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Restoration Ecology students exploring Thoreau Wildlife Sanctuary for classRestoration ecology is the art and science of restoring and repairing damaged or destroyed ecosystems. With the worldwide destruction of rain forests, wetlands, old growth forests, prairies, streams, lakes, rivers, and oceans, restoration ecologists make a real difference in the world.

Training in restoration ecology gives students an opportunity to prove themselves, and in the process, become accustomed to working in a career situation that demands application of special academic skills. Students graduate with a global perspective on ecological restoration and are well-prepared for a wide variety of career options in the field.

The restoration ecology program at Defiance College is unique among undergraduate programs in the United States. This program began in the 1990s, is one of only 75 restoration ecology degree programs offered globally, and the only one at a small, liberal arts college.

The Society for Ecological Restoration recognizes Defiance College's restoration ecology program on its website.

200 internship hours are required in the restoration ecology degree to gain practical field experience. Normally, an internship is completed between the junior and senior year. Students have done internships with Industrial Fluid Management, Nature's Nursery, Naturally Native Nursery, and the Upper Maumee Watershed Partnership. Additionally, there is one internship each year at the Thoreau Wildlife Sanctuary supported by the Diehl Family Foundation.

Benefits of the Program
Through the restoration ecology program, students have had opportunities to travel to places such as Yellowstone National Park, the Tetons in Wyoming, as well as the rain forests of Belize and Australia.

For students interested in extracurricular involvement in their field, the Ecology Club was established to promote ecological restoration, develop and restore small ecosystems, and increase environmental awareness. By connecting with nature through positive learning experiences, the club goal is to benefit humankind, the local environment, and wildlife in the Defiance community. The organization is open to any student with an interest in environmental issues and the outdoors.

Thoreau Wildlife Sanctuary
Defiance College, in partnership with the Diehl Family Foundation, established the Thoreau Wildlife Sanctuary in 1989. More than 200 acres of farmland were converted to prairie, meadow, deciduous forest, wetland, and white pine forest habitats. Management of these habitats is ongoing and has been integral to the development of the restoration ecology major at Defiance College.

Students gain critical fieldwork experience at the Thoreau Wildlife Sanctuary where they have planted more than 40,000 trees in addition to herbaceous terrestrial and wetland plants. Students have also conducted research involving prairie burns, the reintroduction of bobwhite quail and ring-necked pheasants, and distributions of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Current projects range from control of invasive terrestrial plants to effects of cropland on water quality.

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In the News

Restoration Ecology student presentation

After College — What’s Next?
Because of major environmental problems faced worldwide, graduates in environmental fields are in demand. Opportunities exist in private businesses and with governmental agencies. Examples include restoration project managers, nature sanctuary research assistants, environmental organization staff, and restoration consultants with private firms. Students have gone on to work in a variety of public and private sector jobs, such as working for environmental consulting firms and park districts.

Companies that have hired our graduates recently include, but are not limited to:

  • Aqua Ohio
  • CACI International, Inc.
  • Ohio Department of Transportation
  • Industrial Fluid Management

In Their Own Words
"The Defiance College restoration ecology program is a must for anyone interested in helping the planet that we live on. The professors who handle the program are very helpful in regards to providing hands-on field experience. They ensure that you learn the general principles of restoration ecology as well as the specialized field within it. Through my time in the program, I have learned a variety of techniques that are often used in lab work such as water tests, composing scientific papers, and proper use of lab equipment."
--Adam Dangler, 2017 Graduate

"During some classes, we spend lab time in restored ecosystems or wildlife preserves working hands-on rather than limiting the learning to what can occur inside a classroom. Defiance College provided the opportunity to complete my internship requirement at Thoreau Wildlife Sanctuary, a restored ecosystem, which gave me experience working at a real wildlife sanctuary."
--Susanna Stoepfel, 2016 Graduate

"The Restoration Ecology program helped me discover what I wanted to do with my life. Defiance College’s small classes provided hands-on field experience at Thoreau Wildlife Sanctuary and elsewhere, and I was given the opportunity to do actual research under the guidance of my advisor, Dr. Kane. The experience provided by the program helped me be accepted into the Biology Ph.D. program at Wayne State University."
--Alison Rifenburgh, 2015 GraduateRestoration Ecology

"My favorite part of the restoration ecology major is that we get to go out into the field and actually work on ecological restoration, rather than just studying it in a book. Working on all the aspects of restoration projects not only helps students learn but also prepares them for their careers after college."
--Dr. Kane

Douglas D. Kane, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
Phone: 419-783-2593

Alyson Laframboise, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology

Phone: 419-783-2593

Somnath Dutta, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry

Phone: 419-783-2428

Nathan Griggs, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biology

Phone: 419-783-2592