Wildlife Biology

The major in Wildlife Biology is an ecology-based program designed for those who have a passion for wildlife and a curiosity about the natural environment. Situated in the Southern Appalachian Mountains and surrounded by national forests, state parks and the Blue Ridge Parkway, the outstanding natural quality of this region is ideal for wildlife study and will expose you to one of the most biologically diverse areas in the country. The program involves extensive field research and is based on the belief that field experience is vital to your education, providing critical training for a career in wildlife biology. In addition, the Wildlife Rehabilitation concentration allows you to gain hands-on experience working with injured, sick and orphaned animals under the guidance of trained specialists in this field.


The 70-acre Elk Valley Preserve and Field Station gives you the opportunity to research in a natural environment.
The May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center cares for more than 1,500 animals each year.

The Wildlife Biology faculty includes three professors with PhD degrees in ecology and a wildlife veterinarian.  

What You'll Study

Starting in your first semester, you will take a curriculum with a variety of courses relating to plant and animal natural history in both terrestrial and aquatic habitats. These courses include Zoology, Ecology, Field Biology, Wildlife Rehabilitation, Field Botany, Ornithology, Mammalogy, Fresh-Water Biology, Conservation Biology and Animal Behavior.

Within the major, you will have the opportunity to take a concentration in Wildlife Rehabilitation that includes the intensive Summer Clinical, a course that strives to help injured and orphaned animals be returned to the wild. You will also have the opportunity to plug into long-term research projects that include mammal, salamander, snake, and fish studies. In your senior year, you'll carry out your own senior research project where you select a topic of your choice, collect and analyze data, and present your findings to peers and professors. This capstone experience prepares you for graduate school or a career in wildlife biology.

Wildlife Biology
Wildlife Rehabilitation

Whether trapping small mammals at the Elk Valley Preserve and Field Station, monitoring macroinvertebrates in the Elk River, or helping an injured animal in the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, you will have opportunities and experiences that are not available for most undergraduates. 

Beyond the Classroom

For Wildlife Biology students the “classroom” is often a forest, field, or river. The majority of courses have a field component and a number of courses are taught entirely in the field. While you learn critical knowledge in class lectures, it is in the field where you learn methods relating to habitat analysis, wildlife identification and census techniques. As a Wildlife Rehabilitation students, in addition to your rehab duties, you will present wildlife programs to the community, gaining valuable experience in the environmental education field.

Real job experiences are available through internships with Grandfather Mountain, local fish hatcheries, and state and federal wildlife agencies. You'll also have the opportunity to travel to Belize to engage in tropical research in the Maya Mountains at the Belize Foundation for Environmental Education’s field station. Likewise, rehab students have the opportunity to visit rehab centers around the country and the world, including New Zealand, as well as attending and presenting papers at national rehabilitation conferences.  

After Graduation

Common Career Areas

Wildlife Biology
Field Botany
Environmental Consulting
Fishery Biology
Restoration Biology
Wildlife Rehabilitation
Agricultural Extension Agency
Environmental Policy
Environmental Education
Animal Curation
Conservation Organizations
College Professor

Alumni Success

Vegetation Specialist Great Smoky Mountain National Park, TN
Wildlife Specialist USDA Wildlife Services, Jacksonville, NC
Wildlife Biologist U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Lexington, KY
Coastal Science Specialist Nature Conservancy, VA
Director of Environmental Education Grandfather Mountain, NC
Fisheries Technician Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Red Wolf Biologist Red Wolf Recovery Program, U.S.F.W., NC
Fish Biologist Erwin Fish Hatchery, TN
Environmental Protection Specialist Environmental Protection Agency, NC
Biological Lab Manager Bureau of Land Management, UT
Aquarium Agriculturist Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium, NC
Animal Curator Western North Carolina Nature Center, NC
Graduate Student University of Arizona Ecology Graduate Program, Tucson, AZ
Graduate Student Western State Colorado University Environmental Management Program, CO

Meet the Faculty

Stewart Skeate, PhD
Professor of Biology

Gene Spears, PhD
Professor of Biology

Sean Collins, PhD
Assistant Professor of Biology

Amber McNamara, DVM 
Assistant Professor of Biology

Nina Fischesser, MA
Director of the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

Ready to take the next step?

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