The Ecology Center was founded in the late 1960s as a means of coordinating USU’s research efforts on a large project funded by the National Science Foundation. Today, it continues to coordinate campus-wide ecological studies by integrating the research efforts of faculty, staff and students in departments across three colleges at USU.
The Ecology Center doesn’t perform any research itself; rather, the center accommodates projects in the colleges of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Science.
Academically, the center provides the scientific bedrock for USU’s graduate program in ecology and serves as a knowledge bank for policy makers, as center faculty offer their expertise locally and nationally.
“[The Ecology Center] creates a collegial way to interact,” says MacMahon, adding that the center brings in monthly lecturers and assists researchers with grant writing and accounting. “There’s nothing typical about my day. My tasks are to help the ecologists when they need help.”
Operated by a team of only four, the center is nimble enough to provide one-on-one assistance to researchers. But the size of its staff certainly doesn’t reflect the reach of its influence. MacMahon and his colleagues currently work with more than 70 researchers, whose efforts include about 60 projects worldwide. This research, which spans from the U.S. to Europe to Africa, is currently funded at about $14 million.
“It’s a very unique operation for around here; it’s really more of a service than anything,” MacMahon says. “Most research centers have a very directed research goal, while we have a very diffused research goal. The (researchers) decide what they’re going to do.”