Program Overview

About the Program

Population biology is an interdisciplinary field that uses concepts and techniques from ecology, evolution, systematics, genetics, and mathematics or statistics. We often work near the interface between ecology—the study of interactions between organisms and their environment—and evolutionary biology, the study of how populations and species evolve. Our research is often directed towards basic science but also often addresses applied problems such as overcrowding, invasive species, and extinction.

UC Davis offers this graduate program in Population Biology which leads to a Ph.D.  Areas of specialization include population growth, structure and dynamics (basic and applied); population interactions (competition, predation, parasitism, and mutualism); community ecology; food webs; behavioral and physiological ecology; life history strategies; systematics; evolution; statistical phylogenetics (phylogeny and species-tree inference, divergence-time estimation, species delimitation); comparative methods (character evolution, historical biogeography, lineage diversification); population and quantitative genetics; and genomics. We encourage intellectual independence of students and the creativity that it encourages.

UC Davis is particularly strong in the biological sciences. In addition to the veterinary and medical schools, there are over 50 biological-science departments (ranging from nematology and plant pathology to epidemiology and enology) and graduate groups on campus, with more than half of the faculty in biological fields. This wealth of expertise greatly facilitates graduate education in biology. Students have access to a wide range of courses and can consult with experts in almost any area.

Population Biology Graduate Group:


Bylaws (Graduate Council Approved)

Compensation Plan (Funding)

Curriculum (Graduate Council Approved 1999)

Curriculum / Degree Requirements (Graduate Council Approved 2018)

Faculty Directory

Mentoring Guidelines

Reputation and Rankings: Why UC Davis Graduate Studies?

Student Handbook:  The Platypus Guide to the Population Biology Graduate Group


Learning Outcomes for Population Biology Graduate Group Doctoral Students

Doctoral students in the Population Biology Graduate Group will achieve mastery of three fundamental subject areas in population biology:

(1) Principles of single-species ecology and evolution. Topics include ecology of individuals, population growth models, structured populations, life history strategies, stochastic populations, basic population genetics theory, deleterious alleles in natural populations, and molecular population genetics.

(2) Principles of multi-species communities. Topics include competition, mutualism, metapopulations, food webs and trophic cascades, interactions between simple ecologic communities, island biogeography, succession, and large-scale patterns.

(3) Principles of microevolution and macroevolution. Topics include evolutionary quantitative genetics, analysis of hybrid zones, speciation, statistical phylogenetics and statistical phylogenetic methods.


Visit the UC Davis Graduate Studies website for further program information, degree requirements, bylaws and advisors.