Below are the most recent sustainability-related news items throughout the Western Washington University and Bellingham-area. Each item is tagged with corresponding subject(s) relating to a specific topic within our website.
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Despite mercury, South River activities are OK
"We want people to know if you are going to eat things from the river, turtles are not a very good thing to be eating," said Don Kain, water monitoring and assessment program manager for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The new research by the South River Science Team does say that most animals living around mercury-contaminated water are safe to eat. One category studied is waterfowl. They should be limited to 16 eight-ounce servings per year, still a large amount allowable. "There are varying levels," said Kain of wildlife contamination. "Things like deer have been found to be fine. Waterfowl are generally fine. But snapping turtles are somewhat at risk — they came up with the highest risks out there." Kain said the concentration of mercury in the river doesn't pose any direct risks to people unless they are eating the fish. "You could probably even drink the water as far as mercury goes, from a water content perspective, but eating fish is a risk unless it is stocked fish," he said.
Researchers cautious about slow sea star recovery on North Olympic Peninsula while hundreds of new juveniles crop up elsewhere
However, sea star colonies on rocky outcroppings along North Olympic Peninsula shorelines not are part of that good news, researchers in Clallam and Jefferson counties say. Staff and volunteers at the Feiro Marine Life Center in Port Angeles and Port Townsend Marine Science Center have spent many hours since late 2013 tracking the progress of sea star wasting syndrome in their respective areas. Feiro researchers found that the disease, believed to be caused by a densovirus, has obliterated 98 percent of sea stars in the Freshwater Bay area west of Port Angeles. Port Townsend observers are making another survey Monday after pessimistic winter sightings that suggested the pathogen's presence. The disease causes sea stars to “melt” into a white goo.
LEADING THE WAY TO ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION
“We realize that just because students aren’t involved in Huxley, doesn’t mean they aren’t environmentally conscious or interested,” she said. She is doing this by working hard to develop the LEAD Associated Students club, which, although carries the LEAD name, functions in a much more collaborative and open-ended level than the experience students get participating in class-credit work parties. “The great thing is members are from all different majors,” Dunlap said. There’s so much you can gain from different perspectives,” she said. Unlike the work parties, the LEAD club experience offers students much more input on what they would like to discuss, learn about, and focus on in regards to environmental learning and action. “We are hoping that students will bring ideas that they would like to take on, and as a club, we can organize how to make those ideas come to fruition,” said Gillespie.
Western Washington University professor completes study of mercury contamination in South River
For the past five years, Wayne Landis, director of Western Washington University’s Institute of Environmental Toxicology and professor of environmental sciences, has worked to understand how the mercury in the South River affects humans as well as the fish and animals that live in and along it. Assisting him has been a corps of graduate students, each adding their research to the work of a team consisting of state and federal environmental agencies; the Army Corps of Engineers; environmental nonprofits such as Save Our Streams and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; DuPont; and other academic institutions such as Virginia Tech, James Madison University, and the University of Delaware. Tasked with providing the funding needed for research and remediation of the South River, DuPont contacted Landis to work on an environmental assessment of the river as well as to put together a framework strategy for how the river could be most safely used for fishing, boating and recreation.
Living green: Project with WWU professor looks underground for Alaska energy
For power now, more than 4 million gallons of diesel fuel are shipped to the island every year, at a cost of $14 million. Pete Stelling, assistant professor of geology at Western Washington University, is working to make Akutan much less dependent on the fuel by tapping the island’s renewable geothermal energy. “While we can’t entirely eliminate fuel imports to the island, we can reduce the amounts,” he says. The island setting is familiar turf for Stelling. The Boulder, Colo., native studied igneous rocks and volcanoes for his doctorate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. As part of his graduate work, he helped create a geologic map for Akutan.
Tucker to lead tours of Point Whitehorn Beach June 6
A negative tide will allow for intertidal zone exploration in an extraordinary stretch of shoreline teeming with wildlife. In addition to Tucker's tours, naturalists with North Cascades Audubon Society, Koma Kulshan Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society and more will be stationed along the wooded wetland trail. Marine life specialists will be on the beach providing information about plants and animals in the reserve’s intertidal zone. Participants will also have the opportunity to learn from professional marine biologist Michael Kyte, who has observed and documented beach and marine conditions along the Cherry Point shoreline for over 30 years.
Move-Out Madness event aims to reduce furniture abandoned in neighborhoods
Previous years' events have reduced the number of abandoned items left in neighborhoods and diverted many pounds of recyclable and reusable items from the landfill. "Moving out can be stressful and wasteful given the large amount of stuff accumulated throughout the year," said Jacob de Guzman, previous Zero-Waste Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability. "Move-Out Madness provides all the necessary resources so students can sort their unwanted goods properly and begin their summer on the right foot."
Story of German renewable energy on display starting April 20
The full-color posters are on loan from the Consulate General of Germany. Information on solar, hydro, wind, geothermal, bioenergy and renewable energy in buildings and remote areas will be on the displays. Faculty from the Institute for Energy Studies will be at the opening reception to discuss modern renewable energy technologies, and explain the new courses and degrees in energy that will be coming to Western next fall. The Institute now offers a Bachelors in Arts in Energy Policy and Management, minors in Energy Science and Energy Policy, and an energy concentration in electrical engineering.
Western students to present solar window in D.C.
The luminescent solar concentrator consists of a thin, polymer film containing luminescent quantum dots that can be applied to a glass window pane, allowing it to collect ultraviolet light and concentrate it at the edges of the window. Thin strips of photovoltaic cells attached at the edges convert the concentrated sunlight into electricity. The window appears transparent, but instead of reflecting UV light, it harvests it to generate power. This power is used to run sensors and actuators which intelligently open and close the window, synergistically providing cooling and airflow in wireless coordination with the building’s HVAC system
Pedaling for a purpose
Petersmark, along with sophomore Kate Thompson and senior Drew Swisher, now have a power-generating elliptical machine on loan from Bellingham Fitness Gear and Training that students are free to try in the rec center. The monitors of the Technogym brand machines Petersmark and his teammates rented display the power someone generates in terms of how many electrical appliances their workout could have powered. For example, the number of watts produced as someone exercises would be measured in number of lightbulbs that could be illuminated. The team is pushing for four new bikes if they receive the grant: two standard bikes and two reclining bikes.
Ceremony introduces Flora building
“When you consider his career as an exceptionally engaged scholar and educator, both at Western and in the community – not to mention his tremendous leadership for Western during a crucial time – naming the Marine Science Education Building after Jerry Flora makes perfect sense,” said WWU President Bruce Shepard on announcing the news back in December. “His instructive beach walks and children’s television series inspired many to share his love of our beautiful marine environment, and embrace the importance of protecting it. Preserving Jerry’s legacy at Shannon Point will inspire generations of students and educators, and remind us how powerful direct engagement with the environment can be.”
Low snowpack means hot water for Spring Chinook salmon
“The projection is for continuing winters of lower snowpack in the Cascades and Olympics,” Dr. David Beatty of the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association said in an email. “The snowpack effect can coincide with ocean changes affecting temperature, currents, upwelling effects on food supply,” Beatty said. “There will be effects on all freshwater life stages of salmon.” One or two mild winters is just weather, but more than that means a steady pattern of more mild winters in the Northwest, he said. “We are already planning for some pretty dismal conditions this summer,” said Tom Chance, a hatchery biologist at Lummi Natural Resources. “We’ll have to adapt to the conditions. We are considering trapping adult Chinook lower in the river since they may not be able to come all the way upstream.” The fish would be collected lower and then brought to the Skookum Creek Fish Hatchery, where the milt and eggs would be used to start the next generation of Spring Chinook, Chance said.
Communal living minimizes carbon footprint
Her talk will focus around three main topics: How the Dancing Rabbit operates sustainably, the importance of cooperative culture and the urgency of climate change. Ludwig’s father was an ecologist, so she has always had a heightened environmental awareness. She was teaching composting classes and advocating for climate change when she was 20 years old, and thus began her journey into living more sustainably, she said. “When I visited some friends living in an intentional community, I saw that people living there actually found a way to embody the values I was talking about and advocating for,” she said. Since then, she has lived in seven different intentional communities and has been an environmental educator game for the past 25 years. The Dancing Rabbit has been her home for the past eight years, which she calls a “special sweet spot” between reality and idealism.
Graduating students may sign sustainability pledge
This is a third time Western has given the opportunity to sign the pledge, following the examples of many school across America and beyond. Last year’s event turned out to be a grand success; more than 200 graduates have already signed the pledge. The Office of Sustainability continues to provide a paper-less version of the pledge, which can be signed via iPads provided at the event. Online signup also is available. For more info contact Masha Szaro at Office of Sustainability at 360-650-4575 or email@example.com.
Four students win NOAA scholarships
Woodrich knew he wanted to study marine biology after he attended Western’s Marine Science Scholar program at Shannon Point Marine Center. The program is for out-of-state students, and is a two-week immersive program that students enroll in the September before the start of their freshman year. Another winner was Timothy Anderson, a junior studying Environmental Science and a minor in math. Anderson will also be interning at the Wood’s Hole facility, but he will help in building and deploying satellite-tracked drifters that will follow planktonic particles and pollutants. “I’m really interested in how math can apply to environmental science,” said Anderson. The particles that Anderson will track with these drifters will help define current patterns. “I just want to get my feet wet in any way I can,” he said. Anderson credited much of the success in his application to the help of Western’s Fellowships Office, and particularly Tom Moore, a professor in the Honors department. “I can’t emphasize how lucky I am, especially in regard to getting this scholarship, and that this college has this fellowship professor,” Anderson said. The Fellowships Office provides advice and direction when applying for scholarships, and is open to any student at Western.
Excess phosphorous, algae blooms hamper water cleanup process
Many drinking water sources do not allow any recreation in, on, or around them, Bellingham Stormwater Manager Bill Reilly said. Lake Whatcom is an exception and allows recreation. “There is a cost that’s paid for Lake Whatcom to be a recreational facility,” Reilly said. “It is unlike any other reservoir that’s used for water consumption in the state to have as much use as we do around it, but it’s historical.” The lake cannot be completely closed to public activity. Because the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) owns the land under the lake, they determine the recreational activity the lake can be used for, Associate Director and Toxicologist at Huxley College April Markiewicz said. “Lake Whatcom has been designated as open to public access…so it cannot be closed to recreational activities, according to DNR,” Markiewicz said. At Wednesday’s meeting, a ten-part plan was presented. The policy board and the public were allowed to give comment.
Sustainability Leadership Awards
WWU Geologist Pete Stelling Researching Geothermal Power Sources in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands
“The majority of electrical generation today surrounds boiling water and using the steam to drive a turbine, which spins a generator and makes electricity. The fuel – coal, oil, or natural gas, for instance – is used to boil that water,” he said. “Geothermal sources skip the need for a fuel and go to the superheated water right at its source to make the electricity, and this could happen at places like Akutan to make them far more energy independent.” The perfect geothermal source, according to Stelling, occurs when the superheated water, over time, dissolves the surrounding rock and turns it into clay that acts as a cap, keeping the water and steam from escaping or losing pressure. Iceland, for example, is rife with these types of sources, one reason why the island nation is 80 percent powered by geothermal energy.
Yu's poetry translations offer environmental insight
In doing his research for his new book, Yu read 45,000 new Tang poems in addition to the 20,000 pre-Tang poems he had previously read. “I read my eyes out in order to understand them in this holistic view,” he said. The unique title, Yu said, was borrowed from one of the famous poets of the Tang Dynasty, Li Bai. According to Yu, the title illustrates how Li Bai understood the earth as the ultimate source of literary inspiration. “Li Bai did not see the earth as something that could be owned, instead he said that the land loans itself to people,” Yu said. He found it astounding that Li Bai was able to come to this conclusion so long ago, and found it to be the appropriate title for the new book.
Western's bottled water ban explained
SSW is considering pushing Western to add Gatorade, Powerade and flavored waters under the policy. Soft drinks will not be affected. While the plastic consumption was a factor, the overlying issue was that buying bottled water supports big corporations taking away clean water sources, SSW president Cassidy Eklof said. “Water is a basic human right, not a commodity to be bought and sold,” Eklof said. Water privatization is a growing issue, not just in developing countries, but also in the U.S., she said. Corporations are taking clean water sources and turning a profit on the sale of that water, Eklof said. Before the ban was implemented, bottled water accounted for about 10 percent of beverage sales on campus, according to the SSW statement. Other colleges and universities in the U.S. have promised to banning bottled water, and that losing the sale of bottled water did not make an overall financial impact, according to research done by the SSW.
A story only a tree can tell
“(Loren) never remembered there being trees around here,” said Joan Dahl, whose husband’s family had been in the area for about a century. About 17 feet of the tree was recovered from the Dahls’ property and donated to Wes Smith and Andrew Vallee, co-owners of Smith and Vallee Woodworks and Gallery in Edison. “We thought this could be 100 years old, (which was) cool,” Smith said. “But when we found out it was that old …” Everyone seemed to agree that the tree was special. But how special? “You never really know what a log will be like on the inside,” Vallee said.
Computer simulation shows where volcanic ash could go if Mount Baker erupts
As for the size of the simulated eruption, it’s based on the largest one from Mount Baker preserved in the geologic record. That data came from Tucker’s research, which included finding ash deposits in the soil from 6,600 years ago. Tucker gives talks about the 10,781-foot volcano’s eruption history and hazards. For him, the simulation is about informing the public about the snow-capped volcano that dominates the Whatcom County skyline. “It serves as a wake-up call to people around here,” he said. “It’s an active volcano and it presents a hazard.” To determine ash distribution, the model uses wind directions and velocities at different altitudes from throughout the region. It is updated three times a day with wind data from the National Weather Service.
Three Western Students Awarded Prestigious NOAA Hollings Fellowships
The Hollings Fellowship gives winners up to $8,000 per year in academic assistance during the nine-month academic year and a 10-week full-time paid internship position during the summer at a NOAA facility. Additionally, if the student is reappointed, another scholarship of up to $8,000 will be rewarded for the following academic year. Western will be represented by Hollings scholars from coast to coast this summer: two students will be working in Massachusetts and the other will be in Oregon. The recipients of the fellowship are Courtney Knox (Olympia), Timothy Anderson (McMinnville, Ore.) and Maia Hanson (Granite Falls). Knox was awarded her Hollings to work at the National Marine Sanctuary in Port Angeles. She will organize and plan youth camps to introduce middle school and high school students to the world of marine science.
Submissions open for sustainability challenge; WWU students were winners last year
The NW Innovation Resource Center has created the competition as a means of cultivating a healthy entrepreneurial and economic environment in our area while supporting the growth of business that contributes to local and global sustainability. Teams will compete for cash awards and business support from the NWIRC. All finalist teams will benefit from a chance to share their ideas (not the secret sauce) with the public and a panel of distinguished judges from the sustainability and investment communities. “I was surprised by parts of the challenge,” said James Kintzele, a WWU student member of last year's winning NOVA Team. “As students, we are always presenting in a large group situation. The more intimate conference room setting with a group of accomplished business leaders was somewhat intimidating at first, but became a valuable business experience.”
WWU marine center lets students plunge into science
Since assuming his new job in November 2014, Swisher is helping to create a new bachelor of arts degree in energy policy and management for the 2015-16 school year, and a bachelor of science degree in energy science and technology for later. Swisher recalls hiring new graduates with general degrees while he was managing director of research and consulting at Rocky Mountain Institute. “Like many other employers, my question to them related to their skill set; what could they offer me today?” “At the institute we’re trying to give students more of an advantage at the initial stage of their careers,” Swisher says. “With the kind of background we’re offering them, our students will be attractive to nonprofits and private firms in the energy field and environmental space; for example, using technology to make energy use more efficient in buildings, factories and vehicles — a very important resource for improving the economy while conserving the environment.”
WWU marine center lets students plunge into science
“We’ve been bringing our organisms to the school,” said Shannon Point Director Erika McPhee-Shaw. “This is the first time they’ve gotten to come tiding.” As they head indoors from the beach, the students, mostly in grades 3-6, put on their “scientist attitudes,” pick up barnacle-covered rocks and get ready to learn. For the past four days, the kids have participated in an early-release enrichment program, one that focuses on marine sciences and STEM enrichment classes for elementary school kids.
