Friday, Jul. 23rd, 2021

Yellowstone Climate Assessment Featured on International News

A climate report for the Greater Yellowstone Area co-authored by Montana State University Regents Professor Emerita Cathy Whitlock has been gaining traction around the world since it was published June 23.

The Greater Yellowstone Climate Assessment, a collaborative effort between MSU, the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Wyoming, is a comprehensive look at climate change in the area using data from 1950 to 2018. Since 1950, the report states, average temperatures in the Greater Yellowstone Area have gone up 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit and snowfall has decreased by 25%. If the trend continues, that average temperature could rise another 10 degrees by the end of the century and drastically change the landscape.

Whitlock, a paleoecologist who has spent more than four decades studying environmental change, has been on the faculty of the Department of Earth Sciences in the College of Letters and Science­­­ at MSU since 2004, co-founded the Montana Institute on Ecosystems and was the first ­­researcher from a Montana institution elected to the National Academy of Sciences. In March, she gave a talk for TEDxBigSky on how the Yellowstone ecosystem’s history can shed light on its future. Since the report’s publication, Whitlock has been featured in follow-up articles in news media such as The Guardian and a Canadian Broa­­­dcasting Company radio program.

Much of the coverage has delved into the potential changes in some of Yellowstone National Park’s most prominent features, like its geysers. A July 16 segment on “Day 6,” a CBC news radio show, begins with note on this summer’s extreme heat, drought and wildfires in western Canada.

“There is also a crisis south of the border, including in the iconic Yellowstone National Park which is now under a fire alert,” host Brent Bambury says in the introduction to the segment, “As the climate warms, Yellowstone Park is losing its snow — and potentially Old Faithful,” from Episode 555.

“I worry about future generations, like my granddaughter,” Whitlock says on the program. “Is she even going to recognize the places that I love in Yellowstone when she starts to explore it? It’s changing so fast.”

The Guardian, one of the leading newspapers in the UK that has become a global news organization, proclaimed “Yellowstone’s most famous geyser could shut down, with huge ramifications,” in a July 6 headline.

In the article, Whitlock states that Old Faithful has dried up in the past, and the mega droughts that caused it to stop erupting were potentially less extreme than what we’re seeing now.

“We are now moving into a climate that seems even warmer and drier than those periods,” Whitlock says in the article. “That’s crazy. It’s possible that this whole geyser basin and the plumbing is going to change.”

Geysers aren’t the only thing at risk as temperatures rise.

“As trees die off due to the hotter climate, forests may shrink in the coming decades, which will have a cascading effect: less forest and fewer tree roots mean more grass and more erosion,” the article states. “Drier grass means fewer nutrients for large mammals. Less water also hurts everything from migratory and aquatic species to grazers like bison, who face decreased nutrients from dry plants.”

The article ends with a plea and a bit of hope from Whitlock, who is noted for devoting much of her career to sharing the changes she sees in her research with the public in hopes of fueling positive change.

“What we do in the next decade is critical,” she says to conclude the article. “We have new technologies, we can solve this. We just need the will to do it.”

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Thursday, Jul. 22nd, 2021

City of Bozeman Fire Chief issues emergency order closing all burning in city limits of Bozeman

Effective as of July 21, 2021 Bozeman Fire Chief Josh Waldo has issued an emergency order banning all burning in City limits. This order ensures consistency with the current countywide burn ban passed by the Gallatin County Commission earlier this week.
 
The burn ban includes but is not limited to all open burning, recreational fires, outdoor fire pits, and charcoal grills.
 
The public is reminded that fireworks are prohibited in city limits with the exception of certain times and days during the Fourth of July and New Year’s holidays.
 
Fire Chief Josh Waldo adds, “We are experiencing extremely dry and fire prone conditions in our entire community. Be vigilant and exercise personal responsibility. Consider your choices and the impacts they may have even with your day-to-day activities. Things like driving, smoking, or towing anything that may cause a spark are simple things that could have grave impacts if poor choices are made.”

 
To view the entire order visit the City’s website. To view the Gallatin County Commission’s order from earlier this week visit their website.

