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Monday, Sep. 15th, 2014

Football fans can watch high-altitude balloon launch Sept. 20 from Bobcat Stadium

Students and fans who will gather in Bobcat Stadium for the Sept. 20 football game between Montana State University and Eastern Washington will experience MSU’s first game-day high-altitude balloon launch from inside the stadium.
The launch, taking place 20 minutes before kickoff, will lift a custom-made “Go CATS” banner high above the Gallatin Valley while special high-definition cameras capture spectacular images from “near-space.”
One of those images will be displayed during halftime on the Bobcat Stadium’s Jumbotron. Throughout the game, students and fans will be able to view the other images and track the balloon’s journey at
The latex weather balloon is expected to reach 85,000 feet and then float east. The entire trip could take anywhere from two to four hours, said Angela Des Jardins, director of NASA’s Montana Space Grant Consortium.  Besides sharing images from the edge of space, the flight will demonstrate the benefits of a valve and computer system designed and developed by MSU students. The students can command the valve to release helium from the balloon, allowing it to stay aloft as long as the students want.
Once the MSU students see that the balloon is floating over an easily accessible location between Livingston and central Montana, they will command a tethered dart to pop it, Des Jardins said. They will then drive to its landing spot to retrieve the balloon and the scientific instruments it is carrying.
Participants in a Montana Space Grant Consortium contest will seek and retrieve the 16-by 84-inch “Go CATS” banner that will drop off earlier in the flight to avoid tangling with the descending balloon. Contest information will be updated continually at @MTSpaceGrant on Twitter.
Balloon flights are the highlight of the BOREALIS program at MSU, Des Jardins said. As a component of the NASA Montana Space Grant Consortium, BOREALIS works to strengthen aerospace research and education in Montana.
BOREALIS provides students the unique opportunity to work, fully hands on, to design, build, test, fly and analyze personalized and collaborative high altitude experiments, Des Jardins said. Students fly equipment designed to record and analyze their scientific inquiries in carefully constructed payloads that travel up to altitudes of 100,000 feet.
Students take great pride in the educational opportunities provided through BOREALIS, Des Jardins said.
Nichole Murray of Bozeman, a senior in mechanical engineering, said, “It is a very unique learning environment. It opens the door that says it’s OK to fail. It’s the idea of being able to learn from your failures and become better…. To expand and make yourself a better student…To push yourself farther than you thought you could.
“I hope that students and fans have the chance to experience the same fascination, excitement and wonder that I do with each launch that I participate in, since there is always something to learn, to observe or to question,” Murray added.

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Tuesday, Sep. 9th, 2014

Who Is Amanda Curtis?

In the wake of the withdrawal of Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont) from November’s election following charges of plagiarism, the Montana Democratic Party in August chose another Butte Democrat to fill his shoes, freshman Montana legislator Rep. Amanda Curtis.

Curtis, who is also a high school teacher in Butte, and Steve Daines of Bozeman, who currently holds Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, face off in November for the Senate seat vacated by Max Baucus earlier this year after his appointment as U.S. Ambassador to China. As of press time, the race is a David vs. Goliath affair of sorts, with Daines leading Curtis in the polls by over 20 points. Democrats have held the Senate seat for more than a century, but the race was already seen as a tough one for Democrats to hold onto this time around, even before the plagiarism allegations against Walsh were published by The New York Times in July.

After Walsh dropped out of the race, Democrats scrambled to pick a new candidate. Rep. Franke Wilmer (D-Bozeman) Bozeman expressed an interest in running against Daines, but decided to instead to keep her focus on state politics. Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s name surfaced, but no interest in the seat from his camp emerged. In a first-of-its-kind convention for Montana Democrats in Helena on Saturday, Aug. 16, the 129 attending party delegates from across the Treasure State really had only two choices: the 34-year-old Amanda Curtis, who earlier that week received backing from some of Montana’s largest unions, and Wilsall area rancher Dirk Adams, who in June lost the primary race to Walsh.

At Saturday’s convention Curtis made her pitch to working-class Montana voters, portraying Daines as a corporate candidate more interested in serving the interests of the wealthy, rather than Montana as a whole.

