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The Doctoral Program in Ecology and Evolutionary
David Post, Director
of Graduate Studies
101 Osborn Memorial Labs
P.O. Box 208106
New Haven, CT 06520-8106
Integrated training programs in ecology and evolutionary
- Phylogenetics and systematic theory
- Conservation biology
- Molecular evolution
- Developmental evolution
- Theoretical biology
- Experimental evolution
- Evolution of diseases – agents and vectors
- Population and landscape ecology
- Evolutionary and comparative genomics
The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale
provides integrative training and research opportunities in
all aspects of comparative biology. The research interests
of the faculty span multiple levels of biological organization,
ranging from the origins of novel molecular function to the
study of global interaction between climatic and biotic change.
We are a newly created department in the process of expansion.
In addition to our existing strengths, we anticipate several
new appointments, particularly in the area of ecology, and
accompanying growth in the graduate program.
Graduate training in this department emphasizes the interplay
of empirical laboratory and field studies with theoretical
and computational explorations necessary to address fundamental
issues in ecology, evolution, genomics and development.
Our department offers advanced training the following core
- Phylogenetics and Systematic Theory:
º Uses of a phylogenetic framework for biological investigation
º Phylogenetic methods for divergence date estimation
º Reconstructing organismal movement and patterns of
diversification through time
- Conservation Biology:
º Identification of cryptic biological diversity
º Biodiversity estimation and loss
- Molecular Evolution
º Specific molecular entities, genes and gene families
and of the forces shaping their evolution
º Use of comparative molecular information to reconstruct
genic and organismal phylogenies
º Experimental evolution using bacterial, viral and
in vitro systems to investigate evolutionary
landscapes and trajectories
- Developmental Evolution
º Evolution of developmental genes
º Origin of major innovations: flowers, limbs, etc.
º Developmental basis of convergent evolution and homology
- Theoretical Biology
º Origins of biological organization and complexity
º Evolution of genetic architecture
º Origins and constraints of biological form
º Conceptual foundations of evolutionary theory
- Experimental Evolution
º In vitro evolution of bacteria and viruses
º Evolution of sex, life histories, and host-parasite
- Evolution of disease agents and vectors
º Evolution of virulence
º Ecology and evolution of disease vectors: e.g. Anopheles
- Population and landscape ecology
º Food web dynamics, emphasizing the role of behavior
º Large-scale species distributions and mechanisms
regulating animal abundance and distribution
º Biodiversity and species loss
º Invasive species
- Macroevolution and Paleobiology (in conjunction with
the Department of Geology & Geophysics):
º Modeling macroevolutionary mechanisms and their integration
with microevolutionary patterns
º Analysis of ancient morphologies
º Origins of novelty, especially in the latest Pre-Cambrian
º Heterochrony in the fossil record
º The interplay between global climate change and organismal
- Evolutionary and Comparative Genomics
º Gene gain and gene loss in evolution of genomes
º Genomic changes involved in bacterial pathogenesis
º Microbial and metagenomic diversity in eukaryotic hosts
º Diversity and evolution of genomic gene expression
In addition to the faculty with primary appointments in EEB,
students have access to a vast array of faculty and laboratories.
The department also offers extramural programs in conjunction
with the Cary Arboretum.
Special resources include:
- Nucleic acid synthesis and automated sequencing facilities.
- Extensive mixed platform (Unix, Windows, and MacIntosh)
- Confocal and electron microscopy facilities.
- Video imaging facility.
- Animal care facilities.
- Several hundred acres of protected terrestrial and aquatic
habitats for field research.
- Marine research station in the nearby Thimble Islands.
- Extensive vertebrate, invertebrate, botanical and paleobiological
collections in the Peabody
Museum of Natural History.
McDougal Graduate Student Center lists resources for Yale
grad students and the New Haven area in general.
Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Admissions: Applicants usually have training in biology, mathematics, chemistry, physics, statistics and/or geology. Offers of admission are made based on overall preparation for a career in research in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. The graduate school requires an official application of admission. Please note that you must indicate interest in the E&EB department. The department requires the GRE general test scores.
