Montana State University

Former NSF director to speak Sept. 29 at Big Sky

September 17, 2007 -- From MSU News Service

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
BOZEMAN -- Rita Colwell, former director of the National Science Foundation, will speak Saturday, Sept. 29, in Big Sky on the relationship between the environment and global infectious diseases. Such diseases include those caused by hantavirus and West Nile virus.

Colwell's free public talk on "Global Infectious Disease, Environment and Human Health" will begin at 6 p.m. in the Talus Room at the Summit at the Big Sky Resort. Complimentary appetizers will be available starting at 5:30 p.m. The talk is being given in conjunction with the second annual Northern Rocky Mountain Conference on Infectious Disease and Environmental Health co-sponsored by the INBRE and COBRE programs at Montana State University.

Satellite sensors, molecular biology and genomics may help determine the "complex, but important interactions" between the environment and public health, Colwell wrote in an abstract for her talk. It is now possible, for example, to predict when, where and how intense a cholera epidemic will occur based on satellite monitoring of environmental factors.

"It is highly feasible for public health in the 21st century to employ such an approach with equally good success for many, if not most, infectious diseases," Colwell wrote.

Colwell was director of the NSF from 1998 to 2004. During her tenure, she oversaw a major increase in the foundation's support for environmental research and education. Her work in the environmental control of epidemic diseases, especially cholera, has gained worldwide attention. Before heading the NSF, Colwell was president of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute.

For more information, contact Laurie Howell at (406) 994-7531 or

Evelyn Boswell at (406) 994-5135 or