K-State Division of Biology

Graduate Programs in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
in the Division of Biology at Kansas State University

The Division of Biology at Kansas State University offers Master's and Doctoral degree programs, and the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology section provides an outstanding environment for graduate research.  We have award-winning faculty with expertise in grassland ecology, a broad selection of graduate courses and research seminars, and specialized research facilities for a variety of sample and data analyses.  The cost of living in Manhattan, Kansas is inexpensive and graduate students in Biology are supported by fellowships from extramural grants to faculty advisors, teaching assistantships from K-State, and external scholarships from the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, and other sponsors.  Faculty members welcome letters of interest from prospective graduate students at any time, but formal applications are accepted twice a year.  If you are seeking a graduate program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, here are a list of the top ten reasons why you should consider Kansas State University as the best possible location for your graduate studies, followed by instructions on how to apply!


Butterfly Milkweed at Konza


Top Ten Reasons to Consider the Division of Biology at Kansas State University

  1. Outstanding faculty.  The Division of Biology includes a diverse group of faculty and research scientists with a wide range of research interests.  Our faculty are award-winning scientists who include four University Distinguished Professors (Blair, Dodds, Hartnett, and Joern) and faculty who have received awards for teaching and mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students (Blair, Haukos, Nippert, Sandercock).  Within the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology section, we have research groups with expertise in four major areas: evolutionary biology, aquatic ecology, terrestrial ecology, and vertebrate ecology.  All of these folks are potential faculty mentors, available to serve on supervisory committees, and are great resources to discuss new research ideas and experiments.     
  2. Grassland ecology and Konza Prairie.  One of the major strengths of the Division of Biology at Kansas State University is our integrated research program in grassland ecology.  Research scientists within the Division have considerable expertise in working with grassland ecosystems, with ongoing projects in North America, South America and Africa.  Studies of grassland ecosystems are timely because loss and degradation of native prairies are an ongoing conservation issue.  Grassland Dynamics: Long-Term Ecological Research in Tallgrass Prairie provides an overview of early ecological research in the Division of Biology.  A searchable database of publications resulting from grassland research in Biology is archived at the Konza Prairie LTER Program. The Division of Biology is home to the Institute for Grassland Studies which recently hosted the Grasslands in a Global Context Symposium in September 2011.  A great resource available to graduate students working at Kansas State University is the Konza Prairie Biological Station (Briggs, Director).  Konza Prairie is a 3,600 ha tallgrass prairie reserve that is only a 20 minute drive south of Manhattan.  Konza Prairie is part of a network of about 30 Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) sites funded by the National Science Foundation.  The biological resources of the station are remarkable, it supports a diverse plant community and good numbers of grassland animals, including several species of conservation concern.  The infrastructure is comprehensive, and includes lab facilities, workshops, project vehicles, and access to long-term experimental plots.  A considerable amount of background data on weather, habitat sampling and bird surveys are archived on the website for the Konza Prairie LTER Program (Blair, PI).  Programs for K-12 students and high school teachers include the Konza Environmental Education Program (KEEP). Other nearby sites that have also been used for graduate research include the Fort Riley Military Reservation (40,500 ha), and the Tallgrass Prairie National Reserve (4,500 ha).
  3. Research institutes and resources.  Kansas State University is a superb location for interdisciplinary research.  Three research institutes that include faculty and students from multiple colleges and departments include the Ecological Genomics Institute, and the Center for Understanding of Origins.  Kansas State University also has natural history collections and specialized labs for sample analyses, including the Herbarium, the Entomology Museum, the Stable Isotope Mass Spectrometry Lab, an Integrated Genomics Facility for DNA sequencing and genotyping, a Microscopy Facility with equipment for electron, fluorescence and confocal microscopy, and research centers in Functional Genomics for analyses of lipids and proteins.  The Division of Biology houses the Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, a research partnership jointly supported by the university, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, and the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey. 
  4. Graduate courses.  A Master's degree requires 30 credit hours of study, including 22 hours of course work at the 700-level and 8 hours of graduate research for the thesis.  A Doctor of Philosophy requires 60 hours of study, including a minimum of 24-30 hrs course work (with 15 hours of courses at the 800-level) and 30 hours of graduate research for the dissertation.  A one-semester graduate course at K-State is typically 3 credit hours.  Graduate students develop a Program of Study with their supervisory committee that is individually tailored to their research interests, and for more details see Graduate Studies in the Division of Biology.  Graduate students in the PhD program are expected to have one external member on their supervisory committee, and faculty from Entomology, Geography, Plant Pathology, and Statistics often make important contributions to our graduate training.  Graduate courses at Kansas State offer specialized training in a variety of disciplines.  One core course is required for all graduate students in Biology (Biol 863) and graduate courses in ecological topics in Biology are usually offered once every two years (where FO = fall of odd years, SE = spring of even years, etc.). 
