Ashley Ahearn | KUOW News and Information

Ashley Ahearn

Environment Reporter

Year started with KUOW: 2011

Ashley Ahearn is KUOW’s award-winning environment reporter and the host of a new  national podcast on the environment, terrestrial. Each episode explores the choices we make in a world we have changed. 

Ashley has been covering the environment for NPR and member stations for more than a decade and you've probably heard her stories on Morning Edition, Marketplace, All Things Considered, The World and other national shows, as well as right here on KUOW in Seattle. 

She has a masters in science journalism from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California. In her spare time she rides motorcycles and snowboards and hikes in the Olympic and Cascade mountains with her husband and her ridiculously spoiled labradoodle. 

Ways to Connect

Across the Western U.S., yearly areas of snowpack are decreasing, and researchers are trying to figure out what that means for everything that relies on the snowmelt — from farms to power plants to a little creature known as the Cascades frog.

EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Maureen Ryan scales rocky trails at 5,000 feet elevation as nimbly as the mountain goats that wandered through camp earlier this morning.

The researcher of amphibians leads her team of scientists down off a ridge line in the Seven Lakes Basin of Olympic National Park to her “lab,” you might call it. It’s a series of pothole wetlands cupped in the folds of these green, snow-studded mountains: a perfect habitat for Cascades frogs (Rana cascadae).

Ryan, a researcher with the University of Washington, is an expert on alpine amphibians. She’s also part of a group of scientists from around the region, coordinated by the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative at the USGS, who are trying to understand and project how the warming climate will affect these frogs’ ability to feed, mate, and ultimately, survive.

Katie Campbell

A proposal to build the West Coast’s biggest coal export terminal will face stiff environmental scrutiny.

On Wednesday a joint release from the Washington Department of Ecology, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and Whatcom County, Wash., announced they will consider climate change, human health and the environment when it comes to a coal port near Bellingham, Wash. And they’ll look at the entire route from Western mines to coal-burning plants in Asia.

EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Washington’s Department of Health closed some shellfish beds in South Puget Sound Wednesday for the first time because of elevated levels of diarrhetic shellfish toxin.

Earthfix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Gumbo and jambalaya may not be at the top of Northwest menus. But if the invasive red swamp crayfish has its way, that could change.

Flickr Photo/WSDOT

UPDATE 7/10/13, 4:09 p.m. PT: The Associated Press is reporting that the death toll for the Quebec train crash that rocked a small town over the weekend has reached 50. Canadian officials have declared that the missing people in the explosion are now presumed dead.

The tragedy has given the commissioners of the Port of Vancouver in Washington pause as they consider a proposal for a terminal to move oil from trains onto ships.

Flickr Photo/Transportation Safety Board of Canada (CC-BY-NC-ND)

The weekend’s deadly oil-train derailment and explosion in the Canadian province of Quebec has raised concerns in the Pacific Northwest, where there are several proposals to increase the amount of oil transported into to the region by train.

By Monday afternoon the confirmed death toll had reached 13, with 50 people still missing after Saturday’s derailment of more than 70 tanker cars. They were filled with oil from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota — home of the largest oil boom in recent US history.

Michael Werner

The federal agency in charge of approving Northwest coal export terminals delivered a setback for environmentalists, telling a congressional panel Tuesday morning that it will not be considering the area-wide effects of transporting coal, or the global impact of burning it in Asia.

Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

In a classroom at South Seattle Community College 14 local residents shimmy into hazmat suits, waving their arms like Michelin men and women. They’re part of a program run by the EPA to train people who live near Superfund sites to qualify to work on the cleanup.

Katie Campbell / Earthfix

Coal mining companies are saving tens of millions of dollars that should be going into state and federal treasuries, according to a new report by the Inspector General at the US Department of Interior.

Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

A coalition of environmental groups in Washington and Oregon has sued BNSF Railway and several coal companies, alleging trains are dumping coal in violation of the Clean Water Act.

Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

Scientists believe that lack of food, underwater noise and pollution have contributed to the decline of Puget Sound’s iconic killer whales. One man is taking the latest orca research into classrooms around the Northwest.

Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

The final hearing on Wednesday regarding a cleanup plan for one of the Northwest’s most polluted rivers brought out concerns that it doesn’t do enough to protect fish, wildlife and human health.

Katie Campbell / Earthfix

Crowdfunding campaigns are popular ways to raise money for fledgling businesses and independent projects — and now scientific research. As state and federal agencies begin the environmental review process for the largest coal export terminals on the West Coast, some scientists are turning to the public for help with research of their own.

Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

Doug Monk has been a commercial diver on the Olympic Peninsula for some 20 years, harvesting shellfish and sea cucumbers. But for the past decade, he’s been after a different harvest: ghost nets.

Aqqa Rosing-Asvid / Flickr

The blue whale is believed to be the largest animal ever to exist. But nobody remembers number two. Fin whales are the second-largest animals on the planet, weighing in at around 80 tons.

Earthfix / Ashley Ahearn

A century’s worth of contamination in Seattle's only river is about to get a $305 million cleanup. Before finalizing a decision on the proposed plan, the Environmental Protection Agency is asking the public to weigh in.

Earthfix / Ashley Ahearn

From where Mike McHenry stands he can see several gray, torpedo-shaped bodies moving slowly through the brown water of this side channel of the Elwha River, not too far from the site of the largest dam removal project in US history.

Earthfix / Ashley Ahearn

One of the two dams on the Elwha River has been completely removed and there are about 50 feet of the remaining Glines Canyon dam left. Already so much sediment has been released that it's clogged up and shut down one of the water treatment plants in nearby Port Angeles, temporarily halting the largest dam removal project in US history.

Removal of the two dams on the Elwha River has been temporarily halted because massive amounts of sediment released from above the dams have clogged a nearby city’s water treatment facilities.

Ashley Ahearn

Want to see a volcano explode hundreds of meters below the surface of the Pacific Ocean? How about in real-time streaming video, online, from the comfort of your own iPad? Well, there’s a massive scientific project underway that could help you with that and more.

Flickr/canopic

Right now it’s legal to hunt octopuses in Puget Sound – unless you’re in a marine preserve or conservation area. In fact, if you have a state fishing license you can harvest one every day.

But the killing of a giant Pacific octopus off Alki Beach in Seattle last October prompted a public outcry. Hundreds of scuba divers and members of the public submitted petitions to the state of Washington asking for better protection for the giant Pacific octopus in Puget Sound.

Flickr/Roy.Luck

The Port of Grays Harbor has announced an agreement to lease property for a crude oil unloading and storage facility. The oil would arrive by train and then be loaded on to barges bound for refineries on the West Coast.

Maria Coryell-Martin

Two Seattle-based adventurers — one a scientist, the other an artist — are on an expedition to study and document narwhals in Arctic waters off the west coast of Greenland. 

Lamont Granquist

Environmental groups have collected samples of black rock collected in water bodies along train tracks in the Northwest and found that some of that rock is coal. The Sierra Club, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Columbia Riverkeeper and other environmental groups have sent a notice of intent to sue BNSF Railway and several coal companies for violations of the Clean Water Act.

Ashley Ahearn

Macaque monkeys are the distant relatives of an ancient species that roamed the lush rainforests of the Northwest during the early Paleocene – about 60 million years ago. Climate change models project a possible return to Paleocene conditions in the near future. One local scientist says it’s time to bring back the macaque – and the Cascade Mountains are the perfect place to do it.

Lamont Granquist

The debate over exporting Wyoming and Montana coal through terminals on the Northwest coast has been heating up in recent months. Those who support exporting coal say the terminals will create thousands of jobs and tax revenue for the state. Opponents have raised concerns about the potential environmental and health impacts of coal. Now, some of them are taking matters into their own hands.

Ashley Ahearn

There are several hundred derelict and abandoned vessels dotting the waterways of Washington and Oregon. They can block navigation and pollute the environment, and they can also be very expensive to remove.

Ashley Ahearn

President Obama is set to announce the creation of several new national monuments on Monday. One of them will be in Washington’s San Juan Islands.

Flickr/masmediaspace

The Northwest is famous for its steady gray drizzle. But for violent storms and downpours? Not so much. That might be changing. Newly published research finds evidence that rain is coming in more intense bursts in one Northwest location.

Pages