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Fisheries & Aquatic Ecology

Bachelor of Science

With access to streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and fish hatcheries just minutes from campus, Western Colorado University is the perfect place to study aquatic ecosystems and the importance of proper natural resource management. You’ll learn about fisheries management, conservation of aquatic biodiversity, ecological processes in aquatic ecosystems, and more. You’ll have opportunities to engage in biological research focused on maintaining healthy populations of fish and aquatic invertebrates, and conserving aquatic ecosystems. This program emphasizes practical, hands-on experience to prepare you for a career in the management of populations of native fish, sport fish, aquatic macroinvertebrates and/or the ecosystems in which they live.

Program Overview

Find your flow studying aquatic ecology and fisheries management.

The Fisheries and Aquatic Ecology emphasis establishes a strong foundation of biological principles, which you’ll integrate into the specialized study of aquatic ecosystems and fisheries management. Western’s location in the heart of the Rockies provides an exceptional “outdoor laboratory” space to help you solidify your classroom knowledge through hands-on learning opportunities in the field. In addition, this emphasis will qualify you for certification as an Associate Fisheries Professional as recognized by the American Fisheries Society, strengthening your resume and helping you stand out to potential employers or graduate programs.

After graduation, you’ll be prepared to continue your education in graduate programs, gain entry-level positions with tribal, state, or federal natural resource agencies, or attain employment with nonprofit conservation organizations or environmental consulting firms.

Outdoor classroom environments abound

Gunnison is home to four major rivers and reservoirs in addition to dozens of creeks, streams, lakes, and ponds, making it an optimal place to gain firsthand experience in environmental aquatic ecology and fisheries management practices.

Program Requirements

At Western, course rotations are crafted to encompass a variety of subject fields for a comprehensive education and versatile degree. For required courses and degree plans, visit the official University Catalog. Below is a general overview of courses at Western Colorado University related to this area of study.

Fisheries and Aquatic Ecology Emphasis 

The Fisheries and .Aquatic Ecology Emphasis requires a minimum of 69 credits, including the 26-credit Biology Nucleus, 22 additional credits in Biology, and 21 credits of supporting courses: 

Required Biology courses:
BIOL 302Ecology Laboratory and Recitation2
BIOL 467Biology of Fishes3
BIOL 468Ichthyology Laboratory1
BIOL 470Fisheries Management (with laboratory)4
BIOL 476Aquatic Ecology (with laboratory)4
One of the following organismal courses:3-4
BIOL 320
Ornithology (with laboratory and recitation)
BIOL 322
Mammalogy (with laboratory and recitation)
BIOL 325
Invertebrate Zoology with Laboratory
BIOL 327
Field Entomology (with laboratory)
BIOL 352
Botany (with laboratory)
BIOL 353
Rocky Mountain Flora
BIOL 355
Spring Fungi Rocky Mountains (with laboratory)
One of the following:3
BIOL 362
BIOL 440
Conservation Biology
At least two credits of Capstone Experience courses:2
BIOL 495
Senior Seminar (may be repeated)
BIOL 496
Senior Thesis
Minimum supporting courses:
CHEM 231Introduction to Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry3
CHEM 234Introductory Organic and Biochemistry Laboratory1
MATH 151Calculus I (GT-MA1)4
MATH 213Probability and Statistics3
PHYS 140Introductory Physics (with laboratory) (GT-SC1)4
At least three credits of the following communications and writing courses:3
COM 274
Public Relations Communication
COM 346
Multimedia Communication
COM 371
Small Group and Conflict Management
COM 375
Social Media Skills
ENG 302
Technical Writing
ENVS 200
Writing the Environment
At least three credits of the following human dimensions courses:3
BIOL 430Wildlife Ecology and Management (with laboratory)4
ECON 215
Environmental Economics
ENVS 210
Introduction to Climate Policy
ENVS 260
Introduction to Public Lands Management
ENVS 320
Quantitative Skills for Climate Action Planning
ENVS 350
U.S. and Western Environmental Politics
ENVS 370
Water Policy and Politics
ENVS 373
The Water Planet
ENVS 376
The Colorado Water Workshop
ENVS 380
Advanced Climate Policy
ENVS 440
Climate Action Planning
Total Credits47-48

