About the Montana Institute on Ecosystems

Montana's Ecosystems

An ecosystem, simply defined, is a community of all the living and non-living things in a specific geographic area. An ecosystem can be small, such as the area under a pine tree or a single hot spring in Yellowstone National Park, or it can be large, such as the Rocky Mountains, the rainforest or the Antarctic Ocean. Whether alive (biotic) or not alive (abiotic), all components of an ecosystem impact each other directly or indirectly. For its research projects, the Montana Institute on Ecosystems has delineated four major Montana ecosystems: the Crown of the Continent, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Upper Missouri, and the High Plains Ecosystem.

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Strategic Plan

The Challenge

Today’s environmental problems are complex, and most of the solutions require interdisciplinary approaches. In the coming decade and beyond, national research agendas and funding initiatives will require collaboration across disciplines that have traditionally worked in isolation. The University of Montana (UM) and Montana State University (MSU), and their respective affiliated campuses, offer a diverse array of environmental and ecosystem science programs, which account for a significant amount of the sponsored research and student interest on both campuses. Although the Montana University System (MUS) has a strong commitment to environmental and ecosystem science, research and education efforts are often confined to departments, colleges, and campuses. Few mechanisms or incentives currently support broad interdisciplinary initiatives or inter-institutional collaborations that bridge the traditional siloed academic structure.

In the coming decade and beyond, national research agendas and funding initiatives will require collaboration across disciplines that have traditionally worked in isolation.

The Solution

The Montana Institute on Ecosystems (IoE) is an opportunity to break down some of these barriers and, in the process, achieve greater visibility of Communities of Excellence and Grand Challenges identified at both universities and, at the same time, provide key scientific data to government agencies and the citizens of Montana. This statewide Institute is critical for Montana. We are moving into a period that requires rapid and informed decision-making and public engagement on a range of environmental issues. Sustainable pathways for Montana must consider the future of wild lands, freshwater ecosystems, agricultural lands, tribal lands, multiple-use lands, and growing urban areas, as well as the vital goods and services that these environments provide. By harnessing the scientific, technological and educational strengths of our universities and by drawing on the expertise of a diverse array of regional partners and stakeholders, the IoE advances solutions for current and future environmental challenges consistent with the missions and visions of the MUS institutions.

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Our Goals



The IoE will support collaborative research through sponsored workshops, MUS-wide faculty retreats and identification of funding sources.



The IoE will enhance graduate programs in integrated/integrative environmental sciences that leverage resources from across the MUS system and establish and lead graduate and undergraduate opportunities for research and scholarship on the environment.


Organizational Capacity & Awareness

The IoE will enhance its organizational capacity and brand awareness by having a physical presence on both the MSU and UM campus and a core of diverse faculty and students that understand and support the mission and vision of the IoE.


Annual Environment Report

The IoE will facilitate and produce a portfolio of synthetic and translational reports on key environmental issues that respond to stakeholder interests and priorities.