UCL Department of Geography


MSc Aquatic Conservation, Ecology and Restoration

This interdisciplinary programme will equip you with a scientific and applied understanding of the current issues and debates in the aquatic conservation and restoration sector.

About this degree

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In this course, you will learn about the importance of freshwater and coastal ecosystems, including the links between fresh and coastal waters, the integration of aquatic ecology with water chemistry and hydro-geomorphology, restoration ecology, landscape ecology and rewilding and current legislation and policy.

The course is taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and laboratory sessions within which informality and discussion are encouraged and promoted. Core fieldcourses go to the North Norfolk Coast and Scottish Highlands and there are optional fieldcourses to Dorset (Aquatic Macrophytes) and Ireland (Field Evidence of Environmental Change).

During the degree, you will gain general field sampling skills (including boat work), as well as learn sampling methods for water chemistry and specific species, survey design and set up, and taxonomy covering a range of biological groups including fishes, invertebrates and wetland plants.

A core element of the degree is a focus on how to engage policymakers, stakeholders and the public with aquatic conservation issues so that good science can be incorporated into conservation plans and practices and, in turn, into people’s lives.

You will learn how to reconstruct past aquatic environments through the analysis of sediment cores enabling an understanding of ecological change in response to human activities over centennial or longer timescales which can help diagnose environmental problems and inform future conservation management.

You will learn how to design and implement monitoring programmes for assessing aquatic environmental conditions and status and gain modelling skills for predicting hydro-ecological changes in the future.

By graduation, you will have a sound and critical knowledge of connections between evidence-based science and the contemporary aquatic conservation scene, legislation and practical evidence-based conservation and restoration actions. 

Learn more about this course

Who is this course for?

Who is this course for?

You will be best suited for the MSc in Aquatic Conservation, Ecology and Restoration if you have an undergraduate degree in environmental science, geography, oceanography, biology, chemistry or engineering.

If you are interested in going into further research in the field, or a career in environmental protection and aquatic conservation, you will find this course perfectly aligned with your goals. 

Applications from other academic backgrounds are welcome, but please note that recent practical experience is essential.

MSc Open Event

Hear more about the course from Professor Carl Sayer:

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Academic Staff
Carl Sayer

Professor Carl Sayer (Convenor)

Carl is the leader of the UCL Geography Pond Restoration Research Group and convenes the MSc in Aquatic Conservation, Ecology and Restoration. His research focuses on the ecology, palaeoecology conservation and restoration of aquatic ecosystems and the conservation of rare aquatic species planning plants, invertebrates and fish. Carl also leads several conservation projects including the River Glaven Conservation Group and the Norfolk Ponds Project.

Jan Axmacher

Professor Jan Axmacher

Jan the Convenor of the MSc Conservation programme. His research covers a wide range of issues related to global biodiversity conservation in forested and agricultural landscapes. He is also an Affiliate Professor at the Agricultural University of Iceland.

Jon French

Professor Jon French

Jon directs the Coastal and Estuarine Research Unit. His research interests extend across coastal, estuarine and lacustrine environments and mainly concern the dynamics of coupled natural, socio-economic and engineered infrastructure systems and their resilience to geohazards and climate change. He has expertise in hydrodynamic and physical process modelling, data-driven 'machine learning' methods, and behavioural system modelling.

Helene Burningham

Professor Helene Burningham

The central aim of Helene's research is to explain coastal behaviour, system dynamics and mechanisms of forcing over decades and centuries. In particular, she is exploring the relative importance of intrinsic system control versus external climate forcing on the geomorphology and morphodynamics of coastal sedimentary systems.

Professor Helen Bennion

Professor Helen Bennion

Helen's research interests are in aquatic ecology and palaeoecology with a focus on freshwater diatoms. She is interested in the scientific application of lake management and conservation, particularly the EU Water Framework Directive. Her publications include around 70 academic articles and over 80 research reports and she is a peer reviewer for numerous international scientific journals and funding bodies. She has supervised more than 20 Master's and PhD students.

Professor David Thornalley

Professor David Thornalley

David is Deputy Chair of the Physical Geography MSc programme and Deputy Director of the London Natural Environment Research Council Doctoral Training Programme (NERC DTP). His research investigates the role of the ocean in the climate system, with his work revealing the exceptional nature of industrial-era changes in Atlantic circulation and ecosystems.

Richard Taylor

Professor Richard Taylor

Richard's research seeks to inform sustainable, safe water supplies in low-income countries. From 2009 to 2018, he led an International Association of Hydrologists (IAH) Commission on Groundwater and Climate Change and is a contributing author to two chapters of the IPCC's 6th Assessment Report, Water Cycle Changes and Africa.

Samuel Randalls

Dr Samuel Randalls

Sam's research interests are at the interface of business, science and the environment, with a particular focus on weather and climate. His recent research focuses on the development of 19th-century weather-related insurance and histories of climate policies.

Jonathan Holmes

Professor Jonathan Holmes

Jonathan is the Director of the Environmental Change Research Centre. His research is concerned with the reconstruction of late Pleistocene and Holocene climates using lake sediments, abrupt climate change, human–climate interactions and data-model comparisons. He has authored over 100 publications and supervised/co-supervised over 20 PhD students.

Muki Haklay

Professor Muki Haklay

Muki is the Co-Director of the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) group and co-founder of the social enterprise Mapping for Change. His work focuses on participatory mapping, crowdsourced geographic information and citizen science, alongside public access, use and creation of environmental information.

Julian Thompson

Professor Julian R. Thompson

Julian's research includes the investigation of hydrological functioning and numerical modelling in wetland environments. This has predominantly, but not exclusively, involved freshwater ecosystems. His work has focused on the wider catchment hydrological context and the links between wetland hydrology and ecology. In addition, his research investigates the impacts and associated uncertainties of climate change and anthropogenic activities on wetlands, river basins and water resources.

Jorge Salgado

Dr Jorge Salgado

Jorge is a Lecturer in Environmental Change specialising in freshwater ecology, landscape ecology and palaeoecology in both tropical and temperate freshwater ecosystems. He is a member of the Environmental Change and Biodiversity (RECB) research cluster.


Jack Greenhalgh Landing Page News
Nelanie Dilchand Landing Page News
Ravina Bains Landing Page News

Jack Greenhalgh

Nelanie Dilchand

Ravina Bains

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Applicants for this course may qualify for studentship awards supported by the British Hydrological SocietyJBA Trust, and Environment Agency.

For additional information regarding the MSc Studentship Award Scheme, please visit the dedicated webpage.

Visit the Prospectus for information on Fees:


News from MSc Aquatic Conservation, Ecology and Restoration

STEWARDS Landing Pages News

Job Alert: Research Fellow (STEWARDS)

Professor Richard Taylor is looking for a Research Fellow to join his "Sustainable Transition Explorations in Water and Agriculture for Resilient Dryland Systems (STEWARDS)" Project.

Apply by 21 May

UCL Geography Women in Physical Geography Landing Page Event

UCL Geography Women in Physical Geography

To mark International Women's Day, we are hosting a series of short talks centred on career journeys of women in geosciences.

Read more

Ramsar Landing Page News

Ramsar Convention Secretary General Visit 

Dr Musonda Mumba, a graduate of the Department, discusses wetland research and a collaborative future. 

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