Montana State University

MSU graduate students receive Institute on Ecosystems fellowships

November 15, 2016 -- MSU News Service

Six graduate students at Montana State University have received fellowships from the Montana Institute on Ecosystems to conduct environmental science research in Montana and the Rocky Mountain West. Claire Qubain (pictured) will work with Jia Hu to explore environmental factors such as snowpack level that influence the availability of nitrogen, an essential nutrient for healthy forests. Photo courtesy of Claire Qubain.

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BOZEMAN—Six Montana State University graduate students in environmental science and related fields have received fellowships from the Montana Institute on Ecosystems to support their research in Montana and the Rocky Mountain West. The students are working with IoE-affiliated MSU faculty.

Nick Bergmann, a New Hartford, New York native, is a doctoral student in Earth sciences working with Jamie McEvoy, assistant professor of geography. Bergmann is examining the water reservations that were granted to conservation districts along the Yellowstone River Basin in the 1970s, a landmark moment in the history of American water conservation. The project also traces the influence of the Yellowstone effort on water conservation in other parts of the western United States.

Katie Epstein, a Boston native, is a Ph.D. student in Earth sciences, supervised by Julia Haggerty, assistant professor of geography. Her research focuses on how population growth and land use changes in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem impact elk ecology, wildlife management, environmental conflict and private land conservation. Her goal is to study how the changing land tenure patterns in ranchland impacts hunting access, brucellosis mitigation and elk population dynamics.

Katie Carroll, from Mesa, Arizona, is earning a Ph.D. in ecology and works with Andy Hansen, professor of ecology. She studies the impacts of climate and land use change on wolverine populations in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming. Carroll is using computer models to study potential changes in wolverine habitat suitability and connectivity in order to evaluate opportunities for conservation action.

Claire Qubain, originally from Gardner, Colorado, is earning a Ph.D. in ecology and is supervised by Jia Hu, assistant professor of ecology. Her research explores the landscape and climatic factors that influence nitrogen availability for soils and trees. The information will become increasingly important as snowpack decreases and climate continues to change in the western United States, Hu said.

Emery Three Irons is earning a master’s degree in land resources and environmental sciences and works with Scott Powell, assistant professor of environmental spatial analysis, to study water quality in the Little Big Horn River Valley on the Crow Reservation in southeastern Montana. They will study the levels of coliform bacteria associated with wells, land use, proximity to the river and other variables so they can share information about resource use and planning with tribal decision-makers in order to help protect residents from sickness. Three Irons is from Crow Agency. Before coming to MSU, he studied at Little Big Horn College.

Matthew Weingart is pursuing a master’s degree in Earth sciences and works with Dave McWethy, assistant research professor in the Department of Earth Sciences, to investigate the relationship between fire, climate and people in forests on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Weingart is reconstructing the environmental history of the region by examining the pollen and charcoal preserved in lake-sediment cores. Weingart is from Pablo. He studied previously at Salish Kootenai College.

The Montana Institute on Ecosystems is a multi-institutional community dedicated to understanding complex ecosystems and the interconnectedness of people and nature. It is also the flagship research program of Montana's National Science Foundation EPSCoR Track 1 grant. The IoE graduate fellowship program allows students to pursue research topics that are important for understanding Montana’s ecosystems and communities.

For more information, visit

Follow progress of the research projects through Twitter at

Contact: Anna Tuttle, Montana Institute on Ecosystems, (406) 994-2559,