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Aerobic fitness predicts tibial bone loads during field exercises with moderate load carriage

Marin Plemmons, University of Montana, Missoula

Aerobic fitness predicts tibial bone loads during field exercises with moderate load carriage

Load carriage is expected of tactical athletes (soldiers and firefighters) and is thought to increase the risk of tibial bone stress fractures during basic combat training. Well-known predictors of tibial bone stress fractures are aerobic fitness and lower limb strength deficits. Traditionally, measurements of lower limb loading patterns that relate to tibial stress fracture are conducted in a laboratory setting; however, laboratory settings do not represent the loading demands tactical athletes experience in the field. Wearable devices may be useful in assessing lower limb loads, such as tibial shock, during field exercises. Thus, we sought to determine if low levels of aerobic fitness and lower limb strength predict tibial shock, measured via a wearable device, during a field test while carrying moderate load. Forty-one healthy individuals have been tested to date. Participants completed a hike with load carriage (females and males carrying 40 and 50 lbs respectively), on Mt. Sentinel as tibial shock was assessed with a small wearable accelerometer mounted on each participant’s lower leg. Quadriceps and soleus strength was also assessed. Aerobic fitness was assessed separately via heart rate response in submaximal, steady-state aerobic test. Separate Pearson’s correlations determined the relationship between tibial shock metrics and lower limb strength and aerobic fitness. Lower limb strength did not predict tibial shock (quadriceps: r=-0.091; p=0.56, soleus: 0.17; p=0.29), whereas aerobic fitness (r=-0.52; p=0.002) significantly predicted tibial shock. Thus, we found that greater tibial shock was observed as aerobic fitness increased, contrary to our hypotheses. This result was unexpected as poor aerobic fitness is a significant risk factor for tibial bone stress fractures in basic combat training. These data suggest that less aerobically fit individuals may have a greater risk for tibial bone stress fractures because they do not tolerate tibial shock as well as individuals who are more aerobically fit.

Analyzing Interactions among Migratory Elk and Semi-permeable Fences on the Blackfeet Reservation

Landon Magee, University of Montana, Missoula

Since the beginning of the last decade, the Blackfeet Reservation has experienced intense habitat fragmentation in the northern regions of the reservation, particularly in prime elk habitat that is believed to be along a migration corridor. One source of fragmentation has been the erection of a semi-permeable fence associated with a large bison ranch. The purpose of my study was to preliminarily assess potential interactions of elk (Cervus canadensis) and the semi-permeable bison fence as a precursor for further study. I worked in collaboration with the Blackfeet Fish and Game Department and the University of Montana, who will be initiating a larger elk migration study in the coming year. I deployed a small network of six trail cameras along the six-foot, woven bison fence on an adjacent landowner’s property and eastern most side of the bison ranch for a total of two months (January to March). Using information from the landowner, four locations were identified that were believed to be crossing points or pinch points, i.e. corners where elk may be trapped during a predator encounter. Of the four locations, three of them were nearby water sources, including a pond and two small creeks, while the fourth location was in a native rangeland habitat. At two of the sites, one camera was deployed looking directly at the fence and the secondary camera was placed farther back to examine the approach and a different angle of potential interactions. Based on an initial analysis of trail camera images, there were no recorded interactions between elk and the fence: however, there was an observed interaction between the fence and a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and a large number of coyotes (Canis latrans). Elk frequently move in large groups and are not evenly distributed across a landscape. My findings suggest a larger camera array than initially anticipated will be needed to adequately assess elk-fence interactions.

Anatomy students perceptions towards the transition to online due to COVID 19.

Drake C. Leonard, University of Montana, Missoula

Anatomy students perceptions towards the transition to online due to COVID 19.

In the spring of 2020, the way students were presented information changed completely. As COVID spread around the world, students’ academic experiences were being shifted to an online platform. Although there have been some studies that have addressed this transition, the majority of the results from these studies showed a negative perception towards the transition and looked into what did and did not work. In this study we are looking anatomy students' perceptions of the transition from in-person classes to online classes due to COVID for students in anatomy and physiology at the University of Montana. This study was exempt by the University of Montana Institutional Review Board (IRB #186-19). Only students who provided FERPA permission were included in this study. The results from this study could be used in the future if for any reason an university needs to go online for instruction. To determine students' perceptions we had them fill out a survey towards the end of the spring semester of 2020. We then analyzed the responses with the use of key terms. For two of the surveys given to the students the key terms are put broadly into positive and negative responses. Then for the third survey we looked for specific topics that were brought up by students when looking at the most challenging part of the transition. We used process detailed by Marying P. The results of these surveys should be looked at when creating an action plan for any future pandemics or any events that make in-person classes unsafe or not possible, in an attempt to transition smoother and mitigate any unnecessary stress.

Assessing Shrimp Farm Activity in the Gulf of California and Modeling Potential for Restoration

Miles Scheuering

The estuaries of Sonora and Sinaloa on the Gulf of California in Mexico provide critical wintering and stopover sites for migratory waterbirds in the Pacific Flyway. Shrimp farms are the greatest threat to these areas and their full impact is not well understood. Once shrimp production has stopped, they are often abandoned. A significant portion of existing farms may be abandoned based on a disparity between active area reported by the Sonora and Sinaloa state commissions and observed area based on remote sensing. To quantify the area of shrimp farms I digitized and classified them by wetland characteristics using recent satellite imagery. I then used imagery from 1984 to present to determine when farms were constructed. I modeled monthly water extent in shrimp farms using spectral mixture analysis in Google Earth Engine. Because active shrimp farms have consistent production cycles alternating between wet and dry it is possible to classify abandoned areas based on how long they are flooded or not. There has been research into water quality impacts from shrimp farms, as well as initial habitat destruction, but not regarding abandonment of shrimp farms. By identifying areas that may be abandoned, this project has the potential to drive restoration activities and conservation agendas in these areas. In addition, it can support increased collaboration between agencies and non-governmental organizations in the United States and Mexico to further international conservation efforts.

Assessing the Prevalence of Food Insecurity in College Student Veterans

Gabrielle A. Norconk

Food insecurity is the lack of a household’s physical and economic access to adequate amounts of nutritious, safe, and culturally appropriate foods. Food insecurity is considered a major public and health and nutrition problem in the United States. In 2019 the United States had a household food insecurity rate of 10.5% which represents a total of 35.2 million people. The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to increase the number of food-insecure individuals in the U.S. to 54.3 million (2020/21 projections). The connection between military service and increased vulnerability to food insecurity is currently inconclusive. Not only is there limited research on the relationship between veterans and food insecurity, the existing research focuses on older veterans (e.g., 60 years and older), thus limiting our understanding of various socioeconomic factors associated with food insecurity that younger veterans and/or veterans attending college may be experiencing. Socioeconomic factors that can affect food insecurity includes income, job availability, ability to work, disability status, and access to support services. As food insecurity increases the prevalence and severity of chronic disease and stress, and our newest veterans are overwhelmed by mental health diagnoses, food insecurity in veterans would be placing more strain on an already vulnerable group. My research explores the prevalence of food insecurity in college student veterans and ways to decrease food insecurity in this population. I conducted my research via a Qualtrics online survey. The UM Veterans Office sent an email that contained a link to the survey to student veterans enrolled in UM, Missoula College, and Bitterroot College. I hope to have 100 college veterans complete the survey. I will analyze the data and present descriptive statistics for food secure versus food insecure households, demographics, and socioeconomic factors. Data will be analyzed using SPSS v25 (IBM). This data will help identify relationships between food insecurity status and socioeconomic factors in college student veterans and their time of service and may help inform future programming efforts to reduce food insecurity in college veterans at these institutions.

Assessing the role of time and beavers in driving recovery following restoration

Shawnalee M. Voyles, University of Montana, Missoula
Daylen Egger, University of Montana, Missoula
Kory Shoja-Chaghorvand, University of Montana, Missoula

Ninemile Creek in Western Montana has been highly degraded by placer mining that took place from the 1800s to 1960s, resulting in a straightened stream disconnected from its floodplain by 10 m tall gravel piles. This degradation decreases water storage and makes the habitat less suitable for aquatic organisms. To improve habitat quality, Trout Unlimited has reconfigured four reaches along the creek starting in 2014 to create a new river channel and connected floodplain with two years between each restoration project. Due to the physical disturbance of reconfiguring the stream channel and building the floodplain, plant communities were reset in each reach to an early successional stage. A study conducted in 2019 showed that succession in the plant community proceeds gradually but seemed to accelerate in the one reach where beavers had built dams. In that reach, there was more soil organic matter and higher plant cover. However, beaver can also have negative impacts on vegetation in that they use it for food and building materials. Also, if they create persistent flooding, it can have negative impacts on vegetation. In the two years since the previous study, beaver have begun moving down valley and may have built dams in other restoration phases. We propose to further examine the influence of time and beaver activity on the succession in restored reaches of Ninemile Creek. Specifically, we will map beaver dams and lodges to determine the extent of their influence, we will quantify both plant community composition and cover, and we will measure soil organic matter concentration. This study will provide information to managers to help them better evaluate the interplay between time and beaver activity in driving the pace of recovery for similar restored stream reaches.

Building Montana's First Firewise Demonstration Garden

Nathaniel Maxwell Miller, University of Montana, Missoula
Melody Hollar, University of Montana, Missoula
Zachary Garibay, University of Montana, Missoula
William Stevens, University of Montana, Missoula
Maxwell Rebholz, Missoula County Office of Emergency Management

Worldwide, increasing wildfire frequency and magnitude present novel challenges for homeowners in the wildland urban interface (WUI). This is especially true in Montana, which has been ranked by Verisk Wildfire Risk Analytics as the number one state in the USA facing high to extreme risks of wildfire, with an estimated 137,800 properties at risk. As evident from the recent devastating wildfire in Paradise, most structure fires that occur in the WUI are due to blowing embers, which land on the house or surrounding property and ignite vegetation or debris, rather than from direct flame contact from the main fire. Homeowner fire risk is thus highly dependent on the selection and arrangement of vegetation and landscaping materials within a 100-foot defensive zone around the house. Use of “firewise” landscaping principles can reduce the risk of home ignition and are well-known to the fire science community; however, they have not yet become common knowledge. To address this critical public awareness gap, we collaborated with the Missoula County Office of Emergency Management to research, construct, and promote Montana’s first Firewise Demonstration Garden, conveniently located on the University of Montana’s Missoula campus. As an accessible, informative, and visual model, this Firewise Demonstration Garden provides a resource for homeowners seeking to protect themselves and their families from devastating house fires. We leveraged more than 140 volunteer hours from 30 unique volunteers and 120 unpaid hours from project leaders to construct the garden. We raised more than $18,000 through grants and a contribution from Missoula County. In addition to our main collaborator, we are also partnering with the following: the U.S. Forest Service, the Missoula Conservation District, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation.

Consequences of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on plant drought responses and possible mechanisms

Kian G.M. Speck, University of Montana, Missoula
Ylva Lekberg, MPG Ranch


Conyza canadensis is a ruderal annual that thrives under drought despite it lacking obvious xeromorphic traits, such as succulent leaves or deep roots. This plant is also highly colonized by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) making it an ideal candidate to study how mycorrhiza affects plant drought tolerance. The overarching objectives of this research were to determine whether 1) mycorrhizal Conyza plants are more drought tolerant than nonmycorrhizal Conyza plants under drought stress, and, if so 2) to gain insight concerning potential underlying mechanisms.


We used a 2x3 factorial design with two inoculation treatments (+AMF and -AMF) and three watering treatments (control, moderate, and severe drought). Each treatment was replicated eight times for a total of 48 plants. Conyza seedlings were grown for two months and drought was implemented using the wick method, which generated a constant difference in volumetric soil water content of 18%, 8% and 5% among drought treatments. We measured biomass, water content, leaf water potential, photosynthetic rate, stomatal conductance, and shoot nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations.


All inoculated treatments were mycorrhizal and all control treatments were non-mycorrhizal. Shoot and root biomass were lower in pots with increasing drought stress and, overall, AMF suppressed shoot but not root biomass. Total biomass responses to AMF inoculations changed from parasitic to neutral with increasing stress, suggesting a potential shift in cost-benefit ratios and mycorrhizal function. Although mycorrhizal plants had higher photosynthetic rates (P=0.05) than non-mycorrhizal ones, this upregulation was insufficient to prevent reductions of shoot biomass when conditions were benign. Mycorrhizal plants also had higher stomatal conductance (P=0.01) and shoot water content (P=0.02), which is indicative of lower drought stress in general. Leaf water potential became increasingly negative with drought stress, especially in the most stressed non-mycorrhizal plants (PAMFxDrought

COVID-19 Team Based Learning In Cellular and Molecular Biology Enhances Student Engagement and Enthusiasm In Learning

Raegan B. Hauschildt, The University Of Montana

COVID-19 Team Based Learning In Cellular and Molecular Biology Enhances Student Engagement and Enthusiasm In Learning

Student perceptions of learning outcomes in team-based learning (TBL) situations were explored in the summer offering of BIOB 260: Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Montana. The TBL methods employed in this course were three active participation small group exercises with pre- and post-activity assignments and a final group project. This study looks to test how TBL is received by students and if these activities would lead to an increase in students’ perception of learning. To better understand team-based learning in Cell and Molecular Biology, pre- and post- course Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) surveys were analyzed. This study was reviewed by the University of Montana Institutional Review Board (#186-19) and given exempt status. Only results from students who consented to FERPA were included. The students’ perception of active learning was studied as well as learning gains on COVID-19 topics such as origin and pathogenesis. Student qualitative responses were gathered from Likert scale surveys and tracked from the beginning to end of the course. The student’s quantitative responses were analyzed in which keywords were extracted indicating high, middle, and low self-confidence of their knowledge. From the analysis of the data, a positive correlation is shown between perceived learning gains and group activities. Students indicate a gain in their understanding of the central dogma and describe an overall increase in knowledge integration; connecting information from this course to courses they have taken in the past. Additionally, keywords associated with excitement, understanding, and knowledge were recorded at a much higher frequency in the post- course survey. This research is important for science courses as the transition from a standard lecture format to one of peer communication and interaction is increasingly favored in the higher education setting.

