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Degree, Minors and Certificates Offered

General Information

Undergraduate Programs

Requirements for Undergraduate Degrees from the Colleges of Arts and Sciences



College of Natural Sciences
St. John 101
3190 Maile Way
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tel: (808) 956-8369
Fax: (808) 956-3923


*Graduate Faculty

*A. R. Sherwood, PhD (Chair)—systematics, evolution and biogeography of algae
*K. A. Barton, PhD (Graduate Chair)—evolutionary ecology
*A. S. Amend, PhD—evolutionary ecology
*C. C. Daehler, PhD—population biology, invasive plants, plant-herbivore interactions
*D. R. Drake, PhD—ecology and conservation
*D. C. Duffy, PhD—conservation, restoration ecology
*N. A. Hynson, PhD—community ecology
*S. C. Keeley, PhD—molecular systematics, evolution in island systems
*M. Merlin, PhD—biogeography, ethnobotany, natural history of the Pacific
*C. W. Morden, PhD—molecular systematics and evolution of plants and algae
*T. A. Ranker, PhD—systematics and evolution
*C. M. Smith, PhD—physiological ecology of marine macrophytes, marine ecology, cell biology
*T. B. Ticktin, PhD—ethnoecology, conservation
*G. J. Wong, PhD—mating systems and biosystematics of basidiomycetes

Cooperating Graduate Faculty

D. Borthakur, PhD—plant molecular genetics
D. A. Christopher, PhD—gene regulation of photosynthesis, uv effects
C. L. Hunter, PhD—reef ecology
R. Ostertag, PhD—ecology
J. Price, PhD—native bird and plant species hotspots with GIS, area identification for restoration of threatened and endangered species

Adjunct Faculty

A. K. Chock, MS—Hawaiian ethnobotany

Retired Faculty in Residence

D. Mueller-Dombois, PhD—ecology
C. Smith, PhD—conservation, Hawaiian lichen

Degrees Offered: BA (including minor) in botany, BS in botany, MS in botany, PhD in botany

The Academic Program

The Department of Botany (BOT) trains students to understand and appreciate the diversity of plants, algae, and fungi that sustain the world’s terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. The curriculum provides broad-based training, from traditional field methods to the latest molecular techniques, and the program offers excellent opportunities for research experience for undergraduates and graduate students.

The department’s programs take advantage of Hawai‘i’s unique location by offering students unparalleled opportunities to explore the botanical diversity of tropical freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems through a wide range of field and laboratory experiences. Students may focus on topics ranging from the ecology, evolution, and conservation of Hawai‘i’s unique ecosystems and flora, to the threats posed by invasive species, to the uses of plants by humans.

At the undergraduate level, the department offers a BA, BS, and minor degree in botany. The MS and PhD in botany are offered at the graduate level. All botany faculty members, regardless of rank, teach courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Financial support for undergraduates is available via competitive tuition waivers and scholarships. Tuition waivers and teaching and research assistantships are available to graduate students. Undergraduate majors will be prepared for careers as naturalists, environmental planners, policy makers, conservation biologists, teachers, researchers, and museum or organizational directors. Recipients of advanced degrees commonly follow careers with government agencies, conservation organizations, and colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad.

The department’s website at provides glimpses into the many environments and special plants in Hawai‘i, and provides further information about faculty interests and research.


Botanical studies are enhanced by cooperative working relationships between the department and Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, Harold L. Lyon Arboretum, Kewalo Marine Laboratory of the Pacific Biomedical Research Center, Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit of the National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, State of Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Honolulu Botanical Garden, Herbarium Pacificum and the Department of Botany of the B. P. Bishop Museum, Hawai‘i Agriculture Research Center, and Waikiki Aquarium.


An undergraduate advisor guides undergraduates through the academic program and is available to talk with prospective majors about their interests. Graduate students entering the department are assigned an interim committee of three faculty members who provide general advice. The student’s committee and the graduate program chair oversee requirements and provide a link between Graduate Division and the student. Graduate students are encouraged to interact with each faculty to become acquainted with various research approaches and areas of expertise. Once a research topic has been identified, a permanent committee will be established to provide specific assistance.

Undergraduate Study

BA Degree in Botany

The BA degree provides students flexibility to pursue a broad liberal arts education and still gain a sound foundation in botany with an area of particular interest. Courses are available in conservation, ecology, ethnobotany, evolution, form and function, systematics, and selected faculty research specialties. The courses applied toward the botany major may be selected with the student’s interest area in mind.


