The zoology major is a gateway to the diverse areas of modern biology. The major can be tailored to prepare students for advanced study and careers in many different areas: health professions and public health; law; life sciences research in university, government, and industrial settings; education including museum, nature center, secondary school, and college teaching; biotechnology; and environmental studies.
Specialized preparation is offered in ecology, systematics, limnology, morphology, molecular biology, cellular biology, developmental biology, genetics, neurobiology, physiology, evolution, and behavior. Several possible areas, emphasizing different interests, are outlined in the requirements tab. They include ecology, evolution, and behavior; anatomy, physiology, and organismal biology; and cellular, molecular, and developmental biology. The department encourages undergraduate participation in research and offers summer research scholarships to outstanding students.
Goals of the Zoology Major
The zoology major emphasizes critical thinking and conceptual skills that come from an understanding of how scientific information is obtained and evaluated, and of how this information can be applied to societal issues. The major provides a solid foundation in genetic, cellular, physiological, ecological, and evolutionary principles, and in the related disciplines of chemistry, physics, and mathematics. As a result, the major fosters an understanding of biological complexity including the interrelationships among humans and natural systems.
The unique characteristics of the zoology major include:
- broad-based, yet integrated training in wide-ranging areas of biology;
- solid foundation of basic principles and processes in biology;
- flexibility and advising needed to allow students to tailor the major to their specific goals;
- wide range of opportunities for undergraduate involvement in independent research and senior thesis.
All students who are interested in pursuing the zoology major must schedule an appointment with a department advisor. No major declaration forms are required to declare zoology.
University General Education Requirements
All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.
|General Education|| |
* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.
College of Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
Students pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.
Bachelor of Arts degree requirements
|Mathematics||Fulfilled with completion of University General Education requirements Quantitative Reasoning a (QR A) and Quantitative Reasoning b (QR B) coursework. Please note that some majors may require students to complete additional math coursework beyond the B.A. mathematics requirement.|
|Foreign Language|| |
Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
|L&S Breadth|| |
|Liberal Arts and Science Coursework||108 credits|
|Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work||60 intermediate or advanced credits|
|Major||Declare and complete at least one (1) major|
|Total Credits||120 credits|
|UW-Madison Experience||30 credits in residence, overall |
30 credits in residence after the 90th credit
|Minimum GPAs||2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison |
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison
Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major
Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above. Please note that the following special degree programs are not considered majors so are not available to non–L&S degree-seeking candidates:
- Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics (Bachelor of Science–Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics)
- Journalism (Bachelor of Arts–Journalism; Bachelor of Science–Journalism)
- Music (Bachelor of Music)
- Social Work (Bachelor of Social Work)
Requirements for the Major
Math, Chemistry & Physics
|Algebra and Trigonometry|
| Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry I|
and Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II
| General Chemistry I|
and General Chemistry II
|Advanced General Chemistry|
| General Physics|
and General Physics
| General Physics|
and General Physics
| General Physics|
and General Physics
30 credits in Biology and zoology coursework
|Option 1: Introductory Biology||10|
| Introductory Biology|
and Introductory Biology
|Option 2: BIOCORE—complete both:||10|
| Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics|
and Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory
| Cellular Biology|
and Cellular Biology Laboratory
|Option 3: Animal Biology 1||5|
| Animal Biology|
and Animal Biology Laboratory
BOTANY/BIOLOGY 130 is recommended, but not required for students pursuing Option 3 (Animal Biology).
Electives 2, 3
|Directed Studies in Zoology|
|Invertebrate Biology and Evolution|
|Invertebrate Biology and Evolution Lab|
|Introduction to Entomology|
|Biology of Microorganisms|
|Aquatic Invertebrate Biology|
|Biology of Microorganisms Laboratory|
|Terrestrial Vertebrates: Life History and Ecology|
|Introduction to Human Biochemistry|
|Limnology-Conservation of Aquatic Resources|
|Laboratory for Limnology-Conservation of Aquatic Resources|
|Human/Animal Relationships: Biological and Philosophical Issues|
|Human Anatomy Laboratory|
|Extinction of Species|
|Field Ecology Workshop|
|Topics in Biology|
|Introduction to Museum Studies in the Natural Sciences|
|Comparative Anatomy of Vertebrates|
|Basic and Applied Insect Ecology|
|Primates and Us: Insights into Human Biology and Behavior|
|Midwestern Ecological Issues: A Case Study Approach|
|Laboratory in Behavioral Neuroscience|
|Primate Behavioral Ecology|
|Principles of Genetics|
|Introduction to Animal Development|
|Molecular Biology Techniques|
|Undergraduate Neurobiology Seminar|
|Introduction to Biochemistry|
|Human Biochemistry Laboratory|
|Modeling Animal Landscapes|
|General Biochemistry I|
|Ecology of Fishes|
|Ecology of Fishes Lab|
|Birds of Southern Wisconsin|
|Diseases of Wildlife|
|Animal Communication and the Origins of Language|
|Laboratory in Developmental Biology|
|Principles of Landscape Ecology|
|Computer-based Gene and Disease/Disorder Research Lab|
|Colloquium in Environmental Toxicology|
|Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology|
|Comparative Physiology Laboratory|
|Lab Course in Neurobiology and Behavior|
|Biology of Mind|
|Development of the Nervous System|
|Cellular Signal Transduction Mechanisms|
|Modeling in Population Genetics and Evolution|
|Modeling Neurodevelopmental Disease|
|Climate Change Ecology|
|Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Seminar|
|Internship in Ecology|
| Senior Honors Thesis|
and Senior Honors Thesis
| Senior Thesis|
and Senior Thesis
|Directed Studies in Zoology|
A maximum of 10 credits of Directed Study (ZOOLOGY 299, ZOOLOGY 698, ZOOLOGY 699), Senior Thesis (ZOOLOGY 691, ZOOLOGY 692), or Senior Honors Thesis (ZOOLOGY 681, ZOOLOGY 682) count toward the 30 credits required for the major.
