Next big one may dwarf Ebola outbreak

By MOLLY WRIGHT/Montana State News

Ebola came. It left. So what?

According to David Quammen, it – or something like it – could happen again, and on a much larger scale.

Speaking to a full crowd in the Montana State University Strand Union Building Ballroom recently, the renowned Bozeman-based science writer spoke not only about the Ebola epidemic that struck West Africa, but the deadly potential of any emerging disease.

“Humans are an outbreak population,” said Quammen. With 7 billion people on our planet and counting, we have all the potential to see a viral infection that would kill off much of the population.

The Ebola virus, with 24,000 reported cases and 10,000 deaths, is only one in a long string of deadly diseases. It is known as a zoonotic disease, Quammen said, or an animal infection transmissible to humans. When it crosses from animals to humans, it is known as “spillover.” Continue reading “Next big one may dwarf Ebola outbreak”

App allows smartphones to ‘smell’

By ERIC JOONDEPH/Montana State News

A potentially life-saving chemical detecting smartphone app is set to launch soon.

Chemical engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are designing a smartphone app that could be capable of detecting hazardous gases from sources such as spoiling foods or environmental gases.

The sensors are going to be sent out across the country and can be used to sense harmful gases in public places, warehouses, or businesses offices. They even contain readable barcodes that can track pollutants from vehicles.

According to MIT news, researchers have demonstrated that they can detect gaseous ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, cyclohexane, and many other gases, while using this app. Continue reading “App allows smartphones to ‘smell’”

MSU students’ satellites launched

By RYLEY WALKER/Montana State News

Two satellites built in part by Montana State University students rode into orbit on a Delta II rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Jan. 30.

David Klumpar, director of MSU’s Space Science Engineering Laboratory, said that the most important job for the satellites is, “gathering more information about the loss of electrons from the Van Allen Radiation Belts… Radiation in space affects Earth in a variety of ways, including interference with communication systems and power grids.”

MSU students built the satellites along with University of New Hampshire students and in collaboration with NASA.

Klumpar also said, “The opportunity our MSU students have to design and build sophisticated space flight hardware, get it launched on a NASA mission, and then actually operate their own satellite once it’s in space adds an incredibly important element to their education not available at most universities.”  Continue reading “MSU students’ satellites launched”

Neil deGrasse Tyson to Speak in Bozeman

By NICOLE SMITH/Montana State News

Astrophysicist, cosmologist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson is scheduled to speak at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on March 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Bronx native Tyson hosts the tv show “Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey” on the National Geographic Channel and is currently the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space. In the past, Tyson has appeared on many shows, such as “CBS This Morning,” “The Colbert Report,” “The Big Bang Theory,” and more, discussing and explaining science.

Carmen McSpadden, director of the MSU Leadership Institute, said, “We seek to bring high-profile, world-renowned experts to Montana State University and Dr. Tyson’s thought-provoking lectures sell out to audiences throughout the country.” Continue reading “Neil deGrasse Tyson to Speak in Bozeman”

Watercourse has kids doing adult science

By DANIELLE MARTIN/Montana State News

Stephanie McGinnis has a large, faded blue folder on her desk. It is held together with a rubber band and stuffed with an assortment of papers, CDs and packets.

Students in the Swan Valley take water samples for a Montana Watercourse project (photo courtesy of Diann Ericson.
Students in the Swan Valley take water samples for a Montana Watercourse project (photo courtesy of Diann Ericson.

As insignificant as it looks, this folder represents ten years of water quality data for the Swan Valley, one of the largest and most continuous collections in the state. Even more interesting, the data was collected entirely by elementary and middle school students.

McGinnis is the education and outreach coordinator for Montana Watercourse in Bozeman. This grant-funded nonprofit coordinates the Volunteer Water Monitoring program (VWM), a program that trains participants to routinely perform water quality testing in their area. According to the training manual, this is so that “they may make informed decisions regarding local water quality issues.”

“It’s really important for these young students to get out there and collect the data, [and to] understand what water quality is, [and] why water quality is important,” said McGinnis.           Continue reading “Watercourse has kids doing adult science”

Cause of declining sturgeon numbers discovered


For over 20 years the Pallid Sturgeon has been listed as an endangered species, but until this year no one knew why.

The Pallid Sturgeon is a prehistoric fish considered to be part of a 60 million year old species. Today the Pallid Sturgeon is a native of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers.

An act allowing dams to be built on the Missouri river was passed in 1940.  Soon baby Pallid Sturgeon were no longer present in the water surrounding the dams. Researchers suggested the shorter stretches of river created by the dams were causing the death of the fish, but no one understood why.

Chris Guy, a professor of fisheries science at Montana State University, and a team of researchers set out to investigate the disappearance.

They found that when the fish spawn and their eggs hatch the larva float 310 miles downstream to the spawning area before settling to the bottom of the river. However, dams are less than 310 miles apart, causing the larva to get caught in the headwaters of the dams and reservoirs. Continue reading “Cause of declining sturgeon numbers discovered”

MSU prof advocates “buggy” diet


Imagine yourself walking down an isle at the grocery store, past the packaged beef, chicken pork and insects.  Yes you read that right:  insects.  Florence Dunkel, a traveling entomologist and professor at Montana State University, is attempting to get insects recognized as a viable food source.

Dunkel hosted a debate at Montana State University on March 24 to establish what should be included in a proposed resolution statement for the FDA, focusing on approving edible insects as a commercial food source.  The resolution will be voted on in Montana State University’s Student Union Building in ballroom C on April 16.

Insects have more benefits than the public is aware of.  “Many insects are packed with protein, fiber, good fats and vital minerals – as much or more than many other food sources,” according to National Geographic.

Insects can provide a source of protein in parts of the world where conventional meats such as beef and pork are unavailable and provide a major step towards sustainable diets, according to National Geographic. Continue reading “MSU prof advocates “buggy” diet”

Snowpack-fire season connection questioned


The conventional wisdom has been to equate heavy winter snowpack with a relatively mild fire season in the ensuing summer months.

But this may not be the case.

“Winter snowpack and even winter precipitation levels do not have a direct correlation to severity or length of fire season in the Northern Rockies,” said Ted Mead, the chief of the Fire and Aviation Management Bureau.

The 2012 season had the most fires and acreage burned with 410 fires and 523,231 acres. That year had the most acreage burned in Montana since 1910, according to the Billings Gazette. In June 2012, Bozeman saw .72 inches of precipitation, according to Weather Warehouse. The previous months were fairly normal, indicating that the early spring and winter precipitation was not a factor in the number or intensity of fires during 2012. Continue reading “Snowpack-fire season connection questioned”

Lizards to arrive at Museum of the Rockies

By CLARK MOORMAN/Montana State News

Lizards might be the last thing on most Bozemanites minds this time of year, but a new exhibit set to open soon at the Museum of the Rockies might just change that. On Feb. 22, Bozeman’s natural history museum will open its new traveling exhibit, entitled “Geckos: From Tails to Toepads”.

The exhibit, curated by Clide Peeling’s Reptiland in Allenwood, Pa. will feature 14 different species of live geckos and an expert care taker who will be present to feed the lizards and answer any questions curious visitors may have.

Angie Weikert, the Museum’s education and public programs director, said the museum chose to feature geckos to provide locals with an experience they might otherwise never have, as geckos are not found in Montana. “At the Museum of the Rockies, we have an unofficial motto: ‘Bring the world to Montana, and bring Montana to the world.’” Continue reading “Lizards to arrive at Museum of the Rockies”

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