Our Research Baron and her team visiting Rocky Mountain National Park on Sept. 20, 2013 to collect samples after the historic Colorado floods. Our Program Our Curriculum Specialization Front Range Student Ecology Symposium Photo is courtesy of Caroline Melle. It was taken near her research site at Imnavait Creek by Toolik Lake field station, AK Diana Wall and crew in Antarctica Chris Funk and crew hiking in Oyacachi, Ecuador Kurogawa (Kuro Stream), a stream with native Japanese charr and salmon in the mountains of Shikoku Island, southern Japan – image by David Herasimtschuk

Our Program

Since its inception in 1992, GDPE has grown to become a principal organization that catalyzes cutting-edge and world-renowned ecological research performed at Colorado State University.

Our primary goal is to provide outstanding training for graduate students in the ecological sciences, and our students consistently earn recognition for their scholarship and academic achievement.

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GDPE PhD Area of Specialization

Human/Environment Interactions

Increasing rates of poverty, landlessness, and declining health are co-occurring with rapid shifts in land use, land cover, loss of biodiversity and global warming.

These interconnected human/environmental changes represent a clear risk to the well being of individuals, communities and societies now and in the future.

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Our Curriculum

GDPE's degree programs are rigorous and comprehensive offering both M.S. and Ph.D. tracks in addition to the Human/Environment Interactions specialization.

The GDPE curriculum is designed to provide a breadth and depth of training to MS and PhD students, who will emerge from the program as highly competent and skilled graduates.

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Our Research

The Graduate Degree Program in Ecology is recognized by Colorado State University as a Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence (PRSE). Programs are awarded this designation because they have achieved great distinction and set a standard for excellence that may serve as a model for programs throughout the institution.

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Front Range Student Ecology Symposium

FRSES is a student-run symposium that provides an opportunity for Front Range students doing research in ecology to showcase their work and network in a friendly and supportive peer environment. Highlights include a keynote address by an invited speaker, a full day of poster and oral presentation sessions, an awards banquet to recognize exceptional student work, and a social gathering to celebrate student success.

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Why graduate school at CSU is for you!

"CSU has meant everything to my success. No other university I know of trains its students to work collaboratively across disciplines to solve societal issues. These were the gifts CSU gave me when I arrived and these are the gifts it gives students today. I was so fortunate to learn from the giants in ecosystem ecology how to think big and across disciplines, and apply that knowledge toward solving societal problems."
- Colorado State Scientist Jill Baron

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2016-17 Distinguished Ecologists


GDPE Ecologists in the News

Getting to the root(s) of the problem

John McKay, an associate professor in CSU's Department of Bioagricultureal Sciences and Pest Management, will lead the project - Rhizosphere Observations Optimizing Terrestrial Sequestration (ROOTS) - which will automate the phenotyping of plant roots in agricultural fields and allow researchers to learn more about the genetic composition of the plants based on their roots. "This grant will allow us to scale up our research and look at roots in thousands of research plots and millions of plants," said McKay. "Previously, we were limited by the number of plants we could harvest by hand which meant we lacked the power to identify genes underlying important variation in root traits, including the ideal root systems for maximizing water and nutrient use efficiency." The project will employ two different approaches - pulling the plants out of the ground using a machine currently deployed to examine above-ground material and examing the soil around the plants by using novel, automated sampling the soil throughout the growing season. The researchers are interested in learning which nutrients each plant genotype is using and how much carbon remains in the soil.

Where the wild things are

Evolution is not easy to measure in a field setting, which is why Ruth Hufbauer, a professor in CSU's Department of Bioagricultural Scineces and Pest Management, and her colleagues Whristopher Weiss-Lehman and Brett Melbourne, from CSU's Department of Ecology and Evoulutionary Biology, used flour beetles (Tribolium castaneum) to observe evolutionary processes in controlled envrironments. The researchers created two different kinds of range expansions - structured, where they allowed beetles to expand across a landscape generation to generation under normal conditions, and shuffled, where each individual beetle was counted in a landscape each generation and then mixed together and put back. By putting the same number of individuals at a given location in a landscape as had originally been there, the researchers were able to reproduce the demographics of the landscape as it was prior to shuffling, while mixing up any genetic structure that have developed. The shuffled beetles moved across the landscape more slowly and more predictably. In contrast, normally structured populations moved faster on average, but with more variation in movement, making them less predictable.

Microbial traits, not plants, determine abundance of soil organic matter

Healthy soil is rich in organic matter, but scientists have yet to fully understand exactly how that organic matter is formed. Colorado State University soil scientist Cynthis Kallenbach has contributed new insight, offering evidence for microbial pathways being the chief originator of the organic matter found in stable soil carbon pools. Kallenbach, a postdoctoral researcher in the Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory, co-authored a recent Nature Communications paper on the topic with Professors Stuart Grandy and Serita Frey of the University of New Hampshire, where Kallenbach completed her Ph.D. She is working now with Matthew Wallenstein, assistant professor in ecosystem science and sustainability in the Warner College of Natural Resources. In the study, which was conducted at University of New Hampshire, Kallenbach et al. suggest that soil organic matter accumulates from inputs of dead microbial cells and microbial byproducts formed when microbes eat plant roots and residues, rather than from plants themselves, as previously thought.