Graduate Division

Admission Guide: Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science (TCBES), MS

Guide to Completing the Application for the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science, MS
Program Website:
Entry Term: Fall

Next Application Term: Fall 2025
Priority Deadline: December 1, 2024
Final Deadline: March 15, 2025

On this page:

Program Purpose and Goals

The primary purpose of the Masters of Science in the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science (TCBES) graduate program is to provide graduate training in conservation biology and environmental science. The program benefits from the extraordinary biological, physical, and cultural complexity on the Island of Hawaiʻi as a focus of investigation and study. The program will prepare students for leadership positions in the environmental arena and for entry into Ph.D. programs.

Program Mission

  • Foster knowledge of theory and techniques in conservation biology and environmental sciences, including basic, applied, and socio-ecological research;
  • Promote scholarly activities in marine and terrestrial environments that will enable participants to pursue careers in research and natural resource management.

Recommended Preparation

Applications are reviewed on a variety of criteria; however, preparation pertinent to the TCBES program is essential. Successful graduates of the TCBES program have typically entered the program with:

  • Baccalaureate coursework including most of the following:
    • 1 course in statistics
    • 2 courses in chemistry
    • 2 courses in life sciences
    • 2 additional courses in natural and/or social sciences
    • 1 course of calculus
    • 1 course in geographic information or remote sensing
  • Relevant research or professional experience such as:
    • Senior Thesis
    • Senior capstone project
    • Internship
    • Employment
    • Volunteer service

M.S. TCBES Application Checklist

To be considered a complete application, ALL of the below (Online application, All official transcripts, 3 letters of recommendation, all required documents) must be received by the Graduate Division.

Required Documents to be Uploaded in the Documents Tab of Online Application

  • CV/Resume

    • Education, including relevant coursework
    • Professional and/or research experience relative to conservation biology and environmental science (work or volunteer)
    • Skills (software, certifications, languages, laboratory, field)
  • Personal statement of objectives

    • Written as a coherent narrative that tells your story, in approximately 1000 words, that addresses the following:
      1. What experiences have led you to want to pursue a Master's degree in tropical conservation and environmental science fields and how did they prepare you for graduate study?
      2. What personal attributes make you well-suited and committed to studying and stewarding the environment?
      3. What are your short and long-term career goals?
      4. How will graduate study specifically in the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science (TCBES) Graduate program at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo (UH Hilo) and being based on Hawai'i Island help you accomplish your academic and career goals?
      5. If applying for the Thesis Track, you must also name the advisor from the TCBES faculty who has agreed to sponsor your application and be your primary advisor upon acceptance into the program.

Requested in the Recommendations Tab of the Online Application

  • Three professional or academic letters of recommendation
    • Recommendations from professors who are familiar with your work are preferred. We will also accept letters written by supervisors who have observed your work in the environmental field or research activities. We discourage letters from co-workers, friends, family members, and members of the clergy (unless they supervised your work). Letters should address academic achievement, ability to pursue graduate study, and general character.
    • Once you request your letters in the electronic system, your letter writers will be sent an email and instructions on how to use the electronic letters of recommendation system. They will be asked to upload a letter of recommendation.

Sent Directly to the UH Hilo Graduate Division

  • Official transcripts sent directly from all non-UH system colleges or universities you have attended.
  • Official transcripts from UH system institutions will be pulled via STAR.
  • We recommend certified electronic transcripts sent directly from your institution to the UH Hilo Graduate Division
  • Baccalaureate degree transcripts from international institutions must be submitted to an independent transcript evaluation service.
  • Hard Copy transcripts should be mailed to:

    UH Hilo Graduate Division
    200 W. Kawili Street
    COBE Building, Room 201
    Hilo, HI 96720

  • For international applicants

GRE Testing

Note: The GRE Test Requirement is not required.

Application Process

Applications will be examined beginning Dec. 1 for admission to the following Fall semester. Applications received after Dec. 1 will be reviewed on a space available basis.

The UH Hilo Graduate Division receives all supporting documents and maintains the applications through final notification.

Completed applications that meet the admission criteria will be forwarded to the TCBES Admissions Committee for a comprehensive review and consideration for admission into the program. Admission decisions made by the committee will be forwarded to the Graduate Division which sends the final notification to the applicant.

Admission Status

The applicant’s admission status is valid only for the semester to which the applicant is accepted. Applications for students who do not register or who withdraw from the University are voided but retained for a period of two (2) years. Students may reapply for admission to the next year by submitting a new application and fee, and updated statement, resume and letters.

Criteria for Admission

Acceptance is granted at the discretion of the Admissions Committee based on the six criteria listed below.

