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Earth Sciences

Omar Cornejo and Joanna Kelley in their WSU lab
Spring 2018

It’s in the genes

When Omar Cornejo got his genomic analysis back from 23andMe, he and his wife, fellow population geneticist Joanna Kelley, were both a bit surprised and vindicated. Venezuelan, Cornejo expected to see the alleles, or variations of a gene, from Native American, western European, and North African populations. But he was unaware that his family’s deep history also included ancestors from sub-Saharan Africa.

That just goes to show the importance of broadly sampling the genome, says Kelley. “The lesson is that if you just look at the mitochondria, you’d assume this person is from Africa. But if you look at just the Y chromosome, you’d assume … » More …

Jaguar
Spring 2018

To catch a cat

Trekking through one of the largest unexplored rainforests in the world, La Mosquitia in Honduras, Travis King set up traps last spring to catch jaguars—or whatever other animal came into range of the cameras.

King, an environmental science graduate student at Washington State University, was one of twelve biologists conducting the first biological survey of the area known as La Ciudad Blanca or the Lost City of the Monkey God, astounding ruins first identified in 2012.

It was already familiar work for King, who has used remote-sensing camera traps and other methods to identify the behavior and distribution of elusive big cats … » More …

Cougar head on camera
Spring 2018

Gallery: Central Washington wildlife caught on camera

Using over 400 motion-activated camera traps, Washington State University wildlife biologist Daniel Thornton and his graduate students Travis King and Arthur Scully searched for the rare and elusive lynx in the Kettle Mountains and north Cascades of central Washington.

An assistant professor in the School of Environmental Science, Thornton led the largest lynx camera survey ever done in the state in 2016. The researchers found the first photographic evidence of a lynx in the Kettles in nearly two decades.

Read more about Thornton’s research on lynx. You can also read about Travis King and his work in both Washington and Central America in “» More …

Microbes in soil
Winter 2017

The microbe whisperers

Tarah Sullivan is fiercely insistent that we are all interconnected. The Washington State University soil microbiologist and ecologist says that understanding those connections is key to a healthy future.

“I know it sounds a little hokey,” the mother of two daughters apologizes without backing down: “Microorganisms connect everything everyday in every way. We absolutely could not survive on the planet without active and healthy microbiomes, in humans and in the environment.”

Sullivan’s work focuses on how microbial communities in soil impact heavy metal biogeochemistry. Many metals are important micronutrients for both plants and animals—but too much of a good thing can make plants sick. … » More …

Clouds over Hood Canal
Fall 2017

Streaming views

Over 500 streams and rivers (and thousands of other inflows) enter Puget Sound. Here are four that you can view close-up as they make their way into the second largest estuary in the United States.

Clear Creek

Clear Creek in Kitsap County is a major stream system flowing into Dyes Inlet at Silverdale. It had, over years agricultural and then urban development, lost its floodplain, resulting in increased flooding, erosion of roads and trails, and degradation of salmon populations. The Clear Creek restoration project removed 1,500 feet of an existing road, replaced and upgraded two aging culverts, created 500 feet of new stream channel … » More …

Fall 2017

Build your own rain garden

Learn how to design, install and maintain your rain garden with the free Rain Garden Handbook for Western Washington (PDF).

You can find out more rain garden ideas and details from WSU Extension. If you have more questions, please contact your County Extension rain garden expert.

Be sure to check out where and where not to build your garden. Not every place is suitable.

 

Visit WSU Extension’s rain garden website.

Fall 2017

Shifting waters

On the south end of Puget Sound, where I lived for a number of years, water surrounds Olympia: Black Lake, Budd Bay, Capitol Lake, inlets, rivers, and creeks. It’s part of the picturesque scenery that I enjoyed daily, until I saw a half-submerged SUV at an intersection. The storms of 2007 flooded some streets, not to mention covering I-5 just south in Centralia. Water had become an unexpected hazard.

We can expect even more heavy storms and major floods, especially in the Midwest and Northeast, as the climate changes. Floods that were once seen every 20 years are projected to happen as much as … » More …

Fall 2017

Streaming solutions

High in the Cascade and Olympic Mountain snowfields, pristine rivulets trickle into brooks that descend through forest, farmland, and town. Streams merge into rivers and sweep through cities until finally breaking into Puget Sound and the marine waters of the Pacific.

There, in the southern arm of the Salish Sea, the waters mingle in a fertile estuary teeming with biodiversity.

“Looking out at the waters of Puget Sound, you see the sunset, the beautiful mountains, and people think, ‘Everything is good, we’ve got the orca.’ But we have invisible problems,” says Chrys Bertolotto, natural resource programs manager at the Washington State University Snohomish County … » More …

Fall 2017

Bear watching

The headlines paint a dire picture: By the 2030s, global warming could completely melt Arctic sea ice, imperiling the 19 known polar bear populations that range across the United States, Canada, Russia, Greenland, and Norway.

Could, as some fear, the trend spell extinction for Ursus martimus?

For two of the country’s premiere polar bear researchers—wildlife biologists KARYN RODE ’99 MS, ’05 PhD, and DAVID C. DOUGLAS ’86 MS, both of whom work for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center—the answer is a decided “No.”

But neither is the future rosy for the animals, according to Douglas, who uses satellite tracking to monitor their … » More …