  • Students must earn a grade of C (not C-) or higher in each course applied to the major, including required courses in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics
  • 4 credits required of seminars: BOT 100, 200, 300, 400
  • 19 credits of the following:
    • BOT 101/101L
    • BOT 201/201L
    • BOT 305
    • BOT 420
    • BIOL 171/171L
  • Minimum 24 credits of electives (courses may not be counted toward more than one Group below)
    • At least one from Group 1: Systematics & Evolution (BOT 430/430L, 461, 462, or 480)
    • At least one from Group 2: Ecology, Conservation & Natural History (BOT 301/301L, 303, 350, 440, 444, 450, 454, or 456)
    • Other electives from the categories above or below to reach the required number of elective credits:
      • Ethnobotany (BOT 440, 442, 444, 446)
      • Miscellaneous electives (BOT 302, 399, 401, or 450)
    • 8 credits of other required courses: CHEM 161/161L, PHYS 100/100L, or higher

Prospective majors should consult the botany advisors promptly to design a curriculum that satisfies these requirements. BOT 105, 110/110L, 135, and 160 do not fulfill major requirements.

For information on a Bachelor Degree Program Sheet, go to

BS Degree in Botany

The BS degree is designed for those students who plan a career in science with an emphasis on plants, especially those intending to do graduate studies. A full complement of basic courses in biology, chemistry, math, and physics is required in addition to botany courses. As with the BA degree, students may choose among a variety of courses to fulfill requirements for the major.


  • 28 credits of the following:
    • BOT 101/101L
    • BOT 201/201L
    • BOT 305
    • BOT 420
    • BIOL 171/171L
    • BIOL 275/275L
    • BIOL 375/375L
  • Minimum 15 credits of electives (courses may not be counted toward more than one Group below):
    • At least one from Group 1: Systematics & Evolution (BOT 430/430L, 461, 462, 480)
    • At least one from Group 2: Ecology, Conservation & Natural History (BOT 301/301L, 303, 350, 440, 444, 450, 454, 456)
    • Other electives from the categories above or below to reach the required number of elective credits:
      • Ethnobotany: (BOT 440, 442, 444, 446)
      • Miscellaneous electives: (BOT 302, 399, 401)
    • 28 credits of other required courses: CHEM 161/161L, 162/162L, 272/272L, PHYS 151/151L, 152/152L, MATH 215 (or equivalent), MATH 216 (or equivalent)

Prospective majors should consult the BOT advisors promptly to design a curriculum that satisfies these requirements. BOT 105, 110/110L, 135, and 160 do not fulfill major requirements.

For information on a Bachelor Degree Program Sheet, go to

BS Degree in Ethnobotany

This degree has been stopped out and we are not accepting new students.

The BS in ethnobotany provides a unique learning environment in which biological and social science theories are integrated. Study in ethnobotany will enable students to work in areas related to the conservation of biological and cultural diversity, work in natural health care businesses and practices, enter graduate school programs in ethnobotany, botany, anthropology, and related fields or enter advanced medical training programs.


  • 4 credits required seminars: BOT 100, 200, 300, 400
  • 42 credits of the following:
    • BOT 101/101L
    • BOT 105
    • BOT 201/201L
    • BOT 301/301L
    • BOT 305
    • BOT 399/499
    • BOT 420
    • BOT440
    • BOT 461
    • BOT 462
    • BIOL 171/171L
    • ANTH 152
  • 9 credits of electives
    • Two of either: BOT 442, 444, 446, or BIOL 440
    • One other 400 level BOT course
  • 12 credits other elective courses
    • Two 400-level social science courses in ANTH, GEOG, HWST, or other culture-focused courses not applied to other requirements in the Ethnobotany degree program
    • Biogeography: two of either: BIOL 320, 360, 410, GEOG 309, 408, 409, 422, 426 or other biogeography course
  • Other required courses: CHEM 161/161L, 162/162L, 272/272L, PHYS 151/151L, PHYS 152/152L, MATH 215 (or equivalent), and MATH 216 (or equivalent)



Students must complete 15 credit hours in non-introductory courses with a grade of C (not C-) or higher.

