Montana State University

Department of Ecology

Montana State University
P.O. Box 173460
Bozeman, MT 59717-3460

Tel: (406) 994-4548
Fax: (406) 994-3190
Location: 310 Lewis Hall

Department Chair

Dr. David Roberts

News Archives

You may view these archived articles about members of the Department of Ecology and activities. By clicking on the publisher's name, you will link to that website, or by clicking on the title you will find a black and white *.pdf of the article.

Mt.Erebus Crew

This photo was taken by Bob Garrott during the 2013 research season. The crew are part of the NSF research project on Weddell seals that has been collecting data for about 40 years. From left to right are Brandi Skone, Thierry Chambert, Michael Yarnall, and Joel Forrest. Brandi was completing her M.S. and Thierry graduated with his PhD in December. Michael and Joel had recently graduated with their B.S. in Biological Sciences from our department. Mount Erebus in the background is an active volcano covered in glacier ice on Ross Island.An exciting opportunity in the Department of Ecology!

2013 was a big year for the Mountain Ungulate Project. A team of surveyors completed the third year of data collection. You may view the season summary for the project. You'll even find some mountain research camp recipes to try.

Wild World by Sepp Jannotta, published in the Fall volume of the MSU publication Mountains and Minds features our Ecology department research partnership. This article details how the lessons learned from Yellowstone research are helping to preserve one of the world's most ecologically intact wildernesses, the Liuwa Plain in Zambia. A slide show on the site, narrated by Dr. Scott Creel, Professor, will help you to picture this wild world. Enjoy!

Graduate Students Ryan Lamb (Dr. Billie Kerans) and Matt Dresser (Dr. Jay Rotella) coordinated student volunteers to come to the Belgrade Middle School Ecology Field Trip on October 4, 2013. Laura Heil (Dr. Laura Burkle) and Cody Deane (Dr. Jay Rotella) were amoung those who spent about half a day with these 7th grade science students. The teachers and students were enthusiastic in their appreciation. We commend our students for this commitment in the community.

"A Critical Crossroad for BLM's Wild Horse Program" appears in the August 23, 2013, issue of Science. This article is co-authored by Dr. Robert Garrott, Director of the Fish and Wildlife Ecology and Management Program in the department. The authors present "A Way Forward" in dealing with an extremely controversial subject. Please share!

The Bozeman Chronicle featured "New Jack Creek outdoor classsroom to inspire students, assist MSU" to acknowledge of the grand opening of the Jack Creek Preserve Outdoor Education Center. The online article includes interviews with the Jon Fossel, Jack Creek Preserve Foundation founder, and Professor Robert Garrott, MSU member of the foundation board, and photos highlighting the facilities which were dedicated Saturday, August 10, 2013. This is the culmination of a huge effort on Bob's part and represents a great opportunity for students in the department and the university more generally.   As the representative of he department and the Fish and Wildlife Ecology and Management Program, students will have enhanced field opportunities in our courses and labs.

MSU News spotlighted the breakthrough research on how bears use highway crossings. Coinciding with the Society of Conservation Biology's biennial international conference, the paper details what genetic testing on 10,000 hair samples showed about the demographic effect that the Banff crossings have on area bear populations. Congratulations to Thomas Clevenger, Professor Steven Kalinowski, Department of Ecology, and Michael Sawaya, 2012 doctoral graduate from the department for this significant contribution of research.

Our recently retired department ecologist, Dr. Dan Gustafson, is featured in an article about the research collection that he is donating to MSU. You may read the story at n-to-montana-entomology-collection.

CHAR WARS, "a fight against invasive lake trout in Montana's national parks," is a feature article in the Spring 2013 issue of Mountains & Minds. The article highlights research in Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park being conducted by Dr. Christopher Guy (Department of Ecology, Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit) in cooperation with several state and federal natural resource agencies. The article also describes the importance of Montana State University's fisheries science program in addressing complex research questions. Research conducted by Dr. Thomas McMahon and investigations by former graduate students, Dr. Clint Muhlfeld and Dr. Peter Brown, have contributed to the understanding of lake trout ecology and their effects on native fishes. The fisheries science conducted at Montana State University, Department of Ecology assists natural resource agencies working on strategies in this battle between native and non-native fishes.