A maximum of 6 credits of approved non-ZOOLOGY subject courses count toward the 30 credits required for the major.
Only 3 credits of ANAT&PHY 335 Physiology count toward the 6 credits of approved non-ZOOLOGY subject courses.
Residence and quality of work
- 2.000 GPA in all ZOOLOGY and major courses
- 2.000 GPA on 15 Upper Level major credits, taken in Residence 5
- 15 credits in ZOOLOGY, or courses that count for the major, taken on the UW–Madison campus
ZOOLOGY 299–699, intermediate/advanced BIOCORE, and courses that count toward the major that have an intermediate/advanced designation are considered Upper Level in the major.
Honors in the Major
Students may declare Honors in the Zoology Major in consultation with a department advisor.
Honors in the Zoology Major
To earn Honors in the Major in Zoology, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:
- Earn a 3.300 University GPA
- Earn a 3.300 GPA in all courses that count toward the major
- Complete 12 credits, taken for Honors, with individual grades of B or better. Select 6 credits from ZOOLOGY 300-680 or approved non-ZOOLOGY subject courses (above).
- Complete ZOOLOGY 681 and ZOOLOGY 682, for a total of 6 credits.1
A written thesis proposal must be approved by the thesis mentor and a department advisor. While most theses are completed during the fall and spring of a student’s senior year, other combinations of terms are possible. More information about the proposal process, timing, and grading of a thesis can be found on the Department of Integrative Biology website.
University Degree Requirements
|Total Degree||To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.|
|Residency||Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.|
|Quality of Work||Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.|
- Connect and describe the concepts that make up the structure and function of all living things through the principles of genetics, cellular biology, and physiology.
- Demonstrate an understanding of the diversity of life through the principles of evolution.
- Make connections between organisms, their habitats, and systems through the principles of ecology.
- Make connections between the biological sciences to humans and ecological systems and appreciate the complexity of these systems.
- Identify, think through, and solve a problem using quantitative reasoning and critical thinking skills.
- Develop an ability to plan and carry out scientific experiments by obtaining and evaluating scientific information and effectively communicating information through oral and written presentations.
- Understand current issues in biology and apply scientific knowledge to societal issues.
- Make connections between self and natural world, and personal responsibility with social issues.
- Develop a sense of competence in the field of study through research experiences and written and oral communication of findings.
This is a sample four-year plan for you and your advisor to use as a tool in planning your academic career. Remember you may have already satisfied some requirements listed below. Due to the flexibility of course selection and sequencing, use this tool in consultation with your academic advisor, DARS report, and UW Course Guide as there is great variability in possible plans.
|CHEM 103 or 109||4-5||CHEM 104||5|
|MATH 112, 114, or 171||3-5||MATH 113 or 217||3-5|
|Communication A1||3||Literature Breadth||3|
|Foreign Language (if required)||3-4||Social Science Breadth||4|
|ZOOLOGY/BIOLOGY/BOTANY 1511||5||ZOOLOGY/BIOLOGY/BOTANY 152 (Satisfies Communication B)1||5|
|Ethnic Studies2||3||BOTANY/BIOLOGY 1304||5|
|INTER-LS 2103||1||Humanities Breadth||3|
|Social Science Breadth||3||Social Science L&S Breadth||4|
|PHYSICS 103, 201, or 207||4-5||PHYSICS 104, 202, or 208||4-5|
|I/A COMP SCI, MATH, or STAT (if required for the BS)||3||I/A COMP SCI, MATH, or STAT (required for the BS)||3-5|
|I/A ZOOLOGY||3-4||I/A ZOOLOGY||3-4|
|Humanities Breadth||3||Literature Breadth||3|
|I/A ZOOLOGY||3-4||I/A ZOOLOGY||3-4|
|I/A ZOOLOGY||3-4||I/A ZOOLOGY||3-4|
|Total Credits 120|
Students can take ZOOLOGY/BIOLOGY 101 Animal Biology and ZOOLOGY/BIOLOGY 102 Animal Biology Laboratory for the Introductory Biology requirement. is recommended for students who complete this sequence.
