Thank you for your interest in graduate study programs in the Department of Ecology. The Ecology Department includes the Fish and Wildlife Management Program at Montana State University. The graduate degree programs provide opportunities for students to pursue M.S. and/or Ph.D. degrees in various disciplines under the guidance of our faculty. The Master's degree and the PhD degree will require a thesis. Graduate students may conduct research on a diversity of topics pertaining to their individual areas of interest: terrestrial and aquatic ecology, fish and wildlife management, evolutionary biology, quantitative ecology, and conservation biology. At this time no degree program is offered online.
|Summary of Ecology Department Application Requirements|
|All Applicants||GRE Test Scores (Verbal and Quantitative Combined)||
|BS Degree (or BA plus post baccalaureate or graduate level course work)||3/4 science coursework equivalent to BS in Biological Sciences from MSU|
|Program support agreement with department faculty required before applicant can be recommended for admissions by the department|
|International Applicants||English Second Language Test (one)||
|Application Deadlines||Starting Semester||Fall (August)||Spring (January)||Summer (May)|
|Additional Ecology Department Requirements for Review for Admission (only when requested)|
|All Applicants||Official college and/or university transcripts|
|Official GRE test results (and ESL if required)|
|3 letters of recommendation|
|Funding agreement with specific department faculty members(s)|
A list of these degrees offered through the Department of Ecology is provided here with details about each degree program directly below the list. Links will provide information on other department web sites.
M.S. in Biological Sciences
M.S. in Fish and Wildlife Management
PhD in Fish and Wildlife Biology
PhD in Biological Sciences
PhD in Ecology and Environmental Sciences (Intercollege)
M.S. in Biological Sciences
The M.S. in Biological Sciences covers a broad array of ecological topics and serves the needs of students whose thesis research addresses basic, fundamental ecological principles or of those conducting applied research not involving fish or wildlife management. It may be a terminal degree leading to professional employment as an ecologist, but may also lead to a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences or other discipline. Coursework associated with this degree tends to emphasize fundamental principles of ecology. The M.S in Biological Sciences currently makes up about 27% of our graduate students with 11 M.S. degrees granted in the last four years.
M.S. in Fish & Wildlife Management
The M.S. in Fish & Wildlife Management serves the needs of students whose thesis research addresses an applied fish or wildlife management problem. It may be a terminal degree leading to professional employment as a fisheries or wildlife biologist, but may also lead to a Ph.D. in Fish & Wildlife Biology or other discipline. Coursework associated with this degree tends to emphasize applied fish and wildlife management. The M.S. in Fish & Wildlife program has been our largest degree program for many years, and currently makes up about 24% of our graduate students, with 25 degrees granted in the last four years.
Ph.D. Ecology and Environmental Sciences
The Ph.D. in Ecology and Environmental Sciences was developed jointly by the Departments of Ecology and Land Resources & Environmental Sciences as a broad interdisciplinary Ph.D. program open to graduate students in several departments in the Colleges of Letters & Science and Agriculture. The degree program was approved by the MUS Board of Regents in 2006, and now meets the interests of graduate students in Ecology in a broad array or subjects. Currently there are four Ph.D. students in the program in our department (and several more in LRES), and two Ph.D. degrees have been granted to date in our department. Other departments include Earth Science and Plant Science.
Ph.D. in Fish & Wildlife Biology
The Ph.D. in Fish & Wildlife Biology serves the needs of students whose dissertation research addresses an applied fish or wildlife management problem. It serves the interests of students primarily interested in research careers in federal or state fish and wildlife agencies or in academic careers in fish and wildlife departments. Coursework associated with this degree tends to emphasize applied fish and wildlife management. The Ph.D. in Fish & Wildlife Biology is currently our largest Ph.D. program with 14 graduate students. Three students have completed this degree in the last four years.
Ph.D. in Biological Sciences
The Ph.D. in Biological Sciences covers a broad array of ecological topics and serves the needs of students whose dissertation research addresses basic, fundamental ecological principles or of those conducting applied research not involving fish or wildlife management. It serves the interests of students primarily interested in research careers in federal or state agencies or in academic careers in ecology departments. Coursework associated with this degree tends to emphasize fundamental principles of ecology. This program currently has 10 graduate students enrolled, and has granted eight Ph.D. degrees in the last four years.
