Those who aspire for careers in conservation, wildlife research, or working with state or federal natural resource agencies may seek to earn a graduate degree focused on wildlife biology. California, with its wide range of natural habitats including the Pacific Ocean, deserts, and forests; is an outstanding location to focus on this study. Read on to learn more about master's degree requirements in this field, and the range of programs available for study in the state of California.
Master of Science in Wildlife Biology
Those who wish to pursue this field may consider earning a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Wildlife Biology. Some universities connect this field with closely related disciplines such as organismal biology or natural resources. The M.S. can typically be completed in two years of full-time study. Those seeking admission should hold a bachelor's degree in an area of the natural sciences that will prepare them for graduate work; and an undergraduate G.P.A. of at least a 3.0 will make a more competitive application. Admission requirements to programs may also include GRE results, a statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation. Identifying a faculty member with shared research interests may support an application as well. Completion of the degree will require the completion of coursework as well as independent research, culminating in a thesis and oral defense or the completion of comprehensive examinations.
Courses for wildlife biology students may vary based on institution, type of wildlife focus, and degree requirements. Some courses that candidates might expect to take during their master's degree program include:
Evolutionary Genetics and Genomics
Within this course, students may begin by studying the classic and current theories of evolutionary genetics. The works of lead theorists in the field, including Fisher and Darwin, may be contrasted. Current research in DNA sequencing and genome structure may also be a component of this course.
Community ecology focuses upon the understanding of multi-species communities within an ecosystem. Within this course, students will be introduced to theoretical approaches to community ecology, as well as develop an understanding of how species interact. This course may also cover human interaction within the ecosystem, and environmental pressures based on such interactions.
Within this course, students will consider population models. They may consider the ecology of a single species or multi-species communties. Topics may include life history strategies and competition among species. Case histories for the management of local populations may also be considered.
Within this course, students will learn about animal behavior in a wildlife setting. The evolutionary nature of animal behavior will be studied. Topics may include the behavior of predators, how mates are chosen, and how animals care for their young.
Marine and Aquatic Ecology
This course will focus upon the ecology of marine and other aquatic settings. Students will learn about diverse costal environments, and the fish and other species that inhabit them. Open waters and the deep sea will also be considered. Strategies for conservation of the aquatic environment may be discussed. Research studies or a field trip may be a component of this course.
California Schools with M.S. in Wildlife Biology Programs
University of California - Davis
At U.C. Davis, graduate groups allow students to develop cross-departmental graduate degrees. As such, faculty within the department of wildlife, fish, and conservation biology supports graduate students earning the M.S. in population biology, ecology, and animal behavior; among other disciplines. Students may choose to complete a thesis or a comprehensive examination. Membership in student organizations such as The Wildlife Society and the American Fisheries Society support student learning through co-curricular involvement.
University of California - Riverside
At U.C. Riverside, students have the opportunity to earn a Master of Science in Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology. The M.S. program is a research-focused program, and the degree culminates in the presentation of a thesis and oral defense. A weekly 'lunch bunch' seminar program provides students the opportunity to share research presentations. Students may conduct research taking advantage of the National Reserve System of the University of California.
Humboldt State University
Humboldt State University, located in Arcata, CA offers a Master of Science in Natural Resources focused on wildlife biology. Students at Humboldt State benefit from updated laboratories in the Wildlife and Fisheries building. Humboldt State is also located close to both ocean and forest environments which allows hands-on learning. Student research focuses on the application of scientific theories to practical problems in the conservation of wildlife.
University of San Diego
For students explicitly interested in marine wildlife, the University of San Diego offers an M.S. in Environmental and Ocean Studies. The location of the university offers students the opportunity to study marine wildlife in the Southern Californian and Mexican regions of the bay. The degree is primarily research-focused, and students have the opportunity to work in a range of research centers including the Shiley Center for Science and Technology, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and the Leon R. Hubbard Hatchery. A yearly graduate student colloquium allows students to share the results of their research.
University of California - Los Angeles
At UCLA, students have the opportunity to earn an M.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with opportunities to focus on tracks including conservation biology, tropical biology, or behavior. Interdisciplinary research institutes, including the Institute of the Environment and the Center for Tropical Research provide extensive research opportunities for graduate students. The location which is near both the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Mountains also provides extensive opportunities for hands-on application and field study. Students frequently collaborate across disciplines.
Earning a Master of Science in Wildlife Biology or a related discipline can provide the skills and knowledge for a range of wildlife-related careers, or a solid foundation for further graduate study. The range of programs in California offers interesting coursework and multiple research opportunities for students interested in this field.