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1,000-year-old bones represent oldest tsunami victims in East Africa | National Geographic
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
A thousand years ago, a thriving early Swahili village bustled on the banks of Tanzania's Pangani River a few miles inland from the Inidan Ocean. Residents built their houses out of wood lattices daubed with earth. They filled their nets with fish and crafted beads from shells. And then one day, a tsunami barreled in, triggered by an earthquake on the other side of the Indian Ocean. Jody Bourgeois, professor emeritus of Earth and space sciences at the UW, is quoted. Read More
Seismologists to host virtual event on 40th anniversary of Mount St. Helens eruption
Tuesday, May 12, 2020
The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, based at the University of Washington, will host an online event on the 40th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, featuring seismologists from the UW and other institutions who can explain the events before, during and after the historic blast.
The virtual event will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Monday, May 18, on the PNSN's YouTube channel — exactly 40 years after the blast. The group will stream prerecorded talks from four speakers and then host a live Q&A of questions on the network's Facebook page. Moderator Harold Tobin, director of the PNSN and a UW professor of Earth and space sciences, will select audience questions.
Mount St Helens 40th Anniversary
- Attend the virtual event
- Read "After the Ashes" in UW Magazine’s March issue — an excerpt from "After The Blast: The Ecological Recovery of Mount St. Helens" published by UW Press
- View historical photos of Mount St. Helens from UW Libraries Special Collection
The presenters will review the region's tectonics, volcanoes and volcanic hazards, and summarize how the science and monitoring has evolved over the past four decades.
Steve Malone, research professor emeritus of Earth and space sciences, was intimately involved with recording and interpreting the earthquake buildup to the massive eruption. His personal story of the two months leading up to the 1980 eruption will illustrate the difficulty and uncertainty of dealing with a developing natural disaster in real time.
Seth Moran did his doctorate at the UW with Malone and is now scientist-in-charge at the U.S. Geological Survey's Cascade Volcano Observatory. He will describe the more recent activity at Mount St. Helens and the USGS work on volcano monitoring throughout the Cascades.
Jackie Caplan-Auerbach, a professor of geophysics at Western Washington University whose research focuses on volcanoes and landslides, will discuss plate tectonics and the origin of the Cascade volcanoes.
Josef Dufek, professor at the University of Oregon, will discuss the individual character of different volcanoes and volcanic hazards.
For more information on the event, contact PNSN communications director Bill Steele at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-685-5880.
Faculty/staff honors: Distinguished contributions to Asian studies, social equity award, Swedish physical geography honor (Dave Montgomery), new Cascade Public Media director
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Recent honors to University of Washington faculty and staff have come from the Association of Asian Studies, the American Society of Public Administration, the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography and Cascade Public Media.
Historian Patricia Ebrey receives Association of Asian Studies’ top award for 2020
The Association of Asian Studies has given UW historian Patricia Buckley Ebrey its 2020 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies. The award, the highest the association bestows, honors outstanding scholarship in the field.
Ebrey is the Williams Family Endowed Professor of History. She has written or edited many works on China and East Asia as well as a sourcebook on China for undergraduate teaching. She has written over 70 journal articles and book chapters and her works have been translated into several other languages.
Praising Ebrey for groundbreaking efforts in several areas, the association said in a news release: “By editing or co-editing volumes of scholarly work, and by providing translations and reproductions of primary materials, she has dedicated herself to developing the historical study of China both in terms of research and teaching.”
Read more and watch a video of Ebrey’s thanks for the honor at the Association of Asian Studies website.
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UW political scientist Christopher Parker joins Cascade Public Media board of directors
Christopher Parker, UW professor of political science, has been chosen to join the board of directors for Cascade Public Media, the nonprofit home of KCTS 9 television and Crosscut.
Parker has taught at the UW since 2006 and is the author of two books, “Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in Contemporary America” (with Matt Barreto, 2013) and “Fighting for Democracy: Black Veterans and the Struggle Against Supremacy in the Postwar South” (2009). His next book, planned for this year, is “The Great White Hope: Donald Trump, Race, and the Crisis of American Democracy.”
