New Ocean Forecast Could Help Predict Fish Habitat Six Months in Advance

People are now used to long-term weather forecasts that predict what the coming winter may bring. But University of Washington researchers and federal scientists have developed the first long-term forecast of conditions that matter for Pacific Northwest fisheries.

By Hannah Hickey | University of Washington News and Information

September 4, 2013

“Being able to predict future phytoplankton blooms, ocean temperatures and low-oxygen events could help fisheries managers,” said Samantha Siedlecki, a research scientist at the UW-based Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean.

“This is an experiment to produce the first seasonal prediction system for the ocean ecosystem. We are excited about the initial results, but there is more to learn and explore about this tool – not only in terms of the science, but also in terms of its application,” she said.

A school of sardines. The tool will soon produce a months-long outlook for Pacific Northwest sardine habitat.Image-Wikimedia / Alessandro Duci - See more at:
A school of sardines. The tool will soon produce a months-long outlook for Pacific Northwest sardine habitat.Image-Wikimedia / Alessandro Duci

In January, when the prototype was launched, it predicted unusually low oxygen this summer off the Olympic coast. People scoffed. But when an unusual low-oxygen patch developed off the Washington coast in July, some skeptics began to take the tool more seriously. The new tool predicts that low-oxygen trend will continue, and worsen, in coming months.

“We’re taking the global climate model simulations and applying them to our coastal waters,” saidNick Bond, a UW research meteorologist. “What’s cutting edge is how the tool connects the ocean chemistry and biology.”

Bond’s research typically involves predicting ocean conditions decades in advance. But as Washington’s state climatologist he distributes quarterly forecasts of the weather. With this project he decided to combine the two, taking a seasonal approach to marine forecasts.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration funded the project to create the tool and publish the two initial forecasts.

“Simply knowing if things are likely to get better, or worse, or stay the same, would be really useful,” said collaborator Phil Levin, a biologist at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

Early warning of negative trends, for example, could help to set quotas.

“Once you overharvest, a lot of regulations kick in,” Levin said. “By avoiding overfishing you don’t get penalized, you keep the stock healthier and you’re able to maintain fishing at a sustainable level.”

/tmp/tpc2e91792_36e0_416e_b69a_7de0af3744c9.psThe tool is named the JISAO Seasonal Coastal Ocean Prediction of the Ecosystem, which the scientist dubbed J-SCOPE. It’s still in its testing stage. It remains to be seen whether the low-oxygen prediction was just beginner’s luck or is proof the tool can predict where strong phytoplankton blooms will end up causing low-oxygen conditions, Siedlecki said.

The tool uses global climate models that can predict elements of the weather up to nine months in advance. It feeds those results into a regional coastal ocean model developed by the UW Coastal Modeling Group that simulates the intricate subsea canyons, shelf breaks and river plumes of the Pacific Northwest coastline. Siedlecki added a new UW oxygen model that calculates where currents and chemistry promote the growth of marine plants, or phytoplankton, and where those plants will decompose and, in turn, affect oxygen levels and other properties of the ocean water.

The end product is a nine-month forecast for Washington and Oregon sea surface temperatures, oxygen at various depths, acidity, and chlorophyll, a measure of the marine plants that feed most fish. Coming this fall are sardine habitat maps. Eventually researchers would like to publish forecasts specific to other fish, such as tuna and salmon.

The researchers fine-tuned their model by comparing results for past seasons with actual measurements collected by theNorthwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems, or NANOOS. The UW-based association is hosting the forecasts as a forward-looking complement to its growing archive of Pacific Northwest ocean observations.

Siedlecki’s analyses suggest the new tool is able to predict elements of the ocean ecosystem up to six months in advance.

Researchers will present the project this year to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the regulatory body for West Coast fisheries, and will work with NANOOS to reach tribal, state, and local fisheries managers.

If the forecasts prove reliable, they could eventually be part of a new management approach that requires knowing and predicting how different parts of the ocean ecosystem interact.

“The climate predictions have gotten to the point where they have six-month predictability globally, and the physics of the regional model and observational network are at the point where we’re able to do this project,” Siedlecki said.

