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Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation

Program Options (M.S./PhD.) :: M.S. Professional Degree :: Contact:: How to Apply

Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation is a major branch of applied ecology and encompasses all areas of scientific endeavor relating to management of these resources. The prime impetus for our graduate program in wildlife and fisheries conservation is the need for an adequate science base and appropriate experience for decision-making. We conduct basic and applied research at the organismal, population, community, and ecosystem levels, and provide for specific professional training in several important concentration areas. A major portion of our research focuses on relationships between animal species and their supporting aquatic and terrestrial environments. Basic research priorities are guided by the specialization of individual faculty members, whereas applied research is directed toward satisfying the scientific needs of public agencies for their regulatory and management responsibilities. Our professional programs provide extensive academic and on-the-job training in the areas of natural resources conservation, data analysis, and education; these are areas of particular faculty expertise and ones we believe serve important roles in wildlife and fisheries management and conservation efforts

For more information, read the Graduate Handbook

Program Options

The Department offers both M.S. and Ph.D. programs in Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation. Doctoral degrees are awarded for research; Master's degrees may have either a research or professional emphasis. Thus, our Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation program provides a variety of training options for students looking toward a career in conservation and management.

M.S. or Ph.D Research Programs

Program faculty have expertise in vertebrate population ecology; endangered, threatened, and overabundant species; wetland and forest ecology; animal behavior and physiology; geographic information systems and remote sensing; aquatic toxicology; population dynamics and demographic modeling; and landscape and ecosystems ecology. A major strength of our program is the unique convergence of University, federal, and state campus, unmatched in the Northeast. A series of cooperative agreements, memoranda of research understanding and sole-source vendor relationships with state and federal agencies provide a strong base of research funding. These agreements also provide important teaching and research relationships between our program and governmental natural resource agencies.Wildlife research focuses on wetlands, wildlife biodiversity, animal habitat associations, systems ecology, remote sensing, human-wildlife conflicts, forest-wildlife relationships, and international conservation. Fisheries research focuses on marine, estuarine, and inland resources and specifically on population dynamics, relationship of ecosystem structure and production, the effect of organic and inorganic contamination on aquatic ecosystem function, and anadromous fish behavior, ecology and physiology. Human dimensions research focuses on sociocultural values of fish and wildlife resources, economic resource evaluation, application of administrative and policy sciences to issues of fish and wildlife allocation and management, and analytical and assessment techniques in research.There are approximately 70 graduate students in the Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation Research Program. Through their research projects, graduate students often employ or provide volunteer opportunities for interested undergraduates (about 150 in the Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation major). Graduate students are encouraged to participate in projects and activities of their colleagues to broaden their experience and to provide and receive ideas and suggestions for improvements.

Resources & Facilities

Two University forests (totaling 2,000 acres), the 800-acre Swift River Wildlife Management Area of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, and the 81,000-acre Quabbin Reservation of the Metropolitan District Commission offer unique field study areas close to campus. The University of Massachusetts also maintains the Nantucket Field Station and the Marine Station at Gloucester. The Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center in Turners Falls offers excellent, modern facilities for both lab and field study of migratory fish behavior, ecology and physiology. Cooperation with the National Marine Fisheries Service allows graduate students to participate in research cruises in the Northwest Atlantic , as well as use facilities at the NMFS Woods Hole Laboratory. As members of the Five College Coastal and Marine Sciences Program, students have access to research laboratories at Woods Hole and Waquoit Bay on Cape Cod. Further, program staff conduct research in a variety of sites outside Massachusetts, including New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, Alaska, Canada, and overseas.

Objective of the M.S. or Ph.D Research Programs

Our objective is to prepare professional biologists at the M.S. level for employment , usually in public natural resources agencies, non-governmental natural resources and conservation organizations, or private consulting firms. Ph.D. candidates are trained to serve as independent researchers at public and private agencies and for academic positions. Despite years of tight job markets, nearly 100% of our M.S. and Ph.D. graduates are employed in natural resources positions.

