Graduate Studies in the SPEC Lab
If you are interested in working in the SPEC Lab for your graduate studies, please contact Eben Broadbent and/or Angelica Almeyda Zambrano before submitting your application. When first communicating with us please attach an updated version of your CV (see our CVs for an example).
Depending on mutual research interests and availability we would then encourage you to submit a full application package. The deadline for applications is (approximately Dec). We much prefer to have our student submit their applications as early as possible.
The full application package consists of:
- Statement of purpose: i.e., present your interests and motivations, summarize your previous academic experience, discuss the relevance of your current activities, further elaborate on your academic interests.
- Academic records: i.e., transcripts of the schools you have attended, letter of position in class or other reference if the GPA is not readily available. The graduate school requires that "The applicant must have an undergraduate grade point average for a completed undergraduate degree program, based on a 4.0 system, of 3.0 overall, 3.0 for the last 60 semester hours in a degree program, or 3.0 for a completed graduate degree program."
- TOEFL scores for international students. Although the graduate school has a minimum score of 79, the SPEC Lab prefers students with a minimum score of 90.
- GRE scores. The applicant should have a minimum score of 300 on the revised GRE test or 1000 on the GRE general test. These should be sent directly to the University of Florida Graduate School using the code ETS code XXXX as described at http://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/gre_aidi_fellowships.pdf
- CV (Curricula Vita)
- Letters of reference (3). These are confidential. During the online application process you will provide names and contact information of the recommenders. They will be contacted vie email by the university and will be provided with instructions to submit their letters using the online system, or via hard copy in the mail.
In exceptional cases we can petition to the department for a conditional admission for students having GRE scores OR an undergraduate GPA under the required values. However, funding is typically awarded based on these values so may be more difficult to acquire. If time is available we would typically recommend our applicants to retake GREs to bring them above the minimum if at all possible.
Information related to international student applications can be found at:
Undergraduate research opportunities are available. Please contact us if to see if opportunities are available.
Masters of Science (MS) and PhD opportunities are available through the School of Forest Resources and Conservation Forest Resources and Conservation (FRC) or Geomatics Programs, the Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management, or the Interdisciplinary Ecology PhD program in SNRE.
(A) Students will be asked to grade their progress each semester and discuss with their advisor using the criteria below. Please come prepared to discuss your self-grades during semester review meetings. Conversations should focus on positive accomplishments and also areas needing improvement, including specific strategies to be employed to address issues.
- 35% - Being a good role model and ambassador of the SPEC Lab both on campus, nationally and internationally, behaving professionally and respectfully in oral and written communication with members of the lab, department, university, collaborators, and the general public.
- 35% - Conducting high quality research and productivity in collaboration with the SPEC Lab, while generating, enhancing and maintaining collaborations for the lab, and in particular as advances aspects of the students thesis.
- 20% - Submitting to grants for field work and scholarships and fellowship opportunities both internal to UF and extramural.
- 10% - Fulfilling requirements, including coursework, GPA, teaching assistance, and other logistics, to maintain a satisfactory standing in the graduate program.
TRSM has an official similar version, required for TRSM graduate students, and useful for those in other programs. You can download at this link.
(B) It is expected that all MS students will submit a minimum of one manuscript, and PhD students a minimum of 4 manuscripts, typically on topics or building skills related to your dissertation, in collaboration with your advisor (s) and often other SPEC Lab members, to internationally recognized peer-reviewed journals prior to graduation. Your advisor, and other SPEC Lab and committee members will work closely with you to assist in this process, through weekly 30-60 minute meetings and communication through email or phone. Typically, we develop ideas and begin working towards research objectives in the first semester. While side projects are fine, they should not negatively impact SPEC Lab research commitments.
(C) Graduate students will engage in a 30 (to 60 depending) minute update meeting with their advisor weekly, and other committee members if they are interested. Email questions / discussions typically have much faster response rates and are encouraged at any time. We will have a formal list of questions that we expect to be updated on during these meetings. Prior to each meeting please email an update on goals defined in the previous meeting. This also provides an opportunity to discuss research ideas, design and funding options. Longer meetings can be arranged as needed throughout the degree process.
(D) It is expected that graduate students will actively seek out research funding, and if appropriate external fellowship, opportunities in collaboration with their advisor and other committee members and submit these in a timely manner to assist with their summer, and other, field work projects.
(E) It is expected that students will present posters and presentations where possible at local, regional, and international conferences and other venues, and will coordinate revisions closely with their advisors and other SPEC Lab members prior to submission of final posters and presentations. These should include, or at minimum acknowledge, key contributors, and include appropriate institutional and spec lab logos.
SPEC Lab email list serve
For current and alumni lab members. Members please feel free to post relevant news, funding opportunities, graduate study openings, etc... Join through this portal or send request to Angelica or Eben.
Graduate funding resources
List will grow as we identify new ones, please share if you know of ones not included.
Letters should be requested at least 2 weeks in advance of any deadlines. Reminders should be provided a few days prior and immediately prior. If multiple letters are being requested please provide a well organized email table including the information below, and reminders as above.
When requesting a recommendation letter please include the following information:
1. CV (up to date)
2. Clear description of the desired position / fellowship
3. Copy of your application letter
4. A few (3-6) bullet points a bout your suitability for the position (the information that will help write the strongest letter in your favor)
5. Name, title, and address to which the letter should be addressed
6. Due date / time frame
Thesis proposal for defense
The components and structure of a good proposal are as follows. The overall length is expected to be around 8-10+ pages, with the focus being on the content not on the length. Relevant figures and tables throughout the document are most useful for quickly conveying complex ideas or the overall structure of your approach, please work to develop and include these.
