Local News: Research
Below are sustainability-related news items throughout the Western Washington University and Bellingham-area. These items correspond to Research.
Western Washington University professor completes study of mercury contamination in South River
May 26, 2015 |
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.
Western students to present solar window in D.C.
April 9, 2015 |
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
WWU Geologist Pete Stelling Researching Geothermal Power Sources in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands
February 25, 2015 |
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 |
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.
A story only a tree can tell
February 22, 2015 |
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 |
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.
Submissions open for sustainability challenge; WWU students were winners last year
February 19, 2015 |
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.”
Students, community leaders shed light on environmental racism
February 12, 2015 |
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.
Fish mapping helps preservation of wildlife
January 29, 2015 |
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 |
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.
Spatial Institute to help with updating fish distribution map
January 23, 2015 |
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.
Professor finds virus in mass sea star die-off
December 1, 2014 |
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.
Students create pet products in 'ReMade' challenge
October 30, 2014 |
Western Washington University’s junior Industrial Design students will showcase “upcycled” pet products they created using unique eco-strategies from reclaimed materials in the annual design challenge “ReMade” from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 7 at Ideal: Carefully Curated Goods, 1227 Cornwall Ave, in downtown Bellingham.
The students applied design methodologies to recycle, repurpose and transform discarded materials otherwise headed for waste streams into commercially viable and environmentally responsible pet products for sale.
Carbon-rich tidal wetlands down, but not out
September 25, 2014 |
About a hundred years ago, the Snohomish estuary was dominated by Sitka spruce forested wetland. Downed logs and driftwood occupied much of the channel in large rafts of diverse species. Historical accounts report that it was possible for some of these floating natural structures to remain in place for long periods of time. New trees up to 3 feet in diameter were reported to grow on top of the rafts. Some were over 25 feet deep, consisting of many layers of large logs, 3 to 8 feet in diameter.
Today, the Snohomish estuary is much changed. The estuary was logged and miles of dikes and levees were constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since then, the Snohomish estuary has been used for agriculture, wastewater treatment, and as a site for several landfills.
Western professor studying how butterfly populations reflect global warming
September 21, 2014 |
Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard sent the following memo to Steve Hollenhorst and John Furman, co-chairs of the Sustainability Advisory Committee, on Tuesday, Sept. 23.
As noted in my recent blog posting, action by the Western Washington University
Foundation has, appropriately I believe, put the University front and center and
responsible for meaningful actions to address issues of climate change.
WWU Foundation Responds to Request on Fossil Fuels Divestment
September 19, 2014 |
The Western Washington University Foundation Governing Board of Directors on Sept. 16 decided not to change its investment policy regarding divestiture from investments in fossil fuel companies.
The Foundation Governing Board’s decision was in response to a request by the Western student government.
WWU’s Troy Abel to lead NSF-funded climate governance study
August 27, 2014 |
Western Washington University Associate Professor of Environmental Policy Troy D. Abel and his research team have been awarded a $545,000 National Science Foundation grant that will allow him to lead the team in a three-year study on state and local climate-risk governance.
Abel helped launch a new Business and Sustainability degree at Western and was recently appointed the director of Huxley College of the Environment’s Peninsula program located at Western Washington University Center at Olympic College, Poulsbo.
Huxley Spatial Institute develops interactive map of rail lines used to ship crude oil in North America
June 4, 2014 |
Western Washington University’s Huxley Spatial Institute recently completed a collaborative project with the organization Oil Change International. The Institute’s Jacob Lesser and Tyson Waldo spent months developing an online map that allows users to explore the rapid expansion of crude oil being shipped by North American rail lines.
The Crude-By-Rail map was created as an online companion to “Runaway Train: The Reckless Expansion of Crude-By-Rail in North America,” a report published by Oil Change International in May 2014.
Climate change dries out Whatcom
May 30, 2014 |
Major trends caused by climate change in the Northwest are water-related challenges, including changing stream flow and an earlier snowmelt, which can increase the likelihood of drought, according to the United States National Climate Assessment released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program in May.
