Master of Conservation Biology


Learn about conservation biology surrounded by an international hotspot for biodiversity, in the science capital of New Zealand, from world leaders in conservation practice.

Conservation biology is rapidly becoming an area of key importance, particularly as the impacts of climate change become known. Human impacts, loss of biodiversity and a growing awareness of environmental change link the fields of conservation, ecology, biodiversity and sustainability. Students completing the course will be well equipped to make a valuable contribution to the conservation of the natural environment of their home or chosen country.

This Master of Conservation Biology (MConBio) programme is a professional one year Masters drawing on scientific expertise and its application to conservation throughout New Zealand. We explore the processes of conservation biology and look at practical problems and solutions in examples from New Zealand and internationally. Skills in experimental design, collection and analysis of data and presentation of research results will be gained by students in conservation, ecology and biodiversity. We use examples of internationally renowned best conservation practice being applied. Our studies include theoretical and field based approaches including an extensive range of terrestrial and marine environments that enable a comprehensive study of the important issues in conservation.

The MConBio can be completed in a minimum of one calendar year, or extended to a maximum of two years if taken part-time. Students may enter the programme in January or July.

Abel Tasman National Park provides a perfect outdoor setting for a field course lecture

The location

The MConBio is offered by Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand’s capital city. Our unique situation places us at the hub of Government, and head offices of non-governmental and science research organisations. The School of Biological Sciences is staffed with internationally respected scientists whose work informs the management of New Zealand’s unique biota.

University staff have established close connections with government research institutes such as NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) and GNS Science. Students also benefit from proximity to national research facilities such as the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the National Library. Access to key government decision makers is via the Department of Conservation and Ministry for the Environment—both located in central Wellington. National conservation organisations such as Forest and Bird and WWF New Zealand have their headquarters here.

We have private and public conservation sites on our doorstep creating opportunities for gaining research experience and learning conservation techniques. Studying in Wellington offers unparalleled access to the natural wealth of New Zealand. Zealandia, the Karori sanctuary, and Otari-Wiltons Bush are both within the city boundaries, and an ecological restoration programme is well advanced on Matiu/Somes Island in Wellington Harbour. Two marine reserves are within easy reach of Wellington city

Our classes make use of the expertise surrounding us, from policy makers to conservation practitioners.

Intended participants

The MConBio is designed both for international and New Zealand students who wish to gain a broad understanding of conservation biology. It is an ideal qualification for those seeking employment in a wide range of government, conservation and resource management agencies worldwide. The programme can be undertaken part time and would also suit those in employment looking to increase their capacity. It also prepares students for doctoral studies.


The MConBio is 180 points of study, including three core courses and 90 points of electives within an approved programme of study.

The January start to the programme begins with a three-week field course, BIOL 424, in which key conservation sites are visited. As this is a field course, it sits outside normal trimester dates and the timing changes from year to year to accommodate tide times. Usual timing for the start of the course is late January/early February and actual dates can be confirmed at least six months prior. On the field course, students travel around the country to observe management practices and become familiar with the unique plants and animals of New Zealand. Upon return to Wellington, students conduct critical analyses of key management issues, and take two seminar-style courses; BIOL 420 and an approved elective.

The July start to the programme includes a field based course, BIOL 425, and two approved electives

Examples of possible programmes are available, and include the option of taking up one of our many postgraduate exchange agreements with universities throughout the world. Contact the Programme Manager if you are considering including an exchange agreement into your programme.

There is no thesis component to the MConBio. However, there is the potential to undertake small research projects through the elective BIOL 440. Students are encouraged to talk to staff within the School of Biological Sciences about potential projects as they require a supervisor prior to enrolling in this course.

Core courses

Elective courses*

*Another elective course may be substituted, including from throughout postgraduate programmes of Victoria University , subject to approval by the Head of School of Biological Sciences. Use the Course Finder to search for courses. Note that not all courses may be available in every trimester.

Example programmes

View our example programmes pdf81KB

    Application and enrolment

    Victoria University enrolment information and application forms are available online.

    International students should apply through Victoria International. There is no application fee at Victoria University.

    Students entering the programme will have comprehensive training in biological sciences at undergraduate level. Anyone with a strong academic record and/or wide experience in biological conservation is encouraged to apply for entry. For New Zealand students this means a B+ average from relevant third year courses. For international students, the equivalent is approximately a US GPA of 3.2/4.

    Closing dates

    The closing dates are October 15 in the year prior for studies starting in January, and normal university enrolment dates for a July start. These dates apply to local and international students. Applications are processed as they are received. Late applications are at the discretion of the Programme Manager.

    International students

    Comprehensive information for international students about application and admission procedures, English language proficiency requirements, student visas, customs regulations, housing, airport-pickup, orientation, student services, sport clubs, scholarships etc., can be found through Victoria International.

    Visa applications should be submitted as soon as possible after receiving proof of admission, due to visa processing time. Visa processing time varies depending on your nationality. Note that the offer of a place in the MConBio programme does not guarantee that a visa to study in New Zealand will automatically be granted.

    sand dunes
    BIOL 424 students installing equipment to investigate lizard diversity at Cape Sanctuary, Hawkes Bay

    Tuition fees

    Note: All fees are based on fees for 2014 and are presented in New Zealand dollars (NZD).

    New Zealand students (citizens and permanent residents of NZ)

    $11,754 ($65.30 x 180 points), plus BIOL 424 field trip fee of $1450

    Total NZD $13,204

    International students

    Estimated fees for 2015: NZD $35,400 (for 180 points taking one full calendar year), plus BIOL 424 field trip fee of $1450

    Total NZD $36,900 (~USD 31,200; EURO 23,300)*

    * other currencies were calculated based on exchange rates in August 2014.

    Other fees

    Other compulsory fees apply for student services and international students may also need to pay insurance.

    Some elective courses have additional course fees, for example, BIOL 529 includes additional field trip costs.

    Tuition fees do not include accommodation, textbooks, transport, Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) and general living expenses.


    Scholarships opportunities are advertised online.


    Please contact the Programme Manager Dr Nicky Nelson with any queries.