Parker was one of two new directors named, along with Holly Mesrobian, a UW alumna who is a director of engineering at Amazon Web Services. The appointments were announced April 28. Also on the Cascade Public Media board is Anita Ramasastry, UW professor of law.
“Not only is the world of media changing rapidly, the world itself is changing at a breakneck pace,” Robert Dunlop, CEO of Cascade Public Media, said of the two new directors. “Their insights will be extremely valuable as we continue to bring the people of our region news and programming that informs and inspires.”
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Terryl Ross receives 2020 social equity award from American Society of Public Administration
The American Society of Public Administration has given Terryl Ross, assistant dean of diversity, equity and inclusion in the UW College of the Environment, its 2020 Gloria Hobson Nordin Social Equity Award for 2020.
The award recognizes lifetime achievement in the cause of social equity. Candidates are evaluated on the consistency, level and duration oftheir work on social equity as well as the impact of their efforts. The society’s 8,000-some members are practitioners, academics and students.
Ross came to the UW in 1992 as a doctoral student in the Educational and Communication Technology Program housed in the College of Education and later created the group Multicultural Organization of Students Actively Involved in Change, or MOSAIC.
“Ross continues to work in diversity and inclusion today as he collaborates with college stakeholders to envision diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across the college,” the association wrote.
The award, established in 2003, is named for a longtime employee of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
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David Montgomery honored by Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography
The Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography has awarded David Montgomery, UW professor of Earth and space sciences its 2020 Vega Medal for achievements in physical geography. He was honored his work in the field of geomorphology -- the study of the origin and evolution of landforms.
Montgomery has written several popular science books as well as teaching materials and over 200 articles. The society praised his impact on the research community. His last book was “Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life,” published in 2017.
“He has studied everything from the ways that landslides and glaciers influence the height of mountain ranges, to the way that soils have shaped human civilizations now and in the past,” the society wrote in its award announcement.
The society was founded in 1878 and is supported mainly by the King of Sweden. Its objective is to promote the development of anthropology, geography and closely related sciences in Sweden and serve as a link between scientists in these disciplines, and the public.
Read more on the College of the Environment website.
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In other faculty news:
Openness letter: Marina Alberti, UW professor of urban design and planning in the College of Built Environments, was one of 31 scientists to sign an open letter to the journal Science calling for more openness in coronavirus modeling. “Call for transparency of COVID-19 models” was published in Science on May 1.
“A hallmark of science is the open exchange of knowledge, the cosigners wrote. “We strongly urge all scientists modeling the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and its consequences for health and society to rapidly and openly publish their code ... so that it is accessible to all scientists around the world.”
Seattle Channel meets Indigo Mist: The Seattle Channel recently filmed a visit with the UW School of Music faculty members who comprise the improvisational music group Indigo Mist: professors Juan Pampin, Cuong Vu, Ted Poor and Richard Karpen, the school’s director -- Steve Rodby, artist in residence (and longtime Pat Metheny Group bassist). The school took note in its April newsletter.
“You just let go and let your creativity do its thing,” Vu said in the video, describing the group’s creative approach. Whatever art comes out of that, he said, is “going to make sense - and it’s going to be uniquely your expression.”
Watch the Youtube video:Read More
New data from martian meteorite hints at conditions for early life | Forbes
Thursday, April 30, 2020
Japanese researchers have found tantalizing traces of ancient organic molecules containing nitrogen in an Antarctic meteorite known to have come from Mars. David Catling, a professor of earth and space sciences at the UW, is quoted. Read More
First results from NASA's ICESat-2 map 16 years of melting ice sheets
Thursday, April 30, 2020
Using the most advanced Earth-observing laser instrument NASA has ever flown in space, a team of scientists led by the University of Washington has made precise measurements of how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have changed over 16 years.
