Montana Public Radio

University of Montana


This story is part of our series that looks at lasting ways Montana is adapting during the pandemic. It’s funded in part by the Solutions Journalism Network.

Criminal justice system reformers for years have sought to reduce county jail and state prison populations in Montana. The COVID-19 pandemic has sped up the process, mostly at county detention facilities across the state.

UM geographer and social scientist Sarah Halvorson during her fall 2019 run of Bhutan's Snowman Trek.
Courtesy of Sarah Halvorson

University of Montana geographer and social scientist Sarah Halvorson studies the mountainous region across the Pacific Ocean known as High Asia.

“High Asia just offers just an incredible foray into amazing mountain geography and mountain building processes, but also the opportunity to interact and learn from really unique communities that have been living in that landscape for thousands of years,” Halvorson said.

Last fall, Halvorson joined three other Missoula women on a 21-day expedition in the Himalayas known as the Snowman Trek. It takes hearty travelers across 14 high-mountain passes, all over 14,000 feet in elevation.

CDC/ Judy Schmidt

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the number of vaccines being given to children for diseases like polio and hepatitis B has fallen dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic.

Montana’s public health departments and providers, seeing the same decline, are concerned it could lead to an outbreak of a vaccine preventable disease and pull resources away from the COVID-19 response.

University of Montana Associate Professor Ashley Ballantyne is a bioclimatologist.

“And what that means is I study how the biosphere and the atmosphere interact,” Ballantyne says.

The biosphere is Earth’s surface layer that contains all life: humans, plants, animals, microbes and soil. The biosphere has a disproportionately big impact on the atmosphere above it, according to Ballantyne.

Outgoing Provost Jon Harbor
Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost / University of Montana

The University of Montana’s executive vice president and provost is leaving for a new position in online education.

The University hired outgoing Provost Jon Harbor just over two years ago. Harbor came to Missoula from Purdue University, where he served as an associate vice provost and the executive director of digital education.

Kayla Ruth and Samantha Bundick look through binoculars in 2016 while doing research aimed at determining the species of songbirds they're observing on private lands in Eastern Montana.
Courtesy UM Avian Science Center

Scientists' spring and summer field seasons are being postponed, altered or cancelled completely in the face of COVID-19. Time sensitive research is the most vulnerable.

This story is another in our series looking at the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on scientific research efforts in Montana.

Adam Baumann is the only scientist working inside the University of Montana's Flathead Lake Biological Station lab. He's wearing a mask due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Sofia Stuart-rasi / Montana Public Radio

May 4, the University system in Montana started to slightly relax restrictions on research and lab work. But labs across the state continue to grapple with how to keep their experiments on course.

This is another story in our series looking at the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on science in Montana.

Postdoctoral researcher Anna Nemudraia works with wastewater samples in Blake Wiedenheft’s lab at Montana State University.
Courtesy Anna Nemudraia

While some research is plagued by uncertainty and has ground to a halt, COVID-19 has fast-tracked other innovative experiments and spawned new collaborations.

This is the first in a series looking at the push and pull of the novel coronavirus pandemic on science in Montana.

Researcher Jay Evans leads a University of Montana team that was awarded $2.5 million in NIH funding to advance a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
University of Montana

University of Montana researchers are working on a vaccination for COVID-19. The Center for Translational Medicine received $2.5 million in funding for the project from the National Institutes of Health.

A sign welcomes people to the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, home to the Aaniiih and Nakoda, or Gros Ventre and Assiniboine, tribes.
Nora Saks

Lack of internet access and financial pressures are raising concerns about a potential increased rate of Native American college dropouts. As classes move online during the coronavirus pandemic, tribal colleges report more students are withdrawing or aren’t participating.