In January 2020, students at Riverday School in Spokane, WA did a variety of projects around tardigrades. Students created posters, took samples, and visited Gonzaga University to view live tardigrades. The students are supporting the initiative to make tardigrades Washington State’s micro-animal.
Here is a short video of their work on tardigrades. This footage was shot by the students themselves.
Here is the full video as shot and produced by the students.
There are also lots of pictures of the students during their trip to Gonzaga, as well as the teachers involved and the posters the students made.
Tardigrade: Proposed Official State Micro-Animal of Washington
Two Washington State schools are nominating the Tardigrade as Washington State’s Micro-Animal. The science students at the Friday Harbor High School on San Juan Island and the students at Riverday School in Spokane have studied the Tardigrade as part of their science curriculum and found it to be worthy of becoming the Washington State Micro-Animal. The Tardigrade, which means “slow stepper” and is sometimes referred to as the “water bear” or “moss piglet,” is among the most resilient animals alive today, having survived the last five mass extinctions. They are found in fossil records 530 million years old. A native of Washington State, found in every county and habitat, it lives in mosses, lichens, marine and freshwater sediments, soil, seawater, freshwater, glaciers, hot springs, deserts, and rain forests. They are important ecologically because they eat other micro-organisms, such as crop-destroying nematodes, as well as plant cells, and help to clean both soil and water. Due to its amazing ability to withstand extremes, such as boiling mud pots in Yellowstone, glaciers on mountaintops, the vacuum of space, extreme drought, and radiation, the Tardigrade is being studied for new methods of adapting to climate change, as well as for preventing radiation damage from cancer treatments. Tardigrades may also be the first colonists on the moon since they crash-landed there in August of 2019. According to an international expert on Tardigrades, Lukasz Kaczmarek, they are likely to have survived because “Tardigrades can survive pressures that are comparable to those created when asteroids strike Earth, so a small crash like this is nothing to them.” This and many other extreme achievements of the Tardigrade make it the perfect Micro-Animal for the Evergreen State.
UPDATE: Washington state high school students attended legislative sessions in Olympia in support of making the tardigrade the state micro-animal.
Below are pictures of the students at the statehouse. Featured in one of the pictures is Representative Alex Ramel.
Before the hearing, Representative Alex Ramel took a few moments to talk to the students that would be testifying.
At a recent Orcas Island Farmers Market in the San Juan Islands, our Committee Chair, Lynn Bahrych, ran into Girl Meets Dirt. Girl Meets Dirt is an established business on Orcas. They make organic jams, shrubs, and spreads from heritage fruit produced at old orchards that they help maintain. Girl Meets Dirt helps the orchardist do the pruning and soil enhancements for the fruit trees. Then they harvest and process the fruit. Girl Meets Dirt creates new and delicious jams from the ground up, starting with soil health improvement. This is why we decided to share a bit about them!
In March of 2017, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee discussed soil health and farming in the state of Washington.
“One of the great blessings of the state of Washington is our farmland and preserving it is not only iconic for the state of Washington but necessary for our survival economically.” Says Governor Inslee in his opening remarks.
If you do not want to watch the entire session, you can skip ahead. The section about soils starts at 19.28 and runs through 22.24.
Thank you to Results Washington and TVW for supplying the video.
The Washington State Soil Health Committee has started an education and outreach program in San Juan County. The project aims to distribute, at no cost, surplus native bare-root trees that would otherwise be destroyed at the end of the nursery season. The trees will go to landowners in San Juan County who are doing shoreline restoration, wetland recovery, or native tree planting. So far, hundreds of bare-root native trees have been provided to three San Juan County farms: Smiling Dog Farm on Orcas Island, Horseshu Farm on San Juan Island, and Ken Davis’s farm on San Juan Island.
Trees capture and store more energy than any other organisms on Earth.
What will a native tree do?
Provides fresh oxygen for you to breathe. One acre of forest absorbs 6 tons of carbon dioxide and exhales 4 tons of fresh oxygen (USDA), cleaning our air and combating climate change.
Cleans air by removing small particulates, reducing symptoms of asthma and other respiratory diseases.
Filters groundwater by root chemistry. Tree leaves and needles transpire, creating clean, tree-filtered water, cooling and cleansing the air.
Shields other living creatures, including you, from solar heat, blocking ultraviolet rays that cause cancer.
Aids in recharging groundwater supply by preventing rain runoff from surrounding soils.
Produces aerosols from some trees, like willows, that fight cancer, while other trees produce antibiotic aerosols.
Reduces depression and anxiety. Visual exposure to trees has produced recovery from stress in five minutes, as measured by blood pressure and muscle tension, according to research at Texas A & M University.
What will your native tree do for your soil?
Trees transfer solar energy to the soil, through photosynthesis, to feed the microbes that give soil life, that makes “living soil.”
Trees prevent soil erosion in the broad area of their rooting zone, providing sub-surface drainage for rain runoff and holding the soil in place.
Trees prevent large-scale flooding, which washes topsoil away.
Trees produce organic material that enriches the soil, such as leaves and decomposing branches.
Trees fix nitrogen in the soil.
Trees work symbiotically with the fungal mat that lies under the ground, giving soil structure, and supporting all terrestrial life in mysterious ways.
What other benefits will the ecosystem receive?
In San Juan County, planting trees on the shoreline produces humic acid which stimulates the growth of plankton in sea water, thereby enriching the food web in the Salish Sea.
Trees provide habitat and food for birds and other animals. Your wildlife will love you, especially if you leave dead trees standing. Birds and other nesting creatures regard a dead snag as premium residential housing, as well as five-star dining on resident bugs.
The Washington Soil Health Committee is announcing the availability of competitive grants to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative approaches and technologies related to Soil Health on Washington agricultural and forest lands lands, as defined below. Proposals will be accepted from eligible entities in Washington State. The Soil Health Committee anticipates that the amount of funding available for support will be up to $10,000 per year for each approved proposal, subject to appropriations actions. Proposals for competitive consideration of grant awards for single or multi-year projects not to exceed 3 years in duration are requested for projects that focus on innovation, resource assessment, research, education, and public outreach. Proposals will be considered from conservation districts, non-profit organizations, governmental entities, and landowners.