How COVID-19 changed research on the high seas

masked people aboard the thompson charting their course

For crew members of the UW research vessel Thomas G. Thompson, the last two years have been a test of preparedness and resilience while conducting research at sea. On top of the usual threats of rough seas and homesickness, seafarers now have to factor in the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, which has had a special knack for spreading rapidly on ships. While the isolated nature of research on the open ocean might have seemed like welcome distance from the rest of humanity during the early days of the pandemic, many will remember how some of the first stories of the virus’ potential came from shipboard outbreaks.  

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Timing is everything: ShakeAlert comes to Washington May 4

A hand holds a phone lock screen with an emergency alert that reads Earthquake detected! Drop, cover, hold on. Protect yourself -USGS ShakeAlert

It could happen any time, any day. Multiple seismometers — scientific instruments that measure ground motion — detect a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Washington, Oregon or California. Seismic waves move fast, but seismometers move faster: The data zips from seismometer to processing center at the speed of light (670,616,629 mph), where algorithms calculate the area and intensity of shaking and sound an emergency warning to phones moments before shaking arrives: Drop. 

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We’re coping with COVID by going outdoors, but how is nature coping with us?

parked cars on a snowy highway

If you’ve hit the trails or the water this year, you know COVID-19 has transformed the way many people are recreating in our wild spaces. Places that were previously “off the beaten track” are as popular as they’ve ever been, and the usual hotspots are overwhelmed with hikers, campers and skiers. What does this mean for our wild spaces, and how can we be better stewards? 

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QUIZ: Goofy environment glossary - are you a scholar of the silly?

UW Professors Aaron John Wirsing and John Marzluff and UW students spend their spring break at Yellowstone National Park conducting research on otters, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep and common ravens. Students also track reintroduced gray wolves through the snow, set traps for bald and golden eagles.

Pingos? Forbs? Dibbles? Researchers and students within the College of the Environment frequently encounter silly sounding words in their work and studies. We’ve gathered some of the goofiest words and made a quiz to test your knowledge. Dive in to see if you are truly a scholar of the silly things that help us understand the environment around us! [streamquiz id=”1″ hide_title=”1″] 

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