Department of Natural Resources and Society

Jaap Vos, Chair (Water Center 242G ; phone 208-885-4595 ; ;

Undergraduate programs in the Department of Natural Resources and Society involve the study of how individuals, private, non-profit, and governmental institutions determine how land and natural resources are allocated and managed. The Department prepares professionals and helps build the capacity of organizations that protect and conserve the environment. The undergraduate program prepares conservation professionals who

  1. possess core skills relating to organizational management and leadership;
  2. are aware of social science theories, approaches, and technological applications;
  3. can apply both social theory and practice to current conservation issues;
  4. can work across disciplinary and sector boundaries with diverse stakeholders;
  5. understand and apply key concepts related to the planning and management of protected areas and working landscapes; and
  6. develop and incorporate a personal land ethic into their daily actions and relationships.

Students receive a solid educational foundation by studying natural resources and their management. These experiences are coupled with courses in the human dimensions of resource use, including a strong emphasis in sociology, psychology, geospatial sciences, political science, economics, and communication.  

The Natural Resource Conservation B.S. undergraduate degree has two tracks: Conservation Science and Conservation Planning and Management. These prepare students for employment or graduate education in the social dimensions of natural resource and environmental management. Graduates are prepared for a wide spectrum of career opportunities related to the human dimensions of conservation. Careers, however, usually begin in one of three general areas: environmental communication/education; parks, protected areas, and wilderness conservation; or land management policy and planning. Graduates find employment in private businesses; county, state, and national parks and protected areas; educational institutions; environmental non-profit organizations; and a variety of resource-management agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and others. Some students also pursue a second degree in ecology, environmental science, forestry, wildlife and fisheries, or range management to broaden their employability. Others select foreign language coursework to prepare for careers in international conservation.

The Natural Resource Enterprise Management B.S. combines traditional natural resource management curriculum with the College of Business’ Entrepreneurship Minor to teach students about private sector involvement, with attention to preservation and recreational perspectives. NREM students take creative, entrepreneurial, and private sector approaches to natural resource management, training them to be leaders who embrace the evolving relationships between landowners and government agencies.

The department also offers thesis and non-thesis graduate programs (M.S. in Natural Resources) as well as a Ph.D. These are multidisciplinary and provide students with the opportunity to combine interests in natural resource management and the social and/or biophysical sciences. In cooperation with an advisory committee, each student develops a program of studies that supports their educational and professional interests. Graduate courses are available in this department and in supporting areas such as forest resources, landscape ecology, anthropology, geography, education, statistics, political science, sociology, and psychology. In addition, the department is the home of the award-winning McCall Outdoor Science School (MOSS) graduate program ( This innovative program is housed at the UI McCall Field Campus and prepares students to become leaders in teaching and science communication to a broad array of audiences. 

Admission to graduate study normally requires completion of undergraduate coursework in the natural and social sciences. Applicants who have completed their undergraduate degrees in fields not closely related may be required to make up deficiencies as determined by their advisory committees. Admission is based on undergraduate grades, evidence of ability to complete graduate-level work, letters of recommendation, examination scores, the compatibility of the student's educational and career objectives with areas of concentration in the department, and the availability of departmental graduate faculty.

For additional information, please consult the department head (208-885-7911) or visit the department website at