Graduate Study at the Biodiversity Institute

The Biodiversity Institute is one of the leading organizations in the United States training the next generation of biodiversity scientists and evolutionary biologists. Most of the 50-60 students in residence conduct collection-based research toward their master's or doctoral degrees and are typically enrolled in one of three KU academic departments: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Geology and Geography. Interested students are encouraged to contact faculty members with complementary research interests. Curators, who are also faculty members in academic departments, advise students, include them in research expeditions and serve on their thesis and dissertation committees. Institute curators study the species, ecosystems and cultures of the planet to understand the history and diversity of life. They model and forecast changes in biodiversity, threatened species, the spread of disease and pest species. Areas of study at the institute include patterns and processes in phylogenetics, systematics, ecology and evolution. Taxonomic areas of study include birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, mammals, plants, sea anemones, parasites, insects and fossil plants and animals.

Funding and Support

Most graduate students receive a funding package that includes a combination of graduate teaching (GTA), research (GRA), and curatorial assistantships (CA). These appointments nearly always include tuition sponsorship and sometimes include fee sponsorship as well. In addition, graduate students compete for federal funds through the National Science Foundation and other organizations, and for local small-grants competitions funded by private donors.


The facilities of the Biodiversity Institute include laboratories, student research areas and workspaces, and institute collections. The collections of about 8 million plants and animals and 1.2 million archaeological artifacts are housed in seven buildings across the KU campus. Additional facilities include the classrooms and laboratories affiliated with the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the KU Field Station and Ecological Reserves. The Kansas Biological Survey, a state research agency located at the university, operates laboratories that support research in aquatic ecotoxicology and water chemistry, floral and faunal inventories, remote sensing and geographic information systems technologies.

Activities and Community

Graduate students who are advised by the curators of the Biodiversity Institute are members of the museum’s graduate student organization. Contact Hannah Owens, current NHM GSO president, with any inquiries. The main campus of the University of Kansas is located on Mount Oread and is known as one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation. KU has more than 30,000 students and 2200 faculty and staff. There are approximately 1500 international students from over 110 countries, making KU a truly international university. Lawrence, Kansas, has an estimated population of over 100,000 and is located in northeastern Kansas. It is situated between Kansas City, an approximate 45-minute drive to the east, and Topeka, an approximate 30-minute drive to the west. For a small city, Lawrence has an abundance of culture, music, recreation, nightlife, shopping, and great dining. For more about Lawrence events, attractions and activities, visit the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau or