Primate Biology, Behaviour and Conservation


Apply for this course
Banner - Primate Biology, Behaviour and Conservation

Postgraduate On-Campus Open Day
Sunday 1 August 2021, 9am–1pm

  Book your place

Postgraduate and Doctoral open evening
Wednesday 3 November 2021, 5–7.30pm

  Book your place
  • The course offers an opportunity to carry out a substantial research project in primatology, and is an ideal qualification for those wishing to pursue a PhD in this field
  • Many MRes students publish their dissertation research in international scientific journals
  • You will be taught by a range of leading research-active primatologists
  • We have well established networks with field sites worldwide and in the UK
  • We are the most research-intensive modern university in the UK (Research Excellence Framework 2014)


Embark on an incredible journey with a course that focuses on studying the biology, behaviour and conservation of primates. You will gain the skills required to carry out theoretical and field research in primatology, and to advance in your career or further study.

Primatology is a discipline that has its roots in anatomy, biology, anthropology and psychology. This course covers a comprehensive range of topics within primatology and combines theoretical investigation with fieldwork and laboratory sessions. It also offers intensive training in research methods and statistics.

Recent examples of topics covered include social behaviour, cognition, endocrinology, ranging and habitat use, social networks, human-wildlife conflict, morphology and brain size evolution.

Read about the contribution of a former student’s research project to a study on the behaviour of rhesus macaques in Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico before and after Hurricane Maria in 2017.

The University of Roehampton has established networks with leading institutions and field sites around the world and in the UK. 

You will be taught by leading experts in the field who carry out their own world-leading research. You can also find more details on the course Twitter and Instagram pages.

You will begin the year by studying an in-depth range of topics in primatology, as well as learning the theory and practice of primatological research. After your first semester, the emphasis will be  on independent study, where you will be undertaking a substantial piece of original research. You will develop your intellectual, practical and analytical skills to devise a viable project proposal. You will carry out your project and produce a paper suitable for submission to a peer-reviewed scientific journal and a press release to promote your project's findings. Many of our graduates have subsequently published their work in international journals such as Biology Letters, American Journal of Primatology, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Animal Behaviour and Biological Conservation.

Students’ field work lasts for three months, usually from March to May. You will have the support of your supervisor in arranging data collection for your research project. In the laboratory, students have used geographic information systems to explore ranging behaviour, analysed parasites from wild primates and performed non-invasive hormone analysis.

Compulsory modules


All MRes students undertake a research project; this may take the form of an original field/laboratory/computer based investigation, or may comprise original synthesis and analysis of existing data. This module requires students to apply the knowledge, skills and critical processes acquired elsewhere in the programme, and provides the opportunity to study a specific topic in depth. The research project is central to the programme and consequently accounts for two thirds of the total assessment (120 credits). The module gives students an opportunity to learn about the research process by carrying out a study within a supportive framework, working closely with a supervisor. During project planning, students give a work-in-progress presentation and write an extended literature review on the topic of their research; this review includes details of their research questions/hypotheses. Data collection then lasts around three months (typically March, April and May). The project is written up as a scientific research paper, presented in the appropriate style for submission to a named refereed journal. Finally, students write a press release for their paper, as a piece of popular science communication. Individual project supervisors are allocated provisionally in Autumn term following group discussions of initial project ideas, and are confirmed after the work-in-progress presentations in Spring term. It is the role of the project supervisor to assist the student in refining and executing the research project and to set dates for completion of draft sections of the scientific paper, and the press release, in collaboration with the student.  

Primatology: Theory and Practice

This module provides a practically based complement to the module Primate Biology, Behaviour and Conservation, and aims to equip students with a portfolio of skills and knowledge - both practical and theoretical - suitable for a research primatologist. The module integrates theoretical issues with practical work (laboratory, computer and fieldwork). Written reports on two of the practical classes, and a scientific poster to report on a third, are assessed. Currently these are the classes on behavioural observation, non-invasive hormone analysis and geographical information systems. Assessments are handed in throughout the first term with feedback given before the next piece is submitted.

Primate Biology, Behaviour and Conservation

This module is designed to ensure that students acquire a good knowledge of the major areas of primate biology, behaviour and conservation, and of current debates and approaches in the discipline. Through a combination of lectures and student-led seminars, students’ ability to absorb and interrogate primatological literature from an informed perspective will be developed. Assessment is via an unseen exam on Moodle (multiple choice and short answer) and a critical essay, synthesising and evaluating arguments around a current controversy in primatology (2000 words, excluding references).

Research Methods in Biology

The purpose of this course is to equip students with the skills necessary to design a scientifically sound research project and to analyse data appropriately. Students will need these skills to successfully complete their MRes research project. They are also essential skills for any primatologist and, more broadly, any biology researcher and practitioner. The course will use lectures to explain the principles of project design and data analysis. It will then use mainly computer-based practicals to allow the students to practice and develop these skills. Assessment will be by two Moodle tests, one after each of the two teaching blocks, and to be completed by students within one week.


Compulsory and Required modules
Compulsory and/or required modules may change when we review and update programmes. Above is a list of modules offered this academic year.

Optional modules
Optional modules, when offered as part of a programme, may vary from year to year and are subject to viability.


Past students have gone on to successful careers in:

  • conservation projects
  • research institutions
  • animal welfare groups or agencies
  • zoos and parks
  • environmental and animal charities.

These careers involve roles such as scientific researcher, conservation biologist and ecologist, and also in areas such as fundraising, communication and outreach.

Find out more about teaching staff on our MRes Primate Biology, Behaviour and Conservation and their research interests here:

Life at Roehampton

At Roehampton, we can offer all new students the opportunity to live in accommodation on our beautiful parkland campus, including affordable and high-end options.

We offer scholarships, provide hardship funding and help you find advice on managing your finances while you study.

We provide plenty of opportunities for you to get involved, through volunteering, playing sport or music, or joining one of our many active student societies.

Chat to one of our advisers online