Description of Program

Established in 1936, the Fish and Wildlife Management Program at MSU is one of the oldest and most successful natural resource programs in the United States. The Program, which offers BS (Fish and Wildlife Management Option of the Biological Sciences Degree), MS, and PhD (joint program with the University of Montana) degrees, has awarded over 270 graduate degrees since 1936. Current undergraduate enrollment is around 200. More than 30 graduate students are enrolled in MS or PhD programs.

Montana State University is located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in a panoramic setting. Mountains, prairies, and blue-ribbon trout streams are all within minutes of campus. Yellowstone National Park and its world-renowned wildlife and fish populations is 90 miles from campus. Accordingly, much of the Fish and Wildlife Management Program's research is conducted close to campus.

Faculty, staff and graduate students in the Program conduct research on the ecology and management of diverse mammal, bird, and fish species.  Special emphasis is directed towards applied work. The Fish and Wildlife Program has six faculty members in the Ecology Department and two members of the Montana Cooperative Fisheries Research Unit of the USGS Biological Resources Division, all of whom advise graduate students in the curriculum.

Some examples of recent or current areas of study are: various land impact studies concerning deer, elk, pronghorn, bison, and other species of wild ungulates; population studies of deer, bighorn sheep, and other species; inter-specific relationships between deer and other wild and domestic ungulates; effects of climate upon the population ecology of large mammals; ecology and habitat management of waterfowl; raptor (bald eagle, osprey, ferruginous hawk) habitat studies; bird population studies in relation to land use changes; inter-specific competition between carnivores; ecology of warm- and cold-water fisheries; and management of whirling disease.

Fish and Wildlife Management faculty

Dr. Robert Garrott - Prof. Wildlife Management: Ungulate ecology, population dynamics and population condition assessment.

Dr. Christopher Guy - Assistant Leader, Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, Affiliate Professor of Fisheries Management: Applied fisheries science; population ecology; predator-prey interactions; fisheries management.

Dr. Andrea Litt - Associate Professor: Effects of invasive species on wildlife, restoration ecology, quantitative ecology.

Dr. Steven Kalinowski - Professor: Population genetics, evolutionary theory, and conservation.

Dr. Thomas E. McMahon - Prof. Fisheries Management: Fish behavior and ecology, fish-habitat relationships, riparian management effects of fisheries.

Dr. Jay J. Rotella - Prof. Wildlife Management: Ecology, population dynamics, habitat relationships, and management of waterfowl, upland game birds, and non-game birds.

Dr. Christine Verhille - Assistant Professor: Fish ecophysiology, cardiovascular physiology, fish conservation.

Dr. David Willey - Adjunct Research Associate Professor: Ecology; population dynamics; habitat relationships; and management of avian species.    

Dr. Alexander V. Zale - Leader, Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit; Professor of Fisheries Management: Applied aquatic ecology, hydropower, reservoirs, fisheries management.


The Ecology Department is involved in an initiative to fund a Trout and Coldwater Fisheries chair as a part of MSU's What It Takes capital campaign. This chair will strengthen the department's opportunities for fisheries students to learn about trout conservation and to participate in important research in Montana's coldwater fisheries.