UM ecology program “one of the big dogs”

Missoula Current

Scholarly productivity in the field of ecology at the University of Montana etched a top five national ranking in a recent study published in the journal Ecosphere.

According to the rankings, UM’s faculty led the pack in publications, its number of citations and the impact of its research, placing the school ahead of such heavyweights as the universities of Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

“The University of Montana, in terms of its productivity and impact on the broad field of ecology, is in the top 3 percent of research institutions in North America,” said Ric Hauer, director of UM’s Center for Integrated Research on the Environment. “The UM ecology faculty is not only running with the big dogs like Harvard, Stanford and Berkley – but actually is one of the big dogs.”

Ecology encompasses topics such as global loss of biodiversity, the interface between climate change and plants and animals, and the impact of humanity on the planet.

The study, which was conducted by UM alumna Megan Keville under the direction of UM Professor Cara Nelson and Hauer, compared 316 North American academic institutions between the years of 2000 and 2014 and ranked them based upon the number of papers published in the top-40 ranked ecology journals worldwide.

Although the study shows UM ranked No. 5 on the list, when one normalizes the data based on faculty size, UM rises to the No. 1 position in North America, according to the study. Most other universities in the top 20 have faculty sizes two to five times larger than UM, Hauer said.

“Ecology is not some obscure field that is hyper-specialized – this is a really huge field,” Hauer said. “When you consider that, this ranking is absolutely stunning.

Hauer said UM has been successful in attracting a competitive class of graduate and doctorate students. Many of those looking to earn degrees in ecology – from theoretical ecology to wildlife biology – find UM an extremely attractive place to study.

“The reason for our top ranking is that the University of Montana has been attracting top faculty members in this field for the past three decades,” Hauer said. “Good faculty members insist on recruiting other top faculty members worldwide. As a result, UM has become extremely attractive to the best in the world.