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College of Arts and Sciences Environment

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 …

Defending against invasive mussels

Mussels covering hydro dam equipment.So far, the Columbia River Basin, which spans an area the size of France and includes portions of seven states and parts of Canada, is the only major river basin in the United States that hasn’t been impacted by invasive quagga or zebra mussels. Researchers in the Aquatic Ecology Lab at WSU Vancouver are developing strategies to help keep it that way.

Preventing new introductions, quickly detect new arrivals, and controlling the bivalves’ spread is not an easy task: females can produce a million eggs a year and the size of larvae » More …

Crimson Spirit Award: Michelle Hendrickson

Michelle Hendrickson.Michelle Hendrickson, a fiscal analyst with the School of the Environment, received a 2020 Crimson Spirit recognition.

As one of her four nominators explained, “She is kind, tenacious, attentive to details, and displays a superior Crimson spirit. She maintains calm under pressure and exceeds all expectations, by continuously seeking knowledge to better serve the WSU community in and outside of SOE.” » 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 …

Faculty recognized for teaching excellence

CAS logo on white with borderSeventeen CAS faculty members from 9 academic areas and 3 campuses are among the newest members of the WSU President’s Teaching Academy, the institution’s premier organization dedicated to teaching excellence.

Members “are all committed to delivering outstanding teaching experiences to our students and advancing the practice of great teaching,” said Clif Stratton, chair. » More …

Hutton honored with Crimson Spirit award

Sophia Hutton.Sophia Hutton, administrative manager for the School of the Environment, received a 2020 Crimson Spirit award in recognition of her creative problem-solving skills and outstanding service to her unit and the University.

Hutton manages the  School of the Environment main office and staff, and assists the director and faculty, facilitates faculty searches, helps advise graduate students, and more.

A critical thinker who is always solving problems and anticipating » 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 …

Dr. Universe: How do earthquakes happen?

Dr. UniverseWe’ve had a lot of earthquakes on our planet this year. Maybe you’ve learned about them from the news or felt one shaking up your own neighborhood. Earthquakes can happen in a few different ways.

First, it is important to know a bit about the Earth’s outer layer, or crust. The crust is made of seven big pieces called “plates.” They are about 60 miles thick and sort of float on the molten rock beneath them. That’s what I found out from my friend Sean Long, a WSU geology professor who knows a lot about earthquakes. » More …