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

Current News and Events

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Fall 2013 Dean's List and President's List - January 3, 2014

2013 Department Scholarship Awards Recipients

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Dr. David Pilliod, Supervisory Research Ecologist, USGS - Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, Idaho, will be in Bozeman Aptil 8-9.  David will present a special seminar - Will Environmental DNA Analysis Revolutionize Our Understanding of Species Distributions and Biodiversity? - on Tuesday, April 8, 3 pm, in 304 Lewis Hall.  We are also scheduling additional events associated with his visit.  Please contact Andrea Litt,, for additional details.

The department welcomed Assistant Professor, Dr. Benjamin Poulter, on January 1, 2014, as our ecological modeler. He will also be doing research with the Institute on Ecosystems. Dr. Poulter comes from the Laboratoire des Sciencs du Climat et de L'Environnement in France where he is a research scientist. His PhD was earned at Duke University, North Carolina. He brings experience in teaching and research from the Swiss Federal Research Institute, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, and Peking University.

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You may view these current 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 underlined key words you may find a black and white *.pdf of the article.


The Annual State Chapter of the Wildlife Society had a great turn out from our Ecology Department in Bozeman, March 5 - 7, just prior to spring break. The TWS conference was attended by approximately 150 professionals from across the state and we had 3 faculty, 8-10 graduate students, and about 28 undergraduates students attending. Our students were everywhere throughout the conference activities, volunteering at the registration desk and for fund raising activities, moderating oral presentation sessions, running computer projection systems, and of course, participating in both the poster and oral presentation sessions. 

There were 6 oral presentations and 4 posters lead by our students and we swept the student awards with Adam Kehoe winning the best student poster and Erin Kennison winning the best student oral presentation.  Erin also won the state chapter's Wynn Freeman award recognizing an outstanding MSU student. A graduate of our MS program, Mike Thompson, was honored with the society's Distinguished Service award for his career of achievements. 

Ecology Dept. and MSU participation in the conference presentations included 4 faculty from our department, one each from the ARS and Math Sci. departments, a USGS associate, and 9 Ecol. Dept. graduate students, and 1 undergraduate student.  There were also 19 presentation authors/coauthors that are working professionals that graduated from our department’s Fish and Wildlife Ecology and Management Program.  Clearly we are educating outstanding professionals that then go on to productive careers and contribute immeasurably to MSU's land grant mission and the quality of life Montanan's enjoy.

MSU Communications announced the publication of department research in the "Proceedings of the Royal Society B." Sepp Jannotta summarizes how the study proves that a system of wildlife crossing structures are helping to maintain genetically healthy populations of bears, both grizzlies and black bears. Photos and video clips illustrate findings by Steven Kalinowski, Michael Sawaya, and Tony Clevenger, for data from wildlife crossing structures along the Trans-Canada Highway. It is significant to have evidence that the animals are using the crossings frequently enough to prevent genetic isolation. The photo below is taken from the Research Highlight page in Nature magazine which also feature this research. Congratulations to this team!

bears using crossing

An article written by Joanna Gilkeson, "Form Follows Function," highlighted three students in the department in "Eddies" a USFWS publication. Featured for their research revealing habitat needs of sauger and sturgeon were David Dockery, M.S. candidate, and Michael Stein and Chris Forrest, undergraduate interns. Fish Technology Center biologist Kevin Kappenman, in collaboration with Montana State University professors Thomas E. McMahon and Matt Blank, leads the project. McMahon teaches fisheries science in the Department of Ecology and Blank instructs in Civil Engineering. One goal of the project is to improve the building of fish passage structures in Montana streams. The article includes both photographs of researchers and the project work.

Mt.Erebus Crew

This photo was recently taken by Bob Garrott. 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 is completing her M.S. and Thierry will graduate with his PhD in December. Michael and Joel 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!

This 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! The photo below is copied from the article.

ZCP group

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.


Weekly Ecology Seminar Series returns February 6, 2014

MSU Friday January 31, March 7, and March 21

Orientation June 9-11, June 23-25, July 14-16, August 20-22

Daniel Goodman Memorial Symposium March 20-21, 2014