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UMW environmental sciences department awarded $50,000 grant.

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University of Montana Western Professor of Geology Rob Thomas has been awarded a $50,000 grant to work with environmental sciences students on ecological site descriptions (ESDs) for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

ESDs are land use reports that provide detailed information about a distinctive ecological area.

The funds, distributed from BLM's western regional office in Denver, Colo., will support four paid student interns to work with BLM soil scientists, two each summer for two years.

"The environmental sciences students selected for this internship will be well prepared from their field-and-project-based classes at Montana Western, but the direct experience and connections they gain through their internship work will give them an unmatched competitive edge for jobs as sustainable natural resource managers after graduation," Thomas said.

The interns will collect field data from roughly 40 sites throughout western Montana and the data will go into the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s database for use in managing the current and future health of public lands.

The data collected will help public, non-governmental organizations and private landowners balance and manage multiple uses of public lands, Thomas explained.

"Our employment placement numbers are off the charts because of opportunities like this," Thomas said. "Montana Western students benefit by gaining direct experience in their discipline, mentoring with federal land managers and making contacts for future employment.”

Montana Western students study under a block scheduling program called Experience One where they take a single class at a time for 18 days before moving onto the next. Experience One emphasizes real-world, hands-on learning experiences.

For more information about Montana Western's environmental sciences program visit, umwestern.edu/academics/envs.

— Montana Western —