TitleOutdoor Classroom Vehicles Request Date2012-11-29
DepartmentAnimal and Range Sciences
RequestorBok Sowell Phone994-5558
Campuses Bozeman Billings Havre Great Falls FSTS Extension MAES
Cross Depts Department of Animal and Range Sciences (Bok Sowell), Department of Ecology (Robert Garrott), Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences (Cathy Zabinski)
Proposed Dates Start: March 15, 2013 End: August 15, 2013
Field trips are an essential educational tool for students studying natural resources in three departments at Montana State University-Bozeman. Transporting students to outdoor locations is becoming increasingly difficult due to changes in MSU vehicle policies and the lack of private alternatives. This is a proposal to purchase 7 moderately used shuttle busses. These vehicles will be used to transport MSU students to various field trip locations including the Jack Creek Preserve, which will be used as an outdoor classroom. The rental fees currently paid to motor pool for field trips will be sufficient to replace these busses in 15 years.
This proposal meets a number of goals outlined in the Strategic Plan of 2012. First, this proposal helps to prepare students for careers in natural resources. Employers want students with field experience as well as academic training. Students who have field experience are much more competitive. Many MSU-Bozeman students are selected for positions because they have received outdoor training as part of their educational experience. Ecology students have been hired over other students for jobs because they have taken a field oriented Wildlife Techniques class (WILD 373). Due to transportation issues, it is becoming more difficult for professors to offer these experiences as part of their courses. The purchase of these shuttle busses will insure our students continue a tradition of “hands-on” training and learning environments which meets objective L.3: increase job placement and further education.

Secondly, outdoor experiences increase freshman retention rates (objective L.2.4). One 100-level course that would use these shuttle busses has an enrollment of 200 students in six lab sections in the Fall 2012 semester, and includes three separate field trips and outdoor training experiences.

The third objective of the strategic plan that is met by this proposal would be to increase engagement (E.1.1). Since the students are in an outdoor environment to see how theory and management ideas are applied, it meets a fourth objective of the strategic plan, that of increasing integration (I.1.1).

Finally, since we will be reducing the number of vehicles needed to transport students, we will be meeting a fifth objective of the strategic plan by improving the stewardship (objective S.4.1) to promote sustainable conservation of resources and reduce greenhouse gas emission.
Funding Type: One-Time Only Funding Base (3-yr Recurring) Funding
  FY13 FY14 FY15 Base ($) OTO Startup ($)   FTE;
Materials & Supplies 210000             
Contracted Services              
Other Operations              
TOTAL 210000     
Please comment, if necessary, regarding cost and requirements.

Shuttle busses which hold 15 passengers, have low milage (50,000 miles or less), and do not require a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to operate average $30,000 each.  The Department of Animal and Range Sciences currently spends $10,000 per year on student field trips.  The Departments of Ecology and Land Resources each spend approximately $5,000 per year on field trips.  Therefore, these three departments spend a combined total of $20,000 per year on student field trips and field labs.  Over 80% of these fees are for rental costs.  This money could be used to fuel, maintain and eventually replace these vehicles.  We estimate that these vehicles should last 10-15 years with proper maintenance.  Therefore, we should be able to purchase replacement shuttle busses in 12 years ($20,000/year x 0.8 x 12 years = $210,000).

Describe the Proposal

Our majors require that students learn about natural resources in the field.  Since the motor pool no longer uses high profile 15 passenger vans due to the high rate of accidents, we have been forced to use as many as 5 vehicles that are driven by student drivers on a single field trip.  One freshman level class uses over 30 student drivers.  The directors at Facility Services have made it clear that they will not be allowed to purchase passenger busses for classes.  This makes it very difficult to recruit the number of student drivers needed to transport these students, and has already resulted in one traffic accident.  We have exhausted all the local carriers (Karst Stage, First Student and Belgrade Schools) to find an alternative solution.  They are either too expensive or cannot fit our classes into their schedule.  Local car rental companies will not allow most of our students to drive because they are too young.  Students have been asked to drive themselves to the field location, but the liability of this practice is subject to broad interpretation (Leslie Taylor).  It appears that the best way to solve this problem is to purchase 15 passenger shuttle busses which are much more stable than 15 passenger high profile vans.  These vehicles could be driven by instructors and graduate students since they do not require a CDL.

