July 14-15, 2005

ITEM 128-2004-R0705  Approval to Establish a Master's of Science Degree in Ecological and Environmental Statistics; Montana State University-Bozeman

THAT: The Board of Regents of Higher Education authorizes Montana State University-Bozeman to offer a Master's of Science degree in Ecological and Environmental Statistics; Montana State University-Bozeman.

EXPLANATION: We propose the institution of a new masters program in Ecological & Environmental Statistics. The purpose of this program will be to foster interdisciplinary training at MSU, by promoting the statistical training of ecological and environmental scientists and the scientific training of statisticians. Ecology and other biological and environmental science disciplines have become increasingly quantitative, and graduate students in those disciplines now require extensive training in sophisticated statistical thinking and methodology. The problem is national in scope. Lynn Steen has recently written in the Chronicle of Higher Education (Vol 51, Issue 26), [b]iological research is hampered by the lack of scientists able to work in teams where both biological and mathematical skills are employed. The problem is stated also in a recent article in Ecology, the premier journal in the field: Hand in hand with promoting the kinds of research needed to advance the evolving science of ecological forecasting, we need to set an education agenda for developing and enhancing computational literacy of current and future ecologists, managers, and policymakers. Scientists developing ecological projections require a background in probability, including notions of random variables, stochastic processes, and statistics. (C.A. Brewer and L.J. Gross (2003), Training Ecologists to Think with Uncertainty in Mind, Ecology, Vol 84, Issue 6:1412-1414.) Such skills will enable ecological and environmental scientists to facilitate communication between science and society, between scientists and the general public and between scientists and those who make policy based on scientific knowledge.

MSU is in a unique position to take advantage of and address these needs. Yellowstone National Park is recognized and visited by people from around the globe, contributing substantially to the economy of Montana. Further, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is recognized by scientists around the world as an outstanding natural laboratory for ecology and environmental science. A degree in Ecological & Environmental Statistics would be unique among United States universities and would bring MSU to the vanguard of fundamental trends in science while helping to fulfill the University's mission of promoting the intellectual and economic development of Montana.


Proposed Starting Date Spring 2006