“This is the worst job market in a generation, but the stock market is doing just fine,” Curtis told convention delegates. “Wall Street is doing great. The recovery has not reached the rest of us...if we win here in Montana, outspent and outgunned in a race where we were left for dead, it will send a message to Washington, D.C., that we want change.”

After the delegates’ votes were cast and counted, Curtis bested Adams by an 82-46 vote margin, but with less than 10 weeks until Election Day, Curtis certainly has an uphill battle ahead of her, not the least of which is name recognition.

“The ability to brand anything, a candidate...a really tough in three months,” Ravalli County convention delegate Lee Tickell told the Associated Press. “But it can be done, if we come out of here with enthusiasm.”

If enthusiasm can be equated with money, Curtis is off to a good start. Within 10 days being chosen as the candidate to replace Walsh, Curtis had already raised $180,000. That’s small potatoes compared to Daines’ $1.7 million warchest, and Curtis is not expected to draw much money from large donors outside the state unless the race tightens, but it is a good start. She has received backing from former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's Democracy for America organization, and an endorsement from Montana’s other U.S. Senator, Jon Tester, who told CNN News that “Amanda's energy and enthusiasm will be a refreshing change, and will bring attention to issues facing working families, like education and access to our public lands.”

Younger Montana Democrats are the demographic most familiar with Curtis, whose issues include student loan reform and human rights. It’s this younger voting base which Democrats hope to invigorate in this off-Presidential election year.

Using an avenue more likely to be navigated by this younger generation, Curtis kept a daily YouTube diary of the 2013 Montana Legislative Session she served in, a diary which reveals much about the candidate’s beliefs and background. Within hours after she was chosen to run against Daines by party delegates in Helena, the Montana Republican Party published a not-so-complimentary compilation of clips from her diary on YouTube entitled “Meet Amanda Curtis.”  The GOP’s video montage had received over 142,000 hits as of Aug. 30. It focuses on Curtis’s statements regarding topics including gun control (she favors expanded background checks) and Medicaid (she wants to see the program expanded in the Treasure State). It hints at her labor union background (she states she is an “anarchist at heart” in one clip), and one clip seems aimed at questioning Curtis’s “family values.” In another segment, Curtis says she has to stop herself from walking across the aisle and punching another state legislator after his anti-gay statements on the floor. Montana Republican Party Chair Will Deschamps told the AP that “All you have to do is listen to her words.” But Curtis stands by her legislative video diary, accusing the Montana Republican Party of publishing an assembly of clips out of context, and urging everyone to watch her diary as a whole.

“Of course that's the first thing that they're going to do,” Curtis told the AP regarding the GOP’s YouTube release. “The great thing about those videos [in their entirety] is folks can go and see exactly what context I said any statement that they're curious about.” It remains to be seen whether those YouTube videos will help get Amanda Curtis’s name out there, but it’s certain that name recognition is a priority in her campaign.

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Biggest Skiing in America® license plate

Now available is a license to ski. Actually it’s a license plate. Big Sky Resort teamed up with Big Sky Ski Education Foundation (BSSEF) to bring the Biggest Skiing in America® license plate to Montana residents. The Montana license plate features a photo of the iconic Lone Peak at Big Sky Resort.

The proceeds from the sale of the custom Biggest Skiing in America® license plate will benefit Big Sky Ski Education Foundation, a non-profit, volunteer-based organization offering competitive ski programs to Big Sky and the surrounding communities.

“We hope to raise $10,000 to $15,000 (500-750 plates) yearly with the donations from the plate. It is going to take a lot of support from local residents and others throughout the state,” said Jeremy Ueland, Program Director and Head Coach of Big Sky Ski Education Foundation. “BSSEF is excited to have this plate released and have a custom plate unique to the Big Sky area.”

There have been many BSSEF alumni make it to various levels of competition from regional events, national events and World Cup. The most notable athlete who skied for BSSEF was Keely Kelleher who is a former United States Ski Team member and 2010 National Super G winner.

