Ecology is the scientific study of the distribution and abundance of organisms, the interaction among organisms, and the interactions between organisms and their abiotic environment. Ecologists try to understand the inner workings of natural ecosystems and the species they contain. In fact, the ecology faculty at Duke University span the complete range of ecological inquiry, from individual organisms to populations and communities of interacting species to ecosystems to the entire biosphere.

Ecological principles also play a major role in generating solutions to problems of applied interest, such as the use of predatory insects as agent of biological control, the dynamics of disease in human and other populations, the preservation of biodiversity in the face of anthropogenic changes, the fate of pollutants in natural and artificial ecosystems, and the effects of fossil fuel use on the global climate. As a result, undergraduate Biology majors need a thorough grounding in ecology not only to pursue graduate study in academic ecology, but also as preparation for careers in applied fields such as environmental management,ecotoxicology, environmental law, conservation biology, and ecological agriculture. The undergraduate concentration in ecology has been designed to give students the entry-level qualifications for further study in basic and applied aspects of ecology.

Research areas and course offerings include tropical, temperate, and boreal forests, deserts and grasslands, and arctic biomes. They explore not only how populations, communities and ecoystems presently function but also how they may respond to changes in the future. As a result, students concentrating in ecology have a wide array of independent study, tutorial, seminar and research opportunities from which to choose.

Area Advisors

Area Advisors Area Faculty

Dr. Justin Wright, Department of Biology
Phone: 613-8096 e-mail:

Dr. William Wilson, Department of Biology
Phone: 660-7346 e-mail:

Susan Alberts, Emily Bernhardt, James Clark, Cliff Cunningham, Katia Koelle, Diana Nemergut, Stephen Nowicki, Thomas Mitchell-Olds, Mark Rausher, Chantal Reid, Daniel Ritschoff, William Wilson, Justin Wright



For B.S. Degree For B.A. Degree
  • CHEM 101DL Core Concepts in Chemistry OR
  • CHEM 110DL Honors Chemistry: Core Concepts in context OR
  • CHEM 21 General Chemistry Credit
  • CHEM 101DL Core Concepts in Chemistry OR
  • CHEM 110DL Honors Chemistry: Core Concepts in context OR
  • CHEM 21 General Chemistry Credit
  • CHEM201DL Organic Chemistry

NOTE: CHEM 210DL and CHEM 202L are also recommended for pre-med, pre-vet, biochem and pharm students.


For B.S. Degree For B.A. Degree
  • MATH 111L Laboratory Calculus I OR
  • MATH 121 Introductory Calculus I OR
  • MATH 21 Introductory Calculus I OR
  • BOTH MATH 105L/106L Laboratory Calculus and Functions I and II
  • MATH 105L Laboratory Calculus and Functions I
  • MATH 112L Laboratory Calculus II OR
  • MATH 122 Introductory Calculus II OR
  • MATH 22 Introductory Calculus II OR
  • STA 101 or higher OR
  • BIOLOGY 304 Biological Data Analysis (cannot be double counted as an elective)
  • MATH 106L Laboratory Calculus and Functions II


For B.S. Degree For B.A. Degree
  • PHYSICS 141L General Physics I OR
  • PHYSICS 151L Introductory Mechanics OR
  • PHYSICS 161L Introductory Experimental Physics I OR
  • PHYSICS 25 (AP credit)
  • No physics required.

NOTE: PHYSICS 142L is recommended for pre-med, pre-vet, biochem and pharm students.

Biology Major Requirements (10 Courses)

The following courses are required for students pursuing both the B.S. and B.A. biology credentials.

Gateway Courses

Biology Area Requirements

Select 1 course from EACH of the following three areas. Courses listed in more than one area may only be used to meet one area requirement.

Electives (5 courses)

At least 3 electives must be courses listed or cross-listed in Biology at the 200-level or above. A maximum of 2 approved alternate electives in the biological sciences may be counted toward the major. A maximum of 2 independent studies or tutorials may count toward the major.

  • 1 biology elective course of your choosing
  • 2 biology elective or approved alternate elective courses
  • 2 courses selected from the Ecology course listings. You cannot double count the course taken to fulfill the Biology Area requirement above. You may count an independent study taken with an area faculty member, or with approval from the concentration area advisor.

Lab Experience Requirement

Through your area and elective courses, you must take at least 2 full lab courses in addition to the gateway courses BIOLOGY 201L/202L. Courses must be at the 200 level or above. A maximum of 1 independent study may count as a lab course.

Capstone Course Requirement

You must take at least 1 full 400-level or higher biology 'Capstone' course or other approved capstone course. Independent study can count towards this requirement if it is a second semester continuation.