Monday, Oct. 12th, 2020

Livingston Artist Parks Reece’s Work Featured on New Montana License Plate

The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation (ABWF) is excited to announce the release of the only Montana specialty license plate with original art by renowned local artist Parks Reece. The plate just came out in August and is already generating tremendous buzz: the Park County treasurer immediately sold out not one but two cases!

Livingston-based Reece’s distinctive paintings, lithographs, and prints are pun-driven surrealist reflections of wildlife, wildlands, and people in the West, where mythology and modern life overlap. Now Montana drivers can sport his distinctive art on their vehicles as they explore our great state’s wild places.

Purchasing this unique and witty plate will support stewardship of the Absaroka- Beartooth Wilderness and appreciation of wild lands.

The brightly colored plate is available throughout Montana at local county treasurers’ offices when plates are renewed, or drivers can upgrade to original Parks Reece art right now. The extra cost for the sponsored plate includes a tax-deductable $25 donation to the nonprofit ABWF. Funds from the plate support the ABWF’s work to Absaroka- Beartooth Wilderness and efforts to protect its resources. Their work includes “boots-on-the-ground” experiences like volunteer trail maintenance projects and educational outreach that bring everyday citizens more closely in touch with this treasured Wilderness.

Tax-deductible donation to the nonprofit ABWF through this specialty plate will both support Wilderness and help spread the message every time you hit the road!

Add a Comment »

Thursday, Oct. 8th, 2020

Play For The Vote Campagin Mobilizing Musicians To Perform On Election Day

Earlier this week notes were struck across the United State as Play For The Vote announced its intent to sign up musicians to perform on Election Day. While mail-in ballots and early voting is being encouraged due to COVID, longer-than-usual lines are expected on Election Day itself, with a current shortage of polling volunteers.  At polling sites throughout the country, musicians are being sought to perform outside, with the goal of increasing voter turnout by providing a more positive voting experience.

Discussing the idea, Founder & Director of Play For The Vote, Mike Block, stated, “Election Day is shaping up to be pretty stressful for many people, while musicians are struggling to share music in a meaningful way during the pandemic.  November 3 is the perfect opportunity for the musicians of this country to join together to spread the unifying power of shared musical experiences on an unprecedented level. I’m calling on musicians across the country to join me in signing up to perform at a nearby polling location so that we can make voting a more positive experience for the whole country.”

Musicians interested in participating can sign up via the Play For The Vote website. Upon doing so, they will be asked for their location and availabilities on Election Day (November 3).  Play For The Votes custom software will match each musician with a location/time assignment to maximize coverage on Election Day.

While each aritst’s exact performing assignment will be known until closer to Election Day, artists are encouraged to begin promoting their involvement immediately. And when they do receive their precise performance assignment, they can simply treat it like a real gig, and help spread the word.

Play For The Vote does not endorse any specific candidate or issues. All performers are welcome. Deadline to sign up is November 1.

Add a Comment »

MSU researchers study ways to help iconic fish, agricultural producers

With a new state-of-the-art facility, Montana State University researchers are starting another chapter in their work to help some of the state's most iconic fish as well as agricultural producers who rely on water diverted from streams.

A recently completed artificial waterway at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Fish Technology Center on the outskirts of Bozeman will help the MSU team refine their design of small structures that allow grayling and other species to overcome irrigation structures that would otherwise block the fishes' seasonal movements.

"This is really exciting," said Katey Plymesser, assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering in MSU's Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering, who is leading the project. "We can test pretty much any fish passage structure here."

The roughly $300,000 facility, funded through the Denver office of USFWS's National Fish Passage Program, consists of a concrete trough with sections of glass that reveal the fish inside, along with pumps and other equipment that allow the researchers to carefully control water temperature and flow rates to simulate a range of stream conditions. In this case, the MSU scientists are interested in whether grayling can use fish passage structures called Denil fishways that have been optimized to work during low water levels.

