We are interested in research that is theoretically relevant and innovative, but that also directly contributes to environmental and natural resource conservation and management. As such, our research contributes to (1) ecological theory, (2) research / statistical methodology, and/or (3) conservation and management from an ecological perspective.
Our primary responsibility is towards the conservation of ecosystems and species within them, and all research activities should respect that. Wherever possible, we use low-impact research methods such as nest searching on foot, driving ATVs and trucks on established trails and avoiding intact grasslands, minimizing our time and contact with nests and nestlings, using horses instead of vehicles to manage and care for cattle, etc.
Dr. Koper’s approach is to mentor students in developing their skills to the best of their abilities. As such, she takes an individualistic approach to working with students and her approach differs with the student. For less experience students, it is appropriate that they require more direct supervision in developing research ideas and study designs. More experienced students benefit from more independence and the expectation that they will make an intellectual contribution to the project they are working on, but are supervised to the extent necessary to ensure that studies are feasible, appropriate, and well designed. All students are expected to excel to the best of their abilities, and to produce publishable and high-quality research. We expect and encourage the highest standards of writing, study design, data collection and publication preparation.
Most importantly, we encourage a collegial, friendly, helpful and respectful environment within our research group.
For the sake of student careers, training, and making the most of their graduate experience, it is important that student’s research be:
- Make a novel contribution to conservation or ecological theory (in the case of PhD students, both are required)
- Completed in 2 field seasons for a masters student, 3 or 4 field seasons for a PhD student
The graduate programs are designed both to prepare students for the job market immediately upon graduation, or to allow them to successfully continue in academia.
Dr. Koper primarily supervises students within the Masters of Natural Resources Management program (MNRM), and Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Environmental Management. The MNRM program is a 2-year program that is both course-based and research-based. Students will take 9 courses, generally resulting in full-time course load for the first 8 months of their program, and will produce a full research thesis. The Ph.D. program generally takes 4 to 5 years (full-time) to complete. Ph.D. students take 4 courses throughout their program, but the emphasis is primarily on producing a dissertation.
The primary characteristic of the MNRM program in particular, and the Natural Resources Institute in general, is that it is interdisciplinary. While student theses within LCSP are primarily ecological (with a conservation or management focus), students also take courses in a wide variety of fields including ecology, conservation biology, statistics, law, economics, policy, and social aspects of resources management. As it is an interdisciplinary program, the official degree would be Masters of Natural Resources
We support this approach because it provides students with the background they need to make conservation or management decisions in a real-world environment. It is important that students only attend the NRI if they truly believe in this philosophy, as they will not enjoy, and therefore benefit from, the graduate experience if they do not appreciate and want to learn about the context in which ecology will be applied to conservation and management in real-world environments.