Click for Highlands coronavirus updates

Click for Highlands coronavirus updates

Natural Sciences M.S.


Department of Natural Resources Management

Dr. Craig Conley, Department Chair and Associate Professor, Interim
Ivan Hilton Science Center, Room 137
Phone: 505-426-2267
Fax: 505-454-3103


The Natural Resources Management (NRM) Department includes the disciplines of Environmental Geology and Forestry that work collaboratively to provide opportunities for graduate students to attain an exceptional education in natural resources management. Areas of study focus on understanding natural and man-made environments and sustaining the health of humans as well as organisms and ecosystems on which humans depend for water, air, soils,  with concentrations in Environmental Science & Management and Geology. The concentrations share a core set of foundational courses after which students develop individualized programs of study (coursework plus independent research) that incorporate each student’s distinctive background, educational goals, and career objectives. Students gain experience in the design, execution, and reporting of scientific research by completing a master’s thesis (thesis option) or an independent study/research project (non-thesis option). The M.S. Natural Sciences degree provides a unique opportunity for students to broaden their educational experience to include courses from fields they are less likely to encounter at traditional graduate programs as they prepare for employment in the industry, government, or education or entry into doctoral programs.

The Natural Resources Management Department also offers a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) graduate certificate. GIS is a computer-based database management system for capture, storage, retrieval, analysis and display of spatial data. The GIS certificate program provides students with a basic proficiency with cutting edge GIS technology that can immediately be applied in the workplace, a highly marketable skill-base when seeking employment, and/or skills for pursuing an advanced degree in GIS. Students who complete the GIS certificate program are prepared to map data for decision-making in business, environmental protection, risk assessment, utility planning and management, emergency response, land use planning, transportation planning, delivery route planning, real estate, crime prevention, and other areas.



Graduate Application Deadlines
Fall Semester:  first Friday of April.
Spring Semester:  first Friday of November.
Graduate Application


James Biggs, Ph.D. (Forestry)
Blanca Cespedes (Forestry)
Craig Conley (Forestry)  Email|  Bio sketch
Kyle Earnshaw (Forestry)
Jennifer L. Lindline (Geology)  Email|  Bio sketch  |  Vita
Edward A. Martinez (Forestry)  Email|  Bio sketch  |  Vita
Michael S. Petronis (Geology)  Email|  Bio sketch  |  Vita
Joshua L. Sloan, Ph.D. (Forestry)
Joseph P. Zebrowski (Geographic Information Science)


Natural Resources Management

Master of Science in Natural Science
Concentration in Environmental Science and Management 

Required Core Courses: 15 credit hours 

FOR 525 Field Safety Practices (1)
BIOL 600 Research Methods in Life Science (3)
FOR 620 Advanced Topics in Natural Resource Management (2/2)*
FOR 625 Advanced Quantitative Methods in Natural Resource Management (3)
BIOL 650 Graduate Seminar in Life Science (1/1/1/1)**
*Repeated for credit with different subject matter for a total of 4 credits. 
**Repeated 4 times for a total of 4 credits. 

Thesis or Independent Study/Independent Research Credits

Thesis Option: 

FOR 699 Thesis (VC 1-7)*

*Students register for thesis until complete which may exceed the one credit-hour minimum.  No more than 7 thesis credits can be counted towards the student’s program of study.

Students choosing the thesis option are required to form a thesis advisory committee and submit a program of study and thesis proposal within the first semester of study. Students are further required to complete a written thesis, following the guidelines established in the Graduate Handbook, and present the thesis orally to the thesis committee.

Non-Thesis Option: 

FOR 690: Independent Study (3)


FOR 692: Independent Research (3)

Students choosing the non-thesis option are required to form an independent study/independent research advisory committee and submit a program of study and independent study/independent research proposal within the first semester of study. Students are required to submit a written document and present an oral presentation of the independent study/independent research to the advisory committee. Students are also required to pass a comprehensive exam with a grade of 75% or greater. The exam is to be compiled by the student’s committee chair with questions submitted by faculty who taught courses within the student’s program of study. The advisory committee chair will administer the exam and the exam will be graded by the faculty who contributed the questions.

