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Fire is an important process that has shaped Western ecosystems for millennia. However, over the past several decades, fire activity has been increasing across the West. Recent fires have destroyed thousands of homes, hundreds of lives have been lost and persistent smoke from these fires has created hazardous air quality across the West. Changing climatic conditions are enabling record-setting fire seasons throughout the western U.S. This creates sustained periods of hot, dry weather that are conducive to fire and warm conditions that are drying out fuels and creating explosive conditions when ignition occurs. At the same time, a growing number of homes and other structures are built in landscapes with abundant fuels, increasing the danger from fires to human health and safety.

About the Speakers

David McWethy, assistant professor in the Department of Earth Sciences in the College of Letters and Science at MSU

Introductory remarks by Cathy Whitlock, Regents Professor in Earth Sciences at MSU

Bill West, who recently retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after 30 years of managing National Wildlife Refuges in Montana, will discuss land conservation across a patchwork of land ownership in the Centennial Valley. Located in Southwest Montana, north of the Continental Divide, the remote Centennial Valley consists of a high-elevation and nearly intact landscape of forest, sagebrush steppe, wet meadow and the largest wetland complex in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The valley is the upper most point of the Missouri/Mississippi watershed (3,768 miles from the Gulf of Mexico) and includes the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. West will discuss how partnerships that respect the business climate of the local community while protecting public land can result in a thriving local economy as well as successful conservation efforts.

**This collaborative community event is free and open to the general public thanks to a Montana CARES Act Grant awarded to the Belgrade Community Library by Humanities Montana and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

About the Speaker

Bill West managed national wildlife refuges in Montana for 30 years, including assignments at the National Bison Range and Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. His skills include partnership building for the conservation of fish and wildlife, neighbor/landowner relationships, sustainable agriculture, negotiations with Native American Tribal governments, and the management of wild bison, trumpeter swan, grizzly bear and Arctic grayling. 

>Peter F. Kolb, forestry specialist at Montana State University Extension and an associate professor of forest ecology and management at the University of Montana, will discuss the unique ecology of forests in the Northern Rockies with specific reference to Montana forest ecosystems. The interaction of Montana mountain geography with Western U.S. weather patterns, and the history of both Indigenous cultures and European American settlers, makes them some of the most complex forest ecosystems in the world. Wildfires have played important role in the development of Montana forests. This program will put the many different perspectives on modern forest conservation and management into context with natural history, future projected climatic variability and the needs of Montana wildlife and human populations.

About the Speaker

Peter F. Kolb has been a forestry specialist at Montana State University Extension since 1997 and is an associate professor of forest ecology and management in the Franke College of Forestry and Conservation at the University of Montana. He has conducted research on a variety of forest restoration practices, post wildfire recovery and the role of salvage and sanitation logging, forest debris treatments and impacts on site ecological processes, climate impacts on forest processes and disturbance, windbreak establishment and maintenance techniques, and private family forest ownership trends. In 2008, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the Institute for Forests and Forest Management at the University of Weihenstephan in Bavaria, Germany.

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MSU Wonderlust, a lifelong learning organization, in partnership with the Bozeman Public Library Foundation,  hosted a panel discussion on "Keeping Our Community Safe: Perspectives on Policing in the Gallatin Valley." A panel of local law enforcement officials and civil liberties advocates addressed the increasing demand for a re-examination of the role of police in our society. National events have raised concerns about the militarization of police and police behavior, including racial profiling and the excessive use of force. The panel also discussed the appropriate community response to a range of issues such as civil protest, homelessness, domestic violence, mental health crisis and substance misuse. There was an opportunity for Q&A following the discussion. 

About the Panelists

Panelists included Brian Gootkin, Gallatin County Sheriff; Jim Veltkamp, Interim Police Chief, Bozeman Police Department; Judith Heilman, executive director, Montana Racial Equity Project; and SK Rossi, advocacy and policy director, American Civil Liberties Union of Montana. The discussion was be moderated by Cody Warner, associate professor of sociology, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Montana State University.

Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine Leviyah Kern discusses Ayurveda, a system of medicine with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent. She describes the ancient traditions of Indian medicine, how the Wise Ones (Rishis) viewed the world through the five elements of life, how this medicine came to the far reaches of the world through travel and trade, and how Ayurveda is finding new life as scientific study delves into the efficacy of customized medicine. 

About the Speaker

Leviyah Kern has been practicing medicine since 2008. She enrolled with the California College of Ayurveda in 2015 and graduated in spring 2020 as a Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine. She is committed to restoring optimal health for every person and body through energy integration, lifestyle alignment and nutritional wisdom. During a year-long stay with her Polish grand parents, she fell in love with the elder years and decided to specialize in elder care.

