M.S. in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science

A Guide to Survive as a TCBES Student

On this page:

Program Description

The primary purpose of the Master of Science in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science is to provide graduate training in conservation biology and environmental science to those with baccalaureate degrees and those currently working in the field. The program will utilize the extraordinary biological, physical, and cultural complexity of the island of Hawaiʻi as a focus of investigation and study. The program will prepare students for technical positions and for entry into Ph.D. programs in related fields.

Mission Statement

  • Foster knowledge of theory and techniques in conservation biology and environmental sciences including basic, applied, and socio-ecological research.
  • Promote scholarly activities in marine and terrestrial environments that will enable participants to pursue careers in research, teaching and natural resource management.

Program Objectives

Graduates of the program will be able to:

  • Perform, interpret, and communicate scientific research in the interdisciplinary field of conservation biology and environmental science;
  • Use advanced technological equipment, perform qualitative and quantitative analysis of complex data.
  • Develop skills and applications in natural resource management and policy.

Participants of the Program will

  • Perform scientific research in the interdisciplinary field of conservation biology and environmental science;
  • Develop skills in natural resource and protected area management;
  • Use advanced technological equipment, perform quantitative analyses, and interpret complex data;
  • Present scientific results in oral and written publications;
  • Interpret and critique professional scientific literature.

A Guide to Completing Your Master’s Degree in Three Years or Less

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. You should meet regularly as a lab group, and one-on-one with your advisor. You should spend time reading journal articles to help you focus your research interests; our one-on-one meetings will include discussion of your interests and questions you have about the papers you read. By the end of the semester your advisor and you should have a good idea about what your thesis focus will be. Depending on how fast things progress, and your interests, you may even begin some preliminary data collection or analysis. By the end of the semester you should be able to congratulate yourself on a job well done, and take a nice long holiday break to come back refreshed for your second semester.

Semester 2 (Spring)

For your second semester, you will complete your required course work, and one or two electives. You should continue to meet regularly as a group, and one-on-one as needed. 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, but you should not wait any longer in order to finish your Master in maximum three years.

The Committee

Along with your primary supervisor, it is typical to have two committee members (Thesis track only). However, more than two are allowed. Two committee members must be UH at Hilo faculty and a 3rd member can be an affiliate or adjunct. Affiliate faculty do not have to be based at UH at Hilo, and may be faculty at another institution, or can belong to another organization. For example, researchers from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), or U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) often serve on graduate committees. However, your non-faculty member must send a CV and a letter explaining its motives to become adjunct or affiliate faculty at UH at Hilo to uhhtcbes@hawaii.edu. A reminder will be sent every Fall semester. The TCBES faculty and graduate council will vote and if accepted, the Dean will appoint the member. When choosing your committee, it is a good idea to aim for a well-rounded team where members are able to offer complementary knowledge and skill sets that relate to your thesis. You should discuss options for committee members with your advisor before making requests.

The Thesis Proposal

Do not underestimate the value of a well-constructed research proposal, or the amount of time and effort it will take to write one. A good thesis proposal will tell a story, and will justify your thesis research. It should start with a big picture concept and follow-up question. It will include a literature review connected to the big picture concept, and a justification as to why your study system is excellent for addressing the follow-up question. It should then identify the specific goals of your thesis, your hypotheses, and the methodology you will use to test your hypotheses or answer your questions. It will include a timeline for completing the research and writing the thesis, and it will include a detailed budget. Your proposal is a working document, a plan for executing your thesis research. It is very likely that some things will change between your proposal and your actual research – that is the nature of research; things don’t always work the way we expect (if we had all the answers, there would be no need for research). But the point is, you cannot begin research without first having a very good plan for how to proceed.

By the end of Semester 2, you should have a proposal or a very good draft that you are ready to present to the entire committee. Note also that your final thesis structure will include general introduction (hopefully based on your thesis proposal, but again, expect that some things will change), two or maximum three data chapters, then a general discussion. Generally, you should expect to submit 2-3 proposal drafts to your advisor for comments/suggestions before submitting it to the rest of the committee. You should give your committee at least a week to review it before we meet as a group for your “Thesis Proposal Committee Meeting”. During this meeting, you will give a short presentation or discuss the general outline of your proposal. Then each committee member will have a chance to ask questions and/or make recommendations. After the meeting, you will likely need to make revisions to your proposal before it can be submitted to the Graduate Division (Shelby Wong , hilograd@hawaii.edu CoBE 201. If not there, place the form into the blue folder on the magnetic tray stuck on the outside the door) (note that it does not have to be submitted by the end of Semester 2, but it MUST be submitted before the end of Semester 3).

In addition to the two major goals described above, Semester 2 offers a great opportunity to present at the annual TCBES symposium, which usually happens in early April. Depending on your progress, you may choose to present a 5-minute proposal talk or a 15-minute research presentation. In Semester 2, a 5-minute presentation may be most appropriate for this particular symposium. See the TCBES Symposium website for more detail.

1st Summer

One way that graduate programs usually differ from undergraduate programs is that you don’t get the entire summer off. Semester 3 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 MUST do so before August so that you are able to register for thesis credits in Semester 3. There are some local conferences that happen during the summer that you may wish to attend or present at. You should also plan to take some time off (remember throughout your program that a MS degree is a lot of work, but you should also try to maintain a good work-life balance). You may not have regular group meetings during the summer.

