Read in Crosscut.com
Read in High Country News
Read in EarthFix
Forty feet below the surface of Puget Sound, a marbled murrelet dives for its catch. The water is cold, dark — and incredibly noisy. A ping-ping-ping emanates from the shore over second-long intervals and continues on for the next several hours, sending a series of pressure waves through the ocean. For the endangered bird, these sounds could result in anything from a disturbing annoyance to internal injuries or even death.
The pings come from installing marine piles, concrete or steel pipes that are driven into the sediments to hold up piers or other platforms over the sea. Piles are ubiquitous in waterfront cities like Seattle. In the early 2000s, however, researchers began to realize there was a connection between installing piles and the dead fish that turned up floating on the water when they did it: the pile-driving noise was so loud, it was literally killing the surrounding marine life.
Read in BBC Travel
On 1 October, 1973, Steven Fuller, his wife Angela and their infant daughter settled into their new house in Yellowstone National Park, just as the first flurries of the season were beginning to fall.
Snow would soon dust the entire valley: the trees, the canyon walls and the spaces between the plumes of steam that rose from the hot springs, fumaroles and geysers. The changing season also would lead to a changing soundscape: the roar of summer’s tourist traffic would be reduced to a trickle, barely audible beneath the crashing waterfalls of the Yellowstone River.
By the middle of November, the first blizzard would happen, covering the roads so thoroughly that the Fuller family would be all but locked within the park until spring – at least 16 miles away from their nearest neighbours. Fuller would then start the job that had brought them there. As Yellowstone’s Canyon Village winterkeeper, he was responsible for looking after the facilities and buildings over the cold season to ensure they would be in good shape come spring and summer.
Read in Crosscut
On a calm, clear afternoon in December 1985, the Arco Anchorage made a routine stop in Port Angeles, Washington. The crew was killing time, waiting their turn to drop off 814,000 barrels of Alaskan crude oil at the Cherry Point Refinery, 22 miles north of Bellingham. Somehow, despite perfect conditions, the Anchorage ran aground. Rocks on the ocean bottom tore two long slits through ship’s hull; the oil began to leak immediately. Over the next few hours, 239,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Port Angeles harbor.
The crew notified the U.S. Coast Guard immediately, and within five hours, a contracted spill-response team had stopped the oil from gushing out. They soon realized, however, that the equipment and manpower they had on the scene wouldn’t be enough to contain the spilled oil. They called for more help, but they had already lost precious time.
Cleanup would ultimately continue for more than three months and cost $13 million. Finally, having recovered only about half the spilled oil, response teams called it quits. It wasn’t even one of the top five biggest oil spills in Washington state’s history.
Read in Crosscut
It’s been called global warming’s evil twin. Scientists have pegged it as the culprit behind low shellfish harvests, and some researchers warn that it will kill off some of the main players at the base of the marine food web.
Commonly called ocean acidification, the phenomenon occurs when carbon dioxide infiltrates the sea, changing the water chemistry and thus lowering the pH. And while we usually think of it in the context of a global affliction — it is driven by the same rise of CO2 in the atmosphere that also drives climate change — a report released Monday points out that it is also a local problem, with uniquely local solutions.
In short: If we’re worried about Puget Sound’s acidifying waters, we should clean up the wastewater that we’re pouring into it.
Read in Crosscut
I’m sitting with my back against a rotting, red log, my chin resting on my knees as I hug them in toward my chest.
I close my eyes, and listen. There’s the drip, drip, drip of rain hitting the hood of my jacket. There’s the sound of leaves rustling as I fidget, trying to find a more comfortable position without sitting on the wet moss and soaking my pants. There’s my own breath, which suddenly seems like an absurdly loud nuisance I can’t escape. In fact, I feel like I’m messing up the very thing I came out here to find: silence.
I’m in the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, at a spot that has been christened the “quietest square inch in the United States” by Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist who spent more than three decades traveling the globe and making sound records of pristine environments. These days, however, he is more concerned with protecting these soundscapes than in documenting them — starting with the very patch of forest where I’m sitting.
