Department of Environmental Science

Doctorate Program

Program Overview

The Ph.D. in Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences is an interdepartmental degree program at Washington State University sponsored by the Natural Resource Sciences Department and the Program in Environmental Science and Regional Planning.

Environmental and natural resource sciences comprise an association of several areas of study at Washington State University. These sciences focus on factors related to the understanding and management of the environment and therefore have a commonality of interest.

The Ph.D. program in Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences provides opportunities for doctoral study that involve integration and interaction among these various fields of science. The cooperation of WSU’s faculties in environmental and natural resource sciences in this program foster important exchanges of knowledge that greatly enhance interdisciplinary education.

Graduates of the program will have a special responsibility to address the complicated physical, biological, social and political issues of environmental and natural resource management. As the world’s human population continues to grow, the impacts on natural and modified environments and non-urban land uses will increase. It will take responsible, knowledgeable and committed people, backed by a strong ecological and cultural understanding, to integrate resource-oriented positions in policy and planning, and to communicate the principles necessary to resolve environmental and natural resource issues.

As environmental and resource problems are common to many countries (e.g., long-range transport of pollutants, waste management, deforestation of tropics, misuse of rangelands, conservation of wildlife species, growth management), it is expected that a significant international dimension of the program will develop.

Application Requirements

General WSU Graduate School requirements for admission must be met, including a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 for the most recent 60 semester hours of undergraduate academic coursework. Specific requirements for the Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Sciences include a TOEFL score of 600 (Paper-Based), 250 (Computer-Based), or 100 (Internet-Based) for students with English as a second language. Normally completion of a Master’s degree (or equivalent) is expected for admission to the doctoral program. Admission to the program without subject matter deficiency requires at least 10 semester credits of completed coursework in basic biological and/or physical sciences (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics, geology, etc.). Students may be admitted with deficiency with the expectation that the deficiency will be met through completed coursework (for non-graduate program credit) within one year of admission. Each applicant must also be accepted by a faculty advisor before admission. Arrangements for a faculty advisor should be made through interaction between the student and the faculty member. The initial contact may be made either by the applicant or the faculty member.

Ph.D. Program Requirements

The Ph.D. dissertation should be a significant contribution to the Environmental & Natural Resource Sciences, worthy of publication in referred international journals.  The objectives of the Ph.D. program in Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences are to:

  • Provide an atmosphere of scholarship coupled with research opportunities that will produce people capable of responding to the complicated issues of use, management and protection of the environment and its natural resources.
  • Foster the pursuit of interdisciplinary research in the environmental and natural resource sciences and to facilitate a better understanding of the ecological, social and economic relationships inherent in environmental and natural resource issues.
  • Produce scientists who will assume leadership roles in the research and management of natural resources and the environment.
  • Prepare students for working with, and within, public and private agencies responsible for the management or protection of natural resources and the environment.

Each student will develop a program of study in cooperation with a Supervisory Committee that includes his/her Faculty Advisor as Chair. As preparation for a Preliminary Examination, a core curriculum must be completed through preceding and/or new coursework that will yield competencies in five broad areas:

  • Advanced knowledge of ecosystems, including both biophysical structure and function, and roles of humans. This competency may be met by the equivalent of at least 6 semester hours of graded coursework.
  • Advanced knowledge in research methods; This competency may be met by the equivalent of 3 semester hours of graded coursework in each of the following two areas, Statistics and Modeling as applicable to dissertation research.
  • Advanced knowledge in environmental and natural resource issues and ethics
  • Advanced interdisciplinary cognizance/appreciation
  • A specialized subject area to be defined by the student and the student’s Supervisory Committee

Both preliminary and final exams will be required to test the candidate’s knowledge of Environmental & Natural Resource Sciences with emphasis on the work presented in the dissertation and general fields of knowledge pertinent to the degree.