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About the M.S. in Conservation Ecology Program

The M.S. in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development combines interdisciplinary course work with field experience and thesis research, training students to handle the unique, multidisciplinary problems associated with conservation and sustainable development. Students work with faculty to become independent thinkers, researchers and decision-makers.

The need for such a program is found in the major global problems we face today, including the rapid depletion of our natural resources and the loss of biodiversity and remnant ‘natural’ areas in the landscape. The maintenance of our quality of life, or even a decent standard of living, depends on our ability to make the right decisions on the long-term sustainability of resource use. These decisions must be made within a holistic framework, where considerations of the physical and biological properties of ecosystems are evaluated within the social and economic context of a community. This holistic framework for decision-making is a strength of UGA's Odum School of Ecology.

The objectives of the CESD program are: 1) to offer a flexible training program at the M.S. level that provides interdisciplinary skills in decision-making in the areas of conservation ecology and sustainable development; and 2) to perform research that provides hands-on applied field experience for students.

The structure of the Odum School of Ecology, with its ongoing interdisciplinary activities, provides the physical and intellectual environment needed for such a program. The Odum School of Ecology draws faculty members from 17 campus schools and departments, Cooperative Extension, the Savannah River Ecology Lab, the USDA, the USGS, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center.

Facilities of the Odum School of Ecology in Athens and off campus provide students exceptional opportunities for ecological training. Our off-campus locations include the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, the UGA Marine Institute at Sapelo Island, the UGA Wormsloe Center for Research and Education, the UGA Costa Rica campus in San Luis, among others.

The CESD program has attracted outstanding students and produced exceptionally talented ecological scientists, many of whom are now leaders in the field. Our alumni have used the CESD master’s program as a foundation to obtain positions with government agencies working at the global, national and local levels, including U.S. AID, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Park Service, as well as nongovernmental organizations such as The Nature Conservancy. Many have used the CESD M.S. program as a portal to Ph.D. or other advanced degree programs. In many cases, the M.S. thesis products of CESD alumni have provided specific services to communities in need.

Several graduates have been successful in developing collaborations with conservation and development agencies in the U.S. and abroad which have led to employment opportunities following graduation. Profiles of some of our alumni can be found at CESD Alumni.

The program consists of a minimum of 30 hours exclusive of thesis hours, including 10 hours of interdisciplinary core courses on principles of conservation and sustainable development: (1) ECOL 6080, Principles of Conservation and Sustainable Development I, 4 credits, fall only; (2) ECOL 8710, Environmental Practicum, 4 credits, fall or spring; and (3) ECOL 8400, Perspectives on Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development, 2 credits, fall only.

Students are also required to take 2 hours of intensive study with their major advisor, plus electives and thesis research. A thesis or similar written report from an approved project is required. Beyond these requirements, students are expected to meet language and computer skills requirements as determined by their committee.

Students in the CESD program can choose from three thematic tracks: Conservation Ecology, Sustainable Development, or Environmental Policy. All tracks require the same core courses, but have different recommended electives to provide focused preparation for different conservation careers. Selection of a track program and appropriate electives should be made in consultation with the advisor and must be approved by the student’s advisory committee as part of the Program of Study.

Please visit the OSE Admissions page for more information on applying to our programs or contact Katherine Adams in the Ecology Graduate Programs Office, ktswings@uga.edu.


“Given Eugene Odum's influence throughout my career, beginning during my undergraduate education in Peru, I can hardly imagine a higher honor than having his name on my diploma.”
- Hugo Collantes (M.S. Conservation Ecology, Class of ’07)


Cathy Pringle
CESD MS Program Chair
Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development Program
Odum School of Ecology
University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602-2202


Seth Wenger
Conservation Certificate Program Coordinator
Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development Program
Odum School of Ecology
University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602-2202


More information

The University of Georgia
Ecology Graduate Program Office
Dr. Katherine Adams
Room 19, Odum School of Ecology
Athens, GA 30602-2202
Phone: (706) 542-3404
Fax: (706) 542-4819
e-mail: ktswings@uga.edu

Apply to the Odum School

Application Information