Montana State University

Research Roundup at Montana State University (#257)

February 9, 2006 -- From MSU News Service

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
Apple boom

Montana has had gold rushes and oil booms, but apples had their day, too. Western Montana once had nearly one million apples trees, most of them in Ravalli County. McIntosh apples were predominant, said Mal Westcott, department head of MSU's Agricultural Research Centers. The Western Agricultural Research Center was established 100 years ago during the apple boom, and its early research focused on apples, Westcott said. Montana's apple boom began around 1906 with most of the trees planted in 1911, 1912 and 1913. The number of trees started declining after 1920, however, because of unsuitable varieties, poor soils and economic factors. Western now concentrates on nutrient management systems, culinary and essential oil crops, and knapweed-fighting insects.

Mosquito roundup

MSU graduate student Kristina Hale is an expert at catching mosquitoes. She has collected them by emptying traps and vacuuming out fiberboard pots painted black. She has hoisted a 15-pound vacuum cleaner on her shoulders, turned on its gas-powered motor and plunged into the brush with a foot-wide hose that sucked up everything in its path. All three techniques work, but the one that involves the fiberboard container works best for finding mosquitoes that have recently dined on blood, Hale said. She needs blood-fed mosquitoes because she's investigating West Nile virus in Montana and wants to know where the mosquitoes obtained blood for energy and egg development. Hale captured mosquitoes last summer at the Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Montana.

Guinea pigs for terrorists

Montanans and Wyoming residents may think they're safe from terrorists, but they shouldn't be complacent, says Patricia L. Meinhardt, executive medical director of the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine in New York. Terrorists who want to contaminate water systems in large cities may use rural communities to practice their techniques, Meinhardt said during a recent Cafe Scientifique in Bozeman. The community forum for discussing scientific issues is co-sponsored by MSU's College of Letters and Science and Montana's INBRE program. Meinhardt has trained 10,000 people in 44 states on water safety issues and said evidence indicates that terrorists may test their methods in small, rural communities. Water systems can be contaminated both intentionally and unintentionally, she said.

Bug winners

Hurricane Wilma postponed the latest national contest for entomology students. A delayed flight made MSU's team wonder if they'd miss part of the rescheduled competition. But MSU's entomology team ended up winning second place in the contest held recently in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Advisor Rich Hurley said the competition was intense, but MSU was defeated only by a "deadly" team from Missouri. MSU's team, all graduate students, consisted of Oscar Perez of Venezuela, Godshen Robert of India, Ian Foley of the United States and Sardis Medrano-Cabral from the Dominican Republic. The contest was held during the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America. Students prepared by studying anything they could find that related to insects.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or