M.S. in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science

Thesis Track

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Priority deadline for receipt of all application materials: December 1st
Please review the TCBES Admission Guide for more information on how to apply for the program.
Visit the Funding Opportunities page for a comprehensive list of funding options to support your graduate studies at UH Hilo and instructions on how to apply.

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 Hawaiʻi 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.

The requirements for the Thesis Track can be found in the UH Hilo Catalog. The degree consists of:

  • Core courses credits required for all M.S. students: CBES 600, CBES 601 CBES Field & Laboratory Method (4) , CBES 602 Research Seminar in TCBES (1) , CBES 603 Natural Resource Mgt Seminar (1)
  • Required course for Thesis Track: CBES 677 Quantitative Ecology (3) , CBES 645 Soc Sci Rsch Mthds Envir Cons (3) (starting Fall 2024)
  • Elective credits at 600-level (can take up to 6 credits of 400-level courses with a substitution).
  • Please note that you follow the catalog requirements for graduation based on the year you enter the program. The catalog can change slightly from year-to-year. Back issues of the catalog are available.

The thesis track requires that you have a faculty advisor identified to be your research mentor. It's your responsibility to contact faculty and follow up. It's very important to find someone whose research interests align with your own to ensure your success. Some ways to find potential advisors:

  • scrutinize the professors' descriptions on the TCBES website
  • use a search engine or literature database (Google Scholar, SCOPUS, etc.) to look at the faculty member's publications in the last 10 years
  • look at UH Hilo website to see what courses the faculty member has taught in the last 5 years
  • email or call faculty and be specific about your research interests.


Your first semester is about settling into the TCBES program. Through the required coursework, you will explore seminal, innovative, and novel concepts and techniques of tropical conservation biology and environment science; and, with the input of your faculty advisor, you will determine the direction of your thesis research and begin any permit, certification, or IRB processes.

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. 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. If you defended your thesis in Semester 4, you should finish your thesis dissertation and submit Graduate Form 3 by the UH Hilo academic calendar 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, completing your thesis will not require many additional semesters. Note that you need to have continuous enrollment and be registered for at least 1-credit in the semester that you are graduating.

Suggested Two Year Course Plan (starting Fall 2024)

Year 1

Fall Semester

  • CBES 600 Conservatn Biol & Environ Sci (3)
  • CBES 602 Research Seminar in TCBES (1)
  • CBES 677 Quantitative Ecology (3)

Spring Semester

  • CBES 601 CBES Field & Laboratory Method (4)
  • CBES 603 Natural Resource Mgt Seminar (1)
  • CBES 645 Soc Sci Rsch Mthds Envir Cons (3)

Year 2

Fall Semester

  • Electives (3-6 credits)
  • CBES 700 Thesis Research (1–6)

Spring Semester

  • Electives (3-6 credits)
  • CBES 700 Thesis Research (1–6)

Year 3

Fall Semester

  • Electives (3-6 credits)
  • CBES 700 Thesis Research (1–6)

Spring Semester

  • Electives (3-6 credits)
  • CBES 700 Thesis Research (1–6)

Visit the TCBES Student Handbook for more detailed information on the program.