M.S. in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science

This is content from the Catalog 2017–2018 back issue. Please visit the current catalog for current information.

Program Chair: Becky Ostertag , Ph.D.,
Email: ostertag@hawaii.edu

Assistant Program Chair: Patrick Hart , Ph.D.,
Email: pjhart@hawaii.edu

Natural Sciences Division Office :
Office: Life Sciences, Room 2
Tel: (808) 932-7506/7507

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 will utilize the extraordinary biological, physical, and cultural complexity of the island of Hawaiʻi as a focus of investigation and study. The program will prepare students for technical positions and for entry into Ph.D. programs in related fields.


  • Foster knowledge of current trends and issues in conservation biology and environmental sciences including basic and applied research and natural resource problems;
  • Provide participants with experiences in conceptual and technical research in ecology, evolutionary genetics, geographic analysis, environmental monitoring and assessment in marine and terrestrial environments;
  • Promote research and scholarly activities that will enable participants to enter the scientific research community.

Student Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the program will be able to:

  • Perform scientific research in the interdisciplinary field of conservation biology and environmental science;
  • Develop skills in natural resource and protected area management;
  • Use advanced technological equipment, perform quantitative analysis, and interpret complex data;
  • Present scientific results in oral and written publications; and
  • Interpret and critique professional scientific literature.

Admission Requirements

  1. A baccalaureate degree from a regionally-accredited U.S. institution or from a nationally-recognized foreign institution.
  2. Communicate with a potential advisor(s) from the list of participating faculty with similar research interests. In the personal statement, list advisor(s) from the TCBES faculty who agrees to sponsor the application and to serve as primary advisor upon acceptance to the program.
  3. A minimum combined verbal and quantitative score of 290 on the General Graduate Record Exam (GRE).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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.

Note: Recommended Baccalaureate Courses for Admission to the Program:

  • 2 years of chemistry
  • 1 year of calculus
  • 1 course in geographic information or remote sensing
  • 1 course in statistics
  • 2 courses in life sciences
  • 2 additional courses in physical sciences

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 Office of Admissions. These qualifications must be completed prior to enrollment.

M.S. TCBES Check List

(Reminder: Priority application deadline is December 1)

  • 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)
  • General Test, Graduate Record Exam
  • Three Letters of Recommendation received at UH Hilo by December 1
  • Official TOEFL score report, if required
  • Verification of financial status (for international applicants) (see Forms)

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Do I need to find a faculty sponsor?
    Yes, you are required to contact individual faculty members whose research interest are similar to your own and who agree to sponsor your appolication to the program. It is recommended that you begin faculty contact well before the application deadline. Faculty sponsorship is required for program acceptance.
  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 program 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 Check List and Admission Requirements sections.
  5. Do I have to take the GRE?
    Yes. Applicants are required to submit General GRE scores to UH Hilo. (UH Hilo code: 4869)
  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?
    In-state students should budget approximately $25,000 per year for tuition, books, housing, food, and personal expenses; out-of-state students should budget about $30,000.
  9. Is financial aid available?
    Graduate assistantship positions may be available (Contact program chair, Dr. Ostertag: (ostertag@hawaii.edu)). You may also contact faculty and participating agencies for financial assistance. Students interested in assistantship positions must have submitted the FAFSA; students who meet the deadline for financial aid will have priority for assistantship positions and other aid. Contact the UH-Hilo Financial Aid Office for more information.
  10. Do I need to write a Master’s Thesis?
    Plan A requires course work and a thesis of original research. Plan B requires course work, an internship, and research papers.

Program Curriculum

Total Credits Required:

  • Plan A = 30 credits
  • Plan B = 36 credits

Core Courses (8) credits required for all M.S. TCBES students:

  • CBES 600 Conservatn Biol & Environ Sci (3)
  • CBES 601 CBES Field & Laboratory Method (3)
  • CBES 602 Research Seminar in TCBES (1)
  • CBES 603 Natural Resource Mgt Seminar (1)

Elective Courses 1:

  • Plan A: 16 elective credits of 600-level CBES courses.
  • Plan B: 25 elective credits of 600-level CBES courses.

