Author Archives: samnews

UW Tacoma Faculty Member Dan Shugar Along With Colleagues Published a Paper in Science that Describes the Landslides Caused by the 2015 Nepal Earthquake

Before-and-after photographs of Nepal’s Langtang Valley showing the near-complete destruction of Langtang village due to a massive landslide caused by the 2015 Gorkha earthquake. Photos from 2012 (pre-quake) and 2015 (post-quake) by David Breahshears/GlacierWorks.

Before-and-after photographs of Nepal’s Langtang Valley showing the near-complete destruction of Langtang village due to a massive landslide caused by the 2015 Gorkha earthquake. Photos from 2012 (pre-quake) and 2015 (post-quake) by David Breahshears/GlacierWorks.

On April 25, 2015, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, eventually killing ~9,000 people and severely damaged a 550 x 200 km region in Nepal and neighbouring countries. A new study – published in Science – by IAS/SAM Assistant Professor Dan Shugar and colleagues describes the landslides that were caused by the earthquake and aftershocks, and evaluates their distribution in terms of geomorphic, tectonic and lithologic controls.  The day after the earthquake, a volunteer group of satellite analysts from a dozen countries was assembled by University of Arizona glacier hazards researcher Jeffrey Kargel, and coordinated by NASA. Shugar led a smaller group of volunteers in analysis of landslides and other induced geohazards in the Annapurna region of the Himalaya. In the end, the larger group mapped >4,300 landslides and found that their distribution was asymmetric about the epicenters of the main shock and largest aftershock(s). By comparing the landslides’ distribution with InSAR-generated ground displacement fields, the group noticed that the highest areal densities of landslides are developed on the downdropped northern tectonic block, which is likely explained by momentary reduction of the normal stress along planes of weakness during downward acceleration. Such a pattern has never before been observed for a large earthquake. The total number of landslides was also surprising, since far more landslides were expected for an earthquake of this magnitude. The paper was published in Science Express on Dec 16, and will appear in print in January 2016.


Kargel, Leonard, Shugar, et al., Geomorphic and Geologic Controls of Geohazards Induced by Nepal’s 2015 Gorkha Earthquake. Science.

SAM UWaTERS Fall Edition 2015

Sciences and Mathematics held the Fall 2015 edition of the UW Tacoma Environmental Research Symposium (UWaTERS) on Thursday December 10th 10:30-12:00 PM in the hallway of the 2nd floor Science Building.

Environmental Science and Environmental Studies majors presented their capstone research projects in a poster session.  These students also participated (as part of their TESC 410 class) in creating UW Tacoma’s inaugural submissions for the national EPA green infrastructure design competition, campus RainWorks Challenge.  The student teams benefited from the involvement of City of Tacoma and UW Tacoma Facilities Services staff during brainstorming and design. The student teams will be showing off their design boards for this project at the poster event. For more info on this competition, check out the website:

UWaTERS Abstracts AUT15 Final

Great Job SAM Students!

IMG_1231 IMG_1227 IMG_1217 IMG_1210 20151210_105649

SAM Faculty Members Selected as 2016 COIL Fellows!

Selkin-Peter UWT Assitant Professor  Cline-Erica UWT Associate Professor

Congratulations to SIAS Associate Professor Erica Cline and Assistant Professor Peter Selkin on being two out of the ten UW Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) Fellows for 2016!

COIL fellow are chosen from all the UW campuses.  The main purpose for COIL fellows is to create new and effective ways to overcome obstacles of finance, borders, and time zones for travel abroad.

Dr. Cline has submitted a proposal to the UW COIL Fellows Selection Committee to design and implement an international collaboration course on Sustainable Agriculture.

To read more about the COIL Initiative, please visit




Hunting for Plastics – Making Connections Through Lower Division Courses

Division of Science and Math Work Group: Julie Masura and Megan Schwartz (co-chairs) Bonnie Becker, Erica Cline, Jeremy Davis, Jutta Heller, Meg Henderson, Erik McDonald, Peter Selkin, Haley Skipper, and Cynthia Stanich

UW Tacoma students collecting and categorizing microplastics, macroplastics and megaplastics at Thea's Beach and Owen's Beach

UW Tacoma students collecting and categorizing microplastics, macroplastics and megaplastics at Thea’s Beach and Owen’s Beach


In 2014, twelve faculty from the Division of Science and Math joined together to develop high standards for lower division students taking Natural World courses as a part of the CORE curriculum. Action among this faculty stems from the reconciliation of the vision for the CORE experience from the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and the Office of Undergraduate Education. Four faculty attended a conference on lower division biological education which they shared with the Science and Math faculty (see The result of that conference led to reformatting our Lower Division undergraduate courses through implementation of high impact educational practices as identified by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (see

The workgroup created a curriculum for our freshmen class to be followed by faculty teaching in the CORE, and committed to not only providing faculty development, but also perform an assessment measuring science attitudes and skills of students taking these classes. Each student taking a Natural World course will be exposed to data collection, field and laboratory experiences, field and laboratory reports, academic research, data analysis, and place-based activities. Our intention is a pledge to ensuring every student experience the “science” in interdisciplinary arts and sciences.