Grayling inhabit less than 5% of their native range in Montana due to degraded habitat, warming waters and other factors. In the Big Hole River watershed — home of the only remaining population in the Lower 48 of native, river-dwelling grayling — more than 60 full-sized fishways have been installed in recent years as part of a conservation effort involving local landowners, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others. Voluntary adoption of the fishways — metal troughs that span stream obstructions to provide a relatively gentle flow for fish to pass through — has helped to stave off limitations on irrigation withdrawals to protect the fish.

MSU's Fish Passage and Ecohydraulics Research Group, which includes Plymesser, has collaborated on the grayling conservation effort since 2009, including multiple summers of fieldwork that found that grayling were using the fishways as they flocked to cooler waters in the upper watershed. When stream levels were low, however, sometimes there wasn’t enough water flowing through the fishways to allow grayling to use them.

That's where the current project comes in. Backed by a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Geological Survey, the MSU team is redesigning the fishways to use less water while still being big enough for the fish to navigate.

"If we can get the fish to swim through less water, that's a win," said Matt Blank, a member of the study team and a research scientist at MSU's Western Transportation Institute. "We want to find solutions that benefit not only the fish but the irrigators who use the river, and this study is exploring how to do that."

So far the results are promising, he said. When the team visited the Bozeman facility on a clear day in September, civil engineering graduate student Megan Conley reported that eight grayling released into the artificial waterway the night before had all passed through a prototype fishway roughly half the size of those installed in the Big Hole watershed.

"I was super excited," said Conley, who helped design the baffles that slow the water flowing through the fishway's steel trough. "It shows the fish are willing to pass through, which is hopeful."

Conley, along with undergraduate Anthony Bruno, will conduct multiple trials with grayling on at least two scaled-down versions of the fishway this year. Next summer the team will do a similar study with Westslope cutthroat trout, another imperiled species that faces challenges with road culverts and other infrastructure.

"It's been great experience," said Bruno, a sophomore majoring in civil engineering with a minor in water resources. "I feel like I've learned a lot about problem-solving and collaborating with people in different fields."

According to Kevin Kappenman, research fishery biologist at the Bozeman Fish Technology Center, the project is another example of how USFWS and MSU have worked together toward common goals around fish passage research. "Our partnership with MSU allows us to work with some of the top professionals in the hydrology field and tap into expertise outside of our agency," he said.

Other MSU researchers on the project are Joel Cahoon, professor of civil engineering, and Al Zale, professor in the Department of Ecology in MSU's College of Letters and Science.

According to Plymesser, if the study is successful it could lead to swapping out some of the Big Hole fishways to improve passage for grayling while also providing peace of mind for landowners who need water for irrigation but also want to help the fish.

"Our group responds to questions and issues that agencies and other practitioners have," Plymesser said. "That's a big part of our mission, to produce science that helps solve real problems."

Add a Comment »

Wednesday, Oct. 7th, 2020

Livingston Depot Museum Announces New Fall Programs

The Livingston Depot Museum is unveiling two new programs to help parents, caregivers, and students tackle the new challenges of remote learning. Starting October 16th, the Depot will offer FREE FRIDAYS—where anyone under 18 gets free admission. Visitors under 12 years old need to be accompanied by an adult. Learners of all ages are invited to ditch the screen and come explore the rich history of railroading in Montana. In addition to free admission, the Depot will offer activities that give students a chance to dive into local history.

“Rails Across the Rockies: A Century of People and Places,” the Depot’s main exhibit, introduces visitors to the rich history of railroading in Montana, the Northern Pacific, and the grandeur of historic travel to Yellowstone National Park. Also on exhibit “On Track: The Railroad Photographs of Warren McGee,” presents an intriguing selection of photos taken over a six-decade span from the 1930’s through the 1990’s by Livingston native and prolific railroad photographer, Warren McGee.

The Depot is also accepting reservations Mondays through Thursdays for home-school groups, learning pods, or families interested in individual activities. Each guided field trip includes age-appropriate activities designed to engage students as they learn the importance of the railway station in the establishment of our town, and its effects on the current economy and environment.

The vaulted ceilings and the Depot’s spacious atrium provide room for social distancing while enjoying the exhibits, and face masks are required for anyone over the age of 5. Community members are also invited to enjoy the Depot’s beautiful grounds seven days a week as a great place to enjoy a picnic, watch trains rumble down the tracks, and savor the iconic architecture of downtown Livingston.