Cuticular hydrocarbon profiles in a population of Taiwanese rhinoceros beetles

Devin J. Hunt, University of Montana, Missoula
Chelsey N. Caldwell
Romain P. Boisseau
Patrick Krebs
Douglas J. Emlen

Insects communicate using diverse mechanisms. From the classic chirping of crickets to the singing of beetles, the world of insect signaling is almost as diverse as the class itself. In addition to acoustic signaling, insects rely on communication through chemical signals embedded within their waxy cuticles. These signals, often long-chain hydrocarbons and alcohols, serve as chemical signals of body size, mate quality, and sex. Our group has previously reported evidence of sex differences in cuticular hydrocarbon (CHC) profiles in a population of the Japanese rhinoceros beetle, Trypoxylus dichotomus. Based on these analyses, we hypothesized that CHC profiles conveyed meaningful information regarding body size, mate quality (weight), and sex to potential mates and competitors. We analyzed CHC profiles from a Taiwanese population of T. dichotomus using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and principal component analyses and compared the chemical signals of Taiwanese and Japanese beetles. Here, we report evidence of clear sex differences between male and female CHC profiles. We show that these chemical profiles vary across male body sizes and with male body condition. Furthermore, these CHC profiles appear to have diverged between Taiwanese Japanese populations of T. dichotomus, providing evidence of local diversification and evolution. Collectively, our results indicate that CHC profiles may serve as a meaningful and rapidly evolving signal to both potential mates and competitors in T. dichotomus.

Differential Diagnosis of Abnormal Muscle Gross Anatomy of a Male Cadaver

Audrey V. Broffman, University of Montana, Missoula
Carley R. Carpenter, University of Montana, Missoula

The ability of healthcare providers to carefully consider all presentations of illness and injury, draw upon research and knowledge to develop a list of potential diagnoses, and further investigate systems expected to be impacted by these diagnoses, is crucial for accurate identification of a condition and subsequent treatment plans to improve the welfare of patients. In order to determine a possible cause for unusual anatomic changes in multiple regions of the male cadaver used in the University of Montana’s Anatomy and Physiology lab, we performed a differential diagnosis.This research is exempt from IRB approval because the individual is no longer living. Permission was obtained from the Montana Body donation program. To generate preliminary diagnoses, we identified possible conditions associated with our initial observations of the abnormalities in the lower extremities. Further dissections of the colon, the femoral artery, and the heart were completed to evaluate the involvement of the cardiovascular and digestive systems after detecting distension of the lower intestine and a suture in the artery. We noted evidence of renal and vascular disease, prompting additional dissection of the kidneys and brain. Comprehensive assessment of the observed indications, in conjunction with subsequent research into the demographic information related to each preliminary diagnosis, supported the conclusion that stroke as a result of chronic kidney disease and atherosclerosis was the cause of death of the cadaver. This project is highly relevant in the healthcare industry as chronic kidney disease is a global health threat affecting approximately 10% of the adult population, and comorbidities are seldom investigated (Lee et al.) Additionally, the use of cadaver research, as demonstrated in this project, is an invaluable opportunity to those in and entering the medical field to enhance the comprehension of anatomy, physiology, and pathology during the educational process by allowing for the practical application of learned concepts and skills.

Distant Early Warning in Alarm Responses in Chickadees and Nuthatches – Do birds use their avian neighbors as sentinels?

Graydon William Prosser Hidalgo, Univeristy of Montana

Chickadees and nuthatches are known for their ability to avoid predation through complex alarm calls and communication between species within a flock. Very little is known about their ability to listen to and understand alarm calls of other birds with whom they do not usually associate. My research explores the interspecific listening abilities of chickadees and nuthatches, and specifically if they use Townsend’s solitaires and downy woodpeckers as sentinel species. I conducted experimental call playback experiments at bird feeders in western Montana. I played three different acoustic stimuli on a speaker to mixed-species flocks composed mainly of various species of chickadees and nuthatches. I recorded their vocal responses, as well as changes in their behavior. The acoustic stimuli includes the Townsend’s solitaire song, Townsend’s solitaire “toot” call (an alarm call), and a downy woodpecker “pik” call (a possible alarm call). Results indicate that chickadees and nuthatches can use the calls of other species: specifically, they respond to the songs of Townsend solitaires as “all clear” signals; they interpret the alarm calls of Townsend solitaires and downy woodpeckers as if there were predators nearby. Chickadees and nuthatches have arguably one of the most advanced communication systems in the animal kingdom. My research is the next step in the advancement of our understanding of the avian soundscape in Montana and across North America.