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Sweet Pea Festival is Fast Approaching


This year’s Festival takes place August 6-8, 2021, at Bozeman’s Lindley Park. As one has come to expect, this year’s 44th festival has an amazing line up of arts, entertainment and activities for everyone.

The most notable change for the 2021 Festival is the addition of a main box office. This temporary box office will be located in front of the Bozeman Public Library during the Festival. The box office will allow for the seamless and expedient pick up of advance-purchased wristbands as well as for the purchase of wristbands during the Festival. Wristbands will not be sold at entry points during the festival. They will only be available for purchase at the main box office.

Currently, wristbands are available for purchase via the Sweet Pea Festival website: https://sweetpeafestival.square.site/ as well as the following local outlets:
Albertsons, Bank of the Rockies, Bob Ward’s Sports & Outdoors, Co-op Downtown, ERA Landmark, First Interstate Bank, First Security Bank, Heebs Grocery, Leslie’s Hallmark, Lewis & Clark Motel, Opportunity Bank, Rosauers, Safeway, Schnee’s, Town & Country, or at the Sweet Pea Festival office located at 424 E. Main Street, Suite 203B.

The cost of a three-day weekend pass purchased in advance is $25. A three-day pass purchased during the festival is $35. A cost of a day pass is $25.

The health and safety of festivalgoers is paramount. Therefore, this year’s festival capacity is slightly reduced. It’s important to purchase wristbands early to ensure admission. Purchasing wristbands in advance will allow for fast, contactless delivery as well as efficient and expedited entry to the Festival. Children 12 and under are free this year. No wristband is needed for children’s admission.

The Festival relies on hundreds of volunteers to organize and set up the event and assist festivalgoers. This year we offer a free three-day adult wristband to all volunteers working three or more hours. Additional information and sign ups can be found at: sweetpeaafestivalofthearts.volunteerlocal.com/volunteer/

For more information please contact the Sweet Pea Festival office at 406-586-4003 or visit the Festival website at https://sweetpeafestival.org.

ABOUT SWEET PEA FESTIVAL:
 
The Sweet Pea Festival is a three-day festival of the arts held in Bozeman, Montana, since 1978. Festival dates are always the first full weekend in August with other events, such as Chalk on the Walk and The Bite of Bozeman starting off the festivities of Sweet Pea Week.  The festival includes everything from music, theatre and dance, to children’s activities, arts, and crafts vendors from Bozeman and around the country, and adult painting workshops. The Sweet Pea Festival is committed to its mission statement of “promoting and cultivating the arts.”

 
Hundreds of volunteers run and organize this annual event, a testament to the community’s desire for its ongoing success. All monies raised above what is needed to operate the festival are given back to the community in the form of grants for the arts, art education, and special projects in the Bozeman area. Where art and community meet.

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Loving Homes Needed for Foreign School Exchange Students for 2021-2022


Each year, lucky international high school students come to Montana to live their ‘American Dreams’ while attending local high schools. These brave students ages 15-18 are currently embarking on a global adventure with the support of their local host families. They have celebrated many special American holidays and traditions, joined high school sports and activities, made friends with fellow classmates and bonded with their host families. ICES hopes to offer this special opportunity to many more exchange students for the upcoming school year. We need SW Montana families to open their homes and hearts!

  • ●  Searching for host families for the 2021-2022 school year

  • ●  Exchange students will attend local high schools in Bozeman, Belgrade, Manhattan, Three

    Forks, Livingston, Butte and all across Montana.

  • ●  Local families provide a loving home with a bed and meals for our students

  • ●  Students speak English, have their own spending money and health insurance

  • ●  Family application process includes: complete online application, check references,

    background checks and a home visit interview

  • ●  Host families can hand-select a student to welcome into their family

  • ●  Students are 15-18 years old and come from Europe, Asia, South America and Australia

    “Being an exchange student completely changed my life. Meeting new people that are born and raised in a completely different situation from mine made me appreciate more my country and the little things that make everyone different. I remember that when I just got here my host family did with me a lot of outdoor activities to let me enjoy more Montana. I loved that.”

