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The world needs a new kind of scientist: one whose ability to perform research with immediate relevance for solving problems is matched by their skills in collaborating with affected communities. These researchers produce accessible, socially just, and scientifically relevant results for utilization by both policymakers and the public while also striving for inclusivity within the scientific community. Western Colorado University’s M.S. in Ecology program provides contemporary scientific training to address pressing questions in the ecology, conservation, and management of the earth’s biota, landscapes, and ecosystems.

Program Overview

Immerse yourself in the natural and social ecosystems of the Gunnison Valley.

As a student in the M.S. in Ecology program, you’ll have a variety of opportunities that are unique to Western. Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the program offers unparalleled access to public lands—including over 80 percent of the land surrounding Western’s picturesque campus. Students in the program conduct research in collaboration with local wildlife and land management agencies, ranchers, and researchers from the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory as well as from around the world.

You will also be provided the connections, knowledge and skills necessary to address critical information gaps at the local, regional and global levels, across a range of ecological systems vulnerable to human impacts including climate change.

Abundant research opportunities

Western’s M.S. in Ecology students have the unique opportunity to explore numerous public and private lands from the sagebrush and lush riparian “lowlands” to deep forests and rocky alpine crags. The land that surrounds campus, including six wilderness areas, is a vast and wild laboratory.

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.

Admissions Criteria

  • Admissions packages will include: academic transcripts; a resume outlining related research, leadership, and volunteer experience; a statement of purpose describing the student’s intellectual and professional interests in ecology; and three letters of recommendation from professors or supervisors in related fields.
  • Applicants are expected to have been in contact with a faculty advisor prior to submission of application.

Program Prerequisites:

  • BA or BS degree in biology or related field with college courses in Statistics and upper-level Ecology with minimum grade of B, completed prior to the student’s first fall in the program.

Program goals include:

  • Improving student understanding of biology, particularly concepts in ecology, evolution, conservation, wildlife, and/or fisheries.
  • Developing students’ capacities for basic and applied research in ecology, including acquiring information, developing methods, conducting sampling and data analysis, demonstrating scientific communication, and advancing broader impacts.
  • Advancing the role of science in society, through training ecologists prepared to elevate the ability of agencies, organizations, and communities to address ecological problems.
  • Enhancing opportunities for careers and advanced research in ecology.

All Master of Science in Ecology emphases require the Core Ecology MS Courses.

Core Ecology MS Courses
BIOL 606Ecological Research Methods3
BIOL 613Advanced Ecological Analysis3
BIOL 690Ecology MS Proposal Development3
BIOL 695Ecology/ Conservation Thesis Research3-9
or BIOL 696 Fisheries/ Wildlife Thesis Research
Total Credits12-18

Ecology and Conservation Emphasis (beyond required Core courses)

15-21 credits of the following electives to be chosen in consultation with thesis committee:15-21
BIOL 620
Ornithology
BIOL 622
Mammalogy
BIOL 627
Field Entomology
BIOL 630
Wildlife Ecology and Management
BIOL 631
Wildlife Techniques Workshop
BIOL 640
Conservation Biology
BIOL 652
Botany
BIOL 653
Rocky Mountain Flora
BIOL 662
Evolution
BIOL 667
Fisheries Biology and Management
BIOL 676
AQUATIC ECOLOGY W/LAB
BIOL 681
Forest Ecology
BIOL 692
Independent Study
BIOL 697
Special Topics in Ecology
ENVS 608
Environmental Politics and Policy
ENVS 611
Integrative Skill in Environmental Management
ENVS 615
Science of Climate Mitigation and Adaptation
ENVS 618
Public Lands Management
ENVS 623
Studies in Environmental Management
ENVS 625
Studies in Integrative and Public Land Management
Total Credits15-21

Conferral of the MS degree requires a total of 33 credits of 600-level coursework, each with a grade of a B- or above, and the completion and acceptance of an MS thesis.

Fisheries and Wildlife Management Emphasis (beyond required Core courses)

15-21 credits of the following electives to be chosen in consultation with thesis committee:15-21
BIOL 620
Ornithology
BIOL 622
Mammalogy
BIOL 627
Field Entomology
BIOL 630
Wildlife Ecology and Management
BIOL 631
Wildlife Techniques Workshop
BIOL 640
Conservation Biology
BIOL 652
Botany
BIOL 653
Rocky Mountain Flora
BIOL 662
Evolution
BIOL 667
Fisheries Biology and Management
BIOL 676
AQUATIC ECOLOGY W/LAB
BIOL 681
Forest Ecology
BIOL 692
Independent Study
BIOL 697
Special Topics in Ecology
ENVS 608
Environmental Politics and Policy
ENVS 611
Integrative Skill in Environmental Management
ENVS 615
Science of Climate Mitigation and Adaptation
ENVS 618
Public Lands Management
ENVS 623
Studies in Environmental Management
ENVS 625
Studies in Integrative and Public Land Management
Total Credits15-21

Conferral of the MS degree requires a total of 33 credits of 600-level coursework, each with a grade of a B- or above, and the completion and acceptance of an MS thesis.

Spotlight

M.S. in Ecology

Jonathan Coop, Ph.D.

Faculty

“We can produce high-quality research and publish papers in scientific journals with our students. We’re out on the cutting edge of our field learning the things we don’t know yet."

M.S. in Ecology

Jessica Young, Ph.D.

Faculty

“I cannot think of a better place in the world to contribute to the field of applied ecology. Western students engage in meaningful research that improves our understanding of critically important issues in conservation biology and wildlife management.”

Careers

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.

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Additional Resources

Tuition & Fees

M.S. in Ecology Tuition & Fees Minimum Total Cost $25,754.19 (minimum 33 credits @ $780.43/credit) Credits Tuition/credit Fees/credit* Total Tuition & Fees Year 1 Fall 9+ $730.03 $50.40 $7,023 …

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Prerequisites & Application

Prerequisites B.A. or B.S. degree in biology or related field with college courses in Statistics and upper-level Ecology with minimum grade of B, completed prior to the student’s first fall in the …

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MS in Ecology Fellowships, Grants and Scholarships

MS in Ecology Fellowships, Grants and Scholarships Eligibility, application requirements and deadlines vary widely across opportunities. Please make sure you read each description carefully. Internal …

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M.S. in Ecology Students

Learn more about our current M.S. in Ecology students.

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ENVS Network

The ENVS Network documents people, organizations, and projects involved with the School of ENVS. Each year, Master in Environment Management students complete a 600 hour project, connecting people and organizations worldwide.

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Center for Mountain Transitions

Empowering students to advance just and sustainable mountain communities, from the Rockies to the world.

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Center for Public Lands

The Center is a hub for cross-boundary land management work and study.

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Center for Cold-Climate Food Security

The School of ENVS seeks funding for the Center for Cold-Climate Food Security to amplify experiential educational opportunities around high-alpine and cold-climate food production, while addressing hunger in the Gunnison Valley.

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Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity, Internationalization and Justice (DEIIJ) Philosophy and Practice

Our commitment to removing systemic barriers to inclusion within the ecological community

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Interim Dean

Melanie Armstrong, Ph.D.

Interim Dean of Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability, Associate Professor of Environment & Sustainability, Center for Public Lands Director

Contact Information

970.943.2248

ses@western.edu

Campus Location

1 Western Way
Gunnison, CO 81230

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