Elective Credit Requirements:

Students are required to take a minimum of 12 (thesis) and 22 (non-thesis option) elective courses. With the advice and consent of an advisor, students choose 500- and 600-level courses offered in forestry, geology, biology, chemistry, mathematics, or other appropriate disciplines to develop their program of study.

Degree Total:

Thesis: ≥ 34 credit hours

Non-Thesis: ≥ 40 credit hours


Master of Science in Natural Science
Concentration in Geology

Required Core Courses: 15 credit hours 
FOR 525 Field Safety Practices (1)
BIOL 600 Research Methods in Life Science (3)
FOR 620 Advanced Topics in Natural Resource Management (2/2)*
FOR 625 Advanced Quantitative Methods in Natural Resource Management (3)
BIOL 650 Graduate Seminar in Life Science (1/1/1/1)*

*Repeated for credit with different subject matter for a total of 4 credits. 

**Repeated 4 times for a total of 4 credits. 

Elective Courses: ≥12 credit hours 

Students, with the advice and consent of the adviser, choose from 500- and 600-level courses in geology, forestry, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, or other appropriate disciplines to bring the total number of credits to at least 34 semester hours.

Thesis: 1 credit hour minimum 
GEOL 699 Thesis (VC1-7)*

*Students register for thesis until complete which may exceed the one credit-hour minimum.  No more than 7 thesis credits can be counted towards the student’s program of study. 

Degree Total: ≥34 credit hours 

Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Science

Undergraduate Prerequisite: 
GEOL 101
FOR 105
POLS 151
ANTH 102

Required Courses (16 credit hours): 
FOR 512 Surveying & Geographic Info System (4)
GEOL 518 Advanced GIS (4)
GEOL 515 Remote Sensing (4)
GEOL 594 Capstone Seminar (4)
Certificate Total: 16 credit hours


Course Descriptions

Forestry (FOR), Courses in  

FOR 500. Surface Hydrology (3); Alt, Sp, Even
This is a course designed for graduate students in earth sciences and natural resources management. The course combines a qualitative conceptual understanding of hydrologic process, an introduction to the quantitative representation of those processes, and an understanding of approaches to hydrological measurements and the uncertainties involved in those measurements.

FOR 502. Silviculture (3); Sp
Silviculture is the set of practices to grow and manage trees.  The course focuses on the factors affecting tree growth, tree stand dynamics and health, and the impact of management on ecosystem values. The ecological practices to sustainably produce forest products are emphasized.

FOR 505. Wildland Fire Management (3); Var
This is a course on the behavior of wildfires in forest and range ecosystems. The course reviews methods for fuel load assessment, fire weather prediction, fire suppression, and prescribed fire. Contrasts will be made between the costs and benefits of fires on ecosystem and humans.

FOR 508. Limnology (4); 3, 2; Alt, Fa, Even
This course is a study of the interrelationships among plants, animals, and environmental factors in aquatic ecosystems. The course is field oriented and concentrates on the development of sampling techniques and the analysis of biotic and abiotic components of nearby lakes and streams.

FOR 510. Forest Management (3); Fa
This course focuses on the economic and scientific decisions for large tracts of land and multiple types of forest stands.  The elements of planning management activities to create the least costs and greatest benefits to a landowner are explored.

FOR 511. Mensuration and Biometrics (4); Fa
Mensuration is the practice of measuring lengths and angles. Biometrics is the set of techniques for measurement and analysis of biological phenomena. Together, these topics provide a comprehensive overview of measurement and analysis techniques used in forestry and natural sciences.

FOR 512. Surveying and Geographic Information Systems (4); 3, 2 Fa, Sp
Surveying is the determination of boundaries and positions on the earth’s surface.  Geographic information systems are geospatially referenced databases that relate positions of objects to associated data and properties. The course explores the application of these technologies to forestry and geology problems.

