Study Wildlife Biology – Aquatic – at the University of Montana

Join students from around the globe who share your passion for wildlife and conservation, at one of the best colleges for wildlife biology in the nation. Ranked #1 in North America for the quality and productivity of faculty research, our program offers opportunities for hands-on, field-based learning and research you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

The aquatic concentration of the wildlife biology bachelor’s degree program at UM gives you experience working on a variety of aquatic or fisheries-related research and management projects with state and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and university researchers — including an amazing opportunity to connect with the Clark Fork Coalition right here in Missoula. We also offer a concentration in terrestrial wildlife biology.


wildlife biology program in North America based on research productivity (Academic Analytics, 2016)


countries and 44 states represented by wildlife biology students


oldest wildlife biology program in the country, founded in 1936


peer-reviewed scientific publications published by faculty and students in the past three years

Other Degree Options for Wildlife Biology at UM

Minor in Wildlife Biology

Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Biology – Terrestrial

Master of Science in Wildlife Biology

Ph.D. in Fish and Wildlife Biology

What can you do with a wildlife biology degree?

Earn your degree in wildlife biology at the University of Montana and prepare to take a leading role in the study, management, and conservation of fish and wildlife. Our graduates are sought after by employers around the world and enjoy high job placement rates.

This is a degree that you can use to make a difference, and our alumni have gone on to influential roles in science and policy, such as overseeing large-scale species conservation efforts or directing the conservation efforts of governmental agencies and NGOs.

Wildlife Biology Jobs

This program prepares you for a variety of wildlife and aquatic biology jobs including:

  • Fisheries and/or wildlife biologist
  • Fish and wildlife conservation officer
  • Fisheries/aquatic program managers
  • Fisheries researcher
  • Fisheries and/or wildlife technician
  • Fish hatchery technician or manager

Wildlife biology salary

Zoologists and wildlife biologists earn an average of $63,270 per year nationally, based on recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual income for this occupation in Montana is $66,870.

According to the Economic Research Institute, the average aquatic biology salary in the United States is $77,496.

Video: Study wildlife conservation at the University of Montana

Check out the kind of research University of Montana students are doing to keep wild places wild.

Alumni Spotlight: Leif Howard

As a major in wildlife biology (aquatic) at UM, Leif Howard completed an independent research project to investigate the impacts of wildfires on macroinvertebrate communities in streams. He also worked in the Montana Conservation Genomics Lab, where he gained experience with DNA and eDNA extractions while collaborating with some of the world’s leading researchers in conservation genomics.

Experiential learning in the wildlife biology degree

Make the world your classroom at the University of Montana. Our field-based learning opportunities in the heart of the Rocky Mountain West help make UM one of the best schools for wildlife biology in the nation.

Field courses and internships for aquatic wildlife biology majors

As an aquatic wildlife biology major, you’ll have the option to work with the Clark Fork Coalition — an organization focused on the restoration and enhancement of the Clark Fork River and connecting the three major rivers in Missoula with the community.

You’ll have opportunities to connect with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Trout Unlimited to advance river restoration and native fish conservation throughout western Montana. Many of our students also take summer field courses and internships at UM’s Flathead Lake Biological Station.

All wildlife biology majors are required to complete an internship and at least two credits of hands-on experience. Your faculty mentor will work with you to find opportunities that meet your needs. Find more resources to help with internships and jobs.

Study wildlife biology abroad

Immerse yourself in new cultures while addressing environmental and conservation issues around the globe. Majors in wildlife biology at UM qualify for Franke Sustainability Fellowships, which fund international research and education focused on sustainability. Learn more about study abroad opportunities at the University of Montana.

Undergraduate research in the aquatic wildlife biology concentration

In the past three years, our faculty and students have published more than 450 peer-reviewed scientific publications, making us one of the top-ranked colleges for wildlife biology in the nation. Opportunities for undergraduate research in wildlife biology include both paid and volunteer roles that typically involve working with faculty, wildlife conservation agencies, and NGOs. Explore undergraduate research opportunities at UM.

Wildlife biology facilities and labs

UM is home to specialized conservation genetics labs such as the National Genomics Center for Fish and Wildlife Conservation. We have 25,000 acres of land managed for student and faculty research and learning, including Lubrecht Experimental Forest. We live and work at the confluence of the historic Blackfoot, Clark Fork, and Bitterroot Rivers.  Our majors in wildlife biology also use remote field cameras, GPS and satellite transmitters, radio telemetry equipment, snorkeling equipment, and various techniques to sample fish in streams and lakes, as well as computing systems that enable advanced spatial and statistical analyses.

Career development in the wildlife biology program

At the Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, 97% of our alumni are employed or pursuing graduate study in their fields. We are dedicated to your success — while you’re here at the university, and when it’s time to start your career. In addition to being internationally renowned researchers and scientists, our faculty are dedicated and accessible teachers who are here to mentor and provide individualized support, in a wildlife biology program distinguished by its strong sense of community.

Student organizations for wildlife biology majors

Build your professional network, sharpen career skills and make new friends through student organizations at UM, including the American Fisheries Society and The Wildlife Society. Learn more about student organizations in the wildlife biology bachelor’s degree program.

Wildlife biology scholarships

We offer a number of scholarships specific to the wildlife biology program. Wildlife biology majors also qualify for Franke College of Forestry and Conservation scholarships, which complement other scholarships and financial aid opportunities awarded at UM.

Aquatic wildlife biology concentration requirements

The aquatic concentration of the bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology covers the basics of biological sciences in the first two years, followed by courses in watershed hydrology, freshwater ecology, fish biology, and fisheries during the junior and senior years. Classroom lessons are complemented by diverse real-world experiences working on aquatic or fisheries-related research and management projects.

View all classes for the bachelor’s in wildlife biology with the aquatic concentration.