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Graduate Field of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Think broadly and study organic diversity across disciplines


    The Graduate Field of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology encompasses the study of organic diversity, including its origins, dynamics, maintenance and consequences. Our faculty and graduate students pursue topics across a broad span of interconnected fields, including ecosystem biology, community and population biology, organismal biology, molecular ecology, population genetics, genomics, speciation and macroevolution.

    Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


    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 is celebrating 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.

    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.

    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.

    While we have a Masters program, we very rarely admit Masters students through external applications. The Masters degree is typically used for employee lab technicians who wish to obtain a degree alongside their employment.

    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, pj17 [at] (Patty Jordan). If you have questions about the graduate program as a whole, contact the faculty Director of Graduate Studies, Alex Flecker, at asf3 [at] (asf3[at]cornell[dot]edu).

    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.

    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.

    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, Neurobiology and Behavior, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Plant Biology, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Horticulture, and Civil Engineering. 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.

    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. Visit the EEB Diversity & Inclusion website for more information.

    Cornell Based Outreach Programs

    Cornell Diversity Resources

    Diversity Fellowships

    EEB Graduate Field Faculty

    The faculty members of the Graduate Field of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology come from a variety of Departments across campus, including (but not limited to) Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Entomology, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Natural Resources, Neurobiology and Behavior, Plant Biology, and Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

    Research-Driven Program

    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.


    Years of Field Ecology

    Since 1968, our field courses have enriched the academic and personal lives of our faculty and graduate students in providing an array of immersive field experiences.