ESC Program Description

Thanks for your interest in the Ecosystem Science & Conservation program. As one of eight available concentrations in the two-year residential Master of Environmental Management (MEM) program, ESC focuses on the natural science, policy, and management issues that relate to the stewardship of our natural resources. 


We endeavor to give ESC students:

  • A knowledge base with breadth in ecosystem science including ecology and physical science, policy and economics, and an opportunity to concentrate on the management of a resource or ecosystem of focus.
  • Quantitative and analytical skills of statistics and a choice of tools including, among others: applied mathematics and quantitative modeling, geospatial techniques, community-based participatory approaches, and field ecology skills.
  • Management skills to sustain ecosystem function and health, as well as the ability to work in cross-disciplinary settings in the government, non-profit, and private sectors.
  • Oral and written skills to communicate scientific studies and management outcomes to a wide audience, especially at the interface of science, policy, and the public.


Ecosystem science emphasizes an integrated, systems-level perspective on natural resource management. The defining feature of the ESC program is a “topic x toolkit” framework that is used to create a customized curriculum tailored to each student’s background, interests, and career goals. 

The topic (or concentration) defines a topical area or disciplinary specialization. The toolkit (or approach) provides the technical skills you need to work effectively in that area. In combination, these choices guide your coursework and research experience during the MEM program.

The MEM degree requires a minimum of 48 credit hours and is usually completed in four semesters. A typical ESC curriculum consists of the following components: 

  • Four courses/tutorials required for all MEM students (6-8 credit hours)
  • Three Core Courses for your selected topic area (9 credit hours minimum)
  • Four Tools Courses for your selected toolkit (12 credit hours minimum)
  • Three Specialized Elective Courses to complement your curriculum (9 credit hours minimum)
  • Master’s Project (4-6 credit hours)
  • Additional electives to meet the 48-credit hour minimum for degree completion 

See ESC Prerequisites & Course Requirements for course examples and specific requirements. 


Applications are accepted through early January of each year for fall enrollment. Spring enrollment is not offered at this time. See Application Materials & Requirements for further details and application materials. 


If you’re still deciding whether ESC is right for you, feel free to get in touch. Check out our Faculty List to find someone who shares your interests, send your questions to our Program Chair, or contact the Admissions Office. We’re happy to help. 

You can also see what our alumni are up to at our ESC Alumni page

Special Considerations – Forests
Students interested in forest ecosystems have a choice of degree programs: 

  • A forest concentration under ESC leading to the MEM degree.
  • The forestry program leading to the MF degree.
  • A combination of the two, leading to both degrees in as few as five semesters. 

To decide among these options, review the required curriculum for each option in light of your interests and your career goals.