In the News

  • National Geographic Tuesday, Sep. 22, 2020

    How Beavers Became North America's Best Firefighter

    The American West is ablaze with fires fueled by climate change and a century of misguided fire suppression. In California, wildfire has blackened more than three million acres; in Oregon, a once-in-a-generation crisis has forced half a million people to flee their homes. All the while, one of our most valuable firefighting allies has remained overlooked: The beaver. A new study concludes that, by building dams, forming ponds, and digging canals, beavers irrigate vast stream corridors and create fireproof refuges in which plants and animals can shelter. In some cases, the rodents’ engineering can even stop fire in its tracks. ... For decades, scientists have recognized that the North American beaver, Castor canadensis, provides a litany of ecological benefits throughout its range from northern Mexico to Alaska. Beaver ponds and wetlands have been shown to filter out water pollution, support salmon, sequester carbon, and attenuate floods. Researchers have long suspected that these paddle-tailed architects offer yet another crucial service: slowing the spread of wildfire. “It’s really not complicated: water doesn’t burn,” says Joe Wheaton, a geomorphologist at Utah State University. After the Sharps Fire charred 65,000 acres in Idaho in 2018, for instance, Wheaton stumbled upon a lush pocket of green glistening within the burn zone—a beaver wetland that had withstood the flames. Yet no scientist had ever rigorously studied the phenomenon. (See California’s record blazes through the eyes of frontline firefighters.)"

  • The Herald Journal Monday, Sep. 21, 2020

    USU Lecturer Creates Video to Defuse Mask Blowups

    Whether people decide to comply with mask wearing or make a scene about it could hinge on some simple techniques. In a video shared this semester, USU Communications Studies Lecturer Clair Canfield, who is also a certified mediator, outlines the steps everyone can take to deescalate a potential conflict, including ones over facial coverings. The video comes as USU started enforcing a mask-wearing policy this fall semester and will re-evaluate it for spring. According to the school’s website, it “requires that everyone wear a face covering or disposable mask in all university buildings and vehicles, and outside anytime you cannot practice social distancing.” “Conflict is full of potential — I’ve seen it have the potential to lead to beautiful outcomes, to be the doorway that helps people get what they want and connect more,” Canfield says at the start of the video. “I’ve also seen the potential it has to lead to violent and destructive outcomes.” ... Just as some in CHaSS voiced concerns about potential conflict with mask wearing, Canfield states in his video that students might feel the same way. He says conflict stems from people’s values, which can bring up “strong emotions.” “When you understand more of what’s happening in conflict, it helps you develop a mindset — and when you pair that with a skill set, it can help you develop hope so you can deescalate a conflict,” Canfield said. “Hope starts with humanizing the other person.”

  • The Herald Journal Thursday, Sep. 17, 2020

    USU to Grant Scholarships to Students Without ACT, SAT Scores

    Utah State University will provide alternatives to new students unable to take the ACT or SAT placement exams who are seeking academic merit scholarships for the spring, summer and fall 2021 semesters. The change follows an initial announcement in August that the university would transition to a test-optional admittance policy in 2021 following logistical test-preparation and administration disruptions due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Those same students will also be considered for scholarships regardless of whether they have taken the ACT or SAT. “USU understands that many high school students have been limited in their ability to take standardized tests over the past several months,” said Katie Jo North, executive director of new student enrollment. “This has affected thousands of potential students who face an unfair hurdle in receiving scholarships they may otherwise deserve.” This year, students who apply for scholarships without a standardized test score will receive a comprehensive academic review. Among the benchmarks considered will be grade point average, high school course rigor, class rank and other criteria.