Application deadline is December 15, 2012.
Requirements for the Ph.D. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology: Each student develops a program of courses, seminars, and research tailored to the student’s interests, background and goals. Listed below are the basic requirements for students in E&EB.
- Entry Committee–Upon arrival in the fall, the entry committee will meet individually with and review the academic records of the new students, and make recommendations for course work and rotations. Course work recommendations will include (a) specific and binding requirements of courses to be taken, and passed, to address academic deficiencies, and (b) suggestions of courses that will facilitate their development in their chosen area of research.
- Graduate Mentors–Upon admission, each incoming student should be assigned a mentor. In most cases, the mentor will be a prospective advisor. If the student’s prospective advisor is on leave, then another faculty member will be assigned to be the graduate mentor for that student. The graduate mentor will be responsible for providing space and support for the first year, and supervising the academic recommendations of the entry committee (i.e. course requirements, language training, etc.). The graduate mentor will make a written progress report to the DGS by the end of the spring semester of the first academic year which documents the student progress and the Mentor's commitment to supervise the student in the coming year.
- Rotations- Each student will complete two semester-long rotations during their first two years. At least one research rotation is expected to be in the laboratory of their mentor/ prospective advisor.
- Advancement to Candidacy- Completion and approval of the PhD dissertation prospectus will constitute the PhD qualifying exam. During oral defense of the prospectus, the committee has the responsibility to assess the candidates' breadth of knowledge in areas of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology appropriate to the candidates' area(s) of research.
Dissertation Defense:The student’s dissertation is made available to the faculty 1 week prior to the defense. The student gives a public seminar on her/his research immediately followed by a private period of questioning by members of the Thesis Advisory Committee.
Dissertation Submission: The Graduate School requires that each dissertation be read by at least three persons, at least two of whom must have tenure or tenure track positions at Yale. Each reader must hold the Ph.D. degree as well as a faculty position or be considered otherwise qualified to evaluate the dissertation. Two “inside” readers and one “outside” reader judge the dissertation. Inside readers are usually members of the Thesis Advisory Committee but not the thesis advisor. The outside reader may not be a faculty member in the student's Department of enrollment. An outside reader may be the “outside” member of the thesis committee or a collaborator of the student or thesis advisor. The outside reader is usually from another institution to provide an impartial critique that helps the Graduate School judge the quality of the thesis and evaluate its own processes of review. The student and the advisor in consultation with the Advisory Committee select readers.
Departmental Activities: In addition to formal academic requirements, students are expected to participate in the weekly department seminar and grad student colloquim, and annual department retreat:
- Course Work: All first-year students enroll in the year-long Advanced Topics Seminar. This weekly course is an introduction to the research programs of professors in the department, a two week session on writing about science for the public, and a four-week session on ethics and responsible conduct of research. In the first and second semesters, E&EB faculty discuss their research interests. These presentations are followed by discussions of assigned reading material, consisting of papers from the primary literature. In the second semester, students also receive instruction on science-writing for the lay public, and take part in a 4-week long session on scientific ethics. In addition, by the end of the fourth semester, students should have completed required graduate-level courses with honors grade (~A) in at least two courses.
- Research Rotations: All first year students carry out two research rotations. Each rotation lasts one semester and students have the option of a third rotation over their first summer. The primary purpose of the rotations is to identify a laboratory in which to carry out dissertation research. Rotations also serve to introduce students to new techniques, gain a broader background in E&EB, develop close connections with E&EB faculty, etc. At the end of each rotation, the rotation advisor submits a report of the student's progress to the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). This assists the DGS in evaluating each student's progress and in identifying any student who may require special guidance.
- Teaching: Teaching is an important component of the E&EB training program. Beginning September 2007 all entering students will be required to teach in three one-semester courses. Fulfillment of this requirement is noted above. Students are urged to teach both laboratory and section based courses to gain the broadest teaching experience possible. Additional teaching opportunities are available and those interested should speak with the registrar.
