Text-Only Version | Accessibility Statement


Integrative Conservation and Geography

At the beginning of the 21st century, as global environmental change proceeds at an unprecedented pace, the practice of conservation is adapting to a complex set of new challenges. The conservation community has increasingly recognized that responding effectively to these challenges will require that the next generation of practitioners and scholars not only develop expertise in specific fields but also have the conceptual tools to work across disciplines. The University of Georgia's Integrative Conservation Ph.D. program is designed to meet that need by ensuring that students gain disciplinary depth while also learning to collaborate across disciplines and fields of practice to seek integrative solutions to complex conservation challenges.

Designed as a truly interdisciplinary and integrative PhD program ICON , students receive traditional PhD training in Geography, while also engaging with both social and physical science as a means of creating a new type of scholar capable of understanding and addressing complex socio-environmental problems as part of the ICON curriculum. Through the ICON program, "conservation" is broadly conceived as a wide ranging set of issues and practices related to sustainability and environmental management (from issues of climate change, to biological conservation, to urbanization, etc.). 

Students that choose to join the ICON and Geography program will not only work with UGA Geography faculty, but also with affiliated ICON faculty that span diverse disciplines and areas of knowledge needed for the next generation of practitioners to develop expertise in specific fields, while also having the conceptual tools to work across disciplines. The ICON program and its faculty also strive to move beyond the paradigm of interdisciplinarity by reaching outside of academia to bring together academics and practitioners. Through mechanisms such as internships, collaborative research, and a practitioner-in-residence program, students will interact with conservationists, environmental managers, and other environmental professionals as partners and colleagues. These experiences, along with training modules lead by communications experts, will ensure that students learn to communicate effectively and strategically with those from other backgrounds and disciplines as well as with public audiences.


Highly Competitive Course of Study

Graduate study in Integrative Conservation and Geography at the University of Georgia is a demanding and highly competitive course of study. All students complete required classes for the Geography PhD plus two core ICON seminars (ICON 8000 and ICON 8001) and an ICON internship.  Beyond these requirements, students and their advisory committees select additional courses in conservation-related disciplines to form a program tailored to their needs.

Admission Information

We encourage applicants to submit their paperwork as far in advance of the department's deadline as possible (December 1st to be considered for funding, January 1st for admission only) to make their application most competitive, because this gives enough time for the required letters of recommendation, transcripts, and so on to arrive and be processed. We normally screen applications starting mid-January, and inform students of the departmental decision in February. At any time you should feel welcome to check with the graduate program administrator about the state of your application. We also strongly encourage applicants to make early contact with faculty members with whom they might like to work. While students do not select their faculty advisor more formally until the end of the first year, identifying a faculty member you would like to work with during the application process is advantageous.

To apply for the ICON and Geography program, please complete all of the following: 

1) Submit all required Geography Departmental forms (http://geography.uga.edu/teaching-assistantships/)

2) Clearly designate that you are applying for the Geography and ICON program in your departmental application and with the graduate school

3) Submit a supplemental ICON essay (please limit your response to no more than 600 words) with your Geography materials that addresses the following prompt: 

"Recent years have seen increased calls for interdisciplinarity in conservation.  These calls are a recognition of the fact that conservation problems do not conform to disciplinary boundaries and require multiples fields of expertise.  Furthermore, some scholars have called not for the creation of interdisciplinary teams, but for the training of “interdisciplinary people”.  In addition to the call to engage many types of knowledge in conservation efforts, it has also been noted that both the study and practice of conservation are hindered by the traditional divide between academicians and practitioners.  Our vision of “integrative” conservation training is one in which students not only become conversant across multiple disciplines but also become comfortable moving between the worlds of academia and practice.  Please reflect on that vision, discussing the merits and downfalls of such an approach, as you see them, and why you think you would be a good fit for this training program. Please limit your response to no more than 600 words.


Admission to the Department of Geography

The Ph.D. in Integrative Conservation and Geography has an admission requirement in addition to those for Department of Geography:

  • ICON Geography application essay (see info under "Admission Inforamtion" tab)

Submit also these departmental requirements for the Ph.D. program:

  • The statement of intent
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Your curriculum vitae

Please send these items directly to the department by December 1st (to be considered for funding) or January 1st (to be considered for admission only).



Teaching Assistantships

Each year a limited number of departmental teaching assistantships, where students work 13-18 hours a week with faculty supporting instruction or research activities, are available on a competitive basis. Students awarded these assistantships find that they provide sufficient support to live (simply) in Athens. Additionally, the ICON program offers a limited number of research assistantships.  There is also support for incoming students through very competitive Graduate School Assistantships for which we nominate the very strongest program applicants. Our students are very successful in securing competitive and extensive external funding for their dissertation research, and we provide training in methods, research design, and proposal writing in support of this pursuit.


The deadline for Fall semester admissions is January 1st of each year, or December 1st to be considered for funding. We only accept applications for fall semester matriculation. We encourage applicants to submit their paperwork as far in advance of the department's deadline as possible to make their application most competitive, because this gives enough time for the required letters of recommendation, transcripts, and so on to arrive and be processed. 

Financial Assistance

Both research and teaching assistantships are awarded on the basis of academic excellence. The Integrative Conservation admissions committee will make selections, and financial assistance will be included with admissions letters for those students who have been selected. Students with superior records may be nominated for university-wide Graduate School Assistantships. Please be aware that all awards are highly competitive. 


Graduate Coordinator


Yao, Xiaobai

Associate Professor

Research Interests

GIScience; Urban Growth and Transportation; Geospatial data analysis and modeling; GIS and health;