student photographing pottery

Environment and Resources

Contacts: Sara Hotchkiss (Professor and Chair); Jim Miller (Graduate Advisor), (608) 263-4373

Environment and Resources (ER), formerly Land Resources, is an interdisciplinary program for graduate students who need the flexibility to customize a course of study appropriate to the environmental problem that interests them.

Students can earn a master of science (M.S.) degree in Environment and Resources or a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in Environmental Studies with a major in Environment and Resources. A thesis (for M. S. students) or a dissertation (for the Ph. D.) is required of all students.

The curriculum provides opportunities for interdisciplinary graduate education and research that cannot be found in more traditional academic departments. Each student designs a study plan with the help of faculty advisors in a process that encourages self-direction and individual creativity. It is possible, for example, to combine courses in basic science and engineering with courses in social sciences, humanities and law.

Environment and Resources prepares students to become professionals with a solid knowledge of the environment equipped to contribute creative solutions to environmental problems. Alumni of the program have followed many career paths.

Students may pursue interests in a wide variety of areas, such as:

Applicants to the Ph.D. program must have a post-baccalaureate degree (i.e., M.S., M.A., J.D. or M.B.A.), or significant comparable experience. Students who apply without post-baccalaureate credentials or equivalent experience must first apply to the M.S. program; such students may apply for admission to the Ph.D. program once they have made sufficient progress.

Time to completion varies with the circumstances of each individual, but full-time students generally take two to three years for an M.S. degree and four to six years for a Ph.D. (For additional details, see table.) Applicants should discuss expected time to completion with their prospective advisors.

Master's-level students may combine ER with graduate or professional study in other fields through certificate or joint, double, dual degree programs.

Learning Goals

Students in this program will learn to create, apply and transfer world class knowledge and skills about the environment and its sustainability in a flexible, interdisciplinary way to serve the people of the state, region, and world.

The Environment and Resources program expects its graduates to have these skills and to have mastered these areas of knowledge:

  1. Familiarity with methods and concepts from a range of disciplines relevant to environmental issues and outcomes (interdisciplinarity).
  2. Broad understanding of environmental issues and solutions (breadth requirement).
  3. A coherent and rigorous course of study related to the thesis topic (depth requirement).
  4. Familiarity with quantitative and qualitative methods and methods of data analysis and presentation appropriate to the study of the environment (measure and analysis requirement).
  5. A capacity to integrate knowledge and to make original contributions that improve understanding of environmental problems.
  6. A commitment and ability to communicate research findings and environmental information generally in writing and orally to a broad audience, including stakeholders and the general public.
  7. An understanding of professional and ethical responsibility


From coffee to biodiversity: Nelson Institute study reveals how coffee farms influence tree species diversity in India

Nelson PhD candidate maps nearly one-third of the world’s croplands, rural and farming communities stand to benefit

Nelson grad student among Planetary Health Scholars

COVID19: Campus update

Nelson Institute graduate students connect Wisconsin farmers to new ideas for land management