Highlights from 2010

A hunter uncovered what is believed to be a fossil of a carnivorous marine dinosaur that lived 75 million years ago. David Bradt, who was hunting elk, stumbled on the largely intact fossilised remains of a plesiosaur in Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, in Montana. Jack Horner and David Varricchio, paleontologists in the Department of Earth Sciences, provide comments about the find and are quoted in the articles. Billings Gazette (12/3/10), The Daily Mail, UK (11/20/10)

Chris Stoddard, an Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics & Economics, was quoted in this article about salary increases luring more first-time teachers into bringing their out-of-state educations to Wyoming. Higher salaries have made a difference in recruiting and retaining new teachers but didn’t have an effect on teacher quality, said Stoddard.“ It doesn’t mean salaries won’t make a difference in the future, but at the moment we haven’t seen much change yet,” Stoddard said. Billings Gazette (11/19/10)

Last summer, a team of MSU researchers made a scientific breakthrough that has eluded scientists for decades. It’s a discovery that makes algae a much more viable source of biofuel. Keith Cooksey, Research Professor Emeritus in Microbiology, is mentionned and quoted in these articles. Dr. Cooksey researched algal biofuel 20 years ago and published more than 40 papers in the general area, but said the government eventually lost interest and withdrew its funding. The trend has reversed itself, however, and the field is exploding. KXLF.com in Butte, MT (11/10/10), KBZK.com in Bozeman (11/10/10)

Using data from 21 North American wolf populations, two Montana State University researchers have found that the recently proposed levels of hunting for Montana and Idaho wolves are likely to have larger effects on wolf numbers than has been suggested. Recent wolf-hunting quotas may be based on a flawed assumption that has persisted in the scientific literature for many years about how wolf populations are affected by hunting, according to a paper published by Department of Ecology professors Scott Creel and Jay Rotella in PLoS One, the Public Library of Science. KXLF.com in Butte, MT (9/30/10), Helena Independant Record (10/1/10), KNDO.com in Yakima, WA (9/29/10)

Scientists from universities in Montana, Colorado and Idaho began work on a 5-year, $3.85 million research project about how a changing climate will influence wildfires. The project is being pursued in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and researchers in Australia and New Zealand. The goal is to identify how human activities and climate change drive fires. Cathy Whitlock, a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences and the lead investigator for the project, is quoted in the article. The Billings Gazette (9/1/10), KTVB.com in Boise, ID (9/2/10)

This article discusses the influence of the Tea Party movement in Montana. David Parker, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, said he wasn’t surprised at the Tea Party movement’s popularity in Big Sky country, which he said is a pretty purple state, despite a national viewpoint that it is conservative. "Montana’s at the forefront of a lot of the changing demographics that are happening across the country," Parker said. A population that’s trending more liberal "is automatically going (to) cause turmoil in an area and that leads to resentment and anger," he said. "So, to some extent, the Tea Party movement is a voice of that frustration." United Press International (6/6/10)

Gwen Jacobs, a professor in the Department of Cell Biology & Neuroscience and Director of the HHMI Program at MSU, was quoted in this article about the use of science and technology to reach Native American students. With a new HHMI grant, MSU will modify a popular half-day outreach program for middle school girls, Science Saturdays, to attract more Native American students. In addition to holding events in Bozeman, MSU will send undergraduates to those distant tribal communities to introduce students there to the excitement of scientific discovery. Howard Hughes Medical Institute (5/20/10)

Christopher Pinet, a French professor in the Department of Modern Languages, received a rare French designation, "Officier" in the French Order of Academic Palms, for a career researching French culture and his editing of "The French Review." Pinet received the distinction, including a medal symbolic of the academic palms, from Patrice Servantie, the Deputy Consul General of France for the French Consulate in San Francisco. France-Amérique (4/30/10)

Robert Garrott, a professor in the Department of Ecology, was quoted in this article about a study that found that elk respond more strongly to threats from humans than from wolves, and they are more likely to flee for protected refuges if there are hunters in the area. The study illustrates one of the difficulties in using hunting to manage elk populations across the West when the ungulates respond very quickly and dramatically to hunters in the area. “Every hunter knows this already. They will tell you as soon as the first shot goes off, those animals are off to some protected area,”said Garrott. The Spokesman-Review (4/20/10)

