About the Department

The Department of Ecosystem Science and Management within Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences is Pennsylvania’s leader in preparing students for careers in sustainable management of natural resources.

We conduct research to create new knowledge about Pennsylvania’s forests, wildlife and fisheries, soils, and watersheds, and we disseminate that knowledge through the classroom and through extension education programs serving professionals, landowners, policymakers, and other stakeholders.


Our mission is to build and disseminate knowledge for the conservation and management of natural and human-dominated ecosystems. We focus on applications in fisheries, wildlife, soils, forestry, water, and agriculture. With global population projections of 10.9 billion by 2100 and increasing consumer demand for goods, the need for smart, scientifically trained managers and efficient use of natural resources is greater than ever. Our department was designed to help meet this challenge.


Our more than 40 faculty members include federal agency scientists housed on campus. These faculty members teach and advise 110 graduate students and 225 undergraduates. In addition, more than 25 staff members provide administrative support, help carry out faculty research, and conduct statewide extension education programs in renewable natural resources.


Undergraduate Programs

The department offers undergraduate degree programs in Forest Ecosystem Management and in Wildlife and Fisheries Science. Faculty in the department also teach soil science classes as part of the Soil Science option in the College of Agricultural Sciences’ Environmental Resource Management major.

Graduate Programs

Graduate degrees are granted in Forest Resources, Wildlife and Fisheries Science, and Soil Science.

Our graduates learn the science and how to apply it on the ground to real problems. The programs prepare students for careers in natural resources management for government agencies, associations, nongovernmental organizations, and private companies, or for additional research.


Through key partnerships and cooperation with nonprofit organizations, government, and industry, the department exposes our students to real-world applications and plays a central role in addressing natural resource issues.


Students, faculty, and partner scientists collaborate in modern classrooms and state-of-the-art teaching and research labs in the Forest Resources Building and in the Agricultural Sciences and Industries Building.

The Forest Resources Building opened in September 2006, earning a silver certification in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Its exposed beams and trusses showcase the beauty of Pennsylvania hardwoods. A 4,700-square-foot green roof puts sustainability concepts into practice. A rooftop patio is available for groups or individuals to use for classes or meetings.

The department also offers opportunities for hands-on learning in a variety of local ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, and urban and agricultural sites. Two professional foresters oversee more than 8,000 acres of University-owned forestland that serves research and teaching goals.

Visit the Forestland Management Office.


Research areas range widely, but include acid deposition effects on regeneration, soils, water resources, and fish and wildlife; timber harvesting impacts on water quality; human-wildlife interactions; fisheries ecology and management; wastewater disposal; biodiversity conservation; habitat restoration; invasive species; emerging diseases and pests; and bioenergy.

This level of intellectual diversity enables us to tackle complex environmental problems in a wide array of ecosystems. It also equips us to train students, citizens, and youth to be skillful natural resource stewards who are proficient with an advanced ecosystem management tool kit.

Extramural research funding exceeds $10 million per year, and research is strongly interdisciplinary, including work with groups such as the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment. Graduate students can pursue research as part of several interdisciplinary and intercollege graduate degree programs, such as Ecology, Environmental Pollution Control, Genetics, Materials Science and Engineering, and Plant Biology.


The department has a strong statewide focus on extension education dealing with forest resources, urban and community forestry, water resources, wildlife and fisheries, wood products, and soil conservation.

Members of the Penn State Extension faculty work closely with field-based extension educators and partner agencies to deliver educational programs that emphasize youth education, bioenergy, and natural resource management.

Professional development

Professional development programs are offered annually in diverse topics such as GIS/GPS in forestry, forest taxation, and wood products. The Goddard and Ibberson Forums are held periodically to discuss current resource management topics of interest to a wide audience.