Grad school @ Berkeley


Applying for graduate study at Berkeley? 

Since 1999, Rosemary Gillespie and I have been on the faculty at UC Berkeley, in a large multidisciplinary department Environmental Science, Policy and Management.  At Berkeley, ecology and evolutionary biology are covered by 2 departments, ESPM and Integrative Biology (IB).  The programs are very similar, often confused, with cross listed courses and professors serving on each others students’ committees--you should contact the professor in either department with whom you are most interested in working.  The websites for ESPM, IB, and Berkeley Natural History Museums are good places to see what potential advisors work on and where they work--for grad school at Berkeley, one applies to the department with which your advisor is officially affiliated. In practice, your experience will be largely the same, regardless what department your advisor is in. Please ask me if you have more questions about the 2 departments.

Previously, at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, I advised students in both Zoology (now Biology) and Entomology, now Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences (PEPS) and I continue on the Graduate Faculty as an Affiliate. Our students also participated in the Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology (EECB) graduate program. Before that, I taught at the University of Maryland, College Park, in Entomology and participated in the Marine Estuarine Environmental Science (MEES) graduate program. Respective programs should be contacted for application materials and for further information.

UC Berkeley’s graduate programs in ecology, evolutionary biology, conservation biology, and environmental sciences, are consistently ranked very highly, though one should always think carefully about the types of data that go into these rankings, and whether these sorts of data are indicative of the program in which you may be interested. U.S. News and World Report ranks Berkeley 1st in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and 2nd (tie) in Biological Sciences overall, based on surveys from 2010.  The National Research Council ranked both of Berkeley’s graduate detree programs in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (ESPM and Integrative Biology) highly in is 2010 rankings (using data from 2007).  In this ranking, Berkeley had 48 graduate programs ranked in the top 10 nationally, the most of any university.  Of course, Berkeley also has many graduate programs.  Berkeley had more NSF Graduate Research Fellows than any other school from 2000-2009 (938 out of a total 9,587).  Berkeley was also ranked 1st in a 2007 survey of faculty scholarly productivity in Environmental Sciences by The Chronicle of Higher Education.  JB Grant and colleagues in the journal Conservation Biology in 2007, ranked Berkeley 6th in productivity in Conservation Biology

Among universities, a 2009 review by Washington Monthly ranked Berkeley 1st when considering what universities do for the world and local communities. In 2012, US News &World Report ranked Berkeley as the top public university and 8th (tie) among all universities in undergraduate teaching. Berkeley also does well in international rankings. In 2014 QS ranked Berkeley 1st in Environmental Science. Other rankings include the “The Shanghai List” from ARWU and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, an Academic Ranking of World Universities and in the Sciences and the 2011-2012 University Rankings in Life Sciences from Times Higher Education Supplement (UK).  Recently, Berkeley was ranked by noodle among the top schools for political activity (I am looking for this link...).  All these rankings vary considerably by field and methodology.

Click here for a useful article by Walter Carson from the Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America about getting into graduate school in ecology and evolutionary biology.  If you do not have access to this, email me and I’ll send you the pdf.  In my opinion, the comments in Carson’s pdf are right on the mark, especially the parts about choosing an advisor, visiting the school before applying, and talking to current students. Here is an article in Nature about choosing a mentor. Here is a PDF from Berkeley’s Academic Senate’s Graduate Council about best practices for faculty mentors, and what you should expect from them.

See the page on teaching for information on careers in environmental science.

Students and postdocs in our lab have gone on to a variety of careers in academia, state and federal agencies, NGO's and foundations, and the private sector.  Current and past employers include colleges and universities, nationally--Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, San Diego State, Texas State, UC Berkeley, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin -- and internationally -- Auckland, British Columbia, National Chung Hsing University Taiwan, University College London, São Paulo Brazil, Siena Italy, US Virgin Islands; the private sector, government agencies, and non-profits--BASF, Center for Biological Diversity, Field Museum Chicago, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), State of Hawaii, UC Gump South Pacific Research Station Moorea, USDA, USGS, and See our Evolab page for links to current and former students and postdocs.

Steve Lew, Maua Puta summit, Moorea, French Polynesia