FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT
Sidebar: Are oceans becoming acidic?
LOST LEWIS AND CLARK
Sidebar: Neurons get their close-up
Sidebar: Core facility models molecules
A HAZARDOUS WORLD
Sidebar: Genes, the environment and you
Cover: An illustration of UM's Main Hall tower bathed in the glow of a fictitious smoldering Earth.
Vision is published annually by The University of Montana Office of the Vice President for Research and Development and University Relations. It is printed by UM Printing & Graphic Services.
PUBLISHER: Daniel J. Dwyer. MANAGING EDITOR AND GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Cary Shimek. PHOTOGRAPHER: Todd Goodrich. CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Brianne Burrowes, Brenda Day, Judy Fredenberg, Joan Melcher, Rita Munzenrider, Patia Stephens and Alex Strickland. WEB DESIGN: Patia Stephens. EDITORIAL OFFICE: University Relations, Brantly Hall 330, Missoula, MT 59812, 406-243-5914. MANAGEMENT: Judy Fredenberg, Office of the Vice President for Research and Development, 116 Main Hall, Missoula, MT 59812, 406-243-6670.
reveals environmental racism
This year Robin Saha, a UM environmental studies assistant professor, helped update that work with a new report titled “Toxic Waste and Race at Twenty, 1987-2007: Grassroots Struggles to Dismantle Environmental Racism in the United States.”
Saha, who has been a scholar in the environmental justice field for the last decade, wrote a key chapter in the update titled “A Current Appraisal of Toxic Waste and Race in the United States.” The principal author and investigator of the report is Robert Bullard, director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark University in Atlanta. Both the original and the new report were sponsored by the United Church of Christ. A summary of the new study was released Feb. 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco.
So how have we done in the 20 years since the public and policymakers became aware of this issue? Saha says not well.
“It looks like the situation may be worse,” he says. “We haven’t seen any positive progress. Racial and ethnic minorities are still concentrated near hazardous-waste sites. We find that race continues to be a predictor of these hazardous-waste locations — an even better predictor than socioeconomic factors such as income and education.”
Saha and Paul Mohai, a colleague from the University of Michigan, undertook a multiyear project to identify the more than 400 hazardous-waste facilities scattered across the nation. (None are located in Montana.) Using data from the 2000 census, they then studied who lived in the host neighborhoods located 3 kilometers around each site.
The vast majority of facilities — 87 percent — are located in metropolitan areas. The researchers found that 56 percent of those living in host neighborhoods were people of color. Outside of those areas, minority races made up about 33 percent of the population. Neighborhoods with multiple facilities were nearly 70 percent people of color, well over twice the national average.
“So is this evidence of environmental discrimination?” Saha asks. “My assessment is yes, there is some unique racial component to this. This is an issue of environmental inequality — how environmental benefits in society are unevenly distributed among different segments.”
scientists bring home the bacon
The top grant recipients were Jerry Bromenshenk, Division of Biological Sciences, $2.5 million; Jack Stanford, Flathead Lake Biological Station, $2.2 million; Andrij Holian, Center for Environmental Health Sciences, $1.9 million; Bill Holben, biological sciences, $1.8 million; and Dave Forbes, College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences, $1.6 million.
President George Dennison says the funds attracted by University researchers
contribute significantly to economic development in Montana, support student
projects and keep faculty scientists on the cutting edge
new buildings rise on campus
Using the theme “Prescription for Discovery,” a 42,000-square-foot addition to the Skaggs Building was unveiled May 9. Most of the new space accommodates researchers in the Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, which is part of UM’s College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences.
Designed with the scientist in mind, the research floors contain large interconnected laboratories that allow researchers from various disciplines to work together. Rooms also are dedicated to specialized instrumentation. The addition also contains a 135-seat auditorium and a first-floor discovery area, where exhibits and activities are designed to attract K-12 students and teachers and get them excited about science.
The new journalism building, Don Anderson Hall, was dedicated May 11. The 57,000-square-foot structure honors Anderson, best known for organizing the Lee Enterprises purchase of a number of Montana newspapers from the Anaconda Copper Mining Co. He is called the “Abraham Lincoln of Montana journalism” for liberating the papers from a corporate stranglehold.
The building brings the print, photo and radio/television departments under the same roof for the first time in more than 20 years. Former Dean Jerry Brown says this is crucial because of the increasingly multimedia nature of the industry.
science department rakes in grants
Professors Joel Henry and Jesse Johnson are part of a team awarded an $850,000 National Science Foundation grant for a project to help put a more user-friendly face on complex scientific programs that model climate change.
Another NSF grant, worth more than $500,000, went to Professor Yolanda Reimer for a project titled “From Pen and Paper to Computer: An Emerging Note-taking Paradigm for Students.”
Reimer says an understanding of how note-taking is changing may affect how faculty teach and offer information in their classrooms, as well as how students integrate and assimilate that information. The project involves interviewing students, gathering questionnaires and shadowing students to observe their note-taking firsthand.
lauded for biology brilliance
In announcing the award, AIBS noted Brewer’s efforts to improve scientific literacy and reach diverse audiences through projects that interconnect the general public, educators and scientists.
Brewer is associate dean of UM’s College of Arts and Sciences and teaches in the University’s Division of Biological Sciences. She came to UM after receiving a doctoral degree from the University of Wyoming in 1993 and has since developed successful programs in ecology research and education.
She and her UM students reach out to the community through programs such as Ecologists, Educators and Schools. The theme of the program is “No child left indoors!”
“We use the schoolyard and adjacent open areas in Western Montana as outdoor laboratories for learning about the environment,” she says.
programs ranked among nation's elite
The Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index, an objective assessment backed by the State University of New York in Stony Brook and produced by Academic Analytics, measured productivity based on publications, citations and grants on a per capita basis.
