Degree Programs

Forest Sciences

Research and instruction in forest biology and ecology are centered at the Harvard Forest located in the town of Petersham, Massachusetts, some 70 miles west of Cambridge.

The Harvard Forest has been a center for ecological research and education since 1907 and was designated as one of 21 national centers for Long-term Ecological Research by the US National Science Foundation in 1988. Research in this project focuses on forest ecosystem response to natural and human disturbance and stress and involves studies in physiology, population, community, and ecosystem ecology. The Forest consists of approximately 1,200 hectare representative of the “transition hardwood” forests of central New England, which have received a wide variety of silvicultural and experimental treatment, the history of which is thoroughly documented. Additional research sites owned by the Harvard Forest include the Pisgah Tract, an eight-hectare remnant of virgin forest centered in the 6,000 hectare Pisgah State Park, southwestern New Hampshire, and the Matthews plantations, 40 hectare of plantations and second growth forest in Hamilton, north of Cambridge.

Facilities at the Harvard Forest include laboratories for nutrient analysis, physiological and population ecology, isozyme and pollen analysis; greenhouses; herbarium; computer laboratory, including Geographic Information Systems; library; and the Fisher Museum of Forestry. Living quarters for staff and students are available in apartment houses owned by the Forest.

Available Degrees

Harvard does not have a forestry school in the usual sense, i.e., it does not offer any undergraduate forestry training nor a degree of doctor of philosophy in forestry. However, the following degrees are available:

Degree of Master in Forest Science (MFS) Graduates of forestry schools or of colleges of liberal arts, and others who have had equivalent training in plant sciences, may be admitted to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to work toward the MFS degree. The program is designed primarily to train students for research in aspects of forest ecology and biology covered by members of the faculty.

Full-time registration for a minimum of one academic year is required. In addition, students are expected to work as paid research assistants for the summer immediately preceding their registration. Thus, students are able to participate in the research program at the Harvard Forest for three months, starting about June 1, before they register for the academic year.

Instruction at the Harvard Forest is informal and personal. No courses have to be attended and no formal examinations are held. However, a dissertation is required and will have to be defended.

Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Programs of study leading to the PhD in biology, with special reference to forest biology, may be arranged (see the section entitled Higher Degrees in Biology in this publication). After satisfying the requirements of the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, which normally involve one or two years of coursework in Cambridge, the student may complete the dissertation research at the Harvard Forest in Petersham.

Fields of Study. Special fields of interest to staff members vary but generally include: ecology, forest soils, forest dynamics, land-use history, paleoecology, wetland biology, tree physiology, and anatomy. Current research is available in detail in the Annual Report of the Harvard Forest. This publication is available online or upon request.

Fellowships and Assistantships. The Harvard Forest awards fellowships through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Further information about the Harvard Forest may be obtained online or by writing to Director, Harvard Forest, 324 North Main Street, Petersham, MA 01366. Information on admission, financial aid, and related issues may be obtained from the Admissions Office, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center, 3rd floor, 1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138. We encourage online submission of the application.