Financial Assistance for research degree students

Financial assistance is provided to virtually all of our research graduate students through teaching or research assistantships, University fellowships, or hourly wages. Tuition is waived during semesters in which at least a one-quarter-time assistantship or fellowship is awarded, but the student is responsible for most fees. Research assistantships are available through faculty members who have grant-supported research. University fellowships are awarded by the Graduate School in open competition for those (including foreign applicants) who are endorsed by the Department.

M.S. Professional Degree Program

Some students may choose to complete a professional Master's degree with a concentration in one of several areas; currently, these include Wetlands Conservation, and Watershed Science and Management, Spatial Data Analysis. These non-thesis options require 36 academic credits (of which > 12 must be 600-800 series courses), including a 6-credit internship with a professional agency or organization. Two years are required for the completion of most options. There are three areas of concentration:

Conservation Biology and Planning

This program is designed for students who want professional training in the multi disciplinary field of Conservation Biology. The primary focus of the program is on the interface between socio-political and biophysical drivers of threats to conservation of biodiversity. Students will gain a broad overview of contemporary issues in conservation of species and natural communities and to the tools and techniques available to address these issues. The academic requirements of this concentration in combination with an internship experience provide students the necessary training for employment with state, federal, NGO and private consulting firm programs involved in conservation planning and
monitoring of plan success.

Wetlands Conservation:

This program focuses on professional training in wetlands ecology and conservation, and in public policy and program administration. Students will gain an understanding of wetlands, hydrology, soils, plants, and wildlife; techniques for wetland field assessments; public policy relating to state and federal wetlands regulatory programs; and public administration and analyses. The academic requirements of this concentration, in combination with an internship experience, provide students with the necessary training for employment with state, federal, and NGO wetlands programs, and private consulting firms. (Concentration Advisor: Dr. Griffin)

More information (PDF) >>

Spatial Data Analysis:

This program trains students to use new technologies for collecting, storing, and analyzing spatially tagged data on natural resources, particularly wildlife and fisheries resources; these include digital remote sensing, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), radiotelemetry, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Students also learn statistical tools for analyzing spatial data and describing animal habitat-relationships. Students take core courses in basic techniques of spatial analysis, and then choose among others for enriching their background in biology, statistics, or modeling. (Concentration Advisor: Dr. Finn)

More information (PDF) >>

Watershed Science and Management:

Students in this program will develop a strong understanding of a watershed and its relationship to natural resources and economic issues. Students will also gain insights into how the various components of land cover, hydrology, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, socioeconomic processes, pollutant transfer, institutions, scientific concepts, assessment methods, analytical tools, watershed policies and practices, and techniques to address problems facing watershed communities. An internship with federal, state, or local watershed programs along with the academic requirements will provide necessary training for employment with private, voluntary, NGOs, and government agencies involved in watershed programs. (Concentration Advisor: Dr. Timothy O. Randhir)

More information (PDF) >>

Resources for professional degree students

Aside from coursework available in our department and across campus, students also should take advantage of the work other professional program students and research program students are conducting, and familiarize themselves with a variety of natural resources topic areas. Most importantly, there are a wide variety of organizations that students and their faculty sponsor may arrange internships with, including: Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, U.S.G.S.Biological Resources Division, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, N.O.A.A. National Marine Fisheries Service, The Nature Conservancy, the Massachusetts Audubon Society, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund, Manomet Bird Observatory, and others.

Opportunities for professional degree students

Our objective is to prepare professionals at the M.S. level for employment, usually in public natural resources agencies, non-governmental resource and conservation organizations, or private consulting firms. We expect that many internships will lead directly to long-term employment with the internship agency.

Financial assistance for professional degree students

Funding opportunities are more limited for students in the Professional Master's Program. Some teaching assistantships and University fellowships may be available, or internship institutions may be able to provide some assistance. Tuition is waived during semesters in which at least a one-quarter-time assistantship or fellowship is awarded (or the equivalent from an internship employer), but the student is responsible for most fees. University fellowships are awarded by the Graduate School in open competition for those (including foreign applicants) who are endorsed by the Department.

Contact an Advisor

Dr. Kevin McGarigal
Program Director

Room: 304 Holdsworth Hall
Phone: 413-577-0655
Email: mcgarigalk "at" (replace "at" with "@")

You can contact this advisor by using the NRC contact form.

Updated: August 26, 2010