In Glacier National Park, little camouflaged cameras are hidden throughout the trails, not to see hikers’ antics but to capture photos of the elusive lynx.
The 132 cameras took about 570,000 photos last summer capturing everything from bears and lynx to worn-out hiking boots.
This is part of a three-year study of the lynx population that hopes to learn about their activity in the southernmost portion of their habitat.
Alissa Anderson, a graduate student in environmental studies at Washington State University and fondly called A-lynx-ssa by her colleagues, brought the camera trap technique to Montana after it was developed in Washington.
Lynx studies are often done in the winter to avoid disturbing bears, but field work in the winter is expensive and dangerous, Anderson said.
A new study funded by and focused on King County, Washington, aims to go beyond the sensational “salmon on cocaine” headlines to get us closer to understanding what chemicals in wastewater means for the life cycles of salmon and orcas that eat them. It has become a frequent topic of discussion within state government — especially after the Governor’s Orca Task Force made reducing exposure to pollution a top priority.
Over the next year, researchers will explore how effluent from King County’s three largest plants and nearby waters affect orca prey species and orca exposure.
The researchers will collect effluent from the West Point, Brightwater and South plants and water from nearby drainage outfalls, then send it to a lab to get a breakdown of the compounds in it. In the spring, they’ll expose juvenile chinook salmon from a hatchery to effluent mixtures at a laboratory in Puyallup run by Jen McIntyre, assistant professor in the School of the Environment at Washington State University.
“We will dilute the treatment plant effluent with clean water to simulate for fish exposure to different ‘strengths’ of effluent from the treatment plant, such as occurs in receiving water,” McIntyre says.
Beyond measuring bioconcentration of chemicals and evaluating for impacts both acute (death) and chronic (limited growth and reproduction), they’ll be studying biomarkers in the blood and liver that can show subtle negative health impacts, including metabolic, endocrine or behavioral disruption.
The faces behind Washington’s farms are wrinkling.
The average age of a Washington farmer is 58.1 years, up from 56.8 in 2012, according to the Census of Agriculture. Meanwhile, farmers under age 44 make up less than 18 percent of those in the business.
The years ahead will be defined by “high transition,” said Marcia Ostrom, an associate professor in the School of the Environment at Washington State University.
That represents an opportunity for investors in farms, land and water.
Older farmers often don’t have relatives interested in farming, Ostrom said. Their retirements are often tied to farm assets. Younger farmers often find it difficult to build capital to enter a high-cost industry.
Scientists studying marmots in the high meadows of the North Cascades are concerned about their decline
Logan Whiles is a graduate research assistant at Washington State University studying predator-prey interactions, and Rawley Davis is his summer field technician. The three of us are about to spend a week in Washington’s North Cascades National Park observing hoary marmots, collecting carnivore scat, and checking on wildlife cameras. This will be Logan Whiles’s fifth time making the roughly sixty-mile trek.
There is evidence that hoary marmots are in serious decline in the North Cascades National Park. One hypothesis for the loss suggests that less snow due to a warming climate opens the restaurant doors for carnivores that otherwise dine at lower elevations (such as coyotes and bobcats). If more marmots are being eaten by these lower elevation animals, then the rare higher elevation carnivores like wolverines and lynx could be forced into competition. This in turn could throw already stressed habitats further out of sync.
Scientists are still determining to what extent human or carnivore activity in the North Cascades affects hoary marmot behavior. They want to know which carnivores up here are eating marmots. Whiles and his team theorized maybe bear (grizzlies are known to dig marmots out of their burrows), but there are currently no grizzlies here, and last season the team collected enough scat to realize that local black bears chomp more veg than they do meat.
Data compiled from this research is giving us a clearer picture of climate change impacts on sensitive mountain habitats across Cascadia.
Every fall for the past five years, Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska has celebrated Fat Bear Week: a chance, as NPR explained, for people around the world to vote March-Madness style on which coastal brown bear has gotten the chunkiest while gorging themselves in preparation for winter hibernation.
In Canada’s British Columbia, meanwhile, a wildlife photographer snapped a picture of emaciated bears this fall struggling to find food amidst one of the area’s lowest-ever salmon runs.
While the Katmai bears are lucky in comparison, the climate crisis has still affected them. That’s because the salmon were delayed this fall due to drought, which meant that bears and fish didn’t arrive along the Brooks River until mid-September, two weeks later than normal.
“I’ve been out there before, when a [salmon] run was delayed by a week, and the bears start getting anxious,” Joy Erlenbach, a Ph.D. candidate in environmental studies who works with Washington State University’s Bear Center, told The Verge. “It’s scary for the bears because they don’t know what’s happening. They just know the food they expect isn’t there, and it can affect their behavior.”