Professional Development and Engagement Resources

Opportunities to expand your learning outside of the classroom, gain additional professional and technical experience in ecosystem, sustainability and watershed sciences, and contribute to addressing critical environmental issues while completing your degree!

All Ecosystem Science and Sustainability and Watershed Science majors in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability (ESS) are required to complete a Professional Development and Engagement requirement in their degree program. A minimum of 5 credits must be taken to satisfy the requirement.

Ecosystem Science and Sustainability (ESS) students must complete one of the five options below. Watershed Science students must enroll in the first option, NR 220, unless they are participating in specialized research programs, certain study abroad programs, or other experiential learning placements approved by their Watershed faculty.

ESS Professional Development and Engagement Requirement

NR 220: Natural Resource Ecology and Measurements

CSU Course Description: Ecology of Rocky Mountains ecosystems. Basic measurements and integrated management of natural resources.
Prerequisite: (BZ 110 and BZ 111 or BZ 120 or LIFE 103) and (MATH 118 or MATH 141 to 161 or MATH 229 to 499).

CSU Mountain Campus Website

  • 4-Week Summer Sessions
  • Required residence at CSU Mountain Campus.
  • Must register for lecture and laboratory.

Watershed Science students participating in specialized research programs, certain study abroad programs, or other eligible experiential learning placements may submit a request for substitution for NR 220 in coordination with their Watershed faculty and Department Advisor.

When do students enroll?

Registration opens in March each year on RamWeb, immediately after Spring Break. 

ESS 487: Internship

CSU Course Description: Supervised work experience in professional settings related to Ecosystem Science and Sustainability.
Prerequisite: ESS 320 or approval of course instructor

ESS 487 Internship Guide – Download the full guide for information and access to these required forms

  • Internship Approval & Justification
  • Internship Agreement
  • Photography Consent
  • Release of Records


What qualifies?

You may intern with any organization that advances work related to fields of ecosystem science and sustainability and has a position available for you to directly engage in their work in ecosystem science and/or sustainability—for example, through research, analysis, monitoring, evaluation, public engagement, policy development, education, or outreach.

This includes organizations in government, business, and nonprofit sectors.

You may not intern with an organization if you will not directly engage in work related to ecosystems science and sustainability. For example, if you are offered a position with an environmental consulting firm as a receptionist to answer phone calls or a courier to deliver blueprints and documents, such positions do not qualify as directly engaging in work in ecosystem science and sustainability.

What is the time commitment and can I be paid?

1 credit – Canvas-based course with professional development modules to complete DURING the internship

4 credits – Actual Internship Placement

180 hours MINIMUM

16 week semester: ~ 10-12 hours/week

6 week summer placement: 30 hours/week

Yes, you may be PAID by the employer. In fact, that’s encouraged!

When in doubt, visit with ESS Internship Coordinator, Dr. Kaye Holman, to determine if the internship will qualify.

ESS/WR 495: Independent Study

CSU Course Description: Topical or research-related studies with a faculty member.

Prerequisite: None, but must have pre-arranged approval with an ESS or Watershed faculty member.

  • Arrangement made with an ESS Faculty Member
  • Requires Agreement on Scope of Work
  • Requires Timeline for Completion


Contact Nikki Foxley to complete the appropriate paperwork and enroll!

ESS 220: SUPER: Skills for Undergraduate Participation in Ecological Research

The Skills for Undergraduate Participation in Ecological Research (SUPER) Program is managed by the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability and partners with the Natural Resource Ecology Lab (NREL). It is open to ALL students at CSU with an interest in ecological research. Students apply to participate in the program in fall and continue their placement through the spring semester. They earn academic credit while also:

  • Strengthening critical thinking skills,
  • Increasing scientific literacy, and
  • Gaining real-world experience in ecological research.

How do I enroll?

Students must apply to participate in SUPER.

Applications typically open from the SUPER website in March each year, immediately after Spring Break.

Department-Approved Study Abroad Opportunities

The CSU Education Abroad Office provides comprehensive information on study abroad placements for students, including programs offering Research or Internship opportunities.

The Department has created a list of recommended programs for students in our majors:

Experiential learning opportunities in the U.S. and abroad can be considered through placement in programs such as:

All of these programs provide a mix of academic and field-based experiences. Students who submit a Transfer Credit Plan for Undergraduate Education Abroad to Education Abroad for such programs may be able to earn academic credit toward their ESS or Watershed Science degrees.
Visit the Education Abroad Students page to learn more and Get Started! Also, check out Education Abroad’s Upcoming Events postings on their website homepage for Information Sessions on Study Abroad as well as Financial Aid/Scholarship Workshops to fund your international placement experience.


What if I’m considering this option?

Meet with your ESS Department Advisor to let us know.

Meet with CSU Education Abroad Staff Member.

Make sure to submit an Education Abroad Transfer Credit Policy & Approval form to get PRE-APPROVAL by the CSU Registrar for your study abroad courses.  This is required for programs that will transfer credits to CSU!

student on study abroad