MS Plant Biology and Conservation

Plant biologists are needed for critical research and conservation roles in several industries. This unique program has three areas of focus to help meet the demands of conserving plant resources in a rapidly changing world: plant sciences, quantitative skills and human dimensions.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: MS Plant Biology and Conservation

The Master of Science degree in plant biology and conservation functions as a unique collaboration between ASU and the Desert Botanical Garden, a private botanical garden focused on plants of the Southwest and located only 2.5 miles from the ASU Tempe campus. This program provides a foundation for jobs in plant conservation in both the public and private sectors, as well as for continued academic training.

Our program is the only one like it in the Southwest and is one of only two in the United States. Students with a passion for the Sonoran Desert and other unique Arizona biomes work with ASU faculty and DBG research staff to develop their own conservation-related project, driven by their field-collected data.

In addition to campus resources such as the ASU Vascular Plant Herbarium, which holds more than 290,000 accessions, students have access to Desert Botanical Garden facilities boasting 140 acres of desert plants and the resources of the Desert Plant Research Center. The garden also coordinates the Central Arizona Conservation Alliance. This provides students access to research and job opportunities, as well as interactions with conservation groups and governmental agencies.

This degree is designed for students who want to pursue a conservation-oriented profession with government agencies or conservation groups. It is also considered the first step toward a PhD and academic career. Our alumni have jobs with the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, botanical gardens and as teachers. Others are pursuing their PhDs in conservation fields.

Plant Biology and Conservation (MS) Faculty

Courses and electives

Note: Undergraduate classes at 300 and 400 levels are taken for graduate credit along with extra graduate assignments as BIO 598.

  • BIO 303 Plant Diversity and Evolution
  • BIO 304 Plant Anatomy (spring 2019)
  • BIO 313 Arizona Flora* (taught even-numbered spring semesters)
  • BIO 331 Animal Behavior
  • BIO 423 Population and Community Ecology (spring semester)
  • BIO 471 Ornithology
  • BIO 494 Topic: Art and Science
  • BIO 498 Grasses of Arizona (fall semesters, occasionally)
  • BIO 498 Lichenology (spring 2019)
  • BIO 516 Foundations of Bioethics
  • BIO 519 Physiological Plant Ecology (alternate springs 2018, 2020, etc.)
  • BIO 521 Landscape Ecology
  • BIO 522 Populations: Evolutionary Ecology
  • BIO 527 Environmental Ethics and Policy Goals
  • BIO 549 Phylogenetic Biology & Analysis (offered occasionally)
  • BIO 591 Drylands in a changing earth
  • BIO 591 Parasites and their relatives (offered spring)
  • BIO 592 Human impact on ecosystem functioning
  • BIO 598 Seminar: Topics in Plant Biology
  • BIO 614 Biometry
  • BIO General Entomology
  • BIO/PLB 498/598 Botany Seminar
  • ESL 501 Environmental Grand Challenges
  • PLB 591 Perspectives in Plant Biology
  • PLB 598 Sonoran Desert Field Botany (spring even-numbered years)

At a Glance: program details

Degree Requirements

Required Core (3 credit hours)
  • PLB 502 Perspectives in Plant Biology (3)
Research (3 credit hours)
  • PLB 592 Research (3)
Electives (17 credit hours)
  • See courses and electives below for a complete list
Other Requirements (1 credit hour)
  • PLB 591 Seminar (1)
Culminating Experience - Thesis (6 credit hours)
  • PLB 599 Thesis (6)
Additional Curriculum Information
  • BIO/PLB 591 Botany Seminar (1). This is a participatory seminar taught fall and spring semesters. (required)

Up to 14 credit hours in special courses, e.g. below.

  • PLB 584 Fieldwork
  • PLB 584 Internship
  • PLB 598 Special Topics
  • BIO 598 Special Topics
  • PLB 590 Readings and Conference

Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree in biology, botany or a closely related field from a regionally accredited institution.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program, or applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

Applicants must submit the following:
  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts 
  3. academic record form
  4. personal statement
  5. curriculum vitae or resume
  6. three letters of recommendation
  7. proof of English proficiency (if applicable)

Application Deadline

  • Applications are accepted between the open date, September 1st and close date, December 1st for consideration for the following August
Additional Application Information
  • The Plant Biology and Conservation MS program admits one group of students annually to start their program the following August
  • There is no guarantee that applications received after December 1st will be reviewed
  • You'll be notified of your admissions status by April 15th
  • Review tips for applying
Desired Qualifications 
  • Research experience 
  • International students: TOEFL score of 100, or IELTS score of 6.5

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Program Contact Information

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