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  • richardmitnick 11:43 am on June 12, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Scientists close in on 12 billion-year-old signal from the end of the universe’s ‘dark age’ ", , , , , , , Universe dark age, University of Washington   

    From University of Washington: “Scientists close in on 12 billion-year-old signal from the end of the universe’s ‘dark age’ “ 

    From University of Washington

    June 11, 2020
    James Urton

    1
    Part of the Murchison Widefield Array at night.John Goldfield/Celestial Visions

    Today, stars fill the night sky. But when the universe was in its infancy, it contained no stars at all. And an international team of scientists is closer than ever to detecting, measuring and studying a signal from this era that has been traveling through the cosmos ever since that starless era ended some 13 billion years ago.

    That team — led by researchers at the University of Washington, the University of Melbourne, Curtin University and Brown University — reported last year in The Astrophysical Journal that it had achieved an almost 10-fold improvement of radio emission data collected by the Murchison Widefield Array. Team members are currently scouring the data from this radio telescope in remote Western Australia for a telltale signal from this poorly understood “dark age” of our universe.

    Learning about this period will help address major questions about the universe today.

    “We think the properties of the universe during this era had a major effect on the formation of the first stars and set in motion the structural features of the universe today,” said team member Miguel Morales, a UW professor of physics. “The way matter was distributed in the universe during that era likely shaped how galaxies and galactic clusters are distributed today.”

    Before this dark age, the universe was hot and dense. Electrons and photons regularly snared one another, making the universe opaque. But when the universe was less than a million years old, electron–photon interactions became rare. The expanding universe became increasingly transparent and dark, beginning its dark age.

    The starless era lasted hundreds of millions of years during which neutral hydrogen —hydrogen atoms with no overall charge — dominated the cosmos.

    “For this dark age, of course there’s no light-based signal we can study to learn about it — there was no visible light!” said Morales. “But there is a specific signal we can look for. It comes from all that neutral hydrogen. We’ve never measured this signal, but we know it’s out there. And it’s difficult to detect because in the 13 billion years since that signal was emanated, our universe has become a very busy place, filled with other activity from stars, galaxies and even our technology that drown out the signal from the neutral hydrogen.”

    The 13 billion-year-old signal that Morales and his team are after is electromagnetic radio emission that the neutral hydrogen emanated at a wavelength of 21 centimeters. The universe has expanded since that time, stretching the signal out to nearly 2 meters.

    That signal should harbor information about the dark age and the events that ended it, Morales said.

    When the universe was just 1 billion years old, hydrogen atoms began to aggregate and form the first stars, bringing an end to the dark age. The light from those first stars kicked off a new era — the Epoch of Reionization — in which energy from those stars converted much of the neutral hydrogen into an ionized plasma. That plasma dominates interstellar space to this day.

    “The Epoch of Reionization and the dark age preceding it are critical periods for understanding features of our universe, such as why we have some regions filled with galaxies and others relatively empty, the distribution of matter and potentially even dark matter and dark energy,” said Morales.

    ALMA Schematic diagram of the history of the Universe. The Universe is in a neutral state at 400 thousand years after the Big Bang, until light from the first generation of stars starts to ionise the hydrogen. After several hundred million years, the gas in the Universe is completely ionised. Credit. NAOJ

    The Murchison Array is the team’s primary tool. This radio telescope consists of 4,096 dipole antennas, which can pick up low-frequency signals like the electromagnetic signature of neutral hydrogen.

    But those sorts of low-frequency signals are difficult to detect due to electromagnetic “noise” from other sources bouncing around the cosmos, including galaxies, stars and human activity. Morales and his colleagues have developed increasingly sophisticated methods to filter out this noise and bring them closer to that signal. In 2019, the researchers announced that they had filtered out electromagnetic interference — including from our own radio broadcasts — from more than 21 hours of Murchison Array data.

    Moving forward, the team has about 3,000 hours of additional emission data collected by the radio telescope. The researchers are trying to filter out interference and get even closer to that elusive signal from neutral hydrogen — and the dark age it can illuminate.

    In addition to the UW, team members include scientists at the University of Melbourne; Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia; the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia; Arizona State University; Brown University; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Kumamoto University in Japan; and Raman University in India. The 2019 paper is based on Nichole Barry’s UW doctoral thesis, with additional key UW contributions by physics doctoral students Michael Wilensky and Ruby Byrne, research scientist Bryna Hazelton, postdoctoral researcher Ian Sullivan and Morales. Barry is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Melbourne.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:36 am on June 11, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Passing crucial challenging introductory chemistry course gives biggest boost to underrepresented students", Studies have shown that students from certain backgrounds are less likely than their peers to complete an undergraduate degree in science technology engineering or mathematics — or STEM., These groups are low-income students; first-generation college students; female students and students from underrepresented minority backgrounds., University of Washington   

    From University of Washington: “Passing crucial, challenging introductory chemistry course gives biggest boost to underrepresented students” 

    From University of Washington

    June 10, 2020
    James Urton

    1
    A chemistry lecture.Lee Nachtigal

    Studies have shown that students from certain backgrounds are less likely than their peers to complete an undergraduate degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics — or STEM. These groups are low-income students, first-generation college students, female students and students from underrepresented minority backgrounds: Latinx, African American, Native American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander.

    A new study out of the University of Washington shows that general chemistry — a key introductory-level course series for many STEM degrees — is a major barrier for underrepresented students. In a paper published June 10 in Science Advances, researchers report that they examined 15 years of records of student performance, education and demographics for chemistry courses at the UW. They found that underrepresented students received lower grades in the general chemistry series compared to their peers and, if the grade was sufficiently low, were less likely to continue in the series and more likely to leave STEM.

