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Graduate Degree Programs
M.S., M.P.S. or Ph.D. in Aquatic & Fisheries Science

Study in this area provides students with advanced preparation in biological concepts of fish and aquatic sciences as they relate to resource management.

Graduate education is rapidly becoming a universal prerequisite to employment as a professional fisheries or aquatic biologist. A major strength is the diversity of cooperators including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

ESF is a specialized unit within the SUNY system focused to natural resources and the environment. Perhaps nowhere in the world is there a larger grouping of ecologists dedicated to solving environmental problems through research, teaching and service. With a total enrollment of about 1,000 undergraduates and 400 graduate students, ESF's size creates an intimate College community. The low student/faculty ratio also allows for an active advisory system that provides personal attention and assistance for students. The proximity of the adjacent Syracuse University gives students the added resources of a large, comprehensive institution of higher education, including an array of courses, computer and library facilities, and sports and health services.

ESF's field stations are unmatched, and those with an aquatics programming include the 6,000-hectare Huntington Forest and associated Adirondack Ecological Center, the Cranberry Lake Biological Station in the Adirondack Mountains and the Thousand Islands Biological Station on the St. Lawrence River. These properties form a strong foundation for much of the coursework and field research for graduate students. Undergraduates in Fish and Wildlife Science spend a summer taking classes at Cranberry Lake. Qualified undergraduates are encouraged to intern as field assistants with graduate students to gain direct experience with aquatic research.

The AFS students are offered unique opportunities working in a variety of research and management facilities on and off campus. Many of these locations offer seasonal and academic year positions for students. Significant facilities upgrades have occurred to enhance aquatic research programs.

Research themes in AFS are diverse and include parasitology, zebrafish colony management, fish growth, otolith microchemistry, population ecology and habitat relationships, predator ecology, fish behavior, endangered species and diversity studies, feeding ecology of fishes, stream ecology, Great Lakes fisheries, ecology of larval fishes and estuarine properties of Great Lakes wetlands, invasive species ecology, limnology, trophic dynamics, environmental change among many others (see participating faculty).

Careers in Aquatic & Fisheries Sciences

Graduates of the AFS program have a diverse array of career opportunities. Placement rates are high in the areas of fisheries science, wetland science, limnology, marine biology, and oceanography. Jobs are available in public and private sections at local, state, national and international locales with federal and state agencies, research institutions, private consulting firms and nongovernmental organizations. Graduate degrees 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.

Our graduates have become

  • University or College Professor
  • Government Scientists
  • Policy Leaders
  • Ecologists
  • Conservationists
  • Consultants
  • Aquatic Biologists
  • Fish Pathologists
  • Fisheries Biologists, Hatchery Managers, and Fisheries Managers
  • Limnologists
  • Ichthyologists
  • Wetlands Scientists
  • Science Teachers
  • Restoration Ecologists
  • Habitat Biologists
  • Aquaculturists
  • Biological Technicians
  • Toxicologists
  • and Marine Resources Specialists

Many who earn degrees in fisheries and aquatic biology find employment with state and federal conservation agencies, the forest industry, and environmental engineering and consulting firms. Graduates are not limited to these fields, however, because the wildlife biology curriculum emphasizes analytical/quantitative tools, management and planning concepts, and communication and teamwork skills, leading many into careers in technical and people-oriented fields, including the computer industry, medicine, teaching, and government.

A graduate degree enhances career opportunities and is often essential to those wishing to move into positions of significant responsibility for supervising management programs and conducting research projects. Graduate degrees substantially augment capabilities with computers and field biology, and provide valuable experience with problem-solving, communication and leadership. Certification by the American Fisheries Society also enhances career opportunities because many state and federal agencies, and consulting firms give hiring preference to those who are certified.

Participating Faculty