On June 17, nine Unity College students will fly south for the educational experience of a lifetime, researching the effects of deforestation, as well as animal behavior and conservation, on location in the Brazilian Amazon for more than a week.

Fur and Fin – Ecology of the Brazilian Amazon is an immersive program that is one of the few in the United States focused on the ecology of species in Brazil that is taught on location. Fur and Fin will also usher in a new era of biology studies for Unity College, giving students an early look at what the College’s new Conservation Biology program will look like when it launches this fall. Not only will Conservation Biology students study and conduct research on all aspects of biology in the woods and waters of Maine, but they’ll also have opportunities to visit and learn in far-off locations nationally and internationally.

“The field of biology is vast, and is often confounded with healthcare,” said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “Our biology focus is different, as it emphasizes learning foundational ecological principles on which to layer interdisciplinary studies. Introducing our Conservation Biology degree reaffirms that fact, and it further distinguishes Unity College as a leader in that area, leaning into our continued differentiation in the biology programs we offer.”

There’s currently a high demand in the job market for Conservation Biology graduates, who become premiere candidates for careers including Natural Resource Specialists, District Conservationists, Environmental Scientists, Conservation Program Managers, among dozens of others. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of environmental scientists and specialists will grow 11 percent from 2016 and 2026, and that employment for conservation scientists will grow 7 percent. In May last year, the median annual wage for conservation scientists was $61,310.

“I am so excited that we are able to move forward with this new major,” said Dr. Pamela MacRae, Dean of the School of Biodiversity Conservation. “Many faculty at Unity have been drawn to the College because of their passion for conservation, including myself. This new major is a collaborative effort by numerous faculty across disciplines, that were interested in creating a major that met the needs of the students that were as enthusiastic as they are about biodiversity conservation.

“The impacts of habitat destruction, invasive species, global climate change, pollution and overharvesting among other factors has left our world in a deteriorated state that will be challenging to recover from,” Dr. MacRae continued. “Never has it been more important to focus our efforts on biodiversity conservation.”

In addition to the research in Brazil, students in Conservation Biology can participate in undergraduate research projects focused on subjects including the ecology of wood turtles, bumblebees, and elk, in addition to taking part in the restoration of the American chestnut tree.

“By re-envisioning Biology as Conservation Biology, we are more closely aligning this major with the mission of the College, and offering new and exciting choices to our students,” said Unity College Associate Professor of Conservation Biology Dr. Matthew Chatfield. “We are preparing our graduates to be leaders, ready to engage in innovative and multi-faceted conservation solutions. Perhaps more than any other science discipline, Conservation Biology is highly integrative, far-reaching, and increasingly urgent. In this new major, students will be introduced to the problem of biodiversity loss with its many local and global implications. Building on this foundation, students will apply both the underlying science and the human experience to work toward ecosystem resilience in an era of massive ecological change.”

“I am super excited about this new degree program at Unity College,” said Unity College Assistant Professor of Conservation Law and Environmental Policy Zachary Falcon, who brings his expertise on the trade of endangered species to the program. “Now more than ever, the project of conserving and protecting biodiversity exists at the intersection of science, policy, and sustainability. Our new Conservation Biology program will equip graduates to tackle the crashes we have at that intersection, such as international wildlife trafficking and disputes over endangered species management. It is the right degree at the right time, and Unity is perfectly positioned to deliver it.”

In addition to the new Conservation Biology major, Unity College is creating a new science lab on campus this summer that will be ready for Fall 2019. The science lab will be in Founders Hall South on the Flagship campus. Additional lab space is needed for teaching and research, and will be utilized extensively by students in the School of Biodiversity Conservation and the new Conservation Biology major.

A fundraising campaign is currently underway for the new science lab. Anyone interested in more info can log onto unity.edu/sciencelab.