What is the Restoration Ecology Program?

What is the Restoration Ecology Program?

The Restoration Ecology Program consists of a group of graduate students devoted to the research and development of the principles and practices of ecological restoration. Most students pursue a Masters degree, as the first step into a career in restoration.

By and large, the students who study here want to develop careers doing hands-on restoration. As such, most pursue Masters degrees. Those interested in research careers in restoration ecology and conservation biology will pursue the Doctorate of Philosophy.

There are several options for earning either a masters or doctoral degree. The Master of Science - Ecological Restoration Technical Option and the Master of Natural Resource - Ecological Restoration Technical Option are the most structured. The first (MS) is a research-based degree that requires completion of a traditional research thesis. The second (MNR) is a professional degree, with greater focus on coursework. MNR students must complete a masters project, which typically does not arise to the level of complexity or effort of a thesis.

A schedule of coursework is mandated for both degrees, though there is flexibility for students to take courses of particular interest to them. Emphasis is on the actual craft of restoring natural ecosystems as well as the social and philosophical elements that mandate restoration. Courses in ecology, plant biology, soil science, and data management and analysis provide a strong foundation for practicing restoration.

Students can also choose a traditional Masters of Science degree. This option has tremendous flexibility, with almost the entire program of coursework determined by the student, with approval of his or her graduate advisory committee. MS students must produce a research-based masters thesis. A research-based doctoral degree is also available.

All graduate students must choose a minor. Students in restoration often choose soil science (which often prepares them to become licensed soil scientists) or water resources, among many other options.

I know I want a Masters degree, but I don’t know which to pursue. Which do I choose?

First, know that all of the degrees prepare students to assist in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded, damaged, or destroyed.

Second, know that former students with all of these degrees have gone onto successful careers in ecosystem restoration. Indeed, our experience is that employers really don’t discriminate among the degree types or care much what the name of your degree is, they just wanted talented students with good basic skills in restoration.

The type of degree pursued usually depends on the career goals of the student, as well as the types of research projects available at the time. Students can also change from one degree type to another once they have been accepted into the program.

I don’t want to be a forester, so why would I want study restoration ecology in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at NC State?

North Carolina State University’s Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources is one of the oldest and largest schools of its kind in the United States. The Department was founded in 1929, and has grown steadily in scope and global reach. Initially, the Department focused on training students to grow, harvest and sell timber while seeking new ways to protect North Carolina’s forests against such threats as fires and pests. The School of Forest Resources quickly began to acquire tracts of forest land to provide hands-on training to students and to work with industry in pursuing new techniques in breeding, harvesting and land management.

The list of FER’s contributions to forestry also began to draw international attention and would eventually come to include such accomplishments as enhancing the productivity and hardiness of critical commercial tree species, pioneering silvicultural techniques to enhance forest productivity, and charting major advances in understanding genetic variations in species. In the past three decades, the College has grown into a comprehensive natural resources management and conservation academic institution with a global mission. In the 1970’s and 80’s, the Department’s international reputation spread as new partnerships were forged on new continents. As environmental concerns took hold worldwide, the Department added natural resource management as a primary area of focus.

In the 90's, the School of Forest Resources was renamed the College of Natural Resources; several years later the Department of Forestry was renamed the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources. World class programs in wildlife and fisheries management were expanded, and a new degree in Environmental Technology was introduced. The department added the restoration of ecosystems to its responsibilities, mounting efforts to identify challenges, repair damages caused by humans or natural disasters and integrate ecological restoration practices with economic and cultural practices. The educational approach has always been to combine the theoretical with the practical, and it was recognized that many of the same applied ecology skills that are necessary for growing timber or managing wildlife habit are the skills needed by restorers of native communities.

Can I really go on to a successful career in ecological restoration after earning a degree at NC State?

Ask those who have gone before you.