Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (PhD Program)

Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Graduate Program Coordinator: Dr. Roger Wheate (2023), Dr. Zoë Meletis (2024)
ESM: Ecosystem Science and Management
GEES: Geography, Earth, and Environmental Sciences
ORTM: Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Management
SPS: School of Planning and Sustainability
Annie Booth, Professor (SPS)
David Connell, Professor (ESM)
Darwyn Coxson, Professor (ESM)
Russell Dawson, Professor (ESM)
Stephen Déry, Professor (GEES)
Scott Green, Professor (ESM)
Greg Halseth, Professor, and Canada Research Chair in Rural and Small Town Studies (GEES)
Neil Hanlon, Professor (GEES)
Ian Hartley, Professor (ESM)
Dezene Huber, Professor (ESM)
Peter Jackson, Professor (GEES)
Christopher Johnson, Professor (ESM)
Kathy Lewis, Professor (ESM)
Jianbing Li, Professor (Engineering)
Brian Menounos, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Glacier Change (GEES)
Michael Murphy, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Comparative Indigenous-State Relations (Political Science)
Brent Murray, Professor (ESM)
Catherine Nolin, Professor (GEES)
Ken Otter, Professor (ESM)
Philip Owens, Professor and Forest Renewal BC Endowed Chair in Landscape Ecology (GEES)
Margot Parkes, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Health, Ecosystems and Society (Health Sciences and Northern Medical Program)
Ellen Petticrew, Professor, and Forest Renewal BC Endowed Chair in Landscape Ecology (GEES)
Deborah Roberts, Professor (Science and Engineering)
Mark Shrimpton, Professor (ESM)
Jueyi Sui, Professor (Engineering)
Youmin Tang, Professor (GEES)
Thomas Tannert, Professor, and BC Leadership Chair in Tall Wood and Hybrid Structures Engineering (Engineering)
Ron Thring, Professor (Engineering)
Oscar Venter, Professor, and Forest Renewal BC Endowed Chair in Growth and Yield and Forest Valuations (ESM)
Roger Wheate, Professor (GEES)
Tara Lynne Clapp, Associate Professor (SPS)
Ché Elkin, Associate Professor, and FRBC/Slocan Mixed Wood Ecology Chair (ESM)
Karima Fredj, Associate Professor (Economics)
Steve Helle, Associate Professor (Engineering)
Eduardo Martins, Associate Professor (ESM)
Zoë Meletis, Associate Professor (GEES)
Philip Mullins, Associate Professor (ESM)
Tristan Pearce, Associate Professor (GEES)
Joseph Shea, Associate Professor (GEES)
Catherine Whalen, Associate Professor (Education)
Guido Wimmers, Associate Professor (Engineering)
Lisa Wood, Associate Professor (ESM)
Jianhui Zhou, Associate Professor (Engineering)
Oliver Iorhemen, Assistant Professor (Engineering)
Loraine Lavallee, Assistant Professor (Psychology)
Hossein Kazemian, Senior Lab Instructor, NALS
The PhD in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies [PhD (NRES)] offers students the opportunity to develop an advanced level of understanding and training in any one or a combination of scientific discipline(s) related to natural environments, the processes (e.g., biological, chemical, physical) that govern them, or the human dimensions (e.g., social, economic, political, cultural) that interact with them. The PhD (NRES) promotes an integration of the linkages between social, ethical, political, and cultural dimensions, and an understanding of basic ecological, biological, and physical attributes of natural resources. Emphasis is placed upon the student to acquire an interdisciplinary base upon which to found a “disciplinary” area of concentration. Graduates from this program who have an area of concentration and a familiarity with how other disciplines can contribute toward solving environmental problems should be capable of addressing a variety of natural resources and environmental issues from a number of perspectives.
Students must complete 9 credit hours of interdisciplinary core courses: NRES 801-3, NRES 802-3, and NRES 803-3. These courses will provide all students with a framework, balanced in science and human dimensions, upon which a specific PhD program may be built. Also required is a compulsory seminar course (NRES 804-3), and a PhD thesis (NRES 890-12). Students may be required, at the discretion of their supervisory committee, to take additional courses within their area.
Students must pass three separate checks on their academic progress towards a PhD: a qualifying exam, a defense of thesis proposal, and a defense of the thesis. The qualifying exam is tailored to ensure a cross-disciplinary aptitude, and tests the student’s grasp of the interdisciplinary nature of natural resource and environmental issues. The thesis proposal defense is tailored to ensure that a student has a grasp of their area of concentration, and therefore examines the level of knowledge within the area of concentration. Upon successfully passing both the qualifying examination and the thesis proposal defense, a student is granted candidate status, and embarks upon the thesis work under the supervision of their faculty advisor. Following completion of the research, the candidate must defend their thesis to an examination committee.

