Graduate training in multi-scale analysis of forest disturbance ecology
In 2009, the University of Montana was awarded a multi-year grant through the prestigious USDA National Needs Fellowship Program (NNFP). The NNFP provides funding to recruit and train top students in areas of critical need in the US.
The focus of the NNFP at UM:
Resource management in forest ecosystems requires knowledge of the complex role of disturbance on processes and patterns in forest ecosystems as well as recognition of the unique challenges of managing forests in a changing environment. Managing for a complex set of objectives under static conditions requires skill, but today's resource managers must have the knowledge and ability to address these objectives in the context of a suite of novel environmental perturbations and shifting climatic regimes. Our program is addressing this critical need by training two MS students and two Ph.D. students in forest disturbance ecology. Upon completion, our fellows will excel in leadership roles as resource managers and scientists and will enter their professions with advanced skills in forest disturbance and landscape ecology.
Our approach leverages existing strengths at the University of Montana as well as developing three interactive and experiential opportunities that are available solely to fellows:
- The development/ implementation of a multi-scale, collaborative research project in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (and beyond);
- leadership in the development of a conference symposium on disturbance ecology in a changing environment; and
- the development/implementation of a “adaptive” workshop designed to disseminate the results of the collaborative research project to a wide variety of stakeholders.
Students are developing the following core competencies:
- the ability to conduct and interpret plot-level research in forest disturbance ecology;
- an advanced understanding of stand level disturbance processes that affect forest community dynamics;
- the analytical and geospatial skills necessary for examining disturbance effects on landscape-scale patterns and processes;
- an in-depth understanding of how land use, disturbance, and climate change affect forests at multiple spatial scales; and
- the ability to conduct, communicate, and apply multi-scaled research to resource management problems. Graduates of the NNFP at UM will have the capacity to holistically examine the role of disturbance, climate change, and land use patterns on western US forests and employ this knowledge to solve applied problems in forest resource management in the context of environmental change.