.
Biology of the Mind (10 credits) - You’ll be introduced to the foundational neuroscience concepts of structure and function, and how systems level function emerges. These concepts will be explained using examples drawn from across the human nervous system in health and disease, and from the experimental approaches used in neuroscience research.
Introduction to Microbiology (10 credits) - You’ll be introduced to a wide range of microscopic life forms and viruses. You will learn about microbiology in a broad sense and explore the diversity of microbial life with emphasis on how we interact with microbes that are responsible for infections as well as those that do not normally cause disease. You will learn how microorganisms interact with each other and how they influence the lives of more complex organisms, for good or ill and will learn how fungi, bacteria and viruses are observed and manipulated safely.
Vertebrate Evolution (10 credits) - Fascinated by dinosaurs? Intrigued by human origins? Worried by whaling? Want to know how birds came to fly? Is so, then this module is for you. We will cover the major features of vertebrate evolution from the origin of the group around 430 million years ago in the Cambrian period to their present-day diversity, taking in many of the well-known (e.g. dinosaurs and pterosaurs) and less well-known extinct forms. We will also examine how geological processes have influenced this amazing story of the vertebrate animals.
Introduction to Immunology (10 credits) - You’ll review fundamental immune mechanisms with a particular emphasis on human immunology and its relationship to health and disease. You will discover how we protect ourselves from infection through our immune defences, and learn about the role of different types of leukocytes and antibodies and complement in our immune defences.
The year starts with the Year 2 compulsory residential field course in marine zoology, based on the rocky shores of the Pembrokeshire coast. You will gain hands-on experience of marine organisms and their habitats, expanding your knowledge of animal behaviour, animal development, evolution and adaptation while further developing research skills in the lab and the field.
Your practical, experimental and analytical skills will be developed as you specialise in the core topics of zoology, including adaptation, animal behaviour, and physiology, with options to choose up to four modules covering genetics, parasitology and ecology. This includes an optional non-residential field course in urban ecology where you will evaluate the structure and function of biodiversity in Leeds, and develop ideas on how to make cities more ecologically sustainable.
By the end of year 2, you will appreciate the diversity of disciplines within zoology and be able to demonstrate a deeper understanding of core topics. You will also be prepared with the knowledge and skills necessary to undertake your research project in your final year. At the end of year 2, you will have the opportunity to complete an industrial work placement, study abroad, or combined study and work abroad. This will add an additional year of study to your degree.
Marine Zoology Field Course (20 credits)
Animal Physiology (20 credits) - You’ll focus on the normal functioning of a living organism and the study of the various systems used to regulate the internal environment. This module will introduce you to some of the core topics in animal physiology such as endocrinology, reproduction, growth and development, digestive physiology, muscle, and environmental physiology. Mammals will be used as the main point of reference with selected examples from other classes of animals used for comparison.
Skills in Research, Experimental Design and Analysis (20 credits) - You will further develop your core research and scientific skills from level 1, such as communication skills, how to formulate independent scientific hypotheses, and experimental design. You will learn the statistical approaches and techniques to process, explain and evaluate scientific data. Small group tutorials will help develop a range of transferable skills including presentations, data analysis and literature analysis in written reports.
Evolution, Adaptation and Behaviour (20 credits) - The module will encourage you to appreciate that evolution unifies Biology and that it explains the facinating diversity of life on Earth. You will examine evolutionary processes to develop an understanding of adaptation to environments, across evolutionary time and in our rapidly changing modern world. The module takes animal behaviour, taught in a behavioural ecology framework, as a specific field in which evolution and adaptation can be explored.
40 credits from the following
Population, Community & Conservation Ecology (20 credits) - You’ll cover the factors that control the distribution and abundance of different populations and introduces the application of these principles to population management. You will understand the interactions between species and their environment and the properties of ecological communities and the application of these principles to key challenges in ecology. You will cover practical conservation approaches to population dynamics and community management and the use of a range of practical and analytical techniques to examine and quantify population and community dynamics.
