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The fate of future endangered species could hinge on a semantic argument

Among a series of changes to the Endangered Species Act recently proposed by Trump administration officials is a provision that would define the “foreseeable future” as the time period extending “only as far as they can reasonably determine that both the future threats and the species’ responses to those threats are probable.”

Rodney Sayler

Environmental groups and scientists see the proposed changes as an attempt to limit the protections extended to new species.

“It is difficult to place any trust whatsoever in an administration that so openly disdains data, logic, information, reason, and the critical role of science in informed decision making,” says Rod Sayler, associate professor of environmental science at Washington State University. “By opening the door to interpreting what ‘foreseeable future’ means, people may discount potential longer-term threats (such as those from climate change) and argue for shorter-term perspectives and more immediate benefits of development activities.”

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Popular Science

There might once have been life on the moon, study finds

Today, the surface of the moon is dry, dusty and uninhabitable—but in its distant past, our satellite might have had pools of water on the surface… and alien life.

Dirk Schulze-Makuch.

In fact, there are two times in the moon’s early history when there could have been life on the surface, says Dirk Schulze-Makuch of Washington State University’s School of the Environment and lead author of newly published research in Astrobiology.

During those periods, there might have been pools of liquid water on the surface—where life could have thrived.

The collaborative research centered on two periods: just after the moon formed from a debris disc four billion years ago, and during a peak in lunar volcanic activity around 3.5 billion years ago.

During both periods, planetary scientists think the moon was spewing out large quantities of superheated volatile gases, including water vapor, from its interior.

“It looks very much like the moon was habitable at this time,” Schulze-Makuch said.

“There could have actually been microbes thriving in water pools on the moon until the surface became dry and dead.”

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Is Yellowstone about to blow? Vast fissure sparks URGENT closure in Grand Teton National Park

A fissure has opened up in Grand Teton National Park just 60 miles (100km) from the Yellowstone volcano, prompting officials to immediately close the area. Experts have detected expanding cracks in the rock buttress, which is being closely monitored by geologists for movement.

While it hasn’t blown its top for more than 600,000 years, scientists are working to better understand Yellowstone in the hopes of predicting the next eruption.

Peter Larson.

Researchers at Washington State University said pools of molten volcanic rock build in subsurface magma chambers and are key to the eruption process.

“It is the coal in the furnace that’s heating things up,” said study coauthor Professor Peter Larson.

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Salmon poisoning disease in grizzly bears

Salmon in the northwestern continental United States often carry a fluke containing bacteria that can produce a deadly disease in bears called salmon poisoning disease (SPD). Current recovery plans for grizzly bears in the North Cascades of Washington and the mountains of central Idaho, where infected salmon currently occur, call for using bears from several interior populations; however, a new study reveals that such bears with no history of salmon consumption are likely sensitive to SPD.

The Journal of Wildlife Management findings indicate that identifying a source of bears that would be resistant to SPD may be difficult.

Charles Robbins

“We are hopeful that the bears used in the initial restoration effort will feed exclusively on terrestrial-based foods as there are currently very few salmon returning to the North Cascades; however, any bear that moves into lower elevation areas where they might consume salmon will be closely monitored,” said lead author Dr. Charles Robbins, professor of environmental studies at Washington State University. “If they eat salmon containing the bacteria, we suspect they will get sick. We are hopeful that they will be able to recover.”

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Science Daily

Into the wild to study grizzlies and camp in their midst

There’s camping, then there’s Alaska back-country, grizzly bear scientific research camping.

Woman tending to a sedated bear in a meadow surrounded by mountains.
Erlenbach takes a blood sample from a bear in Alaska.

That’s how Joy Erlenbach, a doctoral student in the School of the Environment, has spent the past three summers, and where she is right now.

“We get dropped off in the middle of Katmai National Park by a float plane, then we’re on our own for a month,” Erlenbach said before she left this year.

No showers, only one other person to talk to, and surrounded by beautiful mountains, rivers, wildlife and waterfront. Oh, and bears. Plenty of bears.

“We’ve got two tents, surrounded by an electric fence, with maybe 20-30 bears in the meadow right outside the tent,” she said. “You can’t let your guard down. I mean, bears aren’t there to get you, but you have to always be aware of your surroundings.”

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WSU Insider