Semester 3 (Fall)

You should have presented your thesis proposal to your committee, and hopefully they have signed off on it and you have been able to submit it to the Graduate Division (Form 2) (Shelby Wong , hilograd@hawaii.edu CoBE 201. If not there, place the form into the blue folder on the magnetic tray stuck on the outside the door). In Semester 3 you should continue to meet as a group with your lab, and one-on-one with your advisor as needed. You should plan to spend most of your time on thesis-related research (and course work if/as necessary), data analysis, and writing. By the end of the semester you should be able to congratulate yourself on a job well done, and take a nice long holiday break to come back refreshed for your fifth semester.

Semester 4 (Spring)

In Semester 4 you will continue to meet as a group for lab meetings, and one-on-one as needed. You should plan to spend most of your time on thesis-related research (and coursework if/as necessary), data analysis, and writing. You should plan to present a 15-minute research talk at the annual TCBES symposium in April. If you are well ahead in your research you can apply to Fill and submit the Thesis/Project/Dissertation Defense Schedule form by the annual deadline to defend your Master’s thesis in time (see defense deadlines at same link).

2nd Summer

The 2nd 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 defend your thesis in Spring, you should finish your thesis dissertation and submit Form 3 by the annual 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. We should work hard to ensure that you are able to complete your degree requirements within eight semesters.

Timeline for the Completion of the TCBES M.S. Thesis Track

2 years track 3 years track Goals
Fall 1 Fall 1 1. Discuss plan of thesis projects with advisor; 2. Core courses and electives credits taken (min 7 credits); 3. Thesis Committee Selection
Spring 1 Spring 1 and Summer 1 1. Fill and Submit Form 1: Graduate Committee Formation; 2. Discuss thesis projects with committee; 3.Thesis Proposal Writing; 4. Core courses finished, more electives credits taken
Summer 1 Fall 2 1. Thesis Proposal Approval by committee; 2. Fill and Submit Form 2: Thesis/Project/Dissertation Proposal; 3. Fill and Submit Thesis/Dissertation Form for Graduate Level Degrees (700) by the end of the first week of Fall semester in order to take Thesis credits
Fall 2 Spring 2 1. Discuss thesis projects with committee; 2. Thesis and Electives credits taken
Spring 2 Summer 2/ Fall 3/Spring 3 1. Fill out Graduation Application form early (even if you are not a 100% this Spring or Fall). See deadlines; 2. Course work complete and confirmed with committee; 3. Thesis completed; 4. Fill and Submit Thesis/Project/Dissertation Defense Schedule by the deadlines to defend on time. 5. Fill and Submit Room reservation form.
Spring2/Summer 2 Spring 3/Summer 3 1. Master’s thesis defense/approval; 2. Fill and Submit Form 3: Thesis/Project/Dissertation Completion by deadlines

Timeline for the Completion of the TCBES M.S. Internship Track

2 years track Goals
Fall 1 1. Discuss plan of study and professional internship ideas with advisor; 2. Core courses taken; 3.Begin the series of internship credits; 4. Secure professional internship; 5. Fill and Submit Form 1: Graduate Committee Formation
Spring 1 1. Design professional internship with mentor agency and internship coordinator; 2. Core courses finished, elective credits taken; 3. Continue series of internship credits and write project proposal; Fill and Submit Form 2: Thesis/Project/Dissertation Proposal
Summer 1 1. Internship credits taken and professional internship conducted
Fall 2 1. Electives credits taken; 2. Continue series of internship credits; 3. Internship completed
Spring 2 1. Fill out Graduation Application form early. See deadlines; 2. Course work completed and confirmed with advisor; 3. Complete the series of internship credits and write professional internship project report; 4. Fill and Submit Room reservation form for Project presentation by the deadlines to defend on time; 5. Master's project presentation and report approved by mentor agency; 6. Public presentation given; 7. Fill and Submit Form 3: Thesis/Project/Dissertation Completion by the deadlines; 8. The Non-Exclusive Distribution License for UH at Hilo Graduate Works form; 9. Graduate.


All Graduate forms are available from the Office of the Registrar.

Thesis and Professional Internship track graduate students need Form 1, 2, and 3; and the Room reservation for Thesis/Project/Dissertation Defense. Professional Internship track graduate students also need to complete the Non-Exclusive Distribution License for UH Hilo Graduate Works form for HŌKŪ submission

Defense Room Reservation

After picking your defense date, the thesis/project/dissertation defense schedule form needs to be signed by the Graduate Division Specialist (Shelby Wong , hilograd@hawaii.edu CoBE 201. If not there, place the form into the blue folder on the magnetic tray stuck on the outside the door). She will then give you a copy that will need to be signed by all committee members after your defense, then you will give it back to the Graduate Division Specialist. This will allow you to walk for Fall or Spring commencement. There is no commencement for Summer, so you only need to give the form once it is signed by all committee members after your defense.

You must reserve a room for your Thesis/Project Defense.

Room Reservation for Thesis/Project/Dissertation Defense

| All Rooms | Auxiliary and Facilities Officer, Shaylyn “Shay” Hara |

Room Reservation Form

Complete form minimum 5 days in advance. The room request form needs to be completed with you and your advisor's information as the "Person Requesting Room", your UH at Hilo ID number, and TCBES listed as department under affiliation.

Hard copy instructions:
For Thesis Track graduate students, check the "thesis option", and have the form signed in the following order: 1) advisor, 2) committee members, and 3) TCBES Director. Then submit your thesis and the form to the library. 4) After review of your thesis, the form is signed by the library, and then you submit the form to the Graduate Division Specialist (Shelby Wong, hilograd@hawaii.edu CoBE 201; if not there, place the form into the blue folder on the magnetic tray stuck on the outside the door). The Graduate Division office will get the Section IV signatures for you and submit the completed form to the Registrar Office.

