Ecology and Society (Dec 2007)

Bridges and Barriers to Developing and Conducting Interdisciplinary Graduate-Student Team Research

  • Wayde Cameron. Morse,
  • Max Nielsen-Pincus,
  • Jo Ellen Force,
  • J. D. Wulfhorst

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 2
p. 8


Read online

Understanding complex socio-environmental problems requires specialists from multiple disciplines to integrate research efforts. Programs such as the National Science Foundation's Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship facilitate integrated research efforts and change the way academic institutions train future leaders and scientists. The University of Idaho and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center in Costa Rica collaborate on a joint research program focusing on biodiversity conservation and sustainable production in fragmented landscapes. We first present a spectrum of integration ranging from disciplinary to transdisciplinary across seven aspects of the research process. We then describe our experiences and lessons learned conducting interdisciplinary graduate student team research. Using our program as a case study, we examine the individual, disciplinary, and programmatic bridges and barriers to conducting interdisciplinary research that emerged during our student team research projects. We conclude with a set of recommendations for exploiting the bridges and overcoming the barriers to conducting interdisciplinary research, especially as part of graduate education programs.