Admissions - How to Apply

Population Biology


The UC Davis graduate application for admissions and fellowships for the 2020-2021 academic year is now open.  Please visit the UC Davis Graduate Studies website for information.  

Applying to the Population Biology Graduate Group


Application Deadline - December 1

Prospective graduate students may apply for admission to the Ph.D. program.  Our graduate group accepts Ph.D. students only as we normally offer only the doctoral degree. (Exceptions may be made for mid-career applicants in professional agencies or education who seek a Masters degree to strengthen their backgrounds in population biology. Such applicants will be expected to meet the same admission standards as Ph.D. candidates.)

Applications are accepted for fall quarter admission only, and should be made as early as possible. 

The Population Biology program application deadline is DECEMBER 1.  Applications must be submitted by this date to be considered. 
Recruitment Weekend for Fall 2020 Admissions:  The Population Biology Graduate Group recruitment weekend for those invited will be held February 7-9, 2020.

Application Process and Elements - What You Need to Know

  • Application:  The application for admission is exclusively available through the online application system.  The application must be completed by the stated December 1 deadline.  This is the link to access the online application:  
  • Application Fee:  The application fee may only be paid via credit card. The appropriate fee must be paid before the application will be considered complete, and a fee must be paid for each individual graduate program application submitted.
  • CV:  We will ask applicants for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle that you upload your CV.
  • Faculty:  Enter the names of faculty you have contacted and are interested in working with in the appropriate field.  Population Biology faculty are listed here:
  • Fellowship Application:  All applicants are very strongly encouraged to submit a fellowship application with their application for admission. Once you submit the online admissions application, you will be prompted to complete a fellowship application.
  • GRE Scores:  Population Biology requires the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general aptitude test.  Your application will not be reviewed until we receive your GRE scores.  Please use the Institutional Code 4834 for reporting electronic scores from the Graduate Record Examination General Test. 
  • Letters of Recommendation:    Letters of recommendation must be submitted electronically through the online application system.  Hard copy letters will not be reviewed.  You will need to provide the contact information for your recommenders to complete the application.  Once this information is entered, the application system will send your recommenders an email invitation to upload your letters.  Of course, you are welcome to also send a notice to your recommenders outside the online system.  It takes a few business days to load recommender letters into the application review database after they have been received.  We will accept letters of recommendation from employers where your service is directly related to your academic pursuits.  The remaining letters of reference should come from your major professor(s)/college instructors who can speak directly to your scholarship and graduate-school potential.  Many letter writers are very busy as Fall semesters/quarters end during the holiday season.  As the application deadline approaches, follow up with any letter writers to ensure that they are received in time.
  • Personal History and Statement of Purpose:  Include your full statement of purpose and personal history in the appropriate fields on the online application.  
  • TOEFL / IELTS Scores:  English language testing is required for all applicants whose native language and primary language of instruction is not English; TOEFL or IELTS scores are required for international students.  UC Davis Graduate Studies will not accept TOEFL MyBest™ scores.  For more information about these tests, please go to the TOEFL/IELTS requirement details here:  Likewise there is important information in UC Davis Graduate Council Policy GS-2018-02 available here:  Institution code: 4834.
  • Transcripts:  UC Davis requires academic records from each college-level institution you have attended. You will be instructed to upload scanned copies of your transcripts after you have submitted your online application. For more details visit

Please check the attached Admissions Frequently Asked Questions for further assistance; or read them at the bottom of this page...

Visit the Graduate Studies website to begin the application process.

The graduate group cannot review an application until all of the above components are received.  Inquiries concerning application procedures or any other aspects of the program should be directed as below:

Population Biology Graduate Group

Sherri Mann, Graduate Group Coordinator

2320 Storer Hall

University of California Davis

One Shields Avenue

Davis, CA 95616

(530) 752-1274


A Message from Our Chair

Dear Prospective Students:

My colleagues and I are pleased that you are considering graduate study in Population Biology at the University of California, Davis. We realize that you will be weighing many factors when considering your choice of graduate schools, so it’s natural for you to ask: Why should I consider UC Davis?

The Population Biology Graduate Group trains students who are interested in research and teaching careers at the interface of ecology and evolution.  Our approach is as follows. All students are trained broadly in an intense first-year core course that provides in-depth coverage of population and molecular genetics and genomics; behavioral, population, community, and evolutionary ecology; and phylogenetics and macroevolution. We also provide students with rigorous training in quantitative techniques. The program encourages students to have a high degree of independence in their research projects. This can be more ambitious than choosing a project that is tightly integrated into the laboratory’s overall research program, but we feel that it produces scientists who are truly ready to take the helm of a research laboratory upon completing the program. Our program is designed to challenge the very best students, and we are extremely proud of the outstanding achievements of our students after leaving UC Davis.

