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Course of Study

Advanced Inquiry Program master’s students complete two types of graduate courses for their Miami University degree: Web+ Courses and Core Courses. All courses are taught online by Miami University instructors. Course topics include wildlife conservation, sustainability, urban ecology, pollinator biology, environmental education, zoology, botany, and more (see details below).

You will need to earn 35 credit hours total: 21 hours of Web+ Courses (substitute possible for 7 credits of Earth Expeditions) and 14 hours of Core Online Courses including the Master’s Capstone. Both M.A. and M.A.T. students develop a portfolio suitable for their professional environment.

Web+ Courses

AIP W+ Courses combine online course instruction from Miami University with the excitement of internships, field study, and experiential learning in person at one of eight AIP sites in Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Jacksonville, New York, San Diego, and St. Louis.

Students in W+ Courses are uniquely supported both online by Miami University instructors and on-site by AIP sites facilitators. Miami University instructors interact with students online and oversee university requirements and grading. AIP site facilitators work with students face-to-face at AIP sites to guide place-based experiential learning and community engagement. AIP sites, by providing invaluable community connections, expertise, and environmental leadership, are at the heart of the AIP.

AIP Core Online Courses

The AIP Core Courses are entirely online and promote learning interactions nationwide while providing a common foundation for all students across the master’s degree program. The AIP Core Courses also support graduation requirements, including leadership challenges and writing for a professional audience.

All AIP courses are delivered online by a Miami University instructor, and two-thirds of AIP courses are Web+ courses, which also include up to five days (or equivalent) per course of experiential learning on grounds at an AIP site.

AIP students in both Web+ Courses and Core Courses submit all assignments through the online learning management system called Canvas.

Courses and Estimated Costs (Year 1 Example)

The table below shows a typical course of study for a first-year AIP student. Students take 2.5 to five years to complete their M.A. or M.A.T. Details may vary based on a student’s specific timeline at different AIP sites.* From summer 2024 through spring 2027 the per-credit hour tuition for Earth Expeditions field courses and Core Courses will be $455 per credit and for Web+ courses will be $580 per credit.

Semester AIP Courses # of Credits Estimated Costs
Summer: Web+ Course 
Foundations of Inquiry (BIO 654; 3 credits)

Core Course
Conservation Science & Community (BIO 631; 3 credits)

Web+ Course
Course topics adapted to fit the mission of the AIP site and the community (typically 3 credits)


Core Courses
Biology in the Age of Technology (BIO 632; 3 credits)

Web+ Course 
Course topics adapted to fit the mission of the AIP site and the community (0-3 credits).

Total Credits Year 1 13 $6,790
Total Credits for Degree and Estimated Degree Cost 35 $18,550

*Prices are approved on a three-year cycle. Allow extra for miscellaneous costs such as travel to your local AIP site. The above costs will be in effect from Summer 2024 through Spring 2027.

Offsetting Graduate Program Costs

With the above substantially reduced fees as part of Miami University’s support for this program, the AIP is designed to be as affordable as possible for all participants. Applicants to the program should check with their employer to see if professional development funds are available to further offset costs.

How have students funded their participation? What kinds of funding sources are available?

With reduced fees as part of Miami University’s support for this program, each master’s course is offered at a fraction of actual costs. But we know students sometimes need additional help! Check out our Helping Fund Your Degree and Dragonfly Scholarships page. Below are some quotes from Dragonfly students on how they funded their degree.

“Check to see if your employer offers tuition reimbursement. I was lucky in that my employer offered $3,500 per year for graduate school. That was more than enough to cover each year of the AIP program.”
– Amy T., AIP graduate from Goshen, Ohio

“I was able to pay as I went. I charged the tuition, which I found reasonable, and then worked hard to pay it off before the next semester. The cost is drastically reduced. I did not have a single loan. Also, I was able to write it off on my taxes.”
– Perky S., GFP graduate from Dover, Idaho

“Believe it or not, I have been ‘pay-as-I-go.’ ”
– Jennifer H., GFP student from Longwood, Fla.

