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Evolution and Ecology

EEB undergraduate students at a field site.

EEB undergraduate students at a field site.

Source: Nicole Carbone, EEB Peer Advisor 2009-2010

Evolution, Ecology & Biodiversity Undergraduate Program

As an Evolution, Ecology and Biodiversity (EEB) major, you will learn about the diversity of life on Earth, including diversity in genes, physiology, shapes, sizes and behaviors. You will learn about how this diversity emerged, as plants, animals, and microbes become adapted to the environment and to each other. And you will learn to predict whether populations of interacting organisms persist over time or become extinct. Theodosius Dobzhansky, a former professor at UC Davis and one of the great biologists of the 20th century, famously said that “nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution.” As an EEB major, you will learn the fundamental concepts that unify the biological sciences and form the foundation for efforts in the conservation and protection of the earth’s biodiversity.

The EEB major will prepare you for a career in the life sciences, whether you are interested in conservation and restoration biology—addressing the impacts of climate change, developing plans for habitat conservation and wildlife protection, or other issues critical to maintaining a healthy planet; or health sciences—working as a medical doctor or veterinarian helping humans and non-human animals achieve healthy lives; or science education—educating students and the public on the history and diversity of life on earth and the need to conserve it; or basic research in biology—helping to expand the frontiers of knowledge by studying the evolution of organisms and their ecosystems. The list of careers for EEB graduates goes on and on.

Unlike other majors in wildlife biology and environmental biology, the EEB major prepares a student for entrance into medical or veterinary school.

Evolution and Ecology faculty designed the major requirements to ensure that students have a broad and balanced exposure to basic principles in the biological sciences. The program of study begins with a core of introductory courses in biology, mathematics and physical sciences. This is followed by basic courses in evolution, ecology and biodiversity. Within the overall guidelines set by the major, students are allowed flexibility in designing a program uniquely fitted to her/his interests. As a part of a smaller major, you have the opportunity to get to know faculty in courses focused on conducting field experiments, on marine biology at the Bodega Marine Laboratory, on animal behavior, on microbial genetics, on computational biology, and many other areas. Students may also seek opportunities to conduct independent research under the mentorship of faculty and graduate students from the Department of Evolution and Ecology or beyond.

EEB Student Testimonials

“Choosing EEB (EVE) as my primary major was the most important decision I made as an undergraduate at UC Davis. The interesting and provocative classes helped awaken a passion for studying the natural world, leading me on a career path that I love and am proud of. The professors and advising staff were very accessible and encouraged me to become an active member of the EVE and University community. The major also provided me with pertinent and enjoyable jobs, internships, and study abroad opportunities that played a major role in my successful post graduate life. If it was not for the EVE professors, staff, and experiences, I would not have been able to find a substantial job in research right out of college or gain admission to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.”

— Jake Theil

“I graduated from UC Davis with a bachelor’s degree in Evolution, Ecology and Biodiversity (EEB) in 2008. When I look back at my time in EEB I recognize that I had multiple unique experiences. One of these experiences was studying at Bodega Bay, where I learned how to think independently and solve problems in a way that I had never been asked to do previously. The EVE faculty were constantly challenging me to go beyond what is possible in a traditional classroom environment. After my time at Bodega I also had the opportunity to further develop my research skills while participating in EVE 180, “Experimental Ecology and Evolution in the Field”. As a part of this course I was able to work with 2 outstanding faculty members as well as 19 other undergraduates to develop and carry out a publishable research project. What I learned as a part of this project went far beyond facts and theories of research– I learned how field research actually works. I also had the opportunity to learn molecular techniques by working in the Strong Lab for 2 years of my undergraduate studies.

All of the opportunities that I took advantage of in EEB have been invaluable to me since graduating. Directly after graduating, I was hired by a non-profit called the Center for Land- Based Learning where I run education programs for high school students that focus on environmental restoration. This position requires that I be able to problem-solve and think creatively, skills that I was able to learn in the EEB major. In the fall I will be leaving my current position to begin my graduate degree in Plant Biology at the University of California, Riverside, which was my first choice of graduate programs! While I was applying to graduate programs I had the complete support of the EVE faculty. They were constantly available to me for advice, and were excited to write me letters of recommendation. I am confident that in addition to helping me with admission to graduate school, all of the unique experiences that I had in the EEB major have prepared me for success in graduate school and beyond.”

— Shana Welles

Learning Objectives for Students in the Evolution, Ecology & Biodiversity Major

  • Describe the molecular and structural unity of life, explain how the diversity of living things is generated and perpetuated, and exemplify this diversity among and within life’s three domains.
  • Demonstrate the fundamental processes underlying adaptive evolution, speciation and extinction, population growth and regulation, species coexistence, and maintenance of biodiversity.
  • Demonstrate the ability to design and execute collection, evaluation and interpretation of scientific data.
  • Demonstrate scientific literacy and skill in communication of evolutionary and ecological concepts, data, and interpretation using multiple formats appropriate for target audiences, including non-scientists.
  • Apply quantitative models and data to solve problems in evolution and ecology.
  • Integrate fundamental principles of evolution and ecology to study and solve problems of interest to human societies, including predicting the consequences of human activities.