Training Program


The UM BRIDGES program is designed to provide graduate student trainees with interdisciplinary, translational, and professional skills that complement dissertation/thesis research and enable trainees to compete for a broad range of jobs after graduation. Students completing the traineeeship are also eligible to apply for a Water-Energy-Food Nexus Graduate Certificate, demonstrating their mastery of nexus issues.

Trainees are part of a vibrant intellectual community of graduate students and faculty from a range of disciplines, all working at the FEW nexus. Trainees must be enrolled in a STEM graduate program at the University of Montana. All trainees will need to meet the requirements of their home degree program. Trainees should check with their home degree program regarding which UM BRIDGES courses count toward degree program requirements.


Trainees are required to take 6 credits of UM BRIDGES coursework and 6 credits of elective courses in addition to meeting requirements of their home department. Accepted trainees should discuss coursework with their advisor before registering. Trainees must take at least 6.0 credits of electives from the list below to qualify for the Water-Energy-Food Nexus Graduate Certificate.

3 credits, Fall (taken in first year of traineeship)

This course examines core interactions at the FEW nexus, focusing on foundational concepts and tools with an emphasis on bridging local and global scales, sectors and disciplines, and problems and analytic tools. The course integrates physical and biological sciences, social and behavioral sciences, economics, and engineering, and covers relevant frameworks such as resilience thinking, ecosystem-based approaches, innovations and decision science, economic valuation, and complex systems theory. These frameworks will be applied to domestic and international food-energy-water cases to build analytic skills and illuminate system drivers, leverage points, and cross-scale linkages.

This course is open to all graduate students, as space allows.

1 credit, Fall (taken in first year of traineeship)

This seminar rotates between in-class lectures and discussions and local field trips, and does not meet every week. Topics include the the what and why behind communicating science, how to tell your story powerfully, and understanding your audience, as well as primers on using blogs and social media to support these efforts. Students will both build and practice skills in communicating science at the FEWS nexus clearly and across audiences.

This seminar is only open to UM BRIDGES Trainees.

1 credit, Spring (taken in first year of traineeship)

This seminar will help students better understand how to translate their science to practice throughout their careers. Topics include the science - policy interface, working with tribes, co-production of knowledge, integrating social and natural sciences, working with journalists, and ethics in research and practice. 

This course is open to all graduate students, as space allows.

1 credit, Spring (taken in second year of traineeship)

Students will continue to discuss best practices in communicating science and build more advanced skills. The semester will focus on students envisioning, creating, and delivering their own science communications project.

This seminar is only open to UM BRIDGES Trainees.

Electives provide opportunities for trainees to take courses that develop depth within their discipline and breadth outside of their primary topic area, as well as complementing their research and helping meet departmental requirements. Trainees identify relevant electives in coordination with their advisor. A total of six credits from relevant, approved electives are required to complete the WEF Graduate Certificate. The full 6.0 credits can be taken from Elective List A; only up to 3.0 credits from Elective List B can count toward certificate requirements. The following list is not exhaustive, and other relevant electives may be approved by the UM BRIDGES Director or Co-Director.

Elective List A

  • BIOB 480 Conservation Genetics
  • BIOB 506 Ecology
  • BIOE 416 Alpine Ecology
  • BIOE 438 Stream Ecology
  • BIOE 440 Conservation Ecology
  • BIOE 451 Landscape Ecology
  • BIOE 491 Aquatic Microbial Ecology
  • BIOE 453 Lake Ecology
  • BIOE 458 Forest and Grassland Ecology
  • BIOE 491 Drone Remote Sensing of Freshwater Ecosystems
  • BIOS 532 Ecosystem Ecology
  • BIOS 534 Integrated Systems Ecology
  • CHMY 541 Environmental Chemistry
  • ECNS 433 Economics of the Environment
  • ENCS 445 International Environmental Economics and Climate Change
  • ENSC 540 Watershed Conservation Ecology
  • ENSC 501 Scientific Approaches to Environmental Problems
  • ENSC 550 Pollution Ecology
  • ENSC 594 Applied Ecology
  • ENST 410 Traditional Ecological Knowledge of Native Peoples
  • ENST 430 Culture and Agriculture
  • ENST 480 Food, Agriculture, and Environment
  • ENST 535 Local Climate Solutions
  • ENST 542 Transboundary Environmental Issues
  • ENST 560 Environmental Impact Assessment
  • ENST 580 The Politics of Food
  • ENST 594 Contemporary Issues in Indian Country
  • ENST 594 Environmental Law for Non-Lawyers
  • ENST 595 Agroecology
  • GEO 420 Hydrogeology
  • GEO 421 Hydrology
  • GEO 488 Snow, Ice and Climate
  • GEO 528 Sedimentary Basin Analysis
  • GEO 560 Fluvial Geomorphology
  • GEO 570 Chemistry of Hot Springs
  • GEO 585 Hydrologic Modeling
  • GEO 595 Subsurface Transport
  • GEO 585 Hydrologic Modeling
  • GPHY 433 Cultural Ecology
  • GPHY 434 Food and Famine
  • GPHY 525 Advanced Physical Geography
  • GPHY 535 Seminar in Water Resources
  • GPHY 564 Planning Design
  • LAW 530 Law of Climate Change
  • LAW 539 International Environmental Law
  • LAW 619 American Indian Natural Resources Law
  • LAW 635 Wildlife Law
  • LAW 650 Intro to Natural Resources and Environmental Law
  • LAW 651 Oil and Gas Law
  • LAW 654 Public Land and Resource Law
  • LAW 663 Water Law
  • LAW 678 Renewable Energy
  • LAW 687 Land Use and the Environment
  • NRSM 408 Global Cycles and Climate
  • NRSM 415 Environmental Soil Science
  • NRSM 418 Ecosystem Climatology
  • NRSM 422 Natural Resource Policy and Administration
  • NRSM 427 Advanced Water Policy
  • NRSM 524 Community Forestry and Conservation
  • NRSM 526 Climate and Society
  • NRSM 449 Climate Change Ethics and Policy
  • NRSM 460 Rangeland Management
  • NRSM 462 Rangeland Ecology
  • NRSM 465 Restoration Ecology
  • NRSM 575 Environment and Development
  • NRSM 513 Natural Resource Conflict Resolution
  • NRSM 515 Environmental Negotiation and Mediation
  • NRSM 532 Forest Ecosystem Analysis
  • NRSM 570 Political Ecology
  • NRSM 571 International Conservation and Development
  • NRSM 579 Collaborative Conservation
  • NRSM 595 International Water Governance
  • NRSM 622 Advanced Natural Resource Policy
  • PTRM 574 Human Dimensions of Natural Resources
  • PTRM 595 Conflict and Collaboration
  • WILD 410 Wildlife Policy and Biopolitics
  • WILD 568 Topics in Aquatic Ecology

