Purpose and Scope
The way humans live on and develop landscapes is a critical determinant of the biotic make-up (biodiversity) and ensuing functioning of ecosystems. Ecosystems provide important supporting, provisioning, regulating and cultural services, such as climate regulation, carbon sequestration, food and fresh water production, flood regulation and recreational space. The growing awareness that ecosystem services are intimately linked to human health and wellbeing has focused attention on devising new ways to understand and manage humankind’s relationship with the natural world, in the interest of respecting and sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. This specialization gives students the knowledge and skills to become thoughtful stewards of the environment, to ensure that human and nonhuman species can coexist across landscapes. Stewardship ensures that ecosystems are resilient and thereby have enduring capacity to be productive. It further means ensuring that species within ecosystems—the mindboggling variety of microbes and plants and animals—can fulfill their biological natures and functional roles as interdependent members of ecosystems in support of human and nonhuman life alike.
This specialization provides a pathway for building student expertise to develop the scientific, cultural, ethical, financial and political means to conserve biological diversity and sustain ecological functions and services across landscapes. Students will become facile at navigating the inherent complexity that comes from humans and the natural world being entwined as socio-ecological systems. The specialization will deepen student understanding of the natural, social, and political scientific principles that explain how socio-ecological systems function. Students will gain appreciation of the cultural, ethical and economic considerations that shape society’s values about nature. They will gain skills and knowledge to conduct land use planning to enable humans and biodiversity to coexist across a wide spectrum of land uses from wilderness, to farm and forest, to urban rural. The specialization will prepare students for a breadth of career options, including Federal agencies (e.g. Fish & Wildlife Service), state and local government, stewards for land trusts, environmental conservation non-profits (e.g. Defenders of Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy), advocacy, real estate development, and land management and policy organizations with interests in environmental law and planning, and environmental consulting firms.
: Os Schmitz