RICHLAND, Wash. – Kayla Stark, a student at Washington State University Tri-Cities, has performed for venues ranging from hundreds to thousands around Tri-Cities, Wash. But last week, on Aug. 18, she performed at her largest venue yet: at a Seattle Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field.

Stark has sung the national anthem a number of times throughout the last three years at various events around the Tri-Cities. She said singing has always been a passion of hers, allowing her to venture outside of her comfort zone and develop her talent as an artist.Kayla Stark 1

“I performed for the Tri-City Dust Devils, at Tri-City Americans games, at the Benton Franklin Fair and then at my husband’s graduation for WSU Tri-Cities this May,” she said. “But I never thought I’d be singing at a Seahawks game.”

Stark’s father, Tom Oleson, has encouraged her to perform for larger venues because he knew it was something she was passionate about. This year, he sent a video to the Seattle Mariners as an audition for singing the national anthem during one of their season games, but they sent a nice letter back stating essentially, “thanks, but no thanks,” she said. That letter, however, didn’t discourage her dad for trying for other large venues.

“He told me he wanted to send something in to the Seahawks, and expecting the same response, I was like ‘OK Dad, knock yourself out,” she said. “But then, while I was at work, I got the email. I was like ‘Oh my gosh, they are serious. This is real. This is really happening.’”

Three weeks later, Stark found herself driving with her father, husband and brother-in-law to CenturyLink Field in Seattle: the home of the Super Bowl XLVIII champions. She had three practice tries at “The Star-Spangled Banner” during her sound check prior to performing it live shortly before the Seahawks took on the Minnesota Vikings.

Stark said the friendly and welcoming staff at the stadium, as well sound check practices, were what helped calm her nerves.

“I just closed my eyes and went for it,” she said. “It wasn’t my best, vocally, but it was still an amazing experience. Everyone I came in contact with at the stadium were also so amazing. They were all so nice and so helpful.”

Stark said it is still sinking in that she got to perform the nation’s song at one of the Northwest’s largest athletic venues.

Kayla Stark and family[2]“I was just so happy to honor our country and the people that have served it,” she said. “I am so grateful to my dad for helping me pursue my dreams. Performing is something I really enjoy and I feel like it challenges me in a good way. It is kind of an adrenaline rush. I like anything that tests my boundaries. I feel like singing is that kind of thing for me.”

Stark is studying elementary education at WSU Tri-Cities and is set to begin her student teaching this year. She said while she enjoys singing, she isn’t sure if she wants to pursue it professionally as she doesn’t want the job aspect to ruin her love for the art.

Stark said in her career as a teacher, however, she will use the experience to encourage her students to follow their dreams.

“I plan to use this experience to encourage my students to pursue anything they are interested in or passionate about,” she said. “I want my students to understand that the things that challenge them the most are the things that help them grow the most. Anything that takes practice and hard work will be worth it in the end – this goes for faith, talents, hopes, ideas and so much more.”

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Wine grapes may appear fine after a harsh wildfire season. But if grapes have smoke taint, the finished wine may taste and smell awful – an unpleasant surprise for growers and wine lovers alike.

“The aroma you get from smoke taint in wine is not a pleasant campfire aroma,” said Tom Collins, Washington State University Tri-Cities assistant professor of viticulture and enology. “The best-case comparison is smoked fish, but it can be more like ash tray.”

Changes in chemical composition

Hoop house - smoke taint study In a new study, Collins is exposing vines to smoke to better understand how the chemical composition of grapes changes. He wants to know how much smoke it takes to create smoke taint in wine grapes and wine, as well as how to lessen the problem.

He will examine samples of leaves and fruit, then make wine from the grapes for chemical analysis. He uses a smoker to pump fumes into a hoop house with 60 riesling vines. A second house of vines acts as a control. He is doing the same study on cabernet grapes.

Taint is invisible on the leaves or fruit, but appears when wine is made, influencing aroma and aftertaste. Severity of taint depends on the number and size of wildfires in a season, as well as movement of smoke. Not all wines made during severe fire seasons are tainted with smoke, Collins said.

“California had an issue with it from the 2008 vintage,” he said. “Washington has had issues with smoke-affected wines as well. It’s enough of a problem we need to look at it more closely.”

Smoky surprise

Smoke taint is created by compounds in the smoke that bind with sugar molecules to form glycosides.

“When present as glycosides, you cannot smell the smoke in the grapes,” Collins said. “But because wine is acidic, these glycosides break down, releasing the smoke compounds. Over time, the smoky aromas become apparent.”

He said there is evidence that the same thing happens when a person drinks the wine.

