The Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology, College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture offers graduate study leading to a Master of Science in Wildlife Ecology, a non-thesis Master of Wildlife Conservation, and a Doctoral degree in Wildlife Ecology. A broad range of ecosystems, modern laboratory facilities, and a diversified staff provide excellent opportunities for graduate study in wildlife ecology. Emphasis is placed on detailed studies of wildlife species and the habitats in which they live. Research may be conducted in such areas as terrestrial and aquatic ecology, fisheries, physiology, behavior, population dynamics, resource management, and the influence of environmental disturbances.
The department is home to federal biologists with the U.S. Geological Survey, Maine Cooperative Fisheries and Wildlife Research Unit. These scientists have faculty appointments and advise graduate students.
Students are admitted to these graduate programs based on the strength of their academic records, GRE scores, experience, and recommendations. Please note the critical distinction in admission processes between: i) our research based programs (MS; Master of Science and PhD; doctoral) and ii) our MWC (Master of Wildlife Conservation) program.
- Research based MS and PhD programs: Students are only admitted when teaching or research assistantships are available and are rarely accepted based on application to the Graduate School without prior communication with faculty. Because of this, interested students are strongly encouraged to contact and coordinate with prospective major professors to assess potential for support before applying. Available assistantships are posted on the Department web page. Note that these advertised assistantships often have unique deadlines and starting dates, different from the University pattern of January application for September starts. These assistantships include stipends and payment of tuition; additional funding is available for research expenses for most projects. For this reason, these positions are very competitive.
- MWC program: This program is primarily course-work oriented and has no guaranteed financial support. Students seeking this degree are encouraged to apply directly to graduate school. Applications for the Master of Wildlife Conservation program are reviewed from January through March for programs that begin in September. March 31 is the deadline for application.
For the most up to date details about specific aspects of the program and the availability of assistantships, visit http://umaine.edu/wle/graduate-program/ or write to the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology. firstname.lastname@example.org
Shared Degree Requirements
As with undergraduate degrees, course requirements are intended to balance the specific informational requirements of graduate research projects with a wider perspective to be shared by successful students in the Department. In addition to the requirements of the Graduate School, the following requirements must be met by graduate students in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology:
- A demonstrated breadth of learning will include topics of Biology and Ecology, Natural Resource Management, and Analytical Tools. This may be satisfied by a) the completion of coursework prior to initiating graduate degree work at the University of Maine (at or above level 300, or approved by graduate coordinator) or b) by course work taken at the University of Maine as part of the degree program (level 400 or above, or as approved by graduate coordinator). A total of 30 credit hours of the following topics are required from a combination of undergraduate and graduate work, however, only the graduate-level course work conducted during the graduate program will count towards the required graduate degree credits.
- Ecology and Organismal Biology - 9 credits* which may include:
Botany, Ecology, Zoology (Vertebrate or Invertebrate), Anatomy, Physiology, Evolution
Natural Resource Management - 9 credits* which may include:
Habitat Conservation, Resource Economics, Policy, Conservation, Social Science, Human Ecology
Analytical Tools - 9 credits* to include:
Statistics (3 credit minimum) and additional statistics coursework or courses in Population Dynamics, GIS, or Modeling
*Note that the listed requirements sum up to 27 credits, thus one topical area will require 12 rather than 9 credits
- At least three courses must be taken within the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology (either taught by our faculty or with WLE designator). One of these three courses must be at a 500 level or greater.
- Meeting the minimum course credit requirements for the graduate degree program (specific to MS, MWC and PhD) as described below.
Requirements for the Master of Science Degree in Wildlife Ecology
A minimum of 30 units of graduate credit are required for the MS degree. A minimum of 20 units of course work (400 level or greater) is required, and of this, at least 12 credits must be derived from courses designated 500 level or above. Thesis credits do not count toward the 20 course credits requirements. Prerequisite course work below the 400 level may not be included as part of the core curriculum of the graduate program. The course work for the Master’s program will be selected by the student and the advisor during the first semester of study, subject to approval by the graduate committee. No fewer than 6 credits and no more than 10 credits of the 30 total credits required for an MS degree may be thesis credits.
