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Graduate Program Degree Requirements - Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree

Scope of the Ph.D. Program

Candidates for the Ph.D. degree must possess a detailed knowledge of their area of research, a breadth of knowledge of basic biology and ecology, and a comprehensive knowledge of the fields of wildlife biology and management.  Furthermore, each candidate must have completed a program of study in a discipline ancillary to wildlife.  Evaluation of the Ph.D. candidate with respect to the above objectives will include (1) a comprehensive examination testing the candidate’s breadth of general knowledge as well as his/her comprehensive knowledge in the fields of wildlife biology and management, and (2) a final oral defense of the research and research specialty.  The ancillary studies requirement may be met through the Course work, or via other opportunities for personal development agreed upon by the student’s graduate committee.

Credit Hour Requirements

The credit hour requirement for doctoral students in Wildlife Ecology shall include a minimum of 50 credit hours, which may include a maximum of 30 credit hours from the Master’s program.  A minimum of 35 credit hours will be in course work,  of which 20 hours must be in graduate level (500/600) courses. Thesis credits do not count toward course credit requirements.  At least 6 credits of thesis are required.  Ph.D. students are expected to be engaged in full-time work on their Ph.D. program for a minimum of two full years; most programs last 3-5 years.  Students getting paid by the university as a graduate assistant or fellow need to be registered for at least 6 credits for fall and spring, and if they are paid in the summer they need to be registered for at least 1 credit. However, after Ph.D. students pass their Comprehensive Exams, they can register for 1 credit per semester until they graduate, assuming they meet the total credit hour requirements listed above..

Graduate Committee Composition

The candidate will select his/her graduate committee before the end of the second semester of study.  The committee will consist of at least 5 members of the graduate faculty, including at least one from outside the Department, and a minimum of  two from the Department.

Comprehensive Examination

The purpose of the comprehensive exam is to ensure that the candidate is knowledgeable of basic concepts of biology, ecology, and statistics, and has a comprehensive knowledge of wildlife ecology, and can synthesize information and concepts in the disciplines in a coherent and scholarly fashion.  In preparation for the comprehensive exam, the candidate can develop (if not previously accomplished) a core of Course work to obtain a comprehensive knowledge in areas of concentrated study.  In addition, the candidate should develop, in consultation with the graduate committee and other members of the Department, a program of independent study that ensures a breadth of basic knowledge.  Whenever possible, the student is expected to complete the comprehensive exam by the end of the second year of study.  The comprehensive examination will consist both of written and oral sections and usually will be administered following the completion of the Course work and before the majority of the research has been completed.  The comprehensive examination will consist of 5 written parts, each of which will be administered by a committee member or a designated faculty member assigned to the examining committee.  The five parts will cover at least five areas of concentrated study in the disciplines of biology (e.g., vertebrate physiology, animal systematics, environmental biophysics, evolution), ecology (e.g., limnology, population dynamics, biogeography, population genetics), and wildlife ecology (e.g., population biology and dynamics, habitat ecology, social/economic issues, wildlife law and policy).  The subject areas will be selected jointly by the candidate and the graduate committee.  The written examination will be completed within a five-day period, and will be followed within two weeks by an oral examination.  Upon completion of the oral examination, the committee may rule that either (1) the candidate has passed the comprehensive exam, or (2) the performance was marginal, and the candidate will be allowed to retake the exam, or (3) the candidate has failed the exam, and will be dropped from the graduate program.  The candidate may retake the comprehensive exam only once.  Reexamination may take place no earlier than 2 months following the initial examination.

Ancillary Academic Program

Candidates are required to develop a program to broaden or expand their knowledge in a discipline ancillary to wildlife.  However, the Department has expanded this concept to allow study or accomplishment in other disciplines as well.  A suitable discipline will be selected by the candidate and approved by the graduate committee.  Commitment to this endeavor should equal at least 6 credit hours, and may be fulfilled by means other than structured Course work.  Suitable disciplines include foreign languages, chemistry, mathematics, advanced statistics, computer science, cartography, GIS, etc.

Teaching Requirement

Each Ph.D. candidate is required to teach for one semester in an undergraduate course.  The requirement may be fulfilled through the acceptance of a teaching assistantship (1/2 time) for one semester, the instruction of a 3-hour laboratory section for one semester, or an equivalent teaching assignment as agreed upon by the graduate committee.


The guidelines presented for the preparation of the Master’s Thesis are applicable to the preparation of the dissertation.

Final Oral Examination

Upon completion of the Course work, comprehensive examination, and dissertation, the Ph.D. candidate will be required to pass an oral defense of the dissertation.  The final oral examination may not be scheduled until all committee members have read a draft of the thesis and signed the Tentative Thesis Acceptance form.  A draft of the dissertation must be approved by the advisor before it is distributed to the committee.  To facilitate meaningful reading of the thesis, an approved draft of the thesis must be to the committee at least six weeks prior to the date the thesis is due to the Graduate School.  Additional lead time prior to the defense may be necessary if significant revision of the dissertation is required by the graduate committee.  The wildlife faculty must be individually notified on the examination one week beforehand.  A copy of the dissertation also must be available in the Department office for review.  As part of the examination, a seminar on the research for the dissertation must be presented to the Department, usually before the oral defense.

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