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News stories about USU's College of Science

Inside the USU Synthetic Biomanufacturing building

Photo Credit: Eli Lucero, The Herald Journal

USTAR funds USU Synthetic Biomanufacturing building for another year

Saturday, August 25, 2018

For the next year, Utah State University will get additional money from the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative to fund the university’s Synthetic Biomanufacturing Facility, a relatively new building that reportedly faced closure.

The USTAR Governing Authority on Friday approved $250,000 in subsidies to help pay for the salaries of personnel who work in the building, which opened in 2015 on USU’s Innovation Campus in North Logan.

The Life Sciences Building at Utah State University

Photo Credit: Allison Allred, The Utah Statesman

ETA of construction projects around campus

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A drive on or up to the Utah State University campus has most likely been delayed at one point or another from the beginning of the summer to the very tail end. These delays have been caused by construction zones in or around campus.

That’s because several changes have been on the rise for Utah State’s campus for the past several months and are finally on the downhill slope to being finished. Here’s an update on all the construction projects and their estimated time of completion.

This screenshot shows a USU geology department YouTube video that explains some of Cache Valley’s geologic features and history.

Photo Credit: USU Geology Department

USU geology department produces video on Cache Valley

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The USU Department of Geology creates educational videos explaining geological highlights of Cache Valley.

A still of a reaction shot from Meet Joe Black

Photo Credit: Meet Jo Black 1998 Film

UnDisciplined: The Evolutionary Biologist And The Movie Psychologist

Friday, August 3, 2018

James Cutting studies the way moviemakers exploit human emotions to tell stories. Zach Gompert examines fundamental questions about evolutionary genetics. Together, we talk about how things change over time and whether we can predict those changes.

Dr. Mary Crump and her new book

Photo Credit: Eli Lucero/Herald Journal

'A Year with Nature': Logan biologist's almanac tells readers one wild story a day

Friday, August 3, 2018

Throughout decades in the field observing reptiles and amphibians — as well as her other research both in academia and for her books — Logan herpetologist and author Marty Crump has collected a deep well of stories.

Crump’s latest book, “A Year with Nature: An Almanac,” is a daily collection of small, thought-provoking facts about the natural world — one for each day of the year.

A new flow battery prototype

Photo Credit: Eliza Grinnell/Harvard SEAS

This ‘flow battery’ could power green homes when the sun goes down and the wind stops blowing

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

With solar and wind electricity prices plunging, the hunt is on for cheap batteries to store all this power for use around the clock. Now, researchers have made an advance with a flow battery, the type of battery being developed to soak up enough excess wind and solar power to fuel whole cities. They report the discovery of a potentially cheap, organic molecule that can power a flow battery for years instead of days.

Utah's Cache Valley, looking west

Photo Credit: Utah Sizzle, Wikimedia Commons

New Video Explores The Highlights Of Cache Valley Geology

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The topography of Cache Valley is greatly impacted by the ancient Lake Bonneville and the continual movement of tectonic plates. The Utah State University Geology Department released a video to teach people more about the history of the northern Utah landscape.

Narrow-ridged finless porpoise

Photo Credit:

Noah’s Ark for Endangered Species

Monday, July 30, 2018

Over the past couple of weeks, both President Trump and Congress have proposed multiple changes to the Endangered Species Act. Those changes are controversial, but it’s worth noting this isn’t the first attempt to modify the Act. In fact, the Center for Biological Diversity says there have been more than 300 changes or proposed changes in the past two decades, and the pace has picked up in the past several years.

Common yellow jacket wasp

Photo Credit: iStock

USU Professor helps identify famous wasp on social media

Thursday, July 25, 2018

When model Chrissy Teigen shared a video Thursday showing a winged creature crawling on her arm, the Internet went nuts.

Teigen asked her daughter, Luna, whether it was a “nice” bug, and then she asked the toddler, “Do you want to give him a kiss?”

Tree Kangaroo

Photo Credit: Florent Mazel

Which species do we put in the ark?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Species are going extinct at an alarming rate, leaving conservationists with tough choices. Which species should they try and save?

“We call it the Noah’s Ark problem. We can’t save them all,” says Utah State University ecologist Will Pearse.

So far, the guiding principle has been ‘functional diversity’.

Gray Wolves

Photo Credit: Christina Krutz Getty Images

Trump to Curb Protections as Warming Endangers Species

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Trump administration wants to loosen protections for endangered species while scientists brace for mass die-offs to accelerate globally.

New research from the Zoological Society of London suggests climate change is driving more species toward extinction, especially birds. Meanwhile, scientists are trying to design the best way to pick which species get scarce conservation resources—and which will be allowed to disappear.

