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Science


February 22, 2017

UW astronomer Eric Agol assists in new seven-planet NASA discovery using ‘distracted driving’ technique

This artist's concept shows what the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may look like, based on available data about the planets’ diameters, masses and distances from the host star. UW astronomer Eric Agol assisted with the big new discovery.

UW astronomy professor Eric Agol is part of the large team of researchers that has just announced confirmation of several Earth-sized, potentially habitable planets orbiting a star about 40 light-years away.


Large-scale experiment on the rural Olympic Peninsula to test innovations in forest management

stream

Scientists at the University of Washington and the state Department of Natural Resources intend to test a management approach that mimics natural disturbance patterns and processes across a large portion of the Olympic Peninsula, an area known for having the most rainfall in the lower 48 states, high tree-growth rates and old-growth forests, part of which remain today.


UW’s Kristin Laidre awarded Pew marine fellowship to study effects of climate change, subsistence hunting on polar bears

Kristin Laidre

A new, two-part project led by the UW’s Kristin Laidre aims to explore the interacting effects of climate change and subsistence hunting on polar bears, while also illuminating the cultural value of the species to indigenous peoples and the role they play in conservation.


February 21, 2017

Winners, losers among fish when landscape undergoes change

fish swimming underwater

A new study by the University of Washington and Simon Fraser University finds that some fish lose out while others benefit as urban and agricultural development encroaches on streams and rivers across the United States.


Three UW scientists awarded Sloan Fellowships for early-career research

campus-TILE

Three faculty members at the University of Washington have been awarded early-career fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The new Sloan Fellows, announced Feb. 21, include Ali Farhadi, assistant professor of computer science and engineering; Emily Levesque, assistant professor of astronomy; and John Tuthill, assistant professor of physiology and biophysics.


February 16, 2017

New clean energy facility accelerates testing of cleantech innovations and launching of companies

Photo by Katherine Turner.

A new facility for accelerating the clean energy innovation cycle opened in Seattle Feb. 16. The Clean Energy Institute, a research unit at the University of Washington, created the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds to increase the rate at which breakthrough science and engineering discoveries turn into market-adopted clean energy technologies. The state-of-the-art user facility has…


Immune cell serves as an essential communications link for migrating cells

Two cells under a microscope

Scientists at the University of Washington have discovered that a common type of cell in the vertebrate immune system plays a unique role in communication between other cells. It turns out that these cells, called macrophages, can transmit messages between non-immune cells.


February 15, 2017

Early Earth as exoplanet: NASA highlights just-published UW Virtual Planetary Laboratory research

When haze built up in the atmosphere of Archean Earth, billions of years ago, the young planet might have looked like this artist's interpretation - a pale orange dot. A team of astronomers including members of the UW's Virtual Planetary Laboratory thinks the haze was self-limiting, cooling the surface by about 36 degrees Fahrenheit – not enough to cause runaway glaciation. The team’s modeling suggests that atmospheric haze might be helpful for identifying earthlike exoplanets that could be habitable.

Recently published research from the UW’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory (VPL) using ancient Earth as a stand-in for hypothetically habitable exoplanets has been highlighted by NASA in a feature article. Leading the research was Giada Arney, who was a UW astronomy doctoral student when doing the work and is now with NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center.


Predicting autism: Researchers find autism biomarkers in infancy

Two people looking at a computer

By using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the brains of infants who have older siblings with autism, scientists were able to correctly identify 80 percent of the babies who would be subsequently diagnosed with autism at 2 years of age.


‘The blob’ of abnormal conditions boosted Western U.S. ozone levels

equipment on chairlift

Ozone levels in June 2015 were significantly higher than normal over a large swath of the Western U.S. Analysis ties this air quality pattern to the abnormal conditions in the northeast Pacific Ocean, nicknamed “the blob.”


February 10, 2017

Laser-based camera developed at UW improves view of the carotid artery to assess stroke and heart attack risk

endoscope

A unique application of a medical camera developed by a University of Washington mechanical engineer could one day help physicians know who is at risk for stroke or heart attack by providing a better view of potential problem areas.


February 8, 2017

Hidden lakes drain below West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier

topography of lakes

Drainage of four interconnected lakes below Thwaites Glacier in late 2013 caused only a 10 percent increase in the glacier’s speed. The glacier’s recent speedup is therefore not due to changes in meltwater flow along its underside.