The report was gathered and reviewed by more than 300 experts on the topic, including scientists and federal agencies.
NOVA wins $35,000 for solar window invention
May 30, 2014 |
A team of six Western students known as NOVA received a total of $35,000 in the past month from different competition prizes and grants for their NOVA Solar Window, the first completely transparent solar window.
On May 23, the team was awarded a $15,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, said team member Joshua Bennett. The rest of the money was won from business competitions this year.
County enlists WWU students in disaster planning
May 21, 2014 |
BURLINGTON — In the event of a natural disaster, the ability for individuals and families to take refuge and protect themselves is extremely important. And for that, preparation is key.
“For the most part people are not prepared and that’s why hazards become disasters,” Western Washington University student Pam Melton told the Skagit Valley Herald Tuesday.
Student research award winners announced
May 15, 2014 |
Western Libraries is pleased to announce the 2014 winners of the Undergraduate Research Award, which is an annual award given to Western Washington University undergraduate students who demonstrate outstanding library research in the writing of papers for courses taught across the colleges.
It recognizes excellence in undergraduate research papers based on significant inquiry using library resources and collections, and learning about the research discovery and information synthesizing process.
Students to present geology research findings
May 13, 2014 |
Western students and faculty are preparing to present their geological studies on a variety of topics, ranging from poverty to tree rings. Western senior Tyler Black has been working all quarter on an extensive project with the Whatcom County Health Department mapping vulnerable populations of elderly and low-income people throughout Whatcom County.
Black, along with four other students and Western environmental studies professor Dr. Aquila Flower, will showcase her original work at the Association of Washington Geographers (AWG) Spring Meeting on Saturday, May 17. The convention is hosted on the University of Washington’s campus in Tacoma and features students throughout the state talking about their work in the field of geography.
Plants invade arboretum: Interns needed to map the intruders
May 9, 2014 |
Invasive plant species have been a problem in the Sehome Arboretum for several years and a summer student internship is being proposed to survey and map the invasive plant population.
In the Sehome Arboretum invasive plants including English Holly, Ivy and Vinca take over several native plants, such as ferns, by crowding them out of their native area and killing them.
Scientists narrow in on syndrome killing off starfish along Pacific coast
May 4, 2014 |
VANCOUVER -- Scientists are making some headway in figuring out what is killing millions of sea stars in the waters off the Pacific coast, from British Columbia to Mexico.
While a definitive answer eludes them, researchers suggest a pathogen -- either bacterial or viral -- is responsible for the death toll.
"We don't have an absolute answer yet," said Lesanna Lahner, a veterinarian at the Seattle Aquarium, after presenting the latest information at the Salish Sea Ecosystem conference in Seattle last week.
Scientist: Lake Whatcom's problems persist, but are not getting worse
April 9, 2014 |
BELLINGHAM - The quality of Lake Whatcom water may have stabilized, but it will likely take decades to get the city's drinking water source back to near-pristine levels.
So says Robin Matthews, lead scientist on the team that conducts an annual study of the lake's water commissioned by the city. Tests of 2013 water samples show that levels of most-watched pollutants have been holding relatively steady for several years.
New elk survey takes flight
April 7, 2014 |
Unmanned aircraft will scout a section of state-managed forest land north of Hamilton next week on the lookout for elk — a known hell-raiser in eastern Skagit Valley.
For several years, a growing herd has caused trouble for farmers, landowners and drivers along Highway 20 and the upper Skagit River.
Landmark Study Demonstrates Climate Benefits of Estuary Restoration
March 12, 2014 |
WASHINGTON - Restore America’s Estuaries has released the findings of a groundbreaking study that confirms the climate mitigation benefits of restoring tidal wetland habitat in the Snohomish Estuary, located within the nation’s second largest estuary: Puget Sound. The study, the first of its kind, finds major climate mitigation benefits from wetland restoration and provides a much needed approach for assessing carbon fluxes for historic drained and future restored wetlands which can now be transferred and applied to other geographies.
