Curriculum in MCM

MCM Curriculum

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

Spring Semester

Winter – January midterm and Summer Semesters

Course Descriptions


MCM 580 – Ecology and Conservation Biology – 3 credits

The concept that the health of the environment and the services global ecosystems provide influences the health of humans and animals means that all students must understand fundamental principles of ecology and conservation biology. In this course we review concepts of how productivity, nutrient flow, community resilience, and biodiversity influence ecosystems and the services these natural systems provide to maintain planetary health. Conservation biology concepts are presented including population ecology, viability analysis, demography, conservation genetics, and methods of conserving small populations. 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).


MCM 581 – Health, Disease and the Environment – 3 credits

In this course, all students will acquire a basic understanding of disease mechanisms, host defenses against disease, the role of vectors in spreading and maintaining disease, and basic principles of disease ecology. This class will also review 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. This class will meet twice weekly for 3 hour sessions. Students will be evaluated based on class participation (including presentation of selected topics, participating in and leading directed discussions), quizzes, and one written assignment.


MCM 582 – Research Skills I – Systematic Review and Analysis – 2 credits

This course will lead students through the process of writing a systematic review of the literature on a Conservation Medicine topic. Students will learn how to access, organize, analyze, interpret, and communicate data from existing sources of published primary research. The course will also review biostatistics in the context of understanding and critiquing methods and results in published papers. Each week will include up to 9 hours of contact time involving didactic presentations, critique of published research, individual and group work, and group presentations. Students will be evaluated based on their individual active class participation in discussions, presentations, and group work; one group written systematic review; and one group presentation of the systematic review.


MCM 583 – Field and Laboratory Techniques – 2 credits

This hands-on course introduces a range techniques used in investigating wildlife populations and health impacts across a broad range of species, and lab methods used to study wildlife health and investigate disease impacts and processes. Field research methods covered include data and sample collection, wildlife capture and marking methods, estimating the size of populations, and field investigation project design. Commonly used laboratory research techniques covered will be covered in the areas of microbiology, molecular biology, Immunology, parasitology, gross pathology, clinical pathology, and some specialized topics from experts in their field. Each week will include up to 9 hours of contact time involving didactic presentations, group work and laboratory or field trip experiences. Students will be evaluated based on class participation, and one group report and presentation at the conclusion of the course.


MCM 584 – Journal Club – 0.5 credits per semester (1 credit total)

Journal club will familiarize students with topical scientific papers relevant to conservation medicine, help students become conversant in the language of different contributing disciplines and enhance the skills of analytical reading and critique. Papers will be coordinated with course material via recommendation by corresponding course leaders. Students take Journal Club in both the fall and spring semesters. Responsibility for selection and presentation of specific papers will rotate among students. Their participation will form the basis for valuation. Visiting and resident faculty will be strongly encouraged to attend as well as veterinary students, other graduate students and members of the Tufts community when appropriate.

Journal Club is scheduled every other Friday (unless otherwise notified) in Grafton. Two to three students will be asked to present one scientific paper each.

Students select a scientific paper from one of the journals listed for each quarter. The journals selected for each quarter contain research relevant to the courses being taken during the quarter to help augment course material and understanding.

Students select an article from the approved journals and submit a copy of the pdf for approval from the course director. Once the article is approved, it is posted on TUSK for all to access. Students prepare a short summary of the paper and include major critical comments, why the article is relevant to conservation medicine, and some discussion points for the group. Students are expected to lead and facilitate discussion on the paper and research area that the paper addresses.


MCM 585 – Case Study – 2 credits per semester, including Summer (6 credits total)

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.


MCM 586 – Human Dimensions of Conservation Medicine – 3 credits

This course will examine the social/cultural, political and economic contexts and implications for conservation medicine as it relates to the selected case studies. Course faculty have selected three topics (see below), all with conservation medicine implications ranging from the local community level to national, international, and global levels.

Students will “unpack” these case studies throughout this course. Each week we will focus on a different aspect of the issue, from laying out the various aspects of the problem, delving into its history, identifying stakeholders, examining social/cultural, political and economic aspects, negotiating conflicts among stakeholders and proposing solutions that are sustainable. Guest presenters will illustrate relevant and specific aspects of other cases with which they’re familiar, and the class will extract lessons learned from those cases that can or may be applied to their own project, discarding those lessons that have limited application. In this way we will examine the case studies in a stepwise fashion so that by the end of the course the class will have developed a comprehensive understanding of their project as well as a model and process for unpacking and examining other conservation medicine issues of interest and importance.


MCM 587 – Engineered Solutions – 2 credits

Innovation and applied technology will play an increasingly significant role in investigating and developing sustainable solutions for many conservation medicine issues. Conservation professionals need to understand the options and potential of engineered solutions in both natural and built environments. In this course students will review systems theory in the context of systems engineering and explore this as a basis for problem solving. Applied topics to be covered will include ecological engineering, hydrology, remote sensing (satellite, biological and chemical), engineered natural systems and environmental impact assessment methodologies. This class will meet twice weekly for 3 hour sessions. Students will be evaluated based on class participation (including presentation of selected topics which reflects the ability to synthesize primary literature, participating in and leading directed discussions), one written assignment and one final presentation.


MCM 588 – Research Skills II – Surveillance Methods and Techniques – 2 credits

Building on last semester’s Research Skills I course that focused on biostatistics and systematic review, this 60-hour two-credit laboratory course will focus on surveillance, and epidemiology, especially as epidemiology applied to surveillance.

Note: This is a laboratory course that meets nine hours each week for seven weeks. There will be a combination of lecture by course instructors, lecture by guests, and introduction to and practice of the EpiInfo 7 software package. In addition, time will be scheduled for class discussion of material in assigned readings and from guest lecturers, working together on data analysis using statistical software, and working in small groups on surveillance projects.


MCM 589 – Project Management and Communication – 2 credits

This course will cover important communication skills that will enhance collaboration and dissemination of information to stakeholders (the public, government agencies, etc.) as well as the practical skills needed to initiate, fund and manage research projects. Style and strategies for publication in lay journals, delivery of legislative briefings, and use of other media will be explored.

Project development topics will include:

  • Team building
  • Professional development skills
  • Professional and research ethics
  • Seeking funders
  • Grant writing
  • Project development and management
  • Program and policy evaluation

Sessions on the following topics that support the case study final project will be included:

  • Collaborative writing
  • Data visualization
  • Team management and leadership

Course exercises and final presentations will be based upon case study research projects.


MCM 590 – Externship – 3 credits

Students will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in conservation medicine work in a wide variety of settings for four weeks during the program year. The externship will provide students with insight into how conservation medicine issues are addressed and how interdisciplinary approaches can be applied in a real world setting.


MCM 517 – Elective Courses – 4 credits total (approximately 2 credits per course)

Students will select two (or more) elective courses during the program to augment their educational and professional goals. Choices may be made from a wide variety of course options offered across the University, including the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, The Center for Animals and Public Policy, The Fletcher School, Tufts Medical School, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and a number of partner area universities. Selections must fit within the scheduled time allotted to complete these electives. Courses available for electives vary by semester and year.