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Wildlife conservation

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What is wildlife conservation?

The wildlife conservation major addresses both the scientific and human elements of ecosystem management. It covers all terrestrial species and their habitats, including birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. You’ll study a broad scope of issues, including disease, genetics, human impacts, endangered species, invasive species, and ecosystem management. You’ll graduate prepared to take an active role in finding new and better ways to conserve, use, and sustain the world’s vital wildlife resources. This is a very research-intensive major and provides excellent preparation for graduate school.

Learn more about this major and the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation.

What will I learn in this major?

Students majoring in wildlife conservation take courses in the following core areas: natural resources and environment, population dynamics, human dimensions of fisheries and wildlife, evolutionary biology, legal foundations, public speaking and writing, chemistry, and statistics. Additional major coursework is also required in wildlife biology, wildlife field biology, conservation, wildlife habitat, genetics, geographic information systems (GIS), ecology, biology, and physical science.   

Students in the Wildlife Field Techniques course stay at the Mountain Lake Biological Station for 10 days and practice orienteering, camera trapping, using bat detectors, capturing small mammals and birds, surveying amphibians, collecting vegetation, and more.

Why study wildlife conservation at Virginia Tech?

  • Our Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation is one of the premier programs in the U.S. that focuses on fish and wildlife research, conservation, and management.
  • All majors are required to enroll in a first-year experience course — Natural Resources and Environment — which introduces students to critical skills for being successful in the college and at Virginia Tech, as well as to career options for this field of study.
  • Hands-on learning is a hallmark of the program. All students complete an experiential learning requirement by participating in one of the following: internship, research, study abroad, or independent learning.
  • Students might also be interested in one of the Pathways minors such as biodiversity conservation, 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.
  • In additional to subject area knowledge, there is also an emphasis on critical professional skills that students need in order to be successful. These skills are acquired in part through required courses on speaking and writing about agriculture and life sciences that are part of the curriculum.
  • Faculty members are experts in and conduct research on animals ranging from salamanders to shorebirds to jaguars.
  • Student research opportunities are available locally and regionally in Virginia and neighboring states. Projects have also taken students to Mexico, Belize, Brazil, Indonesia, Botswana, Ghana, and Madagascar.
  • Partnerships with federal agencies, as well as Virginia Tech’s Conservation Management Institute, Global Change Center, and Fralin Life Science Institute, afford students and faculty opportunities to conduct research, join project teams, and solve resource management problems.
  • Student clubs and organizations such as the Wildlife Society Student Chapter at Virginia Tech and the Collegiate National Wild Turkey Federation at Virginia Tech 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 wildlife conservation?

Graduates in wildlife conservation may enter the job market or pursue a graduate degree in the field. Career possibilities are listed below, and potential employers include the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, state departments of natural resources, state parks, environmental consulting firms, and nonprofit conservation agencies.

  • Biological science technician/wildlife technician — Carries out the practical tasks and procedures essential to completing plans and projects: manages habitat, conducts surveys or experiments, and computes and records data.
  • Environmental educator/conservation education specialist — Educates learners of all ages about natural resources and the environment.
  • Fishing and hunting guide — Leads fishing and hunting trips or expeditions.
  • Game warden — Protects wildlife and the environment through law enforcement and conservation activities.
  • GIS programmer/computer mapping specialist — Uses computer technology to assist in managing wildlife and other natural resources.
  • 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 biologist — Studies the distribution, habitats, life histories, and ecology of birds, mammals, and other wildlife, and plans and carries out conservation and management programs.
  • Wildlife/environmental consultant — Sells services and advice to companies, agencies, and individuals on how to manage natural resources for various uses.
  • Wildlife refuge manager — Manages national wildlife refuges to protect and conserve migratory and native species of birds, mammals, fish, endangered species, and other wildlife.
  • Zookeeper — Cares for animals in zoological parks or aquariums, and enriches the environment of captive animals for conservation, preservation, reproductive research, public education, and recreation.   
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