TREES: New reforestation program seeks to revive the jungle
The Chico Mendes Project not only focuses on reforestation and planting trees, but they take a strong stand for recycling, saving the native plants and natural habitats in the area, he said. Professor Shirley Osterhaus coordinated the discussion held in the Fairhaven Auditorium. Osterhaus brings many different guest speakers to talk about contemporary issues for her Fairhaven World Issues class. She invites other Fairhaven and Western students to join the forum. “I hope that people will see that the concern for our planet Earth is global, and people in Guatemala are doing something very concrete,” Osterhaus said. During the discussion, Pocol spoke in Spanish and used translator Max Granger to help communicate his message to the audience.
Students stage oil spill
Western is not living up to their environmentally-friendly reputation by investing in fossil fuel companies like BP, Exxon, Mobil and Chevron, Herz said. “The purpose of actions like these is to cause a scene, make a statement and be creative about it,” junior Zack Bursell said. “Symbolically, by bringing an ‘oil spill’ to Western, we are bringing the ill effects these investments have to the people who get to make the decision and profit from them,” he said. Western’s investment in fossil fuel companies makes Western compliant with injustice, Bursell said.
Students, community leaders shed light on environmental racism
Guillen said environmental racism is all about profit and ownership. “We do not own the land, the land owns us,” she said. “We do not own mother nature, she owns us.” Israel Rios from the Social Issues Resource Center said the purpose of the event was to raise awareness about environmental and social injustices, which often overlap. “Certain aspects of environmental issues tend to disproportionately affect marginalized communities, poor communities and people of color,” Rios said. Pollution-emitting factories are often placed in decentralized areas and the people who live there cannot afford to move, he said.
Washington trails get year-round attention
"It's an existing trail, but it was basically built by people walking around out there, so we're trying to make it wider, safer and more sustainable." So far, one work party has done maintenance in the Arboretum this year. Out of the 21 volunteers, about 18 of them were Western students, Bogaards said. Seven more Arboretum work parties are scheduled this year, with one to two per month, he said. The next work party will be on Feb. 21. Their latest project is “rediscovering” the Suiattle wilderness, said Rebecca Lavigne, program director for WTA. Suiattle is an area on the west side of Glacier Peak wilderness, about an hour south of Western’s campus. Access has been limited for the past decade due to the closure of the Suiattle River Road. With the road back in service since October, focus is on returning trails in that area to good condition, Lavigne said.
Eight new offices receive sustainability certification
Ceremony attendees had the opportunity to learn more about Western’s sustainability actions, including energy conservation. Staff from the Green Energy Fee Grant Program, Western’s Energy Management Team, and Western Gallery answered questions about campus energy-conservation projects. Attendees tested Belkin watt-meters and energy-saving switches available to SOC offices and departments and participated in a guided tour of Western’s Steam Plant, a noted regional example of energy-efficient district heating. The Western Gallery lighting system was recently re-fitted to all LED lamps, resulting in annual energy savings of 89 percent.
Oceanography: Erika McPhee-Shaw
In the 2005 “Women in Oceanography” issue, I described having just made the transition from postdoctoral researcher to faculty member. I was learning to juggle teaching, research, and the new demands of motherhood. In the decade since, I have had one more child, guided many amazing MS students successfully through the doors of my research group at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, taught dozens of classes, obtained tenure and made full professor at San Jose State, worked with brilliant colleagues all over the country, and invested a great deal of time in state and national leadership toward stabilizing our integrated ocean observing systems (US IOOS and CeNCOOS). I obtained funding from the National Science Foundation, and had the great satisfaction of working at sea and ashore with a passionate and incredibly skilled set of scientists trying to figure out just what was going on out there on the continental slope and shelf.
Fish mapping helps preservation of wildlife
There are no specific quantities of fish at this level of surveying, simply an understanding of location, he said. Data was collected and assembled to update an interactive web map that the public can view online. With this updated information, the user can select which species of fish to view and the map shows areas where that fish is found. Susan O’Neil, project manager for Long Live the Kings, a salmon recovery nonprofit, said steelhead are classified as “at risk” and no recovery plan is established yet. A declining steelhead population harms the economy by decreasing the vitality of tribal, commercial and recreational fishing, O’Neil said.
