Undergrads begin environmental research projects across Montana

Seventeen undergraduates from Montana State University, University of Montana, Montana Tech and Salish Kootenai College have received summer internships to research environmental and climate change-related projects at sites throughout Montana. The students, all part of the Montana Institute on Ecosystems, will work with faculty at Montana State University, the University of Montana and Montana Tech on a variety of projects, studying everything from cheatgrass and Douglas fir to the influence of wildfire and fire history, along with honey bees, cicadas and westslope cutthroat trout.

The Institute on Ecosystems is a multi-institutional community with hubs at MSU and UM. IoE is the flagship research program of the Montana NSF EPSCoR program and is dedicated to understanding complex ecosystems and the interconnectedness of people and nature. Its internship program supports students who explore the effects of climate change in sustaining healthy ecosystems and economic growth.

The students' research findings will be presented at the undergraduate research symposium in Bozeman on Aug. 6. Students will also be using Twitter to communicate about their research this summer. Follow @MTIoE and #ioesummer.

"We are excited to support the next generation of ecosystem scientists," said Ric Hauer, Institute on Ecosystems director at UM. "Their research will contribute to a better understanding of Montana’s complex species and landscapes, thereby helping to safeguard the environment.”

"The impacts from climate change can be felt in all sectors of our economy – from tourism to agriculture,” said Cathy Whitlock, MSU's IoE director. "These students are researching important questions that will help us be better prepared for the future.”

Montana interns, along with their hometowns, research topic and project location are:


Sam Pannoni. Using 16S rRNA genes to define biomarkers within the elk (C. elaphus) fecal microbiome to inform individual and population health metrics. University of Montana.


Kaitlin Carey. Genome analysis: Evolution of symbiotic bacteria inside the gut of sap feeding insects. Montana State University.

Greta Robison. Using the special sciences and participatory learning to explore tribal data storage and impacts of climate change on water runoff on the Apsaalooke Reservation. Lodge Grass and Crow Agency, Apsaalooke Reservation


Tyler Kelly. The effects of stress on mountain plover nesting success. University of Montana.

Gallatin Gateway

Fletcher Harvey. Identifying connections between landscape patterns and whitebark pine mortality. Helena National Forest.


Sara Amish. Climate change impacts on water use and forest productivity. Lubrecht Experimental Forest.


Erik Anderson. Using water isotopes to link water and solute movement in cultivated and uncultivated soils. Judith Basin.

Greta Hoffman. How wildfire affects plant-pollinator interactions across Montana. Glacier National Park.

Jared Hoy. Tracking greenhouse gas emissions in Montana. Montana State University.


Lindsay Gray Carlson. A comparison of soil quality and composition effects on plant understory regeneration after wildfire events in Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Glacier National Park and Bob Marshall Wilderness.


Madison Martin. Identification of metabolic signatures of pathogen and pesticide stress in honey bees. Montana State University.


Noelani Boise. Assessing the effect of change in temperature and precipitation on a cheatgrass-invaded rangeland. Red Bluff Research Ranch, Norris.


Hannah Funke. Reconstructing the fire history of the Flathead Indian Reservation. Mission Mountains outside of Polson.


Chance Noffsinger. The response of an invasive annual and native perennial grass to different climate and nitrogen scenarios. Montana State University.                       

Other student interns include:

Juneau, Alaska: Jennifer Nelson. Comparing post and pre-fledging success in mountain bluebirds (Sialia currucoids) with distance between nest boxes and tree stands. West of Ronan on a bluebird trail.

Nashville, Tenn.: Frances Ambrose. Understanding the influence of wildfire on the vegetation patters of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Greater Yellowstone area.       

Bellingham, Wash.: Bennett Bursick. Effects of wildfire on terrestrial subsidies to the westslope cutthroat trout diets in the Bitterroot River Basin. Bitterroot River basin.

Ellensburg, Wash.: Kevin Carns. Variability in riparian ecosystem composition and structure. Five streams in southwest Montana.

A Google Map shows all the students' hometowns and research project sites. Green pegs represent research sites, and red pegs represent hometowns of Montana residents.



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