Integrative Conservation Ph.D. Program

Information for Prospective Students

As global environmental change proceeds at an unprecedented pace, the practice of conservation is adapting to a complex set of new challenges. The conservation community has increasingly recognized that responding effectively to these challenges will require that the next generation of practitioners and scholars not only develop expertise in specific fields but also have the conceptual tools to work across disciplines. The University of Georgia’s Integrative Conservation (ICON) Ph.D. Program is designed meet that need by ensuring that students gain disciplinary depth in one of five fields – Anthropology, Geography, Ecology, Forestry, or Marine Sciences – while also collaborating across disciplines and fields of practice to seek integrative solutions to complex conservation challenges.

Each disciplinary focus ensures that ICON students receive rigorous theoretical and methodological training in a traditional discipline, while also working integratively at the intersections of other disciplines. In addition, ICON students work directly with conservation practitioners as partners and colleagues through internships and collaborative research projects. These experiences, along with training modules led by communications experts, ensure that students learn to communicate effectively and strategically with a wide range of audiences.

Prospective students must apply to the ICON program through one of the five departments listed above. We strongly encourage applicants to identify and speak with a prospective advisor prior to applying. Applicants should follow the admissions guidelines of the UGA Graduate School, the chosen home department, and the ICON program.

How to Apply

Thank you for your interest in the Integrative Conservation (ICON) Ph.D. Program! Applications to the ICON Ph.D. Program must come through one of the five home departments: Anthropology, Ecology, Forestry and Natural Resources, Geography, or Marine Sciences. You should follow the admissions guidelines of the UGA Graduate School, your chosen home department, and that of the ICON Program. ICON applications are due on or by December 1st to be considered for graduate assistantships and to have an admissions interview scheduled with our Graduate Affairs Committee. Information on UGA student fees can be found here. Participation in certain programs may qualify you for an application fee waiver; please check the Graduate School website for a complete list of participating programs and instructions on how to apply for an application fee waiver. 

Below we’ve listed key steps to prepare your application. 

  1. Find a prospective advisor: We depend heavily on a prospective faculty advisor’s willingness and enthusiasm for applicants in the admission process. We strongly encourage you to identify and contact a prospective advisor before applying. This page lists faculty most closely affiliated with the ICON Program and is good place to start; however, any faculty member from the five participating units can serve as an ICON student advisor. Please note that we request statements of support from prospective advisors during the application review process. 
  2. Apply by the deadline: The December 1st deadline is for ICON applicants from all five participating units; even if your home unit has a later deadline, you must submit materials on or by December 1st to be considered for ICON admission. When completing the online Graduate School application, please be sure to select from the following degree options:  Integrative Conservation and Arts and Sciences (Ph.D.) (with Area of Emphasis in Anthropology OR with Area of Emphasis in Geography OR with Area of Emphasis in Marine Sciences); Integrative Conservation and Ecology (Ph.D.) with an Area of Emphasis in Ecology; or Integrative Conservation and Forestry and Natural Resources (Ph.D.) with an Area of Emphasis in Forestry and Natural Resources. 
  3. Submit the ICON essay by December 1: In addition to departmental application requirements and Graduate School requirements, you must also complete the ICON supplemental essay. Please email your essay to and your preferred faculty advisor on or by December 1st. 

PLEASE NOTE: Admissions interviews will only be scheduled for those applicants with completed applications submitted by December 1st (a complete application includes the ICON supplemental essay) and a faculty member willing to serve as their advisor.  

Regarding funding: Student funding models differ from department to department, and from lab to lab. We strongly encourage you to ask prospective advisors about opportunities for assistantships and research support. Students in the ICON Program are typically funded on ICON research assistantships, departmental teaching or research assistantships, or advisor’s grants.

ICON PhD Degree Requirements

  1. Required ICON Coursework
      • ICON 8001 – Principles of Integrative Conservation I: Theoretical foundations of an integrative approach (3 credit hours)
      • ICON 8110 – Field Planning and Preparation (1 credit hour)
      • ICON 8002 – Principles of Integrative Conservation II: Application of integrative principles and perspectives through case studies (3 credit hours)
      • ECOL 8400 – Perspectives on Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development (1-2 credit hours)
      • ICON 8111e – Internship with a conservation organization, government agency, or other group or agency identified as appropriate (3-8 credit hours)
      • Minimum of two (2) additional graduate-level courses decided by the student and his/her committee (minimum 5 credit hours)
  1. Degree requirements for home department
  1. Participation in integrative activities
      • Organized ICON Network and Cooperative (OINC) student organization
      • Symposium on Integrative Conservation (SIC)
      • Integrative Conservation Conference (ICC)
  1. Dissertation incorporating integrative perspective and strategic communication

Latest ICON News

ICON’s Kate Pitts receives NSF-GRFP

ICON’s Kate Pitts receives NSF-GRFP

We are excited to share that Aoife "Kate" Pitts, PhD Student, Anthropology and Integrative Conservation, will receive a Graduate Research Fellowship from NSF! Kate says of her work: "My research integrates social-ecological systems theory and ethnoecology to work...

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CICR celebrates the 2023-24 ICON graduates

CICR celebrates the 2023-24 ICON graduates

Congratulations to the following students on defending their ICON dissertations this year: Behnoosh Abbasnezhad (PhD, ICON & Forestry and Natural Resources, Major Professor: Jesse Abrams): "Conservation Planning As a Transdisciplinary Process: Integrating Social...

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For more information, please contact Dr. Sonia Hernandez, ICON Program Graduate Coordinator (