- Pre & Prospectus Exam: Each student is expected to form a Thesis Advisory Committee by the end of the 3rd Semester in consultation with her/his advisor. The Thesis Advisory Committee consists of the thesis advisor and three additional faculty members, at least two of these must hold appointments in E&EB. The student initiates a program of exploratory research and reading aimed at defining a project appropriate for dissertation research and summarized in writing in the Pre-Prospectus, which is distributed to the Thesis Advisory Committee prior to the Pre-Prospectus meeting. At that meeting, the student summarizes preliminary results and outlines the proposed research. Approval of the Pre-Prospectus is expected by the middle of the 4th semester. Immediately after the preprospectus meeting, the committee must inform the student and the DGS, in writing, about the committee’s specific requirements for the general knowledge component of the prospectus defense. Guidelines (pdf)
- Prospectus Exam: At the Prospectus Exam, which must occur before the beginning of the fifth semester, the student is examined regarding the scientific validity and feasibility of the proposed research and is required to demonstrate competence in the general areas outlined in the written document from the Pre-Prospectus meeting. The exam consists of a two- to three-hour oral examination by Committee members and the DGS. Prior to the exam, the student prepares and submits a research proposal such as in the format of an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DDIG). If a student's performance at the Prospectus Exam is considered unsatisfactory, remedial action is taken. Depending on the nature and magnitude of the problem, the student may be required to write a paper on a specific topic, take additional courses, retake the prospectus exam, or (in rare cases) to leave the graduate program. The Advisor provides a report to the academic office that records when the meeting took place, who attended and the outcome. Guidelines (pdf)
- Admission to Candidacy: As noted, candidacy is achieved after presenting and defending a preprospectus and prospectus to the dissertation committee. Students are expected to advance to candidacy during their second year. Extensions are possible with the written recommendation of the advisor to the DGS and with the written permission of the DGS. Following advancement to candidacy, the Graduate Mentor or other supervising professor will be considered the primary advisor of the student.
Students that fail to advance to candidacy, but meet all other requirements, may petition the Graduate School for an MS degree. Dissertation Research: After passing the Prospectus Exam, the student is free to devote nearly full-time effort to dissertation research. Many students continue to take courses. All continue to participate in seminars, journal clubs and lab meetings. Each student is encouraged to consult frequently and informally with the individual members of their Thesis Advisory Committee. (From this point onwards, the Thesis Advisory Committee must have at least five members with at least two members having primary E&EB appointments and at least one outside member with a Ph.D. and no formal E&EB relationship). The committee and student are required to meet formally once a year. There is no formal structure, save a required report from the Advisor to the DGS stating when the meeting took place, who attended and what the outcome was. In advance of the annual meeting, the student prepares a brief written summary of progress made during the past year and of plans for the coming year. Each spring, the Graduate School receives a formal summary of the student's progress (Dissertation Progress Report) signed by the student, thesis advisor and DGS. This form is also used to evaluate student progress by the E&EB faculty in their annual Graduate Student Progress meeting.
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department Seminar. The Department Seminar is held on Wednesdays at 12:30 PM throughout the academic year. These seminars cover a wide range of topics that reflect the breadth of research interests within the Department. Invited speakers from other institutions give presentations suitable for a multi-disciplinary audience. Graduate students must attend the Wednesday Seminars throughout their years of graduate study to ensure that students maintain a broad perspective on contemporary biological sciences and do not become narrowly specialized.
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Graduate Student Colloquium. The EEB Grad Student Colloquium is held on Fridays at 4 PM throughout the academic year. This colloquium occurs in an informal setting, and allows graduate students to provide each other with feedback on their ongoing research projects. Ideally, each student in the program will be given the opportunity to present on her/his research at least once a year, following the advancement to PhD candidacy.
Department Retreat. Each fall the faculty, students and post-docs participate in a retreat. It occurs away from the main campus in an informal setting that encourages a dynamic exchange of diverse scientific perspectives during a program of informal research presentations