Ecosystems in Florida, the southeastern US, and the world face an unprecedented threat from climate change and human activities.
The School of Forest Resources and Conservation (SFRC) of the University of Florida now offers an online Master’s degree with concentration or certificate program in Ecological Restoration that address a national need for professionals trained in this field, and in particular targets working professionals and full-time graduate students in the Southeastern US.
Ecological restoration has been defined as “the return of an ecosystem to a close approximation of its condition prior to disturbance” (NRC, 1992). According to the Society for Ecological Restoration, ecological restoration is “the process of assisting the recovery and management of ecological integrity”. Ecological integrity is related to biodiversity, ecological processes and structures, regional and historical contexts and sustainable use (SER, 1999). Thus, ecological restoration can be considered as human intervention to recover nature’s integrity; to restore the environment to its natural state.
A sound science-based ecological foundation is needed for developing and implementing restoration projects. In order to train our graduate students effectively as future resource managers, environmental scientists, and restoration ecologists, we need to equip them with skills and science-based principles that are transportable from one system to another. They also need to learn that good restoration requires a view above and beyond the technical details and should include historical, social, cultural, political, aesthetic and moral aspects, so these ideas are addressed in the technical courses developed for this program.
The need for such a program is at an all-time high as agencies and private companies involved in ecological restoration and environmental science are striving to re-tool their work force with a solid academic training in ecological restoration.