UW News

Research


June 29, 2022

‘Safety in numbers’ tactic keeps Pacific salmon safe from predators

fish swim together in a fish tank

A new University of Washington study that leverages historical data has found unique support for a “safety in numbers” hypothesis by showing that Pacific salmon in larger groups have lower risk of being eaten by predators. But for some salmon species, schooling comes at the cost of competition for food, and those fish may trade safety for a meal.


June 27, 2022

Top predators could ‘trap’ themselves trying to adapt to climate change, study shows

A study led by University of Washington researchers shows that over a 30-year period, African wild dogs shifted their average birthing dates later by 22 days, an adaptation that allowed them to match the birth of new litters with the coolest temperatures in early winter. But as a result of this significant shift, fewer pups survived their most vulnerable period because temperatures during their critical post-birth “denning period” increased over the same time period, threatening the population of this already endangered species. It is the first study to show that large mammalian carnivores are making major changes to their life history in response to a changing climate.


June 21, 2022

New study: 2021 heat wave created ‘perfect storm’ for shellfish die-off

A pile of dead oysters with their shells open. There is water in the background.

A team led by the UW has produced the first comprehensive report of the impacts of the 2021 heat wave on shellfish.


June 16, 2022

Newly documented population of polar bears in Southeast Greenland sheds light on the species’ future in a warming Arctic

single polar bear on ice floe

A new population of polar bears documented on the southeast coast of Greenland use glacier ice to survive despite limited access to sea ice. This small, genetically distinct group of polar bears could be important to the future of the species in a warming world.


June 13, 2022

Is there snow in that tree? Citizen science helps unpack snow’s effect on summer water supplies

Trees in a forest. The trees are blanketed by heavy snow.

To investigate what happens to snow intercepted by trees, UW researchers created a citizen science project called Snow Spotter.


June 10, 2022

Early investors can forecast future of startup companies

Coffee, laptops and notebooks on a table with people's hands

New research from Emily Cox Pahnke, University of Washington associate professor of management and organization, shows that early investors often predict the future of startup companies.


June 9, 2022

Scientists seek to grow the field of eDNA research ‘without squelching creativity’

two researchers sample water in a stream.

A new effort at the University of Washington aims to accelerate eDNA research by supporting existing projects and building a network of practitioners to advance the nascent field.


June 6, 2022

Including all types of emissions shortens timeline to reach Paris Agreement temperature targets

Smokestacks and cooling towers for power plants

Looking beyond CO2 to include other human-generated pollutants increases the amount of warming that humans have already committed to by past emissions. Earth will continue to warm even if all emissions cease, and the planet is committed to reaching peak temperatures about five to 10 years before experiencing them.


June 1, 2022

Narcissistic bosses stymie knowledge flow, cooperation inside organizations

Two men, shown from the chest down, sitting at a table with a laptop

New research from University of Washington associate professor of management Abhinav Gupta shows that narcissism can cause knowledge barriers within organizations. Narcissists hinder cooperations between units due to a sense of superiority.


May 31, 2022

UW-developed, cloud-based astrodynamics platform to discover and track asteroids

A novel algorithm developed by University of Washington researchers to discover asteroids in the solar system has proved its mettle. The first candidate asteroids identified by the algorithm — known as Tracklet-less Heliocentric Orbit Recovery, or THOR — have been confirmed by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, according to a May 31 announcement by the B612 Foundation.


May 26, 2022

Seattle democracy vouchers increase donations, number of candidates in city elections

Two hands putting voting ballots in box

A new study from Alan Griffith, assistant professor of economics at the University of Washington, shows that Seattle’s democracy voucher program has increased the number of voters donating to city elections and the number of candidates in those elections.


May 24, 2022

Video: Experts collaborate to troubleshoot necessary fires and harmful smoke

Forest on fire with smoke billowing, as seen from a helicopter

Forest fire smoke can make you sick, and we’re experiencing more them. In terms of public health, it seems logical to reduce forest fires to limit unhealthy air pollution, but forest managers are increasingly seeing prescribed burning as an essential tool to reduce explosive wildfires. How should we plan to deal with the impacts of these fires?


May 23, 2022

‘I don’t even remember what I read’: People enter a ‘dissociative state’ when using social media

People on public transit. Everyone is looking at their phones.

Researchers at the University of Washington wondered if people enter a state of dissociation when surfing social media, and if that explains why users might feel out of control after spending so much time on their favorite app.


May 12, 2022

Changes in cholesterol production lead to tragic octopus death spiral

After a mother octopus lays a clutch of eggs, she quits eating and wastes away; by the time the eggs hatch, she is dead. Some females in captivity even seem to speed up this process intentionally, mutilating themselves and twisting their arms into a tangled mess. The source of this bizarre maternal behavior seems to be the optic gland, an organ similar to the pituitary gland in mammals. For years, just how this gland triggered the gruesome death spiral was unclear. But in a new study published May 12 in Current Biology, researchers from the University of Washington, the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois Chicago show that the optic gland in maternal octopuses undergoes a massive shift in cholesterol metabolism, resulting in dramatic changes in the steroid hormones produced. Alterations in cholesterol metabolism in other animals, including humans, can have serious consequences on longevity and behavior, and the team believes this reveals important similarities in the functions of these steroids across the animal kingdom — in soft-bodied cephalopods and vertebrates alike.


Smokers who switch to e-cigarettes may adopt other healthy routines

bicyclists riding on a hillside at sunset

A University of Washington study of adult smokers finds that those who switch to vaping some or all of the time may adopt other healthy behaviors.


May 4, 2022

Astronomers discover a rare ’black widow’ binary, with the shortest orbit yet

The flashing of a nearby star drew the attention of a team of astronomers, who discovered that it is part of a rare and mysterious system. As they report in a paper published May 4 in Nature, the stellar oddity appears to be a “black widow binary” — a type of system consisting of a rapidly spinning neutron star, or pulsar, that is circling and slowly consuming a smaller companion star, as its arachnid namesake does to its mate.


May 3, 2022

Experiments measure freezing point of extraterrestrial oceans to aid search for life

Europa Image

A planetary scientist worked with engineers to measure the physical limits of a liquid for salty water under high pressure. Results suggest where robotic missions should look for extraterrestrial life on the ice-covered oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Titan.


April 28, 2022

Unchecked global emissions on track to initiate mass extinction of marine life

If emissions from greenhouse gases continue, species losses from warming and oxygen depletion of ocean waters could eclipse all other human stressors on marine species by around 2100. Tropical waters would experience the greatest loss of biodiversity, while polar species are at the highest risk of extinction


New meta-analysis examines link between self-harm and stress

A new, University of Washington-led meta-analysis finds that people engage in self-injury and/or think about suicide to alleviate some types of stress; and that there is potential for therapy and other interventions.


April 26, 2022

Scientists find elusive gas from post-starburst galaxies hiding in plain sight

Scientists once thought that post-starburst galaxies scattered all of their gas and dust — the fuel required for creating new stars — in violent bursts of energy, and with extraordinary speed. Now, a team led by University of Washington postdoctoral researcher Adam Smercina reports that these galaxies don’t scatter all of their star-forming fuel after all. Instead, after their supposed end, these dormant galaxies hold onto and compress large amounts of highly concentrated, turbulent gas. But contrary to expectation, they’re not using it to form stars.


April 22, 2022

Heavens need environmental protection just like Earth, experts say

Space urgently needs special legal protection similar to that given to land, sea and atmosphere to protect its fragile environment, argues a team of scientists. The scientific, economic and cultural benefits of space should be considered against the damaging environmental impacts posed by an influx of space debris — roughly 60 miles above Earth’s surface — fueled by the rapid growth of so-called satellite mega-constellations. In a paper published April 22 in Nature Astronomy, the authors assert that space is an important environment to preserve on behalf of professional astronomers, amateur stargazers and Indigenous peoples.


April 21, 2022

Q&A: Making Earth-friendly electronics

A hand holding a biodegradeable circuit board in a beaker full of water. The circuit board is dissolving

Three researchers in the University of Washington College of Engineering are exploring ways to make electronics more Earth-friendly.


April 20, 2022

Lasers trigger magnetism in atomically thin quantum materials

Researchers have discovered that light — from a laser — can trigger a form of magnetism in a normally nonmagnetic material. This magnetism centers on the behavior of electrons “spins,” which have a potential applications in quantum computing. Scientists discovered that electrons within the material became oriented in the same direction when illuminated by photons from a laser. By controlling and aligning electron spins at this level of detail and accuracy, this platform could have applications in quantum computing, quantum simulation and other fields. The experiment, led by scientists at the University of Washington, the University of Hong Kong and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, was published April 20 in Nature.


April 13, 2022

Ice shards in Antarctic clouds let more solar energy reach Earth’s surface

clouds

Including the splintering of ice inside clouds around Antarctica improves high-resolution global models’ ability to simulate clouds over the Southern Ocean – and thus the models’ ability to simulate Earth’s climate.


April 6, 2022

UW-housed RAPID Facility receives $6M renewal grant

Researchers looks at boat drone in water

The first-of-its-kind center has received a $6 million renewal grant from the National Science Foundation.


April 4, 2022

Researchers find patterns of handgun carrying among youth in rural areas, building foundation for injury prevention

The first results of research led by the University of Washington into handgun carrying by young people growing up in rural areas has found six distinct patterns for when and how often these individuals carry a handgun. The patterns, or “longitudinal trajectories,” suggest that youths in rural areas differ in some ways from their urban…


March 29, 2022

Scientists identify overgrowth of key brain structure in babies who later develop autism

New research from the Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS) Network, which includes the University of Washington, finds that the amygdala, an area of the brain critical for interpreting emotions, grows too rapidly in infants who go on to develop autism.


March 28, 2022

Solar energy explains fast yearly retreat of Antarctica’s sea ice

Sea ice around Antarctica retreats more quickly than it advances, an asymmetry that has been a puzzle. New analysis shows that the Southern Hemisphere is following simple rules of physics, as peak midsummer sun causes rapid changes. In this respect, it seems, it’s Arctic sea ice that is more mysterious.


March 18, 2022

Urbanization is driving evolution of plants globally, study finds

white clover blossom with leaves

A study led by evolutionary biologists at multiple institutions, including the University of Washington, focuses on a specific plant in examining whether parallel evolution is occurring in cities all over the world.


March 16, 2022

Tiny battery-free devices float in the wind like dandelion seeds

Inspired by how dandelions use the wind to distribute their seeds, a University of Washington team has developed a tiny sensor-carrying device that can be blown by the wind as it tumbles toward the ground.


March 15, 2022

UW professor’s new book presents opportunity to ‘rethink housing’

Seattle buildings at sunset

A new book by Gregg Colburn, assistant professor of real estate at the UW, explores the factors that drive homelessness, and the cultural and economic shift that can ultimately benefit all — housed and unhoused.


March 14, 2022

Q&A: Preserving context and user intent in the future of web search

Computer open to Google home screen

In a new perspective paper, University of Washington professors Emily M. Bender and Chirag Shah respond to proposals that reimagine web search as an application for large language model-driven conversation agents.


March 10, 2022

Newest satellite data shows remarkable decline in Arctic sea ice over just three years

distant figures walking on snow-covered ice

In the past 20 years, the Arctic has lost about one-third of its winter sea ice volume, and winter sea ice in the Arctic has lost about a foot and a half of thickness over just the past three years. This thinning is largely due to loss of older, multiyear sea ice that is more resistant to melting.


March 9, 2022

More air pollution present in areas with historical redlining

Cars on a road with houses and mountains in the background

A team of researchers at the UW and UC Berkeley has found that housing discrimination practices dating from the 1930s still drive air pollution disparities in hundreds of American cities today.


March 7, 2022

How Black Lives Matter protests sparked interest, can lead to change

man holding a Black Lives Matter flag

A new study by the University of Washington and Indiana University finds that the growing use of anti-racist terms shows how Black Lives Matter has shifted the conversation around racism, raising awareness of issues and laying the foundation for social change.


March 3, 2022

Moon jellies appear to be gobbling up zooplankton in Puget Sound

pinkish-white jelly on green background

University of Washington-led research suggests moon jellies are feasting on zooplankton, the various tiny animals that drift with the currents, in the bays they inhabit. This could affect other hungry marine life, like juvenile salmon or herring — especially if predictions are correct and climate change will favor fast-growing jellyfish.


March 2, 2022

Counties that rely on the courts for revenue sentence more women to incarceration

Washington counties that rely more on revenue from court-imposed fines and fees also sentence more women to incarceration, a study by the University of Washington finds.


Multi-state study of monetary sanctions finds widespread inequities, far-reaching consequences

Alexes Harris, professor of sociology at the University of Washington, discusses her team’s five-year, eight-state study of legal financial obligations, and their findings that court-imposed fines and fees perpetuate inequality.


February 25, 2022

Antibiotic used on food crops affects bumblebee behavior

Scientists at the University of Washington and Emory University report that an antibiotic sprayed on orchard crops to combat bacterial diseases slows the cognition of bumblebees and reduces their foraging efficiency. The study, published Feb. 9 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, focused on streptomycin, an antibiotic used increasingly in U.S. agriculture during the past decade.


February 24, 2022

Farms following soil-friendly practices grow healthier food, study suggests

An experiment conducted on 10 farms across the U.S. suggests that crops from farms following soil-friendly practices for at least five years have a healthier nutritional profile than the same crops grown on neighboring, conventional farms. Researchers believe soil microbes and fungi boost certain beneficial minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals in the crops.



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