The Conservation Biology track in the Conservation Biology PhD program prepares students for independent research and roles within industry, nongovernmental organizations or government sectors combining traditional biological sciences with economics, law, urban/rural planning, politics, communication, philosophy and environmental engineering.
The Conservation Biology track in the Conservation Biology PhD program is intended to provide the academic background necessary to begin work in industry, nongovernmental organizations or government in a leadership role applying cutting-edge principles to problem solving in conservation biology. Students taking this track will be prepared to pursue an academic career.
The Conservation Biology Track in the Conservation Biology PhD program requires 72 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree, including a minimum of 27 hours of formal course work exclusive of independent study. The formal course work includes 15 credit hours of required core courses and 12 credit hours of graduate-level courses from Biology (or other departments) selected in consultation with the adviser and the dissertation committee (at least 4 of the 12 credit hours must be offered through the Biology Department). The remaining 45 credit hours may consist of additional electives, doctoral dissertation research (PCB 7980), and a maximum of 12 credit hours of combined directed research (PCB 6918, PCB 7919, and PCB 5917) and independent study (PCB 6908). In addition, 15 credit hours of the remaining 45 credit hours must be comprised of doctoral dissertation research (PCB 7980).
A student is required to establish a program of study before the completion of nine credit hours of course work, in conjunction with their dissertation adviser and advisory committee. Students are required to complete a minimum of 12 hours of electives in consultation with their advisory committee. In addition to these selected electives, a student’s advisory committee may require the candidate to take any graduate course taught at UCF if deemed appropriate for the student’s area of emphasis. Students entering with a master’s degree may request up to 30 semester credit hours of previous work be waived toward the requirements for this degree with approval from the advisory committee. Students who transfer 30 credit hours must still take 2 credit hours of Biology Seminar (BSC 6935 ) and Professional Development I (PCB 6095 ) and II (PCB 6096 ). Students may register for dissertation research only after passing the candidacy exam.
Total Credit Hours Required: 72 Credit Hours Minimum beyond the Bachelor’s Degree
Required Courses: 15 Credit Hours
Elective Courses: 42 Credit Hours
A minimum of 12 credit hours of formal graduate-level courses from Biology, or other departments, are selected in consultation with the adviser and the dissertation committee. The goal is to tailor the program of study to the individual student’s needs while maximizing exposure to a variety of disciplines including, among others, policy, economics, engineering, chemistry or sociology. The remaining 30 credit hours may include additional electives, dissertation research (PCB 7980), internship, and a maximum of 12 credit hours of combined independent study (PCB 6908) and directed research (PCB 6918, PCB 7919, and PCB 5917). Professional internship hours can be substituted for directed research.
Dissertation: 15 Credit Hours Minimum
- PCB 7980 - Dissertation 15 Credit Hours
The Advisory Committee shall consist of a minimum of four members, including the dissertation adviser, with at least three members coming from the graduate faculty in the Biology Department. At least one member will be from a department other than Biology or from outside the university. The chair, or co-chair, must be a member of the program graduate faculty.
Students are required to register for 9 credit hours in fall and spring and 6 credit hours in summer before their candidacy exam. After being admitted to candidacy, minimum enrollment is 3 credit hours of dissertation research each semester.
The written qualifying examination should be completed within the first two years of the student’s program. The exam seeks to cover areas of general knowledge and discipline-specific knowledge within the student’s declared track. These questions could be related to the dissertation research proposal or designed to examine general knowledge and reasoning within the field.
The candidate will meet with their advisory committee at least two months prior to the examination to discuss expectations. Committee members must clearly articulate in writing the general areas that may be examined. Any student failing the examination must repeat the examination within six calendar months of the date of the first examination and requires a majority vote by committee members to pass the exam. A second failed attempt will result in dismissal from the program.