For Professional Internship Track graduate students, check the “non-thesis option”, have the form signed in the following order 1) by committee members also known as your mentor(s) , 2) advisor, 3) the TCBES Director. Then submit a copy of your project report to the Internship Coordinator with a photocopy of the form, and then submit the original to Graduate Division Specialist (Shelby Wong, hilograd@hawaii.edu CoBE 201; if not there, place the form into the blue folder on the magnetic tray stuck on the outside the door). The Graduate Division office will get the Section IV signatures for you and submit the completed form to the Registrar Office.

Electronic instructions (directions for social distancing):
During this time of COVID-19 and the imposed physical distancing, the UH at Hilo Graduate Office has a specific protocol required for Form 3 submission for the professionail internship track. Adherence to the Form 3 protocol enables official acceptance by the UH Hilo.

The Form 3 must be submitted via your UH email account following the steps outlined below.

Grad Student: Completes and signs form. 
Grad Student: Obtains mentor(s) signature as committee members.
Grad Student: Emails form to hilograd@hawaii.edu and to the primary advisor.
Primary Advisor: Signs electronically, emails back to grad student.
Grad Student: Emails (forwards) form to TCBES Director to sign as Graduate Program Chair.
Graduate Program Chair: Signs electronically, emails back to grad student, primary advisor, and to hilograd@hawaii.edu
  • Authorization to Participate in Commencement This form is required to participate in commencement

  • Petition to Substitute and/or Waive Courses - Graduate You need to fill out this form to take a 400-level class and get graduate credits for it.

  • Permission to Register in (Subject) 500 Course

  • Directed Reading or Research Course Form for Graduate Degree Courses (599V, 699V, 799V)
    • There is no limit to the number of CBES 699 Directed Studies (To Be Arranged) credits a student can take, and CBES 699 Directed Studies (To Be Arranged) can be repeated in different semesters. The student should consult his/her advisor and committee about coursework, including directed studies.
    • Directed Readings or Research Course are designed to allow student to gained experience or skills in their field that they cannot obtain in other graduate or 400 level courses. In order to enroll in a directed reading or research course, the student need to find an instructor with whom he/she will take the course. The instructor and the student need to create a course outline that includes: Title; Overview of the proposed course; Purpose or objectives, including expected learning outcomes; Procedure for how the course will be taught; Resources to be used; Expected products from the course; Timeline and Means of evaluation. Among others,the means of evaluation can be reports or article summary. The outline must follow the University of Hawaii at Hilo Credit Hour Policy and Practice :
    • “A credit hour is an amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally established equivalency that reasonably approximates not less than – One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or At least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this definition for other academic activities as established by the institution, including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.”
    • Once the course outline is established, you need to present it with the completed and signed form (Directed Reading or Research Course Form for Graduate Degree Courses (699) to the TCBES Program Director. If the TCBES Program Director approves your outline, he/she will sign you form and then, you can submit it to the Office of the Registrar.
  • Graduation Application
    • You need to fill out this form the semester you want to graduate. See deadlines
  • Student Overload Approval Form Graduate Program
  • Graduate Repeat Course Notification
  • Petition for Leave of Absence
  • Permission to Enroll in Graduate Coursework as an Unclassified Student
  • Permission to Enroll in Graduate Coursework as an Undergraduate Student
  • Petition to Continue from a Master’s Program to a Doctoral Program
  • Recommendation for Admission to Candidacy for a Doctoral Degree
  • Thesis/Dissertation Form for Graduate Level Degrees (700 and 800)
    • Fill out this form every time youn register for CBES700 credits. You need at least 6 credits of CBES700 to graduate with the Thesis Track Be aware that NO grade will be available and NO credit will be counted in your STAR system until you graduate. This is normal, as long as you register for a minimum of 6 credits of CBES700, you will be able to graduate. Grade and credits will appear after graduation.
  • Graduate Internship

Salto Card, Keys and Email List

Salto Key Cards

One salto key card will be given to you during orientation week, this will give you access to the Graduate Room. Access renewal are every two years on August 15. If your card does not work, it might need to be re-activated after the two-year period. If you need access to other lab or rooms, you need to ask your supervisor directly.

Save the Planet and give your salto card back at the end of your studies as it is plastic but can be re-used!!!

Room Key

Fill out the form on the Auxiliary Services website with the appropriate signatures and return it to the Auxiliary Services

Email List

To be removed or added onto the TCBES-All and -student email list, please send an email to uhhtcbes@hawaii.edu

Laboratory Safety Training

Discuss your need with your advisor and contact Ken Ikeda from the Environmental Health and Safety Office (EHSO) at (808) 932-7638 or by email at keni@hawaii.edu to request a training session.

Program Curriculum

Total Credits Required

  • Thesis track = 30 credits
  • Internship track = 36 credits

Core Courses (8) credits required for all M.S. TCBES students

  • CBES 600 Conservatn Biol & Environ Sci (3)
  • CBES 601 CBES Field & Laboratory Method (3)
  • CBES 602 Research Seminar in TCBES (1)
  • CBES 603 Natural Resource Mgt Seminar (1)

Elective Courses

  • Thesis track: 16 elective credits of 600-level CBES courses.
  • Internship track: 25 elective credits of 600-level CBES courses.

A maximum of 6 credits of 400-level courses may count toward these elective credits.

