Master of Ecological Restoration

Our Program

The NEW Master of Ecological Restoration degree program has passed the final major hurdle in approvals at USU. Students will be able to enroll in the program starting this summer (2021).

Degree Objectives: The Master of Ecological Restoration (MoER) enables WATS undergraduates to obtain a professional master’s degree in one year, following completion of the MRAE or FAS degree. The degree is designed to prepare graduates for a career as a restoration practitioner.

The Master of Ecological Restoration (MoER) degree combines coursework, an internship, and design exercises. A master's degree is the preferred entry point into the workforce in the field of ecosystem restoration and this new degree enables students to obtain a BS degree and MoER degree within a five-year time frame.

The MoER builds on research and teaching expertise of existing WATS, QCNR and USU faculty, several of whom are internationally renowned as leaders in ecosystem restoration. The curriculum and professional development opportunities of the MoER program will provide graduates with a competitive advantage when applying for restoration and ecosystem management jobs, which will in turn improve WATS recruitment, persistence, and retention. MoER is a coursework intensive program targeting students who aspire to careers as restoration practitioners.

The mission of the WATS MoER program is to prepare future restoration professionals with the perspective and skillsets needed to assess the condition of wetland, lake and stream ecosystems; identify causes of degradation; and develop and implement plans for restoration of ecosystem health.

Career Paths

  • Soil and Water Conservation Specialist
  • Ecological Restoration Planning and Design
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Natural Resources Management Specialist
  • Wildlife Management Specialist
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Conservation Planning Professional
  • Restoration Design and Implementation
  • Restoration Ecologist

Admission Requirements

Minimum Admission Requirements

  • Completion of a bachelor's degree in the USU Watershed Sciences Department ( MRAE or FAS ).
  • A GPA of 3.0 or higher on your last 60 semester credits.
  • Statement of Purpose - Describe how your past experience and education qualifies you for the MoER program, and how the MoER degree will help you meet your future professional goals.  Also, describe potential "Job Shadowing and Internship" ideas you could use for this degree.

Note that WATS no longer requires the GRE for admissions.

Please contact Curtis Gray, or Patrick Belmont, if you have any questions about your eligibility.

Important Deadlines

Students MUST have all required materials submitted to the School of Graduate Studies on/or before the deadlines listed below:

  • Fall Semester: July 1st
  • Spring Semester: October 1st


Tuition is paid by academic credit for enrolled (matriculated) students.

Cost: Note that graduate tuition is slightly higher than undergraduate tuition and the program will require differential tuition of $74 per student credit hour to offset some of the costs of the program coordinator. However, we will be working to set up paid internships for each student in the MoER program. And students are welcome to propose other paid internship opportunities that can qualify for credit.

Tuition costs for  graduate students is based on USU's tuition and fees table + $74 differential tuition per credit for the 2021-2022 school year

Course Requirements

Program participants are required to take a total of 30 credits:

Required Courses (12 Credits)

  • Capstone Mentoring (2 credits)
  • Restoration Ecology (4 credits)
  • Intro to Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration of Riverscapes (1 credits)
  • Adaptive Management and monitoring (1 credits)
  • Internship Practicum (4 credits)

Elective Courses (18 Credits)

At least 2 credits in each of the four major blocks:

  1. Ecology
  2. GIS and Remote Sensing
  3. Quantitative Methods
  4. Design

See curriculum for specific courses.

All MoER students will be required to pass the 12 credits of courses that comprise the core curriculum of the program (see Required Courses group listed in the top block of courses above). The remaining 18 credits will be selected from the four blocks (Ecology, GIS and Remote Sensing, Quantitative Methods, Design) of elective credits. Note, the elective credit hour sub-total and core curriculum credit hour sub-totals listed above are a cumulative count of all possible credits and are not indicative of the actual require core credits (12) and elective credits (18) required to complete the program. 

Elective credits require a minimum of two credits per group, not two courses per block. Through advising, students will be encouraged to develop depth (e.g., ten credits in one block and two to three credits in each of the other blocks), but the electives are intended to be flexible so students can tailor their education to the topics and skillsets that will be most marketable for their specific job and career goals. Not all elective courses will be offered every year. 


