Students in the wildlife ecology program learn about species ecology, habitat management, monitoring techniques, and conservation through courses that are based in the natural sciences. Wildlife ecologists study wild animals and their interactions with people. Working largely outdoors, they manage and conserve wildlife populations and their habitats, aiming to meet the complex needs of wildlife in a human-dominated world.  

The Department of Wildlife Ecology was the first wildlife program in an American university. Students learn through a mix of classroom, laboratory, and field instruction. They have flexibility to customize their learning experience within one of two tracks: natural sciences and natural resources. Students can work toward substantively completing requirements for being recognized as an Associate Wildlife Biologist by The Wildlife Society, a professional organization, if they choose to.

Wildlife ecology graduates work in public resource management agencies, educational institutions, private industry, and non-governmental organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation and The Nature Conservancy. Students in the wildlife ecology major are also well prepared to pursue advanced degrees in wildlife and related fields or veterinary medicine.

Learn through hands-on, real world experiences

Wildlife ecology students learn in many field and lab courses, including classes that focus on wildlife management, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. They can also take part in a summer field course in northern Wisconsin, numerous internships, and research opportunities.

Build community and networks

Students can join the Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society and the Audubon Society, UW–Madison. Members of the Wildlife Society work with elementary school students, volunteer for numerous projects, and send a competitive team to the Quiz Bowl at the Wildlife Society annual meeting.

Customize a path of study

Students learn through a mix of classroom, laboratory, and field instruction. They have flexibility to customize their learning experience by selecting from a variety of courses in consultation with their advisor. Courses include options in the natural sciences, as well as coursework that meets educational requirements for certification as a wildlife biologist by The Wildlife Society.

Make a strong start

Students can take an introductory course that gives students an orientation to wildlife ecology and introduces them to the major and professions within the field of wildlife management and conservation.

Gain global perspective

Wildlife ecology students are encouraged to participate in a study abroad experience. The program also offers an international class focused on the extinction of species (meeting the CALS International Studies Requirement), as well as a study abroad experience in Mexico. Students can explore studying abroad as a Wildlife Ecology major utilizing the Wildlife Ecology Major Advising Page. Students work with their advisor and the CALS study abroad office to identify appropriate programs. 

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

Mathematics and Statistics
Complete one of the following (or may be satisfied by placement exam):5-6
and Trigonometry
Algebra and Trigonometry
Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry I
Complete one of the following:3
Introduction to Statistical Methods
Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
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):
Introductory Biology
and Introductory Biology
Option 2:
Animal Biology
and Animal Biology Laboratory
and General Botany
Option 3:
Cellular Biology
and Cellular Biology Laboratory
and Principles of Physiology
and Principles of Physiology Laboratory
Wildlife Ecology and Management
F&W ECOL 101 Orientation to Wildlife Ecology (Counts for CALS First Year Seminar)1
F&W ECOL 306 Terrestrial Vertebrates: Life History and Ecology4
F&W ECOL 318 Principles of Wildlife Ecology3
or BOTANY/​F&W ECOL/​ZOOLOGY  460 General Ecology
F&W ECOL 379 Principles of Wildlife Management3
F&W ECOL 561 Wildlife Management Techniques3
F&W ECOL 655 Animal Population Dynamics3
Plant Taxonomy
BOTANY 400 Plant Systematics4
or BOTANY 401 Vascular Flora of Wisconsin
Complete one of the following:3-5
Evolutionary Biology
Principles of Genetics
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics
and Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory 1
Vertebrate Taxonomy and Natural History
Complete one of the following:5-6
and Birds of Southern Wisconsin
Ecology of Fishes
and Ecology of Fishes Lab
Major Electives
Complete 15 credits from across at least 3 different categories (see course list below):15
Physical Science
Wildlife Resources and Technical Skills
Ecosystem Ecology
Policy, Administration, and Law
Social Aspects of Natural Resources Management
Complete one of the following:3
Complexity and Conservation of White-tailed Deer
Wildlife Research Capstone
Total Credits69-74

Only allowed for students who completed the rest of the Biocore curriculum listed under Biology.

