In the News

  • 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. 

  • The Herald Journal Friday, May. 01, 2020

    Logan Photographer Connects with People during Pandemic Via Porch Portraits

    Taking pictures is more than a craft or creative pursuit for fine-art photographer Maria Ellen Huebner of Logan. It’s a way to connect with people. During the coronavirus pandemic, personal connection has become harder than ever, but Huebner has devised a way to bridge the gap created by social distancing with a series of photo shoots she calls the Portrait Porch Project. The photos show local residents at the entrances and through the front windows to their homes at a time when many are staying home. And Huebner uses her skills as a black-and-white, documentary-style photographer to capture individuals in a straightforward fashion in their natural environments. In other words, these are not your typical dress-up family portraits where everybody says "cheese." In fact, Huebner tells people not to make any special preparations for her before she shows up at their homes with her old-school Leica Rangefinder camera and her 7-year-old daughter, Olive, who has been serving as her assistant. In exchange for letting her take their pictures and post them on the internet, Huebner gifts her subjects all of the digital images taken in the session along with a print of her favorite image of them on fine-art paper. In this way the Portrait Porch Project is doing triple duty for the USU fine-art photography instructor: as a documentary series, as a way to connect with people, and as a public service.

    “It’s a project purely based on kindness and meeting new people,” Huebner said in an interview with The Herald Journal. “I also hope people are inspired by the images, even though they are very simple. There is a realness about them I want people to walk away appreciating.”

  • Friday, May. 01, 2020

    Pandemic 'Cannot Quell our Aggie Spirit of Togetherness'

    Public health restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic may have forced Utah State University to call off its 2020 commencement on the Logan campus this year, but USU President Noelle Cockett told graduates in a video message that they were “front and center in our minds and our hearts.” Cockett’s message was released on Thursday, the same day graduation rites to celebrate the university’s 7,000 graduates were originally scheduled. “Like many of you, I wish we were gathered today with family and friends in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on the USU Logan campus,” Cockett said. “However, we can’t let this day go by without acknowledgement and celebration of your accomplishments of a degree from Utah State University. Congratulations graduates! While physical distance separates us, you are front and center in our minds and our hearts,” Cockett said.

  • The Herald Journal Friday, May. 01, 2020

    USU Class of 2020 Quietly Marks Graduation

    The commencement that wasn’t passed by quietly on the Utah State University campus on Thursday and Friday with a trickle of students in caps and gowns having their pictures taken in front of university landmarks. The most popular spot seemed to be the “Block A” on the northeast corner of Old Main, where USU students traditionally gather each Homecoming for a kissing ritual that certifies them as “True Aggies.” But social distancing — at least between non-family members — was the order of the day Friday, in keeping with the state and national COVID-19 recommendations that led to postponement of this spring’s commencement exercises. The university is planning to mark commencement in late August, if public health circumstances allow. Eric Christensen and his family drove up from Layton for a Block A photo op, and the aviation-maintenance graduate posed for a photo holding his 2-year-old son, Nels, along with side-by-side pictures with other family members. Asked if he was disappointed about cancellation of the originally scheduled ceremony, Christensen said, “Yes and no. I’m not a big fan of big ceremonies, but graduation is a once-in-a-life time event.”

  • Friday, May. 01, 2020

    USU Students Provide Food to Aid Area Pantries

    Students from Utah State University are providing food at the University’s Student Nutrition (SNAC) to individuals and families to aid area food pantries. The (SNAC) is serviced by student volunteers, according to organizers. The student-led project was supported by USU Extension, the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Sciences (NDFS) and USU’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) and was brought about as a way to use the fruit that would otherwise go to waste because homeowners or farmers were unable to harvest it. Last fall, organizers say 294 project volunteers gathered apples and other fruit in cooperation with 89 local fruit tree owners. By the end of October, over 15,000 pounds of fruit were harvested for donation. The fruit that wasn’t high enough quality to donate for fresh eating was made into 259 pints of applesauce made by student volunteers and USU dietetic interns. The applesauce was then donated to SNAC at a time when many food resources are in short supply at area food pantries.

  • Tuesday, Apr. 21, 2020

    USU Space Dynamics Lab delivers test unit to NASA for 2022 launch

    The Utah State University Space Dynamics Lab in North Logan has delivered to NASA an engineering test unit for a major subsystem of its PACE spacecraft scheduled for launch in 2022. Data from the PACE satellite, short for Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem, will help scientists better understand how the ocean and atmosphere exchange carbon dioxide. It will also help identify the extent and duration of harmful algal blooms. According to the Centers for Disease Control, harmful algal blooms can produce toxins that can make people and animals sick and affect the environment. The science satellite is scheduled to be lofted into orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in December 2022. ... Alan Thurgood, the Space Dynamics Lab’s director for civil and commercial space, said in a press release that the lab and NASA “have a long, successful history working together to solve some of science’s most interesting and pressing questions.” “We are grateful to NASA for these opportunities to support its mission to drive advances in science, technology, aeronautics, and space exploration to enhance knowledge, education, innovation, economic vitality and stewardship of Earth,” he added.