    But if underrepresented students completed the first general chemistry course with at least the minimum grade needed to continue in the series, they were more likely than their peers to continue the general chemistry series and complete this major step toward a STEM degree.

    “General chemistry is often the first science course that many would-be STEM majors take in college, and it has a brutal reputation for causing lots of attrition,” said senior author Scott Freeman, a UW principal lecturer emeritus of biology. “When we examined this large dataset, we discovered that not only is this true, but it is having a disproportionately negative impact on underrepresented students, and likely contributes to lower diversity in STEM fields.”

    Chemistry is the study of matter — focusing on the structure, properties and behavior of atoms and more complex compounds. It is its own scientific field, and also a foundational subject for many other scientific disciplines — including biology, medicine and engineering. At many colleges and universities, before would-be doctors can take a biology course, they must pass general chemistry courses, which usually last a year.

    Under the UW’s quarter system, the general chemistry series consists of three courses. At universities with a semester system, the series is often two.

    For the first course in the UW general chemistry series, the team found that grades for underrepresented students were lower on average than their peers, ranging from 0.13 grade points lower for female students to 0.54 grade points for students from underrepresented minority backgrounds.

    Students enter college with different levels of preparation. When the researchers controlled for this by factoring in high school grade-point averages and SAT scores, the gap narrowed for all groups. For example, the gap narrowed to 0.16 grade points for students from underrepresented minority backgrounds. But for no group did the gap disappear, and the team saw similar patterns for the rest of the general chemistry series.

    “The fact that the gap persists even after we correct for different levels of academic preparation means that something else is going on — something that is actively penalizing underrepresented students in general chemistry,” said Freeman.

    The grade gap has consequences. In the UW and many other institutions, students must receive a minimum grade, often a C-minus or equivalent, in the first general chemistry course in order to take the next one. The team found that underrepresented students receiving a grade lower than the minimum — a D or F — were less likely than their peers who received the same grade to retake the course and thus continue in STEM.

    But, the team also discovered that students from underrepresented groups are what Freeman calls “hyperpersistent.” Underrepresented students who received a C-minus or better in the first general chemistry course were more likely than peers who received the same grade to continue the series.

    “Underrepresented students are showing resiliency, if they can meet that minimum threshold,” said Freeman.

    For the study, the researchers examined records from 25,768 students who took UW chemistry courses between 2001 and 2016. These included both general chemistry and organic chemistry, a more advanced year-long course series that follows general chemistry and is required for many STEM degrees in chemistry, health and medicine. The team saw similar, but smaller, disparities in grades and passing rates for underrepresented students in organic chemistry.

    2
    Taking notes in a chemistry class.Lower Columbia College

    Now that the team has identified a major reason that fewer underrepresented students continue in STEM, Freeman and his colleagues want to understand why. One major reason may be teaching methods. During the study period, both general chemistry and organic chemistry were taught using traditional, lecture-based formats. Freeman and his team have previously shown that so-called “active learning” methods create more inclusive learning environments and boost student performance in STEM courses. These techniques often rely on discussions and problem-solving approaches, and disproportionately benefit underrepresented students.

    There are likely other factors, including larger socioeconomic and cultural issues, said Freeman. But the hyperpersistence the team discovered, if confirmed by other studies, may offer a path forward.

    “It may be that if you can make changes to coursework and learning that boost student performance — that help underrepresented students get at least that minimum grade to keep going — they can do it,” said Freeman. “These students can do the hard work. They have what it takes.”

    Lead author on the paper is Rebecca Harris, a former data analyst with the UW’s Biology Education Research Group, which co-led the study with the UW Department of Chemistry. Co-authors are Michael Mack, a UW postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemistry; Jasmine Bryant, a former UW lecturer in the Department of Chemistry; and Elli Theobald, a UW research associate and instructor in the Department of Biology. Harris is now at Adaptive Biotechnologies. Bryant is now an associate professor at the University of Southern California. The research was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the UW.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:08 pm on June 9, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The data demonstrates that an evolution of the mantle of the Earth could control an evolution of the atmosphere of the Earth and possibly an evolution of life.", , University of Washington   

    From University of Washington via phys.org: “Volcanic activity and changes in Earth’s mantle were key to rise of atmospheric oxygen” 

    From University of Washington

    via


    phys.org

    June 9, 2020
    Hannah Hickey

    1
    These giant mounds of fossil stromatolites from about 2.5 billion years ago are located in South Africa. For scale, notice a person’s dangling legs at the top center. These layered minerals were deposited on an ancient coastline by communities of microbes, including photosynthetic bacteria that generated oxygen. The new study suggests that for millions of years the oxygen produced by these microbes reacted with volcanic gases before it began to accumulate in Earth’s atmosphere, about 2.4 billion years ago. Credit: David Catling/University of Washington

    Oxygen first accumulated in the Earth’s atmosphere about 2.4 billion years ago, during the Great Oxidation Event. A long-standing puzzle has been that geologic clues suggest early bacteria were photosynthesizing and pumping out oxygen hundreds of millions of years before then. Where was it all going?

    Something was holding back oxygen’s rise. A new interpretation of rocks billions of years old finds volcanic gases are the likely culprits. The study led by the University of Washington was published in June in the open-access journal Nature Communications.

    “This study revives a classic hypothesis for the evolution of atmospheric oxygen,” said lead author Shintaro Kadoya, a UW postdoctoral researcher in Earth and space sciences. “The data demonstrates that an evolution of the mantle of the Earth could control an evolution of the atmosphere of the Earth, and possibly an evolution of life.”

    Multicellular life needs a concentrated supply of oxygen, so the accumulation of oxygen is key to the evolution of oxygen-breathing life on Earth.