An international team of ecologists continue to study stream ecology in the Hengill region of Iceland. Participants from the MSU lab of Dr. Wyatt Cross include post doctoral researcher, Dr. James Hood, and degree candidates James Junker and Tanner Williamson. You can follow their progress this summer at

The Department is proud of the recent recognition given to graduate student, Alex Anderson, and faculty members, Dr. Al Zale, and Dr. Bob Bramblett of the Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit. Alex's leadership in conservation in Belize well prepared him for his degree work. His current research will provide information necessary to keep his country's conch industry sustainable into the future. Please read the full fearute article by Evelyn Bo0swell, MSU News Service, "Strong ties between fly fishers lead to MSU, Belize collaboration."

Erin Kenison, M.S.graduate student with Dr. Andrea Litt, was awarded the Best Poster presentation by a Student at the annual meeting of the Western Division of the American Fisheries Society. Her posted featured "Where are long-toes salamanders found in a game of hide-and-seek with trout?" This meeting was held April 15-18, 2013, in Boise, ID. Erin received a Student Travel Grant from the College of Letters and Science at MSU to support her participation at the meeting. Congratulations, Erin!

The Awards Committee of the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona honors outstanding achievements of students, teachers and staff of the School around this time of the year. At the same time, the School also believes it is important to honor the accomplishments of our former students. This year, the Awards Committee presented the SNRE Outstanding Alumnus Award to Dr. Andrea Litt, based on nominations supported by several faculty.  The award recognizes her achievements in teaching, service to the profession, and scholarship (including, but not only, your award-winning monograph) since graduation. This announcement was received from Istvan Molnar, PhD, Associate Professor and Associate Director Natural Products Center Office of Arid Lands Studies. You may want to review the the monograph, Interactive Effects of Fire and Nonnative Plants on Small Mammals in Grasslands.

Plant-Pollinator Interactions over 120 Years: Loss of Species, Co-Occurance and Function. The publication of this research by Dr. Laura Burkle in the newest issue of Science magazine is generating international interest in the decline of bumblebees and other wild bee species. Her interview with National Public Radio on March 1 emphasizes the valuable role of wild bees in the pollinating of crops. Burkle and her colleagues revisited an area around Carlinville, IL, to compare data provided by professor Charles Robertson 120 years ago with the current flower and bee interactions and populations. She is currently researching the effects of climate change on plant-pollinator interactions at sites in the Rocky Mountains in Montana. You may view additonal perspectives featuring her research at several sites:
MSU News, The Guardian, Science on NBC News, or The Bozeman Daily Chronicle. We are celebrating this achievement!

The Daily Planet Trending recently aired "Seal Swim" which was filmed by M.S. candidate, Jesse DeVoe, in the Antarctic during his research with Dr. Robert Garrott. You will learn more about Weddell seals from this segment that aired on November 15, 2013, Discovery Channel Canada through January 19, 2014.

As in the past several years,  MSU-Ecology students almost swept the awards at the annual conference of state chapter of The Wildlife Society.  Angela Brennan (advisor, Dr. Scott Creel) won the best Ph.D. student presentation, and Brandi Skone (advisor, Dr. Jay Rotella) won the best M.S. student presentation, Brandi also won the Wynn Freeman Scholarship, and Erin Kenison (advisor, Dr. Andrea Litt) won a research grant to help support her thesis work.  We had approximately 25 graduate and undergraduate students attend the meetings in Whitefish as well as Dr. Andrea Litt and Dr. Robert Garrott.  Our undergraduates assisted at the registration desk and helped at various sessions manning computers and projection systems. They all participated in the quiz bowl and had a lot of fun.  Professional connections were made, and students came away from the meetings excited about the profession and reinvigorated to tackle the rest of the academic year and gain some experience over the summer.  

Skone scholar
Angela Brennan
Brandi Skone
Erin Kenison
Wynn Freeman Scholarship

The Great Falls Tribune featured the research of Brian Tornabene in an extensive article titled "Scappy, Secretive Turtle Gives Up Secrets." Brian in earning the MS in Fish and Wildlife Management under Dr. Bob Bramblett and Dr. Al Zale. He is investigating the ecology of the spiny softshell turtle, the northernmost example of this species found in the USA. A follow-up editorial, "Speedy, spiny turtles turn heads," emphasized the value of this research.

