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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 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.

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 under the Advising and Careers tab.

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
Select one of the following (or may be satisfied by placement exam):5-6
Algebra
and Trigonometry
Algebra and Trigonometry
Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry I
Select one of the following:3
Introduction to Statistical Methods
Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
Chemistry
Select one of the following:4-5
General Chemistry I
Chemistry in Our World (only for Natural Resources track students)
Advanced General Chemistry
Biology
Select 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
Core
Wildlife Ecology
F&W ECOL 101 Orientation to Wildlife Ecology1
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
Anatomy/Physiology/Disease
Select one of the following:3-5
Diseases of Wildlife (recommended)
Physiology
Comparative Anatomy of Vertebrates
Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology
Evolution/Genetics
Select one of the following:3-5
Evolutionary Biology
Principles of Genetics
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics
and Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory 1
Wildlife Biology
Select one of the following:5-6
Ornithology
and Birds of Southern Wisconsin 2
Ecology of Fishes
and Ecology of Fishes Lab
Breadth
Select 3 credits from breadth courses (below)3
Track Courses
Select one of the following:14-17
Natural Sciences Track
Natural Resources Track
Capstone
Select one of the following:3
Complexity and Conservation of White-tailed Deer
Wildlife Research Capstone
Total Credits74-84
1

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

2

Required for The Wildlife Society (TWS) certification.

Breadth Courses

AGRONOMY/​BOTANY/​SOIL SCI  370 Grassland Ecology3
ENVIR ST/​LAND ARC  361 Wetlands Ecology3
ENVIR ST 375 Field Ecology Workshop3
F&W ECOL/​ENVIR ST/​ZOOLOGY  360 Extinction of Species3
F&W ECOL/​BOTANY  402 Dendrology2
LAND ARC/​ENVIR ST  581 Prescribed Fire: Ecology and Implementation3
LAND ARC 668 Restoration Ecology3
F&W ECOL 300 Forest Biometry4
F&W ECOL 404 Wildlife Damage Management3
F&W ECOL 424 Wildlife Ecology Summer Field Practicum (this course, taken for 2 credits, will complete the requirement)2
F&W ECOL/​ENVIR ST  515 Natural Resources Policy3
F&W ECOL/​SURG SCI  548 Diseases of Wildlife3
F&W ECOL 550 Forest Ecology3
F&W ECOL/​LAND ARC/​ZOOLOGY  565 Principles of Landscape Ecology2
F&W ECOL/​AGRONOMY/​ENTOM/​M&ENVTOX  632 Ecotoxicology: The Chemical Players1
F&W ECOL/​AGRONOMY/​ENTOM/​M&ENVTOX  633 Ecotoxicology: Impacts on Individuals1
F&W ECOL/​AGRONOMY/​ENTOM/​M&ENVTOX  634 Ecotoxicology: Impacts on Populations, Communities and Ecosystems1
F&W ECOL/​BOTANY/​ENVIR ST/​ZOOLOGY  651 Conservation Biology3
F&W ECOL/​ZOOLOGY  660 Climate Change Ecology3
GEOG/​CIV ENGR/​ENVIR ST  377 An Introduction to Geographic Information Systems4
ZOOLOGY/​ENVIR ST  315 Limnology-Conservation of Aquatic Resources2
ZOOLOGY 316 Laboratory for Limnology-Conservation of Aquatic Resources2-3
ZOOLOGY 504 Modeling Animal Landscapes3-5

Courses used in this category cannot be double counted toward any other major requirement.

Tracks

Natural Sciences Track

Select one of the following:5
Calculus
Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II
Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1
CHEM 104 General Chemistry II 15
Select one of the following:4-5
General Physics
General Physics
General Physics
Total Credits14-15
1

If CHEM 109 was taken instead of CHEM 103, CHEM 104 is not required.

Natural Resources Track

Wildlife Resource Electives
Select two of the following:3-7
Wildlife Damage Management
Wildlife Ecology Summer Field Practicum
Natural Resources Policy
Diseases of Wildlife
US Environmental Policy and Regulation
Conservation Biology Electives
Select one of the following:3
Extinction of Species
Conservation Biology
Climate Change Ecology
Forest Management Electives
Select one of the following:2-4
Forest Operations
Principles of Silviculture
Forest Resources Practicum
Natural Resources Management Electives
Select one of the following:2-4
Environment, Natural Resources, and Society
People, Wildlife and Landscapes
Environmental Stewardship and Social Justice
Human/Animal Relationships: Biological and Philosophical Issues
Natural Resource Economics
Nature, Power and Society
Environmental Conservation
Environmental Economics
Government and Natural Resources
Assessment of Environmental Impact
Total Credits10-18

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

Sample Wildlife Ecology Four-Year Plan

First Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
F&W ECOL 1011F&W ECOL 3793
F&W ECOL 3183MATH 11313
MATH 11213CHEM 103 or 1094-5
Humanities3-4Humanities3
Ethnic Studies3Social Science3
 13-14 16-17
Second Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY/​BOTANY  15125ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY/​BOTANY  15225
Track Courses7-8BOTANY 4014
Elective3Statistics Course3-4
 Track Course4
 15-16 16-17
Third Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
F&W ECOL 5613F&W ECOL 3064
Anatomy/Physiology/Disease3F&W ECOL/​AN SCI/​ZOOLOGY  520
F&W ECOL/​AN SCI/​ZOOLOGY  521
6
Breadth Course3F&W ECOL/​LAND ARC/​ZOOLOGY  5652
Track Course3ZOOLOGY/​ANTHRO/​BOTANY  410 or GENETICS 4663
Elective3 
 15 15
Fourth Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
F&W ECOL/​ENVIR ST/​ZOOLOGY  36033F&W ECOL 6553
F&W ECOL/​SURG SCI  5483Track Course3
Track Course3Elective8
Capstone Course3 
Elective3 
 15 14
Total Credits 119-123
 

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

1

MATH course dependent on placement score and transfer credit evaluation.

2

Students can instead take ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY  101ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY  102BOTANY/​BIOLOGY  130 to fulfill the biology requirement.

3

Recommended to fulfill the CALS International Studies requirement, also a Breadth Elective option.

Advising 

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.

Professors

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

Affiliated Faculty

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

Instructors

Berkelman, James
Nack, Jamie

Advisor

Hochmuth, Allee

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

Internships

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.