University of Montana Ranks No. 5 in North America for Ecology Research Productivity

January 19, 2017

MISSOULA – The University of Montana ranked No. 5 in North America for its scholarly productivity in the field of ecology, according to a recent study published in the journal Ecosphere.

Ranking ahead of many well-respected research universities such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton, UM’s faculty lead the pack in publications, number of citations and the impact of their research moving the field forward.

“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 Berkeley – 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, among other issues.

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 on the number of papers published in the top-40 ranked ecology journals worldwide. The study and full rankings are online at

 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. Most other universities in the top 20 have faculty sizes two to five times larger than UM.

One of the most important measures of the highest quality and most impactful research is based on the publishing record and the frequency that the work gets cited by others in the field. By these criteria, UM ecology faculty and their graduate and undergraduate students are among the most high-impact faculty and students of any research university in North America.           

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

“UM has a reputation in the academic world of being a top-flight institution worldwide in the field of ecology,” Hauer said. “UM faculty members and their students are doing research globally from Greenland to Antarctica, from the Amazon to Africa, and locally from Glacier National Park to Yellowstone National Park.”

UM is able to attract a competitive cohort of graduate and doctorate students. Hauer said students who want to earn degrees in ecology – from theoretical ecology to wildlife biology to ecosystem science and conservation – 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.

“Undergraduates – not only from Montana, but all over the U.S. who are interested in earning top-flight educations in ecology – can get one of the best undergraduate educations in the country right here at UM,” Hauer said.

Undergraduate students also have opportunities to conduct research and work among the best faculty mentors anywhere in the world. The University offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs with opportunities for research scholarships and engaging in active research programs and projects. 

Contact: Ric Hauer, director, Center for Integrated Research on the Environment, 406-250-9900,