Researchers produce two biofuels from a single algae
Algae contain fatty acids that can be converted into fatty acid methyl esters, or FAMEs, the molecules in biodiesel. For their study, O'Neil, Reddy, and colleagues targeted a specific algal species called Isochrysis for two reasons: First, because growers have already demonstrated they can produce it in large batches to make fish food. Second, because it is among only a handful of algal species around the globe that produce fats called alkenones. These compounds are composed of long chains with 37 to 39 carbon atoms, which the researchers believed held potential as a fuel source.
Playing towards sustainability
Clarinets for Conservation is an organization that aims to teach children in Tanzania and the U.S. sustainability through musical education. The organization focuses on the importance of the endangered African Blackwood. On Thursday, Jan. 15, founder Von Haugg and Western alumna Audrey Miller visited Western to perform and raise awareness for their cause. Miller travelled with Von Haugg when they spent the summer of 2013 in Tanzania working alongside each other. Every summer, from May to the end of July, clarinet musicians visit Tanzania to teach students how to play.
Keep Calm And Plant On
Even though it’s still winter in the Pacific Northwest, now is the perfect time to start planning out your garden and the Outback Farm is a great resource for getting some help. “This time of year is kind of the time to start looking at seed catalogues and what kinds of plants you want to be growing,” Outback Coordinator Liliana Morgan said. “There’s a lot of seed catalogues that are specifically tailored to this area and will have all sorts of details about what kind of soil you need to have and drainage and whether it would be appropriate to plant in the space you’re in.”
Spatial Institute to help with updating fish distribution map
This meeting will call together federal, tribal, state, county and other steelhead experts who work in the Hood Canal region and will collect from them local-level steelhead distribution information to update the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife / Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Statewide Integrated Fish Distribution dataset for the Hood Canal region.
Check In With The Environmental And Sustainability Programs
“Later in the quarter we’re planning to do an indigenous resistance event,” Normoyle said. “Our vision [for 2015] is a continuation of what we worked on since we started our jobs...being more inclusive in our programming and in who we reach out to.” On Wednesday, Jan. 21 at 4 p.m. Dhar Jamail, a journalist known for his coverage of the Iraq War, will speak in Commucations Facilities 110 on the issue of climate disruption. His talk, “Are We Off the Climate Precipice?” will focus on the science of climate disruption and mass extinctions that are currently in progress.
Bellingham selected as semifinalist in $5M Georgetown University Energy Prize
The prize provides a platform for communities to showcase local innovations to a national audience. More than 70 communities participated in the quarterfinalist rounds during 2014, but the field has been winnowed to a group of 50 select cities and counties who will be competing to reduce their energy consumption to make it into the finalist round in 2017. The semifinalist communities hail from 27 states throughout the country. In Washington, Bellingham is joined by Anacortes, Bellevue, Walla Walla and San Juan County. These communities will share information and best practices.
Western brings electric vehicles to campus for testing
Due to the large number of vehicles used on Western’s campus, Facilities Management has been considering alternative-fuel vehicles for years, to help reduce fossil fuel consumption on campus, Krabbenhoft said. “The entire campus is a classroom and everyone who is working and learning here is contributing to the development of others, whether it is directly or indirectly,” Krabbenhoft said in a Facilities Management press release. “We are looking for what types of applications and uses will make sense [and] where we are able to accomplish the job and at the same time reduce the carbon footprint.”
KAPOW! Making spaces into lively places
The goal of the competition is to engage our community in designing inexpensive, individual projects that make small places more lively and enjoyable. These design ideas should help to reflect our unique community identity, attract people, activate inactive spaces, provide amenities and promote people's health, happiness, and well-being. Winning ideas will be selected based on their creativity, innovation, potential to be realized and social impact.
Professor finds virus in mass sea star die-off
Miner’s hypothesis is that the presence or absence of the virus, called densovirus, is not what determines whether the sea stars get sick, though it may be weakening their immune systems, Miner said. Many sea stars that have the virus are not sick, he said. Miner started the study over a year ago in collaboration with senior Warren Kohl and Cornell University professors Ian Hewson and Drew Harvell to look at the mass wipe out of a variety of species of sea stars up and down the Pacific coast, Miner said.
Note: These news items are carefully selected from searching many local resources. They are linked directly to the original articles. We do not own any images or content within each article. The main purpose of this news section is to get the word out!