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SoE Science News

Today in the School of the Environment:

Cayden SteeleUndergraduate Research: Elephants, Leopards, and Himalayan Black Bears

Undergraduate, Cayden Steele, recently described his adventures while studying wildlife in Thailand and Bhutan to complete his thesis in the WSU Honors Program. Read More…

Polar BearPolar Bears Unlikely to Adapt to Longer Summers

Cameras attached to polar bears indicate that the more time they are forced by melting ice to stay and forage on land the more likely they are to have reduced feeding success and body condition. Read More…

Female Northern CardinalIn the Blink of An Eye: How Humans Shrink Animals Around the World

Humans are directly and indirectly shrinking the size of many species of animals in the world. Dr. Jennifer Phillips and her colleagues have recently reported that excessive light in urban environments is even shrinking the eyes of some species of birds. Read More…

Person riding an ATV all terrain vehicle

Effects of Human Disturbance on Wildlife

Wildlife ecologists in the School of the Environment used automated camera stations to measure wildlife reactions to disturbances by vehicle traffic versus human hikers. They discovered that reactions to human disturbance varied among wildlife species, but in general, many species tended to shift their habitat use at sites with recreational hikers to more nocturnal hours or delayed their return to these sites after disturbance. Read More…

air pollution by brick factoriesBad News: You’ve Been Contaminated, and Yes, We Mean You

The air we breathe, the foods and water we ingest, the items we wear, touch, and use are all around us daily. We are surrounded and often infused by manufactured chemicals, perhaps most of which have not been explicitly evaluated for potential effects on human or other biological life. Read More…

Summer / Fall 2023 – In This Issue:

Female Black-chinned hummingbird

Palouse Country: Birds of Summer and a Mirror of Life

A wildlife biologist walks through riparian forests along the Snake River and watches as Nature measures and reflects the passage of time. Read More…

Columbia Basin Pygmy RabbitVideo: Pygmy Rabbit Research

This summer, KCTS 9, a local affiliate of PBS, highlighted some of the research being conducted on pygmy rabbits (Brachylagus idahoensis) by Dr. Lisa Shipley, Professor, WSU School of the Environment, and her colleague, Dr. Janet Rachlow, Dept. Head, Fish and Wildlife Sciences, Univ. of Idaho. Read More…

Samples of Asian clams from the Columbia RiverVideo: Invasive Asian Clams in the Columbia River

Researchers in the School of the Environment have sampled nearly 300 miles of the Columbia River from the ocean and upstream to Richland, Washington, and found that invasive Asian clams are widespread and successful in many habitats despite variation in water temperature, water quality, and substrates (sand, silt, rock). Read More…

Coho salmon hatching from eggsWear and Tear on the Environment: Stormwater Biofiltration Increases Coho Salmon Hatchling Survival

In a recent study, Dr. McIntyre and her colleagues in the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, found that when stormwater runoff was treated using green infrastructure (bioretention filtration – runoff filtered through layers of sand, compost, gravel, wood mulch, etc.) it removed many of the toxins that otherwise increased mortality of coho salmon hatchlings. Read More… 

Sun and clouds of smokeA Summer of Heat, Flooding, Fire, and Smoke

This summer, the dramatic summer of 2023, will go down as one of many markers of increasingly widespread and frequent effects of climate heating and climate catastrophe.

Unfortunately, climate researchers in the WSU School of the Environment are increasingly called upon to comment on our rapidly changing climate and the effects of heat, smoke, fire, and drought in the western U.S. and world.


Dead albatross with ingested plastic

What Do Elephants, Billiard Balls, and Your Stomach Have in Common?

The entire world, the environments around us, and virtually all life on Earth is surrounded and embedded with plastic.

Even if you think you know about plastic pollution, you owe it to yourself to read the following report by noted science author, Elizabeth Kolbert. Read More…

Southern Rockhopper Penguin
[Southern Rockhopper Penguin. Credit: Ben Tubby. CC BY 2.0]

Just for Fun:

CARTOON: First Dog on the Moon – Brenda the Civil Disobedience Penguin Interviews Climate Scientists

Sometimes, laughing at climate change (or human folly) might just be the best medicine. See this cartoon by First Dog on the Moon. Read More…

Book Cover: The Quickening by Elizabeth Rush

Book Review:

The Quickening by Elizabeth Rush

In her new book, author Elizabeth Rush joins a scientific expedition to visit the Thwaites Glacier and explores the troubling question, “What does it mean to bring a child into the world at this time of radical change?Read More…

Cover Art Heat Will KillBook Review:

The Heat Will Kill You First by Jeff Goodell


This summer has awakened many people to the harsh new future that all life is facing on Earth. The heat is coming. Relentlessly. Goodell’s new book explores in frank detail the consequences of a primary force in climate change, increasing heat. Read More…

Thumbnail of theatrical release poster for the film, Asteroid CityFilm Reviews:

Rotten Tomatoes: 75% Tomatometer©

Asteroid City by Wes Anderson

Those of you who like the director, Wes Anderson, may enjoy his new film, Asteroid City, with an ensemble cast. Read More…

Lolita (orca)In Memoriam:

Tokitae (Lolita or Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut)

A life remembered. Read More…

Spring, 2023 – In this Issue:

Snowshoe hare

Hare Today and Gone Tomorrow: Using Camera Traps to Census Wildlife 

One of the most difficult problems encountered by wildlife biologists attempting to study wild animals is answering the question of how many we have and where they are located.

