In response to growing student interest in environment issues, the University is instituting a masters degree program in conservation biology. Undergraduates will be encouraged to submatriculate in the program, which will combine studies in natural science and government policy. According to Biology Professor John Smith, who has been involved with developing the program, the field of conservation biology has grown rapidly recently, with as many as 20 programs originating at different universities in the last five years. He said the increase in programs is academia's response to the declining world environment. "Biology is beginning to catch up with reality," Smith said. "It's really getting that desperate. There isn't a whole lot of time." Biology Professor Brenda Casper said the 10-credit masters program, which will begin next fall, is designed to attract students with a variety of academic backgrounds. All students will be required to participate in an internship at an institution such as the Smithsonian Conservation Research Center or the National Park Service and to write a thesis. Smith said the internships will augment the resources that the University, as an urban school, can offer. "Sitting in a city like this and having a limited faculty, we have to find ways of getting our people out into the natural world when they are working on their theses," said Smith. According to Casper, the idea for a submatriculation program in conservation biology developed as the Biology Department searched for ways to increase department's connection with the Morris Arboretum. She said researchers at the Arboretum, who are adjunct members of the Biology faculty, were interested in applied ecology. Casper added that environmentalism is an area of growing interest among undergraduates. No new professors are expected to be hired, and several existing courses will form the foundation for the new program. Some of the approximately 12 students who signed a list indicating they might be interested in the submatriculation program said last night they were attracted by the possibility of building on their interest in environmentalism and getting a masters degree only one year after finishing their undergraduate studies. "I simply took a couple environmental studies classes," said College junior Julio Arias. "They were very interesting. It's a burning issue right now." College sophomore Beth Mersten said that although she has not chosen an undergraduate major, she is interested in the masters program. "It's nice that you can get a masters in less than a year extra," Mersten said. "It seems like a good field. I've always been interested in the environment." Biology Professor Smith said he anticipates that graduates of the program will be able to get jobs in private or governmental agencies monitoring the environment, agencies that will receive increased funding in the near future.Comments powered by Disqus
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