The Master of Arts in Ecology Evolution and Conservation Biology integrates biological sciences with environmental policy, project planning, and research experience. This interdisciplinary approach provides students with a range of options for building their careers. Graduates may continue their education in a Ph.D. program or enter the job market directly as scientific researchers, teachers or administrators in a NGO or government agency dedicated to the conservation of natural resources. The M.A. program at E3B is project-based, meaning that all students must complete a capstone project as a major requirement for the degree. Students have the option of tailoring their course work to develop their interests, and to craft a capstone project that allows them to gain additional skills and experience.
Flexibility – Learn new skills to prepare for a Ph.D.; Gain real world conservation experience to begin a career with conservation NGOs; Focus on translating science to policy before moving into government positions.
Research Opportunities – Partner with a diverse faculty studying microbes to macroecology, sharks to starlings, ethnobiology to ecosystem services. Our partnerships with key New York cultural institutions such as the Wildlife Conservation Society, The American Museum of Natural History, The New York Botanical Garden, and the Ecohealth Alliance mean that students have access to world-class collections, cutting edge research facilities and field research across the globe.
Support – Although Columbia University is a large institution, the M.A. program maintains the student-centered focus of a small program. We have small classes, a vibrant student body, a lecture series that draws top researchers from around the country and numerous opportunities for M.A. students to be intellectually and socially involved with the department. At Columbia you are not a face in the crowd and we will work with you to help you get where you want to be upon graduation.
M.A. COURSE REQUIREMENTS
The M.A. in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology provides for flexibility in tailoring the lineup of courses that is most appropriate for each student’s interests.
To earn their M.A. degree students must complete a minimum of 4 semesters, including a minimum of:
- 2 Resident Units (A Resident Unit (RU) is equal to one semester at full-time tuition).
- 2 Extended Resident Units (registration status for each semester in the second year of the program, at a reduced tuition)
- 43 Points (Credits)
- A capstone project (see below)
All students must complete the following Core Courses:
- Fundamentals of Ecology (EEEB GR6112) and Fundamentals of Evolution (EEEB GR6110; 3 credits each)
- Conservation Biology (EEEB GR6905, 3 credits).
- Four Semesters of Research Seminar (EEEB GR6300, 1 credit per semester).
- Thesis development seminars (EEEB GR4850 and EEEB GR4851) for 3 credits each.
- Statistics (EEEB 5005/5015 or more advanced, with approval)
In addition to the core courses listed above, students must also take a balance of course electives as outlined below.
- One or more Policy electives
- One or more Ecology/Behavior/Conservation Biology electives
- Additional relevant electives to meet the 43-credit graduation requirement
THE CAPSTONE PROJECT
The Capstone Project gives students the opportunity to design, participate, and carry out a research, outreach, or education activity as the culmination of their training at E3B. The Capstone Project is designed to be flexible, allowing students to explore a variety of activities and potential outputs. Students must work with their advisors, committees, and the DMAP in identifying a suitable project. Capstone projects may be a Research Thesis or a Practical Thesis. For both types of Capstone projects, a project proposal must be approved by the committee (see below) and the DMAP by the end of the first year. Generally, the DMAP and the project advisor will make the final decision about the proposed work and approve proposals that (a) are considered suitable for a M.A. degree project, and (b) are in line with the study program of the student.
Due to the flexible nature of the Capstone Project, the final outcome of your work can take many forms. However, all projects must include: 1) A substantial body of work that demonstrates independent critical thinking, synthesis, and analysis in your field; 2) a final written summary; and 3) a presentation in a special research seminar, scheduled for the last week of the spring term for all graduating students to present their projects to the broader E3B community.
We strongly encourage products that are publishable in the peer-reviewed literature, especially for students wishing to pursue a Ph.D. or a career focused on research. We also highly recommend depositing the final version in the Columbia Academic Commons, an open access repository for scholarly works.
Students typically complete field work for their project in the summer between year 1 and year 2 of the degree program. In some cases, students are able to take a ‘research semester’ (typically the fall semester of their second year) in addition to or in place of the summer field season. Students will receive up to 12 credits for their field work, data collection and research activity by registering for Directed Research; the actual number of credits awarded will depend on the overall work load
ADVISORS AND COMMITTEES
All students need to form a committee with 3 members for their capstone project. This committee must include a project advisor and two additional committee members. Two members must be affiliated with E3B (including affiliate faculty from our partner institutions), and you must have one core E3B faculty member on your committee.
