About the Ecology Graduate Programs

Graduate students in the Odum School are part of a community of engaged and committed scholars exploring fundamental—and pressing—basic and applied questions in ecology.  The Odum School offers doctoral, master’s, and certificate programs that provide students with options for in-depth disciplinary training in ecology as well as broad interdisciplinary study in allied disciplines.  Our degree programs offer tremendous flexibility to allow students to define a program that best facilitates their professional development.

At Odum our students have access to all the resources of a major research university, including world-class facilities and faculty in ecology and other units, including the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, College of Veterinary Medicine, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, College of Engineering, and Departments of Plant Biology, Environmental Health Science, Genetics, Crop and Soil Sciences, and Entomology. UGA offers expertise in research groups and centers including: the Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases, the River Basin Center, Institute for Bioinformatics, and the Institute for Resilient Infrastructure.  Our faculty have research expertise that spans biological levels of organization (from the cell to biosphere) and various spatial scales (e.g., local interactions between mycorrhizae and tree roots to global carbon and nitrogen dynamics), with major areas of strength in aquatic and watershed ecology, conservation ecology, infectious disease ecology, ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry, and evolutionary ecology and biogeography.


Ph.D. in Ecology

The PhD in Ecology provides rigorous theoretical, empirical, and methodological training in ecology, while also allowing students to expand their interdisciplinary expertise. The program and resulting dissertation research produces independent scholars, researchers and decision-makers.

PhD in Integrative Conservation and Ecology (ICON)

The PhD in Integrative Conservation and Ecology (ICON) is designed to provide disciplinary depth in ecology while also facilitating collaboration with other disciplines and fields of practice to seek integrative solutions to complex conservation challenges.

M.S. in Ecology (research-based, thesis option)

The M.S. in Ecology is a flexible, two-year program in which students gain hands-on experience with research design, laboratory and field techniques, data analysis and interpretation, and science communication. 

M.S. in Ecology (non-thesis option)

The non-thesis option for the M.S. in Ecology replaces the thesis with additional quantitative and conceptual training in ecology for students pursuing a non-research based career path (e.g., focused on management, education, or law).

M.S. in Integrative Conservation and Sustainability

The MS in Integrative Conservation and Sustainability (ICAS) aims to train the next generation of conservation professionals. The program combines coursework for building practical skills and essential knowledge with a master’s thesis under the direction of faculty members and non-academic partners with academic expertise and real-world conservation experience.

Double Dawgs

Double Dawgs is a “4+1” program in which UGA undergraduate initiate graduate studies in their senior year and complete a MS with one additional year of coursework and research. Double Dawgs students must be admitted to the “pathway” at the start of their junior year and must be subsequently accepted into the MS program during their senior year. Both the MS-Ecology and MS-ICAS programs are open to Double Dawg applicants.

Apply to Ecology Graduate Programs

To apply to one of our Ecology graduate programs, please follow the instructions on our application process page.

We do not require (and will not consider) GRE scores and there are no defined course prerequisites for admission. We take a holistic approach, and do not have a fixed formula for admission to our programs. Ultimately, we consider all information in your application to evaluate your preparation for graduate studies in ecology, the diversity of experiences you bring to our community, your knowledge of the discipline, your work ethic and ethos, and your anticipated contribution to our community of scholars. This evaluation is informed by your grades, your CV, your letters, and especially your “statement of purpose” (please refer to the application process page for more information). We also strongly encourage you to contact faculty members with whom you are interested in working. It is unlikely we would admit anyone without strong support from a prospective major professor.

The deadline for applying to any of our graduate programs is December 1st.  The School’s Graduate Program Committee (GPC) meets in mid-December to review completed applications and will invite 10-15 highly qualified applicants to our Ecology graduate student recruitment event and Graduate Student Symposium (usually held in January).  After that, the GPC will being extending offers of admission; some offers will be made later, if other offers are declined.

Students who are offered admission have until April 15th to make a decision (although we welcome earlier responses), and would matriculate in the fall, although we can often accelerate matriculation to the summer, or defer it to the subsequent winter.

Funding, Scholarships, and Awards

Students admitted to our graduate programs (with a thesis or dissertation requirement) are provided financial support in the form of research assistantships, teaching assistantships, or fellowships (the annual pay varies depending on the degree program and source of funding; a typical appointment for a graduate student ranges from ~ $21-26,000 for 9 months, with the possible addition of a summer assistantship, which could add up to ~ $8,000: e.g., a Ph.D. student on a 50% appointment for 12 months would earn $33,485 (more details are available in the Graduate Handbook). These assistantships come with a tuition wavier, and partial health insurance coverage, although students are responsible for fees. Students in our non-thesis program are not guaranteed support, but will be offered TAs if they are available (as they often are).

The Odum School also makes awards that provide funding for research, travel and related expenses (more information about awards and fellowships). Other UGA-based awards are available through the Graduate School, Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Office of Research. UGA and Odum School Fellowships for incoming students are nominated by faculty and the Graduate Program Committee—applicants do not have to do anything to be eligible for these awards.

Careers after the Program

Our graduate programs have attracted outstanding students and produced exceptionally talented ecologists and environmental scientists, many of whom are now leaders in their fields.  Alumni of our PhD programs include college and university faculty and administrators, environmental consultants, policy analysts, conservation directors, nonprofit executives, and scientists and decision-makers in government agencies. Graduates of our MS programs have obtained positions with government agencies working at the global, national and local levels, including USAID, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Park Service, as well as nongovernmental organizations such as The Nature Conservancy. Many have used our MS programs as a portal to Ph.D. or other advanced degree programs (such as a JD).

Other useful information

Virtual Tours

  • In January 2021, we held our recruitment event (for invited, prospective students) virtually due to the Covid pandemic. We created a slide-show for that event, which can help give you a sense of our program and life in the Odum School.
  • In late 2021, we created a video to highlight our school and its research themes, which will give you an additional perspective on our community.

The UGA Graduate School

For more information about the Graduate School at the University of Georgia, please visit the Graduate School website.

Graduate Student Organization

Further detail about our graduate programs and graduate student life in the Odum School are available in our Graduate Handbook. We encourage you to read it to familiarize yourself with our programs, policies, and culture.

Graduate Student Association

The Odum School Graduate Student Organization (GSO) is a representative and decision-making body for the Odum School of Ecology graduate student community and provides a student perspective to faculty and staff within the department and to the greater campus community. The GSO strives to foster collegial interactions amongst graduate students in Ecology and in allied units and to provide a forum for intradepartmental communication between students, faculty and staff.


Certificate in Conservation Ecology

Students enrolled in any graduate degree program in the University of Georgia may apply to the Graduate Certificate Program in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development. This program is designed for students who wish to develop an area of specialty that complements their primary degree program. Most recipients of the certificate come from other programs, such as anthropology, forestry, landscape architecture, education, and law.

Certificate in Environmental Ethics

The Environmental Ethics Certificate Program (EECP) is an interdisciplinary program offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels that prepares students to synthesize ideas from a wide variety of perspectives to solve complex environmental problems, both in theory and in practice.

Certificate in Sustainability

The Sustainability Certificate incorporates applied learning in interdisciplinary settings and equips students with critical skills to address global sustainability challenges through real-world solutions. The certificate emphasizes seven key competencies to link knowledge, skills, values, aptitudes and attitudes necessary to address complex sustainability challenges in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.