“When the enzymes in your mouth break down these glycosides in wine, they release the free compounds as you taste it,” he said. “Some of these wines don’t smell that bad, but when you taste them, you get an ashy character in the aftertaste.”

Replicates exposure from wildfires

In either case, the problem can be identified by chemical testing during the winemaking process.Tom Collins observes grapes in the hoop house during his smoke taint study at the WSU Prosser extension

There are ways to remove free compounds from the wine, but no effective ways to remove glycosides, Collins said.

“In the lab, you can hydrolyze the glycosides by heating the wine at low pH, but that is only for analysis,” he said. “It’s not a commercial practice.”

Most research that has been done so far is based on high intensity smoke for short periods of time. It is hard to smoke a vineyard for an extended period of time because of heat buildup, Collins said.

“What we are trying to replicate here is low intensity smoke for an extended period of time, which is more typical of actual smoke exposure from wildfires,” he said.

The first year of trials will demonstrate smoking methods, followed by research on how variables like fuel source, grape variety and time of year impact the severity of smoke taint.


Tom Collins, WSU Tri-Cities wine science, 509-372-7515,
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333,

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – While neonicotinoid pesticides can harm honey bees, a new study by Washington State University researchers shows that the substances Honey beespose little risk to bees in real-world settings.

The team of WSU entomologists studied apiaries in urban, rural and agricultural areas in Washington state, looking at potential honey bee colony exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides from pollen foraging. The results were published in the Journal of Economic Entomology ( this spring.

After calculating the risk based on a “dietary no observable adverse effect concentration” – the highest experimental point before there is an adverse effect on a species – of five parts per billion, the study’s results suggest low potential for neonicotinoids to harm bee behavior or colony health.

Understanding risk vs. hazard

“Calculating risk, which is the likelihood that bad things will happen to a species based on a specific hazard or dose, is very different from calculating hazard, which is the potential to cause harm under a specific set of circumstances,” said co-author Allan Felsot, WSU Tri-Cities professor of entomology and environmental toxicology.

“Most of what has dominated the literature recently regarding neonicotinoids and honey bees has been hazard identification,” he said. “But hazardous exposures are not likely to occur in a real-life setting.”

Bits of the wax comb, left, after separation of the beebread, right.

Felsot said the study shows that the risk of bee exposure to neonicotinoids is small because bees aren’t exposed to enough of the pesticide to cause much harm in a real-world scenario.

Lead author Timothy Lawrence, assistant professor and director of WSU Island County Extension, said many sublethal toxicity studies, whether at the organism level or colony level, have not done formal dose-response analyses.

“The question we posed focused on the risk of exposure to actively managed honey bee colonies in different landscapes,” he said.

Risks in landscapes none to very low

With the cooperation of 92 Washington beekeepers, the team collected samples of beebread, or stored pollen, from 149 apiaries across the state.

WSU student separating beebread from wax combThroughout the one-year trial, neonicotinoid residues were detected in fewer than five percent of apiaries in rural and urban landscapes. Two neonicotinoids, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, were found in about 50 percent of apiaries in agricultural landscapes.

Although neonicotinoid insecticide residues were detectable, the amounts were substantially smaller than levels shown in other studies to not have effects on honey bee colonies. The WSU researchers referenced 13 studies to identify no observable adverse effect concentrations for bee populations, which they used to perform a risk assessment based on detected residues.

“Based on residues we found in apiaries around Washington state, our results suggest no risk of harmful effects in rural and urban landscapes and arguably very low risks from exposure in agricultural landscapes,” Felsot said.

Care required to regulate exposure

While exposure levels were found to be small, Lawrence said it is still important to be careful with use of neonicotinoid insecticides and follow product label directions. For example, insecticides should not be used during plant flowering stages when bees are likely to be foraging.

“While we found that bees did not have chronic exposure to adverse concentrations of neonicotinoids, we are not saying that they are not harmful to bees – they are,” he said. “People need to be careful with pesticide use to avoid acute exposure.”

Other researchers on the study included Elizabeth Culbert, WSU Food and Environmental Quality Lab (GEQL) research technician; Vincent Hebert, WSU associate professor of entomology and laboratory research director; and Steven Sheppard, WSU professor and department chair of entomology.


Allan Felsot, WSU Tri-Cities entomology and environmental toxicology, 509-372-7365,
Timothy Lawrence, WSU Island County Extension, 360-679-7329,
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333,

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

PASCO, Wash. – After a year of planning, thousands of volunteer hours and a whole lot of hard work, Tri-County Partners Habitat for Humanity and Washington State University Tri-Cities are set to present a Burmese family with the keys to their first home.