Required Core Courses 9 credits
Graduate Seminar 3 credits
PhD Thesis 12 credits
Total Required 24 credits

Recommended Progression

First Year: Core Courses, Qualifying Exam
During the first two semesters, the common set of three required core courses (NRES 801-3 Integrated Environmental Systems I, NRES 802-3 Integrated Environmental Systems II, and NRES 803-3 Integrated Environmental Systems III) will be taken. In addition, the graduate seminar (NRES 804-3) will be taken by all PhD students.
At the end of the second semester, PhD students will normally take a qualifying exam consisting of written and oral components. The general part of the exam should demonstrate the student’s ability to synthesize and extrapolate from the interdisciplinary perspectives of natural resource management and environmental studies, at an integrative level and scope consistent with the core PhD courses (NRES 801-3, NRES 802-3, and NRES 803-3). The specialty part of the exam will assess the student’s background knowledge and familiarity with the theory and methodology associated with their thesis topic.
Second Year: Area of Concentration, Defense of Thesis Proposal
If students are required to take additional courses to address deficiencies within their area of concentration, they will be able to select courses from relevant course offerings within the Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Graduate Program, as well as other UNBC programs, or from other accredited graduate programs in other post-secondary institutions. In addition, students will normally conduct some exploratory research in their area of concentration.
Once coursework is substantially complete, the students will work towards finalizing a thesis proposal, a document demonstrating academic rigor, and of publishable quality. Students will be expected to present the thesis proposal before their committee, and to demonstrate their knowledge within their area of concentration. Normally, this defense will be scheduled either at the end of the third semester or at the beginning of the fourth semester of study.
Third to Fifth Year: Thesis
Upon successful completion of coursework, and the successful completion of the qualifying exam and the defense of thesis proposal, the student is officially designated as a PhD candidate, and proceeds to full-time work on the thesis under the direct supervision of the advisor and any other designated committee members. Any major changes made to the thesis proposal after approval by the committee will require the approval of the committee.
Under normal circumstances, a student is expected to complete their research and the writing of the thesis within three years of becoming a Doctoral candidate.
Any student requiring more than three years (six semesters) to complete a thesis must request an extension from their advisor and the Dean.
Oral Defense of the Thesis
When the student’s advisor and committee have determined that the student has reached an acceptable level of completion on the thesis, the student will defend the research during an oral exam with the full examining committee. This defense, with the exception of committee deliberations, will be open to the public.

Admission, Regulations and Committee Structures

Admission requirements
Students will normally be expected to hold a Master’s degree from an accredited post-secondary institution. In exceptional cases, individuals with significant and relevant life experience may be admitted on probation. Normally, applicants must hold a cumulative GPA of 3.33 (B+) from the Baccalaureate and Master’s degree, to be calculated over the last 30 credit hours of graded academic work. Acceptance to the PhD program will be contingent upon the prospective student finding a member of the faculty to serve as their advisor.
In addition to a completed UNBC Graduate Application Form, applicants must provide official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended; a statement of intent indicating the student’s research interests, possible future career aspirations, and perceived fit within the Faculty mandate and research directions; a recent Curriculum Vitae; three letters of reference (including two from faculty members familiar with the prospective student’s academic work); a completed Teaching Assistantship Application; a completed Funding Worksheet; and a sample of written academic work. GRE scores are optional. Only students with high GPAs and innovative research interests are likely to be successful in their applications.
Application deadlines are found in this calendar under Admissions and Regulations, or online at: (under Semester Dates). The Natural Resources and Environmental Studies PhD Program accepts students for the September, January, and May Semesters.
For additional information about graduate admissions or to download application materials, go to the Office of Graduate Administration website at
Normal Time Required for Completion
The completion time for the PhD between initial admittance and final defense will normally range from three to five years.
Supervisory Committee Structure
The PhD Committee will consist of the designated advisor and a minimum of three additional faculty members, at least one of whom will be chosen from outside the Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Graduate Program. The outside faculty member may be chosen from post-secondary institutions accredited in Canada and the United States. Under exceptional circumstances, and with approval from the Dean, additional members may be added at the request of the student or the advisor. The expertise represented on the committee should reflect interdisciplinarity. The committee should be assembled by the beginning of the student’s second semester of study (i.e., the January Semester) to facilitate the student preparing for the required Candidacy Exams.

Updated: July 13, 2023