“BSSEF is a great program at our resort to be associated with and with this plate, people can express their love of ski programs we all grew up in,” stated Brandon Bang, Sales and Marketing Director at Big Sky Resort. “We’re just honored to have Lone Peak on there.”

Visit Big Sky Ski Education Foundation at or for more information.

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Thursday, Sep. 4th, 2014

2014 Cat Chat #1

Dakota Prukop made his public debut at Cat Chat last Wednesday night (8/27/14) and I was able to ask him a few  questions about the upcoming Bobcat Football Season.


Jack Thorsen: What do you think the most challenging aspect of being the starting quarterback for the Bobcats will be? 

Dakota Prukop:  I think it's most challenging thing will be that I want to be able to make that play every time.


JT: What goals have you set for this season? 

DP: Win a conference championship or even a national championship. 


JT: Can you describe the Montana State offense in just one word.

DP: Explosive !!!

Come see how explosive the Bobcat offense is at the first home game of the season, the Gold Rush Game Saturday, September 6th 7n pm against Black Hills State.

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Wednesday, Sep. 3rd, 2014

8th Annual Cardboard Box City

On Friday, October 3, 2014, Family Promise of Gallatin Valley will host the 8th annual Cardboard Box City in Bogert Park. This community education event is a great opportunity for kids and families to help build awareness and raise funds for homeless families in our community.

Despite the booming economy, Bozeman continues to be a challenging place to live for those on the margin. In fact, of the families who have gone through the Family Promise program in the last six months, almost all of them held full-time jobs. But, with minimum wage in Montana at $7.90 per hour, and rents in Bozeman hovering around $850 for a one-bedroom, just finding affordable housing can seem like an impossible task -- not to mention paying for food, childcare, and medical expenses.

What does this mean for Family Promise? It means that the services we provide are more important than ever. Family Promise of Gallatin Valley is a nonprofit in Bozeman that assists homeless families to regain their independence. Since we opened our doors in 2006, 80% of the families completing the Family Promise program have successfully attained stable housing and employment.

Participants of our annual Cardboard Box City event who collect pledges of $100 or more secure themselves the opportunity to set up and decorate a cardboard box home for the night. Starting at 5:00 pm on Friday, October 3, participants can set up their boxes and enjoy a pizza dinner, music, prizes and lots of fun! They then spend the evening under the stars.

Individuals of all ages, families, youth groups, sororities, fraternities, civic and faith organizations are all welcome. Visit to register today!  Call 582-7388 with any questions. Volunteers are also needed.  Join us Friday, October 3, 2014 to end homelessness, one family at a time.

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Tuesday, Sep. 2nd, 2014

Announcing the First Ever ‘Trail Buddies’ Contest

Trails are a big part of why living in Bozeman is so great. Friends make it even better. So who’s your trail buddy? Who do you call for early morning or after work walks on Peet’s Hill or Drinking Horse Mountain. Who’s your go-to trail running friend?  Our furry friends need companions too! Who is your dog’s favorite trail companion?

The Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT), has been building, maintaining, and enhancing trails on the Main Street to the Mountains trail network since 1990.  By building trails, GVLT is connecting people and building community. Share your trail buddy story (and/ or your dog’s trail buddy story) for a chance to win truly amazing prizes!

Here’s how to enter:
    •    Submit a photo of you and your trail buddy on the trails (or your dog and its trail buddy) to or post on the GVLT Facebook page,
    •    Humans-Include a brief explanation of why you love your trail buddy and your favorite town trail. Dogs-Have your human include a brief explanation of why you love your trail buddy and your favorite town trail.
Submissions are due September 30th and winners will be announced October 3rd. Human winners will receive a free pair of Oboz footwear and Dee-O-Gee gift card. Dog winners will receive a bed and toy package from West Paw Design, dog treats from Dee-O-Gee, and a 5 lb. bag of lamb bones from Willow Springs Ranch.
Rules: Entries must be from the residents of the Gallatin Valley. Trail buddy entries can’t be groups of three or more, just pairs. You can enter just your buddy , your dog’s buddy, or both!

