October 9th, 2014

UM Reaches Into Space

The University of Montana is a national leader in research on wildlife biology, ecology, forestry and areas related to the planet on which we live. Recently we have extended our reach into outer space. A spate of major research awards have demonstrated the expertise that many of our faculty have space-related research.


The Physics Department operates the Blue Mountain Observatory with its 16” Boller and Chivens f/18 Cassegrain telescope on a permanent, equatorial mount inside an Ash Dome. A more recent addition is UM’s new 0.4 meter observatory on the Skaggs Building on the main campus. Research using telescopes recently took a giant leap forward with the help of a NASA grant to UM of $1.125M to help fund UM’s portion of project Minerva. Minerva’s goal is to find exo-planets, rocky planets similar to earth orbiting nearby stars. The project involves four telescopes, each worth about $250,000 and owned by a different institution. UM principal investigator on the project is Physics Professor Dr. Nate McCrady. McCrady says the telescopes, each with a 0.7-meter collecting mirror, will work together — flying in formation — to create the power of a telescope with a 1.4-meter mirror, an instrument that would cost $7 million.


Other universities partnering in Minerva are Harvard, Penn State and the University of New South Wales in Australia. The Minerva telescopes will be placed at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory atop 8,600-foot Mount Hopkins, located about 35 miles south of Tucson, Ariz. McCrady says Montana is a poor location for such an observatory, with its high latitude and weather-limited observing days.

“This will be the largest research telescope that anyone in the state of Montana has ever owned,” McCrady says. He’s especially excited that undergraduate students from towns across Montana will join the hunt for exoplanets.


“Our students will be walking the front lines with colleagues and students at other prestigious institutions,” McCrady says. “It really will give our students an inroad into the world of professional astrophysics.”

The telescopes will become operational later this year.

In addition to looking into space, UM researchers are reaching into space. BOREALIS (Balloon Outreach, Research, Exploration and Landscape Imaging System) is Montana Space Grant Consortium’s high altitude ballooning program and has two complete ballooning programs at UM and MSU. In the program students from a variety of disciplines work together to conceive, design and build payloads that are flown up to 100,000 feet - the edge of space. Recently, UM-BOREALIS  branched into tethered balloon systems as well as radiosonde systems. The program is intended both to collect scientific data as well as to get middle school students interested in science.

To see a video showing the school mascots (UM’s Monte and MSU’s Champ) conducting a high-altitude flight experiment, watch this November 2013 flight video on YouTube.


Earlier this week NASA awarded five-year grants totaling almost $50 million to seven research teams nationwide to study the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. The University of Montana is represented on two of those grants. The interdisciplinary teams will become members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). UM Geosciences Professor Nancy Hinman is a co-PI on the grant to the SETI Institute. The SETI Institute project team lead is Nathalie Cabrol.

According to the NASA web site “Research will produce guiding principles to better understand where to search for life, what to search for, and how to recognize finding evidence of past or current life. The goal of the proposed research is to best prepare for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover.”

The University of Montana is the lead institution on one of the other NASA Astrobiology awards. UM DBS Professor Frank Rosenzweig, along with UM co-PIs Scott Miller, John McCutcheon, Margie Kinnersley, Matthew Herron and Eric Smith are RELIVING THE PAST: Experimental Evolution of Major Transitions in the History of Life. The $8.9M 5 year award will address a set of questions related to major transitions in the history of life: (i) How do enzymes and metabolic networks evolve? (ii) How did the eukaryotic cell, specifically the cell that contained a mitochondrion, come to be? (iii) How do symbioses arise? (iv) How does multicellularity evolve? and (v) How do pleiotropy, epistasis and mutation rate constrain the evolution of novel traits? A unifying theme underlying these questions is determining the relative roles of cooperative vs. competitive interactions in driving major transitions. Other universities working with UM on this project are Stanford, UNH, Colorado and the UPenn.


October 9th, 2014

UM Professor Named Harvard JPB Environmental Health Fellow

Annie Belcourt, a University of Montana College of Health Professions & Biomedical Sciences assistant professor, has accepted an invitation from Harvard University to be a JPB Environmental Health Fellow for the next three years. The fellowship will allow Belcourt, a faculty member in pharmacy practice and public health, to extend her work in environmental health while developing new collaborative research projects aimed at tribal populations in Montana.