February 6, 2017

‘Overwhelming’ response, global press attention for new UW Information School course, ‘Calling BS’

It’s almost unheard-of for a university class to spark global press attention — and offers of book deals — before instruction even begins. But such is the case with the UW Information School’s new course, “Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data.”


February 3, 2017

New digital collection from UW Libraries: Glaciers and Landforms

ridged ice

Thousands of photos of glaciers, volcanoes, rivers and other natural phenomena are now easily viewed by the public through the University of Washington Libraries. UW Libraries’ Special Collections this fall released a new Glacier and Landforms Photograph Collection. The collection is designed to provide online access to photos of glaciers, geology and related subjects. At…


January 30, 2017

Artists in the lab: Talk will highlight a creative partnership between art and science

a work of art

Jennifer Nemhauser leads a research laboratory of scientists, all immersed in the complex world of plant hormones. But last year, the University of Washington professor of biology boosted her lab’s roster with some unexpected talent. Claire Cowie — an artist, UW alumna and lecturer — spent three months in 2016 as a part-time artist-in-residence in Nemhauser’s lab….


January 25, 2017

Monsoons to mosquitoes: UW researchers attend national weather conference in Seattle

satellite image of clouds

Researchers from across the UW are presenting their work at the American Meteorological Society’s annual meeting this week in Seattle.


‘Protective’ DNA strands are shorter in adults who had more infections as infants

chromosomes on a slide

New research indicates that people who had more infections as babies harbor a key marker of cellular aging as young adults: the protective stretches of DNA which “cap” the ends of their chromosomes are shorter than in adults who were healthier as infants.


January 24, 2017

Prized fossil find — the oldest, most complete iguanian in the Americas — illuminates the lives of lizards in the Age of Dinosaurs

A drawing of lizards eating wasps.

Paleontologists picking through a bounty of fossils from Montana have discovered something unexpected — a new species of lizard from the late dinosaur era, whose closest relatives roamed in faraway Asia.


Predator or not? Invasive snails hide even when they don’t know

invasive snail feeding on an oyster

The specific cues that trigger an animal’s natural defense vary depending on the species and its history in the ecosystem, a new University of Washington study finds.


January 18, 2017

Listen to the Earth smash another global temperature record

upward-sloping line

The year 2016 was officially the hottest in recent history, beating previous records in 2014 and 2015. UW scientists let you hear the data speak for itself.


Climate change prompts Alaska fish to change breeding behavior

Three-spine stickleback.

A new University of Washington study finds that one of Alaska’s most abundant freshwater fish species is altering its breeding patterns in response to climate change, which could impact the ecology of northern lakes that already acutely feel the effects of a changing climate.


Vitamin B-12, and a knockoff version, create complex market for marine vitamins

instrument over ocean

Vitamin B-12 exists in two different, incompatible forms in the oceans. An organism thought to supply the essential vitamin B-12 in the marine environment is actually churning out a knockoff version.


January 17, 2017

Conditions right for complex life may have come and gone in Earth’s distant past

A 1.9-billion-year-old stromatolite — or mound made by microbes that lived shallow water — called the Gunflint Formation in northern Minnesota. The environment of the oxygen "overshoot" described in research by Michael Kipp, Eva Stüeken and Roger Buick may have included this sort of oxygen-rich setting that is suitable for complex life.

Conditions suitable to support complex life may have developed in Earth’s oceans — and then faded — more than a billion years before life truly took hold, a new University of Washington-led study has found.


Diversification key to resilient fishing communities

Fishing boats in Juneau, Alaska.

Fishing communities can survive ― and even thrive ― as fish abundance and market prices shift if they can catch a variety of species and nimbly move from one fishery to the next, a new University of Washington study finds.


When it comes to mating, fruit flies can make rational choices

Fruit flies

In a paper published Jan. 17 in the journal Nature Communications, researchers report that fruit flies — perhaps the most widely studied insect in history — show signs of rational decision-making when choosing a mate.


January 12, 2017

Ocean acidification to hit West Coast Dungeness crab fishery, new assessment shows

Dungeness crab.

