New Facility Ready for Fish Passage Studies

Two students test waterway used for fish research
Two Montana State University students test waterway used for fish passage research (photo courtesy of MSU News Service)

Researchers in Montana have a new tool for designing fish passage structures that meet the needs of both fish and agricultural producers.   A feature article by the MSU News Service highlights a recently completed artificial waterway at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fish Technology Center on the outskirts of Bozeman, which researchers can use to test the designs of small fish passage structures that allow grayling and other species to overcome irrigation structures that might otherwise hinder their seasonal movements.

The state-of-the-art upgrade will facilitate ongoing research by Montana State University’s Fish Passage and Ecohydraulics group, who have collaborated for more than a decade.  The group includes researchers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MSU’s Departments of Ecology and Civil Engineering, and WTI.  WTI Road Ecologist Matt Blank has been on the team since its inception, and he is currently one of the team members on a new project to redesign fishways to use less water.  As he stated in the news article, “”If we can get the fish to swim through less water, that’s a win. 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.” More information about current and past research is available on the MSU Fish Passage and Ecohydraulics group webpage, and on WTI’s project webpages (Fish Passage Research and Fish Passage Research Phase 2).

In the News: 60 Minutes Highlights Grizzly Bear Research in Montana

Large bear chewing on tree branches

On October 11, the CBS News Show 60 Minutes aired an in-depth feature story on grizzly bears in Montana and the impacts of the growing populations of both bears and humans in the state. In one segment, Bryce Andrews, Director of the non-profit organization People and Carnivores, discusses efforts by his organization to minimize human-bear conflicts, such as electrified fences around chicken coops and crops that attract bears.

Road Ecologist Marcel Huijser reports that WTI is a partner in testing these strategies. According to Marcel: “People and Carnivores put up an electrified barrier around a melon patch to reduce the number of melons eaten by bears. WTI’s role is to investigate the effectiveness of the electrified gates at the melon patch in keeping out bears, especially black bears. We monitor the four gates and select locations along the fence with wildlife cameras. The farmer estimates melon loss has been reduced about 80 percent this season as a result of the electrified barrier.” The full interview with Bryce Andrews is available to watch on the CBS News website.

On the Air: Podcast Digs into Snow and Ice Topics

Winter is coming – Did you know that the Snow and Ice Pooled Fund Cooperative Program (SICOP) offers a podcast “devoted to all things winter maintenance”?

Don’t miss Episode 41: “The latest word on alternate methods for deicing.” WTI Program Manager Laura Fay talks about the key findings from the recent Clear Roads project on alternate deicing methods.

Learn more about the podcast series on the SICOP podcast webpage.

MSU News Highlights Upcoming Webinar on Workforce Development

The West Region Transportation Workforce Center (WRTWC), which is based at WTI, will host a webinar on October 7 (11 am Mountain Time), which will focus on “Engaging Multidisciplinary Student Talent to Meet Agency Needs.” Four speakers from MSU and the City of Bozeman will highlight the Community-engaged and Transformational Scholarship Initiative (CATS), a successful 3-year partnership between MSU and the City of Bozeman that offers students the opportunity to work on community-based projects through their university courses.

Thanks to MSU News Service for highlighting the webinar with a feature article on its website!  Read more about the CATS program, the upcoming series of webinars on workforce development topics, and insights from WTI’s Education Program Manager Susan Gallagher, who will be one of the featured speakers.

Transportation Research Board Highlights WTI’s Severe Weather Index Project

Bicyclist and car travel through neighborhood in heavy snow conditions

WTI has completed a project to create a severe weather index for the Maryland Department of Transportation, and the final report was featured in a recent issue of the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board’s newsletter.

A severe weather index (SWI) is a management tool that  can be used to assess the performance and related costs associated with winter maintenance operations – it considers the relative severity of each weather event and the relative severity of weather for that season.  On behalf of the Maryland DOT State Highway Agency (MDOT SHA), WTI researchers Laura Fay, Natalie Villwock-Witte, and Karalyn Clouser, in partnership with David Veneziano of Iowa State University, developed and tested an SWI using Road Weather Information System (RWIS) data and input from maintenance managers. 

In addition to the development of the SWI itself, key outcomes of this effort include the identification of locations where blowing and drifting snow impacts the road network, the identification of future sites for RWIS stations, survey results describing RWIS use by MDOT SHA maintenance crews, and a detailed review of the RWIS network and data.  The final report also provides recommendations to MDOT SHA for improving the SWI and overall winter maintenance operations. “We’re pleased that MDOT SHA is evaluating the tool and plans to implement it in the 2020-21 winter season,” said P.I. Laura Fay; “The sooner it’s used and assessed during actual storm events, the sooner it can be calibrated and refined, which will improve its usefulness.”

Distinctly Montana Explores the Future of Transportation with Ahmed Al-Kaisy

Portrait of Ahmed Al-Kaisy

In its Fall 2020 issue, Distinctly Montana continued its series of articles on “Montana in 30 Years.” To explore the topic of transportation, the magazine interviewed MSU Engineering Professor and WTI Safety and Operations Researcher Ahmed Al-Kaisy. Dr. Al-Kaisy discusses a wide range of transportation issues, ranging from current challenges such as highway funding and clean energy development, to the prospects for implementing emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles and even flying cars!  Read the full article on the magazine website.

MSU Homecoming — WTI Enters Two “Floats” in Virtual Parade

MSU toy mascot rides on a model of a Streamline bus
“Cats Love Streamline, Galavan & Skyline Transit”

Here at Montana State University, the university just finished celebrating Homecoming Week. Actually – due to current health precautions – it was “Stay HOME-coming” Week.  Nonetheless, the MSU Alumni Foundation showcased a full schedule of daily, virtual activities.  One of the highlights was the video of the Homecoming Shoebox Parade, featuring creative miniature floats.  Watch for the two transportation-themed floats created by our Andrea Hamre! (One float is at about 8:25 in the video, and the second one at about 17:45.)