Montana State University

Research Roundup at Montana State University (#253)

September 26, 2005 -- From MSU News Service

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Sounds of Yellowstone

Grunting bison, snippets of human conversation, wolves and snowmobiles can all be heard on recordings made in Yellowstone National Park, says Shan Burson, an ecologist with the National Park Service. Burson placed tripods with microphones at points between the south and west entrances of the park to see how the "soundscape" varies with time and location. He measures noise levels in developed areas, back country and travel corridors. He also records actual sounds when the decibels reach a certain point. This will be the third winter for Burson's project, so he has plenty of data for John Borkowski, a Montana State University statistician, to analyze. Borkowski is looking for patterns and variability in the information. His findings will be used by park managers.

MSU's jet set

Students and companies aren't the only ones who benefit from internships. So does MSU when interns return to school, says Dave Klumpar, director of MSU's Space Science and Engineering Lab. Eric Greenfield of Billings, for example, was an MSU freshman when he was awarded a summer internship with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. By the time it ended, Greenfield had learned so much that Klumpar asked him to head a student research team studying the speed of sound. This year, MSU sent five summer interns to JPL. They were Joey Moholt of Polson, Jeff Sadino of Whitefish, Christopher Renner of Bozeman, Cliff McRae of Cut Bank and Gretchen Joyce of Hood River, Ore. They worked on rover communication, space materials and other rocket-related projects.

Food aid aids

Controversy has risen over the practice of giving food to other countries. One concern is that food aid policies benefit U.S. farmers, says Linda Young, a political scientist at MSU. To see if that's true and to evaluate how well food aid responds to need, Young reviewed 60,000 food aid transactions that occurred from 1990 to 2002. The donations were all associated with the World Trade Organization. Young and Philip Abbott from Purdue University found that U.S. producers benefitted slightly from food aid policies, but the researchers suggested that the WTO tred lightly on food aid because its primary purpose is humanitarian. Young and Abbott discovered that responsiveness to need increased during the 12 years of records.

Buckles and truckers

Eighty percent of the people who drive passenger cars wear seatbelts, but the percentage is much less among truck drivers, says Valerie Roche, program manager with the "Most of Us" program at MSU. Some beltless truckers say they want to be able to get out of their trucks easily in case of an accident. But controlling a truck requires a huge amount of strength, and seat belts would help with that, Roche said. Truck drivers would also suffer fewer injuries if they wore seatbelts. To encourage more truckers to buckle up, Most of Us will investigate the reasons why some truckers don't wear seatbelts. It will then develop strategies and make recommendations for changing that. This project is sponsored by the Montana Highway Patrol.

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