Graduate Certificate in Society and Ecosystems - Interdisciplinary


Sandy Rikoon, Ph.D.
Coordinator Society and Ecosystems Program
200 A Gentry Hall
University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211
Telephone: 573-882-0861


Understanding the complex and dynamic interactions between human activities and natural ecosystems is essential for achieving sustainable development. Developing this understanding in the next generation of scientists, educators and resource management professionals is the primary goal of the University of Missouri's interdisciplinary graduate certificate program in Society and Ecosystems.

The Society and Ecosystems Program (SEP) is a unique interdisciplinary program that prepares students for careers with private and public organizations through advanced graduate level training and research. The certificate program is designed for students with undergraduate-graduate training in agriculture, biology, business administration, economics, engineering, fisheries and wildlife, forestry, geography, geology, rural sociology and related disciplines. Students who are in a graduate or professional program in their area of specialization take two integrated courses and complete a thesis or dissertation that applies more than one discipline. The program is designed to enhance the student's familiarity with disciplinary and interdisciplinary concepts and principles from the social and natural sciences and humanities.

The goal of the program is to develop critical thinking and analytical skills related to:

  • sustainable natural resource and environmental management and planning,
  • dynamic interactions between social, economic and ecological systems,
  • quantitative-qualitative analysis of individual and social behavior,
  • cultural interpretations of natural resource and environmental issues, and
  • application of knowledge gained in the above areas to the evaluation of public policy.


Admission to the SEP is open to students who have been admitted to a graduate or professional program in the University of Missouri-Columbia, have undergraduate-graduate training in natural and social sciences, and have interest in interdisciplinary studies. Persons interested in the SEP should contact the Coordinator.


Students must be enrolled in a regular academic department and working toward completion of a graduate degree in a natural resource-related discipline. All students are required to take the following core courses: a) six credits from a department/unit other than the one in which the student is enrolled, b) a three-credit interdisciplinary course on the human dimensions of ecosystem management, and c) three credits of a research seminar in Society and Ecosystems.

The interdisciplinary course examines the sociocultural, economic, ethical and biophysical aspects of ecosystem management with emphasis on the human dimension. It is normally taken during the student's first year. The primary objective of this course is to develop a student's appreciation of a) major issues in the society-ecosystems nexus, b) roles of various disciplines in understanding and resolving socioeconomic-ecological issues, and c) systems analysis. A course requirement is for students to work in multidisciplinary teams to evaluate human effects on and responses to global warming, loss of biodiversity, water pollution, and other contemporary natural-environmental resource issues.

The research seminar exposes students to interdisciplinary research on the interactions between social, economic and ecological systems. Emphasis is placed on the impacts of economic activity, population growth, technology and public policy on the functioning and resilience of ecological systems, and how ecological systems support socioeconomic development at the local, regional and global scales. Speakers for the research seminar include faculty, students, visiting scholars, and private and public officials. Students are expected to present their thesis or dissertation research at the research seminar. Thesis and dissertation research must be conducted on a topic related to the interactions between society and ecosystems. Students completing the SEP receive a certificate in Society and Ecosystems. Recognition of the certificate appears on the student's transcript.

Advisory Committee

The student's plan of study and research topic are selected in collaboration with an advisory committee established in accordance with the requirements of the student's department/unit and the Graduate School. The advisory committee includes at least one faculty member affiliated with the SEP. Graduate school permission is required in cases where it is highly desirable for the three faculty members comprising a masters student's advisory committee to be from different departments/units.

Federal Gainful Employment disclosure information for this Graduate Certificate is available at

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