BSc (Hons) Natural History
Earth Sciences at USW rated top in Wales for teaching and learning resources National Student Survey 2023
Natural history is the study of organisms and the environments in which they live. This is a diverse and exciting subject that covers the study of animals, plants and their environments, along with earth and environmental sciences.
You’ll study diﬀerent organisms – how they are identified, their life history, relationships, behaviour and conservation. You'll also understand the processes that shape our land, coastlines and climate.
You’ll explore the diversity of life, wildlife management for conservation, animal biology, geo-sciences and environmental survey skills. You'll also develop skills in experimental design, ecological surveying and field research techniques, and data analysis.
Studying Natural History will take you out of the classroom and into the digital production suite, where you will develop specialist skills in science communication, photography and film-making.
Our Natural History degree has a strong practical field element for you to gain key skills in a range of environments. Presently, students go on field courses to Pembrokeshire, Iceland, and on the optional Natural History expedition to Botswana*.
*Field expedition locations are subject to change.
On our Natural History degree you will get to explore the diversity of life, wildlife management for conservation, marine biology and environmental survey skills. A key feature of this Natural History degree is gaining practical skills that you can apply on land, in freshwater environments and in the oceans. To develop these skills, you will go on a range of one-day and residential field courses operating in both the UK and overseas. Overseas field trips presently go to Spain, Iceland and an optional module to Botswana*. Wildlife photography and film-making is another exciting part of the course where you will develop your skills to produce a documentary.
On this fascinating natural history degree, you will study modules on Geographic Information Software (GIS) and research methods to help you understand how to analyse and interpret data collected during experiments, and how to communicate your findings to inform wildlife conservation objectives. Topics in these modules include manipulating spatial data with ArcMap and statistical computer programming skills.
Your first year modules aim to give you the underlying foundation knowledge in the subject areas that you will be pursuing. In the second year we explore biological, geo-physical and ecological themes whilst enabling you to choose an optional module in one of the subject areas.
The final year builds on your knowledge and skills, and again allows you to choose an optional module. During the final year you will undertake a substantial project of your choice. This can involve conducting an original scientific research project, or producing a documentary film or photographic portfolio.
Year One: Natural History Degree
- Fundamentals of Natural History
- NH Surveying Techniques *
- Introduction to British Wildlife *
- Wildlife Photography
- Earth Science *
- Life on Earth - The Fossil Record
*These modules are available in Welsh and are listed below:
- Technegau Arolygu Astudiaethau Natur
- Cyflwyniad i Fywyd Gwyllt Prydain
- Gwyddorau’r Ddaear
Year Two: Natural History Degree
- Biodiversity and Biogeography
- British Landscapes and Habitats
- The Invisible World
- Research Methods in NH
- NH of Islands
- Wildlife Film Making
- GIS and Wildlife Conservation
Year Three: Natural History Degree
- NH Field Expedition
- NH Project
- Professional Development in NH
- Applied Wildlife Surveying
- Habitat and Wildlife Management
- Natural History of British National Parks
We also offer a Foundation Year designed for applicants who do not meet the admissions criteria for the Natural History degree.
You will learn from a combination of lectures, laboratory sessions, tutorials, practicals, and field trips. The number of hours of formal teaching will vary depending on your module choice and year of study.
The Natural History course has a focus of hands-on learning to ensure you gain practical survey and research skills. The degree also involves work in a variety of field settings both in the UK and overseas. Several modules are entirely fieldwork-based. Others involve lectures and laboratory work, including half or full day field excursions. The work placement and dissertation modules develop work-related skills and can involve organisations in various countries.
Your lecturers are active and passionate researchers who undertake and support field research in the Azores, Costa Rica, Honduras, Indonesia, Ireland, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa and the UK. They investigate species, population and community relationships with anthropogenic drivers of change to biodiversity, ecosystems, and the provision of co-beneficial goods and services. Their research informs conservation and restoration options, processes and policies that remediate impacts of anthropic activities.
You will be assessed using a range of approaches depending on your module choice and year of study. A number of modules are assessed through a combination of examination and associated assignments, whilst other modules are continuously assessed through assignments. Your assignments can range from laboratory write-ups, open book tests, structured essays, oral presentations and field reports through to a photographic portfolio and field note books.
In your final year you will write a dissertation, worth two modules, based on a topic that you pick from a list of subjects or a topic of your choice which is developed in conjunction with your project supervisor.
The BSc (Hons) Natural History degree is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management. The University of South Wales is the only University in Wales to be accredited by CIEEM.
The optional work-based learning module enables you to take a placement for up to four weeks, either in the UK or in some of the world’s exciting wildlife locations.
The Natural History degree is practically oriented and you will have opportunities to further develop practical skills by attending residential field courses. Current residential fieldwork destinations include Pembrokeshire, Portugal/Spain, Iceland and Botswana (optional). Additional costs may apply to field courses.