  • Deseret News Wednesday, Sep. 16, 2020

    What a New Monument Placed at the USU Van Crash Site Means 15 Years Later

    Robert “Robbie” Petersen and Rusten Thornley had never met before, yet they shook hands like old friends. The handshake and unique meeting between the 36-year-old Petersen, sporting a black Western Seeds Utah hat, and the 16-year-old Eagle Scout, dressed in his tan uniform with green merit badge sash, took place a few feet from a new 8-foot granite monument, located a few miles north of Tremonton and just off the eastbound side of Interstate 84. What brought the unlikely pair together was 15 years in the making, beginning with a tragic accident and culminating with a fitting tribute. “This site will always have significance for me,” Petersen said. “Every time I come past here I’m reminded of that day.” ... On the sunny fall afternoon of Sept. 26, 2005, a 1994 Dodge passenger van with 10 Utah State University agriculture students was returning from a field trip to see farm equipment in Box Elder County. Evan Parker, a USU Ag instructor, was the driver. The students were underclassmen, mostly freshmen, including Petersen, who recalled conversations on various topics as they rode along. “Guys were talking about the combine we had just looked at,” he said. “As part of the field trip there was a worksheet to fill out, so guys were asking each other questions. Being a bunch of farmers and ranchers, there was talk about Ag stuff. We also talked about the college of Ag activities on campus to celebrate Ag week.” Just before 4 p.m., Parker lost control of the van when the left rear tire blew out, causing the van to roll and ejecting all 11 occupants. The Utah Highway Patrol estimated the van traveled from the interstate over about 300 yards of sagebrush before coming to rest on the edge of a deep ravine.

  • Deseret News Monday, Sep. 14, 2020

    The World Has an Idling Problem — Utah Researchers Are Trying to Fix It

    In the middle of a historically active wildfire season — where large amounts of carbon dioxide, brown and black carbon and ozone are pouring into the atmosphere — the Utah Clean Cities Coalition wants to remind people that there is something they can do to help keep the air clean. And it only takes a few seconds. Turning off the ignition of an idle car is a simple act with potentially large benefits, said Tammie Bostick, the executive director of the coalition. It is a message she hopes to share, particularly in the month of September, which marks the 13th anniversary of the Idle Free Declaration issued by the Utah governor. ... The real-time speed limit displays — the ones that tell people how fast they’re going — are effective, according to researchers, but probably not for the reasons most think. “One of the major reasons is they show you that you’re speeding in a way that others can see you’re being shown that you’re speeding, so it’s a violation of what’s called social norm,” Kelly said. “In my terms, it is maybe a little bit of peer pressure to make good choices.” The signs started Kelly thinking, along with her fellow researcher Gregory Madden, a USU professor in the psychology department. What if they were to do something similar for idling?

  • New York Times Sunday, Sep. 06, 2020

    Colleges Combating Coronavirus Turn to Stinky Savior: Sewage

    Days after he crossed the country to start college, Ryan Schmutz received a text message from Utah State University: COVID-19 had been detected at his dorm. Within 10 minutes, he dropped the crepes he was making and was whisked away by bus to a testing site. “We didn’t even know they were testing,” said Schmutz, who is 18 and from Omaha, Nebraska. “It all really happened fast.” Schmutz was one of about 300 students quarantined to their rooms last week, but not because of sickness reports or positive tests. Instead, the warning bells came from the sewage.Colleges across the nation — from New Mexico to Tennessee, Michigan to New York — are turning tests of waste into a public health tool. The work comes as institutions hunt for ways to keep campuses open despite vulnerabilities like students' close living arrangements and drive to socialize. The virus has already left its mark with outbreaks that have forced changes to remote learning at colleges around the country. The tests work by detecting genetic material from the virus, which can be recovered from the stools of about half of people with COVID-19, studies indicate. The concept has also been used to look for outbreaks of the polio virus. ... And this week, Utah State's positive wastewater test could be narrowed only as far as four residence halls that share the same sewer system. The test came back positive late Aug. 29, and the quarantine started the next day. Students were required to stay in their rooms, eating meals delivered by a “COVID care” team and barred from walking more than a few steps outside the residence hall. The buildings are laid out in apartment-style suites, and students were released from quarantine in small groups if every roommate in a suite tested negative. The tests had turned up four coronavirus cases as of Thursday.

