Students outdoors on a biology field trip.

Conservation Biology

Become an informed citizen of the natural world as you dig deep into the understanding of ecological interactions, biology and field experiences.

Why Study Conservation Biology at USD?

As a conservation biology student at USD, you will develop research and critical thinking skills as you tackle concepts such as climate change, biodiversity loss and natural resource management. Here you will find hands-on learning opportunities, such as a field ecology course that involves designing and conducting an ecological field research study. Through our program, you'll engage in research experiences and gain access to facilities that grow your knowledge in biology so you can pursue your career in sustainability, conservation or ecology. 

At USD, you'll gain a rich background in science that will position you for success in fields like conservation, ecology, agriculture or wildlife restoration. Follow your curiosity and find the answers to your questions about our environment as a biology major with a conservation and biodiversity specialization.


Degrees & Offerings

Conservation Biology (B.S.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

Gain a well-rounded biology degree with a specialization in conservation biology. You'll take courses like Principles of Ecology, Evolution, Conservation Biology, Field Ecology and Plants and Civilization to prepare you for a variety of careers or to pursue a graduate degree.

Biology (B.S./M.S.)

Accelerated Program
  Vermillion Main Campus

Earn a master's degree while completing your bachelor's degree. Apply to and begin the master's program after completion of 90 undergraduate credit hours. This accelerated one-year path to earning your master's does not require a thesis and is available with an optional conservation and biodiversity specialization.

Program Details






Student Opportunities

As a student at USD, the opportunities available to you extend beyond the classroom. Explore your interests, find your community and experience your education to the fullest extent through the following opportunities.

The Biology Club is for all students interested in the field of biology. The purpose of the club is to make more people aware of conservation efforts, have speakers highlight jobs attainable with a biology degree and help students get connected to research projects. The club also hosts a variety of events and is involved in educating K-12 students about science and nature.

Explore Student Organizations

Student Alexis Slack smiling in front of her 3D modeling work.

A unique aspect of your USD education is incredible access to undergraduate research opportunities. Through the USD Department of Biology and in collaboration with the Sanford School of Medicine, you can work in specialized research labs under the guidance of highly active faculty.

Research in conservation and biodiversity at USD is wide-ranging and diverse. Undergraduates have numerous opportunities to work closely with faculty members, fellow undergraduates and graduate students on projects such as examining the causes of amphibian declines worldwide, the ecology of wildlife disease, how environments shape observable traits in animals, how food webs create links between water and land, and many more.

If you are interested in getting involved in research, visit with a professor to find out how you can participate in new and exciting opportunities.

Departments & Facilities

Explore the departments, facilities and centers that contribute to your education in biology.
Biology academics standing in water holding a net


Research, explore and experience the study of life from the molecule to large biomes in the Department of Biology.

Overview of the Missouri River

Missouri River Institute

Located along the free-flowing Missouri National Recreational River, the Missouri River Institute explores the natural and cultural resources of the river through its focus on research, education and outreach.

Chris Anderson Research, Churchill-Haines Laboratories, Research Labs, holding a chameleon.

Your Enriching Education

Undergraduate research. Biology Club. Innovative and exciting classes.

In the Department of Biology, you'll benefit from hands-on learning in and beyond the classroom, and you'll find answers to the questions you are most curious about. Whether you choose to specialize in conservation & biodiversity, human dynamics or physiology, cell & molecular biology, you won't just receive an education – you'll experience it.

Learn more about the biology major

Hear from a USD Alum

Success story Carrie Eckert smiling.
The biology department staff was very supportive. Afterwards, I worked at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado, Boulder before being recently recruited to lead a new synthetic biology group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee. My base education in biology and training in a research lab prepared me for graduate school and beyond.

Carrie Eckert

B.S. Biology '99
Synthetic Biology Research, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge, TN

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