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Julie Wolter had to leave Montana to learn about her passion, speech-language pathology.

Now, the associate professor at the University of Montana has landed a $1.2 million grant to help train Montanans to be speech-language pathologists, including those in rural areas and on reservations.

"There is a critical shortage of speech-language pathologists within the state, and there's a disproportionate percentage of individuals requiring those services in these rural areas," Wolter said.

One unique component of the grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services is that the bulk of the money goes directly to supporting students financially, she said.

Wolter, associate chair of UM's Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, said the grant is a perfect fit with the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences, given it straddles both education and science. The project is a partnership with UM's Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities.

This month, UM also announced other major grants, including a $1.4 million award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Energy's Biomass Research and Development Initiative.

With forestry professor Beth Dodson at the helm, the grant will help researchers "identify and overcome barriers to using biomass from fuels-reduction and forest-restoration treatments."

"Research of this type demonstrates our forward-thinking faculty and their appreciation of the role forest resources, including woody biomass, play in meeting our increasing energy and product needs," said UM College of Forestry and Conservation interim Dean Wayne Freimund in a statement.

Earlier this month, University Relations announced the College of Forestry and Conservation had earned more than $1 million in funding from the Joint Fire Science Program in four separate awards.

  • Forest ecology associate professor Andrew Larson was awarded $384,000 to look at how wildfire shapes vegetation and fuels in north-central Washington.
  • Fire ecology associate professor Philip Higuera is the lead on two projects, including a $355,000 grant to look at how "climate variability impacts tree regeneration" in the Northern Rockies. He was also awarded $290,000 to study ecological and social impacts of wildfires.
  • Larson is also co-investigator on a $278,000 joint project led by Utah State University to research tree mortality after wildfire. "One of our key goals is to validate existing models of post-fire tree mortality in order to determine how much improvement is possible if we include information about local crowding," he said in a statement.

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