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

  • CBES 609 Theory/Apps Landscape Ecology (3)
  • CBES 610 Environmental Chem Analysis (3)
  • CBES 615 Global Environmental Change (3)
  • CBES 620 Rrsch Techniq Molecular C Biol (3)
  • CBES 630 Nearshore Monitoring & Analysi (3)
  • CBES 633 Biodiversity (3)
  • CBES 635 Physical Environment of Ecosys (3)
  • CBES 640 Adv Remote Sensing/Digital Ima (3)
  • CBES 645 Apply Social Sci to Marine/Coa (3)
  • CBES 650 Oceanographic Monitoring & Ana (3)
  • CBES 665 Environmental Toxicology (3)
  • CBES 660 Molecular Ecology (3)
  • CBES 670 Geog Info Sys & Visualization (3)
  • CBES 675 Conservation Genetics (3)
  • CBES 677 Quantitative Ecology (3)
  • CBES 680 Adv Stats Analysis & Rsrch Des (3)
  • CBES 681 Spatial Data Analysis/Modeling (3)
  • CBES 685 Behavioral Ecol & Evol Analyse (3)

Other Courses:

  • CBES 690 Internship (3)
  • CBES 694 Special Topics in Subject Matter (To Be Arranged)
  • CBES 699 Directed Studies (To Be Arranged)
  • CBES 700 Thesis Research (1–6)


Certified 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 member.

