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Growing cyberforests to predict the impacts of climate change

Hardwood forrest at sunrise

Realistic 3-D simulation helps forest managers anticipate disturbances

Drought, heat, and other irregular conditions spawned by climate change take a toll on tree ecosystems. How, exactly, will those stressors affect forests in the future? Predictions have been difficult—until now.

WSU Vancouver mathematicians Nikolay Strigul and Jean Lienard have created a 3-D computer simulation to visualize how tree ecosystems can be altered by factors such as carbon dioxide levels, wildfires, and drought. The simulator lets forest managers predict wildfires and other disturbances. If a forest is destroyed, the tool can help determine the species of trees and ecological factors necessary to reestablish it.

The computer model … » More …

Shape-shifting material advances the Internet of Things

Mike Kessler and student in lab

Scientist develop the first material with multiple responsive behaviors

Imagine airplanes and roads that self-heal after exterior damage. Imagine wearing clothes that monitor your health needs. Innovations like these require smart materials, which not only capture and analyze data, but change in response to findings.

Smart materials are the building blocks of the Internet of Things—a network of objects embedded with electronics, software, and connectivity. This network produces enormous volumes of actionable data.

While there are barriers to overcome before smart materials hit the mainstream, a recent discovery made at WSU will accelerate their advancement.

New kind of smart material

A team led by Mike … » More …

Tasmanian devils evolve to resist deadly cancer

Tasmanian Devil

Exploring evolutionary genetics to stop disease

Ornery marsupials about the size of a small dog, Tasmanian devils reign as the dominant carnivore on their native island of Tasmania, 150 miles south of Australia. But in the past 2 decades, these ferocious creatures have faced a lethal threat: a fast-spreading, contagious cancer.

Devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) causes painful red welts to erupt on the animal’s mouth and head. Victims become unable to eat. They either starve to death or suffocate. Spreading like a virus, DFTD has wiped out 80 percent of Tasmanian devils in the wild. Epidemiological studies said that extinction was inevitable.

But some … » More …

Transforming the U.S. power grid

A photo of solar panels

Automating electricity transfer across the state based on need

To harness renewable resources and mitigate power outages, America needs to evolve the “Smart Grid,” the computer-automated network that distributes electricity nationwide. WSU’s Energy System Innovation Center is answering the challenge.

The Center is part of the first regional effort to collect renewable energy and share it among buildings across the state. Development of energy-sharing capability will make power distribution more flexible and cost effective.

Smart distribution of electricity

The regional initiative demonstrates “transactive technology,” which uses a network of sensors, battery systems, and software to automatically adjust energy loads. Decisions to adjust are based on … » More …

Wood-based biofuel powers cross-country flight

A closeup of a man fueling an airplane

WSU-led coalition partners with Alaska Airlines for the world’s first commercial flight using fuel made from forest residuals.

In November 2016 a commercial airplane powered by jet fuel made from woody biomass took off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The historic Alaska Airlines flight to Washington, D.C. marked the culmination of five years of collaborative research exploring renewable, alternative jet fuel. Led by Washington State University, the research initiative laid the groundwork for development of an aviation biofuels industry in the Pacific Northwest.

As the world’s finite supply of fossil fuels dwindles, availability of renewable sources of jet fuel will become increasingly important. Woody biomass is … » More …

Conserving water, improving Washington’s white wine

A closeup of green grapes growing

WSU researchers inform irrigation strategies

Washington is a leading producer of Riesling and Chardonnay wine grapes. In fact, these two grapes account for 75 percent of the white wine grape production in the state.

In arid eastern Washington, where most of the state’s wine grapes are grown, efficient irrigation is the name of the game. But it can be particularly challenging for white wine grapes. If a grower anticipates a heat wave, he or she can have a hard time figuring out how much to irrigate. Overwatering could result in too much canopy growth at the expense of berry production, and not enough water could … » More …

Removing pollutants from urban runoff

A photo of a urban runoff under a bridge

Researchers seek ways to trap toxins and improve water quality

Paved surfaces cover tens of thousands of square miles in the United States. Almost all are impervious, collecting pesticides, fertilizers, oil, metals and other pollutants. The resulting runoff is one of the biggest threats to water quality.

On the west side of Washington State, abundant rain and a surging urban population create an ideal observatory for the problem. Working south of Seattle at Washington State University’s Research and Extension Center in Puyallup, researchers at the Washington Stormwater Center are working to address water-quality issues and develop effective, evidence-based management practices and principles.

Permeable … » More …

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