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Environmental conservation and society

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What is environmental conservation and society?

The environmental conservation and society major is a good choice for those who like the environment and working with people. You’ll help protect the environment while planning and leading outdoor recreational activities, educating the public and getting them excited about conservation, or leading sustainability initiatives. This major incorporates scientific environmental concerns while also focusing on the human aspects of ecosystem management. It’s a blend of life and social sciences, and you’ll graduate with a keen understanding of stewardship and land-use ethics as well as the communication and leadership skills needed to take an active role in engaging people with natural resources and their preservation.

Learn more about this major and the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation.

What will I learn in this major?

Students majoring in environmental conservation and society take courses in the following core areas: forest and environmental sciences, natural resources policy, environmental interpretation, human dimensions, and information technology. Due to the integrated nature of the program, students will also take courses in other disciplines such as economics, government and politics, psychology, biology, and fish and wildlife management. Students will also take courses based on which of the three tracks they choose to pursue within the major:

  • Recreation and tourism management
  • Environmental education and outreach
  • Leadership and sustainability

Through Virginia Tech service-learning opportunities, you can travel abroad and help local communities in countries like the Dominican Republic and Peru.

Why study environmental conservation and society at Virginia Tech?

  • For all three tracks within the major, students acquire a strong background in forest and environmental sciences as well as communications and other professional skills needed to plan educational programming and lead outreach activities.
  • Service-learning opportunities are available to sites like Australia and New Zealand, where students learn about ecological restoration and resource conservation, and then assist local community groups with long-term projects.
  • There are a myriad of outreach activities taking place within the College of Natural Resources and Environment in which students can gain experience working with people of all ages. These activities range from summer camps to school visits.
  • Internships are highly recommended and encouraged, and the college’s director of employer relations works with businesses and government agencies to develop additional hands-on opportunities. Past internship opportunities have involved research positions at the Harvard Forest, seasonal employment at Claytor Lake State Park, and an ecological inventory/survey of Center Woods.
  • A study abroad trip can take you to Panama as part of the Issues in Natural Resource Conservation course, where you’ll learn about natural resource management and conservation issues, the impact of climate change on tropical environments and culture, and local, regional, and international impacts of tropical deforestation.
  • Minors are available and encouraged in forestry, urban and community forestry, recreation, and watershed management. You might also be interested in one of the Pathways minors such as biodiversity conservation, ecological cities, pathways to sustainability, or blue planet. The addition of a minor will give you in-depth expertise in one of these fields so you can pursue a passion and stand out in the job market.
  • Student clubs and organizations such as the Forestry Club and the Wildland Fire Crew provide an opportunity to connect with others with similar interests and get involved on campus and in the community.


What can I do with a degree in environmental conservation and society?

Graduates in environmental conservation and society may enter the job market or pursue a graduate degree in the field. Career possibilities are listed below, and potential employers include the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, state and local parks, nature centers, and museums.

  • Biological science technician — Carries out the practical tasks and procedures essential to completing plans and projects, such as managing habitats, conducting surveys or experiments, and computing and recording data.
  • Camp manager - Manages all the maintenance and administrative aspects of running a camp.
  • Environmental educator/conservation education specialist — Educates learners of all ages about natural resources and the environment.
  • Nature guide/tourism operator — Specializes in a particular field or geographic area and has an in-depth knowledge about local flora, fauna, culture, activities, etc. that is shared with others who wish to learn.
  • Park ranger — Protects all aspects of our national, state, and local parks, and protects and educates the people who visit them.
  • Public affairs specialist — Works with the news media and the public to provide information about natural resources.
  • Sustainability coordinator — Helps an organization achieve sustainability goals by advising management in relation to product and human resources development matters that touch on sustainability, as well as creating specific initiatives and programming.
  • Urban natural resources specialist — Engages in planning, preservation, and sustainability efforts related to trees, other plants, and wildlife found in and around urban settings.
  • Wildlife/environmental consultant — Provides services and advice to companies, agencies, and individuals on how to manage natural resources for various uses.  


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