May 24, 2024  
2023-2024 Catalog 
2023-2024 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Ecology, BS

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Program Mission Statement

The mission of the Bachelor of Science: Ecology program is to provide students an innovative and applied undergraduate education in ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environments. We educate our students in the scientific and quantitative skills needed to work at scales from genes to the biosphere and from minutes to millennia. Our program strongly supports student engagement in ecological research and community outreach through internships, cooperative education, and thesis opportunities.

Program Information

The BS: Ecology degree is appropriate for students interested in careers as diverse as fish and wildlife biology, statistical ecology, agroecology, botany, forestry, conservation biology, disease ecology, and landscape ecology. Ecologists are most frequently hired by universities, research institutions, private consulting firms and industry, state and federal government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and zoos and aquariums. In addition, the curriculum is tailored to provide all the coursework necessary for students to apply for professional certification from several ecological organizations (Ecological Society of America, The Wildlife Society, and The American Fisheries Society) and to attend top M.S. or Ph.D. graduate programs in ecology-related fields.

The Option Areas listed for the BS: Ecology degree are designed to allow students to focus on specific coursework within the broader field of ecology, often in support of career or graduate school objectives.

The Fish and Wildlife Ecology Option is designed for students interested in careers such as fisheries biology, wildlife biology, conservation biology, wildlife rehabilitation, zoo keeper, and aquarium managers.

The Quantitative Ecology Option is designed for students interested in applying statistical methods to the study of complex ecological systems, such as data analysis and modeling of fish and wildlife populations, disease epidemiology, agricultural yields, invasive species dynamics, climate patterns, and ecosystem restoration. This Option prepares students for graduate programs in mathematics or ecology-related disciplines.

The Integrative Ecology Option is designed for students who want flexibility and independence to pursue coursework from across different science and mathematics disciplines. This Option is particularly appropriate for students who transfer to University of Montana Western with specialized science courses not offered at our institution, and those pursuing specific post-graduate training for specialized career tracks such as natural resource law enforcement, forestry, or agroecology.

The BS: Ecology degree requires students to complete an internship or senior thesis in an ecology discipline area as part of their educational experience. This internship/thesis component adds important aspects of experiential learning within these degrees, providing students with real-world experiences in prospective ecology careers and various areas of research they may encountered in graduate school. In many cases, students perform an internship through paid or volunteer work for an employer in a profession the student is interested in pursuing. In addition, University of Montana Western’s active faculty provide students with a variety of opportunities to be involved in research in novel areas of ecological molecular biology, wildlife biology, plant ecology, fisheries biology, and mathematical modeling, as well as other areas within the broader discipline. These research opportunities allow students to closely interact with professors to design and implement research to address interesting and novel questions in ecology, which can form the basis of a senior thesis project.

Graduate Outcomes

Successful graduates from the BS: Ecology program will:

  • Demonstrate comprehension of how organisms interact with one another and with their environment, based on the major areas of ecological inquiry, namely; populations, communities and ecosystems;
  • Display an understanding of basic concepts in the diverse fields of ecology, including cell biology, botany, zoology, ecology, conservation biology, molecular biology, genetics, and evolution;
  • Read and understand primary scientific literature;
  • Acquire scientific skills necessary to collect, assess, analyze, and present data to answer ecological questions;
  • Give effective spoken presentations and participate in capstone internships or research projects that provide authentic professional practice within the field of ecology.


The graduate outcomes for the BS: Ecology degrees are assessed at early, middle and late stages of the program. Outcomes are assessed through course performance rubrics and metrics that inform regular departmental self-study, responses from students on select course evaluations that focus on course learning objectives, feedback from internship supervisors, and reports from external reviews. Details of specific assessment activities are outlined in the program assessment plan available from the Biology Department.

Advising Protocol

Additional advising protocols exist for students who wish to pursue professional certification programs offered through the Ecological Society of America, The Wildlife Society and the American Fisheries Society, all the requirements for which can be met within the framework of the undergraduate program. An advising protocol also exists for students interested in natural resource law enforcement work (fish, wildlife and parks game warden, wildlife trooper, conservation officer, ranger, etc.). Contact the Academic Advising Office or an Ecology program advisor for copies of advising protocols and more information about certification programs.

Credit Requirements

General Education: 32 Credits

General Education  

Select the following 2 courses/8 credits for Natural Science

Select the following course/4 credits for Mathematics

Ecology Major Core: 52 Credits

Organismal Ecology*

Select 1 course/4 credits from the following:

Community & Ecosystem Ecology*

  • Select 1 course/4 credits from BIOE 300-400 level


*Students in the Fish & Wildlife Ecology Option must take BIOO 435  Plant Systematics to meet The Wildlife Society certification requirements (see certification advising protocols).  

*Students in the Fish & Wildlife Ecology Option must take an aquatic sciences BIOE course in areas such as Wetland Ecology, Coral Reef Ecology, Lake Ecology, Stream Ecology, or Aquatic Microbial Ecology to meet American Fisheries Society certification requirements (see certification advising protocols).  


Internship 4 Credits*

Select 1-2 courses/4 credits from the following:


*Students in the Fish & Wildlife Ecology Option must take the WILD 499 Fish and Wildlife Science Communications Capstone  

Option Areas 24 Credits

Select any one BS: Ecology Option area

Electives 8 Credits

Select any college-level courses from the catalog to bring degree total to 120 credits  
Any of the following courses are highly recommended across Ecology Options for professional development and certification requirements:  

BS: Ecology Total Credits 120

Ecology Endorsed Substitutions

Courses endorsed as substitutions for select BS: Ecology degree requires are offered through the University of Montana Flathead Lake Biology Station (FLBS):                                                                                                                                                                       

UMW Course Requirement Equivalent FLBS Course
BIOE Conservation Biology BIOE 440 Conservation Biology
BIOE 370 Ecology BIOE 342 Field Ecology
A BIOE Course

BIOE 342 Field Ecology;BIOE 416 Alpine Ecology

BIOL 439 Stream Ecology; BIOE 440 Conservation Ecology

BIOE 451 Landscape Ecology; BIOE 453 Lake Ecology

or BIOE 458 Forest & Grassland Ecology

A 300-400 level option elective in

Quantitative or Integrative Option

BIOB 480 Conservation Genetics


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