See how SoE wildlife ecologist, Dr. Dan Thornton and his colleagues are using camera traps to study lynx, snowshoe hares, and other wildlife to better understand their ecology and future conservation. Read More…

Night photo of cougar feeding on deer killLarge Carnivore Kills, Nutrient Dynamics, and Landscape Ecology

What happens when a large carnivore kills its prey and leaves the remains of a carcass to slowly decompose? What happens to the ecosystem?

This question was recently addressed by SoE wildlife ecologists, Dr. Lisa Shipley and Dr. Dan Thornton and their colleagues. Read More…

SoE in National Geographic: How to Butter Up a Grizzly Bear

National Geographic recently reported on what they call “The odd phenomenon of moth-eating bears – and the dangers they face.

See some of the many science news stories on SoE researchers, including Drs. Dan Thornton, Charles T. Robbins, and colleagues and their work on bears. Read More…

VaquitaSpecial Essay: The Endling

Today in SoE Science we’d like to share a special essay with you from Orion Magazine, entitled “The Endling” by Christina Rivera Cogswell. Her touching essay addresses the emotions felt by those who value all the plants and animals and other life on Earth and feel deeply at the tragic losses occurring in the natural world.

Lesser Goldfinch MaleEssay & Slide Show:

Palouse Country: Birds of a Feather

A wildlife ecologist shares observations and thoughts about birds in Palouse Prairie and the Snake River Valley. Read More…


American White PelicanPhoto Exhibit – Hang Gliding With Pelicans

It isn’t just American Robins. The first Pelicans of spring also signal the impending summer in the Snake River Valley. See More…

Bark of Conifer Tree

Just For Fun: Pop Quiz – Barking Up the Right Tree 

Take the quiz to see if you can identify this tree. Read More…

White gyrfalcon painting by John James Audubon

Opinion: On the Whiteness of Conservation and the Audubon Society

If you enjoy bird watching you’ve probably heard about the controversy over the push to change the name of the National Audubon Society.

Here we share various opinion pieces published by others as different people support and oppose changing the common names of birds. Read More…

Today in SoE Science [your chatbot-free zone…]:

Winter 2023 – In this Issue:

Photo of dry lightning southwest of Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia.
[Photo of dry lightning southwest of Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia. Source: Wikipedia. Credit: Thomas Bresson. License: CC BY 3.0.]


SoE Education & Research Reports:

In-Depth Ecology:

Art, Literature, Photography:

Water color photo of a chukar
[Watercolor photo of Chukar. Credit: R. Sayler.]

Fall 2022 – In this Issue:

Editor’s Choice: Bug Splat Ecology & Science Pizza 

SoE Special Reports:
Climate Anxiety in Environmental Science Students

Today’s Lab Assignment: Take a Bath

SoE Education & Research Reports:

  • Bug Splat Ecology
  • Droning on in Higher Education
  • Dams, Reservoirs, & Methane Emissions
  • Watching the Trees Die
  • Are Bears Really Carnivores?
  • Dry Lightening & Western Wildfires
  • Survival of Mule Deer Fawns in SE Washington
  • Air Pollution from Western Wildfires
  • How Cars Kill Salmon
  • Generating Science Enthusiasm in High School Students
  • Video Interview: Western Wildfires Affect Midwestern Severe Weather
  • Tipping Points for Pacific Northwest Forests?
  • Landscape Ecology & Conservation of Wild Cats and Large-Mammals

Global Environmental News: 

  • Phantom Forests: Why Global Tree Plantings Fail
  • How Heavy Is a Forest? And Why Does It Matter?
  • North Atlantic Right Whale Nearly Extinct
  • What is Cop27 (and why does it matter to you?)
  • Sightseeing on the Road to Hell
  • Past 8 Years the Hottest Ever Recorded
  • 20 Climate Photos That Changed the World
  • Platypus, Be Dammed
  • Exploding a Carbon Time Bomb: Congo Peatlands
  • Geoscience (listen): Journey to the Doomsday Glacier

Feel-Good Environmental News: 

  • Must-Watch Video: Exploding Plants
  • Epicurious? What Does 36,000 Year-Old Bison Taste Like?
  • Darwin’s Orchids and Drunk Wasps
  • Rediscovery of Frogs Thought to Be Extinct
  • Discovery of a Living Fossil on the California Coast
  • Morbid Curiosity: The Difference Between Possum and Opossum
  • Are You Smarter Than a Slime Mold? (be careful how you answer…)
  • Lost and Found: Rescuing a Rare Oak
  • Can Bumble Bees Play Soccer?

Essays & Natural History: 
Margaret Renkl – from The New York Times:
At Summer’s End, a Moment of Wild Surprise

From the WSU Arboretum:
On the Controversy Over Milkweed & Monarch Butterflies

Art / Literature / Photography

What We’re Reading (and why):
– How to Speak Whale
– Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
– Endless Forms: The Secret World of Wasps
– The Soul of an Octopus
– Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future

Photo Exhibit:
Study #23 in Mourning Doves & ‘Pigeons’ 

Watercolor photo of Mourning Dove

In-Depth Studies: 
Elizabeth Kolbert – Climate Change From A To Z
Bill McKibben – Dimming the Sun to Cool the Planet is a Desperate Idea, Yet We’re Inching Toward It