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Life on the moon, the decline of salmon diversity, and assessing the effects of cannabis were among the most newsworthy Washington State University research stories last year, according to a communications office analysis. Five CAS stories graced the top 10, and 19 more rounded out the top 100.

Here are the top CAS research news stories with links to the full story, potential viewership numbers, top outlets in which they were featured, and possible reasons behind their success.

Mysteries from the moon’s past

728 million
GeekWireAir & SpaceForbesIFLScience

The thought of life in space—in this case, on the moon—has an endless appeal and astrobiologist Dirk Schulze‑Makuch is continually conceiving of ways it can get a foothold. Combined with the fourth study below, about life on Mars, Schulze‑Makuch’s work had a potential audience of 1 billion, nearly a quarter of the news attention given WSU research last year.


Life always finds a way

274 million
ScienceIFLScienceAtlantic

More Schulze‑Makuch. See above.


Assessing how cannabis affects emotional well‑being

145 million
ForbesGizmodo

Cannabis is a hot topic. More than 70 WSU researchers are capitalizing on Washington’s role as one of the first states to legalize non‑medical marijuana. It showed in several high profile stories.


Interior northwest Indians used tobacco long before European contact

139 million
SmithsonianSeattle TimesDiscoverColumbianNorthwest Public Broadcasting

“Long‑held View Upended” is the “Man Bites Dog” story of science.


Dramatic decline in genetic diversity of Northwest salmon

98 million
Yale Environment 360Science OnlineOregon Public Broadcasting

We know salmon have been taking it on the chin. Now we learn that their genes have too.


Virtually every major news outlet picked up at least one WSU research story last year. One story alone was picked up by Los Angeles Times, Scientific American, Seattle Times, New York Times and The Washington Post, while other stories saw coverage in National Geographic, Popular Science, Smithsonian magazine and the full suite of state media.

The other CAS stories in the Top 100 for 2018 include:

Cacao analysis dates domesticated chocolate trees back 3,600 years

WSU researchers focusing on range of cannabis health issues

Reverse engineering reveals pine tree’s chemical production — worth billions

Researchers find new way to estimate magma beneath Yellowstone supervolcano

Six feet under: Deep soil can hold much of the Earth’s carbon

Early warning system for deadly amphibian pathogen

Researcher warns of possible reprise of worst known drought, famine

Salmon face double whammy from toxic stormwater

Positive policing changes after cannabis legalization seen by WSU researchers

Genetic mutation drives tumor regression in Tasmanian devils

Climate change affects breeding birds

WSU researchers extract nicotine from ancient dental plaque for the first time

WSU research heads to International Space Station

WSU receives $1 million from Keck Foundation to develop self‑replicating materials

Coho salmon die, chum salmon survive in stormwater runoff

Self‑fertilizing fish reveal surprising genetic diversity

Sleep study targets brain processes causing poor decision‑making

WSU Tri‑Cities team researching use of fungi to restore native plant populations

WSU/UI team receives USDA grant to lead national milk conference

The WSU Marketing and Communications office analyzed every research news story distributed to reporters from the central news office or posted to EurekAlert, the subscription news service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Each story was analyzed in the Cision news database, which monitors the vast majority of news outlets and computes their potential audience based on outlets’ circulations or unique visitors. The potential audience serves as a guide to relative popularity; the number of actual readers is significantly smaller, as readers and visitors rarely take in every story in a periodical or website.

See the full Top 100 list at WSU Insider.