Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques

Key facts

Level: Postgraduate

Mode: Part-time

Duration: 12 months

Applications for September 2019 entry are now being accepted.

Application deadlines are 12 noon UK time (midday) on:

  • Friday 16 November 2018
  • Friday 25 January 2019 
  • Friday 1 March 2019


Late applications are being considered.

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Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques


About the course

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

Who the course is for

Professional ecological consultants, environmental managers and rangers, research and postgraduate students, and volunteers. The techniques covered are universal using international case studies and examples.

Many PGCert students are consultants, environmental managers and educators as well as volunteers and those looking to make a career change that are seeking flexible study combined with expert training.

Flexible learning

Offers an effective blend of face-to-face, online and experiential learning

  • Specialist training can fit alongside busy work schedules and commitments

  • Excellent opportunities to network and share practical experience and ideas

  • Can be taken from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

Past students have joined from the UK, the USA, Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe.

The course operates under the Department for Continuing Education policy on variable intensity of study which enables students to take the course over a maximum of two years if required.

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.


The PGCert aims to provide the high standard of expert-led training needed to design, plan and implement effective ecological field surveys from beginning to end, including handling data and reporting results.

The course supports research and professional development in the field, providing practitioners with the skills needed to effectively assess and monitor biodiversity and ecosystems across all biomes.

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.

Want to find out more? Explore materials or revisit our online open event.

Programme details

PGCert schedule PDF document.


Students come to Oxford (1 week, September) for one Core Face-to-Face Module: Introduction to EST. 

They then complete two online Core Modules in Vegetation and Data Analysis (September – December). 

After this students choose two out of four Option Modules specialising in Mammals and Reptiles, Birds, Fish and Amphibians, and Invertebrates.

A Core Field Project usually takes place from spring to summer for submission in September.

Face-to-Face Week in Oxford: Introduction to Ecological Survey Techniques

In 2019, this week will run Sunday, 8 September - Friday, 13 September.

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. 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

Core Online Modules

  • Field Techniques for Surveying Vegetation, online, 10 CATS points (more details)

  • Data Analysis: Statistics for Ecologists and Field Biologists, online, 10 CATS points (more details)

Option Modules

  • Field Techniques for Surveying Mammals & Reptiles, online, 10 CATS points (more details)

  • Field Techniques for Surveying Birds, online, 10 CATS points (more details)

  • Field Techniques for Surveying Fish and Amphibians, online, 10 CATS points (more details)

  • Field Techniques for Surveying Invertebrates, online, 10 CATS points (more details)

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

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.

Teaching methods

PGCert Course Aims PDF document.

The PGCert is taught via a mixture of face-to-face, online and experiential learning.

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

Learning resources

Learning materials are made available through the course Virtual Learning Environment ‘Moodle’, and reading is available to download or is accessible via the Bodleian Libraries’ online library which provides an excellent range of e-books and e-journals. Students are required to purchase the core text Fowler et al (1998) Practical Statistics for Field Biology for the Data Analysis module.

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)

Staff 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.

Dr Ada Grabowska-Zhang

Course Co-Director and Departmental Lecturer

Ada is a behavioural ecologist with a special interest in social evolution and cryptic kin selection, and used the great tit as her model organism to study social interactions. Her current research focuses on citizen science plant breeding, focusing on overcoming day length sensitivity in Oxalis tuberosa using participatory breeding protocols.


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.


Annual fees for entry in 2019-20

Please visit the Graduate Admissions web page for fee information.


Professional and Career Development Loans:

Professional and Career Development Loans are bank loans used to pay for courses and training that help with students with their careers or help get them into work. For further details please visit this site.

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.

Terms and conditions

Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course

Sources of funding

Information on financial support