An applicant must:

  1. Have earned a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution or from a nationally recognized foreign institution.
  2. Have a grade point average of 3.0 (4.0 = A scale) or the equivalent in the last four semesters of approximately 60 semester credits of undergraduate and/or in all post- baccalaureate work.
  3. Submit three letters of recommendation from references who have observed or supervised the applicant’s performance and are able to comment on the quality of the applicant’s academic achievement, ability to pursue graduate study, and general character.
  4. If applying for the Thesis Track, confirmation from the TCBES faculty who has agreed to sponsor the application and serve as primary advisor. This is not a requirement for admission into the Internship Track.
  5. For students who have not attended an English language university, or for whom English is not the primary language: Earn a score of 550 TOEFL (paper based), 213 (computer based) or 79 (internet based), or 6.0 IELTS.

Transfer of Credits

Requests for transfer of graduate credits must be made during the first semester in which the student is enrolled in the program. Only credit hours with a grade of B or better from accredited universities are transferable. Transfer credit hours must have been completed within five years preceding the date upon which the advanced degree is to be conferred by UH Hilo, and must not have been used to satisfy requirements for another degree. Prior approval from the TCBES Director is required for all transfer credits.

International Student Admissions

Official college transcripts in the original language and official translations into English must be provided. To expedite your application, all graduate applicants with international transcripts are required to send the baccalaureate transcript for professional evaluation by one of the credential evaluation services listed on our web site: International Student Application Information. Only graduates of accredited universities will be considered for acceptance.

International Graduate Student Information

Program Curriculum

Total Credits Required:

  • Thesis Track = 30 credits (21 Core + 9 Elective)
  • Internship Track = 36 credits (24 Core + 12 Elective)

Thesis Track (30 Credits)

Core Courses (21 Credits)

  • CBES 600
  • CBES 601
  • CBES 602
  • CBES 603
  • CBES 645
  • CBES 677
  • CBES 700 (6 Credits Required)

Elective Requirement (9 Credits)

  • 9 Elective Credits of 600-level CBES courses.

Professional Internship Track (36 Credits)

Core Courses (24 Credits)

  • CBES 600
  • CBES 601
  • CBES 602
  • CBES 603
  • CBES 645
  • CBES 677
  • CBES 690
  • CBES 691
  • CBES 692
  • CBES 695
  • CBES 696

Elective Requirement (12 Credits)

  • 12 Elective credits of 600-level CBES courses.


  1. A maximum of 6 credits of 400-level courses may count towards these elective credits

Tuition Schedule

Students in this program are charged the Graduate Tuition Rate. Resident and Non-Resident rates are available.

UH Hilo Tuition Schedule
UH Hilo Fees Schedule

Students are charged tuition on a per credit hour basis up until 12 credits per semester.

For financial aid assistance, please contact:
UH Hilo Financial Aid Office:
Ph: (808) 932-7449

Native Hawaiian students who need assistance with applications and/or scholarships please contact:
Kipuka Native Hawaiian Student Center:
Ph: (808) 932-7418

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Do I need to find a faculty sponsor? If you are interested in Thesis Track then you are required to contact and receive confirmation from an individual TCBES faculty member whose research interests are similar to your own and who agrees to sponsor your application to the program and serve as your primary advisor. It is recommended that you begin faculty contact well before the application deadline. If you are interested in Internship Track then you are not required to have a sponsor.

  2. How do I find a faculty sponsor? TCBES Faculty information can be found on the TCBES Program website, Faculty page

  3. Do I need to have an internship pre-arranged to apply to the Professional Internship track? No. A suitable internship will be developed during the first year of the program.

  4. How long does it take to complete the program? The course work is designed to be completed in 3-4 semesters, with additional time needed for completing the thesis or internship. Thesis students generally graduate within 2-3 years. Professional Internship students generally finish in 2 years.

  5. Do I need to write a Master’s Thesis? Thesis Track requires course work and a thesis of original research. Internship Track requires course work, an internship, and a summary report.

  6. What are the entrance requirements? See Checklist and Criteria for Admission sections above

  7. Do I have to take the GRE? No, applicants are not required to submit General GRE exam scores to UH Hilo.

  8. Can I transfer credits? Yes, up to 6 graduate credits may be transferred, subject to program approval.

  9. When will the program start? Classes for new students begin in the Fall (August) of each year.

  10. How much will it cost to live in Hilo? Please see the Estimated Cost of Attendance

  11. Are there Graduate Assistantships available? Graduate assistantship positions may be available on the TCBES Funding Opportunities page. You may also contact faculty and participating agencies for financial assistance.

  12. Is financial aid available? Students interested in any type of financial aid should submit the FAFSA; students who are residents of the State of Hawaiʻi may qualify for the Graduate Opportunity Grant. Contact the Financial Aid Office for more information.

For more information, please contact

Dr. Ryan Perroy
Chair of the TCBES Admissions Committee and Associate Program Director MS Program in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science
Ph: (808) 932-7259

For questions regarding the application process, contact:
Shelby Iwamoto
UH Hilo Graduate Division
Ph: (808) 932-7927