    For more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Sierra Drake, exchange students or host families, please contact Sierra at 406-570-2218 or sdrake@icesusa.org

    Thank you for your consideration! www.icesusa.org

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Tuesday, Jul. 20th, 2021

ALL Custer Gallatin National Forest lands implemented at midnight tonight are moving to NO FIRES PERIOD


ALL Custer Gallatin National Forest lands implemented at midnight tonight are moving to NO FIRES PERIOD (LPG campstoves are ok). No Fires Anywhere on Custer Gallatin NFS lands. Many counties are in Stage 1/ Stage 2 or complete burn ban restrictions, know your local restrictions https://www.mtfireinfo.org/

#AmericanForkFire -Saw active fire growth yesterday with additional growth expected today under red flag warning conditions including high temperatures, low relative humidity and gusty outflow winds associated with thunderstorms.

The Custer Gallatin National Forest is working in partnership with the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest on the fire straddling the NE Crazy Mountains. The fire is visible from the Smith/Shields Valley, Wilsall and Melville. Full information at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7681/
A Forest closure is in place for the entire Shields River Loop, Sweet Grass Drainage, Sunlight TH and connectors located in the map and viewable at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/.../FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd933208.pdf.

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Monday, Jul. 19th, 2021

National program brings undergrads to MSU for summer of research experience


When Helen Wilson was looking for an opportunity to get hands-on research experience over the summer, she cast a wide net with her search. Ultimately, a desire to advance the science of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, along with the opportunity to hike and camp in the mountains, drew her to Montana State University.

MSU is known for encouraging undergraduate immersion in scientific discovery. The university dedicated 2019-20 as its Year of Undergraduate Research, and this past March, MSU announced another four recipients of the Goldwater Scholarship, the nation’s premiere scholarship for undergraduates in STEM fields, bringing MSU’s Goldwater total to 82. Now, that scientific immersion continues courtesy of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program.

“It’s been a really great experience,” said Wilson, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering at the University of Delaware. “As I’m looking ahead and considering grad school, I wanted to see how research works at another university, and this has been a great fit.”

Like the hundreds of other universities that participate in the 10-week summer program, MSU pairs faculty researchers with students who apply from around the country. Students get a living stipend and are reimbursed for travel through funding from NSF. In exchange, they help faculty with work in the lab or the field, a valuable opportunity to familiarize themselves with the research process.

MSU runs six REU programs in the Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering and the College of Letters and Science, including the one Wilson is part of in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Each program hosts about 10 students, for a total of roughly 60 participants each summer. And the Center for Biofilm Engineering and the Thermal Biology Institute at MSU recently received a $400,000 grant from the NSF to start a new REU this summer that involves studying life in extreme environments like the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park.

Wilson was selected to work with electrical engineering professor Anja Kunze, whose research focuses on understanding the complex electrochemistry of the brain and developing new treatments for brain disorders. Wilson’s summer task is to help develop a device that can filter out vesicles, tiny sacs that transport matter within and among cells and are thought to act as indicators of certain diseases, according to their size. The project involves designing and fabricating networks of tiny channels made of silicone on glass slides. “This is different than anything I’ve done before,” she said.

According to electrical engineering professor Kevin Repasky, who coordinates the department’s REU, exposing the participants to something new is one of the central goals of the program. “For a lot of students, this is their first time doing research,” he said. “It’s giving them a sense of what research is all about.”

Research, Repasky said, is the foundation of innovation in fields as diverse and important as next-generation energy resources, national security and medicine. “All of those require skilled people, a strong and diverse workforce. These REU programs are meant to start students down that road of becoming leaders in these fields that are crucial for the country."

Nationally, the REU program offers students a much wider range of research options than might be available at their home universities. That’s as true for the many MSU students who participate in REUs around the country as it was for Lupe Serrano-Gaines, who came to Bozeman this summer from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Working with Bradley Whitaker, assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering department, as well as collaborators at Billings Clinic, Serrano-Gaines is helping develop a computer program that can predict future rates of COVID-19 infection in communities based on current reported cases.

