Research overview

Your research degree is bespoke at the University of Nottingham, and allows you to choose your own area of interest to research, under the title of your choosing.

Our Ecology and Evolutionary Biology grouping is made up of the following available PhD and MRes courses:

  • Animal Behaviour
  • Conservation Biology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Ecology
  • Evolutionary Ecology 

Our supervisors in the school are at the forefront of research in their fields.  Utilising industry standard facilities, along with cutting edge equipment, and the guidance of our supervisors, you will advance the area of life sciences that interests you.

Your degree and research area is bespoke to you, however, our supervisors can provide projects in many areas of ecology and evolutionary biology, ranging from fish evolution and parasitology, snail genetics and evolution, the adaptation of spider silk for new materials, animal mimicry, and any topic that helps us understand the diversity of life and how it evolved.

You can find our about our specific research in the course content section.

Post-graduate Community

Here in the School of Life Sciences we’re committed to supporting our students’ wellbeing to ensure that your experience studying with us is the best it can be. Whether you’re studying silk-weaving spiders or looking for new ways to fight infection, we want all of our students to feel part of our vibrant and diverse research community.

There are loads of opportunities to meet your fellow researchers and get involved with student activities and projects during your time at the University of Nottingham including:

Course content

PhD or MRes?

PhD programmes allow you to research a topic that interests them over the span of 3-4 years.  You will be required to submit a thesis on your work at the end of your research period and take part in a viva voce examination.  This is a fantastic opportunity to research an area that is unique to your interests, and help that field grow.

Masters by Research (MRes) programmes allow you to undertake a substantial amount of independent research while gaining 20 credits of transferable skills training over the span of 12 months. The programmes are flexible in nature and allow you to take some additional accredited taught credits, in consultation with your supervisor.

Defining my research area

If you have a particular research area you are interested in, you should start by emailing a relevant supervisor below and talking through your interests with them.  You can see further details on our MRes and PhD titles below.

After you have done your research you can contact a relevant supervisor.

Evolutionary Biology involves the study of adaptation of organisms to their environment, at the whole organism and molecular scales. Some research areas in the school include:

  • Evolutionary biology of spiders and spider silk

  • Computational molecular evolution

  • Phylogenomics, protein evolution, evolutionary theory, and adaptation.

  • Colour polymorphism and speciation in snails

  • Evolutionary and population genomics of adaptation in plants

  • Evolution of sparrow-human commensalism

  • Ladybird colour polymorphism and male killers

  • Ecology and evolution in three-spined sticklebacks

  • Evolution and development of left-right asymmetry

Animal Behaviour

Research projects in this area will centre on adaptive decision-making in animals in a range of contexts, including: 

  • Trade-offs between social and sexual behaviour, learning and other components of life history, such as immune function and disease resistance

  • Associative and higher order learning in invertebrates

  • Evolution of insect pollinator systems

  • How predators drive the evolution of colour patterns and mimicry

Conservation Biology

Research projects in this area are likely to either involve intensive field work, laboratory experiments, or data analysis/mathematical modelling.

Recent work within the school has been concerned with:

  • Population genetics and conservation of the endangered fen raft spider

  • Social Insect Biology and Conservation

  • Impact of habitat fragmentation on conservation

  • Harvest mice conservation

  • Speciation and conservation of snails on remote Japanese archipelago, the Ogasawara islands

  • Conservation ecology of declining vertebrate populations (especially birds)


Research projects in ecology are offered in a range of animal, plant and microbial topics including: 

  • Competition and coexistence in animal communities

  • Ecology of host-parasite interactions

  • Insect pollinator systems

  • Life history strategies and trade-offs

  • Sexual selection and ecology

  • Role of ecology in natural selection

  • Chemical ecology of neurotoxins

  • Bumblebee and spider ecology

  • Aquatic environments and disease ecology

  • Role of exuberant colour polymorphism in snail shells

Evolutionary Ecology

Evolutionary ecology lies at the intersection of ecology and evolutionary biology, typically taking into account interactions between species. Studies available include:

  • The evolutionary and behavioural ecology of insects and mammals
  • Ecological genetics of sibling species of snail
  • Sexual selection and ecology of birds
  • Co-evolution of life histories and mimicry in insects
  • Stickleback evolutionary ecology and parasitism
  • Mimicry and colour polymorphism in invertebrates
  • Host-parasite coevolution in freshwater systems

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2024 entry.


British Honours degree at least 2:1 or equivalent.

Applicants currently studying Masters in the UK will be accepted with a minimum average of 60% (Merit) in taught elements, if they have a 2:1 or equivalent at undergraduate level.


Undergraduate degree of at least 2:1 or equivalent.

Applicants currently studying Masters in the UK will be accepted with a minimum average of 60% (Merit) in taught elements, if they have a 2:1 or equivalent at undergraduate level.

International and EU equivalents

We accept a wide range of qualifications from all over the world.

For information on entry requirements from your country, see our country pages.

IELTSIELTS 6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element) as a minimum Except all Virology programs, which requires IELTS 7.0 (no less than 6.5 in any element) as a minimum
English language requirements

As well as IELTS (listed above), we also accept other English language qualifications.

This includes TOEFL iBT, Pearson PTE, GCSE, IB and O level English.

