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Josh Slotnick, director of the PEAS Farm, talks at an event to celebrate the approval of a 40-year lease between Missoula County Public Schools and the city of Missoula for land the district owns on Duncan Drive where the farm operates. The lease, which includes an additional three acres managed by the city for recreation, keeps the PEAS Farm in operation for the foreseeable future.

A U.S. Department of State exchange program has bestowed a University of Montana faculty member with one of its highest honors.

Josh Slotnick, a lecturer in UM’s Environmental Studies Program, received one of four fall 2015 Alumni Impact Awards from the Professional Fellows Program, which brings together emerging leaders from the U.S. and around the world for intensive, short-term fellowships designed to broaden their professional expertise.

In the first phase of the program, American participants host, work with and learn from the foreign fellows as they gain experience in nonprofit organizations, private sector businesses and government offices across the U.S. During the second phase of the exchange, American participants travel to their counterparts’ home countries to engage in a similar program. 

Slotnick hosted Thai participant Payong Srithong in 2013, and traveled to Thailand the following year. He worked with Srithong to create economic opportunities through agriculture for refugees from Myanmar on the Thai border. After participating in the Professional Fellows Program, Slotnick led an exchange program for UM students in Thailand this past January. The students spent time on several farms, including Srithong’s, which he transformed into a training center following his time in the U.S.

Slotnick, a strong proponent of community-based agriculture, is a co-founder of UM’s Program in Ecological Agriculture and Society (PEAS) and the program’s 10-acre vegetable farm in the Rattlesnake Valley. He also helped establish Missoula’s Garden City Harvest nonprofit.

The program will honor Slotnick and three other award recipients at the Fall 2015 Professional Fellows Congress from Tuesday through Thursday in Washington, D.C. During the conference, recipients will have the opportunity to connect and discuss their work with Fellows from around the world.

UM also announced the following last week:

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The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center is scheduled to show the award-winning Korean film “Ode to My Father” at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, at the University Center Theater. The drama chronicles the life of an ordinary Korean man and his family from the Korean War to present day.

Two guest lecturers, Sung-Yong Lee of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and James Person of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars History and Public Policy Program, will speak before the start of the film. Their presentation “Korea: The Time of Changes” will explore the real-life settings and contexts for the events of the film.

The event is free and open to the public, but organizers ask attendees to reserve tickets in advance online at umt.edu/mansfield or by calling 406-243-2988. Refreshments will be served.

“Ode to My Father” tells the story of one man whose family is separated during the division of North and South Korea, and the path his life takes after he promises his father that he will care for their family in his father’s place.

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A local conservation organization recently recognized the conservation and environmental contributions two UM professors have made to the greater Missoula community.

The Missoula Conservation Roundtable presented two of its annual awards to UM environmental studies Professor Neva Hassanein and biology Professor Erick Greene at a recent ceremony. Hassanein received the Don Aldrich Award, named in memory of the pioneering Montana conservationist whose efforts from the 1960s through 1990s helped pave the way for the conservation and environmental movements that continue today. The award is presented to an individual based on his or her longtime contributions to the conservation of natural resources and environmental protection.

According to her nomination, Hassanein strategically used her research and organizing skills to nurture a powerful local movement to protect Montana farmland and increase local food security and sustainability. She established sustainable food and farming as an emphasis in UM’s environmental studies curriculum, and she helped build the university’s Farm to College program, a campus-community partnership for local food, into a nationally recognized, award-winning program.

Greene received the Arnold Bolle Award, which was established in 1981 in honor of Bolle, a former faculty member in the UM College of Forestry and Conservation whose life was a demonstration of a personal commitment to conservation. The Bolle Center for People and Forests at UM is named for him, and the Arnold Bolle Award is a lifetime achievement award presented to a professional in natural resource management or environmental protection.

“In addition to Arnold Bolle being a wonderful mentor and friend, we shared great interests together in birds, conservation and music,” Greene said. “A large part of my research now involves a lot of the ‘music’ of the natural world, and I attribute that in part to Arnold’s influence.”

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A team of researchers recently discovered that global climate change is causing general increases in both plant growth and potential drought risk.

UM Professor John Kimball is among the team of researchers who published an article on Oct. 30 about their study on Nature magazine’s website titled “Vegetation Greening and Climate Change Promote Multidecadal Rises of Global Land Evapotranspiration.”

Their research shows that during the past 32 years there have been widespread increases in both plant growth and evaporation due to recent global climate trends. The apparent rise in evapotranspiration – the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from plants and soil – is increasing potential drought risk with rising temperature trends, especially during periodic drought cycles that have been linked with strong El Nino events. El Nino is a disruption of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific with important consequences for weather around the globe.

The researchers produced a long-term global satellite record of land evapotranspiration using remote sensing satellite data. They investigated multi-decadal changes looking at trends between 1982 and 2013. In addition to global evapotranspiration trends, they examined vegetation greenness and general climate data including temperature, precipitation and cloudiness. Collectively, these data show general increasing trends in both plant growth and evaporation with recent climate change mainly driven by vegetation greening and rising atmosphere moisture deficits.

The study predicts that a continuation of these trends will likely exacerbate regional drought-induced disturbances, especially during regional dry climate phases associated with strong El Nino events.

The paper can be viewed online at nature.com/articles/srep15956. For more information call Kimball at 406-243-4922 or email john.kimball@umontana.edu.

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