Dual Degree in Law & Environmental Studies


The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies is an inter-college unit created in 1970 to promote and enhance interdisciplinary environmental science instruction, research, and outreach. Approximately 150 faculty members from more than 50 natural and social science, engineering, and humanities departments are affiliated with the Institute. The Institute offers roughly 70 courses in cooperation with the university’s schools and colleges.

As an interdisciplinary program, the Institute encourages applicants from a broad range of backgrounds. Graduates of the Institute can be found in a wide variety of fields including: resource planning or management, natural or earth sciences, engineering or design, land economics, history, geography, landscape architecture, mathematics, political science, urban and regional planning, law and legislation.

Environmental problems frequently raise legal issues whose resolution demands knowledge of law and the environment. The need for professionals with this blend of expertise is growing. The Environmental Studies and Law Dual Degree Program was created in 1994 to enable students at UW-Madison to pursue a law degree and advanced degrees in environmental studies simultaneously by permitting them to count some of their courses and residence toward both degrees. It is anticipated that a variety of career opportunities will be available to graduates of the program in public agencies, nonprofit organizations, private firms and in academic institutions.

Possible Degree Combinations

Students in the Dual Degree Program can earn a J.D. and one of the following degrees:

  • An M.S. in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development

  • An M.S. or Ph.D. in Environment and Resources including certificates in: Energy Analysis and Policy; Transportation Management and Policy (TMP); Culture, History and Environment (CHE); and Certificate on Humans and the Global Environment (CHANGE).

  • An M.S. in Water Resources Management

Areas of Study

The Environment & Resources Program is an interdisciplinary program for graduate students who wish to broaden their knowledge of natural resources or who seek specialized education in the technical, social, or management aspects of the environment. Students in this program can pursue interests in areas such as land use planning, land-related environmental controls, soil and water conservation, land problems in developing countries, property rights and land tenure, management of mined lands, public and management, land ethics, land taxation and controls, highway and utility location, land resource inventories and information management, waste management, and land resources education.

The Water Resources Management Program is an interdisciplinary program leading to a master of science degree in water resources management. The program addresses the complex interdisciplinary aspects of managing water resources by helping students integrate the biological and physical sciences (which identify and measure problems) with engineering (which defines technological alternatives) and law and the social sciences (which assess needs and potential for institutional response). Students in the Water Resources Management Program gain breadth in relevant planning and management areas while developing depth in an area specialty. Up to 15 credits of law courses may count toward the area specialty, Environmental Law.

The Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development Program seeks to understand the complex interactions between natural ecosystems and human societies. The program focuses on ecologically sustainable development, which meets the needs of humanity while protecting the integrity of nature. The program combines study of biodiversity with study of the economic and social dimensions of development.

The Environmental Monitoring Program emphasizes the application of remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) technologies to natural resource management and environmental monitoring. The aim is to prepare interdisciplinary specialists who can apply remote sensing and GIS to natural resource issues.

Admission Procedures & Requirements

For current information about admission procedures and requirements, contact the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
University of Wisconsin-Madison
550 North Park Street
70 Science Hall
Madison, WI 53706-1491
Phone (608) 262-7996, Fax (608) 262-2273

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