University of Vermont

FIELD NATURALIST AND ECOLOGICAL PLANNING PROGRAMS

Programs: Our Approach to Learning

Field Naturalist or Ecological Planning?

We are partner programs with mutual goals. The Field Naturalist Program resides in the Plant Biology Department. Ecological Planning is based in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.

Our graduate students, virtually indistinguishable, work and study together, but each program offers a slighly different curriculum and degree. Here is how they compare.

We begin with a wisdom of natural places. Field Naturalists and Ecological Planners (FNEPs) pursue coursework in geology, hydrology, botany, zoology, soil science and other essentials of ecology and conservation. From this foundation we begin to understand natural places, their riddles and their problems.

Next is synthesis. FNEPs recognize how the components of a landscape – from bedrock to treetops, from climate to human influences – combine into dynamic forces that define and govern any ecosystem. It is an essential perspective, but not quite complete.

Success requires thought and communication. So, finally, we bring open minds and objective analysis to develop solutions that work for people and places. We listen to and learn from people in coommunities where we work. Together we develop strategies and solutions. And with eloquent writing and effective visual and verbal skills we bring clear solutions to professionals and the general public.

Those three elements constitute the strategy and dexterity of a Field Naturalist or an Ecological Planner.

How We Study

Our programs emphasize collaboration and mutual support. Cohorts of gradulate students, usually no more than eight per year, form bonds in learning and for lasting professional relationships. Although students often work alone in remote places for their graduate research, they learn and socialize together during the academic year.

Students develop a masters project in consultation with a sponsoring conservation organization – The Nature Conservancy, the National Park Service, a state government or a municipal parks department, for example. Field research spans the summer of the first academic year and portions of the second fall semester. The product of each student's graduate work includes a professional report or document for the sponsoring organization, written academic reflections, and a journal publication or article in the popular mass media.

Last modified October 24 2013 02:10 PM