Graphic - The Scaling of LifeGraduate Information

Inquiries from prospective graduate students are welcomed. Each year the Brown Lab typically takes one or two new graduate students. It is recommended that interested students correspond directly with Jim Brown (via email and/or regular mail) and also write to obtain the Department of Biology's packet of information and application materials.


I usually expect to have room to accept one or two new students each spring for starting the following fall. These will almost certainly be Ph. D. students, and I urge you to apply to the Ph. D. program if you have any interest in being admitted to our graduate program and working with me. I do not discriminate between applicants who have Bachelor's or Master's degrees. I receive quite a few inquiries each year, and a fair number of those who actually complete applications want to work with me. So the purely statistical odds are not great, but I normally take at least one student every year, you will not get in if you do not apply. Admissions are decided by a departmental committee, and my role is only advisory.

I look for students who are bright, creative, and motivated. While some research experience is always desirable, I am less concerned that incoming students have well-formed ideas about what they want to do for a thesis. There is time in the first year or two to learn what is going on at UNM and decide how you want to focus your efforts. My students are responsible for coming up with their own ideas for a thesis, and for carrying it out. They work on a wide variety of topics, from field studies to mathematical theory, from population and community ecology to macroecology and biogeography.

Increasingly, we are gaining a reputation for being pioneers in areas of "ecological complexity." One consequence is some very promising graduate student applicants who are interested in related topics. We are in the final year of a five-year NSF Graduate Research Training program in ecological complexity. This has supported five graduate fellows each year. It has allowed us to collaborate with the Santa Fe Institute and Los Alamos National Laboratory to expose students to interdisciplinary perspectives on complexity. A very recent development is that we have just been awarded a grant from NSF's new Biocomplexity Program. This will give us $2.5 million for five years, much of it Research Assistantships and other support for graduate students. If you apply to the Biology Department's Ph. D. program, you will automatically be considered for support from the Biocomplexity grant. Our Biocomplexity proposal is posted on the web, and I urge you to have a look at it.

My own research continues to be focused primarily in two areas. I am dedicated to keeping the long-term field experiments at Portal going, and to using the results to address questions of population and community dynamics. Usually two or three students do at least some of their thesis research at Portal. My current NSF LTREB (Long-Term Research in Environmental Biology) grant has support for two research assistants to census and work on the rodents and plants at Portal. My macroecological research remains focused on body size and allometry. My collaboration with physicist Geoffrey West continues to be stimulating and productive. It is supported by a Packard Interdisciplinary Science Grant. There are many opportunities for students to do macroecological research, on allometry or other topics.

The graduate program in environmental biology at UNM is not for everyone. Unlike many places, we do not have strength concentrated in any one subdiscipline. Instead we have faculty with active research and graduate programs spread over much of the breadth of modern ecology evolution, and behavior. The result is that we have attracted faculty, postdocs, and graduate students who have broad interests that often span the boundaries across disciplines and subdisciplines. We have students with undergraduate degrees in math, computer science, English, anthropology, and sociology as well as biology (including botany, zoology, or microbiology) and environmental science. I urge prospective applicants to look into the research and graduate programs of other faculty. Feel free to correspond with anyone whom you might want to consider as a potential advisor.

I urge interested students to apply. If you keep me informed, I will watch out for your application. We support all Ph. D. students in good standing with a Teaching Assistantship or other support for five years. I urge all U.S. citizens to apply for an NSF Predoctoral Fellowship. Overseas students should look into funding from your home country. If I can supply additional information, please write (e-mail If you want to talk by phone (505-277-9337), the best days are Tue., Wed., or Thur., and there is voice mail if no one is at the phone. At some point it would probably be mutually beneficial for prospective students to visit me and UNM. If you want to do this during the fall semester, let me know and we will help to arrange it. You may, however, want to wait until early spring after we have evaluated your application. Then we usually have funds to bring in accepted applicants.