Malcolm M. Renfrew Interdisciplinary Colloquium Web Archive

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The Benefits and Challenges of Launching a New Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program
MRIC 2004/05

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"The Benefits and Challenges of Launching a New Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program"

October 26
Lisette Waits - Wildlife Resources

Abstract: To achieve biodiversity conservation and sustainable production in anthropogenically fragmented landscapes, scientists need to be trained in a holistic fashion that emphasizes integration and interdisciplinary collaboration. Traditional graduate programs in conservation biology, forestry, and agriculture fall short of this goal as they train scientists with research skills in narrowly defined disciplines and rarely, if ever, facilitate integration across disciplines. We present an NSF funded experiment in graduate education that develops and evaluates an integrative educational model with an emphasis on developing interdisciplinary research skills and knowledge in the biological, physical and social sciences. This educational program involves researchers from 7 departments and 3 colleges at the University of Idaho plus four research areas at the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) in Costa Rica. Eighteen PhD students have been recruited to form 5 interdisciplinary teams that are addressing research questions in conservation biology and sustainability of agricultural and forestry production in temperate and tropical ecosystems. Team members representing biological, physical and social sciences work together to develop and implement interdisciplinary research projects. The structure, challenges and successes of this new graduate program will be highlighted.

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