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Online Wildlife/Tourism Certificate Offered

By Jenny Bjelland
UW-RF News Bureau

MAY 20, 2005--In recent years, wildlife-related activities, such as eagle watching along the Mississippi, can make a place a national destination. In response to this rising interest in wildlife viewing and nature-related tourism activities, the University of Wisconsin-River Falls is offering a unique online graduate-level Wildlife Recreation and Nature Tourism (WRNT) certificate program.

The first courses in the series, Wildlife Recreation, Nature Tourism, and Sustainability-Based Systems, starts May 31 to Aug. 19. All curriculum is offered online.

The 15-credit program was developed in partnership with Watchable Wildlife, a national nonprofit organization based in Marine on St. Croix, Minn., that advances wildlife viewing in North America and internationally as a viable economic and conservation enterprise.

The program is designed for environmental professionals such as wildlife biologists, parks and recreation directors, naturalists, tour guides as well as tourism-related businesses, educators, community leaders and wildlife enthusiasts around the country. It offers the knowledge and skills needed to plan and implement an economically viable nature tourism site while focusing on the sustainability of the site's wildlife and natural resources.

According to Kelly Cain, UW-RF environmental science professor and WRNT program coordinator, the program provides participants with a good understanding of nature tourism and how it fits into the big picture while at the same time offering participants an additional professional credential.

"The WRNT program lays the foundation for professional development in the nature tourism industry," notes Cain. "This is the only nature tourism program I am aware of with a complete online curriculum offering a certificate towards a master's degree."

The UW-RF program is designed around five core two-credit courses from within the College of Business and Economics and the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.

Core course topics include an introduction to the breadth and depth of the wildlife recreation and nature tourism industry both domestically and internationally, management theories and sustainable methods of human and wildlife interaction, and guidelines to create an entire community-based hospitality infrastructure that emphasizes the idea of sustainability and nature tourism. Methods to maximize the visitor's viewing experience through the development of trails, observation decks, and public facilities, while protecting and even enhancing the natural resources of the site, are also a main focus.

The remaining five credits of directed electives may be filled through additional coursework and/or related internships.

The WRNT program will benefit both participants and their employers. Along with gaining additional knowledge of the nature tourism industry, each participant will develop an electronic business management plan for a specific nature tourism site of his or her choice.

The business plan includes the steps and framework needed to plan, develop and implement a nature tourism site based on all course materials. A business portfolio may be developed for personal or professional use to persuade stakeholders or investors to assist in the development of the new site or to enhance a current nature tourism site.

For more information on the WRNT program, please visit the UW-RF Outreach and Graduate Studies Web page at www.uwrf.edu/ogs/wrnt. To apply for the program, contact the UW-RF Graduate Studies Office at (715) 425-3843 or (800) 228-5607 or e-mail Steven Dewald at steven.e.dewald@uwrf.edu. All program participants must be eligible for graduate study at UW-RF, and have a bachelors degree and academic or professional experience related to nature-based tourism.

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Last updated: Tuesday, 22-Jun-2010 16:21:24 Central Daylight Time

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