Past Presentations

2024 May 15 – Feeding the World with Fewer Resources

How can the application of science and technology improve agricultural production with fewer resources?  Dr. Paul Nugent, Research Professor in the MSU College of Agriculture, will discuss how “precision agriculture,” including technological advancements and automation, can address resource use and labor declines to ensure efficient and sustainable agricultural practices while maintaining output and safeguarding the foundation of future food systems.

Photo by John Fike


2024 Apr 24 – Telecommunications to Teleportation: Making Light Work

How do photons—quantum particles of light—enable diverse applications ranging from the well-known to the exotic? Dr. Krishna Rupavatharam, Director of MSU’s Spectrum Lab, will share his experiences in photonics—the science of light—and how it can be manipulated for applications ranging from remote sensing and holographic imaging to quantum teleportation and communication. He will also provide insights into the growth and evolution of the photonics ecosystem in Montana and innovative research at MSU.  (Note the change in date to Apr 24.)

Image by Colter Peterson


2024 Mar 20 – From Dirt to Display: the Art and Science of Preparing Fossils

What is fossil preparation and how does it contribute to our understanding of plants and animals from the past? Cassi Knight, Paleontology Fossil Preparator at Museum of the Rockies, will share her experience in making fossil specimens ready for research or display while preserving the important information hidden in the dirt alongside those specimens. This information provides context to the fossils scientists study and helps to form a more complete picture of the past. Knight will also look specifically at what plant fossils can reveal about ancient climates.

Courtesy of the Museum of the Rockies


2024 Feb 21 – Science at High Altitude

How has the sport of mountaineering fundamentally transformed scientific knowledge? Dr. Michael Reidy, a historian of science and Chair of the Department of History & Philosophy at MSU, will discuss how the advent of mountaineering in the nineteenth century helped direct the sciences of evolution, geology, and meteorology by turning mountains into vertical laboratories. He will explain how the relationship between mountaineering and science continues to direct the understanding of ecology, high-altitude physiology, and climate science, and how MSU and the Bozeman community are contributing to exciting developments.

Images courtesy of M. Reidy/Pixabay


2024 Jan 17 – The 2024 Great American Eclipse: A Local and National Preview

How can we best and safely observe the solar eclipse of April 8, 2024? Dr. Angela Des Jardins, MSU Associate Research Professor and Director of the Montana Space Grant Consortium, will share the particulars of the total solar eclipse visible along a path from Texas through Maine, and the partial eclipse observable from Montana (if viewed with special eye protection). She will also describe the unique view of the event that will be attempted by more than 600 college students across the country in the Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project, who will fly payload-carrying weather balloons to live stream the passing lunar shadow as part of the NASA broadcast as well as record valuable science data.

Lunar shadow on Earth, courtesy of Montana Space Grant


2023 Nov 15 – Exploring the Age of Dinosaurs in Montana

How can we uncover new insights into the lives and times of animals that lived over 66 million years ago? Dr. John Scannella, the John R. Horner Curator of Paleontology at Museum of the Rockies, will discuss new discoveries in the field and lab that are helping to piece together our view of the ancient past and the incredible creatures that once roamed this region.

Image by J. Scannella; courtesy Museum of the Rockies, Montana State University


2023 Oct 18 – Ghosts of the High Country: The Elusive Wolverine and Lynx in Montana

How can photography, electron microscopes and artificial intelligence play a role in saving Montana’s rarest carnivores? Kalon Baughan and Bret Davis, Wildlife Researchers, will share their experience researching best practices and utilizing technology to monitor rare and elusive species non-invasively.

Photo courtesy of K. Baughan/B. Davis


2023 Sep 13 – Geologic Origins of Big Sky Country

What forces produced the high topography and mountainous landscapes so characteristic of southwest Montana? Dr. Devon Orme, MSU Associate Professor of Earth Sciences, will share her research into mountain building and sedimentary processes that have shaped the local landscape over geologic time—with the Beartooth and Bridger Ranges and Lewis & Clark caverns as examples.

Photo courtesy of D. Orme


2023 May 17 – Cutthroat Conservation: A Yellowstone Lake Story

Is the lake trout suppression program in Yellowstone Lake working? Have the Yellowstone cutthroat trout recovered? Dr. Christopher Guy, MSU Professor and Assistant Leader of the MT Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, will discuss the seven decades of research on Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake and the struggles to maintain an intact ecosystem in America’s first national park.

Courtesy of C. Guy


2023 Apr 19 – Building Computers for the Moon and Beyond

Why does NASA need custom computers for its missions when computers on earth are everywhere?  Dr. Brock LaMeres, MSU Professor of Computer Engineering, will share his research on building space computers for NASA and his group’s upcoming mission to test an MSU computer on the moon.

