Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory

Graduate Study at NREL

Degree Programs Graduate Student Jenifer Soong working with Dr. Francesca Cotrufo.

Greetings, prospective graduate students, and thank you for your interest in exploring the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL) at Colorado State University. NREL is an internationally acclaimed, interdisciplinary research laboratory focusing on advanced research in ecosystem ecology. The close-knit community of graduate students and researchers at NREL are immersed in cutting-edge research around the world.

NREL students are funded primarily from research grants that have been awarded to NREL research scientists which fund 40-50 graduate students in any given year. To become a graduate student you will want to find a research advisor within NREL with funding, or work with a research advisor to obtain funding. Below, you will find information on how to become a graduate student and support resources at CSU to help you along the way.

  1. Graduate Research at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL)
  2. Resources in Fort Collins
  3. Resources for Diverse Graduate Students
  4. Diversity Support Groups

Grad Students at Grassland

Graduate Research at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL)

Degree Programs Graduate Student Shannon Spencer examining the layers of soil in a recent soil core sample

NREL students include those at the M.S., Ph.D., and post-doc levels. Students must apply and be admitted to a CSU graduate program. NREL scientists are affiliated with and many teach graduate classes in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, departments within the Warner College of Natural Resources, Soil and Crop Sciences, the Department of Biology and the Department of Anthropology. If you are interested in working with NREL scientists for graduate study, contact individual researchers whose interests match yours.

NREL has over 30 research scientists, also referred to as “Principal Investigators” or “PIs”, who can act as advisors for graduate students. While you’ll see the four major areas of research for NREL on the home page, there are many additional research areas listed on PI’s web sites. You can find each PI’s brief bio and research interests listed in the NREL Directory (the PIs are the ones with ‘ Dr.’ in front of their names). Most professors also have a personal website; these pages will often contain links to further information on their research. When you find a PI with similar interests send them an email with “Prospective Graduate Student” in the subject line. Please feel free to contact PIs you might be interested in working with. At a minimum, we suggest your initial contact e-mail should contain the following:

  • A cover letter (or e-mail) describing your academic and research background, your research interests, and why you think you would be a good fit for a given PIs Lab
  • A copy of your resume. Including academic activities, publications, outreach, scientific activities, and other interests
  • A copy of your transcripts or list of courses and your GPA
  • Copies of any pertinent publications you are an author on

PIs receive a lot of emails from perspective graduate students. Please give them a few days to get back to you.


Resources at Colorado State University

  • Graduate School – Start the application process here.
  • Admissions Office – The Graduate School will send your application to the Admissions office for approval.

Resources in Fort Collins

Resources for Diverse Graduate Students

Graduate Student Sarah Maisonneuve observing elephants in Africa Graduate Student Sarah Maisonneuve observing elephants in Africa
  • The Graduate Center for Diversity and Access The Graduate Center for Diversity and Access is committed to providing an environment that supports all forms of diversity. We invite you to explore our website and to contact us with your questions (Bonnie Beer/970-491-3702). Students may also learn more about the Graduate Center for Diversity and Access through the Graduate Center’s Student Advisory Board.
  • American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) AISES substantially increases the representation of American Indian and Alaska Natives in engineering, science and other related technology fields. Through a variety of educational programs, AISES offers financial, academic and cultural support to American Indians and Alaska Natives from middle school through graduate school. Learn more about the Colorado State University chapter of AISES by contacting This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visiting the chapter’s website at
  • WISDOM: Women in Science Devoted to Outreach and Mentoring The goal of WISDOM is to cultivate interest in science, math, and engineering in middle school women. WISDOM’s mission is to create a support network, build confidence, and make connections between mentors and younger women in order to encourage intellectual curiosity and pursuit of higher education. For more information, contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
  • The Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists (MAES) and The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) The goals of SHPE/MAES are: (a) To advance Hispanic and Latino scientists and engineers in employment, education, and economic and social welfare; (b) To improve the quality of education and training programs preparing Hispanic and Latino students to become professional engineers and scientists; (c) To implement programs benefiting Hispanics and Latinos seeking to become engineers and scientists; and (d) To increase the number of Hispanics and Latinos entering the field of engineering and science. For further information, contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Diversity Support Groups

For more complete information on the diverse communities present on CSU's campus, explore the links below.