The Ecology and Evolution Major 2013-14

A kelp forest, such as those found in the Monterey Bay

The ecology and evolution major provides students with interdisciplinary skills necessary for understanding and solving complex problems in behavior, ecology, evolution, and physiology, and includes a focus on both basic concepts and aspects that can be applied to important environmental problems, including genetic and ecological aspects for conservation biology and biodiversity. Ecology and evolution addresses questions on a wide variety of scales, from molecular or chemical mechanisms up to issues that apply to large spatial and temporal scales.

Study and Research Opportunities

  • Undergraduate degree available: Bachelor of Science (B.S.); graduate degrees available: M.A., Ph.D.
  • A broad array of lecture courses that cover the essentials of behavior, ecology, evolution, and physiology, coupled with capstone courses that emphasize theory and natural history applied to more focused topics
  • A suite of field and lab courses providing unique opportunities to learn cutting-edge methods and concepts in ecology, evolution, physiology, and behavior
  • Participation in research projects with faculty sponsors that often lead to opportunities for senior thesis research
  • Intensive Education Abroad programs in Costa Rica (tropical ecology) and Australia (marine sciences)

High School Preparation

In addition to the courses required for UC admission, high school students who intend to major in ecology and evolution should take high school courses in biology, chemistry, advanced mathematics (precalculus), and physics.

Introductory Requirements

Introductory requirements for the ecology and evolution major are:

  • Biology 20A, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology 20B, Development and Physiology; Biology 20C, Ecology and Evolution
  • Chemistry 1A, 1B, 1C/N, General Chemistry with Laboratory (three quarters)
  • Applied Mathematics and Statistics 7/L, Biostatistics with Laboratory
  • Mathematics 11A-B, Calculus with Applications or Applied Mathematics & Statistics 15A-B, Case-study Calculus (two quarters)
  • Physics 6A/L and 6B or 6C Introductory Physics with Laboratory (two quarters)

The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology has a qualification policy that applies to the ecology and evolution major. To qualify, students must complete Chemistry 1A and 1B, Biology 20A and 20C, and the first quarter of calculus, Mathematics 11A or Applied Mathematics & Statistics 15A, or their equivalents, with a grade of C or better. For more information about the qualification policy, see the UCSC General Catalog at:

Transfer Preparation

Junior transfer students who plan to major in ecology and evolution must complete the introductory requirements prior to transfer, in particular a complete year of calculus, general chemistry, and introductory biology. Additionally, transfer students must have completed courses equivalent to Chemistry 1A and 1B, Biology 20A and 20C, and one course in calculus with grades of C or better to be permitted to declare the ecology and evolution major. 

California community college students should follow the prescribed course work in the UCSC transfer agreements available at for course equivalency information. Students at other institutions should compare courses at their school with the degree requirements and course descriptions found in the UCSC General Catalog to ensure courses will qualify for transfer.

The Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC) will not provide transfer students with enough mathematics and science courses to allow them to complete the program at UC Santa Cruz in two years.

Education Abroad Opportunities

The UC Education Abroad Program (EAP) offers qualified students unique opportunities to broaden their educational horizons. The Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department encourages interested students to participate. Many programs are in English-speaking countries or use English for advanced courses. Many programs offer small classes and extensive laboratory and/or field research experience.

There are excellent programs for biological science students in Costa Rica, Australia, and New Zealand, among others. The Costa Rica Tropical Biology Program is of note to students interested in tropical biology and ecology. Held spring and fall quarters at the Monteverde Research Station, this program gives students experience with hands-on field research, offers a homestay program, and carries credit for two upper-division biology courses. The University of Queensland (Australia) offers an intensive, full-semester Marine Science Program, which includes a stay at a research station on the Great Barrier Reef, near sheltered mangrove and seagrass habitats.

Students interested in study abroad need to get an early start on their basic science requirements, including general chemistry, math, and introductory biology. Visit the EAP office as soon as possible to begin planning, and seek advice about your academic plan from the Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs adviser.

Academic Advising

Academic advising is available from Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs. The Undergraduate Affairs web site at contains detailed information about the degree programs, sample schedules, transferring credit, placement exams, faculty research, and opportunities in the Physical and Biological Sciences majors.

More Information

Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs
142 Jack Baskin Engineering Building
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, California 95064
(831) 459-4143

See Also