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Master of Arts in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Botany, or Entomology

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M.A. Degree Requirements: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Botany, or Entomology

Options I (Thesis) and II (Nonthesis)

2 options leading to the M.A. degree are offered. Option I (Thesis) is research-oriented and requires a thesis. Option II (Nonthesis) emphasizes broader graduate training without a concentration on research. For each option, the advisory committee must have at least 3 Graduate Faculty members, 2 of whom must be in EEB. No faculty member outside the department is required.

Required Course Work

Most course work requirements are identified during the student’s preliminary advisory committee meeting. Students are expected to take graduate-level courses (or have equivalent knowledge) in ecology, evolution, and systematics. A student’s advisory committee may add course requirements during annual meetings. Listed below are specific course requirements for all master’s students in the EEB department:

  1. Students must complete BIOL 701 Topics in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology during the first year of graduate education in the fall semester. They are expected to attend departmental seminars in subsequent semesters.
  2. Students must complete the Current Research in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Seminar during the first year of graduate study in the spring semester.
  3. Students must complete a graduate-level course in statistics, typically fulfilled by completing BIOL 841 Biometry I. Alternatively, students may demonstrate equivalent background knowledge.
  4. Students pursuing Option I (Thesis) must complete a minimum of 1 credit hour of BIOL 899 Master’s Thesis.

Master’s students must meet a credit-hour-completion requirement. Those in the thesis program must complete a minimum of 30 graduate-level credit hours with no more than 10 of the 30 from enrollment in thesis, research, or advanced study hours. Those in the nonthesis program must complete a minimum of 36 graduate-level credit hours with no more than 12 of the 36 from enrollment in thesis, research, or advanced study hours.

Students seeking an M.A. in botany must take a graduate-level course in at least 2 of the following 3 areas:

  1. Plant ecology
  2. Plant systematics or morphology
  3. Plant development or physiology

Students seeking an M.A. in entomology must take BIOL 500 Biology of Insects and BIOL 502 Laboratory in Insect Biology and Diversity unless they have taken equivalent courses. Students who have taken a course equivalent to BIOL 502 elsewhere still are encouraged to take BIOL 502 to familiarize themselves with the local insect fauna. In addition, students must take at least one of the following courses: BIOL 708 External Morphology of Insects, BIOL 711 Insect Systematics, or BIOL 716 Insect Physiology and Internal Morphology.

Master’s Final Examination and Research Presentation

During the final semester of enrollment, students pursuing the Option I (Thesis) master’s degree must present the results of thesis research in a public forum and complete a thesis defense. Students must submit copies of the thesis to the entire thesis committee and to the EEB graduate program committee no less than 2 weeks (or longer if requested by the thesis committee) in advance of the planned defense. The thesis presentation should follow the standard departmental seminar format. At the discretion of the student and adviser, the defense may be held on the same day as the thesis presentation, or the events may be held on different days. The master’s thesis defense consists of a substantive examination of the student’s knowledge of the field and the thesis topic, with approximately 50 percent of the examination devoted to questions in the general examination realm, covering the full breadth of the candidate’s field of study (i.e., general knowledge of ecology and evolutionary biology). The defense examining committee must be composed of 3 members of the Graduate Faculty, 2 of whom must be in EEB. To pass the thesis defense, a student must receive a majority of passing votes from the examining committee. Students must contact the EEB graduate coordinator 3 weeks before the anticipated presentation and defense to request departmental and College permission to schedule the events.

During the final semester of enrollment in course work when nonthesis program activities are nearing completion, students pursuing the Option II (Nonthesis) master’s degree must successfully complete a general oral examination. The examination is administered by 3 members of the Graduate Faculty, 2 of whom must be in EEB. The examination’s structure is similar to that of the doctoral oral comprehensive examination; however, the examination is shorter, and depth and breadth of knowledge required of the student are less comprehensive than expected of a successful doctoral aspirant. To pass the master’s final examination, a student must receive a majority of passing votes from the examining committee. Students must contact the EEB graduate coordinator 3 weeks before the anticipated examination to request departmental and College permission to schedule the event.

Research

Upon completion of their work, students in M.A. Option I (Thesis) must submit a thesis reporting original research. The committee-approved thesis must be submitted electronically to Graduate Studies. Instructions for formatting and submitting the electronic thesis are online. The thesis also must be submitted to the department as a PDF document. Paper copies of the title and acceptance pages containing the signatures of the examining committee members must be submitted to both the College and the department.

Students in M.A. Option II (Nonthesis) must conduct research with one or more faculty members involving work on a research problem that requires use of literature, and laboratory or field techniques. Nonthesis students must submit a comprehensive written report to the advisory committee. Examples of research problems that could be the basis of the written report include a literature review of a critical issue in a scientific discipline, original research, or other creative activity approved by the advisory committee. The committee-approved report must be submitted to the department as a PDF document. A paper copy of the title page containing signatures of the advisory committee members also must be submitted.

Time Constraints

A student beginning graduate study with only a bachelor’s degree should complete all work for the master’s degree within 2 or 3 years of initial enrollment at KU. A student beginning graduate study with a master’s degree in the biological sciences should complete all work for the doctoral degree within 4 to 5 years. A student beginning graduate study with only a bachelor’s degree in the biological sciences should complete all work for the doctoral degree within 5 or 6 years.

The maximum tenure for EEB graduate students varies according to degree program. Master’s students are allowed a maximum of 4 years to complete the degree program, and doctoral students are allowed 8 years. If a student earns both an M.A. and a Ph.D. from KU, he or she has a total of 10 years to complete both degrees. Petitions to extend the time limits must be approved by the student’s advisory committee and forwarded to the EEB graduate program committee for consideration before being forwarded to the College for final approval. Some requests must receive final approval from the College.

As required by the university, doctoral students must complete the equivalent of at least 3 academic years of full-time graduate study. This may include the time spent earning a master’s degree.

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