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Population Biology Graduate Group

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2007 Cohort Olympics.

A Message from Our Chair: Dr. David Begun


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 recognize that you will be weighing many factors when pondering 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 sequence that provides in-depth coverage of population and molecular genetics and genomics; behavioral, population, community, and evolutionary ecology; and phylogenetics and macroevolution.  All students are also equipped with a strong toolkit of 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 very proud of our graduates’ outstanding record of success 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; biogeography; behavioral and physiological ecology; life-history strategies; systematics; evolution; population and quantitative genetics; and molecular evolution.  

UC Davis is consistently identified as one of the elite 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 get too carried away with these rankings, we think it is safe to say that Davis is an outstanding place to study ecology and evolution.  Furthermore, UC Davis is unusually 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, and more than half of the faculty are 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 superbly 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 data sets, 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 find the town of Davis to be a thriving community where it is easy to be a student.  The city of Davis feels like it was designed for students.  It is a town where you will almost always see more bicycles than cars.  Davis is a true college town, and is much loved by everyone who lives here.  Twice a week there is a Farmer’s Market, selling some of the best produce in the country to the Davis Community.  Davis is also close to San Francisco, Lake Tahoe and Sacramento. 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 at; please see also the web site for the Center for Population Biology:  For additional information please do not hesitate to contact me directly at or (530) 754-6362.  Also please feel free to contact any of our faculty directly or our Graduate Program Staff Adviser, Stephanie Macey-Gallow,  We look forward to learning more about your educational goals and receiving your completed application.



David Begun
Chair, Population Biology Graduate Group