Forests cover one-third of Earth and nearly half of Wisconsin. They provide diverse habitat, wood and fiber, clean water, carbon storage, recreation, beauty, and connections to many cultures. Forest managers and scientists work largely outdoors to conserve and manage forest resources and respond to disturbances from insects, diseases, wildfire, fragmentation, deforestation, and other changes. They also use technology to map and inventory forests.

Students in forest science learn the skills needed for many career paths through a mix of classroom, laboratory, and field instruction. They make frequent visits to forests and engage in professional and student-led trainings and networking. Students have flexibility to customize their learning experience through a variety of different elective options.

The department offers excellent teaching, research, and computing facilities. Classes are sized to ensure that undergraduates receive individual attention. Each student has a faculty adviser, and many students gain experience assisting faculty with research projects.

Students go on to work as foresters, park rangers, conservation scientists, educators, researchers, environmental planners, arborists, and more. Graduates of the program also pursue graduate training in forestry, ecology, natural resource policy, or environmental law. Forest science has an excellent job placement track record.

Learn through hands-on, real world experiences

Forest science students learn in many field and laboratory courses, putting their knowledge to work in outdoor, everyday circumstances. They also participate in a variety of opportunities beyond campus, including a three-week introduction to forest ecosystems in northern Wisconsin and summer research opportunities. All forest science undergraduates are required to complete an internship, often with a federal, state, or local government agency, an environmental nonprofit organization, timber industry firm, or environmental consultant.

Build community and networks

Students can join a competitive quiz bowl team and the Forestry Club, UW–Madison’s Student Chapter of the Society of American Foresters. The club organizes the annual holiday tree sale, and students can attend a national foresters conference and take part in trainings for prescribed burns, chainsaw use and tree identification. Forest science undergraduates also have opportunities to work with local schools to help kids understand the forests around them.

Customize a path of study

Forest science students select from a large variety of classes to fit their career goals. Students can customize their learning experience and choose electives in focus areas such as forest conservation, forests and the environment, and forest management. In consultation with advisors, students will choose electives in alignment with their unique professional interests. The program meets accreditation standards of the Society of American Foresters, a key credential for many jobs. 

Make a strong start

Students can take introductory courses that focus on forest science and the department’s curriculum. One course explores forests of the world, as well as threats to forests, their roles in climate change, and strategies to conserve and manage them.

Gain global perspective

Forest science students are encouraged to complete study abroad experiences. Students can explore studying abroad as a Forest Science major utilizing the Forest Science Major Advising Page. Students work with their advisor and the CALS study abroad office to identify appropriate programs. The department also offers an international course focused on the extinction of species.

To declare this major, students must be admitted to UW–Madison and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). For information about becoming a CALS first-year or transfer student, see Entering the College.

Students who attend Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR) with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences have the option to declare this major at SOAR.  Students may otherwise declare after they have begun their undergraduate studies. For more information, contact the advisor listed in the Contact Box for the major.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Requirements

In addition to the University General Education Requirements, all undergraduate students in CALS must satisfy a set of college and major requirements. Courses may not double count within university requirements (General Education and Breadth) or within college requirements (First-Year Seminar, International Studies, Science, and Capstone), but courses counted toward university requirements may also be used to satisfy a college and/or a major requirement; similarly, courses counted toward college requirements may also be used to satisfy a university and/or a major requirement.

College Requirements for all CALS B.S. Degree Programs

Quality of Work: Students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.000 to remain in good standing and be eligible for graduation.
Residency: Students must complete 30 degree credits in residence at UW–Madison after earning 86 credits toward their undergraduate degree.
First Year Seminar1
International Studies3
Physical Science Fundamentals4-5
General Chemistry I
Chemistry in Our World
Advanced General Chemistry
Biological Science5
Additional Science (Biological, Physical, or Natural)3
Science Breadth (Biological, Physical, Natural, or Social)3
CALS Capstone Learning Experience: included in the requirements for each CALS major (see "Major Requirements")

Major Requirements

Complete one of the following (or may be satisfied by placement exam):5-6
and Trigonometry
Algebra and Trigonometry
Complete one of the following:3
Introduction to Statistical Methods
Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences (recommended)
Complete one of the following:4-5
General Chemistry I
Chemistry in Our World
Advanced General Chemistry
Complete one of the following options:10
Option 1 (recommended introduction to biology sequence):
General Botany
and Animal Biology
and Animal Biology Laboratory
Option 2:
Introductory Biology
and Introductory Biology
Option 3:
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics
and Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory
and Cellular Biology
and Cellular Biology Laboratory
A A E 215 Introduction to Agricultural and Applied Economics4
or ECON 101 Principles of Microeconomics
Wildlife Ecology
Complete one of the following: 13
Living with Wildlife - Animals, Habitats, and Human Interactions
Extinction of Species 2
Principles of Wildlife Management
Grade of C or better required in each core course
SOIL SCI 301 General Soil Science3
or SOIL SCI/​ENVIR ST/​GEOG  230 Soil: Ecosystem and Resource
F&W ECOL 300 Forest Measurements4
GEOG/​CIV ENGR/​ENVIR ST  377 An Introduction to Geographic Information Systems3-4
or F&W ECOL/​ENVIR ST/​G L E/​GEOG/​GEOSCI/​LAND ARC  371 Introduction to Environmental Remote Sensing
BOTANY/F&W ECOL 402 Dendrology: Woody Plant Identification and Ecology2
F&W ECOL 305 Forest Operations2
F&W ECOL 390 Learning to Action: Professional Development1
F&W ECOL 410
F&W ECOL 411
Principles of Silviculture
and Practices of Silviculture
ENVIR ST/F&W ECOL 515 Natural Resources Policy (recommended, satisfies Communications B requirement)3
or ENVIR ST/​ECON/​POLI SCI/​URB R PL  449 Government and Natural Resources
or ENVIR ST/​GEOG  439 US Environmental Policy and Regulation
F&W ECOL 448
F&W ECOL 449
F&W ECOL 450
Disturbance Ecology
and Disturbance Ecology Lab (I): Herbivores and Fire
and Disturbance Ecology Lab (II): Forest Pathogens
F&W ECOL 550
F&W ECOL 551
Forest Ecology
and Forest Ecology Lab
A A E/ENVIR ST/F&W ECOL 652 Decision Methods for Natural Resource Managers4
F&W ECOL 658 Forest Resources Practicum3
Complete 12 credits from Major Electives (see list below)12
Grade of C or better required in Capstone
F&W ECOL 590 Integrated Resource Management3
Total Credits82-85

Students may take multiple courses in this category. Courses taken beyond the requirement may count as Major Electives.


May also fulfill CALS International Studies requirement.

Minimum Grade Requirement

Students will be required to receive a grade of C or higher on all of the Forest Science Core courses and the Capstone. Students who receive a grade of D or below will be required to retake the course for graduation.

Major Electives

Forest Science Major Electives

Complete at least 12 credits from the following courses. Students can focus their interests using the categories.12
Soils and Landscapes:
Principles of Landscape Ecology
Landforms and Landscapes of North America
Restoration Ecology
Soils and Landscapes
Environmental Biogeochemistry
Economics and Business:
The Environment and the Global Economy
Environmental Economics
Energy, Resources and Economics
Agricultural Finance
Fundamentals of Accounting and Finance for Non-Business Majors
Fundamentals of Management and Marketing for Non-Business Majors
International Business
Marketing Communication for the Sciences
Managing Organizations
Human Resource Management
The Management of Teams
Operations Management
Urban and Wildland Forest Management:
The Vegetation of Wisconsin
Landscape Plants I
Plant Nutrition Management
GIS/Remote Sensing:
Remote Sensing Digital Image Processing
Assessment of Environmental Impact
Applications of Geographic Information Systems in Natural Resources
Introduction to Cartography
An Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
Introduction to Geocomputing
Wildlife and Fisheries Ecology:
Environmental Biogeography
Terrestrial Vertebrates: Life History and Ecology
Principles of Wildlife Ecology
Principles of Wildlife Management
Wildlife Damage Management
Animal Population Dynamics
Limnology-Conservation of Aquatic Resources
Laboratory for Limnology-Conservation of Aquatic Resources
Ecology of Fishes
Ecology of Fishes Lab
Birds of Southern Wisconsin
Ecology and Biological Diversity
Grassland Ecology
Introduction to Entomology
Plant-Insect Interactions
Biology of the Fungi
Vascular Flora of Wisconsin
Plant Geography
General Ecology
Principles of Landscape Ecology
Conservation Biology
Forests of the World
Extinction of Species
Conservation Biology
Climate Change Ecology
Environmental Conservation
Wetlands Ecology
Evolutionary Biology
Natural Resource Management and Policy
Natural Resource Economics
Renewable Energy Systems
Energy Resources
Government and Natural Resources
Energy Economics
Wildlife Management Techniques
Prescribed Fire: Ecology and Implementation
Introduction to Plant Pathology
Earth and Atmospheric Science
Weather and Climate
Weather and Climate
Global Change: Atmospheric Issues and Problems
Global Warming: Science and Impacts
Atmospheric Dispersion and Air Pollution
Environmental Biogeochemistry
Geography of Wisconsin
Biology of Microorganisms
Biology of Microorganisms Laboratory
Soils and Environmental Chemistry
Soil Biology
Human and Social Dimensions of Ecology
Indigenous Peoples and the Environment
Indigenous Environmental Communicators
Managing Nature in Native North America
Critical Indigenous Ecological Knowledges
Environment, Natural Resources, and Society
Education for Sustainable Communities
Environmental Stewardship and Social Justice
Literature of the Environment: Speaking for Nature
History of Ecology
Environmental Ethics
American Environmental History
Total Credits12

Honors in the Major

Students admitted to the university and to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences are invited to apply to be considered for admission to the CALS Honors Program.