WSU Tri-Cities students work on construction of the home.

Members of the community are invited to attend a dedication of the Tri-Cities Coug House at noon Saturday, Aug. 27, at the home’s site, 304 N. Charles St., Pasco.

“It’s been great seeing how we’ve all come together as a community to make this family’s first home a reality,” said Brent Ellis, the WSU Tri-Cities student volunteer coordinator who led construction. “In addition to the volunteer efforts, students got to put their skills from the classroom to work on the house.”

WSU Tri-Cities signed a partnership agreement with Tri-County Partners Habitat for Humanity to build the home in August 2015. The house is one of 24 constructed as part of Habitat’s Whitehouse Addition.

The dedication will include comments by Ellis and Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Lisa Godwin, followed by lunch provided by the family and a self-guided tour of the home.

The homeowners, who escaped their home country of Burma during war, include Mah Thu Sha La, his wife Lu Dee Na and their three children. They lived for years in a Thailand refugee camp before getting green cards in 2011. Last year, they were approved for a home in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.

The new homeowners, the Sha La family.

The family has dedicated 500 hours of sweat equity, which is required for them to purchase the home with a no-interest 20-year mortgage. More than 150 volunteers from WSU Tri-Cities and the Tri-Cities community contributed to the construction.

“Everyone benefited from this first-of-its kind partnership,” Ellis said, adding that it generated partnerships among many groups around the Tri-Cities community.

For more information, contact Amber Eubanks, WSU Tri-Cities community engagement specialist, at, or Roddie Shanley, Habitat family services and site coordinator, at

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities signed a land lease agreement this week with Corporate Pointe Developers, LLC, out of Pullman, Wash., to build an 800-bed complex for student housing.

WSU Tri Cities student housingThe facility will be located on the north end of the WSU Tri-Cities campus and will encompass approximately 15 acres. The first of seven phases, which will include 165 beds, is expected to be ready for the academic year in fall 2017.

A formal groundbreaking is anticipated in late August or early September. The complex will be owned, operated and maintained by Corporate Pointe Developers.

“It has been a two-year journey pursuing a housing solution for WSU Tri-Cities,” Chancellor Keith Moo-Young said. “We are excited about the opportunities for the WSU Tri-Cities campus to draw students from outside the region and to provide a comprehensive campus feel.”

The effort marks the end of a request for qualifications process pursued by WSU Tri-Cities to bring student housing to campus. In November 2014, the Port of Benton issued a request for proposals for using port land that yielded a single interested party. Discussions ceased after the parties did not reach an agreement.WSU Tri-Cities student housing

WSU Tri-Cities reopened the process last fall and Corporate Pointe Developers won against two other finalists for the bid.

To learn more about WSU Tri-Cities and its commitment to dynamic student engagement, dynamic research experiences and dynamic community engagement based in a polytechnic approach to learning, visit


Contact: Jeffrey Dennison, WSU Tri-Cities director of communications, 509-372-7319,

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Pacific Northwest wineries and vineyards are exploring a new, specific way to promote their wines: “terroir tourism.”

Marketing terroir – an area’s environmental characteristics such as soil, topography, climate and farming practice – has increased in states like Washington and Oregon, said Byron Marlowe, instructor of hospitality and wine business management at Washington State University Tri-Cities. It presents a new and growing opportunity that can further the Northwest’s name and brand as a wine destination for the world.WSU Tri-Cities news

Marlowe recently completed a literature review regarding terroir tourism for Oregon wine publications. He presented his paper at the International Terroir Congress, which for the first time was held in the United States.

Locations ideal for best wine grapes

Locations in Washington and Oregon present ideal conditions for Vitis vinifera grape varieties, which encompass many preferred and prominent grape types in the western United States wine market and in most of the world, Marlowe said.

“The terroir in the Pacific Northwest, and more specifically the mid-Columbia region, is a major reason for the quality of wines you see across the state,” he said. “Great wine starts in the vineyard, and you can’t have a great vineyard without the ideal soil, climate amount of sunshine and geology.”

Much like producers in California’s Napa Valley and locations in France and Italy, Washington and Oregon wineries are starting to promote these conditions as elemental to the region’s generally high quality wines.

“It would make sense that terroir would be a determining factor in wine tourism in the Northwest,” Marlowe said.

Wineries promote AVA differences

Two examples of producers using terroir to market their wines are Badger Mountain Vineyard/Powers Winery and Dubrul Vineyard/Côte Bonneville.

More tourists are seeking out wine that is grown in particular American viticulture areas (AVAs) in the Northwest, said Mickey Dunne, owner and sales director for Badger Mountain Vineyard and Powers Winery in Kennewick, Wash.