    “If changes in the mantle controlled atmospheric oxygen, as this study suggests, the mantle might ultimately set a tempo of the evolution of life,” Kadoya said.

    The new work builds on a 2019 paper that found the early Earth’s mantle was far less oxidized, or contained more substances that can react with oxygen, than the modern mantle. That study of ancient volcanic rocks, up to 3.55 billion years old, were collected from sites that included South Africa and Canada.

    Robert Nicklas at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Igor Puchtel at the University of Maryland, and Ariel Anbar at Arizona State University are among the authors of the 2019 study. They are also co-authors of the new paper, looking at how changes in the mantle influenced the volcanic gases that escaped to the surface.

    2
    An ancient komatiite lava from the Komati Valley in South Africa. Notice the tool on the right for scale. Co-authors used these types of lavas from more than 3 billion years ago to learn how the chemistry of the mantle has changed. Credit: CSIRO/Wikipedia

    The Archean Eon, when only microbial life was widespread on Earth, was more volcanically active than today. Volcanic eruptions are fed by magma—a mixture of molten and semi-molten rock—as well as gases that escape even when the volcano is not erupting.

    Some of those gases react with oxygen, or oxidize, to form other compounds. This happens because oxygen tends to be hungry for electrons, so any atom with one or two loosely held electrons reacts with it. For instance, hydrogen released by a volcano combines with any free oxygen, removing that oxygen from the atmosphere.

    The chemical makeup of Earth’s mantle, or softer layer of rock below the Earth’s crust, ultimately controls the types of molten rock and gases coming from volcanoes. A less-oxidized early mantle would produce more of the gases like hydrogen that combine with free oxygen. The 2019 paper shows that the mantle became gradually more oxidized from 3.5 billion years ago to today.

    The new study combines that data with evidence from ancient sedimentary rocks to show a tipping point sometime after 2.5 billion years ago, when oxygen produced by microbes overcame its loss to volcanic gases and began to accumulate in the atmosphere.

    “Basically, the supply of oxidizable volcanic gases was capable of gobbling up photosynthetic oxygen for hundreds of millions of years after photosynthesis evolved,” said co-author David Catling, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences. “But as the mantle itself became more oxidized, fewer oxidizable volcanic gases were released. Then oxygen flooded the air when there was no longer enough volcanic gas to mop it all up.”

    This has implications for understanding the emergence of complex life on Earth and the possibility of life on other planets.

    “The study indicates that we cannot exclude the mantle of a planet when considering the evolution of the surface and life of the planet,” Kadoya said.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:15 am on June 9, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Early childhood intervention programs may reap benefits across generations", , University of Washington   

    From University of Washington: “Early childhood intervention programs may reap benefits across generations” 

    From University of Washington

    June 8, 2020
    Kim Eckart

    1
    A study by researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Colorado shows the long-term benefits of an elementary school intervention program for parents, children and teachers.Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Youth programs designed to prevent drug use and delinquency and support healthy development can reap lasting benefits not only for participants, but also for their future kids, according to a decades-long study by the University of Colorado and the University of Washington.

    The research focuses on a program called Raising Healthy Children, which the UW’s Social Development Research Group monitored in several Seattle elementary schools in the 1980s. The program was among the first to test the idea that problem behaviors could be prevented with specialized training for teachers, parents and young children.

    Lead author Karl Hill, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at CU Boulder and director of the Problem Behavior and Positive Youth Development Program, first got involved with the study while a professor at the UW.

    “This is the first published study to show that a broadly implemented, early childhood prevention program can have positive effects on the next generation,” said Hill. “Previous studies have shown that childhood interventions can demonstrate benefits well into adulthood. These results show that benefits may extend into the next generation as well.”

    The new paper , part of a longitudinal study known as the Seattle Social Development Project, is published June 8 in JAMA Pediatrics.

    For the study, researchers assessed children whose parents had participated in Raising Healthy Children, created by UW social work professors J. David Hawkins and Richard Catalano, founders of the Social Development Research Group. The lessons, for use by parents and teachers, focused on enhancing children’s opportunities for forming healthy bonds in grades 1 through 6 and providing them with social skills and reinforcements. Set in 18 public elementary schools in Seattle, the program was among the first to test the idea that problem behaviors could be prevented with specialized training for teachers, parents and young children.

    “Teachers were taught how to better manage their classrooms, parents were taught to better manage their families, and kids were taught how to better manage their emotions and decision making,” said Hill.

    Previous studies have shown that by age 18 those who had gone through the program demonstrated better academic achievement than non-participants and were less likely to engage in violence, substance use or unsafe sex. By their 30s, they had gone further in school, tended to be better off financially, and scored better on mental health assessments.

    Beginning in 2002, the researchers started following the first-born children of program participants via questionnaires for their teachers and parents. Beginning when the children were 6 years old, they also conducted annual interviews.

    A total of 182 kids were studied for the new paper, including 72 whose parents had gone through the program and 110 whose parents had not.

    Those whose parents had participated in Raising Healthy Children had fewer developmental delays in the first five years of life, fewer behavior problems, fewer symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — or ADHD — and better cognitive, academic and emotional maturity in the classroom. They were also significantly less likely to report using drugs or alcohol as a teenager.

    “We already know that if you can prevent kids from getting involved in the criminal justice system, engaging in underage drinking and drug use, and experiencing depression and anxiety, you can save governments and families a lot of money,” said co-author Jen Bailey, assistant director of the Social Development Research Group at the UW. “Our results suggest these programs, by delivering cross-generational effects, may be working even better than we thought.”

    Children whose parents had gone through the program in the 1980s also showed less “oppositional defiance” and “externalizing behaviors” — two common precursors to serious violence later in life — said Hill. This suggests such interventions could play a role in stemming the tide of school violence.

