The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Wildlife & Nature Conservation

Gabriele Corbera HeadshotAlumna Caitlin Gould ’06, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Caitlin Gould knew she wanted to work in environmental policy since she was fresh out of undergraduate school at the University of Massachusetts. She always stayed late to recycle all of the paper thrown out at the law firm where she was a paralegal. Her passion for the environment led to her current position coordinating the Interagency Working Group on the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (HABHRCA), a role she has held through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration since August 2014. In this position, she writes and edits reports to Congress, collaborating with interagency partners, engaging with non-Federal stakeholders, and working with the Executive Office of the President and Congress. 

Prior to joining to NOAA, Caitlin worked at The Pew Charitable Trusts for five years, most recently advocating for global shark conservation measures in Panama and the Caribbean.

Read more about Catlin's path and advice she has for current students.

About the Industry

Nature and wildlife conservationists protect plants, animals and their habitats to ensure that the natural world will be around and healthy for generations to come. This can take the form of hands on science and research, government/policy work, national parks/education, non-profits focused on raising awareness and funds, and more.  Career opportunities in this area are broad in scope, and students from any major should be able to find a way to put their skills to work in this area.

Sample Classes

Below are a few examples, but we urge you to talk to your major/departmental advisor and explore available courses in SPIRE. Remember not to constrain yourself to classes within your major.


LEGAL 494DI - Environmental & Public Policy Dispute Resolution: This course examines multiparty disputes involving topics such as land use management, water rights, e-healthcare, and pollution remediation. We explore dispute resolution's role in enhancing democratic participation in decision making of public import. 


POLISCI 253H - International Environmental Policy and Politics: Focus on the social, political, and economic factors causing environmental threats and by which efforts have been taken to manage or ameliorate such threats. Introduction to the major actors involved in international environmental politics and the major patterns by which problems are approached internationally.


RESECON 262 - Environmental Economics: Economic analysis of environmental problems, focusing on air, water and land pollution. Emphasis on analyzing individual incentives that lead to pollution, the valuation of environmental quality amenities, and the design and evaluation of regulations that seek to improve environmental quality. Includes the economic analysis of global climate change. 


STPEC 291 CE - Capitalism & the Environment: This course is designed to explore the ecological crisis through the lens of both social/environmental theory and political economy. We will specifically address the capitalist system and its relationship to the environment, noting the limits of growth and any future possibilities of environmental sustainability.


RESECON 471 - Cost Benefit Analysis: Theoretical foundations and practical procedures of benefit-cost analysis as applied to public natural resources and environmental projects, programs, and regulations. Critical discussion of strengths and weaknesses of this tool. Topics from energy, water resources, land use, outdoor recreation, air quality, and other natural resources and environmental areas. Integrative Experience & Capstone Course.


ECON 308 - Political Economy of the Environment: Application of the theories of political economy to environmental problems and issues.  Topics include regulatory and market approaches to pollution and natural resource depletion; cost-benefit analysis and its economic and political foundations; and case studies of specific environmental problems such as acid rain, deforestation, and global warming.


Depending on your main area of interest, your academic pathway will shift. To explore this field, you can take courses that will provide you with knowledge and skills in:


  • Critical thinking
  • Creative problem solving
  • Written and oral communication
Co-Curricular Activities

Being involved in on and off campus activities and organizations will give you experience and help you hone in on what you really love doing. Consider joining organizations that will provide you with a deeper understanding of the professional areas you’re considering. You’ll learn more about the field, meet people who share your interests, and have something to include on your resume to show your dedication. Go to the RSO webpage and start searching!

  • Outing Club

  • TeamOCEAN

  • Wildlife Society

Internships and Experience

Explore the different aspects of the industry through internships, co-ops, job shadowing, and other experiential opportunities. This will help you hone in on your interests while building an impressive knowledge base and resume for when you enter the job market. SBS Students and alumni have completed internships in this field at places like places like:


  • MassRecycle
  • Maria Mitchell Association
  • Student Conservation Association (SCA)
  • Institute of Nature and Society of Oaxaca
  • Cheetah Conservation Fund
  • National Geographic Television
  • Fund for Public Interest Research
  • Ducks Unlimited


Find an internship or co-op that suits you by using these search and application tips and by searching the Career Connect Database.

Sample Job Titles
  • Conservation Biologist
  • Environmental Conservation Officer
  • Forrester
  • Land Surveyor
  • Naturalist
  • Field Ecologist
  • Park Planner
  • Outdoor Education Coordinator
  • Sustainability Coordinator
  • Communications Specialist
  • Public Affairs Office
  • Writer/Editor
  • Project Manager
  • Tree Warden
  • Wild Horse Specialist
  • Park Ranger
  • Associate Producer