This article discusses a study by Doug Young, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics & Economics, about impact higher alcohol taxes could have on DUI deaths. Specifically, the study concluded that higher taxes on beer, wine and hard liquor could lower Montana’s high rate of alcohol-related traffic deaths. “Not surprisingly, traffic fatalities are linked to both alcohol prices and alcohol consumption, and these relationships have been extensively studied,” said Young. “The weight of the evidence is that higher alcohol prices reduce consumption and fatalities.” The Missoulian (4/11/10)

Doug Young, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics & Economics, was quoted in this article about the impacts of a proposed increase in the beer tax in the State of Washington. Young, who has studied beer prices, said the average cost of beer around the country has indeed risen as state and federal excise taxes have gone up. But he said he wasn’t aware of any studies of the effect of increasing the beer tax in an individual state. The Oregonian (4/5/10)

Scott Creel, a professor in the Department of Ecology, was the lead author of a study about the impacts wolves have on elk reproduction. The study, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that elk turned skittish in the presence of wolves, and spent more time on alert and less time eating. They also left prime winter range to take cover in forested areas, where less food was available. This altered elk behavior was linked to lower calf production. As their body fat drops, cow elk have difficulty staying pregnant through winter. They grow emaciated and abort, the research concluded. The Spokesmas-Review (3/27/10)

Joel Schumacher, a researcher in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics, was quoted in this article about a recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council ranking Montana as the second most vulnerable state when it comes to high oil prices. The report focuses mostly on income averages for the ten best and worst states. Montana is second only to Mississippi. Schumacher points to rural areas like Montana, North and South Dakota and Wyoming as places where people pay a lot for gas, because residents of those states have to drive farther than their urban counterparts. News Channel KECI - Missoula (3/18/10)

The new graduate certificate program in Native American Studies, which is the only of its kind in the nation, is highlighted in this article in the Billings Gazette. The article is one a series about online education. Two faculty members in the Department of Native American Studies - assistant professor Kristin Ruppel and adjunct instructor William Eggers - are quoted in the article. Both teach courses that are part of the certificate program. Billings Gazette (3/7/10)

Wendy Stock, professor and department head in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics, was quoted in an article about the current economic recession. The recession is being referred to as the Great Mancession because men made up 60 percent of the national share of unemployment in March 2009. At a recent conference in Flathead County, Stock said that men account for more than 80 percent of workers in hard-hit industries in the state of Montana. Daily Inter Lake (2/14/10)

Solar physicists at Montana State University helped design four telescopes that were launched into space in March from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. MSU research professor Piet Martens and associate research professor David McKenzie, physics, were in Florida for the launch. McKenzie and Martens helped design the ultraviolet telescopes with partners at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. They’ve been working on the project for about six years. Billings Gazette (2/6/10)

David Klumpar, research professor in physics and the director of the Space Science and Engineering Lab at MSU, is quoted in articles about a small research satellite that has been scheduled to launch in late November with a Glory mission. This will be the first time that an MSU satellite will be launched from the United States, and the first time that miniature satellites made at any U.S. university will fly on a NASA mission. Approximately 125 undergraduate students have worked on the satellite in some capacity since the summer of 2006. Billings Gazette (1/31/10), Missoulian (1/31/10)

David Yopp, assistant professor in mathematical sciences, was quoted in an article about the selection of teachers in the La Crosse School District (WI) for participation in a study of math education in its elementary and middle schools. Yopp is the principal investigator for a five-year, $3.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study instructional coaching. La Crosse Tribune (1/19/10)

Ruth Striegel-Moore, professor and department head in psychology, was quoted in an article about Ednos which is an acronym for "eating disorder not otherwise specified." In the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it encompasses virtually every type of eating problem that is not anorexia or bulimia. “The eating has to be disordered in some way, as does the behavior relating to eating,” said Striegel-Moore. “Also, it has to lead to some kind of impairment. For instance, some women will not go to parties because they’re worried about eating. New York Times (1/18/10)