Courtesy of A. Sanchez-Gonzales


2023 Mar 22 – Upcycling in the Age of Plastic

Can “upcycling”—the repurposing of existing materials—be the life raft we need to keep us from drowning in a sea of plastic? Dr. Jennifer Dubois, MSU Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, will discuss the critical problems posed by billions of tons of unrecycled or burned plastic waste, and how biochemical upcycling is contributing solutions to these problems.

3D Animation Production Company from Pixabay


2023 Feb 15 – Prioritizing Wild Places in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Where are the remaining best natural habitats on private lands in the Greater Yellowstone area and can they be preserved?  Dr. Andrew Hansen, MSU Professor and Director of the Montana Institute on Ecosystems, will discuss the status of prime habitat in the region and the role of conservation easements in preserving them for the future.

Courtesy of J. Manning


2023 Jan 18 – How to Keep Our Aging Skeletons Strong

Can new discoveries in the lab translate to greater bone strength as we age?  Dr. Chelsea Heveran, MSU Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, will discuss current progress in maximizing the health and strength of bone tissue throughout aging, as well as how the remarkable human skeleton is inspiring strategies for engineering living building materials.

Courtesy of C. Heveran


2022 Nov 16 – Managing Rangelands to Include Wildlife

How can working rangelands be managed to include grouse, songbirds, and other range-dependent wildlife?   Dr. Lance McNew, MSU Associate Professor of Wildlife Habitat Ecology, will discuss the importance of functional rangeland and public and private land management for critical species.

Courtesy of Megan Milligan.


2022 Oct 19 – Racing COVID: How Science Battled a New Global Pandemic

How did scientists around the world confront and fight a novel virus emerging from China in 2019?  Acclaimed science writer David Quammen will discuss his latest book, “Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus,” about the COVID-19’s origins, the most unexpected things he learned about it, and the compelling scientists who made a difference.

Courtesy of D. Quammen.


2022 Sep 28 – Hunting Black Holes at Cosmic Dawn

What role did the universe’s first black holes play in the formation and growth of the first galaxies?  Dr. Neil Cornish, MSU Regents Professor of Physics, will describe how a new space mission called the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) will detect gravitational ripples from the collisions of these black holes, providing insight into the earliest days of the universe.

Courtesy of N. Cornish.


2022 May 18 – Raven Rendezvous: Exploring Connections Among the Trickster, Wolves and People

How do Yellowstone’s ravens make a living from the work of wolves and humans? Dr. John Marzluff, Ridgeway Professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington, will describe how his tagging and tracking of these smart, opportunistic birds is helping to refine understanding of the interactions of ravens with both wolves and people in the Greater Yellowstone region.

Courtesy J. Marzluff


2022 Apr 13 – Health Effects of Climate Change in Montana

How are climate surprises like increasing wildfires, drought and heat affecting the health of Montanans? Dr. Alexandra Adams, MSU’s Director of the Center for American Indian and Rural Health Equity (CAIRHE), will share the impacts as well as mitigation and adaptation strategies that individuals, communities and healthcare organizations can implement to reduce these effects.

Courtesy A. Adams


2022 Mar 23 – Cry to Heaven: Golden Eagles and Rock Art in the Bighorn Basin

Did indigenous peoples of the Bighorn Basin use the golden eagle as their model in thunderbird rock art? Plains archaeologist Bonnie Lawrence-Smith will share her research into relationships between eagles, these peoples, and the rock art they crafted as a manifestation of their connection with the natural world.

Courtesy B. Lawrence-Smith


2022 Feb 16 – Microbial Builders: Creating Sustainable Alternatives to Concrete

How can microbes like the ones that spend their time forming things like kidney stones be harnessed to build practical materials? Dr. Erika Espinosa-Ortiz, MSU Research Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, will discuss how fungi and bacteria can be engineered to create materials that can substitute for cement.

Courtesy E. Espinosa-Ortiz


2022 Jan 12 – Quantum Materials and the MonArk Quantum Foundry

How does quantum mechanics work, and how can it be applied to practical, everyday use? Dr. Yves Idzerda, MSU Professor of Physics and Dean of the College of Letters and Science, will discuss the latest advances in quantum technology and how MSU’s NSF-funded quantum “foundry” will research and develop quantum materials and devices that will connect science and industry.


2021 Nov 10 – Wildfires in Montana: What Does the Future Hold?

What are the factors driving large and destructive wildfires in the West, and how can we protect communities from a future projected to include more? Dr. David McWethy, Associate Professor in MSU’s Department of Earth Sciences, will discuss the causes and threats of increasing wildfires and how communities can better adapt.