In a new study published April 30 in the journal Science, researchers found the net loss of ice from Antarctica, along with Greenland's shrinking ice sheet, has been responsible for 0.55 inches (14 millimeters) of sea level rise to the global ocean since 2003. In Antarctica, sea level rise is being driven by the loss of the floating ice shelves melting in a warming ocean. These ice shelves help hold back the flow of land-based ice.
The findings come from the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite 2 (ICESat-2), which was launched into orbit in fall 2018 and began taking detailed global elevation measurements, including over Earth's frozen regions. By comparing the new data with measurements taken by the original ICESat from 2003 to 2009, researchers have generated a comprehensive portrait of the complexities of ice sheet change -- and insights into the future of Greenland and Antarctica.
"If you watch a glacier or ice sheet for a month, or a year, you're not going to learn much about what the climate is doing to it," said lead author Benjamin Smith, a glaciologist at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory. "We now have a 16-year span between ICESat and ICESat-2 and can be much more confident that the changes we're seeing in the ice have to do with the long-term changes in the climate. And ICESat-2 is a really remarkable tool for making these measurements. We're seeing high-quality measurements that carpet both ice sheets, which let us make a detailed and precise comparison with the ICESat data."
Previous studies of ice loss or gain often analyze data from multiple satellites and airborne missions. The new study takes a single type of measurement -- height as measured by an instrument that bounces laser pulses off the ice surface -- providing the most detailed and accurate picture of ice sheet change to date.
The researchers took tracks of ICESat measurements and overlaid the denser tracks of ICESat-2 measurements from 2019. Where the two data sets intersected -- tens of millions of sites -- they ran the data through computer programs that accounted for the snow density and other factors, and then calculated the mass of ice lost or gained.
"The new analysis reveals the ice sheets' response to changes in climate with unprecedented detail, revealing clues as to why and how the ice sheets are reacting the way they are," said co-author Alex Gardner, a glaciologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The study found that Greenland's ice sheet lost an average of 200 gigatons of ice per year, and Antarctica's ice sheet lost an average of 118 gigatons of ice per year. One gigaton of ice is enough to fill 400,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Of the sea level rise that resulted from ice sheet meltwater and iceberg calving, about two-thirds of it came Greenland, the other third from Antarctica, Smith said.
"It was amazing to see how good the ICESat-2 data looked, right out of the gate," said co-author Tom Neumann at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "These first results looking at land ice confirm the consensus from other research groups, but they also let us look at the details of change in individual glaciers and ice shelves at the same time."
In Greenland, there was a significant amount of thinning of coastal glaciers, Smith said. The Kangerlussuaq and Jakobshavn glaciers, for example, have lost 14 to 20 feet (4 to 6 meters) of elevation per year. Warmer summer temperatures have melted ice from the surface of the glaciers and ice sheets, and in some places warmer ocean water erodes away the ice at their fronts.
In Antarctica, the dense tracks of ICESat-2 measurements showed that the ice sheet is getting thicker in parts of the continent's interior, likely as a result of increased snowfall, Smith said. But the loss of ice from the continent's margins, especially in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula, far outweighs any gains in the interior. In those places, the ocean is also likely to blame.
"In West Antarctica, we're seeing a lot of glaciers thinning very rapidly," Smith said. "There are ice shelves at the downstream end of those glaciers, floating on water. And those ice shelves are thinning, letting more ice flow out into the ocean as the warmer water erodes the ice."
These ice shelves, which rise and fall with the tides,can be difficult to measure, said co-author Helen Amanda Fricker, a glaciologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. Some of them have rough surfaces, with crevasses and ridges, but the precision and high resolution of ICESat-2 allows researchers to measure overall changes, without worrying about these features skewing the results.
This is one of the first times that researchers have measured loss of the floating ice shelves around Antarctica simultaneously with loss of the continent's ice sheet.
