Biodiversity and Conservation Biology Major

You can view current program requirements hereCurrent students are encouraged to use Degree Explorer to assess or confirm program requirements. 

About this Program

Today, in an era of unprecedented global change, natural ecosystems are under attack. Thousands of species are threatened with extinction and many more have experienced unprecedented declines. The current “biodiversity crisis” represents perhaps the greatest threat yet encountered to the long-term cultural, societal, and economic stability of all nations. In addition to the goods we harvest from our ecosystems, we also depend on numerous services, such as water purification, pollination, pharmaceuticals, and carbon sequestration. The staggering dollar value associated with these ecosystem services has convinced even sceptics that our future health and prosperity — indeed our very survival as a species — depends on the conservation and sustainable use of our natural ecosystems. Landmark laws — the Canadian Species at Risk Act and the US Endangered Species Act — have spelled out legal responsibilities.

How to conserve species is a complex and multifaceted issue. Extinctions typically involve many factors, including habitat loss and fragmentation, small population sizes, deterioration of genetic quality, changes in behaviour, increased susceptibility to disease, and pathogen spill-over. Global climate change has added more pressure to the already daunting challenge. As humanity urgently seeks innovative ways to reduce our collective impact on our fragile planet, including controlling the growth of our own species, a new generation of scientists is stepping forward to develop imaginative strategies that can safeguard our natural heritage and secure a sustainable future.

Students in the Biodiversity and Conservation Biology Major receive training in the relatively young, but already firmly established, synthetic fields of biodiversity and conservation biology. They will be equipped to aid in the response to what is perhaps humanity’s most pressing challenge, the conservation of biological diversity. As ecologically responsible and informed citizens, they will appreciate the increasing complexity and uncertainty of the world in which we all live, and be in a position to make informed policy and decisions about sustainable development, global environmental change, control of invasive species, and the conservation of genetic diversity and ecosystem integrity.

Successful stewardship of life on earth can succeed only when it is rooted in the basic scientific knowledge derived from the fields of ecology and evolutionary biology, which address the central question of the origin and maintenance of biological diversity, from molecules to ecosystems.

Students in this program take courses in their first and second years that provide foundations in ecology, evolutionary biology, biodiversity, conservation biology, environmental biology, mathematics, and statistics. In their upper years students take several courses (a total of 1.5 FCEs ) from which they obtain in-depth knowledge about the diversity of living organisms on earth, including courses taught by EEB faculty who are also natural history curators at the Royal Ontario Museum. Core 300-series required offerings (a total of 1.5 FCEs) include advanced courses in ecology, evolution, and biodiversity and conservation biology. Options for the required capstone course at the 400-series (0.5 FCE) include conceptual and practical issues in conservation biology, approaches to the study of biodiversity in a museum setting, an independent research project course, a seminar course, and a field course. Field biodiversity education provides urban undergraduates a rare, and for many students, their first, opportunity to experience nature directly. Field courses take place in Canada, such as at U of T’s Koffler Scientific Reserve or Algonquin Park, as well as in the tropics, including the forests of Peru.

Graduates of this program will be prepared to pursue graduate studies in taxonomy and systematics, conservation biology, ecology, and evolutionary biology, as well as careers in museums, universities, colleges, primary and secondary schools, environmental consulting firms, environmental law, science journalism, national or provincial parks, zoological parks, government and non-governmental agencies, resource management agencies, private industry, research labs, and public utilities.