Effect of weather on flight speed of California Condors

Sky Mae Gennette

Birds respond to variable environmental conditions by modulating aspects of their movement. Soaring birds use updrafts associated with surface terrain (i.e., orographic updrafts) and differential heating of the surface (thermal updrafts) to subsidize their flight, and they respond to other meteorological factors such as wind speed and air pressure. I evaluated how environmental factors influence one aspect of flight performance, flight speed, of a large obligate-soaring species, the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus). Based on previous research, I expected that condors would fly faster in conditions conducive to formation of updrafts. I calculated flight speeds using GPS data collected during January through December of 2019 from 10 condors fitted with telemetry devices in southern California. I linked these location data to eight meteorological variables: downward shortwave radiation flux (DSR), turbulent kinetic energy (TKE), pressure, temperature, precipitation, thermal updraft, orographic updraft, and wind speed. DSR, temperature, and thermal updraft variables were all highly correlated, so I retained only the DSR variable in subsequent analyses. To test for relationships between flight speed and these meteorological variables, I used linear mixed effects models in R. DSR, wind speed, and orographic updraft had significant positive effects (p < 0.001) on flight speed; DSR, which is conducive to thermal updraft formation, had the largest effect size. Precipitation had the only negative effect (p < 0.001) on flight speed. This study presents evidence for previously untested relationships between flight speed of condors and meteorological conditions, which can be used as a model for other obligate soaring species. Our findings provide insight on the environmental parameters that influence condor and other soaring bird flight, which is important in the context of changing weather and climatic conditions.

Enhancing the Public’s General Vaccine Knowledge Through a Comprehensive and User-friendly Website.

Bonnie Long

Less than a year since the World Health Organization first declared Covid-19 to be a global pandemic, The United States Food and Drug Administration has given authorization for the emergency use of three live-saving Covid-19 vaccines. With several vaccine candidates entering phase three clinical trials all over the world and more receiving approval for emergency use, questions continue to arise about how each vaccine works and what their effectiveness is at preventing Covid-19 illness. In fact, the pandemic has revealed a significant gap in the general public’s knowledge about the importance of all vaccines, not just the vaccines made to combat Covid-19.

To address the lack of vaccine education, I compiled information from peer-reviewed articles and webpages, including the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control, into a written report. After being reviewed by an expert in vaccine immunology, I organized the written information into an easily accessible website. Of course, the internet has an abundance of resources about vaccines; however, finding appropriate information requires searching through countless websites that oversimplify the science or journal articles with complex scientific vocabulary. With this project, I intended to present material in a single location that was easier for the general public to comprehend than a chapter in a college textbook or an article in a scientific journal. The website contains descriptions of the cellular processes involved in building immunity when a patient receives a vaccine and explanations about the differences between vaccine types. Ultimately, my goal was to provide materials that would allow individuals to make informed decisions about vaccinations while also mitigating the spread of misinformation.

Impacts of Stream Restoration on Ecosystem Function: Assessing the Removal of Rattlesnake Dam

Samuel Brian Turner, University of Montana, Missoula

Ecological restoration, the process of assisting in the restoration of degraded ecosystems, is a relatively new field focused on enhancing natural resources and improving ecosystems. Dam removal has gained recent attention as an effective approach to restoring river ecosystems. Current principles guiding restoration outline the need for a comprehensive assessment of ecological integrity to achieve maximum success. However, current dam removal monitoring focuses on structural and compositional components of aquatic systems while neglecting aspects of stream function. This project aims to assess components of stream function and composition on Rattlesnake Creek one year after dam removal. I will identify a set of relatively undisturbed reference streams to compare variation in stream function and composition. Specifically, I will measure stream metabolism and decomposition as indicators of function, while also comparing macroinvertebrate communities. Additionally, I will measure components of water chemistry to determine primary driver of stream function of Rattlesnake Creek. This proposed project will contribute to evaluating the restoration success of Rattlesnake Creek dam removal at a local level. Additionally, this data will form a baseline dataset of components of stream function for Rattlesnake Creek. This project will also contribute to the creation of a reference model that may be used to guide dam removal and restoration projects in the west.