Ice that melts from ice shelves doesn't raise sea levels, since it's already floating -- just like an ice cube melting in a full cup of water doesn't overflow the glass. But the ice shelves do provide stability for the glaciers and ice sheets behind them.
"It's like an architectural buttress that holds up a cathedral," Fricker said. "The ice shelves hold the ice sheet up. If you take away the ice shelves, or even if you thin them, you're reducing that buttressing force, so the grounded ice can flow faster."
The researchers found ice shelves in West Antarctica, where many of the continent's fastest-moving glaciers are located, are losing mass. Patterns of thinning show that Thwaites and Crosson ice shelves have thinned the most, an average of about 5 meters (16 feet) and 3 meters (10 feet) of ice per year, respectively.
The study was funded by NASA. Other co-authors are Johan Nilsson and Fernando Paolo at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Brooke Medley, Thorsten Markus and H. Jay Zwally at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center; Nicholas Holschuh at Amherst College; Susheel Adusumilli at the University of California, San Diego; Kelly Brunt at the University of Maryland; Bea Csatho at the University of Buffalo; Kaitlin Harbeck at KBR; and Matthew Siegfried at the Colorado School of Mines. Smith and Neumann are both affiliate faculty members in the UW Department of Earth & Space Sciences.
This article is adapted from a NASA press release.
NASA grants: NNX15AE15G, NNX15AC80G, NNX16AM01G, NNX17AI03GRead More
Confidence Erupts from a Camp at a Volcano: Summer camp at Mount Saint Helens empowers girls with science, confidence, and fun.
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
GeoGirls is a 5-day, 4-night volcanology and technology summer camp run by the Mount St. Helens Institute. Featuring Elizabeth Urban and Kate Allstadt, from ESS & PNSN Read More
Marc Hirschmann elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Monday, April 27, 2020
Along with UW president Ana Mari Cauci, and a number of other prominent scientists, artists, and other leaders, experimental petrologist Marc M. Hirschmann was made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for 2020. Marc teaches at the University of Minnesota. He was a graduate student in Geological Sciences (now ESS) at UW, completing his PHD in 1992. Congratulations, Marc! Read More
How to move 'hands on' classes online
Thursday, April 16, 2020
Every spring, Laura Prugh teaches a wildlife research techniques class at the University of Washington. Her students spend much of their time outside, complementing their lecture notes with actual experience. They learn to identify and properly handle animals -- frogs, salamanders and bushy-tailed woodrats, for example -- and they practice using equipment for tracking animals and estimating populations.
But when the UW announced it was moving its spring quarter 2020 classes entirely online to combat the novel coronavirus, Prugh and other instructors across campus faced a new,unchartered challenge.
“During our faculty meeting on Zoom to discuss what to do with field courses, I burst into tears, much to my surprise,” said Prugh, an associate professor of environmental and forest sciences. “I love teaching this course. It’s great getting the students out into the field and getting to know them really well.”
Prugh initially considered canceling the class, which is a requirement for some students majoring in environmental sciences and resource management.
“I had to go through a mourning period before I could readjust my expectations and accept that the students are going to need to learn about some of the techniques just in the lecture component,” Prugh said. “But then maybe we can come up with a plan for the rest of the content.”
Prugh decided to mail each enrolled student a kit that includes a camera trap, an acoustic recorder, a compass and binoculars. Students will usetheir kits to complete independent research projects from home. The class will also participate in timely citizen-science projects that aim to understand how stay-at-home orders across the world have affected urban wildlife.
Prugh wasn’t the only instructor who initially felt their stomach drop when the UW announced the switch to remote instruction. Professors and lecturers across the university take pride in providing hands-on opportunities for their students, but also felt reluctant to outright cancel their courses this quarter, often citing graduation or major requirements.