The M.A. application deadline is January 15 each year.
A background in ecology and evolutionary biology, including undergraduate courses in
introductory biology and upper-division ecology, evolution, and genetics (or equivalents).
GRE general test. Biology Subject test strongly recommended.
Applicants are encouraged to contact potential faculty mentors before applying.
Application Form: For further information on how to apply, please follow the link below,
which will lead you to the ‘Prospective Students’ page of the Graduate School of Arts
and Sciences (GSAS) of Columbia University. GSAS manages all of the administrative
aspect of our graduate programs. On the GSAS web site, you will be able to fill out an
online application by following the link to the M.A. programs.
The application materials include basic biographical information, a statement of purpose, transcripts, your CV/resumé, letters of recommendation from at least two people familiar with your academic and intellectual capabilities (you will include the contact information for your recommendation writers, who will load their letters into the online system directly). There is also an option to include a writing sample. Note that the GRE is no longer required, and we do not require any GRE subject exams. Additional information about supporting materials can be found here.
Current Columbia Undergraduates (Columbia College, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of General Studies, and Barnard College) interested in pursuing an MA degree in our program may apply early for admissions into the MA program and receive permission to commence coursework for the program while still enrolled as undergraduates. Students accepted into this option that then choose to continue on to the MA program may then transfer up to 3 courses worth of transfer credit toward the MA degree. The BA/MA option has different application dates and admissions requirements, so Read more about this option here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can’t find your answer? Check the FAQ page of the Graduate School of Art and Sciences
(GSAS) website for additional information on administrative matters and on the
registration process. Alternatively send us an Email.
- What is the application deadline?
The M.A. application deadline is January 15th.
- Can I apply for Spring admission?
There is no Spring admission for the regular M.A. program. Current Columbia Undergraduates may apply for the BA/MA option at multiple points throughout the year.
- Is there a part-time option for the M.A. program?
Yes. Further information can be found on the GSAS web site.
- How competitive is the admissions process?
Admission is competitive. In recent years, about 30% of applicants were accepted into the program – but the applicants are a self-selected and talented pool of potential students.
- Should I visit?
Visiting Columbia is an excellent idea. A visit will allow you to get a first-hand and direct impression of our program, department, faculty and students. It will also help you decide if New York City is for you. Before coming to visit, arrange appointments with faculty whose interests match yours.
- Does Columbia provide housing for M.A. students?
Housing is not guaranteed for Master’s students, but students who do not get campus housing are generally able to find a place nearby. Columbia maintains an off-campus housing assistance office to aid students in finding housing.
- What is an RU?
RU, or Residence Unit, and ER, or Extended Residence, are registration categories tied into tuition fees. A Residence Unit is equivalent to full-time registration for a semester. 2 RU’s are a mandatory requirement for the M.A. degree (in Year 1). In the second year M.A. students register for Extended Residence, this allows them to register for classes at a reduced cost relative to the RU tuition.
- What type of employment would I qualify for after the M.A. degree?
Although our program is relatively young, we can report that on average, 90 percent of our graduates are either employed or have been accepted into a Ph.D. program. Our students are pursuing careers in government, NGOs, education, and research.
- How many students are in the program?
There are currently 22 students in the program. We typically welcome 10-15 new students each year.
10.Can MA students fund their education through teaching assistantships?
No, this is not possible at Columbia. Nevertheless M.A. students are offered the possibility of registering with the Department for a paid Reading Assistantship in undergraduate courses.
11.How long does it take to finish the M.A. degree?
Four semesters of full-time enrollment (2 academic years). Part time registration is possible, which would extend this period, but the degree must be finished within 4 years.
12.You encourage prospective students to seek faculty mentors for their future thesis research. How do I go about this?
A good starting point is the faculty page of the E3B website. You’ll find short bios which include research interests. Send an Email to the faculty members that share your same interests and inquire about projects and opportunities. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get replies, all of our faculty have pretty busy schedules and may need a reminder to follow up. To ensure better response rates, make sure your emails are stimulating and clearly state your interests.
If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact us!
TUITION AND FEES
Tuition is set by Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Please check the GSAS website for the most up-to-date information on tuition and fees. Note that the E3B program is listed under the “All Other Master’s Programs” in the Tuition for Master’s programs menu. Students in the E3B M.A. program must register for 2 Residence Units (one per semester in the first year) and then 2 Extended Residence Units (one per semester in the second year), so tuition is significantly lower in the second year of the program. Students considering part-time enrollment should contact the DMAP for more information.
