Montana State University

Research Roundup at Montana State University (#265)

November 8, 2006 -- From MSU News Service

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Healthy camelina

Camelina is an old crop, but not well known in the United States. After researching it as undergraduate students at Montana State University, Matt Kirkpatrick and Bruce Thompson are encouraging Montanans to grow camelina as an alternative to flax and wheat. Camelina is high in omega 3, they said, so it could be used to fight obesity, enhance mental acuity and decrease inflammations. It is also high in antioxidants and thrives in cold weather. Montana grew one acre of camelina in 2004 and 14,500 acres in 2006. Kirkpatrick and Thompson both graduated last year, but they are still researching camelina at MSU while waiting to attend graduate school. Kirkpatrick is a native of Great Falls. Thompson is from Butte.

Look to the tiger beetles

People talk about canaries in a coal mine, but Mike Kippenhan says tiger beetles are good indicators of what's happening in the environment, too. Tiger beetles can be found in various places, but certain species only live in one environment. They don't show up in a patch of alkaline soil, for example, then move to a sand dune. If they're normally found in mountains, they don't move to grassland. Kippenhan teaches graphic design at MSU, but he has collected and researched insects for years. He also has a private insect collection and donates some of his findings to museums. He has written scientific papers and assists entomologist Mike Ivie, curator of the MSU insect collection. Kippenhan recently spoke at MSU about his experiences collecting insects in Korea.

Taking a stand

Montana will become a desert by 2100 if nothing is done to slow global warming, according to four MSU students. After researching global warming and climate change for their university seminar course in the College of Letters and Science, the students decided to request an appearance before the Bozeman City Commission, said instructor Teresa Greenwood. The students want the commission to endorse "The 10 Percent Challenge," a voluntary program to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10 percent. The program recommends, among other things, that businesses turn down thermostats by one degree, replace incandescent bulbs with florescent bulbs, turn off office equipment when it's not being used, and use Energy Star appliances. The involved students are Heather DeGraw of Bozeman, Pelin Zan of Turkey, Brianne Barber of South Dakota and Krysten Fitzsimmons of Oregon.

Scanning skulls

CT scans have helped MSU paleontologists study dinosaur bones and dinosaur eggs. The equipment has now been used to examine the skull and lower jaw of an ancient marine reptile found in central Montana. Called a long-necked plesiosaur, the animal lived about 70 million years ago and died about the same time as dinosaurs. Pat Druckenmiller, adjunct professor in earth sciences, recently took the fossils to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital to be scanned. After laying the skull and lower jaw on the table where a person usually lies, Druckenmiller said the scans will give him much more information than he could gather otherwise. He could have injected latex into the skull, but said that would have been somewhat destructive and wouldn't have produced the same quality information as a CT scan.

Weevil warriors

A metallic, blue-black weevil called Mecinus janthinus could become part of an integrated effort to fight Dalmatian toadflax in Montana, says Sharlene Sing, an MSU researcher in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences. The adult weevil eats buds and leaves, which decreases photosynthesis and reduces the amount of carbohydrates stored in the weed's roots. Immature weevils make things worse by feeding on inner tissue. As a result, the Dalmatian toadflax can't take in water and nutrients like it normally would. The weevil was released 10 years ago in Montana and has been monitored every year since, Sing said. Researchers want to see how effective it is under various conditions, if it would be effective on a large scale and how compatible it would be with grazing and herbicides.

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