Student may also satisfy Introductory Biology with BIOCORE. Consult the advisor for the program regarding this option.
Students are encouraged to consult with a department advisor to construct individual programs appropriate to their own needs. Please use scheduling assistant or call either 608-262-2742 to make an appointment with an advisor. Kayla Pelland is available to meet with students on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in B154 Birge Hall.
The zoology major is an excellent scaffold for students interested in an undergraduate research experience. A maximum of 10 credits of Directed Studies (ZOOLOGY 299, ZOOLOGY 698, ZOOLOGY 699), Senior Thesis (ZOOLOGY 691, ZOOLOGY 692), or Senior Honors Thesis (ZOOLOGY 681, ZOOLOGY 682) will count toward the 30 credits required for the major.
The Department of Integrative Biology offers both ZOOLOGY 299 Directed Studies in Zoology and ZOOLOGY 699 Directed Studies in Zoology. ZOOLOGY 299 is recommended for students before they have completed their introductory biology course sequence, and ZOOLOGY 699 is recommended for students who have completed their introductory biology course sequence. Directed Studies in Zoology are graded on an A to F scale. Students cannot take Directed Studies on a pass/fail basis.
Directed Studies allows students to gain experience in a wide range of research areas in biology and to learn research techniques that are not easily taught in the classroom. Such experiences allow students to make more informed decisions about their future goals and careers.
- Decide the specific number of credits and
- Plan the work required to earn those credits.
Such plans can involve reviewing relevant literature in the area, developing a proposal for independent research, and/or conducting an experiment in the mentor's study area.
Students interested in doing in-depth research as undergraduates in an area of interest can elect to do a Senior Thesis or Senior Honors Thesis (see below). Students should contact a department advisor at the beginning of their junior year to explore possible research areas.
Students interested in making a longer-term commitment to a research project may consider undertaking a Senior Thesis. Students should contact a department advisor during their junior year to explore possible research areas in zoology.
Zoology Senior Thesis Requirements:
- Approval of a department advisor and
- Completion of ZOOLOGY 691 and ZOOLOGY 692, a two-semester thesis research sequence, during the senior year (6 credits).
It is recommended that candidates for the Senior Thesis take ZOOLOGY 699 during second semester junior year to prepare for the thesis.
Distinction in the Major
Upon recommendation of the department to the dean, Distinction in the Major is granted at graduation to students not earning Honors in the Major who have done superior work in the major. In addition to the requirements for a senior thesis, to graduate with Distinction in the Zoology Major, students must maintain an overall GPA of 3.300 and a GPA of 3.500 in all zoology courses in the major.
The Department of Integrative Biology encourages our majors to begin working on their career exploration and preparation soon after arriving on campus. We partner with SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science. L&S graduates are in high demand by employers and graduate programs. It is important to us that our students are career ready at the time of graduation, and we are committed to your success.
L&S career resources
SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students leverage the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and liberal arts degree; explore and try out different career paths; participate in internships; prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications; and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers). In short, SuccessWorks helps students in the College of Letters & Science discover themselves, find opportunities, and develop the skills they need for success after graduation.
SuccessWorks can also assist students in career advising, résumé and cover letter writing, networking opportunities, and interview skills, as well as course offerings for undergraduates to begin their career exploration early in their undergraduate career.
Students should set up their profiles in Handshake to take care of everything they need to explore career events, manage their campus interviews, and apply to jobs and internships from 200,000+ employers around the country.
- Set up a career advising appointment
- INTER-LS 210 L&S Career Development: Taking Initiative (1 credit, targeted to first- and second-year students)—for more information, see Inter-LS 210: Career Development, Taking Initiative
- INTER-LS 215 Communicating About Careers (3 credits, fulfills Com B General Education Requirement)
- Learn how we’re transforming career preparation: L&S Career Initiative
Professors Hardin (chair, firstname.lastname@example.org), Bement, Blair, Gammie, Halloran, Ives, Lee, Newmark, Riters, Stanley, Turner, and Vander Zanden
Associate Professors Amann, Damschen, Grinblat, and Orrock
Assistant Professors Dugan, Sharma, and Wolman
Adjunct Professor Peckarsky