Request for advice regarding graduate work in bio

Arleen Feng ez043419 at
Tue Mar 14 22:35:25 EST 1995

>Karen at .MISSING-HOST-NAME. wrote (in part):

>I graduated from Rice in '92 with a BA in German, but I want to 
>return to school (for an MS or PhD) in conservation ecology/fish & wildlife.
>...would like some advice [on taking classes before applying].

>1. Should I concentrate on simply upper level bio/ecology courses (I've
>already taken basic bio), or take courses like chemistry, calculus or
>statistics instead?

>2. Will one year be enough? 


The short answer is "it depends"--on the particular program and on your 

I went back to school (after 16 years as an engineer), spent a year and 
half taking both basic prerequisites and upper-division/grad bio 
courses at the local state university campus.  Now finishing an MS in 
Ecology (home department Wildlife, Fish & Cons. Bio) at UC Davis.  It was 
cheaper and I'm glad I got a lot of stuff out of the way beforehand (note 
I already had done the physics and calculus).  The Ecology group here is 
diverse and quite a few students are accepted with "deficiencies", 
which they have to make up within the first year.  

I'm not familiar with other programs so it's important to check out
their requirements as well as policies and less-explicit expectations.
Ask the program's chair and/or main staffperson, and also ask for current 
grad student contacts to get their views.

Some other questions that may be relevant:

Do you have relevant work/volunteer experience (e.g. wildlife rehab center, 
botanical garden, park cleanup or planning group) that will also give 
you great reference letters?  If not, doing upper-level bio courses and 
independent study projects early (and well) enough to give you good 
academic recommendations would be very important, and could also help you 
focus your research interests and career goals.

Are you comfortable with talking your way around requirements and picking 
up say, genetics, on the fly, or do you prefer a classroom context and 
doing things in recommended sequence?  Are the prejudices/tolerances of your 
prospective major professor compatible with your inclinations?
Also, while a good statistical background is essential, ecological data 
doesn't usually follow the kind of experimental format taught in many 
stats classes and getting the right teacher and learning context is 
more important than taking a course just to have on your transcript.

I think it's a great field--good luck!

			Arleen Feng:  ayfeng at

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