FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT
UNLOCKING THE SECRETS OF FLIGHT
ONE HOWL OF A GOOD IDEA
HARE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW?
CRACKING A MYSTERY
Cover: While studying how chukar partridges grow and develop the ability to fly, UM researcher Ken Dial developed an original theory for the evolution of flight.
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: Jacob Baynham, Brianne Burrowes, Brenda Day, Judy Fredenberg, Rita Munzenrider, Dan Pletscher, Jennifer Sauer and Ashley Zuelke. WEB DESIGN: Cary Shimek. 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.
Young researcher studies raptors
By Caroline Lupfer Kurtz
Senior Anicka Kratina-Hathaway’s academic career is a perfect example of the value of being ready and willing to seize opportunities whenever and wherever they arise. Kratina-Hathaway — her maternal grandfather was Czech — was born and raised in Montana, growing up in Miles City until her family moved to Missoula when she was 15. As a UM sophomore, she spent a year in France at the University of Nantes, studying literature and history. She now is enrolled in the Davidson Honors College, where she majors in organismal biology and minors in French. She has received funding three times from the Montana Integrative Learning Experiences for Students (MILES) program of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which supports undergraduate research experience. Her thesis project, under the aegis of UM biology Professor Erick Greene, is on reproductive success of osprey in Western Montana and includes some of the first data on heavy-metal contamination of osprey as a result of bioaccumulation through the food chain. Her research presentation won first prize in life sciences at UM’s 2008 Undergraduate Research Conference, and she traveled with other students from the honors college to a national undergraduate research conference in Flagstaff, Ariz., last April.
Q: How did you get started on this research path?
A: As a freshman, I took an introductory biology course, and Erick Greene taught a portion of it. It was fantastic; very exciting. That was a huge lecture class, though, so he didn’t really know who I was. I introduced myself again while ringing up groceries at the Good Food Store, where I was working as a cashier for a while; then I basically kept bothering him to get involved with a research project. I wasn’t looking for osprey research in particular. I think I was hoping he’d let me come along on one of his projects in the Amazon or something, but it really doesn’t matter. I could be studying newts and be having a great time. I just love fieldwork.
Q: So this is your first time studying birds?
A: Not really. I had done a little work previously on songbirds in Arizona through (UM researcher) Tom Martin’s project, and I volunteered a little bit on some owl research around Missoula.
Q: What does the osprey project entail, exactly?
A: Surprisingly — since ospreys are such familiar birds here — there’s no long-term data on their reproductive success in Western Montana. This means the number of eggs laid in a season, how many hatch, how many chicks fledge or leave the nest. Eggs begin to hatch in late June; we gathered blood and feather samples in mid-July and banded a number of chicks as well. The bands will help track these birds through their migrations and give us some basic natural history information, like where they choose nest sites and how long they live.
Q: Did this bother the ospreys at all?
A: It seems ospreys are pretty tolerant of human activity. We would take all the chicks from a nest at once, and the female would be pretty agitated. But she’d get right back on the nest after we’d backed the truck away once we were done.
Q: Did you always want to be a scientist?
A: I really like field research; that’s what I want to do. When I was younger, I was into marine biology and mammals, but now I’m open to anything. I’m very interested in politics, as well, and was president of the Young Democrats in high school. Two of us got to go to D.C. in 2005 to protest the inauguration. We’d been given tickets and, because we were young, enthusiastic faces, we ended up closer to the front than we expected. When President Bush came out to speak, our protest was to stand and turn our backs. I was amazed at the reaction. Ladies in fur coats screaming at us; I couldn’t believe the language they were using toward kids. It was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done. We had a lot of fun in Washington, and I’d maybe like to end up doing some combination of environmental policy and international work someday.
Q: What about immediate future plans after graduation?
A: I probably won’t finish up until January 2010. Then I’d like to take a break, do some international volunteer work with the Peace Corps or another organization; then come back and go to graduate school someplace other than Montana. I’ve always been interested in different places and cultures. And I know it sounds cliché, but the idea of the Peace Corps, of giving back, is very important to me. It’s another way to expand yourself as well, meet new people, make more connections. And with the Peace Corps I could use my biology degree.
Q: What do you like most about what you’re doing right now?
A: I love the chance to meet and work with so many different people, and that one thing leads to another. You work with one person, who introduces you to another and so on, and you get to learn so many new things. Plus, right now I’m working with the guidance of Erick Greene, a big “guru” on campus. He’s involved in so many different projects and is so great about involving students, giving them credit. I’m very fortunate.
Q: What is the hardest or most challenging thing for you right now?
A: I guess the biggest bummer is that as you get farther along in education, you have to make choices. You can’t go in every direction you’d like. Plus, you get busy and stressed and need to do things like find a job to support yourself, which takes up time you’d rather have in the field!