Evolution, Ecology and Population Biology

​Evolutionary biology studies the origin and descent of species and their change and adaptation over time. Ecology involves the study of the distribution and abundance of living organisms and how those factors are affected by interactions between the organisms and their environments. Population biology involves the dynamics of species populations and how they interact with the environment.

The graduate program in Evolution, Ecology, & Population Biology (EEPB) studies the origins and maintenance of biodiversity on both evolutionary and ecological timescales. EEPB combines field studies with the technical advances of molecular genetics, statistics, large-scale genomics, quantitative genetics, and mathematical theory to gain an understanding of evolutionary history and environmental biology.

Program research is extremely diverse. Study organisms include model systems such as yeast, Drosophila, Arabidopsis, and Dictyostelium, human populations, agricultural species, and various natural plant and animal populations.

Program of study

Students in the Evolution, Ecology, & Population Biology (EEPB) program will typically take five (5) to six (6) courses during their first year. Students will also participate in three laboratory rotations over the fall and spring semesters of Year 1 prior to selecting a thesis lab. Students are expected to complete the following coursework during their entire graduate education:

DBBS required courses

Graduate Research Fundamentals
Ethics and Research Science – typically taken in Year 2

Program required courses

Students must take at least one (1) course from each program course group

Group 1 courses:
Population Ecology
Community Ecology
Disease Ecology

Group 2 courses:
Population Genetics
Molecular Evolution
Behavioral Ecology

Group 3 courses:
Group 1 courses
Group 2 courses
Advanced Genetics
Other relevant courses – subject to approval by the EEPB Program Directors

Four (4) semesters of Population Biology Seminar
Qualifying exam

In the spring/summer semesters of Year 2, students must pass a Qualifying Exam (QE). Following a successful QE defense, students will identify and finalize their committee and complete their thesis proposal by December 31 of Year 3.

Thesis committee, proposal and defense

In the summer and/or fall semesters of Year 2 after rotations are completed, students will select a thesis advisor and begin working in their thesis labs. Students will then select a thesis committee and complete their thesis proposal. Students will complete their thesis research, defense, and graduation over the rest of their graduate career. Most students graduate within five (5) to six (6) years of beginning their program.

Program partnerships

Our students’ research opportunities are enriched by the University’s partnerships with local institutions:

Tyson Research Center

The Tyson Research Center is the environmental field research space for Washington University in St. Louis. Students are able to engage in field studies in a variety of local, natural ecosystems.

The Missouri Botanical Garden is among the jewels of St. Louis and a conservation and sustainability innovation space. EEPB students are able to work within the gardens and behind the scenes in the greenhouses and natural preserves to conduct systematic studies of plant diversity worldwide.

The Saint Louis Zoo has been consistently rated among the top free attractions in the United States. Located within Forest Park, the Saint Louis Zoo provides EEPB students with priceless opportunities to engage in and facilitate studies of the conservation biology of exotic large animals and local wildlife.

Our faculty and students also conduct studies on a global scale at field sites in Africa, Asia, and South America.

Alumni outcomes

EEPB graduates pursue a variety of careers. Most program graduates go into academia, but many find paths in government, industry, and other fields, like environmental law, conservation, or science communication.