  • CBES 609 Theory/Apps Landscape Ecology (3)
  • CBES 610 Environmental Chem Analysis (3)
  • CBES 615 Global Environmental Change (3)
  • CBES 620 Rrsch Techniq Molecular C Biol (3)
  • CBES 630 Nearshore Monitoring & Analysi (3)
  • CBES 633 Biodiversity (3)
  • CBES 635 Physical Environment of Ecosys (3)
  • CBES 640 Adv Remote Sensing/Digital Ima (3)
  • CBES 645 Soc Sci Rsch Mthds Envir Cons (3)
  • CBES 650 Oceanographic Monitoring & Ana (3)
  • CBES 665 Environmental Toxicology (3)
  • CBES 660 Molecular Ecology (3)
  • CBES 670 Geog Info Sys & Visualization (3)
  • CBES 675 Conservation Genetics (3)
  • CBES 677 Quantitative Ecology (3)
  • CBES 680 Adv Stats Analysis & Rsrch Des (3)
  • CBES 681 Advance Geo-Spatial Techniques (3)
  • CBES 685 Behavioral Ecol & Evol Analyse (3)

What Goes Into a Thesis Proposal? (Thesis track)

Make sure to discuss with your advisor and committee members what they expect in each section. Content and structure varies with projects.

General Structure of a Project Proposal

  • Background information
  • Chapter’s Objectives
  • Methods
  • Timeline
  • Budget

Proposal Defense

Discuss with your primary advisor and your committee members what are their expectation for the meeting and how you should prepare i.e. presentation slides, timeframe, structure of your presentation, which section to focus on, etc.

Master Thesis/Project Defense

Similarly, to your proposal defense, you should discuss with your primary advisor and your committee members what are their expectation for the meeting and how you should prepare i.e. presentation slides, timeframe, structure of your presentation, which section to focus on, etc. It is important to meet with your committee to discuss those things early in the semester you are expecting to graduate.

Room reservation for Thesis/Project/Dissertation Defense

| All Rooms | Fill form 5 days in advance minimum Facilty Requests; Return by email: ccecs@hawaii.edu; or fax: 808-932-7831; or hand delivered: PB-6 Rm 103. The CCECS form needs to be completed with advisor's information as the "person Requesting Room" & their signature on the bottom. Your information should be filled as the "Person in charge of the Event"

Thesis Format Requirements

It is the student’s responsibility to prepare a final manuscript that meets the style requirements of both the UH at Hilo Graduate Division and their graduate program. Please follow the UH at Mānoa Style and Policy Guide for Electronic Thesis and Dissertations for general guidelines on the physical format of the manuscript with the following exceptions:


All graduate works must be submitted via ETD Administrator, a web-based service for the submission and publication of student theses and dissertations. In the case where online submission is unfeasible, please contact the Mookini Library or call (808) 932-7296 for assistance.

Students must first create an account to start the submission process. ETD Administrator will then walk you through the next several steps. Please see the guides and other resources on the ETD Administrator website for more information on publishing options and copyright as well as frequently asked questions about online submission. The ETD Administrator submission process must be completed by the required deadline in the University Academic Calendar to submit Form 3: Thesis/Project/Dissertation and Degree Requirements Completion to the Library and the Graduate Division.

View the HŌKŪ Fact sheet (Mookini's institutional repository for UH Hilo)

TCBES Faculty

An updated list of the TCBES Faculty members can be found at on the Faculty page of the TCBES website.

Affiliate/Adjunct Faculty

Criteria for Affiliate or Adjunct Faculty Status in TCBES

The primary purpose of obtaining Affiliate or Adjunct status is for serving on TCBES student committees and teaching 600-level courses at UH at Hilo. In addition, Affiliate and Adjunct faculty may serve as Principal Investigators (PI) on grants. Reference this page for definitions of Affiliate and Adjunct Faculty.

Professional Qualifications

  • Possess a graduate degree (Ph.D. or M.S. with five years of professional experience in a field closely related to the TCBES mandate. [Note: those with a Bachelor’s degree or no degree may be interacting with a TCBES student committee, but are not listed as Affiliate faculty and thus they are not an official signatory on Forms 1, 2, and 3. They may sign the signature page of the thesis and the Forms 1-3 as a courtesy.]
  • Possess and be able to demonstrate a high degree of knowledge and skill in an area related to the TCBES programs or MS student thesis research equivalent to that possessed by regular faculty.
  • Be of good standing in one’s professional and/or academic community and abide by the profession’s ethics.

Affiliate or Adjunct faculty in TCBES would be expected to

Contribute to TCBES through active and direct engagement in the following:

  • Teaching at the graduate 600-level or at the 400/600-level (dual listed).
  • Serving on graduate student thesis committees.
  • Providing in-kind resources (e.g., equipment, space, access to field sites).
  • Writing grants through UH at Hilo.
  • Publishing and presenting results with TCBES students, staff, and/or faculty.
  • Demonstrate a personal commitment to education and scholarship by maintaining professional skills and competence.
  • Commit to the goals and objectives of TCBES, advance its reputation and welfare, and exhibit substantial collegiality.
  • Academic activities and contributions should be sustained and regular. Affiliate and Adjunct status is renewed annually and involves review with the faculty sponsor and reappointment from the appropriate Dean.
  • Acknowledge TCBES for all activities that are related to Adjunct or Affiliate Faculty status in the program.

Application Process

Once a semester there will be a call for new Adjunct and Affiliate applications. If you are a student who needs a non-UH at Hilo faculty member on your committee, your committee members need to be certified as Affiliate (not teaching) or Adjunct (teaching). This designation is now required for those non-BOR appointed people that would like to serve on graduate student committees or teach graduate courses. Affiliate and Adjunct faculty go through the HR process.

