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College of Arts & Sciences

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Ph.D. Guidelines

These guidelines are for Ph.D. students in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and comply with the Biological Sciences Department by-laws and university graduate guidelines. However, this document defines specific timelines, course requirements, breadth requirements and examination formats for students in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology graduate program. These guidelines were established by the faculty to insure that all students in the program receive broad-based training in ecology, morphology, and evolution. Students should view these guidelines as a time schedule to be completed as reasonable progress toward their degree. Failure to meet the following guidelines can result in dismissal from the program.

Students entering the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program should consider themselves colleagues in the EEB focus group and take an active role as members of the program. The faculty believe firmly that a vital component of a student’s training is the interaction and collaboration with all members of the program, including undergraduate and graduate students. Similarly, students are encouraged to interact and collaborate with faculty and students that are not in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. The student’s adviser will help in the formulation of a dissertation project; however, the student is expected to identify a topic of mutual interest appropriate for their research. The faculty strongly believe that, with their help, students should develop an independent research program that defines them as scientists.

Entry Evaluation

On arrival to the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program, a student’s level of preparation for the degree pursued will be reviewed by the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Graduate Steering Committee (GSC). This committee will consist of the student’s preliminary choice of research adviser and the two members of the graduate steering committee elected annually by the program faculty. The meeting will be organized by the GSC and will occur before or during the first semester of study.

During this meeting:

  1. The student will be briefed on the EEB guidelines and expectations and the consequences of failure to meet these requirements. Any questions or concerns about the guidelines should be addressed at this time.
  2. Course deficiencies will be identified and the EEB Ph.D. Graduate Student Curriculum Plan will be recorded and approved by the student, the adviser and GSC.
  3. Preliminary research interests will be discussed.
  4. The student will deliver copies to the Graduate Secretary, the GSC chair, and the adviser and will keep a copy.

Ph.D. Program of Study in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Concentration

The following guidelines identify the academic responsibilities necessary to complete a Ph.D. degree in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Ph.D. students must complete eight graded courses not including BIOS 794, Ecolunch. At the GSC entry evaluation meeting, the specific requirements will be established based on the student’s background and training.

EEB Course Requirements

Biostatistics

The Biological Sciences Departmentrequires that all Biological Sciences Ph.D. students show competence in univariate statistics. This requirement is fulfilled by taking BIOS 6700 BIOSTATISTICS I (5 credits). Students entering the program with a master’s degree from another institution may substitute an equivalent graduate-level univariate statistics course. Students wishing to have another graduate-level statistics course considered should submit to the GSC the request in writing along with a copy of the course syllabus.

All Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Ph.D. students are required to take multivariate statistics, BIOS 8700 Biostatistics II (5 credits).

The Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program requires that students show competence in evolutionary biology, morphology, and ecology. Therefore, required coursework will be distributed across these fields according to the student’s area of emphasis. (See Areas of Emphasis below).

Evolutionary Biology

All Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Ph.D. students must complete two courses in the evolution core.

Areas of Emphasis (Morphology, Ecology, or Evolution)
  • Students with a morphological emphasis in their research must complete three courses in the Morphology core.
  • Students with an ecological emphasis in their research must complete three courses in the Ecology core.
  • Students with an evolutionary emphasis in their research must complete one additional course in the Evolution core PLUS two courses in EITHER the Ecology or Morphology core.
Breadth Requirement

Students must complete one breadth course outside their field of emphasis. This requirement must be fulfilled by completing one graduate-level course in Biological Sciences outside Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Under extraordinary circumstances, a course outside of Biological Sciences may be used with permission of the department graduate committee. The breadth course will be determined with the advice and approval of the preliminary adviser and the GSC.

Ecolunch

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Ph.D. students must enroll in 1 credit of BIOS 794 Ecology Colloquium (“Ecolunch”) during all academic semesters unless there is a conflict with field research or teaching. Each EEB Ph.D. student must present one seminar in BIOS 794 each year and will register for 2 graded credits that semester.

