Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques

Course details

Learn to effectively assess and monitor biodiversity and ecosystems across all biomes.

The Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques aims to provide the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to conduct effective ecological field surveys for a range of key taxa, and to analyse field survey data with confidence.

The course is taught via a mixture of in-person, online and experiential learning. A choice of modules enables students to explore areas of interest and specialism relevant to their professional needs.

Drawing on a rich pool of expertise, teaching is conducted by a highly knowledgeable and diverse team of practitioners and academics engaged directly with ecological issues.

Online info session: Friday 20 September, 13:00 BST

Are you interested in finding out more about our part-time Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques for 2025 entry? Join us online for a short 45-minute webinar and Q&A, where Course Co-Director Dr Joanna Bagniewska will provide an in-depth overview and answer your questions.

To join us, please register here ► 

Quick links

Who is the course for?

The course (taught part-time, normally over one year) is designed for a wide range of both students and professionals needing to up-skill in: Environmental management; Environmental assessment; Biodiversity monitoring.

Many of our PGCert students are professional ecological consultants, environmental managers and rangers, research and postgraduate students, educators as well as volunteers and those looking to make a career change. The course suits those looking for flexible study combined with expert training. 

The techniques covered are universal using international case studies and examples. Past students have joined from the UK, the USA, Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe.

Charter Status

The course can help you to apply for Chartered Status (such as Chartered Environmentalist and Chartered Ecologist) and to meet relevant professional competency thresholds. Further information can be found in our Chartered status and essential skills guide.

Course content

In-person week in Oxford: Introduction to Ecological Survey Techniques

This five day Core Module provides a practical introduction to: Geographical Information Systems (GIS); an overview of approaches to plant and animal identification; an introduction to selected surveying techniques; University facilities and resources; and the Field Project.

It is a mix of classroom and field-based teaching, with two days spent in the field at Wytham Woods, Oxford's 'living laboratory,' with activities including the use of GPS, bird netting and ringing, and surveying bats and vegetation.

The week will build toward a formative (no credit) assessment.

Online Modules

Students take four tutor-led online modules of five weeks in duration and will take no more than 100 hours to complete. 

Core modules:

Option modules (select two):

Option modules are subject to availability, which includes recruiting sufficient student numbers to run successfully.

Content is roughly equivalent to one week full time study.  Modules include research and discussion activities, multimedia tasks, practical exercises, revision activities and an assessment. Class sizes are small with less than 25 students.

Assessments are normally due two weeks after the final class

Module tutors usually engage online for 6 hours per week distributed across each week and will focus on particular topics, questions and activities. There is no set time to log in to accommodate students in different time zones.

The online modules are also available as standalone modules, PGCert students can therefore expect to share their learning with a wide range of other professionals and researchers looking to develop their skills in a particular area.

Field Project

The Field Project consolidates and further develops the skills gained during taught modules by enabling students to apply them to their own research topic and undertake their own field work

It consists of 1 month preparation time, 1-2 weeks full-time (or equivalent) field work and 1 month project writing for submission in September.

Four one-hour online tutorials will be provided to help students design, develop and implement their projects.

Course aims

The course aims to equip students with the techniques to survey, measure, quantify, assess and monitor biodiversity and ecosystems in the field. It is essential for conservation practitioners and volunteers worldwide to make evidence-based decisions about a site or species. Equipping environmental conservation practitioners with the capacity to collect and analyse field survey data in order to understand, interpret and, therefore, make informed decisions in environmental conservation is critical to the future of ecosystems and ecosystem services in all biomes.

In particular, the course aims to create a hybrid programme of experiential and online learning in environmental conservation practice for practitioners and volunteers worldwide, that will:

  • Focus on the use of survey techniques for measuring, quantifying and monitoring biodiversity; Develop a critical understanding of how to analyse field survey data to answer particular research or management questions;
  • Enable conservationists to make informed decisions on, and assess the status of, a species or habitat;
  • Enable conservationists to evaluate which field techniques to use for measuring and monitoring the impacts of environmental change on biodiversity;
  • Build capacity and communities of practice among environmental conservationists worldwide; 
  • Prepare students to progress onto a Postgraduate Diploma or Masters programme.

Assessment methods

The course is modularly assessed reflecting the learning objectives of the course.

