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Aerial photo above campus looks west into the islands at sunset; the horizon is a brilliant pink
A Western professor and his students study a sample of eelgrass in Padilla Bay

Western Martians explore Washington's otherworldly side

The Megaripples formation in Eastern Washington with water in the foreground and blue skies above.

It’s a well known fact that Washington has boundless natural wonders in its backyard, but few people know that it has places similar to our sister planet – Mars. 

The Western Mars Lab recently took a trip to Eastern Washington to study the ancient basalt rock flows and the landscape marked by enormous floods. Most of Mars is covered in basalt similar to the type found in Eastern Washington, and its surface also abounds in evidence of flowing water, according to Kristiana Lapo, laboratory assistant for the Western Mars Lab. 

This similarity exists because deep in Eastern Washington’s past, huge vents opened up and poured molten rock across the landscape that hardened into thick layers of basalt. Then, at the end of the last ice age, enormous quantities of water spilled out of lakes that covered half of Montana and left a trail of gigantic landmarks. 

“We see all these massive erosional features like flood gravel bars and massive ripples on Mars,” said Lapo. “Based on the size of the features, the outburst floods on Mars were significantly larger than the ones on Earth.” 

In Eastern Washington, the Mars Lab team was doing on Earth what the Curiosity and Perseverance Rovers are doing on Mars – finding clues from light. They examined rocks at Frenchman Coulee, Potholes Coulee, Dry Falls, and Lake Lenore Caves. 

Read more about how the Mars Lab is studying the geology of Eastern Washington to learn about Mars, in a story by Jacob O'Donnell, Office of University Communications intern.

PHOTO ABOVE: The Megaripples formation in Eastern Washington is leftover from ice age floodwaters rushing into the Columbia River, depositing the dirt and debris they carried. Similar features can be seen on Mars. Photo courtesy of Kristiana Lapo.

Artist Fred Wilson dedicates VU chandeliers, celebrates art patron Virginia Wright

Fred Wilson looks up to his chandeliers as he speaks in the Viking Union.

Artist Fred Wilson spoke to campus Tuesday to dedicate his two beautiful chandeliers in the Viking Union, acquired in memory of Virginia Wright, and to celebrate Wright’s longstanding commitment to sculpture at Western. The dedication was followed by an opening reception for Looking Up: The Skyviewing Sculptures of Isamu Noguchi, now open for viewing in the Western Gallery.

Read more about Noguchi's skyviewing works in Window magazine.

Photos by Luke Hollister/WWU

Fred Wilson speaks to the crowd in the Viking Union lobby, where his two chandeliers, "The Way the Moon's in Love with the Dark" and "A Moth of Peace," were installed this year.

National Weather Services issues Heat Advisory Tuesday through Friday

Fisher Fountain in Red Square seen through the branches of a tree.

A Heat Advisory has been issued from noon Tuesday, July 26, through 10 p.m. Friday, July 29, with temperatures in the 90s and lows in the mid-60s. EHS would like to remind the campus to stay well hydrated and avoid extended time in the sun. Certain jobs on campus have specific rules for working in the heat. If this applies to you, you should already have appropriate training. If you are not sure if this applies to you, ask your supervisor. If you have questions, please contact EHS at (360) 650-3064 or
Where can I cool down? In general, the lower floors of campus buildings, especially those below ground, will be cooler. A few buildings on campus have air conditioning including Haggard Hall, the new Interdisciplinary Science Building, and the VU Multipurpose Room (except during a scheduled event). Check the listing of building hours to see when they are open. 

A student gets a vaccine shot at a campus vaccination clinic last spring
Due to low numbers of students and employees on campus during the summer, the Voluntary Employee Testing Program has been terminated for the summer. Please visit the COVID-19 Health and Safety webpage for employee testing recommendations and options.
A chart shows daily new positive cases for Western employees from July 20-26, with a seven-day average of 1.9 new cases, up 44.4% from the prior 7-day average.

COVID cases by building - daily update

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Click on the image to see the full list of positive coronavirus cases reported by building, or go here:  Campus Buildings with Confirmed Positive Cases Reported. This data is updated each weekday; the site has a full list of building abbreviations as well.
Remember to wash your hands, mask up and use social distancing whenever you can!
Mount Baker and The Sisters as seen from across Bellingham Bay at a spectacular sunset
Yesterday's News:

Be #Viktorious

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It's easy: Go to Gaia, Western's online journal of research, discovery and scholarship, and click on the "Follow" button on the right side of the navigation menu. That's it! Every follower increases the reach of Gaia and helps us tell Western's story. Thank you! Want even more research goodness? Follow Western's research Twitter account, @WWUResearch.
The cover of spring's Window magazine features a close-up of the curved metal of Isamu Noguchi's Skyviewing Sculpture in Red Square, with the cloud-dotted sky seen above.
Have you read the latest issue of Window, Western's university magazine? If not, check it out online at
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