M.S. in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science

Professional Master's Internship Track

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Professional Internship Track

The Professional Master’s Internship Track of the MS TCBES program prepares graduates to actively contribute as scientific professionals in environmental and conservation agencies, NGOs, and other organizations. Candidates pursue an array of courses and a strong internship program for professional training in tropical conservation and resource management.

The professional internship provides an immersion experience at an organization that is part of the world of resource management, often with an eye toward creating policies and practices that seek to improve sustainability and/or environmental stewardship. These are intensive training opportunities, and while the interns become an integral part of the organization to which they are assigned, they are not contractors working for an agency. The graduate student will be required to write a detailed proposal prior to commencing the professional internship, and the agency personnel will serve in a mentoring capacity. The professional internship is a mutually beneficial two-way obligation between the TCBES graduate student and the organization to which the graduate student commits.

The requirements starting Fall 2021 are:

  • 9 core courses credits required for all M.S. TCBES students
  • 9 credits of the internship series courses
  • 6 credits of the courses required for the Professional Internship Track students
  • 12 elective credits of 600-level CBES courses (minimum of 1 course from each category: Foundation, Methods, & Applications) (note: if you started before Fall 2021, you are required to take 8 core course credits and 10 internship credits)


The Professional Internship track of the M.S. degree may be completed within two years. A suggested timeline is shown below, but students will have flexibility to deviate from this schedule as needs arise. In the first year, students will take the required core courses, two internship courses, and one elective. In the summer, the Professional Internship Track students will focus on their 600-hour graduate-level internship. In the second year, students will be completing their remaining coursework and continue any internship responsibilities. In the second year students will complete their electives, ensuring that they have met the requirements of at least one Foundations, one Methods, and one Applications course for the degree; see catalog and complete the additional graduation requirements: internship report and public presentation.

Suggested two-year course plan for students in the Professional Internship track (36 cr. total).

Semester 1 (Fall)

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 the internship track advisor, you will determine the direction of your internship and begin any permit, certification, or IRB processes.

Semester 2 (Spring)

For your second semester you will complete your required core course work, the second internship course, one or two electives, and submit your internship proposal. After proposal approval you may begin your graduate-level internship in earnest.

1st Summer

Your first summer is important for conducting the majority of your 600-hour embedded graduate-level internship experience. You will also complete the third internship course.

Semester 3 (Fall)

You will complete your internship responsibilities, the fourth internship course, one or two electives, and, if necessary, data analysis and writing.

Semester 4 (Spring)

You should plan on spending most of your time on writing your internship report and preparing for your public presentation. You will also complete the fifth internship course, any electives, and in some cases data analysis. If you present your project and complete your report in Semester 4, you should be able to submit Graduate Form 3 by the UH Hilo academic calendar deadline and graduate.

Additional time

Sometimes a Master’s program takes longer than two years. However, by thinking about and planning the scope and deliverables of your internship early in the program, hopefully not many additional semesters will be required to complete the Professional Master’s Internship Track M.S. requirements.

Suggested Two Year Course Plan

Year 1

Fall Semester

  • CBES 600 Conservatn Biol & Environ Sci (3)
  • CBES 601 CBES Field & Laboratory Method (4)
  • CBES 602 Research Seminar in TCBES (1)
  • CBES 691 Becoming Environmental Leader (2)

Spring Semester

  • CBES 603 Natural Resource Mgt Seminar (1)
  • CBES 645 Soc Sci Rsch Mthds Envir Cons (3)
  • CBES 689 Organiz Mgmt & Logistics (3)
  • CBES 692 Proposal Writing (2)
  • Elective 1 (3)


  • CBES 690 Professional Internship (1)

Year 2

Fall Semester

  • CBES 695 Becoming Envrnmntl Communicatr (2)
  • Elective 2 (3)
  • Elective 3 (3)

Spring Semester

  • CBES 696 Emerging Envrnmntl Professionl (2)
  • Elective 4 (3)

Please visit the Guide to Survive as a TCBES Student 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. Unlike the Thesis Track, you do not need to have a faculty sponsor to apply.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Developing a Professional Internship Project

The specifics of the graduate-level internship will be developed between the graduate student and the agency through a project proposal, with rigor confirmed by the Program Coordinator of the UH Hilo TCBES Professional Internship track. It is the student's responsibility to find a partnership agency, with assistance from the Internship Coordinator. In the conservation realm, we have a variety of existing relationships with agencies (state, federal, private) throughout Hawaiʻi and we continue to expand this network. After acceptance to the program, the student will work with the Program Coordinator of the Internship track to figure out a placement that will be the best fit for both the student and agency.

Many of our affiliate faculty work in organizations involved in resource management. Some of the agencies that our program has connections with include:

  • Agriculture Research Service, USDA
  • Conservation International
  • County of Hawaiʻi Planning Department
  • DLNR, Division of Forestry and Wildlife
  • DLNR, Division of Aquatic Resources
  • DLNR, Natural Area Reserve System
  • Edith Kanakaʻole Foundation
  • Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge
  • Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund
  • Kamehameha Schools
  • Keauhou Bird Conservation Center, San Diego Zoo
  • Kohala Watershed Partnership
  • ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center
  • Mauna Kea Forest Restoration Project
  • Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance
  • Nā Ala Hele and Hawaii Birding Trail
  • National Park Service
  • Nature Conservancy of Hawaii
  • NOAA Mokupāpapa
  • Papahānaumokuākea National Marine Monument
  • Pōhakuloa Training Area
  • Puʻu Waʻawaʻa Forest Reserve
  • Sea Grant
  • Teaching Change Program
  • Three Mountain Alliance
  • UH Hilo Keaholoa
  • UH Hilo PIPES
  • US Forest Service


Dr. Tracy Wiegner , Director, TCBES Graduate Program
Dr. Rebecca “Becky” Ostertag , Associate Director, TCBES Graduate Program
Mx. Lisa Canale , Program Coordinator of the Professional Internship track, TCBES Graduate Program