Students conduct class research for sustainable changes
January 28, 2014 |
Western Washington University is looking to become part of a large, international networking organization called Ashoka — an investment company that promotes sustainability.
Anthropology senior lecturer Kathleen Saunders and her research methods class are conducting student interviews this quarter to determine how best Ashoka can make the campus greener.
Whatcom King conference linking human rights and environmental justice
January 15, 2014 |
This year, the theme of the Martin Luther King Jr. Conference is "uniting for human rights and environmental justice." The conference will take place on Saturday, Jan. 18, at Whatcom Community College.
Human rights and environmental justice are inextricably linked. Whether the issue is coal exports that damage the environment and harm the way of life and livelihood of local communities or the approximately 800 million people around the globe who do not have access to safe, clean drinking water essential for their survival, human rights and environmental justice are connected. Our call as global citizens is to unite to promote the well-being of the planet and its people, today and in the future.
Local sea star populations dwindling
January 14, 2014 |
Sea stars along the West Coast, from Alaska to Southern California, are dying from what scientists call “Sea Star Wasting Syndrome.” Associate Professor of Biology Benjamin Miner is leading a team of researchers at Western Washington University to find out why.
Miner received a one-year research grant of $25,951 from the National Science Foundation to help map the infected areas along the coast and to conduct experiments on the diseased sea stars.
Student wins EPA research scholarship
November 21, 2013 |
Western Washington University Environmental Science student Roby Ventres-Pake of Portland, Ore., was a recent recipient of a scholarship from the Environmental Protection Agency's 2013 Greater Research Opportunities Fellowship program.
Through the EPA's GRO program, Ventres-Pake could be awarded up to $50,000 for studies in Environmental Science, and will also be given an EPA internship.
Western science report: Group studies seal population
November 17, 2013 |
Western Washington University professor Alejandro Acevedo and his research students are giving scientists new insights into marine life in Bellingham, Wash.
Acevedo's lab is interested in how harbor seals interact with their environment and how the seals are impacted by humans, as well as the ecology and conservation of their environment.
Bellingham college's $4.5 million fisheries building completed
November 13, 2013 |
BELLINGHAM - A grand opening celebration Saturday, Nov. 16, will mark the completion of the new $4.5 million Perry Center for Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences and the public and private donors who helped Bellingham Technical College replace its worn-out fisheries building.
Patricia McKeown, president of Bellingham Technical College, called the public-private support the "real exciting part" of the project.
Professor: As estuary health weakens, greenhouse gases increase
October 29, 2013 |
At a pair of research projects in Snohomish County, Western Washington University Professor of Environmental Science John Rybczyk is looking to find out more about the relationship between river deltas and estuary systems and their ability to lock in carbon.
Carbon is a naturally occurring element found in all living things, and the soft, oxygen-free sediments of estuaries are natural sponges that lock in carbon. When these estuaries and river deltas are drained or impounded, that sediment becomes exposed to oxygen and combines with the newly-freed carbon to form carbon dioxide, perhaps the world's top cause of global warming, as it enters the atmosphere.
Sustainability conversation series continues Nov. 5
October 9, 2013 |
Western's lunchtime conversations on sustainability and the environment continue Nov. 5 with a discussion of the role of the arts in sustainability, led by Western alumna Katy Borden, the artist services coordinator at Allied Arts of Whatcom County.
The conversation series is led by Western's Office of Sustainability in collaboration with the Teaching-Learning Academy and Western Libraries Sustainability Team. All meetings in the fall series are held from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays.
State environmental conference slated for WWU
October 8, 2013 |
Nancy Lord, author of "Early Warming: Crisis and Response in the Climate-Changed North," will keynote the first-ever Washington Higher Education Sustainability Conference
Feb. 6 and 7, 2014, at Western Washington University. Lord's book is the Western Reads book for this school year.