  • The Daily News Sunday, Apr. 19, 2020

    Mount St. Helens ecologist looks back on 40-year 'love affair' with volcano

    Charlie Crisafulli has become the face of ecological study of Mount St. Helens over the course of his 40-year career researching how life is returning to the volcano. Now, with plans to retire later this summer, Crisafulli is eager to pass on his knowledge to a new generation of researchers he says are enthusiastic and more diverse than ever before. Lean and nimble for his 62 years, Crisafulli kept pace with his 19-year-old intern across the pumice plain on a blustery but boiling late August day last summer. Crisafulli was just a tad older than her when he first visited Mount St. Helens shortly before the May 18, 1980 eruption. Since then, Crisafulli has published numerous studies, expanded the U.S. Forest Service’s ecology program at the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and been a consultant for volcanoes in Indonesia, Iceland, Chile and Hawaii. In 2016, he received the Outstanding Scientist award from the Northwest Scientific Association. ... Crisafulli spent a decade as a research associate at the Utah State University Department of Ecology running a summer program at Mount St. Helens. In 1989, the Forest Service hired him as the monument’s ecologist, which is the role he serves in today. He still conducts research, but his broader job is to be a liaison between the Forest Service and the ecology community. Every five years he organizes an event to gather researchers to network and share their findings. “I keep my fingers on the ecological pulse of the place and community,” he said.

  • The Herald Journal Friday, Apr. 17, 2020

    USU president describes what 'new norm' may look like for students, faculty

    During a virtual town hall meeting on Friday morning, USU President Noelle Cockett and members of her staff discussed what the coming months might look like and answered questions about tuition, protocol and incoming freshmen. “It has been a very crazy month. In fact it feels like it has been a year,” Cockett said. “But for me, I think the COVID pandemic really started on March 14. That was the day we decided to move our classes to a remote format, and it is incredible to think that was just a month ago.” Describing the transition to normalcy as a dial rather than a switch to be flipped, Cockett said there are still many stages before things will run freely again, and it will take a working vaccine to get to that point. ... USU students, faculty and staff were invited to submit questions prior to the town hall meeting, and one of the most frequently asked questions was about a refund on tuition due to the format of classes changing. ... “One of the things that I think is a bit of a misunderstanding is that by moving our classes to online, remote delivery, is that we were going to save money,” Cockett said. “That is actually not how that worked. It actually cost us more money to do that in the middle of a semester.” Between the large number of hours people put into making the transition happen along with the need to purchase more software licenses and video conferencing contracts, Cockett said there aren’t any savings that can be returned. However, Dave Cowley, the vice president for Business and Finance at USU, said monetary aid is going to be available to students through the federal stimulus package, additional state funding and FEMA dollars as well.

  • Cache Valley Daily Friday, Apr. 17, 2020

    Utah State in line for $17.5 million from CARES Act

    Utah State University is expected to receive nearly $17.5 million in Coronavirus relief funding under the federal CARES Act recently passed by Congress. According to the Utah System of Higher Education, the state’s universities, college and technical institutions will receive nearly $100 million from the stimulus legislation. That amount is based on institutional enrollment and the number of low-income students qualifying for financial assistance under the federal Pell Grant Program. USU spokesperson Emilie Wheeler said that about half of USU’s allocated funding – more than $8.7 million — will be awarded in emergency financial aid grants to students. Wheeler added that, although the funds have not actually been received yet, university administrators are already developing a plan for their distribution. “We really appreciate the funding allocated to education through the CARES Act,” she explained. “The dollars coming directly to USU are critical as we respond to Coronavirus expenses and costs.”

  • Cedar City News Tuesday, Apr. 14, 2020

    Five tips to help avoid being caught up in a coronavirus scams

    Not surprisingly, scammers are taking advantage of the fears that surround the coronavirus. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has already communicated with several scammers who are selling phony coronavirus “treatments.” Scammers have set up websites to sell bogus products using fake emails, texts and social media posts as a method to get victims’ money and personal information. The scammers’ emails and posts generally promote awareness, prevention tips and fake information about cases in local neighborhoods. They may also ask for donations to victims, offer advice on unproven treatments or even contain malicious email attachments. With this in mind, and considering other scams that have been circulating, here are five tips to help keep scammers at bay both during the COVID-19 pandemic and in general.

