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University Updates

Western Colorado University Receives Research and Education Grant from the Department of Energy

A student looks through a telescope at bighorn sheep

We are excited to begin to use this grant to support diverse student involvement with cutting-edge research in ecology and environmental sciences in the region.” -Johnathan Coop, Ph.D.

Western Colorado University’s Environmental Science and Forest Ecology programs were awarded a grant for $720,000 from the United States Department of Energy (DOE). To support underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, Western is one of 37 institutions awarded this grant as a part of the DOE’s Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (RENEW) initiative. The RENEW program aims to support internships, training programs, and mentorship opportunities for minority groups and research institutions.  

 “We are excited to begin to use this grant to support diverse student involvement with cutting-edge research in ecology and environmental sciences in the region,” said Johnathan Coop, PhD., Professor of Environment & Sustainability and principal investigator in the grant’s project. “The work they will do will help answer critical environmental questions around maintaining forest and watershed health as climate change advances, help inform land management strategies for a time of change, and provide students with knowledge and experiences that position them for rewarding careers in research and natural resources management.”

The Project

Western will use the grant to fund fellowships for graduate students and pay summer salaries for undergraduate students doing research work. Faculty and students have teamed up with researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) National Laboratory to study the processes and outcomes of changing ecosystems as a result of climate change. These changes also impact people, especially communities that are disadvantaged socio-economically.  

 “Addressing these issues compels strong and sustained investment in inclusive training for scientists representing all affected human communities,” Coop said, “It takes a lot of collaboration to make these kinds of efforts happen.”  

Professor Jonathan Coop discusses forest ecology with two students while observing a wildfire burn zone.

The co-investigators of the research project include Kristen Boye and Vincent Noël from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Ken Williams from the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, and Amy Ellwein, David Marchetti, Micah Russell, and Madelon van de Kerk from Western Colorado University.  

The team of researchers is focused on two objectives: researching climate-driven impacts on the functionality of forest ecosystems and watershed systems, and creating innovative educational and training opportunities for diverse students. Over a timeframe of four years, their goals include supporting a new Environmental Science program to immerse diverse students at Western into research opportunities, expand graduate fellowship opportunities for students that are underrepresented and first-generation, and build mentorships and classroom curricula to include the research data and narratives from the project.

Upward Movement

“The initiatives we’ve proposed will advance critical science questions and provide inclusive training for students who would not otherwise have access to such opportunities,” said Coop. “These will facilitate the development of long-term partnerships between DOE and a rural university to link the next generation of diverse, innovative scientists to fulfilling career opportunities addressing environmental challenges.” 

Western Colorado University is dedicated to the expansion of inclusivity in all aspects of research and education. Applying for and receiving federal grants that fund research opportunities for diverse and underserved communities is a testament to that commitment. With this grant, Western showcases its eagerness to compete with other higher education institutions nationally and explore the boundaries of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.   

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