Trophy horns, antlers smaller than a century ago
The size of antlers and horns in 25 trophy categories of big game in North America have declined over the past 108 years, according to data analyzed by a team of scientists that included UM Boone and Crockett Professor of Wildlife Conservation Paul Krausman.
Six researchers studied data from 22,000 Boone and Crockett Club records. They found a small, yet consistent 2 percent decline in horn and antler size. The results of their study, "Effects of Harvest, Culture and Climate on Trends in Size of Horn-Like Structures in Trophy Ungulates," were published in the January issue of Wildlife Monographs.
"The Boone and Crockett Club is the oldest conservation club in the U.S. and the second-oldest in the world," Krausman says. "One of the things the club does is maintain a record of all the horns and antlers of species in North America. They use it as a record of the health of wild populations, but it had never been analyzed."
Evidence moderately supports that an over-harvest of males — which would lower the age structure — allows fewer animals to reach trophy status before harvest. The evidence also provides limited support for genetic changes from selective harvest of larger males.
The article outlines management recommendations to overcome the decline and to address potential causes of smaller horns and antlers. It also notes, however, that the reduction in size of trophy horns and antlers is small. The recreation, management and conservation benefits from hunting may offset the detriments of a small reduction in trophy size.
"It’s statistically significant; it’s really a change," Krausman says. "But biologically it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference."
The authors include Krausman, Kevin Monteith from the University of Wyoming; Terry Bowyer and Ryan Long from Idaho State University; Vernon Bleich with the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Recovery Program of the California Department of Fish and Game; and James Heffelfinger with the Arizona Game and Fish.
University unveils programs of distinctionThree top programs at UM — creative writing, organismal biology and ecology, and wildlife biology — recently were named Programs of National Distinction (PoND).
The three were selected by UM’s Provost’s Office for the honor, which aims to maintain or stimulate development of programs of national or world-class excellence.
"There are many strong programs at UM," Provost Perry Brown says, "but our desire has been to identify those that have national distinction based upon several criteria and then to provide resources to assist these programs to enhance this distinction — to be among the very best in the nation."
During autumn semester, more than 30 programs and departments submitted funding proposals in a competitive contest. Units demonstrated how they qualify for PoND designation by addressing characteristics such as scholarly output, quality of students and educational outcomes. Programs also revealed how they influence policy, research, creative scholarship and education at all levels.
Additionally, programs demonstrated how they assist with the five strategic issues outlined in UM’s strategic plan, and they outlined the projected use of financial resources to help maintain or enhance national distinction.
The directors of the winning programs were enthusiastic about the recognition.
"UM’s Creative Writing Program is one of our nation’s oldest and most prestigious writing programs," Director Judy Blunt says. "PoND status will afford us a competitive edge in terms of recruiting the most talented students and will help us maintain our place in the top tier of creative writing programs nationwide."
"This recognition is a wonderful honor for all who have participated in the Wildlife Biology Program over the past 75 years," Director Dan Pletscher says. OBE Director Bret Tabalske added, "Graduate students are the heart of the Organismal Biology and Ecology Program, and the resources infused via PoND funding will provide a diverse, rich array of improved funding and research opportunities for these students."
The University will solicit more proposals in the future to allow other deserving programs the opportunity for sustained growth and development.
'Mammals of Montana' named 2012 honor book
The Montana Book Award recognized UM biology Professor Kerry Foresman "Mammals of Montana," which was named a 2012 Honor Book.
Being recognized as a 2012 Honor Book "demonstrated that we were able to put the book together and reach a wide audience," Foresman says. "Mammals of Montana" is used as a textbook in university classes as well as a reference for K-12 programs in Montana and by many federal and state agencies.
The book is a comprehensive and illustrated account of ecology, behavior, distribution and reproduction of 109 Montana mammals. It includes more than 500 color photographs, many by renowned wildlife photographers Alexander Badyaev and Milo Burcham. Foresman also discusses reintroduction efforts for species close to extinction and the effects of climate change on wildlife.
"It’s really quite an honor," Foresman says. "There were a huge number of books that could be considered, and it’s really nice to be a part of that group."
The annual Montana Book Award was established in 2001 to recognize literary and artistic excellence in a book published in the award year. Books that are set in Montana, that deal with Montana themes or issues or that are written, edited or illustrated by a Montana author or artist are eligible for the award.