1. Title - clear and descriptive in a concise manner. Identify the topic and location.
2. Abstract - a one paragraph summary which includes all important components from the proposal.
3. Introduction / literature review - a short overview of the relevance and importance of the project quickly moving from international to site specific.
4. Your research objectives and questions - preference is for hypothesis driven research using the scientific method.
5. Methods section, including:
6. Study area - provide a map, even if just from Google Earth.
7. How you will collect data and how it will be analyzed statistically to address your research objectives and questions and hypotheses! Divide this up by section, i.e., (a) forest inventory analyses, (b) wildlife biodiversity monitoring, (c) remote sensing, and (d) spatial statistical integration.
8. Anticipated results
9. Other relevant activities and their significance - such as training local schoolchildren in animal identification, etc...
10. References cited - use a standard format and cite within the text of the proposal.
In general, it is expected that you will have at least two rounds of revision with your advisor prior to sending to the committee. You should plan to send the proposal to your committee at least 1 week, better 2, before your defense. Also, request your committee members to please provide comments prior to the defense if possible which you can incorporate beforehand - thus making the defense a much smoother process for all.
Overview of proposal expectations from another department: http://www.geol.umd.edu/graduate/proposalguidelines.php
Quick overview of the scientific method, I'm sure there are better sources out there! http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/scienceflowchart
PhD qualifying exams are an important phase, which according to the graduate manual (see below). The manual states that "The Qualifying Exam consists of two parts, the written examination and the oral examination. The exam is intended to evaluate your understanding of the major and minor areas of study and your capability for carrying out the proposed research. Therefore, prior to the Qualifying Examination, you should have completed all basic coursework and circulated a draft of your research proposal to all members of your Supervisory Committee. The Qualifying Examination is usually completed in the fourth semester of the program, and must be completed no less than two semesters prior to the date the degree is awarded. " (from the FRC handbook referenced below).
The SPEC Lab employs a standard and globally accepted qualifying exam format consisting of: (a) written answers by the student to 1-3 questions addressed by each committee member on a predefined theme, and in which they have 4-8 hours either open or closed book (exact format is up to each committee member) to answer the questions. The exact questions are provided the morning of each exam, with each committee member having up to one day to have their quesiton answered by the student. (b) a oral defense of the written responses which typically takes 2-4 hours and which starts with a 20-30 minutes presentation overview by the student on their responses.
The qualifying exam represents a unique component of the PhD and differs from the proposal defense. However, in general the concepts and even writing that occurs during the qualifying exam significantly assists the student in developing their research proposal, both theoretically, methodologically, and even in terms of written content and via the literature review components typically a core part of each written answer.
Final dissertation exam
"The Final Examination is required of all students and is primarily a defense of your dissertation, thesis, project, and/or coursework, and your comprehension of any topics related to any portions of the major and minor fields may be explored by the Supervisory Committee. Final Exams must be announced two weeks in advance, and all forms associated with the Final Exam must be signed and submitted to the Academic Coordinator at least 48 hours prior to the deadline for the semester in which the examination is taken." (from the FRC handbook referenced below).
A typical final exam in the SPEC Lab takes 2-3 hours and consists of a 30 minute presentation by the student on their PhD research, including standard introduction, questions / hypotheses, results, and discussion / conclusion slides. Followed by 1-2 hours of questions and answers, using multiple formats (including white-boards, etc... as is useful).
“You may receive a graduate assistantship as part of your offer to join the SFRC Program. Your Letter of Appointment is a contract between you, your advisor, and the SFRC, and details the duties, work hours, registration requirements, duration, and compensatory rate of your appointment. “ (FRC handbook 2019). RA duties will be assigned by your advisor, in discussion with each RA, and will be a balance between accomplishing research tasks needed for various ongoing or new SPEC Lab projects, and ones which specifically support or may be included in each student’s graduate work. The goal is to identify and assign duties which will assist students with gaining key methodological or conceptual skills, or advancing actual analyses and manuscripts. While duties will vary by student, it is expected that students will keep careful track of the time they invest into their RA tasks and that this will align with the contract discussed above. In some cases, if RA tasks are specifically designed to align with the graduate thesis objectives, then additional non RA time will likely be needed as each student decides independently. RA hours may in some cases include assisting in teaching and/or driving state vehicles (typically vans or trucks), and such activities will count equally towards the hourly weekly commitments as defined in each student’s RA contract.
Online Masters Students
You required to initiate and conduct 1-2 30 minute meetings per semester with your advisor. In these meetings you should cover logistics, such as completing course requirements, etc.., challenges you are having, and discussion regarding other topics such as career development.
As standard protocol do not email twitter or phone text style emails. Start with a Hi X, end with a Best wishes, etc.. (e.g., not "Hey", or "Wuz up!") and carefully consider the content of your email, including grammar, etc... Emails sent tweet style will be ignored, or at best given low priority. We recommend following these simple suggestions for all professional emails.
Graduate student tips and advice
Research Funding Opportunities (and see links page for many others)
Additional educational and training opportunities
http://smconservation.gmu.edu/ - Smithsonian Conservation Biology Training workshops. Scholarship opportunities for students from developing countries.
The Álvaro Ugalde Scholarship Fund - This fund will provide scholarships to young conservationists from Costa Rica and around the world. These small grants will support students and young professionals with experience in the field while contributing to the long-term conservation of the Osa Peninsula.