  • The Herald Journal Friday, Aug. 28, 2020

    Fostering Connections: USU Modifies Events for Freshmen

    Fall sports were one of the first COVID-19 casualties for the 2020-2021 school year at Utah State University. The fate of many other Aggie events hangs in the balance of how well USU handles students’ return to campus, but several key “Connections” events for freshmen have survived. The Connections, or USU 1010, class is meant to introduce students to both the school and community, and several events, such as Explore Downtown, welcomed new students to the area — though with modifications to mitigate risk of spreading the virus. “I feel like students are excited to have the opportunity to progress,” said Spencer Bitner, director of Student Involvement at USU. “I think a lot of seniors from high school are discouraged, you know, about not having their graduations in some instances, and having to go home and not really experiencing that. So I think they’re ready to experience life.” Students explored several highlights along Main Street, Center Street and Federal Avenue with others from their classes and residences. Though the former Taste of Logan was originally held just one night, it was spread over Wednesday, Thursday and Friday due to the pandemic. Some businesses chose not to participate, and others, like Locker 42 — which used to invite students to try their hand at mechanical bull riding — scaled back their offerings. Others upped the ante and gave students extra swag to welcome them to the community. Even through the masks — a requirement for both USU’s campus and in the city of Logan, until Aug. 30 — nearly every student who participated found the event fun.

  • The Herald Journal Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020

    Sound Garden: USU's Old Main Has New Boulder/waterfall Feature

    George Washington and Abraham Lincoln have some company at the east entrance to Old Main on the USU campus. The well-known presidential bronze busts that greet students entering the university’s iconic administration building now serve as bookends to a rock and boulder garden featuring a series of miniature waterfalls. The new landscape installation is as much about pleasant sounds as it is about visual beauty, according to Shane Richards, USU’s landscape operations and maintenance director. “We want people to be able to sprawl out on The Quad and get that sound coming from those waterfalls,” Richards said. “It’s going to help people relax, help them study and help them enjoy that environment a little bit more. The sound is going to be just as beautiful as the appearance of the waterfalls.” The installation is not quite complete, but with the exception of some plants and a few other details, it will essentially be ready for Monday’s opening day of the fall semester. At night, the landscape will be illuminated with both ambient lighting around the rocks and plants and underwater lights.

  • Deseret News Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020

    You Can Watch 3 Oprhaned Bear Cubs from Utah on a Live Webcam

    The orphaned bear cubs roam the two pens. They eat, stretch, play and rest. Sometimes, they climb up and down logs or explore the large wooden crates scattered throughout the sites. One recent morning, the bigger cub worked its way onto the top of one of the crates. The smaller cub quickly followed, crawling inside of the crate. After waiting a few minutes, the little cub poked its head out and extended a front paw to playfully swipe at the larger bear. “The little bear … it reminds me of a sibling, a little sister or brother that just kind of wants to follow and do everything the bigger one does,” said Julie Young, a wildlife biologist who works with the United States Department of Agriculture-National Wildlife Research Center and teaches at Utah State University. “I think a lot of that dominance is just purely based on size, of course — it’s a lot easier to be the one in charge when you’re twice the size of the other one. But they seem to be getting along well.” For these two bears, the pens, located on Utah State University property, have been home for a little over a week now. A third, midsized cub joined them Saturday morning. All recently orphaned, these three bears will spend the next couple of months in these pens being rehabilitated. While the pens are off limits to the public — Young said her staff is trying to keep the bears wild, meaning as little human contact as possible — USU has provided a webcam that allows people to check in on the bears’ development whenever they please. Just don’t get too attached: They’ll be released in the fall, right before denning season.

