Adaptive Management Specialization in
Natural Resource Sciences Graduate Program

Available to both MS and PhD candidates.

The Adaptive Management specialization is designed to provide a rigorous, focused graduate program that draws on faculty expertise in both adaptive management and structured decision making. Adaptive governance and adaptive management are innovative integrative approaches that treat policy and management as experiments designed to determine and decrease uncertainties and identify thresholds for the successful management of complex systems. For adaptive governance and adaptive management to be successful there is a critical need for explicit training of future social and natural resource scientists, managers, and policymakers in the process of adaptive management and in resilience theory, which gave rise to adaptive management. Students enrolling in this emphasis area will be interested in the interface of research, management and policy.

Educational goals and objective:

  1. Provide students a learning environment to promote a broad understanding of adaptive management principles and how they can be applied to the conservation and management of our natural resources.
  2. Recognize students who have attained an advanced knowledge of adaptive management principals and application.
  3. Support interactions and cooperation among the community of scientists and students working on applied adaptive management.

Faculty Point-of-Contact

If you are interested in the Adaptive Management graduate specialization, please feel free to contact the following SNR faculty member:

Craig Allen

Additional Information

In addition to School of Natural Resources faculty, there are more than 20 faculty associated with the resilience and adaptive management NSF Research Trainee Program at UNL.


Graduate degrees are research degrees. The primary requirement for a specialization in adaptive management is a research topic (i.e., thesis or dissertation) that focuses on, or includes, adaptive management. Students with this specialization will work closely with their advisor(s) and committee members to choose a range of courses that provide a background in ecology, quantitative ecology and statistics and social sciences, all core to adaptive management. Specialized graduate courses are often taught irregularly or one-time; therefore it is imperative that students and graduate committees tailor individual degrees based on courses that are available and specific needs of a specific research question and degree program.

Please see our entrance requirements and application procedure pages for more information about our admission and application expectations for graduate degree candidates.

Course work and thesis topics are coordinated closely with a student’s long-term goals. Courses to consider for the program:

  • NRES 803 - Ecological Statistics (4 cr)
  • NRES 823 – Integrated Resource Management (3 cr)
  • NRES 450/850 – Biology of Wildlife Populations (4 cr)
  • NRES 498/898 – Adaptive Management (3 cr)
  • NRES 498/898 – Parameter estimation / MARK / Distance (1– 3 cr)
  • AECN 841 – Environmental Law (1-4 cr)
  • AECN 456/856 – Environmental Law (3 cr)
  • AECN 465/865 – Resource and Environmental Economics (3 cr)
  • AECN 883 – Ecological Economics (3 cr)
  • BIOS 456/856 – Mathematical Models in Biology (3 cr) 
  • MATH 823 – Mathematical Applications in Biology (3 cr)
  • POLS 831 - Core Seminar in Public Policy (3 cr)
  • POLS 836 – Public Policy Analysis (3 cr)
  • POLS 931 – Water Policy (3 cr)
  • PSYC 883 – Psychology of Social Behavior (3 cr)

Our M.S. and Ph.D. students have pursued a wide range of career paths over the past several years, including positions with state and federal agencies, natural resources districts, environmental consulting firms, and nongovernmental (nonprofit) organizations.

student with plants

Selected Dissertations & Theses

The Perception of Natural Resource Management in Nebraska: Efforts for Cross-Boundary Collaborative Management - Dan Morales
  • Thesis Defense
  • 11/16/2022
Nebraska’s agricultural landscapes are rapidly changing, affecting natural resources and their successful management. I utilized two surveys and scenario planning to investigate (Chapters 1: statewide survey, 2: local survey, and 3: scenario-planning workshop) attitudes and perceptions of natural resource management and cross-boundary collaboration. My first objective focuses on what prevents Nebraskans from addressing natural resources challenges looking at demographics amongst generations and the type of area they live in (rural vs urban). The second objective focused on whether landowners engaged with their community in managing natural resources. The third objective developed alternative future scenarios for the Denton Hills landscape, and preferred alternative futures. I found that demographics matter, and that older generations are more likely to engage in community natural resource management. I found that landowners with larger acreages to manage are more likely to view collaboration positively. Scenario planning revealed how local landowners in the Denton Hills view the identity of the Denton Hills, and identified both desired and undesired future alternatives for the landscape. Generally, I found that natural resource challenges are recognized by the public and that people are willing to work in cooperative groups to address the challenges. Understanding perceptions of management, factors affecting those perceptions, collaborative management and a shared future vision will enhance resource management.
Landscape change, scale, and human response to change in the Great Plains - Kate Bird
  • Thesis Defense
  • 09/02/2022

Great Plains landscapes are undergoing changes at multiple spatial and temporal scales due to processes ranging from woody encroachment to demographic change. These changes may fundamentally alter the agroecosystems of the Great Plains such that the provisioning of ecosystem services such as biodiversity and livestock production is affected. Improving our understanding of the effects of landscape change and how humans perceive and respond to these changes is important for facilitating research and management that enhances the resilience of these agroecosystems. In order to examine landscape change in the Great Plains and the roles of scale and human response to change, I first applied discontinuity theory and graph theory to evaluate the functional connectivity of the Central Platte River Valley (CPRV) for mammal species interacting with the landscape at multiple scales. I found that the CPRV was highly connected for mammal species at larger scales and less connected for those at smaller scales. I also found limited overlap in the patches of habitat most important for connectivity for mammals interacting with the landscape at smaller and larger scales. These results suggest that a multiscale approach to management in the CPRV will be most beneficial in supporting diverse species communities. Second, I interviewed ranchers in the Great Plains states of Nebraska and Colorado in order to examine their perceptions of landscape change and potential coping strategies. The ranchers interviewed identified numerous changes affecting Great Plains landscapes, and they generally expressed a willingness to learn and adopt new practices, including in response to landscape change. These results indicate a need and opportunity for research and management partnerships between governmental and nonprofit entities and the ranching community in order to develop coping strategies. Cumulatively, by examining landscape change and the role of scale and human response to change, we gain insight into potential approaches to research and management in changing Great Plains agroecosystems, which is valuable in maintaining the resilience of these systems.

Various Research Projects