Montana State University

Research Roundup at Montana State University (#250)

July 10, 2005 -- From MSU News Service

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Ranchers and grizzlies

Does formal education make a difference in livestock producers' tolerance for grizzly bears? John Vollertsen, a doctoral candidate in education at MSU, sought to find out. Nearly 400 livestock producers along the Rocky Mountain Front responded to his questionnaire and indicated that tolerance increases as education levels increase. Vollertsen also found that tolerance rises as monetary compensation levels for livestock losses increase. "Most people find the results rather surprising," says Vollertsen, an enrolled member of the Assiniboine tribe at Fort Peck. "The public assumes all ranchers have very low tolerance for grizzlies. That's not necessarily the case. However, tolerance can be a slippery slope. Tolerance can quickly erode if something -- whether it be man or beast -- messes with a rancher's livestock."

Don't walk this way

Some people walk differently because they've injured a knee, hip or ankle. Others have osteoarthritis or cerebral palsy. Whatever the reason, unusual walking patterns can cause joints to start degenerating or speed up the degradation process, says Mike Hahn, an MSU expert in biomechanics. A 14-year-old boy with cerebral palsy might have joints like a 60-year-old former football player, for example. To help physical therapists and rural hospitals develop treatment plans, Hahn is collecting information that they can adapt to their needs. In his laboratory, Hahn will measure the strength of people's hips, knees and ankles and the electrical activities of related muscles. He will then film the people as they walk. The resulting images and findings will be used in computer software for healthcare professionals.

Asian dust in Montana

Strong windstorms on the Tibetan Plateau of western China sent Asian dust flying over Montana in March. While MSU researchers were testing a newly developed laser radar system, called lidar, they observed a layer of cloud or dust at an altitude of 26,000 feet. "The layer was strange and did not appear to be a cloud," said Joe Shaw, an electrical and computer engineering professor. "Investigation led us to suspect that it was Asian dust, desert dust picked up by strong windstorms. Meteorological analysis shows that the air over Bozeman on those dates, March 1-3, came from China 10 days earlier." Scientists have detected Asian dust in Hawaii, Alaska, California, Utah, Colorado, British Columbia and other locations. The information can be used to study how pollution travels over long distances and affects air quality and weather.

Bug island

MSU entomologists and four undergraduate students will spend a month this summer collecting beetles and other insects on the West Indian island of Montserrat. Besides finding as many beetles as they can and hoping to avoid volcanic eruptions, the group will work on research projects involving butterflies, flower flies and bees. They will introduce Montserrat officials to a South American method of working with bees that produce honey in tropical environments. Scientists thought for almost 100 years that the island had lost its stingless bee that made honey, but found out recently that Montserrat had the bee after all, said insect expert Michael Ivie. Undergraduate students on the project are Levi Lehfeldt from Lavina, Robert Semple from Bozeman, Vincent Martinson from Huntley and Patrick Hughley from Minnesota.

Core of the matter

Cathy Whitlock has traveled as far as southern South America to find out what climate changes in the past say about climate in the future. She's examined sediment cores that sometimes go back 20,000 to 30,000 years and scrutinized fossils and the nature of sediments. An MSU professor of earth sciences, Whitlock wants to know how forests developed since the last ice age. She's interested in the role that fires and other natural disturbances played in today's climate. Her research took her to Argentina and Chile in April and will take her back there in February. She will work in Yellowstone National Park and Oregon this summer.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or