Peer-Leader Activities in the Biology Classroom: Effects on Student Confidence in the Course and Knowledge of Discussion Topics

Jadyn Aliyah Peterson

Peer-Leader Activities in the Biology Classroom: Effects on Student Confidence in the Course and Knowledge of Discussion Topics

College students in STEM majors often report experiencing feelings that their courses are overly competitive, unsupportive, and that the professors seem apathic or unwelcoming. A promising approach to creating a more comfortable and supportive environment within the biology classroom is the utilization of peer-led activities. This study aims to investigate whether the student-reported confidence in the learning topic and in the overall course were affected by the completion of the peer activity, and additionally, whether the students who indicated positive post-activity perceptions were more likely to correctly answer the peer-activity questions when reintroduced on the midterm. The students were expected to complete limited pre-work on the topic outside of class, which was then expanded on during the in-class peer activity. Likert scale surveys were distributed before and after peer-led activities to assess student perceptions. This study was reviewed by the University of Montana Institutional Review Board (#186-19) and given exempt status. Only results from students who consented to FERPA were included. The data indicated a positive correlation between a higher confidence rating and a better understanding of the covered material. The use of peer-led activities in biology classes may lead to higher class score averages and an increased retention of STEM majors.

Positive student perception and increased preparation time prior to team-based learning activities may be correlated with an increase in exam grades in college biology class

Baylee Marie Dye, University of Montana, Missoula

As the biology field grows and more students enroll in STEM-related courses, it can be difficult for students to engage and actively learn during class time. Peer-teaching/team-based activities are an excellent way to implement active learning into these classrooms and have been shown to have positive effects on student learning outcomes. However, other variables influencing a student’s learning outcomes in conjunction with peer-leading have not been deeply explored. In order to gain insight into this, student exam performance was compared with student perception and time spent preparing for team-based activities. Students’ perceptions of their learning and engagement pre- and post-team-activity were assessed using Likert scale surveys (Appendix 1) and results were compiled using scantrons. This study assessed if student performance is improved by peer-leading, or if student habits and attitudes have a significant effect on course performance independently. The study was reviewed by the University of Montana’s IRB and designated as exempt (IRB-186-19), however, each student in the study completed FERPA permission forms. This study will reveal to what extent peer-leading/team-based learning impacts student performance when combined with positive student interactions, which will help instructors purposefully design more successful classroom structures and activities.

Predicting Knee and Achilles Tendon Forces for Injury Prevention

Alexis Doutt

Knee and Achilles tendon injuries are the most common injuries experienced by runners. New advances in wearable devices and simple, low cost force plates now allow for the estimation of impact forces and stride lengths during outdoor running or in clinical settings; Impact forces and stride lengths may be able to predict gold standard measures of knee and Achilles tendon forces. If so, the estimation of knee and Achilles tendon forces in by clinicians would be feasible using wearable devices, outside a laboratory setting. Thus, we hypothesized that impact forces and stride lengths (our two surrogate measures) would predict the gold standard measures of knee forces and Achilles tendon forces during running.

A large database of healthy runners (52 healthy males; 52 healthy females) was used in our analysis. Briefly, each participant ran at 3.3 meters/sec as 3-D running mechanics were assessed with a motion capture system. Knee and Achilles tendon forces during the run trials were then calculated (our gold standard) and compared with impact forces and stride lengths (the proposed surrogates) derived from force plates via Pearson correlations. We found that impact forces were weak predictors of knee (p=0.0001, r=0.33) and Achilles tendon (p=0.0001, r=0.31) loads, and stride length was a weak to moderate predictor of peak knee (p

Previous work indicated wearable devices or a simple force plate accurately measure stride length and impact force data in the field or in a clinic, potentially increasing the ability to predict possibly injury and track training loads. However, our analysis found only weak to moderate relationships, suggesting that caution should be used when using impact forces and stride lengths are used to estimate knee and Achilles tendon forces. Thus, wearable devices and force plates are not yet able to estimate anatomical-specific forces i.e., knee and Achilles tendon forces, during running and consumers should be skeptical of commercial devices that claim to do so.

Reference Models for Riparian Restoration after Dam Removal: the case of Rattlesnake Creek