Black Rat Snake: Coloration varies, but usually shiny brown to black, sometimes grayish. Older adults are often nearly all black. The head is slim, with a round eye (Photo by Henry Hartley)

Photo Credit: Henry Hartley

Art Lander’s Outdoors: The Black Rat Snake, common across Kentucky, helps control rodents

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Black Rat Snake, genus Elaphe, species obsoleta, but also referred to by some taxonomists as Pantherophis alleghaniensis, is one of Kentucky’s largest snakes.

An article posted on the Live Science website explained the scientific name differences.

Until the early 2000s, both Old and New World rat snakes were generally thought to belong to the same genus, Elaphe, according to Alan Savitzky, a professor of biological sciences at Utah State University who specializes in the biology of snakes.

Poison Ivy on the River Trail in Logan, Utah

Photo Credit: Eli Lucero, HJ News

Leaves of three: Logan Canyon may be seeing more poison ivy this year

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Visitors to the Logan River Trail near Second Dam may have noticed some unusual signage: multiple warning signs identifying patches of poison ivy along the trail.

While summertime is the season for poison ivy, the staff at Stokes Nature Center has noticed an increase in the amount of the bothersome plant and how far it has spread in the area. In the case of the Logan River Trail, patches of poison ivy can be found immediately along the well-trafficked path.

Dandelion releasing seads amidst the wind

Photo Credit: Britannica

How A Plant Disperses Seeds Impacts Its Future Growth, Study Shows

Monday, July 2, 2018

According to the new research from Utah State University, how a plant disperses its seeds is related to other life history strategies.

Seed dispersal is the movement or transportation of seeds away from the parent plant.

Data acquired Feb. 16, 2000, by the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) aboard space shuttle Endeavour was combined with a Landsat image to create this perspective view to the northwest along the San Andreas Fault, near the city of Palmdale, Calif. Two large mountain ranges are visible, the San Gabriel Mountains on the left and the Tehachapi Mountains in the upper right. The Lake Palmdale Reservoir is near the center of the frame.

Photo Credit: Associated Press News/NASA

Has USU geologist’s research found site of the next major quake?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

More than 10 years ago Utah State University geologist Susanne Janecke and her team began a search for a fault zone at the southern tip of the San Andreas Fault, an area that had been obscured by flooding a hundred years earlier.

For decades, geologists have theorized the next big California earthquake in that region could start near the southern tip of the San Andreas Fault. Dr. Janecke and her team felt there might be a second major fault zone southwest of the one that was known at the time.

Bark Beetle emerging from a collection of wood

Photo Credit: Luis Sánchez Saturno/New Mexican file photo

Warm winters could aid spread of bark beetles

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

It’s been more than a decade since a bark beetle epidemic wiped out swaths of piñon trees around Santa Fe, but a growing body of research predicts that warming winters could spell trouble for beetle-prone conifers in the area — and beyond.

A new study by Los Alamos National Laboratory is the first large-scale analysis to demonstrate that higher temperatures allow the destructive beetle to multiply rapidly and expand its range.

Map illustrates the Durmid Ladder, a fault structure newly identified by Utah State University geologists in California's San Andreas Fault. BB=Bombay Beach; PS=Palm Springs.

Photo Credit: Susanne Jänecke, USU

San Andreas Fault: Next Big Earthquake Location Identified by Geologists

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Geologists have identified a new section of California’s famous San Andreas Fault (SAF), which could be the site of the region’s next major earthquake, according to a study published in the journal Lithospere.

The seismically active, 15.5-mile-long stretch is buried in silt at the bottom of the Salton Sea—a shallow, salty lake that sits directly on top of the SAF’s southern tip. It has been named the “Durmid Ladder” by the researchers from Utah State University (USU), because it consists of two master faults and hundreds of smaller rung-like faults that run perpendicular to these.

Native American scholar Trinity Brown presents her research from the 2018 USU Native American Summer Mentorship Program. This program is the pre-cusor for the $1 million Howard Hughes Medical Institute funded Mentoring and Encouraging Student Academic Success program.

Photo Credit: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, USU

USU Receives $1 Million Grant To Create Native American Inclusivity Program

Monday, June 25, 2018

Last week, Utah State University received a million-dollar grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to create the new Mentoring and Encouraging Student Academic Success program to better support Native American students transferring to USU Logan from the USU Blanding campus.

"The Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Inclusive Excellence Program is intended to reduce the barriers to inclusion by students who might otherwise have challenges integrating into 4-year programs in STEM areas," said Al Savitzky, professor and department head in the department of biology at Utah State University and one of the leaders of this new program.

Representation of an apocalypic situation, maybe following a major tectonic disaster

Photo Credit: ISOGA/Shutterstock via IFL Science!

Is This Newly Identified Part Of The San Andreas Fault Where The Next “Big One” Will Come From?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Scientists say they have found a potential zone in the San Andreas fault that could be the starting point for the next big earthquake to rock California.

That earthquake is often referred to as “The Big One”, but no one is quite sure when it’s going to occur. What we do know, though, is that it’s going to be pretty catastrophic.

In this study, published in the journal Lithosphere, a team led by Dr Susanne Jänecke from Utah State University examined the southern 30 kilometers (19 miles) of the fault. The entire thing spans about 1,300 kilometers (800 miles).

Areal photo of San Adreas Fault line in California

Photo Credit: Arizona State University

Will ‘slow earthquakes’ along central San Andreas trigger larger quakes?

Sunday, June 22, 2018

The central section of the San Andreas fault – a region from San Juan Bautista southward to Parkfield, a distance of about 90 miles (145 km) – has long been thought to have a steady creeping movement. Geologists thought this movement might provide “a safe release of energy,” reducing the chance of a big quake that ruptures the entire fault from north to south. But new research led by two Arizona State University (ASU) geophysicists shows that movements along this central section of the fault haven’t been smooth and steady, as previously thought. What’s more, these scientists say, the episodic slow earthquakes along the central San Andreas don’t relieve stress; instead, they cause stress, which may trigger large, destructive earthquakes.

Desert near the San Andreas Fault

Photo Credit: Fox News Digital

California mega-earthquake fear: Is the San Andreas fault at risk of the 'Big One'?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

New research suggests that a newly discovered 'structure' in the San Andreas fault line could result in a massive earthquake, often referred to as the "big one."

The geological study, written up in the journal Lithosphere, details that there is a 15- to 20-mile-long stretch of the San Andreas fault ‒ called the Durmid ladder structure ‒ that could result in an earthquake with a magnitude of 7 or greater.

A 'close-up' of a flying bee

Photo Credit: Jeff Kirby, National Geographic

Scientists find evidence of 27 new viruses in bees

Thursday, June 21, 2018

An international team of researchers has discovered evidence of 27 previously unknown viruses in bees. The finding could help scientists design strategies to prevent the spread of viral pathogens among these important pollinators.

"Populations of bees around the world are declining, and viruses are known to contribute to these declines," said David Galbraith, research scientist at Bristol Myers Squibb and a recent Penn State graduate. "Despite the importance of bees as pollinators of flowering plants in agricultural and natural landscapes and the importance of viruses to bee health, our understanding of bee viruses is surprisingly limited."

A gardener using nitrogen in the form of traditional fertilizer to nourish their plants

Photo Credit: Craig Hislop, Cache Valley Daily

USU biochemist is on the cutting edge of nitrogen research

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Utah State University biochemist Dr. Lance Seefeldt says that life-giving nitrogen holds the key to sustaining life beyond nonrenewable fossil fuel energy. He and 16 other experts in nitrogen research gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss the current field of nitrogen activation chemistry.

“Nitrogen, the gas that’s in the air we’re breathing, is actually composed of two nitrogen elements that are held together by a triple bond,” Dr. Seefeldt explains. “It turns out that triple bond is really difficult to break. And that’s why we talk about ‘activation’.

A Two-Tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) collected from Zion National Park 50 years ago is just one insect that will be featured in the database. Symbiota portals have more than 5 million images of plants and animals available for research and education.

Photo Credit: Northern Arizona University

NAU receives NSF collaborative grant to improve software used to manage biodiversity data

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The National Science Foundation awarded Northern Arizona University and Utah State University a three-year, $700,000 collaborative grant to improve the usability and accessibility of Symbiota, an online platform that allows natural history collections to share data, including images, for millions of biological specimens. Currently, Symbiota includes data for more than 37 million specimens from almost 800 collections.

North American bark beetle outbreaks have killed millions of trees. A new study demonstrates how the Mountain Pine Beetle's range is expanding due to warming temperatures but reveals how overpopulation might decelerate growth.

Photo Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory

Study confirms beetles exploit warm winters to expand range

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A new study by Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists and colleagues confirms that increasing minimum winter temperatures allow beetles to expand their range but reveals that overcrowding can put the brakes on population growth.

"It has long been predicted that warming winters will allow range expansion. This is the first large dataset that demonstrates that warmer winter temperatures are likely allowing mountain pine beetles to establish outside of their native range," said Devin Goodsman, a Los Alamos postdoctoral researcher and first author on the report. "Both competition and winter cold are known to be important causes of mortality, but no previous studies addressed how these mortality factors interact."

