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Biology & Wildlife Graduate Program

Graduate degrees in Biology and Wildlife prepare students for careers as professional biologists, whether in academia, state and federal agencies, non-profit agencies, or industry. In addition to gaining knowledge in a particular sub-discipline, graduate students receive training in research design and analysis, critical thinking, and professional skills such as scientific writing, oral communication, and grantsmanship.

Graduate students Katrina Knott (left) and Adelia Falk (right) work with reindeer at the UAF Large Animal Research Station (LARS). Photo Credit: Todd Paris

The structure and requirements for degrees in Biological Sciences and in Wildlife Biology and Conservation are similar, but projects in Wildlife Biology generally place more emphasis on applied topics of relevance for management and conservation of free-ranging vertebrates. This difference generally results in more field studies for students in Wildlife Biology, and with more Wildlife Biology students targeting employment at management agencies, particularly at the MS level. Wildlife Biology projects are often supported by funding through the Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Wildlife Biology faculty, which includes Cooperative Unit faculty, must serve on graduate committees for Wildlife Biology students.

Graduate students in Biology and Wildlife have access to many modern facilities, including the DNA core lab, a state-of-the-art greenhouse, and the extensive resources of the UA Museum of the North. Click here to learn more about these and other facilities.

Which degree should you choose?

The MS degree is aimed at students with an undergraduate education in Biology or a related science who want to develop their research skills as well as their knowledge base. The MS degree often provides the best preparation for students who want to work as research technicians, teach biology at the high school or community college level, or those students interested in refining their research interests before progressing to a PhD. Graduates of our MS program work as research technicians for local, state and federal agencies (e.g., the North Slope Borough, Yukon River Intertribal Watershed Council, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey), for environmental consulting and non-profit organizations (e.g. The Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, Alaska Sea Life Center, Ducks Unlimited, Defenders of Wildlife), in private industry (e.g., Zymogenetics), and as teachers in high schools and educational outreach programs (e.g., the Alaska Coastal Institute).

The MS degree combines coursework with independent research. Students work with a small graduate advisory committee to develop a research program and generate a course plan that supports their research interests. An MS thesis is expected to include at least one manuscript suitable for publication in a scientific journal. The MS degree can be completed in about 2 years, although students with field-based research who start in the fall may take longer. Click here for a more detailed description of the MS program and timelines.

The PhD degree is aimed at students who intend to develop professional careers that include the development and oversight of research programs, or who intend to teach at the university level. Many students who enter the PhD program already have an MS degree, though this is not required. PhD graduates from our department have gone on to careers as faculty members at universities in the US and around the world, as staff scientists at state and federal organizations (e.g. Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Forest Service, the National Parks Service) and environmental consultancy and non-profit organizations (e.g., A B R, The Nature Conservancy, Smithsonian Institution).

PhD students work with a graduate advisory committee to develop a research program that includes a strong, original, and intellectual contribution that advances their field of interest. Although there is no minimum course requirement, most PhD students do take some courses. PhD dissertations are expected to include three to four manuscripts for publication in scientific journals. Expected time to completion for a PhD degree is 4 to 6 years. Click here for a more detailed description of the PhD programs and timelines.


Biology & Wildlife Degrees

Master of Science (MS) in
     • Biological Sciences
     • Wildlife Biology and Conservation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in
     • Biological Sciences

The application deadline for fall admission is January 15. The deadline for spring admission is September 15. All application materials (including letters of recommendation) must be received before a file can be evaluated. The General GRE is required. We strongly encourage inclusion of Biology GREs as well.

Admissions decisions will be made approximately 6 weeks following these dates. Files received after the deadline will only be considered in the rare event that a faculty member has an urgent need to add a student to his or her lab.

Requirements for acceptance into the B&W graduate program:

  • You must have an appropriate academic background and evidence of ability to complete a graduate degree
  • A faculty member must agree to accept you as his or her student
  • Funding sources for you and your research must be identified

Selecting an Advisor: Before submitting application materials to the Admissions, you should contact one or more faculty members in the department and tell them about your interests and background. We urge you to contact faculty members early; it can take some time to sort out potential research projects and funding opportunities.

Obtaining Funding: Graduate students are funded through a variety of mechanisms. Often, faculty members have funding available for Research Assistantships (RAs) through their research programs. Sometimes graduate students bring fellowships or scholarships that support them and/or their research. The Department also supports a limited number of students on Teaching Assistantships (TAs).

University of Alaska Fairbanks Department of Biology and Wildlife ©2010-15

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UAF is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and educational institution.
All images courtesy of UAF Biology & Wildlife unless otherwise noted.