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Researcher sees how forests thrive after fires and volcanoes

Mount St. Helens landscape
Mount St. Helens Johnston Ridge, 25 years later - courtesy Wikipedia.

Forests hammered by windstorms, avalanches, and wildfires may appear blighted, but a Washington State University researcher says such disturbances can be key to maximizing an area’s biological diversity.

In fact, says Mark Swanson, land managers can alter their practices to enhance such diversity, creating areas with a wide variety of species, including rare and endangered plants and animals.

“The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, for example, has created very diverse post-eruption conditions, and has some of the highest plant and animal diversity in the western Cascades range,” says Mark Swanson, an assistant professor of landscape ecology and silviculture in Washington State University’s School of the Environment.

Swanson, who has studied disturbed areas on Mount St. Helens and around western North America, presents his findings this week at the national convention of the Ecological Society of America in Portland. » More …

Faculty members named to state academy of science

By Eric Sorensen, WSU science writer

Five Washington State University scientists have been elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences, including:

  • Sue Clark, regents professor of chemistry and staff scientist, WSU Nuclear Radiation Center. Clark has developed ways to quickly identify radioactive materials in environmental samples. President Barack Obama appointed her last year to the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, which advises Congress on the technical aspects of the management and disposal of the nation’s high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel.
  • Kelvin Lynn, professor in both the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, director of the WSU Center for Materials Research, George and Diane Conniff distinguished professor, and Boeing chair of advanced materials

They will be inducted during the academy’s fifth annual meeting in Seattle in September.  Continue story →

Presidential award goes to neuroscience researcher

Brendan Walker
Brendan Walker

Washington State University Department of Psychology neuroscience researcher Brendan Walker has been selected to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), which is the highest honor the federal government awards scientists and engineers who have recently initiated independent research careers.

Walker was selected for his work in developing new therapies for alcohol addiction. The Presidential Awards are intended to recognize and nurture some of the finest scientists and engineers who, while early in their research careers, show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of scientific knowledge during the twenty-first century.

“This is a tremendous honor,” said Walker. “It is wonderful to see this area of research recognized for its importance at the highest levels.” » More …

Travel with Garrison Keillor: the gig of a lifetime

By Becky Phillips, Marketing and Creative Services

Band members were grinning as their raucous beer medley swung its way around the audience seated in the St. Louis Fox Theatre. Polka music flirted and twirled. Fiddle player Richard Kriehn raised his violin to take a solo, but in that moment, his bow slipped and snagged itself on the violin microphone. With four million listeners also tuned in via National Public Radio, crunching and screeching filled the air as Kriehn struggled to pry the bow loose.

“Great…” thought Kriehn, who was on his debut tour with the band. “I just wanted to crawl under a rock at that point.”

After a few embarrassing seconds, the show went on and so too did Kriehn, who travels with Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” radio road show as a member of the Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band.

Kriehn, a highly accomplished musician, is the academic advisor for the School of Music at Washington State University. He advises all music majors and minors. Continue story →

Financial support for young adults can strengthen family ties

By Hope Belli Tinney, WSU News

When parents support their children financially well past the point that they themselves became financially independent, the resulting parent-child relationship is:

A. Fraught with tension and resentment.
B. Detrimental to the child’s leap into adulthood.
C. Closer and more loving than before.

While individual results may vary, Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson, a sociologist at Washington State University, has looked hard at the data from more than 11,000 surveys of young people ages 18 to 34 and says the answer is a qualified C.

“What parents are doing today is different than what parents were doing 20 or 30 years ago,” she said. Baby boomers might remember putting themselves through college, or supporting themselves with their first full-time job, but that isn’t the world their children have inherited. Continue story →