During the summer of 2015, Erik McDonald restructured his Natural World course using the framework developed by Julie Masura’s CORE course ‘Oceans Full of Trash.’ One of the activities/experiences for his students was to collect and categorize microplastics, macroplastics, and megaplastics at Thea’s Beach on the Thea Foss Waterway and Owen’s Beach at Point Defiance Park (see figure). For another part of the lesson, the students graphed their data (including uncertainty) in Excel and wrote a report on their experience. They will continue to explore the impacts of plastics pollution on ecosystems, while understanding their social responsibility of educating others and modifying behaviors to lessen the effect on their environment.

-Article written by Erik McDonald and Julie Masura

Associate Professor Jim Gawel Quoted by the News Tribune on Tacoma’s Asarco Smelter

Asarco Smokestack in Ruston shown in September 1935.  Photo courtesy of the News Tribune.

Asarco Smokestack in Ruston shown in September 1935. Photo courtesy of the News Tribune.

Dr. Jim Gawel was quoted by the News Tribune on November 7, 2015.  The article is titled “Three decades after the Asarco smelter shutdown, its toxic legacy surprises Tacoma newcomers” and was written by Derrick Nunnally.

The article mentions a paper by Dr. Gawel from 2013 and states

“An analysis published in an academic journal in 2013, however, found that the same pollutants have hung around the area’s freshwater basins in worrisome amounts. Sediment samples from 26 lakes within 20 miles of the smelter’s smokestack found “significantly elevated” amounts of arsenic and lead in 10 of the 12 lakes downwind of the smelter, but only in a few of the upwind lakes.”

To read this News Tribune article in full, please click HERE.


Faculty Spotlight – Dan Shugar


Dan Shugar is a new assistant professor to UW Tacoma Sciences and Mathematics (SAM).

Dan Shugar is a geoscientist, who studies Earth surface landforms and the processes that shape them (“geomorphology”). Most recently he worked as a postdoctoral research fellow (2011-2015) at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. His research combines fieldwork, geomatics (GIS and remote sensing), laboratory analysis, and numerical modelling, and has included studies of landslides and glaciers in Alaska; permafrost, landslides and lake evolution in Yukon; sea-level change, landslides and glacier change in British Columbia; river erosion in Ontario; river turbulence in Argentina and landslides in Nepal. The incredible geography of the Pacific Northwest, and the teaching and research opportunities that will bring is the main reason Dan is excited about joining SIAS and UWT.

Dan is the proud father of 3-year-old Ansel and 3-month-old Juniper, and has been happily married to his wife Jen for 10 years. Dan is an avid backcountry skier, rock climber, backpacker, and photographer. He and Jen are excited to have their girls grow up in the Pacific Northwest, with the Cascades and Olympic Mountains in their backyard.

Dr. Erica Cline’s 2012 Published Work Referenced by NPR

Salmon Pic

National Public Radio (NRP) published an article on 10/28/2015, “That Salmon On The Menu Might Be a Fraud – Especially In Winter“.  This article discusses a study that was performed December 2013 – March 2014 that concluded “Results showed that 43 percent of salmon samples tested were mislabeled, and that far more of that mislabeling is occurring in restaurants than in large supermarkets.”

The NPR article referenced UW Tacoma’s Sciences and Mathematics faculty Dr. Erica Cline’s 2012 published work “Marketplace substitution of Atlantic salmon for Pacific salmon in Washington State detected by DNA barcoding“.

Faculty Spotlight – Maureen Kennedy

Kennedy-Maureen UWT Assistant Professor

Maureen Kennedy is a new assistant professor for UW Tacoma Sciences and Mathematics (SAM).

For her graduate work, Maureen Kennedy developed a simulation model of branch morphogenesis for old-growth conifers. She used multi-criteria optimization to discover branch morphologies that represented alternative optimal solutions to the problem of longevity under growth constraints. She has since applied multi-criteria optimization to the problem of fuel and fire management under multiple ecological and social priorities. Maureen continues to conduct quantitative research in model uncertainty assessment, in understanding spatio-temporal patterns in fire history data, in employing spatially explicit analysis to evaluate fuel treatment efficacy during wildfire, and in estimating non-linear growth and yield models for sustainable forest management.

Maureen is excited to continue her research and teaching at UW Tacoma. When not teaching or conducting research Maureen spends much of her free time walking and jogging with her dog in their NW Seattle neighborhood. She and her partner can often be found riding their bicycles around Seattle, or spending their Saturdays at restoration sites throughout the Mountains to Sound Greenway, volunteering in trail work, tree planting, or invasive species removal. They also enjoy the ample opportunities to hike or kayak on local trails and waterways.

Faculty Spotlight – Emily Cilli-Turner

Cilli-Turner-Emily UWT Lecturer

Emily Cilli-Turner is a new lecturer to UW Tacoma Science and Mathematics (SAM).

Emily Cilli-Turner’s research focuses on questions in undergraduate mathematics education. She investigates the thought processes of students in a transition to proof course and determining effective ways to teach students to prove in mathematics. She is also interested in flipped classroom pedagogy and has studied students’ attitudes and achievement in a flipped statistics course.

She is very excited to join SIAS because it is a tight-knit community of scholars and many resources are provided to help faculty become the best teachers they can be. She is also excited about the new mathematics major. She enjoys hiking, backpacking, biking and walking her dog.