Michael Simanonok, candidate for the MS in Biological Sciences inwith Dr. Laura Burkle, was selected by the Graduate School as a recipeint of a Meritorious Graduate Fellowship for the 2013-14 Academic Year to begin his PhD degree program. This fellowship is awarded for a truly outstanding academic record. Congratulations, Mike!

The Department of Ecology is collaborating with the Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP) and the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) in an ambitious study of large carnivores in Zambia's huge but mostly unstudeid nationl parks. Details and photo at, p. 31.

Senior Ryan McClure spent the summer conducting research on stream ecosystems in Iceland through the research experience for undergraduates (REU) program with Dr. Wyatt Cross and Dr. James Hood. Details and photo at p. 31.

The Mountain Ungulate Research Team recently completed a full season in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Led by Jesse DeVoe, graduate student of Dr. Robert Garrott, the team included technicians who graduated from MSU: Carson Butler, Marcus Hockett, Kaitlin Macdonald, and Jordan Meyer-Morey. The team produced a beautiful summary of their activities. Click here to experience the science and the adventure.

The department welcomed Assistant Professor, Dr. Jia Hu, on March 4 as our plant physiological ecologist working on climate change impacts. Dr. Hu comes from the University of Sydney where her research has been supported as The Australia Research Council, Discovery Early Careers Research Award Fellow. Her PhD was earned from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, under Dr. Russell Monson. She brings experience in teaching and developing undergraduate courses on both campuses.

Yellowstone's Wildlife in Transition examines the changes to the Park's ecology in the past several decades. This readable and well illustrated book for ecologists and nature enthusiasts is edited by Professor, Robert Garrott, and wildlife biologists, P.J. White and Glenn Plumb, of the US National Park Service. Many of the chapters reflect research in collaboration with department faculty and affiliates: Matthew Becker, Thomas Oliff, Charles Schwartz, David McWethy, Wyatt Cross, Cathy Whitlock, Robert Gresswell, and Lisa Baril, in addition to the editors, White and Plumb. The forward by the distinquished Edward O. Wilson emphasizes the value of this book available through Harvard Univerisity Press. Professional photographer for the book, Cindy Goeddel, is earning her BS in Biological Sciences through the department. The Bozeman Chronicle features an interview with Dr. Garrott.
photo cover

Dr. David Roberts, Chair and Professor in the Department of Ecology, collaborated with Dr. Robert Peet to write Chapter 2 in Vegetation Ecology, Second Edition, just published by Wiley-Blackwell. Vegetation Ecology is a comprehensive, integrated account of plant communities and their environments that was written by leading experts in their field from four continents. This new edition is aimed at advanced undergraduates, graduates and researchers and teachers in plant ecology, geography, forestry and nature conservation. Chapter 2 reviews the classification of natural and semi-natural vegetation. Dr. Roberts teaches several vegetation courses for the department.

Dr. Al Zale, Director of the Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit in the Department of Ecology, is lead editor of the 3rd edition of Fisheries Techniques. This resource was published in December 2012 by the American Fisheries Society.  It is the primary text and reference volume on fisheries sampling and analysis techniques. Dr. Zale has been at MSU since 1994, serving as Leader of the Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit since 2002. He works primarily on fisheries conservation, restoration, and management problems in close collaboration with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, U.S. Department of Interior agencies, and various NGOs and teaches a graduate course entitled “Human Dimensions of Fish and Wildlife Management.”  bookcover

Dr. Andrea Litt, Assistant Professor in the Ecology Department, and her doctoral advisor, Dr. Robert Steidl, were selected by The Wildlife Society as recipients of the Wildlife Publications Award - Outstanding Monograph, for "Interactive effects of fire and nonnative plants on small mammals in grasslands." Wildlife Monographs 176:1-31. The formal announcement and presentation of the award occurred during the society's Award Ceremony on October 15th during their 19 Anual Conference in Portland, Oregon. Congratulations!

