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Science


September 14, 2015

A more acidic ocean will bend the mermaid’s wineglass

Mermaid's wineglass algae.

New research from the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories shows that a more acidic ocean can weaken the protective shell of a delicate alga. The findings, published Sept. 9 in the journal Biology Letters, come at a time when global climate change may increase ocean acidification.


September 8, 2015

UW scientists are pioneering research on ‘body maps’ in babies’ brains

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For more than half a century, scientists have studied how the surface of the body is mapped in parts of the brain associated with touch. That research has focused largely on “body maps” that show how certain parts of the brain correspond point-for-point with the body’s topography. These body maps have been studied extensively in…


September 4, 2015

September launch could give UW team rare measurements of ‘dusty plasmas’

An experimental atmospheric rocket

Researchers from the University of Washington are awaiting the launch an over 50-foot-long rocket from a launch site in Norway into the upper reaches of the atmosphere to observe and measure a puzzling phenomenon.


Poplar trees are best bet for biofuel in UW-led research project

Poplar materials, including bark, leaves and wood, are used to make cellulosic ethanol.

A five-year, $40 million study is laying the foundation for a Pacific Northwest industry that converts sustainably produced poplar feedstock into fuels and chemicals. The research, led by the University of Washington, will seed the world’s first wood-based cellulosic ethanol production facility.


Climate change could leave Pacific Northwest amphibians high and dry

frog peeking out of water

A new model for snow-fed mountain wetlands projects that the extremely dry conditions seen this year could be commonplace by the 2070s, affecting mountain species.


September 3, 2015

Earth observations show how nitrogen may be detected on exoplanets, aiding search for life

The Earth as seen by the Polychromatic Imaging Camera aboard NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite, July 2015. Recent research by UW grad student Edward Schwieterman shows that observations of nitrogen in Earth's atmosphere from afar might help astronomers detect the "invisible" gas in the atmospheres of planets beyond our solar system.

Observations of nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere by a NASA spacecraft 17 million miles away are giving astronomers fresh clues to how that gas might reveal itself on faraway planets, thus aiding in the search for life.


August 26, 2015

Lab experiments question popular measure of ancient ocean temperatures

The study looked at Thaumarchaeota archaea, which are found throughout the world's oceans. These single-celled organisms have just one membrane sac that encloses their bodies. This organism, used in the study, was collected from a tropical-water tank at the Seattle Aquarium.

The membranes of sediment-entombed archaea are an increasingly popular way to determine ocean surface temperatures back to the age of the dinosaurs. But new results show that changing oxygen can affect the reading by as much as 21 degrees C.


August 25, 2015

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in three decades

Nautilus pompilius swimming next to Allonautilus scrobiculatus off of Ndrova Island in Papua New Guinea.

In early August, biologist Peter Ward returned from the South Pacific with news that he encountered an old friend, one he hadn’t seen in over three decades. The University of Washington professor had seen what he considers one of the world’s rarest animals, a remote encounter that may become even more infrequent if illegal fishing…


August 24, 2015

Power lines restrict sage grouse movement in Washington

male sage grouse

Transmission lines that funnel power from hydroelectric dams and wind turbines across Eastern Washington affect greater sage grouse habitat by isolating fragile populations and limiting movement, a new study finds.


August 20, 2015

Maltreated children’s brains show ‘encouraging’ ability to regulate emotions

Regions of the brain where maltreated children had greater activity than non-maltreated children when looking at negative images.

Children who have been abused or exposed to other types of trauma typically experience more intense emotions than their peers, a byproduct of living in volatile, dangerous environments. But what if those kids could regulate their emotions? Could that better help them cope with difficult situations? Would it impact how effective therapy might be for…


August 17, 2015

UW researchers model tsunami hazards on the Northwest coast

The Pacific Northwest from space.

Recent press and social media coverage have reminded residents of the Pacific Northwest that they live in a seismically active region. Stretching offshore from northern California to British Columbia, the Cascadia subduction zone could slip at any time, causing a powerful earthquake and triggering a tsunami that would impact communities along the coast. Scientists from…


August 13, 2015

Documents that Changed the World: Charles Richter’s seismic scale, 1935

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A scale of simple numbers — the Richter Scale — unnerves us when we think about earthquakes, as Pacific Northwest residents have been prone to do lately. But who was Richter, and how did it all come about? Joe Janes takes a look for an installment of his Documents that Changed the World podcast series.


