Fish and Amphibian Survey Methods


About the course

This part-time tutored online course aims to provide in-depth training in fish and amphibian surveying and sampling from initial considerations through to methods and techniques, sampling strategies and reporting. The course aims to create a rich workshop experience, encouraging direct student and tutor interaction and discussion.

You will receive highly practical expert training, helping you to

  • develop fish survey techniques for use in marine and freshwater environments including netting, trapping, electrofishing, and egg estimates
  • develop amphibian observational techniques, netting and trapping, and calls

Who the course is for

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

Flexible online learning

Students typically study on this course alongside their work.

You can take this online course from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection.  You can log on at any time of the day and access our specially designed course materials, e-learning resources and tutor-led discussion forums. You will have access to the Bodleian Libraries’ online, which provides an excellent range of e-books and e-journals, enabling you to conduct your research and reading in your own time.

Chartered 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.

Programme details

Topics covered

  • Introduction to fish (marine and freshwater): Diversity of fish and associated survey challenges; why do ecologists and managers need to survey fish?
  • Planning a fish survey: Considerations & practicalities to take into account when conducting a survey; how life history, seasonality, habitat and geographical location influence the survey protocol; scope & wider context of the survey; step by step planning
  • Protocols, sampling & data: Licencing, permits & husbandry; sampling & protocols; organising, recording & storing data; data analysis & presentation of results
  • Fish survey methods 1: Observations: Tagging, bank-side or shore counts; underwater visual census; hydroacoustics; advantages and disadvantages of each
  • Fish survey methods 2: Netting & trapping: seine nets; trawl nets; hand nets, throw nets & push nets; gill nets & trammel nets (Set nets); traps; advantages and disadvantages of each
  • Fish survey methods 3: Electrofishing, hook & line, and egg estimates; advantages and disadvantages of each method
  • Introduction to amphibians: Diversity of amphibians and how their unique defining features affect survey design; why ecologists and managers need to survey amphibians; amphibian declines and conservation
  • Amphibian survey: planning & protocols: Permits & licenses; handling amphibians; protocols & sampling- invited Topic by Dr Steve Green, Operation Wallacea and DICE
  • Amphibian survey methods 1: Commoner observational and visual methods: tagging & identification of individuals; scan searching & egg surveys; transect & patch sampling
  • Amphibian survey methods 2: Netting & trapping: drift fencing; nets & traps; removal studies & calls
  • Case studies: Comparing fishing and non-fishing sites in Los Cayos Chochinos, Honduras and community-based conservation of migratory amphibians in south-western New Hampshire, USA and impacts of surveys on non-target species in freshwater environments in the UK

Teaching methods

Your course tutor will guide you through a series of key topics via reading materials, online activities, and discussion forums. Discussion forums are the primary space where students are able to interact with one another and their tutor to discuss questions, solve problems and share ideas just as they would expect to do in a face-to-face classroom setting.

Level and demands

The course is designed for Master’s-level students, and you are likely to be studying alongside students on our Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques.

You can expect

  • to engage with and contribute to the course around ten to 15 hours per week (depending on whether it is taken for credit or not)
  • your course tutor will engage online for no less than six hours per week (usually distributed across each week and will focus on particular topics and activities)
  • topics to be covered following a suggested calendar of activity (so that activities, discussion and reading are completed within the course week duration, and at an even pace)
  • the course can be taken with or without Masters-level credit. Credit enables students to demonstrate their academic achievement and can count towards further postgraduate study


You can choose to study for academic credit or simply for the learning experience.

Accredited study

Students taking the course for credit submit an assignment of up to 2000 words or equivalent. The assignment is a scientific poster of a survey plan and an accompanying context document. 

We offer Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points for the course. By contributing to all the forums and successfully completing the assessment you will obtain 10 CATS-equivalent points (FHEQ level 7) which may count towards a Masters-level qualification. You will also receive a University of Oxford Certificate of Attendance.