Please contact your committee members who need to go through this process and have them send material to uhhtcbes@hawaii.edu by the designated deadline in the email call.

The process is:

  1. Affiliate or Adjunct Faculty must have a UH at Hilo faculty sponsor who is part of TCBES.

  2. Application consists of a CV and a cover letter stating the purpose for seeking Affiliate or Adjunct status and the name of the sponsoring faculty.

  3. Applications are voted upon by the TCBES faculty followed by the Graduate Council. Upon approval, the appropriate Dean’s office writes an official letter and initiates the Human Resources process, which includes Form 5B.

Over the last year, as we have started this new process, we have been going through the old list (previously called certified faculty) and seeing who is interested in this new process. We have signed up new people and will update the TCBES website as they get the official UH paperwork done. If you have any questions about a particular person's affiliate/adjunct status, feel free to ask the TCBES Program Director, Tracy Wiegner (wiegner@hawaii.edu)

Current UH Executive Policy E5.221

Affiliate Faculty

  1. The title Affiliate faculty is a non-compensated appointment to UH at Hilo, usually to professional personnel in residence in Hawaiʻi County, with a particular interest or capability which may contribute to the teaching or research program of the College; except for occasional lectures or consulting with individual students, affiliate faculty do no teaching.

  2. The Dean of the College recommends appointments to this title only after review and approval have taken place within the appropriate UH at Hilo discipline. Appointments to this title carry no implied obligation for future appointment to instructional positions.

Adjunct Faculty

Non-compensated faculty appointments shall utilize the appropriate "Adjunct" title in accordance with the following guidelines for employing the adjunct faculty series:

  1. The Adjunct faculty series is intended to encourage the utilization of qualified, experienced persons from the local community in appropriate educational programs and thereby to enhance and improve the integration of practical real world experience with conceptual, theoretical, and vicarious instruction.

  2. The Adjunct faculty series (which does not replace any current category of appointment) will be non-compensated appointments with each appointment appropriately ranked by training and experience analogous to regular faculty.

  3. The ranks in the adjunct faculty series will be:

    • Adjunct Instructor
    • Adjunct Assistant Professor
    • Adjunct Associate Professor
    • Adjunct Professor
  4. Appointments to this series will be upon invitation, will not exceed one year, and are to be the specific instructional term or terms for which the appointee has agreed to accept responsibilities.

  5. The appointment and ranking procedure utilized will be identical to that employed in the regular faculty appointment process with the exception that the recruiting and advertising aspects for compensated appointments will not be required.

  6. Reappointments of Adjunct faculty at the same rank or at a different rank must be reviewed in the same manner as other faculty appointments. Changing the rank upward will require full appointment review by peers but will not involve a "promotion" process since each year's appointment is considered essentially as a new appointment.

  7. This series is effective immediately, may be utilized by all units, and appointments may be delegated to the Chancellor or designee.

Research and Training Facilities

Research and training facilites available to the TCBES students can be found on the Support page of the TCBES website

Problem-Solving and Accountability


The following process is in place to address concerns if questions exist about faculty adhering to the Code of Conduct:

  1. A student, staff, or faculty member should first discuss the concern(s) with the TCBES Director;

  2. The TCBES Director will be obligated to bring the concern(s) to the TCBES Executive Committee, to ensure that the issue is not ignored; and

  3. The TCBES Executive Committee will discuss the issue and make a recommendation for action. The recommendation must be agreed upon by a majority of the TCBES Executive Committee members. The recommendation will be forwarded on the Graduate Council and/or the upper University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo administration via proper channels (Dean, VCAA, Chancellor).

From the Responsibilities and Commitments document:

To be considered part of TCBES you must either serve as primary advisor to Master’s student(s) OR be active in a combination (two or more) of the different types of activities within a 3-yr period. Data will be self-reported annually on a form that will be provided to each faculty member (not yet developed). These activities are:

  1. Teaching at the graduate (600) level) or at the 400/600 level (dual listed).

  2. Serving on graduate student thesis committees.

  3. Providing service to TCBES program (via Executive Committee, Admissions Committee, the TCBES symposium, seminar speaker, etc.).

In addition, TCBES faculty will agree to:

  1. Turn over RTRF to TCBES to help support the EPSCoR Core Labs and the overall program until financial solvency is reached, with an option to opt-out yearly if special circumstances exist;

  2. Conduct oneself in a professional manner toward students, following a code of conduct (see Code of Conduct for TCBES Faculty);

  3. Follow all University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo policies as highlighted in the The Faculty Handbook, and fully documented at UH at Hilo Academic Policies (https://hilo.hawaii.edu/policies/) and UH at Hilo Policies and UH System policies.


UH at Hilo Student Conduct Code
Choosing to join the University community obligates each student to abide by this code of conduct. By enrolling in the University, students accept the responsibility to become fully acquainted with the University's regulations and to comply with the University's authority. The University expects students to maintain standards of personal integrity that are in harmony with the educational goals of the institution; to respect the rights, privileges, and property of others; and to observe national, state and local laws, and University regulations.

Find all you need to know about the Student Conduct Code

Policies that Pertain to Student Rights and Responsibilities:

I. Student Protections This policy provides procedures for academic complaints concerning the following three protections:

1) Protection of Freedom of Expression. Student shall be free to take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion. At the same time, they are responsible for learning the content of any course of study for which they are enrolled.

