Through our specially designed block classes, Montana Western biology students conduct experiments in molecular biology labs, collect data for long-term ecological research projects and write computer simulations to better understand important biological problems.
Biology majors complete either an internship or a senior thesis performing the same work that professionals in their field do. A biology degree from Montana Western will fully prepare you for graduate school and a career in your field of biological interest.
This degree is designed to provide students with the background, laboratory and field skills and research experience needed to obtain employment or enter a graduate or professional program in a number of fields in biology:
Graduates with this degree will be prepared and licensed to teach biology in junior high or high school.
Here are just two great examples of biology courses at Montana Western. For a full course selection, please see the current catalog.
This course is intended for science majors. It is designed to help students understand and apply major concepts in organismal biology including the diversity, evolution, and ecology of organisms. The origin of life and the evolution of cells, classification and evolution of organisms, major Domains and Kingdoms of life, natural selection and evolution, species diversity, ecosystem organization and energy flow, community interactions, population ecology, and behavioral ecology will be discussed.
This course focuses on all major aspects of genetics from classical Mendelian inheritance to molecular genetics. Students will become familiar with mechanisms of inheritance and explore how inheritance of genes influences all aspects of life. A portion of the course will focus on human genetics and the influences of genetics on human traits. The laboratory portion of the course will explore genetic principles using yeast, bacteria, and multicellular organisms as well as mutant screens, molecular genetic tools, computer databases, and genomic tools.
A biology degree from Montana Western will prepare you for a career as:
Eric Dyreson sees the biological world through the lens of mathematics. His courses allow students to gather and analyze their own data and write their own computer models. Dyreson’s statistics, biostatistics, morphometrics and stochastic modeling classes embody the true spirit of Experience One. His biomathematics students have presented their original work at the Montana Academy of Sciences and perform field research in the Beaverhead National Forest and Yellowstone National Park.
Kirkley is an ornithologist specializing in raptor ecology. He has been studying the nesting and seasonal movements of Northern Goshawks in southwestern Montana since 1993. Montana Western students have worked with him as summer field technicians and have presented their research results at conferences such as the Montana Academy of Sciences and the Raptor Research Foundation in La Paz, Mexico. Kirkley has also conducted field research on Swainson's Hawk migration ecology in southern Mexico and has led numerous birding/natural history trips to locations such as Yellowstone National Park, Arizona and Utah, as well as to several Latin American countries. In the spring of 2009 Kirkley co-led a biology and geology honors course to the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador.
Laurie Henneman's biological interests focus on plant-insect community interactions, especially food-web relationships among native and alien species. She is part of a consortium of Montana Western faculty developing a long term study in Yellowstone National Park on ecosystem changes from recolonization by beavers.
Linda Lyon is an ethnobotanist.
Lyon worked for many years in Madagascar with local communities to help reinforce the traditional use of plants. In summer 2009, a student of Lyon’s worked at the Lokaro Environmental Reserve in Madagascar for her internship.
In addition to botany, Lyon teaches environmental interpretation and is faculty adviser for the campus environmental interpretation club, which sent four UMW students to the National Association for Interpretation conference in fall 2008.
Michael Gilbert is an Assistant Professor of Biology/Biochemistry at Montana Western. His primary areas of research are microbiology, biochemistry and parasitology/vector biology.
Michael Morrow is a cell/molecular biologist. His research interests focus on the protein players and mechanisms of protein secretion for which he was awarded two National Institutes of Health grants through the IDeA Network for Biomedical Research program. Several of Morrow's students have conducted theses and internships under his supervision and presented their results at regional and national meetings. The last three winners of the undergraduate poster competition at the Montana Academy of Sciences have come from Morrow's lab. Many of Morrow's students have also gone on to graduate school in biology and veterinary school.
Michelle Anderson is interested in all things aquatic, especially fish and amphibians. In her research she explores how ecological and social systems based on marine and freshwater resources respond to natural and human mediated disturbance. Her research has allowed her to work on projects in Glacier National Park, Alaska, California and Russia.
Anderson also actively collaborates with scientists at Montana-Tech of the University of Montana, the University of California-Berkeley, the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to develop educational opportunities that make science accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds.
In Steve Mock’s chemistry classes, students engage in extensive small-group, problem-solving opportunities and frequent lab exercises focusing on chemistry in the context of geology, biology and health sciences.
Mock’s own research involves aquatic environmental chemistry of nearby lakes and streams. His students have conducted research projects on the chemistry of Clark Canyon Reservoir and the characterization of three different alpine lakes in southwestern Montana.
Mock also teaches rock climbing and other wildlands skills courses. In the winter of 2008 he had the privilege of teaching climbing at the Khumbu Climbing School in Phortse, Nepal.
Wendy M. Ridenour completed her Ph.D. at The University of Montana, Missoula in the Organismal Biology and Ecology Program in 2006. Her dissertation research focus was twofold: plant ecology with a biogeographical emphasis and experiential science education. She was a National Science Foundation ECOS (Ecologists, Educators, and Schools) doctoral fellow and had a subsequent postdoctoral appointment at an experiential college preparatory school in Washington, D.C. where she taught biology and environmental science courses and developed experiential science curricula for grades six through 12. This appointment was followed by postdoctoral research conducted in South America, New Zealand and Montana.
Ridenour’s ongoing research concentrates on invasive weed ecology and alpine ecology. She has been published in journals including Ecological Monographs and Ecology. Prior to completing her Ph.D., she was a naturalist at the Montana Natural History Center in Missoula, Mont., where she developed and conducted experiential field programs for local schools and Summer Science Camps for grades K-12. She has also worked as an environmental scientist for an engineering company in the Washington, D.C. area, where she conducted wetlands and water quality assessments and designed wetland mitigation plans.
Montana Western's biology program is now competitive in the national arena thanks to nearly $2 million in grants secured by Mike Morrow.
The Carnegie Foundation's 2009 U.S. Professor of the Year is taking Montana Western's experiential learning to the national stage.
University of Montana Western English professor Alan Weltzien is a champion of Montana literature.
For the third time in as many years, Montana Western has a Carnegie Foundation Professor of the Year.