Betsy Gaines Quammen, a Bozeman-based environmental historian, writer and conservationist,  discusses her new book, “American Zion: Cliven Bundy, God and Public Lands in the West.” The book explores the 27-year legal battle and land-use war, launched from Bunkerville, Nevada, between Cliven Bundy and his large family and local, state and federal governments. She also discusses research for the book and ongoing conspiracy theories, as well as comparisons to the current unrest between the government and the American public.

In “American Zion,” Quammen argues that the Bundys are engaged in open conflict with the U.S. government, a conflict traceable back to that time when adherents of the Church of Latter-day Saints came west, bringing militant beliefs, some legitimate grievances and their certainty of claiming a God-promised homeland they call Zion. She describes the book as a journey through the New West, one still haunted by nineteenth century white settlement, violence and an enduring sense of entitlement.

Audience members are encouraged to read “American Zion” but it is not necessary for engaging in this highly topical and pertinent conversation on the legacy of Native people, public lands, government control and ongoing lawlessness based on religious zealotry.

About the Speaker

As an environmental historian, writer and conservationist, Betsy Gaines Quammen has studied various religious traditions over the years and is fascinated at how religious and cultural views shape relationships to landscape and wildlife. The rural American West, pastoral communities of northern Mongolia and the grasslands of East Africa have been her main areas of interest.

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Rob Maher, professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering at Montana State University, will present "Stop! What’s that sound? Audio Forensics in 2020." 

Many law enforcement officers routinely carry recording equipment while working, including body cameras, memo recorders and dashboard systems in police cruisers. Emergency 9-1-1 call centers have audio recording systems, as do many police dispatching radio systems. Increasingly, audio evidence may include mobile phone recordings made by civilian bystanders or recordings from security surveillance systems in private homes and businesses.

Maher will describe the methods used to assess the authenticity of forensic audio recordings and the techniques applied in several case studies involving audio forensic interpretation and research. For example, can we use audio from a mobile phone video to identify someone making threats of violence? Is the subtle creak heard on an airplane’s cockpit voice recorder a telltale sign of a malfunction in the plane’s airframe resulting in a commercial airline accident? Was a gunshot heard near the boundary of Yellowstone National Park made by a poacher who encroached in the park or by a legal hunter in the forest outside the park?

About the Speaker

Rob Maher’s research and teaching interests are in the area of digital audio signal processing, audio forensic analysis, digital music synthesis and acoustics. He occasionally serves as an expert witness in criminal and civil court cases, and he is the author of the book “Principles of Forensic Audio Analysis” (Springer, 2018).

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Attorney Richard (Dick) Holper will present "Personal Rights After the Coronavirus and the 2019-20 U.S. Supreme Court Term." 

For their current term, which began on October 1, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear numerous cases dealing with individual rights. Then, the coronavirus pandemic intervened. The sessions scheduled to begin on March 23 and April 20 were cancelled, and the May 5 session was conducted remotely. This presentation will provide an overview what the Supreme Court did and not decide during their current term, and how the decisions that were made and the coronavirus will impact personal rights and freedoms.

About the Speaker

Richard D. Holper is a graduate of Marquette University and the University of Louisville Law School. He served as an adjunct professor of law at Hamline University School of Law and at William Mitchell College of Law, both in St. Paul, Minn. He has practiced law as a trial and business lawyer in state and federal courts throughout the U.S. Holper has served on both federal and state community defender panels representing juvenile Native American clients and other clients charged with federal and state crimes, a practice requiring application of constitutional principles of due process, equal protection and the Bill of Rights.

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Maggie Greene, an assistant professor of Chinese and East Asian cultural history in the Department of History and Philosophy at Montana State University, will present "Sino-U.S. Relations in the Time of COVID-19."

Greene will discuss the emergence of the virus in the Chinese city of Wuhan in early 2020 and the current global situation, as well as the social and political response to the pandemic around the world.

About the Speaker

Maggie Greene is the author of “Resisting Spirits: Drama Reform and Cultural Transformation in the People’s Republic of China” which was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2019. In addition to her work on theatre and literature, she has published on subjects as varied as high altitude mountaineering to the game of mahjong in modern China. She teaches courses such as “Modern China,” “Science and Medicine in China” and “Modern Asia” for the Department of History and Philosophy.

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Crystal Alegria, director of The Extreme History Project, will lead the discussion, "One Way History: Bozeman’s Historic East Mendenhall Street." The Extreme History Project is a nonprofit that brings local history to the public in fun, engaging and relevant ways.

Alegria will discuss the history of East Mendenhall by traveling virtually down the one-way street. Participants will learn about Bozeman’s red-light district, East Side School – now Hawthorne Elementary – and notable residents such as the Frazier family, Madam Libbie Hayes and Fannie Woodson. Alegria will illustrate the presentation with photos, maps and oral history accounts.

About the Speaker

Alegria has worked in public history and archeology education for the last 20 years at museums and heritage organizations. She co-founded The Extreme History Project in 2012 with colleague Marsha Fulton and has helped build the organization into an award-winning nonprofit that engages the public in history through walking tours, lectures, workshops, oral histories, preservation projects and more. Alegria serves on Bozeman’s Historic Preservation Advisory Board and is a founding member of the Bozeman Historic Preservation Advisory Group.