  • Smithsonian Magazine Monday, Apr. 13, 2020

    What We Can Learn From 1918 Influenza Diaries

    When Dorman B.E. Kent, a historian and businessman from Montpelier, Vermont, contracted influenza in fall 1918, he chronicled his symptoms in vivid detail. Writing in his journal, the 42-year-old described waking up with a “high fever,” “an awful headache” and a stomach bug. “Tried to get Dr. Watson in the morning but he couldn’t come,” Kent added. Instead, the physician advised his patient to place greased cloths and a hot water bottle around his throat and chest. “Took a seidlitz powder”—similar to Alka-Seltzer—“about 10:00 and threw it up soon so then took two tablespoons of castor oil,” Kent wrote. “Then the movements began and I spent a good part of the time at the seat.” The Vermont historian’s account, housed at the state’s historical society, is one of countless diaries and letters penned during the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed an estimated 50 to 100 million people in just 15 months. With historians and organizations urging members of the public to keep journals of their own amid the COVID-19 pandemic, these century-old musings represent not only invaluable historical resources, but sources of inspiration or even diversion. ... When Helen Viola Jackson Kent’s children donated her journals to Utah State University, they offered an apt description of the purpose these papers served. Like many diary writers, Kent used her journal to “reflect her daily life, her comings and goings, her thoughts, her wishes, her joys, and her disappointments.” On November 1, 1918, the lifelong Utah resident wrote that she “[h]ad a bad head ache all day and did not accomplish much. Felt very uneasy as I found out I was exposed to the ‘flu’ Wed. at the store.”

  • Richfield Reaper Sunday, Apr. 12, 2020

    Controlling coronavirus fear and apprehension

    Are you feeling afraid, nervous, or anxious about the coronavirus? You are not alone. Threats such as the coronavirus may only happen once in a lifetime, and we may not feel prepared to deal with it and its associated emotional impacts. The most common of these emotional impacts are related to feelings of anxiety and fear. These fears are likely caused by some distorted thoughts that impact our ability to stay calm and rational. These thoughts happen automatically. Some of the most common distorted thoughts include: 1. All-or-nothing thinking. You might think in extremes, or that things are black or white. 2. Over generalization. You might assume that if one negative event happened, then something else is bound to go wrong. 3. Mental filter. You dwell on one negative point, making the entire situation feel negative. ... Don’t put pressure on yourself to never have negative automatic thoughts. Everyone does. I have been teaching these principles for fifteen years and I still catch myself in my tendency to jump to conclusions and reason with my emotions. However, when I remind myself that it is the distorted thoughts that are talking, I can slow the negative emotions that tend to follow.

  • Salt Lake Tribune Monday, Apr. 06, 2020

    Utah's Outdoor Spaces Can Help Us Reconnect. At a Distance.

    Restaurants that once bustled every night of the week are now open for takeout only. The sports venues, shopping centers, gyms and museums that used to fill our nights and weekends are now empty. And many religious gatherings, which serve as a cornerstone to so many Utahns’ lives, have been halted. The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to have a massive impact on the social lives of Utahns. While many of the social interactions that are essential for our economy have started to transition online, we still need real social interaction to feel alive. Many Utahns have begun to explore local outdoor recreation opportunities as an alternative way to have family activities, see others, and learn something new. ... We can consider ourselves more fortunate than many other states navigating their way through this pandemic. Utah’s abundance of outdoor recreation settings provide many opportunities to stay connected with what used to be “normal life,” with what we value so much, and with what for many of us is essential to who we are. Stay close to home, think about the importance or your local outdoor spaces, recreate responsibly, maintain social distance and reconnect.

  • Richfield Reaper Sunday, Apr. 05, 2020

    Where Do We Go from Here?

    As daily deaths resulting from the coronavirus increase worldwide, many in our community are wondering if we are still at risk? As a health and wellness professor with Utah State University Extension, I would like to share the best objective information I can with Sevier County residents so we can all do our best to protect our families. I call your attention to the death data, the most reliable measure we have when evaluating the spread of this disease because we have tested far too few people in the United States to really know how far the virus has spread. Death data from the U.S. when compared to three other countries — Italy, South Korea, and Spain — may help give us a picture of what may come. Keep in mind it typically takes from two to six weeks before the virus takes lives. Hence, the death data shows us what spread may have happened two to six weeks ago. ... It will likely be months before we can ease up on these efforts. Take care of yourself during this time and we will get through it. The lives of our loved ones are worth it. We can do it. We are caring and compassionate people. Let’s lock arm in arm (from a distance) and protect each other by continuing our preventative approach. It is working and will save many of our loved ones if we keep it up. 