Claire C. Shady, University of Montana, Missoula

The use of reference models in ecological restoration is imperative to determining the degree of success in restoring a degraded ecosystem. A reference model represents what condition the project ecosystem would be in had degradation not occurred. Oftentimes restoration projects use a single reference site, or limited variables to guide their questions and project goals. When restoration projects are designed around limited reference sites or variables, they may fail to adequately capture ecosystem complexity. The use of a broad set of variables and reference sites allows a reference model to incorporate a wider range of spatial and temporal variability inherent in ecosystems. The heterogeneity of riparian ecosystems makes it important to encompass a variety of variables as well as multiple reference sites in order to illustrate the natural variability that occurs in these disturbance-dependent ecosystems. This study aims to build an empirical reference model based on multiple reference sites and a suite of variables representing the three components of ecological measurement: structure, composition, and function. This model will be for Rattlesnake Creek in Missoula, MT, where a small municipal dam was recently removed. Data will be collected from fifteen reference sites, as well as from the project site on Rattlesnake Creek during summer and fall of 2021, and spring 2022. This study focuses on the terrestrial characteristics of riparian ecosystems, while a companion study will evaluate in-stream variables. In addition, power analyses will be conducted to determine the precision of the reference model, as well the number of reference sites that would need to be sampled to achieve the desired level of precision. The results from this study will contribute to the evaluation of restoration success on Rattlesnake Creek as well as guide future development of reference models for dam removals or other riparian restoration projects throughout the western US.

Seeding Methods for Revegetation in Western Montana

Aubrey Benson, University of Montana
Sydney Bish, University of Montana

Seeding is a commonly used tool to revegetate riparian soils made bare during channel reconfiguration, but its efficacy and factors that limit its success remain largely understudied. Ninemile Creek in Western Montana has been degraded by placer mining, which has filled the riparian areas with 10 m tall gravel piles. Extensive restoration efforts have been conducted by Trout Unlimited (TU) in the Ninemile Valley, and seeding has been used in each stage to attempt to revegetate the newly reestablished riparian areas of the Ninemile valley. However, the success of this approach has been limited, presenting an opportunity to study the optimization of this technique. It is known that soil fertility can influence plant growth and establishment. The rate of addition of seeds can also influence play a role, as does the timing of seed addition. In our study, we will determine the ideal conditions and techniques for revegetating the riparian area in the Ninemile by looking at the effect of fertilization, seed addition rate, and seasonal timing of seed addition. We will establish plots in which we will add fertilizer or low or high seed addition rates. These plots will all be seeded in spring of 2021 and will be compared to sites where seeds were added in the Fall of 2020. Our results will help us identify factors limiting the establishment of riparian plants from seed, and help provide insights to TU and others on how to optimize their seeding efforts

Teaching Methods and the Biology Student’s Perspective of the Transition to Virtual Learning due to COVID-19

Alexander R. Stuczynski, The University Of Montana

In the spring of 2020, the rise of a novel coronavirus swept across the globe and disrupted anatomy education across the globe. Through previous studies, it is known that the transition from traditionally taught classes to strictly virtual generally negatively impacted students, but it is not known what methods and approaches were best suited to anatomy students. Therefore, it is essential to identify which tools and approaches supported anatomy students and those of which did not support anatomy students via analysis of student perception of the transition. Online surveys were gathered from anatomy students in the BIOH 370 Anatomy and Physiology class at the University of Montana during the last weeks of the spring 2020 semester. The survey contained 3 qualitative questions and 51 student responses to each question was analyzed using the Marying P method of qualitative research. IRB #186-19 was found exempt by the University of Montana IRB and therefore permitted gathering of data from students who provided FERPA permission. Results gathered showed a trend in a negative perception of the transition with many factors from outside of the learning environment impacting the students. The purpose of this study is to gain insight on how the students generally perceived the migration from traditionally taught classes to strictly virtual in order to identify methods that may be useful in developing new innovative teaching methods.

Temperature modulates Wolbachia-induced cytoplasmic incompatibility in Drosophila melanogaster

Erin Markham, University of Montana, Missoula

Maternally transmitted Wolbachia bacteria infect about half of all insect species. Wolbachia often manipulate host reproduction to increase their transmission. For example, many Wolbachia strains cause cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) that reduces the viability of embryos fertilized by Wolbachia-infected sperm. Wolbachia infections in females can rescue this incompatibility, providing hosts a relative fitness advantage and facilitating Wolbachia spread to high frequencies. Notably, CI does not always cause complete embryonic death. Many Wolbachia strains, like wMel that infects model Drosophila melanogaster, cause only weak or moderate CI and occur at intermediate frequencies. The contributions of environmental conditions, and Wolbachia and host genomes, to CI strength remain unresolved. Here, I investigate temperature effects on wMel CI strength using both uninfected and infected adult D. melanogaster genotypes sampled from tropical and temperate populations in Australia. I reared male flies at 20oC or 25oC for three generations and females for two generations. These temperatures fall within the range that I observe along the Australian cline. I found that tropical and temperate wMel-infected males cause stronger CI at 20°C, but temperate males cause about 20% stronger CI at 20°C than do tropical males. These data suggest that temperature significantly impacts CI strength, and that wMel-infected genotypes that evolved in relatively cool temperate climates cause particularly strong CI in the cold. To dissect the contributions of host and Wolbachia genomes to this variation, I am now reciprocally introgressing temperate and tropical host and Wolbachia genomes. This strategy will pair tropical Wolbachia with temperate nuclear host genomic backgrounds, and vice versa, to test how Wolbachia and host genomes influence CI strength. I discuss how these results increase our understanding of thermal effects on CI strength, and more broadly, I consider how my findings might explain variation in Wolbachia infection frequencies in global host populations situated in different climates.

