Graduate Programs in Ecology and
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!
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 Diane Ukena, Graduate Secretary for the Division
of Biology at Kansas State University at phone (785) 532-6615 or email dukena at
k-state dot edu.
- Outstanding faculty. The
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,
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
- Evolutionary ecology. Faculty using molecular methods or
model organisms to investigate questions in evolutionary include:
Carolyn Ferguson (plant molecular systematics),
Mike Herman (nematode genomics),
Loretta Johnson (plant ecological genomics),
Ari Jumpponen (fungal ecology),
Ted Morgan (evolutionary and ecological genomics),
Brad Olson (evolution of multicellularity in plants), and
Mark Ungerer (plant evolutionary genetics).
- Aquatic ecology. Our integrated group of aquatic ecologists
working with freshwater ecosystems include:
Walter Dodds (freshwater ecology),
Martha Mather (applied aquatic ecology).
- Terrestrial ecology. Faculty working on the ecophysiology,
population biology, and ecosystem dynamics of terrestrial systems include:
John Blair (ecosystem science),
John Briggs (plant ecology),
David Harnett (plant population biology),
(microbial ecology, starting Fall 2014) studies aquatic-terrestrial
interactions in streams and soils.
- Vertebrate ecology. Faculty working on the ecology and
evolutionary biology of terrestrial vertebrates include:
(habitat quality and migratory birds),
Tony Joern (grazing ecology),
Don Kaufman (mammalogy),
Sandercock (wildlife biology and demography),
- Research Assistant Professors and Instructors in Ecology and
Evolutionary Biology include:
Craine (resource strategies of plants), Andrew
Hope (conservation genetics, starting Fall 2014),
Eva Horne (herpetology),
Mark Mayfield (plant systematics), and
- 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
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
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
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
LTER Program (Blair, PI). Programs for K-12 students and high school
teachers include the
Environmental Education Program (KEEP) and
Earthworms Across Kansas (Snyder, PI). Other nearby sites that have also
been used for graduate research include the Fort Riley Military Reservation
(40,500 ha), and the
Prairie National Reserve (4,500 ha).
- 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
for Understanding of Origins. Kansas State University also has natural
history collections and specialized labs for sample analyses, including the
Entomology Museum, the
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
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.
- Graduate courses. A
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.).
Biol 863 Professional Skills (various faculty instructors, S),
An introduction for new graduate students in the mechanics of becoming a
scientist and professional biologist.
Biol 810 Analysis of Ecological Gradients (Gido, SO), An introduction to
analytical methods and conceptual approaches to evaluate patterns of communities
across environmental gradients. Multivariate statistical techniques will be used
to analyze data and quantify species abundance patterns in a variety of
Biol 818 Advanced Aquatic Ecology
(Dodds, FO), A study of advanced issues and methodology in limnological
sciences, including a workshop on algal taxonomy, and an applied group project.
Biol 822 Landscape Ecology (With, FO),
Effect of spatial pattern on ecological processes.
Biol 823 Demographic Methods (Sandercock, FE),
Theory and methods of quantitative approaches for the study of population
dynamics. Advances in matrix methods and mark-recapture statistics for plant and
Biol 826 Nutrient Dynamics (Blair,
SO), The cycling of elements in ecosystems with emphasis on macronutrients such
as nitrogen, phosphorous, and major cations, and the influence of variables such
as acid rain on nutrient dynamics.
Biol 865 Advanced Plant Ecology (Hartnett, FE), Advanced study of theory in
population and community ecology as applied to higher plants.
Biol 870 Advanced Plant
Systematics (Ferguson, SE), Taxonomy, phylogenetic inference and major themes in
the evolution of vascular plants.
Biol 890 Community Ecology (Joern, FE)
Advanced Spatial Modeling (Haukos, FE)
Biol 890 Mycorrhizal Symbiosis (Jumpponen, SO)
Biol 890 Ecological Genomics
(Johnson and Herman, FO)
- Other departments: The
Statistics at Kansas State is strong in applied statistics and offers a
Graduate Certificate in Applied Statistics. Similarly, the
Department of Geography
Graduate Certificate in GIScience for students making extensive use of
Geographic Information Systems. Colleagues in the
Departments of Entomology and
Plant Pathology also regularly teach courses in ecology, evolution, and
- Seminars in Biologygy. Seminars
and journal clubs are an important part of the intellectual environment for any
- The Division of Biology hosts the
Biology Departmental Seminar Series
which is held on Friday afternoons at 4 pm. Invited speakers are
usually established faculty or research scientists who travel to K-State to
give presentations on a variety of topics in modern biology.
Departmental speakers are often hosted by faculty in Biology but each
semester 1-2 speakers are hosted by graduate students.
- The Ecology and Evolutionary Biology section offers the
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Seminar Series which meets on Thursdays
at noon. EEB speakers often include graduate students or postdoctoral
fellows from nearby universities. An annual highlight of the EEB
seminar series is 'Graduate Students on Parade' where all EEB graduate
students present short 4-minute/4-slide talks on their current research
- There are several journal clubs that meet weekly, including the
Ecological Genomics Journal Club which meets on Tuesdays afternoons and
the Aquatic Ecology Journal Club which meets on Friday afternoons.
