Hands-on Learning

All Resource Conservation students are required to take at least 3.0 credits of experiential coursework. These credits can be earned through field courses, independent research, or internships. These experiences help students build field and research skills, connect classroom learning to applied projects, and prepare students for employment after graduation. Our hands-on learning opportunities are among the most meaningful and transformative educational experiences available to college students anywhere.

Field Courses & Programs of Study

Students can choose to participate in a wide variety of field-based courses and field study programs. Some field courses are offered by UM professors and others are offered by University partners who specialize in transformative, field-based experiences. Each of these experiences provide students with first-hand experience in applied conservation while earning academic credit. Any of the following courses or programs can be used to fulfill the 3-credit Experiential Learning requirement.

The following CFC courses offer field immersion which can be used toward fulfilling the 3-credit Experiential Learning requirement

  • NRSM 215 – Field studies in conservation (1 credit)
  • PTRM 150 – Current issues in Parks Tourism and Recreation Management (1 credit)
  • PTRM 484 – Field measurement techniques (3 credits)
  • PTRM 418 – Winter field skills (3 credits)
  • FORS 130 – Forestry field skills (2 credits)
  • WBIO 374 – Hunter check stations (1 credit)

The following courses are summer courses that offer significant field immersion at the Flathead Biological Station and fulfill the 3-credit Experiential Learning Requirement

  • BIOE 342 – Field ecology (5 credits, summer only)
  • BIOE 451 – Landscape ecology (3 credits, summer only)
  • BIOE 439 – Stream ecology (3 credits, summer only)
  • BIOE 453 – Lake ecology (3 credits, summer only)
  • BIOE 458 – Ecology of forests and grasslands (3 credits, summer only)
  • BIOE 416 – Alpine ecology (3 credits, summer only)
  • BIOE 440 – Conservation ecology (3 credits, summer only)

Students may petition other field courses to meet the 3-credit Experiential Learning requirement; we commend students get courses pre-approved by the Resource Conservation program director

The following field study programs offer extensive time in the field; each can be used toward the 3-credit Experiential Learning requirement

College of Forestry and Conservation Study Abroad Programs

Indian Himalaya

  • NRSM 352 – Himalayan Environment and Development (3 credits)
  • PTRM 353 – Tourism, Livelihoods, and Sustainability in the Himalaya (3 credits)

Zambia, Africa

  • PTRM 345X – Sustaining Human Society & Natural Environment (6 credits)

High Sierra of Peru

  • PTRM 291 – Peru Mountaineering and Leadership (2 credits)

Mekong Delta, Vietnam

  • ENST 427 – Social Issues: Mekong Delta (3 credits)
  • ENST 437 – Climate Change: Mekong Delta (3 credits)

Chilean Patagonia

  • PTRM 291 – Conservation Development and Local Livelihoods in Patagonia (3 credits)

New Zealand & Australia

  • NRSM 345X – Sustainability: Humans, Business, and the Environment (6 credits)

Wilderness and Civilization Program – Interdisciplinary wilderness studies program with campus and field components

Swan Valley Connections (formerly Northwest Connections) - Fall and summer field courses taught in the Swan Valley, Western Montana (students get UM credit); any student successfully completing a Swan Valley Connections course will simultaneously fulfill the 3-credit Experiential Learning requirement for Resource Conservation.

Wildlife in the WestMay 20 through June 29

  • ENST 391 – Field Ecology of Threatened and Endangered Species (3 credits)
  • ENST 391 – Wildlife Policy and Rural Communities (3 credits)
  • NRSM 391 – Community-based Approaches to Wildlife Conservation (3 credits)

 Landscape and LivelihoodAugust 29 through November 1

  • GPHY 395 – Biogeography of Northwestern Montana (4 credits)
  • NRSM 346 – Forests and Communities (3 credits)
  • NRSM 345 – Watershed Dynamics and Management (3 credits)
  • ENST 395 – Conservation and Community Research Project (3 credits)
  • GPHY 395 – Sustainability and Agriculture (3 credits)

Wild Rockies Field Institute - Field courses throughout North America (students get UM credit)

Haida Gwaii semester - Semester-long program focused on resource management and first nations in British Columbia (credits can be transferred to UM)

Round River Conservation Studies - Wildlife conservation study abroad programs in Africa, South America, and North America (credits can be transferred to UM)

The following minors have field-based components which simultaneously fulfill the 3-credit Experiential Learning requirement for the Resource Conservation Degree.

Climate Change Minor – Any student successfully completing the Climate Change Studies minor will simultaneously fulfill the 3-credit Experiential Learning requirement for Resource Conservation

Fire Sciences and Management Minor – Any student successfully completing the Fire Sciences and Management minor will simultaneously fulfill the 3-credit Experiential Learning requirement for Resource Conservation

Wilderness Studies Minor – Any student successfully completing the Wilderness and Civilization minor will simultaneously fulfill the 3-credit Experiential Learning requirement for Resource Conservation

Independent Research & Senior Theses

Advanced undergraduates can pursue the senior thesis option during their senior year.  Interested students should secure a faculty advisor during spring of their junior year or early in the fall of their senior year.  Students should have a topic in mind and approach an advisor with expertise in that area.  A senior thesis is not an independent study, but rather involves articulating a research question, designing a project to answer that question, conducting the research, analyzing the data, and writing up the results in a thesis of publishable quality.  Students pursuing a senior thesis need to be focused, motivated, and possess excellent analytical skills and writing skills.  A senior thesis can be particularly helpful for students planning to pursue graduate studies.  A senior thesis is not required for graduation.

Resource Conservation students also conduct non-thesis independent research projects under the supervision of a faculty member.  Students who are interested in conducting an independent research project should develop a short description of their research topic and approach potential faculty advisors with expertise in that area. 

Funding for independent research and senior theses is available through the Melipal Fellowship and the Irene Evers Competitive Undergraduate Research Scholarships.