> Research, Creativity, & Technology Transfer
Discovery December 2001
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.
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.
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
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Illustration by Robert Rath.
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