Required Courses (12 Credits)

  • WATS 5620  Introduction to Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration of Riverscapes  (1 credit)
  • WATS 5625  Adaptive Management and Monitoring of Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration of Riverscapes (1 credit)
  • WATS 6240  Graduate Internship/Co-op (4 credits)
  • WATS 6350  Capstone Mentoring (2 credits)
  • WATS 6700  Restoration Ecology (4 credits)

General Elective Courses (18 Credits)

General elective courses are intended to be flexible so students can tailor their experience to the knowledge base and skillsets they need for their desired career path. Courses not found on this list can be used for elective credit upon approval by the Department Head.

Ecology (Minimum of 2 Credits)

  • WATS 5200  Fish Habitats (2 credits)
  • WATS 5310  Ecology and Restoration of Wetland and Riparian Plants (3 credits)
  • WATS 6650  Principles in Fishery Management (3 credits)
  • WATS 6840  Fluvial Hydraulics and Ecohydraulics (3 credits)
  • WATS 6860  Partnering with Beaver in Restoration Design (1 credits)
  • WATS 6900  Fish Bioenergetics (2 credits)
  • ENVS 6300  Conservation Psychology (3 credits)
  • ENVS 6410  Translational Ecology (3 credits)

GIS and Remote Sensing (Minimum of 2 Credits)

  • AV 3560  UAS Aerial Photography (3 credits)
  • NR 6920  Python Programming for GIS (3 credits)
  • NR 6930  Advanced GIS for Natural Resource Applications  (3 credits)
  • NR 6940  Principles of Remote Sensing of Natural Resources  (3 credits)
  • WATS 6850  Geomorphic Change Detection: Restoration Monitoring  (1 credit)
  • WATS 6900  Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool (1 credit)
  • WATS 6900  Riparian Condition Assessment Tool  (1 credit)
  • NR 6950  Geospatial Analysis (3 credits)

Quantitative Methods (Minimum of 2 credits required)

  • CEE 6110:  Hydroinformatics (3 credits)
  • CEE 6740  Surface Water Quality Modeling (4 credits)
  • CEE 6930: Visual Sensing Applications in the Natural and Built Environment (3 credits)
  • NR 6580  Data Analysis and Programming for Natural Resource Managers  (3 credits)
  • WATS 6050  Aquatic Ecosystems and Water Resources Systems Modeling  (2 credits)
  • WATS 6150  Fluvial Geomorphology (3 credits)
  • WATS 6900  Sediment Transport in Stream Assessment and Design  (1 credit)
  • WATS 6110  Biogeochemistry: Tracking Environmental Processes and Change (3 credits)
  • WATS 6220  Advanced Limnology (2 credits)
  • WATS 6600 Environmental Water Management (3 credits)
  • WILD 6580  Management and Manipulation of Ecological Data Using R  (1 credit)
  • WILD 6900  Applied Bayesian Analysis of Ecological Data (3 credits)

Design (Minimum of two credits required)

  • WATS 5621  Science and Case Studies of Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration  (1 credit)
  • WATS 5622  Planning Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration (1 credit)
  • WATS 5623  Designing Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration  (1 credit)
  • WATS 5624  Implementing Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration  (1 credit)
  • WATS 6900 The Future of the Colorado River: a reading seminar (1 credit)
  • WATS 6900 The Future of the Colorado River (2 credits)
  • WATS 6900 The Future of the Colorado River: field studies (1 credit)
  • CEE 3880  Civil and Environmental Design (1 credit)
  • LAEP 6060  E Studio/Entrepreneurship in Planning and Design  (3 credits)
  • LAEP 6100  Regional Landscape Analysis and Planning  (5 credits)
  • LAEP 6110  Landscape Ecology for Planning (3 credits)
  • LAEP 6210  Regional Design Studio (5 credits)
  • LAEP 6310  Recreation and Open Space Planning and Design  (5 credits)
  • LAEP 6750"  Implementation and Regulatory Techniques in Planning (3 credits)

WATS 6240  Graduate Internship can be taken from four to eight credits. 

WATS 6050  Aquatic Ecosystems and Water Resources Systems Modeling - two credits for the basic course, four credits if completing a modeling project. 

