Research Projects

Airborne LiDAR for Lake Ecosystem Studies

A new airborne Light Detection And Ranging (LIDAR) system will be built to enable future interdisciplinary ecological and environmental research involving optical measurements of fish, plankton, water turbidity, and related quantities in lakes and rivers.

Building capacity to understand and manage vulnerability of ecosystem services to climate and land use change

The goal of this work is to develop and implement tools to conduct vulnerability assessments of ecological response to climate and land use change at spatial scales relevant to human adaptation to these changes.

Climate change, prairie potholes, and bird and amphibian habitat

This project goal is to conduct detailed hydrologic studies of depressional prairie potholes, survey bird species and count amphibian egg mass numbers associated with prairie potholes on the Fort Belknap Indian Community.

Community organization and resilience

This project explores processes that structure plant and soil microbial communities and how these process relate to exotic plant invasion. 

Ecological impacts of human activities on microbial community composition and microbial-mediated activities in Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge, an alkaline, hypersaline, and selenate-contaminated site in South-Central Montana

Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is a ~ 2,000-acre area located in northern Stillwater County. A combination of natural factors such as saline seeps and selenium-rich bedrock, and anthropogenic causes such as the loss of native grasslands, summer-fallow agricultural practices, and the presence of a dam (now dismantled), have resulted in salt concentrations as high as 88,900 μS/cm (seawater is about 55,000 μS/cm) and selenate concentrations as high as ~3,000 μg/L in places (chronic water standard for selenium is 5 μg/L).

Examining Feedbacks Between Microbial Metabolism and Ecosystem Processes

This project addresses feedbacks between microbial matabolism and ecosystem processes in a forest soils, prairie potholes, river systems, and lakes.

Exploring Adaptive Management for Greater Sage-Grouse in the Northeastern Part of Its Range in the Face of Climate Change

 The IoE partnered in a collaboration among several state and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations interested in the management of Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in a 5,000,000+ acre landscape of Northern Montana. 

Historical Legacies: Examining past climate change and disturbance regimes in Montana to better understand the future

 The Historical Legacies group is a multi-institutional partnership that uses paleoenvironmental information preserved in tree rings, lake-sediments, archeological and other records to reconstruct climate, vegetation and disturbance history. 

Historical Observations by Blackfeet Elders and Ranchers of Climate Change & Its Effects

This project seeks to further information gathering, to record the stories, experiences, and observations of Blackfeet Elders and area ranchers related to climate change and its impact on the local ecology as well as the impact on local ranching practices.

Impacts of Invasive Pines in the Southern Hemisphere

This project compares the impacts of invasive pines in the southern hemisphere, where no pines are native, to the impacts of pines in the northern hemisphere where pines are native and widespread.

Investigating microbial controls on ecosystem patterns: integrating models of hydrologic transport and microbial metabolism to simulate biogeochemical patterns

Integrate the novel microbial modeling algorithms into the ecosystem models developed above to simulate the interactive effects of climate, vegetation, land-­‐use and disturbance on ecosystem structure and function, from microbial to landscape scale.

Modelling aquatic-­‐ terrestrial linkages and vegetation climate interactions

This project is developing a multi-scale modeling effort linking climate, hydrology, vegetation, geomorphology, and aquatic habitat.

Multi-scale Assessment of Riverscape Complexity (MARC) Project

The Multi-scale Assessment of Riverscape Complexity (MARC) Project is linking remote sensing of floodplain complexity to niche composition, microbial diversity, and ecosystem functioning across Montana’s riverscapes.


WildFIRE PIRE is an international partnership focused on the causes and consequences of fire in the past, present, and future.

Quantifying the resilience of Rocky Mountain Forests to climate variability

 Our main objective is to explore how landscape structure mediates the spatial patterns of water delivery, storage, and availability, and the resulting tree responses to these spatial and temporal patterns of water availability. 

Scenarios of landscape-level climate change

Integration:  Create statewide scenarios of past, present and future landscape­‐level climate change by improving current downscaled GCM and regional climate model output

Social-Ecological Systems Initiative

This initiative is designed to ensure integration of social-ecological systems inquiry in the total portfolio of research capacity in the IoE to better understand Montana's ecosystems undergoing rapid change.  The team is working to advance integration and projects in the areas of ecosystem goods and services, communitiy resilience, water resource management, and climate adaptation.

Understanding Human and Landscape Responses to Regional Climate and Environmental Changes in Central Montana

The objectives of this project are to 1) support the paleo-ecological component of archeological investigations, 2) conduct reconnaissance study of kettle lakes and assess suitability for providing Holocene pollen and charcoal records, and 3) conduct a reconnaissance study of alluvial fan  and floodplain stratigraphy on both sides of the Big Belts.

Understanding the Effects of Biotic and Abiotic Factors on Honey Bee Health

This project uses cutting edge techniques to investigate host-pathogen interactions in honey bees. Honey bees are essential pollinators of numerous crops, thus recent increased annual losses of honey bee colonies is a risk to agricultural production

Vegetation Dynamics in Response to Climate Change

This reseearch area investigates mainly how vegetation dynamics have responded to global change at regional to global scales using dynamic global vegetation models.

