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WSUV professor authors book on slavery

Woman, children were enslaved on Indian Ocean island

France probably isn’t the first country to pop into your mind when you think of nations with a convoluted and ugly history of slavery, but a new book by WSU Vancouver history professor Sue Peabody may change that.

Sue Peabody
Sue Peabody

Peabody, an international expert in French colonial slavery in the Indian Ocean, released her book, “Madeleine’s Children,” through Oxford University Press on Oct. 3. The book tells the tale of Madeleine, a slave brought to France as a teenager in 1772, and her children, Furcy, Constance and Maurice, who were illegally enslaved on Reunion Island, a French Indian Ocean colony at the time. The story traces her son Furcy’s struggles to gain his freedom through a corrupt and convoluted system of colonial rule.

“It’s really a remarkable piece of work,” said Brett Rushforth, an assistant professor at the University of Oregon who read Peabody’s manuscript for Oxford University Press. “It’s amazing how those worlds interconnected. In India, you have complicated colonial rules, legal statuses and servitude. You have France’s sugar islands, and then you have France itself. These three things are very different from each other and yet end up intertwined.”

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The Columbian

Researchers gain grant to study fire aftermath, regrowth

Kevan Moffett

As wildfires dominate headlines in the Pacific Northwest and the rest of the American West, a Washington State University Vancouver researcher is seeking answers to unknown questions about a fire’s aftermath.

Kevan Moffett, an assistant professor of environmental hydrology at the Salmon Creek campus, and Andres Holz, an assistant professor of geography at Portland State University, recently received about $500,000 in grants from the National Science Foundation grant to research how the soil and landscape changes after multiple wildfires in one area.

It’s a relatively untapped area of research, Moffett said. There’s no data on the hydrology — the movement and quality of water — of soil that’s been burned over and over again in the kinds of forests that cover Washington state, nor is there any information on how repeated burns could affect landslides, downstream flooding, vegetation regrowth or the risk of even more fire.

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The Columbian

How body camera footage can enhance officer training

In spite of the potential benefits of using body-worn camera footage to improve community interaction, increase officer safety, and evaluate training, police departments are only minimally using the information available at their fingertips. The crux of the problem comes down to time: It is impossible for agencies to dedicate the manpower required to review hundreds of thousands of hours of footage generated by body-worn cameras.

David Makin

Criminal justice experts at Washington State University (WSU) are hoping to solve this problem by using advanced scientific tools and techniques—such as data analytics, biometrics and machine learning—to examine the complex factors that shape interactions between police and community members.

Researchers in the new Complex Social Interaction (CSI) laboratory at WSU, led by David Makin, assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology, are designing algorithms and software that analyzes body-worn camera footage.

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Volcanic Eruptions That Shaped Oregon May Have Had a Chilling Effect

John Wolff
John Wolff

There are signs of it all over Oregon and Washington: the dramatic cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge, the layered rock along the Palouse River, the ash deposits around the Zumwalt Prairie. A series of volcanic eruptions, starting 17.5 million years ago, formed the Columbia River Basalt Group, a complex of rock formations that was created over a few million years as lava erupted from fissures in the ground and seeped over the landscape.

The eruptions deposited about 10,000 cubic miles of rock and, according to new research, probably released enough sulfur gas to cool the whole planet down.

“The climate was already warming up rapidly before the whole eruption period started,” says John Wolff, a geologist at Washington State University and coauthor of the study. “Right at the peak of the [Miocene] Climatic Optimum, when these eruptions happened, there’s a little downturn in temperature. It’s actually two peaks of warming, separated by this cooling period.”

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Atlas Obscura

WSU researchers see popular herbicide affecting health across generations

Michael Skinner portrait
Michael Skinner

First, the good news. Washington State University researchers have found that a rat exposed to a popular herbicide while in the womb developed no diseases and showed no apparent health effects aside from lower weight.

Now, the weird news. The grand-offspring of that rat did have more disease, as did a great-grand offspring third generation.

“The third generation had multiple diseases and much more frequently than the third generation of unexposed rats,” said Michael Skinner, a Washington State University professor of biological sciences. At work, says Skinner, are epigenetic inheritance changes that turn genes on and off, often because of environmental influences.

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