Discover CALS

See how our current work and research is bringing new thinking and new solutions to some of today's biggest challenges.

Graduate Field of Natural Resources

Work collaboratively to improve environmental sustainability

Join our mission to improve society’s stewardship of the environment and promote a conservation ethos for a sustainable planet. We continue to be a world leader in scholarship addressing social and ecological dimensions of natural resources and the environment. We also foster a strong sense of community within the Graduate Field, which includes graduate faculty and students from within the Department of Natural Resources and across the university.

Graduate Field of Natural Resources

The Field of Natural Resources offers students the freedom to design a graduate program that addresses their individual interests. Students work with faculty advisors to identify course requirements and to define a research or professional project.

We offer the following "concentrations" for our degree programs:

  • Conservation Biology
  • Forest Science
  • Wildlife Science
  • Fishery and Aquatic Science
  • Quantitative Ecology
  • Applied Ecology
  • Policy and Institutional Analysis
  • Risk Analysis and Management
  • Ecosystem Biology and Biogeochemistry
  • Program Development and Evaluation
  • Community-based Natural Resource Management
  • Human Dimensions of Natural Resource Management

Students pursue advanced study leading to the following degrees:

  • Master of Science (M.S.)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
  • Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences



Typical expectations for admitted graduate students include:

  • Undergraduate Major – Students are accepted from a range of undergraduate majors in the natural and social sciences, as well as math and humanities.
  • Letters of Recommendation – Letters of support from university faculty members or other professional researchers provide the best indication of an applicant’s ability to effectively pursue graduate research.
  • Statement of purpose – Students should provide a clear and concise statement of their proposed research and coursework interests, as well as relevant past experiences that have led them to those interests.
  • Work experience – Most of our students have several years of relevant work experience following completion of their undergraduate degree.

Any additional considerations regarding your credentials should be discussed with faculty members who are considering you for admission. For more information, please visit the Application Procedure page. 

Master of Science (M.S.)

The Graduate Field of Natural Resources offers advanced studies leading to the Master of Science research degree. The M.S. degree requires a focus on primary research, including supplemental courses at the graduate level and completion of a thesis (M.S.). Please visit the Graduate Program page for more information.


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or M.S./Ph.D.

You can also apply to the M.S./Ph.D. program where you complete both an M.S. and Ph.D. as part of your graduate program. Please visit the Graduate Program page for more information.

Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences

A Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences is available for students whose interests are not primarily research-oriented. This degree is typically pursued by those already employed in a professional capacity who plan to continue in this field, yet seek further coursework to upgrade their skills and knowledge. The MPS degree requires the completion of a professional paper in addition to coursework.

For more information about the Master of Professional Studies please visit the Academic Requirements for the MPS website.

MPS Areas of Specialization

Green leaves with water droplets.

Environmental Management

The sheer complexity, interrelatedness and multiple facets within the broad field of environmental management and sustainability make this profession as exciting as it is rewarding. Within this specialization, students in Cornell’s Field of Natural Resources will be embedded in an academic community of highly motivated, broadly diverse and globally renowned experts and practitioners of conservation, policy, ecology, resource economics, environmental attitudes and decision processes, sustainable practices and social ecological systems.

Water Resource Management

Water scarcity is rapidly becoming the most limiting resource globally—due to the complex interactions of an expanding human population, mismanagement and undervaluing of water—and the predicament is only being exacerbated by climate change. With more than 35 classes and 65 faculty, Cornell is a leading institution for studying every aspect of water resource management from fisheries to hydropower, from ditch networks and streams to the Great Lakes, which comprise more than 20% of the world’s freshwater.

Social Analysis & Decision Making

People and the environment are intricately intertwined, and the success or failure of environmental stewardship often depends on understanding and integrating people in environmental decision making. Cornell and the Field of Natural Resource are leaders in applying interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and addressing environmental problems.

Sustainable Systems

Implicit to the concept of sustainability is the wise use of natural resources, without degrading the environment or undermining the ecological processes that contribute to long-term stability. The Sustainability Science specialization offers a multidisciplinary approach to concepts, applications and contemporary techniques involved in ensuring maintenance, stability and long-term health of some of the world’s most critical resources.

Forest Ecology & Management

Forests are increasingly important to the well-being of human communities, providing direct benefits and ecosystem services, such as sequestration of carbon dioxide, maintenance of high biodiversity and conservation of water, nutrients and soil. In the field of Natural Resources, we focus on rejuvenation, regeneration and re-establishment of natural cycles, to improve forest health and create self-sustaining forest ecosystems.

Natural Resources Field

The Field of Natural Resources provides freedom to design a graduate program that addresses the individual interests of students. Excellent laboratory and field facilities are available. Many graduate students in the field also pursue international research topics.

Man sitting at computer working with windows in the background.



Within the Graduate Field of Natural Resources, we offer the following concentrations for our degree programs, including conservation biology, forest science, wildlife science and more.