Meeting our English language requirements

If you need support to meet the required level, you may be able to attend a presessional English course. Presessional courses teach you academic skills in addition to English language. Our Centre for English Language Education is accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK.

If you successfully complete your presessional course to the required level, you can then progress to your degree course. This means that you won't need to retake IELTS or equivalent.

For on-campus presessional English courses, you must take IELTS for UKVI to meet visa regulations. For online presessional courses, see our CELE webpages for guidance.

Visa restrictions

International students must have valid UK immigration permissions for any courses or study period where teaching takes place in the UK. Student route visas can be issued for eligible students studying full-time courses. The University of Nottingham does not sponsor a student visa for students studying part-time courses. The Standard Visitor visa route is not appropriate in all cases. Please contact the university’s Visa and Immigration team if you need advice about your visa options.

We recognise that applicants have a variety of experiences and follow different pathways to postgraduate study.

We treat all applicants with alternative qualifications on an individual basis. We may also consider relevant work experience.

If you are unsure whether your qualifications or work experience are relevant, contact us.

Research Proposal

A research proposal is required. This should be worked on with your proposed supervisor.


You should have 2 references with at least one of them being an academic reference.

References from the proposed supervisor will be accepted if the applicant has only studied at Nottingham previously (for example as a UG student)


Please contact an appropriate supervisor from the contactable list with an idea of what you would like your research to focus on.  You can then follow the steps on the following page, working with your proposed supervisor to write your research proposal.

Start dates:

  • 1 October 2022
  • 1 December 2022
  • 1 February 2023
  • 1 April 2023
  • 1 July 2023
How to apply


Home / UK£5,100£5,100
International£22,600 for low-cost, £30,200 for lab-based, £35,750 for high-cost lab-based or £41,000 for exceptional technically intensive or specialised projects with high consumable costs. For details, contact£28,600

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you may be asked to complete a fee status questionnaire and your answers will be assessed using guidance issued by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).

These fees are for full-time study. If you are studying part-time, you will be charged a proportion of this fee each year (subject to inflation).

Additional costs

All students will need at least one device to approve security access requests via Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). We also recommend students have a suitable laptop to work both on and off-campus. For more information, please check the equipment advice.

All students should factor in cost of living, as well as basic materials like log books, lab coat, PPE and stationary. Costs for consumables will vary depending on research.


There are many ways to fund your research degree, from scholarships to government loans.

Check our guide to find out more about funding your postgraduate degree.

Postgraduate funding


Researcher training and development

The Researcher Academy is the network for researchers, and staff who support them. We work together to promote a healthy research culture, to cultivate researcher excellence, and develop creative partnerships that enable researchers to flourish.

Postgraduate researchers at Nottingham have access to our online Members’ area, which includes a wealth of resources, access to training courses and award-winning postgraduate placements.

Student support

You will have access to a range of support services, including:

  • academic and disability support
  • childcare services
  • counselling service
  • faith support
  • financial support
  • mental health and wellbeing support
  • visa and immigration advice
  • welfare support

Students' Union

Our Students' Union represents all students. You can join the Postgraduate Students’ Network or contact the dedicated Postgraduate Officer.

There are also a range of support networks, including groups for:

  • international students
  • black and minority ethnic students
  • students who identify as women
  • students with disabilities
  • LGBT+ students

SU Advice provides free, independent and confidential advice on issues such as accommodation, financial and academic difficulties.

Where you will learn

Life sciences research facilities

Benefit from access to cutting edge technologies and lab spaces including:

  • Advanced microscopy and imaging suites, and microscopes including STEM, SRM SIM and confocal imaging
  • High-throughput sequencing facilities and Nanocentre technology
  • Human physiology facilities at the David Greenfield Human Physiology unit
  • Research only MRI systems at the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre
  • Deep sequencing facilities and modern molecular genetics laboratories
  • Culture facilities as well as facilities for embryo dissection, cloning and in-situ hybridisation


Whether you are considering a career in academia, industry or haven't yet decided, we’re here to support you every step of the way.

Expert staff will work with you to explore PhD career options and apply for vacancies, develop your interview skills and meet employers. You can book a one-to-one appointment, take an online course or attend a workshop.

International students who complete an eligible degree programme in the UK on a student visa can apply to stay and work in the UK after their course under the Graduate immigration route. Eligible courses at the University of Nottingham include bachelors, masters and research degrees, and PGCE courses.

83.3% of postgraduates from the School of Life Sciences secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £31,976.*

*HESA Graduate Outcomes 2019/20 data published in 2022. The Graduate Outcomes % is derived using The Guardian University Guide methodology. The average annual salary is based on data from graduates who completed a full-time postgraduate degree with home fee status and are working full-time within the UK.

Related courses

Research Excellence Framework

The University of Nottingham is ranked 7th in the UK for research power, according to analysis by Times Higher Education. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a national assessment of the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

  • 100% of UoA24 (Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism) and 84% of the UoA5 (Biological Sciences) research submitted was judged to be "world-leading" (4*), or "Internationally Excellent" (3*) in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 results.
  • 90%* of our research is classed as 'world-leading' (4*) or 'internationally excellent' (3*)
  • 100%* of our research is recognised internationally
  • 51% of our research is assessed as 'world-leading' (4*) for its impact**

*According to analysis by Times Higher Education ** According to our own analysis.

This content was last updated on 27 July 2023. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.