Visit or to learn more. Thank You to Oboz Footwear, West Paw Design, Dee-O-Gee, Willow Springs Ranch, Run Dog Run, and the Moose Radio for supporting this contest!

Please contact EJ Porth for more information. or 406-587-8404 ext. 8

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Friday, Aug. 22nd, 2014

Tate Academy, the educational wing of The Ellen Theatre, announces the fall schedule

Tate Academy, the educational wing of The Ellen Theatre, announces the fall schedule which includes programs for young performers and adults in both acting and musical theatre. The goal of the workshops is to provide students with solid, technique-based theatre arts training, lead by professional teachers and artists. All classes take place at The Ellen Theatre.

The Fundamentals of Acting workshop focuses on creating three-dimensional characters and building a solid acting foundation. Exploring both voice and physicality, students participate in theatre games, guided improvisation and scene work to develop and hone acting technique. The Musical Theatre Workshop is designed for all students, from absolute beginners to experienced young performers. For those new to theatrical training, the course will serve
as an introduction to the world of musical theatre. For students who have had previous experience, it will offer them the opportunity to build upon those skills and further refine their talents. All students will gain self-esteem and confidence, while expanding their knowledge of theatre.

These workshops are not a competition. A nurturing but professional atmosphere will be fostered as students are shown the benefits of working together in the performing arts. Honing individual skills while working as a creative team will produce not only the best results on stage, but more than likely new friends along the way.

The fall session begins September 15th and runs until November 6th. Fundamentals of Acting for grades 4 through 7 meets Mondays from 4:00 PM to 5:45 PMand the fee is $145.00. For grades 8 through 12, Fundamentals of Acting costs $165.00 and is held on Tuesdays from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM. Musical Theatre Workshops are held Wednesdays from 4:00 PM to 5:45 PM for grades 4 through 7 at a cost of $155. For grades 8 through 12, the fee is $175 and the class meets Thursdays from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM.

There are two adult classes. Adult acting workshop is scheduled for Thursday evenings
from September 18 – October 16 at a cost of $90. The second is for Musical Theatre, also on Thursday evenings, and costs $95 for classes slated from October 23 o November 20th.

For more information about discounts for multiple family members and for attending multiple workshops, please visit the ticketing page or simply call The Tate office at 585-6918.

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The Artists’ Gallery, located in the Emerson Cultural Center features the art work of 3 diverse artists during the month of September

Bozeman’s Coop gallery, The Artists’ Gallery, located in the Emerson Cultural Center will be featuring the art work of three diverse artists during the month of September. Dede Chrisman is a ceramic artist, Ann Wilbert creates jewelry with fused glass beads, and Tom Wolfe works in forged metal,
Chrisman began her relationship with clay thirty years ago. She finds working in clay as a way to journal. The responses she has while experiencing the environment are transferred into images in clay when in her studio. The Yellowstone geysers are reflected in her multi-fired bowls with the blue centers of the bowl surrounded by textured or crusty edges. Currently her work is influenced by a canoe trip on the Missouri River where she observed the cliff swallow nests and random trails the fallen rocks have left. She primarily uses a slab technique for clay, sometimes combining thrown components with the slab.
It may not seem like making small glass beads could possibly captivate a person for years, but such is the case for Wilbert. She finds that there are infinite possibilities with each attempt she makes at producing her lampwork beads. Although she feels she may never be a master of this art form she tries to capture something unique in each bead she creates.
Wolfe is inspired by the limitless possibilities of what can be done with iron, anvil, forge and tireless toil.  He creates functional metal work for the home and garden. His long-term fascination with the changes that can be wrought in the shape of steel when heated to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit keeps him coming back to the forge. After spending 30 years as the head of MSU’s horseshoeing program he has turned to making functional metal art while still using traditional blacksmithing techniques.
The Bozeman Artwalk will take place on Friday, September 12th.  Start your Artwalk at the Artists’ Gallery at 5:00 – then proceed to Main Street when the galleries there begin their Artwalk at 6:00. Come and meet the artists with a glass of wine.

