Master of Science (Conservation Biology)

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Have an impact on conservation

Learn how to address conservation management problems that are relevant to the world today.

Find out more about the Master of Science parent structure

What is it like?

With Massey’s Master of Science (Conservation Biology) you will learn to address real conservation management problems. You will work in a small-group setting and engage with staff of conservation agencies who are working, on the ground, to save our endangered native species.

The conservation biology programme has a strong emphasis on integrating theory with practice and teaching state-of-the-art analytical techniques, providing a good stepping-stone to PhD research as well as employment opportunities.

Work on real projects

You will have the opportunity to take part in multiple field projects - you will experience the reality of conservation work in New Zealand, all before you graduate. This gives you an advantage with potential employers.

Or you may choose to work on primarily analytical projects as part of your study, such as modelling population dynamics or ecosystems. Or you can focus on lab projects, involving genetic analysis, physiology, or post-mortem work.

Take advantage of our globally-renowned expertise

Let our experts help you develop your own expertise. You will learn from, and research with, highly-skilled internationally-recognised and active researchers in conservation and related areas, with a huge depth of knowledge and experience. Massey has strong research programmes in wildlife management, conservation genetics, and freshwater ecosystem management.

You will also be able to take advantage of Massey’s expertise across the sciences. We have a wide and relevant group of expertise within the university, from fundamental sciences like microbiology and biochemistry, to agriculture, ecology, zoology and environmental management.
This means no matter what your research interest you will have access to a broad range of experts to assist you develop your own research.

Why postgraduate study?

Postgraduate study is hard work but hugely rewarding and empowering. The Master of Science will push you to produce your best creative, strategic and theoretical ideas. The workload replicates the high-pressure environment of senior workplace roles.

Not just more of the same

Postgraduate study is not just ‘more of the same’ undergraduate study. Our experts are there to guide but if you have come from undergraduate study, you will find that postgraduate study demands more in-depth and independent study. It takes you to a new level in knowledge and expertise especially in planning and undertaking research.

Complete in 1.5 years

Massey University’s Master of Science is primarily a 180 credit master qualification. This is made up of 90 credits of taught courses and a 90 credit research project.

A 240 credit MSc is also available if you want to do more in-depth research.

Or if you have already completed the BSc (Hons) or PGDipSc you can conduct a 120 credit thesis to achieve your masters qualification.

A good fit if you:

  • Have an undergraduate degree in a biology-related area
  • Are passionate about our native species and the environment
Karin Sievwright
MSc in Conservation Biology
Graduated in 2015
Graduate ecological consultant, Boffa Miskell

“I chose to do the MSc in conservation biology as the courses appealed to me and I wanted to challenge myself by having a go at undertaking a long-term research project…”

I originally came to Massey to study veterinary science. I didn’t get into the programme, but decided to stay at Massey as it is a good university with some really interesting courses on offer. With my interest in animals, conservation biology was an obvious topic to choose.

I found the master’s tricky to start with, but I enjoyed the challenge of learning new things and developing and honing my scientific skills. I met some great people and was involved in really interesting research projects.

My research looked at the post-release survival and productivity of oiled little blue penguins that were rehabilitated after the 2011 C/V Rena oil spill in Tauranga. We found that survival and body masses were similar between rehabilitated and control (non-oiled) penguins and rehabilitated birds only had slightly reduced reproductive success.

The research showed that the oil-rehabilitation process was effective and justified the continued practise of oiled wildlife rehabilitation in New Zealand.

My favourite part of the master’s was the practical aspects of the programme including going on field trips and undertaking research for my thesis. These experiences allowed me to apply the theory and develop important skills.

Another interesting component of the degree was attending conferences to present my research. They provided a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and learn about current research and research methods in my field of interest.

In May 2015 I graduated and at the end of the year I started a job at Boffa Miskell as a graduate ecological consultant. In this role I spend a lot of time in the field assessing, monitoring and managing ecological values associated with the effects and actions of various projects (such as road construction). Some examples of what I do include: fish rescue and relocation by means of electric fishing and trapping; bird surveys; freshwater and marine monitoring; and lizard salvage.


Massey’s Master of Science in conservation biology is very relevant to industry - in fact it was developed in consultation with potential employers. It specifically targets the requirements of organisations such as New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, the Ministry for the Environment, Landcare Research, regional councils and environmental consulting firms. It is designed to provide training for biologists, veterinarians, resource managers, and environmental planners seeking careers in conservation.

Earn more

A Ministry of Education report found that:

  • Earnings and employment rates increase with the level of qualification completed
  • Five years after leaving study, most young domestic graduates will be earning above the national median earnings
  • Young masters graduates earn 86 per cent more than the national median
  • Good careers are associated with better health, better wellbeing and more satisfying lives

World-leading lecturers and supervisors

Massey’s conservation and biology staff are internationally-renowned for their research and teaching and learning methods. You will be working with internationally-recognised specialists, for example:

Professor Doug Armstrong

Dr Armstrong’s research programme focuses on improving methods for understanding population and metapopulation dynamics of threatened wildlife, with particular application to reintroduction.  The bulk of this research has involved toutouwai (New Zealand robins),hihi (stitchbirds), and tieke (saddlebacks) on offshore islands or mainland forest fragments. Within this work he is examining:

  • What habitat conditions are needed for persistence of the reintroduced population?
  • To what extent will inbreeding depression affect persistence of the reintroduced population?
  • How heavily should source populations be harvested?
  • Should translocation be used to compensate for isolation in fragmented landscapes?

He chairs the Oceania Section of the Reintroduction Specialist Group (RSG), one of several specialist groups within the Species Survival Commission which is part of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Dr Armstrong is widely published in internationally-renowned conservation and nature publications.

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