KXLF news coverage has included a story about The Jack Creek Preserve Foundation land and conservation education center near MSU. This nonprofit group is opening up 4,600 acres of land to MSU students and faculty for use as a natural laboratory. Dr. Bob Garrott, Department of Ecology and Director of the Fish and Wildlife Management Program in the department, has been a leader in working with Scott Fossel, the treasurer of the foundation and multiple MSU departments.

matandiko MSU Dr. Wigganson Matandiko has completed his first year as a PhD student in the Department of Ecology. The former ZAWA Head of Veterinary Services was awarded the prestigious Fulbright scholarship in 2011. Wigganson is co-advised by MSU Professor Dr. Scott Creel and ZCP CEO Dr. Matt Becker, affiliate assistant professor, and his research focus is on large mammal predator-prey dynamics and disease ecology in Zambia. In addition to his Fulbright Dr. Matandiko is supported through the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of an initiative evaluating the direct and indirect impacts of large carnivores on ecosystems and the effects of carnivore removal. Zambian Carnivore Programme Quarterly Newsletter, 1st July 2012, includes additional information about the research program and connections to MSU.

"The Madison" newspaper featured the research of Jan Boyer, a graduate student ih the CooperativeFisheries Research unit of the Department of Ecology on May 17. Her study is part of the effort to understand the life cycle of native Mountain Whitefish and monitor their population with cooperation from fishermen.

MSU-Ecology was very well represented at the Montana Chapter of The Wildlife Society Meetings in Great Falls this past spring semester.  This was one of the best years we have ever had for participation.  There were approximately 30 undergraduate and graduate students attending as well as 3 faculty.  Fourteen oral presentations on the schedule were from our department participants. These included one faculty member, undergraduates, current MS and PhD students, and recently graduated BS students.  Four graduate students also presented posters.  Eleven current Ecology Department faculty were coauthors on these presentations as well as one emeritus faculty. 

Our department received a significant portion of students awards:
          Best undergraduate student presentation:  Elizabeth Flesch
          Best MS graduate student presentation:    Megan O'Reilly
          Best poster presentation:                       Daniel Bachen
          Best poster presentation:                       Shana Dunkley

Elizabeth Flesch was presented the Montana Chapter's Annual Wynn Freeman Award during the conference.

Dan Bachen also won a  research scholarship sponsored Counter Assault, a company that manufactures bear spray products.

Dr. Robert Garrott, faculty sponsor, was enthusisastic about the participation. "Everyone had a great time, was informed and inspired by the speakers and presentations, and made lots of professional connections.  Many thanks to all the faculty that helped make this a great event for our students and encouraged your students to participate.  This meeting is the highlight of the academic year for most students who participate and it is great for our department to be so well represented at this conference which was attended by over 200 natural resource professionals and academics from Montana and the surrounding region. Many thanks to the Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society officers who did the lion's share of logistics organization to get everyone to the meetings and to all the department faculty."

The Bozeman Chronicle featured the research of Dr. Robert Garrott, director of the Fish and Wildife Ecology and Management Program, in the OutThere section in February. This research is helping to address the concern that introduced mountain goatsmay threaten native bighorn sheep in ecosystems surrounding Yellowstone National Park. You may want to follow this link for a brief uTube video about the project:

Forty top seniors and their faculty or staff mentors were chosen to be recognized with the 30th Annual Awards for Excellence. Elizabeth Flesch, Fish and Wildlife Management Option, from Bettendorf, Iowa, and Amanda Zellar, Organismal Biology Option, from Billings, MT, will be honored at the banquest sponsored by the MSU Alumni Foundation and the Bozeman Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Feb. 21. Elizabeth selected Ecology professor, Dr. Robert Garrott, to attend as her mentor. The full list of students and their mentors is provided by MSU News Service with details about the presentation.

Gregg Treinish was recently recognized as one of "30 under 30" by the Christian Science Monitor as a "Modern Explorer" (p. 25). Gregg earned his second degree, the B.S. in Biological Sciences, Ecology and Evolution Option, from the Department of Ecology in 2010. In 2008 he was named "Adventurer of the Year" by National Geographic Society for his 7,800-mile trek of the Andes Mountains. He is making a difference with his Bozeman based organization, Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. We are excited about his accomplishments. Larkin Guenther, who graduated with the same degree in December, 2011, has joined his staff as Executive Assistant. We encourage you to learn more about his organization.

