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Prospective graduate students apply to Graduate Fields of Study at Cornell rather than departments. Most Graduate Fields are more inclusive than any one Department. Graduate Fields are, in a sense, virtual, and bring together faculty and students with shared intellectual interests, irrespective of their departmental homes. Every year in March (however, this year's event was held virtually in September 2020), EEB along with the Department of Entomology and the School of Integrative Plant Science host the annual Diversity Preview Weekend. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or scroll down for more details.
Program and Faculty
The Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology provides its students with rich opportunities to study organic diversity, including its origins, maintenance and consequences. Our graduate students pursue topics across a broad set of interlinked fields, including ecosystem biology and biogeochemistry, community ecology and population biology, organismal biology, chemical and molecular ecology, population genetics and genomics, speciation and macroevolution. Immersive field study is an integral component of our graduate program; in 2018, the department celebrated 50 years of field ecology. Learn more about our Florida field course, and committment to field teaching!
The program emphasizes broad thinking and encourages students to be both interdisciplinary and independent. We seek students who will pursue their own innovative, question-driven research while contributing to our intellectual and social community. Many of our students develop research themes that are not derived directly from those of their advisor. Our program may be particularly well suited for students who are skilled at bridging disciplines, and who can therefore take full advantage of Cornell's expansive intellectual and technological resources in the life sciences and related fields.
Our students' research questions address fundamental issues in basic and applied sciences, span large and small spatial and temporal scales, and apply experimental, observational, theoretical, statistical, molecular and chemical approaches. Many graduates of our program go on to become leaders within their academic discipline or to have large impacts in government, conservation and public policy. Our students regularly publish in the highest profile journals and move on to prestigious postdoctoral and faculty positions. Recent faculty-grad student collaborations lead to the creation of active-learning techniques used to help undergraduate students learn about complex evolutionary topics like speciation. Follow this link to learn more: "What is speciation, how does it occur, and why is it important for conservation?" CourseSource, https://doi.org/10.24918/cs.2020.28.
Nearly all students in our program work directly towards a PhD degree. EEB is home to approximately 60 students at any time. Our students come from the US and several countries around the world.
What is a Graduate Field?
Prospective graduate students apply to Graduate Fields of Study at Cornell rather than departments. Most Graduate Fields are more inclusive than any one Cornell Department. Graduate Fields are, in a sense, virtual, and bring together faculty and students with shared intellectual interests, irrespective of their departmental homes.
Students in the Graduate Field of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) are all advised by faculty who are members of that graduate field. Faculty in the Field of EEB include faculty based in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, as well as additional faculty who reside in the Departments of Entomology, Natural Resources and the Environment, Neurobiology and Behavior, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and the School of Integrative Plant Science. Any member of Cornell's Graduate Faculty, from any Department, can serve on students' dissertation committees.
Every graduate student will also have a departmental home, which is generally the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, at least the first year. After the first or second year, graduate students will have the same departmental home as their primary graduate advisor.
Students are admitted on an annual cycle that begins when they submit an application by the yearly December 1st deadline. Final offers of admission and funding decisions are made in February and March. Most students then enter the program in the following Fall semester, though rarely they may arrange a deferred admission for January or to the subsequent Fall.
Masters or PhD degree: Virtually all students enter directly into the PhD program. While we have a Masters degree on the books, we very rarely admit Masters students through external applications. If a Masters program is better for you, then we recommend looking into one of the other graduate fields at Cornell with long established Masters programs.
Students are initially admitted to work with one or two faculty advisors, though some later switch advisors as their interests or research themes change. Admission decisions are made by a faculty admissions committee, but it is important for prospective students to identify and establish a connection with potential advisors prior to applying. It is wise to contact faculty whose work interests you, explaining your interests and background and inquiring whether they are actively seeking new students and might have an interest in supervising you. Admission to our program is highly competitive, as we typically admit fewer than 10% of applicants.
Students are accepted from a range of undergraduate majors from the natural sciences, physical sciences, mathematics and humanities. Our students' backgrounds are correspondingly varied: some enter the program directly following their undergraduate degree, others with a Masters degree or other post-undergraduate experience in research, consulting, the Peace Corps, Teach for America, etc.
Follow this link for more information on the application process. If you have questions about the application process, contact the Graduate Field Assistant, Patty Jordan. If you have questions about the graduate program as a whole, contact our faculty co-Directors of Graduate Studies, Alex Flecker or Monica Geber.
