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Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development

Administrative Unit:Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
College/School: Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Admitting Plans:M.S.
Degrees Offered:M.S.
Minors and Certificates:Ph.D. Minor


This interdisciplinary professional master’s program in environmental conservation aims to empower graduates with the knowledge, experience, and practical training necessary to take on professional leadership positions that promote effective and equitable strategies to global challenges in conservation and sustainability. Students complete courses that integrate the study of conservation biology and ecology with social sciences and professional development tools courses. Through this program students will understand: (1) foundational and state-of-the-art knowledge in conservation science, including the dynamic environments and processes that contribute to biodiversity and ecosystem services; (2) the interconnections between biodiversity conservation and human well-being, and the social, economic and institutional conditions that favor sustainability; (3) innovative problem-solving and planning strategies to complex conservation challenges; (4) diverse practical tools for promoting effective conservation research, practice and organizational outcomes.

The environmental conservation curriculum leads to an M.S. degree in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development. The curriculum requires a total of 32 credits over 15 months, with the first seven months on campus and the remaining eight months through distance learning. The curriculum consists of 6 or 9 credits of a biology or ecology unit, 3 or 6 credits in social systems and sustainability courses, 3 credits in conservation planning, 3 credits in environmental policy, 10 credits in professional development and conservation tools, and 4 credits of independent practice.

No prerequisites are required for entry into the program beyond an accredited bachelor’s degree. GRE scores are not required but will be considered if applicants wish to submit them. Students must also complete a professional leadership experience (independent practice) of at least eight weeks, followed by a substantial written report or deliverable for their host organization, and a presentation to Nelson Institute colleagues.


Generally, all application materials must be received by December 1 for admission to the program, which begins the following June.

For more information: Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Professional Programs Office, 84 Science Hall, 550 North Park Street, Madison WI 53706-1491; 608-890-2600; fax 608-262-2273; grad@nelson.wisc.edu; nelson.wisc.edu/graduate/environmental-conservation/index.php.

This page was revised 8/6/13.