WSU Tri-Cities news“There is growing knowledge of some of the smaller and newer AVAs,” he said. “We have crafted our reserve wine program around single vineyard cabernet sauvignon from four different AVAs, giving us an opportunity to show consumers a mini-tour of Washington terroir.”

Côte Bonneville, in Sunnyside, Wash., produces and promotes wines based on the vineyard’s farming practices, climate and unique soil elements, said Kathy Shiels, owner of Côte Bonneville and DuBrul Vineyard.

“Our vision was a classic Burgundian model, where small areas of the estate were bottled separately to showcase the terroir,” she said. “It has become much more common in the industry today to differentiate yourself by a sense of place.”

Organic and state line distinctives

Marlowe said in Oregon, particularly, the popularity of organic wine has increased, with wine enthusiasts focusing more on farming practices. Nearly 50 percent of Oregon vineyards are sustainable or organic, according to Oregon Organic Wine.

“Oregon has been able to recognize and attract the wine tourist who has high levels of place attachment to its unique terroir through sustainable and organic growing practices,” he said.

Badger Mountain in Washington realized the value of an organic wine operation when it created the state’s first organic vineyard and winery in 1990 and 1996, respectively.

“With the climate in Washington so conducive to low input, I think we have a substantial advantage over many, if not most, growing regions,” Dunne said.

Marlowe is working with regional organizations to generate additional interest in terroir tourism, as well as examining whether it may lead to wine enthusiasts crossing state lines.

“Vines don’t recognize state borders and neither do geographical features, soil types and climate,” he said. “What I’m looking into is whether these state borders have an impact on terroir tourism and whether state lines matter when wine enthusiasts visit wineries in a particular region.”

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Specially scheduled tours of the Washington State University Tri-Cities campus will incorporate stops and routes allowing prospective students to view campus while collecting and battling their favorite Pokémon.

“Those attending the tours will be able to explore all of the innovative programs, technology and facilities that students experience at WSU Tri-Cities,” said Seanna Coleman, lead WSU Tri-Cities student ambassador. “The tours will also incorporate unique opportunities to catch some Pokémon.”

A tour includes main campus buildings, laboratories, classrooms, recreation centers and more. Additionally, it will feature Pokéstops, Pokémon gyms and extra time to hunt for a Pikachu, Charmander or other characters in the game.

Hour-long tours run Monday-Friday at 9 and 10 a.m. and 2 and 3 p.m. To schedule and get more information, visit or call 509-372-7250.

WSU Tri-Cities has two Pokémon gyms and more than 15 Pokéstops, as indicated in the mobile application game.

“We thought this would be a fun way to incorporate an additional digital element in the tour, while allowing prospective students and their families to view our beautiful university campus along the Columbia River,” said Coleman.

To learn more about WSU Tri-Cities and its commitment to dynamic student engagement, dynamic research experiences and dynamic community engagement based in a polytechnic approach to learning, visit

RICHLAND, Wash. – Four Washington State University professors are pairing up with high school teachers in the Tri-Cities this summer to complete research in viticulture and enology, bioproducts engineering, plant pathology and biological sciences through the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust’s Partners in Science Program.

MJ Murdock Charitable Trust is providing $13,000 to each high school teacher participating, which may go toward research, professional development and other educational resources.  Each team will also receive $2,000 to cover the costs of lab supplies during summer research opportunities in WSU laboratories.

The goal of the program is to bring knowledge from the research lab into the high school science classroom, promoting hands-on science education. The WSU professors will serve as mentors to each of the high school teachers as they complete the research throughout the course of two summers.

Viticulture and enology

WSU Tri-Cities newsThomas Collins, a WSU Tri-Cities assistant professor of viticulture and enology, is working with Frederick Burke, a science teacher at Chiawana High School, to characterize different grape varieties by region, utilizing a process known as gas chromatography/mass spectrometry.

“The process allows us to identify specific chemical profiles in each grape type, which will be used to identify markers associated with the various grape varieties.” Collins said. “The markers will be incorporated into statistical models that would be used to predict the grape varieties used to produce an independent set of Washington state wine samples.”

Biological sciences

WSU Tri-Cities newsElly Sweet, a WSU Tri-Cities clinical assistant professor of biological sciences, and Jim Cooper, a WSU Tri-Cities assistant professor of biological sciences, is working with Amy Verderber, a teacher at Kamiakin High School, to study the impact of thyroid hormone on zebrafish jaw development.

The team is performing development shape analyses of the skull and record and analyze high-speed video footage of fish feeding, in addition to zebrafish husbandry, specimen collection, specimen preparation and photomicroscopy.

