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Master of Science (Conservation Biology)

Key facts

  • Available at Auckland
  • Available at Manawatū
  • Not all listed subject course options are on offer every year
  • Available for international students studying in NZ

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 master's qualification.

A good fit if you:

  • Have an undergraduate degree in a biology-related area
  • Are passionate about our native species and the environment
Nimeshika Pattabiraman
Master of Science (Conservation Biology)
International student (India)

“At a postgrad level, the way professors interact with us at Massey is great – we’re treated as peers rather than students and we have discussions instead of ‘tutorials. This really changed my perspective of learning – it suits me far more than what I was used to in India…”

I studied towards a Bachelor of Engineering (Biotechnology) in India. My final year project was studying genetic diversity in tiger populations. By the end of that project, something clicked and I knew research was my calling!

I discovered Massey at an education fair. I was applying to the US at the time, but decided to go with a nothing-to-lose attitude. Before I knew it I was on the Massey website. I knew little about conservation in New Zealand, but I looked at master’s courses and professors and the sorts of research projects they do – I applied and here I am!

All I knew about conservation biology program at Massey was that it offered a range of subjects and is quite practical, which is important to me. Genetics was something I was already familiar with and so I focused on that for my research (Landscape genetics for conservation management: Brushtail Possums in New Zealand).

What I enjoyed most about the conservation biology study is how the variety of topics broadened my knowledge base and increased my ability to critically think about the ways in which scientific research impacts the world around us.

I’ve taken a great liking to genetics so I am now doing a PhD with the same supervisor as from my master’s.


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 2017 Ministry of Education publication The post-study earnings and destinations of young domestic graduates, found that in New Zealand:

  • Young master’s graduates earn more than one and a half times more than the national median (five years after study)
  • Earnings and employment rates increase with the level of qualification completed
  • Five years after completion, the median earnings of young master’s graduates are 15% higher than for those with a bachelor’s degree.

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 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. 

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.

Professor Dianne Brunton

Dr Brunton’s major research interest is in the field of evolution and ecology of animal communication. She identified the New Zealand bellbird (Anthornis melanura) and the North Island saddleback (Philesturnus rufusater) as two species that are outstanding meta-populations for testing cultural evolution theory. Her collaborative research on these species has been published in top-ranked international journals.

She collaborates internationally with researchers at UC Berkeley, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Australia National University and University of Melbourne and has ongoing industry partnerships in New Zealand with groups such as FRST, MSI, DOC and community conservation groups. Dr Brunton’s board and professional society memberships.

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