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Documentary About UW Biologist Released Wednesday

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A short documentary film about a University of Wyoming biologist following the migration path of mule deer was released worldwide on Wednesday.

The film, “92 Miles: A Migration Study,” focuses on Wyoming migration scientist Patrick Rodgers as he completes a long distance run following the migration path of mule deer (92 miles along a route in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado) while also dealing with the grief of losing his father to cancer, according to the University of Wyoming.

The one-half hour film, sponsored by companies including Yeti and Sitka, was shot and co-produced by UW alumnus Benjamin Kraushaar. It can be viewed here.

The idea for the documentary originated as a plan to give audiences a new perspective of mule deer migration, through the lens of long-distance running.

Viewers will also learn about the science of migrations and the challenges migratory deer face. The film details the importance of wild, connected landscapes for humans and wildlife alike.

“Migration is a journey of risk and suffering: dodging semis on perilous highways, tearing ligaments in barbed-wire fences, or searching for food while trying to avoid becoming food for a hungry mountain lion,” Rodgers said. “Indeed, life is fleeting. Yet, through it all, mule deer seem to possess a transcendental ability to keep their heads up and keep moving, as if their lives depend on it, which they do.

“My dad finished his life’s race Dec. 15, 2017. His life inside of me was a huge reason I kept my head up and finished those long 92 miles,” Rodgers continued. “Loss is an inescapable part of life’s grand migration and, without a doubt, I will have to grapple with that reality for the rest of my life. Yet, as I navigate this beautiful life, at least I know I’m not alone.”

Rodgers, who is from Casper, graduated from UW with a zoology degree in 2014 and completed his master’s degree in zoology in May 2020.

He received a National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship for his studies into the differences in migratory behavior of male and female mule deer, which involved capturing and outfitting 95 buck mule deer with satellite collars near Baggs to track their movements and compare them with the movements of does.

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UW Scientists Investigating Mysterious Melting of Earth’s Crust

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A group of University of Wyoming professors and students is researching an unusual belt of lava-formed rocks that stretches over 2,000 miles throughout North America, from Canada to Mexico.

The igneous rock belt runs through Idaho, Montana, Nevada, southeast California and Arizona. One clue to the origin of the belt of igneous rocks is that the rocks chiefly formed 80 million to 50 million years ago, during a mountain-building event called the Laramide orogeny.

“Geoscientists usually associate long belts of igneous rocks with chains of volcanoes at subduction zones, like Mount Shasta, Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainer,” said Jay Chapman, an assistant professor in UW’s Department of Geology and Geophysics. “What makes this finding so interesting and mysterious is that this belt of igneous rocks is located much farther inland, away from the edge of the continent, and doesn’t contain any evidence for producing volcanoes. In fact, all of the melting to generate the igneous rocks originally took place deep underground, five to 10 miles beneath the surface.”

Chapman is lead author of a paper, titled “The North American Cordilleran Anatectic Belt,” which was published online in February in the journal Earth-Science Reviews.

The paper is a result of a special course taught by Simone Runyon, an assistant professor in UW’s Department of Geology and Geophysics, and Chapman.

Runyon, six UW graduate students and one undergraduate student, who took part in the course, are co-authors of the paper.

“It was really fascinating to start with a scientific question in a classroom, then collect and analyze data, and eventually publish our results,” said Cody Pridmore, a UW graduate student from Orange, California and co-author of the paper. “It’s a process most college students don’t get to experience.”

The researchers have several working hypotheses about what caused the rocks to melt. One hypothesis is that water infiltrated the deep crust.

“The geochemistry of these rocks indicates that melting may have occurred at relatively low temperatures, below 800 degrees Celsius,” said Jessie Shields, a Ph.D. student at UW from Minneapolis, who is working to solve this mystery. “That is still very hot, but not hot enough to produce very large volumes of magma. Water lowers the melting point of rocks, similar to how salt lowers the melting point of ice, and could increase the amount of magma generated.”

This work has implications for what causes rocks to melt and where specific types of magmas can be found.

