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Snowshoe hares provide clues about forest health

The number of snowshoe hares in a forest is a good indicator of how healthy the ecosystem is, and scientists have now applied a new method to find out.

Daniel Thornton.

“Snowshoe hares are considered a keystone, boreal forest species and there’s been some evidence that hare populations are changing as the climate warms,” said study co-author Dan Thornton. “This study comes out as rapidly changing climatic conditions are altering our natural plant and animal communities worldwide.”

In 2019, researchers from Washington State University designed a large-scale field test to analyze the camera method while investigating the density of snowshoe hares at various forested sites on the eastern edge of the North Cascades in Washington. The experiment successfully trapped 770 snowshoe hares and collected 13,608 camera trap photos.

To determine effectiveness, the research team compared live-trapping and camera-trapping data. The study found that, overall, density estimates from the cameras had an 86 percent correlation with live trapping data. “Until now, cameras could only really tell us if the hares are there or not there,” said Thornton.

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MLK Spirit Awards celebrate service and social justice work

Nine Washington State University faculty, staff, and students as well as two student organizations are being honored for their distinguished service and commitment to community, equity, and social justice at WSU and beyond.

Aaron Agulay.

The MLK Program recently honored WSU music professor Aaron Agulay with the Bayard Rustin Excellence Award and will announce the winners of the Elson and Carmento Floyd and William and Felicia Gaskins Social Justice Advocate of the Year Award soon.

Recipients of the Distinguished Service Award have demonstrated a commitment to human rights and social justice in one or all the following areas: altruism and community service; advancement of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice; and inclusive and equitable practices in education.

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Criminal justice professor honored for contributions to study of corrections

Mary Stohr

A nationally recognized scholar of prison reform, WSU professor Mary Stohr has been selected to receive the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences’ prestigious John Howard Award for her significant and sustained contributions to the practice of corrections.

“John Howard literally gave his life in the pursuit of improving European jails and promoting humane treatment of prisoners—he died of typhus, also known as ‘jail fever.’ I am very humbled to be recognized among the ranks of those working diligently to improve correctional facilities for inmates and staff,” said Stohr.

Stohr served five years as ACJS executive director, co-founded the Corrections Section and the Minorities and Women Section, and previously received both the Founders Award and the Fellows Award.

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A new approach to climate change adaptation

Communities on the frontlines of climate change want to take the lead in choosing their own adaptive strategies.

Anne Pisor.

Anne Pisor, WSU assistant professor of anthropology, and an international team of researchers propose a bottom-up approach to climate change adaptation where communities on the front lines play a leading role in the decision-making process.

“Currently most governments and other organizations involved in addressing climate change prefer to fund initiatives where decisions are made about what to do at a higher level and then these decisions are passed down to local communities, like towns or neighborhoods, to implement,” Pisor said. “The issue with this is that what seems like a good strategy to these organizations may not actually work on the ground.”

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Scientists Are Working On “Contagious Vaccines”

Around the world, several teams of scientists are looking to create “contagious vaccines,” that would spread by themselves, giving herd immunity to populations faster than the disease can spread itself.

“The potential benefits of transmissible vaccines are enormous, but there are some safety oncerns that need to be figured out before their successful implementation,” Mark Smithson of the School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University explained in a video.

“Use in humans may be warranted for populations that are hard to reach, or for epidemics that are uncontrollable by direct vaccination. However, using transmissible vaccines could be dangerous. Mainly because vaccines with a potential to spread through a host population also have the potential to revert back to the disease.”

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