To help students locate an advisor and determine eligibility, the department uses Preliminary Application form. To be considered for the program, fill out the online preliminary application form, specify the degree and program in which you are interested, and return the form to the Ecology Department. The information provided in the preliminary application form will enable the department to decide if you qualify as a graduate student.
Qualified students must secure an agreement from a faculty member who is willing to serve as major professor or graduate academic advisor. We do not accept students into the program unless an advisor has agreed to supervise the students. Generally, the major professor will identify a research project and possible sources of funding as part of the admission process. We highly recommend that you formally apply only after a faculty member indicates that he or she is willing to serve as your graduate advisor and requests the full application through the Division of Graduate Education.
Only a limited number of graduate students are admitted to our program each year. There is an excellent article written by Dr. Al Zale, Director of the Fishery Cooperative Research Unit, "How to Surpass the Competition," which you may find helpful as you think about applying for admission. We accept students into the program based on their academic performance, graduate record examination scores, recommendation letters, experience, and potential for scientific and professional excellence. Students must meet the minimum entrance requirements to be considered by an advisor.
An applicant must fulfill the following four qualifications. In exceptional cases, at the request of the students advisor, the Department Head may waive one of the qualifications.
- A composite of the applicant's letters of recommendation must indicate the student has good prospects of success in graduate school.
- The applicant should have at least the equivalent of three-fourths of the science courses required in the undergraduate curriculum at Montana State University in the option chosen for graduate study.
- Official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test scores must be submitted at the time the student submits the full application to the Department of Ecology. The sum of the verbal and quantitative scores should be at least 1100 for GRE scores before July, 2011. The sum for the verbal and quantitative scores should be a minimum of 300 for the current GRE tests. (For information regarding the GRE, check out their website at: http://www.gre.org/ ) Generally the scores should not be more than five years old but exceptions have been made.
- The applicant should have maintained the following minimal undergraduate grade-point averages: 3.0 average in all biology courses; 3.0 average in all courses taken during the junior and senior years; and 2.5 average in all chemistry, physics and mathematics courses. For international students a minimum TOEFL score of 550, 230 on the CBT, 7.0 on the IELTS test, or 80 on the iBT is required for admission.
Once the application has been accepted at a departmental level, it will be sent on to the Graduate School where the Graduate Dean will give final approval.
International students have some additional qualifications to meet for approval from the Division of Graduate Education. The Office of International Programs can provide assistance to international applicants.
Please see the web pages of individual graduate advisors in the Ecology Department to obtain more information about graduate positions that may be available.
Note that no program or coursework is currently available online for completion of a degree off campus.
Two specific courses are required for graduate degrees in the Department of Ecology. The full program of study is determined by the graduate committee following the Graduate School guidelines.
Masters Degree Credit Guidelines
- The minimum credit requirement for a master's degree is 30 credits, and at least 20 credits must be from course work other than thesis work. A minimum of 10 thesis credits must be successfully completed. Minimum thesis registration is one (1) credit for a semester.
- Two-thirds of the minimum number of credits (including not more than ten (10) credits for the thesis) required for a degree must be taken from MSU
- Non-thesis Credits: In all programs, at least twenty (20) credits must be for coursework other than the thesis.
- Major Area: 50% of the degree minimum credit requirements must be taken in the major area of study. (This does not mean with a specific course rubric.)
- Transferring Credits: A maximum of nine (9) credits total of all 400 and graduate level courses taken at MSU prior to completion of a baccalaureate degree may be reserved and applied toward any graduate program requirements with the approval of the student's graduate committee and Graduate Dean. (For more information, refer to the section on Petitions, Appeals and Grievances.)
- Limit on Age of Courses: Course work more than six years old at the time the degree is granted will not apply towards credit requirements
Doctoral Degree Credit Guidelines
All students earning a doctoral degree from Montana State University must complete a minimum of 60 credit hours post-baccalaureate, of which 18 -28 of must be dissertation credits. (This may include 10 thesis credits from a Master's degree program.) A maximum of 30 credits from a previously earned master's degree (from MSU or another accredited University) may be applied toward the 60 credit minimum required for the doctoral degree.
- Special Topics (591): Credits allowed toward degree requirements for Special Topics (591) courses may not exceed the number defined by each degree program.