Job Shadowing & Internship

The goal of the MoER program's job shadowing and internship requirements is for students to graduate with real-world aquatic restoration experience, grow their professional network, expose them to different restoration career tracts, reinforce and apply new techniques, and build skills that are difficult to develop in the classroom. To document and showcase these experiences, students will build a portfolio of their experiences on a personal website.  These pages describes the goals, benefits and requirements of the MoER internship experience. The primary components include: 

Gain Professional Work Experience 

An internship is professional training in a structured working environment that promotes the mentor-mentee relationship. The MoER program pairs students with a mentor in the restoration field from whom students can learn. Mentors train and provide professional advice to interns on how to navigate workplace culture and apply skills in the context of real restoration projects. The internship is designed to expose students to real work environments and help them develop perspective and working routines that will lead to career success.

Grow Professional Network

Your professional network of contacts in different agencies, non-profits, consulting firms, and other restoration industry partners is crucial to your professional success and future. The MoER program is designed  to help you build and grow your professional network.  Through both job shadowing and internship experience, we  want you to build and document a network of colleagues, potential employers, potential clients and potential project partners. We want you to realize the many different perspectives and sectors of professionals that are involved in making restoration and conservation projects a reality.

Increase Skills 

The mission of the WATS MoER program is to prepare future restoration professionals with the perspective and skillsets needed to assess the condition of wetland, lake and stream ecosystems, identify causes of degradation, and develop and implement plans for restoration of ecosystem health. The MoER internship helps students further develop technical restoration skills such as condition assessment, project design, implementation and monitoring, plus improve their soft skills, such as writing and oral communication. Having well-developed technical and soft skills will not only help students become a better communicators and practitioners, it will also aid in finding future jobs. Skills like time management, teamwork, communication, and respect for other people’s time are considered more important than test scores to many employers.

Build Confidence

Confidence gained from experiential training translates to determination and success in school and careers. In real working environments, interns learn and practice relevant skills and often participate in planning and decision-making. Exposure to a broader range of perspectives and restoration techniques builds confidence that enables students to face future challenges outside student’s previous comfort zone.

Forming effective work habits 

Individuals with a good work ethic accomplish more and often put an extensive amount of effort into working well with others. Completing real restoration projects teaches the value of taking responsibility at work. Building competence begins from learning responsibilities and taking charge. Interns learn how projects are done and the skills and knowledge that are required for restoration jobs. MoER graduates will leave school with work experience and familiarity with applied restoration that will give them an advantage in the work force. Restoration is a highly collaborative field, requiring large and diverse teams to get most projects done. You will participate as part of those teams and learn to appreciate and empathize with the many different perspectives and roles of all the members of those teams.

Attract Employers

Completing the MoER internship will make graduates more attractive to employers. Companies prefer graduates who have completed an internship and have work experience. Interns have better work habits, possess well-developed applied restoration skills, and are more adept in the workforce. MoER graduates will not only be attractive to employers, but also scholarship panels and other opportunities to further their careers.

Your Professional Portfolio

We will help you articulate what you are getting out of the above experiences and help you use it to market yourself to future and potential employers and clients by building a professional portfolio. Your portfolio will be a personal website that packages these real world experiences and products you produced in one easy to navigate, publicly accessible and professional site. As you fulfill your internship and shadowing credit requirements, you will document those on your own website (turning in weblinks to specific pages). Upon graduation, you will have a web portfolio that you can use to market yourself and entice employers to explore from your resume, cv, job applications or cover letters.

Paid vs. Volunteer/Unpaid Internships

There are benefits and detriments of both paid and unpaid internships. With an unpaid or volunteer internship experience, both the potential employer and the intern do not have to commit to too much. Unpaid internships and volunteer experiences are excellent ways for both the intern and employer to “screen” each other and decide whether or not this would be a good fit. We encourage students to start seeking out volunteer opportunities as a follow up to promising job-shadowing experiences. As a volunteer, the expectations are lower than that of a paid intern, and you can decide how much to commit, and gracefully exit if it is not a good fit.

A paid internship is obviously desirable, but requires a bigger and more serious commitment from both you and the employer. That commitment is important, and the Department of Watershed sciences encourages MoER students to seek paid internships. However, the opportunities for paid internships are more limited, and there are often easier pathways to internships and/or paid employment via shadowing and/or volunteer opportunities first. After completing a B.S. in MREA or FAS and the additional courses required for the MoER, students will be ready to work alongside other employees as a positive asset during their internship.

