This reptile and amphibian course takes a deep dive into identification, ecology and diversity of all the reptile and amphibian species present in the UK, as well as surveying and reporting techniques essential for their conservation.

The course starts on the Friday evening with an introductory talk and survey on campus. You will also be visiting local amphibian and reptile sites over the weekend to practice your identification and surveying skills, and taking advantage of the broad range of habitats surrounding the Preston Montford Centre. You will explore these habitats with your expert tutor, gaining a real understanding of what each species needs to thrive and what factors may lead to their decline.

You will learn how to identify key features and use them to discriminate between species, using a range of core texts and methods. This exciting course will award you with an understanding of the importance of these species for conservation, ecology, and recording, and a practical skill set that will enable you to contribute to their success in the field.

You will be visiting ponds at night to count amphibians, so a good torch is essential. Please see the ‘What to Bring’ section below for further detail.

*Please note, the programme is weather dependent and reptile sightings cannot be guaranteed.

There are three booking options which all include course tuition, meals and refreshments *please see the ‘whats included’ section below for further details:

  • Non-Resident (Breakfast not included)
  • Resident (Shared Room)
  • Resident (Sole Occupancy)

For course bookings including accommodation please note that bathroom facilities may be shared.

Who Should Attend? – Natural history enthusiasts, students, rangers, ecologists, and environmental professionals. This intermediate level course is open to anyone with some background knowledge of the subject. This course is for those aged 18 and over only.

Knowledge Level – Intermediate. Level descriptors can be found on the following web-page: Framework and Course Level Descriptors

What will be covered during this course?

  • The course will be delivered through a combination of seminars, laboratory identification sessions, and practical field work
  • Identification and diagnostic features of UK reptiles and amphibians
  • The life cycles of reptiles and amphibians and key features at each life cycle stage
  • What makes a good site for reptiles and amphibians, and how management can improve populations or mitigate against declines
  • Legislation covering reptiles and amphibians, and their associated surveys
  • What plant species and communities are beneficial for these species
  • How understanding the behaviour and ecology of these species can help you locate and identify them in the field

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Identify British reptiles and amphibians, with reference to the ecology of a selection of species
  • Critically evaluate appropriate survey techniques for reptiles and amphibians
  • Write a report on a survey for reptiles and amphibians
  • Assess a site for conservation potential


This is one of a series of courses (Units) run jointly with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) contributing to the MSc ‘Biological Recording and Ecological Monitoring’ and the ‘Postgraduate Certificate in Biological Recording’. MMU students complete assessed work after the course. For further details about Manchester Metropolitan University degree programmes please contact:

Department of Natural Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, (Shrewsbury Office). Email: [email protected]

  • See the ‘Example Timetable’ and ‘What’s Included’ sections below for more information about this course.
  • Upon booking you will need to provide individual details of all attendees
  • Please email [email protected] if you have any questions.

An Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust course.


For Manchester Metropolitan University students, the Unit will be assessed through, for example, identification tests, survey reports, field journals, production of keys, essays or other forms of assessment. In course tests are optional and less formal for participants who are not MMU students.

MMU students will be required to complete a portfolio with 2 parts:

Part 1: Complete an in-class assessment relating to the identification of British reptile and amphibian species. Justify your answers by choosing the most important diagnostic features. (Equivalent to 500 words)

Part 2: Carry out a survey for reptiles and/or amphibians at a site of your choice. Present your survey results in the format of a formal survey report which demonstrates your understanding of survey techniques and ecology. You should consider how the site could be improved or managed for the species you found, or for other reptiles and amphibians. (1500 words)

Tutor: Dr John Wilkinson

John is a conservation ecologist who has been working with amphibians and reptiles for over 25 years. He manages Regional, Science and Training Programmes for the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC) and has a particular fascination for toads!

Example Timetable

Example Timetable

This timetable is subject to change but should give an outline of what to expect.
If you have booked accommodation with the centre your bedroom will be ready from 3.00 pm onwards on the day of arrival and we ask that you vacate by 9.30 am on the morning of departure.
If numbers are sufficient a station pick up will be arranged at 5.30 pm from Shrewsbury Station.
Please arrive in time for the evening meal at 6.30 pm on Friday
The course starts after dinner with a classroom session 7.30 pm - 9.00 pm
The course ends at 3.00 pm on the final day.

Time will be made available for eating packed lunches during the day.

19:30 course introduction classroom session; bottle trap setting on campus

09:15 trap checking followed by classroom session and two field visits;
19:30 great crested newt HSI class and field session on campus

09:30 classroom session followed by three field visits;
19:30 class session to round off the day and a field session on campus if there is time

09:30 class review, local field visit to practice surveys, returning by lunchtime for revision of the morning;
14:15 ID Quiz and Opportunity for students to discuss the field assignment.

Accrediting Agency

Manchester Metropolitan University

What's Included

  • Expert Tuition
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Hot and Cold Drinks
  • Picnic Lunch

What’s included?

  • Classroom learning covering the theory of the subject
  • Field excursions to apply new knowledge
  • Expert tuition for which the FSC is renowned
  • Clear objectives and progression

You can rest assured that the absolute best content from an expert in environmental education will be provided. In choosing an FSC course, you will be joining thousands of people who learn with us each year.

PLEASE NOTE For course bookings including full board accommodation, please note bathroom facilities maybe be shared

Before You Attend

There will be a member of staff with first aid training and access to a first aid kit on site. If you have special medical or access requirements, please let us know as soon as possible so we can make any necessary adjustments.

What to Bring

  • Walking boots or wellies
  • Waterproofs (also available from the Centre)
  • A good torch and batteries
  • Camera and binoculars
  • Any field guide book
  • Notebook and pencils
  • Sandwich box and vacuum flask/drinks container
  • USB memory stick (to take away additional handouts)

Recommended Reading

Gent, A. and Gibson, S. (1998) Herpetofauna Worker’s Manual. JNCC: Peterborough, UK