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UH Botany Home
University of Hawai`i at Manoa
3190 Maile Way, Room 101
Honolulu, HI 96822
Dr. Alison Sherwood
Graduate Program Chair:
Dr. Alison Sherwood
Click here to apply online to the UH Botany graduate program
The Botany Graduate Program offers MS and PhD degrees in Botany.
The Botany Department offers graduate education in a wide range of botanical specialties,
with emphasis placed on tropical botany and conservation. Major research areas include
terrestrial and marine plant ecology, evolution, systematics, conservation and ethnobotany.
Hawai`i provides an outstanding location for many types of botanical studies. The rich
endemic flora and the insular isolation, for example, provide unique opportunities for
studies of evolution, conservation biology, and alien plant invasions. Similarly, the host
culture and access to the other Pacific island nations allows studies of plants in a human
context, such as biodiversity assessments and its maintenance. Research studies are not
limited to the Hawaiian Islands. Faculty and students have research projects in many areas
of the tropics throughout the world.
A wide range of taxa are studied by faculty and students in the Botany Graduate Program,
including marine and terrestrial angiosperms, algae, fungi and ferns. Steep environmental
gradients are common throughout the Hawaiian Islands and provide excellent opportunities to
study physiological ecology, adaptation, and genetic differentiation. Research often involves
applying modern genetic technology to address questions relating to plant ecology, population
genetics, evolution, species hybridization, molecular systematics and evolution.
The Botany Graduate Program has developed collaborations with leading international conservation
agencies and greatly benefits from productive interactions with local communities. For example,
ethnobotanical studies include conservation analyses, historical aspects of plants in human
migrations, and the sustainability of human-plant systems. Many research programs make use of
the strong ties to Hawai`i's National Parks, terrestrial and marine conservation areas, and
living botanical collections.
On beginning the UH Botany Graduate Program, students enter
one of seven Tracks, including Conservation, Ecology,
Ethnobotany, Marine Botany, Plant Structure/Function, Systematics/Evolution,
or General Botany. Each Track includes several faculty organized
around the central theme. For current research conducted
in each track, please see our Research
Separate Graduate Programs having to do with Plant Molecular Biology
and Plant Pathology reside in the College of Tropical Agriculture,
and students interested in these programs should request application
materials directly from these programs.
Student Learning Outcomes of Graduate Degrees
- Demonstrated mastery of subject area including methodology and techniques
- Demonstrated proficiency in oral and written communication
- Demonstrated ability to plan, conduct and analyze independent/original research
- Develop abilities to contribute as responsible and productive professionals in botanical sciences and related fields.
Program Requirements - General
All graduate students in the Department of Botany (MS Plan A,
MS plan B and PhD) must pass the written portion of the Department's
comprehensive exam. Upon passing the written portion, PhD students also
have an oral component to the comprehensive exam. A further requirement
for all graduate degrees is proficiency in presenting seminars. Ordinarily,
a student must enroll in two BOT 610 seminars in order to demonstrate
this proficiency; one BOT 610 seminar may suffice if the student can
demonstrate that they have successfully given public seminars in another
venue. In addition, MS Plan A and PhD students must present two public seminars.
The first required seminar (Research Proposal) outlines the background
of a research problem and the student's proposed research program, and is
presented in the Department's annual Proposal Symposium (typically held in April).
The second required seminar, at the conclusion of the program, describes
the research results and conclusions, at which time the student
is examined by the thesis or dissertation committee (Thesis or Dissertation Defense).
All students in the Graduate Program are required to take courses
to meet proficiency for their selected Track, if they have not taken
such courses earlier in their career or can demonstrate proficiency in some other
way determined in consultation with their advisory committee
(see list of required
proficiencies for each Track).
Plan A (thesis) and Plan B (non-thesis) are separate Master's
of Science programs with distinct purposes. Before admission to
candidacy, the plan that a candidate intends to follow must be declared
and approved. Plan A is the usual program to be taken by candidates.
