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Science


February 8, 2016

UW biology professor is a finalist for top conservation prize

Dee Boersma

P. Dee Boersma, a University of Washington professor of biology and Wadsworth Endowed Chair in Conservation Science, is one of six finalists for the prestigious Indianapolis Prize for conservation. Boersma is the first UW faculty member nominated for this prize — the highest honor for animal conservationists — which has been awarded every other year since 2006.


February 4, 2016

‘On-ramping’ paves the way for women scientists, engineers to return to academia

Photo of on ramp

Pursuing scientific or engineering careers in industry, government or private research after getting a Ph.D. used to be considered a one-way ticket out of academia. But new UW research finds numerous benefits — to students, researchers and academic institutions looking to diversify their faculty — in making that return trip easier.


February 2, 2016

UW awarded private, public grants to develop earthquake early warning tool

map with concentric circles

The UW is among West Coast universities awarded new funding to further develop ShakeAlert, an earthquake early warning system for the region.


Reflections on the habitability of — Planet Earth

Astronomers at the UW-based Virtual Planetary Laboratory have created an index to rank the habitability of exoplanets, or those outside the solar system.

We know the Earth is habitable because — well, here we are. But would it look like a good candidate for life from hundreds of light-years away?


Risk of lead poisoning from urban gardening is low, new study finds

Kids get creative with kale in Tacoma, Washington.

A University of Washington study looked at potential risks associated with growing vegetables in urban gardens and determined that the benefits of locally produced vegetables in cities outweigh any risks from gardening in contaminated soils.


February 1, 2016

UW seismologist speaking at White House earthquake preparedness summit

map with concentric circles

UW seismologist John Vidale will participate in a White House summit focusing on national earthquake preparedness.


January 29, 2016

Moon’s tidal forces affect amount of rainfall on Earth

oscillating graph

Satellite data show that the moon’s gravity puts a slight damper on rainfall on Earth.


January 26, 2016

Mathematical model explains huge recurring rainstorms in the tropical Indian and Pacific oceans

person with weather balloon

A new model explains the fundamental features of the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which some scientists predict will be the “next El Nino.”


January 21, 2016

Diplomacy and danger in orbit: Saadia Pekkanen moves Jackson School toward role in discussions of space

Saadia Pekannen, associate director of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.

Saadia Pekkanen, associate director of the Jackson School for International Studies, discusses the school’s growing role in the conversation about space and its ramifications for diplomacy and security.


January 20, 2016

What’s the name of that tree? New interactive plant map for arboretum

sample maps

First-time visitors and regulars to Washington Park Arboretum can now learn the names and origins of plants as well as save favorites while strolling through the grounds.


January 15, 2016

Twenty-seven UW faculty listed among ‘world’s most influential scientific minds’ by Thomson Reuters

campus-TILE

The University of Washington is home to 26 researchers included on Thomson Reuters’ list of “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” for 2015, which was released Jan. 14. The distinction, based on an analysis of over a decade of research paper citations among 21 general scientific fields, is meant to recognize scientists who are most cited by their peers.


January 13, 2016

Fewer than 1 in 25 Seattleites can really eat locally

belltown

A new University of Washington study finds that urban crops in Seattle could only feed between 1 and 4 percent of the city’s population, even if all viable backyard and public green spaces were converted to growing produce.


Scientists solve long-standing ecological riddle

photo illustration

Researchers have found clear evidence that communities rich in species are substantially healthier and more productive than those depleted of species, once complicating factors are removed.


January 11, 2016

Northwest winter weather: El Niño, coastal effects, no more ‘blob’

Map showing precipitation forecasts

What some have called the “Godzilla El Niño” is now lumbering ashore, right on schedule. El Niño tends to influence North American weather after the first of January, and indeed, we’re seeing warm temperatures in Alaska and much-needed rain in California. University of Washington researchers are tracking what the season will deliver to the Pacific…


New master of applied bioengineering to prepare students for translational research

Bioengineering student project.

In December, the University of Washington’s Department of Bioengineering began accepting applications for its newest graduate degree program, the Master of Applied Bioengineering. The one-year, full-time program begins in August, and will train students to apply engineering design and entrepreneurship skills to address unmet clinical needs and to transform biomedical research into technologies for improving health care. The degree will position graduates to respond to market-based demands of industry, medicine and translational research.


West Coast study emphasizes challenges faced by marine organisms exposed to global change

Washington's northwest coast.

