School of Biological Sciences

Master of Conservation Biology (MConBio)

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.

The Programme

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 degree programme 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 programme 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-Wilton's 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 – Taputeranga on the south coast and Kapiti, an hour’s drive north.

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

If you need more reasons to choose Victoria, click here

Intended course participants


Endemic New Zealand pigeon - major fruit disperser threatened by introduced mammalian predators and illegal harvest

The Master of Conservation Biology (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.

Application and Enrolment

Victoria University enrolment information and application forms are available here.

International students should apply through links from the Victoria International website here.

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.

Please contact the Programme Manager for more information. 


The programme 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, New Zealand Conservation Practice, 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; Conservation Ecology and an approved elective.

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

Examples of possible programmes are available, and include the option of taking up one of our many post-graduate 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, Directed Individual Study. 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

BIOL 420 Conservation Ecology
BIOL 424  New Zealand Conservation Practice
BIOL 425 Biodiversity

Elective Courses*

BIOL 403   Evolution
BIOL 422 Ecology
BIOL 426 Behaviour
BIOL 440 Directed Individual Study
BIOL 529 Tropical Marine Conservation Practice
ERES 525 Ecological Restoration
ERES 526 Ecological Restoration Practicum

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

Example Programmes

Eg 1

First trimester start                                     

Eg 2

Second trimester                            start                                

Eg 3

First trimester start (includes international exchange)            

Trimester  2                 

BIOL425 (30)a


BIOL403 (30)


GEOG415 (15)

Introduction to geographic information sciences and its applicationsb

Trimester 3

BIOL440 (30)

Individual directed studyd


BIOL424 (field) (30)

NZ Conservation Practicea

BIOL424 (field) (30)

NZ Conservation Practicea

BIOL424 (field) (30)

NZ Conservation Practicea

Trimester 1

BIOL420 (30)

Conservation Ecologya

ERES525 (30)

 Ecological Restorationb

BIOL420 (30)

Conservation Ecologya

ENVI526 (15)

Political ecology of conservationb

BIOL420 (30)

Conservation Ecologya

ERES525 (30)

Ecological Restorationb


BIOL529 (field) (30)

Tropical Marine Conservation Practiceb

Trimester 2            

ERES526 (30)

Ecological Restoration Practicumb

BIOL425 (30)


60 pointsc equivalent with exchange partner


Trimester 3  

BIOL440 (30)

Individual directed studyd

a indicates core courses (points) b indicates possible optional courses (points) that fit programme requirements c Includes an approved alternative to BIOL425 and requires meeting exchange agreement criteria d indicates supervisor required prior to enrolment

Application 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 on the Victoria International Website

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. Relevant government websites have more information about how to obtain a student visa and visa processing times. 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

BIOL424 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.

New Zealand students - citizens and permanent residents of NZ

$11754 ($65.30 x 180 points) plus BIOL424 field trip fee: $1450

Total NZD $13204

International students

Estimated fees for 2015: NZD $35400 (for 180 points taking one full calendar year) plus BIOL424 field trip fee: $1450 

Total NZD $36900 (~USD 31200; EURO 23300)*

* 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, BIOL529 Tropical Marine Conservation Practice, 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 at the following link.

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