Bridger Foothills Fire – Courtesy Janice Gaedtke


2021 Oct 13 – When Viruses Jump:  Disease Transmission from Animals to Humans

How and why do some pathogens in wild animal species make the jump to domestic animal and human species? Dr. Raina Plowright, MSU Associate Professor of microbiology and immunology, will describe the mechanisms of such disease “spillover” and strategies to mitigate or prevent such occurences.

COVID-19 Public Domain


2021 Sep 22 – How and Why We Study the Sun from Space

What are we learning about the Sun’s energetic events and how they affect us on Earth?  Dr. Dana Longcope, Professor and Head of the Physics Department at Montana State University, will discuss research into the Sun’s hot corona and its energetic events such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections.  These events, whose intensity varies over a roughly eleven-year cycle, can lead to beautiful aurora borealis displays as well as power outages and satellite disruptions.



2021 May 12 – The Origin of Supermassive Black Holes

What can we learn about the origin of supermassive black holes from studying small galaxies?  Dr. Amy Reines, Assistant Professor of Physics at MSU, will discuss how observations of dwarf galaxies using world-class telescopes are being used to reveal the birth and growth of black holes that can reach masses upwards of a billion times the Sun’s mass.

Courtesy of Amy Reines


2021 Apr 14 – Microbes, Carbon and Climate: Impacts of a Changing Cryosphere

What can the study of microbes living in cold temperature environments tell us about the physical limits of life?   Dr. Christine Foreman, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at MSU, will discuss how her research with deep ice cores and current environments provides insights into bacterial processes in cold places, past and present, and how carbon moves through these living systems in the context of a changing climate.

Courtesy of Christine Foreman.


2021 Mar 10 – Fighting Doubt By Facilitating Trust Between Scientists and The Public

How can Society advance evidence-based, science-related public policy when a portion of the public doesn’t believe in our best science?  Dr. Kristen Intemann, Professor of Philosophy at Montana State University, will examine the evidence for explaining this “belief gap” and will discuss potential solutions and strategies for bridging the gap between scientists and the public on important issues including climate change and vaccine safety.

Courtesy of Kristen Intemann


2021 Feb 17 – Vaccines in the Age of COVID-19

How do vaccines work, how have Montanans helped, and what are the implications for COVID-19? Dr. Mark Jutila, MSU Regents Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, will discuss the mechanisms of effective vaccines, Montanans’ roles in vaccine development, and vaccine development and implementation for COVID-19.


2021 Jan 13 – The Role of Sleep in Maintaining Cardiovascular Health

Can better sleep reduce cardiovascular disease in the U.S.?  Dr. Jason R. Carter, MSU Vice President for Research, Economic Development and Graduate Education, will offer insights into current sleep research, its importance for a healthy heart, why sleep varies with age and gender, and practical tips for getting a better night’s sleep.


2020 Feb 12 – Our Mysterious Star: Probing the Heart of the Solar System

What is current research revealing about how our sun works?  Dr. Charles Kankelborg, Professor of Physics at MSU, will discuss how his observations of the sun using rockets and satellites–as well as current solar missions–are trying to uncover the mechanisms of energy storage, release, and transport in the solar atmosphere, and what it all means for us on Earth.

Courtesy of Charles Kankelborg.


2020 Jan 15 – The Yellowstone Volcano: News from the Front

What does front line research tell us about the current state of the immense volcano that makes up much of Yellowstone National Park?  Dr. Michael Poland, Scientist-in-Charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, will discuss the geologic hazards of the Yellowstone region, activity that has been recorded in 2019, and recent research into how the Yellowstone volcanic system works.

Courtesy of Michael Poland.


2019 Nov 13 – Ice Patch Archaeology: Exploring the Greater Yellowstone’s High-Elevation Human Past

What can we learn about the history and heritage of Greater Yellowstone’s human story as ancient materials are revealed in melting high-altitude ice?  Dr. Craig Lee, Research Scientist at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, and Assistant Teaching Professor at Montana State University, will share his insights in exploring high-elevation sites to understand the long Native American presence in the Greater Yellowstone Area within the context of Earth’s changing climate.

Courtesy of Matt Stim Photography.


2019 Oct 16 – Restoring Forests in a Time of Change

How can we measure the impact of climate change fire on forest ecosystems?  Dr. C. Alina Cansler, research scientist in the School of Environmental Science at the University of Washington, will discuss how data from satellites and airborne lasers, coupled with on-the-ground measurements and simulation models, can help us understand the effects of fires, predict post-fire tree survival and tree regeneration, and design silviculture treatments that can make forests more resilient against climate change and future fires.