October 6th, 2014

UM PhD Student’s Work in Himalayan Mountains

UM PhD student Michelle Groke spent the summer at her research field sites in Nepal. For her work she has received a Fulbright Scholarship and a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement award. Next, she will spend eleven months in the remote Humla District of the Himalayan Mountains examining the impact of new road construction on the agriculture, nutrition, and overall well-being of the people who reside there. Through her research she plans on quantifying how new road development will affect the local population. She recently did an interview which can be found here: http://hs.umt.edu/hs/about/basepage.php or you can check out her blog: http://mgrockehumlanepal.tumblr.com/

October 3rd, 2014

University of Montana and Bozeman Public Schools Awarded $3.3M NIJ Award

The National Institute of Justice recently announced that Bozeman Public Schools, in collaboration with the Montana Safe Schools Center and the National Native Children’s Trauma Center, both of which are housed at the University of Montana’s Institute for Educational Research and Service, and in partnership with Gallatin County Youth Court Services, school- and community-based mental health providers, and Thrive is one of 24 agencies nationwide to be awarded a Developing Knowledge About What Works to Make Schools Safe grant to examine the implementation of comprehensive, integrated prevention supports for students. Bozeman School District 7 was the only applicant in the state of Montana to be awarded the grant funding this year. The total 36-month award was for $3,319,810.

The grant entitled, School and Family Engagement – Trauma Informed (SAFE-TI), will evaluate the school safety impacts of implementing a Trauma-Informed Care approach, when applied within a tiered assessment and intervention framework. SAFE-TI will provide trauma screening, assessment, and treatment of student-specific risk factors that impact school safety, including threat-to-self and threat-to-others.

September 29th, 2014

Tribal Health Joins Forces the UM, SKC and UW to Address Childhood Obesity

The University of Montana (UM), the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) Tribal Health Department (THD), and Salish Kootenai College (SKC) as well as the University of Washington (UW) have joined forces to address the issue of childhood obesity on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Childhood obesity is a prime factor in diabetes development.

The three-year project is funded by a $90,000 grant from the National Institutes of Child Health and Development R13 Conference Series. It is entitled, “Partnerships to prevent childhood obesity on the Flathead Indian Reservation.”

“This is a collaborative effort of tribal and non-tribal entities and their families,” said Gyda Swaney, Director of Indians Into Psychology Program at the UM. “This is a planning grant to find out what the community wants and how feasible that is.”

“We will start the planning process that will help identify the need and interest in this,” said Brenda Bodnar, THD Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) manager. The project will be directed by a community advisory board made up of community leaders. “We will establish a stake holders committee and begin meeting on how to address the issues of obesity, and diabetes on the reservation.”

In the early 1990s health care professionals began to notice a rise in the incidence of diabetes in America. They noticed an alarming difference in the rate of diabetes between American Indian and the non-Indian populace. The incidence of diabetes among non-Indians is around 24 percent; among American Indians the rates soar upwards to 57 percent.

“We certainly will be targeting Native American youth at risk for diabetes as well as non-Native American youth on the reservation,” said Blakely Brown, UM. “Our other goal is to pull together all the different programs in the area working on child health issues.”

Throughout the next three years the project will bring together tribal, non-tribal people including parents, teachers, community leaders, and professionals and programs on the Flathead Reservation, and the faculty at the UM, to collaboratively develop and implement programs that reduce the risk of childhood obesity and diabetes on the reservation. Teams of will be meeting in different areas of the reservation to share information and ideas in the effort to identify and initiate new programs to address obesity and diabetes.

“Improving the health of youth and their families is primary focus of this grant,” Swaney said, adding that UM worked with THD, SKC, CSKT Council, area school boards, county commissioners, and several other organizations across the Flathead Reservation to develop the framework and approach for the capacity building project. “These partnerships, and others that will be established during the project, will enhance the community-based participatory focus of the project.”

  • Primary Investigators are: Brenda Bodnar, THD Diabetes Prevention Program; Blakely Brown, UM; and Michael Tryon, SKC.
  • Co-Investigators are: Annie Belcourt, Kari Harris, and Gyda Swaney of UM. 
  • Advisors to the project are: Bonnie Duran, UW, and Tom Seekins, UM Rural Health program.

