Northwest Colorado's Piceance Basin -- 5 million acres framed by cliffs and hogbacked mountains -- overlies roughly 300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to supply the nation for 50 years. It's also ideal mule deer habitat; state wildlife managers once called it "the deer factory." But as drilling ramps up, deer numbers plummet. Wildlife ecologist George Wittemyer of Colorado State University's Warner College of Natural Resources is halfway through a five-year study, working with other researchers to observe how deer behave and reproduce amid the vast network of roads and well pads. But neither the university nor the government is funding it. ExxonMobil is. In 2010, the company gave the university $5 million to study energy development impacts on western Colorado's sage grouse, mule deer and other wildlife, spawning 20 new research contracts. Shell, BP and others have also recently poured millions of dollars into CSU's research.
Oil and gas companies pour money into research universities
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