There may be additional requirements for students seeking Wildlife Biologist Certification through The Wildlife Society (TWS). Please refer to TWS website for current requirements: https://wildlife.org/learn/professional-development-certification/certification-programs/

MAJOR Electives

Physical Science
CHEM 104 General Chemistry II5
CHEM 109 Advanced General Chemistry5
PHYSICS 103 General Physics4
PHYSICS 104 General Physics4
PHYSICS 201 General Physics5
PHYSICS 207 General Physics5
PHYSICS 208 General Physics5
GEOSCI 202 Introduction to Geologic Structures4
GEOSCI 204 Geologic Evolution of the Earth4
SOIL SCI 301 General Soil Science3
Wildlife Resources and Technical Skills
ENVIR ST/​SOIL SCI  575 Assessment of Environmental Impact3
F&W ECOL 404 Wildlife Damage Management3
F&W ECOL 424 Wildlife Ecology Summer Field Practicum2
F&W ECOL 658 Forest Resources Practicum3
GEOG/​ENVIR ST/​F&W ECOL/​G L E/​GEOSCI/​LAND ARC  371 Introduction to Environmental Remote Sensing3
GEOG/​CIV ENGR/​ENVIR ST  377 An Introduction to Geographic Information Systems4
LAND ARC/​ENVIR ST  581 Prescribed Fire: Ecology and Implementation3
LAND ARC 668 Restoration Ecology3
ZOOLOGY 405 Introduction to Museum Studies in the Natural Sciences2-3
ANAT&PHY 335 Physiology5
AN SCI/​DY SCI  373 Animal Physiology3
F&W ECOL/​SURG SCI  548 Diseases of Wildlife3
ENTOM/​M M & I/​PATH-BIO/​ZOOLOGY  350 Parasitology3
ZOOLOGY 430 Comparative Anatomy of Vertebrates5
ZOOLOGY 611 Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology3
ANTHRO 668 Primate Conservation3
F&W ECOL/​ENVIR ST/​ZOOLOGY  360 Extinction of Species (Meets CALS International Studies Requirement)3
F&W ECOL/​BOTANY/​ENVIR ST/​ZOOLOGY  651 Conservation Biology3
F&W ECOL/​ZOOLOGY  660 Climate Change Ecology3
GEOG/​ENVIR ST  339 Environmental Conservation4
F&W ECOL/​ENVIR ST  100 Forests of the World (Meets CALS International Studies Requirement)3
F&W ECOL 300 Forest Measurements4
F&W ECOL 305 Forest Operations2
F&W ECOL/​BOTANY  402 Dendrology: Woody Plant Identification and Ecology2
F&W ECOL 410 Principles of Silviculture3
F&W ECOL 448 Disturbance Ecology3
F&W ECOL 449 Disturbance Ecology Lab (I): Herbivores and Fire1
F&W ECOL 450 Disturbance Ecology Lab (II): Forest Pathogens1
F&W ECOL/​BOTANY  455 The Vegetation of Wisconsin4
F&W ECOL 550 Forest Ecology3
Ecosystem Ecology
AGRONOMY/​BOTANY/​SOIL SCI  370 Grassland Ecology3
LAND ARC/​ENVIR ST  361 Wetlands Ecology3
ZOOLOGY/​ENVIR ST  315 Limnology-Conservation of Aquatic Resources2
ZOOLOGY 316 Laboratory for Limnology-Conservation of Aquatic Resources2-3
Policy, Administration, and Law
ENVIR ST/​GEOG  337 Nature, Power and Society3
ENVIR ST/​HISTORY/​LEGAL ST  430 Law and Environment: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives3
ENVIR ST/​GEOG  439 US Environmental Policy and Regulation3-4
ENVIR ST/​ECON/​POLI SCI/​URB R PL  449 Government and Natural Resources3-4
F&W ECOL/​ENVIR ST  515 Natural Resources Policy3
Social Aspects of Natural Resource Management
A A E/​ECON/​ENVIR ST  343 Environmental Economics3-4
AMER IND/​ENVIR ST  306 Indigenous Peoples and the Environment3
AMER IND/​ENVIR ST/​GEOG  345 Managing Nature in Native North America3
AMER IND/​GEOG  410 Critical Indigenous Ecological Knowledges3
AMER IND/​ENVIR ST  341 Indigenous Environmental Communicators3
C&E SOC/​F&W ECOL/​SOC  248 Environment, Natural Resources, and Society3
C&E SOC/​SOC  541 Environmental Stewardship and Social Justice3
F&W ECOL/​ZOOLOGY  335 Human/Animal Relationships: Biological and Philosophical Issues3

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. Define and explain basic principles in biological sciences and major concepts in wildlife ecology including, population ecology, organismal biology, plant ecology/taxonomy, and genetics/evolution.
  2. Explain and discuss principles of wildlife management including natural resource legislation, policy, and applications.
  3. Explain and apply the scientific methods including designing and conducting experiments and testing hypotheses.
  4. Explain and demonstrate techniques for collection of data in laboratory and field settings, keep accurate records, and analyze data to address hypotheses.
  5. Demonstrate a style appropriate for communicating scientific results in written and oral form. Provide opportunity to develop these communication skills.

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.

Sample Wildlife Ecology Four-Year Plan

First Year
F&W ECOL 101 (Counts for CALS First Year Seminar)1F&W ECOL 3793
F&W ECOL 3183MATH 11313
MATH 11213Humanities3
Communication Part A3CHEM 1034
 13 15
Second Year
Social Science3STAT 301 or 3713
Electives5Ethnic Studies3
 16 15
Third Year
CALS International Study Requirement3F&W ECOL 3064
Evolution/Genetics Requirement 3F&W ECOL/​AN SCI/​ZOOLOGY  520
Major Electives6Electives6
 16 16
Fourth Year
Major Electives6F&W ECOL 6553
Electives6Major Elective3
F&W ECOL 577 or 5993Electives9
 15 15
Total Credits 121

MATH course dependent on placement score and transfer credit evaluation.


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


Students are assigned an academic advisor and a faculty advisor in the department.  Professional academic advisors help students plan their coursework and identify opportunities to get involved in department and campus activities. Faculty advise students on career planning and challenge students to think critically.

Career Opportunities

Undergraduates in wildlife ecology prepare for a variety of careers. They can become wildlife biologists, habitat restoration technicians, attorneys, wildlife enforcement officers, researchers, and more. Students are also well prepared to pursue advanced degrees in wildlife and related fields, including veterinary medicine. Graduates of the program work for many organizations, such as state departments of natural resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Chicago Zoological Society, and The Nature Conservancy.


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/


Many wildlife ecology students include internships and professional work experiences in their studies. Students are encouraged to talk to their advisor about internship possibilities. See the Internship & Job Resources page for more information.

Research experience

Wildlife ecology undergraduates are encouraged to get involved in field- or lab-based research with a professor. In their research experiences, students gain skills in a variety of areas including measuring habitats, reviewing literature, identifying species, deploying wildlife cameras, and more.  

Student organizations

Students can join the Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society and the Audubon Society, UW–Madison. Members of the Wildlife Society can work with elementary school students and volunteer for numerous projects.

Competitive teams

Wildlife ecology undergraduates can join a team that competes at the Quiz Bowl at the Wildlife Society annual meeting.

Global engagement

Wildlife ecology students are encouraged to participate in a study abroad experience. The program offers an experience in Mexico focused on wildlife ecology, as well as an international course focused on the extinction of species that meets the CALS International Studies requirement. Students can find more information about study abroad on the CALS study abroad advising page.

Community engagement and volunteering

The Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society organizes several volunteer activities, including spring and summer frog surveys, summer fawn searches, and roadside clean-up. Students also have opportunities to work with elementary school students and give presentations about wildlife.

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


Department scholarships are available to wildlife ecology students and fellowships are available to support research work with a professor. Students across the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences receive more than $1.25 million in scholarships annually. Learn more about college scholarships here.