Research Recap for May 14

Western’s faculty and students are engaged in exciting research and scholarship across a variety of fields. Each Friday, Western Today will share short summaries of the latest developments in scholarly work at the University. Interested in reading in-depth stories about science and research at Western? Go to Gaia, the university's online journal of research, discovery and scholarship, and subscribe (it's free) to that site by clicking the "Follow" button. Want more research news? Follow @WWUResearch on Twitter.

James McCafferty

Director of Western’s Center for Economic & Business Research James McCafferty has received a $32,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology. Under this proposed work, the Center would provide research and analyses related to the revenue needs of the Washington State Department of Ecology for the Yakima Basin Integrate Plan (YBIP). The model and report discuss funding scenarios for the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan, an ambitious 35-year partnership between multiple levels of government, municipalities, tribes, and stakeholders with the focus of drought resiliency, water conservation and ecological restoration within the Yakima Basin. Of particular interest is a review of existing information and data on funding large capital projects through local and/or state revenue proposals linked to water infrastructure, definition of existing stakeholders, and modeling of possible funding scenarios.

Catherine Armstrong Soule

Associate Professor of Marketing Catherine Armstrong Soule and her co-author Sara Hanson, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business, have had their article, “Counting Monopoly Money Twice: Resale Discounting in Consumer-to-Consumer Exchange,” accepted for publication in the Journal for the Association of Consumer Research.

The article explores consumer-to-consumer secondhand exchange, noting that this practice is flourishing as consumers are participating on both sides of the secondhand market, buying used items as well as reselling their own items. It poses the question of whether participation in the secondhand market changes the way people think about and evaluate the attractiveness of prices, using recently published consumer research studies to explore and come to conclusions on the question.

Grad Student Kathleen McKeegan

Kathleen McKeegan is a first-year graduate student of biology who studies harbor seal predation and mitigation. She was just awarded a Graduate Student Research Award from the North Pacific Research Board in the amount of $26,000. McKeegan is recipient of the WWU Graduate Research Award for her thesis, “Assessing the effect of Targeted Acoustic Startle Technology on individual harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) foraging success on salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) in Whatcom Creek.” She’s also just been awarded the Washington Sea Grant Communications Fellowship for the spring and summer quarters of 2021. Because trends in research are so often siloed from public perception, McKeegan considers science communications and outreach to be two key players in conservation efforts. This Sea Grant Fellowship gives her the exciting opportunity to integrate research and public discourse

 At the heart of McKeegan’s conservation research is harm reduction in mitigating harbor seal predation of salmon. Pacific salmon are culturally, ecologically, and commercially important but have been in serious decline, and many believe pinniped predation is hindering the recovery of these depleted stocks. Historically, mitigation efforts have included both lethal and non-lethal management of seals. But even one of the common alternatives to culling, acoustic deterrent devices, or ADDs, traditionally use harmful frequencies to scare pinnipeds away from salmon, which can lead to hearing loss, habituation, and harm to both target and non-target species.  

 McKeegan is working with Targeted Acoustic Startle Technology, or TASTa technology that draws on a startle reflex rather than fear (lessening the likelihood of habituation) and zeroes in on the particular frequency and volume that targets harbor seals without the risk of hearing loss or harm to non-target species. TAST has been tested both in Scotland and in Ballard and shows favorable results. McKeegan’s unique approach to better understanding this new technology and possible management strategies is to focus not so much on the broad numbers of the mitigation effort but on the short and long-term effects of individual seal presence and predation successes as they relate to the deployment of TAST.  

A seal holds a half-eaten fish in its mouth as it pops its head out of the water.