The EPA offers a doctoral degree in Ecology that is run jointly by SDSU and the Ecology Graduate Group at University of California, Davis. The principal objective of the Joint Doctoral Program in Ecology (JDPE) is to provide an environment of excellence in Ecology research, teaching and mentoring for our students.

The joint nature of the doctoral program offers two primary advantages. First, students benefit from contact and expertise in and outside of the classroom with faculty members of two strong ecology programs. Second, across the two campuses, students have the opportunity to access facilities and field sites in nearly all the major biomes of California. Faculty in the EPA at SDSU focus their research on all aspects of ecology. We have particular strengths in quantitative ecology, conservation ecology, coastal marine ecology, and ecosystem ecology and global change. For more information, see Focal Areas within the EPA.

JDPE students spend their first year at SDSU with their advisor to begin preparation of a thesis proposal. The student then moves to UCD for additional course work in preparation for the Qualifying Examination. On return to SDSU, the thesis research is completed, and the dissertation is prepared and defended. The Ph.D. degree is awarded jointly by SDSU and UCD.

Download the JDPE program overview(PDF 128K) (get Adobe Reader).

To see what some joint doctoral students are doing for their research, click on the following links:

Degree Requirements

Through the SDSU and UCD Ecology curricula, students can study a broad range of ecological subjects, including theoretical ecology, human ecology, and physical-chemical ecology. JDPE students must take courses required of all UCD Ecology students, including Principle and Application of Ecological Theory (Ecology 200A and 200B), 3 ecology seminars (ECL 290s), Ecology and Evolution seminar (ECL 296), and ecology and evolution field courses. Each student works with an Advising Committee when they first enter the program to design the coursework plan.

Once coursework has been completed (typically at the end of Year 2), students are required to take a Qualifying Exam. The Qualifying Examination Committee (2 SDSU faculty and 3 UCD faculty) judges the student's readiness for advancement to candidacy by administering an oral examination.

In addition to required coursework, students formulate and carry out a research project that result in a dissertation. The final step to completing the degree is submitting a thesis to the student's Dissertation Committee and a thesis defense.


Admission eligibility is based on:

  • Overall undergraduate GPA of at least 3.2 for the last 60 semester units, and have demonstrated superior performance in upper division course work in the major.
  • General GRE scores (at least 156 Verbal, 150 Quantitative, and 600 Analytical). Analytical Writing has now replaced the Analytical section of the GRE, and students should achieve a score of at least 4.5 (A GRE Biology subject test is not required). The Admissions Committee looks for consistency between GRE scores and GPA.
  • For foreign students, a minimum score on the TOEFL exam of 550 (paper exam) or 80 (computer-based exam) is required.
  • Completed courses in physics, chemistry, mathematics, and statistics. Minimum requirements include one year of general chemistry, one year of physics, a course in calculus, and a course in biostatistics.
  • A demonstrated preparation and capacity for doctoral work in the field of ecology.

There are two critical steps in the admissions process

  1. Submitting all necessary materials by the application due dates (see Ph.D. Application Procedures for all required documents and due dates).
  2. 2) Finding a faculty advisor - Students must have an EPA faculty member willing to accept them into his or her laboratory as a condition of acceptance to the program. Prospective students are strongly encouraged to contact faculty whose research interests are compatible with their own to determine if these faculty are accepting students, and if so, to arrange a visit to the campus. Most faculty members will request to see a curriculum vitae and a statement of research interests from prospective students.

ALL required documents and admissions procedures can be found here

Cost of Study and Support

(All fees and costs are set and subject to change by the Trustees of the California State University)

Once admitted, basic tuition for California residents in good standing is generally paid by the Graduate Office for up to 12 units the first year to cover required courses and course deficiencies, if any. The 2nd year at UCD tuition and fees are generally covered up to 12 units for required courses. The 3rd year and beyond the Graduate Office will cover basic tuition for up to 6 units only. Courses taken at SDSU must be Program-of-Study curriculum related, and approved by the guidance committee and the JDPE coordinator.

Tuition for non-resident and international students usually is waived. U.S. citizens can apply for California residency in their first year. International students are required to have additional support because the program is unable to pay for tuition at UCD. Grants from a student's advisor or from outside sources may be available to offset this expense. International students can find more information on graduate tuition requirements at the International Student Center.
The Graduate Office does not provide for the Campus Mandatory Fees. Students are responsible each semester they are enrolled for their own Campus Mandatory Fees but in some cases, this fee may be covered by the student's major professor from research funds if available and appropriate.

Support and Financial Aid

Students admitted to the JDPE are offered support from research assistantships (RAs) or teaching assistantships (TAs) and also receive a comprehensive benefits package. Students typically will receive support for 5 years, as long as they are making satisfactory progress and are satisfactorily discharging other responsibilities related to the stipend. The normal teaching load for students receiving these stipends is 6 hours (2 3-hour laboratory sections) per week plus grading and preparation of assignments. The current salary schedule for JDPE students ranges from $16,836-$18,132 for the academic year. Additional summer RAs are often provided by individual advisors to supplement this stipend.

Fellowships, scholarships, and other forms of financial assistance from university, state, federal, and private sources are also available. More information about fellowships and loans can be obtained from the Financial Aid Office on campus . Additionally, the SDSU Field Station Programs offers several student support opportuntities such as the Graduate Student Research Award, the Jordan Dale Covin Memorial Travel Scholarship, and the Edna Bailey Sussman Research Internships.

For more information about the JDPE program contact the Program Coordinator:

Walter C. Oechel, Coordinator of the Ecology Doctoral Program Department of Biology San Diego State University San Diego, California 92182-4614