OPB Science & Environment

OPB Science & Environment In-depth, timely, original science and environment journalism for Oregon and the rest of the Pacific We're OPB's Science & Environment team.

We cover issues ranging from climate change to recycling and tell stories about how people are working to protect the water, air, and landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. Please note: Page "Likes" do not indicate an endorsement for any particular point of view. We strive to maintain fair and balanced journalistic practices, including our work on social media.

07/16/2021

Looking for the best Northwest science & environment coverage? We are here for you! But, we’ve moved. As we’ve expanded our reporting, we want you to have access to not only a regularly updated feed of science & environment stories but also OPB’s other great content. Just follow OPB to stay connected to the latest.

And if you want great outdoor life features or need a reminder of the beauty of Oregon and the Northwest, be sure to follow our Oregon Field Guide page.

The Beachie Creek Fire destroyed the town of Gates, OR last September - or did it? An OPB analysis shows that the town w...
07/13/2021

The Beachie Creek Fire destroyed the town of Gates, OR last September - or did it?

An OPB analysis shows that the town was starting to burn before the fire even got there.

Why?

Despite high wind warnings, Pacific Power chose not to shut off electricity. Now hundreds of people have joined class action lawsuits against the utility.

Residents of the Santiam Canyon want to know: who is to blame for the fires that destroyed their homes last year? OPB's ...
07/12/2021

Residents of the Santiam Canyon want to know: who is to blame for the fires that destroyed their homes last year? OPB's Cassandra Profita reports on the class-action lawsuits against Pacific Power, a utility that provides electricity to much of the canyon. The lawsuit argues that many in-town fires were started by downed powerlines... and could have been prevented.
https://www.opb.org/article/2021/07/12/residents-of-gates-oregon-aim-their-ire-at-pacific-power-nearly-a-year-after-their-town-burned/

Despite high wind warnings, Pacific Power chose not to shut off electricity. Now hundreds of people have joined class action lawsuits against the utility.

The marbled murrelet's numbers are modestly increasing in Oregon but climate change and other threats landed this old-gr...
07/10/2021

The marbled murrelet's numbers are modestly increasing in Oregon but climate change and other threats landed this old-growth-nesting seabird on the state's list of endangered species.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission votes to reclassify the seabird under the state's Endangered Species Act.

New rules to protect workers laboring in excessive heat were enacted on Thursday, but some groups worry they won’t be en...
07/09/2021

New rules to protect workers laboring in excessive heat were enacted on Thursday, but some groups worry they won’t be enforced rigorously enough to prevent future deaths.

Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration enacted temporary rules, Thursday after Gov. Kate Brown directed the agency to enact emergency rules to protect workers laboring in excessive heat earlier this week.

“Without climate change this event would not have happened," said study senior author Friederike Otto, a climate scienti...
07/08/2021

“Without climate change this event would not have happened," said study senior author Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford.

A quick scientific study finds that the recent deadly heat wave in the Pacific Northwest would be virtually impossible without climate change.

"Left arm or right.""What? Four legs but no arms? OK. Let me rephrase that."
07/07/2021

"Left arm or right."
"What? Four legs but no arms? OK. Let me rephrase that."

State Veterinarian Dr. Ryan Scholz said state officials are looking to stop the virus from mutating in mink and being passed back to humans.

Oregon was already considering rules to protect worker from unbearable heat, reflecting the realities of a warming plane...
07/06/2021

Oregon was already considering rules to protect worker from unbearable heat, reflecting the realities of a warming planet. Then came June's deadly, triple-digit heat wave.

Gov. Kate Brown orders temporary rules to protect workers from extreme heat as state reports more than 100 deaths and counting after record-breaking heat wave.

There's a rural piece of land in Oregon's Willamette Valley where researchers have come up with a novel way to study how...
07/06/2021

There's a rural piece of land in Oregon's Willamette Valley where researchers have come up with a novel way to study how firebrands jump from tree to tree.

