Two people standing and working in a large pond
Degrees Offered: BA IBA MA PhD Minor

Ecology and evolutionary biology (EBIO) offers both breadth and depth: initially it provides a broad, comprehensive foundation in biology. As students progress in their studies, they are able to delve into a biological area of interest in more depth. Some of these areas include conservation biology, ecology, evolution, biodiversity, botany, health science/medicine and zoology. 

EBIO graduates learn how organisms interact with their environment and how they are constrained by their evolutionary histories. In this regard, they are well prepared for anticipated careers in many applied fields of health and law, as well as conservation and natural resource management. Ecological and evolutionary principles underlie most current issues in human ecology, local and global environmental change, dietary health and epidemiology. When combined with elective courses in related departments, the EBIO major is an ideal preparation for postgraduate studies in medicine, public health, environmental law and environmental policy.

Undergraduate Opportunities

CU Boulder offers three undergraduate majors in the biological sciences: ecology and evolutionary biology (EBIO), integrative physiology (IPHY) and molecular, cellular and developmental biology (MCDB). All three majors lead to the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. Highly motivated students may also apply for a combined BA/MA program in EBIO that typically takes five years to complete.

Opportunities are extensive for those with the BA degree, and include industrial and research laboratory work, research and manufacturing positions in biotechnology industries, health­care organizations, technical editing and publishing, scientific illustration, wildlife conservation projects and employment with gas and oil companies. Students that earn Colorado teacher licensure will also be qualified to apply for high school teaching positions. Many graduates enter professional or graduate school, undertaking advanced study in basic biological research, as well as various fields related to the health sciences.

Graduate Studies

EBIO offers the following graduate degree programs: MA I (with thesis), MA II (without thesis) or a PhD in Biology, with specializations in areas of ecology and evolutionary biology. The department’s disciplinary strengths include behavior, ecology, genetics, morphology and systematics, and faculty research programs have relevance for global change, conservation biology and revealing the fundamental mechanisms underlying the structural and functional adaptations of organisms.

MA I Program

A master’s degree with thesis is offered for students interested in continuing their training as professional biologists. For some students the MA I provides a basis for work on a PhD at the University of Colorado or at another institution, although the MA is not required for admission to the PhD program. 

MA II Program

A non­thesis master’s degree program is offered for students who are interested in obtaining a greater knowledge of ecology and evolutionary biology but who are not interested in degree work beyond the MA. This program is suitable for secondary school teachers and others whose career choices do not require a research thesis. 

PhD Program

The PhD is a research degree, involving the production of a major piece of original research (the dissertation). Most recipients of the PhD from EBIO go on to teach and conduct research in a university setting, or to do research and pursue leadership roles in private or government institutions.

Research Opportunities

Nearby field study areas include grassland, semi­deserts, coniferous forests, tundra, lakes, streams and reservoirs at a range of elevations from 5,000 to 14,000 feet. Special courses and research facilities are available at the university’s Mountain Research Station, which is one of the best known sites for alpine research in the world.

CU­ Boulder’s EBIO department is internationally recognized in several areas of research, including ecology of microbes in extreme environments, biogeochemistry, plant ecophysiology, conservation and disturbance ecology, animal behavior, the geography of evolution, plant­animal interactions, evolutionary developmental biology of plants and animals and biological informatics. Undergraduate EBIO students have many opportunities to work on research projects with faculty, either in independent study or through BURST or UROP programs.