Areas of Emphasis
Ecology
  • Bios 5160 Biogeography
  • BIOS 5770 Population Ecology
  • BIOS 5780 Community Ecology
  • BIOS 5620 Animal Ecological Physiological
  • BIOS 5310 Aquatic Biology
  • BIOS 5290 Marine Biology
  • BIOS 5810 Animal Conservation Biology
  • BIOS 7970 Seminar in Conservation Biology
Evolution
  • BIOS 5250 Evolutionary Genetics
  • BIOS 5570 Animal Systematics
  • BIOS 5730 Animal Behavior
  • BIOS 682 Behavioral Ecology
  • BIOS 558/559 Amphibians/Reptiles
  • BIOS 5650 Ichthyology
  • BIOS 5710 Ornithology
  • BIOS 5740 Mammalogy
Morphology
  • OUCOM Medical gross anatomy
  • OUCOM Neuroanatomy
  • BIOS 5030 Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy
  • BIOS 530 Invertebrate zoology
  • BIOS 520 Comparative vertebrate biomechanics
  • BIOS 5360 Field Entomology
  • BIOS 880B Techniques in Electron Microscopy

Additional courses may be appropriate depending on the student’s area of study. The student, in consultation with his or her adviser, may submit a written request to the GSC that other courses not listed may substitute where appropriate.

In consultation with and approval from the GSC and the adviser, students who enter the EEB Ph.D. program with a master’s degree can use up to three courses (maximum of 12 credits) from that degree to fulfill EEB course requirements.

Additional course requirements may be made at the discretion of the GSC. These requirements will be based on the student’s area of interest, research focus, and prior coursework.

Academic Standards

Students are bound by the latest version of By Laws of the Graduate Program in Biological Sciences. Note (Section VIII, A) that students will receive a letter of concern if their GPA falls below 3.2 and that any student that receives a second grade of a C+ or below is likely to be dismissed from the program.

Timetables and Forms

It is the student’s responsibility to check the university and departmental timetables to insure that deadlines for applying for graduation are met. The EEB faculty also expects students to adhere to the responsibilities and deadlines identified in the following timetables. All of the required forms listed below are provided online or from the Biological Sciences Department Graduate Secretary. The student is required to bring the appropriate forms to all meetings and to ensure that the forms have been sent to the appropriate EEB, departmental, and university representatives.

  1. Meet with EEB Graduate Steering Committee (GSC)—First year, early first semester.
    1. At the conclusion of this meeting a completed copy of the EEB Graduate Student Curriculum Plan Form must be provided to the student, the adviser, chair of the GSC, and the student’s departmental file.
    2. At this time the Biological Sciences Department Dissertation Adviser Information Form should be completed and submitted to the graduate secretary.
  2. Organize Dissertation Committee—By the end of the fall of second year. At this time the student should submit to the Biological Sciences Department graduate secretary the completed CAS #5 - Dissertation Committee Information Form.
  3. EEB Comprehensive Exam—EEB Ph.D. students should plan to take their comprehensive examination during Spring semester of their second year or no later than Fall of the third year. Except under extraordinary circumstances, EEB students must pass their comprehensive examination prior to the defense of the dissertation proposal. Consult with your adviser and comprehensive examination committee to plan your deadlines.
    1. Get your Comprehensive Examination Committee organized (details under section III below)—No later than end of Winter semester of the second year.
    2. Schedule Comprehensive written and oral exams. Most students should complete their comprehensive exams in the spring of the second year.
    3. The student must bring to the oral comprehensive exam CAS #4 - Report of the Comprehensive Exam for the Ph.D. Form, and the student will be responsible for delivering a completed copy of the form to all committee members and the Biological Sciences Department graduate secretary who will forward the appropriate forms to the college.
  4. Proposal Defense (See note above.)
    1. Get your proposal defense committee ready. (See Examinations.)
    2. Set a proposal defense date, schedule a room and notify your committee.
    3. Distribute your dissertation research proposal to each committee member—at least two weeks prior to proposal defense. The proposal must be submitted to each committee member in hard copy and must have been vetted and approved by the advisor before it is distributed to the committee members.
    4. The student must bring to the proposal defense the Biological Sciences Department Report of Dissertation Proposal Examination. The student will provide completed copies of the form to all committee members and the Biological Sciences Departmen graduate secretary, who will forward the appropriate forms to the college. It is the student’s responsibility to schedule the examination at a time when all committee members can attend.
    5. The student must bring to the proposal defense the CAS #6 - Recommendation to Advance Student to Candidacy for Ph.D. Degree Form.* *Note: Advancement to candidacy requires: 1) Satisfaction of all required scholarly disciplines, 2) Formation of the dissertation committee, 3) Approval of the dissertation proposal, and 4) Successful completion of the comprehensive exams.
  5. Annual Committee Updates—It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the members of the dissertation committee are kept up-to-date on the progress of the student’s research. In addition to the annual Ecolunch seminar, the student must submit a report to all members of the dissertation committee detailing progress on their work. A copy of this report must be submitted to the department graduate secretary for inclusion in the student’s file. This can be an opportunity to inform committee members of changes to the research, conference presentations, grant proposals, and manuscripts in preparation.
  6. Dissertation Defense
    • Prepare your dissertation with tentative approval of your adviser.
    • Set Dissertation defense date—to ideally occur no later than the fifth year, Spring semester.
    • Distribute copies of the dissertation to all committee members—at least two weeks prior to defense. The dissertation must be submitted to each committee member in hard copy. The dissertation must be vetted and approved by the advisor prior to distribution to the committee members.
    • At least two weeks prior to the defense, the student must also provide the department graduate secretary and the College of Arts & Sciences with the CAS #7 - Arrangements for the Oral Examination on the Dissertation Form.
    • Note: If the committee has changed the student must resubmit a Dissertation Committee Information Form and/or Biological Sciences Department Dissertation Adviser Information Form.
    • Dissertation Defense. The student must bring to the defense a copy of the CAS #8 - Report of the Oral Thesis Examination/ Dissertation Defense. The student will be responsible for delivering a completed copy of each form to the student, all committee members and the department graduate secretary who will forward the appropriate forms to the college.

