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English department trains faculty on student veteran awareness

Veterans make up an important portion of Washington State University’s student population, with 3.1% of students either previously or currently serving in the military, according to Fall 2020 student data. This is a distinctive student population that brings a unique set of experiences and abilities to the classroom.

On WSU’s Pullman campus, two English department faculty members, who happen to be veterans themselves, are doing what they can to build awareness and understanding of this unique student population by delivering Student Veterans Awareness training for English 101 faculty members.

Mike Edwards.

“Veterans, military members, and their families are a vital and vibrant part of the WSU Cougar community,” said Mike Edwards, an assistant professor of English. “We want these students to know that they are welcome here and that their service and life experiences are valued.”

Elijah Coleman.

Edwards, a US Army veteran and previous instructor at the US Military Academy at West Point, has been teaching the Student Veterans Awareness training for fellow English faculty members every year since 2013. Elijah Coleman, another English faculty member who is a Marine veteran, co-leads the training.

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WSU Insider

Human hiking trails custom built for sauntering grizzlies

Anthony Carnahan.

In the run up to hibernation, grizzly bears go on a colossal binge, consuming as many calories as possible to get them through the long winter. Yet, little was known about how much energy the massive mammals use as they shamble around their rugged territories. “Moving across the landscape in search of food can be a huge energetic expense for some animals,” says Anthony Carnahan, a graduate student in the School of Biological Sciences.

Charles Robbins.

Fortunately, the Washington State University Bear Research, Education and Conservation Center (WSU BREC), where Carnahan is based, is home to 11 bears, including four that formerly lived in Yellowstone National Park, so he and Charles Robbins (also at WSU BREC) decided to measure the animals’ metabolic rates as they sauntered on the flat, and up and down gradients to find out how much energy they use on a daily basis. The team publishes their discovery that grizzly bears prefer to walk on shallow paths to save energy in Journal of Experimental Biology, explaining why the animals often appear on human hiking trails.

After months of patiently measuring the bears’ oxygen consumption at speeds ranging from 0.4 to 1.3m/s on the level and gradients up to 20deg to calculate how much energy they used, it was clear that ascending and descending the slopes was quite costly, although the bears used less energy bowling downhill at higher speeds. Most surprisingly, the bears didn’t seem to have much spare gas in the tank to maintain long high-speed pursuits. They consume similar amounts of energy to climbing humans, wolves and wild cats, in contrast to fleeing elk and deer, which use 46% less energy than grizzlies over mountainous terrain.

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New York Times
Science Magazine

PhD student selected to talk to Congress about science funding

Milica Radanovic.

A doctoral candidate in the School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University, Milica Radanovic is among 23 graduate students selected nationwide by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) to speak with Congress about the importance of funding scientific research.

As a winner of ESA’s Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award, Radanovic will attend virtual training to learn about the federal legislative process and science funding, hear from ecologists working in federal agencies, and review policy and communication best practices before she meets with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

“We are living during a time of global change, and scientists have a social responsibility to push for positive change,” she said. “This will be achieved when scientists learn to effectively communicate with policymakers and the public. Voices in policy need to be diversified, barriers keeping people from science need to be torn down, and we need to work together for the greater good.”

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WSU Insider

WSU Police partner with student legal group on arrest data

The Student Legal Research Association will help evaluate arrest data from WSU’s police department as part of measures to address racial disparity in arrests on the Pullman campus. The campus police are also taking collaborating with university researchers to address implicit bias.

These actions are part of an effort to address disproportionate arrests of Black people by campus police, a problem identified by a Daily Evergreen article in fall 2019 and a following report by WSU Office of Compliance and Civil Rights (CCR) in May 2020. The term “arrest” in police data includes non-custody interactions such as issuing traffic citations.

David Makin.

The CBTSim program is just one that the WSU campus force will undertake, Gardner said.  The department is working on another project with WSU criminal justice professor David Makin and the Complex Social Interactions Lab where officers will review body camera footage in very specific ways to try to understand the effect their actions have.

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WSU Insider

Explainer: What is statistics?

When describing statements with numbers, people often refer to them as statistics. For instance, if 70 out of 100 students got a B on an English test, that would be a statistic. So would the make-believe statement “90 percent of toddlers love tuna.” But the field of statistics involves much more than a collection of factoids.

Statistics is a different kind of animal than other fields of STEM. Some people consider it to be a type of math. Others argue that while statistics is like math, it’s too different from math subjects to be viewed as part of that field.

Researchers see data all around them. Data are waiting to be gathered from penguin poop and the weather outside. They lurk in the motion of planets and talks with teens about why they vape. But these data alone don’t help researchers get far. Scientists need to think through how they structure their studies to glean meaningful information from these data.

Leslie New.

“I have skills marine biologists need — and those skills are statistics,” says Leslie New. She is a statistical ecologist at Washington State University in Vancouver. New uses statistics to study study marine mammals, such as whales and dolphins.

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Science News for Students