    The researchers caution that the study was a non-randomized controlled trial conducted in only one region of the country, and needs to be replicated before broad conclusions can be drawn. But amid a pandemic, when youth depression and anxiety are on the rise while budgets are being slashed and lawmakers may have a tendency to place prevention at a lower priority, Hill hopes the findings send a message.

    “By investing in kids now and continuing to invest in them, we could be making generations to come more resilient for when the next national emergency comes around,” said Hill.

    The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In addition to Hawkins and Catalano, co-authors from the UW Social Development Research Group are principal investigator Rick Kosterman and project director Marina Epstein. Additional authors were Robert Abbott, an emeritus professor in the UW College of Education, and Christine Steeger of the University of Colorado.

    or more information, contact Bailey at jabailey@uw.edu or Hill at karl.hill@colorado.edu.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:55 am on June 8, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Buying Time for Biodiversity to Adapt in a Changing World, Climate Change Refugia Special Issue, , University of Washington   

    From University of Washington: “Climate Change Refugia Special Issue: Buying Time for Biodiversity to Adapt in a Changing World” 

    From University of Washington

    1

    2
    In forests, disturbance refugia – areas disturbed less severely/frequently than the surrounding landscape – protect species from fires/droughts/insect outbreaks. Source: University of Washington

    Human-caused climate change will rapidly alter ecosystems in the Northwest and around the world, putting species that inhabit them under severe stress. These sweeping ecological changes will leave little time for species and ecosystems to adapt to new conditions, resulting in extinctions and large-scale ecosystem transformations. In a time of dramatic ecological upheaval, identifying and protecting climate change refugia — areas relatively buffered from climate change over time — can protect species from the negative effects of climate change in the short-term as well as provide longer-term protection for biodiversity and ecosystem function.

    Although conserving refugia has been recognized as a promising climate adaptation strategy, until recently, little research on refugia has translated to on-the-ground conservation efforts. New science on climate change refugia and improved understanding of their practical applications have allowed researchers and resource managers to work together to start putting refugia conservation into practice.

    The USGS Climate Adaptation Science Centers have been at the forefront of this climate change refugia research, prompting leading journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment to publish a special issue to look at how far the field has come in recent years and what research is still needed to effectively manage refugia in a changing climate. This special issue covers a diversity of refugia-related research, provides real-world examples of refugia conservation strategies and identifies ongoing research needs.

    2
    New science on identifying & managing refugia in different ecosystems – like aquatic ecosystems that support vulnerable freshwater fish – is helping scientists & managers put refugia conservation into practice. Source: Jonny Armstrong

    The authors in this special issue call for broadening the scope of refugia management by moving beyond the narrow focus on climate and landscape factors to a more comprehensive understanding of refugia — one that accounts for ecological complexity, scale and species’ ability to adapt to changing conditions — to better capture the conservation potential of refugia. As Toni Lyn Morelli, USGS Research Ecologist at the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center, notes, “Networks of small, connected refugia might sustain some populations and could play a supplemental role in enabling species to persist.” Combining approaches for identifying refugia that operate at different scales and focus on different ecological processes will allow a more thorough assessment of climate change refugia potential.

    Climate change refugia networks can provide short- to medium-term protection for species and buy time for other species and ecosystems to adapt in a rapidly changing world. With advances in research, theory and concrete examples, such as those highlighted in this issue, natural resource managers are better equipped to start putting refugia conservation into practice. “Climate change refugia conservation is an opportunity for hope, a chance to be proactive in a time of adversity and uncertainty,” says Morelli.

    This special issue features work from Climate Adaptation Science Center researchers, affiliates and resource managers from across the network, and was born out of the work of the Refugia Research Coalition (RRC). The RRC is funded by the Northwest and Northeast CASCs to bring a network of scientists and managers together to advance refugia research and translate it into conservation on-the-ground.

    Check Out The Special Issue

    3
    Eastern Washington. Source: University of Washington

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:24 am on May 26, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NOAA selects UW to host new regional institute for climate ocean and ecosystem research", , , University of Washington   

    From University of Washington: “NOAA selects UW to host new, regional institute for climate, ocean and ecosystem research” 

    From University of Washington

    May 21, 2020

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced May 20 that it has selected the University of Washington to host NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean and Ecosystem Studies.

    The new regional consortium will include faculty and staff at the UW, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Oregon State University. Members will contribute expertise, research capacity, technological development, help train the next generation of NOAA scientists, and conduct public education and outreach.

    The selection comes with an award of up to $300 million over five years, with the potential for renewal for another five years based on successful performance.

    The purpose of the cooperative institute is to facilitate and conduct collaborative, multidisciplinary research to support NOAA’s mission; educate and prepare the next generation of scientists to be technically skilled, environmentally literate and reflect the national diversity; and engage and educate the citizenry of the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and the nation about human-caused impacts on ecosystem health and socioeconomic sustainability.

    The new cooperative institute will address some of the major research themes that have been the focus of NOAA’s previous cooperative institute hosted by UW, the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, including climate and ocean changes and impacts, and will expand to include new research areas and involve additional universities.

    “We’re excited to build on JISAO’s research and education traditions through our regional research consortium,” said director John Horne, professor in the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “The expanded research and education portfolios will enable us to better serve NOAA’s mission.”

    The center’s members will work alongside scientists at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, NOAA Fisheries Alaska Fisheries Science Center and Northwest Fisheries Science Center, all based in Seattle.

    “The challenges we face related to climate, oceans, and coastal ecosystems require ongoing collaboration that crosses sectoral, disciplinary and geographic boundaries,” said Lisa J. Graumlich, Dean of the College of the Environment and Mary Laird Wood Professor at UW. “This ongoing partnership with NOAA, UAF and OSU allows us to collaborate at a scale that we have never seen before in the Pacific Northwest. NOAA’s investment leverages our incredible federal and university resources to understand and confront problems that no one institution could tackle alone.”

