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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

June 2, 2015 |
News Leader
| huxley |
Landis said the assumption that mercury levels, when first discovered, would diminish with time was wrong. "That has not occurred," Landis said. "That was in the 1970s and 1980s. We pretty much understand pollution, especially — metal pollution — better than we did back then." Randy Benson, 70, of Waynesboro, said he frequently fishes in the South River, even though he knows the waterway is contaminated. Signs posted along the river warn those fishing to only eat trout that have been specially stocked. "I like to eat (what I catch), but you can't," Benson said. "Most of the time I catch and release because I like to fish." As part of the recent research involving the mercury contamination, the South River Science Team also studied levels of mercury in plant and wildlife, noting risks associated with eating more than four eight-ounce servings of turtle per year.

"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

May 28, 2015 |
Peninsula Daily News
The North Olympic Peninsula's remaining sea stars may be holding their own, but there is no evidence yet of a remarkable recovery of young sea stars seen elsewhere along the Pacific coast, researchers say. With nearly all of the mature sea stars dead and gone, rarely seen juvenile sea stars — popularly known as starfish — have been seen emerging by the hundreds at locations previously devastated by a malady known as sea star wasting syndrome during the past 18 months. Two surveys near Everett found a total of about 600 juvenile ochre stars — one of the hardest-hit species. Five other Puget Sound surveys found hundreds more.

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

May 26, 2015 |
AS Review
If you’ve taken any Environmental Science classes at Western, you may have participated in a LEAD work party outing. “It’s an active way to make change through work parties by removing invasive species, planting and mulching,” LEAD Assistant Coordinator Luke Gillespie said. LEAD stands for learning, environment, action and discovery. The campus-based organization focuses on environmental conservation and restoration in Bellingham, which up until now, predominantly was through work party groups made up of student volunteers. “About 6,000 of our 10,000 volunteers come from Environmental Science classes,” said LEAD Coordinator Wendelin Dunlap. Dunlap however, is working to make the organization a destination for students of all kinds.

“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

May 26, 2015 |
Augusta Free Press
The South River flows along the western foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, coiling its way across bucolic rolling farmlands and through small towns, marching north to join first the Shenandoah and then the Potomac before eventually emptying into the Chesapeake Bay. With its load of fresh water drained from lush mountain valleys with names like Cool Spring Hollow and Gum Springs, the South River carries with it a toxic tide: mercury, dumped into the watershed for more than 20 years from the DuPont Chemical Co.’s Rayon plant in Waynesboro.

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

May 26, 2015 |
The Bellingham Herald
The possible answer to the energy needs of a small town on a small island in Alaska lies just below their feet. Akutan sits in Alaska’s remote Aleutian chain and is home to Mount Akutan, a 4,275-foot volcano that erupted as recently as 1992. With that fresh volcanic activity, there’s plenty of hot water below ground that could be used to generate electricity for the town’s 100 year-round residents and for Trident Seafood’s production plant, the largest such plant in North America, with up to 1,400 employees during peak season.

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

May 22, 2015 |
Western Today
Dave Tucker, a former research associate in the geology department at Western Washington University, will lead guided tours along Point Whitehorn Beach at Cherry Point June 6, telling the landscape backstory of moving glaciers and changing sea levels, including the important ecological role of formations like the area’s feeder bluffs. The tours, at 1 and 3 p.m., are part of a special "What's the Point?" event being put on by Whatcom Land Trust and the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve Citizen Stewardship Committee from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 6, at Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve.

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

May 22, 2015 |
Western Today
| waste |
Western Washington University and the City of Bellingham will once again partner on a year-end event to help students sort their unwanted materials generated from moving out. Bins for reusable household items, clothing, non-perishable food, recyclable materials, and landfill waste will be available at three sorting stations in neighborhoods near the university from noon to 5 p.m. Friday, June 12, as part of this Move-Out Madness event.

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

April 17, 2015 |
Western Today
Academic West at Western Washington University will be a hub for learning about the progress Germany has made with renewable energy beginning on April 20, 2015. “RENEWABLES: Made in Germany” is a 26-poster display detailing the innovative renewable energy practices Germany has used over the past decade. The WWU Institute for Energy Studies will be hosting the display in Academic West beginning on April 20, 2015 until May 7, 2015. An opening reception will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. April 24.

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.

April 9, 2015 |
Western Today
Windows that collect solar energy? It's possible, and a team of Western Washington University students have built a prototype to prove it. They'll travel to Washington, D.C., this weekend to participate in the Environmental Protection Agency’s “P3: People, Prosperity, and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability.” At the conference, the team will present a smart solar window based upon a recent series of advances in luminescent solar concentrator technology at Western and the University of Washington. The interdisciplinary team of eight students includes one student from the University of Washington. The students' to date have been supported by a $15,000 grant from the EPA, and depending on how the competition goes, as much as $75,000 could be awarded in additional funding to help the students turn their design into a real-world application and potentially move it into the marketplace.

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

April 6, 2015 |
The Western Front
The second floor of the Wade King Student Recreation Center is a place that’s all about expending energy. But Sean Petersmark, junior and business and sustainability major, recognized the cardio area also has massive potential for energy generation. This spring, Petersmark and two other classmates are competing for the $300,000 set aside each year to fund sustainability projects on campus through Western’s Green Energy Fee Grant Program. This would be enough to fund new cardio machines capable of producing enough energy to sustain themselves. “I looked around [the rec center] and saw that it was a lot of people working out on all of these machines and it’s cardio heaven up there,” Petersmark said. “I just thought to myself, ‘that’s a lot of energy being used and a lot of kinetic energy not being harnessed.’”

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

March 13, 2015 |
Western Today
The new Charles J. (Jerry) Flora Marine Education Building at the Shannon Point Marine Center was officially introduced Thursday at a ceremony in Anacortes.Flora, who served as Western’s eighth president from 1967 to 1975, passed away late in 2013 at age 85. Flora was well-known in the Bellingham community for his children’s television series, “Tide Pool Critters,” which aired locally on KVOS. Flora also led regular beach walks in Whatcom County, on which he’d lead community members in hands-on explorations of area beaches and mudflats. After Thursday's ceremony, family and friends walked the beach looking for a few critters of their own. During his tenure as WWU president, Western’s enrollment grew from 6,240 to 10,000, and four colleges – Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies, Huxley College of the Environment, the College of Business and Economics and the College of Fine and Performing Arts – were established.

“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

March 12, 2015 |
The Western Front
The lack of snowpack will cause trouble for Whatcom County salmon this summer. With less snowmelt, the south fork of the Nooksack River will be much more shallow, meaning higher than average water temperatures in the late summer. “It’s bad news for salmon,” said James Helfield, professor of environmental science. This is because salmon are cold-water fish. When water temperatures climb above 63.6 degrees Fahrenheit, it negatively affects the salmon’s metabolism. The warmer water also doesn’t allow for as much oxygen to dissolve. This causes a problem called hyperoxia in the salmon, Helfield said. The combination of stress on salmon’s metabolism and lower oxygen levels weaken the salmon’s immune system, making them more susceptible to parasites and diseases, he said.

“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

March 12, 2015 |
The Western Front
Nestled in the fields of rural Missouri, the entire Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage uses only 10 percent of the resources used by an average American. The 280-acre planned residential community produces its own solar and wind power needed to run and rent is $200 a month, according to the Dancing Rabbit website. Its 62 members eat food either grown directly on site or purchased from local, organic co-ops. Ma’ikwe Schaub Ludwig, executive director of Dancing Rabbit Inc., is coming to Bellingham to show how fewer resources doesn’t mean living anything short of a 100 percent life. Ludwig will be sharing her experience of sustainable living within the Missouri-based Dancing Rabbit intentional community as a part of a larger national tour 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17, at Explorations Academy at 1701 Ellis St.

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

March 5, 2015 |
Western Today
Western Washington University seniors once again have an opportunity to sign the Sustainability Graduation Pledge while picking up their caps and gowns March 19 in Viking Union Multipurpose Room. By signing this voluntary pledge and pushing themselves toward a responsible future, graduating students will receive a pledge card for their wallet, a green ribbon to wear on their cap or gown and optional recognition on the Office of Sustainability website. Pledge passage: "I pledge to use the knowledge and experience I gain at WWU and beyond to actively work towards a more socially and environmentally responsible world. I pledge to consider intergenerational equity, minimization of consumerism and the preservation of the biotic community within my future endeavors. I will bring integrity, stewardship, and social justice into any organization of which I work or affiliate."

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 masha.szaro@wwu.edu.

Four students win NOAA scholarships

March 2, 2015 |
The Western Front
Four Western students were awarded $22,500 from both academic aid and paid internships at top scientific research facilities for 2015. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) awards the Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship Program annually to approximately 100 students from all over the country. “I was on the bus when I got the email,” Daniel Woodrich, one of the winners, said. He found out in April. “I saw the first line that said ‘we are excited to inform you’ and I just started grinning like an idiot,” he said. Woodrich is a junior studying biology with a marine emphasis. This summer he will complete a paid internship at the Northeastern Fisheries Science Center in Wood’s Hole, Massachusetts. He will be working on the development of a device that acoustically tracks whales. The device will be used to track the North Atlantic Right Whale, which is one of the most endangered whales in the world, with only about 400 remaining. “Specifically what I’ll be doing is evaluating the validity of the detector,” he said. Woodrich will be helping with the development of an automator for these devices in order to gather data more quickly, he said. One thing Woodrich can do with his studies is be able to tell where certain whale species are and what they’re doing, he said. “Doing marine mammal work is a dream for a lot of people,” Woodrich said. “It feels really good, it feels like I’m really doing something.”

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

March 2, 2015 |
The Western Front
Pending approval, Lake Whatcom could see extensive cleanup efforts during the next five years that would cost $45.7 million. Since 1998, Lake Whatcom was listed as an impaired body of water by the Washington State Department of Ecology. In a public meeting Wednesday, Feb. 25, the Lake Whatcom Policy Group confronted the pollution by sharing a new proposal to clean up the lake. The lake’s impaired status is measured by a variety of target categories. Lake Whatcom was specifically labeled impaired for its deficiency in dissolved oxygen because of phosphorus runoff, causing problems for the water supply system and recreational users of the lake, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology. Lake Whatcom is the source of drinking water for nearly all of Bellingham and at least half the county. Around 100,000 residents depend on it, according to the Lake Whatcom Management Work Plan.

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

March 1, 2015 |
Sustainable Seattle
Three WWU/Huxley grads were up for regional sustainability awards in Seattle. Brenna Davis, Huxley grad '98 was nominated for the top award for her sustainability work at Virginia Mason: Environmental Hero; Brandon Miles, Huxley grad '02 was nominated for the Creative Solution Award for his group's sustainability work with the City of Tukwila; Dave Bennink, Huxley grad '94 was nominated for the Creative Solution Award for his company's work finding sustainable alternatives to demolition while creating jobs for disadvantaged workers.

WWU Geologist Pete Stelling Researching Geothermal Power Sources in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands

February 25, 2015 |
Western Today
Akutan, a small island in Alaska’s Aleutian chain, needs 4.2 million gallons of diesel fuel a year to keep the lights on and the houses warm for its fewer than 400 year-round inhabitants, at a high cost both literally and in terms of environmental damage. Western Washington University assistant professor of Geology Pete Stelling is researching how to turn the island’s volcanic core into a geothermal power source that could not only cut the needed amount of imported fuel into a fraction of its current level but transform the quality of life for its inhabitants. Central to the landscape of the island is the 4,275-foot volcano, Mount Akutan, which last erupted in 1992. Beneath its surface, pockets of water are being superheated by the volcano’s magma; utilizing this superheated water and its steam to generate electricity could free the island from its need to import so much fuel, said Stelling.