Elective List B

  • CSCI 444 Data Visualization
  • CSCI 558 Intro to Bioinformatics
  • CSCI 564 Applications Mining Big Data
  • CSCI 577 Simulation Modeling
  • CSCI 595 Big Data Science
  • ECNS 560 Advanced Econometrics
  • ENST 555 Research Methods for Social Change
  • FORS 503 Predictive Distribution Modeling
  • FORS 505 Sampling Methods
  • FORS 538 Ecological Statistics
  • FORS 551 Digital Image Processing
  • GPHY 465 Planning Principles and Processes
  • GPHY 466 Environmental Planning
  • GPHY 468 Community & Regional Analysis
  • GPHY 481 Advanced Cartographic Design
  • GPHY 482 Spatial Analysis and GIS
  • GPHY 487 Remote Sensing and Raster GIS
  • GPHY 486 Transport, Planning, and GIS
  • GPHY 564 Planning Design
  • GPHY 580 Seminar in GIS and Cartography
  • GPHY 587 Digital Image Analysis & Modeling
  • GPHY 588 Vector GIS
  • JRNL 505 Journalism and Environment
  • JRNL 570 Covering Environmental and Resource Issues
  • NRSM 500 Conservation Social Science Research Methods
  • PSCI 501 Public Administration
  • PSCI 504 Organizational Theory
  • STAT 451, 452, 457, 545, 548, or 549
  • WBIO 562 Wildlife Habitat Modeling

Numeracy Workshop

This workshop will help you appreciate numbers and develop tools and tricks for using numbers skillfully, comfortably, and powerfully.

This workshop is required of all trainees in the Spring semester of their first year. In the event that the workshop is not offered in spring semester of a trainee's first year, the workshop should be taken the next time it is offered.


M.S. and Ph.D. trainees complete 80 or 120 hours of internship experience, respectively. Internships provide opportunities to apply classroom and research knowledge to real-world problem-solving, build an understanding of how scientific knowledge is used in decision-making, hone communication skills via outreach and dialogue, and gain skills and knowledge to improve outcomes from graduate research projects. Internships are tailored to each student’s program of study and professional goals and arranged in conjunction with the trainee’s advisor with help from the UM BRIDGES program leaders. Internships can be completed within the US or abroad, and funding is available to support these experiences. Trainees intern with non-governmental organizations, private companies, government agencies, tribes, and national laboratories. Internships are set up in coordination with the trainee's faculty advisor and the UM BRIDGES program leaders.


Trainees will participate in at least one semester-long co-lab experience to cultivate interdisciplinary knowledge and research skills. Co-labs are led by two or more UM BRIDGES faculty from different FEW disciplines and bring together a small group of students around a common, interdisciplinary research theme or interest. Co-labs involve regular meetings that include cross-disciplinary data analysis, proposal development, or discussion. Co-labs are only required for trainees with fellowships, but all trainees are invited.

International Experiences

Trainees are encouraged to participate in an international experience. Global perspectives on the social, economic, and biophysical linkages between local and non-local scales are essential to UM BRIDGES. International experiences can include internships, research, workshops, field courses, and other types of international collaborations. Funding support for international travel is available. This was previously a requirement for PhD trainees but is now optional given pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Photo by: Brian Smerdon