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Happy Anniversary, Mount St. Helens

Thirty years ago today, Mount St. Helens blew in one of the great natural spectacles of our time. The anniversary has launched several hundred retrospectives, many of which are highlighting work by Washington State University scientists.

In a piece for Voice of America news, Tom Banse visits with botanist John Bishop, who has spent decades studying the transition from sterile blast zone to habitat-rich ecosystem.

“What we’ve realized as we’ve spent a lot of time here and we’ve quantified the plants and the animals is that we actually have extraordinary levels of diversity here, of biological diversity,” he says.

Early morning sun on Mount St. Helens/Robert Hubner photo

In a Vancouver Columbian piece about preserving the mountain, Bishop encourages people to visit.

“There ought to be more people hiking out there, not less,” the newpaper quotes him as saying. “I think people ought to see the place. It’s wonderful. The recovery process is amazing, the vegetation is quite remarkable. It’s a very interesting place to visit.”

In a separate Columbian piece, reporter Erik Robinson explains how the blast created landscape patterns around the Toutle River similar to other, unexplained forms elsewhere.

Says John Wolff, WSU volcanologist and geochemist: “Almost as soon as that landslide had settled down, people said, ‘Whoa, this looks exactly like the corridor by Mount Shasta.’”

The coverage has a powerful alumni angle as well. The Daily News of Longview recounts how Trixie Anders, a WSU geology masters student, was riding up the mountain with Barry Johnston, her husband of the time, when at 8:32 a.m., “the event of a lifetime burst into our lives.” Turning around, the two outraced the plume of ash back down the mountain, barely.

For more on John Bishop’s work, see the Washington State Magazine piece, “Mount St. Helens: The perfect laboratory.”