Will I be able to apply for student loans while I am a Dragonfly master’s student? Can I defer my existing student loans?

To qualify for federal student loans and to defer federal student loans, a degree-seeking student must be enrolled half-time (at least five credit hours at the graduate level) in an academic term. Under the current Course of Study/credit hour configuration, this means that many, but not all, semesters’ registration and enrollment can be managed in order to hit this mark.

During terms in which master’s students are enrolled for 5 or more credit hours, they can apply for a federal student loan by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It is possible that they may be granted a federal loan in an amount that would cover most expenses for the 2.5- to 3-year program. Also, at any time during the master’s experience, any student may apply for loans from private financial institutions. More information can be found at Miami University One Stop for Student Success Services for Graduate Students.

All students who take out federal student loans qualify for only one six-month deferment for each particular loan. Students who have not previously used their one-time, six-month deferment are able to defer federal loans beginning in the term in which they are enrolled half-time. Students who have already used their six-month grace period would only be eligible for another six-month grace period on any new loans that have been borrowed.

Please see Project Dragonfly Financial Aid Information for additional details. For Washington State residents seeking information and resources about student loan repayment or seeking to submit a complaint relating to your student loans or student loan servicer, please visit or contact the Student Loan Advocate at


Project Dragonfly, along with key donor partners, offers several partial scholarships each year (ranging from $250-$1000) as individual awards to current graduate students in our Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) programs. These funds can be used to cover tuition and other course-related costs.

Core Online Courses

Core online courses occur within Canvas and cover a range of topics, such as conservation science, social change, and action research. These courses include:

BIO 631 Conservation Science & Community

3 credits – Fall Semester every year; a single section is sometimes offered in the Spring Semester

This course explores the theory and practice of conservation science, including discussion of threats to biodiversity as well as methods to collaboratively address social-ecological problems. Vital to this course is a project in which students work directly with their local community to better understand and address real ecological problems.

BIO 632 Biology in the Age of Technology

3 credits – Spring Semester only

This course explores the beneficial and negative impacts of technology for conservation biology and environmental action. Topics include wildlife mapping via GPS and GIS, use of drones, satellite imagery, radio-collars, citizen/community science, social media, impacts of media on children including Nature Deficit Disorder. Through projects, students research a biological problem of interest and design a participatory media product to engage community members in that topic.

BIO 634 Issues in Evolution

3 credits – Fall Semester every year; a single section is sometimes offered in the Spring Semester

An understanding of evolution is critical for those seeking to better protect life on earth. In this course, students learn and discuss foundational evolutionary concepts as well as emerging topics. Students design a project that presents information on an evolutionary topic of choice in the form of a lesson plan, infographic or review paper.

BIO 636 Science Leadership & Media Workshop

3 credits – Spring Semester only 

This course focuses on science writing for many purposes, including peer-reviewed literature, grants, and general community outreach. Students provide critical peer review of others’ work and are challenged to explore a leadership dimension within their professional careers.

BIO 637 Master’s Capstone

The cornerstone exit course for students earning a Master of Arts in Biology. Students reflect on the projects and artifacts they have created throughout their master’s experience and how those projects have helped lead them to a deeper understanding of the master’s program core tenets of local, regional and global understanding; inquiry; environmental stewardship; and community participation/voice.

BIO 639 Master’s Capstone: M.A.T.

2 credits – Fall and Spring Semesters 

A required exit course for students earning a Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) in the Biological Sciences. Students review, analyze, and synthesize their own work throughout the degree and create a master’s portfolio. They share their portfolio with peers and discuss their academic and personal progress through their master’s experience. Student portfolios must demonstrate relevance to learning and teaching in formal education settings in addition to the master’s program core tenets.