“This study is strongly relevant to human health, since there are a large number of human craniofacial disorders associated with alterations of thyroid hormone in blood levels,” Sweet said.

Bioproducts engineering

WSU Tri-Cities newsXiao Zhang, a WSU Tri-Cities associate professor of chemical and bioengineering, is working with Robert Edrington, a science teacher at Southridge High School, to synthesize new functional materials from cellulose, the largest renewable polymer on earth.

Zhang said there is large interest in the application of cellulose nanocrystallites (CNC), which are the elementary units that construct crystalline cellulose from plants.

“My group has previously synthesized a new biocomposite material from CNC for small-diameter replacement vascular graft application,” he said. “The objective of this research is to synthesize new functional materials from CNC.”

Plant pathology

WSU Tri-Cities newsNaidu Rayapati, an associate professor of plant pathology at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser, is working with Emily Jordan, a science teacher at Chiawana High School, to study the gene sequencing and genome diversity of economically important grapevine viruses.

“The teacher will gain hands-on experience in molecular biology and state-of-the-art gene sequencing and bioinformatics technologies to elucidate genome diversity of the viruses for practical applications in vineyards,” Rayapati said.

“The experience will help the teacher introduce new concepts of scientific inquiry in the classroom to inspire students interested in pursuing careers in STEM fields,” he said. “We hope to pursue innovative strategies with the K-12 school systems in the Yakima Valley for strengthening higher education in STEM fields.”

Classroom application

The WSU professors are also working with the high school teachers to develop lesson plans, potential course projects and more based in the research they conduct at WSU.

“This partnership will strengthen both the high school program, as well as the research and college science program, by adding a new perspective to the research teach and new tools to use in the classroom,” Cooper said.

Six Washington State University Tri-Cities students sat in a conference room, anxiously waiting for their meeting with a group of AREVA’s engineering and project management officials to begin.

Many of the students didn’t know what to expect, as they had never worked on a project of this magnitude before. This was also their first time at AREVA’s Richland nuclear fuel manufacturing facility.

WSU Tri-Cities newsAs part of their senior mechanical engineering capstone course, the team, which consisted of seniors Jared Beauchene, Jose Chavez, Juan Mejia, Travis Lewis, Alex Schwarz and Manuel Bustos Ramirez, learned they would re-design the AREVA’s current cart used to transport uranium pellets from one building, where they are pressed into shape, to a different building, where they are sintered at a high temperature into their final form.

AREVA Plant Operations Manager Barry Tilden said the problems with the facility’s current pellet transfer cart is that it poses several safety concerns. There are several potential finger pinch points and ergonomic challenges posed when loading the small but heavy trays of uranium pellets, also known as “boats,” he said.

In addition to overcoming those safety elements, the new cart design would have to ensure a safe transport of the delicate pellets before sintering and contain the pellets if it were to tip over during transport. The cart would also have to provide protection from weather during the short trip from building to building and interface well with the existing equipment in two separate pellet production shops.WSU Tri-Cities news

The team spent the next seven months on the new design, balancing their time on the project with a full course load at WSU Tri-Cities.

“It’s was difficult,” Chavez said. “We knew this project would come with expectations and responsibilities. But as we worked through the design challenges, the project has been very rewarding and has given us great experience as we start looking for jobs after graduation.”

Tilden said the team truly embraced the challenges of the design while working through many obstacles and business requirements.

“The team did a great job and can be proud of their work developing and producing a new pellet cart design,” he said.

The team documented their progress through a series of posts on AREVA’s blog site. The entries provide insights into the different stages of the project and the struggles the team overcame along the way.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Registration is now open for employers to sign up for a booth at the 2016 Washington State University Tri-Cities Career Fair, which will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 29 in the Consolidated Information Center building (CIC) on campus.

WSUTC Career Fair 2015Held each fall, the career fair attracts not only students, but also alumni and public job seekers. The career fair offers employers an opportunity to seek potential employees to reach its staffing goals while allowing WSU Tri-Cities students to search for and connect with potential employment and internships.

Employers must register for the event by Sept. 15. The cost is $75. Late registration costs $100 and is subject to space availability.

Employers can register and pay with a credit card for the event online, or pay by check by downloading a printable registration form, at

The career fair offers many features to employers: access to WSU Tri-Cities students, access to the public job seekers and alumni, a student spotlight program where select students give 60-second pitches to employers during breakfast, an on-site job posting board, interview room and free parking.

To view the WSU Tri-Cities Career Fair schedule and a list of participating employers as it gets closer to the event date, visit