Two professional improvisational comedy groups, Jet City Improv from Seattle and the Upright Citizens Brigade from Los Angeles, met in Bellingham to perform at Western's first improv festival.
Levels of mercury in Virginia’s South River have made fish inedible, and Western researchers have spent the last five years examining possible solutions. Huxley Professor Wayne Landis and a team of graduate students are now using information about the river to publish a scientific paper explaining different options for cleaning toxins from the environment. Landis and some of his graduate students have been researching different methods to remove the mercury from the sediment in a way that doesn’t harm the environment or human health. This December will mark the completion of the first stage of rehabilitation of the river, which has been contaminated since the 1970s, according to Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality website. Ladis’ research will also be available to the scientific community. Others can use the information to manage other contaminated watersheds in other regions throughout the world, Landis said. “The stuff we do for the South River isn’t really just for the South River. It’s an example for how to do this kind of work for everybody else in the world,” Landis said. The graduate students worked closely with the South River Science Team, which includes representatives from local, state and federal governments, members of Virginia’s academic community, local environmental groups, according to the South River Science Team’s website. The mercury in this valley is in part due to the byproducts of the DuPont Company, an organization that solves food, energy, and environmental protection problems in the U.S., according to their website. Small amounts of mercury were being released from the DuPont Company’s former manufacturing facility, according to the South River Science Team website. Western graduate student Lara Gaasland-Tatro is studying how climate change is going to affect whichever method they choose to retract the mercury. The graduate students are also examining organic compounds of various structures and toxicity, common pesticides and water temperature. This increased water temperature causes multiple ecological problems, Gaasland-Tatro said, including the health of organisms in the ecosystem. “When species are temperature stressed, their metabolisms are moving up and moving faster. They generally have lower bodily responses to stresses. Immune systems can be compromised,” Gaasland-Tatro said. Landis has been working with 34 of his graduate students for 25 years over his entire career, and takes pride in the atmosphere they have developed. Many have begun looking after one another, he said. “That’s the only way I could have graduated so many students, is that the new ones are taught a lot by the old ones about what to expect,” Landis said. Landis said he appreciates the fresh ideas of graduate students because they keep him on his toes and always thinking about new concepts. “They teach me, I can do stuff and not be the same old fuddy-duddy,” Landis said. A large number of undergraduate students work on the project, and another undergraduate student will be working with him this summer, Landis said. Another graduate student, Meg Harris, was more interested in what could be done about the recreation of Waynesboro, Virginia. The town is dependent on tourism, which made lowering mercury in the environment important to make the fish edible, she said. “I think this is one example of a lot of different projects at Western and especially in Huxley that people are working on,” Harris said. “We’re working directly with groups who are taking our research and applying it on the ground.” Now that the first stage is over, starting December the article will be open for anyone to use as a blueprint to see what to do next if they’re dealing with contamination in their area.
Newly formed club SUPER, Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, invited two speakers to talk about Palestinian and Native American perspectives about land being taken from them. The event began with a Swinomish tribe member performing a prayer in the form of song with an accompanying drumbeat. After, he asked questions to the attendees such as, ‘what was your first impression of my opening?’ and, ‘If I asked you to pay me $50 for the air that you’re breathing, what would you say?’ Mckenna Paddock, vice president of SUPER, said there isn’t much talk on campus about Palestinian rights, or about Native American rights other than a few courses offered on campus. “We really wanted to bring two perspectives that have a lot of parallels and equal realities, and bring it to campus and shed light on that,” Paddock said. SUPER deals with sensitive issues that can be difficult for people to discuss, Paddock said. Both speakers, Nada Elia and Michele Vendiola, described how land is being stolen from them, and had illustrated maps showing the movement of the native peoples. Due to the recent conflict in Palestine, Paddock said now is the time to get involved. “It’s very convoluted and it’s a hot topic,” Paddock said. “It’s picking up across the nation.” Paddock encourages all to not be intimidated about the sensitive issues discussed, and to check out SUPER because they want to strengthen relations with Palestine, while keeping the club existent after the graduation of the founders, Paddock said. Cam McMahon, 20, said the issue of Palestinian and Israel conflict affects our world today. “For us as a university to get a good idea of its substantial information in our society, this is an important thing to spread around campus,” McMahon said. Matthew Gerlach, former Western student, said he learned a lot about the struggles Palestinian and Native people are going through. “It’s their land originally. Other people shouldn’t just come in and take it,” Gerlach said. “It’s not humane. It should be returned to them.”
