This IGERT award will establish an interdisciplinary, multi-institution graduate research and education program in conservation biology and sustainability of agricultural and forest systems. The need is acute for better disciplinary integration to achieve biodiversity conservation and sustainable productivity in anthropogenically fragmented landscapes. To achieve this, a new generation of professionals must be educated in a holistic fashion.
Students in this program will work in interdisciplinary teams to study aspects of biodiversity conservation and sustainable productivity in three distinct geographic regions characterized by habitat fragmentation. A highly productive group of educators and researchers from three Colleges and seven Departments at the University of Idaho and four Research Areas at the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), an international institution headquartered in Costa Rica, will participate in the project. These faculty will provide mentoring in agricultural ecology, forest ecology and management, conservation biology and biodiversity assessment, ecological genetics, soil science, watershed sciences, ethics, rural sociology, policy, social impact assessment, and environmental economics.
The IGERT program will differ from traditional doctoral programs at UI in five major ways. First, graduate education will be multi-institutional with course work conducted at UI and CATIE, and dual-institution graduate committee membership. Second, student teams will address similar research questions in temperate and tropical ecosystems and will complete a research internship with their teammates in the country that is not their primary field site. Third, students working in interdisciplinary teams will produce dissertation sets that will include some co-authored chapters. Fourth, students will complete an interdisciplinary graduate curriculum including biophysical and social sciences. Fifth, students will participate in professional development activities including joint annual research symposia and interdisciplinary training workshops.
Special efforts are planned to recruit Hispanic, Native American, and African American students. Professionals educated through this program will have the expertise to work effectively in interdisciplinary teams addressing the pressing scientific problems concerning management of the biosphere. Students will gain cross-cultural experience and geographic exposure to enhance their international perspective. These professionals will be uniquely prepared to pursue careers in academia, government agencies, and international research and development institutions.