Of the approximately 7,000 courses the UW typically offers across its three campuses during spring quarter, about 400 have been canceled two weeks into the quarter -- many of which were one-on-one instruction and practical training, according to Philip Reid, UW's vice provost for academic and student affairs. In addition, about 200 classes were added to spring quarter and the enrollment caps were increased in an effort to limit impacts to student academic progress.See how one instructor moved his lab class onlineWatch video
UW instructors have taken a variety of approaches to give students as close to an in-person experience as possible. Like Prugh, many have figured out ways for students to be hands on at home. But others took different approaches -- such as using online platforms to promote student engagement or having students analyze datasets from a previous quarter.
Student enrollment also remains high. As of the start of the quarter, 52,845 students were registered for at least one course, compared to 51,884 students last spring. Two weeks into the quarter, about 930 students had withdrawn, compared to 600 at the same time last spring -- a difference of about 330.
“It’s heartening that even in this unprecedented time, we still see the resiliency of our community through our innovative instructors and our students who are eager to learn,” Reid said.
Labs at home
In the move to online courses, many instructors joinedPrugh in devising ways to shift in-class projects to activities students can do at home.
Brian Johnson, a UW assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, has been restructuring a power electronics course into a year-long series of classes where students design and build electric bikes. This school year was the first full run of the sequence. In fall 2019, students designed the electronics necessary to power an e-bike. Then, over winter quarter, they shifted gears to develop the code that would regulate the system. Spring quarter was supposed to be the “Tour de France,” where the students put the pieces together to power and control actual e-bikes that they would race at the end of the quarter.
“I did my best to distill everything into something they can build at home,” Johnson said. “Instead of using a battery to power an e-bike motor, their circuits will transfer energy from a small power supply to resistors which will warm up slightly. It will be a great learning experience and it will require students to carefully plan their builds.”
Introduction to Engineering Design is a hands-on course where students learn how to go from thinking of an idea to actually building something. This class normally takes place in the MILL makerspace so that students learn how to use tools such as laser cutters, 3D printers and soldering equipment. This quarter, students will build devices -- a “smart” lamp that can turn on depending on the time of day, for example -- using materials in kits that the instructors are sending home. Then students will usesoftware to design and model updated versions. Shown here are TAs for this course, Suvesha Chandrasekaran, brown shirt, and Gorkem Caylak, preparing kits to be packaged and shipped to students. Credit: Dennis Wise/University of Washington
Instructors from other College of Engineering courses are having their students complete lab work at home as well. After modifying experiments so that they would be safe to perform at home, instructors prepared and sent more than 300 kits for six different courses to students across the state -- including to Spokane, Yakima, Bellingham, Chehalis and Aberdeen -- and around the globe to students in China, India, Uganda and Brazil, among other countries.
In the College of the Environment, Jonathan Bakker, an UW professor of environmental and forest sciences, sent kits -- including seeds, pots and media -- to students so they can grow plants at homefor hisNative Plant Production course. This course also normally involves tours of local nurseries. This quarter, Bakker has invited nurseries around the state and the country to give virtual tours to the students.
Virtual options abound
Other instructors across the UW are taking advantage of the plethora of virtual options to try to make their previously hands-on courses more engaging.
Terry Swanson, a principal lecturer in Earth and space sciences, teaches Introduction to Geology and Societal Impacts, a course for mostly nonscience majors. Swanson’s class typically includes labs, field trips and movie nights in addition to a lecture component.
“This quarter, the difficult thing is trying to bring the excitement of the class -- the rocks and the hands-on, tactile feel of this -- through a screen,” Swanson said.
Swanson has opted tolivestream his lectures on both Twitch and Zoom, saying that students learn better when he can appear more human on camera, sometimes correcting himself if he makes a mistake live.
The class still “gathers” for movie nights, too, though this year they watched “Chasing Ice” on Zoom instead of in Kane Hall. Swanson plans to take the students on virtual field trips across the state, using an assortment of cameras to allow him to focus on the fine-grain details he wants his students to pay attention to.
