Study Ecology and Organismal Biology at the University of Montana
Engage in hands-on, field-based learning opportunities in the spectacular wilderness of Western Montana and the Northern Rockies while working with some of the top biology researchers in the world. The ecology and organismal biology concentration at UM is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to immerse yourself in the ecology and evolution that surrounds our campus — including mentored research experiences with award-winning, internationally renowned faculty from our nationally ranked program.
Designed as a graduate-prep program, this option is ideal for students interested in the biology of organisms (specifically plants or animals) or the biology of populations and communities. But a bachelor’s degree in biology also prepares you for jobs in research and academia as well as careers in the fields of the environment and sustainability, education, health care, and more.
students in the biology major, one of UM’s largest academic programs
million acres of wilderness surround UM
in research funding brought in by UM faculty in ecology and evolution
Other degree options for biology at UM
What can you do with a biology degree?
Biology is a versatile degree that opens up broad career pathways and options for graduate study. The concentration in ecology and organismal biology is especially valuable to students who intend to pursue advanced study for careers in academia/research, employment with state, federal, or conservation organizations, or in the medical or veterinary fields.
What jobs can you get with a biology degree? Here are a few examples of careers graduates of the ecology and organismal biology concentration might pursue:
- Research biologist
- Environmental scientist
- Biology professor
- Agricultural scientist
- Wildlife professional
We estimate that graduates of UM’s bachelor’s degree in biology earn an average of $72,263 per year — but salaries will vary depending on your professional focus and level of education and experience. To give you an idea, here are the average annual earnings of several career paths related to the organismal biology and ecology major, based on recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Environmental scientists: $76,530
- Biology professor: $79,640
- Agricultural and food scientists: $68,830
- Veterinarian: $100,370
Video: The College Tour
Experiential learning in the biology degree
You won’t find a better place to learn about ecology, evolution, and conservation than UM. Our campus is surrounded by more than a million acres of wilderness, spanning rugged Rocky Mountain peaks, alpine lakes, rivers, grasslands, and prairie, providing opportunities for field-based learning that are second to none.
Many courses in the program include field components that provide experiential learning, allowing you to apply classroom lessons in the natural world while gaining hands-on skills. We also offer exciting opportunities for undergraduate research, guided by award-winning faculty mentors who are here to help you every step — from asking interesting and important questions, to designing experiments and collecting data, to communicating your results. Many of our biology majors end up designing their own independent research projects, presenting the results of their studies at local and national conferences, and publishing their work in peer-reviewed journals.
Research facilities for biology majors
When you earn your bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Montana, you’ll have access to some of the best facilities in the nation to study ecology and biological sciences.
Our Field Research Station at Fort Missoula allows us to integrate research in the spectacular natural areas in Montana with laboratory facilities available on campus. Major resources include four large outdoor aviaries, a flight laboratory with two wind tunnels, climate rooms that emulate high-altitude, cold conditions, greenhouses and plots for plant ecology, and a suite of indoor laboratories and rooms for temporarily housing animals.
UM is also home to the Flathead Lake Biological Station — the country’s oldest continuously operating field station, a nexus for advanced research in aquatic sciences and impactful field ecology teaching via its immersive summer session classes. Research at the station has documented ecosystem-wide impacts of invasive species on lake food webs, delineated the potential impacts of nutrient loading for the lake’s pristine water quality, and uncovered the functional complexity of wild, gravel-bed rivers in supporting both aquatic and terrestrial food webs.
Career development in the biology major
At UM, we are here to help you succeed in your career as well as in the classroom. We also offer a more personalized approach to teaching and advising you won’t often find in major research programs, offering our students the best of a large research university combined with smaller class sizes and greater interaction with professors. The result is that you have all the expertise and support you need to achieve your goals and hit the ground running once you graduate.
As many of our biology majors are pre-health professionals, you’ll find vibrant, active clubs and associations for pre-med, pre-veterinarian, and other pre-health professions that are ideal for making new connections and building expertise in your field. Faculty from our nationally ranked graduate program also works closely with undergraduate students, embedding them into their labs and research groups, providing unparalleled opportunities for mentored capstone projects and impactful research.
Faculty in the organismal biology and ecology degree
When you study biological sciences and ecology at UM, you learn from the best. In addition to being caring and dedicated teachers, our faculty are among the nation’s top leaders and researchers in the fields of ecology and evolution.
Over the past decade, they have published more than 800 papers in peer-reviewed journals, including more than 50 papers in Nature, Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the three leading journals of all scientific inquiry. They include elected members of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences; Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards from the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House.
Biology scholarships at UM
Get additional help paying for your degree in biology. We offer a variety of departmental scholarships you can add to your financial aid to help cover tuition costs and more. Explore scholarship opportunities for biology majors at UM.
Biology degree requirements
This concentration of the biology degree program includes coursework in organismal biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, and conservation biology. The program also includes the core requirements included in all science degrees.