Urban Ecology & Field Course (20 credits) - You will build on core conceptual material in ecology and conservation. You’ll learn about the value of biodiversity in an urban context, with a focus on the biodiversity and sustainability on campus and the University’s reduced carbon emissions commitments. Working in small groups, you will collect biodiversity data across a range of urban sites and produce a biodiversity action plan to support and improve biodiversity on the campus.
Human Populations (10 credits) - You’ll be provided with an evolutionary perspective on human origins. You’ll understand the genetic structure of human populations is explained, considering 'normal' variation, geographical variation and changes in human populations including growth migration, language and impact on the environment. You will cover pathology including descriptive epidemiology, classical statistical approaches to understanding cancer and the links between population biology and infectious agents. You will understand core concepts in human population biology including mutation, gene flow, natural selection, genetic drift, founder effects and genetic load.
Parasitology (10 credits) - You’ll be provided with an introduction to parasitology with an emphasis on those that cause diseases of medical and veterinary importance. The main content will be delivered through the use of specific examples including single-celled microparasites, such as Malaria, Toxoplasma, Trypanosoma, Leishmania, and Giardia, and macroparasites, such as Schistosoma, Ascaris, Geohelminths, and the Filarial Nematodes.
Introduction to Bioinformatics (10 credits) - You’ll be introduced to the basics of bioinformatics and the application of bioinformatics to many biological questions. The module shows how genomic data is stored and accessed to learn about any characterised gene or protein and how it links to resources on research. The approaches to modern phylogenetics are introduced and how bioinformatics is applied to drug discovery.
Human Genetics (10 credits) - You’ll be introduced to the human genome, chromosomes and heredity with an emphasis on genetic disease and cancer. You will also learn about the impact of human genomics in the context of health and genetic counselling.
Discovery Modules (10 credits) - As well as the compulsory and optional modules that make up your programme of study, you may be able to choose something different to your main subject as a Discovery Module.
You will complete a compulsory advanced module on animal behaviour and can choose four to six modules at the cutting edge of their discipline on subjects including genetics, evolution, ecology and conservation science. The optional field course to South Africa involves a 2-week programme of lectures, seminars and extensive fieldwork to complete a short research project on the ecology of a semi-arid landscape.
To underpin your final year research project you will undertake a compulsory research preparation module, involving the completion of a literature review and research proposal, with both components carrying over to Year 4 and forming the foundation of your extended research project. You will benefit from joining the research group of your supervisor in year 3.
Advanced Topics in Animal Behaviour (20 credits) - You will study how the behaviour of animals is adapted to their natural environment, with a focus on topics such as sexual selection, sperm competition, parental care and cannibalism. You will explore how parasites from malaria to cuckoos can manipulate the behaviour of their hosts. You will consider how understanding animal behaviour impacts animal health and welfare.
Advanced Research Skills & Experience (40 credits) - You will begin your exciting MBiol research journey by carrying out the preparation for your year 4 extended project. By developing a deep understanding of a research topic, the emphasis in this year is placed on project design and planning, as well as providing the hands-on specialist practical or analytical skills that will be essential in the final year, either in the lab or the field depending on your chosen topic.
60 credits from the following
Advanced Topics in Human Genetics (20 credits) - You will gain a comprehensive insight into human genetics with an emphasis on disease. Specific topics discussed include telomere biology, epigenetics, DNA damage/repair, DNA recombination and genome integrity/stability.
Advanced Topics in Ecology (20 credits) - You’ll cover recent developments in ecological research. The module will consist of subunits, each taught by a researcher intimately involved with the research developments being discussed. As such, it will provide you not only with a detailed understanding of key recent developments in ecology but also, with insights into the process of scientific research.
South Africa Field Course (20 credits) - Large game is currently being re-introduced to this area, the result of which has been the creation of multiple adjacent sites each containing varying proportions of original African fauna. The intense two week programme (in September before entry into year 3) comprises a short project, lectures by staff and local experts covering geology, vegetation, birds, game management and demonstrations of techniques such as bird ringing and field trips to Addo Elephant Park, Mountain Zebra Park and the coast. Additional costs are required to cover flights and accommodation.
