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Science


March 2, 2020

New honors for scientists studying ‘ecosystem sentinels’

P. Dee Boersma, a UW professor of biology and director of the Center for Ecosystem Sentinels, is a finalist for the 2020 Indianapolis Prize for conservation, to be awarded later this year by the Indianapolis Zoological Society. Sue Moore, a scientist with the center and a UW affiliate professor of biology and of aquatic and fishery sciences, has won the 2020 IASC Medal, also known as the Arctic Medal, from the International Arctic Science Committee.


February 27, 2020

Video: Warming Arctic means less ice, bigger waves

ship surrounded by ice

Throughout the month of November 2019, a team of University of Washington researchers chased storms in the Arctic Ocean. The project, Coastal Ocean Dynamics in the Arctic, or CODA, is looking at how water currents shift and waves hit the coast with more open water, to provide better forecasts and predictions for the region’s future.


Thinning, prescribed burns protected forests during the massive Carlton Complex wildfire

treated forest

In the first major study following the devastating Carlton Complex fire in north central Washington, researchers from the University of Washington and U.S. Forest Service found that previous tree thinning and prescribed burns helped forests survive the fire.


February 26, 2020

Wildness in urban parks important for human well-being

beach in seattle

A new University of Washington study has found that not all forms of nature are created equal when considering benefits to people’s well-being. Experiencing wildness, specifically, is particularly important for physical and mental health.


February 18, 2020

Campus podcasts: UW Tacoma, architecture, science papers explained

Logo for Paw'd Defiance, a podcast being produced by UW Tacoma

It’s the year 2020, and where two or more are gathered, it seems, there is a podcast. Given the level of creativity among University of Washington faculty and staff, it’s no surprise that many high-quality podcasts are now being produced on campus. Here’s a look at three podcasts being created by UW departments or people,…


Simple, fuel-efficient rocket engine could enable cheaper, lighter spacecraft

A rocket takes off

UW researchers have developed a mathematical model that describes how rotating detonation engines work.


February 14, 2020

Earth’s cousins: Upcoming missions to look for ‘biosignatures’ in the atmospheres of nearby worlds

Artist's depiction of the TRAPPIST-1 star and its seven worlds.

Victoria Meadows, professor of astronomy at the University of Washington and director of the UW’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory, talks about how upcoming missions like the James Webb Space Telescope will be able to characterize the atmospheres of potentially Earth-like exoplanets and may even detect signs of life. Meadows is delivering a talk on this subject on Feb. 15, 2020 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Seattle.


February 13, 2020

Researchers at AAAS to discuss latest science on Cascadia earthquake hazards

earthquake damage to brick building

At a Saturday afternoon session, researchers from the University of Washington and federal agencies will discuss the emerging research on Pacific Northwest megaquakes.


Hydropower dams cool rivers in the Mekong River basin, satellites show

A river in the foreground while children run on the beach in the background

Using 30 years of satellite data, UW researchers discovered that within one year of the opening of a major dam in the Mekong River basin, downstream river temperatures during the dry season dropped by up to 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C).


Immune cells consult with neighbors to make decisions

An illustration showing immune system cells migrating to a wound site.

Scientists and physicians have long known that immune cells migrate to the site of an infection, which individuals experience as inflammation — swelling, redness and pain. Now, researchers at the University of Washington and Northwestern University have uncovered evidence that this gathering is not just a consequence of immune activation. Immune cells count their neighbors before deciding whether or not the immune system should kick into high gear.


February 12, 2020

Polar bears in Baffin Bay skinnier, having fewer cubs due to less sea ice

polar bear walking

Satellite tracking of adult females and visual monitoring of polar bears in Baffin Bay show changes from the 1990s to the period from 2009 to 2015. Bears in Baffin Bay are getting thinner and adult females are having fewer cubs than when sea ice was more available.


February 4, 2020

First-of-its-kind hydrogel platform enables on-demand production of medicines and chemicals

a water-based gel that is used in molecular biology research

A team of chemical engineers has developed a new way to produce medicines and chemicals and preserve them using portable “biofactories” embedded in water-based gels known as hydrogels. The approach could help people in remote villages or on military missions, where the absence of pharmacies, doctor’s offices or even basic refrigeration makes it hard to…


January 28, 2020

Rethinking land conservation to protect species that will need to move with climate change

high alpine landscape in washington state

Researchers from the UW and Evergreen found that many species of animals and plants likely will need to migrate under climate change, and that conservation efforts will also need to shift to be effective.


