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Earth Sciences

Winter 2010

A New Land

John Bishop was late getting to Mount St. Helens.

He was only 16 years old when it blew in 1980, and it would be another decade before he began crawling around the mountain as part of his doctoral studies.

“I was worried I missed all the action—‘Ten years, it’s all been studied,’” he recalls.

It turns out the dust, pumice, and other ejecta were only beginning to settle, and the mountain would continue to rumble, spit, and recover. In 1994, he found himself running from a mudflow, then watched as it moved fridge-sized boulders and shook the earth beneath his feet. Arriving at WSU Vancouver … » More …

Fall 2010

Too much of a good thing

Science has been predicting and measuring our warming planet for more than a century now. But it was only in the last two decades that most Americans came to believe the earth’s temperature was indeed rising and that the main culprit is the growing amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

Now scientists are giving a lot of thought to another culprit: nitrogen. Like carbon dioxide, it’s seemingly benign—colorless, odorless, tasteless, and a foundation of life on our planet. Left alone, it tightly binds to itself in inert, two-atom molecules, or N2. It’s ridiculously commonplace, making up four-fifths of our atmosphere. It’s also a modern … » More …

Summer 2010

Reply to letter from Herman Goetjen

 

Letter:

I really enjoyed the article on Bob Mierendorf’s work in the North Cascades National Park.

However, a couple of the photos raise some questions for me if you can pass them on to Bob for me. On page 29, the top two photos show a large culturally modified stone, in the left photo Bob has his hand on it, in the right hand photo it is next to his arm.

What I would like to know is: How did that stone become so modified? And what do you think its purpose was? There are no hints in the article or the caption for … » More …

Summer 2010

Interview with Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan has been a leading voice in the re-evaluation of how we eat and farm. The author of Omnivore’s Dilemma, the book selected for this year’s Common Reading, Pollan visited campus in January to talk with the students who had been discussing his book and present a lecture on “The Sun-Food Agenda.” Washington State Magazine’s Tim Steury interviewed him by phone prior to his visit. The following is an edited version of their conversation:

WSM: There’s been a real sea change in how we think about food in this country. I wonder if you could address what laid the groundwork for your ideas being … » More …

Spring 2010

Leave it to beavers

As we crunch through the snow in the hills above Winthrop, Steve Bondi ’02 and Ryan Anderson ’08 are eager to see evidence that their project to improve riparian habitat and provide late season water to the Methow Valley is working.

They’re building dams, but with the help of nature’s own unparalleled engineer—the beaver. The effort for a time seemed just a joke in the state capital—that of beavers building dams along rivers and streams in the Columbia River watershed to improve the hydrology of the region. “At the time, we couldn’t tell if they were laughing at us or with us,” says Anderson, watershed … » More …

Winter 2009

The Rising Sea

risingsea-cover

Orrin H. Pilkey ’57 and Rob Young
Island Press, 2009

The island nations of Tuvalu and the Maldives, the Inupiat Eskimo village of Shishmaref, and Soldado Island off the Colombian coast might be tough to find on a geography quiz. But all of these locations foretell a future of oceans overwhelming coastlines. In each of these remote places, residents are either moving or preparing to move to higher ground before their homes get swallowed by … » More …

Winter 2009

Stormwater central

There’s nothing mundane about the new parking lot at the WSU research and extension center in Puyallup. It is a state-of-the-art polluted water collection system. The 70-some parking spots are specially designed to drain the water from each space into separate collection cells.

The project, which broke ground last summer, is an early step in the station’s efforts to become a leader in Low Impact Development techniques, providing guidance for the rapidly developing community along the Puyallup River Valley. In this case, the station will look at how to capture and clean stormwater runoff so that it doesn’t contaminate waterways, damaging … » More …

Better living…through solar

For more than two years, a group of Washington State University students in architecture, construction management, interior design, and engineering designed and built a solar house, including all of its systems, from the ground up. In September 2005, they transported the house to Washington, D.C., to take part in the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition on the National Mall. WSU was one of only 18 schools from around the world-and the only school from the Northwest-to participate. Sponsored by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Lab, the competition required students to plan and build a 650-square-foot home and provide it with all the modern conveniences, including … » More …