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Collaboration and integration were the themes at the first annual Montana EPSCoR/Institute on Ecosystems Science Summit held in Helena on August 22-23, 2013. Under the direction of recently named Montana EPSCoR Project Director, Dr. Ray Callaway, and Institute on Ecosystems Co-Directors, Dr. Ric Hauer and Dr. Cathy Whitlock, over 120 people attended this meeting of faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students and professionals. Montana EPSCoR also welcomed Dr. Neil Moisey from the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education and Dr. Sian Mooney of the National Science Foundation EPSCoR office.
Participants were from many of Montana’s institutions of higher education and met to hear about research and outreach initiatives of the Montana Institute on Ecosystems. Funded by the NSF EPSCoR program, the Montana Institute on Ecosystems is a community of scholars with a shared vision to advance the study of ecosystems and the effects on Montana’s landscapes of a changing climate. MSU President Waded Cruzado and UM President Royce Engstrom welcomed the group, telling their own personal connections to the EPSCoR program. President Engstrom shared his experience as a new faculty member at The University of South Dakota where he eventually became Director of the state EPSCoR program. Comparing the EPSCoR program to the land-grant university mission, President Waded Cruzado also stressed the impact that EPSCoR can have on educating citizens for a brighter future.
The Summit included presentations by Drs. Tim McDermott, Maury Valett, Geoff Poole, Andrew Wilcox, and Andy Hansen on the Research Focus Areas that are central to the work of the Institute on Ecosystems. The three Research Focus Areas are studying the impact of climate change on the sustainability of healthy ecosystems in Montana. The opportunity for all stakeholders in the EPSCoR/Institute on Ecosystems to hear from the researchers was valuable as the goal of the IoE is increased integration of project components and institutions. Similarly, the outreach, workforce development, cyberinfrastructure, and diversity teams had the opportunity to share their work in disseminating the research results and engaging Montanans in the science of the IoE. Brett Runnion of Stone Child College told the group that the Accelerated Math Program will save Native students thousands of dollars in tuition by training them to be placed into Calculus courses and not having to play catch up.
Participants also took advantage of less structured times to hear about each others’ work through the poster session which included over 50 student and faculty posters, and roundtable discussions on strategies for integration. The conference concluded with a keynote address by Dr. Hank Loescher of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). Dr. Loescher is responsible for program development at NEON and talked about developing a continental scale ecological monitoring platform.
This Summit will be a regular part of Institute on Ecosystems annual activities.
Program Director: Ray Callaway
Project Administrator: Todd Kipfer
University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812
Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education
2500 Broadway Street
Helena, MT 59620