More information is available through the Depot office at (406) 222-2300, on their website:, and on facebook:

Add a Comment »

Tuesday, Oct. 6th, 2020

Another temporary closure scheduled for Gallatin River near Nixon Bridge

A small section of the Gallatin River will be closed to recreationists this week during a phase of construction on Nixon Bridge, just north of Manhattan.

The closure will be in effect Oct. 7 and 8, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. The closure includes the section of the Gallatin River immediately surrounding Nixon Bridge, as well as Nixon Gulch Road.

During this time, construction crews will lift and set the 122-foot-long concrete beams from the transport vehicles. Beams for the north bridge span will be set during this time. Motorists and recreationists are advised to avoid this area during the closure.

For more information about this project, contact the project engineers with Stahly Engineering, Kathy Thompson or Nate Peressini, at 406-522-8594.

Add a Comment »

Thursday, Sep. 24th, 2020

MSU's Center for Biofilm Engineering celebrates 30 years of practical, interdisciplinary research

The microbial slime called biofilm causes hundreds of billions of dollars annually in metal corrosion to pipelines and other infrastructure. Biofilm in urinary catheters accounts for an estimated 30% of all hospital-related infections, resulting in as many as 13,000 deaths per year. Biofilm is a factor in outbreaks of foodborne E. coli, as well as a routine source of household frustration, clogging sink drains everywhere.

Yet until recently there wasn't much of a concept of — or even a name for — the diverse microbial communities that form on surfaces. People in industry called the stuff some variant of the word "gunk." And while microbiologists studied the organisms, they weren’t seen as fundamentally different from other microbes.

Three decades ago, when Montana State University applied for a National Science Foundation grant to start a biofilm-focused research center, "the scientific community hadn't really accepted biofilms yet — their existence let alone their importance," said Al Cunningham, professor in the Department of Civil Engineering in MSU's Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering. Applying for the prestigious grant was "a total long shot," he said. 

But MSU had Bill Characklis, a charismatic engineer who had recognized the untapped possibilities of studying biofilm. And in 1990, MSU was selected as one of only three recipients nationwide for the more than $7 million grant — the largest MSU had ever received at that time.

According to Cunningham, who helped launch what would become known as MSU's Center for Biofilm Engineering, "(Characklis) basically brought together the small biofilm community, with industry, and said to NSF, 'This field has huge potential.' And time has proven that to be the case."

As the Center for Biofilm Engineering celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, MSU researchers say the center is thriving because it remains true to Characklis's vision of an interdisciplinary research community dedicated to solving real-world problems. The founding of the CBE in 1990 "was paradigm-changing," said Matthew Fields, the center's current director. "What it said was, 'Biofilms are unique, and they deserve their own field of study.'"

Thirty years ago, scientists tended to view bacteria primarily as organisms suspended in liquid. Even though bacterial slime clogged pipes, microbiologists’ traditional views didn’t include the idea that bacteria could actually attach to surfaces. Meanwhile, engineers designed things like pipes and had complex mathematics to explain fluid interaction with surfaces but seldom studied the microbes that interfered with their plans. Characklis saw the opportunity to mesh the two fields.

"Bringing in engineering as a way of looking at microbiology was pretty radical at the time," said Nick Zelver, an early Characklis collaborator and now the senior technology manager in MSU's Technology Transfer Office. "Engineering was required to understand what was happening. Why don't the bacteria just get washed off? These were hard problems that nobody really understood."

In an era when academic disciplines were more siloed than they are today, Characklis saw the need to bring together scientists from different disciplines. When Phil Stewart was recruited to the CBE in 1991, the open-endedness of the new biofilm field was exhilarating, he said. "There was a very creative, almost frontier, spirit," said Stewart, now a Regents Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

Cancer claimed Chracklis's life in 1992 at age 50, but his interdisciplinary, practical approach to biofilm was already paying off. The MSU researchers, using fluid dynamics models, powerful microscopes and other advanced tools, were unravelling the fundamentals of how biofilms structured themselves into complex communities with properties beyond what the single-celled organisms could muster individually.

