UW News

College of the Environment


February 16, 2024

Video: Bringing stars back to the sea 

A clear box suspended deep in the water holds a few sea stars and mussel shells.

Scientists at Friday Harbor Laboratories, a University of Washington facility in the San Juan Islands, are working to help sunflower stars — a type of sea star — grow and thrive once again after their populations along the West Coast were devastated by a mysterious disease called sea star wasting syndrome.


February 8, 2024

Foul fumes pose pollinator problems

Scientists at the University of Washington have discovered that nighttime air pollution — coming primarily from car exhaust and power plant emissions — is responsible for a major drop in nighttime pollinator activity. Nitrate radicals (NO3) in the air degrade the scent chemicals released by a common wildflower, drastically reducing the scent-based cues that its chief pollinators rely on to locate the flower. The findings, published Feb. 9 in Science, are the first to show how nighttime pollution creates a chain of chemical reactions that degrades scent cues, leaving flowers undetectable by smell. The researchers also determined that pollution likely has worldwide impacts on pollination.


January 29, 2024

Q&A: How ‘slow slip’ earthquakes may be driven by deep hydraulic fracturing

gray rock with lines through it

New research confirms the cause of slow slip along the Cascadia Subduction Zone and other faults that is accompanied by intermittent tremors or “pops” at the surface. Co-authors Marine Denolle and Joan Gomberg discuss the role of fluid-driven fracturing deep underground.


January 22, 2024

Shallow soda lakes show promise as cradles of life on Earth

people walking across large white surface

Field observations from an unusual lake show that in environments known as “soda lakes” phosphate can concentrate at the very high levels needed for the basic molecules of life to emerge. A shallow, salty lake in western Canada gives new support to Charles Darwin’s idea that life could have emerged in a “warm little pond.”


December 19, 2023

How will climate change affect how predators hunt prey? Two UW professors teamed up to find out

A hand wearing a glove next to a paw print in the snow

Two UW professors teamed up to study how climate change will affect predator-prey interactions in snowy landscapes. Together with a group of researchers, the two measured snow properties that led to a “danger zone,” where prey would sink but predators would not.


December 11, 2023

New faculty books: Story and comic collection, Washington state fossils, colonial roots of intersex medicine

Three book covers on a wooden table background

Three new faculty books from the University of Washington cover wide-ranging topics: life in the Rio Grande Valley, fossils of Washington state and the colonial roots of contemporary intersex medicine. UW News talked with the authors to learn more. Collection highlights life in Rio Grande Valley “Puro Pinche True Fictions” is a collection of short…


Beluga whales’ calls may get drowned out by shipping noise in Alaska’s Cook Inlet

pod of beluga whales with shoreline in background

Around Anchorage, communications among the critically endangered population of Cook Inlet beluga whales may be masked by ship noise in their core critical habitat, accordingly to the first repertoire of their calls.


November 30, 2023

More than 40 UW experts on Highly Cited Researchers 2023 List

campus view in fall

The University of Washington is proud to announce that more than 40 faculty and researchers who completed their work while at UW have been named on the annual Highly Cited Researchers 2023 list from Clarivate.


November 16, 2023

In the Field: Tracking seismic clues in one of the driest places on Earth

researcher bends over using rock hammer with desert in background

Two University of Washington geophysicists will travel to the Atacama Desert in Chile this month to study a fault system that’s similar to the Seattle Fault in Puget Sound, but in a much different climate that makes it easier to monitor its effects on the landscape.


November 14, 2023

5th National Climate Assessment authors include UW climate experts

Three UW experts are among the authors of the newly released Fifth National Climate Assessment, an overview of climate trends, impacts and efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change across the nation.


November 13, 2023

UW Department of Atmospheric Sciences maintains No. 1 global ranking; more than two dozen UW subjects in top 50

campus entrance

Six University of Washington subjects ranked in the top 10, and atmospheric sciences maintained its position as No. 1 in the world on the Global Ranking of Academic Subjects list for 2023. The ranking, released at the end of October, was conducted by researchers at the ShanghaiRanking Consultancy, a fully independent organization dedicated to research on higher education intelligence and consultation.


North Atlantic’s marine productivity may not be declining, according to new study of older ice cores

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of declining phytoplankton in the North Atlantic may have been greatly exaggerated. Analysis of a Greenland ice core going back 800 years shows that atmospheric chemistry, not dwindling phytoplankton populations, explains the recent ice core trends.


November 9, 2023

New York Climate Exchange, on which UW is a core partner, names first CEO

illustration of building on Governors Island with Manhattan in the distance

The New York Climate Exchange, a first-of-its-kind organization working to implement innovative climate solutions in New York City and across the globe, on Nov. 9 announced Stephen Hammer as its founding chief executive officer. The University of Washington is a core member of the exchange.


