Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (PhD Program)

Chair of the Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Graduate Program:  Dr. Roger Wheate

Staffan Lindgren, Professor Emeritus (Ecosystem Science and Management)

Annie Booth, Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Philip Burton, Professor and Regional Chair, Northwest (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Darwyn Coxson, Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Russell Dawson, Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Stephen Déry, Professor (Environmental Science and Engineering)
Keith Egger, Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Gail Fondahl, Professor (Geography)
Arthur Fredeen, Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Michael Gillingham, Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Greg Halseth, Professor, and Canada Research Chair, Rural and Small Town Studies (Geography)
Neil Hanlon, Professor (Geography)
Ian Hartley, Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Dezene Huber, Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Peter Jackson, Professor (Environmental Science and Engineering)
Christopher Johnson, Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Kathy Lewis, Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Jianbing Li, Professor (Environmental Engineering)
Hugues Massicotte, Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
William McGill, Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Brian Menounos, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Glacier Change (Geography)
Michael Murphy, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Comparative Indigenous-State Relations (Political Science)
Chris Opio, Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Ken A. Otter, Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Philip Owens, Professor and Forest Renewal BC Endowed Chair, Landscape Ecology (Environmental Science)
Katherine Parker, Professor, and Ian McTaggart Cowan Muskwa Kechika Research Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Ellen Petticrew, Professor, and Forest Renewal BC Endowed Chair in Landscape Ecology (Geography)
Michael Rutherford, Professor (Environmental Science)
Mark Shrimpton, Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Jueyi Sui, Professor (Environmental Engineering)
Youmin Tang, Professor (Environmental Science and Engineering)
Ron Thring, Professor (Chemistry, Environmental Science and Engineering)
David Connell, Associate Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Ché Elkin, Associate Professor, and FRBC/Slocan Mixed Wood Ecology Chair (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Karima Fredj, Associate Professor (Economics)
Scott Green, Associate Professor (Natural Resources and Environmental Studies)
Steve Helle, Associate Professor (Environmental Engineering)
Zoë Meletis, Associate Professor (Geography)
Brent Murray, Associate Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Catherine Nolin, Associate Professor (Geography)
Margot Parkes, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Community Health/Environmental Health/Rural, Remote, Aboriginal and Northern Health Health Sciences (Natural Resources and Environmental Studies)
Tristan Pearce, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Cumulative Impacts of Environmental Change (Natural Resources and Environmental Studies)
John Shultis, Associate Professor (Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Management)
Thomas Tannert, Associate Professor, and BC Leadership Chair in Tall Wood and Hybrid Structures Engineering (Integrated Wood Engineering and Design)
Oscar Venter, Associate Professor, Ecosystem and Science Management, and Forest Renewal BC Endowed Chair in Growth and Yield and Forest Valuations (Natural Resources and Environmental Studies)
Guido Wimmers, Associate Professor (Integrated Wood Engineering and Design)
Pamela Wright, Associate Professor (Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Management)
Asif Igbal, Assistant Professor (Integrated Wood Engineering and Design)
Loraine Lavallee, Assistant Professor (Psychology)
Eduardo Martins, Assistant Professor (Ecosystem Science and Management)
Joseph Shea, Assistant Professor (Geography)
Catherine Whalen, Assistant Professor (Education)
Hossein Kazemian, Senior Lab Instructor, NALS


The PhD in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies [PhD(NRES)] offers students the opportunity to develop an advanced level of understanding and training in any one or a combination of scientific discipline(s) related to natural environments, the processes (e.g., biological, chemical, physical) that govern them, or the human dimensions (e.g., social, economic, political, cultural) that interact with them. The PhD(NRES) promotes an integration of the linkages between social, ethical, political, and cultural dimensions, and an understanding of basic ecological, biological, and physical attributes of natural resources. Emphasis is placed upon the student to acquire an interdisciplinary base upon which to found a “disciplinary” area of concentration. Graduates from this program who have an area of concentration and a familiarity with how other disciplines can contribute toward solving environmental problems should be capable of addressing a variety of natural resources and environmental issues from a number of perspectives.

Students must complete 9 credit hours of interdisciplinary core courses: NRES 801-3, NRES 802-3, and NRES 803-3.These courses will provide all students with a framework, balanced in science and human dimensions, upon which a specific PhD program may be built. Also required is a compulsory seminar course (NRES 804-3), and a PhD thesis (NRES 890-12). Students may be required, at the discretion of their supervisory committee, to take additional courses within their area.

