The Ecology Program was one of the first Intercollege Graduate Degree Programs at Penn State, first appearing in the 1972/1973 academic year Graduate Bulletin.  The program was created as a way to bring together students and faculty members from diverse disciplines—such as atmospheric science, geology, agriculture, biology, and anthropology—to collaborate on complex issues in ecology. After awarding several MS degrees in in 1972 and 1973, the first PhD was conferred in 1974. The program now has over 300 alumni and confers about 10 degrees each year.

As an early intercollege degree program at Penn State, Ecology served as a model for other intercollege programs that followed. Through the years, the Ecology Program has maintained its reputation for being among the best programs of its kind in the country.