Quick Looks

An area transformed by broad-scale vegetation loss and fragmentation from oil and gas development (Photo by Chris Boyer)

Study: Oil and Gas Development Transforms Landscapes 

What are the ecological consequences of accelerated oil drilling activity? Researchers at UM have conducted the first-ever broad-scale scientific assessment of how oil and gas development transforms landscapes across the U.S. and Canada.

Their work was published April 24 in an article titled “Ecosystem services lost to oil and gas in North America” in Science, one of the world’s most prestigious journals. The article concludes that oil and gas development creates significant vegetation loss of rangelands and croplands across broad swaths of central North America.

Lead author Brady Allred says, “There are two important things here: First, we examine all of central North America, from the south coast of Texas to northern Alberta. When we look at this continental scale picture, we see impacts and degradation that are missed when focusing only at a local scale. Second, we see how present policies may potentially compromise future ecosystem integrity over vast areas.”

Allred and co-authors estimated that from 2000 to 2012 oil and gas development removed large amounts of rangeland vegetation, culminating at a rate per year of more than half of the annual grazing on U.S. public lands. Vegetation removed by this development on croplands is equivalent to 120.2 million bushels of wheat, approximately 13 percent of all wheat exported by the U.S. in 2013.

Fragmentation and loss of habitat also disrupts wildlife migration routes, alters wildlife behavior and assists new disruptive invasive plant species.

Furthermore, nearly half of wells drilled are in extreme- or high-water-stress regions. High-volume hydraulic fracturing uses 2 million to 13 million gallons of water per well, intensifying competition among agriculture, aquatic ecosystems and municipalities for water resources.

Co-author Dave Naugle highlights the complexity of the issue: “We’ve known about the impacts of oil and gas development for years, but we now have scientific data from a broad regional scale that tells us we need to act now to balance these competing land uses.”

Regents Professor Emeritus  Wins Major Ecology Prize

The journal Molecular Ecology chose UM Regents Professor Emeritus Fred Allendorf as the recipient of its 2015 Molecular Ecology Prize.

AllendorfThe distinguished honor officially will be awarded Aug. 10-14 during the meetings of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology in Lausanne, Switzerland. The prize includes an engraved silver platter.

The field of molecular ecology is a young and inherently interdisciplinary research area. The journal created the Molecular Ecology Prize several years ago to recognize significant contributions to this area of research.

Allendorf is one of a handful of people who founded the field of conservation genetics. He was one of the first to apply genetics to real-world conservation problems, and he has continued to advance the application of genetics, and now genomics, to pressing conservation issues.

His research focuses on the application of population and evolutionary genetics to problems in conservation biology. His book “Conservation and the Genetics of Populations,” co-written with UM Professor Gordon Luikart and Sally Aitken of the University of British Columbia, provides an understanding of how genetics can be used to conserve species threatened with extinction.

Allendorf, along with holding the position of Regents Professor Emeritus of Biology at UM, is a Professorial Research Fellow at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

UM Upgrades Internet Speed with Internet2 Connector

The University is now home to a 100-gigabit-per-second fiber connection as an Internet2 Network connector site in Missoula. The ultra-high-speed capability advances UM’s research efforts and expands opportunities to support educational, research and health care institutions across the state.

“The Internet2 Network connection provides great support to our researchers who collaborate with colleagues both nationally and internationally and, in particular, for those involved in big data initiatives and their entrepreneurial activities,” says Scott Whittenburg, UM vice president for research and creative scholarship.

The new capability, which is 10 times faster than UM’s previous connection, will further research efforts in the areas of ecosystems, climate change, environmental health, neuroscience, the search for Earth-like planets in nearby solar systems and more.

Matt Riley, UM’s chief information officer, says network connectivity is key to education and economic development in rural states where communities are separated by vast distances. UM connects a portion of Montana’s higher education institutions, as well as the U.S. Forest Service.

UM to Host Shakespeare’s First Folio Exhibition in 2016

The first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays will be displayed on campus in 2016.

The Mansfield Library and Montana Museum of Art & Culture submitted the application to bring the First Folio to campus, and will partner to make it a valuable experience for the community. While the library will lead organizing and implementing numerous programs for University students, adults, children, teachers and families, MMAC will display the folio and other related panels in its galleries, support the environmental and security requirements and provide free public access. The museum also will curate a related exhibit, extending its hours to accommodate as many visitors as possible.

“Exhibiting the Shakespeare First Folio is a high honor,” MMAC Director Barbara Koostra says. “MMAC is delighted to partner with the Mansfield Library to bring this rare object to the University of Montana campus and the region, and we hope it inspires everyone.”

Many of Shakespeare’s plays, which were written to be performed, were not published during his lifetime. The First Folio was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death. Two of Shakespeare’s fellow actors compiled 36 of his plays, hoping to preserve them for future generations. Without it, we would not have 18 of Shakespeare’s plays, including “Macbeth,” “Julius Caesar,” “Twelfth Night,” “The Tempest,” “Antony and Cleopatra,” “The Comedy of Errors” and “As You Like It.”

When the First Folio arrives in Missoula, its pages will be opened to Shakespeare’s most quoted line: “To be or not to be.”

Burgers — in moderation — effective for sports recovery

UM researchers have good news for endurance athletes hankering for a burger and fries after an intense workout: Dig in.

In moderation, that is.

A study recently published by the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found no significant difference in glycogen recovery when cyclists ate fast food after a workout versus when they ingested traditional sports supplements such as Gatorade, Powerbar and Clif products.

Brent Ruby, director of UM’s Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism, graduate student Michael Cramer, and a team of researchers in UM’s Department of Health and Human Performance produced the findings.
In the study, 11 male cyclists completed two trials, eating either fast food or supplements.

The UM researchers analyzed muscle biopsies and blood samples taken in between the two glycogen-depletion rides and found no differences in blood glucose and insulin responses. Rates of glycogen recovery from the feedings also were not different between the diets. Most importantly, there were no differences in time-trial performance between the two diets.

Research Uncovers Why Songbirds
Vary in Time Devoted to Warming Eggs

The amount of time songbirds spend warming their eggs directly correlates to their own survival probability and that of their eggs, according to a study by UM researchers that appeared recently in The American Naturalist.

A Bornean stubtailThe amount of care parents provide their young varies greatly across the animal kingdom, particularly among songbird species, who spend anywhere from 20 percent to nearly 100 percent of daylight hours warming eggs in their nests. A team led by Thomas Martin, senior scientist and professor at UM’s Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, set out to discover why.

“The reasons why species differ in how much care they provide their young has long been a mystery and of interest to scientists, given that it influences the quality and survival of offspring,” Martin says.

The researchers studied parental-care behaviors, egg temperatures and adult mortality rates in 63 species of songbirds. The study, which spanned two decades and four continents, found longer-living species with more future opportunities for breeding were less willing to expend energy and risk mortality associated with keeping their eggs warm.

Conversely, species with shorter lives put much more effort into caring for their young because they may not have another opportunity to reproduce. In both cases, the songbirds balance longevity against the risk of their eggs being eaten by predators. Species with a higher likelihood of their eggs being preyed upon invested more effort in keeping their eggs warmer, as warmer eggs take less time to hatch.

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