    “This is a big win for the University of Washington,” said U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). “Since 1977, the UW has known what we all know now: that a healthy environment supports a robust ocean economy. Now, at a time when research dollars are critical, NOAA is nearly tripling its investment in the world-class ocean science conducted at the UW. The new Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean, and Ecosystem Studies will expand on the UW’s legacy of success by conducting new research into the impacts of climate and ocean variability, environmental chemistry and ocean carbon, and changing marine ecosystems.”

    “The selection of UW to lead NOAA’s new Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean, and Ecosystem Studies is great news for our region as we work to combat climate change,” added Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Port Angeles. “With our communities on the front lines of the climate crisis, having more federal dollars invested in Washington state and more expertise at our research institutions will help our entire region take steps to mitigate the impacts, build more resilient communities, and continue to lead the way.”

    NOAA supports 17 cooperative institutes consisting of 57 universities and research institutions in 23 states and the District of Columbia. These research institutions provide educational programs that promote student and postdoctoral scientist involvement in NOAA-funded research.

    “We are pleased to announce that the University of Washington will host our new Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean and Ecosystem Studies,” said Craig McLean, assistant NOAA administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. “This institute will help NOAA achieve our mission to better the ocean and atmosphere, which depends on research, data and information to make sound decisions for healthy ecosystems, communities and a strong blue economy.”

    For more information, contact Horne at jhorne@uw.edu or 206-221-6890; Jed Thompson, JISAO communications, at jedthom@uw.edu; and Monica Allen, NOAA Communications, at 202-379-6693 or monica.allen@noaa.gov.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:40 am on May 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Aerospace turns the tide on marine energy", Marine-generated energy has huge potential., Simpler turbines and not-so-simple physics, The William E. Boeing Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Unique challenges of marine energy, University of Washington   

    From University of Washington: “Aerospace turns the tide on marine energy” 

    From University of Washington

    1

    April 29, 2020
    Amy Sprague
    sprag@uw.edu
    206-543-6736

    Andy Freeberg

    “Part of the reason that most wind turbines look alike is because there is an established theory for how wind moves around the blades, which helped the industry converge on a design. No equivalent theory yet exists for cross-flow turbines because we still have a lot to learn about how fluids move around those blades.” – Abigale Snortland

    Unique challenges of marine energy

    Mechanical engineering Ph.D. student Abigale Snortland is eager to get back to UW’s Harris Hydraulics Lab and its Alice C. Tyler flume, a long, fast-flowing channel of water that simulates river flows and tidal currents. Her team’s turbine research informs how to draw renewable energy from river, tidal and ocean currents.

    These kinds of marine-generated energy have huge potential. Two other main sources of green energy, solar and wind, depend upon clear skies and consistent wind, which have significant downtimes. But marine energy benefits from steady and reliable water flows.

    Despite this potential, marine energy projects have been hard to implement. Flowing water, with its forces, turbulence, sediments, salinity and algae, is tough on equipment. Maintenance may need to be done underwater during slack tides, the narrow window of time with weak tidal currents. Snortland’s work, for which she was recently awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, will apply aeronautics techniques to boost the performance of marine turbines and inform industry standards that reduce the overall challenges of such systems.

    2
    Abigale Snortland and Greg Talpey observe a cross-flow turbine in the Alice C. Tyler flume in the UW Harris Hydraulics Lab as part of a research collaboration among the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics & Astronautics and the Pacific Marine Energy Center.

    Simpler turbines, not-so-simple physics

    Snortland specifically researches how water moves through cross-flow marine turbines, which are different from the more familiar axial turbines, the structure of the common wind turbine. While axial turbines look like windmills, cross-flow turbines are structured more like a whisk, and, due to their relative mechanical simplicity, they provide some advantages in the harsh water environments.

    She explains, “We are looking closely at cross-flow turbines because they have few moving parts and connections that could get corroded underwater. Unlike axial turbines in water, they don’t need to rotate to follow the direction of the changing tides and currents. They work regardless of which direction the tide is flowing. Even in wind, there are some applications where cross-flow turbines may be preferable to axial turbines.”


    Cross-flow turbine


    Axial-flow turbine

    While simpler for the corrosive waters and the variable directions of tides, the physics of these turbines are far less tidy, making it challenging to build a standard model. For a simple two-bladed spinning cross-flow turbine, one blade is moving with the flow while the other blade is going against it. This constant fight between the upstream and downstream blade results in strong moving vortices, a mess of turbulence and unsteady performance.

    Brian Polagye leads the Pacific Marine Energy Center and co-advises Snortland. He says, “Generally, we have been able to make advances in performance through trial and error. But that can only get us so far. To advance the theories around turbine performance,” he continues, “we need to understand what is happening on each blade through Abigale’s experimental data.”

    3
    A UW research team tests a cross-flow turbine in Lake Washington with Governor Jay Inslee (at right). These tests complement the on-blade hydrodynamics research in which Snortland specializes.

    Apply aerospace

    To get beyond trial and error, Polagye teamed up with aeronautics and astronautics professor Owen Williams to co-advise Snortland. Williams is one of the UW’s leading experts in wind tunnel testing. He manages the UW aeronautics laboratory, one of two experimental wind tunnels on campus and has also built a small-scale supersonic wind tunnel in his lab in the bottom floor of Guggenheim Hall, which draws air from the large-scale Kirsten Wind Tunnel next door.

    Williams has extensive experience with particle image velocimetry (PIV), a method of inserting small particles into a flow, lighting them with a laser and using a high-speed camera to photograph and chart the trajectories and speeds of those particles to map flows.