Once fires start, one of the ways they spread is through firebrands: hot embers that blow into unburned areas. It happens quite often, yet there’s a lot we still don’t know about how and why firebrands form and spread.

"It’s a pretty stressful time to be a tree."
07/02/2021

"It’s a pretty stressful time to be a tree."

Reports have surfaced in recent weeks of more dead or dying trees along Highways 20 and 126 near Sisters, just a few years after a massive die-off tied to a now-restricted pesticide.

Our reporter Monica Samayoa spent Monday morning on a farm in Albany. By 9 a.m. it was too hot to work, so the farmer ca...
07/01/2021

Our reporter Monica Samayoa spent Monday morning on a farm in Albany. By 9 a.m. it was too hot to work, so the farmer called it quits. But warehouse workers, hazardous waste techs, other farmworkers got in touch with her to share their experience working in this heat.

Hear their stories.

The Pacific Northwest heat wave made worksites unbearable for many and added a sense of urgency to efforts already underway to strengthen worker protections against summer's extreme temperatures and smoky air.

Excessive heat stresses human health, which in turn stretches the limits of our built environment and vice versa.
07/01/2021

Excessive heat stresses human health, which in turn stretches the limits of our built environment and vice versa.

The era of mandatory masks and social distancing is at an end in Oregon — at least, for most people, most of the time.
06/30/2021

The era of mandatory masks and social distancing is at an end in Oregon — at least, for most people, most of the time.

An executive order signed earlier by Gov. Kate Brown takes effect, marking a major milestone as Oregon moves forward into the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has declared a state of emergency aimed at improving response to active and imminent wildfires ac...
06/30/2021

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has declared a state of emergency aimed at improving response to active and imminent wildfires across the state. https://bit.ly/365B96g

There're intentions...And then there's what actually happens.
06/30/2021

There're intentions...

And then there's what actually happens.

Legislators cut taxes for the owners of Oregon’s private forests, which helped fund university forest scientists. Now taxpayers will pick up the tab.

What happens when the crops are coming in but it's too hot to harvest?  Our reporter got up REAL early yesterday find th...
06/29/2021

What happens when the crops are coming in but it's too hot to harvest?

Our reporter got up REAL early yesterday find the answers.

The record-breaking heat in the Pacific Northwest has agriculture workers in a bind. This is peak harvest season in the region. But it's too hot to be out in fields and groves given the heat.

Oregon will require producers of paper, plastic and other materials to fund new initiatives aimed at collecting and recy...
06/26/2021

Oregon will require producers of paper, plastic and other materials to fund new initiatives aimed at collecting and recycling more of their materials.

As lawmakers hurtle toward adjournment, Democrats are passing their big environmental priorities.

Six decades after University of California forestry professor Harold Biswell experimented with prescribed burns and was ...
06/24/2021

Six decades after University of California forestry professor Harold Biswell experimented with prescribed burns and was treated with ridicule, he is seen as someone whose ideas could save the U.S. West’s forests and ease wildfire dangers

Six decades after University of California forestry professor Harold Biswell experimented with prescribed burns and was treated with ridicule, he is seen as someone whose ideas could save the U.S. West’s forests and ease wildfire dangers.

Indigenous tribes and environmentalists are calling on the Biden administration to live up to its commitment to environm...
06/24/2021

Indigenous tribes and environmentalists are calling on the Biden administration to live up to its commitment to environmental justice by cleaning up a contaminated Columbia River island adjacent to Bonneville Dam.

“The facts are very clear, it’s one of the most contaminated sites in the Columbia River Basin and if that’s not enough to convince decision-makers that this should be listed, then I don’t know what else it would take,” Yakama Nation Fisheries government relations liaison Davis Washines said.

Indigenous tribes and environmentalists are calling on the Biden administration to live up to its commitment to environmental justice by cleaning up a contaminated Columbia River island adjacent to Bonneville Dam.

Can Oregon create a sustainable aquaculture industry?  Oregon is lagging behind neighboring states in farming food fish,...
06/22/2021

Can Oregon create a sustainable aquaculture industry?