Advanced Topics in Animal Science (20 credits) - Population growth and growth in global affluence are anticipated to continue to drive the increasing demand for animal protein. Production of animals to meet this demand is not only a significant contributor to environmental problems but is itself likely to be impacted by these problems. Addressing these challenges requires new technologies and innovations if production is to be sustainable. In this module, you will explore innovations in nutritional technologies.
Advanced Topics in Evolution (20 credits) - You’ll participate in group studies of advanced, research-led topics in evolution. Topics may include emerging infectious diseases, variation and speciation, and symbiosis providing a range of approaches to evolution, from molecular to ecological. Each topic will be introduced by a 'scene-setting lecture' by a member of staff and you will then be given a set of references to relevant papers in the library covering recent theoretical and empirical developments in three areas of current research in the field of evolutionary biology.
Advanced Topics in Conservation Science (20 credits) - You will explore contemporary and globally important topics in conservation, including biodiversity loss, urban biodiversity, the illegal wildlife trade, and climate change. You will also investigate current theories in conservation science, along with the mechanisms underlying global patterns in the distribution of animals and plants, with a particular focus on the responses of species to climate change. You will develop a critical understanding of how ecological theory informs conservation practice, and how to implement this knowledge to inform conservation decision-making. You’ll cover the biological principles that underpin the observed diversity and distribution of organisms on the planet.
Animal Societies (10 credits) - You'll explore some of the most remarkable and successful life-history strategies that have evolved in animals – sociality and eusociality. You’ll focus on how these complex animal societies work – how they are organised, communicate, and divide labour. You will also delve into how these life history strategies evolve and the ecological importance of these remarkable animals.
Evolution & Population Genetics (10 credits) - You'll cover the nature of biological species and the roles of natural selection and drift in evolution and the attempts made and the problems encountered in interpreting genetic data to infer the history of populations (including human beings). You will understand the logic and modes of thinking required to solve phylogenetic problems and interpret experimental data and you will develop skills in the interpretation of population genetics and evolution.
Animal Development (10 credits) - You will become familiar with some of the key processes in developmental biology and understand how numerous model organisms have informed our understanding of animal developmental biology.
The cornerstone of year 4 is your extended research project, which you will carry out within a lab/research group at the cutting edge of the relevant field. You’ll also choose two Masters-level modules, such as population and community ecology, infectious and non-infectious diseases, and conservation decision science.
By the end of year 4, you will have well-developed zoological knowledge and key research skills focused in the direction of your choosing, and which will have prepared you well for a postgraduate research programme or a career in zoological research.
MBiol Extended Research Project (90 credits) - You’ll work over both semesters. The topic will usually follow your level 3 project and grant proposal and will be conducted with a named supervisor within the Faculty research teams, sometimes in combination with outside agencies. There will be regular meetings with the project supervisor, normally on a weekly basis, and the project will provide you with experience working in a research group, interacting with research scientists and in the analysis and presentation of scientific data
30 credits from the following
Sustainable Diets and Protein Production (15 credits) - You'll investigate the challenges of providing people with a sustainable and nutritionally complete diet, with a particular emphasis on different sources of protein. You’ll consider the challenges of providing a diet that is sustainable, whilst taking into consideration the nutritive content, economics and consumer acceptance of food ingredients in a changing world. Learn about different livestock production systems in the UK and consider the opportunities and challenges facing these industries in light of net zero ambitions, climate change and legislative pressures in a move to a more sustainable future.
Community Ecology (15 credits) - You'll focus on biodiversity: how we measure it, how it is maintained in natural biotic communities, and how conservation managers can intervene to help maintain it. You’ll gain a broad understanding of community ecology theory and methods, and experience in applying these to conservation decision-making and action. The practical sessions will provide you with experience in the use of diversity indices, the analysis of biodiversity patterns in space and time, and in conservation planning in the context of limited information.