AIP Web+ Courses (Partial List)

Web+ Courses occur online within Canvas and include experiential learning on-grounds at an AIP site. These courses include:

Not all courses below are offered through every AIP site. Check with Miami’s Project Dragonfly and the local AIP site for details.

BIO 654 Foundations of Inquiry

3 credits

This course engages students in exploring the scientific method and inquiry-based learning and teaching. Through devising investigations to answer questions and communicating results, participants experience the full process of inquiry and learn how to guide this process with their own students and in their own communities.

BIO 662 Animal Behavior & Conservation

3 credits

This course provides a foundation for understanding ethological research methods that can be applied to promote animal welfare and wildlife conservation. The course involves a community -based research project and direct observation of diverse animal species in a variety of settings such as zoos, botanical gardens, parks, and more.

BIO 694 Habitats, Adaptations & Evolution

3 credits

This course explores the biology and conservation of species and habitats. Students implement a research project and investigate how local environmental conditions shape species’ adaptations.

BIO 696 Primate Behavior & Conservation

3 credits

This course investigates primate behavior, research methods, and conservation. Through direct observations of prosimians, monkeys, and apes in zoological settings, students gain a comprehensive view of topics ranging from social structure to communication.

BIO 656 Environmental Stewardship in My Community

3 credits

Students in this course investigate environmental stewardship, research science, and conservation opportunities and solutions in their local communities, practice inquiry-based learning, develop a conservation project to be used in their classroom or community, and reflect on ecological and carbon footprints.

BIO 638 Climate Change

3 credits

In this course, participants study the science of climate change, the diverse causes of climate change, and the impact of climate change at local, regional, and global scales. Topics include global warming’s effect on weather and climate, ice caps, deforestation, and species conservation.

BIO 659 Great Lakes Ecosystems

3 credits

The focus of this course is the study of the biology of the Great Lakes watershed, combining classroom work with field science inquiry and research. In addition to exploring the general function of watersheds, students become familiar with historical and contemporary human influences on ecosystems within the watershed basin, and they discuss and understand negative human impacts including point and non-point source pollution, multiple-stressors, “urban stream syndrome,” and local sewage treatment and its relationship to the basin.

BIO 657 Regional Ecology

3 credits

Through both zoo-based and field-based experiences, this course explores regional wildlife conservation issues, as well as field investigation techniques that scientists and citizens can use to study and conserve local ecoregions and wildlife.

BIO 658 Ecophysiology

3 credits

Students in this course will explore the ways in which humans can (and do) emulate systems and designs found in nature to create materials, medicines, social systems, computers and so much more. Students will fine tune their observation skills and complete a design challenge using nature as their guide.

BIO 627 Global Biomes

3 credits

A bioclimatic zone, or biome, is a region broadly defined by the relationship between and among an area’s temperature patterns, annual precipitation and living organisms. This course will introduce the biomes of the world through explorations of the characteristic vegetation and wildlife of biomes represented at this Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) site and current conservation issues relevant to each.

BIO 667 Conservation Research at Living Collection Institutions

3 credits

This course provides students with an overview of conservation research conducted in zoological, reserve, aquaria and other ex situ settings. Students will explore key science concepts within the contexts of wildlife conservation, the imperative of in-situ conservation, the multi-disciplinary nature of science, and hands-on conservation research.

BIO 663 Project Design & Assessment

3 credits

This course addresses one of the most important scientific endeavors: evaluation to indicate whether their own work or the work of others is showing a trend and, thus, having an impact. The course is focused on two main sets of evaluation, natural science and social science studies. The course will review statistical thinking and discuss how to construct successful studies that will open students to accurate and effective evaluation.

BIO 623 Human Dimensions of Conservation

3 credits

Conserving wildlife is a complex endeavor that requires the integration of sound science from both the social and natural sciences. This course explores how social sciences can inform conservation. Students consider how current conservation issues can be addressed through an understanding of human thought and action.

Apply to the Advanced Inquiry Program