Examinations

There are three major exams for Ph.D. students: the comprehensive exam, the proposal defense, and the dissertation defense.

The Comprehensive Exam

Comps are exams that are designed to test the student’s general background in ecology, morphology, and evolutionary biology. The comprehensive examination is a written exam followed by an oral exam within 14 days. The examination committee will consist of four faculty members with graduate faculty status: 1) the acting dissertation adviser, 2) one faculty member chosen by the student representing each of the three EEB cores (morphology, evolution, ecology), one of which will be chosen by the committee to chair the exam. The format of the written exam (take-home, open book, closed book) is determined by the comprehensive examination committee. The student must complete the examination over two consecutive days. Upon evaluation of the written exam, the student will be provided the opportunity to defend his or her answers in an oral exam. The oral examination will also be an opportunity to further evaluate the student’s competencies in the core areas of the program.

Preparation for the comps will require independent reading and studying to develop a general background in the material represented by each of the cores. Students are required to consult with comprehensive examination committee members for reading lists of papers and books with which they will be expected to be familiar. It is recommended that students be familiar with general issues in their core areas. Readings and important literature may be identified by individual committee and faculty members. Students will be expected to answer questions (in writing and orally) based on these readings, courses they have taken, and general topics related to their research interest.

There are five possible outcomes to the comprehensive exam:

  1. Pass—the student will be encouraged to continue with support of the EEB faculty.
  2. Conditional Pass—the student will not be required to retake the comprehensive exam; however, there are conditions placed on his or her continuance. These conditions can include completing additional coursework, writing a review paper, or giving an EEB Colloquium (Ecolunch) on a particular topic.
  3. Fail, with permission to retake the entire exam or specific core areas. This is reserved for a student who has demonstrated competence in other work. Students who fail a second comprehensive exam are no longer eligible for a Ph.D. in the program.
  4. Fail, with the option to complete an M.S. at the discretion of the student’s committee.
  5. Fail and must leave the program.

The student is responsible for bringing the appropriate forms to the examination and the chair of the examination committee is responsible for insuring that the forms become record. If the committee awards a conditional pass, the conditions for continuing must be specified in writing on the form. If the committee votes to fail, but allows a retake, the conditions, timetable, and form of the examination will be clearly specified in writing.