"We were constantly adapting and bringing in new ideas," said Stewart, who would go on to serve as the CBE's director from 2004 until 2015. "We were also realizing how widespread biofilms could be." Biofilm wasn't just gunk that clogged pipes, but invisibly thin layers of bacteria on medical equipment and countertops, festering wounds that didn't respond to antibiotics, and more.

Stewart published a groundbreaking paper in 1994 showing that bacteria on the surface of a biofilm could neutralize chlorine — the active ingredient in bleach — before the chemical could penetrate the microbial layers. The finding helped explain why biofilms appeared to resist traditional disinfectants and drew interest from companies focused on developing improved cleaning products for households and health care. 

Support from a widening range of industries helped the CBE become self-sustaining as the original NSF grant ran its 11-year course. Today, the center's industrial associates program includes nearly 30 companies, including 3M, SC Johnson and Procter & Gamble. Interaction with industry, including at the annual biofilm meeting the CBE hosts each year, allows CBE scientists to share the latest in biofilm science while gaining ideas for new research that can solve problems.

"These problems have always been there, but now we have more of an ability to understand what's causing them," said Paul Sturman, the CBE's industrial program coordinator. "What we've seen is an increasing recognition that problems that were thought of as just bacteria problems are actually biofilm problems," he said.

Although much progress has been made in the past 30 years to study and treat biofilms, "there's still a lot we don't know," said microbiologist Fields, who became director in 2016. Scientists have a fairly good understanding of a handful of biofilms, but even with those, the closer researchers look, the more complexity they find.

That's why solutions to many of the CBE's earliest challenges have proven elusive. Biofilm corrosion of oil and gas pipelines, for example, remains a problem. Fields’ team was recently awarded a $6 million NSF grant to apply cutting-edge technologies — including gene sequencing, powerful imaging techniques and nanomaterials — toward developing coatings that could prevent biofilms from latching onto surfaces.

According to Cunningham, the growing recognition that biofilm can be understood in order to reduce its worst effects and even harness it for good is a tribute to Characklis's vision more than three decades ago. "It's a testimony to the staying power of the biofilm concept," he said. "And it's what has allowed the Center for Biofilm Engineering to continue and to flourish." 

Add a Comment »

Wednesday, Sep. 23rd, 2020

HRDC’s Fork & Spoon Struggling Amid Pandemic

HRDC’s Fork & Spoon—Montana’s only pay-what-you-can restaurant— continues to serve Bozeman, providing take-out meals Sunday through Friday from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. In the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant halted asking for donations at the door on its eighty to 100 meals served each night, since most patrons were unable to contribute anything for their meal.

Fork & Spoon is a vital part of HRDC’s response to address hunger in the area. Last week, the restaurant served 530 meals or roughly 90 people each night. About a quarter of these meals go towards feeding individuals in HRDC emergency housing. Since March, Fork & Spoon has served just over 11,500 free meals to community members experiencing hunger.

Adding to Fork & Spoon’s challenges, the restaurant’s catering enterprise has experienced cancellations and a slowdown of profitable business. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Fork & Spoon Catering was often booked, with proceeds helping to offset the cost of providing free meals at the restaurant. Fork & Spoon now estimates they will lose at least 75,000 dollars or more in gross catering revenue. That number does not account for previously anticipated growth. Moreover, giving is down at Fork & Spoon. Community members are encouraged to support Fork & Spoon by grabbing a meal from the restaurant and paying it forward or by making a donation.

“Prior to the global pandemic, we were serving about the same number of people, but we had a variety of patrons, including folks who were paying it forward. Now, the vast majority of community members we are serving are in need of a free meal. We simply are not seeing the same number of customers who have the capacity to pay. We are still here to feed our community. Those in need of a meal and those with the ability to pay are welcome to come to Fork & Spoon,” says Rick Hilles, Fork & Spoon’s Program Manager.

For more information about Fork & Spoon or to make a donation, visit For information about HRDC, visit

Add a Comment »

Thursday, Sep. 17th, 2020

MSU Department of Earth Sciences donates fossils to teen who lost collection in Bridger Foothills fire

Adam Mendelsohn and his family watched helplessly on Sept. 5 as distant wildfires crept closer to their house off Jackson Creek Road.

It was just before Bridger Canyon Road closed and mandatory evacuations were ordered as the Bridger Foothills fire raged. The family’s home, which they had lived in for two and a half years, was destroyed that night. They lost everything.

“I was completely terrified and sad and crying a lot,” said Mendelsohn, 13. “But it’s more of the memories and not as much about the house.”

The Mendelsohns went to stay at a family member’s ranch off Bridger Canyon Road. A few days later, buckets in hand, Adam went with his father, Jason, and grandmother, Addie Theisen, to try and extinguish embers across from Theisen’s property and keep more destruction at bay.

Andrew Laskowski, an assistant professor at Montana State University, was struck by the family’s story when he saw it while scrolling through photos on the Bozeman Daily Chronicle’s website.

A caption for pictures of Mendelsohn and his family noted that Mendelsohn lost a large collection of fossils in the fire. “But at least my family is OK,” he told the newspaper.

Laskowski, a member of the Department of Earth Sciences in the College of Letters and Science, brought up the story in a department meeting and suggested they help him rebuild his collection.

“Because I am in the Department of Earth Sciences, I know there are fossils hanging around everywhere, and I was looking for a way to make a difference and help make the situation a little bit better as best as I could,” Laskowski said. “I sent out an email to other faculty members and some grad students to see if anyone had samples to get together.”

On Wednesday, Sept. 16, Mendelsohn and his mother, Ronni, came to MSU to receive the package of fossils. It contained a pouch to help the teen collect more fossils, pieces of petrified wood from across the U.S., bone and shell fossils, and casts of a T. rex tooth and a Deinonychus claw from the Museum of the Rockies. The fossils were donations from the personal collections of faculty members and graduate students.

“I hope this helps you out with the loss of your own fossils. I know when you collect your own it’s probably more valuable than getting gifted specimens, but we really wanted to help rebuild your collection and keep you on that track,” Laskowski said while presenting Mendelsohn with the fossils.

A small group of other members of the Earth Sciences faculty were in attendance. Some explained to Mendelsohn what they donated and where the pieces were from.

“It’s really exciting. When you find fossils yourself, it’s really interesting to see where you can discover them, but when you get them from other people, it just makes it even more special and you’ll always remember where you got them from,” Mendelsohn said.

Mendelsohn, originally from central Florida, has been fascinated by fossils since he first visited the Museum of the Rockies seven years ago while visiting his grandparents. They toured the fossils exhibits, and he was enamored with the specimens and the giant T. rex that commands the room.

Since then, he collected hundreds of fossils and pieces of petrified wood. He even found a wooly rhino tooth and shark teeth in Bridger Creek that ran through his backyard. Although he is not sure about his future, he would like to pursue a career in paleontology when he’s older.

“I think it’s great when the university can do this sort of outreach to our community because we are a part of it, too. And when this stuff happens, MSU is all in,” said Michael Babcock, head of the Department of Earth Sciences. “This is what I love about Bozeman. These are really challenging times for everybody, and it’s great to be able to see so many people come together to help Adam in a time of need.”

Add a Comment »

MSU Wonderlust to be renamed Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

Montana State University Wonderlust, a lifelong learning program that offers a variety of noncredit courses, lectures and more, will be renamed the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at MSU.

At their Sept. 16 meeting, the Montana Board of Regents approved changing the name, making MSU home to the 124th Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in the U.S. MSU Academic Technology and Outreach received a $100,000 grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation in 2019 to support and enhance MSU Wonderlust. The Bernard Osher Foundation supports lifelong learning institutes across the country for adults age 50 or older who are interested in learning for the joy of learning.

“This is a very exciting opportunity for MSU and the Gallatin Valley,” said Kim Obbink, director of Academic Technology and Outreach. “Based on the high-quality reputation of the Wonderlust program, we were honored to receive an invitation from the Bernard Osher Foundation to become an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Bernard Osher’s philanthropy and dedication to lifelong learning is known nationally, and this recognition exemplifies our dedication to the MSU land-grant mission.”