Along the West Coast, ocean acidification and hypoxia combine with other factors, such as rising ocean temperatures, to create serious challenges for marine life, a new study finds.


January 8, 2016

Quiet quasar has apparently eaten its fill

quasar and spectrum

Astronomers with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) announced that a distant quasar ran out of gas. Their conclusions, reported Jan. 8 at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Kissimmee, Florida, clarify why quasar SDSS J1011+5442 changed so dramatically in the handful of years between observations.


Stir no more: UW scientists show that draining speeds up bioassays

HeLa cells stained with an antibody against beta-tubulin.

Three scientists at the University of Washington have proposed a way to speed up common bioassays used in research and diagnostics. Their solution, reminiscent of the magic behind washing machines, could reduce wait times to a fraction of what they once were. As they report in the journal Small, biological assays that once took hours could instead take minutes.


December 29, 2015

#BestofUW: Top news stories of 2015

top-stories

From a new president and lasers cooling liquids to spotting rare sea creatures and major collaborations, great things have happened at the University of Washington in 2015. Here’s a look back at the top stories of the year. These stories were chosen based on the total number of views they received on our website and are not in any particular order….


December 28, 2015

UW center receives $16M to work on first implantable device to reanimate paralyzed limbs

Photo of CSNE researchers

The UW’s Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering has won a $16M NSF grant to develop the first implantable device to reanimate paralyzed limbs and restore motor function in stroke or spinal cord injury patients.


December 22, 2015

Dating historic activity at Oso site shows recurring major landslides

person standing in mud

The large, fast-moving mudslide that buried much of Oso, Washington in March 2014 was the deadliest landslide in U.S. history. Since then it’s been revealed that this area has experienced major slides before, but it’s not known how long ago they occurred. University of Washington geologists analyzed woody debris buried in earlier slides and used…


December 21, 2015

Rivers, lakes impact ability of forests to store carbon

A river in Washington state.

Forests help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by storing it in trees, but a sizeable amount of the greenhouse gas actually escapes through the soil and into rivers and streams, a new paper finds.


December 18, 2015

Oxygen provided breath of life that allowed animals to evolve

Earth, covered in ice.

It took 100 million years for oxygen levels in the oceans and atmosphere to increase to the level that allowed the explosion of animal life on Earth about 600 million years ago, according to a study co-authored by two University of Washington scientists and led by the University College London.


December 16, 2015

UW Tacoma geoscientist tracked risks from deadly 2015 Nepal earthquake

The Annapurna Massif thrones above the city of Pokhara, and has shed several cubic kilometers of earthquake debris to form the city’s foundations.

When an earthquake struck Nepal in late April 2015, thousands of lives were lost in the initial disaster. But it was hard to assess the scale of the damage to rural areas, and still lurking were threats from unstable slopes and dammed glacier-fed lakes that could dislodge at any time to flood villages below. A…


Composting food waste remains your best option, says UW study

food scraps in compost bin

A new University of Washington study confirms that composting food scraps is better than throwing them away, and also calculates the environmental benefits associated with keeping these organic materials out of landfills.


December 15, 2015

UW conservationists celebrate new protected areas for Argentine penguins

Adult Magellanic penguin and two chicks begging.

On Dec. 3, the legislature for Argentina’s Chubut province established a new marine protected area off Punta Tombo, which would help preserve the feeding grounds for about 500,000 Magellanic penguins that make their home along this rocky stretch of Argentine coast. This is welcome news for the UW scientists who have studied these penguins for decades and advocated for their conservation.


December 14, 2015

Seattle’s Ballard is ripe for green-space restoration, new report says

A vacant lot at Northwest 65th Street and 7th Avenue Northwest in the West Woodland section of Ballard.

A University of Washington graduate student saw green-starved Ballard as an opportunity to call attention to areas in the neighborhood that have restoration potential. Her new report, the “Ballard Green Spaces Project,” identifies 55 sites that could be restored as natural areas for people and wildlife, increasing the neighborhood’s total amount of accessible green spaces.


December 10, 2015

Trees either hunker down or press on in a drying and warming western U.S. climate

Trembling aspen.

Two University of Washington researchers have uncovered details of the radically divergent strategies that two common tree species employ to cope with drought in southwestern Colorado. As they report in a new paper in the journal Global Change Biology, one tree species shuts down production and conserves water, while the other alters its physiology to continue growing and using water.


