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$45 Million: UM Lands Largest Research Award in University History

May 16, 2014

MISSOULA – The University of Montana has received a $45 million cooperative agreement award from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency announced May 16. The five-year research award is the largest in the history of UM.

Under the agreement, UM will help the Corps study and solve environmental and cultural resource problems across the nation. The University also will assist the Corps in implementing land and water ecological restoration, maintenance and training for optimal management of public resources.

F. Richard “Ric” Hauer is UM professor of freshwater science and systems ecology and directs the UM side of the Institute on Ecosystems, a statewide institute of the Montana University System. He will serve as program director and principal investigator of the cooperative agreement.

“Earning this award confirms that UM has become an elite research institution in the arena of ecology and environmental sciences,” Hauer said. “This will take our research enterprise to an even higher and exciting new level. It is a wonderful opportunity for our faculty, graduate students and post-docs.”

The award confirms UM’s ecological and cultural research status, said Scott Whittenburg, UM vice president for research and creative scholarship. “When you look at a map of the United States and identify all the lead institutions doing environmental research, there should be a star next to Missoula and the University of Montana.”

During the past two decades, UM has become a world leader in conservation biology, ecology and ecosystem science, Hauer said. Recent publications in Science and Conservation Biology name UM one of five universities in the nation demonstrating the largest growth in high-impact science publications and also ranks in the top 10 among all North American universities in conservation biology and ecology.

“We are, without doubt, competitive with and even surpassing many of the largest and most prestigious universities in the nation in the area of ecological and cultural research,” Hauer said. “Our faculty members are among the best in the nation, indeed the world. I know our researchers demand the highest level of excellence of themselves and each other.”

Hauer has a long-standing relationship with the Corps, assisting the agency with many projects since 1992. He helped the Corps develop the nationwide methodology and protocols for doing ecological assessments of rivers and wetlands. He also has taught classes for agency personnel on stream ecology and large-river ecosystems for the past 18 years. 

Hauer said the work envisioned in the cooperative agreement may include topics such as the ecological effects of dams and reservoirs, environmental management problems, endangered species such as paddlefish or sturgeon, invasive species such as spotted knapweed or zebra mussels, water-quality issues, abandoned mine waste, Native American cultural sites, human health in the environment, and environmental policy and law.

“We have outstanding faculty members and state-of-the-art technology here at the University of Montana,” UM President Royce Engstrom said, “and it will be exciting to see how this significant award energizes and transforms our institution.”

Hauer will lead a research management team of 10 faculty members who already oversee a number of UM centers and academic programs. The team is divided into two divisions:

  • Natural Resources with UM faculty Ragan Callaway, John Kimball, Winsor Lowe Cara Nelson and Maury Valett.
  • Cultural Resources with UM faculty Kelly Dixon, Andrij Holian, Elizabeth Metcalf, Jakki Mohr and Irma Russell.

“We plan to involve as many of the graduate programs across campus as possible to accomplish this important ecological and cultural research,” Hauer said. “It’s going to be varied, exciting work.”    

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Contact: F. Richard Hauer, UM systems ecology professor, UM director of Institute on Ecosystems, 406-243-4848, ric.hauer@umontana.edu; Scott Whittenburg, UM vice president for research and creative scholarship, 406-243-6670, scott.whittenburg@umontana.edu.