January 24, 2020

Tiny, ancient meteorites suggest early Earth’s atmosphere was rich in carbon dioxide

shiny black balls on red background

Tiny meteorites that fell to Earth 2.7 billion years ago suggest that the atmosphere at that time was high in carbon dioxide, which agrees with current understanding of how our planet’s atmospheric gases changed over time.


January 22, 2020

What’s in Puget Sound? New technique casts a wide net for concerning chemicals

A researcher works in a chemical hood

Using a new “non-targeted” approach, UW and UW Tacoma researchers screened samples from multiple regions of Puget Sound to look for potentially harmful compounds that might be present.


January 21, 2020

Mosquitoes are drawn to flowers as much as people — and now scientists know why

Despite their reputation as blood-suckers, mosquitoes actually spend most of their time drinking nectar from flowers. Scientists have identified the chemical cues in flowers that stimulate mosquitoes’ sense of smell and draw them in. Their findings show how cues from flowers can stimulate the mosquito brain as much as a warm-blooded host — information that could help develop less toxic repellents and better traps.


January 16, 2020

Mobile protected areas needed to preserve biodiversity in the high seas

black bird with blue sky

Leaders are updating the laws for international waters that apply to most of the world’s ocean environment. This provides a unique opportunity, argues a UW Bothell marine scientist, to anticipate new techniques that allow protected zones to shift as species move under climate change.


January 15, 2020

‘The blob,’ food supply squeeze to blame for largest seabird die-off

dead common murre

When nearly one million common murres died at sea and washed ashore from California to Alaska in 2015 and 2016, it was unprecedented. Scientists from the University of Washington, the U.S. Geological Survey and others blame an unexpected squeeze on the ecosystem’s food supply, brought on by a severe and long-lasting marine heat wave known as “the blob.”


January 14, 2020

Faculty/staff honors: Consulting assignment in Africa, honorary doctorate in Bern, conservation leadership award

Recent honors to UW faculty and staff include an honorary doctorate from the University of Bern, an award for biodiversity conservation and a consulting assignment for the World Health Organization.


January 13, 2020

Fisheries management is actually working, global analysis shows

a fishing vessel in california

Nearly half of the fish caught worldwide are from stocks that are scientifically monitored and, on average, are increasing in abundance. Effective management appears to be the main reason these stocks are at sustainable levels or successfully rebuilding, according to a new study led by the University of Washington.


December 30, 2019

Life could have emerged from lakes with high phosphorus

A lake in Africa with flamingoes and zebras along its shore.

Life as we know it requires phosphorus, which is scarce. So, how did a lifeless environment on the early Earth supply this key ingredient? A new UW study, published Dec. 30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds an answer to this problem in certain types of carbonate-rich lakes.


December 16, 2019

New study seeks to improve the way dentists measure children’s pain during appointments

Child in dentist chair during procedure

If you fear a trip to the dentist, you are among a majority of adults that report moderate to high levels of anxiety related to dental care, according to a review of research. And, if you’re afraid of getting into a dental chair, you are more likely to avoid going and are at risk of…


Resident orcas’ appetite likely reason for decline of big Chinook salmon

orca chasing chinook salmon

Large, old Chinook salmon have mostly disappeared from the West Coast. A new University of Washington and NOAA study points to the recent rise of resident killer whales, and their insatiable appetite for large Chinook salmon, as the main driver behind the decline of the big fish.


December 12, 2019

Barrels of ancient Antarctic air aim to track history of rare gas

snow and tents

An Antarctic field campaign last winter led by the U.S. and Australia has successfully extracted some of the largest samples of air dating from the 1870s until today. Researchers will use the samples to look for changes in the molecules that scrub the atmosphere of methane and other gases.


December 10, 2019

UW scientist to lead NASA field study of East Coast snowstorms

professor in office

To better understand large, disruptive snowstorms, a University of Washington atmospheric scientist will lead a NASA field campaign this winter to fly through major snowstorms along the East Coast. The multi-institutional team will observe snow as it forms in clouds to help with satellite monitoring of snowfall and ultimately improve forecasts.


December 6, 2019

Astronomy fellowship demonstrates effective measures to dismantle bias, increase diversity in STEM

a person smiling and looking at the camera

Joyce Yen — director of the University of Washington’s ADVANCE Center for Institutional Change, an NSF-funded body to promote female STEM faculty on campus — recently worked with the Heising-Simons Foundation to dismantle bias and promote diversity in a prominent grant that the Foundation awards to postdoctoral researchers in planetary science. In this Q&A, Yen shares the many, sometimes counterintuitive ways bias can work against goals toward greater diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM fields.