Source: University of Washington

WSU study finds no more genetically modified wheat

Credit: Getty ImagesWheat Field
Credit: Getty Images
Wheat Field
August 7, 2013
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS — Associated Press


PULLMAN, WASH. — A study by Washington State University has found no additional sign of the genetically modified wheat discovered at one Oregon farm this spring.

The tests involved dozens of wheat varieties developed at Washington State, the University of Idaho and Oregon State University, plus varieties from Westbred/Monsanto and Limagrain Cereal Seeds, WSU said this week.

The time-consuming study included checking more than 20,000 individual plots, Washington State University said.

“WSU undertook its own investigation as part of its commitment to serving Northwest farmers,” said James Moyer, director of WSU’s Agricultural Research Center.

The study’s collaboration with the other universities and the commercial seed companies was unprecedented, and reflected the common goal of trying to determine if the genetically modified wheat discovered in Oregon was an isolated case or if the industry had a larger problem, Moyer said.

WSU’s data clearly suggests this was an isolated case, Moyer said.

The tests involved growing seed, spraying infant plants with the herbicide glyphosate and conducting molecular testing. None of the plants showed the glyphosate resistance found in the fields of an as-yet-unnamed Oregon farmer, WSU said.

Last month, the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also said grain tests and interviews with several hundred farmers found no other instances of herbicide-resistant crops beyond that one Oregon farm.

The modified wheat was discovered in May when field workers at an eastern Oregon farm were clearing acres for the bare offseason and came across a patch of wheat that didn’t belong. The workers sprayed it, but the wheat wouldn’t die, so the farmer sent a sample to Oregon State University to test.

A few weeks later, Oregon State wheat scientists discovered that the wheat was genetically modified. They contacted the USDA, which ran more tests and confirmed the discovery.

Agriculture Department officials have said the modified wheat discovered in the Oregon field is the same strain as a genetically modified wheat that was designed to be herbicide-resistant and was legally tested by seed giant Monsanto a decade ago but never approved.

Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are already modified, or genetically altered to include certain traits, often resistance to herbicides or pesticides. But the country’s wheat crop is not, as many wheat farmers have shown reluctance to use genetically engineered seeds since their product is usually consumed directly. Much of the corn and soybean crop is used as feed.

The USDA has said the wheat would be safe to eat if consumed. But American consumers, like many consumers in Europe and Asia, have shown an increasing interest in avoiding genetically modified foods.

The vast majority of Washington’s wheat is exported.

Some Volcanoes ‘Scream’ at Ever-Higher Pitches until They Blow their Tops

It is not unusual for swarms of small earthquakes to precede a volcanic eruption. They can reach a point of such rapid succession that they create a signal called harmonic tremor that resembles sound made by various types of musical instruments, though at frequencies much lower than humans can hear.

By Vince Stricherz | University of Washington 07/15/2013


Redoubt Volcano’s active lava dome as it appeared on May 8, 2009. The volcano is in the Aleutian Range about 110 miles south-southwest of Anchorage, Alaska.Image-Chris Waythomas, Alaska Volcano Observatory
Redoubt Volcano’s active lava dome as it appeared on May 8, 2009. The volcano is in the Aleutian Range about 110 miles south-southwest of Anchorage, Alaska.Image-Chris Waythomas, Alaska Volcano Observatory

A new analysis of an eruption sequence at Alaska’s Redoubt Volcano in March 2009 shows that the harmonic tremor glided to substantially higher frequencies and then stopped abruptly just before six of the eruptions, five of them coming in succession.

“The frequency of this tremor is unusually high for a volcano, and it’s not easily explained by many of the accepted theories,” said Alicia Hotovec-Ellis, a University of Washington doctoral student in Earth and space sciences.

Documenting the activity gives clues to a volcano’s pressurization right before an explosion. That could help refine models and allow scientists to better understand what happens during eruptive cycles in volcanoes like Redoubt, she said.

