- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Gov. Steve Bullock has announced a total of $8.3 million in grants for research projects at Montana State University and the University of Montana.

The funding comes from the university system’s $15 million Montana Research and Economic Development Initiative, which was passed by the 2015 Legislature. The investment pool was created to support university research, create jobs and boost the state’s economy.

MSU plant sciences professor Barry Jacobsen won a $2.27 million grant for his project that seeks to make farms and ranches more efficient and profitable by using data from satellites and other sensors to target pesticides and fertilizers to specific spots, rather than treating entire fields. His research also seeks to use sensors to give farmers information about soil moisture that might allow them to plant cover crops that use little water, rather than letting some fields lie fallow each year to store moisture for the next wheat crop.

Another MSU professor, Joe Shaw, won $2.49 million for research on compact optical sensors that could be used for precision agriculture and medical imaging.

In Missoula, assistant research professor Sarj Patel received $2.2 million to work with experts to create diagnostic tools for survivors of traumatic brain injury and to begin clinical trials based on the technology developed by the research team.

UM chemistry professor Chris Palmer received nearly $1.3 million to advance new technology to allow continuous water quality monitoring. The sensors will be able to detect aquatic invasive species, organic pollutants, evidence of arsenic as well as measure the pH and alkalinity of water.

The projects were selected through a competitive process that began with faculty submissions to committees on each campus. The universities forwarded a handful of the proposals to an advisory committee, which chose those that would be funded.

Many of the projects involve researchers on more than one campus as well as partnerships with private industry.

Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian said Tuesday that four more projects are close to being funded.

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