Doctoral Studies

Ecology - Field

Brief description of field

The Doctoral Study Programme in Ecology focuses on study of interactions between organisms and their environment, and between organisms themselves at different levels from species to communities. It also includes historical ecology, where special attention is paid to the quaternary paleoecology. This doctoral programme provides deep understanding of the structure and function of various ecosystems from natural to anthropogenic. Model groups of organisms from protozoans to mammals are used to study general ecological laws on diverse temporal and spatial scales.

The programme has two main forms, a presence and combined one, which differ particular by their requirements on the student’s permanent presence at the institution and by her/his participation in teaching. Students of the presence form obtain regular scholarship based on rules in force of the faculty. Any change from presence to combined form of the study is possible only upon the student’s request.

Profile of a typical graduate

The graduate of this programme will have learned basic as well as specialized methods of data collection, data evaluation, and data presentation. In the student’s field of specialization, determined by the focus of his/her Ph.D. thesis, the graduate will have knowledge about the biological characteristics of the model organisms, including their relationship to other components of the ecosystem. He/she is capable of applying the acquired knowledge in both basic and applied research. Graduates are employed in particular by Universities, Institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, in the governmental sectors, in conservation institutions (nature conservation agencies, administrations of national parks and protected landscape areas), departments of natural history museums, consultancy services, environmental laboratories, etc.

Requirements for applicants

A basic precondition for admission to the Doctoral Study Programme in Ecology is a completed study of a biological study course at the masters level (degree of Mgr./MSc., or Ing. from a study course with biological content). The entrance examination is organized as oral discussion, when the committee evaluates and assigns points for the applicant’s expertise and abilities for scientific work (0-200 points) and skills in English language (0-100 points). Minimum requirements for successful examination are 120 points for scientific part and 60 points for language part of the entrance examination. In the scientific part, the applicant’s ability of scientific work, her/his general scope of knowledge in biology and ecology, and her/his own idea of how to tackle the subject of the dissertation are examined. Also broader knowledge, for instance in regard to the system or organismal ecology, can be examined. This includes a discussion about a topic within the narrower specialization of the applicant. The language part of the examination takes place in form of a conversation about the specialization, achievements of the applicant’s research, her/his professional CV and similar topics.

Study requirements and completion of studies

The students have to fulfil their obligations at the Department of Botany and Zoology. In case they have an external supervisor or based on their specialization they might also do so at certain institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic located in Brno. Studying without the student’s permanent presence at one of these institutions is only possible in case of a combined form of study (the student does not receive a scholarship). In case of a regular (“attendance”) study it is also possible to study partially abroad, for instance under dual supervision. In such a case the thesis can also be defended at the foreign institution, provided the conditions given by the Study and Examination Rules of Masaryk University are met.

Controlling of the Study and its Due Completion

Doctoral study is organized as the Individual Study Plan (ISP), which is updated and specified before each semester by a student together with his/her supervisor. ISP should allow to successfully graduate within standard duration of the study, and during the first four semesters it should optimally allow to student receive all necessary credits for (i) exams from advanced courses, (ii) active participation at specialized seminars, (iii) demonstration of good English skills (e.g. lecture at scientific forum), and (iv) for teaching and eventual other duties. During the 5th semester, student optimally requests the theoretical state doctoral exam, and ISPs for following semesters preferentially include work on doctoral research project and thesis. For students in a combined form, ISPs are prepared correspondingly and may contain alternative duties or tasks such as preparation of special lecture to seminar, literature research, preparation of materials for lectures or exercises, ad hoc help with organization of summer school(s) or similar activities. Progress and performance according to ISP is evaluated after each semester. In case the student does not fulfil the obligations of his/her ISP, the supervisor, doctoral committee and/or doctoral board can disagree with continuation of student’s studies. Additional to the fulfilment of all obligations listed in the ISP, the student has to submit upon completion of her/his studies (before taking the doctoral examination and defending the thesis) a review of the study topic and to document at least one active participation in an international scientific symposium with her/his own presentation, oral or poster, in English, always followed up by a discussion. It is also highly recommended to make a stay abroad for at least 2 months. The student must be actively publishing and has to have at least two publications in a journal with an assigned impact factor, being the first author at least of one of these. The due completion of his study is regulated by the University Act and the Study and Examination Rules of Masaryk University.