Courtesy of C. Alina Cansler.


2019 Sep 18 – Engineering New Materials for the Future

How can new materials improve our lives and reduce our carbon footprint at the same time?  Dr. Ian Baker, Sherman Fairchild Professor of Engineering at Dartmouth College, will discuss the properties novel metallic alloys whose use would increase the efficiency of power stations and concentrated solar power generation by allowing increases in operating temperature.

Materials Slide
Courtesy of Ian Baker, Dartmouth College.


2019 May 15 – Using Technology to Fight the Flu—One Cell at a Time

How can technology be used to combat stubborn viruses like influenza?  Dr. Connie Chang, assistant professor in MSU’s Chemical and Biological Engineering Department, will discuss how creating and processing tiny droplets containing individual virus-infected cells can help to develop therapies to fight viral diseases.

Microfluid Droplets
Photo courtesy of Dr. Connie Chang


2019 Apr 17 – Dinosaurs on “the Cutting-Edge”:  Understanding Extinct Animals through Paleohistology

How can the microscopic examination of fossilized specimens shed light on dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures?  Ellen-Thérèse Lamm, the Museum of the Rockies’ Histology Lab Manager, will describe the “cutting-edge” thin-sectioning and microscopy techniques she uses, and how the work of the lab allows researchers, students, and investigators from around the word to make important discoveries about ancient life.

Photomicrograph of T-rex rib specimen collected from US Fish & Wildlife Service Lands.
Image ©2010 Museum of the Rockies – Montana State University. All Rights Reserved.
Photomicrograph of T-rex rib specimen collected from US Fish & Wildlife Service Lands.


2019 Mar 13 – Dangerous Snow:  Understanding How Avalanches Release So You Can Be Safer in the Backcountry

How and why do avalanches “release” and how can an improved understanding improve backcountry safety?  Dr. Karl Birkeland, Director of the Forest Service’s National Avalanche Center, will offer the results of several decades of research on when snowpack conditions become avalanche prone, and how better understanding of avalanches can improve safety for those involved in winter activities.

Karl Birkeland in the snow
Image Courtesy Karl Birkeland, National Avalanche Center.


2019 Feb 13 – Yellowstone Wolves:  Science and Discovery in the World’s First National Park

What have scientists learned from the first 25 years of wolf restoration in Yellowstone National Park?  Dr. Douglas Smith, Senior Wildlife Biologist in Yellowstone, will discuss wolf population dynamics, impacts on elk and bison, wolf hunting and ecosystem impacts, and will offer philosophical ideas about the future of wolves in modern society.

Doug Smith and collared wolf
Image courtesy of Doug Smith, Yellowstone National Park.


2019 Jan 16 – Colors in the Sky:  The Science of Atmospheric Optical Phenomena

How does the sky produce rainbows, halos, auroras and other beautiful optical displays, and what can we learn from them?  Dr. Joseph Shaw, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Director of the Optical Technology Center at Montana State University, will explain the science behind the sky’s color and how these natural phenomena relate to ongoing research in optical remote sensing to answer questions in fields ranging from climate science to national defense.

Aurora Borealis
Image copyrighted by Joseph Shaw and used with permission.


2018 Nov 28 – Yellowstone Grizzly Bears: 45 Years of Scientific Discovery

What factors have led to the recovery of one of North America’s most iconic wildlife populations and what is needed to ensure their survival in the future? Dr. Frank van Manen, leader of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team at the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, will share unique ecological insights from the team’s research and the important role of technological advances in monitoring the grizzly bear population.

Image courtesy of Frank van Manen.


2018 Oct 24 – Journey from the Center of the Sun

How does the sun work, and how do we know? MSU Research Professor of Physics Emeritus and space shuttle astronaut Dr. Loren Acton will describe how scientists have used tools to piece together a working model of the sun from its very center to its influence on Earth—and how his eight days of solar observations on space shuttle Challenger contributed to the picture.

Image courtesy of the Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA.


2018 Sep 19 – Regenerative Medicine in Human Development and Aging

How can a better understanding of human cellular processes inform the fight against neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases? Dr. Renee Reijo Pera, MSU Vice President of Research and Economic Development and Professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, will share recent advances in strategies targeting these diseases.

Neural image courtesy of Renee Reijo Pera.


2018 May 15 – A Revolution in Astronomy

How do you revolutionize astronomy four centuries after Galileo first turned a telescope to the sky? Dr. Neil Cornish, MSU professor of physics, offers his answer in a discussion of gravitational wave observatories detecting collisions of black holes and neutron stars, and providing new insights into the nature of gravity, the properties of matter at extreme densities, and the origin of many elements in the periodic table.