December 4, 2019

Outlook for the polar regions in a 2 degrees warmer world

four male bears eating a whale

With 2019 on pace as one of the warmest years on record, a new international study reveals how rapidly the Arctic is warming and examines global consequences of continued polar warming.


Warmer temperatures will increase arsenic levels in rice, study shows

closeup of rice grains on rice plants

UW researchers have found that warmer temperatures, at levels expected under most climate change projections, can lead to higher concentrations of arsenic in rice grains.


Better wildfire and smoke predictions with new vegetation database

ponderosa pine forest

Researchers from the University of Washington and Michigan Technological University have created the first comprehensive database of all the wildfire fuels that have been measured across North America. Ultimately, it can help scientists make more informed decisions about fire and smoke situations.


December 3, 2019

For some corals, meals can come with a side of microplastics

microplastics seen in a water tank

A new experiment by the University of Washington has found that some corals are more likely to eat microplastics when they are consuming other food, yet microplastics alone are undesirable.


November 27, 2019

A method with roots in AI uncovers how humans make choices in groups and social media

Woman holding a smart phone

Using a mathematical framework with roots in artificial intelligence and robotics, UW researchers were able to uncover the process of how a person makes choices in groups. And, they also found they were able to predict a person’s choice more often than more traditional descriptive methods.


November 26, 2019

Six UW faculty members named AAAS fellows

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has named six faculty members from the University of Washington as AAAS Fellows, according to a Nov. 26 announcement. They are part of a cohort of 443 new fellows for 2019, all chosen by their peers for “scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.”


November 20, 2019

Emissions from electricity generation lead to disproportionate number of premature deaths for some racial groups

A coal power plant in West Virginia.

UW researchers have found that air pollution from electricity generation emissions in 2014 led to about 16,000 premature deaths in the continental U.S. In many states, the majority of the health impacts came from emissions originating in other states.


November 15, 2019

UW aerospace engineer part of $1.7M grant to study corals

A healthy reef in Indonesia teems with life.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from multiple institutions — including the University of Washington — has received a two-year $1.7 million National Science Foundation grant to study coral growth.


November 12, 2019

New Weill Neurohub will unite UCSF, UC Berkeley, UW in race to find new treatments for brain diseases

An image of neurons under a microscope

With a $106 million gift from the Weill Family Foundation, UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco and the University of Washington have launched the Weill Neurohub, an innovative research network that will forge and nurture new collaborations between neuroscientists and researchers working in an array of other disciplines — including engineering, computer science, physics, chemistry and mathematics — to speed the development of new therapies for diseases and disorders that affect the brain and nervous system.


November 7, 2019

Team uses golden ‘lollipop’ to observe elusive interference effect at the nanoscale

An image of small golden discs and rods used in an experiment

A team led by scientists from the University of Washington and the University of Notre Dame used recent advances in electron microscopy to observe Fano interferences — a form of quantum-mechanical interference by electrons — directly in a pair of metallic nanoparticles.


November 5, 2019

Fall storms, coastal erosion focus of northern Alaska research cruise

freight shipping container in foreground and research ship in background

A University of Washington team is leaving to study how fall storms, dwindling sea ice and vulnerable coastlines might combine in a changing Arctic.


November 4, 2019

Swordfish as oceanographers? Satellite tags allow research of ocean’s ‘twilight zone’ off Florida

closeup of swordfish

UW marine scientists are using high-tech tags to record the movements of swordfish — big, deep-water, migratory, open-ocean fish that are poorly studied — and get a window into the ocean depths they inhabit.


Light-based ‘tractor beam’ assembles materials at the nanoscale

A diagram of an optical trap

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a method that could make reproducible manufacturing at the nanoscale possible. The team adapted a light-based technology employed widely in biology — known as optical traps or optical tweezers — to operate in a water-free liquid environment of carbon-rich organic solvents, thereby enabling new potential applications.


October 31, 2019

Washington’s first student-built satellite preparing for launch

tall silver rectangle inside glass box that reads "flight hardware"

After years of preparation, a tiny satellite built by UW students is scheduled to launch early Saturday, Nov. 2, from a NASA flight facility in Virginia. The launch will be broadcast live on NASA TV.



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