Credit Hour Considerations for Graduate Assistants
Students getting paid by the university as a graduate assistant must be registered for at least six credits for fall and spring, and if they are paid in the summer they need to be registered for at least one credit. Master’s students in their final semester can register for one thesis credit, however, this reduced credit load can be used only once during their tenure while on an assistantship. For example, if an assistantship-supported student anticipates graduating in December the student can register for only one thesis credit in the fall, but if the student does not complete requirements in time for December graduation, then he/she will be required to register for six credits in the semester that they graduate (regardless of whether they are supported by an assistantship during that semester). In this example, the student who missed the December graduation deadlines would graduate in the Spring and be required to pay for six credits in the Spring, because they already took advantage of the “one credit graduation semester” exception. If the student no longer is supported by an assistantship and is not a Maine resident, the charge for the six credits to the student will be assessed at the out-of-state rate. The student should not assume that their advisor will continue to pay for credits when they are not supported by an assistantship.
Graduate Committee Composition
The committee will consist of three or more graduate faculty members, including one from outside the Department. Cooperating faculty who hold a joint appointment in the Department serve as an external member on graduate committees.
The preparation of an original thesis is required for all candidates. The candidate is encouraged to prepare the thesis in the form of one or more papers suitable for publication in a major refereed journal, as opposed to the traditional thesis format. If the traditional format is followed, the candidate will likely be expected to prepare a manuscript for publication that will be reviewed and approved by the advisor. Format requirements (title page, abstract, margins, etc.) for the thesis have been established by the Graduate School.
Final Oral Examination
Upon completion of course work and thesis, a candidate for the MS degree is required to defend the thesis during an oral examination. In addition, the candidate will be examined for general knowledge in the field of wildlife ecology. A draft of the thesis must be approved by the advisor before it is distributed to the committee. To facilitate meaningful reading of the thesis, an approved draft of the thesis must be submitted to the committee at least three weeks prior to the defense. This timeline provides the committee two weeks of review prior to submission of the signed Tentative Thesis Acceptance Form and a draft thesis to the Graduate School (submitted five business days prior to the defense date). Scheduling of the final oral examination is not confirmed until all committee members have read a draft of the thesis and affirmed that it is sufficient to allow a defense. This approach also allows students one week to consider committee comments prior to the oral defense. Alternately, additional time prior to the defense may be necessary if significant revisions of the thesis are required by the committee. (Note: If any chapters are to be submitted for journal publication prior to thesis completion and defense, it is recommended that committee members be given three weeks for review so that feedback on the chapter may be incorporated prior to journal submission).
Notification of the defense seminar and examination must be circulated through the Department (including WFCB faculty) at least one week before the examination. A copy of the thesis also must be made available to the Department office for review. As part of the examination, a seminar on the research must be presented to the Department preceding the oral defense.
Requirements for the Master of Wildlife Conservation Degree
Course Work Requirements
A minimum of 30 units of graduate credit (Course work and thesis credits) are required for the MWC degree. A minimum of 24 units of Course work (400 level or greater) is required, and of this, at least 12 credits must derive from courses designated 500 level or above. At least three credits and no more than six must be an independent project. Prerequisite Course work below the 400 level may not be included as part of the core curriculum of the graduate program. The Course work for the MWC program will be selected by the student and the advisor during the first semester of study, subject to approval by the graduate committee.
Graduate Committee Composition
The committee will consist of three or more graduate faculty members, including at least one from outside the Department. Cooperating faculty who hold a joint appointment in the Department serve as an external member on graduate committees.
The independent study will be on a topic selected by the student and advisory committee. The submission of a formal report for approval by the advisory committee is required. Though this is not a thesis, it will require significant scholarship and should exhibit the quality of presentation suitable for publication.
Final Oral Exam
Upon completion of Course work and the independent project, a candidate for the MWC degree is required to successfully complete an oral examination on general relevant issues, but emphasizing the topic for the independent study. As part of the examination, a seminar on the independent project must be presented to the Department, usually before the oral defense. To facilitate meaningful reading of the project, an approved draft of the report must be to the committee at least three weeks prior to the exam.