UM placed behind only Yale University — the country’s oldest forestry program — and the University of Washington. Perry Brown, UM forestry dean, says both those schools are much larger and wealthier than UM.
“We can use this (ranking) in future hiring because it clearly says to young, well-prepared Ph.D.s that this is a place to come and develop a career,” Brown says.
college adds another school
So the University’s programs in public health now have been bundled into the School of Public and Community Health Sciences.
The new school offers a 42-credit master’s program in public health — the only one in Montana — as well as a 12-credit certificate in public health. Both programs are offered online, so they are available to everyone from Billings to Bangladesh.
The degree is applicable to fields ranging from public health administration and biotechnology to epidemiology and health promotion. Sixteen people were enrolled in the program during the past academic year. For more information visit http://www.health.umt.edu/pubhealth.
with critically ill patients lands award
The award has been given each year since 1986 to recognize outstanding contributions by an individual to the field of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation.
Humphrey came to UM in summer 2006 as professor and chair of the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science in the University’s College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences. He will receive the award in October.
Humphrey was one of the first clinicians to study the effects of exercise testing and training in extremely debilitated patients requiring mechanical ventricular assist devices while awaiting cardiac transplantation. This led to the development of exercise guidelines for this critically ill patient population. His work in the exercise assessment of patients with severe chronic heart failure led to a better understanding of their unique exercise physiology.
station nets funding for major study
Station Director Jack Stanford says the grant will support the Salmonid Rivers Observatory Network (SaRON), a long-term project initiated
in 2003 to study the biological diversity and productivity of 15 to 20 pristine salmon-river ecosystems. Targeted rivers are in British Columbia, Alaska and Kamchatka in the Russian Far East.
UM’s primary SaRON partners are the Wild Salmon Center in Portland, Ore., and Moscow State University in Russia, along with a number of First Nations and federal and state agencies.
The goal of the project is to complete a massive, in-depth, comprehensive study of these rivers by examining the geology, chemistry, vegetation, aquatic organisms, stream flow and more. Stanford and his fellow ecologists want to gain a better understanding of the complex web of water and life — which he calls the “shifting habitat mosaic” — that make up healthy river systems.
He says the shifting habitat mosaic concept, which examines spatial change of habitat for river organisms such as salmon in response to environmental variation, has become a guiding principle for river research and management worldwide.
“We study systems ecology — working from the genotypes of the salmon and the biology of the organisms they support — all the way up to global views of landscape change,” Stanford says. “So it’s genes-to-ecosystem-level kind of work.”
SaRON goals include quantifying the biophysical processes that produce the shifting habitat mosaic and using this information to devise and promote new conservation and management strategies for salmon rivers, as well as ideas to restore rivers negatively impacted by people.
invades Missoula-area osprey
What he didn’t expect was the lack of poisons everyone was worrying about and the presence of a particularly dangerous one that no one was looking for: mercury.
Langner, along with Rob Domenech, director of local nonprofit Raptor View Research Institute, visited eight osprey nests from Deer Lodge to Missoula to band the birds for tracking and take blood samples to detect abnormal levels of common contaminants from mining operations.
The legacy left behind by the mines of Butte is one of devastation in the Clark Fork River, and the current cleanup project at the Milltown Dam has biologists and project engineers monitoring the five most prolific contaminants: arsenic, copper, zinc, lead and cadmium. But what Langner found in the osprey wasn’t elevated levels of any of the suspects, but high — very high — levels of mercury. “Mercury really seems to be retained in the ecosystem,” Langner says. “And it is a big deal.”
Of the test sites — two in Deer Lodge, one on the Bitterroot River near Hamilton, and the rest around the greater Missoula area — the ones downstream tested higher. “Contrary to initial expectations, mercury levels increased as we came down the watershed by a factor of four,” he says.
two working hypotheses for the pollution increasing farther from the Butte
mines are that there is more biota further downstream for mercury to collect
in and move through the food chain or, simply, that there is more pollution
So what’s the scoop on bison poop? For one thing, Gardipee’s research methods give her a gentle, noninvasive way to study the animals’ DNA.
Her studies also suggest the roughly 4,000 bison in Yellowstone are divided into at least two distinct breeding groups. This could have implications for how the herds there are managed.
educator honored for contributions
Since 2003 she has taught UM classes in archaeological theory and has served as informal adviser for University students working in fields in which she has carried out research.
Her work in Salts Cave, Ky., changed the way agriculture in eastern North America is defined. Among her many significant contributions to the field of archaeology is the refinement and application of flotation technology to recover small items such as ancient seeds and tiny bones.
hits the road
Beginning at an oil refinery in Billings, the group cycled through much of the state to look at wind farms, geothermal heating projects and other forms of renewable energy. All the while the group retained many trappings of a classroom, including daily course readings and a smattering of guest lecturers.
The group toured a coal-fired plant, an oilseed farm, a wind farm, a biomass fuels project and an ingenious heat-recovery system used by a Hutterite colony, among other educational stops.
investigates global warming travel concerns
That’s one question posed in a recent exploratory study by Norma Nickerson, director of UM’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research. Nickerson surveyed 150 travelers via an Internet questionnaire to obtain her results.
She found that people believe government, businesses and individuals should reduce travel because of climate-change concerns. However, in the next 12 months respondents don’t plan to reduce or shorten their own travel plans because of climate change.
“They also believe scientists and not their governments in regards to global warming,” Nickerson says, “but they tend to think that travel is not the place to pull back.”
Respondents said they generally try to save energy at home and regularly bike, bus or carpool.