Plan B is offered for students who do not intend to make research
in botanical sciences their profession. The Plan B program emphasizes
teaching and technological aspects of the botanical sciences. Graduates
with an MS degree have found employment in the areas of private
and public research, land management, conservation, education, and
business. Many students opt to continue their studies in the Doctoral
program at UHM or elsewhere.
MS Plan A (Thesis)
At least 30 credit hours total,
including 12 credit hours towards thesis research, and 18 credit
hours of courses (minimum 12 credits in courses numbered 600-level
or above) approved by the candidate's committee.
MS Plan B (Non-thesis)
At least 30 credit hours total, including 18 credit
hours in Botany, or an approved related field, in courses numbered
600-level or above (excluding BOT 699 and BOT 700). At least 6 (but
not more than 9) credits in addition to the 18 described above must
be for directed research (BOT 699 or BOT 700) in aspects of botanical
sciences chosen by the candidate in consultation with his or her committee.
The PhD is offered for students who intend to make research and/or
university teaching their profession. Students in the PhD program
acquire the skills and knowledge needed to propose, conduct, present
and publish independent, innovative research in the botanical sciences.
Recipients of the PhD degree often gain employment with government
agencies, with private consulting firms, or with conservation organizations.
Many PhD recipients accept university post-doctoral research positions.
Others obtain academic positions at colleges and universities.
The student must pass a comprehensive
examination that is both oral and written (as described above and in
more detail under Graduate Program Policies and Guidelines
The candidate is examined in general botany
as well as in-depth areas of the botanical sciences that have been
previously agreed upon by the student and the committee. The student
must complete and defend a dissertation consisting of an original
contribution based on independent research. Dissertation research for
the PhD degree is carried out in an aspect of botanical sciences
for which a member of the graduate faculty will accept responsibility
as committee chair. See also Program Requirements - General for additional
Graduate advising is handled by an appointed interim committee of
two to three faculty who advise the student until he or she is ready to
propose a permanent advisory committee.
Teaching assistantships are open to students accepted
in either the MS or the PhD program. Teaching assistantship appointments
include nine month stipends, and include a tuition waiver. Applications
for teaching assistantships (download form as
are due January 15.
Research assistantships are available in association
with particular fields of study, and usually include a tuition waiver.
Research assistantship positions can be made for 9 or 11 months.
Application deadlines are the same as for teaching assistants.
Students with interests in ecology, evolution and
conservation biology are encouraged inquire about possible support
and program opportunities through the Ecology,
Evolution and Conservation Biology Graduate (EECB)
Specialization Program. Information concerning this program may
be found at: www.hawaii.edu/eecb
The East-West Center offers scholarships to Asian,
Pacific, and American students for affiliation in one of their programs.
Of particular interest to some students in botany are the Resources
Institute and the Environment and Policy Institute. Inquiries should
be directed to the Office of Admissions, East-West Center, Honolulu,
Tuition waivers ("Achievement Scholarships") may be available for students who
do not receive teaching or research assistantships. Applicants will
be asked if they wish to be considered for these at the time of
Link to Botany Department Electronic Theses & Dissertations
The National Parks Service, Cooperative Park Studies
Unit studies conservation problems in Hawaii's National Parks.
Harold L. Lyon Arboretum - studies on tropical
plants, propagation of rare Hawaiian plants.
The Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology
Graduate Specialization Program (EECB) fosters interaction between
students and faculty in Botany, Zoology and other departments who
have common interests; promotes research and training.
The Kewalo Marine Laboratory is an urban marine
laboratory with flowing seawater, tanks and collaborating research
The Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology studies
on marine algae and other marine plants.
Arrangements may also be made for research at the
Bernice P. Bishop Museum
National Tropical Botanical Gardens
Volcanoes and Haleakala National Parks
Honolulu Botanical Gardens
Hawai‘i Agriculture Research Center
Kea silversword, Argyroxiphium sandwicense ssp. sandwicense