Aquatic and fisheries science is the study of aquatic ecosystems to increase scientific understanding and to apply basic ecological principles to their management, thereby sustaining them for multiple uses. Aquatic ecosystems include wetlands, streams, lakes, estuaries and oceans. Aquatic science professionals study and manage valued natural systems for seafoods, drinking water, recreation, transportation and aesthetics. Aquatic systems and their organisms are sufficiently distinct from terrestrial systems that numerous professional organizations and scientific journals have been founded specifically to foster communication among aquatic science professionals.
At ESF, Wilford E. Dence conducted pioneering studies on aquatic systems in New York in the early 1900s. The present aquatic program at ESF builds on that early tradition with a wide array of aquatic courses. Our program has national and international recognition and includes a balance of applied and basic aquatic science. Students in our program thus have the opportunity to interact with faculty and graduate students involved with diverse studies on aquatic systems.
Undergraduate students considering a career in aquatic and fisheries science need a solid foundation of basic sciences (math, chemistry, physics, statistics) combined with a broad training in organismal biology, ecology and evolution. Upper-division courses focus more specifically on aquatic systems and fishes, including field experience, methods of assessment and principles for management. Students should broaden themselves with studies on the natural history and diversity of various animal and plant groups. Other recommended subjects include communications, ecosystem science, social and economic principles, ecological modeling, and hydrology. ESF's many field stations provide important opportunities for field-oriented studies, both for taking formal courses and for directed independent research. Practical experiences such as a senior synthesis or internship also provide an important complement to formal courses.
Career opportunities for students with a B.S. in aquatic and fisheries science are in the areas of fisheries science, wetland science, limnology, marine biology and oceanography. Jobs are with federal and state agencies, research institutions, private consulting firms and non-governmental organizations, both local and international. The better students will have opportunities to continue with graduate studies, which will broaden career options and lead to positions with greater responsibility and higher salary. To pursue a career in research and teaching in a university, a Ph.D. is generally required.