Master of Science in Wildlife Ecology

Admission Requirements

M.S. students are only accepted if the department or faculty have funding for graduate assistantships, tuition and research expenses. Acceptance to the University of Maine graduate programs in wildlife ecology is highly competitive. Most successful applicants have an excellent academic record (3.4-4.0 gpa), high scores on the Graduate Record Examination, substantial practical experience through summer or post-graduate employment, and strong letters of recommendation.

The minimum standards for the thesis-based degrees are:

  • A cumulative GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 basis).
  • A cumulative GRE score of 50th percentile (quantitative and verbal), although exceptions are sometimes made for students whose overall record is very strong.
  • An undergraduate degree in wildlife ecology or biology or a closely-related discipline is generally required.
  • And applicants are encouraged to take the GRE advanced biology exam.

Financial Assistance

Stipends for graduate assistantships range from a minimum of $17,000 upward per year. Most graduate students are supported by graduate research assistantships, but some students have teaching assistantships and participate in teaching at the undergraduate level partial. There are also several University-wide scholarships available on a competitive basis and the faculty nominate top ranking applicants for these awards.

Inquiries and Applications

We post all available graduate assistantships on the Department’s website. We strongly encourage potential applicants to apply to specific openings and to discuss your qualifications and interests with faculty. Note that posted assistantships often have unique deadlines and starting dates.

Course Requirements for All Graduate Degrees

As with undergraduate degrees, course requirements are intended to balance the specific informational requirements of graduate research projects with a wider perspective to be shared by successful students in the Department.

Requirements for degrees include:

  1. A demonstrated breadth of learning will include topics of Biology and Ecology, Natural Resource Management, and Analytical Tools.  This may be satisfied by a) the completion of coursework prior to initiating graduate degree work at the University of Maine (at or above level 300, or approved by graduate coordinator) or b) by course work taken at the University of Maine as part of the degree program (level 400 or above, or as approved by graduate coordinator).  A total of 30 credit hours of the following topics are required from a combination of undergraduate and graduate work, however, only the graduate-level course work conducted during the graduate program will count towards the required graduate degree credits (see graduate-level course requirement sections, below).
    Ecology and Organismal Biology – 9 credits* which may include:  Botany, Ecology, Zoology (Vertebrate or Invertebrate), Anatomy, Physiology, Evolution
    Natural Resource Management – 9 credits* which may include:  Habitat Conservation, Resource Economics, Policy, Conservation, Social Science, Human Ecology
    Analytical Tools – 9 credits* to include:  Statistics (3 credit minimum) and additional statistics coursework or courses in Population Dynamics, GIS, or Modeling*Note that the listed requirements sum up to 27 credits, thus one topical area will require 12 rather than 9 credits).
  2. At least three courses must be taken within the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology (either taught by our faculty or with WLE designator).  One of these three courses must be at a 500 level or greater.
  3. Meeting the minimum course credit requirements for the graduate degree program (specific to MS, MWC and PhD) as described below.

Course Work Requirements for MS

A minimum of 30 units of graduate credit are required for the MS degree.  A minimum of 20 units of course work (400 level or greater) is required, and of this, at least 12 credits must be derived from courses designated 500 level or above.  Thesis credits do not count toward the 20 course credits requirements.  Prerequisite course work below the 400 level may not be included as part of the core curriculum of the graduate program.  The course work for the Master’s program will be selected by the student and the advisor during the first semester of study, subject to approval by the graduate committee.  No fewer than 6 credits and no more than 10 credits of the 30 total credits required for an MS degree may be thesis credits.

Credit hour considerations for Graduate Assistants

Students getting paid by the university as a graduate assistant must be registered for at least six credits for fall and spring, and if they are paid in the summer they need to be registered for at least one credit.  Master’s students in their final semester can register for one thesis credit, however, this reduced credit load can be used only once during their tenure while on an assistantship.  For example, if an assistantship-supported student anticipates graduating in December the student can register for only one thesis credit in the fall, but if the student does not complete requirements in time for December graduation, then he/she will be required to register for six credits in the semester that they graduate (regardless of whether they are supported by an assistantship during that semester).  In this example, the student who missed the December graduation deadlines would graduate in the Spring and be required to pay for six credits in the Spring, because they already took advantage of the “one credit graduation semester” exception.  If the student no longer is supported by an assistantship and is not a Maine resident, the charge for the six credits to the student will be assessed at the out-of-state rate.  The student should not assume that their advisor will continue to pay for credits when they are not supported by an assistantship.

