Western’s School of Environment and Sustainability recently announced the addition of six adjunct faculty members to the Master of Science in Ecology program. The school welcomes Ian Billick, Ph.D.; Kevin Blecha, M.S.; Ian Breckheimer, Ph.D.; Russel Japuntich, M.S.; Jennie Reithel, Ph.D.; and Heidi Steltzer, Ph.D.
The appointments build on the collaboration that the School of Environment & Sustainability and the Natural & Environmental Sciences Department have been cultivating with land management agencies and researchers across the west slope for decades. These agencies include the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL), Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Billick serves as the executive director of RMBL, while Breckheimer is a research scientist for the organization and Reithel serves as the group’s science director. Blecha hails from Colorado Parks and Wildlife where he works as a terrestrial wildlife biologist, and Japuntich will bring his experience as a southwest district fisheries biologist working for the BLM to Western. Steltzer serves as a professor of Environment & Sustainability and Biology at Fort Lewis College where she coordinates the Environmental Science Degree Program.
The M.S. in Ecology engages a new kind of scientist: one whose ability to perform research with immediate relevance for solving problems is matched only by their skills in collaborating with affected communities. This scientist is also expected to incorporate citizens and citizen science into effective research, producing accessible and accurate results for utilization by both policy-makers and the public.
Students interested in earning an M.S. in Ecology have two tracks to choose from: Ecology & Conservation and Fisheries & Wildlife Management. Students within the program work closely with an advisor, conservation practitioners and natural resource managers to develop and complete an original research project.
These six individuals were chosen to serve as adjunct faculty members in part because of their long-term collaboration with the M.S. in Ecology program. As they begin their time at Western, there is the hope that they will continue to look forward to help address key ecological questions through their research.