• Conservation Biology banner image: ecology 460
  • Conservation Biology banner image: across departments
  • Conservation Biology banner image: limnology 316
  • Conservation Biology banner image: study abroad
  • Chile program

Conservation Biology Major

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 strong background, diversity, and specialization, 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!

 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. What else can you do with a major in Conservation Biology?  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 M.S. program in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development).

Becker Scholarship for Conservation Biology Students

Notes from the Field:

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!

Mary Dombrowski
2015 Becker Scholarship Recipient

Field Experience:  I spent a semester studying marine resource management in the Turks and Caicos Islands through the School for Field Studies.  Our classroom was the ocean and we became experts at snorkeling and SCUBA diving while learning about coral, fish, marine creatures and the complex ecosystems they make up.  We had the opportunity to swim alongside sharks and sea turtles and get a close up look at unique coral colonies.

Connection to Conservation Biology:  The Conservation Biology program here takes a multidisciplinary approach at protecting the environment.  My semester abroad put everything together and applied it to one community and the environment they rely on.  South Caicos is home to a small fishing community that depends directly on the marine resources around them for their livelihoods.  We learned how to study and determine the health of these commercially valuable species and the ecosystems that support them.  We combined this data with the needs of the local community and learned how to create successful management strategies.  

Austin Yantes
Participant on Tropical Conservation Study Abroad Program

Field Experience: I participated in the Ceiba Ecuador Tropical Conservation semester program. We traveled to every corner of the country, from the high Andes to the tropical rainforest to the Galapagos Islands. Along the way, I have had the opportunity to visit some of the most unique places on Earth - the kind of places where sea lions swim within inches of your face, or where you can see four different species of monkey from your front porch.

Connection to Conservation Biology: Unfortunately, this paradise is threatened by deforestation, oil drilling, overfishing, and more. I had learned about these issues in my Conservation Biology classes, but throughout the semester - 13 of my 16 program credits counted towards my Conservation Biology major! - I have been able to see their effects firsthand. This experiences has broadened my understanding of global threats to biodiversity and the conservation challenges faced by developing countries. I look forward to applying my new knowledge to my remaining Conservation Biology coursework on campus, and I am excited to see what my future as a conservation biologist has in store for me.

Jason Holman
Undergraduate research

Field Experience: I am working in Professor Irwin Goldman's Lab to help figure out the threshold time period required for Allium cepa (onion) to complete its vernalization (wintering) process so that it may develop a flower and therefore be able to yield viable seed. We're using a wide variety of seed ranging from Cortland, an American classic onion and a standard in organic cropping, to Rijnsburger, a variety imported from the Netherlands. Eventually we hope to be able to find some sort of correlation between the minimum time requirement for the onion to flower and to what degree that variety has been genetically altered.

Connection to Conservation Biology: Working with the Goldman Lab has greatly enhanced my understanding of cultivation in agriculture, plant development, breeding techniques, and the complexities of bulk research. I hope to apply what I've learned in the field to a career in sustainable vegetable cropping, or perhaps, even plant breeding itself with the hope of developing crops that work well in organic systems and overall are more friendly to the environment they are grown in.