Dr. Jack Stanford

About Dr. Stanford

Jack has worked at FLBS since 1971 and his research and education activities have taken him all over the world. But his heart is in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem where he has worked on everything from microbes to grizzly bears. When not fully engaged in ecology he is steep and deep in the backcountry, fly fishing the flats, or climbing some ridge or another just to see what's on the other side.

Professional Experience and Education

  • Jessie M. Bierman Professor of Ecology, The University of Montana, 1986-present.
  • Director, Flathead Lake Biological Station, 1980-present.
  • Associate Professor of Biology, University of North Texas 1974-80.
  • Ph.D. (Limnology): University of Utah -1975
  • M.S. (Limnology): Colorado State University - 1971
  • B.S. (Fisheries Science): Colorado State University - 1969

Research Interests

I am an ecologist. I study the many interacting natural and cultural factors and disturbances that determine the distribution of species and productivity within large landscapes and their ecosystems.

I work mainly in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem encompassing the headwaters of the Columbia, Saskatchewan and Missouri-Mississippi Rivers in western Montana and southern British Columbia and Alberta. The crown jewel of this area is 480 km2 Flathead Lake and its 22,000 km2 drainage basin.

Flathead Lake is perhaps the most pristine large lake in the temperate region of the world. Since 1973 I have directed research at the Flathead Lake Biological Station demonstrating trends in basic limnological measures, such as annual nutrient loading, water clarity, primary productivity, phyto- and zooplankton species composition and biomass dynamics. Lake productivity is determined by natural (floods, droughts and wildfires) and human (accelerated nutrient and sediment inputs, flow regulation and introductions of non-native species) disturbances. This work has expanded to other glacial lakes in the Flathead Basin to study the influences of invading non-native species on food webs and nutrient cycling.

My concurrent studies of mountain rivers focus on groundwater and floodplain ecology. Penetration of river water into alluvial flood plains forms shallow aquifers that are inhabited by complex food webs. Upwelling of ground water from these aquifers back to the surface creates wetland or riparian mosaics on the flood plains that are hot spots of biodiversity and bioproductivity. Since 1999 this work has expanded to extremely remote and notably pristine rivers in British Columbia, Canada, and Kamchatka, Russia, where processes and biodiversity are influenced dramatically by marine nutrient subsidies from salmon runs. I use these studies to mediate conservation of pristine rivers and to determine restoration strategies for rivers that have been functionally altered by dams, water diversions, pollution and other activities.

I also have a developing interest in systems ecology – untangling the complexities of natural and cultural interactions in large landscapes. This includes analysis and modeling of processes, such as climate change, governance and valuation and use of ecosystem services that are critical to human well being.

Mentorship of Graduate Students

Graduate training of ecologists is a primary focus of my profession and 47 students have completed advanced degrees with me since 1974. I welcome inquiries about available graduate fellowships and research assistantships. I generally accept one new student per year.

Applying to FLBS/UM Graduate School



  • 2012 – Conservationist of the Year (with B. K. Ellis), Montana Environmental Information Center
  • 2011 – Lifetime Achievement Award, International Society for River Science
  • 2005 - All time "Grizzly Great," The University of Montana
  • 2004 - Award of Excellence, Society for Freshwater Science
  • 2000 – Fellow, American Association for Advancement of Science
  • 1997 - Distinguished Scholar Award, The University of Montana
  • 1996 - Mershon Award for Outstanding Scholarship, Montana Academy of Science
  • 1991- Gold Trout Award for Professional Service, West Slope Chapter, Trout Unlimited
  • 1989 - Fellowship, Foundation for Research Development, Republic of South Africa
  • 1980 – Jessie M. Bierman Professorship – a distinguished chair at The University of Montana.
  • 1980 - Fellowship, Nordic Council for Ecology, Oslo, Norway