  • Deseret News Thursday, Aug. 06, 2020

    Electrifying Transportation and How USU is the International Springboard

    Imagine a world where all vehicles are electric and the air quality is vastly improved. That is the foundation behind a five-year $26 million grant awarded to Utah State University by the National Science Foundation to establish an international research center to advance sustainable, electrified transportation. The ambitious project, announced Thursday, is being fueled by that $26 million grant that is also renewable to a 10-year $50.6 million effort. Overall, the Engineering Research Center is expected to raise more than $200 million over the next decade through government and industry support. “The bottom line is the timing is right,” said Regan Zane, a USU professor and director of what is being called Advancing Sustainability through Powered Infrastructure for Roadway Electrification, or ASPIRE. “There is a need here in the nation for what we are doing,” he said. “This is intended to be a catalyst, a shot in the arm. Let’s get all the industries behind this so we can make this happen.” ... The funding represents a huge advancement for the Logan university, said USU President Noelle Cockett, and comes when it is needed for air quality and transportation challenges. “ASPIRE is needed now. It is a bright star at a difficult time,” she said during the announcement of the grant. “We have been smiling, that is for sure,” Zane said. “This is a phenomenal achievement. There is absolutely no question about it. ... We are at the front of something big.”

  • The Herald Journal Wednesday, Jul. 29, 2020

    USU Researchers Debunk Myths to Find Optimal Hemp Growth

    Ninety years ago, hemp researchers at Utah State University grew cannabis for rope and had no way to test the THC content in crops other than smoking it and monitoring the effects. Research halted in 1970 when then-President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act. Now that it’s legal to grow once more USU researchers are back at it — only this time, they’re using technology and testing to determine the optimal ways to grow the plant for high yield and cannabinoid content, and what that means for Utah growers. “We do a lot of trying to nurture these plants as best we can,” said Mitch Westmoreland, the Ph.D. student running the lab at USU’s greenhouse. “But then we also go on the other side of things and see how much we can torture these plants without them dying. … One of the big questions that a lot of people have, especially in Utah, is how drought stress affects cannabinoid concentration.” ... Most of USU’s funding comes from large-scale growing operations across the United States. Because it was illegal to grow cannabis in Utah for so long, a lot of the university’s preliminary testing is debunking claims related to growing the plant. “All these people that have been growing it illegally, they didn’t study science in school, like biology and all the principles, so they make a lot of observations and a lot of bizarre conclusions,” said Bruce Bugbee, the USU professor over the project. “Like you need to plant at the full moon … and the world of cannabis is full of stuff like that.”

  • Deseret News Thursday, Jul. 23, 2020

    Utah Can Be the Place for the Pioneering Women of Today

    As Utahns we associate the phrase, “This is the Place” with Brigham Young and the first wagon train entering the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. I can picture that phrase getting passed from wagon to wagon, person to person, and wonder how those words affected my many greats-grandmother, Elvira Pamela Mills, who was among those early pioneers. I imagine she took them as a promise that safety, opportunity and thriving communities lay ahead. Recently I had the opportunity to make a professional shift and joined the faculty of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University. As director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project, now housed at USU, it thrills me to see what women of this great state have accomplished (and will continue to) over the past 173 years. So it’s no surprise that my favorite new podcast, executive produced by USU professor Patrick Mason, is “This is Her Place,” which highlights remarkable women, past and present. ... The podcast’s title, “This is Her Place,” brings to mind that just as Utah was a land of promise to the early pioneers, it can be a fertile place for women’s leadership and growth today. It also sounds like a response to anyone who dares to limit girls and women, to those who try to make them take up less space and “put them in their place.” When I was younger, I had people tell me that I didn’t need advanced education to pursue my purpose and calling, and I like to imagine myself saying, “But this IS my place!” And, because this is my place, and Elvira’s, and yours — it is big enough for all of us.

  • Sunday, Jul. 19, 2020

    Comet NEOWISE Discovered by Space-based Telescope Built by USU's SDL

    Stargazing Utahns may have already seen Comet NEOWISE, which is visible above the northwest horizon about an hour and half after sunset. The comet is expected to be visible much of the summer, coming closest to Earth on July 22 when it will be a mere 64 million miles away. Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Lab played a key role in the comet’s discovery. The lab in North Logan built the space-based telescope that enabled NASA to discover the comet on March 27. In 2009, NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, was launched into space. The telescope started taking pictures in December 2009. It was placed on orbit hibernation in February 2011. In September 2013, NASA woke up the sleeping spacecraft to assist with the agency’s efforts to identify and characterize the population of near-Earth objects. ... Space Dynamics Lab designed WISE to detect heat given off by objects in space ranging in temperature from minus 330 degrees Fahrenheit to 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. Because WISE was designed to look for objects cooler than human eyes can observe, the telescope was built to detect infrared light. The mission also required that the telescope remain cooler than the objects it was photographing, which was “an engineering challenge of galactic proportion,” according to a Space Dynamic Lab news release.

  • KSL News Radio Monday, Jul. 13, 2020

    Space Dynamics Lab Built the Telescope That Discovered the NEOWISE Comet

    If you’ve been up early enough, you might have noticed quite the “shooting star” in the northwestern sky — actually, a comet called NEOWISE. The whole reason we know anything about the NEOWISE comet is because of a telescope built at Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory. The NEOWISE comet may have been born over 4.6 billion years ago, but it was only discovered this year. Now, it can be seen with the naked eye. The Space Dynamics Laboratory based in North Logan manufactured a telescope that’s discovered and used as a part of NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission launched in 2009 to map and scan the skies. The space-based telescope created in Logan was designed to detect the heat that was given off by objects in space. It was able to provide a more detailed picture than previous telescopes. SDL says that they are able to detect objects ranging in temperature from 330 degrees to 1,300 degrees. ... “The discovery of Comet NEOWISE is an exceptional example of the success of the NEOWISE mission. The opportunity to view a newly discovered object in space with the naked eye is extraordinary,” said Pedro Sevilla, SDL’s NEOWISE program manager and payload operations lead.

    “For decades, SDL has worked with NASA to help reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind, and we are honored to be a part of this important mission.”

  • Richfield Reaper Sunday, Jul. 12, 2020

    Love Your Neighbor and Wear a Face Mask

    As we face unprecedented trials of health and economics, many in our community are and will be in desperate need of help from a neighbor. Are you struggling? Is your neighbor? Economists, scientists and health researchers have identified a very simple and temporary thing you and I can do that will do more to save the lives and economic needs of your neighbor than anything else you can do. It is a small thing that will only cost you a few dollars. It won’t require that you stay holed up in your home. Nor will it require that you no longer support the many struggling businesses in our community. It will prevent the need for future government shutdowns. It will allow you to return to some semblance of normalcy in the midst of this crisis. ... Face masks will mean we can go back to work. Face masks will mean we can support our economy again. Face masks will prevent us from another government-imposed shutdown, which will crush our economy. Face masks would have prevented many of the 125,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States in recent months. Face masks will prevent many of the future deaths that will come. If you love your neighbor, if you care about their economic prosperity and if you care about their life, then you should wear a face mask. This begs the question: Do you love your neighbor?

  • Cache Valley Daily Saturday, Jul. 11, 2020

    Eagle Project Honors 2005 USU Van Crash Victims

    September 26, 2005 was a dark day for Utah State University when one of its vans rolled, killing eight students and an instructor as they were returning to campus from a field trip. The van blew a tire on Interstate 84 causing the accident. All of the students were in their 20’s. Two students survived. Fifteen year-old Rusten Thornley was under pressure to get his Eagle Scout badge before the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints separated from Boy Scouts of America. His project was planned a couple of years earlier: to place a memorial at the location of the USU van crash site. ... The project was 10 months in the making and on Tuesday, July 6, Brown Monument placed an 8 foot granite monument on the location of the crash with all the names of those who were killed that day nearly 15 years ago. Rusten was the last one in his troop to receive his Eagle Scout before his congregation formally disbanded the troop.

  • Utah Public Radio Friday, Jul. 10, 2020

    USU To Distribute Second Wave Of CARES Act Funding To Students

    USU will distribute nearly nine-million dollars in emergency stimulus money for students affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Robert Wagner is the Vice President for Academic and Instructional Services at USU and said the federal money will be for computers and for students to have faster internet access. “We are determining students who qualify, and those who do will receive a $300 technology grant," he said. According to Wagner, approximately 80% of the school’s courses will have some sort of technology component. “We’re very sensitive to the fact that many of our students are going to need help in being prepared with the necessary technology for fall," he said. Wagner said the university received about $8.7 million to disperse directly to students. The first disbursement took place in May for students enrolled in spring semester. 

  • The Herald Journal Friday, Jul. 10, 2020

    Women & Leadership Project Moves to USU

    A Utah Valley University-based women’s studies initiative and its founder have moved to USU, the school announced in a news release this week. The Utah Women & Leadership Project is now housed in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business and Susan Madsen, who started UW&LP, will serve as the first Karen Haight Huntsman Endowed Professor of Leadership, while fulfilling a role with USU Extension. Madsen joined faculty of the Huntsman School in its marketing and strategy department on July 1. In an interview with The Herald Journal via video chat on Friday, Madsen said she’s excited for the appointment, as well as her move from Orem to Logan. “I just feel very called to do the work that I do and that’s why I do it,” she said. “For me, even though I’ll partner with UVU and have had some great experiences through the years, I’m really interested in taking what we’ve done, building on it, having more resources, having more connections to really expand the work … to strengthen the impact of Utah girls and women.”

  • Utah Business Tuesday, Jul. 07, 2020

    If Your Company Can't Adapt to Remote Work, It Will Die

    In early March, just as the US was just coming to grips with the extent of the then-emerging COVID-19 pandemic, Mitchell Colver was just returning from a trip to Seattle. He was in the city when a patient there became the first in the US to die from COVID-19. So when he returned to Utah, he found himself immediately ordered into quarantine for two weeks.  He returned to work for one half-day before the announcement came that Utah State University, where he oversees the Center for Student Analytics, would close and classes move to an online format, with other universities across the nation. At first, the change wasn’t a good one. “I got depressed,” Colver admits. “I wasn’t managing myself.” But then, he recovered. Realizing his current mindset and work-from-home setup weren’t working, he reassessed the situation and began to rearrange his life. Rather than waiting for things to return, he, alongside thousands of other Americans, created a new sense of normalcy. And it worked.  By the first week of April, Colver says, students he interviewed at Utah State University expressed nonchalance about the question of the class format in the fall. Though attitudes varied, many students expressed a belief that they would be fine this coming semester, regardless of whether classes take place online or in person.

  • Utah Public Radio Tuesday, Jul. 07, 2020

    USU Professor Helps Discover Ancient Amphibian With A Venomous Bite

    Hikers in the mountainous west are often wary of snakes, knowing some are venomous, many of us may be less concerned about our amphibious friends, like frogs, toads and salamanders. While in tropical regions, there are poisonous amphibians, but a venomous amphibian – that’s something new. “What we've discovered now is one group of amphibians has a venomous bite, where there are venom glands in both the upper and lower jaw that feed the venom to the base of the teeth. And these amphibians are in the caecilians group," said Edmund Brodie, a professor emeritus from Utah State University. Brodie said caecilians are burrowers, often found in leaf litter and piles of coconut husks, with a narrow head, small eyes, strong jaws and well-developed teeth. They range from inches to about 6 feet in length, and are known to eat worms, other amphibians and reptiles and mice, when in captivity. He also said they are much older than snakes and have been around for 250 million years or more but are poorly studied.

  • Wednesday, Jun. 17, 2020

    USU Researchers Find Alarming Amount of Microplastic on Protected Lands

    Nearly 350 million metric tons of plastic was produced worldwide in 2017; and while we’re aware of plastic that ends up in landfills or the ocean, a group of Utah State University researchers say there’s an alarming amount of plastic that’s raining down on protected lands in the western U.S. annually. The study was published in Science Magazine Friday. The group of researchers found that more than 1,000 tons of plastic rained down in protected parks they had kept track of during a 14-month period. They say plastics and polymers fragment into pieces known as microplastics that can easily be picked up into the atmosphere in a system similar to the water cycle. Scientists were already aware that these microplastics were found in all sorts of different bodies of water, but this study’s results stunned researchers said Janice Brahney, assistant professor in USU College of Natural Resources’s watershed sciences department and lead author of the study. The results prompted researchers to go back and confirm their findings through 32 different particle scans, she said.

  • The Herald Journal Friday, Jun. 12, 2020

    Cache County COVID-19 Spike Detected in Sewage Before Human Test Results

    The recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Cache County was detected in sewage at the Hyrum and Logan wastewater treatment plants before it showed up in human test results. The Utah Division of Water Quality started collecting coronavirus data from 10 treatment plants around the state representing roughly 40 percent of the Utah population as part of a pilot study launched in March. It just so happened the study was in progress when COVID-19 cases — many linked to the JBS meat processing plant in Hyrum — started rising dramatically in Cache County. ... As a result of the study findings, the Utah Coronavirus Task Force on Thursday requested DEQ increase the frequency of sampling from the Hyrum and Logan plants and get additional samples from “interceptors” that feed sewage from communities that contract with Logan for wastewater treatment. That way, hot spots for COVID-19 could be more closely pinned down with data. The state will also expand testing from the 10 pilot-study sites to around 30 wastewater facilities statewide. ... The pilot study was conducted by DWQ with help from researchers at Utah State University along with Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. USU biological engineering professor Keith Roper was among the researchers involved and told The Herald Journal on Thursday the process proved to be a scientific awakening of sorts for him. “I frankly was initially a skeptic. These wastewater samples are highly complex and not well defined, and the fact that one could get a quantitative, reproducible, reliable signal from such a complex sample that is subject to so many variables was to me quite dubious initially,” Roper said. “After having participated in the work for two or three months, I’ve come full circle.”

  • Scientific American Friday, Jun. 12, 2020

    Thousands of Tons of Microplastics Are Falling from the Sky

    Carried by the wind, dust particles from places such as the Sahara Desert can float halfway around the world before settling to the ground. As the plastics discarded by humans break down into tiny pieces in the environment, they, too, drift through the atmosphere. Now scientists are a step closer to understanding how these globe-trotting microplastics travel—both locally and on long-distance flights. Researchers spent more than a year collecting microplastics from 11 national parks and wilderness areas in the western U.S. They separately examined the particles that settled on dry days and those that fell along with rain or snow. In addition to shedding light on how microplastics move around, the results, published on Thursday in Science, reveal the sheer scale of the problem: more than 1,000 metric tons of microplastics—the weight of 120 million to 300 million plastic water bottles—fall on protected lands in the country’s western region each year. ... Janice Brahney, a watershed scientist at Utah State University and lead author of the new study, initially set out to investigate how dust carries nutrients, not plastic. But after peering into her microscope and seeing colorful beads and fibers among the bits of dust, she refocused her efforts.

  • Utah Public Radio Monday, May. 04, 2020

    USU Extension 4-H Youth 3D Print Face Shields for Utah Hospitals

    With schools being closed for the rest of the year, some students are taking that extra time to give back to the community. 4-H members throughout the state have taken this opportunity to help local hospitals by printing face shield and mask connectors. In five different counties across Utah, youth are taking action against the coronavirus by 3D printing personal protective equipment, or PPE, for hospitals. Students that help with the project print these face shields and then either drop them at the University of Utah to be sanitized or directly to health offices. Deborah Ivie oversees STEM education of youth throughout the state and spearheaded the 4-H 3D printing project. “Now with other things opening up, there is a need for places like dentist's office and optometrists and, and even just like medical, regular doctor's offices, they need to have some protection to treat patients right now,” said Ivie. 


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