For Ethnobotany:

  • BOT 440 and 461
  • Two of: BOT 442, 444, or 446
  • One 400 level Social Science course that forms part of an ethnobotany theme with the other courses

For Evolutionary Botany:

  • BOT 201/201L and 462
  • Electives: BOT 420, 430, 450, 461, or 480

For Tropical Field Botany:

  • BOT 453
  • Electives: BOT 201/201L, 450, 454, and 461

Individual programs may be designed by the student and advisor for approval by the faculty.

Graduate Study

The department offers programs leading to MS and PhD degrees. Hawai‘i’s location offers unique opportunities to study the patterns and processes of evolution, ecology, and morphological and physiological variations within a geographically variable yet isolated setting. Abundant opportunities are available for research in marine, aquatic, and terrestrial environments, and faculty expertise spans a phylogenetically diverse set of organisms including land plants, algae, and fungi. The faculty is composed of a number of nationally and internationally recognized scientists in conservation, ecology, ethnobotany, and systematics.

Recipients of the MS degree often teach at the high school level, pursue careers with state or federal government agencies, or work with environmental organizations and consultancies. Those with a PhD may teach and/or conduct research in colleges and universities, work as environmental consultants, and pursue careers with environmental organizations or the government.

A listing of faculty members and their research areas and publications is available on the department website: Applications for admission and opportunities for financial aid and support are available upon request.

At the time of application, three letters of recommendation from persons who can appraise the student’s aptitude for advanced work are required. In their statement of objectives; applicants should identify a specific area of study within botany: conservation, ecology, ethnobotany, general botany, marine botany, systematics/evolution, or whole plant biology. Minimum curriculum requirements for each track are available at the department website. Applicants will be evaluated for their level of preparation and potential to successfully complete their proposed plan of study. The application deadline is December 15 for the following fall semester. Normally, teaching assistantships are available for the beginning of fall semester, but openings may occur mid-year.

MS and PhD students are admitted to candidacy when they have successfully completed any requirements and pre-program deficiencies identified by their committee and after they have demonstrated the ability to collect, analyze, integrate, and communicate scientific information effectively in the English language.

Because scientific findings are typically presented orally as well as in writing, all students must gain and demonstrate proficiency in the presentation of seminars. Students must complete BOT 610 to satisfy this requirement. In addition, MS Plan A and PhD students must present two public seminars: first, outlining the background of a research problem and the student’s proposed research program; and second, at the conclusion of their program, describing the research results and conclusions. The latter seminar also includes a final examination by the thesis or dissertation committee. The final examination for the MS Plan B students includes the presentation of a public seminar summarizing the results of one of their directed research studies.

Master’s Degree

Plan A (thesis) and Plan B (non-thesis) are separate MS programs with distinct purposes. Before admission to candidacy, the plan that a candidate intends to follow must be declared and approved. Plan A is the usual program to be taken by candidates intending a research-related career. Plan B is for students who do not intend to make research in botanical sciences their profession.

Plan A (Thesis) Requirements

For Plan A, a minimum of 30 credit hours is required. Of that, a total of 12 credit hours shall be for thesis and a minimum of 18 additional credit hours for courses approved by the candidate’s committee.

Plan B (Non-thesis) Requirements

For Plan B, a minimum of 30 credit hours is required. Of that, a total of 18 credit hours shall be earned in the major field or an approved related field in courses numbered 600 and above (excluding BOT 699 and BOT 700). Of these credits, at least 6 (but not more than 9) must be for directed research in aspects of botanical sciences chosen by the candidate in consultation with his or her committee.

Doctoral Degree

The PhD program includes gaining a working knowledge in an approved foreign language or other research-tool subject, as well as passing a comprehensive examination and writing a dissertation. Suitability of the language or tool subject is determined by the graduate faculty according to the student’s area of specialization, and proficiency is ordinarily determined by examination or satisfactory completion of a specific course of study.


The comprehensive examination is a combination of oral and written parts. The exam is conducted by the candidate’s committee, plus any members of the graduate faculty who wish to attend. In addition to general botany, the candidate is examined in-depth in areas of related disciplines that have been previously agreed upon by the student and the committee.

The dissertation is expected to be an original contribution based on independent research. It is initiated by the preparation of a critical review of the literature that becomes the basis for a dissertation proposal. Dissertation research for the PhD degree is carried out in an aspect of botanical sciences for which a member of the graduate faculty of the field will accept responsibility as committee chair.

BOT Courses