Biological and Environmental Sciences

M.S., Ph.D. (Interdepartmental)


The M.S. and Ph.D. in biological and environmental sciences (BES) are interdisciplinary, interdepartmental graduate degrees that involve faculty from a diverse set of departments in URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences (CELS), including Biological Sciences; Cell and Molecular Biology; Fisheries, Animal and Veterinary Science; Geosciences; Natural Resources Science; Nutrition and Food Sciences; and Plant Sciences; as well as faculty from the Graduate School of Oceanography. Contact information and a list of faculty in each of these departments are provided below.

Students accepted into the M.S. and Ph.D. degree programs in BES are organized into graduate specialization groups that include Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB), Integrative and Evolutionary Biology (IEB), Ecology and Ecosystem Sciences (EES), Environmental and Earth Sciences (EVES), and Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems (SAFS). These graduate specialization groups are described in more detail below, along with the admissions and degree requirements for M.S. and Ph.D. students in BES. When applying to the BES graduate program, prospective students should indicate which of the graduate specialization groups listed below represents their primary area of interest. Prospective students are encouraged to contact individual faculty to learn more about graduate research opportunities.

Departments in CELS that train graduate students in Biological and Environmental Sciences:

Biological Sciences 401.874.2373,

Faculty: Professor Goldsmith, chair; Associate Professor Wilga, director of graduate studies. Professors Bullock, Fastovsky, Kass-Simon, Killingbeck, Koske, A. Roberts, and Webb; Associate Professors Irvine, Katz, Norris, Siebel, and Thornber; Assistant Professors Lane, Preisser, and Sartini; Adjunct Professors Carlton, Deacutis, Fogarty, Henry, Lauder, Sanford, and Schneider; Adjunct Associate Professors Bailey, Cromarty, Ewanchuk, Gemma, Orwig, T. Roberts, and Thursby; Adjunct Assistant Professor Raposa; Research Professor Hill.

Cell and Molecular Biology 401.874.2201,

Faculty: Professor Sperry, chair; Professor Nelson, director of graduate studies. Professors Chandlee, Cohen, Hufnagel, Kausch, Paquette, and Sun; Associate Professor Martin; Assistant Professors Howlett and Jenkins; Research Professors A. de Groot, L. de Groot, and Spero; Research Assistant Professor Moise; Professors Emeriti Laux and Mottinger.

Fisheries, Animal and Veterinary Science 401.874.2477,

Faculty: Professor Gomez-Chiarri, chair; Associate Professor Petersson, graduate coordinator SASF specialization. Professors Bengtson, Bradley, Mallilo, Rhodes, and Rice; Associate Professor Sartini; Adjunct Professors Hoey, KleinMacPhee, Musick, Serra, and Smolowitz; Adjunct Associate Professors Colwill and Hare; Adjunct Assistant Professors Baker, Brumbaugh, Castro, Dudzinski, Gleason, Hancock, Jamu, Leavitt, Rheault, Proestou; Professors Emeriti CostaPierce, DeAlteris, McCreight, Nippo, Recksiek, and Wolke

Geosciences 401.874.2265,

Faculty: Associate Professor Veeger, chair; Professor Boving, director of graduate studies. Professor Fastovsky; Assistant Professors Cardace and Savage; Adjunct Professors Burks, Fischer, and Spiegelman.

Natural Resources Science 401.874.2495,

Faculty: Professor Paton, chair; Professor Forrester, director of graduate studies. Professors Amador, August, Gold, Husband, McWilliams, Paton, Stolt, and Wang; Assistant Professors F. Meyerson and L. Meyerson; Adjunct Professors Paul and Perez; Adjunct Associate Professors Abedon, Cerrato, Daehler, Gorres, Groffman, Nowicki, O’Connell, Reed, and Rockwell; Adjunct Assistant Professors Augeri, Bergondo, Buffum, Dabek, Eisenbies, Eldridge, Farnsworth, Gayaldo, Hollister, Jarecki, Kellogg, Lashcomb, McKinney, Milstead, Mitchell, Peters, Pierce, Rubenstein, Saltonstall, Steele, and Tefft.

Nutrition and Food Sciences 401.874.2253,

Faculty: Professor Greene, chair; Assistant Professor Lofgren, director of graduate studies. Professor English; Associate Professors Gerber and Melanson; Assistant Professor Tovar; Adjunct Professor Sebelia; Adjunct Associate Professor Pivarnik; Professors Emeriti Rand, Lee, Caldwell, Fey-Yensan and Patnoad.

