Conservation Biology

Erica Hermsen and GiraffeWhat is a conservation biologist? Someone who loves to be outside looking at animals and plants, but who’s also competent in front of a computer doing GIS and statistical analyses; someone who likes to grapple with tough ecological concepts, but whose research priorities center on questions with practical, immediate application; someone who delights in nature, and is committed to understanding the rigorous science needed to save it.

Our Conservation Biology concentration gives students the research and field skills to understand the linkages between ecology and real-life conservation issues. Central to the program is the verifying capstone. You can verify your master’s level skills by conducting thesis research, producing an applied project, or by engaging in a collaborative service learning initiative. These capstones allow you to demonstrate your knowledge on how to plan, design and implement and report a substantial project. All capstones allow you to define research questions, collect conceptual and background information from related studies, identify protocols for appropriate data collection and analysis, and follow the work through to its completion.

Get your feet wet.

The Conservation Biology concentration emphasizes the importance of practical field experience. Core requirements include a mix of conceptual and practical classes, research, and practica. Graduates leave with a well-rounded education, and are able to do rigorous science and understand the social perspectives essential to forging effective conservation initiatives. By learning to link science to the conservation and management goals typical of nonprofit groups, state and federal wildlife agencies, and commercial consulting firms, Conservation Biology students are well prepared to make a real difference in the world.

Program Delivery

  • 42 credits
  • Begins in Fall
  • Classes on Thursdays and Fridays or Fridays and weekends
  • 5 semesters required to complete coursework; thesis or project work variable in duration, depending on topic

 in classStudents in the Conservation Biology concentration come from diverse backgrounds, and have equally diverse research interests and career goals. The program provides flexibility in various choices-thesis, project or collaborative service learning , practica (internship) opportunities, selection of different course combinations-that give each student’s graduate experience a distinctive flavor that best suits their objectives.

Another defining aspect of the Antioch University New England learning environment is the stimulating dynamic between students and faculty. On average, our program is made up of learners who have been away from their undergraduate studies for a few (or more) years, and who consequently bring maturity and a personal wealth of experience that contributes depth and insight to class activities. Conservation Biology students are enthusiastic, committed, and supportive of others.

Our faculty members are practicing conservationists who speak from experience, not just theory. They are active practitioners in their fields-practitioners who are also excited about training others to be effective professionals. Together, students and faculty create a synergy that makes course experiences not only challenging but transformative.

Antioch’s Conservation Biology concentration addresses this problem by training practitioners, not theoreticians.

Most conservation biologists fall into one of two categories: those whose graduate training gave them the background required to become college or university professors, and those who successfully finished their degrees only to discover that the skills needed to effectively work outside of academia had somehow fallen through the cracks of their graduate school experience.

We emphasize acquisition of field and technical skills-such as how to conduct wildlife and botanical inventories, map habitat types, and design effective monitoring schemes. More conceptual topics, ranging from the effects of habitat fragmentation on genetic diversity to the proper use of statistical analyses, are discussed using real examples that link theory and practice.

Track 1: Students who choose Track 1 register for 4 courses in both their first Fall and first Spring semesters. This track provides students with an opportunity to schedule the entire Summer and/or Spring II semesters off campus. *This is the preferred sequence for those intending to do a Master’s Thesis or Master’s Project.

Track 2: Students who choose Track 2 register for a maximum of 3 courses per semester. This Track provides students with a more evenly paced sequence of coursework throughout their program.

REQUIREMENTS: 42 CREDITS
Students may select any 3 out of 4 core courses

Core (C) – 9 credits; Concentration (T) – 6 credits; Methods: courses selected by student – 18; Internship – 6 credits; Capstone Project – 3 credits

Track 1

Track 2

Fall I (12 credits) 
Conservation Biology (T) (3)
Earth Systems and Climate Change (C) (3)
Community Ecology of the New England Landscape (C) (3)
Methods selection (3)
Fall I (9 credits) 
Conservation Biology (T) (3)
Earth Systems and Climate Change (C) (3)
Community Ecology of the New England Landscape (C) (3)
Spring I (12 credits)
Political Economy of Sustainability (C)(3)
Biostatistics (3)
Methods (3)
Methods (3)
Spring I (9 credits)
Political Economy of Sustainability (C)(3)
Biostatistics (3)
Methods (3)
Summer (3 credits)
Internship I (3)
Summer (6 credits)
Internship (3)
Methods (3)
Fall II (9 credits)
Leadership for Change (C)(3)
Methods (3)
Methods (3)
Fall II (9 credits)
Ecological Research Design (T)(3)
Leadership for Change (C)(3)
Methods (3)
Spring II (6 credits)
Capstone Project (3)
Internship II (3)
Spring II (9 credits)
Capstone Project (3)
Internship II (3)
Methods (3)