“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

February 24, 2015 |
Western Today
How did poets from centuries ago see their environment? And, more importantly, what did they think about the interactions between people and the earth? Western Washington University Professor of English Ning Yu sought to answer those questions in his new book, “Borrowed from the Great Lump of the Earth: An American Ecocritic’s Translation of Tang Poems,” published by Shanghai Press of the Classics. The book is a compilation of translated Tang poems with environmental themes. Tang poetry was written in China during the Tang Dynasty, often referred to as the “Golden Age of Chinese Poetry.” Because of poetry’s importance in Chinese social life, there are thousands of Tang poems.

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

February 23, 2015 |
The Western Front
Western implemented the Bottled Water Ban in April 2014 to support local water sources and push back against the privatization of water. A year later, students and sustainability groups on campus hope to extend the ban to include other plastic bottles. “Maybe [Western] is just trying to save the environment,” sophomore Alexy Vetkov said. He didn’t know that Western had stopped selling bottled water, Vetkov said. After learning about the ban, the reasoning behind it confused him, since campus still sells other beverages packaged in plastic bottles. “From what I understand, the point of not selling bottled water is to promote students using reusable bottles rather than buying more plastic,” freshman Michaela Vue said. Vue and Vetkov are not far off in their thinking that the purpose for the ban is to improve the environment, but that is not the whole story. Students for Sustainable Water (SSW) released a statement last year when the ban was implemented. The statement claimed the initiative was to support Lake Whatcom and encouraged people to take a stand against water privatization.

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

February 22, 2015 |
Skagit Valley Herald
It’s a Skagit Valley mystery more than 2,300 years in the making. Where did a 300-year-old tree — from around the time of the death of Alexander the Great — come from, and how did it end up under 11 feet of muck and mud in Joe Leary Slough? “This tree’s still here, which is really unique,” said Anna Freedman-Peel, a student at Western Washington University who helped interpret the tree’s history. “As far as we know, this is the oldest tree we’ve found over here.” The mystery came to light in 2013, when dredging on the Bow property of Joan and Loren Dahl unearthed the root-wad of a tree measuring more than 6 feet in diameter stuck in the mud.

“(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

February 22, 2015 |
The Bellingham Herald
A computer simulation delves 6,600 years into the past to show where volcanic ash would go if Mount Baker blew today. The simulation is on the website of the Mount Baker Volcano Research Center at mbvrc.wordpress.com. Bellingham geologist Dave Tucker, who is an expert on the volcanic history of Mount Baker, is the director of the nonprofit research center. The model helps answer the question: “If Mount Baker erupted right now, what would happen?” Tucker said. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Cascades Volcano Observatory created the animation to show the distribution and thickness of ash from a Mount Baker eruption.

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

February 19, 2015 |
Western Today
Three Western Washington University students have received prestigious National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hollings Fellowships, more than any other university on the West Coast. "The Hollings/NOAA Fellowship is a highly prestigious award that draws applications from students in the best colleges and universities in the country. The fact that so many Western students have won the fellowship proves that Western students really can go anywhere and do anything,” said Steven VanderStaay, Western’s vice provost of Undergraduate Education.

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

February 19, 2015 |
Western Today
Free to enter, the 2015 NW Washington Sustainability Challenge is a regional competition designed to stimulate innovation and provide support for entrepreneurs in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, Island and San Juan counties. Students from Western Washington University, who made a strong showing last year, are invited to compete. The top prize in the 2014 student category was claimed by WWU’s team NOVA Technologies, developers of the NOVA Solar Window, which combines the power-producing capabilities of a solar panel with the traditional utility of a window.

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

February 16, 2015 |
The Bellingham Herald
Joel Swisher, the new director of the Institute for Energy Studies at Western Washington University, stumbled across the institute by chance after his son enrolled at Western. At the time, Swisher, 57, was living in Boulder, Colo., where he was an independent consultant and taught graduate-level courses at Stanford University on greenhouse gas mitigation and electric utility planning methods. The Institute for Energy Studies piqued his interest by virtue of what it offers undergraduate students — an interdisciplinary platform with depth and breadth about the science, policy and technology of energy.

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

February 16, 2015 |
Skagit Valley Herald
ANACORTES — It’s a drizzly, February day, but the spirits of the elementary school students at Western Washington University’s Shannon Point Marine Center are bright as they scour the beach for signs of marine life. Some of them find limpets and barnacles, others find crawly creatures with claws that cling to their fingers as they bring them to an instructor for identification. Of course, there are also the birds that need identifying: cormorants and loons that bob in the water.

