Academic Programs Supported by MARI

Login to meet me:

Summer 2024:
IDS 369/CL 668 Internship

Spring 2024:
250N Natural Hazards

Fall 2023:
250N Natural Hazards
466W/566 Mitigation and Adaptation Studies

Summer 2023:
IDS 369/CL 668 Internship

Spring 2023:
250N Natural Hazards
467/567 Sustainability Leadership

Fall 2022:
250N Natural Hazards
466W/566 Adaptation
658 Modeling

Summer 2022:
IDS 369/CL 668 Internship

Spring 2022:
250N Natural Hazards
467/567 Sustainability Leadership

Fall 2021:
250N Natural Hazards
466W/566 Adaptation
658 Modeling

Summer 2021:
IDS 369/CL 668 Internship

Spring 2021:
250N Natural Hazards
467/567 Sustainability Leadership

Fall 2020:
250N Natural Hazards
466W/566 Adaptation
658 Modeling

Summer 2020:
IDS 369/CL 668 Internship

Spring 2020:
467/567 Leadership
IDS 369/PRTS697 Internship

Fall 2019:
658 Modeling
466W/566 Adaptation
250N Natural Hazards and Disasters
369 Internship

Summer 2019:
369 Internship
467/567 Sustainability Ledership

Spring 2019:
466W/566 Adaptation

2018 and earlier
250N Natural Hazards and Disasters
369 Internship
467 Leadership
Teaching Archive

Project and Programs:
ILC Project
CURE Project
Sustainability and Conservation Leadership Program
Sustainability and Conservation Leadership Minor
Grad. Certificate in Conservation Leadership
MARI Case Study Template

Graduate Certificate in Conservation Leadership

Hans-Peter Plag, July 15, 2020

For the official page of the graduate Certificate on ODU's web page, see ...


  1. Overview
  2. Program Structure
  3. Learning Outcomes
  4. Elective Courses
  5. Internships
  6. Rationale
  7. Contacts
  8. Announcements


This interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Conservation Leadership was developed, and is implemented by Old Dominion University in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as part of a long-term, sustainable program of conservation-related service-learning, internships and leadership programs. The certificate focuses on conservation solutions in the context of our quickly changing planet. A goal of this program is to develop the next generation of conservation leaders with the ability to critically review underlying paradigms and to initiate paradigm shifts where they are needed to address the challenges of sea level rise and climate change in conservation roles, such as in local, state and federal agency and non-profit sectors. The core of this 15-credit certificate is built around two courses on Adaptation Studies and Sustainability Leadership. The Sustainability Leadership course is a Service Learning (SL) course that requires travel for fieldwork. An additional mandatory course focuses on skills to address wicked problems. This course introduces students to participatory and agent-based modeling and the use of simulations and visualizations in the deliberations on wicked problems. An additional course is an elective that can be selected from an interdisciplinary list to suit a wide-range of conservation interests. An internship is the capstone of this graduate certificate.

For the listing in ODU's catalog, see here ...

Note that there is also a Minor in Sustainability and Conservation Leadership. The mandatory courses of the Minor are taught together with the corresponding courses for the Graduate Certificate. This facilitates interactions of undergraduate and graduate students.


The Graduate Certificate requires fifteen (15) credits, which are distributed over five 3-credits courses:
  • I. Core Courses
    • BIOL/OEAS 566 Mitigation and Adaptation Studies
    • BIOL/OEAS 567 Sustainability Leadership (Service learning class)
    • OEAS/ENMA 658 Participatory and Agent-Based Modeling, Simulations, and Visualizations
  • II. Electives
    • One elective Course (for details see below)
  • III. Internship
    • GL 668 Internship in Conservation Leadership (for details see below)


Graduates of this interdisciplinary graduate certificate will understand uncertainties in projection of climate and sea level and be able to develop foresight. They will possess the ability to identify assumptions and paradigms that are the basis of decision making, and to initiate shifts in those paradigms if needed, using a systems approach to address the complex challenges posed by climate change and sea level rise.


The electives should be selected to extend the leadership-focused contents of the core courses. SL indicates that the course is a service learning course. To learn more about these courses, go to ODU's Catalog and enter the Course acronym and number.

  • BIOL 504 Conservation Biology
  • BIOL 545 Community Ecology
  • BIOL 732 GIS in the Life Sciences
  • COMM 600 Intercultural Communication: History, Theory and Application
  • HLSC 778 Global Environmental Health
  • POLS 555 The Politics of Climate Change
  • PADM 632 Environmental Planning
  • PHIL 542 Studies in Applied Ethics
  • PRTS 730 Park Management for Professionals
  • PRTS 760 Advanced Sustainable Tourism Management
  • PRTS 740 Recreation Management for Administrators


The intership is conducted in the course CL 668. For most updated information consult the most recent version of CL 668. Students who want to register for this course first need to contact the instructors Eddie Hill (ehill at and Hans-Peter Plag (hpplag at

Prerequisite for the internship is a successful participation in the three mandatory courses with grades equal to or better than B.

