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### Master’s Program Bridges Conservation and Community for UM Student

In May 2024, Meg Euclide is set to become the inaugural graduate of the University of Montana’s wildlife biology professional master’s program.

MISSOULA– Meg Euclide attributes her profound love for wildlife and ecosystems to numerous backpacking and fishing trips out West with her father. These experiences have fueled her dedication to conservation and inspired her career path.

Among just three graduate students enrolled in UM’s wildlife biology professional master’s program, Euclide is immersed in a two-year curriculum that combines academic coursework with practical experience. Unlike traditional thesis-centered programs, students in this program are tasked with completing a professional paper that contributes tangibly to wildlife conservation efforts.

Upon completion of her bachelor’s degree in environmental science at the University of Vermont, Euclide engaged in various fisheries- and wildlife-related projects across the Western region. Her decision to join UM’s professional graduate program was motivated by the opportunity it presented to integrate academic knowledge with real-world applications.

As a program requirement, Euclide collaborated with the local nonprofit organization, Bitter Root Land Trust, attracted by its community-focused conservation mission.

Balancing her academic responsibilities with practical experience, Euclide commutes twice a week from Missoula to Hamilton, a 45-minute drive, to receive guidance and support the organization’s conservation initiatives in the Bitterroot Valley through conservation easements.

The hands-on experience provided by the program has allowed Euclide to actively participate in various aspects of conservation easement work, from monitoring and reporting to engaging with landowners.

Reflecting on her involvement, Euclide expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to bridge academic learning with on-the-ground conservation efforts, describing it as a valuable learning experience.

During the summer, Euclide collaborated with Bitter Root Land Trust to secure a $10 million grant from the Natural Resource Conservation Service. This grant aimed to assist private landowners in conserving forested lands in the Bitterroot, marking Euclide’s first foray into grant writing—an essential skill she aimed to cultivate during her academic journey.

Vicky Dreitz, UM’s interim program director, commended Euclide’s professional growth through her engagement with Bitter Root Land Trust, highlighting the significance of practical experience in conservation work.

Gavin Ricklefs, executive director of Bitter Root Land Trust, emphasized the increasing demand for professionals with a blend of academic knowledge and practical experience in conservation efforts, underscoring the unique value of UM’s professional master’s degree in preparing students for such roles.

Chad Bishop, the Wildlife Biology program director, explained that professional master’s degrees like the one at UM cater to the needs of working professionals seeking advanced education without a research thesis requirement, reflecting the evolving landscape of wildlife management and conservation.

Dreitz emphasized the importance of the professional master’s degree in addressing diverse needs within wildlife conservation, noting that students’ professional papers often translate into management plans for specific conservation activities.

The program’s focus on practical skills complements traditional research-based degrees, offering a broader skill set to address the multifaceted challenges of wildlife conservation.

For UM, the professional program plays a crucial role in educating wildlife biologists and equipping them with the necessary skills to contribute to the conservation and management of Montana’s diverse wildlife populations.

Contact: Elizabeth Harrison, director of communications, W.A. Franke College of Forestry & Conservation, 917-656-9773.