About Ornithology is affiliated with the degree-granting Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, which offers M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in three areas: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Plant Biology, and Entomology. 


Interested students are encouraged to contact faculty members with complementary research interests. Curators, who are also faculty members in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, advise students, include them in research expeditions and serve on their M.A. and Ph.D. committees.  About 50 students are in residence at the Biodiversity Institute, which includes Ornithology.

KU Ornithology welcomes inquiries from potential students interested in evolutionary biology and avian systematics. Students with interests in phylogenetic systematics, phylogeography, population and conservation genetics, biogeography, character evolution, and the evolution of animal behavior and ecological traits are particularly encouraged to consider KU for graduate studies.

It is critically important for students to develop their own evolutionary questions and model systems for independent research; we always encourage students to pursue dissertation topics of their own design. If you are interested in discussing the possibility of applying to KU to work with a current faculty curator, please take the time to study the research interests of your potential mentor, publications list, etc.,—all in an effort to determine if your interests are compatible with the research conducted at KU Ornithology. Ornithology faculty curators who advise and/or coadvise EEB students include A. Townsend Peterson and Robert G. Moyle.

More information about the graduate program and the admission process is available at the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology's website.



Charles Dean Bunker (below) became an assistant at the Museum in 1895. Bunker created the first complete catalog of the museum collections, sometimes getting data by word-of-mouth from Dyche (Hall 1951). He became Assistant Curator of Birds and Mammals in 1907, and Assistant Curator in Charge in 1909, when Dyche was named State Warden. Bunker emphasized specimens as research and teaching resources rather than items for display. He also continued the tradition of expeditionary field work in collecting vertebrates, specialized in birds, and concentrated on the preparation of whole skeletons. He developed innovative techniques for cleaning bones, emphasizing methods for the maintenance of colonies of dermestid beetles, the larvae of which were already known for their ability to clean bones precisely and without damage. Under Bunker's guidance, the ornithological skeleton collection at KU had achieved national recognition by the 1930s. Bunker's view of the Museum as a generator of new knowledge, a center for research rather than one primarily for passive display, was one of his important insights.

Bunker also was an extremely effective teacher in the setting of a research museum, and his record of undergraduate instruction is hard to match. Alexander Wetmore was an undergraduate at KU and worked in the bird collections under Bunker. Wetmore later completed postgraduate degrees at Washington University, developed into one of the leading ornithologists of all time, and eventually became Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Another future Smithsonian scientist (ultimately Assistant Secretary for Science) was Remington Kellogg, also a student with Bunker, specializing in mammalogy. Other Bunker undergraduates achieving high status in ornithology were Jean M. Linsdale, later of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ) at Berkeley and Hastings Natural History Reservation, and William H. Burt, also of MVZ and the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. E. Raymond Hall was one of "Bunk's Boys" also going on to MVZ, ultimately returning to KU to lead the Museum of Natural History to international prominence. Claude Hibbard and Ruben Stirton also studied with Bunker and went on to fame as mammalian paleontologists, the former at Michigan and the latter at Berkeley, withall preserving the broad orientation to vertebrate biology they learned at Kansas with Bunker. Bunker retired in 1942.

A more complete version of Ornithology's history can be viewed in a 1993 article by Richard Johnston.