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Earth Sciences

Summer 2002

The Restless Northwest

In The Restless Northwest, former Seattle Times science writer Hill Williams provides a fascinating overview of the geological processes that shaped the Northwest.

An attraction of the region is its varied terrain, from the volcanic Cascade mountain range to the flood-scoured scablands of eastern Washington and the eroded peaks of the northern Rockies. The vast differences, Williams notes, are the results of the collision of the old and the new. The western edge of Idaho was once the edge of ancient North America. As eons passed, a jumble of islands, minicontinents, and sediment piled up against the old continental edge, gradually extending it west to … » More …

Fall 2008

What lies beneath – Pullman and its water

Financial hardship, fires, and spring floods: In 1890 the community of Pullman was in desperate need of some good news. A hungry blaze had leveled the city’s newly rebuilt commercial district only three years after it first burned to the ground in 1887.

Then on May 24, 1890 word got out that a “gusher” had been struck. Fifty gallons of water per minute rushed up to the surface where contractors had been drilling a well for the Palace Hotel. They had accidentally discovered an artesian source, a well under pressure that once tapped was forcing water up. It was the turning point for an early … » More …

Fall 2008

Let the invasions begin

As Beijing prepared to welcome athletes and spectators to the Olympic Games, a quieter and much less welcome influx was already under way.

According to a new study by Washington State University ecologist Richard Mack and four Chinese colleagues, China’s explosive economic growth and ambitious public-works projects have allowed non-native species of plants, insects, and other organisms to spread throughout the country and inflict more than $14 billion of damage on the nation’s economy—and the Olympic Games could provide an opportunity for even more biological invaders.

Mack and his co-authors combed through trade and economic data to discover that China’s economic boom has been accompanied … » More …

Fall 2003

Flames in Our Forest: Disaster or Renewal?

Forest fires have been much in the news. Beginning with the Yellowstone fires in 1988, the West has lived through a series of intense fire years. In 2000, the federal government spent nearly $1.6 billion fighting fires. But over the same period there has been a discordant message: fires, we are told, shaped the forests and the wildlife that inhabit them; fires are, in fact, necessary to the continued existence of many species of plants and animals. Smokey the Bear’s message of fire’s destructive nature, his plea on behalf of other woodland creatures that “fires destroy more than trees,” has lost its venerable certainty.

Are … » More …

Winter 2006

Mimicking Nature's Fire: Restoring Fire-Prone Forests in the West

Forest health has been much in the news. It is a powerful metaphor—but one of uncertain and ambiguous content. Congress has used it to avoid environmental assessments of logging; opponents of logging have often portrayed it as a smokescreen. Mimicking Nature’s Fire is in part a guide to this debate. Stephen Arno (’65 For.), a forest ecologist, and Carl E. Fiedler, a silviculturist, have combined their talents to argue for “restoration forestry,” an approach that seeks to reestablish “an approximation of historical structure and ecological processes to tree communities that were in the past shaped by distinctive patterns of fire.” The book is divided into … » More …

Summer 2008

Alternative Energy: Political, Economic, and Social Feasibility

Christopher A. Simon (’97 Ph.D.)
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., Lanham, MD, 2006

Readers wishing to stay current on one of today’s most important public policy issues—the transition from fossil fuels to alternative energies—would do well to pick up a copy of Alternative Energy: Political, Economic, and Social Feasibility by University of Nevada-Reno political science professor, Christopher A. Simon (’94 M.A., ’97 Ph.D.).

In this sophisticated, insightful, and well written book on the current global … » More …

Spring 2002

It came from outer space

The dust on your mantelpiece may be more interesting than it appears at first swipe. Some of it may be from outer space. While that may not make much difference to your dust rag, some feel that extraterrestrial dust might help explain the cyclical nature of the Earth’s climate, says Ed Brook, assistant professor of geology and environmental science at Washington State University’s Vancouver campus.

Brook and his collaborators have developed a method to measure the extraterrestrial dust found in the ice cores taken at Vostok, Antarctica. It involves filtering the dust out of the ice core, a process that takes four days per sample, … » More …