Graduate Student Life
Current EEB graduate students have wide-ranging interests and backgrounds, and our program's culture values friendly interaction, collaboration, respectful debate, and scientific excellence. Faculty and lab group web pages are also a great source of information about our community. Get to know the EEB graduate student community online; find out about events, connect with current grads, and more!
Ithaca is a small city, over half the residents of which are related in some way to Cornell. The city cultivates a remarkably rich cultural diversity, with regular cultural infusions from NYC and other coastal cities without big-city urban problems. Nearby Trumansburg hosts the annual GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance every July. About half of our grad students live in the surrounding country-side of farms, woodlots and gorges, which is nowhere more than fifteen minutes away by bike. Spring, summer and fall are made for the famous Ithaca farmer's market and hikes in the many natural areas near campus, and winter brings rich opportunities for snow sports. Check out our EEB graduate student Hitchhiker's Guide to Ithaca; a great resource for incoming graduate students.
Requirements and Funding
We guarantee our incoming Ph.D. students five years of support, including four years of summer support.
Our program has a few standard requirements and milestones on the path to the awarding of the Ph.D. Follow this link for full details regarding graduate program requirements, funding and teaching opportunities.
The Cornell University Diversity Preview Weekend is normally in March, however this year's event was held virtually in September 2020. This preview weekend is intended to introduce attendees to our research programs the year before they apply to graduate school. If you identify as an underrepresented minority student (Black/African American, Latina/o or Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander, or first generation college student), or you inhabit another axis of minority status (e.g. LGBTQIA, disabled persons, low income), this event is for you. Learn more and apply at the Diversity Preview Weekend by following this link: cornellDPW.org.
Fostering diversity among students, researchers, and faculty is a priority for our department. We work to create an inclusive environment and are committed to improving the representation of minority groups within the field of ecology and evolution. Such a diversity brings together a wide range of experiences and worldviews enriching the overall graduate school experience. We encourage students from a diverse range of backgrounds to apply to our PhD program. Below are resources to improve inclusion and representation of minority groups in our department.
Cornell Based Outreach Programs
Cornell Diversity Resources
- Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI)
- Cornell Diversity Dashboards - Data resource
- Black Graduate Professional Student Association
- QGrads (Cornell’s LGBTQIA+ Graduate Student Association); formerly oSTEM@Cornell
- India Association, Cornell University
- Cornell Latin American Student Society
- Einaudi Centre - Funding and networking for international scholars.
- Chinese Student Association (Facebook page)
- English Language Support Office
- CIRTL - Future Faculty and Academic Careers
- International Teaching Assistants Program Course
- Cornell Graduate School: Fellowship opoortunities
- McNair Scholars Program: Database of graduate funding opportunities
- OEDb: Open Education Database
Grad Student Awards
EEB graduate students past and present have been recognized and rewarded for their excellence in teaching at both the departmental and University level; follow this link to our list of Graduate Student Awards to learn more.
Grad Student Alumni Spotlight
Suzanne Pierre's (she/her; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 2018) Ph.D. research focused on the biotic and abiotic drivers of soil nitrogen (N) cycling and availability to plants and microbes. Suzanne was advised by Professor Tim Fahey (Natural Resources) and co-advised by Professor Peter Groffman (Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies). Suzanne was initially motivated by the fact global forest productivity is highest in warm, moist parts of the globe, but that within those forests, the nutrients that support forest growth are recycled by temperature-sensitive microbes. Knowing that global climate change promises temperature increases around the world, Suzanne sought to identify the mechanisms that control the response of soil N-cycling microbes to rising temperature using an environmental functional gene approach. (Pierre et al. 2017, Ecology).
In addition to this research, Suzanne initiated the first student and faculty dialogue on diversity and racial equity within Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and co-created the Diversity Preview Weekend program alongside fellow PhD student Cait McDonald. Suzanne was a funded Trainee in the NSF Cross-Scale Biogeochemistry and Climate IGERT program, a Sloan Fellow, a member of the Bouchet Honors Society, and was awarded the Cornell Diversity Change Agent award in 2017. Suzanne is now an Environmental scientist/Senior environmental educator at the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco, while continuing as a research associate at UC Berkeley. Follow this link to learn more about Suzanne's current work: https://www.suzannepierre.com/.