“Many of the igneous systems in the study area contain economically important ore deposits,” says Runyon, who specializes in ore deposits. “Understanding the large-scale igneous processes that form these provinces helps us to better understand how ore deposits form and to better explore for natural resources.”

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UW Employee Receives Threatening Email, Police Investigating

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Police are investigating the delivery of threatening, anti-Semitic email to a University of Wyoming employee last week.

UW spokesman Chad Baldwin confirmed to Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that an employee received an anti-Semitic email that threatened him with death and the incident is under investigation.

The email did not come from a university account, Baldwin said, but a Yahoo account. It was sent to Ben Herdt, the university’s manager of academic advising and a racial justice activist, according to the Laramie Boomerang.

The sender was identified as “Miley Lucas,” a person who does not have any affiliation with UW.

This incident comes just a few months after UW was a target of a racist attack on Zoom during a Black History Month event in February.

On Feb. 15, the five people sent racist and pornographic messages during a Zoom-hosted UW event.

Apparently, the UW was one of many schools across the country to have Black History Month events disrupted by such attacks. Institutions including the University of Southern California, Washington’s Gonzaga University and Rutgers University in New Jersey were “Zoom bombed” with similar hateful, violent words and images.

Baldwin said it wasn’t known whether there was connection between the threatening email sent last week and the racist Zoom attack.

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UW Professor Receives Prestigious Fulbright Scholarship

in Energy/News/University of Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A University of Wyoming professor has been awarded a prestigious scholarship to conduct research related to changes caused by shifts away from fossil fuels.

School of Energy Resources Professor Tara Righetti has won a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research at the Center for Legal Research and Perspectives in Law at the University of Lille College of Law in France.

During her 11-month sabbatical from UW, she will collaborate with researchers in Lille to formulate a comparative study of energy, industrial and workforce transition policies in Wyoming and France, with a focus on climate policies, sustainability and the circular economy.

“I am deeply honored to travel to Lille as a Fulbright Scholar,” Righetti said. “The award provides an incredible opportunity to develop new collaborations and research regarding energy transitions.”

Righetti’s current areas of expertise concentrate on legal issues related to split estates, subsurface trespass, energy transition and carbon capture and sequestration. Her proposed project will build upon her current competencies while allowing her to develop new partnerships and expand her research into international and comparative law.

“Professor Righetti is a leader in understanding complex energy policies and determining how Wyoming could be impacted, and identifying potential approaches to overcome negative outcomes,” SER Executive Director Holly Krutka said. “Professor Righetti’s choice to study parallel and diverging energy policies in Wyoming and the Hauts-de-France region is timely and important. I was thrilled to learn of her much-deserved recognition as a Fulbright Scholar.”

Righetti is among 800 U.S. citizens who will conduct research and/or teach abroad for the 2021-22 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.

Fulbright scholars engage in cutting-edge research and expand their professional networks, often continuing research collaborations started abroad and laying the groundwork for forging future partnerships between institutions.

Righetti joined the UW faculty in 2014 and has worked to provide important scholarship for her discipline: informative resources for the Wyoming natural resources community; and educational opportunities for students.

Regularly sought out for her expertise and aid on major energy and carbon storage projects nationwide, she is a renowned expert on U.S. energy law.

In 2018, she was appointed as a trustee-at-large with the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation and, most recently, she was awarded tenure in the UW College of Law.

“Professor Righetti’s receipt of the Fulbright is an outstanding accomplishment and a unique recognition,” UW College of Law Dean Klint Alexander said. “In this special 75th anniversary year of the Fulbright program, she joins the ranks of many distinguished recipients of this honor who have gone on to become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, foreign ministers and business leaders.”

Alexander added that Righetti’s research in France next year will be an opportunity to work collaboratively with international partners in several fields and to “facilitate engagement between the United States and Europe on energy policy development in the 21st century.”

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to forge lasting connections between U.S. residents and the people of other countries, counter misunderstandings and help people and nations work together toward common goals.

Fulbright scholars address critical global challenges in all disciplines while building relationships, knowledge and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the U.S. 

Since its establishment in 1946, the Fulbright Program has enabled more than 390,000 dedicated and accomplished students, scholars, artists, teachers and professionals of all backgrounds to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and to find solutions of shared international concerns.