Understanding Caribou Population Cycles

Jack St. John, The University Of Montana

The complex population dynamics of caribou (Rangifer tarandus) are being studied to determine the patterns and processes driving their population cycles. It is well established, via previous archaeological research and indigenous knowledge, that large migrating caribou herds found in around the tundra at northern latitudes experience population boom and busts roughly every several decades. However, the processes driving the dynamics of these cycles are relatively unknown, which makes managing caribou herds for recreational and subsistence harvests difficult. It has been hypothesized that a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors shape these cycles, with birth rates, density-dependence, and climate (among many others) likely all playing a role. I collected population data on 43 caribou herds throughout the world, and in doing so, assembled the largest caribou (and likely large mammal) population database to date. I used statistical interpolation to fill in the gaps between available data due to low sampling frequency. I am now in the process of analyzing these data, determining which herds are showing clear signs of cycling and narrowing down the potential mechanisms causing these cycles. I collected additional information on other factors hypothesized to affect caribou cycles, including predator presence data, climate oscillation data, subspecies and ecotype data, and the latitudes of each herd. I am using the interpolated data for each herd to determine the variables influencing the periods and amplitudes of caribou population cycles. The potential management implications of my research are far-reaching. A better understanding of caribou population dynamics could help wildlife professionals and policymakers adapt their caribou management strategies, potentially giving them the tools to avoid extreme population fluctuations. The overarching goal of my research is to aid in the conservation of caribou for both ecological and cultural purposes, and understanding their basic ecology is the first step in achieving that goal.

Understanding the social behavior and public information sharing of an irruptive migrant

Sarah Sriraman
Joely DeSimone
Lesley Rolls
Creagh Breuner
Erick Greene

Unpredictable food availability drives facultative migratory movements in many bird species. Irruptive finches, like pine siskins (Pinus spinus), tend to be social and flock together in large groups. Because low food availability cues pine siskin movements and these movements are unpredictable in timing and destination, I hypothesize that social information plays an important role in a flock’s assessment of food availability and/or departure timing. I studied flocks of pine siskins foraging at four discrete sunflower patches on MPG Ranch in August and September 2020 to understand the factors which influence flock size and determine whether calls share information about food availability and/or movement. To measure food availability, I walked transects through each sunflower patch throughout the season. I scored all the sunflowers in a 1 ft2 area every 5-10 m for seed maturation and seed availability. To quantify siskins’ social behavior, I collected 35 hours of audio recordings of siskin foraging flocks at four sunflower patches, using an omni-directional microphone and Roland recorder. During recordings I noted flock size, arrivals and departures from the patch, flocking behavior, and raptor presence. I used Raven Pro software to count and compare siskin calls/min during three flock behaviors: “departure,” when one or more siskins left the patch; “rising” when siskins would fly up into the air and circle the patch before landing again, often in response to raptor predation pressure; and “baseline” when there were no departures or rising events. I found that call rates during rising and departures were both significantly greater than baseline call rate and baseline call rate was significantly greater in patches with greater food availability. I also found that flock size increased with food availability and predation pressure. My results suggest that calls provide information about patch quality and are used to coordinate movement or departure from a foraging area.

Using C. elegans as a Model Organism to Study Genes linked to Alzheimer’s

Ketch Jacobson

Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that affects millions of people the world over. This is a growing problem, especially in developed countries where people are living longer. Over time, more and more young people will be tasked with taking care of their elderly family members, who can no longer take care of themselves. The causes leading up to the disease are still poorly understood, but by looking at certain genes that are associated with Alzheimer’s, we can gain a better understanding of the disease and the pathways that lead to it. Luckily, humans share lots of their genes with other animals, including about 50% with Caenorhabditis elegans, a type of nematode. We can easily do experiments on C. elegans that would be impossible in humans. In my research, I am using RNA interference to knock out 4 genes associated with Alzheimer’s in the worms; abt-2, abt-4, abt-5, and sel-12. There has been little or no research done on these genes. By observing the worms under these conditions, we can make inferences on the function of the genes that were knocked down, and deduce their function in humans, including where they fit in the Alzheimer's pathway. Gaining a better understanding of the pathway in worms and humans will allow us to better focus future research, possibly finding areas to be targeted by drugs, or even discovering a cure.