Our program engages a new kind of scientist: one whose ability to perform research with immediate relevance for solving problems is matched only by their skills in collaborating with affected communities. This scientist is also expected to incorporate citizens and citizen science into effective research, producing accessible and accurate results for utilization by both policy-makers and the public.
The Master of Science in Ecology program offers two tracks: Ecology and Conservation and Fisheries and Wildlife Management.
Students work closely with an advisor, conservation practitioners and natural resource managers to develop and complete an original research project.
Our two-year, residential program provides graduate students with many unique resources and opportunities, including:
- The bioclimatic diversity of the southern Rocky Mountains.
- Abundant access to public lands—including 80 percent of the land surrounding Western's campus.
- Access to a broad network of managers of diverse natural resources (e.g., forests, water, fire, land, fisheries and wildlife).
- Non-traditional research collaborators (e.g., ranchers, private land trusts and county/city planners).
- Opportunities to address critical information gaps at the local, regional and global levels, across a range of ecological systems vulnerable to climate change.
- Collaboration with researchers around the world and at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.
- Exposure to new avenues for communicating science, through relationships with New Media producers, on-site publications (e.g., High Country News) and interaction with Western's film studies program.
- Access to 334 acres containing riparian, sage brush and grassland habitats, via collaboration with program partner the Coldharbour Institute (a nonprofit conservation organization).
- Close collaboration with alumni, graduate students and over 15 faculty in Western’s Master in Environmental Management program.
- Local access to both Federal and State agency personnel and their local offices in the Gunnison Basin, including representatives of the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Colorado Forest Service.
Current ecological research by Western students and faculty.
- “Fire regimes approaching historic norms reduce wildfire-facilitated conversion from forest to non-forest.” Research by Western student Ryan Walker and Western faculty Jonathan Coop, Ph.D., demonstrating that prescribed fire can be used to reduce the risk of wildfire-driven forest loss.
- "Integrating Fuels Treatments and Ecological Values in Piñon-Juniper Woodlands." Video of research featuring Western faculty Patrick Magee, Ph.D., and Jonathan Coop, Ph.D., exploring the effects of fuel reduction treatments on bird diversity.
- "Reducing Conflict with Pumas in the San Francisco Bay Area" Video of a project by Western student Joe Acampora, advised by M.S. in Ecology Professor Jessica Young, Ph.D.