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Graduate Opportunities

Dedicated to science education, our ecology courses taught by institute scientists and graduate study opportunities advance the institute's goal of supporting the scientists of tomorrow.

In addition to on-site course offerings, Institute ecologists sit on thesis committees and serve as graduate advisors. Advantages to graduate study include immersion in a group of energetic, communicative scientists, and opportunities to work as part of multi-disciplinary teams tackling important questions.

Fundamentals of Ecosystem Ecology (FEE)

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is offering a short course on ecosystem ecology during the January intersession (January 6-17, 2025). This course is intended to provide a brief intensive introduction to modern ecosystem ecology and is taught by the staff of the Cary Institute, including some of today's top ecosystem ecologists.

The scientists at Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies are offering a course designed to provide an intensive overview of ecosystem ecology for graduate and upper level undergraduate students.

This interactive course includes critical examination of ideas through lectures, extensive readings, group discussions, and exercises covering diverse topics including:

  • The ecosystem concept: History, approaches, theories, and utility
  • Energy flow: primary and secondary production, decomposition, and food webs
  • Biogeochemical cycles at local to global scales, including C, N and P
  • Current topics in ecosystem ecology (specific topics vary from year to year; examples from recent years include heterogeneity, urban ecology, ecological stoichiometry, ecosystem engineering, disease ecology, conservation science, use of stable isotopes, stress and disturbance, and invasive species
FEE students 2024
FEE students 2024, with instructors Jane Lucas and Evan Gora (back center).

This course is intended for graduate students in ecology, environmental studies, or related fields. Upper-level undergraduates with appropriate background may be admitted if space permits. Students may wish to arrange to receive credit for the course through their home universities under “special topics”, “seminar”, or a similar heading. The course will be listed by Rutgers University for 4 semester-hours credit in the Spring 2025 semester.

The course will be held at the Cary Institute’s rural campus in Millbrook, NY. Students should plan to be in residence during the entire course and devote their full time to the course. Housing is available on site.

The cost of the class is $850 per student, which includes course fees, materials, and lodging. Students will need to provide their own transportation to and from Cary and, with the exception of light snacks and coffee, their own meals (kitchens are available in the dormitories). Many universities and departments have funding available to help students pay for off-campus courses such as this one; Cary is willing to provide documentation to help applicants apply for such funds.

For further information about the course content or eligibility, contact the lead instructor, Dr. Jane Lucas, For logistical questions about payment, travel, or housing, please contact Matthew Gillespie,

To apply for the course, please complete the online application. Applications for the 2024 class will be accepted until October 15, 2024, or until the class is filled. Admission decisions for graduate students will be made on a rolling basis. Review of undergraduate applications will begin after October 15, 2024, if space remains available. This course is very popular so be sure to apply early. International students should anticipate that visa applications may require substantial lead time, and are thus encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

Graduate Study

Linking population and community-level questions with ecosystem-level studies unifies Institute research efforts. Staff interests include biogeochemistry, microbial ecology, nutrient cycling, behavioral ecology, physiological ecology, and vegetation dynamics. A number of research programs, such as forest response to multiple stressors and the effects of mammals on forest dynamics, are collaborative in nature. Long-term studies include the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study, Hudson River research, and the Buell-Small study of old-field succession.

Our graduate students may attend one of several universities through formal and informal arrangements. Students generally take courses on campus during their first year and conduct research at various field sites in subsequent years. Recent graduate students have received doctoral degrees from the University of Connecticut, Cornell University, Syracuse University and Rutgers University.

Our scientists have also collaborated with students from Fordham University; SUNY-Albany, Bard College; Boston University; SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, Syracuse University; University of New Hampshire; Imperial College in Britain; Ben Gurion University in Israel; and the University of Chile in Santiago, Chile.

Research Facilities

The 3,077 square meter (33,000 square foot) Plant Science Building and Gene E. Likens Laboratory house state-of-the-art laboratories for the analysis of organic and inorganic materials. An auditorium with modern telecommunications capability seats 150 for conferences, seminars, and lectures.

Facilities located elsewhere on the campus offer additional support for ecological studies. A field laboratory provides space for live animal observation and sample analysis. Stream flow, temperature and water chemistry are measured by in situ instrumentation, and a Class A Weather Station and an air pollution monitoring station provide air quality data.

Financial Support

Our scientists and university faculty obtain financial aid for students from a variety of sources. Students on a university campus are generally supported by teaching or research assistantships or fellowships. Students are usually supported by research grants while in residence here.

The Area

The Village of Millbrook, approximately 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from the campus, and the Town of Poughkeepsie, approximately 21 kilometers (13 miles) to the west, provide places to shop and enjoy local activities. Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, N.Y. is less than an hour's drive from Millbrook. There is Metro North train service between Poughkeepsie and New York City and Wassaic/Dover Plains and New York, and Amtrak service between Poughkeepsie and points north and south. The campus is within 2 hour's driving time of Berkshire and Catskill Mountain recreation areas.

For further information, please send a letter of introduction and resume to:

Graduate Program Coordinator
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Millbrook, NY 12545