transparent
transparent

Projects

Below is a list of Western sustainability and environmental projects. This list does not include projects that were awarded grants nor does this list include Campus Sustainability Planning Studio projects.

Pacific Coast Starfish

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. [Source]

Some of those dead stars now rest in Lahner's office, their remains preserved in carefully labeled jars. She has mailed samples to pathologists and geneticists, who are rushing to understand the most widespread disease outbreak ever documented in any echinoderm. There is little time to waste, as the epidemic could burn out—making it harder to identify the pathogen. "A lot of people are scrambling," says ecologist Benjamin Miner of Western Washington University (WWU) in Bellingham, who is surveying the coast and conducting experiments in his lab. [Source]

Elwha Dam Removal

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.

In addition to their positive environmental impact, many of these projects are now being taking advantage of as an educational tool as well. For Western's Ecology and Economics of Salmon Recovery class, a class that is co-taught by economics professor Hart Hodges and biology professor David Hooper, a recent weekend-long field trip to the Elwha Dam removal project site on the Olympic Peninsula helped to illustrate what exactly is involved in such mass restoration projects. [Source]

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.

On June 1, 2011, the generators of these two dams on the Elwha River were shut off after 97 years, setting into motion a $324.7 million restoration project, which involves tearing down the massive concrete walls in the largest dam removal in U.S. history. [Source]

Carbon Dioxide Research

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."

"This is a big breakthrough," Thammavongsy said. "Anything that we can do to lessen the impact of CO2 on our planet, however small it may seem at the time, is incredibly important. And to be able to work on research of this magnitude as an undergrad – it's just been an amazing experience." [Source]

Biodiversity Study

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.

Over the past two decades, strong scientific evidence has emerged showing that loss of the world's biological diversity reduces the productivity and sustainability of natural ecosystems and decreases their ability to provide society with goods and services like food, wood, fodder, fertile soils, and protection from pests and disease, according to the international team of ecologists led by University of Michigan's Bradley Cardinale. [Source]

"Where I live, around Puget Sound in Washington state, it's one of the most beautiful areas in the world — and, in fact, that natural beauty is a source of local pride, tourism dollars, and natural resources, such as clean water and fisheries. Even so, we have at least 25 species threatened with extinction, ranging from small wildflowers to chinook salmon and Orca whales," David Hooper wrote in an email. [Source]

Skagit Climate Science Consortium

The Skagit Climate Science Consortium (SC2) is a group of scientists working with local people to assess, plan and adapt to climate related impacts. Comprised of research scientists from federal, state, municipal, tribal, and university and non-governmental organizations working in the Skagit basin, SC2 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's vision is to reduce the vulnerability of human communities and ecosystems in the Skagit River basin to the impacts of a changing climate. [Source]