There is no typical Ecology student, and we aim to recruit students with diverse interests, backgrounds, and goals.

Cohorts are small, usually 3 – 5 students each year that span the full topical breadth of  Ecology.  All students are guaranteed 5 years of full funding through teaching and research assistantships, but our matriculates have historically had good success with being awarded external and internal fellowships to fund their research.

applyWHEN: The application deadline for admission to the PhD cohort that matriculates in  August is DECEMBER 1, 2018.

HOW: Formal applications to the Ecology Program are entirely through Duke’s Graduate School ( You can find the PhD program application here:  Please follow the detailed instructions below.

We strongly recommend that you contact individual Ecology faculty to discuss mutual research interests prior to applying.

If you have any questions, please contact the Director, Dr. Kathleen Donohue (




Before you apply:

  1. Identify the faculty member(s) whose lab you are interested in working. Contact that faculty member and begin an exchange of ideas.  Finding a good fit is important.  The faculty member may also be able to provide advice about any fellowships that could assist in supporting your research.
  2. Determine the primary department of the faculty member who is most likely to serve as your dissertation advisor. This information is on the “Faculty” page of the website (or you can ask the faculty member directly).
  3. Go to the application portal and follow the general instructions:

You can find more information on graduate life at Duke by visiting:


When completing your application through the application portal:

  1. Select “Ecology-PhD” as your program of choice in the Program Information section of the application. A new section will open where you will select the program affiliation of your potential dissertation advisor.
  2. VERY IMPORTANT: Choose your primary affiliation from the drop-down menu. Your primary affiliation is the primary department/school of your potential advisor (See faculty webpage).  Even if you are interested in more than one faculty member, choose one primary affiliation; you can mention your interest in other faculty in your application statement.

How to choose your primary affiliation:  If your potential dissertation advisor’s primary appointment is the Biology Department, choose “Biology”; if his/her primary appointment is in the Evolutionary Anthropology Department, choose “Evolutionary Anthropology”; if his/her primary appointment is in the Nicholas School of the Environment or any other department, choose “NSOE and all others”.

For students applying to work with faculty in Biology or Evolutionary Anthropology, your admission letter will reflect your advisor’s primary department, although your PhD degree will be in Ecology.  During your first year of study, you will apply to be admitted into the Ecology program through an established departmental transfer process.

  1. VERY IMPORTANT: Toward the bottom of the Program Information section, check the box that gives permission for other programs to review your application.  Because UPE is interdisciplinary, more than one unit needs access to your application.  If you do not check this box, your application will not be available to the UPE admissions committee.

Check the box:

After you are admitted:

For students working with faculty in Biology or Evolutionary Anthropology, you will need to complete an additional transfer process in order to enter the Ecology Program.  During your first year, a request to transfer will be processed according to established transfer procedures.