MS in Evolution, Ecology and Behavior

Dr. Larsen analyzing tree stump.

Dendrochronology can tell us about where we've been and where we are headed. Courtesy C. Larsen.

Students will master the knowledge and techniques required to work in a wide range of professional positions. The program prepares students for further graduate work (PhD) or research, teaching and administrative positions in both the public and private sectors as well as academia.

The MS typically requires 2+ years to complete coursework, research project and the thesis. The following describes a typical MS student’s program.

Advisory Committee

During the first semester in residence in the Program the student and advisor will form an advisory committee for the purpose of selecting courses, conducting the qualifying exam and overseeing and ultimately approving the student’s Masters’ research.  The Committee must contain a minimum of three UB faculty, two of whom are EEB members.  The composition of the committee must be approved by the Graduate Affairs Committee (GAC), and changes in committee membership require GAC approval.  Each semester the Advisory Committee evaluates the student’s progress toward their degree and reports that progress to the GAC.  In cases in which the student is not making satisfactory progress, the advisory committee, by majority vote, can recommend to the GAC that the student be placed on probation. Students on probation will have two semesters to correct the deficiencies identified by the GAC. If they do not do so, they face dismissal.


Students are required to complete 30 credit hours, 18 of which are formal courses. Two of these formal courses must be EVS 551 Foundations of Ecology and EVS 552 Grad Research Seminar.

Students are also required to take a minimum of three courses from the following:

APY 546  Physical Anthropology Special Topics
APY 547  Ethology Practicum
BIO 500  Bioinformatics/Genome Analysis
BIO 525  Developmental Evolution
EVS 509  Advanced Ecology
EVS 545  Restoration Ecology
GEO 515  Conservation Biogeography
GEO 546  Global Change Ecology
GLY 558  Macroevolution
PSY 634  Animal Behavior
PSY 640  Animal Communication

The purpose of the requirement is to promote interdisciplinary training and the three courses must be distributed across three different departments.  Students are also expected to acquire appropriate quantitative skills.

Students are expected to design a program, along with their adviser, that best fits their particular needs and interests. Therefore, various courses can be chosen throughout departments to fulfill the formal course credit requirements (see Courses).

Students may petition the GAC for credit for graduate courses taken at other institutions.

All students are required to attend the Program’s seminar series, as well as relevant departmental seminars across the disciplines represented within the Graduate Group.

The Project

Every MS student is required to complete a research project, prepare a project report and present the results of the project. Before starting the research and no later than the end of the second semester the student should submit a formal project proposal to the advisory committee. This written proposal should begin with an abstract of no more than 300 words and should describe the anticipated research in no more than 7 pages including figures and references. In it the student will present the problem and discuss the plan, objective, approach, and scope of the proposed project. In considering the proposal, the faculty will also consider whether the student is adequately prepared for the proposed research. Revisions may be requested at this time. The proposal must be approved by the student’s advisor and a majority of the Advisory Committee. The proposal assures that both the student and the advisory committee know and agree upon the nature and scope of the research project.

Once the project proposal has been approved the student may proceed with their research. The Advisory Committee will monitor progress through a meeting each semester in which the student summarizes the status of the project. As the project nears completion the student will prepare a written project report in a style chosen by the Advisory Committee. Once a draft of the project report has been approved by the Advisor, the student provides each of the remaining Advisory Committee members with a copy of the report. The Committee members may accept the report as submitted or request revisions, and once the Committee members and Advisor approve any required revisions, the oral defense may be scheduled.


The Master’s Project must be presented orally before the Advisory Committee at an announced defense that is open to the University community. The date, time, and place of the defense are arranged between the student and the Advisory Committee. The Director of Graduate Affairs should be informed about the date, time and place of the defense at least 2 weeks prior, so the academic community can be informed in time. To ensure the student has time to make any revisions requested as a result of the defense, the defense must be held one month prior to Graduate School’s deadline for submitting materials.

The defense is chaired by a member of the thesis committee other than the major advisor.  It consists of a presentation by the candidate, which should include a statement of the problem, methods used, results obtained, and conclusions reached. The presentation should be given as though it were a formal paper being presented at a scientific meeting.   Upon completion of the summary, attendees outside of the committee will be given an opportunity to ask questions.  The members of the committee will then question the student.  Immediately, after the committee has completed its questions, the committee along with any interested faculty will meet in private to discuss the outcome of the defense. The Advisory Committee will determine, if the oral defense was passed successfully and whether any revisions to the project report are required. Members of the Advisory Committee will approve the final revisions of the project report or at their discretion delegate that responsibility to the Advisor. In the event of failure, the student will be permitted a second oral exam which is to be scheduled in consultation with their committee.