Julian Yamaura, a lecturer in civil and environmental engineering, is teaching a construction materials class this quarter. This class has a major lab component so Yamaura is filming video modules that students can watch and then discuss in an interactive Zoom class each week. This week, Yamaura is filming how to make concrete. In one of the videos, Yamaura is including mistakes that students may encounter on real job sites after they graduate.
Credit: Kiyomi Taguchi/University of Washington
Despite a variety of tools available for moving classes online, professors and lecturers have to be thoughtful about what their students have access to, instructors said. Sara Gonzalez, an associate professor of anthropology, is teaching a contemporary archeology course, which was supposed to have field trips around the UW and city of Seattle. Gonzalez has shifted it to a course where students will be engaging with each other and archeologists around the world through a class Twitter account, a class hashtag and public blog posts.
“One of the initial reasons I was hesitant to move online is our students face a digital divide: I see a lot of students relying on using only their cellphones to access our course Canvas pages or to complete their work,” Gonzalez said. “I think this approach of using several different platforms gives everyone an opportunity to be able to engage regardless of whether or not they can download huge files. It’s as easy as using their cellphone to check in on the class Twitter feed and see what’s happening for the class.”
Learning from the past
Virtual tools, however helpful for keeping students engaged, can still fall short of replacing the full experience that many UW classes aim to offer.
“Nothing out there is going to give you the same hands-on experience as being in a general chemistry lab,” said Andrea Carroll, a senior lecturer of chemistry. “Performing dilutions, trying to figure out how some of the glassware and instrumentation work, and making some of those typical mistakes students make -- that piece is going to be gone when the courses are moved online.”
Regardless, Carroll and the general chemistry team will continue teaching labs this quarter. TAs will develop a “tour” of each lab activity that walks students through the entire procedure -- from a full explanation of lab safety to photos and videos of each of the steps, and what students would see if they were performing their own experiment.
Then students will receive a dataset from previous quarter’s version of the lab to work through their lab report assignments.
“It’s all real data,” Carroll said. “Some of it will have common errors that people often see in these experiments, and these students will have to explain what might have happened. We’ve tried to keep this as realistic as possible.”“
While instructors across the UW expressed relief and pride at being able to transition their classes online for this quarter, they’re already looking forward to future quarters when they can hold their classes in person again. Many instructors are using this time as an opportunity to find new ways to enhance their in-person classes. For example, Gonzalez has always been interested in having her students engage with a larger public audience around issues of archeology’s relevance -- in this case, she decided to try using Twitter.
“Right now is the perfect opportunity to be able to demonstrate the importance of public scholarship to my students while also creating an online community for them,” Gonzalez said. “The saddest part of not being able to meet in class is that we miss out in a lot of community building. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t be creative and find community in other spaces.”Read More
The hunt for hydroxyl radicals in Antarctica could reveal the secrets of our future climate
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
In every sense, gazing into an Antarctic time tunnel is a chilling experience. You lean over an icy entrance about the size of a dinner plate being exceptionally careful not to drop anything in. It's hard to tell how far you are seeing. Five or 50 metres? A year, a decade, a century or more? As your eyes adjust they see beyond the snap-frozen present and deeper into the decades gone by. The colour shifts from blinding white to electric blue and eventually to a darkness so unfathomable it could be a tunnel into deep space. A core barrel is lowered into the cylindrical shaft, hanging on a cable. It travels at first through layers of hard-packed snow that still retain a connection to the atmosphere above. Go deeper and those pore spaces close off under the weight of snow pushing down from above. The sheer compressive force compacts fluffy snowflakes into solid ice, trapping a tiny bubble of atmosphere from that moment. Each bubble becomes a time capsule. The drill drops through the centuries, reaching for our pre-industrial past. To solve one of the enduring climate change riddles, we're going to need a lot of air from an awful lot of these bubbles. Read More
Earthquake felt across inland northwest | KREM
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
While an earthquake in Idaho was felt far and wide, the damage should not be extensive. Paul Bodin, UW research professor of earth and space sciences and network manager of the UW-based Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, is interviewed. Read More