- Individual Problems (592): Not more than six credits of Individual Problems (592) courses may be included on a doctoral Program of Study.
- Pass/Fail Credits: A maximum of nine credits (excluding dissertation) may be included on a doctoral Program of Study. 4XX level courses may be used on a Program of Study: a maximum of 9 credits are allowed.
- Limit on Age of Courses: The age of courses at the time of graduation for a doctoral degree may not exceed 10 years.
- Courses from a Master’s program: The Graduate ‘Program of Study’ lists those courses the student’s committee feels are required to earn the doctoral degree.
- Resident Credit Requirments: A minimum of thirty (30) credits applicable to the degree must be taken from MSU.
- Dissertation Credit Requirements: All Ph.D. candidates are required to register for and complete a minimum of eighteen dissertation (690) credits. An unlimited number of 690 credits may be taken to finish a dissertation; however, only the 18-28 690 credits are applicable toward degree requirements.
Courses taken while in a master’s degree program at M.S.U, beyond those listed on the graduate Program of Study, may be used on an additional master’s program or a doctoral program at a later time.
For further information regarding Masters and Doctoral programs and requirements, please consult the on-line Graduate Catalog. The on-line catalog has the most current and up-to-date information. All graduate students are required to know the information provided in the catalog as stated by the Graduate School.
The application process for acceptance into a degree program in the Department of Ecology begins with a required Preliminary Application. These may be submitted at any time during any semester though it is recommended to allow a full semester for the complete process.
In order to be considered for the program, first fill out the online preliminary application form, specify the degree and program in which you are interested, and return the form to the Ecology Department. A paper copy of the preliminary application form may be requested from the Ecology Department (310 Lewis Hall, Bozeman, MT 59717). The information provided in the preliminary application form will enable the department to decide if you qualify as a graduate student. Identifying a previous contact within the faculty, who has interest in your possible research, will make your preliminary application more viable, but it is not required. If you are interested in the PhD in Ecology and Environmental Sciences please click for a specialized preliminary application for this degree.
Qualified students must identify a willing graduate advisor from our list of willing graduate advisors. We do not accept students into the program unless an advisor has agreed to supervise the students. Generally, the major professor will identify a research project and possible sources of funding as part of the admission process. Please do not send, or cause to be sent, any formal application, or additional materials such as transcripts or letters of recommendation, until you have confirmed an advisor. We recommend that you formally apply only if a faculty member confirms that he or she is willing to serve as your graduate advisor.
The interested faculty member should be the one to request that you complete a formal application for the department and the Division of Graduate Education for the admissions decision. The formal application includes the completed full application form, official transcript(s), official GRE test results, three letters of recommendation, and an essay. You will receive all of the details of the final procedures at the time you are invited to submit the formal application.
Applications are accepted and evaluated year round, though many students begin studies in the fall semester. To be admitted for a specific term, the formal application must be completed before a specific date in the previous semester. The Ecology department application deadlines are listed below (and, generally, fall a week before those listed by the Division of Graduate Education). Deadlines for completed applications do change, and you should verify these dates either with the Ecology department office or with the The Division of Graduate Education. The Division of Graduate Education lists application deadlines on their web page, or you can call them at 406-994-4145. Simply, remember that the Ecology department will need to see your application at least one week prior to listed Division of Graduate Education deadlines.
Ecology Department Application Deadlines
Domestic Degree Seeking Applications:
Fall Semester: July 8
Spring Semester: November 24
Summer Semester: March 25
International Degree & Non-degree Seeking Applications:
Fall Semester: May 8
Spring Semester: November 24
Summer Semester: January 25
To be considered for teaching assistantships for the following fall semester, all application materials must be received by March 1st.
Most graduate students in the program are supported on Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA's) provided by their major professor from grant funds. A limited number of Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA's) are chosen during the semester before the next academic semester and reflect teaching needs and financial assistance needs. GTAs carry tuition fee waivers, and in 2009/10 the stipend was a total of $5134 per semester during the nine-month academic year. This includes money to be used for medical insurance which is not provided directly by the department. (For further graduate school expenses, consult the MSU fee schedules as provided in the Graduate Catalog) Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs) are research project-specific and are awarded by individual faculty as funds are available. GRA stipends are comparable to those of GTAs but often cover the calendar year. Some fee waivers may be available with GRAs depending upon funding sources.