“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

February 12, 2015 |
The Western Front
Guatemalan environmental activist Jorge Armando Lopez Pocol came to Western to discuss the recycling and clean up work he does through his project, the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project. “Trees are sacred to us. From the tree comes oxygen. It offers shade when it’s hot out and it gives us warmth when we are cold,” Pocol said through a translator. “What we have is a respect for nature.” Pocol grew up in Kiche Maya, an indigenous community in Guatemala, he said in his discussion on Wednesday, Feb. 11. The Guatemalan government does not support the reforestation project, and views it and the Kiche Maya community as rebellious because of their activism against the mining projects and privatization of water, Pocol said.

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

February 12, 2015 |
The Western Front
Students for Renewable Energy (SRE) is hosting a human enactment of an oil spill Friday, Feb. 13 at 11:45 a.m. in Red Square to protest Western’s decision to not remove fossil fuel stocks from their university investment portfolio. This protest is part of Global Divestment Day of Action, senior Galen Herz, a member of SRE, said. People dressed in black will act as a moving flow of “oil” in Red Square for a short time while students are passing through, followed by a march. Students will display signs calling for Western’s divestment from fossil fuel industries, senior and SRE president Marika Weber said. The club has planned for at least 100 participants and handed out fliers inviting anyone on campus to join the event.

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

February 12, 2015 |
The Western Front
A lecture hall in Academic West crackled Wednesday evening as Western Washington University students snapped their fingers in agreement with guest speakers who shared their thoughts on environmental injustice. The Wednesday, Feb. 11, event titled “Environmental Racism” showcased how environmental policy and social norms negatively impact communities of color. Community justice leader Rosalinda Guillen grew up working in a migrant farm labor community and shared from experience how farmer workers who feed Americans are being displaced by trade agreements. She said she’s witnessed entire agricultural communities that have lost access to water, and therefore their livelihood.

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

February 10, 2015 |
The Western Front
The Washington Trails Association (WTA) partners with volunteers year-round to help construct and maintain parks and trails statewide. The WTA has ongoing work at Larrabee State Park, Fragrance Lake, the Samish Bay Connector trail on Oyster Dome and Sharpe Park near Deception Pass. Work parties are scheduled for Feb. 21 and 22 in Bellingham, according to the WTA website. Work is also being done in the Sehome Arboretum, said Arlen Bogaards, WTA Northwest regional manager. "We are rehabilitating one of the trails that goes through the Arboretum," Bogaards said.

"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

February 09, 2015 |
Western Today
Eight new offices at Western Washington University have achieved sustainable office certification from the WWU Office of Sustainability, bringing the total to 25 offices out of 137 university-wide, or 18 percent of all campus administrative, clerical, services and operations offices. Departments recognized at a ceremony Feb. 5 on campus were Public Safety, Map Collection, Tutoring Center, Environmental Sciences, WWU Everett University Center, Biology Stockroom, Human Resources, Huxley College Office of the Dean and Woodring College Office of the Dean.

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

January 30, 2015 |
The Oceanography Society
I seem to have a lot of dreams about crashing waves and tumblingrivers, and my favorite college physics courses were those in electromagnetism, so perhaps it was inevitable that I would end up working in the science of waves and Earth’swater systems. One focus of my research has been the physics of internal waves on continental margins and how theymove sediment around on fairly vast scales. Over time, my interests widened to include more general coastal oceanographic dynamics, and my research became more interdisciplinary. My students and I have worked to understand how weather systems, upwelling, downwelling, surface waves, and internal waves all work together to move nutrients, oxygen, sediment, and low-pH water around to affect ecosystems in coastal waters.