Students, faculty and staff at Western are encouraged to submit proposals for the conference
The aim of the conference is to advance campus sustainability through the sharing of best practices, the presentation of cutting-edge examples of creative solutions to common challenges, and the development of regional collaborative networks, said Seth Vidaña, Western's campus sustainability manager.
Energy institute gets $150K from Alaska Air
September 30, 2013 |
Western Washington University's Institute for Energy Studies is receiving a $150,000 gift of support from Alaska Airlines and $100,000 in various gifts from the Ingersoll Rand Foundation and Trane, a leading global provider of indoor comfort solutions and services and a brand of Ingersoll Rand.
Western established its multi-disciplinary Institute for Energy Studies last spring. The Institute program, the first of its kind in the country, combines science, technology, economics, business and policy and is designed to prepare students to become the leaders, managers and entrepreneurs of the new energy economy.
Western professor, students provide monitoring data for 70 of Washington's small lakes
August 13, 2013 |
Western Washington University Professor of Environmental Science Robin Matthews, director of Western's Huxley College of the Environment Institute for Watershed Studies, is working with two student volunteers to provide water-quality monitoring data for 70 Washington lakes as part of the institute's Small Lakes Project.
"We started this project in 2006 as a way of getting student volunteers some top-notch field research experience," Matthews said. "And it has turned out to not only be just that, but also a very valuable community resource as well."
Professor, students map toxic-release trends
August 8, 2013 |
Western Washington University associate professor of Environmental Studies Troy Abel and a pair of graduate students have worked, in conjunction with the Environmental Council of the States and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data, to produce a new interactive web application that charts point sources for toxic air releases for the entirety of the United States.
The application is available for use at www.toxictrends.org
Huxley's Institute for Watershed Studies renews its agreement to monitor Lake Whatcom
July 31, 2013 |
Huxley's Institute for Watershed Studies finished its third year of the 2010-2012 Lake Whatcom Monitoring project and received a three-year renewal to provide lake and stream monitoring for 2013-2015.
The new contract includes an expanded emphasis on storm event sampling to help the city of Bellingham model phosphorus and sediment loading into Lake Whatcom.
Huxley grad student develops a risk assessment model for policy makers
July 31, 2013 |
The thesis research of recent Huxley master's degree graduate Eleanor Hines, funded by the Bullitt Foundation, was designed to help regional and local policy makers achieve Puget Sound restoration goals.
Working in Huxley's Institute of Environmental Toxicology, Hines developed an Ecological Risk Assessment Model to examine the potential effectiveness of low-impact development as a management tool in the Puyallup River watershed.
Turning greenhouse gas into good energy
June 14, 2013 |
While he might not be working on turning lead into gold, Chemistry's John Gilbertson and his research team of graduate and undergraduate students might be unraveling something even more valuable – a way to take the increasingly abundant greenhouse gas – carbon dioxide – and transform it into useful compounds such as synthetic fuel or methanol.
Gilbertson, who was just awarded a prestigious five-year, $470,000 Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation (Western's third in three years) for his work, said he is basically just doing what nature does on its own.
NWIC's Salish Sea Research Center to open July 1
June 6, 2013 |
The Northwest Indian College's new $2.2 million Salish Sea Research Center will be fully operational by July 1, according to an announcement from the college. The facility, located on NWIC's main Lummi Reservation campus, will support an array of research programs and areas of study, including the college's Bachelor of Science in Native Environmental Science program. The 4,200-square-foot building includes five main laboratories, a biology room, a wet lab, a live lab, an ecology room and an analytical chemistry room.
WWU Professor Part of Global Research Team Shedding New Light on the Changing Arctic
March 11, 2013 |
An international team of 21 authors from 17 institutions in seven countries, including Western Washington University's Andy Bunn, has just published a study in the journal "Nature Climate Change" showing that, as the cover of snow and ice in the northern latitudes has diminished in recent years, the temperature over the northern land mass has increased, causing a reduction in temperature and vegetation seasonality in this area.