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UW, LCCC Explain Reasoning Behind Not Requiring COVID Vaccines

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming is following the lead of other colleges and universities in not requiring students or employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus to return to school this fall, a spokesman said Friday.

UW spokesman Chad Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that many colleges and universities across the country have decided against requiring vaccinations as a condition of reopening their campuses.

“While several dozen private institutions are requiring vaccines, very few public universities are at this point, and none of our peer institutions in the Midwest-Mountain West region are,” Baldwin said. “At the same time, we are strongly encouraging everyone in the UW community to be vaccinated, because the vaccines have been shown to be highly effective and safe – and offer the best hope of ending the pandemic.”

However, the university continues to encourage its students and staff to get the vaccination, he added.

More than half of the university’s 2,941 employees, 56.2% — 1,653 — reported receiving at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and 50 reported receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine as of Friday. Use of the the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was discontinued in April because of links to a rate blood clotting disorder.

While employees aren’t required to be vaccinated, UW is offering incentives for those who get the vaccine. Employees who report having been fully vaccinated are eligible for drawings for prizes such as iPads, AirPods and an Apple Watch, as well as a personal day off.

Baldwin said the information on employee vaccinations is being reported by employees themselves.

“”We’re asking students to do the same, but the numbers are just starting to come in, and we don’t have a good compilation yet,” he said. “I’m not sure when those might start to be available.”

As of Monday, the total number of active coronavirus cases among UW students and employees stood at 27, including 22 students living off-campus, three students living on-campus and two employees.

In spite of the increase in coronavirus cases this month at the university, the infection numbers and percentage of positive test results are far below where they stood at the same point in the fall semester.

The percentage of positive test results was 0.22% last week, the 13th week of the spring semester, compared to a percentage of 2.12% prevalence rate during week 13 of the fall semester.

Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne also will not require vaccinations, said spokeswoman Lisa Trimble.

Trimble said the decision was made because of a low COVID-19 infection rate at the college, as well as the continued use of face masks and observation of social distancing.

She added, however, that the college continued to provide employees and students with information on the vaccines.

“We are working to provide employees and students with information to help them make an informed decision regarding their personal choice to be vaccinated or not and feel that it is important to allow for everyone to have personal responsibility for the choices that they make,” she said. “We will continue to offer online and hybrid courses for those students that prefer to learn from home or are concerned about returning to the traditional classroom setting. These offerings also allow for flexibility in scheduling which is important for some of our students.”

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Cowboys’ Marcus Williams — Mountain West Freshman of the Year — Enters Transfer Portal

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By Tracy Ringolsby,

Eighteen months ago, Marcus Williams initially committed to play for Northern Colorado and the Bears coach at the time, Jeff Linder. When Linder resigned from the Northern Colorado job to become the head coach at Wyoming in mid-March 2020, Williams quickly withdrew his commitment to the Bears, and began a Wyoming Cowboy.

But not for long. Oh, he played his freshman season for the Cowboys, and was selected the freshman of the year in the Mountain West Conference.

On Tuesday, however, Williams announced he had entered the transfer portal, which prompted a brief statement by Linder that was issued by the athletic department, which indicated that Williams would not be returning. A player can withdraw from the transfer portal and return to his original school, but only if the decision to return is welcomed by both parties.

“We thank Marcus for his contributions to our program and we wish him well in the future,” Linder said in the statement.

That was followed by the line: Linder will not have any further comment in regard to Williams’ transfer.

Williams is the second Cowboy to enter the transfer portal since the season ended. Two weeks ago, sophomore Kwane Marble II announced he was transferring Loyola Marymount where former Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards is an assistant coach.

Linder preaches defense and team play, and there were signs in the second half of the season that he was challenging Williams. When the Cowboys played Boise State on Jan. 31, Williams was not in the starting lineup for the only time all season. Linder was sending a message about the importance of defense.

And it was a statement, but obviously not a punishment in light of the fact that Williams wound up playing 30 minutes in that game. Hunter Maldonado, who played 32 minutes, was the only member of the Cowboys to get more floor time than Williams.