Degree Plan 

Plan of Study Grid
Year One
BIOL 151 Diversity and Patterns of Life (with laboratory) 4
CHEM 111 General Chemistry I (GT-SC2) 3
CHEM 112 General Chemistry Laboratory I (GT-SC1) 1
ENG 102 Academic Writing (GT-CO1) 3
HWTR 100 First Year Seminar 1
MATH 140 College Algebra (GT-MA1) 3
BIOL 150 Biological Principles (with laboratory) (GT-SC1) 4
CHEM 113 General Chemistry II 3
CHEM 114 General Chemistry Laboratory II 1
MATH 141 Precalculus (GT-MA1) 4
Gen Ed General Education (Area III) 3
Year Two
BIOL 301 General Ecology 3
BIOL 302 Ecology Laboratory and Recitation 2
COM 202 Academic Writing and Inquiry (GT-CO2) 3
MATH 213 Probability and Statistics 3
Gen Ed General Education (Area I) 3
BIOL 310 Cell Biology 3
CHEM 231 Introduction to Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry 3
CHEM 234 Introductory Organic and Biochemistry Laboratory 1
MATH 151 Calculus I (GT-MA1) 4
Gen Ed General Education (Area I) 3
Year Three
BIOL 312 Genetics (with recitation) 4
BIOL elective BIOL upper division elective
Elective Communications/writing elective
Gen Ed General Education (Area I) 3
PHYS 140 Introductory Physics (with laboratory) (GT-SC1) 4
BIOL 467 Biology of Fishes 3
BIOL 468 Ichthyology Laboratory 1
Elective Human Dimensions elective course 3
Gen Ed General Education (Area III) 3
Gen Ed/Elective Other GE or Upper Division Biology Electives 6
Year Four
BIOL 470 Fisheries Management (with laboratory) 4
BIOL 476 Aquatic Ecology (with laboratory) 4
BIOL 495
or BIOL 496
Senior Seminar
or Senior Thesis
Elective Upper division elective course 3
Gen Ed General Education (Area III) 3
BIOL 440 Conservation Biology 3
BIOL 495
or BIOL 496
Senior Seminar
or Senior Thesis
Elective Remaining elective courses 3-10
 Total Credits107-114


Career preparation starts your first year at Western and is the primary focus of every degree.

Visit Career Services in Library 120 or online to discover your interests, define your goals, and land the career of your dreams.

The data below is automatically collected by Burning Glass Technologies, a firm that sources job market data and provides analytics. The statistics illustrate general trends in U.S. careers, but do not precisely represent every job and salary.


Alumni Association Future Alumni Scholarship

The Alumni Association Scholarship is a one-time scholarship of $1,000 and is applicable for the student’s junior or senior year at Western.

Any child or grandchild of an alumni is eligible to receive the Future Alumni Scholarship.

  • This is a one-time non-renewable scholarship of $1,000.
  • Only one Future Alumni Scholarship will be awarded per academic year.
  • GPA must be 3.2 or above (college).

Due date has been extended to April 1 for 2022. An Alumni selection committee, appointed by the Alumni Advisory Council, will review applicants and select awardee by June 1.


Alumni Legacy Scholarship

The Alumni Legacy Scholarship is a one-time non-renewable scholarship and is only applicable for the student’s first year at Western (incoming freshman or new transfer students are eligible).

Do you have a son or daughter looking at college? Have they considered attending Western? As an alumni, your son, daughter and/or grandchildren are eligible for certain benefits distributed through this scholarship, as follows:

  • This is a one-time scholarship of $1,000.
  • Nominee must be an incoming first-year student or new transfer.
  • The cost of orientation is reduced by half (a $45 value).
  • The admission application fee is waived (a $30 value).
  • GPA must be 2.5 or above (high school or college of transfer).