  • Lisa Adams, M.S. Biology Laboratory Coordinator, Hawaiʻi Community College
  • Carter Atkinson, Ph.D., Project Leader, USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
  • George Balazas, M.S. Zoologist and leader, Marine Turtle Research Program
  • Paul Banko, Ph.D., Project Leader, USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
  • Lawrence Basch, Ph.D., Marine Ecology and Science Advisor, National Park Service
  • Chad Kālepa Baybayan Associate Director, ʻImiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaiʻi
  • Francis L. Benevides Jr., Ph.D., Manager/Engineer/Technician, Federal Aviation Administration
  • Charles Birkeland, Ph.D. Unit Leader Hawaiʻi, Cooperative Fishery Research Unit
  • Barbara Block, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University
  • Frank Bonaccorso, Ph.D., Research Ecologist, USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
  • Brian Bowen, Ph.D., Research Professor, HIMB UH Mānoa,
  • Holly Bowers, PhD, Research Specialist, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institutes,
  • Eric Brown, Ph.D., Marine Ecologist, Kalaupapa National Historical Park
  • John Burns, M.S., Marine Ecologist, UH Mānoa
  • Frank Chapman, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Florida
  • Matthew J. Church, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Oceangraphy Dept., UH Mānoa
  • David Clausnitzer, Ph.D. Pacific Islands Area Forest Ecologist, USDA-NRCS,
  • Susan Cordell, Ph.D., Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service
  • Carla D'Antonio, Ph.D., Professor, Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, UC Santa Barbara
  • Todd Dawson, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Integrative Biology, UC Berkeley
  • Julie Denslow, Ph.D., Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service
  • Bruce Dudley, Ph.D. Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
  • Chris Farmer, Ph.D., USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research
  • Linda Shea Flanders, Executive Director, Cape Kumukahi
  • Peter Follett, Ph.D., Research Entomologist, USDA, Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center
  • David Foote, Ph.D., Research Ecologist, USGS, Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center,
  • James Boyd Friday, Ph.D. Extension Forester, UH Mānoa
  • Alan Marc Friedlander, Ph.D., Hawaiʻi Cooperative Fishery Research Unit,
  • Ruth Gates, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor, HIMB UH Mānoa
  • Grant Gerrish, Ph.D., Instructor, Biology Dept., UH Hilo
  • Scott Geib, Ph.D. Research Scientist, USDA Agricultural Research Services Hilo
  • Kenneth Gordon Gerow, Ph.D. Professor, Statistics Dept., University of Wyoming
  • Christian Giardina, Ph.D., Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service
  • William Gilmartin, M.S. , Director of Research, Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund
  • Charles Greene, Ph.D. Professor, Dept. of Earth and Atmospheric Science, Cornell
  • Arnold Hara, Ph.D., Professor, UH Mānoa CTAR - Beaumont Center
  • David Helweg, Ph.D., Deputy Director, USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
  • Steven Hess, Ph.D. Research Wildlife Biologist, USGS-BRD, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
  • Tara Holinski, M.S. Analytical Laboratory Manager, UH Hilo
  • Darcy Hu, Ph.D., Ecologist and Science Advisor, US National Park Service,
  • Flint Hughes, Ph.D., Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service
  • Nicole Hynson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Botany, UH Mānoa
  • David Itano, M.S. Research Associate, UH Mānoa
  • James Jacobi, Ph.D., Research Botanist, USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
  • Jack Jeffery, Senior Wildlife Biologist, US Fish and Wildlife Service,
  • Tracy Johnson, Ph.D., Research Entomologist, USDA Forest Service,
  • Les Kaufman, Ph.D., Professor, Biology Dept., Marine Program & Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology, Boston University
  • Lisa Keith, Ph.D., Research Plant Pathologist Biology, USDAPacific Basin Agricultural Research Center
  • Randall Kosaki, Ph.D. Deputy Superintendent, Pahahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument
  • Stacy Kubis, M.S. Marine Turtle Research Biologist, NOAA - JIMAR
  • Dennis Lapointe, Ph.D., Ecologist, USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
  • Harilaos Lessios, Ph.D., Staff Biologist, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
  • Gregg Levine DVM,Veterinarian, Dolphin Quest Hawaiʻi, Waikoloa, Hawaiʻi
  • Rhonda Loh, Ph.D., Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Service
  • Fred Mackenzie, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Department of Oceanography, UH Mānoa
  • Richard MacKenzie, Ph.D., Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service
  • Karl Magnacca, Ph.D. Post-doctoral Researcher, UH Hilo
  • Nicholas Manoukis, Ph.D. Research Biologist, USDA Agricultural Research Services Hilo
  • Colby McNaughton, M.S. Field Experience Coordinator, Education Dept., UH Hilo
  • Lisa Muehlstein, Ph.D., UH Hilo Biology and Marine Science Department
  • Kate Nishijima, M.S. Plant Pathologist, USDA
  • Robert Nishimoto, Ph.D., Aquatic Biologist, Division of Aquatic Resources, DLNR
  • Ann Kaleilokelani Nu’uhiwa, Kamehameha Schools-Keauhou/Kahalu’u Educational Group
  • Eben Paxton, Ph.D., Avian Research Ecologists, USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
  • Kennedy Paynter, Jr.. Ph.D., Associate Professor, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland
  • Brian Perry, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Biology Department, California State East Bay
  • Sheldon Plentovich, Ph.D. Coastal Program Coordinator, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office
  • Beth Polidoro, Ph.D. Senior Research Associate and Program Officer, IYCN Global Marine Species Programme
  • William Pitt, Ph.D., Field Station Leader USDA, National Wildlife Research Center
  • Thane Pratt, Ph.D., Project Leader, USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
  • Richard Pyle, Ph.D., Associate Zoologist, Database Coordinator, Bishop Museum
  • Richard Pyle, Ph.D., Associate Zoologist, Database Coordinator, Bishop Museum
  • Lora Reeve, M.S., J.D., Consultant
  • Michelle Reynolds, Ph.D., Project Leader USGS-Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
  • Robert Robichaux, Ph.D. Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona
  • Mike Robinson, M.S. Property Management Agent, Hawaiian Homelands
  • David Schofield, M.S. Marine Mammal Response Network Coordinator, NOAA
  • Craig Severance, Ph.D., Retired UH Hilo Faculty in Anthropology and TCBES
  • Kerry Shaw, Ph.D. Professor, Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University
  • Laura Shiels, M.S. Botony Department, UH Mānoa
  • David Shively, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Geography, University of Montana,
  • Robert P. Smith, M.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Retired
  • Richard Switzer, M.S. Associate Director, Applied Animal Ecology, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research
  • Robert Toonen, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor, HIMB UH Mānoa
  • Jesse Trushenski, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Center For Fisheries, Aquacultre and Aquatic Sciences, Southern, Illinois University
  • William Walsh, Ph.D., Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR)
  • Laura Warman, Ph.D., USDA Forest Service, Institute of Pacific Island Forestry
  • Debbie Weeks, Ph.D., Chemist
  • Virginia Weis, Ph.D. Professor, Zoology Department, Oregon State University
  • Sharon Ziegler-Chong, M.S. Associate Director, PACRC; Coordinator, Hawaiʻi Cooperative Studies Unit