Vulnerability Assessment of Ecological Systems and Species to Climate and Land Use Change within the North Central Climate Change Center and Partner Land Conservation Cooperatives

The IoE, representing both The University of Montana and Montana State University, is a university consortium member of the North Central Climate Science Center.  The North Central Climate Science Center (NC CSC) is part of a network of eight CSCs created to provide scientific information, tools, and techniques that managers and other parties interested in land, water, wildlife and cultural resources can use to anticipate, monitor, and adapt to climate change. 

Year 1 EPSCoR Incubation Grants - Focus 1

  • Linking microbial processes to landscape-scale trace gas fluxes via hydrologic controls on soil chemistry in a forested Montana ecosystems (Dore (MSU), Gammons (MT-TECH), McDermott (MSU), McGlynn (MSU), Popp (U Hawaii-Manoa))
  • The role of antecedent conditions on snow physics and cold-season ecosystem gas flux (Adams (MSU), Miller (MSU), Dore (MSU), Stoy (MSU), McGlynn (MSU))
  • Water, carbon, and nitrogen dynamics in a floodplain riverscape: isotopic and sensor approaches to link biogeochemical cycles (Valett (UM), Payn (MSU), Brookshire (MSU), DeGrandpre (UM), Whalen (UNC))
  • The genomics of beetle-fungal symbiosis with massive implications for forest disturbance ecology (McCutcheon (UM), Six (UM), Cripps (MSU))

Project abstracts here

Year 1 EPSCoR Incubation Grants - Focus 2

  • Seasonality and sources of recharge water to the Nyack floodplain in relation to rates of biogeochemical processes and ecosystem function (Parker (MT-TECH), Gammons (MT-TECH), Valett (UM), Poole (MSU), Izurieta (MSU))
  • The sound of rivers (Lorang (UM), Maher (MSU), Philp (TerraEchos Inc))
  • Tree responses to drought: carbon reserves and associated trade-offs (Sala (UM), H. Thompson (UM), Kolb (UM))
  • Does watershed topography drive the response of terrestrial-aquatic ecosystems to disturbance? (_____)
  • Long-term water balance and nitrate biogeochemistry in cultivated alluvial landscapes of central Montana (Ewing (MSU), G. Shaw (MT-TECH), Brookshire (MSU), Gammons (MT-TECH), Jones (MSU), Stoy (MSU))
  • Controls on productivity and biogeochemical cycling in sub-alpine grasslands of the Northern Rocky Mountains (Brookshire (MSU), Ewing (MSU), Stoy (MSU), Weaver (MSU))

Project abstracts here

Year 1 EPSCoR Incubation Grants - Focus 3

  • Climate change vulnerability and adaptive capacity in Montana: Using multi-scaled, iterative scenario-building and social network analysis to investigate community decision-making under uncertainty (Yung (UM), Murphy (UM), Cleveland (UM), Dobrowski (UM), Eby (UM), Lachapelle (MSU), Shanahan (MSU))
  • Montana Anthropogenic Research Cooperative (MARC) project (______)
  • Drivers of forest structure and function on tribal lands of northwestern Montana: Interactions among climate, disturbance, ecosystem legacies and management (McWethy (MSU), Leighton (SKCC), Nelson (UM), Pederson (USGS), Heyerdahl (USFS))
  • Projecting climate change in Pacific Rim rivers: landscape scale influences on salmonid vulnerability using satellite remote sensing and genomics (Luikart (UM), Kimball (UM), Stanford (UM), Duffield (UM), Landguth (UM), Poole (MSU), Payn (MSU), Izurieta (MSU), Madsen (CDKCC), Muhlfeld (USGS), Boyer (MT FWP))
  • Direct and indirect responses to herbivory in semi-arid ecosystems: indicators of vulnerability to climate and land-use changes in the High Plains region of Montana (Litt (MSU), Callaway (UM), Dobrowski (UM))
  • Landscape systems and environmental change in Western Montana: a multidisciplinary approach to hydrology, ecology, and economics ( Maneta (UM), Crabtree (UM), Kellenberg (UM), Marshall (MSU), Hebblewhite (UM), Kimball (UM))
  • Identifying the factors and interactions that drive agroecosystems over sustainability thresholds (Maxwell (MSU), Bekkerman (MSU), Rew (MSU), Barroso (MSU), Belsky (UM))
  • Examining risk and resilience in the Crown of the Continent and Greater Yellowstone ecosystems: ecological, social, and ethical dimensions of water governance under conditions of climate change ( Dunkel (MSU), Halvorson (UM), Broberg (UM), Montagne (MSU), Almquist (UM), S. Thompson (UM), Scott (UM), Lyle (ProjectWET), Muhlfeld (USGS), Madsen (CDKCC), McKay (BCC))

Project abstracts here



MSU IoE Office

Montana State University
605 Leon Johnson Hall
Bozeman, MT 59717
(406) 994-2374
MSU Director: Bruce Maxwell

UM IoE Office

The Universityi of Montana

The University of Montana
Davidson Honors College
Missoula, MT 59812
(406) 243-6058
UM Director: Maury Valett


Montana University System

Montana University System

Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education
2500 Broadway Street
Helena, MT 59620