What is natural resources conservation?

The natural resources conservation major is a good choice for those who like the environment and working with people. You’ll get to help protect the environment while educating others and getting them excited about nature as well. This major addresses scientific environmental concerns while also focusing on the social and human elements of ecosystem management. In a sense, it is a blend of life sciences and social sciences. You’ll graduate with a sense of stewardship and land-use ethics, prepared to take an active role in finding new and better ways to conserve, use, and sustain the world’s vital natural resources and places.

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

What will I learn in this major?

Students majoring in natural resources conservation take courses in the following core areas: forest science, geospatial analysis, environmental economics, and natural resources policy. Students will also take courses based on their specific option in the following areas:

  • Conservation and recreation management — Trees in the built environment, recreation planning and management, environmental science, human dimensions, planning and policy, tourism, business, geography, and written communications.
  • Environmental education — Outdoor recreation management, geosciences, environmental science, environmental ethics, chemistry, children’s literature, history, human development, and astronomy.   

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

Why study natural resources conservation at Virginia Tech?

  • For both options within the major, students acquire a strong background in core courses in the areas of forest science, geospatial analysis, environmental economics, policy, and oral communications.
  • Students are required to enroll in Field Experience in Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, a two-credit, hands-on course involving field exercises that help students develop key skills related to navigation, mapping, taking inventory, resource conservation and management, timber harvesting, and forestry operations.
  • Overseas study can take you to Panama as part of the Issues in Sustainability and Natural Resource Management 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.
  • 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.
  • The 1,353-acre Fishburn Forest, which is located only 10 minutes from campus, provides space for teaching and research activities.
  • Minors are available and encouraged in forestry, urban and community forestry, recreation, and watershed management. 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 natural resources conservation?

Graduates in natural resources conservation 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/wildlife 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.
  • Environmental educator/conservation education specialist — Educates learners of all ages about natural resources and the environment.
  • Game warden — Protects wildlife and the environment through law enforcement and conservation activities.
  • Geographic information system (GIS) programmer/computer mapping specialist — Uses computer technology to assist in managing wildlife and other natural resources.
  • Nature camp manager — Manages all the maintenance and administrative aspects of running a camp.
  • 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.
  • Urban wildlife specialist/animal damage control specialist — Controls damage caused by wildlife, especially in 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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