The CFC’s Climate Change Studies program has a three-year grant from the USDA -National Institute of Food and Agriculture to run a field course, field research, and internships studying climate change impacts to mountain ecosystems, forests, and agricultural lands. This week, Climate Change Studies instructor Nicky Phear is presenting to the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture conference on UM’s program. Students take a 10- day field course in Montana’s Crown of the Continent studying glaciers in Glacier National Park; surveying a whitebark pine forest experiencing a bark beetle outbreak; touring a lumber mill and learning about biomass energy; monitoring a forest restoration site in the Blackfoot Valley; and visiting with ranchers to discuss impacts of long-term drought. Students then participate in an internship at a local government agency, non-profit, or business. Select students also receive stipends to conduct their own field research.
A survey of how the course and internships impacted students shows that participants improve their knowledge of and develop practical skills to address climate change, improve their ability to communicate about climate change in a professional setting, and develop a network of contacts in the climate change field.