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Master of Natural Resources (Online) - Focus

Water sampling of the Nisqually River. Photo: Emily Brouwer, NPS-Mount Rainier National Park, CC-BY-2.0

Today’s employers in the sustainability field value candidates who bring breadth and depth of knowledge to their work. The MNR focus areas are designed to give students a deeper understanding of a selected area of study and an ability to signal expertise in the marketplace. Our academic advisors will assist you in selecting the most relevant focus area and in creating a Plan of Study best suited to your career goals. 

Program Format 
The online MNR is a virtual degree program that prepares students for careers in environmental sustainability. The program combines online coursework and participation in a 10-day, in-person Global Study (an international trip) that takes the place of the typical professional graduate degree capstone project.

The non-thesis MNR degree consists of 10 3-credit courses (30 hours). Each student completes 5 core and 5 elective courses. Students may design a plan of study featuring electives from a specific focus area or choose the courses from across focus areas that will best support their academic and professional goals. Choosing elective courses from one focus area allows a student to specialize in a particular field of study, if desired.

Core Courses

  • Global Issues in Environmental Sustainability
  • Leadership Communication for Sustainability Professionals
  • Constructing Sustainability
  • Strategies for Sustainability
  • Sustainability Systems

Build the theoretical foundations, conservation strategies, and policy knowledge needed by sustainability professionals; and develop the competencies sought by conservation and development organizations that work with government agencies and community groups to conserve biodiversity at ecosystem scales.


  • Adaptive Management
  • Biodiversity Policy
  • Biodiversity Stewardship
  • Conservation Ecology


  • Assess the roles and relationships of the economic and social sciences in the conservation of renewable natural resources.
  • Incorporate current scientific knowledge and technologies into holistic analyses of variables that affect conservation issues.
  • Map, document, and prioritize threats to biodiversity and biological integrity and formulate strategies to monitor and mitigate such threats.
  • Integrate strategies, anticipated results, objectives, activities, and conservation goals into monitoring plans.
  • Distinguish critical roles of relevant government agencies, advocacy groups, and businesses in conservation efforts.
  • Design partnerships and events that facilitate community awareness and mobilize biodiversity stewardship efforts.
  • Analyze U.S. and international biodiversity policies for implications to conservation practices and evaluate their effectiveness.
  • Design policies for biodiversity conservation that overcome obstacles and use adaptive management principles.
  • Identify the potential for conflict among simultaneous management objectives and learn strategies to resolve these competing interests.

Learn how to examine the interface of the engineered, natural, and social environments. Employ case studies to dive into the challenges associated with rapid urbanization occurring around the globe, and the strategies used to create healthy human ecosystems and livable communities in which to live, work, and play. 


  • Infrastructure for Resilience
  • Urban Ecology
  • Urban Water Systems
  • Urban Wildlife


  • Understand how urban systems are related to natural resource sustainability and resilience.
  • Evaluate, map, and explain connections between engineered, natural, and urban systems.
  • Compare infrastructure policies, processes, interventions, and innovations and evaluate infrastructure plans for resiliency.
  • Plan for engagement of stakeholders in infrastructure planning efforts.
  • Analyze connections of regional landscapes to urban water systems.
  • Apply water system hydrology concepts and best practices to global rapid urbanization and emergency management challenges.
  • Prescribe best practices to address contemporary water, green infrastructure, and emergency management problems in rapidly urbanizing places.
  • Identify strategies for managing wildlife conflict and promoting and conserving wildlife in urban areas.


Develop the competencies necessary to help communities and organizations address the challenges of climate change. Explore mitigation strategies and adaptation planning; international, global, and local policy and institutions; and the unique role that cities play in creating a more sustainable and resilient future.


  • Climate Adaptation
  • Climate Change Policy
  • Climate Change Science
  • Risk and Rationality in Climate Leadership


  • Explain key causes and consequences of climate change and communicate the related uncertainty and complexity.
  • Evaluate the opportunities, challenges, and impacts of climate change mitigation, adaptation, and carbon sequestration strategies and policies.
  • Predict impacts of climate change on specific environments, communities, and businesses and prepare plans that increase adaptive capacity.
  • Conduct scenario planning at local and national scales and in developed and developing countries.
  • Compare the process, politics, and communication strategies of implementing climate adaptation.
  • Compare and contrast key U.S. and international climate change policies and the missions of climate science institutions.
  • Contrast how different countries’ positions on climate justice drive international climate policy.
  • Compare alternative greenhouse gas accounting systems and explain major business policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Evaluate, map, and explain connections between engineered, natural, and urban systems affecting infrastructure critical to sustainability.
  • Plan for engagement of stakeholders in infrastructure planning efforts and coordinate interdisciplinary planning teams.




Gain a broad understanding of how corporations and the private sector are contributing to a more sustainable future: explore sustainability theory and best practices; how businesses are managing supply chains to improve efficiency and reduce risk; sustainability accounting and reporting practices; and how businesses are helping design, build, and transition to a circular economy.


  • Business Sustainability Applications
  • Sustainability Accounting and Reporting
  • Sustainable Purchasing & Supply Chains
  • Circular Economy


  • Analyze the costs and benefits of business sustainability choices and how businesses influence change.
  • Compare Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability programs, and design them for employee recruitment and retention, insurance, and risk management.
  • Assess markets and demand for “green” goods and sustainable brands as impacted by global trends in demographics.
  • Assess and manage supply chain risk, and improve efficiency.
  • Analyze how improving resource efficiency and reducing risk scale-up can contribute to more sustainable systems of production and consumption at regional and global scales.
  • Explain how governance by disclosure influences businesses, consumers, investors, governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders.
  • Apply reporting practices for key sustainability concerns such as greenhouse gas emissions, water, and fair labor.
  • Compare and prioritize sustainability accounting, reporting, and compliance platforms and practices in different market sectors and in different countries. 
  • Defend policy, marketing, and production interventions needed to promote a circular economy.

In the Water and Marine systems focus area, students investigate basic issues surrounding water management including hydrology and infrastructure, regulatory and legislative issues, and funding and financing challenges and explore innovative partnerships designed to address these issues. Cases are used to investigate examples of water management and conflict around the world.


  • Water Conflict and Management 
  • Coastal and Marine Management
  • Urban Water Systems
  • Watershed Stewardship
  • Coming Soon! Water and Marine Policy


  • Analyze connections of regional landscapes to urban water systems.
  • Compare the roles of US government agencies and global water management agencies responsible for water issues.
  •  Compare and contrast technical, financial, regulatory, and planning aspects of storm, clean, and drinking water sectors.
  • Assess funding gaps in the water sector and compare traditional and innovative funding and financing strategies to address those gaps.
  • Apply partnership strategies and governance to propose and plan partnership programs to meet community storm, clean, and drinking water needs.
  • Prioritize characteristics of successful water management programs.
  • Prescribe best practices to address contemporary water, green infrastructure, and emergency management problems in rapidly urbanizing places.
  • Analyze case studies of exemplary sustainable, integrated urban water systems.
  • Analyze examples of historical and current water conflicts and mismanagement around the world.

Want maximum flexibility? Choose from our extensive list of courses to design your own Master of Natural Resources Plan of Study, with the help of our Academic Advisor. 

Need to complete your degree in 12 months? Consider the Executive Master of Natural Resources.