Advisors and Graduate Committee

Students are accepted into the program by individual faculty, and the same faculty serve as advisor (or co-advisor).  The faculty advisor is the primary supervisor of a graduate student during their program.  Students will work with their advisor to select a graduate committee to oversee and guide them through their graduate program.  Students are expected to select their graduate committee before the research proposal is finalized.  The committee will consist of three or more graduate faculty members, including one from outside the Department.  Cooperating faculty who hold a joint appointment in the Department serve as an external member on graduate committees.  The initial meeting of the academic committee is intended to establish the student’s course of study and should occur early enough to be able to effectively provide useful guidance.  The student will produce a written proposal for research that meets the approval of the graduate committee both in terms of content and delivery date.  Consequently, the graduate committee will usually discuss the student’s proposed research during the initial committee meeting.

At a minimum, the graduate advisor(s), in consultation with the committee, shall annually evaluate the progress and level of achievement of the student.  Students should meet with the graduate committee for this review.  Students will receive feedback (oral, written, or both) from the committee.  Copies of written evaluations may be submitted to the student and to the Department Chair.

Research Proposal and Proposal Seminar

A presentation to the Department of the student’s preliminary research plan is required before the first major field season.  (Note that for any project involving the use of vertebrates, an approved Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) must be approved before any work begins).  This presentation is intended to be informal and serve as a point of discussion for the goals, objectives, and literature of the research topic.  The presentation should be about 15-25 minutes long for MS students (followed by 15-25 minutes of discussion).

A written proposal approved by the student’s advisory committee is required before research is undertaken (preliminary research excluded) and by the end of the second semester.  A final copy must be submitted to the Department Chair for filing with the student’s program of study.  A timeline for the student’s entire program is required as part of the proposal.

Professional and Departmental Activities

All candidates are expected to participate in professional and Departmental activities.  Candidates are expected to regularly attend Departmental and university seminars, to participate in professional development workshops, as available, and to participate in Departmental operations and activities.  Graduate students are encouraged to present talks to the public (secondary schools, conservation organizations, etc.) or professional organizations on their thesis research and other topics concerning wildlife ecology or management.  Departmental duties assigned to graduate students will include:  Helping in the maintenance of laboratories, coordination of the Department’s seminar program, leadership in a professional student group (e.g., to the Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society, American Fisheries Society) and other contributions.

Thesis Requirement

The preparation of an original thesis is required for all candidates.  The candidate is encouraged to prepare the thesis in the form of one or more papers suitable for publication in a major refereed journal, as opposed to the traditional thesis format.  If the traditional format is followed, the candidate will likely be expected to prepare a manuscript for publication that will be reviewed and approved by the advisor.  Format requirements (title page, abstract, margins, etc.) for the thesis have been established by the Graduate School.

Final Oral Examination

Upon completion of course work and thesis, a candidate for the MS degree is required to defend the thesis during an oral examination.  In addition, the candidate will be examined for general knowledge in the field of wildlife ecology.  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 thesis must be approved by the advisor before it is distributed to the committee.  Additional time prior to the defense may be necessary if significant revisions of the thesis are required by the committee.  To facilitate meaningful reading of the thesis, an approved draft of the thesis must be to the committee at least three weeks prior to the date the thesis is due to the Graduate School.  (Note: If any chapters are to be submitted for journal publication prior to thesis completion and defense, it is recommended that committee members be given three weeks for review so that feedback on the chapter may be incorporated prior to journal submission).  Additional time prior to the defense may be necessary if significant revisions of the thesis are required by the committee.  Notification of the defense seminar and examination must be circulated through the Department (including WFCB faculty) at least one week before the examination.  A copy of the thesis also must be made available to the Department office for review.  As part of the examination, a seminar on the research must be presented to the Department preceding the oral defense.