The source of the earthquakes and harmonic tremor isn’t known precisely. Some volcanoes emit sound when magma – a mixture of molten rock, suspended solids and gas bubbles – resonates as it pushes up through thin cracks in the Earth’s crust.

But Hotovec-Ellis believes in this case the earthquakes and harmonic tremor happen as magma is forced through a narrow conduit under great pressure into the heart of the mountain. The thick magma sticks to the rock surface inside the conduit until the pressure is enough to move it higher, where it sticks until the pressure moves it again.

Each of these sudden movements results in a small earthquake, ranging in magnitude from about 0.5 to 1.5, she said. As the pressure builds, the quakes get smaller and happen in such rapid succession that they blend into a continuous harmonic tremor.

“Because there’s less time between each earthquake, there’s not enough time to build up enough pressure for a bigger one,” Hotovec-Ellis said. “After the frequency glides up to a ridiculously high frequency, it pauses and then it explodes.”

She is the lead author of a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research that describes the research. Co-authors are John Vidale of the UW and Stephanie Prejean and Joan Gomberg of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Hotovec-Ellis is a co-author of a second paper, published online July 14 in Nature Geoscience, that introduces a new “frictional faulting” model as a tool to evaluate the tremor mechanism observed at Redoubt in 2009. The lead author of that paper is Ksenia Dmitrieva of Stanford University, and other co-authors are Prejean and Eric Dunham of Stanford.

The pause in the harmonic tremor frequency increase just before the volcanic explosion is the main focus of the Nature Geoscience paper. “We think the pause is when even the earthquakes can’t keep up anymore and the two sides of the fault slide smoothly against each other,” Hotovec-Ellis said.

She documented the rising tremor frequency, starting at about 1 hertz (or cycle per second) and gliding upward to about 30 hertz. In humans, the audible frequency range starts at about 20 hertz, but a person lying on the ground directly above the magma conduit might be able to hear the harmonic tremor when it reaches its highest point (it is not an activity she would advise, since the tremor is closely followed by an explosion).

Scientists at the USGS Alaska Volcano Observatory have dubbed the highest-frequency harmonic tremor at Redoubt Volcano “the screams” because they reach such high pitch compared with a 1-to-5 hertz starting point. Hotovec-Ellis created two recordings of the seismic activity. A 10-second recording covers about 10 minutes of seismic sound and harmonic tremor, sped up 60 times. Aone-minute recording condenses about an hour of activity that includes more than 1,600 small earthquakes that preceded the first explosion with harmonic tremor.

Upward-gliding tremor immediately before a volcanic explosion also has been documented at the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica and Soufrière Hills volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat.

“Redoubt is unique in that it is much clearer that that is what’s going on,” Hotovec-Ellis said. “I think the next step is understanding why the stresses are so high.”

The work was funded in part by the USGS and the National Science Foundation.

Source: University of Washington

School Policies Reduce Student Drinking – if They’re Perceived to be Enforced

By Doree Armstrong | University of Washington 07/09/2013 10:39:00

 “Just say no” has been many a parent’s mantra when it comes to talking to their children about drugs or alcohol. Schools echo that with specific policies against illicit use on school grounds. But do those school policies work?

University of Washington professor of social work Richard Catalano and colleagues studied whether anti-alcohol policies in public and private schools in Washington state and Australia’s Victoria state were effective for eighth- and ninth-graders.

What they found was that each school’s particular policy mattered less than the students’ perceived enforcement of it. So, even if a school had a suspension or expulsion policy, if students felt the school didn’t enforce it then they were more likely to drink on campus. But, even if a school’s policy was less harsh – such as requiring counseling – students were less likely to drink at school if they believed school officials would enforce it.

“Whatever your school policy is, lax enforcement is related to more drinking,” Catalano said.

The study was published recently in the journal Health Education Research.

The results were similar in Washington, where the legal drinking age is 21 and schools tend to have a zero-tolerance approach, and Victoria, Australia, where the legal drinking age is 18 and policies are more about minimizing harm.

In the study, 44 percent of Victoria eighth-graders and 22 percent of Washington eighth-graders reported drinking alcohol. Victoria students also reported higher rates of binge drinking and alcohol-related harms.