From left, Morgan Christman, Zachary Schumm, and Kaitlin Rim

Photo Credit: M. Christman, Z. Schumm, and K. Rim

Graduate Student Accomplishments Recognized at the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America Meeting

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Three Biology graduate students were recognized at the 102nd Annual Meeting of the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America in Reno, NV, June 10-13, 2018. MS student Kaitlin Rim (Ramirez Lab) received second place for her oral presentation titled “Evaluation of root-pest resistant alfalfa cultivars for potential management of the clover root curculio”. Zachary...

A laboratory technician investigating spidersilk in the USU Innovation Campus

Photo Credit: Jasen Lee, KSL

USU lab snags grant to develop spider silk

Monday, June 18, 2018

Utah scientists are working on technology that could someday help the U.S. military disable enemy watercraft at sea.

Researchers at Utah State University in Logan received a grant of $420,000 from the U.S. Navy Division of Unconventional Warfare aimed at designing and developing synthetic spider silk material that could be used to fight enemy targets during military combat.

Logan city is participating in plans to potentially build a small modular nuclear reactor in Idaho.

Photo Credit: Nuclear Street

Waste Storage, Not Nuclear Disaster, Is The Real Risk of Nuclear Power, USU Lecturer Says

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Logan City officials are weighing project risks as they decide whether or not to continue participating in a plan to build a small modular nuclear reactor in Idaho, just North of Idaho Falls. An expert says concerns about nuclear power are valid, but people often need to shift the focus of their concern.

The project is being coordinated by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems. Logan City is the largest municipality participating in this project and will have to decide by March whether to drop out or continue with the project.

Scientists suspect several ancient snowball Earth episodes when the ice sheets covered the planet.

Photo Credit: John Sonnitag, NASA

Ancient Earth froze over in a geologic instant

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Earth’s ice is melting at a rapid clip today. But some scientists think that during several ancient episodes, the planet plunged into a deep freeze known as “Snowball Earth,” when ice sheets grew to cover almost the entire planet. However, the number of these episodes, their extent, and just how fast Earth turned into an ice cube have long been a mystery. Now, analysis of a newly discovered rock sequence in Ethiopia supports a Snowball Earth event some 717 million years ago and suggests it took place in mere thousands of years—the geologic equivalent of a cold snap.

USU USTAR Professor Randy Lewis at a spinning machine in his lab. With the Navy, Lewis is developing next-generation MVSOT with spider silk and sharing USU silk manufacturing technology to enable commercial-scale production of other biomaterials.

Photo Credit: Mary-Ann Muffoletto

Utah State University And The U.S. Navy Are Developing Tools For Non-Lethal Warfare

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The United States' Navy and Utah State University researchers are working together to develop tools for non-lethal warfare. A $420,000 grant from the Navy has been awarded to USU’s Synthetic Spider Silk Lab.

USU researchers are developing a device that would wrap around the propellers of watercraft used by smugglers, pirates or terrorists. Biology professor Randy Lewis said the device would be designed to stop boats laden with explosives like the one that attacked the USS Cole in 2000.

Michael Piep leads talks about plants during the Richard J. Shaw Memorial Wildflower Walk on Tuesday in Green Canyon.

Photo Credit: Eli Lucero, Herald Journal

Wildflower walk honors botanist's memory

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Botanist Michael Piep has been going on wildflower walks for a long time, first as an undergraduate learning from Richard Shaw, and now as a botanist himself leading walks in Shaw’s memory.

On Tuesday, he was joined by just over two dozen people in Green Canyon for the annual walk hosted by Utah State University’s Intermountain Herbarium and the Cache Chapter of the Utah Native Plant Society.

This dinosaur specimen from Wyoming is up for auction in Paris on Monday

Photo Credit: Science Magazine, AGUTTES

Allosaurus on the auction block

Friday, June 1, 2018

On 4 June, geological hammers will give way to an auctioneer’s gavel as the fossilized skeleton of a gigantic predatory dinosaur goes up for sale in the Eiffel Tower in Paris, to the dismay of one of the world’s largest international paleontological societies.

The 8.7-meter-long specimen is estimated to be about 70% complete and between 151 million years and 156 million years old. It’s said to have been unearthed legally in 2013 in Wyoming, although the paleontologists who unearthed it remain anonymous.

Diagram depicting a boat propeller disabled by a next-generation, environmentally friendly, nonlethal Maritime Vessel Stopping Occlusion Technologies or ‘MVSOT’ device crafted from synthetic slime and Utah State University-made synthetic spider silk.

Photo Credit: NAVSEA

Dead in the Water: Utah State Spider Silk Lab Awarded Navy Grant Aimed at Maritime Defense

Friday, June 1, 2018

Envisioning a device the U.S. Navy is developing with Utah State University synthetic spider silk conjures images you'd expect in a James Bond thriller. Think strong, stretchy fibers wrapping relentlessly around a boat propeller and effectively foiling nefarious efforts by smugglers, pirates or terrorists.