Montana State University

Research Roundup at Montana State University (#266)

December 11, 2006 -- From MSU News Service

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Scanning fish

Just like clerks scan items in a grocery store, Shane Vatland will use technology to identify individual fish as they swim in the Big Hole River next summer. Bob Gresswell, research associate at the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center at Montana State University, said Vatland is going to research native Arctic grayling for his doctoral degree. Vatland will start by inserting tags in the fish and placing antennas along the river. Then he'll monitor the fish to answer questions about their activities. Native Arctic grayling used to occupy the entire Missouri River drainage upstream of Great Falls. They currently live in 80 miles of the Big Hole River and a few tributaries. The Big Hole contains the last native fluvial Arctic grayling in the lower 48 states.

Virtual collaborations

College students and faculty can work together even when they're in different states or disciplines, says Terry Beaubois, director of the Creative Research Lab in MSU's College of Arts and Architecture. Describing his own experience, Beaubois said he lived in California when he was asked to teach a 2005 course at MSU. A long-distance arrangement was possible, he said, because of computer software called Second Life. Beaubois spent two weeks with his students, then returned to California and taught many of his classes from there. The software let him remotely interact with the students, view their work and build projects together. Now based in Bozeman, Beaubois will discuss science and the arts in a virtual world at the February meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The science and education meeting is one of the world's largest.

Bulls and cows

What is there about a bull that makes a cow ready to breed again after she's had her first calf? That's what James Berardinelli is trying to find out in a research project that involves about 60 cows and four bulls. The bulls are two to three years old. The cows have just had a calf. All the animals are Angus/hereford cross. MSU researchers have already learned that the cow-bull interaction has something to do with pheromones, a chemical signal sent by the bulls, said Berardinelli, professor of reproductive physiology and endocrinology. Now he wants to figure out what that chemical agent is and how it relates to the release of cortisol, a stress hormone. The overall goal is to increase the efficiency of beef production.

Healthy optical networks

With the help of a National Science Foundation research grant, MSU professors Brendan Mumey, computer sciences, and Richard Wolff, electrical engineering, are trying to improve the performance, reliability and efficiency of fiber-optic networks. Their work could allow as much as a 10 percent increase in traffic on fiber-optic networks. Additionally, fiber-optic networks could become more robust from their research, being better able to support a large number of users making and ending calls without causing a system to slow down or crash. Graduate and undergraduate researchers will be involved in the project through interdisciplinary senior design courses and individual projects.

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