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About the M.S. in Conservation Ecology Program

The M.S. in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development offers students an opportunity to combine interdisciplinary course work in conservation ecology and sustainable development with field experience and thesis research. The program is intended to provide the training necessary to handle the unique, multidisciplinary problems in the area of conservation and sustainable development and to teach students to function independently as both researchers and decision-makers to address environmental issues. It is clear that among the major global problems we face today are 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 the maintenance of a decent standard of living, depends on our ability to make the correct 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 this program are: 1) to develop a flexible training program at the M.S. level which provides interdisciplinary skills in decision-making in the areas of conservation ecology and sustainable development; and 2) to perform research which provides hands-on applied field experience for students.

The Odum School of Ecology provides one of the best places in the country to offer this program. The existing structure of the Ecology program with its ongoing interdisciplinary activities offers the physical and intellectual environment necessary to create a strong program. The Odum School of Ecology has members from 17 campus schools and departments, Cooperative Extensions, Savannah River Ecology Lab, USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency, The Joseph Jones Center and the Wormsloe Center for Research and Education.

The 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 Masters Program as a foundation to obtain positions with international organizations (e.g. U.S. AID); U.S. federal agencies (e.g. Environmental Protection Agency, USDA Forest Service); and nongovernmental organizations (e.g. The Nature Conservancy). Many have used the CESD M.S. program as a portal to enter Ph.D. programs (or in some cases law school) either at The University of Georgia or at another institution. 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. Please click the following link to look at the profiles of selected alumni: http://www.rivercenter.uga.edu/education/mscesd_alumni.htm.

Facilities of the Odum School of Ecology in Athens and at off-campus facilities provide students exceptional opportunities for ecological training. Our off-campus locations include the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, the University of Georgia Marine Institute at Sapelo Island, the UGA Costa Rica campus, and other locations.

The program consists of a minimum of 30 hours exclusive of thesis hours: 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: (1) Conservation Ecology, (2) Sustainable Development, or (3) 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 by contacting Katherine Adams in the Ecology Graduate Programs Office.


“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, Program Chair, CESD MS Program Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development (CESD) Odum School of Ecology University of Georgia Athens, GA 30602-2202 cpringle@uga.edu


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

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

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