M.S. in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science

Program Chair: Jonathan Price , Ph.D.,
Email: jpprice@hawaii.edu

Associate Program Chair: Tracy N. Wiegner , Ph.D.,
Email: wiegner@hawaii.edu

Professional Internship Track Coordinator: Lisa Canale , MSci
Email: canale@hawaii.edu

Program Website: TCBES Program Website

On this page:

Program Description

The primary purpose of the Master of Science in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science is to provide graduate training in conservation biology and environmental science to those with baccalaureate degrees and those currently working in the field. The program utilizes the extraordinary biological, physical, and cultural complexity of the island of Hawaiʻi as a focus of investigation and study. The program prepares students for natural resource management positions and for entry into Ph.D. programs in related fields.


  • 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.

Program Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the program will be able to:

  • Perform, interpret, and communicate scientific research in the interdisciplinary field of conservation biology and environmental science;
  • Use advanced technological equipment, perform qualitative and quantitative analysis of complex data.
  • Develop skills appropriate for their chosen field of specialization and demonstrate an understanding of the research or natural resource management applications of said specialization.

Admission Requirements

  1. A baccalaureate degree from a regionally-accredited U.S. institution or from a nationally-recognized foreign institution.
  2. A personal statement that states whether student is interested in Thesis Track or Internship Track. If Thesis Track, the applicant must list advisor(s) from the TCBES faculty who agrees to sponsor the application and serve as primary advisor upon acceptance to the program. Internship Track students are not required to get sponsorship from an advisor.
  3. Three letters of recommendation submitted by 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. Grade point average of 3.0 (on a scale where A = 4.0) or the equivalent in the last four semesters of approximately 60 semester credits of undergraduate work and/or in all post-baccalaureate work.
  5. A score of 550 TOEFL (paper based), 213 (computer based) or 79 (internet based), or 6.0 IELTS (for students who have not attended an English language university, or for whom English is not the primary language.

Note: In special circumstances acceptance may be granted at the discretion of the selection committee for those students who meet some, but not all, the above requirements.

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. The TCBES program will decide which credits will be transferred.

International Credentials

A statement describing minimum academic qualifications expected of international applicants may be obtained from the Graduate Division. These qualifications must be completed prior to enrollment.

M.S. TCBES Checklist

(Reminder: Priority application deadline is December 1) Please see the TCBES Admissions Guide for more information.

  • Completed UH Hilo Graduate application form
  • Personal statement of objectives
  • Application fee
  • Official transcripts from all colleges or universities (must be received directly from the institution, or in a sealed envelope if submitted with your application)
  • Three Letters of Recommendation received in the online application system by December 1
  • Official TOEFL score report, if required
  • Verification of financial status (for international applicants) (see International Graduate Students)

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Do I need to find a faculty sponsor? If you are interested in the Thesis Track then you are required to contact individual faculty members whose research interests are similar to your own and who agree to sponsor your application to the program. It is recommended that you begin faculty contact well before the application deadline. If you are interested in the Professional 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 within this page and on the TCBES Website
  3. 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 writing the thesis or completing the internship.
  4. What are the entrance requirements? See Checklist and Admission Requirements sections.
  5. Do I have to take the GRE? No. The GRE Test Requirement is no longer required.
  6. Can I transfer credits? Yes, up to 6 credits, subject to program approval.
  7. When will the program start? Classes for new students begin in the fall of each year.
  8. How much will it cost to live in Hilo? You should budget approximately $30,000.00 per year (residents of Hawaiʻi) and $39,000.00 (non-residents) for tuition, books, housing, food, and personal expenses.
  9. Is financial aid available? Graduate assistantship positions may be available (Contact program chair, Dr. Wiegner: (wiegner@hawaii.edu). You may also contact faculty and participating agencies for financial assistance. Students interested in any type of financial aid must have submitted the FAFSA; students who are may qualify for the Graduate Opportunity Grant. Contact the UH Hilo Financial Aid Office (FAO) for more information.
  10. Do I need to write a Master’s Thesis? The Thesis Track requires course work and a thesis of original research. The Internship Track requires course work, an internship, and research papers.

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 Conservatn Biol & Environ Sci (3)
  • CBES 601 CBES Field & Laboratory Method (4)
  • CBES 602 Research Seminar in TCBES (1)
  • CBES 603 Natural Resource Mgt Seminar (1)
  • CBES 645 Soc Sci Rsch Mthds Envir Cons (3)
  • CBES 677 Quantitative Ecology (3)
  • CBES 700 Thesis Research (1–6) (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 Conservatn Biol & Environ Sci (3)
  • CBES 601 CBES Field & Laboratory Method (4)
  • CBES 602 Research Seminar in TCBES (1)
  • CBES 603 Natural Resource Mgt Seminar (1)
  • CBES 645 Soc Sci Rsch Mthds Envir Cons (3)
  • CBES 677 Quantitative Ecology (3)
  • CBES 690 Professional Internship (1)
  • CBES 691 Becoming Environmental Leader (2)
  • CBES 692 Proposal Writing (2)
  • CBES 695 Becoming Envrnmntl Communicatr (2)
  • CBES 696 Emerging Envrnmntl Professionl (2)

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


Affiliate and Adjunct Faculty

These faculty serve on graduate committees, occasionally teach graduate courses, seminars or workshops, and can co-chair graduate committees with a UH Hilo faculty members. For an updated list, see the TCBES website.