Image Credit: Neil Cornish


2018 Apr 18 – “Flying” Bacteria as Potential Rainmakers

Certain plant-infecting bacteria that can be found circulating high in the atmosphere can also promote the formation of ice crystals needed to produce rain. Dr. David Sands, Professor of Plant Pathology at MSU, will discuss the possibilities of such “bioprecipitation” and its implications for potential mitigation of natural events including droughts and wildfires.

Photos by David Sands


2018 Mar 21 – What’s Killing the Bees? A Look at the Research

Honey bees are the primary insect pollinators of U.S. crops valued at $17 billion annually, but for the past 10 years, honey bees have suffered losses of more than 30% per year. Join Dr. Michelle Flenniken, MSU microbiologist and co-director of MSU’s Pollinator Health Center, for a discussion of factors affecting honey bee colony health, and the importance of both basic and applied science in addressing this global challenge.

Bee colonies arriving at the MSU honeybee research site and pollinator garden.
MSU photo by Kelly Gorham


2018 Feb 14 – Wildlife Enigmas on the Beartooth Plateau

High-altitude wildlife populations offer unique insights into both genetic isolation and adaptation to changing conditions.  Patrick Cross, ecologist with the Yellowstone Ecological Research Center, will discuss his study of red foxes harboring persistent ancient DNA strains despite being surrounded by newer lineages, and an upcoming citizen science project on river otters expanding into previously unsuitable habitat as climate and food supplies change.

Patrick Cross and red fox


2018 Jan 17 – Montana’s Changing Climate: Insights from the Montana Climate Assessment

How has Montana’s climate changed, what are the impacts, and how do we plan for change in the future?  Dr. Cathy Whitlock, MSU professor of Earth Sciences and lead author of the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment, will offer key insights on the two-year science-based effort and what it means for Montanans coping with climate change.


2017 Nov 29 – Capturing an Eclipse by Balloon

On August 21, student teams across the country sent balloons aloft to conduct scientific studies of the total solar eclipse.  Dr. Angela Des Jardins, principal investigator of the NASA-sponsored Eclipse Ballooning Project and director of the Montana Space Grant Consortium, will discuss early results of what the students learned and how it contributes to our understanding of eclipses and their effects.

Dr. Angela Des Jardins


2017 Oct 18 – Unseen Yellowstone: Microbial Discoveries and Biotech Applications

Hot springs are natural ecosystems where microorganisms have adapted to high temperatures and unique geochemical environments, making them ideal locations for understanding extreme ecosystems.  Dr. Brent Peyton, Director of the Thermal Biology Institute at Montana State University, will tell you why thermal features are “target” environments for isolating novel and robust microorganisms for biotechnology and energy applications.


2017 Sep 20 – Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goat Conservation and Ecology in the Northern Rockies

Dr. Robert Garrott, professor of wildlife ecology in MSU’s Ecology Department, will describe the conservation history of these two iconic mountain ungulates in the region and share some of the ecological insights from his on-going research project. He will also discuss an exciting bighorn sheep restoration effort in the Madison Range.

Dr. Robert Garrott


2017 May 10 – The Exotic Stellar Graveyard 

All stars evolve to end up as white dwarfs, neutron stars, or black holes, each with extraordinary properties—capable of producing huge explosions and gravitational waves.  Dr. Bennett Link, professor of physics at Montana State University, will discuss what these extreme objects tell us about the universe in which we live.


2017 Apr 19 – DNA Surgery for Curing Genetic Diseases

How can immune strategies used by bacteria to fight off viruses be employed to cure genetic diseases in humans?  Dr. Blake Wiedenheft, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at MSU, and recent winner of a Presidential Early Career Award, will present his research insights and their implications.


2017 Mar 22 – Adaptations in Owls

How well can they see at night, how well can they hear, how silently do they fly, why are they so hard to find—and why do people admire them so much?  Denver Holt, president of the Owl Research Institute, will discuss what owls can tell us about adapting to environments.


2017 Feb 8 – Star Circle:  A Cosmic Mirror on Medicine Mountain

How has the Big Horn Medicine Wheel kept cosmic time over thousands of years?  More accurate than atomic clocks or the calendar on our walls—the Wheel’s tracking of cosmic cycles predicts our future, according to presenter Dr. Ivy Merriot, Director of Sky Traditions.


2017 Jan 18 – The Dinosaur in the Window

Why study dinosaurs? Interim Curator of Paleontology, Dr. John Scannella, discusses how Triceratops, T. rex and other ancient creatures impact our understanding of the world around us.