UW News

College of the Environment


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

Q&A: Healthier soil leads to more-nutritious food, argues new book by UW geomorphologist David Montgomery

book cover showing crops

David Montgomery, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences, discusses soil health, food nutrients and human health. He is co-author of “What Your Food Ate,” being published this month.


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 14, 2022

UW, Seattle Public Library, Seattle Public Utilities collaboration uses VR goggles to visualize sea level rise in Seattle

laser tool by riverside and aerial view of city

The Our Future Duwamish project, available to community groups through The Seattle Public Library, uses an Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset to help viewers imagine rising seas from a vantage point along the South Seattle waterway.


June 10, 2022

Q&A: Amy Snover, outgoing director of the UW Climate Impacts Group

Amy Snover

Amy Snover, the retiring director of the UW Climate Impacts Group, reflects on her past decade of leadership and on how the groundbreaking climate preparedness group has evolved over more than a quarter century of existence.


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.


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 29, 2022

ArtSci Roundup

Through public events and exhibitions, connect with the UW community every week! Carving out a brave space: Courage in art May 3, 7:00 PM | HUB Lyceum & Online “Have something to say. Be brave enough to say it. Use your art to change the world.” UW Drama Professor and Head of Directing & Playwriting…


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


April 13, 2022

Two UW faculty named fellows of Ecological Society of America

campus sign

Two University of Washington professors have been honored by the Ecological Society of America for their knowledge and contributions to the field of ecology.


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.


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 11, 2022

Statement from UW President on tragic deaths of two UW community members

Tom Schaefer and Evan Abramson

The following is a statement from University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce following the news that a UW professor and a UW staff member were killed while diving off the coast of Mexico over the weekend.


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.


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.


February 15, 2022

eDNA a useful tool for early detection of invasive green crab

green crab in the mud

As the green crab invasion in the state worsens, a new analysis method developed by University of Washington and Washington Sea Grant scientists could help contain future invasions and prevent new outbreaks using water testing and genetic analysis. The results show that the DNA-based technique works as well in detecting the presence of green crabs as setting traps to catch the live animals, which is a more laborious process. Results suggest these two methods could complement each other as approaches to learn where the species’ range is expanding.


February 4, 2022

Planting trees in pastureland provides significant cooling in the tropics

Farmer with bananas

Farmers struggling to adapt to rising temperatures in tropical regions can unleash the benefits of natural cooling, alongside a host of other wins, simply by dotting more trees across their pasturelands. For the first time, a study led by the University of Washington puts tangible numbers to the cooling effects of this practice.


January 26, 2022

Glaciers are squishy, holding slightly more ice than thought

three people walking on glacier

Though usually though of as a solid, glaciers are also slightly compressible, or squishy. This compression over the huge expanse of an ice sheet — like Antarctica or Greenland — makes the overall ice sheet more dense and lowers the surface by tens of feet compared to what would otherwise be expected.


January 20, 2022

Shift work helps marine microbes share scarce ocean resources

ship surrounded by ocean

With a low supply of and high competition for key nutrients, scientists have puzzled over the vast diversity of microbial species found in the open ocean. A new study shows that time of day is key, with species of marine microbes specializing in different shifts throughout the day and night.


January 19, 2022

Bubbles of methane rising from seafloor in Puget Sound

map of bubble locations

The release of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for almost a quarter of global warming, is being studied around the world, from Arctic wetlands to livestock feedlots. A University of Washington team has discovered a source much closer to home: 349 plumes of methane gas bubbling up from the seafloor in Puget Sound, which holds more water than any other U.S. estuary.


January 17, 2022

Shifting ocean closures best way to protect animals from accidental catch

turtle swims in the ocean

Many nations are calling for protection of 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 from some or all types of exploitation, including fishing. Building off this proposal, a new analysis led by the University of Washington looks at how effective fishing closures are at reducing accidental catch. Researchers found that permanent marine protected areas are a relatively inefficient way to protect marine biodiversity that is accidentally caught in fisheries. Dynamic ocean management — changing the pattern of closures as accidental catch hotspots shift — is much more effective.


January 11, 2022

Q&A: Bringing a justice lens to wildlife management

wolf head

A team of researchers led by the University of Washington drew upon the field of environmental justice — which primarily has focused on harms to people and public health — and applied its concepts to wildlife management, considering forms of injustice that people, communities and animal groups might experience. Lead author and UW assistant professor Alex McInturff talks with UW News about this work and why it’s significant.


December 17, 2021

Deforestation-fueled heat already affecting millions of outdoor workers in the tropics

series of maps

New research from an interdisciplinary team at the University of Washington, Duke University and The Nature Conservancy shows how local temperature increases in the tropics – compounded by accelerating deforestation – may already be jeopardizing the well-being and productivity of outdoor workers.


December 13, 2021

Artificial intelligence can create better lightning forecasts

Flash of lightning on black background

New research shows that machine learning — computer algorithms that improve themselves without direct programming by humans — can be used to improve forecasts for lightning, one of the most destructive forces of nature.


December 8, 2021

Simulations show how earthquake early warning might be improved for magnitude-9 earthquakes

map of Pacific Northwest with colored hexagons

Seismologists used 30 detailed simulations of magnitude-9 slips on the Cascadia Subduction Zone to evaluate how the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system would perform in these events. Results show the alerts generally work well, but suggest that lower alert thresholds provide more timely warnings over the full area that will feel the shaking.


December 3, 2021

Killer whales lingering in increasingly ice-free Arctic Ocean

whales in ocean

Underwater microphones show that killer whales, or orcas, have spent more time in the Arctic Ocean in recent years. The increasingly ice-free Arctic Ocean may give orcas more opportunity to hunt for prey off the west and north coasts of Alaska.


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 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.


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 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 16, 2021

Rankings: UW among best in world for health and life sciences

building

The University of Washington is among the best universities in the world for the studies of health and life sciences, according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject 2022.


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 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.


August 5, 2021

Drier, warmer night air is making some Western wildfires more active at night

firefighter silhouetted against flames at night

Firefighters have reported that Western wildfires are starting earlier in the morning and dying down later at night, hampering their ability to recover and regroup before the next day’s flareup. A study by University of Washington and U.S. Forest Service scientists shows why: The drying power of nighttime air over much of the Western U.S. has increased dramatically in the past 40 years.



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