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Wildlife Ecology and Conservation department

Wildlife Ecology and Conservation department

Graduate Program Admissions Information


  • an earned Bachelor's degree. See this link for specifics. No exceptions.
  • a minimum undergraduate (upper division, last 60 hours) or graduate GPA of 3.0.
    • Advisors may admit applicants with lower GPA's at their discretion. A petition to the UF Graduate School is needed for GPA <2.8.

Wildlife Ecology and Conservation (WEC) does not require specific undergraduate degrees or coursework to apply because our programs and faculty research span a variety of disciplines. STEM BS degrees generally provide the best preparation for research degrees, however. We offer the following graduate degrees:

Research Degrees

MS with thesis or PhD with dissertation:

  • You must find a research advisor from the WEC faculty (; see below for recommended strategies.
  • You must have a funding package, approved/provided by your advisor, with tuition and stipend to be admitted.
  • Research degrees are on-campus and administered by the department of WEC.

Non-thesis MS Degrees

On-campus program in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation:

  • Self-funded: You will take classes on campus in Gainesville and pay all fees yourself.
  • This degree is administered by WEC for students seeking core coursework in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation taught by core WEC faculty.
  • Most courses are in person.
  • Find a coursework advisor

Online-only degree in Wildlife Forensics:

Financial aid from UF for non-thesis MS degrees is unavailable:

  • The costs of attending and self-funding graduate school at UF are summarized in this brochure.
  • UF employees can get help through UF's EEP program.
  • For on-campus non-thesis MS students, out of state tuition for graduate courses is significantly higher than for in-state students.  The only real way to establish residency before you begin a non-thesis on campus program is to get a job first, and use that as the reason you moved to Florida when you apply for residency. Residency status is not given to non-FL residents for the purpose of attending school in Florida.  
  • See and other online resources for external financial aid sources you can apply for. 


The Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

The WEC Department and Faculty apply a holistic review process to select their graduate students, and the Department no longer uses GRE scores for admissions decisions, awards of merit, or allocations of resources to graduate students.  UF no longer requires that graduate student applicants take the exam to apply. Therefore, students applying to the WEC graduate programs do not need to take the GRE at all. This is also true for international students*.

English Proficiency for International Students

For applicants from countries where English is not the official language, a minimum score on one of these English Language Skills tests is required:

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL),
    • minimum score of 550 paper, or 80 Internet, OR
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS),
    • minimum score of 6, OR
  • Documented successful completion of the University of Florida English Language Institute program.
  • The University's TOEFL code is 5812. 

Exemptions are granted if international applicants:

  • Have successfully completed one academic year in a degree-seeking program at a recognized/regionally accredited university or college in the United States or a country where English is the official language.
  • Hold an earned equivalent of associate's, bachelor's, master's or PhD degree from a recognized/regionally accredited college or university in the United States or country where English is the official language.

Explore the appropriate Graduate Handbook for specific coursework and milestone requirements for Wildlife Ecology and Conservation on-campus degrees here: Handbooks.  For Research Degrees, students require a funding package that pays tuition and stipend in return for research efforts, but Non-thesis MS students must pay all associated costs of the degree, which does not require participation in research, only coursework. Please follow guidelines below for the type of degree you seek.


Introduction.  The research degree (MS with thesis or PhD with dissertation) defines a professional partnership between you, your research advisor, and other faculty and student collaborators. Research degrees demand excellent communication and scholarly research skills, teamwork, project management, independence, motivation and both passion and persistence in the intellectual pursuit of knowledge.  Research is a public service that fulfils, in part, the mission of the university.  Therefore, the university and your research advisor are obliged to provide for funding of STEM graduate training where possible. Given the expense associated with graduate training, MS thesis students should finish and graduate within 21-24 months, and PhD students within 4 to 5 years. 

Money! Applicants must have a commitment from their prospective advisor for a funding package to be admitted. Self-funding of a research degree is not a preferred model simply because the student then pays for research costs and provides free labor that benefit the advisor, and this is ethically questionable.  Students asked to pay their own way in a research degree should carefully weigh the costs and benefits, and consider applying elsewhere.

A funding package will pay stipend and tuition from some combination of the following: contract and grant money to your advisor from state, federal, local or private institutions; university or other programmatic funding for assistantships; fellowships; or scholarships. Research degree stipends fulfill a 0.40-0.50 FTE commitment and currently pay $20,000-$30,000 annually in WEC, but alternative assistantship structures and salaries are sometimes possible, depending on the source of funding. Some appointments require teaching or other duties, and this will be made clear in your letter of offer. Most offers will stipulate a minimum of 2 years funding for MS students and 4 years funding for PhD students. A limited number of additional assistantships are awarded beyond an original appointment, generally to support only one or two semesters, enabling a student to complete a degree or to meet special teaching needs in the department.

Stipend pay scales are modest but updated regularly to match national standards. You are getting a degree, receiving advanced training in current approaches, connecting with life-long mentors, earning recommendations to future employers, and developing interpersonal and professional skills via collaboration with peers, teachers, and colleagues. All these things will help you succeed in the form of added values. 

Application Timing. Research students can be admitted to WEC in any semester as faculty seek new students when they receive grants and project funding.  However, if you are just beginning to look for graduate programs, we recommend that you start the process of contacting faculty (here or elsewhere) 3-9 months before the term that you intend to start graduate school. It takes time to prepare for each contact and discussion, and you may need to have several conversations with prospective faculty before you find a lab that suits you and can support you.

  • For a Fall term admission, you should begin your search in the previous Fall to early Spring, and for a Spring term admission, you should start in the previous Spring to early Summer.
  • Starting early is necessary because most state monies allocated by the University to graduate student support are dedicated to incoming students for the Fall term during the previous Spring semester. Most students enter graduate school in Fall.
  • If applying in response to an advertisement for a graduate position in a WEC lab, then follow its guidance. If selected, your application to UF should be submitted within 2 months of your matriculation date (i.e., by June 1 for a Fall term admission).

Keep in mind!  To enter the program, our process requires that a WEC faculty member has funding, desire, and has explicitly agreed to take you as a student. Applying to the department without contacting faculty will get no response. Sending generic emails to faculty seeking funding and a position will likely get no response.

  • In graduate school, you become a collaborator and research partner in pursuing new knowledge and in using science to solve real-world problems. As such, faculty seek students with talent, drive, commitment to self-improvement, a love of scholarship, and high standards of performance and ethics.
  • In order to attract the interest of potential advisors with similar interests to your own, you must be able to convey a thoughtful, clear vision of how graduate training will serve your future goals. Be ready to explain why each lab you contact is the right place for you to train to reach your goals.


Step 1) Research your interests, prepare your CV and essays, search for and then connect with a faculty member who agrees to be your advisor and who has discussed how your program will be funded. Your advisor must complete a holistic review process with you, including an in-person interview or an online video-conference, and assemble a funding package to support you for 2 years (MS) or at least 4 years (PhD). 

Step 2) Apply to UF/WEC when the time is right.  A completed application for a research degree is comprised of all of the following. See below for details.

  • A UF online application with,
  • 3 letters of recommendation, transcripts, an annotated CV, and3 essays (see below) to demonstrate your writing ability;
    • 2 essays must be sent with your email inquiries, and the   
    • third essay is submitted along with the UF Application as your Personal Statement.
  • You must have at least one videoconference or in-person interview with your prospective advisor.

Step 3) If all goes well, you receive an offer letter defining your funding package and your duties and you matriculate in a term agreeable to you and your advisor.


Holistic applicant review.  The Department now engages in holistic review of graduate candidates without reliance on standardized test scores. In order to assess a broad spectrum of each applicant's skills, experiences, and personal strengths, we now ask for diverse information from applicants. Your responsibility is to take the time to consider your options and potential mentors carefully before approaching those best suited to help you reach your goals.

Note: Holistic review is not just for advisors to identify strong candidates, but also for candidates to assess prospective advisors. During this process you must assess whether you can work well with a prospective advisor for several years.  Ask for emails of graduate students in the lab or recent graduates from the lab, and ask these mentees (and prospective advisors) questions about the advisor's management style and expectations and temperament. Ask about specific expectations of how you will alllocate your time in the lab.  Students' situations can vary depending on the source of money and specifics of the research procedures and locations.  Research in a lab is exciting and demanding of good communication between collaborators.  It takes two people to formulate a strong working relationship, so be critical

Here, we guide you through our department’s holistic application and review process in great detail with proven advice. Applicants should pay close attention to this guide to become educated about the process and to present their talents and interests clearly. Admissions to WEC are highly competitive.

