New graduate ecosystem management program combines science and leadership

March 14, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State has launched a new graduate ecosystem management program online that brings together environmental science, management and leadership skills.

Students can earn a Master of Professional Studies in Ecosystem Management and Administration or certificates in Ecosystem Measurements and Data Analysis or Leadership and Communication Skills for Ecosystem Managers.

The program, offered online by the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences and Penn State World Campus, is aimed at people already in an environmental management field who are looking to move into higher-level management positions, said Marc McDill, associate professor of forest management and lead faculty for the program. The program includes courses in leadership and communication skills, technical and administrative skills, and a hands-on capstone project in which students will apply their new skills.

“The world is getting more and more complicated, so organizations are looking for people with a higher level of training, with broader understanding of social and economic issues and with better communication skills,” McDill said.

 “Modern ecosystem management is as much about dealing with people as it is about biology and ecology. Communication, conflict resolution and negotiation are all important skills for modern ecosystem management managers.”

The program also focuses on administrative skills such as project management and planning, finance and economics, and the legal and policy context of management decisions.

“As people move up, they become responsible for managing larger projects, so they may find themselves managing large budgets and lots of people,” McDill said. He said they may also find themselves working with and providing information for policymakers.

Technical skills taught in the program include geographic information systems (GIS), monitoring skills and data analysis. McDill said managers are increasingly expected to have data and analysis to back up their decisions, as well as skills such as the ability to work with GIS.

Most people come into environmental management after focusing on one area, such as forestry or water, and not with a broader understanding of the whole ecosystem — including plants, animals, water and soils, McDill said.

The new program will help those managers broaden their knowledge base and “help them understand how all the different components of the ecosystem work together,” he said.

“As you move up, you get more involved in planning, management, and working with multiple stakeholders and agencies. The scope of what you’re working with expands, and the kinds of things you do on a day-to-do basis change pretty dramatically.”

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information about the new program.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 14, 2019