Oregon is lagging behind neighboring states in farming food fish, but the opportunity is there.

Fish farming could be key to feeding future generations — and some are hoping Oregon can cash in.

OPB's new food series Superabundant just dropped a new episode and this time the star, or I should say the prickly subje...
06/17/2021

OPB's new food series Superabundant just dropped a new episode and this time the star, or I should say the prickly subject, is the purple sea urchins!

Watch now

The purple sea urchin population on the West coast has skyrocketed, putting the coastal ecosystem in peril. If you can't beat them, eat them.

The ghost of Marvin Gaye was apparently smiling down on the group of adult salmon released above Grand Coulee Dam last y...
06/16/2021

The ghost of Marvin Gaye was apparently smiling down on the group of adult salmon released above Grand Coulee Dam last year by the Colville Tribe...

Young salmon are now spawning above Grand Coulee Dam. The fish were brought above the dam last year in an effort to see if salmon could survive in the area that’s been blocked for nearly 80 years.

Residing at the intersection of Art and Nature - here's something a little different for your afternoon watching pleasur...
06/15/2021

Residing at the intersection of Art and Nature - here's something a little different for your afternoon watching pleasure...

Ashland artist Claire Burbridge starts all of her pieces with a walk in the woods.

Ashland artist Claire Burbridge produces mandala-esque drawings projecting a sense of harmony and balance—inspired by her ritualistic morning walks in the so...

Stick a fork in yet another Northwest fossil fuel project, it's done.
06/11/2021

Stick a fork in yet another Northwest fossil fuel project, it's done.

The $2 billion project had run into regulatory problems after officials and conservationists raised concerns over greenhouse gas emissions.

A plane carrying dozens of journalists preparing to take off from Washington, D.C., to cover President Biden’s first tri...
06/11/2021

A plane carrying dozens of journalists preparing to take off from Washington, D.C., to cover President Biden’s first trip abroad was delayed for several hours Tuesday evening.

A plane carrying dozens of journalists abroad to follow President Biden's trip to Europe was delayed several hours due to cicadas that filled the plane's engine.

The sponsor of the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline pulled the plug on the contentious project Wednesday after Canadian of...
06/10/2021

The sponsor of the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline pulled the plug on the contentious project Wednesday after Canadian officials failed to persuade President Joe Biden to reverse his cancellation of its permit on the day he took office.

The sponsor of the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline says it's pulling the plug on the contentious project after Canadian officials failed to persuade the Biden administration to reverse its cancellation of the company's permit.

Federal officials are proposing to curtail nontribal salmon fishing along the West Coast in especially bad years to help...
06/10/2021

Federal officials are proposing to curtail nontribal salmon fishing along the West Coast in especially bad years to help the Northwest’s endangered killer whales.

Federal officials are proposing to curtail nontribal salmon fishing along the West Coast in especially bad years to help the Northwest's endangered killer whales.

"The people who manage the West's complex water systems are realizing that with climate change, they can no longer rely ...
06/09/2021

"The people who manage the West's complex water systems are realizing that with climate change, they can no longer rely on the past to predict the future."

A record dry year is creating extreme drought in the West. But even if it rains, climate change will continue to shrink the water supply for millions of people.

The amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere reached 419 parts per million last month. According to the National O...
06/09/2021

The amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere reached 419 parts per million last month. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that's a 4-million-year record!

The amount of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere reached 419 parts per million in May, its highest level in more than four million years, according to NOAA. Fossil fuel use is driving the increase.

Our investigation into  the timber industry's role in shaping Oregon's rural economy -- for better or for worse -- is ge...
06/09/2021

Our investigation into the timber industry's role in shaping Oregon's rural economy -- for better or for worse -- is getting results. the Oregon House just passed a reform bill inspired by our joint reporting project with The Oregonian & ProPublica.

One lawmaker called the changes a ‘critical correction to an agency that veered far off course.’

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