  • Salt Lake Tribune Saturday, Apr. 04, 2020

    Susan R. Grayzel: Face Masks are a Cultural Phenomenon Then and Now

    As we confront an unexpected pandemic, we try to do what we can to protect ourselves and those who are dear to us. We are advised to wash our hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, to maintain at least six feet of distance between ourselves and others, and, increasingly, we are advised to wear masks. Americans were initially told that masks did little good to slow the spread of the coronavirus. We also heard that those who are well should not wear masks so that they would be available to health care workers. This always seemed contradictory. If masks aided doctors and nurses, then wouldn’t they help us? Over the last week the mainstream media has reported that masks, even simple ones made at home, could provide some protection to the wearer. How-to videos proliferate on the web and the message is becoming clear: We should all be wearing masks now. Since they are hard to find in stores, making masks at home can help us to pass the time as we shelter in place. ... We are not at war. The novel coronavirus is behaving like the pathogen it is and all of us must be part of the collective endeavor to sustain our lives and our communities. The face masks we are being asked to make and wear may, at the very least, help us to avoid touching our faces while they contain some of the spread of our virus-laden droplets. But the suggestion that we all need masks is also a reminder that, unlike many places during the Second World War, there is no official policy or reassurance about this. Nothing is being provided to those without the resources or skills to make their own masks, but who are nonetheless at risk.

  • Utah Public Radio Friday, Apr. 03, 2020

    Three USU Aggies Named 2020 Goldwater Scholars

    Utah State University students Matthew Hogan, Andrew Kjar and Jenny R. Whiteley were named 2020 Goldwater Scholars in a prestigious national competition that recognizes outstanding achievements in science and mathematics. The awards were announced Mar. 27 by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which administers the program. The Aggies are among 396 awardees selected this year, from more than 1,300 nominees representing 461 institutions. With this year’s award recipients, USU boasts 34 Goldwater Scholars and 16 honorable mention recipients since 1998; numbers that rival the nation’s top universities. 

  • The Herald Journal Saturday, Mar. 28, 2020

    President Cockett: USU Poised to Take Further Precautions If Needed

    COVID-19 Update from President Cockett: Yesterday, March 27, Governor Gary Herbert released a "Stay Safe, Stay Home" directive for the state of Utah further emphasizing the urgency of social distancing and staying home. The health and safety of all our campus community members - students, faculty and staff - depend upon us making the right decisions and following the guidance of our public health experts. I want to provide details for how our campus will continue to operate in response to these actions. As of today, USU is still operating in Level 2 of our Infectious Disease Response Plan. But we are preparing for the potential of county health officials taking actions in the future that would move us to Level 1 status, defined as "all functions performed remotely and off site except functions designated as on-site essential".

  • Utah Public Radio Friday, Mar. 27, 2020

    Uncertainty Aside, COVID-19 Can Strengthen our Resiliency, Relationships

    This moment in our history is, without doubt, difficult and uncertain. It’s also, says social worker Vonda Jump-Norman, an “unprecedented opportunity that we may never have again.” Appreciate the relationships in your life, she said. Be of service. Play a game with the kids. Reflect. Be grateful. Reach out for the many resources our communities provide. For Jump-Norman, an assistant professor of social work in the College of Humanities and Social Services, these activities define resiliency. She thinks of resiliency more broadly, and more personally, than what’s given to us by dictionaries: rebounding from adversity, for instance, or pushing up to your feet in the 10th round. 

  • Utah Public Radio Thursday, Mar. 26, 2020

    COVID-19 Quarantine Reduces Emissions, Improves Air

    While there are many economic concerns about business shutdowns related to the coronavirus, Utah State University professor Randy Martin said one positive outcome has been the reduction in emissions, leading to better air quality throughout the world. “We know that in the last few weeks, the vehicle count, at least along the Wasatch Front, has dropped to about 75% of what it normally is," Martin said. "And just doing some really rough, back of the envelope calculations, that suggests that we're putting about 2,000 tons less per day of pollution in the air. And that's not accounting for businesses that are closed or reductions in air travel or train travel, because I just don't have those numbers.” Will this emissions reduction have long term impacts on air quality? According to Simon Wang, a USU climate change professor, that may not be determined for another five years. “It's similar to just the virus itself, right? You'll note that the people who contracted wouldn't have a response right away, I mean, you can you can wait from three days to up to two weeks," he said. "So, the atmosphere functions like that.”


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