Graduate Focus Areas

Within the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University you will find faculty with a diversity of interests, linked to the management of fisheries and wildlife. These interests have been grouped into focus areas which are listed below. These focus areas serve as a guide to help you determine where your particular area of interest lies in relation to the Department. However, they are not intended to be a complete list of the diverse interests and expertise in the Department.

To view a full list of all MSU courses, visit the Office of the Registrar.


Focus areas in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Graduate program include: 


Wildlife Ecology and Management

General Description: emphasis on biological considerations in the management of upland and wetland ecosystems or wildlife species to meet a variety of human demands from biodiversity and endangered species management to management of game species


Sample Coursework:

wildlife biology and management

wildlife nutrition

population and community ecology

population analysis and quantitative methods


Examples of Research Areas:

wildlife - habitat interactions

population dynamics and modeling

environmental or biological issues that affect wildlife in upland or wetland ecosystems

wildlife biometry and population estimation and sampling

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Limnology - includes Stream Ecology and Wetland Ecology and Management


General Description: biological, chemical and ecological features of freshwater ecosystems, including lakes, reservoirs, streams, rivers, and wetlands; basic and applied freshwater ecology, emphasizing the intimate connection between limnology and resource management


Sample Coursework:

limnology and stream ecology

aquatic entomology

plankton biology

wetland plants and algae

fisheries ecology and food-web management

geographic information systems and remote sensing


Examples of Research Areas:

food-web interactions

landscape ecology of aquatic ecosystems

exotic species ecology and management

water quality, biomonitoring

non-point source land-use modeling

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Fisheries Science and Management


General Description: emphasis on factors influencing the productivity and dynamics of fish populations, fish communities, and fisheries to enhance management of these resources; quantitative fisheries science, particularly stock assessment; habitat, population and community modeling; and risk assessment and adaptive management


Sample Coursework:

fish population dynamics

fish habitat management

aquatic food web management

simulation modeling

risk assessment and adaptive management


Examples of Research Areas:

evaluations of the effectiveness of various management techniques (e.g., habitat manipulation, stocking) for protecting, rehabilitating, and enhancing fish populations and fisheries

investigations of the relationship between the habitat needs of fish populations and their productivity

environmental determinants of fish recruitment

links among food web interactions, fish recruitment and fish production

development and utilization of dynamic fish population and community models

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Conservation Biology


General Description: emphasizes application of ecological and evolutionary theory and principles of fisheries and wildlife management related to the conservation of species, habitat, and genetic diversity


Sample Coursework:

conservation biology and genetics

fisheries/wildlife management

population analysis and management

geographic information systems

population and community ecology


Examples of Research Areas:

evaluation of human impacts on the diversity and viability of wild populations

landscape-level analysis and modeling of habitat quality and quantity on fisheries and wildlife populations

identification of management units and evolutionarily significant units of conservation concern

evaluation of the effects of non-native species on populations and ecosystems

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Human Dimensions of Fisheries and Wildlife Management


General Description: The traditional focus on biology in fisheries and wildlife management has shifted in the past two decades to include the human dimensions (social aspects) of management. Along with managing resource issues, managers must often be experts in human attitudes and behavior, facilitate conflict resolution among user groups, develop communication or education tools, determine economic impacts, and interact with policy makers in legislative or administrative bodies as well as become involved with litigation.

The Human Dimensions program is designed to integrate training in social, ecological, and biological aspects of management. The program can serve to broaden the expertise of wildlife biologists or to train human dimensions specialists to apply appropriate social sciences to management problems.

Students without backgrounds in fisheries and wildlife management will be expected to gain adequate knowledge of that discipline through course work and other experiences. The human dimensions program’s intent is to prepare professionals who can bridge the gaps between the social and biological sciences.


Sample Coursework:

social science survey research techniques

qualitative research methods

environmental law and policy

outreach/extension education program design and evaluation

environmental sociology

environmental attitudes and movements


Examples of Research Areas:

outcomes of fisheries co-management policy in developing countries

angling/hunting recruitment/retention

effectiveness of environmental education and outreach

analysis of public perceptions associated with emerging fisheries or wildlife issues

investigations of the dynamics of wildlife recreational choice behaviors

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General Description: fish culture research and training programs including domestic and international projects emphasizing cold, cool, and warm water fishes; academic programs are tied closely to state, regional, federal, and international partners including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Central Regional Aquaculture Center, and state and federal hatchery systems


Sample Course Work:

aquaculture and limnology

animal science and food science and nutrition






Examples of Research Areas:

nutritional requirements and culture techniques for cool water fishes

diet development using locally available feedstuffs

larval rearing

polyploidy induction techniques

aquaculture water quality and waste control

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Ecological Genetics and Physiology


General Description: emphasis on theory and application of modern molecular, biochemical, and electrophysiological technologies and statistical methods of analysis to examine basic and applied issues in organismal ecology, behavior, environmental adaptability, toxicology, and evolutionary history.


Sample Coursework:

conservation genetics and population genetics

population and community ecology

molecular biology


environmental physiology


Examples of Research Areas:

chemoreception of fishes

physiological and genetic factors in fish migratory and sexual behavior

field and experimental approaches in behavioral ecology including defining genealogical relationships, mate selection, reproductive success, maternity and paternity

studies of spatial population genetic structure and systematics

molecular markers in conservation and management of vertebrate populations

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Biometry and Ecological Modeling


General Description: Emphasis on development and application of quantitative tools for estimation, hypothesis testing, and simulation, as applied to fisheries and wildlife problems. This departmental program is complimented by a strong inter-disciplinary university-wide quantitative analysis group.


Sample Coursework:

systems modeling

population analysis

statistical theory and methods

risk assessment and decision analysis

GIS and remote sensing


Examples of Research Areas:

simulation modeling of wildlife-habitat relationships

fish stock assessment methods and application

adaptive management and decision analysis theory and applications

metapopulation analysis and simulation

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