SCOPE connects MSU students with communitites in Montana

Built upon the ideas of previous MSU students, Student Community Outreach Project (SCOPE) was founded one and a half years ago to connect students with Montana communities. Those previous MSU students agreed that doing research projects and working for the community was the highlight of their education. They created SCOPE to make sure fellow students would also have those opportunities.

SCOPE sends qualified and motivated students of any academic background to different communities in Montana to do a semester-long research project. Students can submit their own ideas for a project or SCOPE provides them ideas. The students can receive funding or any other pertinent help for the project and fulfill academic requirements, such as senior thesis or capstone seminars. Besides that, Kiah Abbey, SCOPE president, described the projects as “a pretty major experience in their college life.”

Right now, six SCOPE students work with communities around Montana. The biggest research project is at the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka with master’s student in earth sciences, Nate Carroll. Last summer, five students helped to renovate the dinosaur museum via landscape restoration, graphic design, paleontological preparation and display collection and renovation. For this summer SCOPE students are designing a field guide manual that equips Ekalaka community members and visitors to discover fossils.

The K-T extinction line, which marks where the last extinction occurred, is found in the dig sites around Ekalaka. By sampling around this boundary line to see what animals were present before and after extinction, Carroll hopes to better understand how the extinction occurred. “These are all questions we’re trying to ask that haven’t been answered yet,” said Carroll, “The cool thing about Ekalaka is that we can take out this entire layer … we can train community members to work with this material.” The SCOPE students field manuals will enable “someone to seriously contribute to this project within an hour or so,” Carroll said. Thus, SCOPE not only provides MSU students with research opportunities but also enables citizen scientists to better understand earth’s history. “The cool thing is that most of the data can be generated by coffee-drinking, chit-chatting people,” Carroll said.

Some other SCOPE projects are a climate change project on the Crow Indian reservation, community development projects in several different counties of Montana and a health assessment project on another Indian reservation.

The headquarters of SCOPE are located at MSU, but the plan is to expand to more campuses around Montana. Right now the club is building relationships with several tribal colleges.

With the help of SCOPE, students at MSU have the opportunity to use their academic skills to experience “real life” and “real work” outside of school and build up connections with businesses in Montana. Building those relationships can provide students with the chance to stay and receive academically stimulating jobs in Montana. Kiah Abbey summed it up: “Montana is so worth it; it’s so beautiful here.”

A workshop, open to the public, is planned for March 22 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., location to be determined. For more information, see www.scopemontana.wordpress.com.