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Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development ARCHIVED

Administrative Unit:Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
College/School: Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Admitting Plans:M.S.
Degrees Offered:M.S.
Minors and Certificates:Ph.D. Minor

Note: This page was replaced 8/6/13. View the revised page here.


Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development (CBSD) is an interdisciplinary program that aims to empower graduates with the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to promote effective and equitable strategies to conserve biodiversity and promote sustainable living. Students complete courses that integrate the study of conservation biology and ecology with social sciences. Through this program students will understand: (1) the impact of human activities on biodiversity, including the underlying processes that threaten biodiversity at different scales; (2) the interconnections between biodiversity conservation and human well-being, and how to identify social, economic and institutional conditions that favor sustainability; (3) innovative problem-solving strategies and how to conceptualize solutions to complex problems; (4) basic research methods and conservation research and practice.

The CBSD curriculum leads to an M.S. degree and may be selected as a minor by students in related Ph.D. programs. The curriculum requires a total of 30 credits: 9 credits of a biology unit, 9 credits in sustainable development or social science-oriented courses, and 12 credits of an individual concentration (6 of which must be considered methods/tools or design). A foreign language course related to the student's area of research or internship may substitute for one of the courses in this latter category.

A maximum of 9 credits at an undergraduate institution, in addition to prerequisites, may be counted toward the degree requirements.

Prerequisites include one course in each of the following: statistics, economics, basic biology with a lab component, genetics or evolution, general ecology, and social science or human aspect of environmental conservation.

Students must also complete a research thesis or a professional internship, followed by a substantial written report. Students may opt to enroll in a companion certificate program such as: Culture, History, and Environment (CHE), Humans and the Global Environment (CHANGE), and Business, Environment and Social Responsibility (BESR). Students with undergraduate degrees in a variety of disciplines are encouraged to apply.


Generally, all application materials must be received by January 15 for admission to the following summer session or fall semester, and by October 15 for admission to the following spring semester. Degree-program applicants who wish to be considered for university fellowships should submit all application materials by January 2.

For more information: Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Academic Programs Office, 70 Science Hall, 550 North Park Street, Madison WI 53706-1491; 608-262-7996; fax 608-262-2273; grad@nelson.wisc.edu; http://nelson.wisc.edu/graduate_degrees/cbsd/index.php.