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Thursday, Aug. 21st, 2014

Submissions due Sept. 1 for coffee art show

Coffee lovers and artists of all ages are invited to submit drawings, paintings, collage and photos with coffee as their theme, or using coffee as a medium. To submit, email a photo of 1-4 artworks and your name, phone and email address no later than Sept. 1 to Artists will be notified of acceptance by email. Acceptance is based on space available and appropriateness to the coffee theme. The coffee artwork will be shown at Wild Joe’s coffeehouse, 18 West Main, with an opening reception during the Downtown Bozeman Artwalk on Friday, Sept. 12. For more information, find Community Art Bozeman on facebook or visit

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U.S. expedition yields first breakthrough paper about life under Antarctic ice

The first breakthrough paper to come out of a massive U.S. expedition to one of Earth’s final frontiers shows that there’s life and an active ecosystem one-half mile below the surface of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, specifically in a lake that hasn’t seen sunlight or felt a breath of wind for millions of years.

The life is in the form of microorganisms that live beneath the enormous Antarctic ice sheet and convert ammonium and methane into the energy required for growth. Many of the microbes are single-celled organisms known as Archaea, said Montana State University professor John Priscu, the chief scientist of the U.S. project called WISSARD that sampled the sub-ice environment. He is also co-author of the MSU author-dominated paper in the Aug. 21 issue of “Nature,” an international weekly journal for all fields of science and technology.

“We were able to prove unequivocally to the world that Antarctica is not a dead continent,” Priscu said, adding that data in the “Nature” paper is the first direct evidence that life is present in the subglacial environment beneath the Antarctic ice sheet.

Lead author Brent Christner said, “It’s the first definitive evidence that there’s not only life, but active ecosystems underneath the Antarctic ice sheet, something that we have been guessing about for decades. With this paper, we pound the table and say, ‘Yes, we were right.’”

Priscu said he wasn’t entirely surprised that the team found life after drilling through half a mile of ice to reach Subglacial Lake Whillans in January 2013. An internationally renowned polar biologist, Priscu researches both the South and North Poles. This fall will be his 30th field season in Antarctica, and he has long predicted the discovery.

More than a decade ago, he published two manuscripts in the journal “Science” describing for the first time that microbial life can thrive in and under Antarctic ice. Five years ago, he published a manuscript where he predicted that the Antarctic subglacial environment would be the planet’s largest wetland, one not dominated by the red-winged blackbirds and cattails of typical wetland regions in North America, but by microorganisms that mine minerals in rocks at subzero temperatures to obtain the energy that fuels their growth.

Following more than a decade of traveling the world presenting lectures describing what may lie beneath Antarctic ice, Priscu was instrumental in convincing U.S. national funding agencies that this research would transform the way we view the fifth largest continent on the planet.

Although he was not really surprised about the discovery, Priscu said he was excited by some of the details of the Antarctic find, particularly how the microbes function without sunlight at subzero temperatures and the fact that evidence from DNA sequencing revealed that the dominant organisms are archaea. Archaea is one of three domains of life, with the others being Bacteria and Eukaryote.

Many of the subglacial archaea use the energy in the chemical bonds of ammonium to fix carbon dioxide and drive other metabolic processes. Another group of microorganisms uses the energy and carbon in methane to make a living. According to Priscu, the source of the ammonium and methane is most likely from the breakdown of organic matter that was deposited in the area hundreds of thousands of years ago when Antarctica was warmer and the sea inundated West Antarctica. He also noted that, as Antarctica continues to warm, vast amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, will be liberated into the atmosphere enhancing climate warming.

The U.S. team also proved that the microorganisms originated in Lake Whillans and weren’t introduced by contaminated equipment, Priscu said.  Skeptics of his previous studies of Antarctic ice have suggested that his group didn’t actually discover microorganisms, but recovered microbes they brought in themselves.

“We went to great extremes to ensure that we did not contaminate one of the most pristine environments on our planet while at the same time ensuring that our samples were of the highest integrity,” Priscu said.

