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 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.

  • 9 core courses credits required for all M.S. TCBES students
  • 3 credits of 600-level statistics CBES 677 Quantitative Ecology (3)
  • 12 elective credits of 600-level CBES courses
  • 6 thesis credits

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, and one or two electives. 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

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)

Spring Semester

  • CBES 603 Natural Resource Mgt Seminar (1)
  • CBES 677 Quantitative Ecology (3)
  • Electives (3-6)

Year 2

Fall Semester

  • CBES 700 Thesis Research (1–6)

Spring Semester

  • Electives (3-6)

Year 3

Fall Semester

  • CBES 700 Thesis Research (1–6)

Spring Semester

  • Electives (3-6)

Visit the Guide to Survive as a TCBES Student 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 NOT 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