2) Protection against Improper Academic Evaluation. Students shall have protection against prejudiced or capricious academic evaluation. Student performance shall be evaluated solely on an academic basis and not on opinions or conduct in matters unrelated to academic standards. At the same time, they are responsible for maintaining standards of academic performance established for each course in which they are enrolled.

3) Protection against Improper Disclosure. Information about student views, beliefs and political associations, which faculty members acquire in the course of their work as instructors, advisors and counselors shall be considered confidential. Protection against improper disclosure is a serious professional obligation. Judgments of ability and character may be provided under appropriate circumstances, normally with the knowledge or consent of the student.

Academic disputes not covered by A, B and/or C above shall be dealt with at the College level provided that all previous recourse has been exhausted.

II. Procedures for the Resolution of Academic Complaints

Any student who believes that a faculty member has violated one of the above protections may initiate action to achieve a resolution. The actions outlined below must be initiated no later than the second week of the semester following the semester or summer session during which the student became aware of the alleged impropriety or could reasonably have been expected to become aware of it. In cases of a complaint related to improper evaluation, the receipt of the grade will be considered to have taken place during the semester during which the course was in session. At anytime during discussions with the faculty member, department/discipline or division chair, or the dean, when an offer of resolution is made, and that offer is rejected by the student, the student cannot return to that offer of resolution at a later stage of the process. Once the student rejects an offer of resolution, that offer will no longer be considered by the faculty, chair or dean.

Find all the information on policies that pertain to student rights and responsibilities on the Student Conduct website.

III. TCBES procedures for assignment of Advisor/Thesis Committee Chair, changing of Advisors, and changing Thesis Committee Members

Note, the terms Advisor and Thesis Committee Chair are synonymous. From here on, Advisor will be used.

  1. Procedures for assignment of the Advisor for Thesis-Track students.

In order for a student to be accepted into the TCBES Thesis-Track, the Graduate Division must “Have received confirmation of TCBES Faculty sponsorship.” Link to TCBES Admissions. The UH Hilo faculty member signing off on the student’s application, who is sponsoring the student, is therefore the student’s Advisor. The student’s application with the Advisor’s sponsorship signature resides within the Graduate Division, Admissions Office. Before this commitment between the student and faculty member is finalized, the Admissions Committee Chair (or designee on the committee), verifies the faculty's willingness to serve as the Advisor.

  1. Procedures to change an Advisor.

A TCBES student who wishes to change their Advisor must submit a Change Advisor Form to the TCBES Director ChangeAdvisorForm. Before the Change Advisor Form can be signed by the TCBES Director, the student must find another faculty member willing to advise them; this may be done in consultation with the TCBES Director and original Advisor, as appropriate. This form must contain signatures from: 1) the student, 2) the new Advisor, and 3) TCBES Director, and be submitted with a new Form 1 to the Graduate Division. Once both forms have been accepted by the Graduate Division, the TCBES Director will send out a confirmation email regarding the change of Advisor to the student, as well as to the new Advisor and the original one.

  1. Procedures to change Thesis Committee Members, who are not the Advisor.

If after the submission of Form 1 to the Graduate Division, a TCBES student wishes to change the members of their thesis committee, a new Form 1 must be completed. The new Form 1 supersedes the original Form 1. The new Form 1 must be signed by the student, the new committee member, any remaining committee members, the Advisor, and TCBES Director. It is the responsibility of the Advisor to contact the original committee member by email (for documentation) and inform them that they are no longer on the committee.

Professional Behavior and Development

Psychological problems, not intellectual deficiencies, are the most common stumbling block in graduate school. Keep yourself engaged, motivated and on-task. Take advantage of this opportunity to develop colleagues – your fellow graduate students, faculty, and professional biologists in your area of interest. They will help keep you excited about scientific research. Schedule regular meetings with your advisor and keep them up to date with your progress, concerns, and any difficulties you are having. Keep in mind that your advisor (and the rest of your committee) is here to help you. They want to see you succeed almost as much as you do. If you are having problems, let your advisor know early on; they will appreciate your candor and may likely have some good suggestions for helping solve your difficulties.

To gain the respect of your committee, act professionally in the scheduling of and participation in committee meetings. Always follow through on commitments, however small, that you make with your committee members and other colleagues. Never underestimate how difficult it can be to get busy people together at one time for over one hour. Anticipate difficulty in scheduling people for meetings and plan ahead! Set meetings up in advance, giving each committee member sufficient notice so you can find a mutually agreeable time. Reserve a room. Shortly before the meeting, remind each member of the time, date, and room of the meeting. Committee meetings are for you. Know ahead of time exactly what you want to get out of the meeting and get feedback from your advisor. Write an agenda and lead the meeting. Take notes on decisions and recommendations made during each meeting.

All graduate students are expected to attend department-sponsored seminars and other graduate student defense seminars. Be sure to check the schedule for the TCBES Seminar Series and other seminars on campus each semester and plan to attend these.

Tips for Developing Your Professionalism

You are in this program to obtain a degree and make a difference in your field. Taking courses is one part of the big picture. Every single one of these items below is vital to your professionalism. Post them as a list of goals to achieve and work on every semester.

  1. Attend seminars on campus. Every week there are several seminars on campus that have relevance to tropical conservation biology and environmental science. There is no way to attend them all. Be alert and schedule them into your plans when possible. Go to the TCBES seminar every Friday! You will learn many things and become aware of research and conservation issues in your specific area and areas outside of your specific interest (the latter is critical in growing as a professional). There will be other seminars in departments such as Anthropology, Biology, Chemistry, Marine Science, Geology, Geography, and the College of Agriculture Forestry and Natural K6 Source Management. There are outside UH at Hilo seminars at the USDA Forest Service. You will find your own sources based on your interests.

