Organismal Biology, Ecology, and Evolution

OBE Overview

The Organismal Biology and Ecology (soon to be Organismal Biology, Ecology, and Evolution) program at the University of Montana was created nearly three decades ago, with the fusion of UM Botany and Zoology programs. While founded on the principle that questions in ecology and evolution transcend taxonomic categories, OBEE retains a strong emphasis on the organism. Specifically, we foster faculty and students whose research investigates patterns of natural variation and the processes that generate them. Historically, OBE has been outstanding in conservation biology, ecology, and functional morphology; more recently, we have gained new strengths in evolutionary genomics.

 Field work in sagebrush countryPhysiological ecology fieldwork on the Montana-Idaho border. (Photo credit: Anna Sala)
In 2013, The University recognized OBE's commitment to excelllence with a Program of National Distinction (PoND) award. This competitive grant, along with a generous match from the Drollinger-Dial Foundation, has brought additional resources for the enhancement of international connections and, most importantly, graduate student support. OBE is a small graduate program, not a large department, and our primarily focus (beyond the questions that motivate our science) is graduate student development. This is reflected both in the structure of our M.S. and Ph.D degree programs and in the productivity and camaraderie of our students. Structurally, we emphasize breadth as well as depth by requiring a 3-semester core course series (in Ecology & Behavior, Evolution & Genetics, and Physiology & Function/Development) of all Ph.D students; to foster the art of communication to a broad audience, all students give an annual all-OBE (and public) research seminar, as well as presentations within more specialized forums.
OBE grad students in Tanzania (photo credit: Robert Niese)Grad students Sharon Hood and Alexis Billings in Tanzania with 2014-2015 OBE field course. (Photo credit: Robert Niese)