To protest Shell Oil Company's planned drilling in the Arctic, Western student Chiara D'Angelo chained herself to a Shell-owned oil vessel, the Arctic Challenger, from May 22-25 over Memorial Day weekend. The Western Front followed up with D'Angelo to get her take on her experience.
One day after the Western Associated Students Board voted in favor of the Students for Renewable Energy’s [SRE] fossil fuel divestment resolution, a group of 20 faculty, staff and students attempted to deliver a letter to Bruce Shepard asking the university and the Western Foundation to divest from fossil fuels.
“Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists” by Courtney Martin has been chosen for next year’s 2015-16 Western Reads book. A committee comprised of students and faculty, Dawn Dietrich, director of Western Reads, said, made the choice. They chose Martin’s book because she is not too much older than students at Western, Dietrich said. Dietrich hopes Martin will be more relatable to the students due to her presence on the Internet as a blogger. Jeremy Cushman, a member of the committee who helped selected the book and assistant English professor, said Martin was writing about activism with the idea that a single person can’t go out and save the world. The book is about how people can live their own lives day to day with a different perspective on what activism really means, Cushman said. The book speaks so well to Western students and the community and culture here, Anna Carey, director of New Student Services, said. The eight different stories within the book are so relevant to Western students and the things they do in classrooms and activities around campus, Carey said. “I hope it will inspire them and help them understand that an education is preparation to be a leader in your community,” Carey said. “I hope it would help them see how they can apply their skills and follow their passion.” Western has a campus where students have a strong level of activism, Dietrich said. These students are demonstrating leadership on our campus, she said. The programming that goes with the promotion of the book will feature students on Western’s campus next year. The committee is still in the brainstorming stage right now, Dietrich said. They are reaching out and asking anyone interested if they want to be involved, she said. So far they are bringing in the author and two activists with her, Dietrich said. They will be doing things that have been popular in the past like panels and lunches with the author, but they are also willing to try new things next year, she said.
A 20 year-old man was arrested in front of the Biology building Thursday morning, May 21, on an outside warrant for felony possession of a controlled substance. Western sophomore Nicholas J. Picardo, was charged with possession of a controlled substance without a prescription and booked into Whatcom County Jail 10:28 a.m. Thursday, according the Whatcom County Jail jail bookings log. University Police served an outside warrant for Picardo’s arrest, who was then booked through Bellingham Police Department, University communications director Paul Cocke, said.
As the sun set on Bellingham Bay Thursday, May 21, the silhouettes of 10 kayaks, two rubber dinghies and a small sailboat headed out from Glass Beach at the south end of Cornwall Street. Many flew yellow jolly rogers with a Shell Oil Company logo in place of a skull, while others had Cascadia flags. The crafts headed for the Arctic Challenger, a 310-foot barge moored next to the Horizon Fairbanks on a Port of Bellingham dock.
In an annual report documenting the success of graduates, Western’s Career Services Center revealed 96 percent of graduates with a teaching certificate from Woodring College of Education were employed a year after graduation, and 84.5 percent had jobs in a related field.
Dr. Alveda King, pro-life advocate and niece of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke to Western students about her experience with two abortions and her passion for the pro-life movement.
Two Western chemistry professors each received a $40,000 award to fund research toward their work modifying proteins and developing tools for solar energy conversion.