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Earth Sciences

Winter 2013

Watching the sea

The paint has barely dried at the new Salish Sea Research Center near Bellingham, but the $2.2 million facility is already in use. Student scientists dip into a freezer full of recently collected shellfish, a Zodiac boat and a collection of waders are drying in the back mud room, and several projects to study acidity in the water and the health of the aquatic organisms are already underway.

The Northwest Indian College was established in 1973 to train technicians who would work in Indian-run fish and shellfish hatcheries throughout the region. More recently it has expanded to include two- and four-year college degrees. And today … » More …

Eugene Rosa. Photo Robert Hubner
Fall 2013

Eugene Rosa 1942–2013—Working for people and the planet

When you fill out a career pushing the limits of knowledge, rising to “pioneer in your field” status, things are bound to get pretty technical.

Gene Rosa, environmental sociologist, lived that reality, penning papers with terms like “biosociology,” “post-normal risk,” and acronym-rich analytical tools like STIRPAT. In spite of the technical thickets of his work, say friends and colleagues, Rosa kept his eye on the increasingly threatened natural environment and the people in it.

“Gene was not just interested in the environment for its own sake, but rather he had a deep desire to see a better world, one with greater quality of life and … » More …

New and Noteworthy
Summer 2013

New & noteworthy

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Planet Rock Doc: Nuggets from Explorations of the Natural World
WSU Press, 2012

The Whole Story of Climate: What Science Reveals about the Nature of Endless Change
Prometheus Books, 2012
by E. Kirsten Peters

The Harvard-trained geologist, columnist, and WSU employee compiles her syndicated science columns in a peripatetic, curiosity-fueled volume in Planet Rock Doc, and applies her knowledge of geological systems to climate change throughout Earth’s history in The Whole Story of Climate.

Blazing a Wagon Trail to Oregon: A Weekly Chronicle of the Great Migration of 1843
by Lloyd W. … » More …

Spring 2013

Passing the Smell Test

The act of smelling starts out as chemical detection but often ends up as an emotional trigger

Among all the modern variations on evolution are several hundred shoppers who two years ago wandered into a home decoration store in northern Switzerland. For most of them, it was just another chance to buy some plates or a basket, with the exception of a researcher asking them to fill out a questionnaire at the cash register. But after nearly a month of monitoring customers, researchers noticed that one group of about 100 spent on average significantly more money. The customers told the researchers as much, and receipts … » More …

Hanford
Spring 2013

Tiny cracks, big effect

Of all the troubling images evoked by the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site, the plume of uranium-tainted groundwater seeping into the Columbia River comes near the top of the list. Millions of gallons of radioactive waste were processed at the site and, starting in the ’40s, government scientists detected it in the area’s groundwater.

One site, called the 300 Area, has a plume of several million gallons affecting a 3,000-foot stretch of the Columbia River shoreline. Monitoring wells and riverbank springs have had uranium levels in excess of drinking-water standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The river provides drinking water … » More …

forest near Mt St Helens
Spring 2013

The forgotten forest

Early successional forests, the stage following a major disturbance such as fire, windstorm, or harvest, have typically been viewed in terms of what is missing. Considered by the forest industry as a time of reestablishment or “stand initiation,” these early successional forests have been studied from the perspective of plant-community development and the needs of selected animals. Neither view fully grasps the diverse ecological roles of the early successional stage, argue WSU forest ecologist Mark Swanson and colleagues in a 2011 paper in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Forest management throughout the twentieth century focused at first on wood production and later … » More …

Ethics of Climate change - warming globe
Winter 2012

The Ethics of Climate Change

In 2012 the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service, in conjunction with the School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs, began a new public symposia series that focuses on the ethical and public policy ramifications of new scientific innovations and knowledge. Each semester the symposia, which are open to the public, bring together WSU faculty with other internationally prominent scholars. The first in the series, “Ethics and Global Climate Change,” was held in April 2012, and brought to WSU’s campus Andrew Light, director of the Center for Global Ethics at George Mason University and a fellow at the Center for American … » More …

Illustration of Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Project,” depicting simulated damage from an earthquake
Fall 2012

Come the big one, everyone becomes a Coug

An earthquake is like a big finger in a spider web. Touch one spot and parts of the web far away will move.

Dan Dolan has been pondering just how far away in the hopes that the web of our state’s vast institutional infrastructure doesn’t snap under the strain. Dolan, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, looked at how we might respond to and recover from damage to the state’s building and housing stock as part of the Resilient Washington State Initiative, a multifaceted assessment of the ways an earthquake can hurt us and how hard it will be to recover.

The quick answer: … » More …

Cover of The Republic of Nature
Fall 2012

The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States

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Mark Fiege ’85 MA
University of Washington Press, 2012

Contemplate the founding of the United States, a budding democracy carved out of a vast and unknown (to everyone other than its original inhabitants) wilderness. At some point, one might find oneself unable to extricate American history from Nature and its effects and implications. But we haven’t really, not until Fiege’s remarkable analysis.

Although he is keenly aware of Thomas Jefferson’s warning that “The moment a … » More …