Wonderlust was established in 2002 by a Bozeman citizens’ group that wanted to establish a lifelong learning program for the over-50 population in the Gallatin Valley. Since then, the volunteer group has established a respected program, offering unique and high-quality learning opportunities to people throughout the valley.

MSU was involved in the program from the beginning, offering guidance and operational support, then adopting Wonderlust as a part of MSU Academic Technology and Outreach in 2017. Today, Wonderlust has over 600 members and offers courses, lectures, book discussion groups and travel events every semester.

Obbink said that the new national affiliation will give MSU’s program a wealth of new colleagues, ideas and resources it hadn’t had before to help increase its dedication to serving lifelong learners.

“Wonderlust will still be Wonderlust, just bigger and better,” Obbink added. “We will always honor our Wonderlust roots and we are grateful for the strong foundation that Wonderlust has built. Looking forward, we will continue to build on the quality content of the courses, expand opportunities for volunteers to be involved and look to grow our membership to meet the diverse quest for learning that exists in our community.”

Add a Comment »

MSU Steer-A-Year program seeks donations for 2020-21 academic year


Montana State University’s Steer-A-Year program is seeking financial support as well as donations of steers and feed for the 2020-21 academic year.

A student program in the MSU College of Agriculture, Steer-A-Year focuses on teaching students every element of the cattle management industry through hands-on experience feeding and managing cattle during the fall and spring semesters. Students care for the cattle through the winter and spring, collect data including feed efficiency and weight gain and study elements of livestock marketing. The program also incorporates academic courses such as Beef Production and Livestock Evaluation.

Donated steers are housed at the Bozeman Agriculture Research and Teaching Farm. Once they reach maturity and are ready for harvest, the cattle are sold to MSU Culinary Services, where the meat is served in both the on-campus Miller and Rendezvous dining halls.

Benefits are numerous for students in the program, according to Steer-A-Year manager Hannah DelCurto-Wyffels, an instructor in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences and the coordinator of MSU’s livestock judging team.

“Many of the students who join Steer-A-Year haven’t had the opportunity to raise cattle hands-on before,” said DelCurto-Wyffels. “There are so many elements to the process, and this program allows them to see all of them, from start to finish, while also learning about what factors maximize beef quality and important elements of cattle health at the same time.”

When Steer-A-Year cattle are sold, the proceeds fund travel and competitions for the livestock judging team, as well as facilitate trips for students across the College of Agriculture to attend producer events and meet with industry groups like the Montana Stockgrowers Association and the Montana Farm Bureau Federation. The trips allow for networking for students and the opportunity to learn about career opportunities after they graduate.

Steer-A-Year produced 33 steers during the 2019-2020 school year, which were all purchased by Culinary Services during the spring semester. While the onset of the pandemic required some adjustment of the curriculum and in-person activities, several of the program’s students stayed on through the spring semester to continue caring for the calves. Students who did not remain on campus monitored their steers’ progress through weight data and GrowSafe feed intake technology, which remotely measures how much a steer eats.

Producers who donated steers receive regular reports from the students, including growth and health information and more detailed results after the steers are harvested. Awards are given annually to the producer who donated the best initial feeder steer, the steer with the top rate of gain, the steer with the best feed efficiency and the steer that produces the best carcass.

“This program creates such important partnerships between MSU students and our producers around the state, and it’s so exciting to watch,” said DelCurto-Wyffels. “Now more than ever, we can’t support our local producers enough, and this is just a reminder of how critical these relationships are. Steer-A-Year has truly become a mutually beneficial project, and we are so glad to be bringing it back again this year. That’s one of the incredible things about agriculture: No matter what, it doesn’t stop.”

DelCurto-Wyffels said to ensure success in their new setting, calves should be weaned, castrated and dehorned before they are donated and should weigh 500-800 pounds. The ideal pickup period for calves is the first two weeks of November. Those interested in donating or learning more about the Steer-A-Year program can contact DelCurto-Wyffels at 406-994-3752 or

Add a Comment »

News Comments

I honestly hate snakes. Can’t stand them they give me the creeps just to look at them, slithering bastards. Just stay out of my yard you stinky prick and we won’t have a problem

7 Ways To Keep Snakes Out Of Your Property

Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020