Wildlife Biology

When you select the Wildlife Biology emphasis at Western, you’ll study in the great classroom of the Gunnison Basin and beyond.You’ll have the opportunity to explore numerous public and private lands from the sagebrush and lush riparian “lowlands” to the deep forests and rocky alpine crags. Surrounded by six wilderness areas the learning environment is truly a vast and wild classroom.

You’ll be taught by passionate ecologists dedicated to hands-on practical approaches. With connections to numerous natural resources agencies, the program offers frequent opportunities for resource professionals to interact with our students in classes, on field trips and in providing training through internships and paid local jobs.

Western offers a rich diversity of coursework for our small size. In addition, our Thornton Biology Undergraduate Research Program (BURP) provides opportunity for the most engaged students to deepen their experience and gain skills working closely with a faculty mentor, all while earning a research stipend.

What Will You Learn? What Skills Will You Acquire?

The Ecology Emphasis provides a thoughtful development of skills for students starting in your freshman introductory courses and adding more sophistication and applied skills as you move through the program.

You’ll experience a field-based ecology lab that focuses on providing you the basic skills of science including experimental design, communication, and numerous field techniques. You will do science repeatedly in the program as you gain a strong background and skills to communicate with scientists and resource managers.

You’ll learn field techniques such as vegetation monitoring, stream assessment, radio telemetry, GIS, mapping and compass work, animal and plant identification by sight and sound, and numerous diverse approaches to measuring populations, communities and ecosystems.

Beyond the Classroom

Research, service learning, adventure education, applied experiential field trips, connections with professional biologists, and fun social events are all part of the rich culture of our co-curricular program.

Students have two primary clubs in which they actively participate, including the Tri Beta Biology Club and the Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society. They hold bi-weekly meetings throughout the year and organize numerous field trips, fund raising events, and social/educational events.

Students interface with the local community through a variety of service projects. They are also connected to the local natural resource agencies that offer opportunities for service and field experience, including trapping bighorn sheep, assisting with the annual kokanee salmon spawn, electroshocking fish and volunteering at the local Gunnison Sage-grouse Watchable Wildlife site.

Students also work with agency folks to offer workshops on applying for federal jobs and writing resumes, obtaining a hunter’s safety card, learning to fly fish, learning basic avian taxidermy and many others.

Students also travel to a variety of conferences including the Wildlife Society’s annual student conclave where students from all over the western U.S. gather for social and educational events and competitions. The students travel to the annual Wildlife Society Conference and they experience professionalism and deepen their connections to wildlife professional by being members of the Wildlife Society and traveling to the Colorado Chapter meeting every winter. Numerous other conferences including the Tri Beta regional conference, the National Council for Undergraduate Research conference and the Guild For Rocky Mountain Ecologists and Evolutionary Biologists, among others.

After Graduation

Our students have been highly successful in obtaining jobs at the local and state level with agencies such as the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, the natural Resources Conservation Service, and the USDA Forest Service.

Employers often remark on the quality of our students and their practical experiences and insights. Students graduating from our program have also been successful in non-governmental field areas such as non-profit environmental groups and for-profit consulting companies. We have a rich tradition of sending students to graduate programs all over the U.S. Many students are highly qualified for a variety of seasonal positions working for researchers and natural resources management agencies.

Next Steps

If you're interested in Western's Wildlife Biology Program, we invite you to take the next steps towards becoming a part of the Mountaineer family. 

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Principles of ecology are applied to population and habitat management towards wildlife conservation. Tools used by wildlife biologists to restore endangered species, harvest sustainable populations, reduce overpopulated species, and to monitor and study populations are emphasized. Habitat management approaches are discussed, along with human dimensions in wildlife conservation. A field component allows students to investigate wildlife populations and habitat issues in the Gunnison Basin. Prerequisite: BIOL 301 or instructor permission.


A one week intensive field course focuses on wildlife conservation issues and wildlife management techniques such as trapping and marking wildlife, radio telemetry, population monitoring, GPS and GIS, and wildlife conflict resolution. The course includes a trip outside the basin; a field trip course fee is required. Prerequisite: BIOL 301 or instructor permission. Co-requisite: BIOL 430

Faculty & Staff