“Programming is something I’ve always been interested in, and this has been a great way to get that experience,” said 28-year-old Serrano-Gaines, a Navy veteran majoring in chemical engineering. “It’s giving me more diverse skills that I can take to a job.”

Serrano-Gaines said she would recommend the REU program to any student who is interested in research, especially if they’re considering graduate school and are curious what that’s like. "It's an amazing opportunity,” she said.

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Mallory Molina awarded Ford Fellowship for astrophysics research, diversity efforts


Mallory Molina, who studies black holes in dwarf galaxies at Montana State University, was awarded a 2021 Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in June.

In addition to recognizing the academic achievements of the awardees, the competitive Ford Foundation Fellowship Program — administered by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine — is grounded in a mission to increase diversity on college campuses.

“The Ford expects you to not only do research but to increase the diversity in higher academia, using the diverse human experience to enrich the academic experience,” Molina said. “It speaks to how both my research and my equity and inclusion efforts are valuable. That means a lot to me. Equity and inclusion work has always been a very strong component of who I am as a researcher.”

Molina is one of 26 postdoctoral Ford Fellows for 2021 and the first postdoctoral fellow at MSU. The fellowship includes a $50,000 stipend and an invitation to attend the Conference of Ford Fellows in October. It will support Molina’s ongoing inclusion initiatives and fund a year of astrophysics research with Amy Reines in the Department of Physics in MSU’s College of Letters and Science.

Molina knew they wanted to be an astronomer at age 4, when a visit to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston opened their mind to myriad questions about the universe. But early in their academic career, Molina considered abandoning the dream.

“It wasn’t because I didn’t like astronomy,” Molina said. “It was because I felt isolated and alone.”

As a Mexican American, Molina was met with negative comments and cultural bias from peers as an undergraduate student at Ohio State University. The young university student craved a supportive community within the field, people to engage in conversations about the things they were learning and share in the struggles.

Molina was discouraged and the situation didn’t improve in graduate school. The Sloane scholar was contemplating dropping out of Pennsylvania State University when they reached out to their academic inspiration: their father, David, who grew up in Mexico City and is now chair of the economics department at the University of North Texas. Molina’s father pushed them to find other solutions, both for themself and students who come after.  

“If someone leaves because they don’t like astronomy, fine,” Molina said. “But it’s not fine if they leave because they think no one cares.”

Determined to create the space they sought, Molina founded an equity organization at Penn State in 2016. Towards a More Inclusive Astronomy now has four chapters, including one at MSU.

Molina’s research is focused on supermassive black holes in the smallest of galaxies — known as “dwarf” galaxies based on their size. As more is understood about the mechanics of black holes and how they influence their environments, researchers are finding that they are critical to how those galaxies are built and change over the eons, Molina explained.

Black holes are areas of space with such intense gravity that even light is drawn in. Rather than looking for direct visual cues, people who study black holes look for their interactions with objects around them in a sort of reverse logic that Molina said only serves to make them more interesting.

“They’re not like stars; you can’t go and easily pick them out in the night sky,” Molina said. “And yet they are central to how galaxies evolve.”

Molina is conducting a follow-up to confirm the results of Reines’ radio-based study into supermassive black holes, which revealed that many of them were not anchoring the center of their dwarf galaxies as expected. The follow-up relies on visual light data from telescopes, rather than radio waves. Molina is also looking for signs of black holes in dwarf galaxies through other methods, such as visible emission lines.

Matter influenced by the gravity of a black hole forms into what is known as an accretion disk, a swirling flattened spiral of material not unlike the rings of Saturn. Gases around the black hole are bombarded with energy coming from the accretion disc, and electrons are stripped from elements such as iron. Iron 10, for example, has lost nine of its electrons, releasing light in the process which astronomers can observe as an emission line.

According to Molina, only two phenomena in the universe are powerful enough to produce an iron 10 emission line — black holes and exploding stars known as supernova. But only the black holes can sustain that sort of energy.

Molina found this emission line in the first black hole they confirmed from Reines’ findings, then again in a black hole identified in a paper on a dwarf galaxy merger by Erin Kimbro, a post-baccalaureate researcher who received her undergraduate degree in physics from MSU in 2020. Now Molina has more questions to answer about the nature of the emission line and how it relates to black holes in dwarf galaxies.

