Ecology Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Program Description

The program is intended to provide students with broad exposure to concepts and research approaches within ecology and evolution (primarily through seminars and formal course work), as well as in-depth study in one or more subdisciplines (normally guided by the student's Special Committee). The specific course of study is tailored to the needs of the individual student. Excellent laboratory and nearby field facilities are available, as are numerous collections and libraries. All students are required to obtain teaching experience by serving as teaching assistants for at least two semesters.

Inquiries from prospective graduate students are welcomed and should be addressed to the graduate field office or to any member of the faculty.

Contact Information

Phone: 607 254-4230

E235 Corson Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • animal ecology
  • applied ecology
  • biogeochemistry
  • community and ecosystem ecology
  • limnology
  • oceanography
  • physiological ecology
  • plant ecology
  • population ecology
  • theoretical ecology
  • vertebrate zoology



Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Dec. 1; no spring admission

Requirements Summary:

  1. all Graduate School Requirements, including the TOEFL Exam or IELTS Academic Exam for non-native English applicants
  2. three recommendations
  3. Note: GRE test scores are no longer required for application to this program

    Statement of Purpose

    Please submit a combined Academic and Personal Statement of Purpose that outlines your reasons for pursuing graduate research and explains your academic interests and your broader background, experiences, and skills that can lead to a successful graduate school experience.  This Statement of Purpose should provide the admissions committee with a sense of you as a whole person, and provide insight into your potential to contribute positively to a diverse and inclusive community. General suggestions are available on the Cornell Graduate Student Admissions website.

    We request that you use headings for the following four sections for the Statement of Purpose:

    (1) Personal background, experience, and motivation (400-word limit): Introduce yourself, what are your personal motivations to come to graduate school, your short and long-term professional goals, and how did you get here? Please describe how your background and experiences influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree.

    (2) Academic background and preparation (400 words): Describe your academic training, skills, research experience, and accomplishments relevant to your future graduate work. You may also provide the context around any perceived gaps or weaknesses in your academic record.

    (3) Future research (400 words): What research questions would you like to explore as a graduate student? This is in no way binding - it is only intended to give us an indication of where your research interests and approaches are headed. If you have written a proposal for future research (e.g., NSF predoctoral fellowship), those ideas should be included here.

    4)  Importance of community, diversity, and inclusion (400 words): We strive to build a diverse and inclusive community that strengthens our intellectual and collaborative department. Please provide insight into your potential to contribute to a community of inclusion, belonging, and respect where scholars representing diverse backgrounds, perspectives, abilities, and experiences can learn and work productively and positively together. 

    Within sections 1 and 4 of the Statement of Purpose, you may also include relevant information on any of the following: 

    • How your personal, academic, and/or professional experiences demonstrate your ability to be both persistent and resilient especially when navigating challenging circumstances. 
    • How you engage with others and have facilitated and/or participated in productive teams. 
    • How you have experienced or come to understand the barriers faced by others whose experiences and backgrounds may differ from your own. 
    • Your service and/or leadership in efforts to advance diversity, inclusion, access, and equity especially by those from backgrounds historically underrepresented and/or marginalized. 
    • If relevant, how your research interests focus on issues related to diversity, inclusion, access, inequality, and/or equity.

Learning Outcomes

A candidate for a doctoral degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology is expected to demonstrate a broad based knowledge in chosen discipline (Ecology, Evolutionary or Organismal Biology, or some combination), mastery of knowledge in the chosen sub-discipline (e.g., Ecosystem Biology, Community & Population Ecology, Evolutionary Genetics, Macroevolution, Systematics, Molecular Evolution, or some combination), and create new knowledge, making an original and substantial contribution to the sub-discipline in a timely fashion.


Demonstrate broad-based knowledge in the discipline of Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Organismal Biology, or some combination

Make an original and substantive research contribution to sub-discipline

  • Think originally and independently to develop new knowledge, concepts and methods
  • Identify new research questions

Demonstrate advanced research skills

  • Be knowledgeable of historical development and able to articulate, discuss, and synthesize concepts and evidence in sub-discipline
  • Be knowledgeable of organisms and ecological or evolutionary systems pertinent to doctoral research
  • Master observational, experimental and analytical methods
  • Adhere to ethical standards of scientific research
  • Interpret and evaluate research findings
  • Demonstrate ability to communicate research findings, through oral presentation and written publications
  • Demonstrate ability to write proposals for fellowships and research funding

Demonstrate two or more of the following skills

  • Effective teaching skills in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Collaborative skills in research, teaching or outreach
  • Involvement in departmental and university organizations
  • Involvement in professional activities and organizations related to academic discipline
  • Involvement in outreach activities with students or the broader public