DNA detectives able to ‘count’ thousands of fish using as little as a glass of water

January 15, 2014

A mere glass full of water from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s 1.2 million-gallon Open Sea tank, among the 10 largest aquariums in the world, is all scientists really needed to identify the Pacific Bluefin tuna, dolphinfish and most of the other 13,000 fish swimming there.

Researchers also for the first time used DNA from water samples to discern which of the species were most plentiful in the tank.

Glaciers, streamflow changes are focus of new Columbia River study

January 15, 2014

The Columbia River is perhaps the most intricate, complex river system in North America. Its diverse landscape crosses international borders and runs through subarctic, desert and sea-level ecosystems. Surrounding communities rely on the river for fishing, agriculture, transportation and electrical power.

As the Earth warms, experts know the Columbia will change – they just don’t know how much or when.

Big is not bad: Scientists call for preservation of large carnivores

January 9, 2014

The world is losing its large carnivores, their ranges are collapsing and many species are at risk of extinction.

“Promoting tolerance and coexistence with large carnivores is a crucial societal challenge that will ultimately determine the fate of Earth’s largest carnivores and all that depends upon them, including humans,” write the co-authors of a review article, in the Jan. 10 issue of Science, about the largest carnivore species on Earth.

Insects, plant research in Elwha River Valley will allow for comparisons in future years

December 29, 2013

They’ve been snatched from the air with hand-held nets and scooped from the waters of the Elwha River.

Now, between 600,000 and 2 million individual insects and certain plants collected from the Elwha River Valley before dam removal are being processed and cataloged by students of Washington State University.

The goal of the collection is to establish a baseline of the types and populations of insects that lived in the river valley during the last century, when lakes were formed by dams, said Jerry Freilich, research coordinator for Olympic National Park.

El Niño tied to melting of Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier

January 2, 2014

Pine Island Glacier is one of the biggest routes for ice to flow from Antarctica into the sea. The floating ice shelf at the glacier’s tip has been melting and thinning for the past four decades, causing the glacier to speed up and discharge more ice.

Understanding this ice shelf is a key for predicting sea-level rise in a warming world. A paper published Jan. 2 in the advance online version of the journal Science shows that the ice shelf melting depends on the local wind direction, which is tied to tropical changes associated with El Niño.

Hack the planet? Geoengineering research, ethics, governance explored

December 17, 2013

Hacking the Earth’s climate to counteract global warming – a subject that elicits strong reactions from both sides – is the topic of a December special issue of the journal Climatic Change. A dozen research papers include the most detailed description yet of the proposed Oxford Principles to govern geoengineering research, as well as surveys on the technical hurdles, ethics and regulatory issues related to deliberately manipulating the planet’s climate.

What climate change means for federally protected marine species

December 10, 2013

As the Endangered Species Act nears its 40th birthday at the end of December, conservation biologists are coming to terms with a danger not foreseen in the early 1970s: global climate change.

Federal fisheries scientists have published a special section in this month’s issue of Conservation Biology that outlines some considerations for coming decades. A University of Washington climate scientist helped biologists determine the long-term forecast for aquatic animals.

New UW grant supports green research

December 5, 2013

The UW has received top marks from a variety of organizations for its sustainability measures. In the hope of continuing that legacy, the university is investing $250,000 in a new grant promoting green research.

Supported by the department of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability (ESS), the Green Seed Fund aims to advance the University of Washington’s sustainability goals through projects with practical applications.

UW researchers mapping changes in glacier ice

November 25, 2013

University of Washington researchers are working with NASA to create digital maps of glaciers in Greenland.

For the first time this November, an airplane was able to take measurements during the fall to document any changes, according to UW researcher Ben Smith. Typically, the data is collected during the summer.

The information will be turned over to a team of UW researchers. Smith said their previous maps indicate that Greenland’s glaciers are shrinking.