“Even in massive galaxies with massive black holes, you have a hard time detecting this line,” Molina said. “And yet it was really strong in these two objects. It blew my mind a little bit. It was not something that I would have ever expected.”

In addition to their extensive research, Molina works with the Women+ in Physics group to build mentoring programs and a library of materials for students and meets with prospective students to talk about campus diversity efforts and resources to make sure all students know they have a place at MSU.

“Nobody should feel like they can’t do physics or astronomy because they are not being supported,” Molina said.

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Friday, Jul. 16th, 2021

Fish and Wildlife Commission to hold work session July 27

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission will hold a work session on July 27 at 2 p.m. This is an information session during which the commission will have the opportunity to discuss and ask questions on the following items:

Licensing

  • Process for Selecting Auction Organizations

Wildlife

  • Mountain Lion Plan Process
  • Mule Deer Adaptive Harvest Management Plan

Public comment will not be taken for this meeting. To listen to the meeting, click on the link provided on the commission webpage  https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/commission.

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Monthly Payments of Advance Child Tax Credit to Families with Kids Begins July 15th

Helena, MONT. — As part of the American Rescue Plan, and in an effort to address financial impact of COVID-19 on families, monthly payments of the Child Tax Credit are set to begin this week. Families with kids age seventeen and under could receive up to $300 a month per child through the end of the year.

According to the Administration for Children & Families Office of Child Care, “roughly 39 million households – covering 65 million children (90% of children in the United States) – will automatically receive the new Child Tax Credit dollars.” Many families will be eligible to receive these additional dollars, with expanded eligibility to those who do not file taxes because of their income. The Advance Child Tax Credit is temporary and in addition to the yearly Child Tax Credit that families receive when filing their taxes.

On Thursday, July 15, the additional Child Tax Credit will begin via direct deposit and mailed check to people who have filed their taxes. People with children who are not required to file their taxes will need to sign-up through the Internal Revenue Service by heading to https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/child- tax-credit-non-filer-sign-up-tool. Families may also check their eligibility, change how they receive their payments, or update their information at https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/advance-child-tax-credit- payments-in-2021.

“This tax credit is available to all families, and parents have the power to choose how to use these funds in whatever way works best for them. That could mean investing in their child’s future and education, paying for immediate goods and services such as food or diapers, and even putting money towards the high monthly costs of child care. In Montana, child care costs can top out at just over $1,000 a month and although we know how important it is to reduce the cost of child care across our state, this immediate relief is what parents are asking for so that they can make financial decisions today. Although these monthly payments are temporary for now, we’re looking forward to seeing strategies to expand and extend this additional Child Tax Credit beyond this year. With long-term monthly payments that families can count on, parents have more options to support their families,” said Caitlin Jensen, Executive Director of Zero to Five Montana.

Zero to Five Montana encourages families and parents to share their child care story or how these monthly payments will impact them. Those interested can reach out to the organization on social media or contact Jenna Rhoads, Communications Manager at Zero to Five Montana, at jennar@zerotofive.org.

For information about the Advance Child Tax Credit, visit https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/advance- child-tax-credit-payments-in-2021. For more information about Zero to Five Montana, visit www.zerotofive.org/ or follow the organization on social media via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Thursday, Jul. 15th, 2021

Montana State University is seeking volunteers to help welcome students to campus during this year’s Move-In Weekend, Aug. 21-24


Montana State University is seeking volunteers to help welcome students to campus during this year’s Move-In Weekend, Aug. 21-24.

There are two different volunteer positions. Greeters will welcome new students and families upon arrival, confirm parking passes are visible on car dashboards and direct students to their buildings and available moving carts. The second position, cart manager, will help load student belongings into carts directly from cars and go with students to their rooms to help unload their items.

Those interested in helping can register by visiting montana.edu/reslife/moving_in.html. Two-hour volunteer shifts are available between 6:45 a.m. and 7 p.m.

For questions, contact Emma Dyksterhouse in the Office of the President at 406-994-2345 or president@montana.edu.

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