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Posted 06.14.06

MU Researchers Win NSF Grant to Train Environmental Biologists

$1.2 Million Program Will Target Minority Students

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Currently in the United States, a shortage of minority students training in environmental studies and conservation biology exists. In an effort to encourage more diversity in these fields, the National Science Foundation recently awarded a $600,000 grant to two University of Missouri-Columbia researchers to establish the Undergraduate Mentoring in Environmental Biology (UMEB) interdisciplinary program. MU matched the grant to complete funding for the $1.2 million program.

"Environmental biology examines the problems out-of-doors," said Candace Galen, professor of biological sciences in the College of Arts and Science. "The field of environmental biology uses an interdisciplinary perspective to examine the ecological health and biological integrity of many different areas including urban lots, mountainsides and even Costa Rican rain forests. There's a gap in minority participation in these fields and we believe this program will help address some of those issues."

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The program, "Training Ecologist Doctors for the 21st Century," will recruit students for a 14-month rotation in one of three areas: forest and grassland ecology and wildlife biology, urban ecology, and sustainable resources and crop development. The program will start in the summer of 2007 with a class of eight students. Each student will receive a $14,000 stipend for participating in the program. The program will train 32 students over four years.

Each student will be assigned to a faculty mentor who will assist the student in choosing a research program. The research project will begin in the summer and last one year. During the last two months of the project, each student will have an internship with a partner company or organization. Those organizations include Monsanto, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Missouri Department of Conservation, Pioneer/Hi-bred and the U.S. Forest Service.

"MU has a strong undergraduate research program and an excellent record in involving underrepresented minority students in research," said Charlie Nilon, associate professor of urban wildlife management. "We look forward to working with the students who will start in UMEB next year and watching their progress as they become professionals in the environmental sciences."

Galen said that recruitment for the program will begin this year. When students complete the program, they will have earned a certification in environmental studies along with their bachelor's degree.



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