Biology & Environmental Science - Global Change - Ecosystem Science & Policy

MSc Global Change: Ecosystem Science & Policy
Graduate Taught (level 9 NFQ, credits 120)
The current environmental changes affect both natural ecosystems and civil societies. Global change refers to planetary-scale changes occurring in complex socio-ecological systems, which are affected by climatic and non-climatic drivers (e.g., changes in human society). Understanding the intricate, medium- to long-term changes in our land, air and water requires advanced scientific knowledge in measurement, modelling and prediction. This joint international MSc course between the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science and Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany is the response to these challenges.

Visit our website to discover more about this unique opportunity to study in both Ireland and Germany and make a difference!

-The first semester is based at UCD Ireland between September and December.

-This is followed by a 6 week minimum internship in a company or institution of your choice (for example: Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Agriculture Organisation, UNFCCC and Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change offices, Rural Investment Support for Europe foundation, ICLEI (Local Government for Sustainability), Postdam Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Irish Environmental Network, European Forest Institute).

-The second taught semester is based in JLU, Giessen, Germany between March and August.

-The last semester is devoted entirely to an individual research project, which can be undertaken in either UCD or JLU or a host institutions.

-You will gain expertise in global change processes (soil, air, water), plant-soil-atmosphere interactions; skills to work at the science and policy interface; environmental law and international regulations as well as specific communication skills.

Vision and Values Statement
This is an international joint degree programme between University College Dublin (UCD) and Justus-Liebig-University Giessen (JLU), which provides students with a unique working environment of learning in a cross-cultural setting. The student will experience living in a different culture, make friends with students from different countries and gain increased independence and self-confidence. A key element of the programme is a learning environment that combines academic and professional approaches in an international context. The programme suits skilled and motivated science graduates wishing to develop a scientific career in researching natural and managed ecosystems, as well as those aiming to contribute to evidence-based environmental policy.

The programme combines the well-established international profiles of JLU and UCD and draws on the research and teaching expertise in those institutions as well as on national and international collaboration. This course integrates major research groups, bringing together complementary, multi-disciplinary expertise including fully-resourced ecosystem experiments and field-scale study sites. Both institutions have facilities to allow students and staff to have access to major technology platforms essential to the conduct of world-class cutting-edge research. This is also reflected in the teaching content of this programme, which is continually adapted and drawn from the latest international research projects and policy-related developments.

Graduates will benefit from the experience of world-class educators from both UCD and JLU who will train graduates in the scientific methods required to study the effects of environmental change on ecosystems around the world and to transfer the gained knowledge into policy-relevant information. The assessments undertaken represent real world applications and are constantly developed as a tool to achieve a deeper mastery of the subjects. Of great importance to the gained learning experience is the inclusion in the core curriculum of an employment-focused work placement (six weeks contact time). In addition to providing graduates with strong scientific training in the interpretation of ecosystem science, this programme will provide students with the skills necessary to participate in environmental policy making processes.

Programme Outcomes

-Ability to use and interpret a wide range of datasets

-Communicate policy-relevant evidence to diverse target audiences in an unambiguous way

-Develop strategies for continuous professional development and continue self-directed learning required to enhance their career ambitions.

-Maturity to pursue study as well as critically appraise scientific information

-Participate in ecosystem research using the latest research methods and data management tools

-Perform environmental work and research in a confident manner by applying relevant tools in data collection, management, analysis and reporting

-Understand and promote the development of policy in terms of adaptation and mitigations for natural and managed ecosystems, thereby supporting sustainable livelihoods

-Understand the ecosystem science underpinning our knowledge of global environmental change

Subjects taught

UCD Core Modules Credit Points

ENVB40370 Data Analyses & Interpretation (On-line) 5
BIOL40780 Designing Global Change Research Projects 5
ENVB40130 Global Change Ecology 5
BIOL40140 Science and Policy 5
ENVB40040 Environmental Impact Assessment 5
ENVB40370 Data Anal. & Interpretation 5
BIOL40120 Work Placement (Global Change) 20
BIOL40130 Research Project (Global Change) 30

Optional module (5 CP needed)

ENVB40540 Introduction to Ecological Mapping with open source software (QGIS) 5
ENVB40310 Peatlands and Environmental Change 5
MEEN40090 Energy Systems and Climate Change 5
ENVB40410 Management of Sustainable Fisheries (On-line) 5
ENVB30130 Ecology & its Appl. O/L 5

JLU Core Modules Credit Points

BIOL40680 Global Change: Modelling and Advanced Techniques 5
BIOL40690 Adaptation to Global Change (JLU) 3
BIOL40580 Policy Consulting - Environmental Policy and Development Cooperation (JLU) 6
BIOL40230 Resource Economics and Environmental Management (JLU) 6
BIOL40160 Biodiversity Informatics (JLU) 3
BIOL40740 Sustainable agro-ecosystems 6

Optional module (6 CP needed)

BIOL40600 Econ Dev & WorldAgMarkets(JLU) 6
BIOL40660 Methods in Global Change Research 3
ENVB40560 Natural Resources & Eco (JLU) 6
BIOL40700 Stress Ecology (JLU) 3
BIOL40710 Into the footsteps of a researcher (JLU) 3
BIOL40570 World Food Economy (JLU) 6
BIOL40750 Global Governance: Erosion, stagnation or transformation: liberal world order in crisis? (JLU) 6
ENVB40550 Humanitarian Disasters and its Impact on Transition Management (JLU) 6

Entry requirements

This programme is intended for applicants with a Bachelor degree in an appropriate life sciences discipline, such as biology, agriculture or environmental science (including zoology, ecology, biochemistry, geology and physics). A bachelor degree (NFQ Level 8) with honours 2(2) (GPA 2.48 or higher) or international equivalent is required.

Applicants whose first language is not English must also demonstrate English language proficiency of IELTS 6.5 (no band less than 6.0 in each element), or equivalent.

These are the minimum entry requirements – additional criteria may be requested for some programmes

Application dates

The following entry routes are available:

MSc Global Change: Ecosystem Science & Policy FT (F038)

* Courses will remain open until such time as all places have been filled, therefore early application is advised

Full Time option suitable for:

Domestic(EEA) applicants: Yes
International (Non EEA) applicants currently residing outside of the EEA Region. Yes

The MSc in Global Change: Ecosystem Science and Policy degree is aimed at individuals who intend to pursue a career in the wide field of 'Environmental issues' with the skills to understand the science as well as communicating policy-relevant evidence to diverse audience.


16 months full-time

Post Course Info

Careers & Employability
Graduates may pursue roles as policy advisers, scientific analysts or researchers in government, international organisations, NGOs, research institutes or consulting companies. There are also many opportunities for further studies. The skills acquired, particularly through the completion of the minor thesis provides a strong foundation for PhD research.

Prospective employers include the Environmental Protection Agency, Governmental Departments, European Commission; European Environment Agency as well as various international organisations (e.g. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; United Nations Environment Programme; International Union for the Conservation of Nature, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation).

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Degree - Masters (Level 9 NFQ)

  • Attendance type

    Full time

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    Course provider