Requirements for the PhD Degree in Wildlife Ecology
Scope of the PhD Program
Candidates for the PhD degree must possess a detailed knowledge of their area of research, a breadth of knowledge of basic biology and ecology, and a comprehensive knowledge of the fields of wildlife biology and management. Furthermore, each candidate must have completed a program of study in a discipline ancillary to wildlife. Evaluation of the PhD candidate with respect to the above objectives will include (1) a comprehensive examination testing the candidate’s breadth of general knowledge as well as his/her comprehensive knowledge in the fields of wildlife biology and management, and (2) a final oral defense of the research and research specialty. The ancillary studies requirement may be met through the Course work, or via other opportunities for personal development agreed upon by the student’s graduate committee.
Credit Hour Requirements
The credit hour requirement for doctoral students in Wildlife Ecology shall include a minimum of 50 credit hours, which may include a maximum of 30 credit hours from the Master’s program. A minimum of 35 credit hours will be in course work, of which 20 hours must be in graduate level (500/600) courses. Thesis credits do not count toward course credit requirements. At least six credits of thesis are required. PhD students are expected to be engaged in full-time work on their PhD program for a minimum of two full years; most programs last three to five years. Students getting paid by the university as a graduate assistant or fellow need to be registered for at least six credits for fall and spring, and if they are paid in the summer they need to be registered for at least one credit. However, after PhD students pass their Comprehensive Exams, they can register for one credit per semester until they graduate, assuming they meet the total credit hour requirements listed above. If the student no longer is supported by an assistantship and is not a Maine resident, the charge for the credits to the student will be assessed at the out-of-state rate. The student should not assume that their advisor will continue to pay for credits when they are not supported by an assistantship.
Graduate Committee Composition
The candidate will select his/her graduate committee before the end of the second semester of study. The committee will consist of at least five members of the graduate faculty, including at least one from outside the Department. Cooperating faculty who hold a joint appointment in the Department serve as an external member on graduate committees.
The purpose of the comprehensive exam is to ensure that the candidate is knowledgeable of basic concepts of biology, ecology, and statistics, and has a comprehensive knowledge of wildlife ecology, and can synthesize information and concepts in the disciplines in a coherent and scholarly fashion. In preparation for the comprehensive exam, the candidate can develop (if not previously accomplished) a core of course work to obtain a comprehensive knowledge in areas of concentrated study. In addition, the candidate should develop, in consultation with the graduate committee and other members of the Department, a program of independent study that ensures a breadth of basic knowledge. It is intended that the student will complete the comprehensive exam by the end of the second year of study.
The comprehensive examination will consist both of written and oral sections and usually will be administered following the completion of the Course work and before much of the research has been completed. The comprehensive examination will consist of five written parts managed by the student’s advisor(s) to ensure coordination. Each section will be administered by a committee member (or a designated faculty member assigned to the examining committee). The format of each section is at the full discretion of the examiner but should not require more than eight hours of effort from the student.
The five parts will cover at least five areas of concentrated study in the disciplines of biology (e.g., vertebrate physiology, animal systematics, environmental biophysics, evolution), ecology (e.g., limnology, population dynamics, biogeography, population genetics), and wildlife ecology (e.g., population biology and dynamics, habitat ecology, social/economic issues, wildlife law and policy). The subject areas will be selected jointly by the candidate and the graduate committee.
The written examination will be completed within a five-business day period (i.e., the exam sequence may be split by a weekend) and will be followed within two weeks by an oral examination. Upon completion of the oral examination, the committee may rule that either (1) the student has passed the comprehensive exam, or (2) the student will be allowed to retake the exam after addressing deficiencies, or (3) the candidate has failed the exam, and will be dropped from the graduate program. The candidate may retake the comprehensive exam only once, however, the committee may recommend that the student withdraw from the program without retaking the exam. Reexamination may take place no earlier than two months following the initial examination. A student who fails the second examination attempt will be dismissed from the program.
