Information about the Department of Botany Graduate Program


Graduate Student Timeline and Course of Study

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 members and is organized around the central theme. For current research conducted in each track, please see the web pages of individual faculty.


Coursework and Advising: 

Each student in the Graduate Program is required to take courses to meet proficiency for his/her selected Track, unless he/she can demonstrate proficiency in some other way determined in consultation with their advisory committee (see list of required proficiencies for each Track) or if the student has taken such courses already.

Students are initially advised by an appointed interim committee of graduate faculty members who advise the student until he or she is ready to propose a permanent advisory committee (usually in the second semester).


Requirements for graduate students: 

All graduate students should be proficient in public speaking and presentation. Students must enroll in one BOT 610 seminar (Seminar Presentation Skills) in order to demonstrate this proficiency. Students must also demonstrate that they have successfully given a public seminar in another venue (such as at a scientific meeting or department seminar) and/or prepared and given lectures (one presentation for MS students and three for PhD students, in accordance with the Seminar and Student Teaching Policy).

All graduate students must enroll in and pass the Department’s one-semester graduate course, BOT 601 Current Foundations in Botany.  

All PhD students must pass the Department’s comprehensive exam, which consists of both a written and oral component, and is generally administered before the end of the second year in the program.  

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 Proposal Symposium (typically during their second semester at a symposium held in April). The second required seminar (the Thesis or Dissertation defense seminar), at the conclusion of the program, describes the research results and conclusions.

Following the student’s final research seminar, he or she is examined by the thesis or dissertation committee (Thesis or Dissertation Defense).  Examples of past dissertations are available here (search for “Manoa and Botany”): Link to Botany Department Electronic Theses & Dissertations


Student Learning Outcomes of Graduate Degrees

  1. Demonstrated mastery of subject area including methodology and techniques
  2. Demonstrated proficiency in oral and written communication
  3. Demonstrated ability to plan, conduct and analyze independent/original research 
  4. Develop abilities to contribute as responsible and productive professionals in botanical sciences and related fields.


The Master’s Degree

Plan A (thesis) and Plan B (non-thesis) are separate Master’s of Science (MS) programs with distinct purposes. Before admission to candidacy, the plan that a candidate intends to follow must be declared and approved. The majority of students choose Plan A, which includes research and writing/defending a thesis. 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, but also involves a research project. Graduates with an MS degree have found employment in the areas of private and public research, land management, conservation, education, and business. Many Plan A MS students opt to continue their studies in the Doctoral program at UHM or elsewhere.

MS Plan A (Thesis)

Course requirements:

At least 30 credit hours total, including 12 credit hours towards thesis research (BOT 700), and 18 credit hours of courses (minimum 12 credits in courses numbered 600-level or above excluding BOT 699 and BOT 700) approved by the candidate’s committee.

MS Plan B (Non-thesis)

Course requirements:
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) in aspects of botanical sciences chosen by the candidate in consultation with his or her committee.


The PhD Degree

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.

PhD Requirements

The student must pass a comprehensive examination that is both written and oral (as described above and in more detail under Graduate Program Policies and Guidelines). The candidate is examined in both general botany as well as areas agreed upon by the student and the committee that relate more specifically to the student’s research. The PhD dissertation must be a substantial contribution to the student’s sub-discipline, the specifics of which should be agreed upon by the student and his/her committee. The Botany Graduate Program does not offer an “MS route” degree for students in the PhD program. Students who are interested in earning a Master’s degree are encouraged to apply for admission to the Botany MS degree program.


Botany Affiliations and Resources

The National Parks Service, Cooperative Studies Unit studies conservation problems in the Pacific.

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 laboratories.

The Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology studies marine algae and other marine plants.

Arrangements may also be made for research at the following sites:

Bernice P. Bishop Museum

National Tropical Botanical Gardens

Volcanoes and Haleakala National Parks

Honolulu Botanical Gardens

Hawai‘i Agriculture Research Center