Program Mission Statement
The mission of the BS: Ecology program is to provide students an innovative and applied undergraduate education in ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environments at scales from genes to the biosphere and minutes to millennia.
The BS: Ecology degree is appropriate for students interested in careers as diverse as fish and wildlife biology, statistical ecology, agroecology, botany, forestry, conservation biology, disease ecology, and landscape ecology. Ecologists are most frequently hired by universities, research institutions, private consulting and industry, state and federal government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and zoos and aquariums. In addition, the
curriculum is tailored to provide all of the coursework necessary for students to apply for professional certifi cation from several ecological organizations (Ecological Society of America, The Wildlife Society, and The American Fisheries Society) and attend top M.S. or Ph.D. graduate programs in ecology-related fields. The Option Areas listed for the BS: Ecology degree are designed to allow students to focus on specifi c coursework within the broader field of ecology, often in support of career or graduate school objectives. The Quantitative Ecology Option is designed for students interested in applying statistical methods to the study of complex ecological systems, such as data analysis and modeling of fi sh and wildlife populations, disease epidemiology, agricultural yields, invasive species dynamics, climate patterns, and ecosystem restoration. This Option prepares students for graduate programs in mathematics or ecology-related disciplines. The Fish and Wildlife Ecology Option is designed for students interested in careers such as fi sheries biology, wildlife biology, conservation biology, wildlife rehabilitation, zoo keeper, and aquarium managers. The Integrative Ecology Option is designed for students who want fl exibility and independence to pursue coursework from across diff erent science and mathematics disciplines. This Option is particularly appropriate for students who transfer to University of Montana Western with specialized science courses not off ered at our institution. The BS: Ecology degree requires students to complete an internship or senior thesis in an ecology discipline area as part of their educational experience. This internship/thesis component is an especially important aspects of experiential learning within these degrees, providing students with real-world experience in prospective ecology careers and areas of research encountered in graduate school. In many cases, students perform an internship through paid or volunteer work for an employer in a profession the student is interested in pursuing. In addition, University of Montana Western’s active faculty provide students with a variety of opportunities to be involved in research in novel areas of cell/molecular biology, wildlife biology, plant ecology, fi sheries biology, and mathematics, as well as other areas within the discipline. These research opportunities allow students to closely interact with professors to design and implement research to address interesting and novel questions in biology and ecology, which can form the basis of a senior thesis project.
Successful graduates from the BS: Ecology program will:
- Display an understanding of how organisms interact with each other and their environment based on the major areas of ecological inquiry: populations, communities and ecosystems.
- Display an understanding of basic concepts in the diverse fi elds of biology including cell biology, botany, zoology, ecology, molecular biology, genetics, and evolution.
- Demonstrate an ability to use the scientifi c method to ask ecologically-related questions and formulate testable questions.
- Acquire practical experience with research methods in the ecological sciences by mastering basic laboratory and fi eld techniques.
- Acquire skills and methods necessary to collect, assess and analyze ecological data.
- Acquire writing skills and analytical methods necessary to eff ectively present ecological data.
- Demonstrate the ability to read and understand primary scientific literature.
- Exhibit the ability to write a research paper using a format that conforms to published scientific journal articles.
- Develop skills to participate in research both independently and as a member of a team.
- Demonstrate eff ective oral communication for interaction with professional colleagues and the community.
- Critically evaluate contemporary issues and debates within theecological sciences, including the ethical dimensions of those issues.
- Acquire real-world experience in ecology through an internship or a senior thesis project.
The graduate outcomes for the BS: Ecology degrees are assessed at early, middle and late stages of the program. Outcomes are assessed through course performance rubrics and metrics that inform regular departmental self-study, responses from students on select course evaluations that focus on course learning objectives, feedback from internship supervisors, and reports from external reviews. Details of specific assessment activities are
outlined in the program assessment plan available from the Biology Department.
Additional advising protocols exist for students who wish to pursue certification programs offered through the Ecological Society of America, The Wildlife Society and the American Fisheries Society, all of the requirements for which can be met in the framework of the undergraduate program. Contact the Academic Advising Office or an Ecology program advisor for copies of advising protocols and more information about certification programs.