Restoration Ecology and Ecological Design

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the leading centers of research into the preservation, restoration, and management of native plant communities. Landscape Architecture program at UW was one of the first academic programs in the nation to offer a specialty in restoration ecology. The University has a wide variety of courses that cover plant, animal, and ecosystem ecology, as well as the social, political, legal, and humanistic aspects of environmental issues.

This is a Master of Science program. Not looking for a MS degree? Our BS in Landscape Studies covers similar topics and themes of Restoration Ecology. 

Faculty Pages                                                                                               John and Students in field
David Bart
John Harrington
Evelyn Howell

Courses for this Program:

LA 651: Plant Community Restoration and Management Workshop

LA 668: Restoration Ecology 

LA 866: Seminar in Natural Plant Community Restoration and Management

The fields of ecology and environmental studies have long been major strengths of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition, a statewide system of natural areas and a network of ecosystem restorations, including several on campus, provide research opportunities, as well as practical hands-on experience for students. The world-renowned University of Wisconsin Arboretum in Madison, the site of several long-established ecosystem restorations, including the Curtis Prairie which is the world’s oldest ecologically-restored prairie, is a particularly valuable resource for our students.

Picture of Curtis Prairie
A Goldfinch sits among a sea of prairie dock and rattlesnake master at Curtis Prairie (the world's oldest ecologically restored prairie) at the UW-Madison Arboretum. Photo by Jeff Miller

Faculty members are active in conservation issues where they have conducted research, and worked with local and national public and private agencies to set environmental policies. Midwestern prairie, savanna, forest and wetland ecosystems have received the most attention at this institution. Several of our faculty’s research involves restoring prairie remnants and wetlands. Some of our teachers collaborated with others to write a textbook for restoration ecology. 

Person using a drip-torch at the UW-Madison Arboretum
Using a drip-torch for a prescribed fire at the UW-Madison Arboretum. Prescribed fire is a management technique that students will learn about in this program. Photo by Jeff Miller.

Examples of recent studies from both our students and faculty include:

  • Evaluations of the effects of timing of prescribed burns and/or managed grazing in grasslands and oak woodlands
  • Investigations of invasive species, as well as of rare or endangered species
  • Evaluations of mowing regimes or managed grazing as substitutions for burning in grasslands
  • Investigations of the use of native plant community remnants as models for restoration plans
  • Evaluations of various restoration techniques, including relay floristics, seeding rates, and canopy removal programs
  • Mapping and exploring the spatial distributions of grassland remnants and species
Goats among shrubs eating
Goats foraging among shrubs, as an alternative to manage non-native species and managing grazing in grasslands and woodlands. Photo by John Harrington.

Many studies are conducted with the support of, or in partnership with, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the National Park Service, and with non-profit agencies such as The Nature Conservancy.

Restoration ecology is an exciting and promising approach to the conservation of native species, natural communities, and ecosystems, which in turn, contributes to biodiversity and the overall health of our planet. This program prepares students for careers in preservation, restoration, and management of native plant communities in both the private and public sectors.

example of priaire
Reed Canary Grass encroaching Greene Prairie at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum. This invasive species is one of many species students will learn about in this program.

One of the department’s ecological design interests is in “natural landscaping” — the use of native species in urban settings such as schools, office parks, storm water basins, roadsides, etc. Recent projects include:

  • Working with parents, teachers, and students at several area elementary schools to create nature adventure playgrounds and prairie plantings on the school grounds.
  • Working with community members to create natural plantings in neighborhood parks or in storm-water basins.
  • Incorporating native prairie plants onto green roofs
prairie plants on roof of apartment building
Planting native plants on a green roof of an apartment building in Madison, WI. Photo by Michael Dziennik. 

Click Below to take a look at the required and recommended courses for this Specialty Track for our Master's program and for our Bachelor degree focus!
Restoration Ecology and Ecological Design Graduate Student Track (MS) 

Landscape Studies Major, Bachelor of Science (BS)