Admission Criteria for New First-Year Students:

  • Complete program application including essay questions

Admission Criteria for Transfer and Continuing UW-Madison Students:

  • UW-Madison cumulative GPA of at least 3.25
  • Complete program application including essay questions

How to Apply

The application is available on the CALS Honors Program website.  Applications are accepted at any time.

New first-year students with accepted applications will automatically be enrolled in Honors in Research. It is possible to switch to Honors in the Major in the student’s first semester on campus after receiving approval from the advisor for that major.  Transfer and continuing students may apply directly to Honors in Research or Honors in the Major (after approval from the major advisor).


All CALS Honors programs have the following requirements:

  • Earn at least a cumulative 3.25 GPA at UW-Madison (some programs have higher requirements)
  • Complete the program-specific requirements listed below
  • Submit completed thesis documentation to CALS Academic Affairs


To earn Honors in the Major, students are required to take at least 20 honors credits. In addition, students must take F&W ECOL 681 and F&W ECOL 682 when completing their thesis project; please see the Honors Program page for more information.

University Degree Requirements 

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. (Ecology) Understanding of taxonomy and ability to identify forest and other tree species, their distribution, and associated vegetation and wildlife.
  2. (Ecology) Understanding of soil properties and processes, hydrology, water quality, and watershed functions.
  3. (Ecology) Understanding of ecological concepts and principles including the structure and function of ecosystems, plant and animal communities, competition, diversity, population dynamics, succession, disturbance, and nutrient cycling.
  4. (Ecology) Ability to make ecosystem, forest, and stand assessments.
  5. (Ecology) Understanding of tree physiology and the effects of climate, fire, pollutants, moisture, nutrients, genetics, insects and diseases on tree and forest health and productivity.
  6. (Forest Resources Measurement and Management) Ability to identify and measure land areas and conduct spatial analysis.
  7. (Forest Resources Measurement and Management) Ability to design and implement comprehensive inventories that meet specific objectives using appropriate sampling methods and units of measurement.
  8. (Forest Resources Measurement and Management) Ability to analyze inventory data and project future forest, stand, and tree conditions.
  9. (Forest Resources Measurement and Management) Ability to develop and apply silvicultural prescriptions appropriate to management objectives, including methods of establishing and influencing the composition, growth, and quality of forests, and understand the impacts of those prescriptions.
  10. (Forest Resources Measurement and Management) Ability to analyze the economic, environmental, and social consequences of forest resource management strategies and decisions.
  11. (Forest Resources Measurement and Management) Ability to develop management plans with specific multiple objectives and constraints.
  12. (Forest Resources Measurement and Management) Understanding of the valuation procedures, market forces, processing systems, transportation and harvesting activities that translate human demands for timber-based and other consumable forest products into the availability of those products.
  13. (Forest Resources Measurement and Management) Understanding of the valuation procedures, market, and non-­market forces that avail humans the opportunities to enjoy non-­consumptive products and services of forests.
  14. (Forest Resources Measurement and Management) Understanding of the administration, ownership, and organization of forest management enterprises.
  15. (Forest Resource Policy, Economics, and Administration) Understanding of forest policy and the processes by which it is developed.
  16. (Forest Resource Policy, Economics, and Administration) Understanding of how federal, state, and local laws and regulations govern the practice of forestry.
  17. (Forest Resource Policy, Economics, and Administration) Ability to understand the integration of technical, financial, human resources, and legal aspects of public and private enterprises.

Four-year plan

The four-year plan is a tool to assist you and your advisor in planning your academic career. Use it along with your DARS report and Course Search & Enroll to determine your program of study. Your program of study will likely look different from this sample four-year plan. Consult with your advisor to determine the best path for you.  Courses may not be offered every year, so plan ahead with your advisor.

