August 6, 2008
Dear Friend of Idaho State University:
It's likely that you remember the summer 20 years ago when wildfires of epic scale charred 1.2 million acres of forest in and around Yellowstone National Park.
The embers were still smoldering when Idaho State University stream ecologist Wayne Minshall, Ph.D., joined by other ISU faculty and graduate students, began a five-year period during which they studied the fires' effects.
It was an opportunity to pursue science that seems especially important today in the West, where wildfires have become a fact of life.
Next week, Dr. Minshall—now professor emeritus—and ISU biological sciences assistant professor Colden Baxter, Ph.D., will return to Yellowstone to lead a 10-member team of scientists from around the nation.
The group will include former graduate students and colleagues from the initial studies.
For two weeks, they will test their theories of the effects of wildfire on natural ecosystems and stream ecology. They will focus on the interplay between climate, weather conditions and—as Dr. Minshall puts it—the legacy of fire.
It is just one example of how the work of Idaho State University scientists is relevant both here at home, and in the world beyond Idaho. You will see more about this project in a future edition of Idaho State University Magazine and elsewhere.
ISU scientists also are helping to address drought-related challenges that agriculture may face in the future.
For example, Dring Crowell, Ph.D., a recent addition to our biological sciences faculty, is attempting to genetically engineer potato and soybean plants to be drought resistant.
With funding from the National Science Foundation, Dr. Crowell is manipulating potato and soybean plants to close their stomata—pores through which water is lost—more than normal plants do under drought conditions.
In other campus news, funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will enable School of Nursing Director Carol Ashton, Ph.D., to acquire three new patient simulators and audio-video telecommunication equipment.
The patient simulators—which exhibit real-life clinical situations—and other equipment will enhance our Advanced Nursing Clinical Simulation Laboratory's ability to provide its state-of-the-art nursing education to students and clinicians all across Idaho.
Finally, I wish to welcome three new members of the Idaho State University Foundation Board of Directors. They are:
- Bruce Bistline, a Boise attorney who has worked tirelessly on behalf of the University's L. E. and Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center.
- Sylvia Medina, president and CEO of the Idaho Falls firm North Wind, Inc., a small-business leader in environmental management, engineering, construction, scientific consulting and information technology; and
- Douglas R. Pitman of Jackson, Wyoming, a cofounder of Micron Technologies, Inc., ISU College of Technology alumnus and benefactor of the college's Douglas R. Pitman Endowment.
Summer continues to be a busy time for us at Idaho State University, and we are anticipating great accomplishments during the new academic year.
Arthur C. Vailas, Ph.D.
President, Idaho State University