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College of Arts and Sciences Archives

Eyes in the sky

A drone flies over the landscape.With the support of the Biologically Intensive Agriculture & Organic Farming grant program at WSU, environmental scientists are using satellites and drones to help local conservation districts monitor areas near rivers and streams to help improve agricultural sustainability.

“The state’s program is really a bottom-up approach, where the state encourages local stewardship to improve riparian areas and monitor them,” said Alexander Fremier, associate professor in » More …

Wildlife ecologists document rare jaguar-ocelot interaction

A trail camera shows jaguar attacks an ocelot at night..In what may be a sign of climate-change-induced conflict, researchers have captured rare photographic evidence of a jaguar killing another predatory wild cat at an isolated waterhole in Guatemala.

Captured in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in March 2019, a dry month in a drought year for the tropical forest, by wildlife ecologists from WSU and the Wildlife Conservation Society, the event is » More …

How scientists tracked down a mass killer (of salmon)

Every fall, more than half of the coho salmon that return to Puget Sound’s urban streams die before they can spawn. In some streams, all of them die. But scientists didn’t know why.

Now, a team led by researchers at Washington State University and the University of Washington has discovered the answer. When it rains, stormwater flushes bits of aging vehicle tires on roads into neighboring streams. The killer is in the mix of chemicals that leach from tire wear particles: a molecule related to a preservative that keeps tires from breaking down too quickly. » More …

A world without insects?

Insect Illustration.Over the past couple of decades an increasing number of reports have warned of dramatic declines in insect populations worldwide. Faced with data sufficient to cause grave concern, WSU scientists embrace a mixture of trust in insect resilience and a determination that despair is not an option.

Referring to her efforts to restore pollinator habitat and rebuild threatened butterfly populations, WSU Vancouver conservation biologist Cheryl Schultz says, “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think there was hope.” » More …

Styrofoam-eating mealworms could be safe for dinner

Mealworms in a wooden bowl.Brenden Campbell, a master’s student in the School of the Environment, won recognition from the Comparative Nutrition Society for virtually presenting research on a recently discovered ability in mealworms. In his WSU undergraduate honors research project, Campbell found that the larvae can safely eat polystyrene waste, discarded polymers better known by their trade name of Styrofoam.

At the society’s virtual conference in summer 2020, Campbell received the Best Poster Oral and Q&A Award for » More …

Bear butter: Studying tiny moths as a rich food source

Grizzly bear and cub.A team of international scientists led by a WSU graduate student are trekking the high peaks of the greater Glacier National Park ecosystem this summer to better understand a tiny but important food source for grizzly bears—the army cutworm moth.

Erik Peterson, a master’s student in the School of the Environment, partnered with WSU professor Daniel Thornton and seven colleagues to collect data, map, and model the alpine habitats where grizzlies forage on moths by the thousands, finding calorie-rich meals in » More …

Mt. St. Helens: Lessons learned

Mount St. Helens.In the days after Mount St. Helens first erupted—sending some 540 million tons of ash over an area of 22,000 square miles—WSU ecology professor Richard “Dick” Mack was already thinking of its potential research value.

“It wasn’t research that I intended to do,” Mack says, “but there was a unique opportunity and it would be remiss of me to ignore it.” He and a group of graduate students spent the summer of 1980 doing field work between Pullman and Vantage, studying the effects of the ash on vegetation—particularly native plants, such as » More …

Mt. St. Helens: next generation of research

Mount St. Helens.When Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, it leveled more than 230 square miles of forest, but it also opened a rare scientific opportunity to study how an ecosystem responds after an extreme disturbance.

WSU ecologists John Bishop and Mark Swanson have been involved in Mount St. Helens long-term research for decades and are preparing for the next generation of work. They each focus on different areas affected by the blast. No matter how severe the damage on the landscape, life has found a way to return and brought valuable » More …

Canada lynx disappearing from Washington state

A lynx.Canada lynx are losing ground in Washington state, even as federal officials are taking steps to remove the species’ threatened status under the Endangered Species Act.

A massive monitoring study led by WSU researchers has found lynx on only about 20% of its potential habitat in the state. The results paint an alarming picture not only for the persistence of lynx but also many other cold-adapted species, said Dan Thornton, an assistant professor in the School of the Environment.

“Lynx are good sentinel species for climate change,” said Thornton, the corresponding author on » More …