Advice for Students Interested in Ecology and Evolution - University of Houston
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Advice for Students Interested in Ecology and Evolution

An undergraduate degree in biology with an emphasis in ecology and evolution can prepare you for a number of career paths, including teaching, research, environmental management or environmental consulting. In order to graduate with the best possible preparation for such careers, undergraduates should begin to take ecology and evolution courses as early as their second year, and should gain as much practical experience as possible. In addition to considering the advice below, students should consult their academic advisor and E&E faculty to ensure that they meet all University and degree requirements. As upper level courses may not be offered every year, and new courses are continually offered, planning ahead is important; see the course catalog for current courses.

In their first year, students should take Biology for Science Majors Lecture (BIOL 1306/1307, formerly BIOL 1361/1362) and Laboratory (BIOL 1106/1107, formerly BIOL 1161/1162), and Fundamentals of Chemistry (CHEM 1311/1312, formerly CHEM 1331/1332).

In their second year, students should take Genetics Lecture (BIOL 3301) and Genetics Laboratory (BIOL 3311), and should strongly consider taking an upper level ecology and evolution course, perhaps Animal Behavior (BIOL 4347), Applied Evolution (BIOL 4365), Biodiversity (BIOL 3305) or Ecology (BIOL 3368).

In their third year, students should take Evolutionary Biology (BIOL 3306) and other upper level ecology and evolution courses. In addition to those listed above, upper level courses include Bioinformatics for Biologists (BIOL 4324), Developmental Biology (BIOL 4384), Ecology and Evolution Laboratory (BIOL 4206), Ecology and Development (BIOL 4370), Evolutionary Ecology (BIOL 4367), and Molecular Evolution (BIOL 4366). Students may also be interested in courses in Anthropology, Geology and other departments.

In their fourth year, students should continue taking ecology and evolution courses, and should finish other required courses, such as General Biochemistry I (BCHS 3304) and Cell Biology (BIOL 4374).

More specialized coursework can be obtained by attending nationally-advertised short programs taught at other universities or field laboratories. Some programs are offered during summers; others require a semester away from UH. Such courses offer unique opportunities to gain exposure to different natural habitats and training in specialized topics, but require some planning to ensure that credits transfer to UH, and may be costly. Students interested in gaining such off-campus research or course experience should consult with E&E faculty for advice.

Students interested in a career in ecology and evolution should also get as much hands-on experience as they can. If possible, students should start gaining this experience the summer after their first year. A variety of avenues exist to gain hands- on experience, including the Ecology and Evolution Laboratory course (BIOL 4206), specialized courses at field laboratories, and volunteering or working for a faculty member (sometimes for course credit), environmental organization or government agency. In addition to providing practical knowledge, these experiences will expose students to a variety of mentors who can give advice, help find career opportunities, and write letters of reference.