Tom Banse | KNKX

Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Before taking his current beat, Tom covered state government and the Washington Legislature for 12 years.  He got his start in radio at WCAL–FM, a public station in southern Minnesota. Reared in Seattle, Tom graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota with a degree in American Studies.

When not sifting through press releases, listening to lobbyists, or driving lonely highways, Tom enjoys exploring the Olympic Peninsula backcountry and cooking dinner with his wife and friends. Tom's secret ambition is to take six months off work and travel to a faraway place beyond the reach of email.

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It was a dark and slippery early morning on the Oregon coast when researchers scrambled down the rocky shore in the small town of Yachats. 

They kept one eye on the crashing waves while scanning for two species of Pacific Northwest sea life that are now being checked for microplastics — fibers and fragments less than 5 millimeters long.

Multiple teams of earthquake researchers are looking in what may seem like an unlikely place to figure out how strongly the Pacific Northwest shook during great quakes in the past.

They're poking around the bottom of lakes in Western Washington and Oregon. It turns out lakes preserve a nifty earthquake record that can shed light on the next "Really Big One."

In this Aug. 7, 2018, photo, Southern Resident killer whale J50 and her mother, J16, swim off the west coast of Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew, B.C. J50 has since been declared dead, one of several deaths in recent years.
Brian Gisborne / Fisheries and Oceans Canada via Associated Press

The federal agency in charge of endangered orca recovery is proposing to add more than 10 million acres of Pacific coastal waters to the area it considers "critical habitat." The government does not expect the expanded habitat designation to affect coastal economies.

The movement to “ditch the switch” — the twice-yearly ritual of changing our clocks between daylight and standard time — just got a push from British Columbia, where residents signaled they are keen to join Washington state and Oregon on permanent daylight saving time.

But in California, where the idea is popular too, a new snag cropped up.

It’s a story that seemingly has it all: a classified mission, dashing young men in uniform, leaps out of flying airplanes, stray bombs, plus some wildfires and a side of racial prejudice. The little-known slice of Pacific Northwest history featuring an all-black Army battalion is less likely to be overlooked now that the state of Oregon and people in Pendleton have put up a historical marker.

The first of what could be many trials stemming from the deadly 2017 derailment of a Portland-bound Amtrak Cascades train began with the railway accepting liability for the crash.

An archaeological dig along the Salmon River in western Idaho has yielded evidence of one of the oldest human settlements in the Americas yet found.

Newly published findings from the excavation give impetus to a scientific rethinking of when and how the first people arrived in North America.

Did you feel the ground move today, or yesterday or over the weekend? Not likely, even though a wave of small tremors was spreading under people's feet in the coastal Pacific Northwest.

If you were among the 1.7 million people who got a mysterious, unbidden $91.94 check in the mail recently, you may wonder if it is legitimate. It is! And the best news may be that recipients will get a similar check next summer.

Whale watch tour companies have knocked a proposed orca protection initiative off the November ballot in San Juan County, Washington. The ballot measure would have asked voters to greatly increase the stand-off distance between boats and endangered killer whales.

Photo analysis by a forensic imaging expert from suburban Seattle is backing up a new search for the pioneer aviator Amelia Earhart. Right now, a National Geographic expedition is at an uninhabited island in the South Pacific looking for Earhart's missing airplane.

Humpback whales were once so numerous in the coastal and inland waters of the Pacific Northwest, there were whaling stations near Nanaimo, British Columbia, and Grays Harbor, Washington. These closed by 1925, after the regional population of humpback whales had been largely wiped out.

A century later, humpbacks are resurfacing in big numbers in the Salish Sea, the Columbia River mouth and the Northwest coast. Along with excitement over the humpbacks' return comes concern about ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.

A badly entangled whale is swimming free again after a dramatic rescue off the Washington coast on Thursday evening. The 35-foot long humpback whale calmly allowed responders to cut it free of fishing gear, according to witnesses.