Read in Crosscut
Sarah Bird is one of the relatively few female leaders in the local tech industry, serving as CEO of Moz, a Seattle-based outfit that helps businesses build up their online presence. And the company’s gender equity doesn’t stop at the top: while, on average only 29 percent of employees at American tech firms identify as female, a whole 40 percent of “Mozzers” are women.
That seems laudable. But Bird sees it differently. “Our gender diversity numbers are still terrible,” she wrote in the 2015 company report.
Bird has emerged as one of the state’s top advocates for achieving a greater gender balance in tech – within her company, at the state legislature in Olympia, and even at the White House. In her eyes, it is an ethical imperative.
Read in Crosscut
At the 2013 Women Think Next conference in Israel, Microsoft’s head of Human Resources and “chief people person” Lisa Brummel stood before an audience of 500 women who worked in tech. She was wearing a blue button-down shirt: the stereotypical garb of an American businessman.
“I find that men wear these blue shirts all the time,” Brummel said in her opening remarks. “It’s the oddest thing … there’s something about this color blue that keeps cropping up, I don’t know what it is. So my first career advice is please, go buy a blue shirt.”
An openly gay woman at the top of one of the world’s biggest companies until her retirement in December 2014, Brummel’s career path itself made her a pioneer in women’s and LGBT equality. But it’s no secret that the issues of gender imbalances are still well entrenched in the tech field at large – and Microsoft is no exception. According to the company’s most recent diversity report, only 26.8 percent of employees at the company are female. The number dips down to 17.3 percent if you look at leadership positions.
Published in Crosscut
The “full-contact” aspect of football – the big hits, the spectacular tackles – has helped make watching the sport a quintessential American pastime. But as we’ve learned more about the associated risks of brain trauma, the brutality is becoming controversial.
Last year, a thousand former players won a class action lawsuit against the National Football League, which provided up to $5 million per athlete in compensation for their head injuries. Some NFL players are retiring early. Some parents are deciding against letting their children play the game – meaning there will be fewer future players from which the NFL has to choose.
As the issue has increasingly made its way into the public discourse – coming to a head with the blockbuster Concussion, which came out last December – it has become clear that something about the sport needs to change. Over the past few years, the NFL implemented some rule changes in the hopes of reducing head injuries, but given that diagnosed concussions rose by nearly 32 percent in 2015, those tweaks don’t seem to be working.
Published in RootsRated
Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner has a gentle presence. Her voice, shaped by an Austrian accent, is soft; her words chosen through a thoughtful, compassionate disposition.
But make no mistake about it: In the world’s highest mountains, this woman is a force of nature. After reaching the top of K2 in 2011—after six summit attempts over four expeditions—she became the second woman to have climbed each of the 14 peaks above 8,000 meters, and the first to have done so without the use of supplemental oxygen.
Before she comes to Olympia to speak at the Washington Center on Friday, February 19, RootsRated had the chance to speak with Kaltenbrunner, 45, about her climbing philosophy, coping with tragedy in the mountains, and the relationships she forms with every peak she climbs. Here’s what she had to say.
Seattle Aquarium cancels annual Valentine’s Day mating ritual, fearing cephalopods might turn to cannibalism.
Published in Crosscut
It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, which means one thing: It’s time to show a little love for one of our most enigmatic local creatures from the deep — the giant Pacific octopus. Yes, it’s Octopus Week! Only this time without the sex.
Every February for the past decade, the Seattle Aquarium has hosted this celebration of cephalopods, and these 8-armed mollusks give us plenty to ooh and ah over: shape-shifting abilities that let them squeeze their bulbous bodies through pencil-thin crevices; the ability to instantly change the color and pattern of their skin to blend into their environs; and a surprising cunning and intelligence.
The highlight of Octopus Week is usually the “blind date,” in which the aquarists bring two of their octopuses together to mate in front of a large audience. (Really, I could not make this up.) Unfortunately, the octopus copulation has been cancelled this year — not because it was deemed too sordid an affair, but because staffers were worried that this year, one of the animals might get eaten instead.