The Natural History Field Expedition module to Botswana* is undertaken in a camp established to train professional safari guides and game rangers. As part of this optional module, you will study the wildlife and ecology of the Mashatu region and develop your tracking skills. Please note, the exact locations of all overseas field trips may vary each year and are based on the area’s suitability.
The Natural History degree has modules with significant fieldwork elements, which come with certain physical demands. If you have a disability that is likely to be affected by physical demands, please get in touch with us as soon as possible.
*Field trip locations are subject to change
By studying Natural History, you will benefit from the huge investment in facilities that has taken place at the University’s Glyntaff Campus. In addition to recently built and refurbished laboratories, the School has developed a state-of-the-art media room for natural history, plus you will have access to a range of media equipment including DSLR and video/film cameras that are dedicated to our Natural History students.
As well as making use of the great outdoors, our natural history students work in modern laboratories and classrooms. The Upper Glyntaff buildings comprise two distinct parts. Our new George Knox laboratories are part of a £15m investment in science for the University, meaning you will be taught in new and well-equipped spaces. These join the Grade II-listed Alfred Russell Wallace building, which is also used for teaching.
Dr Anthony Caravaggi
Deputy course leader Dr Anthony Caravaggi lecturer in Conservation Biology, conducts research that increases our understanding of species-specific and community ecology. Dr Caravaggi uses field studies and historical data, along with R code and GIS software, to answer robust questions related to species distributions, community ecology, habitat selection, and anthropogenic impacts. Dr Caravaggi's work has implications for and informs conservation and management processes, policy and commercial enterprises.
Dr Caravaggi is the Editor of the journal Birds in Wales; Associate Editor of Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation, a member of the British Ecological Society Welsh Policy Group and creator and organiser of the twitter-based science communication project @Biotweeps.
His recent research Where’s Wallaby? reveals how wild wallabies are thriving in the UK.
Natural History is a broad subject and you will be taught by experts in the different subject areas. However because staff are all based in one school and on one site, your teaching team are easy to get to know. We encourage an ‘open door’ policy so that you can speak to any lecturer whenever they are available.
Key staff include:
- Dr Amelia Grass
- Dr Anthony Caravaggi
- Dr Angela Morris
- Dr Gareth Powell
- Dr Sorcha Diskin
- Dr Ian Skilling
- Dr Rhian Newman
- Dr David Lee
We regularly revalidate courses for quality assurance and enhancement
At USW, we regularly review our courses in response to changing patterns of employment and skills demand to ensure we offer learning designed to reflect today’s student needs and tomorrow’s employer demands.
If during a review process course content is significantly changed, we’ll write to inform you and talk you through the changes for the coming year. But whatever the outcome, we aim to equip our students with the skillset and the mindset to succeed whatever tomorrow may bring. Your future, future-proofed.
We may make you a lower offer based on a range of factors, including your background (where you live and the school or college that you attended for example), your experiences and individual circumstances (as a care leaver, for example). This is referred to as a contextual offer and we receive data from UCAS to support us in making these decisions. USW prides itself on its student experience and we support our students to achieve their goals and become a successful graduate. This approach helps us to support students who have the potential to succeed and who may have faced barriers that make it more difficult to access university. Here is a link to our Contextual Admissions Policy.
Other qualifications and experience
We can also consider combinations of qualifications and other qualifications not listed here may also be acceptable. We can sometimes consider credits achieved at other universities and your work/life experience through an assessment of prior learning. This may be for year one entry, or advanced entry to year two or three of a course where this is possible.
To find out which qualifications have tariff points, please refer to the UCAS tariff calculator.
If you need more help or information or would like to speak to our friendly admissions team, please contact us here
Typical A-Level Offer
BCC including a Science based subject and excluding General Studies.
Typical Welsh BACC Offer
Pass the Advanced Welsh Baccalaureate Diploma with Grade C in the Skills Challenge Certificate and BC at A Level to include a Science subject and exclude General Studies.
Typical BTEC Offer
BTEC Extended Diploma Distinction Merit Merit in a relevant Science subject.
Typical Access to HE Offer
Pass an Access to HE Diploma in a Science subject and obtain a minimum of 104 UCAS tariff points
GCSEs: The University normally requires a minimum 5 GCSEs including Mathematics/Numeracy and English at Grade C or Grade 4 or above, or their equivalent, but consideration is given to individual circumstances.
International Entry Requirements
We also welcome international applications with equivalent qualifications. Please visit the country specific pages on our international website for exact details.
In general, international applicants will need to have achieved an overall IELTS grade of 6.0 with a minimum score of 5.5 in each component.
However, if you have previously studied through the medium of English IELTS might not be required, but please visit the country specific page on our international website for exact details. If your country is not featured please contact us.
