Curriculum in the MCM Program

The complexity of environmental and health-related challenges facing the 21st century defies the traditional disciplinary approach to problem-solving and calls for more integrated, multi-disciplinary team efforts.

The Master of Science in Conservation Medicine (MCM) brings together the strengths of professionals and experts in relevant fields with the expertise each student brings to this program. The interdisciplinary, team-taught courses are designed to provide graduates with foundational knowledge in the various contributing fields of conservation medicine and to develop the team building, organizational, and leadership skills necessary for successful implementation of real-world conservation efforts.

The curriculum for this intensive twelve-month program consists of eight, small seminar-style core courses taught by leaders from several schools within Tufts University, a journal club, and independent team-project-based activity culminating in an individual case study. Laboratory and hands-on field techniques are included within the program. Students immerse themselves in a “real-world” conservation medicine experience during a four-week (minimum) externship. In addition, students choose at least two elective courses from any relevant discipline from across all the Tufts schools and a number of partner area universities to augment their educational and professional goals. No thesis is required.

Fall Semester

  • This course will introduce students to the fundamental concepts of the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as it relates to the one health paradigm and veterinary health. This course is designed for novice GIS students with specific focus on mapping and spatial analysis for human, animal, and environmental health applications. Examples include vulnerability analyses of animal habitats, monitoring disease outbreaks for public health, calculating deforestation and land cover change, site analysis for alternative energy sources, and many more. Technical topics to be covered include GIS data discovery; GPS field data collection; data structure and management; principles of cartographic visualization and design; and basic overlay tools, analysis and modeling. Classes will consist of both a lecture segment and an in-class activity/demonstration. Students will complete weekly tutorials or project assignments and conclude the semester with a final mapping/analysis project of their choosing.

  • The concept that the health of the environment influences the health of humans and animals means that all students must understand fundamental principles of ecology and conservation biology. We review the foundational knowledge of how biodiversity and ecosystems foster healthy human and animal populations, through an understanding of population, community, and landscape ecology, and ecosystem resilience and stability. The conservation biology themes of rarity, demography, conservation genetics, and methods of conserving small populations are presented with the focus on sustaining long-term population viability. Students explore these concepts and apply knowledge through class discussion and presentations of case studies of current issues in the field. Students will be evaluated based on class participation (including presentation of selected topics, participating in and leading directed discussions), weekly written assignments based on readings and one final project (poster).

  • A basic and broad understanding of and fluency with human, animal and environmental health and disease is critical in conservation medicine. This class will review disease drivers and mechanisms, host defenses against disease, the role of vectors in spreading and maintaining disease, and basic principles of disease ecology. This class will review some current diseases of major concern for conservation medicine and ecosystem health. Emphasis will be placed on the integration of animal, human, and environmental health, and the environmental, economic, and anthropogenic factors promoting the emergence or persistence of infectious diseases and other major health threats. Students will be evaluated based on class participation (including presentation of selected topics, participating in and leading directed discussions), quizzes, and one written assignment.

  • In this course students will learn how to access, organize, analyze, interpret, and communicate data from existing sources of published primary research. Students will learn the process of conducting and writing a literature review on a conservation medicine topic. Students will be evaluated based on their individual active class participation in discussions, presentations, and group work.

  • The course will review biostatistics in the context of understanding and critiquing methods and results in published papers and using statistical software with an emphasis on applications in infectious disease and/or population health.

  • Conservation medicine practice requires empirical health assessments of individuals and populations. Through this course students will become familiar with commonly used field and laboratory methods used to study populations and to assess health. Through field experiences students will be introduced to methods for estimating the size, distributions, and movements of populations for a range of taxa including mammals, birds and aquatic vertebrates. Animal handling and safety, sample collection and analysis, permitting, and field project planning are covered through both practical experience and lecture material.  Students will participate in practical laboratory sessions using common research and diagnostics techniques including pathology, immunology, microbiology, molecular genetics, and parasitology. Students will be evaluated based on class participation, and one group report and presentation at the conclusion of the course

  • Journal Club will familiarize students with topical scientific articles relevant to conservation medicine, help students become conversant in the language of different contributing disciplines and enhance analytical reading and critique skills. Journal articles will be coordinated with course material. Students take Journal Club in both the Fall and Spring semesters.

  • Each student will undertake an intensive, year-long Case Study project to comprehensively analyze a challenging conservation medicine problem. The Case Study will culminate in a capstone project presentation and written report assessing the problem and recommending strategies to address identified challenges. Based on their own knowledge, skills and interests, each student will identify a relevant issue and be charged with synthesizing information and ideas from their coursework throughout the year and from a collaborative team involving appropriate faculty both within the University and through our network of conservation medicine partners. Completed Case Study reports will be evaluated by project partners and Tufts mentors. Students register for the Case Study each semester (Fall, Spring and Summer), complete their comprehensive written report during the summer, and present their Case Study in a special campus seminar in September of their graduating year.

  • Students are required to select one or more elective courses to augment the core curriculum and fulfill their own educational and professional goals. Students may choose from a wide variety of courses offered across the University, including the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, Fletcher School, Medical School, Tufts Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine including the Center for Animals and Public Policy. With proper arrangements and limitations, courses can also be taken from the Boston area consortium schools - Boston University, Boston College, and Brandeis. Selections must fit within the scheduled time allotted to complete these electives. Courses available for electives vary by semester and year.

Spring Semester

  • Human political, economic, and cultural considerations help create the conditions that govern animal, human, and environmental health, and establish the context in which conservation medicine solutions are implemented. This course will examine the roles of economics, local, national and international governmental regulations, treaties and policies. It will also explore the influences that communities and local culture have on agriculture, trade, conservation, environment, land use, and public health.

  • An understanding of epidemiology and surveillance methods is integral for collecting, analyzing, and presenting health and disease data. Fundamental concepts of epidemiology will be presented including study design, disease outbreak investigation, and sources of error. Surveillance methods and systems will be discussed with opportunities for students to practice the design, evaluation, analysis, and integration of surveillance systems in a conservation medicine context. This course will highlight and develop student skills in various web-based technologies for data capture, analysis, and visualization.

  • This course will cover important communication skills that will enhance collaboration and dissemination of information to stakeholders (scientific community, public and government agencies) as well as the practical skills needed to initiate, fund, and manage research projects. Style and strategies for publication in scientific and lay journals, delivery of legislative briefings, and use of other media will be explored. Project development topics will include team building, seeking funders, grant writing, project development and management, and program and policy evaluation. Sessions on collaborative writing, data visualization, team management and leadership will be included. Course exercises and final presentations will be based upon case study research projects.

  • See Fall semester for description.

  • See Fall semester for description

Summer Semester

  • See Fall semester for description

  • Students will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in conservation medicine work in their choice of a wide variety of settings for four weeks during the program year. Externships will provide students with insight into how conservation medicine issues are addressed and how interdisciplinary approaches can be applied in a real-world setting. Students can participate in field, clinical, analytical, laboratory, project management, policy or other experiences of their choosing that meet elective requirement and are approved by the Program Director or Assistant Director. Externships will be completed preferably during the winter break, though completion during the summer can be accommodated with permission, depending upon the opportunity.