Research

Terrie Williams is the author of The Odyssey of KP2: An Orphan Seal, a Marine Biologist, and the Fight to Save a Species. The book, which was Boise State’s Campus Read in the 2014/2015 academic year, tells the story of a monk seal pup who was abandoned on a sandy Hawaiian beach in 2008, and who went on to capture the hearts of locals and tourists alike. When local fishermen objected to the seal’s presence on the beach, officials made an unprecedented decision to move him across the ocean to the lab of Ms. Williams, a marine biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Ian Robertson / Boise State University

A small, flowering plant that grows only in southwest Idaho is about to go back on the Endangered Species List. Slickspot Peppergrass has been there before, in 2009, but its status as “threatened” was challenged by Governor Butch Otter.

After years of legal wrangling, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to put it back on the list next month.

Slickspot Peppergrass is a hairy green plant with white flowers, and is found in just a few areas of southwest Idaho.

gray wolf, wolves
U.S. Fish & Wildlife

A Boise State academic is studying what it takes for humans and large carnivores to live together in the same environment.

Neil Carter is an assistant professor at Boise State. His study tries to figure out how humans can successfully coexist with large carnivores, like bears, wolves and tigers.

He found that humans are already adapting to living with animals, as we encroach on their territory. But he also found that the animals are adapting, too, to changes brought by people.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS/Cornell

Mars is making its closest approach to Earth in over a decade, and one scientist says it’s a great time to learn more about the red planet. Boise State University will hold an astronomical viewing party to celebrate Mars Tuesday night.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

One Meridian high school student will be spending Memorial Day researching a World War II soldier from Idaho. He’s looking for help from the community to remember a soldier who died in Normandy.

Josh White is a sophomore at Renaissance High School. He and his teacher Janelle Gilson are taking part in a national program designed to teach students about World War II.

White is researching the life of Army Technician Fourth Grade Ray O. Coffey. He’s learned a few things from census and military records, but can’t find a lot about Coffey’s life in Boise.

Lauren Parker and John Abatzoglou / University of Idaho

You can’t grow oranges in Idaho because the winters are too cold. To get slightly more technical it’s the wrong cold-hardiness zone for citrus. Scientists have known for some time that those zones will shift with climate change. Now a new study from University of Idaho researchers predicts bigger shifts than previously thought and that could mean big changes in what crops are grown in which parts of the country.

Jeffrey Johnson

There’s a volcano in Guatemala that erupts on a regular basis, so regular that some scientists call it the “Old Faithful” of volcanoes. That makes it very popular with people who study volcanoes, like Boise State Professor Jeffrey Johnson.

Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, Johnson recently led 60 researchers from Mexico, France, Italy and the United Kingdom to conduct different studies on the volcano. He returned last month and says the work being done in Guatemala could someday help scientists better predict how other volcanoes will behave.

Kyle Green / Idaho Statesman

Boise State University has achieved an academic distinction its leaders say has been more than a decade in the making. The school announced Wednesday its classification as a “Doctoral Research” institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

To achieve the designation, institutions need to award at least 20 research and scholarship doctoral degrees in a given year.

USGS

The Environmental Protection Agency says when sediment gets into waterways, it can be a big problem. The deposits can be contaminated with pollutants we put in the environment, and then those pollutants get in rivers and streams.

Molly Wood hopes to figure out better ways to deal with that issue. Wood is a soil scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Boise. She was recently promoted to oversee the direction of sediment science on a national level.

Curtesy of Ann Kennedy / USDA

Ann Kennedy’s bacterial compound is called ACK55, and it has been shown to cut the amount of cheatgrass in half in just a few years.

The Department of Agriculture soil scientist is getting closer to seeing her discovery registered with the EPA, and is giving state and federal land managers hope in the battle against the invasive weed. Once it gets approved, farmers can begin using it to treat cheatgrass on their land.

The Meeting Place North / Flickr

A Boise State professor is looking into whether an organic diet makes people healthier, and she’s crowdfunding to help pay for her research.

“This is a pretty new way, as far as I can tell, to raise research dollars,” says Cynthia Curl, an Assistant Professor of Community and Environmental Health at the university. She wants to find out if eating organic food has measurable health effects.

Gail Patricelli / University of California Davis

When it comes to understanding the biology of greater sage grouse, the male birds get most of the attention.

Inciweb

Forest Service researchers are taking a closer look at how wildfire smoke impacts the people most exposed to it. A five-year study will monitor the carbon monoxide levels of firefighters around the country.

inl.gov

Federal officials say they're taking public comments on a plan to ship two loads of spent nuclear fuel rods to eastern Idaho for research.

The U.S. Department of Energy in a statement says comments will be taken through July 13 on its draft of whether more environmental analysis is needed.

The 60-page document can be viewed at the agency's website under the Idaho Operations Office, Public Involvement Opportunities.

The agency has proposed sending up to 220 pounds of nuclear fuel rods to the Idaho National Laboratory.

idahoshakespeare.org

Two Boise State University professors have received a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to study the relationship between three western universities and their local arts scenes.

Robin Bjork

An Idaho woman is studying the migration patterns of a rare bird in Central America. The three-wattled bellbird makes bell-like calls, and those sounds can travel half a mile. Some experts believe it’s the loudest bird in the world.

Melody Joy Kramer / Flickr Creative Commons

Driverless cars are one step closer to joining Idaho citizens on the roads.

By a one vote margin, the Idaho Senate passed a bill allowing companies to test self-driving cars in Idaho. The bill also sets some regulations and guidelines aiming to improve safety.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Sen. Bert Brackett told lawmakers Thursday he hopes the bill will attract innovative businesses to Idaho.

But the plan's insurance and liability requirements faced bipartisan opposition on the floor.

Jeffrey Johnson / Boise State University

Jeffrey Johnson got quite a wakeup call this week. The assistant professor of geosciences at Boise State University is working in Pucon, Chile on a Fulbright grant to study volcanoes. He was just ten miles away when the Villarrica volcano had a large eruption Tuesday morning.

Johnson's work includes listening to low frequency sounds that volcanoes make. Here’s the low-frequency sound his sensors recorded during this week's eruption; the sound is normally too low for us to hear, so it's been sped up:

Ryan Wiedmaier / Flickr Creative Commons

A Boise State University professor wants to make it easier to decide whether it's worth it to spend a little more on organic produce, or purchase the cheaper non-organic option.

"Eighty percent of American grocery stores now sell organic food and people have to decide for themselves is this worth it to buy to feed myself and my family?" says Cynthia Curl. "We don't have a lot of guidance to give to those people and so I think it's a really important thing to study."

Gary Knight VII Photo Agency

NPR social sciences correspondent Shankar Vedantam is speaking Thursday in Ketchum at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.

Vedantam regularly connects public radio listeners to scientific studies that show how unconscious factors can influence people without their awareness. Vedantam has written a book on the topic and calls these subconscious drivers the “hidden brain.”

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