    While it may seem counterintuitive to bring an aerospace expert into a marine energy project, water and air are both fluids, and the methods and principles of studying hydro- and aerodynamics are remarkably similar. Wind tunnels and water channels play by the same rules.

    With Williams’ guidance, Snortland set up an experimental cross-flow turbine in the water flume and has been using PIV to analyze how the water is coming off the blades. She explains, “During a turbine rotation, the blades reach a certain angle to the incoming flow, and it causes little swirls that stay with the blade for a little bit and then drop off. This separation causes a dip in performance. Until now, we haven’t been able to see exactly what is happening on the blade. As we get more data, we can finally explain why small changes we make in the turbine setup affect performance.”

    Data from Snortland and her team won’t just make turbines better; it’ll also make them smarter. Significant energy can be gained by improving the controls on the turbines, using knowledge of hydrodynamics to predict when to boost a turbine to keep it from stalling out or dampen it to keep from spinning too fast.


    Snortland uses particle image velocimetry (PIV) to visualize the hydrodynamics of turbine blades. This research will advance our understanding of the conditions of efficient cross-flow turbine operation to inform new designs.

    The goal: Remote energy systems worth the investment

    The most immediate application of this research is to improve the prospects of self-contained remote energy systems. These systems could persistently and renewably power scientific equipment in the ocean or remote coastal villages. ME alumnus Ryan Tyler is an engineer at Ocean Renewable Power Company which has deployed a pilot cross-flow turbine system in the remote village of Igiugig, Alaska.

    Tyler notes that recent improvements based on hydrodynamic data, like what Snortland is collecting, has allowed them to double the output of their systems. Not only will Snortland’s research further improve industry performance, but it will help inform and standardize the industry designs. “Ultimately,” he says, “this data will advance the whole field by bringing down design and production costs while raising performance, like what we’ve seen for the wind industry. With cheaper manufacturing and higher energy output, the economics of marine energy fall into place.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:02 am on May 19, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Antarctic sea-ice models improve for the next IPCC UW study shows", , , , University of Washington   

    From University of Washington: “Antarctic sea-ice models improve for the next IPCC, UW study shows” 

    From University of Washington

    1

    May 14, 2020

    The world of climate modeling is complex, requiring an enormous amount of coordination and collaboration to produce. Models feed on mountains of different inputs to run simulations of what a future world might look like, and can be so big — in some cases, lines of code in the millions — they take days or weeks to run. Building these models can be challenging, but getting them right is critical for us to see where climate change is taking us, and importantly, what we might do about it.

    2
    Lettie Roach in her office. Credit Dave Allen

    The models are a powerful tool, but they are only as good as the parameters and assumptions they are built on. Those need to be scrutinized and validated by scientists—and that’s where Lettie Roach, a postdoctoral researcher in Atmospheric Sciences at UW, and her collaborators come in. Their recent publication in Geophysical Research Letters evaluates 40 recent climate models focusing on sea ice, the relatively thin layer of ice that forms on the surface of the ocean, around Antarctica, and was coordinated and produced to inform the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

    “I am really fascinated by Antarctic sea ice, which the models have struggled more with than Arctic sea ice,” says Roach. “Not as many people are living near the Antarctic and there haven’t been as many measurements made in the Antarctic, making it hard to understand the recent changes in sea ice that we’ve observed through satellites.”

    Roach and her colleagues found that all models project decreases in the aerial coverage of Antarctic sea ice over the 21st century under different greenhouse gas emission scenarios, but the amount of sea ice loss varies considerably between the lowest emission scenario and the highest.

    3
    A thin layer of Antarctic sea ice. Credit Lettie Roach.

    The models they examined are known as coupled climate models, meaning they incorporate atmospheric, ocean, terrestrial and sea ice models to project what the future holds for our climate system. We are all familiar with the story of soon-to-be ice-free summers in the Arctic and the implications that may have on global trade. But what’s driving change around Antarctic sea ice and what’s expected in the future is less clear. Her team’s assessment of Antarctic sea ice in the new climate models is among the first.

    “This project arose from a couple of workshops that were polar climate centered, but no one was leading an Antarctic sea ice group,” said Roach. “I put my hand up and said I would do it. The opportunity to lead something like this was fun, and I’m grateful to collaborators across many institutions for co-creating this work.”

    The Antarctic is characterized by extremes. The highest winds, largest glaciers and fastest ocean currents are all found there, and getting a handle on Antarctic sea ice, which annually grows and shrinks six-fold, is critically important. To put that into perspective, that area is roughly the size of Russia. The icy parts of our planet — known as the cryosphere — have an enormous effect on regulating the global climate. By improving the simulation of Antarctic sea ice in models, scientists can increase their understanding of the climate system globally and how it will change over time. Better sea ice models also shed light on dynamics at play in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica, which is a major component of our southern hemisphere.

    “The previous generation of models was released around 2012,” says Roach. “We’ve been looking at all the new models released, and we are seeing improvements overall. The new simulations compare better to observations than we have seen before. There is a tightening up of model projections between this generation and the previous, and that is very good news.”

    4
    Researchers venture out on the sea ice. Credit Lettie Roach

    This process, where scientists critically evaluate climate models, has long been part of the IPCC approach. Scientists verify those model assumptions make sense, compare predictions to see if they align with observations from the field and make sure the highest quality data were used to underpin model performance. Asking these questions helps fine-tune models to perform at their best. These assessments have occurred for decades and continue to become more sophisticated as the models themselves become more sophisticated and powerful— and that’s great news as they continue to play an essential role in helping us all make sense of the world around us and how it is changing.

