The Conservation Sciences Graduate Program, established in 1990, is a top-ranked national program and the largest interdisciplinary program at the University of Minnesota, with over 100 faculty members from 28 departments, 8 colleges, and 11 agencies. It offers graduate opportunities that genuinely integrate problem-solving across the social and biological sciences. Our students are trained in one of the three tracks: 1) Conservation Science, 2) Fisheries and Aquatic Biology and 3) Wildlife Ecology and Management. All three tracks provide M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Conservation Sciences, optional joint degrees with the Law School (JD/MS, JD/PhD), as well as opportunities to pursue a minor in other relevant graduate programs, (e.g. American Indian and Indigenous Studies, Geographic Information Science). All three tracks share a core curriculum that builds strong cohorts and primes students for success with foundational knowledge and a supportive community.
Students often partner with local, state, and federal conservation agencies and national and international non-government organizations to improve conservation and management of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and well-being of humans. Research projects range across assessing bat and bat fatality risk at wind sites using acoustic detectors, managing water levels on large reservoirs to mimic walleye spawning habitats, testing genetic tools for controlling invasive Asian carps in Minnesota lakes, assessing the karner butterfly’s response and managed relocation under climate change, genetic diversity in the endangered Great Lakes piping plover population, the extent that hunter derived food sources influence consumer community, elephant carcass effects in savanna ecosystems in Kenya, modeling bird-window collisions in core urban environments, assessing habitat connectivity in a fragmented Chilean landscape, Cardamom landscape management to sustain biodiversity and economic returns in Cambodia, the Voyageurs Wolf Project, to name a few. Student research spans the urban-to-wilderness spectrum, often takes advantage of Minnesota’s diversity of biomes from prairie to hardwood to boreal, and includes national and international projects.
Research, teaching and outreach in Conservation Sciences have been promoted through various University of Minnesota institutes and centers. Notably these include the Bell Museum of Natural History, the Raptor Center, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Cedar Creek Natural History Area, Itasca and Cloquet Field Stations, Institute on the Environment, the Institute for Social, Environmental and Economic Sustainability, the Center for Community Genetics, Invasion Biology Research Consortium, and the Center for Global Change. The University's location within a government and commercial center has created numerous partnerships with federal and state agencies, as well as non-profit organizations to address conservation biology issues. In addition, 18 members of the Conservation Sciences program are adjunct faculty from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Zoo, the Pollution Control Agency, and The Nature Conservancy.
The Conservation Science Track
The Conservation Science (CS) track is available for MS, PhD, and joint degree students wishing to emphasize this concentration within a Conservation Sciences major. This track provides structure and oversight for students interested in the interface of population, species, and ecosystem biology with disciplines of social sciences, education, economics, and law. This will improve the student experience and allow more curricular specialization for these students. The name of the track will appear on student’s transcripts and diplomas, providing potential employers with information on their credentials.
The Fisheries and Aquatic Biology Track
The Fisheries and Aquatic Biology (FAB) Track is available for MS, PhD, and joint degree students wishing to emphasize this concentration within a Conservation Sciences major. The track name will be indicated on the student's transcript and may be useful to the graduate for obtaining jobs with many federal and state agencies where such expertise is specified in job announcements or hiring criteria. The track designation clearly indicates that the student has specialized coursework and research or project experience leading to expertise in fisheries or aquatic biology. Combined with a typical undergraduate degree in biology or natural resource science, careful selection of courses in the graduate program will satisfy the educational requirements for professional certification by the American Fisheries Society. Students in the track must be advised or co-advised by a faculty member affiliated with the track. Request for admission to the track may be made during the application process or any time after the student is admitted to the CS Graduate Program.
Students who designate this track will be expected to work closely with their Student Advisory Committee (SAC) to develop an appropriate course of study. The Track Coordinator will review each student’s academic program to examine how Track expectations are met and forward it with a recommendation to the DGS for approval.
The Wildlife Ecology and Management Track
The Wildlife Ecology and Management (WEM) track is available for MS, PhD, and joint degree students wishing to emphasize this concentration within a Conservation Sciences major. This track provides structure and oversight for students interested in the interface of population, species, ecosystem biology and wildlife management with disciplines of social sciences, education, economics. The track name will be posted to the transcript and may be useful to the graduate for obtaining jobs with many federal and state agencies where such expertise is specified in job announcements or hiring criteria. The track designation clearly indicates that the student has specialized coursework and research or project experience leading to expertise in wildlife ecology and management.