Students must pass three separate checks on their academic progress towards a PhD: a qualifying exam, a defence of thesis proposal, and a defence of the thesis. The qualifying exam is tailored to ensure a cross-disciplinary aptitude, and tests the student's grasp of the interdisciplinary nature of natural resource and environmental issues. The thesis proposal defence is tailored to ensure that a student has a grasp of his/her area of concentration, and therefore examines the level of knowledge within the area of concentration. Upon successfully passing both the qualifying examination and the thesis proposal defence, a student is granted candidate status, and embarks upon the thesis work under the supervision of his/her faculty advisor. Following completion of the research, the candidate must defend his/her thesis to an examination committee.

Required Core Courses 9 credits
Graduate Seminar 3 credits
PhD Thesis 12 credits
Total Required 24 credits

Recommended Progression

First Year: Core Courses, Qualifying Exam

During the first two semesters, the common set of three required core courses (NRES 801-3 Integrated Environmental Systems I, NRES 802-3 Integrated Environmental Systems II, and NRES 803-3 Integrated Environmental Systems III) will be taken. In addition, the graduate seminar (NRES 804-3) will be taken by all PhD students.

At the end of the second semester, PhD students will normally take a qualifying exam consisting of written and oral components. The general part of the exam should demonstrate the student's ability to synthesize and extrapolate from the interdisciplinary perspectives of natural resource management and environmental studies, at an integrative level and scope consistent with the core PhD courses (NRES 801-3, NRES 802-3, and NRES 803-3). The specialty part of the exam will assess the student's background knowledge and familiarity with the theory and methodology associated with his/her thesis topic. Part-time students will normally take the qualifying exam upon completion of the 9 credits of required core courses.

Second Year: Area of Concentration, Defence of Thesis Proposal

If students are required to take additional courses to address deficiencies within their area of concentration, they will be able to select courses from relevant course offerings within the Faculty of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, as well as other UNBC programs, or from other accredited graduate programs in other post-secondary institutions. In addition, students will normally conduct some exploratory research in their area of concentration.

Once course work is substantially complete, the students will work towards finalizing a thesis proposal, a document demonstrating academic rigor, and of publishable quality. Students will be expected to present the thesis proposal before their committee, and to demonstrate their knowledge within their area of concentration. Normally, this defence will be scheduled either at the end of the third semester or at the beginning of the fourth semester of study.

Third to Fifth Year: Thesis

Upon successful completion of course work, and the successful completion of the qualifying exam and the defence of thesis proposal, the student is officially designated as a PhD candidate, and proceeds to full-time work on the thesis under the direct supervision of the advisor and any other designated committee members. Any major changes made to the thesis proposal after approval by the committee will require the approval of the committee.

Under normal circumstances, a student is expected to complete his/her research and the writing of the thesis within three years of becoming a doctoral candidate.

Any student requiring more than three years (6 semesters) to complete a thesis must request an extension from his/her advisor and the Dean.

Oral Defence of the Thesis

When the student's advisor and committee have determined that the student has reached an acceptable level of completion on the thesis, the student will defend the research during an oral exam with the full examining committee. This defence, with the exception of committee deliberations, will be open to the public.

Admission, Regulations and Committee Structures

Admission requirements

Students will normally be expected to hold a Master's degree from an accredited post-secondary institution. In exceptional cases, individuals with significant and relevant life experience may be admitted on probation. Normally, applicants must hold a cumulative GPA of 3.33 (B+) from the Baccalaureate and Master's degree, to be calculated over the last 30 credits of graded academic work. Acceptance to the PhD program will be contingent upon the prospective student finding a member of the faculty to serve as her/his advisor.

In addition to a completed UNBC Graduate Application Form, applicants must provide official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended; a statement of intent indicating the student's research interests, possible future career aspirations, and perceived fit within the Faculty mandate and research directions; a recent Curriculum Vitae; three letters of reference (including two from faculty members familiar with the prospective student's academic work); a completed Teaching Assistantship Application; a completed Funding Worksheet; and a sample of written academic work. GRE scores are optional. Only students with high GPAs and innovative research interests are likely to be successful in their applications.

Application deadlines are found in this calendar under "Semester Dates" or online at:, also under "Semester Dates." The Natural Resources and Environmental Studies PhD Program accepts students for the September, January, and May Semesters.

For additional information about graduate admissions or to download application materials, go to the Graduate Programs website at

Normal Time Required for Completion

The completion time for the PhD between initial admittance and final defence will normally range from three to five years.

Supervisory Committee Structure

The PhD Committee consists of the designated advisor and a minimum of three additional faculty members, at least one of whom will be chosen from outside the Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Graduate Program. The outside faculty member may be chosen from post-secondary institutions accredited in Canada and the United States. Under exceptional circumstances, and with approval from the Dean, additional members may be added at the request of the student or the advisor. The expertise represented on the committee should reflect interdisciplinarity. The committee should be assembled by the beginning of the student’s second semester of study (i.e. the January Semester) to facilitate the student preparing for the required Candidacy Exams.

Updated: January 26, 2021