  2. Attend professional meetings. Every year students attend a number of meetings. Presenting at professional meetings is highly encouraged at the graduate level. The Society for Conservation Biology is a natural meeting to attend, but students attend a diverse selection.

  3. Belong to a professional society (or several). It is important that you develop these ties early. Ask your advisor for guidance. All of these societies produce professional journals and have annual meetings. They have student rates. Why should you join? There are many reasons (e.g., you will become a member of a group who will be your professional peers after graduation; you will keep up to date on research in your field (through the journal); you will begin to learn the politics of your profession). You should decide on a society and become a member by the end of your first semester.

  4. Update your resume/curriculum vitae. This is your professional record and one of the most important “tools” for obtaining funding while in the program or future employment. Some have highly sophisticated CVs; others are not well prepared. Ask your student colleagues for advice and your advisor to review your CV. You should update it at least once/semester.

  5. Establish an office space and use it. Do not hole up at home and deprive yourself of graduate school life. The most important thing you will get from graduate school is your interaction with colleagues, faculty and visiting scholars. Graduate school is not an extension of college; it is a way of life. If you need to study at home, do so, but leave time every day to come and interact through seminars, etc. One of the biggest mistakes new students make is to use graduate school only as a route to taking more courses. If you plan only to come to campus, attend class, and go home, you are in the wrong program and field. You need to understand the culture of science. You need to engage in conversations. You need to develop friendships with your colleagues as they will be critical professional links for you in the future.

  6. Obtain funding for research and graduate training. Students come into the program with a variety of funding support systems. Some of you are almost completely funded. Some have little or no funds other than personal ones. Very few of you have funds to support your research. Everyone can be funded at some level, but it will take work and creativity on your part. Obtaining funds for a living stipend, tuition or research is part of being a professional. You need to be continuously alert to sources of funding, no matter how small, because developing a funding record is also important for your professionalism. View a list of funding opportunities at UH Hilo. Remember, this is not an exhaustive list and you should discuss funding support and options with your advisor.

  7. Publications are important. You will be judged on your publications for any academic or research-oriented positions you seek (this includes MS students who plan to enter a PhD program as well as people seeking positions at the university level). Publications may be required and will definitely provide an advantage for a number of other positions. Interact with your advisor regarding publications.

  8. Seek opportunities for leadership and community involvement: These opportunities can be within the TCBES Program, the broader university system, or at the regional, national or international level. Some of you already have these connections. Evidence of leadership and “community” involvement is often a criterion for outside funding/fellowships and is definitely a plus when you seek employment.

Student Life

Students in the TCBES program do more than just study; they are active members of the university and Hilo community. As a member of a vibrant group of researchers and professionals committed to scientific scholarship and conservation, TCBES students engage in a challenging and enriching curriculum while participating in a variety of campus activities and groups.

TCBES MATER Student Club

Students participant in campus life as a registered club –Tropical Conservation Biology & Environmental Sciences, Marine and Terrestrial Environmental Researchers. As a club, the TCBES MATER can access campus resources provided by the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Student Association (UH HiloSA) included funding for campus events and activities. The club also helps organize service activities and supports environmental sustainability initiatives on campus.

TCBES New Student Orientation

Designed by students for students, the new student orientation program takes place before the fall semester begins. Each year, a committee of second-year TCBES students and program faculty design a mandatory orientation for new TCBES students. The TCBES orientation introduces students to many of the resources the university and community provide, as well as the diverse cultures and ecosystems of the island. Previous TCBES students have commented that orientation is when the class bonded as a group and enduring friendships were forged.

Graduate Student Council

As one of the graduate programs at UH at Hilo, TCBES student representatives meet regularly with students from other program to discuss, share, and strategize ways to improve graduate student life and research opportunities. The Graduate Student Council (GSC) serves as an advisory panel and makes policy recommendations that are forwarded to university administration. As a member of the GSC, TCBES students are the student voice of the program.

Annual TCBES Student Symposium

The Annual TCBES Student Symposium began in 2009 to provide the opportunity for students to present their research in conservation biology and environmental science to people of the UH community and others currently working in the field. It also prepares TCBES students for professional research conferences outside of Hawaiʻi. Symposium participants utilize the extraordinary biological, physical, and cultural complexity on the Island of Hawaiʻi as a focus of investigation and study. Students may present a poster or a PowerPoint presentation highlighting their research. A panel of faculty judges award students prizes for best student presentation and poster which includes funds for research supplies.

Whether on campus, out in the field or in the water, our students enjoy an unparalleled quality of life while working towards their degree. In addition to the opportunities presented here, TCBES students enjoy the newly-built Student Life Center and pool, music and cultural activities at the UH at Hilo Performance Center, and share in the exciting outdoor adventures Hawaiʻi provides!

Students with Disabilities

Any student with a documented disability who would like to request accommodation should contact the University Disability Services Office at 932-7623 (V) or 932-7002 (TTY), as early in the semester as possible.

UH at Hilo Aʻoaʻo Pili Ola Counseling Services

Counseling Services are free and confidential for all UH at Hilo students.

Services available include:

  • Emergency/Crisis
  • Help a Friend
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Sexual Assault/ Relationship Violence
  • General Self-help/ Resources
  • Community Resources
  • Self-Help Apps

For a complete list of counselling services and resources for yourself or to help a friend, visit the counseling website.

