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College of Arts and Sciences Environmental Studies

Ecological legacy of the Palouse Prairie

Close up of spadefoot toad.It’s the cutest photo ever—innocent black eyes, little mottled snout covered with sand. Erim Gómez has won several awards for his angelic close-up of a spadefoot toad.

The doctoral student in environmental and natural resource sciences admits to a soft spot for the shy creatures. Working with associate professor Rodney Sayler in the WSU Endangered Species Lab, Gómez is conducting the first comprehensive survey of frogs and salamanders on the Palouse Prairie since the 1930s. » More …

Watershed planning for rural growth, threatened salmon

Salmon swimming down a stream.A report by scientists with WSU’s State of Washington Water Research Center could help inform decision makers and planners in watersheds across the state, as they develop projects that balance growth with the needs of threatened salmon and steelhead.

“Our guidance highlights available approaches that can benefit endangered species and their habitat, as well as Washingtonians’ increasing need for high-quality water,” said Stephen Katz, project lead and » More …

In search of microplastics in food

portrait outsideWhile shocking images of giant gyres of plastic trash in the world’s oceans cause widespread alarm, a more insidious threat to ecological and human health may be the nearly invisible microplastics in local waters, said environmental science professor Alex Fremier.

Supported by a Fulbright Global Scholar Award, Fremier will spend four months in Belém, Brazil, collecting water, fish and sediment samples in the Lower Amazon River Basin with the aim » More …

$1.4M DoD grant supports new eDNA techniques

Caren Goldberg near an Idaho pond.Freshly drawn from an Idaho pond, the half-liter of water running through Caren Goldberg’s funnel-shaped filter carries trace cells and tiny fragments bearing DNA—genetic code from native frogs and salamanders.

Those few strands of code say a lot to Goldberg, a WSU scientist who studies environmental DNA, or eDNA—genetic material sampled from soil or water rather than directly from an organism. The samples not only identify the animals who live in this pond, they hold the potential to » More …

Scientists seek causes, better predictions for South Asia’s changing monsoon

Deepti Singh, assistant professor in the School of the Environment, is trying to understand how and why the South Asian summer monsoon is changing.

Weather patterns in the region are becoming harder to predict, with rain falling in unusual amounts and locations, putting billions of lives and livelihoods at risk.

Working with colleagues in the U.S. and India, Singh has authored a new review exploring » More …

Dr. Universe: How do volcanoes erupt?

Dr. Universe behind a sleeping volcano.Wherever we find a volcano on the surface of our planet, we can find the source of an eruption beneath it. That’s what I found out from my friend John Wolff, a volcanologist at Washington State University in Pullman.

Our planet is home to all kinds of volcanoes that erupt in different ways. Some eruptions are quiet and continuous, with a slow flow of lava. Other volcanoes erupt explosively and » More …

Dr. Universe: All about bunnies

Dr. UniverseBunnies are hopping all over our planet. Some hop through snow and deserts while others hop through wetlands and woods. There are lots of different kinds of rabbits and they are all a little different. For the most part, a bunny hops, or actually runs, anywhere between 25 and 45 mph That’s even faster than most house cats can run.

My friend Paul Jensen, a graduate student researcher at WSU, studies snowshoe hares in northcentral Washington state to learn more about » More …

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

Infographic about soil carbon.One‑fourth of the carbon held by soil is bound to minerals as far as six feet below the surface, a Washington State University researcher has found. The discovery opens a new possibility for dealing with the element as it continues to warm the Earth’s atmosphere.

One hitch: Most of that carbon is concentrated deep beneath the world’s wet forests, and they won’t sequester as much as global temperatures continue to rise. » More …

Defining his own non-traditional path

graduate with familyFamily is core to who Geoff Schramm is as a friend, a person, but especially as a father and husband.

It’s the reason why he decided to go back to school at Washington State University Tri-Cities in his late 30s – a decision that led to many people asking him, “Why?”

» More …

Researcher warns of possible reprise of worst known drought, famine

Engraving showing the plight of animals as well as humans in Bellary district A Washington State University researcher has completed the most thorough analysis yet of The Great Drought — the most devastating known drought of the past 800 years — and how it led to the Global Famine, an unprecedented disaster that took 50 million lives. She warns that the Earth’s current warming climate could make a similar drought even worse.

Deepti Singh, an assistant professor in the School of the Environment, used tree‑ring data, rainfall records and climate reconstructions to characterize the conditions leading up to the Great Drought, a period of widespread » More …