Montana State University

Research Roundup at Montana State University (#241)

December 21, 2004 -- From MSU News Service

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Busted bonanzas

Many East Coast capitalists threw aside their normal caution and invested heavily in gold mines before or after the Civil War. However, bonanzas were the exception and not the rule, says Jeffrey Safford, professor emeritus of history at Montana State University. Safford wrote in his new book, "The Mechanics of Optimism," that some ventures in the American West failed because of incompetent mining superintendents who squandered investments. Others collapsed because of directors, trustees and stockholders who knew little about mining, but tried to micromanage operations from thousands of miles away. Safford researched mining companies, technology and the Hot Spring Mining District between Virginia City and Bozeman. The camps around current-day Norris were satellites of Virginia City mines.

When fish cross the road

Roads that traverse waterways can fragment fish populations. MSU researchers Joel Cahoon and Otto Stein, civil engineering, and Tom McMahon, fish and wildlife science, examined how much culverts limited fish passage for bull trout in the Seeley Lake basin and cutthroat trout in the Upper Yellowstone drainage. The researchers found that water depth, velocity and height of the drops make some culverts difficult to pass. The study, funded by the Montana Department of Transportation, found that most of the Seeley Lake basin culverts were at least partial barriers to bull trout during low flow periods, although very few culverts completely isolated the upstream populations. The study continues with warm water species in eastern Montana and Yellowstone cutthroat populations in Upper Yellowstone tributaries.

Amber Alert

When authorities need to alert the public about a missing child, an "Amber Alert" sends announcements flashing across the airwaves. Montana now has upgraded and expanded the reach of its Amber Alert messages thanks to Jamie Eidswick, a researcher from the Western Transportation Institute based at MSU. The Montana Department of Transportation and WTI will use Intelligent Transportation System technologies to enhance the Montana Department of Justice's AMBER alert system, adopted in 2003. Now devices such as highway advisory radio, dynamic message signs, the 511 traveler information number and maintenance radio systems also post the alert. During activation, critical information (descriptions of the child and abductor, motor vehicle information and photographs) is broadcast through radio, television, the Montana lottery system and state Web sites.

Battery hazards

Household batteries contain hazardous materials such as nickel, cadmium, lithium and mercury. If not disposed of safely, they can contaminate soil and water and become a handling hazard. The MSU Extension Housing and Environmental Health Program, led by Michael Vogel, received a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to explore the practicality, cost effectiveness and disposal options for household batteries. The average household annually uses 2.7 pounds of sealed dry-cell batteries for flashlights, cameras, hearing aids and other purposes. Approximately 828,000 pounds of waste batteries are produced each year in Montana. The safe battery disposal project starts in at least six rural Montana communities during 2005. The goal is to reduce battery disposal by 35 percent per community.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu; Jean Arthur, (406) 994-7371 or jarthur@montana.edu