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About the course


IB 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.

The course begins with a choice of two 10-day long vacation field courses which introduce students to key techniques vital to fieldwork that are subsequently used for project work. These are followed by 24 lectures in the Michaelmas term which cover the global marine ecosystem, freshwater ecosystems and the ecology of change in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. The 24 lectures in the Lent term cover foraging behaviour and interactions between predators and prey, the ecology of social behaviour and the diversity of breeding systems, ecological genetics, population demography and the dynamics of population and communities. The final twelve lectures in the Easter term cover biodiversity, the extinction crisis, the effect of biogeography on people and the historical impact of people on the biosphere.

The ecology course does not have practical classes during term. Project work is undertaken either during one of the long vacation field courses before the start of term, or during the Michaelmas/Lent term. These projects are written up and assessed (33% of your marks). Students give brief talks on their project work to the rest of the class (which are not formally assessed) during seminars held in the Michaelmas and Lent terms. In addition there are occasional field trips and video presentations during the rest of the year, including a trip to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Welney in the Michaelmas term.

After completing the course, you should be familiar with the scope of ecology and be in a strong position to cover ecological arguments and to select areas or topics that particularly interest you in your third year.


To take IB Ecology it is not necessary for students to have attended the first year subject 'Physiology of Organisms', 'Evolution and Behaviour' or any other specified first year subjects and most of this course is accessible to students with little or no previous biological background - though students that have not taken biology courses previously are advised to look at the website and consult their Director of Studies before the May deadline to apply for the field courses.

I've decided to take IB Ecology. What next?

We would recommend that you attend one of the long vacation field courses.

Is attending the field course impossible for you? Don't worry! You can do a project during Michaelmas/Lent term instead. About one quarter of students choose this option.