Ancillary Academic Program
Candidates are required to develop a program to broaden or expand their knowledge in a discipline ancillary to wildlife. However, the Department has expanded this concept to allow study or accomplishment in other disciplines as well. A suitable discipline will be selected by the candidate and approved by the graduate committee. Commitment to this endeavor should equal at least six credit hours, and may be fulfilled by means other than structured Course work. Ancillary disciplines may include foreign languages, chemistry, mathematics, advanced statistics, computer science, cartography, GIS, etc.
Each PhD candidate is required to teach for one semester in an undergraduate course. The requirement may be fulfilled through the acceptance of a teaching assistantship (1/2 time) for one semester, the instruction of a three-hour laboratory section for one semester, or an equivalent teaching assignment as agreed upon by the graduate committee. Demonstration of prior teaching experience may be considered, at the discretion of the student’s committee, to meet this requirement.
The guidelines presented for the preparation of the Master’s Thesis are applicable to the preparation of the dissertation.
Final Oral Examination
Upon completion of the Course work, comprehensive examination, and dissertation, the PhD candidate will be required to pass an oral defense of the dissertation. A draft of the dissertation must be approved by the advisor before it is distributed to the committee. To facilitate meaningful reading of the dissertation, an approved draft must be submitted to the committee at least three weeks prior to the defense. This timeline provides the committee two weeks of review prior to submission of the signed Tentative Thesis Acceptance Form and a draft thesis to the Graduate School (submitted five business days prior to the defense date). Scheduling of the final oral examination is not confirmed until all committee members have read a draft of the dissertation and affirmed that it is sufficient to allow a defense. This approach also allows students one week to consider committee comments prior to the oral defense. Alternately, additional time prior to the defense may be necessary if significant revisions of the dissertation are required by the committee. (Note: If any chapters are to be submitted for journal publication prior to dissertation completion and defense, it is recommended that committee members be given three weeks for review so that feedback on the chapter may be incorporated prior to journal submission).
WFCB Graduate Faculty
Erik J. Blomberg, Ph.D. (University of Nevada, 2012), Associate Professor. Population dynamics of avian wildlife.
Aram J.K. Calhoun, Ph.D. (University of Maine, 1996), Professor. Vernal pool ecology and conservation, wetland ecology.
Stephen M. Coghlan, Jr., Ph.D. (State University of New York, 2004), Associate Professor. Energetic ecology of Atlantic salmon, brook trout, and smallmouth bass; fish response to dam removal; role of anadromous fishes in stream food webs; ecology of headwater streams; fish foraging; fish-habitat relations.
Daniel J. Harrison, Ph.D. (University of Maine, 1986), Professor. Wildlife-habitat relationships, interactions among forest management practices and wildlife populations, predator ecology.
Malcolm L. Hunter, Jr., D. Phil. (Oxford University, 1978), Professor and Libra Professor. Conservation biology, forest wildlife management, landscape ecology, international conservation.
Cynthia S. Loftin, Ph.D. (University of Florida, 1998), Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Unit Leader, Maine Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Systems ecology, landscape ecology, wetlands ecology, GIS applications.
Alessio Mortelliti, Ph.D. (University of Rome “La Sapienza”, 2008), Assistant Professor. Conservation biology, effects of land-use change on vertebrates, mammalogy, quantitative modelling, wildlife surveys & monitoring.
Brian Olsen, Ph.D. (Virginia Tech, 2007), Associate Professor. Avian ecology, behavior, demography, mating systems, and life history evolution.
Amber M. Roth, Ph.D. (Michigan Technological University, 2012), Assistant Professor. Forest ecology and land use.
Frederick A. Servello, Ph.D. (Virginia Polytech Inst. and State Univ., 1985), Professor. Foraging ecology, habitat relationships of birds and mammals.
Carly C. Sponarski, Ph.D. (Memorial University, 2014). Assistant Professor. Human dimensions of wildlife conservation.
Joseph D. Zydlewski, Ph.D. (University of Massachusetts, 1998), Professor and Assistant Leader-Fisheries, Maine Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Physiology, behavior and ecology of migratory fishes both in the laboratory and in the field.