Describe the broader impacts and benefits of this proposal

The purchase of these shuttle busses would serve hundreds of students and the general public. In addition to the safety benefits for our students, another broader impact and benefit is that much of the learning of a typical field trip occurs in the vehicle on the way to and from the field trip location. With personal or rental vehicles, the instructor and/or TA can only be in one vehicle, so there is undoubtedly less instruction in the other vehicles.  Additionally, MSU faculty are promoting a partnership with the Jack Creek Preserve Foundation that would give our faculty and students access to the 4000 acre Preserve and the Education Center that is currently being built. MSU-Bozeman hosts a number of outdoor workshops which are open to the public.  We would make these shuttle busses available to other departments for a use fee.  There are also a number of conferences held on the MSU campus, and all of them schedule outdoor activities which involve transportation issues.  These busses could be used to assist many other programs on campus for a rental fee.

We have included a list of classes that require field trips and the number of students served by each Department.

Animal & Range Sciences Courses which take field trips:

Class                                                                                                                      Number of Students

 NRSM 102 Montana Range Plants                                                          200

NRSM 235 Range and Pasture Monitoring                                                  20

NRSM 240 Natural Resource Ecology                                                          80

NRSM 455 Riparian Ecology and Management                                             40

NRSM 353 Grazing Ecology and Management                                              40

NRSM 330 Fire Ecology                                                                             40

WILD 438 Wildlife Habitat Ecology                                                             30

WILD 325 Wildlife-Livestock Nutrition                                                         30

ARNR 490R Range Wildlife Field Class                                                        20

WILD 426 Topics in Wildlife Habitat                                                            20

WILD 355 Wildlife-Livestock Habitat Restoration                                          30


Ecology Courses which take field trips:

Class                                                                                                                      Number of Students

 BIOE 455-Plant Ecology                                                                           18

BIOE 427 Aquatic Field Ecology                                                                  15

WILD 301 Principles of Fish and Wildlife Management                                  60

WILD 373 Wildlife Management Techniques                                                15

WILD 401 Topics in Fish and Wildlife                                                          15

BIOE 494-Understanding Ecological Systems Through Geographic               

         Comparison                                                                                    10

BIOO 475-Mammalogy                                                                             50

BIOE 580 Trout Stream Ecology – MSSE                                                       10

BIOO 415 Ichthyology                                                                               30

WILD 513 Fish Habitat Management                                                           15

BIOL 520 Understanding and Managing Animal Biodiversity                           

          in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem – MSSE                                     10

BIOO 470  Ornithology                                                                              32

WILD 501 Population Biology                                                                     12

BIOL522 Raptors of the Northern Rockies-MSSE                                            10

BIOL523 Wildlife Ecology of the Northern Rockies-MSSE                                 10

BIOE 591 Predators and Prey – MSSE                                                            5

BIOE 591 Alpine Ecology – MSSE                                                                  28


Land Resources and Environmental Sciences Courses which take field trips:

Class                                                                                                                      Number of Students

ENSC 110 Land Resources and Environmental Sciences                                 100

ENSC 245 Soils                                                                                         240

ENSC 353 Environmental Biogeochemistry                                                      35

ENSC 410 Diversity Methods                                                                         15

ENSC 444 Hydrology                                                                                    30

ENSC 448 Stream Restoration Ecology                                                            15

ENSC 454 Pedology                                                                                      40

ENSC 460 Soil Remediation                                                                           30

ENSC 461 Restoration Ecology                                                                        50

ENSC 56x Land rehab case studies                                                                 20

Implementation Plan

We hope to purchase at least 3 of the shuttle busses by May 2013, so that they could be used for summer classes after they are licensed.  We should have the remainder of the busses purchased by August 2012 and ready for fall classes.  The Departments of Ecology and LRES will be assigned two busses.   The Department of Animal and Range Sciences will be assigned 3 busses, since one class has some sections with 35 students.  Due to increasing class sizes, there may be times when some classes will need additional busses.  Any scheduling conflicts will be decided by a committee of Dr. Bok Sowell, Dr. Robert Garrott and Dr. Cathy Zabinski.

Assessment Plan

We will keep records of vehicle use by all user groups to document their use by MSU-Bozeman.

If assessed objectives are not met in the timeframe outlined what is the plan to sunset this proposal?

There is no need to sunset this proposal if the busses are not purchased.

Department Head: Glenn Duff (
Dean/Director: Jeff Jacobsen (
Executive/VP: Martha Potvin (