Carol Brewer Ph.D. - Lab Website
Plant Functional Morphology and Ecology Education
No Child Left Indoors

Education Programs

My research program in science education stems from the belief that acquisition of knowledge alone will not be sufficient for improving scientific literacy unless such knowledge is disseminated and applied effectively. To improve science literacy, we need improved methods for training future scientists, teachers and the lay public. Moreover, understanding the nature of the connections between teaching and learning requires further exploration and consideration.

Recent and on-going projects in my laboratory include facilitating collaborations between scientists and teachers, training teachers to use their schoolyards for leading ecological investigations with their students (, exploring new methods for teaching science to undergraduates, and using new assessment strategies to clearly connect teaching and learning. With funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to the University of Montana (, we are changing our biology curriculum to make research experiences central to the training of all undergraduates in the Division of Biological Sciences at UM. As part of this initiative, we are exploring issues of faculty development, change in practice, and assessment, especially as they relate to sustainability of new science education initiatives.

Current Programs

Northern Rockies Natural History Guide

A comprehensive guide to the plants and animals of the Northern Rockies of western Montana with a particular focus on schoolyards and surrounding local natural areas in Ravalli and Missoula Counties. We integrate information from existing field guides, published literature, web resources and local observations.

ECOS Program

Connecting ecologists with educators to ensure "No Child Left Indoors"

Project Budburst!

Project BudBurst is ideal for teachers and students, families interested in participating in a science project, scouts and 4-H groups, gardening clubs, botanical gardens….anyone or any group with an interest in contributing to a socially and scientifically relevant research study.

Ecology of Infectious Diseases

Uniting faculty and graduate students in the study of the ecology of endemic, epidemic and emergent infectious diseases.


Completed Programs

Undergraduate Biology Curriculum Program

Project IBS-CORE brings the excitement of cutting-edge research to undergraduates in The Division of Biological Sciences. We provide opportunities for students to conduct original research during summer fellowships and in laboratory courses. Nationally and internationally recognized faculty researchers bring up-to-date scientific advances to the courses they teach.

Evolution Education

"Teach Evolution and Make it Relevant" provides resources and materials for teaching evolution at the pre-college level. Evolution is the unifying principle of biology, and this website has everything you need to effectively teach evolution in your classroom.

Sea Turtle Ecology Education

Ecology Project International improves and inspires science education and conservation efforts worldwide through field based student-scientist partnerships.

Guided by local scientists, EPI introduces students to authentic scientific study, raises cultural and ecological awareness, and promotes international cooperation. EPI empowers students to learn about, and help solve, critical conservation issues.

Teachers Investigate Ecology

Montana Teachers Investigate Ecology Project (MT-TIE) was a program developed by Carol Brewer, Lisa Blank, and Elaine Caton. The project ran from 2000 – 2003 and served middle and high school teachers in western Montana. Teachers participated in ecological research and interacted with scientists from The University of Montana and the U.S. Forest Service.

MT-TIE fostered inquiry-based science instruction at all levels; built collaborative relationships between teachers and local scientists; created a cadre of teachers dedicated to using student research to facilitate learning; and strengthened alliances among education and research institutions in western Montana.

Schoolyard Ecology

Schoolyard Ecology came to Montana in 1994 through a collaboration between the University of Montana and the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook NY. The Montana project paired local scientists with elementary school teachers in collaborations focused on looking at the schoolyard as an ecological laboratory. The schoolyard ecology project ran in Brewer’s lab from 1994 – 1997. The “Montana Tie” program evolved from schoolyard ecology. The national project leader was Alan Berkowitz at IES.

The ultimate goal of Schoolyard Ecology is to help classroom teachers foster ecological literacy in their students.

Ecological Forecasting

A two-week, graduate/post-graduate level ‘summer school’ will introduce ecologists and earth scientists to modern statistical computation techniques. Ecological inference and forecasting are limited by large and diverse sources of variability that operate at a range of scales. Hierarchical Bayes and Markov chain Monte Carlo simulation provide powerful tools for analyzing processes characterized by multiple sources of uncertainty and variability.

In this ‘summer school,’ leading statisticians and ecologists will provide day-long presentations and hands-on training with computation techniques. Lecture notes will be published as a book together with approximately four student group chapters. ‘Students’ will include advanced graduate students and postdoctoral associates selected by an open application process.

The Summer school will convene at Duke University’s Center on Global Change in the Nicholas School of the Environment.

Project Train

Training American Indians in Environmental Biology has four primary objectives. It will: (1) Increase the number of American Indian students entering graduate school and careers in environmental biology by providing research experiences and mentoring. (2) Expand the existing collaborative relationship between the University of Montana and Salish Kootenai College to include the other tribal colleges in the state and through providing research experience for the most talented students. (3) Increase the knowledge of UM faculty and students about minority issues. (4) Disseminate throughout Indian country the relevance of training in environmental biology. The summer internship program will support up to 12 students per summer. Students will be recruited from Montana’s seven tribal colleges, the University of Montana and from additional tribal colleges in the region.

CREST with Teton Science School

Matt Erickson, a graduate student in Brewer’s lab, developed the Teton Crest Program for his Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies. He finished this work in 2003. Teton CREST (Combining Research and Education in Science Teaching) was offered through the Teton Science School (TSS). The focus was on providing secondary educators with the tools needed to effectively implement ecological research into their science curriculum. CREST fostered partnerships between scientists and educators. During the summer of the CREST program, TSS provide guidance to teachers on field research methods, and mentored teachers as they instructed high school students in a weeklong field research program.