MS, Biological Sciences, Concentration in Organismal Biology, Conservation & Ecology

Description of the Program:

 Plan A (THESIS) Master's Program in Biological Sciences

To be admitted to the Plan A program, one must acquire a major professor. Once a major professor is secured, it is important to work closely with him or her and keep the lines of communication open, especially if the site of research is in an industrial setting off-campus. Normally, the student and major professor select two other professors in the department to make up the graduate committee and then the student asks them to serve on it. The committee can be made up of four or five members, providing a regular faculty member of this department is the chair and a majority of the members are from this department. The committee works with the student in planning the academic program, and it has ultimate veto power. Students are urged to meet with all the members of their committee at important times, especially when planning the scope and design of the research program.

Generally, the Plan A (thesis-based) program takes longer than the Plan B (non-thesis-based) program. The average time for the former is 6-7 semesters, but it can take much longer if students work at other jobs while pursuing their degree. The maximum time allowed for either degree program is seven years starting with the first course taken. The unit and course requirements can be found in the campus catalog. Check with the Graduate Studies Office and website for the important deadlines for submission of the graduate contract to advance to candidacy, for application to graduate, and for submission of the master's thesis.

For other details of the graduate program, contact the department graduate coordinator Dr. Shannon Bros, at (408) 924-4896 or

MS, Biological Sciences, Concentration in Organismal Biology, Conservation and Ecology

Students in this degree program emphasize botany, entomology, zoology, or conservation biology through choice of advisor, committee, course work, and thesis. The Biology Department has a long and solid tradition in the organismal areas, with a wide variety of courses, a large organismal faculty, and broad expertise in most field-based research activities. These programs have become unique, as they are largely unavailable at other universities in the Bay Area. The more recently established Conservation Biology program offers a more scientific coverage of environmental science and ecology with less emphasis on public policy than available through the Environmental Studies Department.

As with all of the department's MS programs, this one is a Plan A (thesis-based) program entailing two or more years of course work and research. All students are expected to take Biology 218 (Evolution) as part of their graduate-unit requirement and are encouraged to take at least one graduate seminar course (Biology 255E). As with all of our master’s programs, Biology 202, a course in advanced communication skills, and Biology 201 are required, the latter for two semesters. A proficiency in biostatistics and of population genetics, gained if necessary by taking Biology 156 (Pattern Recognition and Analysis) and Biology 118 (Evolutionary Genetics), is also expected of most of our organismal graduate students. Prospective students should consult with the graduate coordinator, Dr. Shannon Bros at (408) 924-4896 or and with individual faculty members whose teaching and research interests match their own interests.

An MS degree in Marine Science is available from San Jose State University through the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (See MS-Marine Science in the SJSU catalog).

See the introduction to department graduate programs for policies governing admission to classified standing for all master's programs in biology. All students, in consultation with their graduate faculty advisor and committee members, must prepare a master's degree plan for approval by the department graduate coordinator and the associate vice president of Graduate Studies and Research.

Course Requirements:

MS, Biological Sciences,  Concentration in Organismal Biology, Conservation and Ecology course requirements

MS, Biological Sciences,  Concentration in Organismal Biology, Conservation and Ecology completing requirements