The applicant must fill out the application form found below. Application forms are accepted year-round. If the applicant meets the GPA guidelines, the scholarship will be awarded.


Mountaineer Alumni Recommendation Scholarship

The Mountaineer Alumni Recommendation Scholarship is a one-time non-renewable scholarship and is only applicable for the student’s first year at Western. This scholarship is not available to midyear transfers or students beginning in the spring semester.

Are you an alumni or employee of Western and know a prospective (or incoming) student who would be a great fit at Western? A recommendation from alumni and employees can support any new student and provide them a $500 scholarship their first year. (Western employees may not recommend a spouse or dependent receiving tuition benefits).

  • Any Western alumni/employee may nominate only one student per academic year to receive the $500 scholarship (distributed $250 per semester).
  • The scholarship is good for the first year only and is non-renewable.
  • The recommended student must be a full-time undergraduate student, attending Western for the first time.

The applicant must fill out the application form found here. The nominating alumni/employee must fill out the application form and submit the required documents by June 1. The recommended student must meet university admissions acceptance standards and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The Presidential Promise is guaranteed to students who have received a scholarship through the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) and/or GearUp—and are eligible for a Pell Grant.

For students who meet these criteria, Western will cover the cost of tuition and fees through the combination of federal, state and institutional aid. For more information on the Presidential Promise, visit our scholarships page.


The Western Presidential Honors Scholarships, established by the Jack and Marilyn MacAllister Foundation shall be an elite class of scholarships awarded to Western’s highest achieving and most deserving students, celebrating the ideals of academic excellence and service to the campus and community. Recipients of the Scholarships will be members of the Western Colorado University Honors Program.

There are eight Presidential Honors Scholarships of $2500 each. Each year two new Presidential Honors Scholarships will be awarded to two incoming first-year students.

Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) or Central Plains (CP) tuition represents a substantial savings relative to normal, out-of-state tuition. Students eligible for the WUE or CP program will be charged 150% of Western’s total in-state tuition. For 2018-19, total in-state tuition was $8,934. WUE/CP tuition was $13,401. The WUE/CP discount is valued at $4,695.

For more information about the WUE and CP geography-based programs, visit Western’s Tuition Discount Programs Page.

Immediately upon acceptance at Western, every student is considered for a merit scholarship worth between $2,500-$4,500 per year for in-state students and $8,000-$10,000 for out-of-state students. The amount is based on the student’s GPA and ACT/SAT scores. Visit our Net Price Calculator at western.edu/cost to determine whether you qualify for a merit scholarship.

For more information about merit scholarships at Western, visit our scholarships page.

Get Involved

Opportunities to take your knowledge beyond Western.

Take your education outside of the classroom—build your professional network, gain practical experience, and jump-start your career.

  • Research Assistantships: Many professors conduct externally-funded research and are always looking for student help.
  • Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory: Western biologists and students collaborate with the world-renowned research station seven miles north of Crested Butte.
  • Thornton Biology Research Program: Students can receive funding and work with faculty on original research.
  • Tri Beta and The Wildlife Society: A student-run club that helps provide internships such as lynx tracking and watching wildlife.
  • American Fisheries Society: A student-run club that provides an all-welcoming community of fisheries/aquatic ecologists, volunteer opportunities with local natural resource managers, and internship opportunities for members.

Combining theory with practice

Through this emphasis, you’ll combine fieldwork and research with academic literature and theory, preparing you for roles in a variety of professional conservation positions.

Department Chairperson

Anne W. Ryter, Ph.D.

Professor of Chemistry

Administrative Assistant

Lori Clement

NES Administrative Assistant

Contact Information



Campus Location

Western Colorado University
Hurst Hall 128
1 Western Way
Gunnison, CO 81231

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