An MSU alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and master’s in history, Alegria has written numerous articles and blogs on topics relating to Montana history. In 2018 she was named an “Extraordinary Ordinary Woman of Montana State University” by the President’s Commission on the Status of University Women.

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Geise will discuss the history, current status and probable future of nuclear-powered electrical generating stations. In 1954 Lewis Strauss, the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, predicted that electricity generated by nuclear power would quickly become so economical that “it would be too cheap to measure.” From 1955 to 1985, hundreds of nuclear-powered generating stations were built all over the world. However, Geise argues that democratic societies are now facing the beginning of the end of nuclear power generating stations. At the same time, Russia and China are becoming major suppliers of nuclear-powered generating stations for those countries that still have an interest in building and operating their own.

About the Speaker

Gerald Geise, an MSU alumnus in chemical engineering with more than 30 years of experience in the nuclear industry. Among his many occupations and accolades, Geise held key engineering and management positions at the Hanford Atomic Products Operation in Richland, Washington, including serving as operations manager in charge of the world’s largest dual-purpose plutonium and electrical nuclear generating station. He trained naval personnel in the operation of nuclear submarines at General Electric in Idaho Falls, Idaho and served as president of a division of United Nuclear Corporation in Connecticut that made nuclear reactors for the U.S. Navy.

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Sharon Eversman will provide an overview of the Beartooth Highway, a National Scenic Byways All-American Road. The 68-mile byway winds its way through southwest Montana and northwest Wyoming and leads into Yellowstone National Park at its Northeast Entrance. The highway features numerous switchbacks and rises in elevation from 5,600 feet in Red Lodge to over 10,000 feet at the top of the Beartooth Pass. Eversman argues that the highway traverses one of the best examples of alpine environment in the country. During the last Ice Age, glaciers sculpted spectacular features, including U-shaped valleys, cirques, matterhorns and glacial lakes. The wind and flat topography on the plateau have resulted in trees and plants that exhibit unique timberline features and beautiful alpine meadows.

About the Speaker

Sharon Eversman earned advanced degrees in biology and plant ecology. She taught biology and botany at MSU for 40 years, including a summer field course on the Beartooth Plateau. She has lived in Bozeman for over 50 years, spending much time studying and collecting plants and lichens in national parks, state parks, national forests and eastern Montana. When not poking around outside, she is a docent at the Museum of the Rockies and a violinist with the Bozeman Symphony.

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According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Smart Grid refers to digital technology that combines sensing throughout the electricity transmission system with two-way communication between electric power utilities and electricity consumers. This technology is expected to revolutionize the way utilities manage their power generation and distribution, as well as their interaction with their customers. Smart Grid will allow consumers to monitor their home electricity usage and manage consumption based on factors such as the current price of electricity. The DOE is providing significant funds in the form of grants to universities and electric power utilities to find ways to make Smart Grid a reality without interruption to the delivery of electricity. This Webex presentation will describe the evolution of electric power generation and delivery during the past century and the impetus for development of Smart Grid technology. The speaker will also discuss the technology components required to achieve Smart Grid functions and how Smart Grid features can improve grid resiliency and benefit consumers.

About the Speaker

Hashem Nehrir, research professor and professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Montana State University, has been involved in university teaching and research since 1971. He joined the faculty of MSU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) in 1987 and retired in 2018. Nehrir is a Life Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and was the recipient of the organization’s Power and Energy Society Ramakumar Family Renewable Energy Excellence Award in 2016. He served as the editor of IEEE’s journal, “Transactions on Sustainable Energy,” since its inception in 2010 through 2015 and has continued as consulting editor for the journal since 2016. In 2010, he received MSU’s Nora L. Wiley Faculty Award for Meritorious Research. He has lectured on his research and educational activities in more than ten countries around the globe.

Doug Young, Professor Emeritus (Economics), Montana State University will discuss changes in the Montana Economy and Taxation over the last 70 years, including the growing importance of capital income and transfer payments, whether agriculture and mining still play important roles, which industries are the largest employers in Montana, and the impact of the emerging high-tech sector. He will also discuss taxation policy in Montana, including resort and local option taxes. Young will address these issues in a fact-based comparison of Montana’s taxes with those in neighboring states and national averages.

About the Speaker

Doug Young is professor emeritus of economics in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics in the College of Agriculture, Montana State University. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and began as an Assistant Professor of Economics at MSU in 1977. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin, Carnegie Mellon University and universities in Botswana, Morocco, Egypt, China and India. Doug retired from MSU in 2010 and returned to work part time, including research on "Montana's Aging Population" and "Poverty in Montana." Last year he served as President of Friends of MSU Wonderlust and Chair of the MSU Wonderlust Council.