skip to primary navigationskip to content

NST IB Ecology

Welcome to Part IB Ecology*

(*this course will be known as “Ecology, Evolution & Conservation” from October 2019)

Current students: once you have enrolled on this course you will automatically be added to the Moodle site which contains the Course Handbook and other useful information. If you join the course late, please contact the course administrator ( to request access.

"Ecology is the scientific study of the distribution, abundance and dynamics of organisms, their interactions with other organisms and with their physical environment. At a time when finite natural resources are being used at increasing rates, it has never been more important for human society to understand its impact on ecological systems and their importance in maintaining human health."
British Ecological Society.

For more information on the current course content, please refer to our 2018-19 Course Summary booklet. For more information on next year's course, please refer to our 2019-20 Course Summary booklet.


Ecology provides an overview of ecology, behavioural ecology and conservation biology and is an ideal course for students wishing to take organismal options in their third year. The course aims to cover all the major ecosystems, to review key ecological concepts and approaches and to introduce students to topical issues and problems.

Lectures illustrate key concepts with recent insights from the literature; there is one field trip during June, and various day excursions throughout the year, including the opportunity to visit a key conservation site; and project work (conducted during the field trip or term-time) gives students their first chance to conduct independent, cutting-edge research. So if you're interested in any aspect of the theory or application of ecology - from the social organisation of meerkats to conservation science, the dynamics of disease, and the ecological impacts of climate change - this is the course for you.

Field course

The course begins with the opportunity to attend a 10-day field course starting in late June and held at Juniper Hall (near Dorking in Surrey), which introduces students to key techniques vital to fieldwork that are subsequently used for project work. Alternative arrangements can be made for students who cannot attend this field course.


This is followed by 24 lectures in the Michaelmas term which cover humans and ecology, ecological applications, factors shaping global vegetation, ecosytem productivity and climate change.

The 24 lectures in the Lent term cover biodiversity and ecosystems, the role of collections in understanding long-term change, foraging behaviour and interactions between predators and prey, and evolutionary ecology. The final eight lectures in the Easter term cover paleoecology and human migrations, including a two-lecture synthesis of the course summarising the major themes and highlighting connections between lecture blocks, in order to aid students with their revision. It is taught by the departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology.

Lectures take place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 12pm.

Practicals: there are no practicals for this course, students undertake a project based either on their field course work or organised by the co-ordinator at the start of Michaelmas term.

Prerequisites: there is no prerequisite for this course. Whilst it may be an advantage to have taken Part IA Evolution and Behaviour, it is not necessary to have taken this or any other particular first year course. Interested students who have no experience of biological courses in Part IA are advised to consult their Director of Studies.

Course Organiser: Professor Andrew Balmford (Zoology)

Senior Examiner: Dr Andrew Tanentzap (Plant Sciences)

Course Administrator: George Rutherford ()

The course timetable can be seen here