For information on CATS points and credit transfer, including conversion to US academic credits and European academic credits (ECTS), please visit our CATS Points FAQ page.

Non-accredited study

Students taking the course not for credit do not submit an assignment.

By actively participating in at least one online course forum post per week, to the satisfaction of the course tutor, and successfully completing the course, you will receive a University of Oxford Certificate of Attendance.

Certificate of Attendance

You may receive a Certificate of Attendance whether you opt for accredited or non-accredited study (provided that you have met the requirements stated above).


Description Costs
Accredited study £1170.00
Non-accredited study £740.00
Student Rate £520.00


Dr Steve Allain


Steven completed his PhD at the University of Kent, where his thesis examined the population dynamics of barred grass snakes at a site in eastern England, and the occurrence of skin lesions associated with ophidiomycosis. Steven has been involved in a number of projects from around the world focussing in both amphibians and reptiles, including a national project within Great Britain to investigate the origins and extent of the introduced midwife toad. It is through these projects that Steven has worked closely with NGOs to illuminate the potential impacts of introduced species to native amphibians, such as the role of disease vectors. 

Dr Jocelyn Curtis-Quick


Jocelyn completed her Ph.D. at the University of Essex. Her thesis examined the drivers of fish assemblages within the Coral Triangle. She studied fish behaviour in response to changes in resource availability and habitat quality.  Following her Ph.D., Jocelyn worked in the Caribbean for four years at a research institute in The Bahamas and for the British NGO, Operation Wallacea, on a range of reef fish-related projects. These projects focused on the impacts of the invasive lionfish, habitat degradation, and the effects of climate change on fish behavior and physiology. Jocelyn is now located in Northern Michigan in the USA where she is gaining freshwater fish experience. She is currently working on invasive carp and how water quality impacts their spread.

Dr Thomas Hesselberg

Course Director

Thomas is a zoologist who has studied spiders, insects and worms for more than 15 years in both temperate and tropical climates. In addition to his teaching for the Department for Continuing Education, he is a lecturer in biological sciences at St. Anne's College.


Application/registration processing will close 6 weeks before the start of the course. Please contact with any related questions.

Apply to take the course not for academic credit

If you do not wish to take this course for academic credit you will need to register using the ‘Book now’ button under course details.

Apply to take the course for academic credit

If you are applying to take this course for academic credit you will need to click on the link below and complete the online application form and include a copy of your CV as an attachment.

You will also need to complete the reference section of the application form, and input the email address of your referee. Upon successfully submitting the application an email will be sent to your referee asking them to provide a reference in support your application for the course.

Please only complete this form if you wish to take the course for academic credit.

Online application form

Selection criteria

All candidates will need to:

  1. Hold a minimum qualification equivalent to a first Honours Degree (BA, BSc, etc). Non-graduates may be considered if they are able to demonstrate considerable experience in a relevant field. If in doubt, please email;
  2. Offer some first-hand knowledge and/or experience of field work or conservation issues;
  3. Satisfy the minimum required English language criteria set by the University, being either a native English speaker, or able to offer test results as specified. Applicants with borderline scores may be accepted on condition that they attend a language course and gain an acceptable score;
  4. Demonstrate an ability to be able to commit the necessary time to study;
  5. Have good access to a computer and a fast/reliable internet connection;
  6. Demonstrate an ability to work alongside fellow students and tutors as part of an online community and independently.

Apply to take the course at the discounted student rate (non-accredited study)

If you are applying to take this course at the discounted student rate, you will need to click on the link below and complete the online application form and include evidence that you are a current student. This could be either your student ID card (with the name of the institution and end date) or a letter or reference from your institution. Please note that the student rate is for non-accredited study only.

Please only complete this form if you wish to take the course at the discounted student rate.

Please contact with any related questions.

Online application form

IT requirements

This course is delivered online and uses the Department’s online assignment submission system (for the course assignment). In order to meet course requirements, students will need access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.