Joanna Klass pulls up a plankton net cast in Lake Mendota for Limnology 316

Nearly 20% of Conservation Biology graduates study abroad

Conservation Biology Major

Graduation Mortar Board decorated with leaves, flowers and the words "Conservation Biology"

The Conservation Biology Major 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 conservation 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 diversity and specialization of course options, as well as the breadth available through an L&S major . Our 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.  Many students get involved in the Wisconsin Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology State or Student Chapters!

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; and work with private conservation organizations.   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 (e.g., our graduate programs in Environmental Conservation, Fresh Water & Marine Sciences or Professional GIS Programs).

Student Profiles

Engagement in out-of-classroom opportunities is strongly encouraged as a Conservation Biology student. Studying abroad, participating in research, volunteering, or interning are great ways to compliment your education, prepare for professional life beyond graduation, and enhance your Wisconsin Experience. See how these Conservation Biology students have become involved!

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ConsBio student Molly Bidwell taking marine measurements at the Turks and Caicos School for Field Studies Program
Molly Bidwell,
Conservation Biology

Conservation Related Experience:
During June I studied abroad in Turks and Caicos Island with School for Field Studies where I learned about management of marine protected areas. I lived on South Caicos Island, and the main source of economy there is conch and lobster fisheries, so our research help ensure that these resources were being managed properly to ensure a future for local fishermen.

Connection to Conservation Biology:  My study abroad provided me with the hands on experience and community relation skills I believe are necessary for any conservation project to be successful. It is crucial to work with locals when considering how to conserve ecosystems and their resources, for their livelihoods depend of the productivity of those ecosystems and they tend to understand the complexities of those ecosystems best. Furthermore, hands of experience helps create a person connection to not only specific resources, but the environment in general, which I feel can greatly motivate us conservation biology students.

ConsBio Student Sam Hermanstorfer working Pachyderm Zookeeper Intern at the Brookfield, IL Zoo
Sam Hermanstorfer
Conservation Biology and Environmental Science

Conservation Related Experience: I am a Pachyderm Zookeeper Intern at Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, Illinois. My responsibilities align with the full-time zookeepers- feeding, bathing, medicating, cleaning, providing enrichment, and educating guests about the animals I work with and the environment in general. I conduct research through my internship regarding ethograms of the animals I am working with and comparing their behaviors to the behaviors of the same species in the wild. Additionally, I work in the Carnivore Coexistence Lab with Dr. Adrian Treves of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. I analyze the behavior of species before and after the reintroduction of lions into Akagera National Park in Rwanda. I am also a member of the Beta Beta Beta Biology National Honor Society. The goal of the Society is to improve the understanding and the appreciation of the biological sciences through volunteering and fundraising.

Connection to Conservation Biology: Working with the Brookfield and Henry Vilas Zoos has opened my eyes to the true impact I can have on the natural world, and it has compelled me to educate others on what they can do to help as well. While the conservation of the natural world is an international issue, some problems can be localized and simplified. Too much trash in the oceans can cause damage to marine life, so you can reduce your personal waste by recycling and composting. Global Warming is melting the ice caps and causing polar bears to lose their native habitats, but riding your bike to work instead of driving your car can reduce carbon emissions. I look forward to educating many more people about what contributions they can make to help conserve ecosystems around the world.