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(updated 10/28/22) Applications for admission to the M.S. and Ph.D. programs in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (EEB) are accepted once a year. The deadline for receipt of all application materials is 1 December for those applicants wishing to enroll in the fall or spring semester of the following academic year. Please note that EEB’s departmental deadline is earlier than the deadlines published on the Graduate Admissions website.

We place a premium on substantial prior research experience, along with an academic background consistent with a bachelor’s degree in one of the life sciences. Some applicants may be deficient in some areas of ecology and evolutionary biology. However, ecology and evolutionary biology are diverse fields, so there is no explicit set of courses required, and particular potential advisers may be willing to advise highly qualified applicants from a variety of educational backgrounds.

In general, applicants are expected to have an overall undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 point scale, and 3.0 or above for all science and mathematics courses. Please note that these EEB requirements are more restrictive than those published on the College-wide Graduate Admissions page.  Successful applicants will usually have GPAs well above these minima. Successful applicants typically have research experience as an undergraduate or have completed a Masters thesis in an appropriate field. However, please reach out to a potential advisor before deciding not to apply: we evaluate applicats holistically, and it is possible that something you see as a deficiency in your application might be outweighed by factors that make you an excellent addition to our program overall.

The general Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is NOT required for candidate evaluation or admission to the EEB graduate program.

Applicants whose native language is not English must submit results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Please see the Graduate Admissions Requirements for minimum required scores.

Applicants are expected to make direct contact with potential research advisors prior to submitting an application. In general, only those applicants for whom at least one potential research adviser (thesis or dissertation) has been identified will be accepted.

You may download a PDF of the information below, which includes the list of exemplar research questions. We also have videos to describe our program in more detail.

If you need help with the online application, please contact the Graduate Admissions Staff assigned to EEB. For other questions, please contact Brian O’Meara, Chair of the Graduate Admissions Committee.

Program Highlights

  • Our students publish dozens of papers annually in journals such as Science, Ecology, Systematic Biology, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, American Naturalist, Biological Invasions, Journal of College Science Teaching, and many more.
  • PhD graduate placement, for all graduates from 2000-2018: 43 tenure-track faculty, 22 postdocs, 28 government, with the others in NGOs, private business, or non-tenure track jobs. For those at least five years after graduation, 57% tenure-track faculty, 3% postdoc, 17% government.

  • Resources to support student research, in addition to external funding (i.e., internal funds, DNA sequencing facility, computer clusters, field station, boats).
  • Available training in teaching best practices, including a certificate in college teaching and training consistent with AAAS national recommendations.
  • Active initiatives to improve diversity in science (i.e., Program for Excellence & Equity in Research, EEB Women in Science).
  • Grad students receive health insurance, and tuition and fees are covered.
  • Annually students receive over hundreds of thousands of dollars in external funds (in addition to internal research funds).
  • Extensive outreach and service opportunities: students do invasive species removal, run taxonomic forays with the broader public, help organize Darwin Day Tennessee, mentor undergraduates, and high school researchers, and much more.
  • Students commonly develop their research projects in close partnership with NGOs, state and federal agencies and for-profit companies to ensure their research has real-world impact.
  • Nearby locations for research: Great Smoky Mountains N.P. (home to 17,000 documented species, including 1500 angiosperm, 200 bird, 66 mammals, and 67 fish species); numerous cave systems; campus greenhouses; experimental plots; and much more.
  • Vibrant community: 86 miles of greenways and trails in Knoxville, many festivals and parades, museums, live music, and more.
  • Active departmental graduate student organization (GREBE) to represent and help graduate students.

Potential students should contact advisors before applying: we only accept students into a lab (no rotations).  Application deadline Dec. 1, 2023.

Application ProceduresFieldwork in Hawaii

All application materials should be submitted through the Graduate School. Please visit the Graduate Admissions Application website for more information. International students should also view the information on the Graduate International Students page.

EEB has more application requirements than the Graduate School, but all departmental forms are available in the Graduate School’s online application system. The additional departmental requirements include:

  • Letters of Recommendation
    EEB requires letters of recommendation from each of three individuals qualified to assess the applicant’s potential as a graduate student. These individuals will usually have known the applicant in an academic capacity, such as a previous academic adviser, or as the undergraduate or graduate research adviser.
  • Departmental Application, which includes
    • Mentor Selection
    • Scholarships, Fellowships, Honors and/or Awards Received
    • Fellowships Applied For
    • Professional Goals
    • Independent Research Experience(s)
    • Publication(s)

The online application is long and has several parts. Once you start your application, you can save your work and log in later to finish. Please click here to view the full application (subject to change without notice).

While EEB’s application deadline is December 1, we highly recommend that applicants submit materials substantially earlier. We do not consider an application complete until ALL application materials have been received, including letters of recommendation. Please note there is also a $60 application fee, and applications cannot be processed without payment of the fee. If the application fee will cause financial hardship, prospective students can request a fee waiver by filling out this form. Receiving a fee waiver will in no way impact a prospective student’s chances of admission. Note that all applicants who are eventually admitted to the program will receive a reimbursement of $60 if they paid the fee themselves. It is the responsibility of applicants to make sure that their application is complete, including letters of recommendation, by the December 1 deadline.