Online Master's in Urban Ecology and Sustainable Planning

Creating sustainable urban communities

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Next Start Dates

August 17, 2020
October 19, 2020
January 11, 2021

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MS in Urban Ecology

Improve the livability and vitality of urban communities

Apply sustainable design principles to urban landscapes

Establish a career in the growing environmental science industry

M.S. in Professional Science: Urban Ecology and Sustainable Planning

Do you want to develop the leadership skills to tackle the unique set of environmental challenges caused by urbanization around the globe? Then this program is designed for you. Through an examination of the relationship between humans and nature in urban environments, this program prepares professionals to improve the livability, vitality, and sustainability of urban communities.

  • 100% online. Urban Ecology and Sustainable Planning students who take a full course load can complete the degree requirements in as few as 12 months!
  • World-class faculty experienced in online teaching.
  • Small class sizes allow for personalized attention. That’s something you won’t find at larger, online universities!
  • Affordable and flexible. Take the classes whenever works for you. We offer five start dates per year!
  • Unlike similar programs, no GRE is required.

This program prepares professionals to be data-driven when making decisions and explore the relationships among social, environmental, and economic systems which shape and manage human behavior. They will also learn to describe the ethical, scientific, and policy strengths and weaknesses of urban ecology and planning solutions while applying sustainable design principles to urban landscapes.

Job Outcomes of the Master’s in Urban Ecology and Sustainable Planning Program

Graduates of the Master’s in Professional Science: Urban Ecology and Sustainable Planning track, can become:

Urban / Transportation Planner

Projected 10-year growth:

+ 11%

Median Salary:



Operational Analyst

Projected 10-year growth:

+ 27%

Median Salary:


Environmental Planner / Project Manager

Projected 10-year growth:

+ 11%

Median Salary:


Source: Burning Glass Technologies. “Labor Insight™ Real-Time Labor Market Information Tool.” Updated March 11, 2020.

M.S. in Urban Ecology and Sustainable Planning Degree requirements:

30 credits earned
3.00 minimum cumulative graduate-level grade-point average


Professional Skills Core:

PROF 505 Strategic Management of Innovation

The course is designed to help students understand the strategic, organizational, and human issues that can either help or hinder you (and the organizations, both private and public, you work for) in efforts to develop and implement science-based solutions to environmental and natural resource challenges. It combines the study of those principles needed to manage scientific innovation with an emphasis on how environmental innovation fits within an organization’s strategy and business model, and why they matter, and how one creates an innovative learning organization, drives change within an organization, and drives the adoption of the innovations the organization creates.

PROF 510 Communication for Environmental Professionals

This course will provide students the opportunity to develop vital professional skills in oral and written communication while preparing them to communicate clearly about science, policy, and technology issues with demographically diverse and geographically dispersed audiences. Content will address mass media and public understanding of science; organizational communication issues such as structure and communication networks; rhetoric, advocacy, and strategic message development; the role of public opinion and public policy; innovation and decision making; crisis communication and conflict management; emerging communication technologies; and inter-organizational and cross-disciplinary communication.

PROF 515 Ethical Practice and Policy

This course will investigate some of the ethical dimensions of a life in professional science, examining dimensions of environmental and natural resource science and policy in the context of globalization, global change, and climate change. Students critically evaluate the ethical dimensions of common scientific practice and policy issues related to sustainability and natural resources.

Urban Ecology and Sustainable Planning Core

GISC 505 GIS and Remote Sensing for Environmental Solutions

This course is intended to introduce students to GIS and remote sensing software and tools used to solve real-world environmental problems. Students will learn concepts and data sources and formats used in environmental research they may encounter in careers in environmental science. This course introduces the fundamentals of cartography, photogrammetry, geographic information science, and remote sensing through maps and spatial analysis used to answer various environmental and ecological issues. This course will also introduce students to use map and data outputs in the decision-making process that can impact environmental assessments and determinations.

SNRM 520 Quantitative Reasoning and Scientific Thought

This course provides managers with a basic quantitative literacy to enhance their ability to evaluate and interpret current ecological literature, and to implement management procedures that help advance understanding of the systems they manage. Topics include ecological study design, use of models in ecology, and advanced statistical approaches such as information-theoretic and Bayesian methods.

UESP 505 Sustainable Design: Green Spaces and Urban Nature

This course introduces students to principles of sustainable design with an emphasis on green spaces in urban environments. It will provide students with a framework to move beyond superficial greening efforts to create plans that highlight people, planet, profit, and purpose. Upon completion, students will have a critical vocabulary about the complexity, cost, and scale of the challenges in designing green spaces in urban environments. 

UESP 510 Sustainable Urban Ecology: Feeding Urban Communities

This course will advance students’ knowledge of how both nature and humans have responded ecologically to urbanization with an emphasis on urban agriculture. As demographic trends continue to show a rapid increase in people living in cities, urban agriculture is critical to sustainable urban planning.  Students will learn about the critical function urban agriculture and community gardens play in increasing sustainable local food economies. Finally, students will plan and develop a local urban agriculture project and practice ways of developing community partnerships associated with increasing access to healthy foods.

UESP 605 Sustainable Design: Creating Sustainable Buildings

This course will focus on design thinking and design principles with an emphasis on the built environment in urban settings. Students will learn ways to reenvision the built environment as “living” and as an active community member that contributes to the urban ecological landscape. Students will learn about building infrastructure to help design buildings that contribute to its urban ecosystem(s). This course will emphasize design thinking, teach students strategies for managing the complexities when designing new buildings or redesigning existing ones, and explore the role of economics and human beings in this process.

UESP 615 Planning for Human-Wildlife Interactions in Urban Environments

This course is an introduction to both the issues surrounding human-wildlife interactions in urban environments and an exploration into meaningful plans to support productive ecological coexistence. After providing a historical context and background on current conservation efforts, students will learn innovative strategies to support areas which are valuable to both humans and wildlife. Topics covered will include multi-level policy development, ecological economics of wildlife in urban spaces, zoonotic disease transmission and prevention, global encroachment trends, hunting in relation to wildlife abundance, and even tourism practices in urban environments. Students will additionally be exposed to the principles of wildlife forensics, and learn how to design and implement culturally appropriate and  community-led solutions to human-wildlife challenges.

UESP 690 Understanding the Complexities of Urban Planning: The Intersection of Government, NGO, and Enterprise

This capstone course will be the culmination of the knowledge and skills learned throughout the Urban Ecology and Sustainable Planning program. Students will develop a project that synthesizes everything learned in their other courses and will work to solve real-world problems through the application of a variety of skills and knowledge acquired during their program. Using multiple modalities, students will present their final project to a public audience. This presentation can include industry professionals, community town hall meetings, non-profits, and government agencies.

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Research and Capstone Projects

Student research lies at the heart of our degree programs.