Montana State University

MSU builds name as University of the Yellowstone

March 26, 2006 -- by the MSU News Service

David Roberts, head of MSU's ecology department, has documented the university's dominance in Yellowstone studies. (MSU photo by Jay Thane)   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
The fact that Montana State University leads the country in the number of research projects in Yellowstone National Park is no surprise to researchers, yet the statistics are impressive.

In recent years, MSU received more than five times the number of National Science Foundation grants for Yellowstone studies than its nearest competition, Stanford and UCLA, according to David Roberts, head of MSU's ecology department.

Roberts documented grant funds for MSU researchers in the greater Yellowstone area. He and other researchers nicknamed MSU "the University of Yellowstone," due to the large number of projects.

"The quality of science and the significance of the results depends strongly on the laboratory in which a scientist works," Roberts said. "The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is the highest quality natural laboratory in North America and affords scientists at MSU an extraordinary opportunity to conduct high-impact science."

He said MSU scientists across a range of disciplines study Yellowstone to provide insights into the ecosystem and the interaction of people with the region.

Yellowstone Center for Resources Chief John Varley noted that despite the university's close proximity to the park, MSU has not always been known as the "University of Yellowstone."

"It's a relatively recent happening," Varley added, "perhaps due to the enhanced ability of faculty to attract prestigious grants and a more hospitable environment in the park for hosting science, especially basic research."

Roberts examined two benchmark sources of data: The National Science Foundation database on the 100 most recent awards from competitive grant proposals that reference Yellowstone and the ISI Web of Science database (Institute for Scientific Information) on the 500 most recent scientific papers on Yellowstone. NSF shows that MSU leads the list of universities by a large margin, with more than five times as many awards as any other university.

The Web of Science shows that MSU clearly leads the number of published scientific articles on Yellowstone with almost three times as many publications as the nearest competitor--the University of Wisconsin. MSU has 44 publications, while the entire University of California system has 21.

Collectively, Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Brown, Duke, and Stanford have 11 published findings.

MSU's publications are divided among departments and colleges: Ecology 19; Thermal Biology Institute 9; Land Resources Environmental Sciences 6; with Microbiology, Plant Sciences, Big Sky Institute, Earth Sciences and the WWAMI regional medical education program rounding out the list.

Contact: Dave Roberts, or (406) 994-5670