FOR 513. Ecological & Environmental Monitoring (3); Var
Monitoring is the observation of treatment effects on the conditions of natural and human systems over time. Many systems are monitored for pollutants and regulatory compliance, adverse outcomes of environmental management practices, and to determine trends in animal and plant populations. The course explores roles of monitoring in environmental management and ecology, considerations in designing monitoring programs, sampling methodologies for soil conditions, water quality, animal and plant populations, and responses to treatments, and uses of monitoring results.

FOR 515. Dendrology (3); 2, 2 Fa
Dendrology is the study of trees and woody vegetation. The course will first look at tree and shrub identification with associated botanical nomenclature. The second portion of the course examines the structure and function of trees and woody vegetation. A collection of local trees and shrubs is a requirement of the course.

FOR 516. Soil Science (4); Fa 

This course provides students with basic soil science concepts. The physical, chemical, and ecological properties of soils are applied to soil classification, genesis, fertility, productivity, irrigation, and erosion.

FOR 517. Watershed Management (4); 3, 2 Alt, Fa, Even
This course emphasizes the interdisciplinary characteristics of watershed management and the need to incorporate physical, chemical, biological and socioeconomic factors when planning and implementing natural resource programs to achieve sustainable, environmentally sound natural resource development.

FOR 520. Wildlife Habitat Management (3); Sp
This course explores principles and practice of wildlife management; with emphasis on habitat, distribution, abundance and legal considerations.

FOR 522. Forest Pathology (3); Var
This course is a survey of the beneficial and pathogenic microorganisms found in forests. Particular focus will be on pathogens that reduce commodity value and stand productivity, and microorganisms that have beneficial effects in forested ecosystems. Methods of detection and response to pathogen infestations will be examined.

FOR 525. Field Safety Practices (1); Fa
This course provides training to graduate students in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s heavy equipment and field operations regulations, safe practices for field workers, and risk management and liability issues surrounding field work by various types of personnel. Field Safety Practices is required for natural resources management graduate students. Graduate students will prepare a field risk-management plan for their thesis work.

FOR 528. Forest Entomology (3); Var
This course is an introduction to the study of arthropods and insects. Particular focus will be on arthropods that reduce commodity value, threaten human and animal health, or have beneficial effects. Methods to manipulate arthropod population to achieve management objects are discussed.

FOR 531. Terrestrial Ecology (4); Var
The ecology of natural and artificial groups of terrestrial organisms used in the production of goods and services is the focus of this course. Course topics include biological productivity, vegetation dynamics, biodiversity, range ecosystems, forest ecosystems, and pest populations.

FOR 535-635. Selected Topic in Natural Resources Management (1-4 VC); Var
Course in topic(s) in natural resources management.  May be repeated with change of content.

FOR 540. Integrated Natural Resources Management (3); Var
This course is an introductory course to the broad field of natural resources management for graduate students who do not have a resource management background.   The course will cover the ecological and biological underpinnings of agriculture, forestry, range management, watershed management, and ancillary fields, as well as the decision-making processes that are utilized. Natural resources management will be placed in the context of broader societal mandates and concerns about natural, environmental, and cultural resources.

FOR 553. Toxicology in Life Science (4); 3, 2 Var
Toxicology studies the effects of chemical substances on the health of organisms and ecosystems.  Toxic substances from industrial activities have wide ranging effects on natural systems at long distances from sources.  Moreover, toxic substances are utilized in health care, agriculture, forestry, wildlife management, and fisheries to manipulate populations of pests.  This course explores the basic principles of toxicology, and application of toxicology to life science and environmental problems.

FOR 561. Atmospheric Science (3); Var
Atmospheric science embeds the disciplines of meteorology, climatology, and air pollution regulation and management. The structure and dynamics of the atmosphere will be explored with an emphasis on air pollutant dispersion. The linkage of atmospheric dynamics to biotic, geologic, aquatic and marine systems phenomena will be highlighted.

FOR 589. Applied Ecology and Environmental Restoration (3); Alt, Fa, Even
This course explores ecological principles applied to solving environmental problems including pest and biological resource management, conservation biology, environmental planning, impact assessment, remediation, reclamation and ecological restoration.

