Doctoral Degree Program

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is conferred through the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Work toward this doctoral degree is directed by the Environment department of the Graduate School, which is composed of the faculty of the School of the Environment. Doctoral work is concentrated in areas of faculty research, which currently encompass the following broad foci: agroforestry; biodiversity conservation; biostatistics and biometry; climate science; community ecology; ecosystems ecology; ecosystems management; energy and the environment; environmental and resource policy; environmental anthropology; environmental biophysics and meteorology; environmental chemistry; environmental ethics; environmental governance; environmental health risk assessment; environmental history; environmental law and politics; environmental management and social ecology in developing countries; forest ecology; green chemistry and engineering; hydrology; industrial ecology; industrial environmental management; plant physiology and anatomy; pollution management; population ecology; resource economics; silviculture; social ecology; stand development, tropical ecology, and conservation; sustainable development; urban ecology; urban geography; urban land cover change; urban planning; and water resource management.

Requirements for the Doctoral Degree

All courses listed in this bulletin are open to students working toward the doctoral degree. Additional courses are available in other departments—e.g., Anthropology; Chemistry; Earth and Planetary Sciences; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Economics; Management; Mathematics; Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology; Political Science; Sociology; and Statistics and Data Science—and are listed in the bulletin of the Graduate School.

A doctoral committee will be appointed for each student no later than the student’s second term in the program. The committee consists of a minimum of two faculty members from the Yale University community. When appropriate for their research areas, students are encouraged to suggest committee members from other universities or institutions. Doctoral students work under the supervision of their doctoral committees. The committee should be chaired or co-chaired by a YSE ladder faculty member.

Students are required to take the Doctoral Student Seminar (ENV 900) during the first year of their program.

Two Honors grades must be achieved before a student is eligible to sit for the qualifying examination. In addition, students are expected to serve four terms (10 hours per week) as teaching fellows, in partial fulfillment of their doctoral training.

A written and oral qualifying examination is required upon completion of the course requirements. Students are expected to take the examination by the end of their second year, although this can be extended to the third year in cases with appropriate extenuating circumstances. At the time of the qualifying examination, the student must present a prospectus of the research work proposed for the dissertation. Successful completion of the qualifying examination and submission of the prospectus will result in admission to candidacy.

The director of doctoral studies (DDS) of the School serves as director of graduate studies for the Environment department of the Graduate School, administers the doctoral program, and may be consulted if questions arise.

Before beginning work, the student must secure approval from the student’s committee and the DDS for a proposed program of study and for the general plan of the dissertation. Appropriate advanced work is required. Courses chosen should form a coherent plan of study and should support research work for the proposed dissertation.

The dissertation should demonstrate the student’s mastery of the chosen field of study as well as the ability to do independent scholarly work and to formulate conclusions that may modify or enlarge previous knowledge.

Candidates must present themselves for the oral defense of the dissertation at such time and place as the student, the DDS, and the committee determine. Upon completion of the dissertation, the candidate must make unbound copies of the dissertation available to the faculty. Copies of the approved dissertation must be submitted to the Graduate School.

Combined Doctoral Degree

Department of Anthropology

The School of the Environment offers a combined doctoral degree with Yale’s Department of Anthropology. The purpose of the degree is threefold: it combines (1) the disciplinary identity and strengths of the Anthropology department with the interdisciplinary character and possibilities of YSE, especially in terms of bridging the social and natural sciences; (2) the strengths in ecological and environmental studies of YSE with the social science strengths of the Anthropology department; and (3) the Anthropology department’s strengths in theory with the emphasis within YSE on linking theory with policy and practice. The combined doctoral degree offers its graduates great flexibility when entering the marketplace. They can represent themselves as anthropologists and/or environmental scientists, as theoreticians and/or practitioners. They have the credentials to apply for policy-oriented positions with international institutions, as well as academic positions in teaching and research. The academic program of each student in the combined-degree program is to some extent tailored specifically to that student’s particular history, interests, and needs, but all combined-degree students are expected to follow the program’s general guidelines.

Prospective combined-degree students must initially apply either to Anthropology or to the doctoral program in Environment (not both) and check the combined-degree box on the application form. Students should communicate with faculty in both programs during the year prior to application, and they should apply to the program where their credentials and faculty contacts offer the greatest chance of admission. The program is extremely competitive, accepting one or two students per year out of dozens who apply. (Note: most successful applicants to YSE hold a prior master’s degree.)

Once a student is accepted in either Environment or Anthropology, the application file is sent to the second department for consideration. A positive decision at this point amounts to acceptance into the combined-degree program. (A negative decision, which is rare in any case, does not affect the student’s prior admission into the first program.) Students admitted into the combined-degree program will be allocated to the department to which they initially applied as their primary administrative home, but they will enter Yale as members of the combined-degree program. A student who does not apply to the combined-degree program at the time of their initial application to Yale may still apply after matriculating at Yale, but this should be done as soon as possible in their first term on campus.

Detailed guidelines for the combined-degree program can be found on the YSE website at The program coordinators are Michael Dove (YSE) and Kalyanakrishnan Sivaramakrishnan (Anthropology).

New York Botanical Garden

The School of the Environment offers a combined doctoral degree with the New York Botanical Garden, which is funded by the Lewis B. Cullman Fellowship. The objective is to train biological scientists to use an interdisciplinary approach to solving problems associated with tropical environments.

Areas of study include agroforestry and forest management, ecosystem analysis, economic botany, economic evaluation of tropical resources, ethnobotany, plant biodiversity and conservation, social processes affecting management of natural resources, tropical field studies, and tropical silviculture.

For more information about the combined doctoral degree, please contact the director of doctoral studies at 203.432.5146.