Making effective inquiries and connecting with a research advisor.

Do your research.  Study faculty webpages (in WEC, link) to identify labs that match your interests. Be able to explain how individual faculty research programs of interest could help you advance your career. Then, go deeper.

  • Find recent journal / popular articles produced by faculty / lab members and read them carefully.
  • If the information is available, see where graduates from the lab have gone.
  • Explore appropriate WEC Graduate Student Handbooks for requirements of the MS or PhD.  Handbooks.

Explore graduate funding sources to help fund your research degree.  

Professors can apply their grant monies, seek University matching funds, and put you forward for UF fellowships to coalesce a complete funding package for research MS or PhD programs. Your efforts, however, can help ensure successful matriculation at UF if funding in your preferred lab is limited at the time you apply. Explore the following sources of funding that you can apply for.

  • National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships. Link.
  • Fulbright Fellowships
    • For US students whose research is international. Link.
    • For international students seeking admission here. Link.
  • McKnight Doctoral Fellowships. Link.
  • Ford Foundation Fellowships. Link.
  • Margaret A. Davidson Fellowship. Link.
  • Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. Link.
  • PEO Philanthropies: Women's US, Canada, and International awards. Link.
  • American Association of University Women, various awards. Link.
  • Fogarty International Center, health-related (broad) award search engine. Link.
  • Wildlife Conservation Society, various awards. Link.
  • The Wildlife Society, various awards (esp. American Indians). Link.
  • See websites that advertise MS / PhD assistantships, for UF / elsewhere (link, link).
  • Internal UF / CALS / WEC funding sources. Link.
  • offers financial aid guidance for graduate students. Link.

Prepare these materials in the requested formats. 

  • Annotated curriculum vita (CV).“Pursuant to Florida Statute, your application requires inclusion of all post-high school education and employment, as well as information about ongoing international affiliations and research funding. Please ensure this information is included on your curriculum vitae (CV) or résumé.”This document must provide faculty with substantive information about your training, skills, and level of professional development for their holistic assessment of your readiness for their labs. To that end, and in addition to the standard information in a CV, please make sure that you list and briefly describe …
    • All important research and other academic experiences (whether volunteer or paid),
    • Other non-research/non-academic volunteer and paid work experiences.
    • Under each entry, briefly:
      • state the goals of the research or function of the position,
      • state the major responsibilities,
      • list the major activities performed,
      • indicate average # of hours per week &,
      • the total # of weeks/months you were engaged in each experience.
    • For each experience, or in a separate section, note substantive presentations made (oral or written) and the audience / venue for each substantive presentation (include weblinks to presenter list).
    • Note any publications resulting from your experiences. All of this information should be easy to find and presented in an orderly fashion.
    • A section of your CV should also note any skills, substantive non-academic experiences, supervisory responsibilities, or advanced training you have acquired (e.g., specific software, programming languages, writing, teaching certifications, wildland training or certifications in CPR, diving, leadership, social media use, etc.).
    • Considering that ecologists face diverse situations and every skill can be useful, don’t leave out useful things you may not consider academically ‘relevant’ (e.g., horse wrangler, online influencer, nursing home companion, gardening, etc.).
  • Three essays. To help your prospective advisor to assess your writing and scientific thinking abilities, your first or second contact with faculty should include the following essays (and your CV) as email attachments.
    • Each essay should include the essay title followed by your essay.
    • Essays, not including the title, should adhere to the word limit.
    • Note that Essay #3 serves as the Personal Statement in the UF Application.

Essay 1: What current scientific endeavors excite you?

  • Find two journal articles addressing research topics that excite you and spark your curiosity. In 500 words demonstrating your best writing skills, explain your interests in the works you chose.

Essay 2: Why this lab?

  • In 500 words demonstrating your best writing skills, explain why you seek to join this faculty member’s lab. In what way(s) will training in this lab help you apply your current talents and interests while achieving your professional goals?  In what ways could your participation enhance the diversity of experience in the lab, and in WEC?

Essay 3: Academic training, motivation and resilience.

  • In 500 words demonstrating your best writing skills, summarize how your academic history thus far has prepared you for graduate training. Discuss your choice of previous degree program, successes, challenges (and how you coped with them) and overall performance. If you had gaps, withdrawals, failed courses or low academic workload, provide an explanation. This is an honest self- appraisal, not a personal advertisement. [This essay also serves as the Personal Statement for the UF application.]

Prepare your email inquiry letter.  Prepare a one-paragraph, well-written email message to explain your interest in the faculty member’s lab.  Catch their attention with skills and interests that would make you valuable to their research program.  Demonstrate that you are knowledgeable about and genuinely interested in their research.  Indicate how training in their lab will help attain your future goals. Show you have an understanding of the graduate program requirements. Make sure your contact information is easy to find on your CV or in the message body.

For each faculty member you contact,

  • Send an email with "Prospective (MS or PhD) Student" in the header and a brief inquiry/introduction letter in the message body. Include 2 attachments in PDF form:
    • Your annotated CV
    • Essay #2; Make it unique for each lab you contact!  This is proof you did your research on the prof.

Ready!  You have a sharp-looking CV, 3 essays, and a professionally written email inquiry that can be adapted for different faculty with varied research interests.  It's time to send out your inquiries!  Good Work! ...   Wait, then what?

How to proceed … IF.

IF… you do not get a response within a week or 10 days, then re-send your inquiry once, maybe twice. If still no response comes back, then you should move on and engage other faculty. If there is no money or place for you in WEC labs, you should leave time to apply to other programs (departments, universities) before your window to matriculate closes. A small percentage of inquiries to WEC end up in matriculation, so apply to several programs!

IF ... the faculty member responds with interest, then provide any requested information, engage in discussion, and seek to schedule a video conference and/or in-person interview (e.g., Skype, Zoom) with the faculty member.

  • An online or in-person interview is a requirement for admission. You should expect to discuss funding issues, timing, research ideas, and you should be prepared to ask questions about the lab, other student’s work.
  • We strongly recommend that you contact other members of the faculty’s lab and ask them about their experience.
  • To be admitted to the program, you must have a source of funding for salary and tuition, so discuss with the faculty member what funding they can provide. If you have applied for fellowships from outside of UF, let them know.
  • If you do not meet UF requirements, then the faculty member will need to prepare a petition, or else ask you to meet the requirements before applying again.
  • After substantive discussions, your admittance may not happen for a number of reasons (lack of funding is the usual one). Factor that into your plans and have your back-up “Plan B” lined up.

IF… you and your prospective advisor agree on your admittance, then prepare and submit your UF Graduate Application materials (if you have not already done so): please see the last section of this webpage for the particulars on the UF Application Process. Then await your letter of offer before packing up and moving!


Funding for tuition and stipend is not available from the Department to support Non-thesis MS degrees. Be aware that you must pay all expenses.

Non-thesis online MS degree with a concentration in Wildlife Forensic Sciences and Conservation.

Non-thesis MS degree, on-campus program.

  • Step 1) Visit this page and read it all. Then if you are interested in applying, you must contact potential advisors from the list of faculty who serve as coursework advisors to non-thesis MS students. 
    • NOTE: The number of non-thesis students in our program is limited by how many students each advisor elects to take.  If no advisors can accept you, then you must look elsewhere for a different degree program.
  • Step 2) Prepare an email that summarizes clearly all of the following: (A)why you are seeking this degree (what future goals will it help you achieve) and (B) why you feel that you will be successful in completing the degree.  Also, explain briefly (C) why you are seeking this degree rather than a research masters (with thesis). Finally, (D) ask if each professor you contact could serve as your advisor given your interests, and (E) be sure to attach a current CV that summarizes your academic training, work history, and future employment goals.
  • Step 3) Once you have gained an explicit invitation from a faculty member who states they will advise you, then complete your application as outlined below under UF Application Preparation and submission.  A completed UF application for a Non-thesis MS degree, on campus program is comprised of all of the following:

    A UF online application
    Personal statement
    3 letters of recommendation
    an annotated CV

    Contact Ivette Hernandez ( to discuss the particulars of this process.