Apart from perceptions about enforcement, harmful behaviors in both states were reduced when students believed policy violators would likely be counseled by a teacher on the dangers of alcohol use, rather than expelled or suspended.

“Schools should focus on zero tolerance and abstinence in primary and early middle school, but sometime between middle school and high school they have to blend in zero tolerance with harm minimization,” said Catalano, director of the Social Development Research Group at the UWSchool of Social Work and principal investigator for the International Youth Development Study. “By the time they get into high school they need new strategies.”

Those strategies could include talking to a teacher or being referred to treatment. The likelihood of binge drinking was reduced if students received an abstinence alcohol message or a harm minimization message, and if they believed teachers would talk to them about the dangers of alcohol. Catalano said such remediation policies are an important predictor of less alcohol use among ninth-graders.

He said the study shows harsh punishment for drinking on school grounds, such as calling the police or expelling the student, doesn’t inhibit alcohol use on campus. Instead, long-term negative impacts of expulsion mean students feel disconnected from school and may subsequently drink more. Calling the police, which gives the student a police record, appears to make things even worse.

“What we’ve seen in other studies from this sample is suspension policies actually worsen the behavior problem,” Catalano said. “What that says to me is, although you want policies and you want enforcement of policies, there are other ways of responding than suspension, expulsion and calling the police: Getting a student to talk to a teacher about how alcohol might be harmful, or a session with the school counselor.”

The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug AbuseNational Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, and Victorian Government’s Operational Infrastructure Support Program. Co-authors are Todd Herrenkohl of the UW, lead author Tracy Evans-Whipp and Stephanie Plenty ofRoyal Children’s Hospital in Victoria, Australia, and John Toumbourou of Deakin University in Australia.

Source: University of Washington

UW to require diversity course

Undergraduate students at the UW will be required to complete a class in some area of social, political or economic diversity before they can graduate.

By Lornet Turnbull, The Seattle Times

Saying it has an obligation to prepare students for a more global society, the University of Washington will require undergrads to complete a course in some area of diversity — economic, cultural or political — before they can graduate.

The new policy, initiated by a group of mostly minority students, followed three failed attempts over the past 22 years to introduce changes meant to ensure that all graduating students know a little more about other cultures and people who differ from them than they did when they first arrived.

The three-credit course won’t add to the number of hours students now need to obtain a bachelor’s degree. And it won’t apply to current undergrads, only to the incoming class in the year the policy takes effect — possibly next fall.

Helen Fillmore, a graduating senior majoring in environmental science and resource management, is a member of First Nations @ UW and of the UW Students for Diversity Coalition, which began pushing for these changes nearly three years ago.

“Students come from different places with different backgrounds and … arrive at the university where we’d become part of this huge melting pot,” she said. But the differences that students bring with them aren’t always positively recognized.

“Here we are in a place where we have a lot of ability to grow, not just while we’re here but after we graduate and enter the workforce. We’re so much more connected than ever before … yet there’s still so much bickering.”

The new requirement is tailored around a broad definition of diversity, covering areas such as sexual orientation, disability, class, race, age, gender, religion and politics.

To satisfy it, students on the UW’s Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma campuses would be able to choose from among 400 and 500 courses that are already part of the curricula, such as Peasants in Politics, Class and Culture in East Asia, Gender and Spirituality and World Music. Two-thirds of UW students already take classes that satisfy the diversity requirement.

The three credits would count toward the general-education requirement students already must meet to graduate.

Fine-tuning proposal

To be sure, the UW isn’t blazing any new trail here, and in fact may be behind the curve with this requirement, which has been approved by President Michael Young.

A majority of four-year institutions across the country, including Washington State University, already have a diversity requirement for graduation.

At least three other times in the 1990s, UW student groups tried, but failed, to get a similar policy implemented. Fillmore said at first she worried this effort would fail as well.

Some faculty members thought the definition of diversity in the proposal was not broad enough, excluding areas such as politics and economics, and some raised concerns that it put too much emphasis on concepts such as power and privilege.

