Prospective Students

If you are interested in applying to the Costa lab as a graduate student, please carefully read this page to get a sense of the lab and whether it would be a good fit for you. Here are some answers to frequently-asked-questions:

Additional Opportunity: A former Costa lab graduate student and postdoctoral researcher, Dr. Sarah Kienle, is starting her own Comparative Animal Physiology lab at Baylor University in January 2021. She is currently recruiting graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to start Fall 2021. Find out more about her research interests and opportunities in her new lab here (with link to and/or email her at

Here are some answers to frequently-asked-questions about grad school and our lab:

Is this graduate program a good fit for you?

As a graduate student in the Costa lab, you would be in either the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department or the Ocean Sciences Department. To read more about the graduate program requirements in each of these departments, including information on course requirements and exams, visit these webpages: EEB Graduate Program and OceanSci Graduate Program.

How would you be funded as a graduate student in this lab?

Costa’s graduate students are supported by a mix of internal and external fellowships as well as Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) and Teaching Assistant (TA) positions. Because the Costa lab does not currently have funding for new students (in the form of GSR’s & TA’s), we strongly encourage you to apply for an external fellowship (especially the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, and Nancy Foster Scholarship Program). Your ability to secure one of these external fellowships will greatly increase your chance of being admitted as a graduate student.

Do your research interests fit in with the Costa lab?

The Costa lab is interested in studying the physiological ecology of organisms in the marine environment. Physiological ecology is the study of how an organism’s reproductive fitness is affected by behavioral and physiological adjustments to an ever-changing environment. The Costa lab leads a long-standing research effort at Año Nuevo with northern elephant seals and california sea lions. The lab has done research in Antarctica with Weddell seals, crabeater seals, leopard seals, whales, and seabirds. Other field sites include San Nicolas Island in the Channel Islands, Guadalupe Island in Mexico, and Sarasota Bay in Florida.

What coursework and professional preparation should I have to apply to this lab?

We suggest that you have a strong background in courses such as Ecology, Marine Ecology, Evolution, Physiology, and Biology. Although not required, it is strongly recommended that you have already performed an independent research project at the master’s or similar level. If your undergraduate degree is in a field unrelated to the EEB or Ocean Sciences Departments, a master’s degree in a related field is even more strongly recommended.

Alright, I want to apply. What’s next?

After exploring our website, please take a moment to find the current student whose experience most closely matches your interest and email them first with specific questions. These current grads will be able to respond more quickly than Dan and have valuable information and advice to share.

Once you have determined that you would like to apply to the lab and have a potential research project in mind that fits in with the lab’s interests, email Dan Costa with:

  • your CV,
  • a brief statement of your proposed research project and research interests,
  • how your interests fit in with the lab’s current research,
  • names of funding opportunities you’ve acquired or are applying for.

Consider setting up a time to come to UC Santa Cruz and visit the lab in person, as those interactions tend to be much more memorable. When you visit, organize a time to meet with a couple of current graduate students as well.

We look forward to meeting you!

Comments are closed.