A Natural Fit for Success

UM’s College of Forestry and Conservation is well-known as one of the first—and finest—forestry programs in the country. Established in 1913, the College is a leader in integrated natural resource management and a center for excellence in education and research. A look at people who have been part of the College—former and current—offers proof of that excellence.

Hannah Riedl

Triathlete. Chemist. Dreamer.

Hannah Riedl knew she wanted to work in nature when she was a young child. “I grew up in Carson City, Nevada,” she says, “where my mom works for the state doing a lot of environmental education workshops. I always tagged along, and I always loved it. From a very young age, my parents instilled a respect for nature in me.”

That, in part, explains how she ended up at The University of Montana, studying Wildland Restoration.

Now in her junior year, Riedl already has an impressive list of accomplishments. Two summers ago, she worked with Laurie Marczak, assistant professor of aquatic invertebrate ecology, on a research project devoted to leaf decomposition rates in streams and microvertebrates and composition. As part of that project, Riedl traveled to Providence, Rhode Island, to participate in a conference presentation to the North American Benthological Society (NABS). This important research will help guide future wildland restoration efforts.

Hannah Reidl, triathlete and student of Wildlife Restoration

She followed that up this last summer with a similar research project dedicated to non-native leaf decomposition. And, along the way, she’s earned several scholarships and research grants while also being a double major in chemistry. “Wildland Restoration helps me see the big picture,” she says. “Chemistry helps me see things on a small scale.”

And just to add to the overachiever status, she’s a competitive triathlete. She currently serves as president of the UM triathlon team, competing primarily at the Olympic distance, but she’s also helped organize the Grizzly Sprint Triathlon. “For me, nature and triathlons go hand in hand: triathlons are a way to travel to different places, different environments.”

As for her career plans after earning her degree—she’s ready to follow where her dreams, and her feet, take her. “My emphasis is aquatic; I’m hoping to do mining restoration work or stream reclamation work, which will really incorporate the chemistry.”

Pictured above: Hannah Riedl, triathlete and student of Wildlife Restoration

Shawn Cleveland

Following Wildlife, Leading Biologists

Shawn Cleveland knows about positioning: where he stands today, where he wants to go tomorrow and how to make the two meet.

As an undergraduate student in the Wildlife Biology program, he wanted to be a field biologist. He figured the best way to make that happen was to get a head start. By the time he graduated in 2002, he’d already logged time in the field for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “I worked for various research projects,” he says, “which gave me opportunities to work with lots of different critters while going to school. I wanted to do that to set the stage for continued field work.”

The stage-setting worked. Cleveland took on other projects and eventually was hired as lead biologist for a Thompson River highway mitigation project. When that project ended two years later, Cleveland found himself thinking about returning to school for graduate work.

Time for a bit of repositioning. “That was when Mark Hebblewhite joined the program at UM; I knew he’d be looking for grad students. At the same time, I found out about a new urban elk project outside of Missoula and I thought they’d want a grad student to be part of it. I went to Dan Pletscher and said, ‘I understand there’s a project. And I also know Hebblewhite’s coming on and needs a grad student. How do I position myself to be that student?’”

He joined the project in fall of 2007, and began studying how predation risk influences elk movement, as well as how to maintain corridors for migratory elk herds. He finished the project, and his master’s degree, in January of 2010.

Cleveland joined The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in 2010, taking over the management of 60,000 grassland acres on the Matador Ranch in north central Montana. Cleveland helps TNC conserve northern mixed-grass prairie and demonstrate how ranching can complement that conservation. “We work with farmers and ranchers, 13 of them this year, to be exact. Building on the great relationships we have with the ranchers, we’ve been able to leverage our 60,000 acres into 250,000, or about four times what we actually manage. The grassbank lets local ranchers graze their cattle on the Matador for discounted fees based on the various conservation practices used on their own ranches. Since the ranchers involved in the Matador grazing program have prairie dogs, sage grouse or grassland birds on their own ranches, benefits accrue for both wildlife and the ranchers’ bottom lines.”

And, not forgetting the opportunities he had to participate in research as a student, Cleveland is committed to giving that same opportunity to others. Currently, PhD candidate Marisa Lipsey is working on a grassland project, studying how to benefit grassland birds across Canada, Montana and North Dakota. Working with Cleveland and her advisor Dave Naugle, Lipsey is studying how ranch-scale changes in grazing management can affect bird distributions. And master’s student Rob Wingard, working under advisor Paul Krausman, is studying pronghorn and sage grouse migrations, and how different fencing materials affect those migrations. Cleveland is excited about Wingard’s project, as it's studying “how to improve fluidity for pronghorn.”

It comes as no surprise that Cleveland has recently been elected as incoming president of the Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society, and selected for the National Wildlife Society Leadership Institute.

After all, Cleveland’s a man who keeps his eye on the future.