4 environmental schools that give us a fighting chance of solving the biodiversity crisis
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Between 0.01 and 0.1 percent of all species will become extinct each year – this is 1,000-10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. The world’s oceans are heating up 40 percent faster on average than estimated five years ago. Marine ecosystems are dying, sea levels are rising and hurricanes are becoming more deadly by the day.

Around 10,000 of the world’s ‘most handsome mammal’, the Red Panda, are left in the wild. And who can forget the heart-breaking scene in BBC’s Our Planet series where hundreds of walruses fell to their deaths due to the melting sea ice?

Worrying figures are increasing in frequency, while the number of leaders willing to step up alongside experts with the know-how, are not.

It’s never been more urgent for us to get together to conserve the environment before more catastrophes take place. The good news is that we still have a little time to prevent the worst from happening. For one, scientists claim it is possible to keep global average temperatures from rising 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2 degrees Celsius, from a preindustrial baseline. Beyond this point, the planet will suffer irreversible impacts from extreme and dangerous warming.

Then, there’s the environment’s impressive resilience in bouncing back. Around the nuclear disaster zone Chernobyl, trees and other kinds of vegetation are thriving. In the lush forests near the old nuclear plant in northern Ukraine, wolves, boars and bears have returned. Other parts of the world once facing extinction are experiencing similar revivals with the help of expert conservationists and political will.

The next generation of environmental experts must ensure that we stay on this course. You can start by advancing your knowledge with the postgraduate programmes at these North American universities:


University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Nelson Institute for Environment Studies has much to celebrate at its upcoming 50th anniversary. Since its inception, it has been a world leader in community-based approaches to solving some of the biggest environmental challenges of our time.

Interdisciplinary scholarship is one of its most well-known successes. Known for advancing early-career working professionals to leadership positions, the professional Master’s in Environmental Conservation has a curriculum based on practical interdisciplinary skills. Blending campus learning and remote experiences, students get to deepen their knowledge on conservation planning, land use policy and professional skills development during the accelerated 15-month, 32-credit course. The degree culminates with an 8-12 weeks applied conservation project with an NGO, government agency, educational institute or private sector partner.

Built within the Environmental Conservation MS is the Environmental Observation and Informatics (EOI) professional master’s option. Integrating cross-cutting Earth observation, technologies and big data analytics, the unique 15-month programme combines hands-on, in-person training with distance learning. You’ll gain specialist knowledge in digital image analysis and interpretation, geospatial data science, programming (R, Python, ENVI, Javascript) and the policy and ethics of using observational data for environmental problem solving. The EOI programme also culminates with an 8-12 week applied conservation project.


Enrolling in the professional graduate degrees at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences is to prepare for a career in academia, education, public agencies, industry, the private sector and non-profit organisations.

In the coursework-based Master of Environmental Horticulture (MEH) students focus on restoration, horticulture and environmental management. Participants can choose to create products like management plans, designed experiments, actual installations, web utilities, vegetation assessments and more in lieu of a formal thesis.

University of Washington

Integrating technical know-how with policy and management, the Master of Forest Resources (MFR) – Forest Management Degree (SAF-accredited) is a great fit for those aiming for professional leadership in the public, non-governmental and private sectors. Team approaches and leadership skills are learnt through the collaborative and interdisciplinary learning environment. As an immersive learning leader with close and wide-ranging links with the state and industry, students can be assured they will gain the experiences needed for complex decision-making. This is where future managers capable of addressing the issues facing society and industry in the forest resources arena are made.

The graduate programmes here are “superb platforms for developing scientific and engineering expertise”, said SEFS Director Dan Brown.


From environmental science to public health and climate change, the Department of Environmental Studies has opportunities for everybody wishing to further develop their interests. Armed with a faculty base with a wide range of expertise, students are well-placed to gain skills necessary to find the solutions for a more sustainable tomorrow.

Since 2018, the NYU Animal Studies MA has been producing leaders in this rapidly developing field. It’s an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented study that draws from the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences to examine what non-human animals are like, how human and non-human animals relate to each other, and the aesthetic, moral, social, political, economic, and ecological significance of these relations.

Candidates learn of the main issues of the field, perform original research to contribute to debates to learn the connections across animal, environmental and social issues. Opportunities to work with leading scholars, as well as participating in seminars, workshops and conferences are available.


University of Toronto

The School of Environment at this top-ranked public research university in Toronto is where scholars from many disciplines, students and the wider community come together to understand and improve our relationship with the environment.

Two Collaborative Specialisations are available here: Environmental Studies, Environment & Health and the JD/Certificate in Environmental Studies. From anthropology to chemical engineering to applied chemistry, the school has graduate students from across the disciplinary spectrum enrolled in these specialisations to complement their degree. To enroll in the specialisations, students must first apply to and be accepted into a Master’s or Doctoral programme in a degree-granting unit, also called a “home department.”

A wide range of interdisciplinary graduate courses are on offer for both the Environmental Studies and Environment & Health Collaborative specialisations. These include Worldviews and Ecology, Environmental Finance and Sustainable Investing as well as the Environmental Decision Making. The latter showcases the interdisciplinary environment in which teaching and research is conducted, a strength of the school’s graduate collaborative specialisations

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International

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