- Elsewhere on campus, there are also weekly seminar series in
Biochemistry, Entomology, Plant Pathology and other departments that are
often of interest.
- Opportunities for mentorship. The
Division of Biology offers resources for mentorship and training of graduate
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
Principles of Biology or Biol 201 Organismic Biology, two team-taught course
where graduate students can receive on the job training in undergraduate
instruction. The Division of Biology has hosted a 10-week summer
Experiences for Undergraduates Program since 1995, and senior graduate
students often play an important role in mentoring our undergraduate student
- 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
you will continue to receive financial supportt 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.
- Support is offered through Graduate Teaching Assistantships (from K-State) and
Graduate Research Assistantships (from extramural grants to faculty advisors).
Graduate stipends are the same for GTA/GRA assistantships, MSc/PhD programs, and
foreign and domestic students at ~$24,000 per year.
- Incoming graduate students with outstanding academic records are eligible to be
T.R. Donoghue Scholarships which provide an additional financial supplement
of ~$5,000 for the first two years of study.
- New graduate students are eligible to apply for fellowships from our program in
Evolution and Genomics in Changing Environments, which has been funded by a
new grant from the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN)
program of the Department of Education (Johnson, PI) for 2009 to 2013.
GAANN fellows will be selected based on financial need and will receive
specialized training in instruction of college students.
- Students enrolled in graduate studies at K-State are also eligible to apply for
fellowships from our new program,
Evidence-based inquiry into the distant, remote, or past (Ferguson, PI).
EIDRoP is a GK-12 program funded by the National Science Foundation that
matches graduate students with teachers at high schools in nearby Junction City
for science instruction and curriculum development. The graduate stipends
from fellowships in the GAANN and GK-12 programs are $30,000 per year.
- 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
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
Arts Center, performances at the
Auditorium at K-State, or to attend local concerts of the
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
of Manhattan and the
Manhattan Chamber of Commerce
for more information.
- 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
Valley Mycological Society,
Kansas Ornithological Society,
Flint Hills Audubon Society, and the
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
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
Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society. The
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 ()
Kansas Breeding Bird Atlas.
Kansas is a great place to live if you enjoy hunting, fishing and outdoor
recreation, and the
Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism is responsible for management of
- Career development.
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.
- Academic institutions.
Graduate students who have gone on to faculty or instructor positions at
research or teaching institutions include
Bryon Clark (PhD 1989) at Southeastern Oklahoma State University,
Mary Ann Vinton (MSc 1990) at Creighton University, Elly L. Rustiati
(MSc 1993) at University of Lampung (Indonesia),
Eric Strauss (MSc 1995) at the University of Wisconsin at Lacrosse,
Karen Hickman (PhD 1996) at Oklahoma State University,
Brock McMillan (PhD 1999) at Brigham Young University (Utah),
Michelle Evans-White (MSc 2000) at the University of Arkansas,
Sarah Baer (PhD, 2001) at the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale,
Ray Matlack (PhD 2001) at West Texas A&M University,
Melody Bernot (PhD 2001) and
Randall Bernot (PhD 2003) at Ball State University (IA),
Melinda Smith (PhD 2002) at Colorado State University,
Bill Jensen (PhD 2003) at Emporia State University (KS),
Gail Wilson (PhD 2003) at Oklahoma State University,
Nicole Gerlanc (PhD 2004) at Frederick Community College (Maryland),
Aaron Reed (PhD 2004) at the University of Missouri at Kansas City,
Ryan Rehmeier (PhD 2005) at Simpson College
(Iowa), Bala Thiagarajan (PhD 2006) at the University of Wisconsin at
(PhD 2007) at The Ohio State University at Lima,
(PhD 2007) at South Dakota State University,
(PhD 2007) at College of William and Mary (Virginia), Justin Murdock (PhD
2008) at Tennessee Technical University,
Madhav Nepal (PhD 2008) at South Dakota State University,
Jonathan Conard (PhD 2009) at Sterling College (Kansas),
Andy Gregory (PhD 2011) at Bowling Green State University (Ohio), and
Dustin Wilgers (PhD 2011) at McPherson College (Kansas).
- Federal government. Former
students working for the federal government include Ken Fritz (MSc 1997) who
is an ecologist with the US Environmental Protection Agency, Robb Kaler (MSc
2007) who is a seabird biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
and Lance McNew (PhD 2011) who is working for the Alaska Science Center with
the U.S. Geological Survey.
- State government. State
employees include Jim Pitman (MSc 2003), Christian Hagen (PhD 2003) and Tony
Mong (MSc 2005) who are wildlife biologists working for state government
agencies, and Kyle Winders (MSc 2010) who is a research scientist with the
Missouri Department of Conservation.
- Industry and nongovernmental
organizations. Former students working for conservation with
industry or conservation organizations include: Karl Kosciuch (PhD
2006) is a wildlife biologist with Tetra Tech
Inc., Duncan McKinley (PhD 2007) is a postdoc with the Smithsonian
Environmental Research Center, and Khara Strum (MSc 2008) is a habitat
ecologist studying wildlife use of rice fields in California with the Pt.
Reyes Bird Observatory.
- Konza students. Additional
information on students completing graduate projects at Konza Prairie are
archived on the website for the
Konza Prairie Biological Station.
Kansas State University
| Division of Biology
Last updated: May 2013