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Credit: Larry Johnson, "Denver Skyline at Sunset," December 17, 2009

New West Daily Roundup for July 14, 2016

Today in New West news: CSU explores why women leave STEM, Army Corps of Engineers sued over bull trout, medical marijuana in Montana, and Denver-based cybersecurity firm raises $9M.

According to the Denver Business Journal, a new study from Colorado State University (CSU) centered on why women are more likely to drop out of a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program than their male counterparts. CSU came to the conclusion that women drop out due to a lack of confidence, especially when it comes to calculus.

However, it must be said here: the study did not determine women were more likely to drop STEM majors because they can’t do the math. Rather, it’s an issue of confidence, CSU asserts: the women in the study merely believed they couldn’t do well in the class. From the DBJ:

The study says that women are one and a half times more likely to drop out of calculus than men.

The study, which was published Wednesday in PLOS ONE, a journal published by the Public Library of Science, found that while both men and women experience a loss of confidence in their math skills at a similar rate in Calculus I, the problem is that women have a lower confidence rate to begin with.

“When women are leaving, it’s because they don’t think they can do it, not because they can’t do it,” said study co-author Bailey Fosdick, an assistant professor of statistics at CSU.

Fosdick, who wrote the study with fellow professors Jessica Ellis and Chris Rasmussen, asked students about their preparation, test score, background and learning experience in their pursuit of a STEM degree before taking Calculus I and after.

“It seemed like there was a big issue with gender — it just kind of jumped out,” Fosdick said.

Students who went on to take Calculus II were considered to “persist” in their STEM track, and many of the female students who did not said it was because they didn’t believe they understood the ideas of Calculus I well enough to continue.

Of those who gave this response, 14 percent of those who dropped out of their STEM path were men and 35 percent were women.

The DBJ notes that this confidence gap could come to bite STEM employers, who are working with a diminishing talent pool. Currently, women hold approximately 25 percent of STEM jobs in the U.S. (and earn 33 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts)—but according to Ellis, if fewer women dropped out from pursuing STEM in college, they could occupy upwards of 37 percent of all STEM jobs. The study’s authors conclude the biggest thing educators can do is encourage students and bolster their confidence, paying especial attention to their female charges.

Meanwhile, over in Montana/Idaho, a Montana-based environmental group has sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration and federal Bureau of Reclamation over bull trout—specifically bull trout mitigation policies—in the Columbia River basin. According to the Missoulian, Helena-based Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed the suit July 11 in Portland’s U.S. District Court, alleging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is failing to protect the trout species through modification of hydroelectric dams throughout the basin:

“We’d been talking to the agencies for a while; they promised they would consult and never did,” Alliance director Michael Garrity said Wednesday. “We’re just forcing them to do what they said they would do.”

The three agencies operate power dams on the Flathead, Clark Fork, Columbia and related waterways. The bull trout was listed as a threatened species in 1998 under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and its critical habitat was designated across the Columbia Basin in 2010. That law requires those agencies to take special steps when their projects affect places critical to bull trout survival, Garrity said.

Bull trout have a unique life cycle where they live adult lives in lakes or large rivers, but return to tiny mountain streams to spawn. Several dam operators, such as Avista Corp. and NorthWestern Energy, have modified their dams at Thompson Falls, Noxon Rapids and Cabinet Gorge to assist bull trout passage.

The suit alleges dams at Libby, Dworshak, Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental, Ice Harbor, McNary, John Day, The Dalles, Hungry Horse, Albeni Falls, Grand Coulee, Chief Joseph, Bonneville, Cougar, Dexter, Lookout Point, Hills Creek, Blue River, and Fern Ridge should be reviewed to see how they affect bull trout survival and what can be done to improve conditions for the fish.

Keeping with Montana, according to the Billings Gazette, a new initiative regarding medical marijuana will appear on the state’s November ballot after a successful petition. The initiative (known as Montana I-182) would reverse current regulations set to go into effect August 31—regulations that would limit medical marijuana providers to no more than three patients, essentially cutting out 12,000 Montanans currently in the program. From the Gazette:

The restrictions are the result of legislative and legal action that gutted the 2004 voter-approved law, passed with a 64 percent majority, legalizing pot for medical use.

Medical marijuana providers would be unable to sustain viable businesses if the restrictions go into effect, said Jeff Krauss, treasurer for Montana Citizens for I-182.

“I just don’t think there are that many good Samaritans out there,” Krauss said. “It’s really saying cancer patients or MS sufferers have to learn to grow medical marijuana and research what plants help which diseases most. It’s really a return to prohibition.”

Krauss said I-182 would lift those bans, but would also require providers to obtain licenses and submit to unannounced, yearly inspections. It would allow for product testing to ensure safety, consistency, and accurate dosages. And it would allow sales of medical marijuana to veterans and other patients diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We’re not just rolling back to the laws we had before,” Krauss said. “It’s an improved law.”

Finally, down in Denver, cybsersecurity firm CyberGRX has raised $9 million in a first round of funding, according to the Denver Business Journal:

LoDo-based CyberGRX, which said it’s a third-party cyber risk management platform, said the Series A funding was led by Allegis Capital, with participation from Blackstone, TenEleven Ventures, Rally Ventures, GV (formerly Google Ventures), MassMutual Ventures and “other strategic investors.”

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