Montana State University

Research Roundup at Montana State University (#260)

May 25, 2006 -- From MSU News Service

Subscribe to MSU Newsletters

Bobcat Bulletin is a weekly e-newsletter designed to bring the most recent and relevant news about Montana State University directly to friends and neighbors via email. Visit Bobcat Bulletin.

MSU Today e-mail brings you news and events on campus thrice weekly during the academic year. Visit the MSU Today calendar.

MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
Devil fly-overs

Devils Tower National Monument is a special place to many people, whether they be American Indians or rock climbers. Sometimes, it's special to pilots, too, when they're flying across northeast Wyoming, says David Kack, research associate with the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University. Some pilots feel drawn to the monument and fly closer for a better look. To preserve the serenity for land-bound visitors, monument officials are asking pilots to keep their planes at least two miles away from Devils Tower from July through May and three miles away during June. Monument officials asked Kack to help create information explaining why. Kack is also looking for ways to distribute that information. Devils Tower became America's first national monument 100 years ago.

Heading off scab

Montana has about 250,000 acres of grain that could be affected by head scab, says Alan Dyer, assistant professor of plant sciences and plant pathology at MSU. Most of the potential problem is on irrigated land and in Eastern Montana. The acreage might seem relatively small, but head scab can be catastrophic for affected grain growers, Dyer said. One grower and his extended family lost an estimated $300,000 in 2004 and $600,000 in 2005. Head scab is caused by gramineraum, a pathogen that produces vomotoxin. The toxin can cause vomiting, and even a small amount makes grain unsellable. Head scab reduces grain quality in other ways, too. MSU researchers will see how other states are handling head scab. They will also try to develop resistant grain.

Yellowstone grizzlies

Yellowstone National Park tries to keep tourists out of certain watersheds that are critical for grizzly bear cubs and provide cutthroat trout for grizzlies, said David Roberts, head of the MSU ecology department. To see if the grizzlies do better in those areas than elsewhere in the park, Scott Creel and Tyler Coleman are working on a new research project with funding from the National Park Service. They will interview hikers and backpackers who have gone to those watersheds. They will study the reproductive success of grizzlies in the park. The project began this year and could run at least three years, Roberts said. Creel is an MSU ecology professor who studies elk and wolf interactions during the winter and spring. Coleman is a new graduate student at MSU.

Hungry microbes

Could microorganisms with an appetite for radioactive waste clean up some of the nation's nuclear dumps? That's the question scientists at MSU and the Idaho National Laboratory hope to answer with a Department of Energy research grant. The DOE has identified more than 10,000 individual waste sites associated with the processing of nuclear materials. Spread across 30 states, these sites often contain low-level mixed radioactive wastes that have been disposed in pits, trenches and other areas. MSU professors Robin Gerlach and Brent Peyton are working with William Apel and Brady Lee at the Idaho National Laboratory to determine if microorganisms could be used to keep radioactive materials in a dump from spreading into groundwater. Containment is the first step toward protecting human health and the environment.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or