MoER students will find program resources to help support their internship program. Our high-quality internship program takes experienced employees who advise students, aids in finding appropriate placements, coordinates with employers, and helps to troubleshoot problems.

The QCNR Internships Web Portal

Requirements for the MoER Internship:

The MoER internship requirement is typically fulfilled by doing an aquatic- or wetland-oriented restoration summer internship off-campus. MoER students are encouraged to complete the internship during the summer between their senior year and the start of the MoER program, but students are permitted to complete the internship at any time during their MoER year, including during the summer at the end of their one-year MoER program.  Internships can be performed at local, state, or federal agencies, consulting firms, or non-profit organizations that are external to Utah State University. Internships with USU as the employer are not eligible.

For internship credit towards the 30-credit MoER program requirements, prior to initiation of the internship students must submit a completed MoER Internship form to and the Watershed Sciences Department Head. Indicate the job title, a brief description of the duties, name of the internship host mentor/supervisor, beginning and ending dates of the internship, location of the employer, and an estimate of hours to be worked. 

Work that is counted towards the MoER internship requirement should meet the following requirements:

  • MoER students are required to complete a minimum of four credits worth of shadowing and internship experience. The number of credits assigned will depend on the amount and nature of the work. Generally, USU defines one credit hour as equal to three hours per week (for lectures, one contact hour and two study hours each week) for the 15-week semester (i.e., one credit hour equals 45 work hours). Thus, a four credit internship translates to 180 active work hours.
  • Students are required to achieve a minimum of 0.5 credit of these four credit hours (i.e. 22.5 hours) through job-shadowing of different restoration professionals in three different sectors (i.e. private-sector, non-profit sector, public-sector resource management, public-sector regulatory, public-sector research). Job shadowing is simply the process of spending time following a professional as they work. Job shadowing can be completed by observing a professional in their work environment for as little as 2 to 4 hours, or a “ride-along” for an entire day or multiple days. The student formally documents these experiences to receive credit, but the burden on the professional is minimal and these can be informally scheduled. Job shadowing experiences are excellent networking opportunities, as well as informal pre-interviews to look for potential internship experiences and/or job opportunities.
  • We encourage MoER students to seek opportunities equivalent to full-time internships for at least three of the required four credits, as this allows students to most effectively build their skillset and develop applied restoration experience. If an internship exceeds the 180 active work hours required to meet the 4-credit minimum, students may choose to apply for additional internship credits, up to four additional credits for a maximum of 8 internship credits, to count towards the 30 credit requirement for the MoER.
  • The nature of the work must be relevant to ecological restoration and be technical in nature. Internship work will be supervised, and the MoER advisor needs to be able to speak with the intern supervisor(s) to verify the quality of experience and fulfillment of the requirements. Self-guided work alone will not suffice for fulfilling the internship requirement.

The MoER internship is completed for academic credit, however during your internship you need to consider what you are getting credit for. An internship experience offers career exploration as well as a resume builder, but it is important to remember that academic credit is awarded for the learning achieved, not for the work experience alone. You cannot expect your internship setting, work supervisor or your faculty supervisor to make an internship a meaningful learning experience for you. The quality of the experience is shaped by your attitude and efforts.

If you develop goals that clearly incorporate learning opportunities, your internship should be worthy of academic credit. However, your job as the intern is to initially articulate what learning objectives you wish to achieve, and to receive credit you eventually document and demonstrate you have achieved those learning objectives. Use the Internship Learning Objectives and MoER Internship Agreement forms to structure the academic focus of your internship. It is designed to help you address what you wish to learn and how will this learning be acquired or accomplished. Your internship should have two components: the work component and the academic component. The work component describes your on-the-job tasks and responsibilities. This includes a written job description written cooperatively with your on-site work supervisor. This clarifies expectations of the supervisor and ensures that your job tasks include challenging and meaningful work. The academic component should outlines how you will use the work experience and expand upon it to make connections to the concepts, theories and practices to restoration. Include a description of skill development, and personal and professional development. 

Contact Information
Director: Patrick Belmont
Program Administrator: Curtis Gray
Location: BNR 358B
Phone: (435) 797-2459