T3 Option in Ecological and Environmental Informatics

The T3 option enhances the INF PhD program, providing innovative training in informatics, ecology, team-based research, and communication, and it is one of a select few graduate training programs funded by the prestigious National Science Foundation’s Research Traineeship (NRT) program.


The T3 Option is motivated by the overarching question:
How does anthropogenic climate change affect the health and productivity of terrestrial ecosystems?

Goal: Train students to independently and collaboratively leverage cutting-edge informatics tools with skills and knowledge of ecology and related environmental science disciplines to address the most pressing environmental issues facing societies today.

Welcome Cohort 1!

The first cohort of Informatics PhD students participating in the T3 option started in Fall 2019.

2019 T3 Retreat

We held a kickoff meeting for the T3 option in August 2019. At the kickoff meeting, incoming and current INF students in the Ecoinformatics emphasis area, along with faculty, staff, the evaluation team, and External Advisory Committee (EAC) members outlined expectations and participated in our first Team Science Workshop, facilitated by EAC member Kendra Cheruvelil of Michigan State University. Thanks to all who participated. We are excited to get started!

Unique benefits of the T3 Option: Students who choose the T3 option will develop their own unique program of study that integrates ecological thinking, informatics tools, team-science approaches, and communication skills to solve complex environmental questions in a computationally intensive, data-rich era. Students who participate in the T3 option will be well prepared for careers within and outside of academia.

Benefits of NAU: NAU is home to world-class research centers in ecology and high-performance computing. NAU’s location in the heart of beautiful Flagstaff, AZ, provides easy access to outdoor adventures at international destinations, including Grand Canyon and other national parks as well as local hiking opportunities in the summer and skiing in the winter. You can find more information about living in Flagstaff here.

Funding Opportunities: 

During the initial four years (2019-2023), funding from the National Science Foundation allows us to provide 1- to 2-year fellowships to T3 students that offer a competitive stipend (full funding of $34,000 per year) for up to 6 incoming students per year. Additional select students will be supported on faculty grants and/or teaching assistantships that will further enhance the students’ curriculum vitae upon graduation. Additional research and travel funds are available through a competitive application process.

To learn more about the T3 option to the INF PhD program and associated research and funding opportunities, contact Dr. Kiona Ogle (T3 Program Director) or faculty participants that you are interested in working with.

How to Apply: Admission requirements for the INF PhD Program along with a link to application materials can be found on the School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems (SICCS) website. Applicants with limited analytical or computing skills are considered for admission if they demonstrate strong interest and potential to learn and apply such tools, and the more quantitative students are admitted if they express interest and aptitude toward ecological or environmental applications. Please indicate that you are interested in consideration for the T3 option in Ecological and Environmental Informatics in your written statement.

Research Opportunities for T3 Students:

INF PhD students in the Ecological and Environmental Informatics emphasis area work closely with faculty mentors on a variety of topics. If you are interested in joining our program, we recommend that you contact a prospective faculty mentor whose research interests you. You can find out about faculty research interests here and find more information about individual research groups here.

More details about the T3 option

Program Elements:

  • A flexible curriculum that allows each student to create his/her personalized “T-profile” that integrates breadth and depth of expertise. Breadth and depth are developed with respect to five core competency areas:
    1. Data analytics and/or computing
    2. Ecology and supporting environmental science areas
    3. Analysis and/or synthesis (e.g., statistical or simulation modeling)
    4. Communication and collaboration
    5. Data collection tools and products
  • Workshops, courses, and other activities that focus on team skills and applying these skills to collaborative research projects. These activities also include training in science communication.
  • Preparation for a range of careers via professional development and applied internship opportunities.
  • Cohort-building activities and opportunities for T3 graduate students to contribute to and take ownership of various program elements.

Synopsis: 

The T3 option to the INF PhD training program (Ecological and Environmental Informatics emphasis area) is couched in the interdisciplinary research theme of understanding and forecasting the properties and processes of terrestrial ecosystems, or ecological systems more generally, especially in the context of understanding the impact of and feedbacks to global change. The field is being flooded with data (e.g., from various ecological and Earth observatory networks) that are critical to understanding and forecasting terrestrial ecosystem responses. However, most graduate students and scientists lack the quantitative, computational, and collaborative skills to leverage such data to address grand, challenging questions. The T3 EEI option will train the next generation of scientists to overcome these limitations, with a focus on training in informatics tools and team-science skills that facilitate solutions to complex problems, motivated by the question: How does anthropogenic global change affect the health and productivity of terrestrial ecosystems? This innovative graduate training will allow trainees to create their own T-shaped scientist profile in ecological and environmental informatics (EEI) by building substantive depth (stem of T) in a primary core competency and establishing breadth (bar of T) in other primary and supporting areas. The primary areas include hard skills in data analytics and computing, analysis and synthesis, and ecological and environmental science; the supporting areas include relevant data collection tools and products and soft skills in communication, collaboration, and team building. Elements of the T3 option are scalable and sustainable, including: (1) a curriculum that allows students to create their personalized T-profile, supported by existing and new classes and a variety of training activities, (2) workshops, courses, and other activities that focus on teaming skills and applying these skills to collaborative research projects, (3) preparation for a range of careers via professional development and applied internship opportunities, and (4) a graduate EEI certificate that is accessible to students in a range of STEM fields outside of the core T3 option. These components are expected to benefit MS and PhD students in multiple academic units at NAU.

Where do the three T’s come from in T3?The T3 option is a Team-based, T-shaped scientist Training program that integrates informatics and ecology.