The acidification of the ocean expected as seawater absorbs increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere will reverberate through the West Coast’s marine food web, but not necessarily in the ways you might expect, new research shows.


LATTICE connects women engineers in early academic careers with peers, support

LATTICE logo

A new national program at the UW — LATTICE — aims to diversify the national engineering faculty population by building supportive communities during the critical transition from graduate studies to permanent tenure-track positions.


January 11, 2017

UW oceanographer dropping robotic floats on voyage to Antarctica

people lifting sensor

Autonomous floating sensors built at the UW are being deployed to track conditions in the waters surrounding Antarctica.


January 10, 2017

Two UW professors win Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Emily Fox and Catherine Karr

Two University of Washington professors have received the 2017 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor given by the U.S. government to early career scientists and engineers.


Rapid Arctic warming has in the past shifted Southern Ocean winds

closeup of ice core in drill

Ice core records from the two poles show that during the last ice age, sharp spikes in Arctic temperatures triggered shifts in the winds around Antarctica.


January 5, 2017

Arctic sea ice loss impacts beluga whale migration

A beluga whale pod in the Chukchi Sea.

A new study led by the University of Washington finds the annual migration of some beluga whales in Alaska is altered by sea ice changes in the Arctic, while other belugas do not appear to be affected.


January 4, 2017

Eelgrass in Puget Sound is stable overall, but some local beaches suffering

An eelgrass bed near Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Eelgrass, a marine plant crucial to the success of migrating juvenile salmon and spawning Pacific herring, is stable and flourishing in Puget Sound, despite a doubling of the region’s human population and significant shoreline development over the past several decades.


January 3, 2017

Songbirds divorce, flee, fail to reproduce due to suburban sprawl

Dark-eyed junco, an "exploiter" species.

New research finds that for some songbirds, urban sprawl is kicking them out of their territory, forcing divorce and stunting their ability to find new mates and reproduce successfully, even after relocating.


University of Washington-led study shows new global evidence of the role of humans, urbanization in rapid evolution

Photo by Katherine Turner.

A new multi-institution study led by the UW shows more clearly than ever that urbanization is affecting the genetic makeup of species that are crucial to ecosystem health and success.


December 20, 2016

Researchers model how ‘publication bias’ does — and doesn’t — affect the ‘canonization’ of facts in science

a bacterium

In an article published Dec. 20 in the journal eLife, researchers present a mathematical model that explores whether “publication bias” — the tendency of journals to publish mostly positive experimental results — influences how scientists canonize facts. Their results offer a warning that sharing positive results comes with the risk that a false claim could be canonized as fact. But their findings also offer hope by suggesting that simple changes to publication practices can minimize the risk of false canonization.


December 19, 2016

UW researcher pursues synthetic ‘scaffolds’ for muscle regeneration

A microscopic view of a chitosan scaffold.

Miqin Zhang, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Washington, is looking for ways to help the body heal itself when injury, disease or surgery cause large-scale damage to one type of tissue in particular: skeletal muscle. Her goal is to create a synthetic, porous, biologically compatible “scaffold” that mimics the normal extracellular environment of skeletal muscle — onto which human cells could migrate and grow new replacement fibers.


Investing in fisheries management improves fish populations

Fishing boats in coastal Peru.

Research published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that successful fisheries management can be best achieved by implementing and enforcing science-based catch or effort limits.


December 15, 2016

Underwater volcano’s eruption captured in exquisite detail by seafloor observatory

instrument on black lava

The cracking, bulging and shaking from the eruption of a mile-high volcano where two tectonic plates separate has been captured in more detail than ever before. A University of Washington study published this week shows how the volcano behaved during its spring 2015 eruption, revealing new clues about the behavior of volcanoes where two ocean…


December 14, 2016

In Stockholm ceremony, UW professor emeritus David Thouless receives Nobel Physics Prize

The Nobel Prize Ceremony

On Dec. 10 in Stockholm, David James Thouless, University of Washington professor emeritus of physics, received the Nobel Prize in Physics from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.


December 13, 2016

Studies of vulnerable populations get a ‘bootstrapped’ boost from statisticians

a crowd of people in a building

In a paper published online Dec. 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of Washington researchers report on a statistical approach called “tree bootstrapping” can help social scientists study hard-to-reach populations like drug users.



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