    The scientific community works together very cohesively to develop climate projections for the IPCC reports. “The international effort that goes into developing models and sharing their output is hugely collaborative,” says Roach. “There’s a ton of work that goes into these models. I think they are the best tools we have to help us to understand climate change and what will happen in the future, and to provide good information for the policymakers to make decisions on.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:43 am on May 12, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Sleep difficulties in the first year of life linked to altered brain development in infants who later develop autism", , , , University of Washington   

    From University of Washington: “Sleep difficulties in the first year of life linked to altered brain development in infants who later develop autism” 

    From University of Washington

    May 7, 2020
    Kim Eckart

    1
    An 8-month-old boy wears an EEG cap to measure brain activity during a visit to the UW Autism Center.Kiyomi Taguchi/U. of Washington


    Studying baby brains at UW Autism Center

    Infants spend most of their first year of life asleep. Those hours are prime time for brain development, when neural connections form and sensory memories are encoded.

    But when sleep is disrupted, as occurs more often among children with autism, brain development may be affected, too. New research led by the University of Washington finds that sleep problems in a baby’s first 12 months may not only precede an autism diagnosis, but also may be associated with altered growth trajectory in a key part of the brain, the hippocampus.

    In a study published May 7 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers report that in a sample of more than 400 6- to 12-month-old infants, those who were later diagnosed with autism were more likely to have had difficulty falling asleep. This sleep difficulty was associated with altered growth trajectories in the hippocampus.

    “The hippocampus is critical for learning and memory, and changes in the size of the hippocampus have been associated with poor sleep in adults and older children. However, this is the first study we are aware of to find an association in infants as young as 6 months of age,” said lead author Kate MacDuffie, a postdoctoral researcher at the UW Autism Center.

    As many as 80% of children with autism spectrum disorder have sleep problems, said Annette Estes, director of the UW Autism Center and senior author on the study. But much of the existing research, on infants with siblings who have autism, as well as the interventions designed to improve outcomes for children with autism, focus on behavior and cognition. With sleep such a critical need for children — and their parents — the researchers involved in the multicenter Infant Brain Imaging Study Network, or IBIS Network, believed there was more to be examined.

    “In our clinical experience, parents have a lot of concerns about their children’s sleep, and in our work on early autism intervention, we observed that sleep problems were holding children and families back,” said Estes, who is also a UW professor of speech and hearing sciences.

    Researchers launched the study, Estes said, because they had questions about how sleep and autism were related. Do sleep problems exacerbate the symptoms of autism? Or is it the other way around — that autism symptoms lead to sleep problems? Or something different altogether?

    “It could be that altered sleep is part-and-parcel of autism for some children. One clue is that behavioral interventions to improve sleep don’t work for all children with autism, even when their parents are doing everything just right. This suggests that there may be a biological component to sleep problems for some children with autism,” Estes said.

    To consider links among sleep, brain development and autism, researchers at the IBIS Network looked at MRI scans of 432 infants, surveyed parents about sleep patterns, and measured cognitive functioning using a standardized assessment. Researchers at four institutions — the UW, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Washington University in St. Louis and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia — evaluated the children at 6, 12 and 24 months of age and surveyed parents about their child’s sleep, all as part of a longer questionnaire covering infant behavior. Sleep-specific questions addressed how long it took for the child to fall asleep or to fall back asleep if awakened in the middle of the night, for example.

    At the outset of the study, infants were classified according to their risk for developing autism: Those who were at higher risk of developing autism — about two-thirds of the study sample — had an older sibling who had already been diagnosed. Infant siblings of children with autism have a 20 percent chance of developing autism spectrum disorder — a much higher risk than children in the general population.

    A 2017 study by the IBIS Network found that infants who had an autistic older sibling and who also showed expanded cortical surface area at 6 and 12 months of age were more likely to be diagnosed with autism compared with infants without those indicators.

    In the current study, 127 of the 432 infants were identified as “low risk” at the time the MRI scans were taken because they had no family history of autism. They later evaluated all the participants at 24 months of age to determine whether they had developed autism. Of the roughly 300 children originally considered “high familial risk,” 71 were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at that age.

    Those results allowed researchers to re-examine previously collected longitudinal brain scans and behavioral data and identify some patterns. Problems with sleep were more common among the infants later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, as were larger hippocampi. No other subcortical brain structures were affected, including the amygdala, which is responsible for certain emotions and aspects of memory, or the thalamus, a signal transmitter from the spinal cord to the cerebral cortex.

    The UW-led sleep study is the first to show links between hippocampal growth and sleep problems in infants who are later diagnosed with autism.

    Other studies have found that “overgrowth” in different brain structures among infants who go on to develop those larger structures has been associated, at different stages of development, with social, language and behavioral aspects of autism.

    While the UW sleep study found a pattern of larger hippocampal volume, and more frequent sleep problems, among infants who went on to be diagnosed with autism, what isn’t yet known is whether there is a causal relationship. Studying a broader range of sleep patterns in this population or of the hippocampus in particular may help determine why sleep difficulties are so prevalent and how they impact early development in children with autism spectrum disorder.

    “Our findings are just the beginning — they place a spotlight on a certain period of development and a particular brain structure but leave many open questions to be explored in future research,” MacDuffie said.

    A focus on early assessment and diagnosis prompted the UW Autism Center to establish an infant clinic in 2017. The clinic provides evaluations for infants and toddlers, along with psychologists and behavior analysts to create a treatment plan with clinic- and home-based activities — just as would happen with older children.

    The UW Autism Center has evaluated sleep issues as part of both long-term research studies and in the clinical setting, as part of behavioral intervention.

    “If kids aren’t sleeping, parents aren’t sleeping, and that means sleep problems are an important focus for research and treatment,” said MacDuffie.

