September 19-20, 2002

 

ITEM: 116-2012-R0902† †††††††††††† Authorization to offer a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Earth Sciences at Montana State University-Bozeman

 

THAT: ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† The Board of Regents of the State of Montana authorizes Montana State University-Bozeman to offer a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Earth Sciences.

 

EXPLANATION:† ††††††††††††††††††††† The Department of Earth Sciences at Montana State University seeks permission to offer an academic program leading to a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences.† Given the geographic location of MSU, enduring Department history in integrating research and education in geology and geography, broad faculty range of expertise, and allied institutional resources, the Department is positioned to deliver a truly unique program emphasizing doctoral-level training of students in such interdisciplinary emphasis areas as geographic information systems science (GIS Science), snow dynamics and avalanche science, geobiology, earth surface systems, paleontology, and geoscience education.† The philosophical foundation of the proposed Earth Sciences Ph.D. program is to emphasize Department strengths in terms of faculty expertise, access to world-class field settings, and such unique MSU institutional resources as the Museum of the Rockies (MOR), Geographic Information and Analysis Center (GIAC), and Imaging and Chemical Analysis Laboratory (ICAL) in the training of doctoral students.† All students will receive a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Earth Sciences regardless of the area of emphasis they choose for specialization.

 

The Departmentís teaching, research, and service programs fulfill the primary goals of MSUís mission as a land-grant institution.† The spectrum of curricular and research activities focus on providing a better understanding of Montanaís unique environmental, mineral, petroleum, fossil, and human resources, and the complex relations that exist between these resources across space (geography) and time (geology).† Given the Northern Rocky Mountain setting of the MSU campus proximal to such unique features as the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem and its underlying volcanic center, world famous paleontologic resources such as Egg Mountain and the Hell Creek badlands, snow-capped mountains and such associated recreational sites as the Big Sky ski area, Intermountain Earthquake Zone, western Montana Overthrust Belt petroleum province, and coal resources of the Powder River Basin, the Department will use these unique geographical attributes to train students in all emphasis areas.† In addition, the Department has established strong relations with the U.S. Geological Survey Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center at MSU and Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Forecasting Center to provide internship and research opportunities for doctoral students.

 

A well-regarded doctoral degree program in Geology has existed at the University of Montana for a number of years.† This program focuses on traditional areas within the Geology discipline with emphasis on the applied geosciences.† The proposed MSU program complements this existing program by emphasizing the interdisciplinary and synergistic nature of the entire spectrum of Earth Science areas including the geographic sciences.

 

Fourteen tenure-track professors holding Ph.D. degrees, augmented by six adjunct faculty will participate in delivering this degree program.† The Department of Earth Sciences has recently been given permission to recruit new faculty in the fields of biogeography, geobiology/biogeochemistry, and molecular paleontology.† At present, there are 7 non-degree status graduate students at MSU ready to enter the proposed doctoral program. In addition, because of the Departmentís international reputation for excellence in the fields of geographic information science, paleontology, and snow and avalanche science, the Department received in the past year 19 inquiries from national and international students seeking to attend MSU for doctoral training in Earth Sciences.

 

No additional faculty or staff will be needed to deliver this program. The above mentioned three new Earth Sciences faculty positions will help provide the faculty base to offer this program.† Additional operating costs will be covered by:† 1) reallocation of some resources from the Departmentís Master of Science Degree program, and 2) grants and contracts.† Analytical resources for program support are excellent, particularly in the fields of GIS science (GIAC) and chemical analysis (ICAL); library resources are adequate to support the program.† The Department is engaged in long-range planning with the U.S. Geological Survey to acquire federal funding for a joint USGS/MSU Environmental Sciences Building that would support the long-term space needs of this program.

 

A Ph.D. program in Earth Sciences will greatly enhance the Departmentís ability to:† 1) recruit new doctoral students for MSU, 2) bring more attention to the allied Masterís and Bachelorís degree programs, thereby attracting more students for these degree programs, 3) grow the Universityís number of international students, and 4) attract high quality scientists for future faculty positions.

 

Proposed Starting Date: January 2003