Sample Method courses include:

Building Sustainable Organizations(BSO)
Citizen Participation and Sustainable Communities
Climate Change: Resilience, Adaptation and Mitigation
Coastal Geoecology of New England (Fall 2011 field study trip)
Community & School-based Sustainable Food Systems
Conservation Psychology Theory & Application
Cuba: Sustainability and the New Food System (Fall 2012 registration; January 2013 field study trip)
Ecology and Management of Adirondack Mountains (Fall 2012 field study trip)
Ecosystems of Mount Desert Island (Spring 2012 field study trip)
Energy and Materials Sustainability
Environmental Law
Environmental Assessment Techniques
Financial Administration
Foundations of Environmental Education
Geographic Information System (GIS)
Integrated Conservation of Tropical Ecosystems: Costa Rica (Spring 2012, March field study trip)
Land Use and Community Planning
Making Sense of Place
Natural Resource Inventory
New England Flora
Non Profit Organizations & Social Entrepreneurship
Organizing for Social Change
Ornithology
Principles of Sustainability
Program Evaluation for Environmental and Conservation Educators
Proposal Writing and Project Management
Qualitative and Quantitative Research Design Techniques
Research Seminar
Soil Ecology
Soils Mapping and Interpretation
Vertebrate Ecology: Mammalogy
Wetlands Ecology
Wildlife & Forest Management

Familiarity with physical sciences such as chemistry, physics, or geology may be necessary for some career or research objectives.

Applicants to the Conservation Biology Program are evaluated on an individual basis, with no rigid set of prerequisites in terms of prior academic work. A strong background in ecology and natural history, which could be based on coursework taken as part of an undergraduate degree in biology or through practical experience gained through volunteer or informal training opportunities, is highly desirable.

Solid math skills (college-level algebra or equivalent) and demonstrated computer proficiency are essential for most work in the field of conservation biology. While some deficiencies in background may be addressed during a student’s tenure in the graduate program, applicants should generally seek to acquire these foundational skills and knowledge prior to matriculation.

Students in Conservation Biology apply their learning in diverse internships. Students who choose to do a Master’s Thesis may use up to three of the required internship credits toward developing their research plans and protocols. Other non-thesis-related internships include:

  • Loon monitoring and research with the Biodiversity Research Institute in Maine;
  • Researching Atlantic salmon restoration for the Department of Environmental Protection in Connecticut;
  • Studying rare and endangered plants at the New Hampshire Division of Forest and Lands;
  • Surveying and monitoring alpine vegetation for the Adirondack Mountain Club in New York; and
  • Working on an agroforestry and restoration project at Monteverde Institute in Costa Rica.

The following represent some of the recent internships undertaken by students in the Conservation Biology program:

  • The Nature Conservancy: Conducted ecological assessment of recently acquired lands, identify significant ecological features, rare plants, and unusual natural communities; produce report and GIS data layers documenting results
  • Antioch University New England, Environmental Studies contract: Assisted in vegetation analysis component of natural resource inventory on 4000-acre parcel in central New Hampshire
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Collected fish, substrate, and water samples to assess mercury levels in freshwater lakes in southern New Hampshire
  • Vermont Institute of Natural Science: Conducted bird surveys as part of the Forest Bird Monitoring Program in Vermont
  • Manomet Center for Conservation Science: Assisted in long-term bird-banding operations in coastal Massachusetts
  • Vermont Audubon Society: Assistant director of summer environmental education camp, responsible for teaching, supervision, and administration
  • Teton Science School: Coordinated and taught workshop for teachers dealing with water quality monitoring and stream habitat assessment protocols
  • Audubon Society of New Hampshire: Identified potential vernal pools from aerial photographs and conduct field checks; worked with landowners and volunteers to develop monitoring programs
  • Appalachian Mountain Club: Surveyed and mapped natural plant communities in a 1000-acre wetland/bog complex in Maine
  • Center for Tropical Ecology, Antioch University New England: Organized symposium, “Conservation without Borders: The Impact of Conservation on Human Communities” aimed at promoting the interdisciplinary nature of conservation through an examination of the social, political, and economic impact of conservation on human communities
  • U.S. Forest Service, Northeast Research Station, New Hampshire: Lab technician, assisted with chemical analysis of foliar and soil samples
  • Monadnock Ecological Research and Education Project, Summit Steward on Mt. Monadnock in NH: Interacted with visitors on summit explaining impact of foot falls and climate change on subalpine vegetation