Conservation Ecology

Mankind is rapidly reshaping our planet. As a result, the need for well-trained conservation ecologists has never been higher. Students should choose the Conservation Ecology area of emphasis if they are interested in learning about the causes, consequences, and solutions to modern ecological challenges and how to apply their training to understand and solve these problems. 


Conservation ecology is the branch of ecology and evolutionary biology that deals with the preservation and management of biodiversity and natural resources. It is a discipline that is emerging rapidly as a result of the accelerating deterioration of natural systems and the worldwide epidemic of species extinctions. Its goal is to find ways to conserve species, habitats, landscapes, and ecosystems as quickly, as efficiently, and as economically as possible. The theoretical base of conservation ecology is synthetic, based not only on principles of ecology but on those of genetics, systematics, population biology, and other disciplines.

The Conservation Ecology AOE has a primarily biological emphasis; students should have or acquire a broad background in ecology, population biology, evolution, and systematics. At the same time, this AOE can be regarded as having an applied ecology emphasis; students should acquire some background in environmental policy and conduct thesis or dissertation research relevant to solving conservation ecology problems.

Curriculum for Masters and PhD Programs

Conservation Ecology is broad and interdisciplinary. Practicing conservation ecologists will need some knowledge in a wide variety of disciplines, including but not limited to taxonomic areas, ecology, biogeography, evolution, economics, law, and environmental policy. It is unrealistic for graduate students to take courses in each and every discipline that will be required in her/his future work. We expect students and their course advisory committees to think seriously about the student’s proposed research, projected career path, and the availability of courses on campus when devising a program of study. Conservation Ecology faculty believe that course advisory committees need flexibility in helping each student design her/his course program; the faculty emphasize that with flexibility comes responsibility both to the student and to the spirit of the Conservation Ecology discipline.

AOE Requirements

1. Students must complete the standard Graduate Group in Ecology core courses and satisfy any entrance deficiencies.

2. Students must complete the single graduate core course in conservation biology, ECL 208.

3. Two members of a doctoral student’s oral examination committee must be active members of the Conservation Ecology area of emphasis; one is required for an MS examination.

Suggested Courses

Students should take other topical courses that support their proposed thesis research (MS plan I) or proposed examination topics (MS plan II and PhD).

All conservation ecology students are encouraged but not required to have basic knowledge in each of the areas below, even if these areas will not comprise examination topics. Suggested courses are listed for each of these topics.

Population dynamics, examples: ESP 121, WFC 122, 222

Population genetics, examples: ECL 207, EVE 102

Biogeography, example: EVE 147

Conservation policy, examples: ARE 147,175; ESP 161, 164, 171, 172, 173, ECL 211

Taxonomically-oriented courses


Brian Todd, Chair; Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology, 530-752-1140

Peter Moyle, Adviser; Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, 530-752-6355

Eliska Rejmankova, Adviser; Environmental Science & Policy, 530-752-5433

Arthur M. Shapiro, Adviser; Evolution and Ecology, 530-752-2176