Congrats on nearing the finish line. In my humble opinion, I would recommend taking the GIS classes available. In doing so, perhaps you could team up with USFWS and perhaps secure some funding (with the help of your advisor). This could be a double whammy as you could A) potentially defer some of your tuition costs and lab/equipment/field costs via the grant funding and B) stick it to the school by demonstrating the financial value the natural sciences can have for a university. As a geologist for an environmental consulting firm, I can tell you that GIS proficiency with an environmental education is a golden resume nugget.
On to the suggestions. Not sure how familiar you are with GIS but theoretically it bridges the gap between traditional AutoCAD drawings and database-type data repositories. In joining up with USFWS you could perhaps digitize their study/aerial survey plots and assist with year-to-year comparisons of wetland size/health. Or you could digitially cross-reference year-to-year bird counts within a GIS database so that when city/county/state wide bird counts can be more easily visualized for long term trend analysis. IE take all the historic black duck aerial survey counts, DNR hunting records, moisture trends, etc and correlate them visually on a state-wide GIS map. This would enable quicker and more non-scientific folks to visualize population trends, areas of habitat decline/improvement, etc. You could theoretically team up with DU or a similar habitat building organization (and ask for funds from them) to assess the trends in waterfowl population over time (using USFWS aerial bird counts) to evaluate the effectiveness of habitat restoration/creation activities in and around your state.
Wow...that got me going. You have an incredible opportunity here. Hopefully you view it that way. Good luck to you in your endeavors and keep us posted on what your going to do.