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College of Letters & Science

Conservation Biology

About the Major
Advising
Internship/Field Experience
Requirements for the Major
Honors in the Major

152 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, chair of major)

About the Major

Conservation biology is a science-based major designed to provide students broad training in biological, ecological, and related disciplines most relevant to conservation. The program emphasizes basic knowledge of natural history, whole organism biology, ecological interactions, and field biology. The major is characterized by flexibility with a broad range of opportunities allowing students to tailor the program to their interests. This major appeals to independent students capable of assembling a curriculum that takes maximum advantage of both strong background, diversity, and specialization, as well as the breadth available through an L&S major. The program has a unique appeal to students passionate about conservation biology, from the social scientist to the theoretical ecologist, and empowers students to act as informed citizens of the natural world.

Aldo Leopold, former UW professor considered the father of wildlife management, and Norman Fassett, former UW professor of Botany, 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 work in environmental education; forest, game and park management; endangered species research and recovery efforts; work with private conservation organizations and government agencies; and many more. The major is 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.

Advising

Students in the conservation biology major are assigned to a team of advisors composed of a faculty advisor and a the major's student services coordinator. See the major's advising page for a list of advisors and for the student services coordinator information. The faculty advisor provides guidance specific to the  discipline through discussions about undergraduate experiences (e.g., research, coursework, internships) that will help prepare students for graduate work or a career after graduation. The student services coordinator provides guidance specific to the discipline but helps students with major declarations, course selection, registration, DARS, L&S degree and major requirements, and tracking progress towards graduation, as well as connecting students with important resources on campus. Because the major is so broad and involves so much choice, it is important for students to meet early and regularly with their student services coordinator and faculty advisor.

Internship/Field Experience

Students in the conservation biology 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. 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) as elective work in the major during or immediately after their 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

Conservation biology majors must take at least 50 credits in the major. Students must complete all core requirements (I), 12 credits of Field/Species Biology (II), and an elective Social Science course plus additional elective work (III) to reach the minimum 50 credits. When selecting courses to meet major requirements, students are encouraged to meet with their faculty advisor or student services coordinator to discuss courses that align with their areas of academic interest.

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. Although not required for the major, such students are also encouraged to take a second semester of Chemistry (ex. Chemistry 104); general physics; Math 211 or 221; and Botany/Genetics/Zoology 466 General Genetics.

I. Core Required Courses

Introductory Biology (10 credits)
Select one of the following sets:
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

Chemistry (4–5 credits)
Select one of the following options:
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 (3–4 credits)
Select one of the following:
Atm Ocn/Geosci 105 Survey of Oceanography, 3–4 cr
or
Envir St/Geosci 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
Geosci 100 General Geology, 3 cr
or
Geosci 107 Life of the Past, 3 cr
or
Geosci 202 Introduction to Geologic Structures, 4 cr
or
Geosci 204 Geologic Evolution of the Earth, 4 cr

Statistics (3 credits)
Select one of the following:
Stat 301 Introduction to Statistical Methods, 3 cr
or Stat 371 Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences

Ecology and Evolution (6–7 credits)
Students are required to take a total of two courses, each from a different category (Ecology, Evolution, or Extinction) and are encouraged to take courses in all three areas:
Ecology
: Botany/Forest/Zoology 460 General Ecology, 4 cr
Evolution
: Geosci 110 Evolution and Extinction, 3 cr or Anthro/Botany/Zoology 410 Evolutionary Biology, 3 cr
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. Social Science Elective and Other Electives

Students must take a 3 credit Social Science Elective course from this list of approved courses. In addition, 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.

Honors in the Major

To complete Honors in the Major, students must take 16 credits of honors in the conservation biology major. Of the 16 honors credits, at least 6 must be a senior honors thesis awarded by an appropriate department (ex. Botany, Zoology, Forest & Wildlife Ecology, etc.). Students must also maintain at least a 3.3 cumulative GPA to complete Honors in the Conservation Biology Major.

Students can select from any conservation biology courses designated as honors (H, !, or %). Note, specific sections of a course may be for honors, rather than the entire course. See L&S Honors Program for more information on these different types of honors courses.

Students may also design and complete a project in a nonhonors designated course in collaboration with the instructor. To do this, students must have previously taken at least one honors course and submit a project proposal (called a "Green Sheet") to the L&S Honors Program by the end of the eights week of class. See L&S Honors Program for more information on Green Sheet honors courses.

Some study abroad programs may be designated honors programs or students can apply for honors credit upon return. See the student services coordinator for more information.