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College of Arts and Sciences Published research/scholarship/creative work

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 …

Big gaps in quest to sequence genomes of all animals

Microscopic view of DNA strands and silhouettes of various insects and mammals.In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from WSU and Brigham Young University warn that current efforts to sequence the genomes of the world’s animals are overlooking huge swathes of diversity and opportunity.

“With genome assemblies accumulating rapidly, we want to think about where we are putting our efforts. It’s not being spread evenly across the animal tree of life,” said lead author Scott » 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 …

Radiocarbon dating adds a millennium to Sakaro Sodo stelae

Sakaro Sado pictured in 2014.Rising as high as 20 feet, ancient stone monoliths in southern Ethiopia are 1,000 years older than scientists previously thought, according to a new study in the Journal of African Archaeology led by Ashenafi Zena (’19 PhD).

“This is one of the most understudied archaeological sites in the world, and we wanted to change that,” said Zena, who is now at the State Historical Society of North Dakota. » 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 …

New biomarkers could predict rheumatoid arthritis

Close up of a woman's hands, one holding the other in pain.Cells from a cheek swab revealed biomarkers for rheumatoid arthritis that could lead to a way to diagnose and begin treatment before the disease develops, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

In the study, researchers from Washington State University and Arthritis Northwest in Spokane, Washington, identified a set of epimutations in cells from » More …

Atom laser creates reflective patterns similar to light

A glass bottle surrounded by metal equipment.When cooled to almost absolute zero, atoms not only move in waves like light but also can be focused into shapes called caustics, similar to the patterns light makes on the bottom of a swimming pool or through a curved wine glass.

WSU physicists have developed a technique to see these matter-wave caustics by placing attractive or repulsive obstacles in the path of a cold atom laser. The results are curving cusps or folds, upward or » More …

Analysis: No systematic agency bias in WSP traffic stops

Washington State Patrol car. In an analysis of five years of traffic stops conducted by the Washington State Patrol, researchers with WSU’s Division of Governmental Studies and Services (DGSS), with support from faculty from the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, found no evidence for intentional, agency-level racial bias.

“This research connects the expertise of Washington’s land-grant university to a pressing public issue,” said DGSS Director Christina Sanders. » 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 …

Findings contradict negative assumptions about universal payments

Hands spreading our hundred dollar bills.When given cash with no strings attached, low- and middle-income parents increased their spending on their children, according to research led by WSU sociologist Mariana Amorim.

The study, published in the journal Social Forces, also found that the additional funding had little impact on » More …