  • NOTE: the costs of attending and self-funding graduate school at UF are summarized in this brochure
    • If you are a UF employee then see these links for cheaper degree costs via the EEP.
    • Applications without an advisor who has explicitly agreed to advise will be ignored.



The UF Graduate School Application online requires a Personal Statement. WEC requires that you follow these guidelines in preparing this Personal Statement. For research degrees, this is one of 3 required essays, but for non-thesis degrees, it is the only required essay.

  • In 500 words demonstrating your best writing skills, summarize how your academic history thus far has prepared you for graduate training. Discuss your choice of previous degree program, successes, challenges (and how you coped with them) and overall performance. If you had gaps, withdrawals, failed courses or low academic workload, provide an explanation. This is an honest self- appraisal, not a personal advertisement. [This essay also serves as the Personal Statement for the UF application.]


We consider applications for graduate admission every semester of the academic year. If you are a US citizen, we strongly advise that you submit a complete application at least two months prior to the term for which you are seeking admission. International applicants should submit a complete application at least five months prior to the term for which they seek admission, so that there is enough time to receive their student visa following admission.

Application deadlines:

Fall: July 15

Spring: November 15

Summer: April 1

Thesis MS and PhD students should have their advisors and funding arranged well before these deadlines. Non-thesis MS students need to have arranged a coursework advisor before these deadlines.

WEC will keep your prospective student file active in the Department for one year from the date on which you pay your $30.00 application fee to the UF Admissions Office.


Graduate applications are submitted online through  Once your application is submitted, 2-3 UF units evaluate your application to the UF Graduate School: (1) the UF Office of Admission, which determines your eligibility for admission to the university and to the Graduate School, and (2) the department you select for your graduate studies program, which determines your eligibility for its graduate program and from which you have secured your graduate advisor. (3) If you are a non-US applicant, the UF International Center also evaluates your application after admission to determine your eligibility for a student visa.

Each of these units needs specific materials from you to complete your admission. Please make sure you promptly send the materials listed below to each of the correct units, so that your application is not held up by lack of information or missing required documents.  Click here for application instructions and materials   


Mailing Address:
UF Office of Admissions
POB 114000 (201 Criser Hall)
Gainesville, FL 32611-4000

Submit these materials to the UF Office of Admission:

  • UF Graduate Application (submitted online – use WEC format for Personal Statement and CV)
  • Application fee payment ($30 in US funds, nonrefundable)
  • Official test scores (GTOEFL or IELTS) sent electronically to UF Office of Admissions by testing agency. This is a requirement for international applicants only.
  • Official transcripts from all previous colleges/universities attended sent electronically or by mail to UF Office Admissions by schools attended
  • Florida residency affidavit (part of the UF Graduate Application form, submitted online)
  • Conduct declaration (part of the UF Graduate Application form, submitted online)

International students:

If English is not the native language, the TOEFL or IELTS exam is also required. If the student’s earned bachelors or master's degree is from an English-speaking institution, the TOEFL or IELTS exam is not required. If your transcripts are not written in English, you must also send official English translations of them to the UF Office of Admissions. International students must also send copies of all diplomas/certificates earned. If these diplomas/certificates are not written in English, you must also send official English translations of them to the UF Office of Admissions.

What you send to the UF International Center (UFIC):

Mailing Address:

UF International Center
POB 113225 (1765 Stadium Road, Suite 170 Hub)
Gainesville FL 32611-3225

Once an international student is admitted, the UF International Center will contact you regarding your visa and other entry paperwork. You will work directly with an advisor in the UFIC to complete this process. If you are a non-US applicant, send your Certification of Financial Responsibility form to the UF International Center at the mailing address on the form, and other documentation as needed.


There is a nonrefundable $30 application fee to submit an UF online graduate application. You can pay this fee online by credit card. Payment must be in US funds. Your application will not be processed without this fee payment. The university cannot waive or defer this fee, except for participants in designated sponsored programs.


The University of Florida's school code for submission of TOEFL or IELTS scores is 5812. (The Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation does not have a separate code, use 5812 in your application.)  See above for WEC testing requirements.


These links will provide useful information to help you prepare for graduate school and navigate the application process smoothly:

If you have additional questions about the admission process for the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation's graduate studies program, please feel free to contact Ivette Hernandez (