For more information and/or to participate, contact: 

  • Michael Tryon at: michael_tryon@skc.edu 
  • Blakely Brown at: Blakely.brown@umontana.edu
  • Brenda Bodnar: brenda.bodnar@cskt.org

Reprinted from: https://www.facebook.com/pages/CSKT-Tribal-Health-Department/1534218220127017

September 24th, 2014

Which NIH Grant-type is Best for You?

The NIH has three mechanisms for investigator-initiated research: The Research Project Grant (R01, PA-13-302); the NIH Small Research Grant Program (R03, PA-13-304); and the NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (R21, PA-13-303). While the names of opportunities gives some guidance, deciding which application type is the best fit for a given investigator can be a tough choice. There’s an excellent article in the SRACatalyst on the differences: http://sra-catalyst.srainternational.org/september-2014/contributed-columns/gray-matters

August 28th, 2014

FLBS in the News

"There’s a Big Leak in America’s Water Tower" National Public Radio’s ‘All Things Considered’ featured a story last night (8/27/14) on water, wildlife and climate change in Glacier National Park and the Crown of the Continent. Bio Station Director Jack Stanford, Bio Station Faculty Ric Hauer and Clint Muhlfeld, and former Bio Station researcher Joe Giersch were all interviewed. In short, water supply and its timing are changing and this is affecting ecosystems and species in the Northern Rockies. Follow this link to read or listen to the story: http://www.npr.org/2014/08/27/341372550/theres-a-big-leak-in-americas-water-tower

August 25th, 2014

UM and Pacific Northwest Alliance Share AGEP Grant

Washington State University, the University of Montana, the University of Idaho and Montana State University will collaborate to create the Pacific Northwest Alliance: Collaborative Opportunities for Success in Mentoring of Students (PNW-COSMOS). These alliance schools will also partner with Salish Kootenai College, Montana Tech of the University of Montana, and Heritage University.

This project was created in response to the NSF’s Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program solicitation (NSF 14-505) for the AGEP-Transformation (AGEP-T) track. The AGEP-T track targets strategic alliances of institutions and organizations to develop, implement, and study innovative evidence-based models and standards for STEM graduate education, postdoctoral training, and academic STEM career preparation that eliminate or mitigate negative factors and promote positive practices for URMs.

The PNW-COSMOS project will develop, implement, and study a model of STEM graduate education focusing on underrepresented minorities (URMs), specifically those who are American Indians (AIs) and Native Alaskans (NAs).

This proposed AGEP-T project will be unique and will have potential to contribute to foundational knowledge about the recruitment, retention and graduation of doctoral AIs and NAs in STEM. The emphasis on culturally-relevant and culturally-immersive activities is a unique intervention approach for graduate students and their mentoring faculty in STEM; and what happens in this project may provide results that transform the way the field engages and works with URM graduate student in rural environments and in regions of the country where there are high percentages of AI and AN students. The lessons learned as this project progresses, and the ultimate results from the work, will provide information that will be beneficial to educators, administrators and policymakers, as well as the general public.

August 25th, 2014

Tuesday Toasts at Flathead Lake Brewing

Come join the Flathead Lake Biological Station at Flathead Lake Brewing Co. in Woods Bay.

Enjoy a summer evening with friends and family. Drink some delicious hand-crafted Montana beers. Eat some tasty food. And support the Bio Station’s research in the Flathead.

We hope to see you:

Tuesday August 26th (tomorrow!) from 5-8 pm.

$1 from each pint will kindly be donated by Flathead Lake Brewing Co. to the Bio Station.

More info: Contact Tom Bansak at 406-982-3301 X229 or tom.bansak@umontana.edu

August 20th, 2014

UM and Symantec Academic Alliance

UM is the first university in the nation to be part of software giant Symantec’s Academic Alliances Program. Earlier this spring, Symantec made a $100,000 in-kind donation to UM that included a server, software, data and support for a two-week, big data-focused summer course. Business, computer science and law students are taking the course.

We had a good meeting yesterday with Caroline and Larry from Symantec (www.symantec.com). Although probably best known for its Norton antivirus software, Symantec provides a range of cybersecurity related products and services and has large data sets which may be of value to our students and faculty. Currently we are using Symantec software in an ediscovery course being taught by UM faculty member Joel Henry.

There is a potential for a number of other courses including data center fundamentals, disaster recovery and data management and perhaps a course on developing malware protection schemes. Symantec also is active in research at their Mountain View, CA site and other sites around the country. There may be an opportunity for collaboration between their researchers and our faculty and students.

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