Some of this is a summary of stuff in the WEC Graduate Student Handbook, and some of it is unwritten rules that are not clear at all from reading the Handbook.
A WEC committee needs to have 5 members total, with 2 members from WEC and 1 member from a non-WEC department. You should have a committee by the end of your second semester.
You have to take quals by the end of your third semester. There’s a written part (from each committee member, you’ll get a set of questions you have to answer in a day) and then an oral part (could be related to written part, happens a couple weeks after written part). As soon as your quals are scheduled (probably a couple of months in advance), you should email each committee member individually to ask what topics they would like you to brush up on. They might give you a list of specific papers to read, or a general topic like “study metacommunities,” or they might not tell you to study anything in particular at all. A week or two before your quals, email each committee member again to remind them of the dates of your quals, remind them what they told you to study, and ask if they have anything to add. Each committee member gives you a written exam with rules set by that member, so it may be open- or closed-book (i.e. are you allowed to look stuff up), and a time limit (i.e. 8 hours). Generally the committee will send their exams to your adviser who will dispense them to you at the beginning of each day (or whenever you choose to have them dispensed). In between the written exams and the oral exam you may or may not get any feedback from your committee on how you did. In the oral exam, your committee may ask you to clarify or expand on your answers from the written exam.
See “Summary of PhD Degree Credit Requirements” section in the WEC Graduate Student Handbook [here] (http://www.wec.ufl.edu/grad/October%202014%20WEC%20Grad%20Handbook.pdf)
Clarifications on this section:
None of the upper credit limits are actually limits on the number of credits that count towards the degree except for Supervised Teaching. For example, you can, and should, take more than 15 Doctoral Dissertation Research credits between quals and defense.
For Supervised Teaching (WIS 6940), you can take as many of these credits as you want while TAing/teaching, but only 5 credits will count towards your PhD limit.
You need 90 credits to get a PhD, but it doesn’t actually matter where those credits come from. You don’t need 30 credits from a master’s, for example. The list in this section of the Handbook is just one possible way to divvy up credits.
Many things can be petitioned, just make sure your committee is on board with this. Your advisor creates the petition, with the support of your committee members, and then gives it to the graduate coordinator for approval.
Credits that are transferred to UF initially only count towards total number of credits for PhD, and then your committee decides what the content of those transfer credits count towards, such as if they fulfill areas of emphasis reqs.
You do have to take 12 credits with either a WIS or ALS prefix, though special topics (WIS 6905) can count towards those so it should be easy to fulfill.
Speaking of Special Topics (WIS 6905), the intention of this type of credit is for “independent teaching”. So, if you find that you’re spending substantial time teaching yourself something, you can get that registered as Special Topics. Then your advisor, or whoever is overseeing your Special Topics, just has to give you a grade for your work at the end. You can only take 5 credits of this type per semester, but can take many more than that throughout your PhD (see first point).
Apparently if you take enough credits in a particular area, it is pretty easy to get a non-thesis master’s for that work, and this often happens accidentally.
The other Special Topics are WIS 6934, and these are more formal classes taught by whoever that are oftentimes one-off. You can also count more than 10 of these credits towards your PhD (see first point).