updated 10/24/2006 8:19:13 AM ET 2006-10-24T12:19:13

NEW YORK —The American Museum of Natural History has received state approval to begin recruiting students and awarding master's and doctoral degrees.

The New York State Board of Regents on Monday authorized the program, which is expected to enroll its first class in 2008. The museum, located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, will grant degrees in comparative biology.

The plan will expand "the museum's historic role in training scientists," museum president Ellen Futter said. Currently, about 30 students each year conduct doctoral research at the museum through partnerships with universities around the state.

The museum is already "one of the world's foremost centers of research and training in the natural sciences, the physical sciences and anthropology," said Johanna Duncan-Poitier, deputy commissioner for higher education in New York State.

The new programs will emphasize field work and students will have a "Darwinian side to their approach," said Michael Novacek, provost and senior vice president at the museum.

"We are seeing a great need for people who know how to identify animals and plants and work in the field," he said.

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