Each student will be required to generate, organize and orally defend a written proposal outlining their dissertation research to their dissertation advisory committee no later than 12 months after passing the Qualifying Examination. The oral Candidacy Examination will cover all areas within the scope of the student’s doctoral program and requires that the student demonstrate knowledge of the theory, literature and research methodologies relevant to the proposed area of research as well as demonstrate an understanding of how their work relates to the field of biology as a whole. After passing the candidacy examination and meeting other requirements, the student will be deemed as having been admitted to candidacy and can register for dissertation hours. Once a student is admitted to candidacy, the focus will be on dissertation research. For most students, the research and writing of the dissertation will take two to three years after advancing to candidacy. During this time, students should remain in close contact with the dissertation adviser and advisory committee and annual progress reports must be filed with the Graduate Program Director.
Candidacy Examination Proposal
A written dissertation proposal, already approved by the adviser, must be submitted to each committee member no later than two weeks prior to the Candidacy Examination. Typically, the proposal will be in the format described below. However, in cases where this format is not appropriate, an alternative format may be used with the approval of the dissertation adviser. The proposal should be approximately 10 to 15 pages in length not including references, single-spaced and typed in 12-point font with one-inch margins on all sides. The use of figures and tables is encouraged. With rare exceptions it is expected that dissertation research will be hypothesis-driven.
- Specific Aims: Describe concisely the problem(s) to be addressed and the specific goals of the dissertation research as they relate to the problem(s), including clear statements of hypotheses to be tested.
- Background and Significance: Review background literature relevant to the dissertation topic, indicating clearly where gaps in knowledge exist. Justify the need for the research by explaining its anticipated significance. Conclude by linking gaps in current knowledge to the proposed specific aims.
- Methodology: Outline carefully the study design (observations, experiments, models, statistical analysis, etc.) related to, and the methodology to be used for, each specific aim. Methodologies should be explained in sufficient detail to allow committee members to assess the validity of its use in the study. Potential outcomes and alternative approaches should be discussed.
- Literature Cited: References should be indicated in the main body of the proposal wherever appropriate and should follow the format of a peer-reviewed journal in a field of study appropriate to your research. This section can be as long as necessary.
At least two weeks prior to the examination, an abstract describing the proposed research will be posted in the Biological Sciences Building and circulated by e-mail among faculty and graduate students. The candidate will present the research proposal in a forum open to all faculty, students and visitors. The oral presentation should be approximately 30-45 minutes in length to be followed by a public question-and-answer period. Presentation of preliminary data is neither required nor expected, but should be provided if available and relevant. With the exception of the advisory committee and candidate, all faculty, students and visitors will leave at the conclusion of the public question-and-answer period. The committee will continue the exam in closed session with further questioning. Questions can be directed to any matter relevant to the research proposal and areas of weakness previously identified in the written (qualifying) exam. A majority vote is required to pass the examination; however, no more than one negative vote is permitted. The majority must include the dissertation adviser. Any student failing the examination must repeat the examination within six calendar months of the date of the first examination. A second failed attempt will result in dismissal from the program.
Admission to Candidacy
The following are required to be admitted to candidacy and enroll in dissertation hours:
- Program of study submitted and approved.
- Dissertation Committee formed (without external member)
- Successful completion of the qualifying exam.
- Completion of all coursework (except for dissertation hours)
- External member added to Dissertation Committee.
- Successful completion of candidacy exam.
The dissertation is expected to represent an original and significant contribution to the discipline. Upon completion and approval of the doctoral dissertation by all appropriate faculty and university offices, the student will make a formal presentation of the research findings in seminar format to the dissertation committee and other university faculty and students who may wish to attend.
The dissertation should be in a format appropriate for publication and should be “tightened” to a readiness for submittal by use of appendixes for nonessential information. The major role of the student’s advisory committee is to offer guidance on study design and interpretation of results. A polished draft must be delivered to the advisory committee for review after the student and dissertation adviser have agreed upon editorial changes; this should occur well before the anticipated date of the final defense. Committee members have the right to reject documents that fail to meet these guidelines. Committee members should be given at least two weeks to review the draft before the student attempts to schedule the final defense. The final defense is to be scheduled only after the advisory committee agrees that the dissertation is ready for defense. Committee members should return the corrected dissertation to the student two weeks after receipt and the candidate should check with committee members to ensure they have the time to review the document. If the student delivers the final draft to the committee one month prior to the proposed defense date, that would allow two weeks before the scheduled defense date for the student to make recommended changes.