The intership requires to work for 300 hours at a host institution. Host institutions are preferably at different facilities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Opportunities are at local facilities and facilities distributed throughout the country. Part-time options may be available for those students who cannot work a fulltime 40-hour week. After submission of an application, an interview will be scheduled with the advisors to ensure that there is an optimal match between the host, project, location, etc. and the students interests and qualifications.

Besides participating in the day-to-day work at the host institution, the intern will also carry out a case study of a real-world wicked problem relevant to the host institution. In general, about half of the internship is filled with day-to-day work and half of it focuses on the case study. The student is expected to use the MARI Case Study Template for the case study. The student will be mentored in the context of IDS 369 and will have a dedicated supervisor at the host institution. Progress reports are expected to be submitted for every 40 hours worked on the internship. Progress meeting with the mentor and student will ensure that the mentor can provide guidance and support the student, if needed.

The up-to-date list of deliverables is available at the most recent IDS 369/CL 668 page.

There is currently no financial support for the internship available. However, if accommodation is needed then most host institutions are able to provide accommodation for free.


[2020/06/01] COVID-19 Update

The current pandemic has impacted the Sustainability and Conservation Leadership Program in several ways. The mandatory courses are partly transitioning to synchronous online classes. The internships are significantly limited due to the many restrictions at host institutions.


Interested in this minor? Please contact:
Hans-Peter Plag
Department of Ocean and Earth Science, hpplag at
Eddie Hill
Department of Human Movement Sciences, ehill at


A graduate Certificate Conservation Leadership with a strong service-learning component has the potential to help spread knowledge about conservation issues to students across campus, and will offer opportunities to engage in service-learning projects that address key conservation issues. There is a growing need to educate a workforce that can lead the design and implementation of adaptive conservation programs that are resilient with respect to the impacts on natural resources of climate change and sea level rise. Leadership in conservation is particularly challenged by the need to review underlying paradigms and to initiate paradigm shifts where needed. The transdisciplinary Certificate in Conservation Leadership seeks to provide students with a greater depth of experience and understanding of the role that integrated natural science and social science can play in developing conservation policy, especially under the circumstances of a changing climate and environment. This transdisciplinary Certificate offers an integrated approach to managing natural resources from a coupled human-ecological perspective, and addresses the diverse biological, physical, social, economic, and political aspects of natural resources management, community resilience, and stewardship.

The transdisciplinary Certificate in Conservation Leadership was developed by Old Dominion University in collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Service as part of a long-term, sustainable program of conservation-related service-learning, internships and leadership programs. It facilitates the development of the next generation of professionals who can address conservation issues and challenges posed by a changing climate and sea level rise.

Students who could benefit from adding the Certificate to their portfolio include but are not limited to Biology (Wetland Biology and Biotech), Chemistry, Oceanography (Biological, Chemical, Geological, Physical), Civil and Environmental Engineering, Earth Science Education, Economics, Environmental Health, Geography, Interdisciplinary Studies (Professional Writing, Work & Professional Studies), International Studies, Leadership, Management, Marine Biology, Park, Recreation and Tourism Studies, Political and Legal Studies, Political Science, Print and Photo Media, Public Health.

A survey of job skills required for coping with the challenge of climate change and sea level rise to conservation revealed needs related to four areas:

  1. Scientific understanding: In particular, systems thinking, understanding of uncertainties and probabilities, accepting the limited predictability of a system in rapid transition, insight into resilience, fragility, and hazards, ability to develop transformation knowledge, and a stronger focus on adaptation over mitigation were emphasized.
  2. Technical skills: Understanding the physical, chemical and biological processes and the ability to translate them into models, combining the understanding with strong computational skills, handling and visualizing of data and assimilation of data into models, understanding and using new approaches such as crowd-sourcing and big data, and developing web communications.
  3. Interfacing of science and society: The understanding of the decision making process in society and insight into human behavior are important. Particularly for contentious topics like climate change, being able to communicate scientific evidence including uncertainties and probabilities is a necessary skill. Climate change also invalidates many of the paradigms developed in times of stability. Recognizing the paradigms that are implicit in decision making and assessing their validity is increasingly important. Being able to develop foresight and assess possible futures are important skills for conservation leaders.
  4. Personal skills: Among the personal skills identified are the ability to integrate into a transdisciplinary problem-focused environment, i.e., not being an expert in all fields but being able to recognize the expertise required to solve a problem and to communicate with experts in the required fields. Reflective capabilities are important. Understanding and accepting personal, community and cultural biases are all important traits for addressing a challenging problem such as conservation under climate change. Also important is to gain an understanding of the ethical and moral implications of climate change and conservation under rapidly changing conditions. Adaptive capabilities include the ability to modify plans and activities if circumstance change and knowledge evolves. A note about understanding and communicating with other cultures: Ninety five million acres of tribal land in the US are held in trust by the government including the USFWS. Protecting and preserving this land and its many ecosystems, must take into account tribal customs, mores and values. Understanding and being able to communicate about tribal cultural norms is essential to the federal government’s stewardship of these lands.