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

January 29, 2015 |
The Western Front
Steelhead trout, a local industry and heavily fished animal, are mapped for conservation efforts and population control. Biologists, agencies, tribes and nonprofits with knowledge of current steelhead habitats came together Wednesday, Jan. 28. The goal was to update a statewide steelhead map at the Hood Canal Coordinating Council in Poulsbo, Wash. Tyson Waldo, a fish habitat biologist at Western’s Huxley Spatial Institute, said updating information on where steelhead are found helps to preserve the fish population by providing information on where the fish are dispersed. “I think everybody got what they wanted out of the mapping. We were able to update the map, which is great, and we were able to identify some areas where we can visit for more information,” Waldo said.

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

January 28, 2015 |
PHYS.ORG
A common algae commercially grown to make fish food holds promise as a source for both biodiesel and jet fuel, according to a new study published in the journal Energy & Fuels. The researchers, led by Greg O'Neil of Western Washington University and Chris Reddy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, exploited an unusual and untapped class of chemical compounds in the algae to synthesize two different fuel products, in parallel, a from a single algae. "It's novel," says O'Neil, the study's lead author. "It's far from a cost-competitive product at this stage, but it's an interesting new strategy for making renewable fuel from 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

January 26, 2015 |
The Western Front
A young Tanzanian girl sits in a concrete classroom crammed full of blue steel desks. In her hands is a clarinet, the sun reflects off its shiny keys as she shifts her hands to form an F note. The sound of music fills the room. Although the African Blackwood, known as Mpingo, used to craft the clarinet is indigenous to Tanzania, it was only weeks ago that the girl had first seen or heard a clarinet. This is the case for the majority of Tanzanians, said Michele Von Haugg, founding director of Clarinets for Conservation.

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

January 26, 2015 |
The AS Review
It’s no secret that many students want to grow their own veggies at home, but even just thinking about gardening amongst all of our studying and work is enough to make you push the plans aside to next year. If you have ever been worried about lack of space or time, you can take a deep breath because growing your own garden at home is not nearly as intimidating as it seems.

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

January 23, 2015 |
Western Today
The Spatial Institute of Western Washington University and the Hood Canal Coordinating Council will be holding a one-day steelhead mapping exercise at the Hood Canal Coordinating Office on Jan. 28.

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

January 20, 2015 |
The AS Review
With a new quarter underway, the Associated Students Environmental and Sustainability Programs are preparing a series of events for this winter to raise awareness of problems facing the environment and to encourage students to learn ways in which they can become engaged in environmental activism. ESP Director Sadie Normoyle emphasized an interest in exploring the intersection between social and environmental issues. To this effect, the office is collaborating with other groups on campus, including the Ethnic Student Center and the Social Issues Resource Center.

“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

January 14, 2015 |
Western Today
The city of Bellingham has advanced to the semifinal round of the Georgetown University Energy Prize, which challenges small- to medium-sized towns, cities and counties to rethink their energy use and implement creative strategies to increase efficiency. Each community has submitted a plan to reduce energy use in homes and city and school district facilities that can be replicated elsewhere in the United States. The community with the best plan that most effectively reduces energy use over the 2015-16 period will be awarded a $5 million 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

January 12, 2015 |
The Western Front
Electric vehicles will be test-run on Western’s campus from Jan. 12 to 19 to determine how they can be used across campus to reduce carbon emissions. Facilities Management employees will try out the vehicles and give feedback on whether the vehicles can be used in their daily work. Several kinds of electric vehicles will be tested. Vehicles start arriving on campus Monday, Jan. 12, said Tom Krabbenhoft, program manager of Facilities Management.

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

January 5, 2015 |
Sustainable Connections
With the help of local partners, Sustainable Connections is hosting a Placemaking Competition to transform underutilized spots in Downtown Bellingham with YOUR idea for a lively destination that builds a stronger, healthier community. We are asking you to design a “tactical urbanism” project that enhances our Downtown vitality.

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

December 1, 2014 |
The Western Front
After a year of mass mortality among sea stars along the Pacific coast, a Western biology professor has a new hypothesis for what could be the largest recorded deaths in history of these sea creatures. Western professor Ben Miner co-authored a study published Monday, Nov. 17, that aimed to determine what has been killing sea stars from southern California to southern Alaska. “The best evidence currently found is that it is a virus,” Miner said. “There are other hypotheses that are consistent, but there is definitely a virus involved.”

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!