December 9, 2015

Iceland volcano’s eruption shows how sulfur particles influence clouds

lava and big emission plume

The long, slow 2014 eruption of Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano offers a testbed to show how sulfur emissions, from volcanoes or humans, act to brighten clouds and reflect more sunlight.


December 3, 2015

Citizen-science climate project adds logs from historic Arctic whaling ships

handwritten pages with whale sketches

A citizen science project that asks volunteers to transcribe historic ships’ logbooks to uncover data about past Arctic climate has added logbooks from hundreds of whaling ships. The hunters’ handwritten logs will provide new clues about the history of Arctic climate and sea ice.


December 2, 2015

Vessel speed biggest factor in noise affecting killer whales

Digital acoustic recording tags temporarily attached to killer whales measured vessel noise reaching the whales.

The speed of vessels operating near endangered killer whales in Washington is the most influential factor – more so than vessel size – in how much noise from the boats reaches the whales, according to a new study published today in the online journal PLOS ONE.


November 23, 2015

AAAS names four UW researchers as fellows

campus-TILE

Four University of Washington researchers are among 347 new fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for 2015.


November 19, 2015

Sequencing algae’s genome may aid biofuel production

Chrysochromulina tobin

University of Washington scientists have sequenced the complete genetic makeup of a species of ecologically important algae, which may aid in biofuel production.


November 17, 2015

New report outlines Puget Sound region’s future under climate change

ferry with mountains

A new report by the University of Washington synthesizes all the relevant research about the future of the Puget Sound region to paint a picture of what to expect in the coming decades, and how to prepare.


November 16, 2015

UW team refrigerates liquids with a laser for the first time

Photo of crystal

Since the first laser was invented in 1960, they’ve always given off heat. University of Washington researchers are the first to solve a decades-old puzzle — figuring out how to make a laser refrigerate water and other liquids.


Microbes that are key indicators of Puget Sound’s health in decline

A variety of foraminifera (or forams) — single-celled, marine organisms that live on the sea floor. UW Burke Museum researchers have found forams in Washington’s Bremerton and Bellingham Bay waters have declined in health and numbers, even when chemical testing of the waters fall within healthy limits.

Paleontologists with the University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture find that tiny organisms called foraminifera have a big story to tell about the health of Puget Sound. Two recent studies about the health of Bellingham Bay and inlets in the Bremerton area found the diversity and number of foraminifera — single-celled marine organisms that live on the sea floor — deteriorated significantly. The decline of these microscopic organisms is consistent with the deterioration of snails and other larger marine animals, even though analysis showed a reduction of chemical pollutants in Bellingham Bay and Bremerton over the same period of time.


November 12, 2015

Oceans — and ocean activism — deserve broader role in climate change discussions

Joshua Cinner, at Australia's James Cook University, interviews fishermen in Papua New Guinea about adapting to changing social and environmental conditions.

When President Barack Obama visited the shrinking Exit Glacier in September, he pointed to a very obvious sign of our warming planet literally at his feet. Less visible, but perhaps more indelible, signs of changing climate lie in the oceans. A University of Washington researcher argues in the journal Science that people — including world…


From garden to gut: New book from UW’s David Montgomery explores an unfolding scientific revolution

The Hidden Half cover

A new book by University of Washington geologist David Montgomery weaves history, science and personal challenges into an exploration of humanity’s tangled relationship with microbes, perhaps the least loved and most misunderstood creatures on Earth — and in you. “The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health” comes out Nov. 16…


‘Pale orange dot’: Early Earth’s haze may give clue to habitability elsewhere in space

An image of Saturn's haze-shrouded moon Titan taken by the Cassini spacecraft. The UW-based Virtual Planetary Laboratory studied records of the haze on early Earth to see how such atmospheric conditions might affect an exoplanet, or one beyond our solar system. They found that such a haze might show the world is habitable, or that life itself is present.

An atmospheric haze around a faraway planet — like the one which probably shrouded and cooled the young Earth — could show that the world is potentially habitable, or even be a sign of life itself.


November 11, 2015

UW, NASA measure rain and snowfall to gauge new precipitation satellite

clouds on water

With high-tech weather radars, weather balloons, ground instruments and NASA’s DC-8 flying laboratory, scientists will be watching rain and snow storms on Washington’s famously wet Olympic Peninsula.



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