Fillmore said initial questions also suggested some faculty members felt the minority students were angry about something or that their effort amounted to a political statement of some kind.

Over two years, faculty members in various committees worked with the students to fine-tune the proposal and expand the definition of diversity. The requirement also was changed from five credits to three.

James Gregory, chairman of the Faculty Senate, which must approve all such changes, said “there was a lot of wordsmithing and adjusting the resolution at various stages.”

“There were changes in executive committee, more changes on the floor of the Senate,” said Gregory, a history professor. “A lot of the things that bothered certain faculty members were worked out.”

In retrospect, Fillmore believes it helped, too, that students met repeatedly with faculty members to make sure they understood the significance of what the students wanted to accomplish, even before the proposal was brought up for a vote.

“In the last part of last year and first part of this year I spent more time in meetings with faculty than I spent with my friends,” Fillmore said.

The Faculty Senate approved the measure in April.

Now, the dean of each school and college within the UW must approve a list of courses to satisfy the diversity requirement for their students.

Some opposition

Comments on a UW student newspaper article about the new policy reflected some opposition, including from one person who noted the UW is not a liberal-arts school and referred to the requirement as another hoop students with coursework-heavy majors would have to jump through.

Gregory, though, characterized the final policy as “a very modest curriculum requirement.”

“It doesn’t complicate the curriculum,” he said. “We were careful not to do that.”

Universities, Gregory said, are preparing young people for adulthood and for jobs that in many cases will involve visits to countries around the world and interactions with people of different cultures abroad as well as at home. UW students “have a chance to explore that in a classroom environment,” Gregory said.

“The fact that so many students are already taking courses that deal with some aspect of diversity shows a recognition among students that this is valuable.”

Website funds UW Bothell researcher’s coal-train dust study

A UW-Bothell researcher turned to a crowd-sourcing website to fund his study of trains’ emissions and dust.

By Sharon Salyer, The Herald

BOTHELL — Ask just about any scientist. They have far more ideas for things they want to investigate than they can ever get the funding to explore.

That’s the conundrum that Dan Jaffe, a researcher at the University of Washington’s Bothell campus, found himself in last month.

Jaffe is a professor of chemistry and atmospheric sciences. He wanted to study just how much emissions and tiny particles called particulate matter are being produced by passenger and freight train exhaust as well as coal dust from trains in Western Washington.

Little currently is known about the environmental effects caused by the passing trains.

His interest was triggered by a proposal to build a $650 million terminal north of Bellingham to export coal, grain and other material to Asia.

The proposal eventually would create up to 450 jobs, backers say. The trade-off: It also would bring more trains through Western Washington — up to 18 each day through Snohomish County, opponents say.

Jaffe thought there was a fairly simple way to conduct his experiment: Install an air-quality monitor that could measure which particles were caused by diesel exhaust and which from the larger coal dust particles over a four- to six-week period this summer.

A web camera also would be installed to document which trains were passing as the emissions occurred.

With the help of some UW students, he figured the experiment could be conducted for a little more than $18,000.

Compared to multi-million dollar research projects, that’s chump change. Nevertheless, Jaffe was getting little more than a swing-and-a-miss trying to drum up financial interest in the project.

Government agencies weren’t too encouraging, he said. “I was getting a little bit discouraged. I was pretty close to giving up.”

That’s when someone suggested he take a look at an online site,, where researchers make public pitches for donations to fund their projects. Musicians, artists and others have used similar “crowd-sourcing” websites, such as Kickstarter, to support their projects.

“I was kind of skeptical at first,” Jaffe said.

His pitch outlining the project, with a promise that donors would be credited in the research, was posted on April 29.

Much to his surprise, on Thursday evening, just 11 days after his project was posted, he was notified that the goal had been met, with 236 people pledging a total of $18,055.

Publicity over his project and the way he raised money to do it have generated a lot of interest, he said.

“I’ve had emails from people telling me how to do it better,” Jaffe said. Their suggestions included adding additional monitoring sites or doing an analysis of the chemistry of coal dust.