TROUT U by Michael Becker for the College of Letters and Science Confluence Magazine(Volume 8) features the applied research of Tom McMahon. The Ecology Department's Fish and Wildlife Management Program, founded in 1936, has a strong partnership with state and federal agences for solving management problems such as whirling disease, interactions between native and non-native trout, and the effects of climate change on fish.

A four-year project to provide land managers in the country's federally managed lands with better information for addressing climate and land use changes has been "launched" by Andy Hansen. NASA remote-sensing data will be used to simulate how the ecosystems of two Landscape Conservation Cooperatives will change. (Confluence, Volume 8)

This fall Mariah Mayfield traveled to Washington, D.C. to present her work to officials from the EPA and other federal agencies. A master's degree student in the department, she received a 2010 EPA Science To Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship to expand her study of trout numbers, habits and habitat. (Confluence, Volume 8)

MSU Fisheries scientists continue to montitor the ecological impact of the oil spill on the Yellowstone River in July. (Confluence, Volume 8)

Martha Potvin, who became MSU's new provost and vice president for academic affairs in 2011, is tenured in the Department of Ecology. (Confluence, Volume 8)

Several members of the department have volunteered to mentor students from Chief Joseph Middle School in Bozeman. These science students are preparing science fair projects for the state competition this spring. Their instructor, Brian McGeehan, explained that it has been an "amazing learning experience" for past participants, and students have placed 1st and 2nd in recent competition. The department would like to acknowledge and thank our volunteers: Adam Mitchell, M.S. in Biological Sciences candidate and Dan Bachen, M.S. in Fish and Wildlife Managment candidate, both with Dr. Andrea Litt, and Dr. Paul Cross, Affiliate Faculty from NOROCK of the USGS.

The 18th Annual Conference of The Wildlife Society in Waikoloa, Hawaii, November 5-10, included presentations by two Department of Ecology graduate students.  Brittany Mosher shared her Masters' thesis work in a talk titled, "Avian community response to a mountain pine beetle epidemic" in the Ecology and Habitat Relationships of Birds Session.  The Wildlife Society has announced that Brittany has won the Student Presentation Award for this conference. She was also responsible for moderating the session.  Britanny's thesis work is co-advised by Vicki Saab (USDA Forest Service) and Jay Rotella (Department of Ecology). Glenn Stauffer, PhD candidate with Jay Rotella, spoke on his research, "Temporary emigration of female Weddell seals prior to first reproduction," in the Population Dynamics of Mammals Session. Both students were recipients of $500 Student Research Travel Grants from the College of Letters and Science.

A team of graduate students, researchers, and faculty from the Department of Ecology have just returned from McMurdo, Antarctica. Professors Bob Garrott and Jay Rotella have been part of a team for many years who are studying the population ecology of Weddell seals. These seals raise pups in the area during the Antarctic spring. They are joined this year by PhD candidate, Thierry Chambert, two former undergraduates, Jesse DeVoe and Michael Yarnall, additional research technicians, Jessica Farrer and Darren Roberts, and video journalist, Mary Lynn Price. A pilot program is developing curricular activities with several Bozeman schools. You may follow their research experiences in two ways. This is the link to the blog:, and there is a link to the team's Weddell Seal Science webportal:

MSU fishery scientists to assess impact of oil spill, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, July 6, 2011. Department of Ecology and the Montana Cooperative Fisheries Research Unit work with government agencies.

Study Trip to Thailand, Amanda Zellar, undergraduate student in the Organismal Biology option, was on of the students from MSU-Bozeman who took a study trip to Thailand this summer as the culmination of a spring honors class. The course explored basic principles of public health in Thailand and was taught by Dr. Wade Hill. Several photos from the trip are available on the MSU Family page.

Where's whitey? apparent decline in mountain whitefish has biologists concerned, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, April 21, 2011. Chris Guy and Montana Cooperative Fisheries Research Unit helping to launch research efforts.

MSU team returns to "little slice of frozen Eden, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, November 15, 2010. Features faculty and graduate student research in Antarctica.

Disease detectives: Bozeman lab on the front lines of wildlife disease research in Montana, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, November 7, 2010. Photo features department undergraduate students Haley Knepper, Lauryn McDowell, and Ashlee Peery.