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In this 16-week program, you’ll complete two core courses of conservation theory and practice, a course on the human dimensions of conservation, a solutions-oriented course where you will research a topic of your choice, and a course focused on your professional development in conservation.

Week 1

Orientation to Smithsonian and Mason resources and the geography and natural history of our local region.

Weeks 2-14 (Mondays or Saturdays)

Conservation in Practice

CONS 320 (3 credits)

Your experience in this course focuses on your personal and professional development in the field of conservation. This includes a work experience (called a practicum) where you’ll spend 6-8 hours per week working closely with a conservation professional. You’ll gain hands-on practice working in the field to help build your resume and professional network.

Potential Practicum Placements

  • Wildlife endocrinology lab
  • Strategic development and project planning
  • Wildlife rehabilitation
  • Animal keeper support in hoofstock, birds, and small mammals
  • Conservation education and outreach
  • Wood turtle management and monitoring
  • Community supported agriculture and working landscapes

Writing and Reflection

The practicum experience also has a professional writing component. You’ll work with faculty to develop documents like your biographical sketch and resume, and complete assignments that help you reflect on the semester, what you’ve learned, and your experience working for a conservation professional.

Assignments include:

  • Reflective essays
  • Visual essay
  • Journaling

Weeks 2-14 (Tuesdays through Fridays)

Conservation Theory

CONS 401 (3 credits)

This course introduces the field of conservation biology and science-based management of threatened species and habitats in human-dominated landscapes. Students evaluate biodiversity conservation and sustainability in a changing world.

Applied Conservation

CONS 402 (4 credits)

Students participate in field conservation exercises, including data collection for watershed monitoring and field ecology.  This course also includes lab work, particularly in reproductive biology for conservation. Students apply their learning to make decisions in conservation management.

Human Dimensions of Conservation

CONS 410 (3 credits)

This course investigates local and global perspectives on conservation issues.  Students develop skills in decision-making processes (like adaptive management), conflict resolution, environmental economics, sustainability, public policy and opinion, environmental values, and conservation ethics.

Integrated Conservation Strategies

CONS 490 (3 credits)

This synthesis course integrates the material learned throughout the semester through the study of current conservation issues. Students incorporate interdisciplinary aspects of conservation into a summative group case study on a chosen conservation issue and present their strategies for addressing the problem formally before a panel of faculty and guests.

Weeks 15-16

Public presentations of independent and group research projects and practicum narratives, and final exams.