A PhD student in a lab coat in the lab.

Biological Sciences

Gain the knowledge and real-world experiences you need to become an expert in the field of  integrative biology or neuroscience.

A Career in Biology is Rewarding and Exciting

A Ph.D. in biological sciences is the highest degree in biology and offers a general track as well as specializations in integrative biology and neuroscience. You will spend a large portion of your time doing independent and in-depth collaborative research in areas such as aquatic and terrestrial ecology, sustainability, plant and animal physiology, molecular biology, and more.  The Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences is intended for students that are interested in careers in research and/or academia.

Graduates will be well-trained to pursue research and funding in the area of complex biological systems within academic settings. Graduates will also be able to market themselves to prospective employers who seek microbiologists, environmental scientists, natural sciences managers, medical scientists or postsecondary biological science educators.

Degrees & Offerings

Biological Sciences (Ph.D.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

As the highest degree in biology, earning your doctorate in biological sciences prepares you for a lifetime of research and science-based careers. Working with many of our top-notch professors, you are trained to be expert research scientists in your field of choice and trained to teach at the highest levels in postsecondary institutions.

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Biological Sciences: Conservation Biology (Ph.D.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

If you have a passion for the natural world and a strong desire to study and protect it, the 15 credit-hour specialization in conservation biology equips you with the skills to assess and mitigate environmental threats, design conservation strategies and contribute to the preservation of species and ecosystems. Graduates of this program are well-prepared for careers in academia, government agencies, non-profit organizations and research institutions dedicated to conserving our natural world.

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Biological Sciences: Integrative Biology (Ph.D.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

If you are interested in ecology and environmental sciences, conservation biology, sustainability, or other medicine or health professions, the integrative biology specialization includes 16 credit hours of unique courses such as biostatistics, neurobiology, organismal biology and foundations of ecology and conservation.

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Biological Sciences: Neuroscience (Ph.D.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

If studying the relationship between brain and behavior excites you, the neuroscience specialization gives you opportunities to do interdisciplinary research and gain a strong foundation in the core concepts of neuroscience. This specialization includes 15 credit hours of coursework in neuroanatomy, endocrinology, neurobiology, neuropharmacology and medical neurosciences.

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Program Details





Graduate Admissions

Known for Excellence

With qualities like small class sizes, specialized programs and incredible student opportunities, USD is not your typical university. What makes us unique is what makes your education exceptional.

Departments & Facilities

Explore the departments, facilities and centers that contribute to your education in biology.
Biology academics standing in water holding a net


Research, explore and experience the study of life from the molecule to large biomes in the Department of Biology.

Overview of the Missouri River

Missouri River Institute

Located along the free-flowing Missouri National Recreational River, the Missouri River Institute explores the natural and cultural resources of the river through its focus on research, education and outreach.

Faculty & Staff

Get to know the faculty and staff in the Department of Biology. Our faculty are experts in their field, contributing research and scholarship in amphibian declines, physiological and biomedical systems,  landscape ecology, riparian ecosystems, geospatial analysis, environmental effects on phenotypes, fish ecology, metabolomics and more.
Bio Image for Faculty Member Jacob Kerby

Jacob Kerby

Bio Image for Faculty Member Christopher Anderson

Christopher Anderson

Associate Professor


Functional Morphology, Biomechanics, Herpetology
Bio Image for Faculty Member Hugh Britten

Hugh Britten

Associate Chair, Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Mark Dixon

Mark Dixon

Bio Image for Faculty Member Yohaan Fernandes

Yohaan Fernandes

Assistant Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Cathy Ganschow

Cathy Ganschow

Program Assistant I
Bio Image for Faculty Member Ranjeet John

Ranjeet John

Assistant Professor


remote sensing, ecology, rangeland/crop monitoring
Bio Image for Faculty Member Karen Koster

Karen Koster

Chair-Anthropology & Sociology


Plant Physiology, Cell Biology
Bio Image for Faculty Member Laura Dixon

Laura Dixon

Bio Image for Faculty Member Andrea Liebl

Andrea Liebl

Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Omera Matoo

Omera Matoo

Assistant Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Lynn Riley

Lynn Riley

Bio Image for Faculty Member Cliff Summers

Cliff Summers

Bio Image for Faculty Member David Swanson

David Swanson

Dir of Research-MO River Inst
Bio Image for Faculty Member Jeff Wesner

Jeff Wesner

Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Beate Wone

Beate Wone

Bio Image for Faculty Member Bernard Wone

Bernard Wone

Associate Professor
A turtle in an aquarium.

Explore the Vast Nature of the Adjacent Missouri River

Get involved with hands-on research in your own backyard or across the world. Whether you are interested in the ongoing research in backwater restoration, the impact of invasive tree species on floodplain bird nesting or turtle ecology, the Missouri River Institute and USD's unique location to the Missouri River offers vast opportunities for research.

Two students in a conference.

Get Actively Involved in Meaningful Research

The Center for Brain and Behavior Research provides outstanding training of graduate research students and fellows, feeding the pipeline of creative independent scientists in the fields of neuroscience and behavioral science.

Center for Brain and Behavior Research
A student in a greenhouse.

Resources at Your Fingertips

A large collection of biological periodicals, government documents and publications are available in the University Libraries. Online journals, database searches, electronic document delivery, and interlibrary loans are also available. Additional research facilities include laboratories, a greenhouse, growth chambers, the South Dakota Herbarium, controlled environment animal quarters, a histology facility, cold rooms, aquarium rooms, an aquatic mesocosm facility, wet and dry collection rooms, molecular biology core facility and a shop.

University Libraries

Surprisingly Affordable

Whether you’ve recently completed your undergraduate degree, or you want to kick your career up a notch, graduate school is the next logical step. The good news is there is funding for both online and on-campus students to get you through your program. 

Graduate Tuition & Costs

Learn more about tuition and fees for undergraduate students and see how your out-of-pocket costs at USD compare to those at other colleges and universities. Visit the Graduate Tuition & Costs Detailed page for program specific costs and fees.

Financial Aid

Navigating options for how to pay for college can be challenging, but you are not alone. The Office of Financial Aid will work with you and your family to explore how you can make your college education even more affordable.

Graduate Assistantships

USD offers opportunities for grad students to earn a reduced tuition rate in exchange for their teaching, research and service efforts to the university.


Hear from a usd student

Success story Jazmine Yaeger smiling in a lab.
The Ph.D. program offered me opportunities as a graduate student to both teach and do research. For a career in academia, USD provides a useful combination of one-on-one mentoring and research opportunities that will benefit any student's goals.

Jazmine Yaeger

Ph.D., Biological Sciences, Neurosciences '17
Akron, Iowa

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