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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

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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WSU News

WSU chemist Aurora Clark named ACS Fellow

Aurora Clark
Aurora Clark

Aurora Clark, a WSU professor of chemistry, has been named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society.

Clark received the prestigious award for her service to the nuclear/inorganic and computational chemistry communities and for her innovative research, including the pioneering use of computer algorithms and network analysis to understand the behavior of complex solutions and their interfaces.

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WSU News

Prehistoric turkey DNA used to track ancient Pueblo migration

Tim Kohler
Kohler

In the mid-to-late 1200s, some 30,000 ancestral pueblo farmers left their homes in southwestern Colorado’s Mesa Verde region and never returned.

Where these people went and why they left are two of American archeology’s longest-standing mysteries.

A new study co-led by archaeologists Tim Kohler, of Washington State University, and Brian Kemp, formerly at WSU, now at the University of Oklahoma, provides the first genetic evidence suggesting that many of Mesa Verde’s ancient farmers moved to the northern Rio Grande area in New Mexico, a region currently inhabited by the Tewa people.

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WSU News