He said he’s also had some interest from an environmental agency in a coal-producing state.

With the pledge goal reached far earlier than the July 1 online deadline, Jaffe said on Friday that he’s moving up the start of his research.

Assisted by two or three students at the University of Washington’s Bothell campus, he said he hopes to begin collecting information in July.

Measurements may be taken at two different sites. By moving the equipment, information can be collected on whether there are more diesel particulates when trains are moving slowly or if there is any coal dust left behind when the trains are going fast, he said.

Results are expected nine months after the project begins.

“I’ll be pretty mum on releasing it much earlier than that,” Jaffe said. “When the data come in, we have to think about what it means. That’s how science is.

“We need the first shot at it to figure out what it means and to do it in the quiet of the labs.”

Although the fundraising goal has been reached, donors can still make contributions. If enough do, Jaffe said he’s considering adding an additional monitoring site near the Columbia River Gorge.

“There have been reports of coal dust there,” he said. “I think scientific measurements would be very useful.”

10th Anniversary Native Voices Film Festival

Celebrating and Honoring Native Voices at the University of Washington, and Pacific Northwest Native filmmakers. Meet the filmmakers, free and open to the public.

May 1-3, Beginning Wednesday, May 1 at  7:00 PM, University of Washington campus, Kane Hall 220
This event is in partnership with “The Living Breath of Wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ: Indigenous Ways of Knowing Cultural Food Practices and Ecological Knowledge,” hosted by the UW’s American Indian Studies Program, and the 12th Annual Symposium of Native and Indigenous Graduate Student Research, “Reminds Me of Home: The Cultural Shaping of Our Senses,” where Native and Indigenous graduate students, staff, faculty, and community members will present on how their research, analysis and presentation of data has been shaped by their culture and communities.

“The Living Breath of Wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ: Indigenous Ways of Knowing Cultural Food Practices and Ecological Knowledge”

May 1, 2013 at 9:00am until May 2 at 5:00pm

Walker Ames Room, Kane Hall, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 98195

SAVE THE DATE! The University of Washington’s American Indian Studies Department invites you to a two-day symposium to be held May 1-2, 2013 in Seattle, Washington.

“The Living Breath of Wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ: Indigenous Ways of Knowing Cultural Food Practices and Ecological Knowledge,” will bring together primarily Northwest Coast and regional Native leaders, elders, and scholars who will share their knowledge and expertise on topics such as tribal food sovereignty initiatives, food justice and security, traditional foods and health, global climate change’s impact on coastal indigenous food systems, treaties and reserved water rights, and treaty fishing rights and habitat protection.

Indigenous peoples in the Northwest have maintained a sustainable way of life through a cultural, spiritual, and reciprocal relationship with their environment. Presently we face serious disruptions to this relationship from policies, environmental threats, and global climate change. Thus, our traditional ecological knowledge is of paramount importance as we strive to sustain our cultural food practices and preserve this healthy relationship to the land, water, and all living things.

This symposium will be the inaugural event to honor UW’s future longhouse-style community building, Wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ (a Lushootseed word meaning Intellectual House), that will open its doors in 2014. This event symbolizes the spirit of Wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ and embodies the essence of the work we envision doing in this cultural and intellectual space.

Registration details are forthcoming.

Dr. Charlotte Coté, Clarita Lefthand-Begay, Dr. Dian Million, and Elissa Washuta.

Charlotte Coté (Nuu-chah-nulth) Ph.D., Associate Professor, UW’s Department of American Indian Studies; Affiliated Faculty, Canadian Studies Center, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies; Chair, UW’s Wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ (Intellectual House) Planning and Advisory Committee.

Clarita Lefthand-Begay (Diné) MS, Ph.D. candidate, UW’s School of Public Health, Graduate Student Representative, Wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ (Intellectual House) Working Committee Member, 2012 First Stewards Witness.

Dian Million (Athabaskan) Ph.D., Assistant Professor, UW’s Department of American Indian Studies.

Elissa Washuta (Cowlitz) MFA, Academic Counselor and Lecturer, UW’s Department of American Indian Studies.