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Systems Ecology

Program Background:

The University of Montana has created a new graduate program in "Systems Ecology" as an intercollegiate program between the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and the College of Forestry and Conservation (CFC). Systems ecology is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of ecological systems that focuses on interactions and transactions within and among biological systems. Systems ecology recognizes the strongly interactive role that humans play affecting most of the earth's ecosystems. As such, this program plays a vital role in developing fundamental, interdisciplinary understanding of interactions of physical, chemical and biological factors affecting ecological systems across spatial and temporal scales and the factors affecting coupled natural and human systems. Systems Ecology focuses on transdisciplinary approaches to understanding ecological systems and fosters faculty and graduate students who desire to synthesize that understanding across multiple scales ranging from genes to ecosystems and minutes to millennia while coupling the natural and cultural sciences.

A systems ecology approach increasingly depends on efficient analysis and computational tools that allow for greater and more insightful synthesis and visualization of processes and responses that influence well being of ecosystems and humans. This type of synthesis requires cross-disciplinary thinking because relevant problems and questions transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries.

The Systems Ecology graduate program has been designed to integrate teaching, research and outreach through an interdisciplinary approach to ecological understanding and problem solving. The main objectives in the Systems Ecology graduate program are to: 1) create knowledge about linkages between natural and cultural attributes at regional spatial scales, 2) enhance the learning experience for graduate students interested in broad questions in largescale ecology, 3) develop the professional capacity of these students, and 4) use the knowledge generated through this program to inform policy, broadly defined, for Montana, the Northern Rocky Mountain Region and globally. Research emanating from the SE Program promotes healthy ecosystems, understanding of system processes across the large landscapes and riverscapes, enhances principles of environmental stewardship, and prepares graduate students to engage an increasingly complex world of interaction between nature and humans.


Systems ecology is inherently interdisciplinary. As such the program is characterized by broad collaboration across colleges and departments within the university. UM faculty, irrespective of college or department, participate in the graduate program. The Division of Biological Sciences (CAS) is the primary administrative home for the program providing a single administrative and academic program. Graduate students mentored through the program conduct research on some facet of systems ecology, broadly defined.


For further information contact:

Sherrie Wright
Graduate Programs Coordinator
Phone:  406-243-4433

Dr. H. Maurice Valett
Professor and Program Director of Systems Ecology
Phone:  406-243-6058