  • 24 Hour Crisis Text Line 741-741 Text "HELLO" or "ALOHA"
  • 24 Hour Crisis Line (808) 935-0677
  • Crisis Line of Hawaiʻi 24 Hour Support 1-800-753-6879

Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence

Counseling Services is a confidential resource on campus.

This means that we are not obligated to report cases of sexual assault or relationship violence to campus administration. We can support you in your healing, and offer choices so that you can make the best decisions for you. Student Medical Services is the other confidential resource on campus.

As members of the University, faculty are required to immediately report any incident of sex discrimination or gender-based violence to the campus Title IX Coordinator (see below to learn about Title IX). Although the Title IX Coordinator and faculty cannot guarantee confidentiality, you will still have options about how your case will be handled. Their goal is to make sure you are aware of the range of options available to you and have access to the resources and support you need.

The Title IX Office can provide assistance and interim measures for students whether or not they choose to report sexual assault, harassment, domestic/dating violence, or stalking.

For more information on sexual assault and/or relationship violence, visit the counseling services website

Title IX

Title IX is a federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender at educational institutions that receive federal funding (20 U.S.C. 1681). Title IX was strengthened by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) in 2013.

Prohibited Conduct under title IX:

  • sexual harassment
  • sexual violence
  • sexual assault
  • discrimination based on gender, gender identity, and gender expression
  • discrimination based on nonconformity with sex stereotypes
  • stalking
  • dating violence
  • domestic violence

The University of Hawaiʻi is committed to providing a learning, working, and living environment that promotes personal integrity, civility, and mutual respect and is free of all forms of sex discrimination and gender-based violence, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these, the University has staff and resources on your campus to support and assist you. Staff can also direct you to resources that are in the community. Here are some of your options:

If you wish to remain anonymous, speak with someone confidentially, or would like to receive information and support in a confidential setting, contact:

If you wish to report an incident of sex discrimination or gender-based violence including sexual assault, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking as well as receive information and support, contact:

Please note that you do not have to file a report with the University to receive institutional support or assistance

For more information regarding sex discrimination and gender-based violence, the University’s Title IX resources and the University’s Policy, Interim EP 1.204, go to: http://www.hawaii.edu/titleix/

Commitments of Graduate Students

  • I acknowledge that I have the primary responsibility for the successful completion of my degree. I will be committed to my graduate education and will demonstrate this by my efforts in the classroom, the research laboratory, and the field. I will maintain a high level of professionalism, self-motivation, engagement, scientific curiosity, and ethical standards to include but not be limited to proper stewardship of the land and sea.
  • I will meet regularly with my research advisor and provide them with updates on the progress and results of my activities and experiments.
  • I will work with my research advisor to develop a thesis project. This will include establishing a timeline for each phase of my work. I will strive to meet the established deadlines. In the event of unforeseen circumstances, I will communicate with my advisor so that any necessary adjustments to deadlines can be made.
  • I will work with my research advisor to select a thesis committee by the end of year one. I will commit to meeting with this committee according to the schedule established between me, my advisor, and the other members of my committee. I will be responsive to the advice of and constructive criticism from my committee.
  • I will be knowledgeable of the policies and requirements of my graduate program and institution. I will commit to meeting these requirements, including teaching responsibilities and safety regulations.
  • I will attend and participate in laboratory meetings, seminars, and journal clubs that are part of my educational program.
  • I will comply with all institutional policies, including academic program milestones. I will comply with both the letter and spirit of all institutional safe field and/or laboratory practices and any applicable animal-use and human-research policies at my institution.
  • I will participate in my institution’s Responsible Conduct of Research Training Program and practice those guidelines in conducting my thesis research.
  • I will be a good laboratory and field citizen. I agree to take part in shared laboratory and field responsibilities and will use laboratory and field resources carefully and frugally. I will maintain a safe and clean laboratory space. I will be respectful of, tolerant of, and work collegially with all laboratory and field personnel.
  • I will maintain a detailed, organized, and accurate laboratory/field notebook. I am aware that my original notebooks and all tangible research data are the property of my institution, but that I am able to take a copy of my notebooks with me after I complete my thesis.
  • I will discuss policies on work hours, sick leave, and vacation with my research advisor. I will consult with my advisor and notify fellow lab members in advance of any planned absences. Compact Between TCBES Graduate Students and Their Research Advisors
  • I will discuss policies on authorship and attendance at professional meetings with my research advisor. I will work with my advisor to submit all relevant research results that are ready for publication in a timely manner prior to my graduation.
  • I acknowledge that it is primarily my responsibility to develop my career following the completion of my degree. I will seek guidance from my research advisor, career counseling services, thesis committee, other mentors, and any other resources available for advice on career plans.

Commitments of Research Advisors

  • I will be committed to the life-long mentoring of the graduate student. I am committed to the education and training of the graduate student as a future member of the scientific community.
  • I will be committed to the research project of the graduate student. I will help to plan and direct the graduate student’s project, set reasonable and attainable goals, and establish a timeline for completion of the project. I recognize the possibility of conflicts between the interests of externally funded research programs and those of the graduate student, and will not let these interfere with the student’s pursuit of their thesis research.
  • I will be committed to meeting one-on-one with the student on a regular basis as scheduled between me and my student.
  • I will be committed to providing financial resources for the graduate student as appropriate or according to my institution’s guidelines, in order for them to conduct thesis/dissertation research.
  • I will be knowledgeable of, and guide the graduate student through, the requirements and