Plant Sciences and Entomology 401.874.2791,

Faculty: Professor Mitkowski, chair; Professors Alm, Casagrande, LeBrun, Mather, Maynard, Ruemmele, and Sullivan; Associate Professors Englander and Brown; Professor in Residence Ginsberg; Adjunct Assistant Professor Gettman; Professors Emeriti Hull and Jackson.
Graduate Specialization Groups

Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB): This graduate research group focuses on the molecular basis of life, offering solid foundations in biochemistry, microbiology, and molecular genetics, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary training. Faculty research interests are diverse and include the molecular basis of microbial colonization and virulence; the biochemistry of cellular signaling; the molecular origins of cancer; the development of vaccines against infectious disease; the roles of microbial consortia in the marine environment; comparative and evolutionary genomics; the control of gene expression by endogenous and environmental signals; the genetics of marine organisms; the molecular biology and genetic modification of plants; agricultural biotechnology; and developmental gene regulation.

Integrative and Evolutionary Biology (IEB): This graduate group focuses on the diversity of form and function of organisms from evolutionary and physiological perspectives, as well as the application of these approaches to health, agriculture, and the environment. Faculty research interests are diverse and include animal science (including reproduction, nutrition, management, and health), aquaculture (including ecology, physiology, nutrition, and health), cellular and behavioral neurobiology (including sensory biology and neuroethology), evolutionary biology, genomics (comparative, evolutionary, and marine), morphology and development (including functional morphology, biomechanics, and evolutionary developmental biology), paleontology, physiology and pathology (including environmental, stress, reproductive, and comparative physiology, endocrinology, aquatic pathology), plant biology, and human health.

Ecology and Ecosystem Sciences (EES): This graduate research group focuses on patterns and processes within and among populations, communities, and ecosystems. Faculty research interests are diverse and include ecological studies across the spectrum of biological organization (molecular, organismal, population, community, ecosystem, and landscapes) that focus on the intra- and interspecific interactions of microbes, algae, plants, insects, invertebrates, and vertebrates that inhabit a variety of terrestrial, coastal, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. Much of this research addresses important environmental issues with implications for public policy such as the ecology of endangered species and habitats, the biological control of algal blooms, invertebrate pests, parasites and disease, anthropogenic nutrient enrichment and bioremediation, ecohydrology of coastal wetlands, landscape change, climate change, invasive species, fisheries, and habitat restoration.

Environmental and Earth Sciences (EVES): This graduate research group focuses on the history, function, and condition of earth’s environments from local to global scales. Faculty research interests encompass all aspects of the natural sciences including geology, biogeochemistry, hydrology, soil science, assessment of biodiversity, microbial ecology, and global change. Most of this research uses combinations of geospatial data technologies, computer modeling, state-of-the-art analytical instruments, and field investigations to advance our knowledge of earth processes and the management of water resources, shorelines, wetlands, and terrestrial landscapes to sustain healthy environments and to rehabilitate and restore damaged environments.

Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems (SAFS): This graduate research group takes a systems-based, interdisciplinary approach to the biological and environmental sciences as applied to agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries, nutrition, and food safety. The diverse group of faculty, with contributors from both the natural and social sciences, uses a broad array of approaches, from molecular to ecosystem-based, to help achieve the economically sustainable production, management, consumption, and utilization of plants and animals for the development of healthy communities. Areas of research include animal science (reproduction, nutrition, management, and health), aquaculture (ecology, physiology, nutrition, and aquatic pathology), horticulture (fruit and vegetable production, environmental horticulture, and turfgrass management), entomology and biocontrol of invasive species, nutrition and food safety, and soil science.

Master of Science in Biological and Environmental Sciences

Admission requirements: GRE general test and a bachelor’s degree in a biological or physical science, natural resources science, math, engineering, or other appropriate discipline. Applicants with course deficiencies may be required to take additional undergraduate courses for no program credit, and to demonstrate, by their performance in such course work or through a qualifying exam, basic knowledge of the subject matter in the area(s) of deficiency.

Program requirements: a minimum of 30 credits beyond the bachelor’s degree. This includes a minimum of six and a maximum of nine thesis credits (599 courses), a minimum of 18 credits of formal course work, and a maximum of six credits in special problems and directed studies courses.

Doctor of Philosophy in Biological and Environmental Sciences

Admission requirements: GRE general test and a bachelor’s degree in a biological or physical science, natural resources science, math, engineering, or other appropriate discipline. Applicants with course deficiencies may be required to take additional undergraduate courses for no program credit.

Program requirements: a minimum of 72 credits of graduate study beyond the bachelor’s degree (a master’s degree may count for up to 30 credits). At least 42 credits must be taken at the University of Rhode Island. Required course work and dissertation credits depend on the preparation and study plan of the individual student. All degree candidates are required to prepare a Program of Study in consultation with their major professor and doctoral committee. Written and oral comprehensive examinations and a defense of dissertation are required. A qualifying examination will be required for students who are admitted without a master’s degree and may be required for students whose prior degrees are outside of the proposed Ph.D. field of study.