October 25, 2023

UW experts offer hot takes on El Niño, weather and ocean temperatures

map of global oceans with red spots in Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean

Five University of Washington experts comment on the current El Niño, its effect on Pacific Northwest winter weather, as well as on regional and global ocean temperature trends.


October 18, 2023

DNA shows where Washington culvert replacements helped spawning salmon

Two researchers by a stream seen from inside a culvert

A project led by the UW used genetic sleuthing to study how salmon were affected by two major culvert replacements near the city of Bellingham. One project, a major upgrade under Interstate-5, had a big impact, while the other old culvert may have been less of a barrier to fish. Authors from the UW and NOAA are studying the use of eDNA in future environmental impact reporting.


September 21, 2023

NSF funds internet-connected ocean observatory through 2028

map of Juan de Fuca plate

The National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Washington $52.4 million over five years to continue operating the Regional Cabled Array, a cabled deep-ocean observatory about 300 miles offshore from Newport, Oregon. The grant is part of a $220 million total investment that will fund the internet-connected ocean observatory, known as the Ocean Observatories Initiative, through 2028.


September 19, 2023

Five UW faculty members elected as AGU Fellows, plus more honors

block W

The American Geophysical Union announced Sept. 13 that five University of Washington faculty members have been elected as new fellows, representing the departments of astronomy, Earth and space sciences, oceanography, global health, and environmental and occupational health sciences.


September 15, 2023

Polar experiments reveal seasonal cycle in Antarctic sea ice algae

sea ice with greenish underside

The frigid ocean surrounding Antarctica is home to much of the region’s photosynthetic life. A new University of Washington study provides the first measurements of how sea-ice algae and other single-celled life handle dramatic seasonal swings, offering clues to how this ecosystem might adapt to climate change.


September 8, 2023

UW a lead partner on new NSF-funded earthquake research center

tsunami evacuation sign

The University of Washington is a lead partner on a new multi-institution earthquake research center that will study the Cascadia subduction zone and bolster earthquake preparedness in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.


August 31, 2023

Study connects greenhouse gas emissions to polar bear population declines, enabling greater protections under Endangered Species Act

polar bear torso looking at camera

A new paper from the UW and Polar Bears International quantifies the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and the survival of polar bear populations. The paper combines past research and new analysis to provide a quantitative link between greenhouse gas emissions and polar bear survival rates.


August 21, 2023

REBURN: A new tool to model wildfires in the Pacific Northwest and beyond

Researchers with the University of Washington and the U.S. Forest Service have developed a new tool, REBURN, that can simulate large forest landscapes and wildfire dynamics over decades or centuries under different wildfire management strategies. The model can simulate the consequences of extinguishing all wildfires regardless of size, which was done for much of the 20th century and has contributed to a rise in large and severe wildfires, or of allowing certain fires to return to uninhabited areas to help create a more “patchwork” forest structure that can help lessen fire severity. REBURN can also simulate conditions where more benign forest landscape dynamics have fully recovered in an area.


August 9, 2023

In the Field: UW team to spend six weeks visiting deep-ocean observatory

ship by dock in morning sun

Twenty-five undergraduates are among the participants on a 41-day cruise off the Oregon coast aboard the UW’s large research vessel, the R/V Thomas G. Thompson. Principal investigator Deborah Kelley, professor of oceanography, answers questions about the expedition to visit and maintain the cabled ocean observatory.


July 6, 2023

Marine heat waves caused mass seabird die-offs, beach surveys show

dead seabirds lined up on a beach for measurements

New research led by the University of Washington uses data collected by coastal residents along beaches from central California to Alaska to understand how seabirds have fared in recent decades. The paper, published July 6 in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, shows that persistent marine heat waves lead to massive seabird die-offs months later.


June 28, 2023

New faculty books: Story of oysters, Cherokee oral history, moral contradictions of religion

Three book covers on a wooden table.

Three new faculty books from the University of Washington cover wide-ranging topics: oysters, the moral contradictions of religion, and Cherokee creature names and environmental relationships.


June 26, 2023

New report, tool suggest how Washington can better protect against extreme heat

report cover with silhouettes on skyline

Two years after the Pacific Northwest heat dome — the deadliest weather-related disaster in state history — a collaborative effort has drawn up recommendations for how people and groups across the state could prevent future heat-related illness and save lives. The effort involves a report led by the UW Climate Impacts Group and an interactive risk-mapping tool led by the UW Center for Health and the Global Environment,


June 14, 2023

Phosphate, a key building block of life, found on Saturn’s moon Enceladus

gray planet in cross-section with white plumes escaping from surface

An international team including a UW scientist found that the water on one of Saturn’s moons harbors phosphates, a key building block of life. The team used data from NASA’s Cassini space mission to detect evidence of phosphates in particles ejected from the ice-covered global ocean of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.


May 18, 2023

Out of the frying pan: Coyotes, bobcats move into human-inhabited areas to avoid apex predators — only to be killed by people

New research shows that in Washington state, the presence of two apex predators — wolves and cougars — does indeed help keep populations of two smaller predators in check. But by and large the apex predators were not killing and eating the smaller predators, known as mesopredators. Instead, they drove the two mesopredator species — bobcats and coyotes — into areas with higher levels of human activity. And people were finishing the job.


April 24, 2023

UW graduate and professional disciplines place highly in US News’ Best Graduate Schools rankings

cherry blossoms

The University of Washington’s graduate and professional degree programs were widely recognized as among the best in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2024 Best Graduate Schools rankings released late Monday.


University of Washington is a core member of newly announced New York Climate Exchange

illustration of building on Governors Island with Manhattan in the distance

UW will be a core member of a consortium led by Stony Brook University that will build and operate The New York Climate Exchange – a carbon-neutral international hub focused on climate action and adaptation


April 19, 2023

Q&A: Two ways UW researchers are studying marine microplastics

microplastics seen in a water tank

Two University of Washington researchers are using very different methods to investigate the issue of marine microplastics. For Earth Day, UW News asked them to discuss their research.


April 18, 2023

Q&A: County-scale climate mapping tool helps Washington agencies prepare for the future

map of Washington colored red on right portion and around Puget Sound

The UW Climate Impacts Group created an interactive tool that lets state agencies and local governments see what climate scientists project for their county and what they might want to consider when developing their districts’ comprehensive plans through 2100.


April 10, 2023

Warm liquid spewing from Oregon seafloor comes from Cascadia fault, could offer clues to earthquake hazards

green seafloor with five bubble columns

UW oceanographers discovered warm, chemically distinct liquid shooting up from the seafloor about 50 miles off Newport. They named the unique underwater spring “Pythia’s Oasis.” Observations suggest the spring is sourced from water 2.5 miles beneath the seafloor at the plate boundary, regulating stress on the offshore subduction zone fault.


April 5, 2023

UW’s Phil Levin to direct first-ever US National Nature Assessment

headshot wearing blue checked shirt and glasses

Phil Levin, professor of practice in environmental and forest sciences at the University of Washington and lead scientist at The Nature Conservancy in Washington, has been appointed to direct the first-ever U.S. National Nature Assessment. The 3-year assessment will take an interdisciplinary approach to better understand the role of nature in the lives of people across the country, and how those benefits might be altered under climate change.


March 22, 2023

Faculty/staff honors: Legal education innovation award, stellar astronomical writing and more

Recent recognition of the University of Washington includes the Bloomberg Law 2022 Law School Innovation Program “Top Legal Education Program” for the UW Tech Policy Lab, 2023 Seattle Aquarium Conservation Research Award for Vera Trainer and 2023 Chambliss Astronomical Writing Award for Emily Levesque.


March 21, 2023

Three UW researchers named Fulbright Scholars

three head shots, two of men and one woman

Three University of Washington researchers have been selected as Fulbright Scholars for 2023-2024 and will pursue studies in Portugal, Mexico and Sweden.


March 15, 2023

Cherry blossoms get new visitors’ website, are on track for early April peak bloom

The cherry blossoms at the University of Washington campus are a seasonal tradition and celebration for the entire region. This year’s colder-than-usual spring is demanding a little more patience. Mark your calendars and plan your visit for a peak bloom expected in early April.


March 6, 2023

UW joins White House to host forum on climate change solutions on campuses and in surrounding communities

Maya Tolstoy

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the University of Washington are bringing together climate, sustainability and resilience leaders, and educators representing a cross section of colleges and universities from around the country, with federal agency leaders for a virtual forum on climate change.


February 21, 2023

Newly discovered form of salty ice could exist on surface of extraterrestrial moons

white sphere with dark red streaks

Scientists suspect that the red streaks crossing the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa is a frozen mixture of water and salts, but its chemical signature matches no known substance on Earth. Now researchers have discovered a new type of solid crystal that forms when water and table salt combine in cold, pressurized conditions. Researchers believe the new substance created in a lab on Earth could form at the surface and bottom of these worlds’ deep oceans.


February 9, 2023

UW experts discuss the earthquake in Turkey and Syria

Three University of Washington experts have provided quotes in response to the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday morning.


February 3, 2023

Ice cores show even dormant volcanoes leak abundant sulfur into the atmosphere

barren landscape with patches of snow and white smoky plumes

Non-erupting volcanoes leak a surprisingly high amount of sulfur-containing gases. A Greenland ice core shows that volcanoes quietly release at least three times as much sulfur into the Arctic atmosphere than estimated by current climate models. Aerosols are the most uncertain aspect of current climate models, so better estimates could improve the accuracy of long-term projections.



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