Undergraduate Study - Overview
The Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology is committed to providing a program of high-quality instruction and personal attention to its students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. At the undergraduate level we offer two majors, one in Forest Science and one in Wildlife Ecology. Both majors are offered through the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences’ Bachelor’s of Science degree.
Undergraduate education provides the broad, science-based knowledge necessary for a student to assume a professional position in forest and/or wildlife resource management and conservation, or to prepare for graduate studies. With a solid grounding in quantitative methods, the undergraduate program produces decision-makers with strong analytical skills.
Does Forest Science Fit Your Interest?
Are you interested in working outdoors in a natural setting?
Are you seeking a career that combines ecology, the environment, and science-based decision making?
Do you enjoy working with people?
Does Wildlife Ecology Fit your Interest?
Do you feel a strong sense of responsibility for our wildlife resources?
Do you like helping others understand and appreciate wildlife?
Do some of your personal interests deal with wildlife-related recreation?
Forest Science Major
The profession of forestry has often been described as a blend of “art and science.” Forest managers rely upon scientific principles and tools to inventory and manage forest resources – trees, wildlife, water and other resources. Forest lands vast or small must be mapped and inventoried, often using technology such as geographic information systems (GIS) and satellite imagery. Using such data bases, a forester must integrate many potential resource values and uses such as wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, endangered resources, and timber production into a management plan while at the same time maintaining biological diversity and environmental quality. A forester might also select trees to harvest to improve existing stands, monitor insect and disease conditions, and advise private landowners on tree planting and forest management practices.
Our students are given numerous options for professional development through classes, interactions with advisors and professionals, internships, and the Forestry Club. Additionally, the Forest Science major is accredited by the Society of American Foresters.
There are many opportunities to become a resource management specialist, too. Some foresters specialize in ecology, silviculture, or monitoring forest health. Others specialize in genetics, remote sensing or environmental policy. Some of our graduates have used their degree as a foundation for further study in environmental law, resource economics, or forest products development.
The department offer excellent teaching, research, and computing facilities to our students. Classes often have fewer than 25 students, ensuring that each student receives individual attention. Each student has a faculty adviser, and many students gain valuable experience working part-time or summers for faculty assisting with various research projects.
Students also participate in a variety of educational opportunities away from the Madison campus, including a three-week introduction to forest ecosystems in northern Wisconsin, as well as numerous internship and summer research opportunities and a very active ‘study abroad’ program. During the past decade, more than 15% of our students have completed an international study abroad experience of one or more semesters. Students are encouraged to join the Forestry Club, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Student Chapter of the Society of American Foresters. Travel to professional meetings and completion of workshops and technical training programs to improve field skills are among the club’s frequent activities.
Wildlife Ecology Major
As the world’s human population and its demands on the earth’s limited resources steadily grow, the welfare of wildlife species and the chances for their continued coexistence with man will depend on enlightened conservation and management programs. Wildlife ecology is the study of animal populations with a special view to understanding their interactions with people. Wildlife ecologists study endangered species, game species, non-game species, and wildlife pests, and try to find ways to maintain these animals in numbers that are in the overall best interests of society, whether these interests be aesthetic, ecological, economic or recreational.
The Department of Wildlife Ecology was the first wildlife program in an American university and had its origin in 1933 when the UW-Madison created a Chair in Game Management for Professor Aldo Leopold. Leopold is generally considered the father of wildlife management. Under his guidance the Department began its development. Today, the Wildlife Ecology major is part of the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology and is one of the leading wildlife research and teaching programs in the world. An undergraduate wildlife degree provides a solid background in the basic sciences and ecology that can prepare you for graduate work in wildlife and related fields, such as veterinary medicine. Some technical positions in public agencies, business, and law enforcement are open to graduates with only a bachelor’s degree, but increasingly a graduate education is a pre-requisite for career success.
Leadership or supervisory positions in research, management, education, extension and administration generally require completion of a master’s degree or doctorate. Most career opportunities are with public resource management agencies and educational institutions. Some career opportunities are available with private organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation or The Nature Conservancy and with businesses such as pest control consultants or property managers. Students are encouraged to join the Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society at UW-Madison.
Students often are undecided as to which major, degree or option to follow, so we recommend talking with advisers and upperclassmen before making this decision. Students will often choose electives that satisfy two or more options within a degree, or even to opt for a double major, until they are satisfied with their career direction. Deciding upon a career is not an easy matter, so consider discussing your plans with faculty and staff advisers and your family. Get involved in the student chapter of The Wildlife Society or the Forestry Club to gain a better perspective from associating with other resource professionals.