  5. Seminars in Biology.  Seminars and journal clubs are an important part of the intellectual environment for any graduate program. 
  6. Opportunities for mentorship.  The Division of Biology offers resources for mentorship and training of graduate students.  The Biology Graduate Students Association represents the graduate student body with several standing committees, and coordinates financial support for travel to scientific meetings and a variety of social events.  First-year graduate students usually participate in the instruction of Biol 198 Principles of Biology or Biol 201 Organismic Biology, two team-taught courses where graduate students can receive on the job training in undergraduate instruction.  The Division of Biology has regularly hosted a 10-week summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program since 1995, and senior graduate students often play an important role in mentoring our undergraduate student participants.
  7. Graduate stipends, GAANN, and GK-12 fellowships.  The Division of Biology has two policies regarding graduate student training.  First, all graduate students contribute to instruction of undergraduate courses, regardless of their source of financial support.  Classroom instruction contributes to the departmental mission of undergraduate training and gives graduate students a foundation in teaching experience.  Second, the Division of Biology guarantees financial support for all graduate students for the duration of their graduate studies.  If you are accepted into our graduate program, you will continue to receive financial support as long as your supervisory committee agrees that you are making reasonable progress towards a degree.  Few other graduate programs in the United States offer this degree of financial security for Masters and Doctoral students.   
  8. Low cost of living  Manhattan, Kansas is a college town of ~52,000 people with good services and recreational opportunities, and graduate stipends support a good standard of living.  Tuition fees for graduate studies at Kansas State University are reasonable and currently about $269 per credit hour.  Graduate students are considered to be in-state residents for assessment of tuition fees.  Shared accommodation at <$500 per month is easy to find, and groceries are inexpensive.  Farmer's markets in the summer and fall offer great produce that is grown locally.  Tickets are usually inexpensive for concerts and theatre at the Manhattan Arts Center, performances at the McCain Auditorium at K-State, or to attend local concerts of the Red State Blues Band, a local band with members who are faculty in the Division of Biology!  Spouses or partners are usually successful at finding suitable employment and it is not uncommon for graduate students to be able to purchase their own houses in Manhattan or a nearby community.  Visit the websites of the City of Manhattan and the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce for more information. 
  9. Natural history.  In Kansas, there are a diverse number of groups with interests and expertise in the natural history of the Flint Hills and surrounding ecoregions.  Natural history groups include the Kaw Valley Mycological Society, Kansas Herpetological Society, Kansas Ornithological Society, Northern Flint Hills Audubon Society, and the Central Plains Society of Mammalogists  National organizations with state chapters include the Kansas Chapter of the American Fisheries Society and the Kansas Chapter of The Wildlife Society.  The Kansas Natural Resources Conference is an annual joint meeting among fisheries, wildlife, forestry, and range managers.  The Wildlife Society also has an undergraduate student chapter in the Division of Biology, the KSU Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society.  The Konza Environmental Education Program (KEEP) has a busy Schoolyard LTER program for K-12 students that is operated with assistance by many volunteer docents.  Many of these groups have interests in conservation of natural resources, and offer scheduled seminars, field trips and social activities.  For bird-watchers, the avifauna of Kansas is an interesting mix of western and eastern species, and you can look at the Bird Checklist for Kansas (KOS checklist) and the Kansas Breeding Bird Atlas.  Kansas is a great place to live if you enjoy hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism is responsible for management of natural resources.
  10. Career development.  Graduate students who have completed theses and dissertations under the guidance of faculty mentors in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology section have used their graduate training to pursue successful careers in academia, teaching, government agencies, and industry. 

How to Apply

If you are interested in working with a faculty member in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, we recommend that you start by sending an informal letter of enquiry by e-mail or regular mail, along with a copy of your resume or curriculum vitae.  Important information to include would be a description of your past research experience, a statement of your specific research interests, and your preferred timetable for starting a graduate degree program.  Application deadlines are December 15 for admittance in the Fall semester and August 1 for admittance in the Spring semester.  Deadlines are set early to accommodate international students who must be approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  For current information on application procedures, please view the specific application procedures for Admission and Financial Support to the Division of Biology, and the Graduate School Admissions for the Graduate School at Kansas State University.  For more information, contact Melissa Bruce, Graduate Secretary for the Division of Biology at Kansas State University at phone (785) 532-6615 or email melbruce@k-state.edu.

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Last updated: August 2016