Students standing a river collecting samples.


Gain the knowledge and real-world experiences you need to become an expert in the fields of biology, plant and animal physiology, and conservation and biodiversity.

Gain experience in research and leadership skills

Ideal for students choosing to gain experience in scientific research with professional goals, such as graduate education; working for a federal or state agency or non-governmental organization; securing employment in industry; or teaching in secondary and higher education, Master of Science in Biology offers a general track as well as a specialization in conservation and biodiversity. Alongside 15 full-time expert faculty with a passion for their students, you will also collaborate with the Sanford School of Medicine, the USD Missouri River Institute, the USD Sustainability Program, South Dakota State University and other institutions nationally and internationally.

You will research, explore and experience the study of life from the molecule to the landscape. Because biology is such a wide field, you are able to tailor your degree to align with your personal interests in many areas such as aquatic and terrestrial ecology, conservation biology, sustainability, ecotoxicology, plant and animal physiology, molecular biology, neuroscience, cell biology, developmental biology, genetics and evolution.

Degrees & Offerings

Biology (M.S.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

A master's in biology prepares you for careers in conservation, terrestrial ecology, sustainability, neuroscience and other professions studying biology across the world. The suggested timeline for completion is two years or 30-32 credit hours depending on whether you choose the thesis or non-thesis track.

View Admissions Requirements

Biology: Conservation and Biodiversity (M.S.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

A master's in biology with a specialization in conservation and biodiversity includes a focus on life within ecosystems with 16 credit hours of electives and supporting coursework in ecology, conservation and biostatistics.

View Admissions Requirements

Biology: Neuroscience (M.S.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

A master's in biology with a specialization in neuroscience includes offers advanced interdisciplinary training in understanding the nervous system and its functions. Students gain expertise in neurobiology, neurophysiology, and cognitive neuroscience through 15 credit hours of electives and supporting coursework in neurobiology, behavioral neuroscience, endocrinology, medical neuroscience, and other relevant subjects.

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Biology (B.S./M.S.)

Accelerated Program
  Vermillion Main Campus

If you are a current USD undergraduate student who would like to begin a master's degree while completing your bachelor's degree, you may apply and begin the program after completion of 90 undergraduate credit hours. This accelerated one-year path to earning your master's does not require a thesis and is available with an optional conservation and biodiversity specialization.

View Admissions Requirements

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 student research project in the wild.

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.

A presentation of student projects in progress.

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. 

For more information regarding our affiliated facilities, visit the Affiliated Centers webpage.

Graduate Research
A student working a large research project for Biology.

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.


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.


student success story

Success story Pasan Fernando smiling.
I wanted to obtain necessary skills to become a researcher and lecturer in bioinformatics, USD's Master of Science in Biology has trained me well. The experienced professors in biology have helped me reach my goal.

Pasan Fernando

M.A. Biology '19
Vermillion, South Dakota

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