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Conservation Planning

Specialization Advisor(s)

Conservation involves deliberate efforts to protect and sustain the Earth’s terrestrial, freshwater and marine natural resources. Conservation planning involves developing strategies and tactics for achieving conservation goals and objectives for specific resources and areas of interest.

Effective conservation planning requires consideration of local impacts as well as broader geographic and temporal effects. Political, social, and economic influences have significant impacts on conservation planning. 

Students specializing in Conservation Planning (CP) in the Master of Environmental Science and Management program learn to systematically plan for conserving, managing, and restoring wild populations and ecosystems in a changing environment. The CP specialization is grounded in population and community ecology, landscape ecology, conservation biology, and climate change biology. Conservation planning requires technical training in ecological inventory and monitoring, data analysis, mapping, and modeling. CP students also learn about regulatory and policy frameworks surrounding issues such as land and water use planning, natural resource management, and endangered species protection.

Fish swimming among coral


Master of Environmental Science and Management students are required to take a minimum of 36 units of electives in their primary specialization. With an advisor’s approval, Bren students may also take courses in other UCSB departments as electives to satisfy specialization requirements. 

ESM courses are offered through the Bren School and most ESM courses are offered every year. Courses marked with an asterisk (*) will be offered every other year. 


CP Specialization Courses (16 units required)

ESM 211  Applied Population Ecology (4 units) or
ESM 215 Landscape Ecology (4 units)

1ESM 263  Geographic Information Systems (4 units)
  ESM 270  Principles of Conservation Planning (4 units)
2, 3ESM 270P  Conservation Planning Practicum (4 units)

REQUIREMENT: Conservation Planning students must take ESM 263 the Winter Quarter of their first year, followed by ESM 270 as a short course before Fall Quarter of their second year, and then ESM 270P in Fall Quarter of their second year. ESM 211 does not have a required sequence, but is generally taken in a student's second year after a student has completed the ESM 201 prerequisite in their first year. Alternatively, students may take ESM 215 which has no required sequence, but is generally taken in a student's second year after a student has completed ESM 201. 

1ESM 263 is a prerequisite for ESM 270.
If a student has equivalent prior knowledge of GIS, the instructor may allow a student to waive this course and substitute 4 units of other technical courses. 

2ESM 270 is a prerequisite for ESM 270P.

3ESM 270 is offered as a short course before Fall quarter. Students interested in CP should plan to be available before the start of Fall quarter of their second year.

Technical Skills (4 units required)

ESM 212  Biological Community Survey & Analysis  (4 units)
ESM 228  Monitoring and Evaluation (4 units)
ESM 232  Environmental Modeling (4 units)
ESM 244  Advanced Data Analysis (4 units)
ESM 262  Computing for Environmental Science and Management (2 units)
ESM 269  Survey Design and Environmental Public Opinion (2 units)
ESM 271  Carbon Footprints and Carbon Accounting (4 units)
ESM 273  Life Cycle Assessment (4 units)
ESM 284 Sustainable Product Development (4 units)
ESM 287 Energy Demand Analysis (4 units)

Environmental Economics, Policy, and Law (4 units required)

ESM 225  Water Policy (4 units)
ESM 229  Economics and Policy of Climate Change (4 units)
ESM 242  Natural Resource Economics (4 units)
ESM 243  Environmental Policy Analysis (4 units)
ESM 245  Cost Benefit Analysis (4 units)
ESM 248  Environmental Institutions (4 units)
ESM 257  Coastal Ocean Policy and Management (4 units)
ESM 277  International Environmental Law (2 units)*
ESM 278  Natural Resources Law and Policy (2 units)*

Environmental Management (4 units required)

ESM 230  Strategic Planning for Non-Profit Ventures (4 units)*
ESM 279  Financial Management and Environmental Accounting (4 units)
ESM 281  Corporate Environmental Management (4 units)
ESM 284 Sustainable Product Development (4 units)

Additional Science (4 units required)

ESM 214  Biological Waste Treatment (4 units)*
ESM 215  Landscape Ecology (4 units)
ESM 219  Microbial Processes in the Environment (4 units)*
ESM 222  Pollution Risk Management (4 units)
ESM 224  Sustainable Water Resources Management (4 units)
ESM 226  Groundwater Management (4 units)
ESM 235  Watershed Analysis (4 units)
ESM 237  Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (4 units)
ESM 239  Advanced Climate Science for Policymakers (4 units)*
ESM 240  Climate Change Biology (2 units)*
ESM 254  Coastal Marine Ecosystem Processes (4 units)
ESM 260  Applied Marine Ecology (4 units)
ESM 282  Pollution Prevention (4 units)
ESM 288  Energy, Technology and the Environment (4 units)
Or fill in relevant science course from other UCSB departments.

Advanced Special Topics (recommended)

Advanced Special Topics courses (variable units) are typically taught by Visiting Professors and Lecturers and may be offered during any quarter of the academic year.

ESM 293  Advanced Special Topics in Climate and Energy
ESM 294  Advanced Special Topics in Environmental Law
ESM 296  Advanced Special Topics in Environmental Management
ESM 297  Advanced Special Topics in Environmental Policy
ESM 299  Advanced Special Topics in Environmental Science
ESM 430  Workshops in Environmental Science and Management

Relevant Courses in other UCSB departments

EEMB 103A  Flora and Vegetation of California
EEMB 112  Invertebrate Zoology
EEMB 119  Ecology and Management of California Wildlands
EEMB 153  Ecology of Lakes and Wetlands
EEMB 222  Ecological Constraints to Ecosystem Restoration        
EEMB 279  Modeling Environmental and Ecological Change
GEOG 210C  Analytical Methods in Geography III

Internship Opportunities

Students gain experience in an industry or sector relevant to career goals through a summer internship. CP students have taken internships with a wide variety of organizations, including the Environmental Defense Fund, Conservation International, California Tahoe Conservancy, The Wildlife Society, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Earthwatch Institute, Wilderness Society, Catalina Island Conservancy, and many other agencies, organizations, and companies.

Research & Special Projects

Students may participate in research directed by Bren faculty through one of the many interdisciplinary research groups at UCSB. Explore faculty research specializations.

Student stands with group of people by palm trees

Are you ready to solve environmental problems?

Request more information, sign up for an admissions webinar, or start your application today.

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