MS & PhD Graduate Programs

Prospective Students

The Department of Watershed Sciences combines coursework and research in aquatic ecology, hydrology, geomorphology, and climate science into an integrative interdisciplinary aquatic sciences program. Our degree programs prepare students for careers in natural resources research and management. Our recent graduates have secured employment with federal and state agencies, universities, and private organizations.

How to Apply

Applying for graduate study in Watershed Sciences is a two-step process. We admit applicants to begin graduate study during Fall, Spring, and Summer Semesters. Applications should be submitted by the following deadlines.

  • Summer: March 15
  • Fall: June 15
  • Spring: October 15

Preference is given to applicants who apply before January 10. Fellowships for non-University funds, such as Quinney Fellowships, have different deadlines. Please see individual applications for deadlines.


Gain a faculty sponsor and funding

Contact a faculty member you would like to work with directly. Students cannot be admitted to the program without first having a faculty sponsor and funding provided by their sponsor or an outside agency. In your email please explain why you are interested in working with your prospective mentor and discuss your qualifications for graduate study, including any undergraduate research. Be sure to also include your GPA. (Please note that the requirement to take the GRE has been removed.) To choose a prospective mentor, consult the list of faculty who have current active graduate programs.


Apply through the School of Graduate Studies

Once you have secured a faculty sponsor and funding, you will be invited to officially apply through the School of Graduate Studies, send official transcripts, and pay the application fee.

If you have additional questions about the application process or our graduate program, please contact our graduate coordinator, Erline Vendredi, at 435-797-2459.

We further offer graduate specializations in:

  • Conservation Biology
  • Fisheries Management
  • Aquatic Ecology
  • Watershed Ecology
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Limnology
  • Watershed Hydrology
  • Watershed Management
  • Geomorphology
  • Earth Surface Processes
  • Climate Adaptation Science

Admission Requirements

  • GPA of 3.2 or higher
  • Sponsorship by a faculty member (gaining a sponsorship usually requires correspondence directly with the faculty)
  • A formal application
  • A detailed statement outlining your objectives in graduate education, your future goals, and your specific area of research interest.

Notice of Non-discrimination In its programs and activities. Utah State University does not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, genetic information, sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, disability, status as a protected veteran, or any other status protected by University policy or local, state, or federal law. The following individuals have been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies: Executive Director of the Office of Equity Alison Adams-Perlac Old Main Rm. 161 435-797-1266  Title IX Coordinator Hilary Renshaw Old Main Rm. 161 435-797-1266   For further information on notice of non-discrimination:  U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights 303-844-5695

Graduate Program Overview

MS Degree
The Master of Science degree in Fisheries and Biology, Ecology, or Watershed Sciences emphasizes the management of fisheries or watershed resources and prepares students for decision-making roles in natural resource agencies. This degree is offered for students motivated toward an administrative career and for applicants with previous agency experience.

The minimum requirement for an MS degree is 30 credits, including 24 credits in residency and 6 credits of thesis research. A thesis based on original research performed by the student is required.

PhD Degree
The Doctor of Philosophy degree in Ecology or Watershed Science is for students interested in pursuing a research or academic career. The minimum requirement for a PhD degree is 30 approved graduate credits for students entering the program with a master’s degree or 60 approved graduate credits for students entering the program with a bachelor’s degree. At least two consecutive semesters (a minimum of 32 credits) of full-time registration must be in residence. A dissertation based on original research performed by the student is required.

Graduate Induction Course

Immediately prior to each Fall Semester, all incoming students participate in a graduate induction course. The course is an intense, five-day introduction to the fundamental concepts of watershed science, as well as to the faculty, staff, and current students.

Course Objectives

The general objectives of the course are to help incoming graduate students get acquainted with the nearby landscape, the people in the Department of Watershed Sciences, some of the broader concepts and questions that define Watershed Science, and some of the techniques that USU faculty use to answer those questions. A sampling of the techniques demonstrated: topographic data acquisition (with terrestrial laser scanning rtkGPS, and total stations), collection of aerial photography using drone aircraft, field mapping, rapid assessment surveys, soil evaluation, collection and analysis of climatic data, fish sampling (electrofishing, snorkel surveys, mobile-antennae PIT tags), macroinvertebrate sampling, water quality monitoring, large-scale landscape interpretation, and hydrography (e.g. with ADCP).

Financial Assistance

Most of our students are supported by research assistantships provided by the faculty. There are no separate applications for financial assistance. All applicants accepted into the graduate program before January 10 are considered for College and University fellowships for the following year. Fellowships are competitive and usually awarded to PhD students. Award recipients will be notified by April 30 that they will receive a fellowship for the following school year. For more information on financial assistance, view Tuition and Financial Aid in the School of Graduate Studies.

JEDI Fellowship

Justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) are core values in the Department of Watershed Sciences at Utah State University. We believe that a diverse culture enhances our research, teaching, and outreach contributions by infusing our community with a variety of ways to understand the world, identify challenges, and deliver solutions. As part of our commitment to creating a more just and equitable world, the Department of Watershed Sciences is offering two JEDI research fellowships, starting August 2021.

Doctoral Fellowships

Two four-year fellowships, including stipend, tuition, and fees, are available for Ph.D. students in any discipline within the Watershed Sciences Department. Nominations and applications are due from the prospective faculty advisor (not the student applicant) by Feb. 10 for the next academic year. Application packets for these fellowships should include:

  1. A letter of interest from the student applicant
  2. A current Curriculum Vitae from the student applicant
  3. The student applicant’s completed general application to Utah State University (transcripts, GRE scores, letters of recommendation). Departmental staff have access to and can provide these materials to the faculty, upon request.

Colorado River Scholarships

Two four-year scholarships, including stipend, tuition and fees, and research support, are available for Ph.D. students whose focus is the application of science to the management of the Colorado River through the Center for Colorado River Studies.

Climate Adaptation Science

For students admitted to the graduate program, one-year fellowships are available to support participation in the Climate Adaptation Science program, a traineeship that combines interdisciplinary research, work-place experience, instruction, and collaboration among scientists, land and resource managers, policy-makers, trainees, and citizen stakeholders.

Where to start

Contact a faculty member within the Department of Watershed Sciences with whom you would like to study. Graduate admissions in the Department of Watershed Sciences requires sponsorship and funding from WATS faculty.

Watershed Sciences is a multidisciplinary department in the Quinney College of Natural Resources.  Our faculty conduct research in geomorphology, hydrology, aquatic ecology, limnology, fish ecology, wetland ecology, water quality, biogeochemistry, and paleoecology. We find collaborative opportunities in addressing problems of management and restoration of aquatic ecosystems. Utah State University is Utah’s land-grant university with a student body of over 24,000 in 42 departments and 8 academic colleges. USU is well situated for research on streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, wetlands, and their catchments, which span desert to alpine environments. The main campus is located in Logan, a community of 100,000 people. Logan is 85 miles north of Salt Lake City in scenic Cache Valley, a semi-rural mountain basin with nearby ski resorts, lakes, rivers, and mountains providing many recreational opportunities.