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Washington State University
College of Arts and Sciences Environment

Undergraduates tackle important questions in sciences, humanities

Bala Krishnamoorthy and Josiah Cowin.Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, relieving chronic pain, understanding protest behavior, and conserving wildlife are among the goals of eight undergraduate research projects funded this spring by the College of Arts and Sciences.

Students from across the college—in mathematics, chemistry, foreign languages, and political, psychological, environmental, and biological sciences—are working with faculty mentors to solve questions as diverse as » More …

Increasing trend of concurrent wildfire air pollution and severe heat

Orange skyline resulting from wildfiresLarge wildfires and severe heat events are happening more often at the same time, worsening air pollution across the western United States, a study led by Washington State University researchers has found. In 2020, more than 68% of the western U.S.—representing about 43 million people—were affected in one day by the resulting harmful-levels of air pollution, the highest number in 20 years.

“We have seen an increasing trend in » More …

Concurrent heat waves becoming more frequent

Bright orange sunset silhouetting water tower on WSU Pullman campus. In a study of climate data from 1979 to 2019, WSU environmental researchers found the number of large-area heatwaves occurring simultaneously in the mid- to high-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere was seven times greater in the 2010s than in the 1980s.

On average, there were concurrent heatwaves on 143 days each year of the 2010s—almost every day of the 153 days of the warm months of May through » More …

Melting sea ice forces polar bears to travel farther for food

Two polar bears on a snowy landscape.In recent years, polar bears in the Beaufort Sea have had to travel far outside of their traditional arctic hunting grounds which has contributed to an almost 30% decrease in their population.

“Having to travel farther means these bears are expending more energy which can threaten their survival,” said Anthony Pagano, a postdoctoral researcher in WSU’s School of the Environment and lead author of » More …

Tribal connection inspires efforts to save salmon

Stephanie Blair.In her research of toxic runoff to help save iconic salmon species, WSU scholar Stephanie Blair draws on her science background as well as the knowledge and connections of her Native American community.

“We’re taught to think seven generations ahead, about people we won’t see in our lifetime,” Blair said. “Having experienced what happened to my family when salmon » More …

Dr. Universe: Why do leaves fall in the fall?

Dr. Universe using a microscopeEach year during the fall, we often see a lot of trees dropping their leaves. To find out exactly what happens when leaves fall, I talked to my friend Henry Adams, a researcher at Washington State University.

Adams is very curious about the lives of trees and how they can survive harsh conditions. He reminded me that all year long trees make their own chemicals that help control how they grow. » More …

Bringing awareness to Native American heritage

Ermia Butler.From a young age, Ermia Butler knew she would pursue a career that would support her tribe, but she didn’t quite know what it would be.

“I’m a first-generation student, but in high school I was supported really well,” Butler said.

An enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Butler grew up in » More …

Examining socio‑economics of flexible rules

Resevior.An interdisciplinary team of WSU researchers has been awarded a $1.6 million grant to study under what conditions are individuals, groups and institutions likely to follow rules about the environment “to the letter” versus exercising discretion or making new rules.

“In the realm of science-based environmental management, it is useful to have flexibility to adapt to changing conditions, but it is also good to have clear rules as a basis for making investments toward long-term goals,” said John Harrison, Edward R. Meyer distinguished professor in » More …

Populous regions bear brunt of increasing humid‑heat

The sun over the city.The world is not only getting hotter but also more humid, and new research by WSU environmental scientists shows people living in areas where humid-heat extremes are already a significant hazard are bearing the brunt of the impact.

“We identify a greater increase in population exposure to humid-heat as compared to » More …

Nature restoration project unites community, arts, science

Nature restoration project.In a narrow patch of land beside Missouri Flat Creek near downtown Pullman and the Washington State University campus, a new set of creatively designed signs celebrates a decade of ecological restoration efforts and a unique town–gown partnership combining environmental science and the arts. » More …