In the final seven games of the season, Williams scoring average dropped to 12.6 points per game, including just four points in the regular-season finale against Utah State, in which he played a season-low 22 minutes.

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UW Football Recruit Killed In Dallas Shooting Over Weekend

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A University of Wyoming football recruit was killed over the weekend at a hotel in Dallas.

Tony Evans Jr., 17, was shot sometime early Sunday inside a room at a Hawthorn Suites in Dallas, according to the Dallas Police Department.

Police responded to the shooting around 1:35 a.m. Sunday, finding Evans with a gunshot wound. According to the Dallas Morning News, another person was also shot.

Evans was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The motive is unknown at this time. The second shooting victim was in stable condition Monday morning.

No one has been taken into custody at this time.

Evans’ death broke hearts in not only his home state of Texas, but Wyoming, as well.

“Our hearts are with the Evans family as they go through this incredibly difficult time,” UW football coach Craig Bohl said. “We are so sad to hear of Tony’s passing.  We have been in contact with Tony’s family and are here to support them in anyway we can.”

Evans was signed by the university back in February. He was a native to Lancaster, Texas.

As a senior wide receiver, he had 13 catches for 268 yards and four touchdowns for Lancaster High School last season.

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Gordon Calls UW Water Bill Best Outcome Of Poor Options

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A bill allowing the University of Wyoming to develop its own water system without regulation by the city of Laramie is a poor solution to the ongoing dispute between the university and the city, according to Gov. Mark Gordon.

Although he signed the bill into law on Monday, Gordon said he had many reservations about it.

“My decision to sign this bill into law is simply an outgrowth of selecting the best outcome out of a suite of poor options,” he wrote in a letter to House Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette.

The bill stems from a years-long debate over water used to irrigate the Jacoby Golf Course.

According to testimony during committee reviews of the bill, while Laramie allowed the university to use its water to irrigate the course for more than 50 years, the city started charging for the water in 2007 and the university is now paying almost $200,000 a year for the water.

The university developed two wells on land adjoining the golf course, but was prevented from using it to irrigate the course by a Laramie ordinance that banned water from being imported into the city’s boundaries without city approval.

The bill, House Bill 198, would allow the university to develop and use its own water without restrictions by the city.

But Gordon said the bill amounted to using legislation to address a local issue, a practice state Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, referred to as “litigating through legislation.”

“I agree that compelling legal arguments were made on both sides in committee and on the floor,” he wrote. “But this matter also involved the state engineer and some authority of an executive branch entity. Broadly, I am disappointed that this is the outcome in front of me today.”

He added the bill provides a solution only for the university, not other private property owners whose rights to use their water may be affected by Laramie’s ordinance.

In addition, the bill did not address the issue of whether Laramie can regulate water use within its boundaries, a responsibility he said state law gives to the state engineer, Gordon said.

“These and other questions will have to go unanswered for the time being,” he said. “I hope you will continue to look into this situation and offer solutions.”

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UW to Fully Reopen For Fall Semester After Pandemic

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

For the first time in more than a year, the University of Wyoming will be fully reopened to students, faculty and staff this fall.

Improving coronavirus infection numbers, along with vaccine availability and acceptance, have made it possible for the University of Wyoming to move forward with plans for a traditional fall semester with in-person experiences and fewer restrictions, the university announced..

The UW Board of Trustees on Thursday adopted a resolution to fully reopen the university for the fall semester as long as officials are consistent in applying health policy guidelines and state and federal health directives. This will include allowing face-to-face classes at maximum capacity, face-to-face student engagement programs, in-person athletics experiences and other activities and events.

Originally, the board wasn’t supposed to decide on fall semester plans until June.

“What we’re seeing with infection numbers and vaccine availability and acceptance has given us a high degree of confidence that we’ll have a pre-pandemic campus environment for the fall semester,” President Ed Seidel said. “Unless there’s a dramatic, unexpected development, such as an outbreak of some new dangerous COVID variant that is resistant to the new vaccines, we’ll be back fully in person this fall.”

