M.S. in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science

Thesis Track

The primary purpose of the M.S. in TCBES is to provide graduate training in conservation biology and environmental science to people with baccalaureate degrees and others currently working in the field. The program utilizes the extraordinary biological, physical and cultural complexity on the Island of Hawaii as a focus of investigation and study. The thesis track MS TCBES program prepares graduates for technical positions and for entry into Ph.D. programs in related fields.

  • 8 core courses credits required for all M.S. TCBES students
  • 16 elective credits of 600-level CBES courses
  • 6 thesis credits required for all M.S. TCBES students in Thesis track


Semester 1 (Fall)
Your first semester is about settling into the TCBES program, completing course work, and thinking more about what you want your thesis research to be.
Semester 2 (Spring)
For your second semester you will complete your required course work, and one or two electives. Table 1. Suggested three-year course plan for students in the Thesis track (30 cr. total).You have two major goals for your second semester: 1) Establishing your thesis committee, and 2) Completing your thesis proposal. The latter can also be completed over the summer.
1st Summer
Your first summer is important for conducting research and/or data analysis for your thesis. If for some reason you were unable to complete/present your thesis proposal in the previous semester then you should do so before August if you want to register for thesis credits in Semester 3.
Semester 3 (Fall) Semester 4 (Spring)
You should plan to spend most of your time on thesis-related research (and course work if/as necessary), data analysis and writing.
2nd Summer
The second summer is all about your thesis. You should plan to spend most of your time on thesis-related research, data analysis and writing. If you defended your thesis in Spring, you should finish your thesis dissertation and submit Form 3 by the deadline.
Additional time
It is not unusual for a Master’s program to take longer than two years. However, by thinking about and planning your thesis research early in the program, hopefully we will not require many more semesters for a finished thesis.
Fall Spring
Year 1
CBES 600 Conservatn Biol & Environ Sci (3) CBES 603 Natural Resource Mgt Seminar (1)
CBES 601 CBES Field & Laboratory Method (3) Possible Elective like
CBES 675 Conservation Genetics (3)
CBES 602 Research Seminar in TCBES (1) Electives (3-6) like
CBES 699 Directed Studies (To Be Arranged) ,
CBES 677 Quantitative Ecology (3) ,
CBES 670 Geog Info Sys & Visualization (3)
Year 2
CBES 700 Thesis Research (1–6) Electives (3-6)
Year 3
CBES 700 Thesis Research (1–6) Electives (3-6)
Table 1: Suggested two-year course plan for students in the Thesis track (30 credits total).

Download our TCBES Handbook for more detailed information on the program.

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. The General Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required.
  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.

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.

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

Graduate Assistantships

For detailed information on graduate assistantships, please review links below:

To apply for the Graduate Assistantship for the 2020-2021 academic year, send completed forms to Shelby Wong, hilograd@hawaii.edu. Please list the subject line as "GA application". Priority deadline is 1 December 2019, after which applicants will be examined until all positions are filled. See the Graduate School Admission website for more information: https://hilo.hawaii.edu/academics/graduate

Inquiries: - Dr. Tracy Wiegner, Director, TCBES Graduate Program - Dr. Rebecca Ostertag, Associate Director, TCBES Graduate Program