Extensive tests were conducted at MSU two years ago on WISSARD’s borehole decontamination system to ensure that it worked, and Priscu led a publication in an international journal presenting results of these tests. This decontamination system was mated to a one-of-a-kind hot water drill that was used to melt a borehole through the ice sheet, which provided a conduit to the subglacial environment for sampling.

Every day in Antarctica, he would tell his team to keep it simple, Priscu said. To prove that an ecosystem existed below the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, he wanted at least three lines of evidence. They had to see microorganisms under the microscope that came from Lake Whillans and not contaminated equipment. They then had to show that the microorganisms were alive and growing. They had to be identifiable by their DNA.

When the team found those things, he knew they had succeeded, Priscu said.

The Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project officially began in 2009 with a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation.  Now involving 13 principal investigators at eight U.S. institutions, the researchers drilled down to Subglacial Lake Whillans in January 2013. The microorganisms they discovered are still being analyzed at MSU and other collaborating institutions.

Christner said species are hard to determine in microbiology, but “We are looking at a water column that probably has about 4,000 things we call species. It’s incredibly diverse.”

Planning to drill again this austral summer in a new Antarctic location, Priscu said WISSARD was the first large-scale multidisciplinary effort to directly examine the biology of an Antarctic subglacial environment. The Antarctic Ice Sheet covers an area 1 ½ times the size of the United States and contains 70 percent of Earth's freshwater, and any significant melting can drastically increase sea level. Lake Whillans, one of more than 200 known lakes beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet and the primary lake in the WISSARD study, fills and drains about every three years. The river that drains Lake Whillans flows under the Ross Ice Shelf, which is the size of France, and feeds the Southern Ocean, where it can provide nutrients for life and influence water circulation patterns.

The opportunity to explore the world under the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is an unparalleled opportunity for the U.S. team, as well as for several MSU-affiliated researchers who are part of that team and wrote or co-authored the Nature paper, Priscu said.

Christner, for one, was a postdoctoral researcher with Priscu and Mark Skidmore at MSU from 2002 through 2006. He is now associate professor of biological sciences at Louisiana State University.  Jill Mikucki, now an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, was one of Priscu’s doctoral students. Skidmore is a glacial geochemist in MSU’s Department of Earth Sciences.  Andrew Mitchell, now at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom, was a postdoctoral researcher with MSU’s Center for Biofilm Engineering. Alex Michaud and Trista Vick-Majors are currently earning their doctorates in Priscu’s research group at MSU. Other MSU people on the team were Education and Outreach Coordinator Susan Kelly and Project Manager John Sherve.

The fact that MSU was so involved reflects the fact that it is pioneering a new field of science, Priscu said. MSU is the common ancestor of many scientists who study life in and under ice.

“I always tell my students when they come into the lab that ‘We are inventing this field of science. It’s working on life in ice and under ice. This field has never existed before. We thought it up. You are pioneers,’” Priscu said.

Appreciative of the opportunity to participate in WISSARD, Vick-Majors said she saw bacteria under the microscope within an hour after the first sample of water was pulled out of Subglacial Lake Whillans. Within days, she saw proof that the bacteria were active.

“It was very exciting. It will be hard to top,” she said.

She added that, “If you want to do microbial ecology in Antarctic subglacial environments, John is probably the person you want to work with. I feel very lucky to have gotten the opportunity.”

Agreeing, Michaud said, “Some of the graduate students joke, ‘How do we top this?’ We can’t.”

But the students can build on their WISSARD experience and gain a deeper understanding of Subglacial Lake Whillans and other subglacial habitats, he said. It’s not about going out and finding more novel habitats.

Christner said the team that wrote the paper in “Nature” is the dream team of polar biology. Besides the MSU-affiliated scientists, the co-authors include Amanda Achberger, a graduate student at Louisiana State University; Carlo Barbante, a geochemist at the University of Venice in Italy; Sasha Carter, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California in San Diego; and Knut Christianson a postdoctoral researcher from St. Olaf College in Minnesota and New York University.

“I hope this exciting discovery will touch the lives (both young and old) of people throughout the world and inspire the next generation of polar scientists,” Priscu said.

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