Advanced Statistics (15 credits) - You’ll be provided with practical training and exercises in the use and interpretation of modern statistical methods including General Linear Models, Generalised Linear Models, General Linear Mixed Models and Multivariate Analysis, and their application to biological problems using the statistical package R.
Introduction to GIS for Ecologists (15 credits) - This module will provide you with an introduction to Geographical Information Systems that assumes no prior expertise. It consists of a series of lectures and practicals intended to provide you with the skills and tools that will enable you to answer simple ecological questions through basic modelling and additionally gain the confidence to tackle more complex problems.
Population Dynamics (15 credits) - You will develop an understanding of the theory that describes the changes in population size in animals and plants, and you’ll be trained in techniques for the estimation of population sizes and the description of factors influencing population sizes. You will be able to contribute to the planning and execution of studies on the population status of target species and you’ll be able to make informed contributions to population management discussions.
Infectious and Non-Infectious Disease (15 credits) - You’ll explore the treatment of human diseases caused by infectious agents (bacteria, viruses, fungi) and cancer by current and emerging approaches, with a focus on describing the mechanistic rationale for chemotherapy, vaccination, gene/RNA therapy, and immunotherapy.
Conservation Decision Science (15 credits) - You’ll be introduced to conservation decision science in an interdisciplinary context that integrates mathematical approaches, ecology, and socio-economic considerations. It will develop skills in objective-driven decision-making for environmental management problems, in social decision-making in group-based negotiation, in mathematical approaches to decision-making, and in spatial conservation planning. The focus of this module is on critical thinking, integrating across fields, and challenging oneself to combine common sense with appropriate decision-making tools.
Equitable Sustainability (15 credits) - You’ll learn about how the practice and outputs of conservation can be used to enhance not only the success of biodiversity conservation but also ensure that any benefits are equally distributed across stakeholders. The approach will incorporate aspects of practical governance to provide you with an understanding of the mechanics and logistics of equitable conservation activities as well as technical skills. You will also have the opportunity to explore the pedagogy that underpins their conservation training in a critical light, developing their understanding and practice of anti-racism and decolonisation.
Throughout your degree you will benefit from a range of opportunities to expand your intellectual horizons outside or within your subject area.
This course gives you the opportunity to choose from a range of discovery modules. They’re a great way to tailor your study around your interests or career aspirations and help you stand out from the crowd when you graduate. Find out more about discovery modules on our Broadening webpages.
Learning and teaching
Our teaching is delivered through a combination of lectures, tutorials and practicals (laboratory or field settings dependent on your degree). We take a student-centred approach to learning and so our teaching is designed to enable student engagement through active learning approaches that include creative problem-solving, team-work activities and mini-projects. In this way, you are able to apply the theoretical knowledge learnt to practical, real-life contexts. We put a high value on practical teaching and so a core part of your teaching will focus on developing hands-on practical and associated research skills.
Independent study is an important part of University learning and you will be expected to undertake private study. We will support you in becoming independent learners through our teaching approaches and through regular meetings with your personal tutor who is there to advise you academically.
We use a range of digital tools to enhance your learning. Through our Minerva learning management system, you will be able to access our extensive library of online materials, some of it designed specifically to support preparation prior to attending classroom sessions and discuss content with peers and teachers. In the classroom, educators use a variety of interactive digital tools to help you learn through discussion and debate. Laboratory practicals are accompanied by detailed online preparation guides and use of electronic laboratory notebooks to ensure you get the most out of your time and develop workplace skills. Field courses study the ecology, genetics, behaviour, development and adaptations of organisms in their natural environments.
On this course you’ll be taught by our expert academics, from lecturers through to professors. You may also be taught by industry professionals with years of experience, as well as trained postgraduate researchers, connecting you to some of the brightest minds on campus.
We use a variety of assessment methods to help you develop a broad range of skills. These include practical work, data handling and problem-solving exercises, multiple-choice tests, group work, online and face-to-face discussion groups, computer-based simulations, essays, posters and oral presentations. We support students in their assessment journey through the provision of practice questions, sessions on how to complete assessment questions and feedback to support learning.