Full-time fees are per year. Part-time fees are per 20 credits. Once enrolled, the fee will remain at the same rate throughout the duration of your study on this course
At the University of South Wales, you’re investing in so much more than a degree. We strive to provide our students with the best possible experience, no matter what you chose to study. Whether it’s access to top of the range mac books and PCs, state-of-the-art facilities packed with industry-leading equipment and software, masterclasses and events led by industry experts, or a wide range of clubs and societies to meet likeminded people, better tomorrows start with extra perks.
Each course also has their own unique student benefits to prepare you for the real word, and details of these can be found on our course pages. From global field trips, integrated work experience and free course-related resources, to funded initiatives, projects working with real employers, and opportunities for extra qualifications and accreditations - at USW your future, is future-proofed.
As a student of USW, you’ll have access to lots of free resources to support your study and learning, such as textbooks, publications, online journals, laptops, and plenty of remote-access resources. Whilst in most cases these resources are more than sufficient in supporting you with completing your course, additional costs, both obligatory and optional, may be required or requested for the likes of travel, memberships, experience days, stationery, printing, or equipment.
Students undertaking courses that contain elements of outdoor fieldwork must wear appropriate outdoor clothing, which includes suitable wet weather gear (trousers and coat), rugged walking boots and hat/gloves. We also recommend that students have appropriate clothing for winter fieldwork activities including warm layers. Students will also need to supply suitable field notebooks in order to take observations/notes during field courses. The location and weather will determine the nature of clothing/footwear worn, and therefore the cost, and students will be informed of these requirements at the start of their studies. Please note that inappropriate clothing/footwear may prevent students from participating in an activity. The School of Applied Sciences subsidises the cost of compulsory fieldwork in the UK and overseas. Although kept to a minimum, some overseas compulsory fieldwork may have additional costs applied. Optional fieldwork modules are typically at the cost to the student. Generally, students will be expected to pay for their food unless specifically included within the field course. Please note that some fieldwork may require visas and vaccinations, which are at the cost to the student and will vary depending on individual circumstances.
|£0 - £25
Media storage card and USB memory stick or Cloud Storage for Digital Production for Natural History modules.
|£2000 - £2500
Natural History Field Expedition in year 3 presently conducted in Botswana and generally covers a 2 week period studying the ecology of the region plus training in tracking and field guide skills. The costs include ‘internal’ transport – generally between Johannesburg (S. Africa) and Mashatu (Botswana) – accommodation at the training camp plus accommodation the night before and after the camp (Johannesburg) – all food and soft drinks at the camp. Additionally, students need to purchase their own flights to Johannesburg. We are unable to estimate the costs of flights which may be impacted by the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Work Based Learning is an optional year 3 module which requires a work placement. However, students who successfully secure a placement in industry to complete their project would be expected to pay their own travel costs to and from the venue during the period of placement. The cost of this will of course vary and some students have also paid for accommodation close to their place of work for the duration of their placement.
Funding to help pay for (or cover) course tuition fees and living costs
Whilst you’re studying, you’ll have two main financial obligations – tuition fees and living costs. There’s lots of financial help available from the University of South Wales and external funding sources, that may provide loans (which have to be paid back) and grants, scholarships and bursaries (that don't).
To learn about course fees, funding options, and to see if you are eligible for financial support, visit our Fees and Funding pages.
Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science Travel Bursary
The Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science offers a travel bursary of £500 which is available to all students undertaking an undergraduate sandwich degree. Find out more.
Apply via UCAS if you are a UK residing applicant, applying for year one of a full-time undergraduate degree, Foundation Year, Foundation Degree or HND and you have not applied through UCAS before. If you are applying to study part-time, to top up your Foundation Degree or HND, or to transfer to USW from another institution, please apply directly.
International and EU students
Apply directly to the University if you live outside the UK.
By graduation, those with a Natural History degree will have the professional skills to work for national parks, nature reserves, environmental and planning consultancies, national and international wildlife bodies, national, regional and local government, utility companies and regulatory agencies. Your analytical skills will give you excellent prospects in research and policy development. You can even make wildlife films to gain career options in visual media and environmental education. Typical roles include:
- Environmental Consultant
- Video Producer
- Conservation Officer/ Manager
- Environmental Manager
Our Natural History course give students opportunities to gain practical experience and develop transferable skills to help them when they enter the world of work. For many students, a degree is an important step in achieving their career ambitions. Our courses generate motivated and able graduates with a range of key skills. They are highly valued by employers for the scope of their knowledge, and have excellent communication and critical thinking skills. Laboratory work and field projects ensure our students have strong research and team working skills.
Employability skills and work-based learning are built into our natural science courses. For example, we build in the practical skills that are outlined by the professional bodies. In the second year, research and report writing skills are developed alongside field skills and the writing of field reports. The final year gives you the opportunity to undertake work-based learning and to conduct project work.