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Discovery Discovery Newsletter April 2002

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Research Roundup
Space cassettes
If everything goes as planned, Elinor Pulcini, two other MSU researchers and three or four undergraduates will head for the Kennedy Space Center in July. They will load bacteria into 16 cassettes designed by the European Space Agency. Half the cassettes will then fly on the STS-107, a mission of the space shuttle Columbia. The other eight cassettes will stay on the ground so the scientists can compare the growth of the bacteria with or without gravity. The researchers will analyze several things, but Pulcini's job is to look at proteins the cells make. The postdoctoral researcher wants to see if a common bacterium called Pseudomonas makes more toxins in microgravity than on the ground.

Wheat from on high
Farmers who want to know if their wheat is lacking nitrogen might walk through their fields and mark areas that aren¹t as green as others. They could also study aerial photographs, says Mal Westcott, MSU professor of soils based at the Western Agricultural Research Center in Corvallis. Scientists have found some correlation between greenness and nitrogen content. Westcott is now part of a multistate project that might allow farmers to gather that kind of information from satellite images. Funded by the USDA-CRSEES Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems, the project could give farmers an inexpensive tool to detect nitrogen deficiencies. They could then apply fertilizer only where needed.

Animal acts
Why will a goat eat leafy spurge but a cow won't? If cows would graze the noxious weed then it wouldn't be taking over rangelands in Montana, said MSU professor of range ecology Bret Olson. Olson and three other MSU scientists want to better understand why livestock eat what they eat in order to entice sheep, goats and cattle into grazing more problem weeds. Their four-year study is just one part of a larger project funded by the USDA. They'll try using attractants to lure the livestock to the weeds. Another idea is to overcome the weeds' toxicity by putting antitoxins in a salt block. A third approach is to have a mature animal model weed-eating for impressionable youngsters.

Hospitality suite
If you're a registered dietician, you could get a job doing menu management. No doubt there's some nutrient analysis involved as well as overseeing food safety issues. To help manage all these tasks you might use some software called Hospitality Suite. MSU food and nutrition students will be among the first in the country to train on the new, updated version of Hospitality Suite, thanks to a grant from Computrition, Inc. The grant enabled MSU to purchase the high-end software that nearly every food and nutrition graduate will encounter in the workplace, said MSU dietetics program director Pamela Harris. Knowing the software will make students more marketable for internships as well as jobs, Harris said.



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