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Range Science, MS, PhD

Utah State University is the only public university in the state that offers advanced degrees in range science, and it is the only university in the state with a college of natural resources. As a land-grant institution, USU is committed to educating students and preparing them for work in conservation and preservation of range lands. Students in this program study the science and application of ecology principles in rangeland environments. While the focus of range sciences at USU is primarily on the rangelands of the Great Basin, students will receive a broad background in various subjects in rangeland ecosystems. Students can study specific areas related to rangeland science, such as vegetation management, animal behavior, and restoration of rangelands.

Career Options

At the PhD level, graduates primarily pursue the following career paths:

  • Researchers for government agencies
  • University faculty and academia
  • Environmental consultants

Students who graduate with master’s degrees have a wide variety of options, such as:

  • Work for government agencies
  • Conservationists
  • Range management specialists
  • Non-government organizations

Graduates can also apply their knowledge of range science to other areas, such as real estate and business.

Admissions Deadlines

Applications for graduate programs are accepted year-round. However, chances for acceptance are best if students apply from October through January of each academic year. It is also encouraged that students begin in the fall if possible.

Master's Degree Plan Option(s)

Students can receive the MS by pursuing one of two options:

  • In the Plan A option, students complete graduate-level coursework and must write a thesis.
  • The Plan B option requires the production of a paper and is expected to reflect equivalent scholarship standards as a thesis.

Financial Assistance

The Department of Wildland Resources provides funding for all of its graduate students through research assistantships, available through professors having contracts, grants, or other awards.

A variety of additional funding opportunities are available, including fellowships, scholarships, tuition awards, and travel support. Additionally, students may be eligible for subsidized health insurance through qualifying assistantships.

Program Requirements

Wildland Resources Department

MS Degree in Forestry, Ecology, Range Science, Wildlife Biology

The MS degree is offered for students motivated toward a management or administrative career in natural resources. The MS may be obtained through either a Plan A (research thesis) or Plan B (nonthesis) program. The Plan A option requires a thesis based on original research conducted by the student. From 6-15 semester credits of thesis research are required. The semesters during which a student registers for thesis credit should correspond as closely as possible to the
semesters in which the thesis work is done and faculty supervision is provided. The Plan B option is recommended for professional forestry managers who do not plan on research careers. The Plan B option requires the production of a paper. At least 2 credits of thesis research are required, but no more than 3 credits of thesis credit can be included on the Program of Study. For a master’s degree, the minimum number of credits required is 30 semester credits. At least 24 semester credits for a master’s degree must be from a committee-approved and an SGS approved Program of Study from Utah State University.

With committee approval, graduate credits may be transferred from accredited graduate schools, provided the minimum residency requirement (including thesis and dissertation credit) at USU is met. Only 12 semester credits may be transferred into a graduate program at USU. Transfer credit, which must not have been used for any other degree, will be shown on official USU transcripts at completion of the degree.

Wildland Resources Department

PhD Degree in Forestry, Ecology, Range Science, Wildlife Biology

The PhD degree is intended for students seeking a research or academic career.  Comprehensive exams (both oral and written) are required in the doctoral program.

For a PhD, the minimum number of credits required is 30 credits with a master’s degree in a related field; 60 credits are required otherwise.  A minimum of 12 dissertation credits is required for a post-master’s doctorate and a minimum of 18 for a non-master’s doctorate.  The semesters during which a student registers for dissertation credit should correspond as closely as possible to the semesters in which the dissertation work is done and faculty supervision is provided.  Doctoral students must meet an academic residency requirement which ensures that the doctoral student experience includes at least one period of concentrated attention to study, research, and interaction with faculty.  This period of immersion in the culture of students’ departments is an important part of their preparation for future work in academic communities.  The residency requirement for doctoral studies consists of the following: At least 33 USU semester credits from an approved Program of Study are required for a 60 credit PhD and 18 USU credits for a 30 credit doctoral student.  At least three semesters, two of which must be consecutive, of full-time registration in residency at USU are required.

With committee approval, graduate credits may be transferred from accredited graduate schools, provided the minimum residency requirement (including thesis and dissertation credit) at USU is met.  Only 12 semester credits may be transferred into a graduate program at USU.  Transfer credit, which must not have been used for any other degree, will be shown on official USU transcripts at completion of the degree.

PhD Qualifying Exams:

PhD students must pass a comprehensive examination. This exam is used to assess whether a student is prepared to successfully conduct independent research. The assessment depends upon the student’s knowledge in his or her area of concentration and in supporting areas, understanding of philosophical perspectives on scholarship, and ability to communicate this knowledge effectively.

It is recommended that the comprehensive exam be taken by the end of the student’s second academic year, and it must be passed no later than one year prior to defending the dissertation and before candidacy will be recommended.

Contact

Marsha Bailey

Wildland Resources Staff Assistant III
Office: NR 206
Phone: (435) 797-2503
Email: marsha.bailey@usu.edu

Professional Organizations, Honor Societies, and Clubs

Society for Range Management: The SRM is the professional scientific society and conservation organization whose members are concerned with studying, conserving, managing, and sustaining the varied resources of the rangelands that comprise nearly half the land in the world. Established in 1948, SRM has more than 4,000 members in 48 countries, including many developing nations.

Labs, Centers, Research

Center for Integrated BioSystems: The CIB leads a progressive, interdisciplinary effort in research, core services, and education serving agriculture and life sciences. The CIB is where the first hybrid animal, a mule, was cloned, and was named one of “30 Awesome College Labs” by Popular Science magazine. The CIB has a research program with several active projects in diverse areas of life science that encompass plant, animal, and microbe functional genomics.

Ecology Center: The Ecology Center is an administrative structure in the university that supports and coordinates ecological research and graduate education in the science of ecology and provides professional information and advice for decision makers considering actions that affect the environment. The Ecology Center at USU has had a string of directors known nationally and worldwide as premier scientists in the field of ecology, and students graduating with a degree in ecology are able to make important contacts with influential faculty that can help them go on to prestigious post-doctoral programs and faculty positions at universities around the world.

S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney Natural Resources Research Library: The Quinney Library maintains collections of materials pertaining to natural resources and the environment in a number of formats that support the programs of study and research in the College of Natural Resources and several partnering centers. The library has more than 60,000 items, both print and electronic, as well as videos, images, and more.

USDA ARS Forage and Range Laboratory: Scientists at the USDA-ARS Forage and Range Research Laboratory develop improved plant materials and planting practices to enhance both environmental conservation and rancher profitability on rangelands and pastures in the western United States.

USDA ARS Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory: The Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory identifies toxic plants, and its interdisciplinary teams of chemists, geneticists, pathologists, physiologists, plant and range scientists, toxicologists and veterinarians provide an interdisciplinary approach of applied and basic research to develop solutions to intoxication.