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Prospective Graduate Students

I am no longer recruiting Ph.D. students. Regardless, I'm happy to talk to you and help however I can, although I recommend you do your homework first.


Walt climbing to a woodpecker nest at Hastings Reservation

Three excellent places to go for advice regarding applying to grad school are Eileen Lacey's web page, the document prepared by John Thompson of UC Santa Cruz, and Eric Walters's primer on "getting into graduate school." Read them all, and anything else you can get ahold of. For a few of my own comments on the subject, see below.

Thinking of applying to Cornell? You certainly should if you're interested in behavioral ecology and/or birds--it's the best place in the country for both. Check out the graduate school for more information.

Think seriously about what you would like to do for your Ph.D. After all, in many cases, it's your best opportunity to do any project anywhere in the world. Cornell, being a world center in both behavioral ecology and ornithology, is highly competitive so keep in mind that you need to make a strong case for why the Department should take you as a student instead of someone else. Usually that means you need to have a strong academic background, good recommendations, some kind of prior research experience, and one or two good ideas about potential Ph.D. projects.

The bottom line is that when a potential sponsor asks you what you are interested in studying (and take my word for it: we will), have an answer that goes beyond "I like birds" or "I like behavior". What theoretical questions are you particularly interested in? What taxon might you want to work on? Be specific. Don't feel like you'll be stuck with any of these ideas; no one will complain if you come up with a better project once you're in grad school. But one of the big stumbling blocks for grad students is finding a thesis project, so the sooner you demonstrate you have ideas, the more likely you are to stand out and successfully land a spot in a good graduate program.

Once you've cogitated over this for a while, email me or give me a call at 607-221-7591. Good luck!




See for more images of the Hastings Reserve

Contact Information

Walter D. Koenig

38601 E. Carmel Valley Rd. Carmel Valley, CA 93924
Office: 607 - 221-7591


  • It's not California, but Ithaca is still a great place!