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Research Roundup at Montana State University (#262), Soaring dinosaur, Mosquito-eating fish, Words in context, Cigarette survey

August 17, 2006View for printing

Soaring dinosaur

Montana State University paleontologist Jack Horner is trying to find a dinosaur for the Smithsonian Institution and thinks he found one on federal land near Ekalaka. The dinosaur is a Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the most common dinosaurs found in Montana. Excavation should begin next summer, Horner said. The only access is by helicopter, so crews will fly in and out of the site. Bones will be airborne, too. If the specimen isn't good enough for a national display, Horner said he has time to look for another. The Smithsonian is planning a new exhibit hall, and the dinosaur will be shown there. Horner wants to show a dinosaur that's typical of Montana. At the same time, he'll encourage viewers to visit MSU's Museum of the Rockies.

Mosquito-eating fish

The mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus thrive in the Wyoming ponds associated with coalbed methane. Looking for a natural way to control those mosquitoes, MSU entomologist Greg Johnson brought three types of fish into his laboratory this summer. Those were fathead minnows, plains killi and mosquito fish. Still running experiments, research associate Marni Rolston said the scientists obtained mosquito larvae, then placed the larvae in aquariums. The scientists hoped the fish would eat the larvae and keep them from developing into mature mosquitoes. Mosquito fish are non-native to Montana and don't survive the winters here, but many Montanans with ponds bring them in on a yearly basis to control their mosquitoes, Rolston said.

Words in context

People who complain that their comments are taken out of context may have a point. The meaning of words, sentences and even sounds can change drastically when taken out of context or placed in a different context, says Keith Hutchison, assistant professor of psychology at MSU. To see how context affects word recognition, Hutchison and David Balota from Washington University at St. Louis recently received a $290,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct a three-year study. Researchers at four institutions will give word recognition tests to subjects in Bozeman, Nebraska, New York and Missouri. They will then use their findings to create a data base of 3,000 commonly used words. The data base will be available to many researchers who want to test their theories about words.

Cigarette survey

MSU undergraduates are learning firsthand about the fine art of surveys. Besides conducting surveys in Bozeman, students in Sociology 400 are helping develop a survey for Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas. Instructor Steve Swinford said the Keep America Beautiful program asked MSU to help with the survey. Originally planned for Yellowstone National Park, the survey will indicate how park visitors feel about an anti-litter campaign aimed at smokers. Keep America Beautiful installed signs at Petit Jean, asking visitors not to throw their cigarette butts on the ground. It also placed standardized receptacles in the park for cigarette butts. Past research has shown that people don't necessarily think of cigarette butts as litter, Swinford said. Smokers also tend to overlook receptacles if each one looks different from the next.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or ... rticle=3930
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