Pacific Northwesterners who forage for wild mushrooms are noticing that the late summer and fall delicacies are coming in early this year. Edible wild mushrooms are now flooding wholesale markets.

Oregon State University created something of a sensation back in 2015 when researchers announced they discovered and patented "seaweed that tastes like bacon." Four years later, the hard work of commercialization continues, but guilt-free bacon from the sea remains elusive.

Dozens of Pacific Northwest doctors are teaming up with a national nonprofit to write a different kind of prescription. Their "park prescriptions" direct patients with obesity, anxiety, depression or certain chronic conditions to spend more time outside.

Giant rats sound like something to be scared of, perhaps. But the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington, thinks quite the opposite about the African giant pouched rats it just put on display. The rodents are billed as "hero rats."

Long-distance hiking can be the experience of a lifetime. It also can present dicey to mundane hurdles, like having to hike stretches along busy highways or logging roads. Trail crews are working this summer to improve some enticing regional routes -- that you may or may not have tried -- including the Oregon Coast Trail and the east-west Pacific Northwest Trail.

An environmental nonprofit is gauging interest in the creation of an orca enclosure in Washington's San Juan Islands. The organization is hosting public outreach meetings over the coming week in six Western Washington locations.

In the span of just a few years, the Washington State Patrol has built up a fleet of more than 100 drones. At last check, the Oregon State Police had three. The Washington patrol says its small quadcopters are used for crash investigations, not for surveillance.

How's this for emergency preparedness? An elementary school located in the tsunami inundation zone in Cannon Beach, Oregon, has equipped every student with a personal disaster survival kit.

Cormorants by the thousands have taken up residence under the landmark Astoria-Megler Bridge over the Columbia River. Their poop can corrode the bridge and that is unacceptable to the Oregon and Washington transportation departments. But what actions to take against the protected birds and whose responsibility that is are up in the air.

Boeing is running out of space to park grounded 737 Max jets in the Puget Sound region and is now sending some of its Renton, Washington, factory output to Moses Lake's spacious airport.

When you think of made-in-the-Northwest products, diamonds are probably not on your list. But soon, they could be. A contract signed Thursday for Columbia River hydropower clears the way for a foundry to make lab-created diamonds in Wenatchee, Washington.

People visiting or living along the Pacific Northwest coast may be completely cut off after "The Big One" — the feared magnitude 9.0 Cascadia earthquake and tsunami. For that reason, the U.S. Navy has been scouting landing sites along the coast for disaster relief delivery by sea. The quake preparations ticked up a notch on Monday, with a practice delivery of supplies using two hulking Navy hovercraft.

Activists are asking city or county governments of at least seven Pacific Northwest communities to defy the federal government. They want to stop the deployment of next-generation 5G cellular service.

The starting horn echoed bright and early Monday morning across Port Townsend Bay to launch the fifth annual running of a madcap maritime marathon. The 750-mile Race to Alaska has been compared by its organizers to the Iditarod sled dog race, but with a chance of drowning or getting eaten by a bear.

Get ready to hear a lot of World War II memories over the next two weeks: The milestone 75th anniversary of D-Day is coming up on June 6. Pilots from the Pacific Northwest aboard a historic plane have arrived in the United Kingdom to take part in a reenactment of the invasion of Normandy.

After wowing veterans and heads of state on the ground below in France, the plane and its Northwest crew will fly onward to Germany to participate in Berlin Airlift commemorations. The double-dose of 20th century history has meaning for crew members, most of whom weren't born yet when it happened.

Olympic National Park said a decomposing gray whale washed ashore Friday morning north of Kalaloch Campground. That makes the 24th dead whale stranding in Oregon and Washington this year during the northbound migration.

Crew training deficiencies played a crucial role in the deadly 2017 Amtrak train derailment near DuPont, Washington, according to a final report from federal investigators accepted Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

NTSB board members also had sharp criticism for a quartet of entities involved in the Amtrak Cascades service: train operator Amtrak, track owner Sound Transit, rail service funder Washington State Department of Transportion and the regulatory agency Federal Rail Administration.

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