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College of Arts and Sciences environmental studies

Watershed planning for rural growth, threatened salmon

Salmon swimming down a stream.A report by scientists with WSU’s State of Washington Water Research Center could help inform decision makers and planners in watersheds across the state, as they develop projects that balance growth with the needs of threatened salmon and steelhead.

“Our guidance highlights available approaches that can benefit endangered species and their habitat, as well as Washingtonians’ increasing need for high-quality water,” said Stephen Katz, project lead and » More …

Saving sage-grouse by relocation

A grouse flying across the landscape with Mt. Rainier in the background.Moving can be tough, but eventually most of us acclimate to new surroundings. That’s true for humans, and research from Washington State University shows it’s the same for sage-grouse too.

A team of scientists successfully moved sage-grouse, a threatened bird species in Washington state, from one area of » More …

To catch a cat

TTravis King travels through a Costa Rican swamp at Tortuguero National Park in 2014, with a team from Panthera and local guides.rekking through one of the largest unexplored rainforests in the world, La Mosquitia in Honduras, Travis King set up traps last spring to catch jaguars—or whatever other animal came into range of the cameras.

King, a WSU environmental science graduate student, was one of 12 biologists conducting the first biological survey of the area known as La Ciudad Blanca or the Lost City of the Monkey God, astounding ruins first identified in 2012.

It was already familiar work for King, who has used remote-sensing camera traps and other methods to identify the behavior and distribution of elusive big cats from Costa Rica, Honduras, and Belize all the way to central Washington. » More …

It’s in the genes

Omar Cornejo and Joanna Kelley in their WSU labWhen Omar Cornejo got his genomic analysis back from 23andMe, he and his wife, fellow population geneticist Joanna Kelley, were both a bit surprised and vindicated. Venezuelan, Cornejo expected to see the alleles, or variations of a gene, from Native American, western European, and North African populations. But he was unaware that his family’s deep history also included ancestors from sub-Saharan Africa.

That just goes to show the importance of broadly sampling the genome, says Kelley. “The lesson is that if you just look at the mitochondria, you’d assume this person is from Africa. But if you look at just the Y chromosome, you’d assume that this is a Native American.” » More …

Sex that moves mountains: Spawning fish can influence river profiles

Alex FremierIt turns out that sex can move mountains. A Washington State University researcher has found that the mating habits of salmon can alter the profile of stream beds, affecting the evolution of an entire watershed. His study is one of the first to quantitatively show that salmon can influence the shape of the land.

Alex Fremier, lead author of the study and associate professor in the WSU School of the Environment, said female salmon “fluff” soil and gravel on a river bottom as they prepare their nests, or redds. » More …