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College of Arts and Sciences Environment

Keller named director of School of the Environment

Keller portrait imageKent Keller, professor and fellow of the Geological Society of America, has been named director of the School of the Environment at Washington State University.

A WSU researcher and teacher since 1988, Keller began his career studying geological processes deep under the Earth. Today he studies the critical zone, the vital skin of Earth where rock meets air and water to support life. » More …

Sex that moves mountains: Spawning fish can influence river profiles

Alex FremierIt turns out that sex can move mountains. A Washington State University researcher has found that the mating habits of salmon can alter the profile of stream beds, affecting the evolution of an entire watershed. His study is one of the first to quantitatively show that salmon can influence the shape of the land.

Alex Fremier, lead author of the study and associate professor in the WSU School of the Environment, said female salmon “fluff” soil and gravel on a river bottom as they prepare their nests, or redds. » More …

Undergraduate research enables WSU junior to give back

Lambert in the mountainsWashington State University junior Lambert Ngenzi wants to use what he is learning about geospatial analysis to help farmers in rural Africa conserve and manage vital water resources.

“Where I come from, water is a big issue,” Ngenzi said. “If I could do something in any way, if I could help the people back home, I would love to do it.” » More …

Ancient Inland Northwest volcanic eruptions blocked out sun, cooling planet

Palouse Falls (c)WSU Photo ServicesThe Pacific Northwest was home to one of the Earth’s largest known volcanic eruptions, a millennia-long spewing of sulfuric gas that blocked out the sun and cooled the planet, Washington State University researchers have determined.

“This would have been devastating regionally because of the acid-rain effect from the eruptions,” said John Wolff, a professor in the WSU School of the Environment. “It did have a global effect on temperatures, but not drastic enough to start killing things, or it did not kill enough of them to affect the fossil record.”

The research, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, appears in Geology, the top journal in the field. Starting 16.5 million years ago, they say, vents in southeast Washington » More …

CAS students receive Carson, Auvil undergraduate research awards

portion of the cover of printed programA total of 10 College of Arts and Sciences students received two types of awards from the WSU Office of Undergraduate Research.

Recipients of the Carson and Auvil awards will work with faculty mentors throughout the 2017-18 academic year on research, scholarly and creative projects that advance or create new knowledge in a specific field. » More …

Exodus: Climate and the movement of the people

footprints sandVast swaths of forests in western North America are dead or dying, killed by pine bark beetle. The beetles have been there all along, but prolonged droughts reduced the trees’ ability to defend themselves from the inner bark-munching bugs.

The western slopes of the Sierra Nevada range in California have been especially hard hit by the depredation, just as people who made money in Silicon Valley sought to move their families out of the choked cities and up into the beautiful mountain forests. Now, to mitigate risk of catastrophic fire and the further spread of pests such as bark beetle, landowners must cut down dying and dead trees—the forests that were the very reason they moved there in the first place. » More …

Off the beaten path

monarch butterfly on yellow plant“The monarchs were a big surprise for me,” says Rod Sayler. “It’s the first time I’ve seen them at WSU except for fly-bys. I thought, ‘Wow, it finally happened!’”

Sayler, an unabashed naturalist known for his signature straw hat, is project director for the WSU arboretum and an associate professor in the School of the Environment. In an age of climate specialists and policy wonks, Sayler revels in the down-to-earth study of nature in all its intricate bounty.

For the last nine years, he and his colleagues have painstakingly transformed a wedge of farmland into a botanical garden alive with wildflowers, native bees, meadowlarks, amphibians, rabbits, deer, and more. It’s a campus dream over a century in the making, says Sayler, one that finally came to fruition in 2008.

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WSU researchers find wealth of fish at deep Hawaiian reef

dozens of fish around coral reefWashington State University marine biologists for the first time have documented a wealth of fish in the “vastly underexplored” deep coral reefs off Hawaii Island.

The study gives fishery managers a more complete picture of fish species and habitat around the Big Island, home to a thriving aquarium fish trade, as well as other deep waters around the globe, said Cori Kane, a doctoral student at WSU Vancouver.

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Photographing the elusive, endangered lynx

Deep in the forests of Washington’s Kettle Mountains, Washington State University wildlife biologist Daniel Thornton searches for signs of a rare and elusive type of wild cat — the lynx.

An assistant professor in the School of Environmental Science, Thornton and environmental science graduate students Travis King and Arthur Scully are helping to lead the largest lynx camera survey ever done in the state this June-October.

The goal of the multiyear research project is to understand the distribution and abundance of Washington’s lynx in order to develop an informed plan for their conservation and recovery. The project is sponsored by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Washington State Fish and Wildlife, Conservation Northwest, Osprey Insights, Seattle City Light and the U.S. Forest Service. » More …

Time, Place, and the River

River and students-WSUVA research project led by scientists at WSU Vancouver is working to understand how increasing human activity affects the Columbia River, upstream and down. Called CRESCENDO, the Columbia River Scientific Education and Outreach program is a partnership between five Washington high schools along the river and WSU Vancouver that integrates scientific and educational research. CRESCENDO has received $213,496 for this two-year project from Washington Sea Grant, a state entity set up to manage funds from the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Read more on page 19 in WSU Vancouver’s Crimson and Gray magazine >>