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Conservation Biology Bachelor of Science

Apply conservation biology

Conservation biology is the application of science to conserve the earth's imperiled species and ecosystems.

The field is a relatively young one that is growing rapidly in response to the biodiversity crisis, perhaps the most critical environmental issue of our time. Conservation biologists view all of nature's diversity as important and having inherent value. This diversity spans the biological hierarchy and includes variation at the level of genes, populations, communities, ecosystems, and biomes.

A focus on biological diversity and an intrinsic valuation of nature is what distinguishes conservation biology from wildlife management (with its somewhat more utilitarian perspective and a focus on populations of birds and large mammals) and from general environmental biology (with a broad focus on environmental issues). Conservation biologists seek ways to integrate biological perspectives with social, economic, legislative and political ones to achieve conservation goals.

The courses associated with this major reflect the interdisciplinary and holistic nature of conservation biology. After obtaining a foundation in basic science communication, and general education subjects, students learn the evolutionary and ecological forces that have generated the patterns of biodiversity around us, through courses in organismal biology, evolutionary and systematic biology, population biology, ecology and ecosystem science. An introductory course in conservation biology and one in problem solving in conservation biology familiarize students with the dimensions of the current biodiversity crisis and the management tools available to mitigate for it. These, in combination with a selection of advanced courses in conservation biology, a senior synthesis and an internship or research experience in conservation biology, cover the breadth of biological, social, political, and economic aspects of the biodiversity crisis.

The program prepares students for employment in a variety of government agencies at the municipal level (for example, as land use planners), state level (such as with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation or State Heritage Programs), federal level (such as with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, or National Park Service), and occasionally at the international level (such as with the United Nations Environment Programme). Many private conservation agencies such as The Nature Conservancy preferentially hire broadly trained conservation biologists. Ecological consulting firms are an increasingly important source of employment for conservation biologists. Training in conservation biology also provides a strong basis for postgraduate education and rewarding careers in research, teaching and environmental education.

Participating Facultysun through trees

  • Jonathan Cohen; jcohen14@esf.edu
    wildlife ecology and management, population and habitat ecology, threatened and endangered species
  • Stewart Diemont; sdiemont@esf.edu
    systems ecology, ecological engineering, traditional ecological knowledge, Latin America, ecosystem restoration, sustainability analysis, natural wastewater treatment systems and re-use, less-developed countries, agroecology
  • Martin Dovciak; mdovciak@esf.edu
    Plant Ecology, Forest Ecosystems, Biodiversity, Global Change, Ecosystem Management and Restoration
  • Shannon Farrell; sfarrell@esf.edu
    Wildlife ecology, wildlife-habitat relationships, management planning for endangered and threatened species, human impacts on wildlife, ecosystem services, endangered species act policy innovations, birds, bats
  • John M. Farrell; jmfarrell@esf.edu
    Fisheries Science and Management, Aquatic Ecology, Wetlands Restoration, Invasive Species.
  • Jacqueline Frair; jfrair@esf.edu
    wildlife ecology and management, ecology of large herbivores and predators, animal movements, resource selection, population demography, quantitative methods in conservation, landscape ecology
  • James Gibbs; jpgibbs@esf.edu
    herpetology, vertebrate conservation biology, genetics and ecology in birds, reptiles and amphibians, songbirds, giant tortoise, statistics, wildlife population monitoring, galapagos islands, conservation biology, ecological monitoring, population genetics, applied demography, undergraduate conservation education
  • Thomas R. Horton; trhorton@esf.edu
    mycorrhizal plant ecology, molecular ecology, ecology, fungal communities, mycology, fire ecology
  • Robin W. Kimmerer; rkimmer@esf.edu
    plant restoration ecology, bryology, bryoecology, restoration ecology, ethnobotany, conservation biology and bryophyte ecology, traditional ecological knowledge
  • Donald J. Leopold; djleopold@esf.edu
    forest and freshwater wetland ecology, conservation, and restoration, peatland ecology and conservation, local and regional controls of species richness and rarity, dynamics of plant communities as affected by man and environment, management for unique communities and rare species, dendrology, native plants, restoration ecology, rare species conservation
  • Mark V. Lomolino; island@esf.edu
    conservation biology, wildlife, ecology, evolution and biogeography
  • Dylan Parry; dparry@esf.edu
    Biological invasion, climate change, and conservation, primarily in the context of insects in forested ecosystems.
  • Neil H. Ringler; nhringle@esf.edu
    fish ecology and behavior, foraging behavior of fishes, salmon reproduction, vertebrate anatomy, aquatic insect ecology, stream ecology and management, aquatic and fisheries restoration, aquatic entomology
  • Rebecca Rundell; rrundell@esf.edu
    evolutionary biology, conservation biology, speciation, adaptive and nonadaptive radiations, biogeography, phylogenetics, systematics, Pacific island radiations and biodiversity conservation, land snails, marine/aquatic microscopic invertebrates
  • Michael L. Schummer; mlschumm@esf.edu
    Waterfowl Ecology, Waterfowl Management, Waterfowl Conservation, Wetlands Management, Wetlands Conservation, Ornithology, Plant-Animal Associations, Conservation Biology, Wildlife Ecology, Wetlands Ecology, Wildlife-habitat relationships, ecology, climate change, human dimensions of wildlife, avian toxicology
  • Donald Stewart; djstewart@esf.edu
    ecology and systematics, lake systems ecology, aquatic ecology, fish conservation, ecology and population biology in tropical and temperate systems, fish ecology and fisheries management, ecological energetics, modeling predation and production processes, Great Lakes ecosystems, Amazonian ecosystems, ecology and systematics of neotropical freshwater fishes
  • Alexander Weir; aweir@esf.edu
    conservation mycology, fungal biodiversity and conservation, fungal-arthropod interactions, biology of parasites and symbionts, systematics and evolutionary biology of fungi, fungi and humans, biology of parasites and symbionts