At least two weeks prior to the defense, an abstract describing the research conducted and conclusions reached will be posted in the Biological Sciences Building, circulated by e-mail among faculty and graduate students, and posted at the College of Graduate Studies Events Calendar. The candidate will present the research in a forum open to all faculty, students, and visitors. The oral presentation should be approximately 45-50 minutes in length to be followed by a question-and-answer period. In the presentation the candidate should focus on background information, describe the research performed, and draw attention to the significance of the conclusions reached. With the exception of the committee and candidate, all faculty, students, and visitors will leave at the conclusion of the question-and-answer period. The committee will continue the defense and the candidate will answer questions about the subject matter presented and defend the conclusions drawn. The committee will ask questions of the process used and assess the candidate’s level of competency with the research topic. A majority vote is required to pass the examination; however, no more than one negative vote is permitted. The majority must include the dissertation adviser.
An orientation for all incoming students will be scheduled one week prior to each fall semester. The orientation will include tours of the program facilities, a session on registration, university policies and procedures, and expectations of doctoral study. Further, Environmental Health and Safety will present a program on topics such as laboratory safety, chemical and fire safety, biohazard training, and radioisotope handling. Expectations for Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA) and Graduate Research Assistants (GRA) will be fully covered. In addition, students will be required to participate in the program for GTAs offered by the UCF Faculty Teaching and Learning Center and the College of Sciences. Students are strongly encouraged to attend the university’s orientation also, held approximately one week before classes begin in the Fall semester.
The dissertation satisfies the independent learning experience.
For information on general UCF graduate admissions requirements that apply to all prospective students, please visit the Admissions section of the Graduate Catalog. Applicants must apply online. All requested materials must be submitted by the established deadline.
In addition to the general UCF graduate application requirements , applicants to this program must provide:
- One official transcript (in a sealed envelope) from each college/university attended.
- Official, competitive GRE score taken within the last five years.
- Three letters of recommendation.
- Statement of research interest and purpose, including a summary of relevant work or research experience.
- A computer-based score of 230 (or 89 internet-based score) on the Test of English as a Foreign language (TOEFL) if an applicant is from a country where English is not the official language, or if an applicant’s degree is not from an accredited U.S. institution, or if an applicant did not earn a degree in a country where English is the only official language or a university where English is the only official language of instruction. Although we prefer the TOEFL, we will accept IELTS scores of 7.0.
Students entering the graduate program with regular status are normally expected to have completed course work generally required for a bachelor’s degree in biology.
Applicants should first identify faculty who match their own research interests, and then contact faculty in advance to inquire about research opportunities in faculty labs and to solicit agreement that a faculty member is interested in serving as the student’s dissertation advisor. Applicants to the Ph.D. program who do not have a consenting dissertation advisor within the department faculty will not be accepted into the program. Admission is competitive and based on an overall assessment of the qualifications as submitted and the availability of faculty to serve as dissertation advisor.
Meeting minimum UCF admission criteria does not guarantee program admission. Final admission is based on evaluation of the applicant’s abilities, past performance, recommendations, match of this program and faculty expertise to the applicant’s career/academic goals, the identification of a dissertation advisor, and the applicant’s potential for completing the degree.
Students applying for summer or spring admission will be considered on an ad hoc basis.
|*Applicants who plan to enroll full time in a degree program and who wish to be considered for university fellowships or assistantships should apply by the Fall Priority date.
Graduate students may receive financial assistance through fellowships, assistantships, tuition support, or loans. For more information, see the College of Graduate Studies Funding website, which describes the types of financial assistance available at UCF and provides general guidance in planning your graduate finances. The Financial Information section of the Graduate Catalog is another key resource.
Fellowships are awarded based on academic merit to highly qualified students. They are paid to students through the Office of Student Financial Assistance, based on instructions provided by the College of Graduate Studies. Fellowships are given to support a student’s graduate study and do not have a work obligation. For more information, see UCF Graduate Fellowships, which includes descriptions of university fellowships and what you should do to be considered for a fellowship.