Wildlife Biology

The understanding of our natural environment has never been more important than the present. The pressures of a growing population, increased development, altered communities, and changing climate present serious problems to ecosystems locally, nationally, and globally. Programs to study and monitor our environment’s health are widespread, occurring through federal and state government agencies, universities and numerous private organizations. These programs require enthusiastic, dedicated individuals with the necessary training to carry out intensive field studies on individual species, communities, and ecosystems. 

Students in the program will choose between the Wildife Rehabilitation and Field Biology specializations. Both specializations feature courses in zoology, botany, earth science, and chemistry and offer plenty of hands-on experience at the Elk Valley Preserve and Field Station and the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. 

Upon graduation, Wildlife Biology majors will have both the necessary knowledge and skills to find employment as biologists for a wide variety of employers including the National Park Service, National Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, state agricultural extension programs, state and county parks, environmental assessment and restoration businesses, zoos, fish hatcheries, private forestry companies, utility companies, and conservation organizations. Students will also have the necessary curriculum and experience to be accepted to and succeed in graduate school.

Wildlife Biology
Wildlife Rehabilitation

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.

The program is based on the belief that field experience is vital to the understanding of ecosystems. Field experience includes exposure to a wide variety of habitats, including aquatic and terrestrial communities, field observations, and collection and analysis of data. Students are expected to be able to identify flora and fauna of an area and learn collection, observation, and census techniques. The field experiences are complemented by a thorough understanding of ecological theory and practice as well as an in-depth understanding of the different fields of natural history. Much of the field experience takes place at the Elk Valley Preserve, a 70-acre preserve located on the Elk River. You will 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.



    Field Biology

    Field Biology introduces students to the fieldwork component of the biologist profession. Students will venture out into the Elk Valley Preserve and the forests on South Campus to conduct research about the region's plants and animals alongside faculty and fellow students.

    Wildlife Rehabilitation

    Wildlife Rehabilitation is the treatment and temporary care of injured, diseased, and displaced local wildlife and the subsequent return of healthy animals to appropriate habitats in the wild. With this specialization, you will become intimately familiar with the care, needs, and behavior of wild mammals, birds, and reptiles. As part of the Wildlife Rehabilitation program, you will attend summer clinicals, an intensive eleven-week experience spent at the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. The presence of the wildlife care center on campus offers students an opportunity to gain experience in caring for injured, sick and orphaned wildlife, along with working with the non-releasable ambassador animals.

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, Wildlife Rehabilitation 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.  

Study wildlife science this summer on our campus!

The wildlife science summer program at Lees-McRae College is designed to offer a summer academic enrichment program to students who have (1) completed at least their freshmen year of high school and (2) who are currently enrolled in or have completed a high school level biology course. 

After Graduation

Common Career Areas

Career information is provided through Vault and O'Net. Current Lees-McRae students can see the full results on Vault using their student email and password. 

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have questions about Wildlife Biology or Wildlife Rehabilitation? In this advisory panel, Lees-McRae alumni answer the most common questions students have about the program. 

Meet the Faculty

Shinjini Goswami, PhD
Assistant Dean of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, Assistant Professor of Biology

Michael Osbourn, PhD
Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Wildlife Biology, Director of the Elk River Preserve

Amber McNamara, DVM 
Veterinarian, Assistant Professor of Biology

Nina Fischesser, MA
Director of the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Senior Instructor

Are you a high school student interested in attending a wildlife science summer program at Lees-McRae College this summer? 

Ready to take the next step?

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