Green studying tsunami's impact on coastline debris
March 6, 2013 |
Approximately 6,700 miles away from Misawa, Japan, one of the Port of Misawa's 65-foot long docks is battering the Washington coast.
Rebekah Green, associate director of the Resilience Institute at Western's Huxley College of the Environment, and two of her students are trying to determine what else beach visitors might expect to see washed up on the shore.
Ecology Class Works to Remove Dam
March 5, 2013 |
Throughout the Pacific Northwest there is a growing trend for ecological restoration projects. From tree planting to riverbed reconstruction, Whatcom County, Washington State and the Pacific Northwest are helping to lead the charge in a movement to restore environments to their historic and natural state.
WWU chemist hopes to turn algae into biofuel
February 25, 2013 |
Ask consumers about the idea of switching from fossil fuel to biodiesel and two questions are likely to come up: Will biodiesel production hurt the environment? How much will the cost at the pump pinch their wallets? Scientists are trying to produce biofuels that will answer both questions the same way: "As little as possible." For now, soybean oil is the most widely used oil in biodiesel, but an easy-to-grow crop is being studied extensively as a possible fuel source - alga.
Western's Rebekah Green Receives Grant to Study Tsunami's Impact on Coastline Debris
February 20, 2013 |
Approximately 6,700 miles away from Misawa, Japan, one of the Port of Misawa's 65-foot long docks is battering the Washington coast. Rebekah Green, associate director of the Resilience Institute at Western's Huxley College of the Environment, and two of her students are trying to determine what else beach visitors might expect to see washed up on the shore.
Western professor receives grant for hurricane research
January 25, 2013 |
Western environmental science professor Scott Miles was awarded a $32,000 grant by the National Science Foundation to study power outages caused by Hurricane Isaac.
Hurricane Isaac hit the Louisiana coastline in August 2012. Miles ultimately hopes the research will help form a universal means of evaluating the performance of power companies in emergency situations.
Miles awarded $32K grant from NSF to study fallout from Hurricane Isaac power outages
December 14, 2012 |
Scott Miles, a professor of environmental studies at Western Washington University, has been awarded a $32,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the impacts and reactions to the power outage related to Hurricane Isaac, which struck Louisiana on Aug. 29.
Miles has completed field work for the grant, but the rest of the work will be done over the next year.
Chemistry research highlights sustainability
December 2012 |
Western Chemistry students are studying whether algae can be part of a cheap biofuel and creating new ways to break down harmful greenhouse gasses.
Students Josh Corliss of Vashon Island, Aaron Culler of Spokane and John Williams of Battle Ground are working with Associate Professor Greg O'Neil to explore new ways to create a less expensive biofuel. O'Neil's research is funded by a $430,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Biologist's research warns of the growing global impacts of extinction
December 2012 |
Loss of biodiversity appears to harm ecosystems as much as climate change, pollution and other forms of environmental calamity, according to a new study from an international research team headed by Western Biology Professor Dave Hooper and published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature last summer.
WWU's Shannon Point gets grants to buy new boat, equipment
October 15, 2012 |
Western Washington University's Shannon Point Marine Center has received two grants totaling more than $500,000 to buy a new boat and research equipment, according to the university. The center, which supports WWU's marine science academic programs, received a $162,300 grant to buy a new academic vessel, as well as a $346,000 grant to buy laboratory equipment that can analyze the marine environment at the molecular level.
Western student makes revolutionary discovery
September 28, 2012 |
A discovery recently made by a Western graduate student was published in the science journal, "Inorganic Chemistry."
Zach Thammavongsy spent three years in the lab researching how to inexpensively break down carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide using iron, Thammavongsy said.
Shannon Point gets $346K to buy mass spectrometer
September 28, 2012 |
Scientists at Western Washington University's Shannon Point Marine Center have received a $346,000 grant from the Major Research Instrumentation program of the National Science Foundation to obtain a Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometer, an analytical instrument that can be used to identify natural products in the marine environment at the molecular level.