FOR 602. Environmental Assessment (NEPA) (2); Var  
This course explores principles and practice of the science and art of assessing environmental impacts of various stress agents in the environment.  It includes consideration of the legal framework (e.g., National Environmental Policy Act), various approaches to prediction and assessment of environmental impacts, and factors entering environmental decision making.

FOR 620 Advanced Topics in Natural Resource Management (2); Var
This course is an in-depth consideration of a specific topic of interest to faculty and graduate students.  Subject matter will vary from semester to semester, and, the course may be repeated for credit.

FOR 625 Advanced Quantitative Methods in Natural Resource Management (3); Fa
The course provides hands-on experience with the analysis and design of experiments and observational studies.  Parametric and nonparametric techniques commonly utilized in the analysis of ecological, biological, and environmental data sets will be explored.  Students will gain familiarity with the use of spreadsheets and statistical software programs for data analysis.

FOR 630 Vegetation Analysis and Management (3); Var
Vegetation analysis entails the methods to measure and characterize plant communities and associations.  These techniques are useful in habitat typing and the recognition of sensitive systems.  The other aspect of the course are the techniques that are commonly utilized to manage vegetation, both desirable and undesirable.  Economic and social considerations in vegetation management are also discussed.

FOR 640 Recreational Resource Management (2); Var
This course explores the fundamentals of managing recreation on or near public lands to minimize disruption of natural ecosystems and cultural artifacts.  Recreation is currently the greatest social and monetary use of public lands in the United States.  Natural resource managers are often involved with teams to analyze and mitigate adverse impacts from pack stock in wilderness areas, off-road vehicles, heavy pedestrian traffic, campgrounds, trails, and unwanted vegetation and animals. People with a background in recreational resource management are involved in local, state, and federal parks and monuments, and public lands with recreational uses.

FOR 690. Independent Study (1-4 VC); Fa, Sp, Su
Independent study arranged with an instructor.  Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

FOR 692. Independent Research (1-4 VC); Fa, Sp, Su
Independent research arranged with an instructor.  Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

FOR 699. Thesis (1-7 VC); Fa, Sp, Su
Individual research and writing in preparation of a graduate thesis.  Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.


Geology (GEOL), Courses in 

GEOL 512. Geologic Resources, Laws, and Environmental Policies (3); Alt, Sp, Even
This course is designed to raise students’ awareness about rock and mineral resource occurrences and the policies in place to protect public and private lands from hard rock mining impacts. The course briefly covers the nature and origin of the Earth’s rock and mineral resources, methods of resource extraction, and impacts on the environment. The course thoroughly covers the major types of regional and federal environmental policies, discusses the roles of the major players in the public policy process, and considers how to use science to inform the debate and remediate or lessen mining impacts. The class will study the 1872 Mining Law, which grants free and open occupation, exploration, and purchase of public lands to U.S. citizens as well as the 1993 New Mexico Mining Act that improved regulation of mining at the state level. Selected New Mexico hard rock mining cases and issues relevant to the Southwest will also be reviewed.

GEOL 515. Remote Sensing and Analysis (4); 3, 2 Fa
Remote sensing is a technique used to collect data about the Earth without taking a physical sample of the Earth’s surface. A sensor is used to measure the energy reflected from the earth.  This information can be displayed as a digital image or as a photograph. This class provides students with an understanding of remote sensing theory, applications, and case studies, conceptual and working knowledge of airborne and satellite remote sensing and image processing. Students will be able to acquire data, process the images, create appropriate data, analyze the accuracy of the results, and utilize the data for specific applications. Prerequisites: For 412, MATH 140 with at least a C or better, or permission of instructor.

GEOL 518. Advanced Geographic Information Systems (4); 3, 2 Sp
A geographic information system (GIS) is a scheme of hardware, software, and procedures designed to support the capture, management, manipulation, analysis, modeling and display of spatially referenced data for solving complex planning and management problems. GIS applications are both spatial information (maps) and databases to perform analytical studies. The course will build upon knowledge and experience in GIS gained in the introductory course to provide students with an understanding of cartographic and geodetic concepts impacting GIS analysis, field data-collection techniques with global positioning systems and handheld computer mapping software, effective map design, and modeling topographic and statistical surfaces. Prerequisites: For 412, MATH 140 with at least a C or better, or permission of instructor.

GEOL 521. Environmental Ground Water Hydrology (4); Alt, Sp, Even
This course is a study of the origin, movement, method of entrapment, and removal of subsurface waters. Course includes extensive discussion of problems associated with ground water pollution and remediation.

GEOL 522. Genesis and Environmental Impact of the Earth’s Resources (3); Var
This course is a study of the distribution, mineralogy, classification, modes of occurrence, and economic implications to industry and world affairs of mineral deposits.

GEOL 524. Environmental Geophysics (4); Alt, Fa, Even
How do we know about structures in the subsurface without digging of drilling? Is water present? How deep is bedrock? Where are those buried drums of hazardous waste? Is there anything buried here of prehistoric value? There is only one way to find these things out: geophysics. Lectures and class discussions will develop the basic principles of each method (gravity, magnetic, paleo-magnetic, seismic, resistivity, and electromagnetic techniques). Group cooperation on weekly assigned exercises and field reports is encouraged, and an individual or small group research project on a topic (or topics) of interest is required.

GEOL 525. Geomorphology (4); 3, 2 Alt, Sp, Odd 
Geomorphology is the study of landforms. The emphasis in this class is on the physical, chemical, and biological processes, which create and modify landforms. Nonetheless, an understanding of the history of landforms, and the climatic and tectonic conditions that influence landform evolution, are also essential to understanding the form of the Earth’s surface.

GEOL 532. Environmental Geochemistry (4); 3, 2 Alt, Sp, Even  
Environmental Geochemistry is a study of the chemistry of the Earth, including mineral mobility, cosmo-chemistry, chemical weathering, diagenesis, igneous and metamorphic chemistry, stable isotopes, pollution, and the thermodynamics and kinetics associated with these systems.

GEOL 535. Selected Topic in Geology (1 – 4 VC); Var
Course in topic or topics in geology. May be repeated with change of content.

GEOL 590. GIS Capstone Seminar (2); Fa, Sp
Individual, directed research study arranged with an instructor. Students will conduct an independent research project involving GIS and/or remote sensing analysis applied to a subject of study associated with their discipline. Each student will present a written report and applied GIS project to his or her mentor. All students will be responsible for demonstrating how GIS technology has enabled them to more effectively address a spatial problem. Prerequisites: For 412, GEOL 415 Remote Sensing and Analysis, and GEOL 418 Advanced GIS.

GEOL 592. Independent Research (1 – 4 VC); Fa, Sp, Su
Individual, directed research arranged with an instructor. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

GEOL 600.  Environmental Mineralogy (3); Var 
This course explores an emerging topic that combines the studies of mineralogy and environmental science.  Topics cover the physical and chemical properties of minerals and how scientists are applying mineralogy to serious environmental problems caused by human activity.  Numerous environmental case studies will be explored.

GEOL 620.  Clay Mineralogy (4); 3, 2 Var
This is a lecture and laboratory course. The lecture provides an in-depth survey of the structures, classification, genesis, weathering, and importance of clay minerals in controlling nutrient uptake, influencing the plastic properties of earth materials and retarding the mobility’s of contaminants in the environment.  Weekly laboratory time will be dedicated to providing X-ray safety training, covering principles of X-ray diffraction, and utilizing a powder X-ray diffractometer for qualitative and quantitative clay analysis.

GEOL 650. Seminar (1); Var
Seminar course in a topic or topics in Geology. May be repeated with change of topic.

GEOL 690. Independent Study (1-4 VC); Fa, Sp, Su
Independent study arranged with an instructor.  Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

GEOL 699. Thesis (1-7 VC); Fa, Sp, Su
Individual research and writing in preparation of a graduate thesis.  Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.


 This major is under the College of Arts and Sciences