Montana State University

Research Roundup at Montana State University (#246)

April 13, 2005 -- From MSU News Service

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Cows and dinosaurs

Dead cattle can be valuable to students studying dinosaurs, said Frankie Jackson, Montana State University paleontologist. Around February 2004, for example, approximately 40 cows fell through the ice near Glendive and died. In May this year, undergraduate and graduate students from around the country will be in Glendive for a two-week paleontology field course offered by MSU. Part of their training will involve canoeing down the Yellowstone River to see how the cows' carcasses and bones were distributed along the shore. The experience will help them think about how dinosaur bones may have scattered and settled, Jackson said. A paper on the cows is being prepared for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Travel to Yellowstone

Suppose you were driving toward Yellowstone National Park and didn't realize that a recreational vehicle had tipped over and blocked U.S. Highway 89 in front of you. Travelers who plan to enter the park through Gardiner don't have access to current weather reports or details about alternative roads for sudden closures, said David Kack, a researcher with MSU's Western Transportation Institute. To remedy that, Kack and the National Park Service are working on a three-year $605,000 project. They will explore dynamic message signs, highway advisory radio or other message centers for the highway. They will look at major transportation providers that run between the park and Livingston. They plan to encourage carpooling, particularly among park employees who commute from Livingston.

Another Jordan

MSU paleontologists are known for their work around Jordan, Mont., but MSU anthropologist Mike Neeley has his eyes on another Jordan. Neeley plans to spend a few weeks in the Middle East country of Jordan to learn more about the period between its hunter/gatherers and early agricultural communities. The transition period occurred about 10,000 years ago. Neeley will travel to Jordan early in the summer of 2006. He and others involved in the project will live in a village in west-central Jordan. Then they'll drive about 45 minutes from there to reach two isolated sites for test excavations. Neeley received an MSU Scholarship and Creativity Grant for the project. An undergraduate student may be involved, too.

Spring in the West

Spring in the West has been springing ahead, especially since the late 1970s, according to a study that covered 12 states and involved Joseph Caprio, professor emeritus at MSU. Using lilacs, honeysuckles and snow runoff as informants, the study found that spring in many areas of the West is starting one to two weeks earlier than it did 50 years ago. The study showed a high correlation between bloom dates and snowmelt runoff. It said that warm weather, more than anything else, seems to be responsible for the earlier springs. The West has had warmer than normal springs for the past 25 to 30 years. The study was presented in December to the American Geophysical Union.

Evelyn Boswell, (406)994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu