UW News

Science


November 10, 2021

New method shows today’s warming ‘unprecedented’ over past 24,000 years

Blue line that rises, then flattens out, then rises sharply

A new effort to reconstruct Earth’s climate since the last ice age, about 24,000 years ago, highlights the main drivers of climate change, and how far out of bounds human activity has pushed the climate system.


October 29, 2021

UW oceanographer will study how glacial particles remove CO2 from atmosphere

white glacier with ocean in foreground

An oceanographer at the University of Washington is part of a new project to study how glacial dust, created as glaciers grind the rock beneath them into a powder, reacts with seawater to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


October 28, 2021

How Dungeness crabs’ complex lifecycle will be affected by climate change

Dungeness crab

Results show that by the end of this century, lower-oxygen water on the Pacific Northwest coast will pose the biggest threat to Dungeness crabs. And while these crabs start as tiny, free-floating larvae, it’s the sharp-clawed adults that will be most vulnerable.


After California’s 3rd-largest wildfire, deer returned home while trees were ‘still smoldering’

a deer with fawn

In a rare stroke of luck, researchers from the University of Washington, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, were able to track a group of black-tailed deer during and after California’s third-largest wildfire, the 2018 Mendocino Complex Fire. The megafire, which torched more than 450,000 acres in northern California, burned across half of an established study site, making it possible to record the movements and feeding patterns of deer before, during and after the fire.


October 27, 2021

Fossil dental exams reveal how tusks first evolved

Illustration of an ancient mammal-like creature in a forest setting.

Many animals have tusks, from elephants to walruses to hyraxes. But one thing tusked animals have in common is that they’re all mammals — no known fish, reptiles or birds have them. But that was not always the case. In a study published Oct. 27 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a team of paleontologists at Harvard University, the Field Museum, the University of Washington and Idaho State University traced the first tusks back to dicynodonts — ancient mammal relatives that lived before the dinosaurs.


October 6, 2021

How ‘ice needles’ weave patterns of stones in frozen landscapes

rings of rocks with mountains in background

A University of Washington researcher is part of an international team that has used modern tools to explain repeating patterns of stones that form in frost-prone landscapes.


October 4, 2021

UW’s Shyam Gollakota named 2021 Moore Inventor Fellow

portrait of man smiling

Shyam Gollakota, a UW professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, has taken inspiration from nature’s tiniest creatures, creating inventions that allow humans to use technology to go where they haven’t gone before. He is being celebrated for those inventions as a 2021 Moore Inventor Fellow.


September 30, 2021

Bigleaf maple decline tied to hotter, drier summers in Washington

declining bigleaf maple tree

A new study has found that recent bigleaf maple die-off in Washington is linked to hotter, drier summers that predispose this species to decline. These conditions essentially weaken the tree’s immune system, making it easier to succumb to other stressors and diseases.


September 29, 2021

UW oceanographer Parker MacCready elected fellow of the AGU

portrait with gray background

University of Washington oceanographer Parker MacCready is one of 59 new fellows elected this year by the American Geophysical Union.


September 28, 2021

Alzheimer’s data center at UW awarded $35 million to continue mission of free, global access

Neurons

For researchers around the world working to understand and treat Alzheimer’s and eventually find a cure, data from clinical exams of patients suffering from this complex neurodegenerative disease needs to be standardized and accessible. Since 1999, that’s what the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center (NACC), housed in the UW School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology,…


New NSF-funded institute to harness AI for accelerated discoveries in physics, astronomy and neuroscience

A venn diagram

On Sept. 28, the National Science Foundation announced $15 million, five-year grant to integrate AI tools into the scientific research and discovery process. The award will fund the Accelerated AI Algorithms for Data-Driven Discovery Institute — or A3D3 Institute — a partnership of nine universities, led by the University of Washington.


September 27, 2021

UW Climate Impacts Group, partner organizations launch the Northwest Climate Resilience Collaborative

images of Northwest landscapes with announcement text

The UW Climate Impacts Group, along with nine community, nonprofit and university partners, is launching a program of community-led, justice-oriented climate adaptation work across Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. The Northwest Climate Resilience Collaborative will be founded with a five-year, $5.6 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. The program will be one of eleven across the country funded through NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments program.


September 23, 2021

Video: Arsenic makes these south Puget Sound fish unsafe to eat

Big mouth bass close up

Researchers at the University of Washington and UW Tacoma have been studying arsenic levels in the mud, water and in creatures from lakes in the south Puget Sound area. Eating contaminated fish or snails from these lakes could lead to health risks.


September 21, 2021

UW, Burke researchers discover four dinosaurs in Montana: Fieldwork pieces together life at the end of ‘Dinosaur Era’

a group of people excavating fossils in Montana

A team of paleontologists from the University of Washington and its Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture excavated four dinosaurs in northeastern Montana this summer. The four dinosaur fossils are: the ilium — or hip bones — of an ostrich-sized theropod, the group of meat-eating, two-legged dinosaurs that includes Tyrannosaurus rex and raptors; the hips and legs of a duck-billed dinosaur; a pelvis, toe claw and limbs from another theropod that could be a rare ostrich-mimic Anzu, or possibly a new species; and a Triceratops specimen consisting of its skull and other fossilized bones.


September 14, 2021

UW part of $25M NSF-funded effort to retrieve Earth’s oldest ice core

person in white suit holding long metal object

University of Washington glaciologists will join colleagues from around the country in a new effort to retrieve an ice core more than 1 million years old from East Antarctica, to better understand the history of our planet’s climate and predict future changes.


September 9, 2021

NSF to fund revolutionary center for optoelectronic, quantum technologies

Aerial shot of the University of Washington campus in Seattle

The National Science Foundation has announced it will fund a new endeavor to bring atomic-level precision to the devices and technologies that underpin much of modern life, and will transform fields like information technology in the decades to come. The five-year, $25 million Science and Technology Center grant will found the Center for Integration of Modern Optoelectronic Materials on Demand — or IMOD — a collaboration of scientists and engineers at 11 universities led by the University of Washington.


September 7, 2021

Research, education hub on ‘coastal resiliency’ will focus on earthquakes, coastal erosion and climate change

tsunami warning sign on the beach

The new Cascadia Coastlines and Peoples Hazards Research Hub, led by Oregon State University and the University of Washington, will study coastal hazards and community resilience. The National Science Foundation awarded $18.9 million for the hub over five years.


August 25, 2021

Volcanic eruptions may have spurred first ‘whiffs’ of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere

person crouching in distance on layered rock

A new analysis of 2.5-billion-year-old rocks from Australia finds that volcanic eruptions may have stimulated population surges of marine microorganisms, creating the first puffs of oxygen into the atmosphere. This would change existing stories of Earth’s early atmosphere, which assumed that most changes in the early atmosphere were controlled by geologic or chemical processes.


UW, Carnegie Mellon to pioneer platforms that harness astrophysical data to unravel the universe’s mysteries

An image of the focal plane of a camera used for astrophysical observations of the cosmos

The University of Washington and Carnegie Mellon University have announced an expansive, multi-year collaboration to create new software platforms to analyze large astronomical datasets generated by the upcoming Legacy Survey of Space and Time, or LSST, which will be carried out by the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in northern Chile. The open-source platforms are part of the new LSST Interdisciplinary Network for Collaboration and Computing — known as LINCC — and will fundamentally change how scientists use modern computational methods to make sense of big data.


August 11, 2021

‘More pepper, please’: New study analyzes role of scent compounds in the coevolution of bats and pepper plants

An image of a short-tailed fruit bat

A study published Aug. 11 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B by researchers at the University of Washington and Stony Brook University reports on how bats and pepper plants in Central America have coevolved to help each other survive.


August 5, 2021

Now how did that get up there? New study sheds light on development and evolution of dolphin, whale blowholes

Image of a dolphin swimming in the ocean

New research by scientists at the University of Washington and Duke University is shedding light on how the nasal passage of dolphins and whales shifts during embryonic development from emerging at the tip of the snout to emerging at the top of the head as a blowhole. The findings, published July 19 in the Journal of Anatomy, are an integrative model for this developmental transition for cetaceans.


Superflares may be less harmful to exoplanets than previously thought, study shows

an artists depiction of a small star with a planet orbiting it

Astronomers have long suspected that superflares, extreme radiation bursts from stars, can cause lasting damage to the atmospheres — and thus habitability — of exoplanets. A new study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society reports that they pose only a limited danger to planetary systems.


August 2, 2021

New report: State of the science on western wildfires, forests and climate change

wildfire in washington's methow valley

Seeing the urgent need for change, a team of scientists from leading research universities, conservation organizations and government laboratories across the West has produced a synthesis of the scientific literature that clearly lays out the established science and strength of evidence on climate change, wildfire and forest management for seasonally dry forests. The goal is to give land managers and others across the West access to a unified resource that summarizes the best-available science so they can make decisions about how to manage their landscapes.


New DNA study provides critical information on conserving rainforest lizards

Close-up image of a male rough-nosed horned lizard.

A study published June 16 in Biotropica by a team of researchers at the University of Washington, the UW Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, WWF Hong Kong and the University of Colombo has provided an important road map to conserving rough-nosed horned lizards in Sri Lanka.


July 29, 2021

Climate change to fuel increase in human-wildlife conflict, UW biologist says

A herd of African elephants

Climate change is further exacerbating human-wildlife conflicts by straining ecosystems and altering behaviors, both of which can deepen the contacts — and potential competition — between people and animals. In an article published July 30 in the journal Science, Briana Abrahms, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Washington and its Center for Ecosystem Sentinels, calls for expanding research into the many ways that climate change will impact the complex interplay between human activities and wildlife populations.


UW to lead new NSF institute for using artificial intelligence to understand dynamic systems

Purple and white lines that are tracing the shape of the UW W.

The UW will lead a new artificial intelligence research institute that will focus on fundamental AI and machine learning theory, algorithms and applications for real-time learning and control of complex dynamic systems, which describe chaotic situations where conditions are constantly shifting and hard to predict.


July 27, 2021

Possible future for Western wildfires: Decade-long burst, followed by gradual decline

cubes of forest landscape up in flames

A model of the eastern California forests of the Sierra Nevada looks at the longer-term future of wildfires under future climate change scenarios. Results show an initial roughly decade-long burst of wildfire activity, followed by recurring fires of decreasing area — a pattern that could apply to other hot, dry forests in the West.


July 26, 2021

Scientists model ‘true prevalence’ of COVID-19 throughout pandemic

US map with states represented by hexagons showing COVID-19 infection fatality rate

Two University of Washington scientists have developed a statistical framework that incorporates key COVID-19 data — such as case counts and deaths due to COVID-19 — to model the true prevalence of this disease in the United States and individual states. Their approach, published the week of July 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, projects that in the U.S. as many as 60% of COVID-19 cases went undetected as of March 7, 2021, the last date for which the dataset they employed is available.


July 22, 2021

Gaming graphics card allows faster, more precise control of fusion energy experiments

A prototype of the UW's current fusion experiment.

UW researchers have developed a method that uses a gaming graphics card to control plasma formation in their prototype fusion reactor.


July 20, 2021

New 3D images of shark intestines show they function like Nikola Tesla’s valve

three dogfish sharks

For more than a century, researchers have relied on flat sketches of sharks’ digestive systems to discern how they function — and how what they eat and excrete impacts other species in the ocean. Now, researchers have produced a series of high-resolution, 3D scans of intestines from nearly three dozen shark species that will advance the understanding of how sharks eat and digest their food.


July 16, 2021

20 UW researchers elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences for 2021

Twenty scientists and engineers at the University of Washington are among the 38 new members elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences for 2021, according to a July 15 announcement. New members were chosen for “their outstanding record of scientific and technical achievement, and their willingness to work on behalf of the Academy to bring the best available science to bear on issues within the state of Washington.”


July 8, 2021

Remotely-piloted sailboats monitor ‘cold pools’ in tropical environments

red sailboat on blue ocean

A UW-led study uses data from remotely-piloted sailboats to better understand cold air pools — pockets of cooler air that form when rain evaporates below tropical storm clouds. These fleeting weather phenomena are thought to influence tropical weather patterns.


June 29, 2021

Air pollution from wildfires impacts ability to observe birds

yellow warbler up close

Researchers from the University of Washington provide a first look at the probability of observing common birds as air pollution worsens during wildfire seasons. They found that smoke affected the ability to detect more than a third of the bird species studied in Washington state over a four-year period. Sometimes smoke made it harder to observe birds, while other species were actually easier to detect when smoke was present.


June 17, 2021

Researchers discover yessotoxins, produced by certain phytoplankton, to be a culprit behind summer mass shellfish mortality events in Washington

dying clams on the beach

Back in the summers of 2018 and 2019, the shellfish industry in Washington state was rocked by mass mortalities of its crops. Now, researchers think they have figured out why: high concentrations of yessotoxinss, which are produced by blooms of certain phytoplankton. The researchers’ findings were published last month in the open-access journal Harmful Algae.


June 15, 2021

UW astronomer redefines the scientific hero as part of The Great Courses

Prof. Emily Levesque’s course “Great Heroes and Discoveries of Astronomy” — part of The Great Courses, a popular online learning platform — takes viewers on a tour of the biggest advancements in one of humanity’s oldest sciences and the people behind them.


June 14, 2021

Faculty/staff honors: Humanitarian award, early career research support, literary journal guest editor

Richard Anderson, professor in the UW's Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, has received the 2020 ACM Eugene L. Lawler Award for Humanitarian Contributions Within Computer Science and Informatics from the Association for Computer Machinery.

Recent honors and achievements for UW faculty include an award for humanitarian contributions to computer science, early career research recognition and support, and the guest-editing of a new anthology of Black American literature.


June 11, 2021

Edge of Pine Island Glacier’s ice shelf is ripping apart, causing key Antarctic glacier to gain speed

ridged ice and airplane wing

Satellite images show that from 2017 to 2020, Pine Island Glacier’s ice shelf lost about one-fifth of its area, mostly in three dramatic breaks. This caused the glacier to speed up by 12%, hastening its downward motion and boosting its contribution to rising seas.


Smartphone camera can illuminate bacteria causing acne, dental plaques

Image of a smartphone that was modified for a scientific experiment.

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a method that uses smartphone-derived images to reveal potentially harmful bacteria on skin and in oral cavities. Their approach can visually identify microbes on skin contributing to acne and slow wound healing, as well as bacteria in the oral cavity that can cause gingivitis and dental plaques.


June 10, 2021

Cause, scope determined for deadly winter debris flow in Uttarakhand, India

A destroyed hydroelectric plant in the mountains

On Feb. 7, 2021, a wall of debris and water barreled down river valleys in India, destroyed two hydropower facilities and left more than 200 people dead or missing. A self-organized coalition of 53 scientists from 14 countries, including researchers from the University of Washington, worked nonstop following the disaster to investigate the cause, scope and impacts.


June 9, 2021

Endangered blue whales recorded off southwest coast of India

diver in water

Endangered blue whales are present and singing off the southwest coast of India. The results provide insight into a poorly studied population and suggest conservation measures should include this region.



Next page