Home < Schools, Colleges, and Programs < College of Letters & Science < Majors, Certificates, and Concentration Programs < Biological Aspects of Conservation

College of Letters & Science

Biological Aspects of Conservation

Internship/Field Experience
Requirements for the Major
Honors Program
I. Core Required Courses
II. Species and Field Biology
III. Other Electives

132 Birge Hall, 430 Lincoln Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-890-3099; bacmajor@ls.wisc.edu; www.bacmajor.ls.wisc.edu

Committee of Advisors: Professors Givnish (Botany), Hotchkiss (Botany/Environmental Studies), Ives (Zoology),  Strier (Anthropology), Townsend (Forest & Wildlife Ecology), Vander Zanden (Center for Limnology/Zoology), Waller (Botany)

The Biological Aspects of Conservation (BAC) major is designed to provide students broad training in the sciences and related disciplines most relevant to conservation. The program emphasizes knowledge across the basic sciences with special emphasis on organismal biology including natural history, whole organism biology, ecological interactions, and conservation biology. Aldo Leopold and Norman Fassett first initiated this major in the 1940s to prepare individuals for careers as game wardens, ranger naturalists, and museum workers. These opportunities continue and have expanded to include important jobs related to conserving rare species and habitats; public and private land management; conservation research; and work generally concerned with environmental protection, education, and sustainable management. The major is also recommended for those seeking a liberal education in the intrinsic values of natural resources and those preparing for graduate study in the rapidly developing field of conservation biology (e.g., the M.S. Program in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development).

Because the program allows considerable flexibility, students can customize their program and may find time to pursue joint majors. Because the BAC major is so broad and involves so much choice, it is important for students to meet early and regularly with their academic advisor. Students contemplating graduate work in a biological discipline are advised to take Biology/Botany/Zoology 151 & 152; Botany/Forest/Zoology 460 General Ecology; and Anthro/Botany/Zoology 410 Evolutionary Biology. Such students are also encouraged to take Chem 103-104 or 109; general physics; Math 211 or 221; and Botany/Genetics/Zoology 466 General Genetics.


To declare the BAC major, students should go to 132 Birge Hall, 430 Lincoln Drive (608-890-3099) to meet with an advisor. There, they can meet with a staff advisor, learn about the program and courses, and declare the major. They will continue to assist you with interpreting DARS output, transferring credits from other universities or programs, enrolling for honors credits, and planning course work to meet the BAC requirements. Students should also choose and contact a BAC faculty advisor for help with academic issues include course selection; research and internship opportunities; field and study abroad opportunities; and career / graduate school advice.

Internship/Field Experience

Students in the BAC major are encouraged to take field courses when possible (including suitable study abroad programs) and to gain additional experience via summer jobs and paid or unpaid internships.  Internships are available at many state and National Parks and Forests, state departments of natural resources, and private conservation organizations like The Nature Conservancy, the International Crane Foundation, Audubon, etc. (see list at www.nelson.wisc.edu/education/internships.php). Students who wish to obtain academic credit for such an experience should arrange in advance to take a Directed Study (e.g., Botany or Zoology 699 course) under  III. Other Electives during or immediately after the internship. A maximum of 10 credits of directed study (698, 699), senior honors thesis (681, 682), senior thesis (691,692), or internships (F&W Ecol 399, Zoology 677) will count toward the major.

Requirements for the Major

BAC majors must take at least 50 credits in the major. At least 3 of these credits must be social science taken from elective (III) courses. In addition, students must satisfy the college B.A. or B.S. requirements.

Honors Program

The BAC honors curriculum requires: (1) 16 honors credits in the major; (2) 6 to 8 credits of Senior Honors Thesis, 681/682 (Botany, Zoology, Environmental Studies, or other appropriate department with approval of BAC faculty) OR 6 credits of graduate seminars in appropriate departments (600 or higher, with approval of BAC faculty). Honors students must earn a 3.3 overall cumulative GPA in all courses taken at UW-Madison at the time of graduation.

I. Core Required Courses

At least 23-27 credits
Introductory Biology

Biology/Botany/Zoology 151-152 Introductory Biology, 10 cr (recommended)
or at least 10 cr from Biocore/Biology 301, 302, 303, 304, 323, or 324
or Biology/Botany 130 General Botany and Biology/Zoology 101-102 Animal Biology, 10 cr


Chem 103 General Chemistry, 4 cr (for those who might take more chemistry)
or Chem 108 General Chemistry, 5 cr
or Chem 109 Advanced General Chemistry, 5 cr (for those who might take more chemistry)

Physical Environment

Atm Ocn/Geol 105 Survey of Oceanography, 3-4 cr
or Envir St/Geol 106 Environmental Geology, 3 cr
or Envir St/Geog 120 Global Physical Environments, 3 cr
or Envir St/Geog 127 Physical Systems of the Environment, 5 cr
or Geol 100 General Geology, 3 cr
or Geol 107 Life of the Past, 3 cr
or Geol 202 Introduction to Geologic Structures, 4 cr
or Geol 204 Geologic Evolution of the Earth, 4 cr


Stats 301 Introduction to Statistical Methods, 3 cr
or Stats 371 Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences  or Stats 571 Statistical Methods for Bioscience I

Ecology and Evolution

Students are required to take courses from at least two of the following three areas and are encouraged to take courses in all three areas: 

1. Ecology

Botany/Forest/Zoology 460 General Ecology, 4 cr

2. Evolution

Geol 110 Evolution and Extinction, 3 cr
or Anthro/Botany/Zoology 410 Evolutionary Biology, 3 cr

3. Extinction

Envir St/F&W Ecol/Zoology 360 Extinction of Species, 3 cr

II. Species and Field Biology

Choose at least 12 credits from approved course list.

III. Other Electives

To fulfill the 50-credit requirement, students may take additional courses in categories I or II or choose any of the additional courses listed here. At least 3 of these credits must be social science taken from elective (III) courses. See course list.