Back to Top

Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology (CONS)   

Program Title and Classification

Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology

Graduate Degree Program

College: Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences


The principal objective of the CONS Program is to provide graduate training in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology. CONS is an interdisciplinary and experiential approach to the problems of biological conservation in relation to economic development necessary to meet human needs.

The primary goals of the CONS program are: 1)to provide students with the knowledge and problem-solving skills necessary to research and communicate solutions to global environmental issues; 2) to expand the reach of biodiversity conservation and increasing sustainability; 3)to produce leaders and decision-makers in conservation science that are employed by academia, in government, or non-governmental agencies (NGOs); and 4) to provide a service role to the state of Maryland, the nation, local communities, and national and international NGOs and government agencies.

Specifically the program’s objectives are to: provide broad, multidisciplinary training in the core areas of biological conservation, resource economics, and policy analysis; and explicitly link the conflicting topics of sound conservation of natural resources with sustainable development to meet human needs.

CONS graduates are well-prepared to address conservation issues for employers in the private sector and in local, state and national government posts; and to enter Ph.D. programs for further, specialized training.

CONS offers a dual-degree program (PPCN) with the School of Public Policy, wherein students receive both Master of Science and Master of Public Policy degrees. For more information on our degree programs and acaeic requirements, please see our website at

Admissions Information

General Requirements:

Program-Specific Requirements:

  • Letters of Recommendation (3)
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
  • CV/Resume
  • Supplementary Application
  • Publications/Presentations

Admission to the CONS Program is competitive, and applicants tend to be a self-selecting group of high achievers. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree and comply with all Graduate School guidelines to be considered for admission, with the most competitive applicants demonstrating preparedness for graduate coursework in ecology, resource economics, and public policy.

CONS has no formal course prerequisites for admission, but admission is highly competitive. CONS students have an established record of excellence in their academic (e.g., high GRE and GPA scores, prestigious honors and awards) and professional careers (e.g., relevant, real-world employment experience at NGOs, government agencies, research labs, Peace Corps, internships). CONS students have leadership abilities, and evidence of research experience (e.g., publications, presentations, internships), are good communicators. Successful applicants typically have a strong background in biology, and are expected to have sufficient academic preparation to enroll in the required graduate level courses in Ecology, Natural Resource Economics, and Environmental Policy. It is encouraged that incoming students have taken one or more courses in statistics, other quantitative skills, mathematics, GIS analysis, economics, and/or have foreign language skills. Many prospective applicants take one or more post-baccalaureate courses in preparation.

For more admissions information or to apply to the program, please visit our Graduate School website:

Application Deadlines

Type of Applicant Fall
Domestic Applicants:
US Citizens and Permanent Residents
17 Jan
International Applicants:
F (student) or J (exchange visitor) visas
A,E,G,H,I and L visas and immigrants.
17 Jan

Other Deadlines: Please visit the program website at

Degree Requirements

Master of Science (M.S.)

This Master of Science Program was initiated in 1991 to provide new training and educational emphasis in the areas of sustainable development and conservation biology. The program applies an interdisciplinary and experiential approach to the challenges of biological conservation in relation to the economic development necessary to meet human needs. It includes four components: (1) core courses in the areas of ecology and conservation biology, resource economics, public policy, and multi-disciplinary problem solving; (2) elective courses from a wide array of disciplines; (3) an internship experience relevant to the student's career interests; (4) a Scholarly Paper - a rigorous, quantitative analysis of an Environmental Problem that synthesizes the student's coursework, internship experience, and career interests. Course requirements for the program total 39 credits. This is intended to be a two-year program.


Facilities and Special Resources

The program is housed within the Department of Biology but is campus-wide in scope. We have strong connections with the School of Public Policy because ~30% of CONS students are enrolled in the dual degree PPCN program. We have strong connections with AREC because CONS students take a required course in natural resource economics. All CONS students complete an internship - either in a research lab, with an NGO, or with an agency - either in the DC area or further abroad. All CONS students select a faculty advisor relevant to the topic of their scholarly paper, which results in many interactions with environmental faculty in Anthropology, Entomology, Environmental Science & Technology, Latin American Studies, MEES, Public Policy, Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture, and other departments.

Financial Assistance

Students applying to the Program may be nominated for graduate fellowships or may be supported by teaching or graduate assistantships. Fellowship and assistantship offers are made on the basis of past academic performance, financial need, and potential to contribute to the program.

Contact Statement

If you would like additional information on this program, please contact:



Dr. Karen Lips, Director

1201 Biology-Psychology Bldg. Department of BiologyUniversity of MarylandCollege Park

MD, 20742

Telephone: (301) 405-7409

Fax: (301) 314-9358">


Associated Information











Inter-disciplinary Training in Ecology, Resource Economics, Public Policy issues and Problem Solving related to Conservation of Biodiversity and the Continued Functioning of Natural Systems.


Biological Sciences (BISI)

Marine, Estuarine, and Environmental Sciences (MEES)