Student pioneers method for breaking down CO2
September 5, 2012 |
After three years and thousands of hours in the lab, Western Washington University graduate student Zach Thammavongsy's research into breaking down carbon dioxide, one of the planet's most plentiful greenhouse gases, into the more valuable carbon monoxide has just been published in the research journal "Inorganic Chemistry."
Thammavongsy, a native of Belluevue and a graduate of Interlake High School, began the research when he was an undergraduate at Western and continued while he pursued his master's degree at the Bellingham university.
Western could become a hub of solar research
July 6, 2012 |
The luminescent solar concentrator research at the Applied Materials Science and Engineering Center (AMSEC) is just one of the projects at Western focusing on sustainable energy and green technology.
Biodiversity helps sustain human life, scientists say
June 7, 2012 |
WASHINGTON — Experts worldwide have long talked about the importance of preserving the diversity of life for the sake of beauty and wonder, or in the hopes of new medical discoveries, or for moral reasons.
A group of scientists is reporting that biodiversity also helps sustain human life.
WWU's Dave Hooper Collaborates with Other Ecologists in New 'Nature' Article
June 6, 2012 |
BELLINGHAM — Twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, 17 prominent ecologists, including Western Washington University's Dave Hooper, are calling for renewed international efforts to curb the loss of biological diversity, which is compromising nature's ability to provide goods and services essential for human well-being.
Is Earth Alive? Scientists Seek Sulfur For An Answer
May 16, 2012 |
Researchers at the University of Maryland have discovered a way to identify and track sulfuric compounds in Earth's marine environment, opening a path to either refute or support a decades-old hypothesis that our planet can be compared to a singular, self-regulating, living organism — the Gaia theory. Proposed by scientists James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the 70s, the Gaia theory likens Earth to a self-supporting singular life form, similar to a cell.
Loss of biodiversity will affect ecosystem
May 8, 2012 |
Biodiversity loss — the dwindling variation of life forms — could influence ecosystem change more than previously thought, according to a study published May 2 by a team of scientists, including Western biology professor David Hooper.
WWU biologist: Plant diversity key to ecosystem
May 6, 2012 |
A Western Washington University biologist says global climate change and pollution are not the only major problems threating the environment. The loss of plant diversity may be just as dangerous.
Professor David Hooper shared his perspective at a workshop in California at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, The Bellingham Herald
Environmental center library to move
April 13, 2012 |
The Associated Students Environmental Center Library proposed on April 11 a transfer of its materials to the Wilson Library.
The ECL proposed the move during the AS Board of Directors meeting. The ECL wants to transfer all of its materials, including books and a DVD collection, to the Wilson Library because students underuse the Environmental Center Library, said Jason Austin, associate director of Environmental and Sustainability Programs.
Western receives grant to create new energy courses
April 10, 2012 |
The Ingersoll Rand Foundation has donated $25,000 to Western in order to help fund an energy program for the university, according to a university press release.
Brian Sibley, campaign communications manager for the division of university advancements, said he believes this program is "quintessentially Western."
The program, intended to teach students how to develop new companies and work in the modern energy industry, is a collaborative effort from Western's College of Business and Economics, the College of Sciences and Technology and Huxley College of the Environment, according to the press release.
Western joins five universities in solar energy research
April 3, 2012 |
Western has become the newest link in a series of six solar and wind prediction sites along the west coast that will help researchers forecast the availability of solar and wind energy sources.
Workers installed specialized data collection equipment Friday on top of Western's Technology Development Center, located at 1000 F St. Brad Johnson, a physics professor at Western, said it has already begun to collect data on Bellingham's solar viability, with wind measurements soon to follow.
Professor receives grant to study snow pollutants
April 3, 2012 |
Associate Professor Ruth Sofield is preparing to study the potential impact of pollutants from snowmobiles on mountain snowpacks with a $4,000 grant she was awarded in January.
Sofield received the grant from the Winter Wildlands Alliance and will focus her studies on Mount Baker and in Wyoming. She will create a report on the potential pollutant levels in the snow for the alliance — a national non-profit organization with a dual mission of conservation and recreation.