Students are required to submit:

  • One 2500 word formative (marked with feedback but no credit towards formal course results) assignment

  • Four 2000 word assignments, up to two of which may be submitted as PowerPoint poster or slide presentation – Option Module dependent (10 CATS points each)

  • One 5000 word field project and 1000 word online journal (20 CATS points)


Dr Thomas Hesselberg

Course Co-Director and Departmental Lecturer

His research focuses on behavioural ecology and comparative biomechanics of invertebrates primarily using spiders and their webs as model organisms. In particular, he is interested in how behavioural plasticity has evolved to cope with the constraints imposed by a relatively limited brain capacity and with the biomechanical constraints imposed by morphological and external environmental factors as well as silk material properties. Read Dr Hesselberg's full bio.


Dr Joanna Bagniewska

Course Co-Director and Departmental Lecturer

Joanna’s expertise lies in behavioural ecology and biodiversity conservation. She has a soft spot for mammals, having worked on the American mink during her doctorate (as well as jackals, foxes, wombats and mole-rats before that) – though she does take an interest in other taxonomic groups. Having taught, amongst others, at Oxford University, Nottingham Trent University and the University of Reading, Joanna built a diverse pedagogical portfolio that includes field courses, teaching large (150+) classes, small group tutorials and team-based learning. Read Dr Joanna Bagniewska full bio.

Information on Core and Optional Module Tutors can be seen on module pages. Please use links above in the Online Module section.

IT requirements

As the course is delivered mostly online students will need access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification. Certain modules will also require an assessment produced in Microsoft PowerPoint.

Face-to-Face Week

Students are required to bring a personal laptop computer

  • The free open source Geographical Information Systems software 'QGIS' (installation is simple and guidance will be given during the course).

  • QGIS is used by many environmental scientists and employers, and further details are available at the QGIS website.

Course Tutorials

  • Typically conducted via Skype

  • Students will require suitable hardware and Internet connection to take part

Further IT Requirements

  • Students are required to download and install R and QED Statistics in the Data Analysis course.

    (full instructions on how to download this software is available from the R website).

  • Access to QED Statistics is provided as part of the course, this software is not compatible with Mac or Linux operating systems.

  • Alternative software to QED Statistics is currently being researched; where possible, students are encouraged to use R in the Data Analysis course if they are using Mac or Linux systems.

  • Students wishing to use QED Statistics on Mac or Linux systems are advised by the programme developer Pisces Conservation Ltd to consider Windows emulation software, such as Bootcamp, to run a Windows system on their machine. For further information and a full system specification please visit the Pisces Conservation Ltd website.


Please note that accommodation and catering are not included in the course fees.

The Department offers a full residential and catering facility, with a range of both 3 and 4-star campus accommodation. 'Number 12', the Department's recently refurbished Victorian townhouse on Wellington Square, right next to Rewley House, offers superior en-suite bedrooms.

How to apply

Applications for this course should be made via the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions website. This website includes further information about this course and a guide to applying.

Early application for the programme is strongly advised. All applications must have been fully completed before the application deadline in order to be considered. 

If you would like to discuss the programme please contact:
Tel: +44 (0)1865 286960



Annual fees for entry in 2024-25

Please visit the Graduate Admissions web page for fee information.


Ghana and Nigeria Ecological Survey Techniques Scholarship

Available to applicants who are either a national of Ghana and ordinarily resident in Ghana or a national of Nigeria who is ordinarily resident in Nigeria. View further details about The Ghana and Nigeria Ecological Survey Techniques Scholarship.

Departmental bursaries for undergraduate and postgraduate study

The bursaries are for UK-based students who receive benefits because they are on a low income, and are available for certain undergraduate or postgraduate courses. View further details about the departmental bursaries.

Employer sponsorship

Over 35% of students over the past few years have received significant contributions from a sponsoring employer toward all or part of their fees. Should further information be required from Oxford to support an application for funding from an employer, please contact the Programme Manager via email on

Instalment plans

The course offers instalment packages to help students manage the payment of their fees. Instalment plans are confirmed and approved by the Programme Manager on an individual basis once an unconditional offer has been accepted. Typically the course expects be able to offer plans of three and seven instalments starting in August, with the final payment received before the following Easter.

Join us online for a short webinar and Q&A to discover more about the part-time Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques with Oxford University. During this 45-minute session, Course Co-Director, Dr Joanna Bagniewska will provide an in-depth overview, covering course structure, content and the application process.