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Discovery Discovery December 2001
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Research Roundup

Ear stones
Fish Ear Fish have small bits of calcium carbonate in their inner ears for balance and hearing. The stones contain trace amounts of chemicals from the fish's habitat that scientists can use to trace where a fish has lived. Whirling disease researchers at MSU are adapting the use of ear stones to trout in the Missouri River. By analyzing the ear stones, scientists hope to figure out whether a fish caught in the main stem came from Prickly Pear Creek, Sheep Creek or the Dearborn River. The overall goal, explained graduate student Andrew Munro, is to come up with a management plan to prevent a major collapse among rainbow populations like the one that occurred on the Madison River several years ago. Whirling disease is caused by a parasite.

Air chemistry
Smog In the 1940s, Mexico City had clean air. But only three million people lived there at the time, compared with 20 million today, said MSU research associate professor Berk Knighton. To get a handle on how to efficiently reduce ozone levels, which cause photochemical smog, the Mexican government has hired a team of scientists including Knighton and MSU chemistry professor Eric Grimsrud. The team is led by Nobel laureate Mario Molina, who first described the ozone hole in the atmosphere some years ago. Knighton and Grimsrud will use a new instrument to measure carbon-based pollutants. The team will spend six-weeks taking measurements in Mexico City from a mobile laboratory in 2003.

Sage grousing
The western United States once had more than 130 million acres of sage brush. That was good news for birds like the sage grouse that live in the brush. But many experts estimate that the sagebrush habitat has declined by about half. What's left is often fragmented. Several groups are interested in the impact of that on sage grouse and are seeking more information, says Carl Wambolt, MSU professor of range science. Wambolt organized a group of scientists to compile and make understandable the information that's already available. They hope to finish their work by the end of January. Wherever sagebrush has been eliminated or fragmented too much, grouse have had a difficult time surviving, Wambolt said.



© 2000 Montana State University-Bozeman
Discovery is published monthly during the academic year by the MSU Office of the Vice President for Research, Creativity and Technology Transfer, 207 Montana Hall. AnnetteTrinity-Stevens, editor.
Illustration by Robert Rath.
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