MISSOULA – A University of Montana team has been awarded nearly $3 million from the National Science Foundation to develop an innovative, interdisciplinary graduate training program focused on interactions among food, energy and water.
The program, “UM BRIDGES: Bridging Divides across the Food, Energy and Water Nexus,” will combine new interdisciplinary course offerings, workshops and internships, international experiences and cutting-edge research to educate future leaders at the food-energy-water nexus and cement UM’s status as a leader in this realm.
“Montana is an ideal laboratory to examine connections and tradeoffs related to food, energy and water, given the state’s large fossil fuel and renewable energy resources, agriculture’s position as a leading industry and water user, and the importance of water resources to both ecosystems and communities,” said Assistant Program Director Andrew Wilcox.
Graduate students will work with UM faculty to conduct research on regionally and internationally important topics, such as tradeoffs between food and energy production in river and rangeland systems; energy transitions and implications for food and water; climate variability, drought and agricultural systems; and tribal and indigenous issues at the food-energy-water nexus.
“This program is part of a new wave of thinking about graduate education,” said UM BRIDGES Program Director Laurie Yung. “This new approach seeks to train students to connect science and practice, to communicate with a range of audiences, and to move more seamlessly across traditional disciplinary boundaries.”
The award to UM is one of 16 grants – totaling $47 million – through NSF’s National Research Traineeship program, which encourages the development and implementation of bold, new, transformative models for graduate education in science, technology engineering and mathematics fields.
The UM BRIDGES program draws collaborating faculty with expertise across a range of social, physical and biological science disciplines from the College of Forestry and Conservation, College of Humanities and Sciences, School of Journalism, Missoula College and Salish Kootenai College.
The program will begin enrolling graduate students in fall 2017. Financial support, including stipends, tuition, travel and other research support, are available to students.