‘Scarface,’ an ancient cousin to mammals, unearthed in Africa

Photograph of the skull of Ichibengops munyamadziensis.

A team of scientists has identified a new species of “pre-mammal” based on fossils unearthed in Zambia’s Luangwa Basin in 2009. The ancient, Dachshund-sized creature lived some 255 million years ago, in a time just before the largest mass extinction in Earth’s history. Its discoverers include Christian Sidor, professor of biology at the University of…


August 12, 2015

CO2 emissions change with size of streams and rivers

A stream in Wyoming.

Researchers have shown that CO2 appears in streams by way of two different sources — either as a direct pipeline for groundwater and carbon-rich soils, or from aquatic organisms releasing the gas through respiration and natural decay.


August 4, 2015

New fish genus and species named for its red, fingerlike fins

Red, orange and pink color variation.

University of Washington scientists recently announced the name of a new genus and species of frogfish, which are small, stocky creatures found in most tropical and subtropical oceans around the world.


August 3, 2015

Crystals form through a variety of paths, with implications for biological, materials and environmental research

Artist's rendition of calcium carbonate crystals.

Crystals play an important role in the formation of substances from skeletons and shells to soils and semiconductor materials. But many aspects of their formation are shrouded in mystery. Scientists have long worked to understand how crystals grow into complex shapes. Now, an international group of researchers has shown how nature uses a variety of…


What would the world look like to someone with a bionic eye?

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Various sight recovery therapies are being developed by companies around the world, offering new hope for people who are blind. But little is known about what the world will look like to patients who undergo those procedures. A new University of Washington study seeks to answer that question and offers visual simulations of what someone…


July 30, 2015

Four West Coast universities funded for earthquake early warning system

map with concentric circles

The U.S. Geological Survey today announced $5 million in funding that will allow the University of Washington and three other institutions to help transition the prototype ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system, under development since 2005, into a public-facing tool.


July 29, 2015

Healthier Puget Sound depends on healthy people, report finds

man jumping into the water in puget sound

The Puget Sound Partnership on Wednesday adopted new targets that seek to quantify aspects of the natural environment that boost our collective happiness and wellness. These people-focused benchmarks will help inform restoration plans and assess future progress in cleaning up Puget Sound.


July 27, 2015

Babies’ brains show that social skills linked to second language learning

an example of gaze shifting

New findings by researchers at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) at the University of Washington demonstrate for the first time that an early social behavior called gaze shifting is linked to infants’ ability to learn new language sounds.


July 22, 2015

Distinguished faculty to be inducted into Washington State Academy of Sciences

Detail from the Turing exhibit at a science museum

In recognition of their outstanding records of scientific achievement, 12 University of Washington professors will be inducted this fall into the Washington State Academy of Sciences. The professors will be honored for their “willingness to work on behalf of the academy” to bring top-quality scientific methods to research issues pertaining to Washington state. The induction ceremony will be…


July 20, 2015

The Next MacGyver will be a woman — and a UW engineering student may invent her

Concept art for "The Mind" television proposal

Astronautics doctoral student Nao Murakami wants to invent the heir to Angus MacGyver — the 1980s television hero who inspired a generation of engineers by foiling criminals with household items like cooking oil, a shop vac or a tube sock. Only this time the engineering heroine will be a woman.


July 17, 2015

Marine plankton brighten clouds over Southern Ocean

an image showing clouds and sun.

New research led by the University of Washington and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory suggests tiny ocean life in vast stretches of the Southern Ocean plays a significant role in generating brighter clouds overhead.


July 16, 2015

UW researchers show that the mosquito smells, before it sees, a bloody feast

A female mosquito feeding on a host.

A team of biologists from the University of Washington and the California Institute of Technology has cracked the cues mosquitoes use to find us.


July 15, 2015

Students, researchers at sea working on recently erupted deep-sea volcano

Students onboard the R/V Thompson collect velella velella (by-the-wind-sailors) off the starboard side during the first leg of the expedition.

A team of researchers, engineers and students is now at sea to check the equipment in a massive seafloor laboratory, where underwater stations off the Pacific Northwest coast collect data and provide a real-time, virtual eye on the deep sea for people on shore.


UW chemists help develop a novel drug to fight malaria

Malaria parasites infecting a red blood cell.

An international team of scientists — led by researchers from the University of Washington and two other institutions — has announced that a new compound to fight malaria is ready for human trials.