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; population and quantitative genetics; molecular evolution; statistical phylogenetics and comparative phylogenetic methods.

UC Davis is consistently identified as one of the best campuses in our nation for training doctoral students in ecology and evolution. For example, the U.S. News and World Report survey, "America's Best Graduate Schools 2007", ranked UC Davis No. 1 in Ecology/Evolutionary Biology. While we don’t take these rankings too seriously, we do believe that Davis is an outstanding place to study ecology and evolution. Furthermore, UC Davis is exceptionally strong across the full gamut of biological sciences. In addition to the veterinary and medical schools, there are over fifty biological-science departments (ranging from nematology and plant pathology to epidemiology and enology) on campus, with more than half of all 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. There are currently 39 faculty members in the Population Biology Graduate Group, with specialties from molecular population genetics to community ecology and ant systematics.

All graduate students in the Population Biology Graduate Group are also members of the Center for Population Biology. The Center also includes students from other graduate groups on campus (e.g., Ecology; Animal Behavior; Genetics), a large group of postdoctoral researchers, and approximately 40 campus faculty. The Center for Population Biology is tremendously active. The most visible activities include a well-attended weekly seminar, two annual student-driven workshops, an annual international competition for the highly coveted Center for Population Biology Research Fellow position, and a series of small seed research grants that allow graduate students and postdoctoral affiliates to initiate research projects and generate initial datasets, which are often used to support requests for extramural funding. Most students affiliated with the center are participating in center activities every week of the year, and informal gatherings (reading groups, social gatherings) occur at least as frequently as the formal events.  Collaborative research projects regularly emerge from the interactions of researchers within the Center. The Center for Population Biology and the Population Biology Graduate Group work hand-in-hand to create an outstanding opportunity for training on our campus.

We think you will enjoy Davis; it’s a true college town with a thriving community where it is easy to be a student. The city of Davis feels like it was designed for students, where you will almost always see more bicycles than cars, with a twice-weekly Farmer’s Market that sells some of the best produce in the country. Davis is also close to San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Sacramento, and Napa and Sonoma valleys. So whether you are looking for a community, a concert, a hike, an art exhibit or skiing, you will not have to travel far.

I invite you to explore the Population Biology Graduate Group more closely by visiting our web site; please also visit the affiliated web site for the Center for Population Biology:  For additional information please feel free to contact me directly at or (530) 752-7104. Also, I encourage you to directly contact any of our faculty or our Graduate Program Staff Adviser, Sherri Mann, We look forward to learning more about your educational goals and receiving your completed application.

Best wishes,
Brian Moore
Chair, Population Biology Graduate Group


Diversity Resources

The University of California, Davis values the diversity of viewpoints, backgrounds, and experiences in its graduate student population. The Population Biology Graduate Group encourages diversity in the application and recruitment process by participating in programs to improve graduate diversity, such as the University of California Office of the President Historically Black Colleges and Universities Initiative. Our admission criteria also include each candidate's potential for leadership in the university mission for diversity. The Population Biology Graduate Group strongly values diversity in all forms (the field in itself is very much a study of diversity at multiple levels of biological organization). The selection of students is very much influenced by the desire to train a diverse group. An important fundamental principle for the Population Biology Graduate Group Program is that it is student focused with students encouraged to be as independent as possible with as much support from the faculty as needed.

To assist in achieving these goals, the Population Biology Student Diversity Committee exists to increase and support student diversity in the graduate group. Specifically, the Diversity Committee aims to:

  1. Identify and implement methods of increasing student diversity in the program.
  2. Create a positive culture of diversity within the program that highlights and supports student and faculty diversity.

If you have further questions about the application process, please feel free to contact any of the Population Biology Diversity Committee student mentors, listed here

* Visit our diversity resources page for further information:




What is a graduate group?

At UC Davis, some graduate degrees are offered by interdepartmental "graduate groups," which unite faculty with common research interests from across the campus. The Population Biology Graduate Group was formed in 1992 by faculty committed to the study and teaching of population biology as a broad discipline that blends ecology, evolution, population genetics, and phylogenetics into a unified field.

Can I apply to more than one graduate program at UC Davis?

Yes. The new online admission application will allow you to identify the various programs you wish to apply to. Follow the instructions accordingly. Remember that you will be required to pay an application fee for each program selected. Example: If you are applying to our program and to the Plant Biology Graduate Group, you will be required to pay an application fee for each application.

What happens to my application after the deadline?

