UW Environment response to COVID-19

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Leaders throughout the College of the Environment are closely monitoring the local outbreak of the novel coronavirus and are making every effort to address the changing needs of the college community, wherever possible. The College continues to follow all advice and directives set forth by the University of Washington, which are detailed at length on the UW Novel Coronavirus Information Page. 

Read more on the UW Environment COVID-19 resource page »

College supports plastics recycling in honor of new graduates

UW Commencement

Over the next few weeks, undergraduate and graduate students, their families, friends and colleagues will gather virtually for commencement to celebrate the class of 2020. In appreciation of our graduating students’ contributions to the UW community, the College of the Environment will join UW Recycling and the Campus Sustainability Fund by making a gift to Precious Plastics, a project to support efforts to mitigate plastic waste on campus. 

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Building a more just community for each other

College of the Environment Dean Lisa J. Graumlich

Dear College of the Environment Community, Like many of you, I am struggling to comprehend and respond to the racially charged events of the past weeks. The brutal and needless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery have sparked outrage and trauma in cities across America. These deaths highlight the patterns of violence and suffering that Black people have been and continue to be subjected to on a regular basis while shining a spotlight on persistent structural inequalities. 

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The most common organism in the oceans harbors a virus in its DNA

Kelsy Cain collecting seawater.

The most common organism in the oceans, and possibly on the entire planet, is a family of single-celled marine bacteria called SAR11. These drifting organisms look like tiny jelly beans and have evolved to outcompete other bacteria for scarce resources in the oceans. We now know that this group of organisms thrives despite — or perhaps because of — the ability to host viruses in their DNA. 

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Beyond video games: virtual reality brings science to life

Virtual reality — commonly referred to as VR — is the stuff of video games, right? Don your VR headset, gloves and bodysuit and *whoosh*, you’re transported into an alternate landscape. VR makes the imagined world feel real. Truth be told, VR isn’t limited to just gamers. Numerous applications for the technology are in use, like in military, sports and educational settings, and many new applications are still emerging. 

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Thinking ahead: the next decade in Earth sciences

Katharine Huntington

It is easy to feel lost when thinking of the vast scope of Earth sciences. After all, Earth sciences covers everything from the microscopic interactions of bacteria all the way to natural hazards like earthquakes and tsunamis. So how do scientists narrow down such a vast subject to prioritize investments into specific research areas? Every ten years, scientists gather in a committee formed under the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) to guide the National Science Foundation (NSF) in exploring priority Earth science questions that need attention over the coming decade. 

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