Sample Forest Science Four-Year Plan

First Year
MATH 11213MATH 11313 
F&W ECOL/​ENVIR ST  100 (recommended for CALS International Studies requirement)3CHEM 103, 108, or 1094-5 
INTER-AG 155 (CALS First Year Seminar)1BIOLOGY/​BOTANY  13025 
A A E 215 or ECON 1014Ethnic Studies3 
COMM A Course3  
 14 15-16 
Second Year
5F&W ECOL 3004F&W ECOL 65833
SOIL SCI 3013GEOG/​CIV ENGR/​ENVIR ST  377 or F&W ECOL 3713-4 
F&W ECOL/​BOTANY  4022Electives6-7 
STAT 371 or 3013  
 13 13-15 3
Third Year
F&W ECOL 411
F&W ECOL 550
F&W ECOL 551
4F&W ECOL 4483 
Major Electives6F&W ECOL 4491 
Humanities3Major Elective3 
 Social Sciences3 
 16 14 
Fourth Year
F&W ECOL 39031F&W ECOL/​A A E  6524 
F&W ECOL 5903F&W ECOL 3052 
F&W ECOL 4501Electives9 
Major Electives3  
 16 15 
Total Credits 119-122

Students must complete at least 120 total credits to be eligible for graduation.


MATH course dependent on placement score and transfer credit evaluation.


BIOLOGY/​BOTANY  130BIOLOGY/​ZOOLOGY  101BIOLOGY/​ZOOLOGY  102 are strongly recommended to satisfy the introductory biology requirement for forest science, but students may use BIOLOGY/​BOTANY/​ZOOLOGY  151 & BIOLOGY/​BOTANY/​ZOOLOGY  152.


Students should plan ahead for this course with their advisor, as it may not be offered every year.


Students are assigned an academic advisor as well as a faculty advisor. Faculty members lead undergraduate research, advise students on career planning, and help students with critical thinking. Professional academic advisors help students plan their coursework, identify internship opportunities, as well as ways to get involved in department and campus activities.

Career Opportunities

Undergraduates in forest science prepare for a variety of career opportunities. They can work as foresters, arborists, park rangers, conservation scientists, environmental educators, geospatial analysts, researchers, and more. They also pursue graduate training in forestry, ecology, natural resource policy, or environmental law. Graduates of the program work for many organizations including the U.S. Forest Service, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Society of American Foresters, the Aldo Leopold Foundation, environmental consultants, and private corporations.


Bowe, Scott
Burivalova, Zuzana
Chen, Min
Drake, David
Karasov, William
Hua, Jessica
Kruger, Eric (chair)
Ozdogan, Mutlu
Pauli, Jonathan
Peery, M. Zach
Pidgeon, Anna
Radeloff, Volker
Rickenbach, Mark
Rissman, Adena
Townsend, Philip
Van Deelen, Timothy
Zuckerberg, Benjamin

Affiliated Faculty

Balster, Nick (Soil Science)
Marin-Spiotta, Erika (Geography)

Instructors and Teaching Faculty

Berkelman, James
Nack, Jamie
Meindl, George


Hochmuth, Allee

For faculty and staff profiles, visit https://forestandwildlifeecology.wisc.edu/people/faculty-and-staff/


All forest science undergraduates are required to complete an internship. Students find positions outdoors, as well as laboratory and analytical positions. See the Internship & Job Resources page for more information.


Forest science undergraduates can undertake independent research by joining a professor’s field- or lab- based research activities. In their research experiences, students gain skills in a variety of forest science areas including forest structure and function, forest policy, human dimensions of forest management, forest economics, and plant species identification.  


Students can join the Forestry Club, UW–Madison’s Student Chapter of the Society of American Foresters. The club organizes the annual holiday tree sale, and students can attend a national foresters conference and take part in trainings for prescribed burns, chainsaw use and tree identification.


Students can join a quiz bowl team that competes at the national Society of American Foresters annual conference.


Forest science students are encouraged to complete a study abroad experience. The department also offers an international course focused on the extinction of species that meets the CALS International Studies requirement. Students can find more information on the CALS study abroad advising page.


Students involved in the Forestry Club volunteer at a number of activities including the annual holiday tree sale. Forest science undergraduates also have opportunities to work with local schools to help kids understand the forests around them.

On campus, the Morgridge Center for Public Service provides resources to help students connect with volunteer opportunities based on their interests and goals.

There are five scholarships available to forest science students and fellowships are available for students to conduct research with professors. Students across the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences receive more than $1.25 million in scholarships annually. Learn more about college scholarships here.

UW–Madison offers a special practicum course for majors known as “Forestry Camp.” The Forest Resources Practicum is an intensive, three-week field course at the Kemp Natural Resources Station in Woodruff, Wisconsin. Students learn firsthand about forest ecosystem structure, function, processes, and services. Subject areas include basic field skills, plant identification, GPS, forest soils, wildlife survey methods, and forest ecology. Students at Forestry Camp work closely with faculty and natural resource professionals.


Society of American Foresters

Accreditation status: Accredited. Next accreditation review: 2027.