Only complete applications will be reviewed by the Admissions Committee and relevant faculty. All components of the application must be complete for consideration. From the applicant pool, a short-list will be created. In mid to late December, the students on the short-list will receive an invitation to visit UC Davis for a recruitment weekend with the program.

What if my GRE scores, transcripts, or letters of reference don't get to your office by the application deadline?

Applications will not be reviewed by the Admissions Committee until all required materials are received. The key is to plan early. Remember that you can use your online account to track the status of required materials. It is to your advantage to check frequently to insure compliance with our December 1 deadline. The admission committee begins reviewing applications immediately following our deadline.

Learn how long it takes for your academic institutions to provide certified transcripts; don't wait until the last minute to order. Sadly, the program receives late transcripts long after the committee has made its decisions on interviews.

ETS has specific dates for the GRE exam. Be sure to take the exam as soon as possible to insure timely distribution of your scores to the graduate programs you are applying to. Have ETS submit your scores electronically for faster processing.

Provide early notice to your three referees that you will be asking for letters of recommendation. This way, each referee will know to look for the online notice in their e-mail. Inform them of when the letters are due and how each institution may require a different method of letter submittal. Fall can be a busy time for your referees and advance notice is always appreciated.

What are the minimum GPA and GRE requirements for entrance into Pop Bio?

The Office of Graduate Studies has set a minimum requirement of a B grade average (3.00) in prior coursework. The Population Biology Graduate Group has not set any additional minimum GPA or GRE entrance requirements.

What if I didn't take the GRE biology subject specific exam?

The subject test in biology is not required for Population Biology admissions application review.

What is the required preparatory coursework for admission?

The following courses are required* for admission:

  • a one-year course in introductory biology for biology majors (e.g. BIS 1 or BIS 2 series or equivalent)
  • a one-year course in calculus (e.g. MAT 17 series or equivalent)
  • a course in statistics (e.g. STA 13 or STA 100 or equivalent)
  • an upper-division course in general ecology or population biology (e.g. EVE 101 or equivalent)
  • an upper-division course in genetics (e.g. EVE 102 or equivalent)
  • an upper-division course in evolution (e.g. EVE 100 or equivalent)

*Must I complete all preparatory coursework prior to admission?

Applicants who are offered admission with missing entrance requirements will be notified prior to matriculation. Once enrolled in the program, students will be required to complete missing entrance requirements in the first year of residence in the program. First year students will meet with their First-Year Guidance Committee to determine how the missing entrance requirements will be completed. Entrance deficiencies in upper division courses must be taken for a letter grade; lower division courses may be taken for an S/U grade. (We may recommend taking courses on campus, a community college, being a teaching assistant in a specific course, or other arrangements as deemed appropriate.)

Do you have a recruitment weekend?

Yes. The recruitment weekend is by invitation only. Invitations will be sent via e-mail in mid to late December. The Population Biology Graduate Group Recruitment weekend for those invited will be held on February 7-9, 2020.  Candidates will have one full day to interview with multiple faculty members and current graduate students (Friday).  During the visit, candidates will lodge with Pop Bio students, and on the second day (Saturday), candidates will visit one of the nearby nature reserves.

When will I know if I have been accepted or denied admission to the Pop Bio program?

Those students eliminated during the first round of reviews will be notified in the last week of February if not sooner. Students from the second round will be notified of either admission or denial approximately one week after the recruitment weekend. Please track your status using the online application system.

Why do I have to apply for fellowship?

To be eligible for program support (grants and fellowship) and other UC Davis fellowships, you must complete both the internal fellowship application and a FAFSA (note separate deadlines).

  1. You will be prompted to complete the "UC Davis Internal Fellowship Application for New Students" as you progress through the online admission application.
  2. U.S. citizens, permanent residents or immigrants must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online NO LATER THAN MARCH 1 to meet the California State deadline . (Earlier is better.)

    * International students are exempt from filing a FAFSA as international students are not eligible for federal financial aid.

Do you provide funding to graduate students?

Yes, the Population Biology Graduate Group offers five years of support in the form of Teaching Assistantships (TAship), Graduate Student Research assistantships (GSRs) and Block Grant Fellowships, assuming continued satisfactory progress to degree. More information on funding is provided here.

What is the normative time to degree completion for the Pop Bio Ph.D. program?

Four to six years.

What if I only want a Masters degree?

Our graduate group only accepts Ph.D. students, as we normally offer only doctoral degrees. Exceptions may be made for mid-career applicants in professional agencies or education who seek a Masters degree to strengthen their backgrounds in population biology. Such applicants will be expected to meet the same admission standards as Ph.D. candidates.