COMMUNITY PARTNERS: Peregrine Fund and United States Geological Survey
FACULTY LEAD: Dr. Julie Heath
“I study how disease and ectoparasites affect golden eagle nestling development and survival along the Snake River in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. I am excited about the new Ph.D. program and believe it will enhance the student experience at Boise State by bringing in new professors with a diverse research background, and by increasing course offerings, research opportunities and collaborations between research-minded groups, like the Inter- mountain Bird Observatory, the Peregrine Fund and Gorongosa National Park.”
– Benjamin Dudek, student, master’s program in raptor biology
Dr. Julie Heath is a rare bird. She graduated from Boise State’s master’s program in raptor biology (the only one in the country) in 1996, returned to her alma mater to teach in the Department of Biological Sciences in 2007, and now will coordinate the brand new Ph.D. program in ecology, evolution and behavior (EEB).
“I am very proud of my student experience at Boise State,” she said. “And now as a faculty member I’m excited to see the expanding scope of our graduate training and research programs while we continue the tradition of exceptional student training and education.”
Heath’s work is related to how wildlife responds to changes in their environment, such as weather patterns or how land is used. The new Ph.D. will bring biological sciences together with anthropology and geosciences to address even more complex questions relevant to Idaho, the West and across the world. For example, managing Idaho’s landscapes, water and wildlife habitat alongside changes in fire intensity and climate.
“It’s a contemporary approach to training Ph.D. students and scientists. Our EEB students will develop both strong disciplinary knowledge and collaborate across disciplines to address challenges that are relevant to Idahoans and society, in general,” she said.
Having a research university with Ph.D. students also means millions of dollars in research grants coming to Boise, Heath said, and research teams use these funds locally to purchase supplies. These grants also support the local work force, including undergraduate researchers.
“At Boise State, many of our undergraduate students are working while they’re getting their education, and having off-campus jobs while going to school can be tough,” she noted. “Having a productive research environment allow students to hold on-campus jobs and receive training in the fields where they would like to have careers. This improves their time to graduation and their employability once they leave Boise State.”