Ingersoll Rand Foundation donates $25,000 to WWU Energy Program
April 2, 2012 |
BELLINGHAM –Western Washington University has received a gift of $25,000 from the Ingersoll Rand Foundation. Ingersoll Rand is a world leader in creating and sustaining safe, comfortable and efficient environments and includes Trane, a leading global provider of indoor comfort systems and services, among its family of brands. The grant from the Ingersoll Rand Foundation will help fund the development of an energy program at WWU.
"We are pleased to help WWU pioneer this program," said Warren Michelsen, district general manager of Northwest-Hawaii Trane district. "As a company we are committed to helping our customers reach their goals for sustainability and energy conservation. This program will prepare its graduates to be leaders in the clean energy economy. We're honored to support the innovation and initiative they've demonstrated and pleased to collaborate in helping guide the launch of this ambitious program."
University Environmental and Cleantech Innovators Awarded $22,500
March 30, 2012 |
Student teams pitched their innovations at the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge yesterday afternoon, showing the clever ways they would address energy, urban agriculture, recycling, built environment and water-related problems. Now in its fourth year, the Challenge focuses on the development of prototypes that solve some of today's biggest problems and have market impact. The 23 student teams came from universities and technology institutes across the Northwest.
Western Washington University's Perpetuous Innovations team showed a prototype of their Solar Window design for commercial greenhouses. Each window concentrates incoming sunlight and uses it to generate solar power, while still allowing light to come through the tinted plastic pane.
Study: Young people not so 'green' after all
March 15, 2012 |
They have a reputation for being environmentally minded do-gooders. But an academic analysis of surveys spanning more than 40 years has found that today's young Americans are less interested in the environment and in conserving resources — and often less civic-minded overall — than their elders were when they were young.
Tiny Neah Bay school a finalist in national science competition
March 9, 2012 |
A group of Native American students from tiny Neah Bay, on the Olympic Peninsula, are finalists for a national $100,000 technology and software prize. The "Solve for Tomorrow" competition, sponsored by Samsung, aims to honor students who best show how science or math is helping the environment in their community.
Why this is relevant: The Neah Bay middle and high schools are heavily involved with a science education partnership grant through SMATE at Western Washington University.
U.S. EPA Funding Opportunity and Competition in Sustainability
November 2011 |
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is announcing a unique grant opportunity for college and university faculty and students - EPA's P3 - People, Prosperity and the Planet - Program. Through this hands-on design competition, student teams and their faculty advisors receive $15,000 grants to design scientific, technical, and policy solutions to sustainability challenges around the world. Projects can address a challenge in one or more of these areas: Water, energy, agriculture, built environment, materials & chemicals, green infrastructure, and clean cookstoves.
WTA receives $2.8 million for five hybrid buses
October 19, 2011 |
Whatcom Transportation Authority has received a $2.82 million grant to buy five diesel-electric hybrid buses, which should hit streets in late 2012. The Federal Transit Administration recently awarded WTA competitive grant funds to replace five 18-year-old diesel buses with the new hybrids. "This is big news for us to be able to jump into the alternative fuels world," said Maureen McCarthy, WTA spokeswoman.
Why Logging US National Forestland to Sell Timber to China is a Really Bad Idea
October 17, 2011 |
Countries around the world are working harder than ever to save their forests. Brazil's president recently announced that the country's 80 percent Amazon deforestation reduction target will be met by 2016 – four years earlier than promised. In 1998, China banned tree cutting to preserve its forests after the loss of trees caused flooding along the Yangtze and Yellow rivers. The ban is now extended to 18 of its 23 provinces, according to CQ Global Researcher. Here in the US, environmentalists backed by the EPA's Endangered Species Act have reduced national forestland logging by 75 percent from its peak 20 years ago.
But is selling our natural resources really the way to go? The logging industry's 2010 net profit after tax was only 1.1 percent, according to a Western Washington University study.