July 13, 2015

Robotics and the law: When software can harm you

An artist's concept of a NASA robotic refueling mission. Shown here, cameras light the way as a tool from a robotic refueling mission approaches a satellite to cut wire, one of the steps to remotely accessing a satellite's triple-sealed fuel valve.

Twenty years in, the law is finally starting to get used to the Internet. Now it is imperative, says Ryan Calo, assistant professor in the UW School of Law, that the law figure out how to deal effectively with the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence.


July 8, 2015

Seafloor hot springs a significant source of iron in the oceans

seafloor topography with colored water above

A two-month voyage tracking a deep current flowing from one of the most active underwater volcanoes proves that iron released from hydrothermal vents travels thousands of miles, providing a significant source of iron to support life in the broader oceans.


July 6, 2015

In a cosmic ‘call to arms,’ UW astronomer proposes new deep-space telescope to scan the sky for signs of life

Artist's rendition of the planet Kepler-69c.

On July 6, a team of astronomers proposed a new type of mission to crack some of the universe’s most intriguing mysteries and search for life on distant worlds.


Risk of interbreeding due to climate change lower than expected

light brown baby bear

Despite worries about interbreeding due to climate change, a new study finds that only about 6 percent of closely related species in the Americas are likely to come into contact by the end of this century.


June 30, 2015

UW team programs solitary yeast cells to say ‘hello’ to one another

UW researchers have produced cell-to-cell communication in baker's yeast, a first step in learning to build multicellular organisms from scratch. The red yeast cells have been engineered to produce the plant hormone auxin, which "tells" the green cells to express a gene differently.

UW researchers have produced cell-to-cell communication in baker’s yeast — a first step in learning to build multicellular organisms or artificial organs from scratch.


June 29, 2015

Researchers discover how petunias know when to smell good

Image of the common garden petunia

A team of UW biologists has identified a key mechanism plants use to decide when to release their floral scents to attract pollinators.


June 25, 2015

UW researcher helping pinpoint massive harmful algal bloom

researcher looking into microscope

A UW research analyst who monitors harmful algae in Washington state is aboard a federal research vessel surveying a massive bloom that stretches from California up to Canada.


June 23, 2015

Visualizing the cosmos: UW astronomer Andrew Connolly and the promise of big data

UW astronomy professor Andrew Connolly at TED2014 at the Vancouver, B.C., convention center.

A conversation with UW astronomer Andrew Connolly on the coming Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the promise of big data to the study of the universe.


June 22, 2015

Spectrum of life: Nonphotosynthetic pigments could be biosignatures of life on other worlds

Laguna Colorada is a shallow salt lake in the southwest of Bolivia. One of several places on Earth whose colors are dominated by nonphotosynthetic pigments. Eddie Schwieterman of the University of Washington has research on how such nonphotosynthetic biosignatures might appear on exoplanets, or those outside our solar system.

To find life in the universe, it helps to know what it might look like. If there are organisms on other planets that do not rely wholly on photosynthesis — as some on Earth do not — how might those worlds appear from light-years away?


June 19, 2015

Access to electricity is linked to reduced sleep

A Toba/Qom child sleeps.

New research comparing traditional hunter-gatherer living conditions to a more modern setting shows that access to artificial light and electricity has shortened the amount of sleep humans get each night.


June 18, 2015

UW and Tsinghua University create groundbreaking partnership with launch of the Global Innovation Exchange

GIX Exterior Rendering

In pursuit of solutions to some of the biggest global challenges, two of the world’s leading research universities, the University of Washington and Tsinghua University, are partnering to create the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), an institute dedicated to educating the next generation of innovators. With $40 million in foundational support from Microsoft, GIX will bring…


Evidence from ivory DNA identifies two main elephant poaching hotspots

elephants socializing

University of Washington biologist Samuel Wasser uses DNA evidence to trace the origin of illegal ivory and help police an international trade that is decimating African elephant populations. New results show that over the past decade, ivory has largely come from just two areas in Africa.


Saharan silver ants use hair to survive Earth’s hottest temperatures

A Saharan silver ant offloading heat on top of dry vegetation.

An international team of researchers that includes a University of Washington electrical engineer has discovered two key strategies that enable Saharan silver ants to survive in one of the hottest terrestrial environments on Earth.


June 17, 2015

Plants make big decisions with microscopic cellular competition

A picture of stomata.

A team of University of Washington researchers has identified a mechanism that some plant cells use to receive complex and contradictory messages from their neighbors.



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