English faculty member wins literature award
The American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded Klinka UM associate professor of English and creative writing, the Arts and Letters Award in Literature to honor her career and poetry publications.
Recognition by the American Academy of Arts and Letters is considered one of the highest formal acknowledgments of artistic merit in the U.S. Klink’s award came with $7,500.
"I was pretty floored," Klink says. "I’m not on the radar too much, so it’s really nice to be recognized like this."
Klink is the author of three books of poetry: "They Are Sleeping," "Circadian" and "Raptus." Her poems have appeared in many anthologies, most recently "The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century American Poetry."
Klink is currently on sabbatical while finishing a book about Paul Celan called "Strangeness" and hopes to complete her fourth book of poems as well, which is slated for publication in April 2015.
The American Academy of Arts and Letters is made up of elected architects, composers, artists and writers with 250 lifelong members.
Bio station scientist honored
with top conservation award
UM Research Scientist Erin Sexton recently was awarded the 2012 Conservation Achievement Award. At its annual meeting in February, the Montana Chapter of the American Fisheries Society presented the highly coveted award to Sexton for her work in developing a long-term solution in protecting the Flathead Basin ecosystem.
Sexton served as the transboundary coordinator for the state of Montana and is a research scientist at UM’s Flathead Lake Biological Station. During the past 10 years, Sexton has been a leader in protecting the international Flathead River for generations to come.
The Flathead River, which originates in British Columbia, Canada, and flows into Montana, is considered one of America’s wildest rivers due to its pristine water quality and abundant, diverse aquatic and terrestrial life. However, since the mid-1970s the headwaters of the Flathead have been threatened by British Columbia’s plans to strip mine for coal, and in 2007 British Petroleum announced plans for coal-bed methane development in the basin.
Richard Hauer, professor of limnology at FLBS and director of UM’s Institute on Ecosystems, says Sexton’s swift response successfully prevented these plans from coming to fruition. The success was in large part due to her efforts to coordinate and develop a solid foundation of science to inform management and conservation professionals of the shared aquatic resources in the Flathead.
"Erin has shown exemplary vision in her commitment to developing a long-term solution on the Flathead," says Hauer. "She has remained resolute in her commitment to link the scientific results with management and policy."
On Feb. 18, 2010, Premier Gordon Campbell of British Columbia and then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer signed an unprecedented accord to prohibit coal mining, coal-bed methane extraction, and gas and oil exploration and development in the Transboundary Flathead River Basin.
"Without Erin’s efforts, we believe this landmark conservation achievement would not have been realized," says Clint Muhlfeld, research ecologist and faculty affiliate at FLBS and senior scientist with the United States Geological Society.
University scientists propose new drought severity index
UM scientists recently published the cover story for the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society on satellite-based drought monitoring.
The group, including Qiaozhen Mu, Maosheng Zhao, John Kimball and Steve Running, all from UM, and Nathan McDowell from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, developed a satellite-sensed global drought severity index.
While developing the new tool, the scientists first reviewed strengths and weaknesses of common indices already used to monitor and assess global-scale drought. These indices measure precipitation, snowpack, stream flow and other water-supply indicators and are used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other similar organizations. Many existing indices also have some limitations, such as only covering the United States or not monitoring long-term droughts well.
The authors proposed a new framework for measuring global drought severity that uses remotely sensed data from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. Those satellites collect data from vegetated surfaces to measure changes in greenness and productivity — key indicators of drought conditions.
Their new drought severity index (DSI) includes data from all of the major regional droughts from the past decade. The DSI showed conditions globally at eight-day, monthly and annual intervals. They tested its performance first in the Asia and Pacific regions, where some 23 million hectares — one-fifth of the total rice production area in the region — are drought-prone. Their annual interval DSI accurately documented the high-frequency, intense droughts of this region.
The annual DSI also successfully reported other extreme droughts, such as the 2003 heat wave in Europe and the Great Russian Heat Wave in 2010. The DSI does have some limitations, such as false drought detection in areas where vegetation was damaged by something other than drought.
With further studies, the new DSI will become a valuable tool to detect and monitor drought globally. In 2012, drought hit Montana, with September being the driest month in state history. The Montana Climate Office at UM started producing a weekly version of the DSI covering the entire state in April.