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Graduate Study

The faculty of Plant, Soil, and Environmental Sciences welcomes your interest in our programs.  We are a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary group whose research and graduate training programs emphasize the biogeochemistry and sustainability of agricultural, forested, wetlands, horticultural, and agricultural ecosystems. Areas of emphasis for graduate work include nutrient dynamics in agricultural and forest ecosystems, soil chemistry and plant nutrition, horticulture, soil microbiology, crop physiology, diversified cropping systems, weed ecology and management, wetlands ecology, crop genetic resource conservation and management, and plant pathology.

Thesis problems may be developed in a wide range of subject areas within the broad disciplines listed above.  Past research topics investigated by our former graduate students can be found in the PSE Thesis Directory.  Our past graduate students are in diverse set of positions which include, but not limited to:

► Ph.D. Programs ►  Cooperative Extension
►  Support Scientists ►  Assistant Professor
►  Goat Cheese Maker ►  Farming
►  Environmental Consultant ►  Ecological Survey Team
►  Journalist ►  Post-doctoral Associate
►  Agricultural Institutes ►  High School Teacher

The faculty has a strong role in the University of Maine’s Sustainable Agriculture program and Potato Ecosystem Project, Ecology and Environmental Sciences Program, as well as the Horticulture Graduate Program.  Facilities are available for laboratory, greenhouse, farm field, forest stand, and watershed-scale research.

Graduate students working in Plant, Soil, and Environmental Sciences can earn a Master of Science degree through degree programs in Plant, Soil and Environmental Sciences; Horticulture; and Ecology and Environmental Sciences. The Doctor of Philosophy degree can be pursued through programs in Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Forest Resources, Plant Biology, and Plant Science.  Several of our faculty have cooperating appointments in other departments, providing some of our students with additional degree options.

Graduate training programs are built from foundations in soil science, agronomy, plant physiology, ecology, microbiology, plant pathology, and statistics. Prospective graduate students should have completed course work in chemistry, mathematics, and biology, and in subject matter areas closely related to interests of the student and her/his advisor.

Financial assistance is available to qualified students in the form of assistantships, University fellowships, scholarships, grants, and loans. To apply for assistantships or to request nomination for a University fellowship, students must contact the Graduate Coordinator.

Graduate assistantships include:

  • A full tuition waiver for up to 9 credit hours of classwork per regular semester plus one-credit during the summer.
  • The current stipend of approximately $16,967 per year is for a total of 7 semesters (or 2.5 years) for completion of the Masters degree program, and a minimum of three years for completion of the Ph.D. program.
  • Medical insurance is also available.  The cost is currently $2200 per year in which the student pays half.

For more information about assistantships, please contact the Graduate Coordinator or speak to a faculty member with whom you might be interested in working with.

Application process

We accept applications for the M.S. in Plant, Soil, and Environmental Sciences degree at any time during the year.

Suggested Process for Pursuing Graduate Study in PSE
1.  Prospective graduate students are urged to identify faculty who might serve as their major advisor for their graduate degree research based on shared interest in a research area. A list of PSE faculty and their interests can be found on the Research Areas page.  Contact information can be found, as well as more detailed information about their interests, on their individual pages.
2.  Contact the faculty member(s) that share research interests with you by email or telephone.
3.  Inquire the faculty member(s) about the availability of assistantship support.  Prospective faculty advisors should be able to provide you with information regarding the potential availability of support.
4.  Officially apply for admission to the Graduate School.

Specific questions graduate studies in Plant, Soil, and Environmental Sciences may be obtained from Dr. Tsutomu Ohno (Graduate Coordinator).  Applications for admission can be obtained on-line from the Graduate School or by contacting them at: 5755 Stodder Hall (Room 42), University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-5755, U.S.A.; Telephone 207-581-3291; Fax 207-581-3232; email: When completed, the application should be sent to the University of Maine Graduate School.  Applications should indicate the specific graduate program and the focal area (Plant, Soil, and  Environmental Sciences) the applicant seeks to enter.

Details regarding requirements about our M.S. in Plant, Soil, and Environmental Sciences and M.S. in Horticulture can be found in our Guidelines for Graduate Study (revised May 2005).

Featured PSE Graduate Students

Sonja Birthisel

Sonja’s research explores the effect of habitat variability on weed seed predation by vertebrate and invertebrate seed predators in organic faming systems.  Through landscape-level field studies she hopes to characterize the effects of space and multiple habitat variables on predation rates within arable fields.

Aaron Englander

Aaron works as a graduate assistant for the Northern New England Local Bread Wheat Project: a collaboration between farmers, scientists, bakers and millers to produce high quality organic bread wheat in Northern New England.  In fall 2011, he received a SARE Graduate Student Grant to research the effects of soil microbial inoculants on bread wheat.  He is currently conducting a GH experiment for this project that uses two farm-produced inoculants and one commercially available inoculant.  In general, he is interested in organic crop production, holistic soil management and the development of just and sustainable food systems.