As of Thursday, the total number of active COVID-19 cases among UW students and employees stood at eight: four students living off-campus and four employees living off-campus.

The percentage of samples testing positive in the university’s testing program has decreased from 0.34% at the start of the spring semester to 0.06% in the last week.

Additionally, coronavirus vaccines have been made available to all UW employees and are expected to be available to all students age 18 and over in Albany County in a matter of weeks.

“This has been a difficult time for everyone, and we’re so excited that our students will be back to the traditional campus experience this fall,” Board of Trustees Chairman Jeff Marsh said. “The board strongly supports a full reopening of the university and has heard loud and clear the concerns voiced by so many of our constituents throughout the state.”

Last week, the university announced that the significant decline in coronavirus cases and increasing vaccine availability prompted an adjustment to UW’s spring semester plan, allowing students and faculty the option of continuing in-person experiences throughout the semester.

Instead of asking students to leave UW’s residence halls and encouraging students to not return following UW’s abbreviated spring break from March 31-April 4, the university will maintain residential hall living as an option, as well as continue to offer student support programs and activities.

Some faculty members may continue with virtual lessons or convert to face-to-face classes through semester’s end.

Requirements for the wearing of masks, social distancing and COVID-19 testing will continue through the spring semester, including at the in-person commencement ceremonies May 14-15.

“We’re encouraged at the level of acceptance of the vaccines by members of the UW community,” Seidel said. “Whereas a month ago we weren’t sure if students would have access to vaccines until later in the summer, it’s clear now that the rollout will be much sooner than that. We’re counting on the level of vaccine acceptance to continue at a high level.”

For the fall semester, a much higher percentage of classes will be conducted face-to-face, and it is expected that distancing, gathering and testing requirements will be eased.

It’s not yet certain whether there will continue to be any requirement for face protection.

“While we will need to decide a few details later, we’re very confident in saying that students this fall can expect a much more traditional experience than we’ve been able to provide the past three semesters,” Seidel said. “In the meantime, we encourage everyone to continue following our requirements and public health guidelines, and especially to make sure they’re vaccinated, so that we can put the pandemic behind us.”

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UW Professor Helps Identify Jaguar at U.S./Mexico Border

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A University of Wyoming professor has helped discover a species of jaguar not seen before in the United States near the Mexican border.

An image of the jaguar was captured recently by an Arizona graduate student and suggests habitat connectivity might remain between the southwestern U.S. and the northernmost jaguar subpopulation in Sonora, Mexico, which is more than 100 miles south of the border.

Ganesh Marin, a doctoral student in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona, discovered the jaguar while reviewing footage from wildlife cameras deployed as part of a research project studying mammal diversity and movements in the borderlands region.

John Koprowski, the dean of the University of Wyoming’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, is Marin’s graduate adviser and professor emeritus at the University of Arizona. He is also leading the project that led to the discovery.

“This is an exciting discovery that highlights the importance of finding ways to sustain connectivity of our landscapes so that we can maintain wild and working lands in functional ecosystems today and for future generations,” Koprowski said. “The University of Wyoming and the state have a long history of working to facilitate animal movements and migration, and this new discovery, as part of a joint project by the University of Wyoming and the University of Arizona, adds to our leadership in wildlife conservation.”

In addition to jaguars, the area is rich in biodiversity and provides habitat for many other species, including ocelots, beavers and the Mexican gray wolf.

Jaguars are the largest species of big cats native to the Americas and are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Historically, the animals occupied a continuous range extending from central Argentina to the southwestern U.S. states of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

However, since 1900, that range has decreased due primarily to human disturbance and habitat loss, and is now believed to span an area from northern Argentina to northwestern Mexico.

By 1990, jaguars were thought to have been eliminated from the United States.

Although individual cats have been observed in areas of southern Arizona and New Mexico in recent years, the jaguar observed in the project by Marin and Koprowski — dubbed “El Bonito” — is almost certainly from the Mexican Pacific subpopulation located in the Mexican state of Sonora and is the most northern jaguar reported for Mexico.

The finding indicates the need to maintain and conserve habitat connectivity and water resources on which the animals rely.

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