FINANCING YOUR EDUCATION
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has a comprehensive website for information on financing your education at Columbia. You can find information about loans, student employment, fellowships, and the yellow-ribbon program for Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces and their dependents.
Former and current E3B M.A. students have had success in applying for the following external funding opportunities to support tuition and fees:
National Science Foundation: Graduate Student Research Fellowship. We strongly encourage students to apply for this program in the lead up to applying for admissions to Columbia.
CONSERVATION BIOLOGY SCHOLARSHIP
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology offer a limited number of partial scholarships for students accepted into the MA in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology. If you would like to be considered for this scholarship, in addition to submitting your full application for admissions through the GSAS website, you must email a document addressing the two questions below by January 16, firstname.lastname@example.org. Our admissions panel will consider scholarship applications AFTER we have made admissions decisions (admissions decisions will not be based on information provided here), so please ensure you provide your full name and email address to match your application.
- Please describe, in 300 words or less,why you are an exceptional candidate for a scholarship to our program
- Please describe, in 300 words or less, why you are in need of financial assistance, and what additional sources of support you plan to use or apply for to support your education (e.g. grants, off-campus work, federal work-study, loan programs, personal savings). We encourage you to review the information below to identify sources of funding.
M.A. students have the option of registering with the Department for paid Reading Assistantship in undergraduate courses. Reading Assistants support a course instructor throughout a semester, and provide students with a modest tuition reduction as well as a small stipend. The Reading Assistantship will allow students to develop additional skills for a variety of professional directions that they may choose to follow. Reading Assistantships are voluntary and limited in number based on the needs of the department and allocations from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. There is no guarantee that M.A. students will be able to participate as Reading Assistants, and students must be in good academic standing to apply to fill a Reading Assistantship position.
FUNDING PROJECT WORK
Students may apply for the E3B MA Student Research Grants for up to $1,500 to support their thesis project (pending the availability of funds). These grants are typically applied for in the second semester of the degree. Grant applications require a project description and budget, and allocated funds must be used for the purposes described in the grant application. Students may also apply for matching funds of up to $300 from GSAS to support their fieldwork, although this funding is not guaranteed.
TRAVEL TO MEETINGS
Pending the availability of funds, M.A. students can receive up to $450 from the department in support of travel to a scientific meeting (approved by the DMAP) any time during their 2-year studentship. In most cases, students are likely to attend meetings in their second year, when they have the greatest chance of presenting their own research (which is strongly encouraged!). The student must be enrolled in the M.A. program in order to be eligible for reimbursement. Students are also encouraged to apply for matching funds from GSAS for conference attendance, as well as for student awards, student travel grants, and student volunteer programs from the conference they plan to attend.
E3B is a vibrant, fun department to become a part of. Our students and faculty work hard, but take the time to socialize and have fun together. We have an active graduate student association, and our students regularly take advantage of life in New York- from baseball games and Broadway shows, to farmers markets and ice skating.
New and continuing graduate students are invited to a weekend-long retreat at the Black Rock Forest Consortium in the Hudson Valley- a great way to start the new year, make new friends, and catch up with one another.
We also have an annual welcome back BBQ on Columbia’s beautiful campus, have a holiday party in December and toast our new graduates in the Spring.
We host speakers from around the country and world at our weekly seminars, where students interact one-on-one with our visitors at a special graduate student lunch, over coffee, and during a social hour after each seminar. These weekly meetings are not only a great way to meet and learn from top scientists, but they are a chance to get together as a department.
We have an active birding/botany group that ventures out into city parks most weeks, teams that participate in intramurals, and an annual ‘winter games’ competition.
Students in our department are also part of the larger graduate and science communities at Columbia, and are part of many different groups with interests varying from trivia and volleyball, to film and music. Students also have opportunities to get involved in community service events like Girls’ Science Day, and to present their work at University-wide conferences.
If you have specific questions about the MA program, please email Sara Kross, Director of the MA Program.
Limited amounts of financial aid are available to successful applicants to the program
Research Seminars and Student Seminars are important weekly events in Department E3B. On Tuesdays, invited researchers, Columbia faculty and graduating E3B Ph.D. students present their work. On Thursdays, E3B M.A. and Ph.D. students give brief presentations of their work in progress.