The Proposal Defense

The dissertation proposal defense will be scheduled after the student has passed the comprehensive examination. Prior to the proposal defense, the student must establish a dissertation committee. The dissertation committee will consist of the student’s adviser and a minimum of three additional committee members. (All must be in attendance at the dissertation defense.) At least one of the committee members must be external to Ohio University Biological Sciences Graduate Program (Biological Sciences or Biomedical Sciences) but can be a member of the Ohio University community. This person will serve as the Graduate Faculty Representative if he or she is able to attend proposal and dissertation defense; if not, a Graduate Faculty Representative must be selected from the Ohio University community and be present at the proposal and dissertation defense. If the external member is not a member of the Ohio University community, then the external member is not required to attend the proposal or dissertation defense; however, he or she must be sent a copy of the proposal and dissertation. External committee members will be directed to send, to the student’s adviser, questions or comments to be included at the defense. At the proposal defense, the committee will elect a chair that is not the student’s adviser.

The proposal defense is an oral defense of the student’s dissertation research proposal. The defense should occur by the end of fall semester of the third year. The proposal defense will be attended by the student’s committee. At least two weeks prior to the proposal defense, and only after considerable review and approval by the thesis adviser, the student is required to submit to each committee member a hard copy of the proposal. The format for the main body of the proposal is brief (eight pages, single-spaced); however, students are encouraged to include any appendices of ancillary information relevant to their research that could not be included in the body of the proposal. The proposal should present any preliminary data the student has collected and should convey a thorough understanding of the literature. Students are strongly encouraged to discuss their proposals with committee members to identify any weaknesses or problems prior to the defense. Immediately preceding the defense, the student will present a presentation of the proposed research. This presentation can be an Ecolunch seminar or as a 15-20 minute presentation given to the students dissertation committee. The length of the defense is at the discretion of the committee, and the discussion will pertain to the student’s proposed research.

There are four outcomes to this defense:

  1. Pass.
  2. Fail, with invitation to revise and re-defend the proposal by a specific date. Students who fail a second proposal defense are no longer eligible for a Ph.D. in the program.
  3. Fail, with option to complete an M.S. thesis at the discretion of the student’s committee.
  4. Fail, leave the program.

The student is required to bring the necessary forms to the examination and for ensuring that the forms become record. The approved proposal forms the expectations of the research to be completed for the doctoral degree. The outcome of the proposal defense will be reported to the Biological Sciences Department graduate committee, the student, and all members of the examination committee by the chair of the student’s dissertation committee.

Dissertation Defense

This is the final step in the process for Ph.D. students. The dissertation committee normally is the same as the proposal committee; however, the faculty recognize that certain committee members may not be available for both exams and, therefore, do not require that both committees have exactly the same membership. At least two weeks prior to the defense, the student must provide all committee members with a copy of the dissertation that has been approved by the adviser. (Thus, the dissertation will have gone through revisions with the adviser well before this time). Students are encouraged to meet with the members of their committee to discuss their dissertation and identify any weaknesses or problems prior to the defense. The defense has two components. First a public seminar will be held that is open to any member of the department and the general public. (Ecolunch is not an appropriate venue for a dissertation defense.) The public seminar will be followed by a question-and-answer period in which any member of the audience may ask questions. Following the public seminar, the student will defend their dissertation with their dissertation committee. There are two outcomes to this defense:

  • Pass—any revisions to the thesis recommended by the committee must be made prior to graduation.
  • Fail—the student will have the option to re-defend within one year or before the end of the seventh year enrolled at Ohio University, whichever comes first.

It is the student’s responsibility to bring the appropriate forms to the defense and to ensure that all forms are received by the Biological Sciences Department graduate committee, the CAS Graduate Office, the student, and all members of the examination committee.

Teaching Requirements

Excellence in teaching is an essential aspect of a career in academia. Thus, all students in the EEB program, regardless of their funding source must participate in teaching. The work load will vary from course to course. Teaching assistants are expected to attend laboratory preparation meetings, teach their assigned laboratory or recitation sections, attend the corresponding lectures, and participate in the grading of lecture exams.

Students completing a Ph.D. must teach a minimum of two semesters. The minimum teaching requirement can be fulfilled at any time during the student’s tenure. Students funded through a departmental teaching assistantship will be expected to teach during each quarter of funding.

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