Doctoral Dissertation

The subject of the dissertation and its objectives have to be specified to the date of the admission procedure, are part of the student’s Individual Study Plan and is subject to approval by the Programme Council or the Head of the Programme. An integral part of the study plan is, the preparation of literature review (theses) of the dissertation and a short presentation at a specialized technical seminar informing about the topic of the dissertation. At least once every year in the course of her/his study the student presents the results obtained during work on her/his at a specialized technical seminar or at the Programme Council. The supervisor is fully responsible for the funding of research connected to the subject of the doctoral dissertation.

The dissertation has to be an original work created during the doctoral study under technical guidance of the supervisor. It can follow up on results of the student’ previous studies, these, however, have to be clearly pointed out, for instance by references. Upon submission of the dissertation, at least some part of the results obtained during the doctoral study has had to be published or accepted for print in a scientific journal with an impact factor (or at least be accepted for publication, in total two publications with IF, see above) and the scientific community has had to be informed about obtained results (active presentation at a symposium, see above). The dissertation has to be written in Czech, Slovak or English, the latter language is preferred. There is no defined extent, what counts is the high technical level and formal lay-out of high quality. According to paragraph 30/2 of the Study and Examination Rules the submitted dissertation should consist of a collection of published papers, supplemented by a general introduction and detailed annotation to form a comprehensive thesis. In case of results obtained by team-work, the dissertation has to include (according to paragraph 30/4 b-c) a specification of the student’s share. A hardback binding that cannot be taken apart is prescribed. The dissertation is submitted in at least three copies and also in electronic form in the MU’s Information System. At the end of the dissertation there is a list of all publications and a professional CV of the student. Usually the dissertation is assessed by two reviewers that hold at least a Ph.D. or an equivalent degree (CSc., Dr.).

Content and Scope of the State (National) Doctoral Examination

The State (national) Doctoral Examination (SDE) takes into account the student’s field of study and subject of dissertation, but the members of the SDE Commission can ask questions on any connected branch. Additional to knowledge connected to the doctoral student’s own research work, the examination focuses both on the broader field, e.g. ecology, botany, zoology, and paleoecology. The aim is less to check on detailed knowledge learned by heart, but to assess the student’s wider overview of the field, his or her ability of independent work in the field and his or her interest in the latest information.

General topics for Ph.D. Thesis :

  • Biodiversity distribution on various spatial and temporal scales
  • Paleoecological studies of selected areas and time periods
  • Successional changes in natural and human-made ecosystems
  • Interspecific interactions, e.g. between a predator and prey
  • Invasion of non-native species and ecological impacts

The list of current doctoral topics for the given academic year is given below.

Individual study plan

The Individual Study Plan specifies the order of study subjects in regard to time and content, the form of study and how these have to be completed. In setting up and complying with the study plan the student acts in cooperation with her/his supervisor. The Individual Study Plan of a student of the Doctoral Study Programme has priority above the schedule of the academic year. Additionally to work on her/his doctoral thesis the student has to pass through several areas of study (see below). The Individual Study Plan shall include:

  1. Subjects widening and deepening the understanding of the broader scientific field in excess to the master study programme. The doctoral student enrols in these subjects according to the recommendations of his or her supervisor. These courses are taken in the first two semesters, in each of them one subject from this group should be studied.
  2. Subjects deepening the understanding in the area of specialization. The doctoral student enrols in these subjects according to his or her own interest, however, always having consulted this with his or her supervisor. Only subjects that the student did not go through in his or her earlier studies are eligible. These can be either offered by the Faculty or by other institutions accredited to teach Doctoral Study Programmes, including such institutions abroad. Such courses are taken in the first to sixth semester, as a general rule one subject from this group per semester.
  3. Subjects improving the student’s language skills. The students proves his or her ability of active communication in the given technical field by passing an examination in a foreign language (in general English) or in another appropriate way, for instance by giving a talk (in general in English) at an international symposium (see below).
  4. Specialized Zoological or Botanical seminars. In the first to eight semester the student attends these seminars as advised by the supervisor. The supervisor may instruct on attendance in seminars also in further semesters. In justified cases, for instance in case of a combined study or of foreign students, the supervisor may suggest an alternative form of this activity.
  5. Preparation of an assistance in teaching in the bachelor and master study programmes. The student participates in preparing and conducting practical courses in the laboratory and in the field in cooperation with the responsible teacher. The minimum scope of this engagement is two lessons per week in the course of the first to sixth semester or a corresponding total time in case of laboratory or field courses taught in blocks.

Once the present form of a study is over and the student passed successfully doctoral examination (typically after 4 years of study) the individual study plan does not need to include any of the above areas of study but work on the doctoral thesis.

List of members of doctoral committee

List of supervisors

Commission for state doctoral exams and defenses

List of current doctoral topics

Department pages

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