Swan Valley teacher
helps with UM Research

August 10, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

Swan Valley School teacher Sue Ibsen is conducting ecological research this summer through a University of Montana program.

Ibsen is participating in the Montana Teachers Investigate Ecology Project. MT-TIE allows teachers to interact with UM scientists and learn research skills that should make their classroom science instruction more relevant and engaging. The program is funded by a two-year, $286,000 National Science Foundation Grant, and 11 western Montana teachers are doing MT-TIE research this summer.

Ibsen is working on a project titled "Snowshoe Hare Densities." Her project leader is L. Scott Mills, an associate professor with UM's School of Forestry.

The project she is working on has three goals: to develop and test across a wide geographic area the accuracy of area models for predicting summertime hare densities by studying their pellets, to test the relationship between estimates of density based on winter trapping and winter pellet counts, and to develop a protocol for evaluating hare responses to vegetation structure throughout the northern region of the United States.

The study uses geographic information system technology to select study sites. Mark-and-recapture sampling will take place in the summer and winter.

All Montana teachers of biology in grades six through 12 are eligible for MT-TIE, and they are paid for their participation. MT-TIE teachers attend orientation sessions, study field sampling methods and learn data collection protocols and equipment use. They are encouraged to take what they learn back to their classrooms with them by developing school-based ecological research projects. These projects would be staffed by regular students who learn to use authentic research skills. These school-based ecology programs will be eligible for mini-grants to set up research sites in or near school yards.

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