    The authors note that while parents reported more sleep difficulties among infants who developed autism compared to those who did not, the differences were very subtle and only observed when looking at group averages across hundreds of infants. Sleep patterns in the first years of life change rapidly as infants transition from sleeping around the clock to a more adult-like sleep/wake cycle. Until further research is completed, Estes said, it is not possible to interpret challenges with sleep as an early sign of increased risk for autism.

    The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, Autism Speaks and the Simons Foundation. Dr. Stephen Dager, professor of radiology at the UW School of Medicine and Tanya St. John, research scientist at the UW Autism Center, were co-authors. Additional co-authors, all at IBIS Network institutions, were Mark Shen, Martin Styner, Sun Hyung Kim and Dr. Joseph Piven at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Sarah Paterson, now at the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Juhi Pandey at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Jed Elison and Jason Wolff at the University of Minnesota; Meghan Swanson at the University of Texas at Dallas; Kelly Botteron at Washington University in St. Louis; and Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum at the University of Alberta.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:24 am on May 11, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Pacific oysters in the Salish Sea may not contain as many microplastics as previously thought", Microplastics, Plastic pollution, The abundance of tiny microplastic contaminants in Pacific oysters is much lower than previously thought., University of Washington   

    From University of Washington: “Pacific oysters in the Salish Sea may not contain as many microplastics as previously thought” 

    From University of Washington

    May 1, 2020
    Dan DiNicola
    School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

    1
    An oyster bed during low tide at Mystery Bay State Park on Marrowstone Island in Puget Sound.Julieta Martinelli/University of Washington.

    Plastic pollution is an increasingly present threat to marine life and one which can potentially impact your dinner table.

    Oysters, and other economically valuable shellfish, filter their food from the water where they may also inadvertently capture tiny microplastics. The ingestion and accumulation of these microplastics can have detrimental effects on their health and may be passed to other animals, including humans, through the food chain.

    In a recent interdisciplinary study, University of Washington researchers at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Department of Chemistry and Department of Materials Science and Engineering used advanced methodologies to accurately identify and catalog microplastics in Pacific oysters from the Salish Sea. They have discovered that the abundance of tiny microplastic contaminants in these oysters is much lower than previously thought. The findings were published in January in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

    “Until now, not a lot of chemical analysis has been done on microplastics in oysters,” said co-author Samantha Phan, a UW doctoral student in chemistry. “The microplastics that chemists have looked at in previous studies are slightly bigger and easy to visually recognize, but with oysters, the microplastics are much smaller and harder to identify.”

    In their study, the team sampled wild Pacific oysters harvested from Washington’s state parks throughout the Salish Sea. Using standard processing methods, the oysters’ tissue is dissolved and the remaining solution is passed through a filter. The filter collects all of the possible microplastic particles.

    “Observation of filters is the method researchers have typically used, so if we had stopped there, we would have thought all the oysters had microplastics because small particles were present in most of the filters,” said lead author Julieta Martinelli, a UW postdoctoral researcher at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

    2
    Samantha Phan examines samples with a microscope.Samantha Phan/University of Washington.

    Martinelli’s initial observations under a dissecting microscope revealed what were thought to be high numbers of microplastics left behind in the testing filters, but when Phan further analyzed those filters with three advanced chemical identification techniques, they realized that most of what was left in the filters was not actually plastic.

    “When we’re characterizing plastics, or any polymers in chemistry in general, we have to use multiple techniques, and not every technique will give you a full picture. It’s half a picture or just part of the picture,” said Phan. “When you put all those pictures and characterizations together, you can have a more complete understanding of what the composition or identities of these particles are.”

    During their analyses, the team realized that many of the particles were, in fact, shell fragments, minerals, salts and even fibers from the testing filters themselves. In the end, they found that only about 2% of the particles distilled from the oysters could be confirmed as plastics.

    “Most people so far have not used the combination of techniques or instruments that we used,” said Martinelli. “It’s really easy to stop at the first part and say, ‘Oh, there’s a lot of particles here. They look like plastic. They must be plastic.’ But when you actually go deeper into the chemical composition, they might not be.”

    The number of plastic particles that the team found was relatively low compared to the total number of particles analyzed; however, they stress that while it appears Pacific oysters are not accumulating large amounts of plastic, they could not identify 40% of the particles observed due to technical limitations. The researchers also acknowledge that while using a combination of instruments is the most complete way to analyze these particles, access to the equipment, elevated costs and the extremely time-consuming nature of the work are limiting factors for widespread use.

    As suspension feeders, oysters pull in water and the particles present in it when they inhale. Particles are then sorted in and out of the animal through their gills. Previous experiments have shown that when oysters are given microfibers or microbeads, they expel the majority of them either immediately or after a few hours. The hypothesis is that oysters’ gill anatomy and physiology might be the reason why the team did not see large amounts of plastic accumulation in their samples.

    “A lot of this has to do with how the oysters process water through their gills and how they get rid of particles,” said Martinelli. “It doesn’t mean microplastics are not in the water, it means that the animals are better at expelling them.”

    In agreement with this, it has been suggested that suspension-feeding bivalves like oysters might not be good indicators of pollution in estuaries because they naturally expel microplastics instead of ingesting them, which is good news for consumers that like eating oysters.

    Other co-authors are Christine Luscombe, a UW professor of materials science and engineering, and Jacqueline Padilla-Gamiño, a UW assistant professor of aquatic and fishery sciences.

    This research was supported by NOAA-SK and the Royal Research Fund awarded to Padilla-Gamiño. Part of this work was conducted at the Molecular Analysis Facility, a National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure site at the University of Washington supported in part by the National Science Foundation, the University of Washington, the Molecular Engineering & Sciences Institute and the Clean Energy Institute, and the Washington Research Foundation.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
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