Karen Swartz - Classes for Grad school

Ellen I. Paul toodles at wam.umd.edu
Fri Mar 17 07:41:26 EST 1995

Hi, Karen:

I've been following this thread with interest, and though my experience 
might be of some interest to you:

Ellen Paul

In article <46558.chale at sage.nrri.umn.edu>,
Cindy Hale <chale at SAGE.NRRI.UMN.EDU> wrote:
>I tried sending this to you personally but it got returned so decided to 
>just post it.
>You might look at the University of Minnesota, the St. Paul campus has a 
>Conservation Biology program that is very highly reccommended by students 
>that have been involved.  Another to check might be Utah State, I've heard 
>good things about it too.

I agree with Cindy that the program at Minnesota is a good one.  I just 
met one of their students this past weekend and he really likes the 
program.  I can also highly recommend the programs at Yale, Duke, 
Michigan, and the University of Maryland (mine).  The most recent issue 
of Conservation Biology has a list of all the programs in the U.S.  However, 
it is 
important to understand what conservation biology is.  It is not biology 
for those interested in conservation.  It is, by definition, the 
interdisciplinary study of ecology, resource economics, and policy, with 
some sociology, political science, anthropology, wildlife management, and 
a few other things thrown in.  See Primack's undergrad textbook 
Conservation Biology and you should have some idea of what conservation 
biology entails.  Don't make the mistake of thinking you will become a 
biologist in one of these programs.
>I terms of coursework I would talk to faculty or the graduate director of 
>the program(s) you are interested in and see what they would prefer you 
>have AND what would make you competitive since many of these programs 
>are difficult to get into, though I know the Uof MN program likes folks 
>with diverse backgrounds so that is not neccessarily a detriment to you.  
>Another consideration is that you will have TONS of deficiencies comming 
>into any program, since you do not have a biology or related undergraduate 

I did just this, when I decided to pursue a Ph.D. after finishing my 
master's.  I had no undergrad science courses at all.  I was advised to 
take the entire undergraduate sequence leading to the degree - which 
includes two semesters of inorganic chemistry, two of organic chemistry, 
two of physics, differential and integral calculus, organismal biology, 
cellular and developmental biology, a plant diversity/taxonomy/or ecology 
course, vertebrate and/or invertebrate zoology, genetics, and several 
upper level biology classes.  With time off for good behavior...actually, 
I've taken several of these already, so I have about 2 years to go before 
applying for the Ph.D. program, and then I will still have some 
deficiencies.  HOwever, my program does have a policy of admitting people 
who still have some coursework left to finish.

The real issue is not what's required, but what you need to be really 
proficient.  I struggled through my graduate ecology courses, and felt 
cheated because I did not have an adequate background.  In a Ph.D. 
program, you have to pass preliminaries and for that, you must have a 
very, very thorough, rigorous background.  I doubt that you can slide 
through a Ph.D. program without a strong undergrad background.  
Therefore, if you are sure you want to do a Ph.D. rather than a Master's 
in Conservation Biology, Cindy's advice makes good sense - take the 
undergrad courses first.  By the way - I hope you like statistics (aka 
sadistics).  Most programs require 2-3 graduate level courses.  

  You might want to check out what those would be and decide at 
>that point whether or not to try to get them satisfied before you enter 
>any program.  It's tough to make up a lot of deficiencies while trying to 
>work on current coursework and a thesis.  It also may be much less 
>expensive to make some of them up at community colleges or as an adult 
>special rather than at graduate student tuition rates.Some things to think 
>about, good luck, and welcome to the field!
>Cindy Hale
>University of Minnesota - Duluth
>Natural Resources Research Institute

For Cindy and everyone else - depending on what kind of work you want to 
do, you can make far more money far more reliably with a master's in 
conservation than with a Ph.D.  

Ellen Paul

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