UW, WSU to get $80M to develop biofuels
September 28, 2011 |
Washington's two major public universities have been awarded $80 million in federal grants to kick-start a biofuels industry in the Northwest, with hopes of turning trees into fuel for jet engines and cars alike. Underscoring the size and importance of the grant, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was to make the announcement Wednesday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The total grant is $136 million and one of the largest the USDA has ever made.
Huxley's Rybczyk helps found research consortium in Skagit basin
September 27, 2011 |
John Rybczyk, an associate professor in Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University, is among the founding members of the Climate Science Consortium
, a group of research scientists from federal, state, municipal, tribal, university and non-governmental organizations working in the Skagit basin.
Members seek to understand how the landscape, plants, animals and people may be affected by changes in the patterns of rain, snow, temperature, storms and tides. SC2 members also seek to make their findings available to private and public decision-makers and to work interactively within the Skagit community to ensure their findings are relevant and usable.
Professor's research shows neighborhood disparities in Seattle's pollution distribution and exposure risks
September 19, 2011 |
Western Washington University Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Troy Abel and Geography graduate student Jonah White recently published a new study about trends in Seattle's pollution distributions, relative exposure risks and their association with gentrification.
Abel and White found evidence that Seattle's industrial air toxic-exposure risk was unevenly dispersed; gentrification processes were stratifying Seattle neighborhoods; and the inequities of both often converged in the same place.
Huxley researchers aid in deconstruction of historic dam
June 3, 2011 |
The Klallam people of the Elwha Valley on the Olympic Peninsula once caught fish in the Elwha River year-round. The river was one of the most productive fish runs in the Pacific Northwest and boasted all five species of Pacific salmon.
But the construction of two massive dams in the early 20th century drastically cut the size of runs, destroying the tribe's major food source and leaving the habitat altered.
City remodels 3 buildings to save money, energy: Grant allows energy-efficient lights, heating, windows and solar panels
May 27, 2011 |
Crews began installing solar panels on the rooftop of the Lincoln Square Apartments on York Street.
The Bellingham Housing Authority received a $9.9 million federal grant to start the Green Communities Project last October. The goal of the project is to create an environmentally conscious community.
This January, the housing authority started remodeling the apartments at Lincoln Square, Chuckanut Square on 12th Street, and Washington Square on E Street. Construction workers are using environmentally friendly technology, such as solar panels, an energy-efficient water heating system, green lighting systems and energy-efficient windows.
Huxley's John Rybczyk awarded Nature Conservancy grant; students to assist in research
April 13, 2011 |
John Rybczyk, Western Washington University associate professor of Environmental Science, has been awarded a $12,567 grant from the Nature Conservancy to study sediment accretion in the Port Susan Bay area of the Stillaguamish River estuary.
Rybczyk said the objectives of the project are to restore self-sustaining native tidal wetlands that support estuarine-dependent animals, improve juvenile salmon access to restored rearing habitats, and to improve connectivity between the river and tidal habitats.
WWU awarded $730,000 federal grant for design of hybrid bus
December 8, 2010 |
The Federal Transit Administration recently awarded Western Washington University a $730,000 grant to design a lightweight hybrid bus for transit applications. The project is under way at the Technology Development Center, a Port of Bellingham facility leased by WWU and Bellingham Technical College.
Partners with WWU in the project include Transition Composites, Janicki Industries, Kitsap Transit, Whatcom Transportation Authority, the Port and Airtech.
WWU researchers say they could dramatically cut cost of solar power
September 14, 2010 |
A team of Western Washington University researchers have developed a new approach to solar electricity generation they say could eventually cut solar power to 1/10th of its current cost. The team recently won a three-year grant of $970,000 from the National Science Foundation to continue their research.
Woodring College Receives Sustainability Education Grant
March 3, 2008 |
BELLINGHAM - Western Washington University's Woodring College of Education has received a grant from the Russell Family Foundation to fund research into strategies for including education for sustainability in the pre-service preparation of teachers.