Conservation biology is the application of science to conserve the earth’s imperiled species and ecosystems. The field is a relatively young one that is growing rapidly in response to the biodiversity crisis, perhaps the most critical environmental issue of our time. Conservation biologists view all of nature’s diversity as important and having inherent value. This diversity spans the biological hierarchy and includes variation at the level of genes, populations, communities, ecosystems, and biomes. A focus on biological diversity and an intrinsic valuation of nature is what distinguishes conservation biology from wildlife management (with its somewhat more utilitarian perspective and a focus on populations of birds and large mammals) and from general environmental biology (with a broad focus on environmental issues).
Wildlife science is the application of ecological knowledge in a manner that strikes a balance between the needs of wildlife populations and the needs of people. Research and teaching in wildlife science began at ESF in 1914, one of the first such programs in the U.S., and was quickly followed by establishment of the Roosevelt Wild Life Station in 1919. Today, our program is recognized nationally and internationally, and our graduates are employed worldwide. The focus is applied ecology, and students engage the environmental challenges associated with managing wildlife, ranging from endangered species to overabundant populations. The program recognizes and accommodates the fact that wildlife scientists increasingly must deal with on all forms of wildlife, including plants and invertebrates, and the scope is becoming more international.
Aquatic and Fisheries Science
Aquatic and fisheries science is the study of aquatic ecosystems to increase scientific understanding and to apply basic ecological principles to their management, thereby sustaining them for multiple uses. Aquatic ecosystems include wetlands, streams, lakes, estuaries and oceans. Aquatic science professionals study and manage valued natural systems for seafoods, drinking water, recreation, transportation and aesthetics. This field of study has a long history; for example, the American Fisheries Society was founded in 1870 and the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography in 1948. Aquatic systems and their organisms are sufficiently distinct from terrestrial systems that numerous professional organizations and scientific journals have been founded specifically to foster communication among aquatic science professionals.
Fish and Wildlife Biology and Management
Fish and Wildlife Science at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) forms a broad undergraduate and graduate concentration recognized nationally and internationally; our graduates are employed worldwide. These disciplines function within the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, a group of over 30 scientists from a broad array of ecological and biological disciplines. Fish and Wildlife Science at ESF includes about 250 undergraduate and 60 graduate students.
This area entails study and maintenance of biological diversity at the level of genes, populations, communities, ecosystems and biomes; intellectual underpinnings include evolutionary theory, systematic biology, population biology and ecosystem science. Conservation biology seeks ways to integrate biological principles with social, economic and political perspectives to achieve conservation goals. The field is a response of the scientific community to the biodiversity crisis. Conservation biologists view nature’s diversity as important and having inherent value. Training in this field includes experience with the fundamental disciplines and theory of conservation biology, as well as specialization in conservation issues.
Environmental interpretation sharpens the cutting edge of communication among scientists and various public sectors. Graduate study enables students to explore interpretation/ conservation education processes through application to specific projects in the natural sciences and science education. Students pursue career pathways in natural resource agencies, in nature centers, museums, aquaria, botanical gardens and especially in the science classroom. The environmental interpretation program incorporates a 15,000-acre reserve in the heart of the Adirondack Park and an associate Visitor Interpretative Center with trail system. Internships and partnerships with a variety of conservation-based programs are vital to the program. Students develop their course of study from a large palette of graduate courses in Environmental and Forest Biology.
This area of study in the M.P.S. degree is designed for students who desire to solidify their background in applied ecology and professionals who would return for “retooling”; suitable for careers in environmental oversight, policy, planning, law, and education. This program begins with a three-day orientation in August at one or more of the ESF field facilities. Coursework requirements include three credit hours each from five of the seven focus areas: GIS tools, Statistical Tools, Specialty Tools, Ecosystem Ecology, Organismal Ecology, Human Dimensions in Ecology, and Communications in Ecology; two credit hours in graduate seminars (EFB 797) and additional 19 credit hours of graduate coursework for a total of 36 credit hours.
This integrative study area allows students to investigate the relationships of organisms to their environment and those factors which affect their distribution and abundance. Both the practical and theoretical applications of ecology are emphasized through courses and research. There are four major areas in ecology: organismal ecology, population-evolutionary ecology, community ecology and systems ecology. In consultation with the student’s steering committee, courses are chosen from these areas, as well as other disciplines. Specific research may encompass any of the four major areas of ecology and entail the study of the distribution and abundance of organisms, community structure including trophic relationships, diversity, succession and ecosystem properties, such as patterns of energy transfer and biogeochemical cycling.
Graduate study opportunities prepare students in the basic aspects of insect life and the role of insects in relation to humans and their environment. The wide range of effects stemming from insect activity, from the beneficial to the deleterious, allows for a variety of research subjects in which insects play a major role. Thesis topics may concern insects that affect forests, shade trees and wood products, those relating to the health and well-being of humans, those playing key roles as parasites and predators of pest species, and those serving as food for many birds and vertebrate animals. Current research areas include population dynamics of forest defoliators, pheromone communications in beetles and moths, evolution of chemical communication, effects of forest practices on stream benthic insects, natural control of insects in forest systems and biochemistry of insect detoxification mechanisms.