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Environmental Studies

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 …

Fall 2017

Exodus: Climate and the movement of the people

Vast swaths of forests in western North America are dead or dying, killed by pine bark beetle. The beetles have been there all along, but prolonged droughts reduced the trees’ ability to defend themselves from the inner bark-munching bugs.

The western slopes of the Sierra Nevada range in California have been especially hard hit by the depredation, just as people who made money in Silicon Valley sought to move their families out of the choked cities and up into the beautiful mountain forests. Now, to mitigate risk of catastrophic fire and the further spread of pests such as bark beetle, landowners must cut down … » More …

Monarch butterfly
Summer 2017

Very well off the beaten path

“There he is!” I look up as tattered orange wings flutter above the sunflowers. A lone male monarch butterfly hovers near the milkweed patch, gallantly hoping, says wildlife ecologist Rod Sayler, for the arrival of a female.

The scene took place early last August at the Washington State University Arboretum and Wildlife Center, where for the first time in 25 years, Sayler documented the iconic butterflies living and breeding on campus. Weeks earlier, to his astonishment, he’d found a handful of monarch caterpillars devouring the leaves of recently restored showy milkweed plants.

“The monarchs were a big surprise for me,” he says. “It’s the first … » More …

Zeroing in on critical zones
Spring 2017

Zeroing in on critical zones

For almost half a century, scientists have been measuring carbon dioxide in the air two miles above sea level in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. At first, Charles David Keeling counted 310 parts of carbon dioxide for every million parts of air. When he died in 2005, the number was 380. On May 9, 2013, the number topped 400, “a milepost,” wrote National Geographic’s Robert Kunzig, “on a far more rapid uphill climb toward an uncertain climate future.”

We might get wistful over the elegance of what is now known as the Keeling number: a solitary data point, like the Dow Jones industrial average, … » More …

Retreat from a Rising Sea: Hard Choices in an Age of Climate Change cover
Winter 2016

Retreat from a Rising Sea

Retreat from a Rising Sea: Hard Choices in an Age of Climate Change cover

Hard Choices in an Age of Climate Change

Orrin H. Pilkey ’57, Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, and Keith C. Pilkey

Columbia University Press: 2016

 

Our planet’s rapidly changing climate will make the bursting of the real estate bubble look like a picnic on a sunny spring day. Upside-down equity and underwater mortgages don’t begin to describe the scope of what rising sea levels … » More …

Fall 2016

Kids solving the unsolvable

Imagine Tomorrow

Flushing the toilet stirred up a good idea in four young women from Walla Walla High School. They recognized that families use hundreds of gallons of water per day, a real problem in places faced with water shortages. To ease that, Karen Maldonado, Edlyn Carvajal, Sandra Escobedo de la Cruz, and Ruth Garcia developed a trapping system using an inexpensive charcoal filter to recycle wastewater back to the toilet tank.

The Walla Walla teens took their plan to the Alaska Airlines Imagine Tomorrow competition, an annual problem-solving challenge at Washington State University that encourages high school students to propose and present ideas … » More …