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King’s DNA throws a curve ball; WSU scholars weigh in

Thursday, December 18, 2014
WSU historian Jesse Spohnholz, left, and molecular anthropologist Brian Kemp. Skeleton in foreground is not that of King Richard III. (Photo by Shelly Hanks, WSU Photo Services)

WSU historian Jesse Spohnholz, left, and molecular anthropologist Brian Kemp. Skeleton in foreground is not that of King Richard III. (Photo by Shelly Hanks, WSU Photo Services)

The recent announcement that a skeleton found under a parking lot in England two years ago is that of King Richard III has laid one mystery to rest – while giving rise to another.

Findings of a study published this month in the journal Nature Communications confirmed the skeleton as that of the English monarch who was killed in battle in 1485. But the DNA analysis also lays bare the fact that a break – or breaks – occurred on the male side of the monarch’s family tree. In other words, a woman married to a king had a son from another man.

“Basically, the more information that was gleaned from retrieving the king’s DNA, the more complicated the story became,” said WSU molecular anthropologist Brian Kemp who, with WSU historian Jesse Spohnholz, read the report and commented on its findings.

“At what point in the royal lineage the infidelity occurred is not known, and to identify the break in the male line would require examining six centuries of marriages,” said Kemp, who is widely known for his genetic analyses of 10,000-year-old Native Americans.

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Localized climate change contributed to ancient depopulation

Friday, December 5, 2014
Timothy Kohler

Timothy Kohler

Washington State University researchers have detailed the role of localized climate change in one of the great mysteries of North American archaeology: the depopulation of southwest Colorado by ancestral Pueblo people in the late 1200s.

In the process, they address one of the mysteries of modern-day climate change: How will humans react?

Writing in Nature Communications, WSU archaeologist Tim Kohler and post-doctoral researcher Kyle Bocinsky use tree-ring data, the growth requirements of traditional maize crops and a suite of computer programs to make a finely scaled map of ideal Southwest growing regions for the past 2,000 years.

Their data paint a narrative of some 40,000 people leaving the Mesa Verde area of southwest Colorado as drought plagued the niche in which they grew maize, their main food source. Meanwhile, the Pajarito Plateau of the northern Rio Grande saw a large population spike.

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WSU research with police programs makes national news

Friday, December 5, 2014
Bryan Vila

Bryan Vila

Stress among police officers has thrust WSU and the Spokane Police Department into the national spotlight. The national attention comes as tensions between police and some communities are growing.

WSU researchers have worked with SPD for years studying how officers respond in high stress situations. It is research first reported on KREM 2 News. Now with the help of CNN, their findings are catching the attention of people all over the world.

Researchers have looked at how police officers react to high stress situations for years. WSU experts also looked at how long shifts and late night patrols can take their toll on officers.

CNN reported on the work of Bryan Vila, professor of criminal justice and criminology, just last night and earlier in 2014. Even media outlets from Australia have reported on the work done by WSU.

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Research finds lethal wolf control backfires on livestock

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Washington State University researchers have found that it is counter-productive to kill wolves to keep them from preying on livestock. Shooting and trapping lead to more dead sheep and cattle the following year, not fewer.

Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, Rob Wielgus, director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab in the School of the Environment at WSU and data analyst Kaylie Peebles say that, for each wolf killed, the odds of more livestock depredations increase significantly. Read “Effects of Wolf Mortality on Livestock Depredations.”

The trend continues until 25 percent of the wolves in an area are killed. Ranchers and wildlife managers then see a “standing wave of livestock depredations,” said Wielgus.

Moreover, he and Peebles write, that rate of wolf mortality “is unsustainable and cannot be carried out indefinitely if federal relisting of wolves is to be avoided.”

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WSU News

Spokesman Review

It’s The Apocalypse, Stupid: Understanding Christian Opposition to Obamacare, Civil Rights, New Deal and More

Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Matthew Sutton

Matthew Sutton

American evangelicals have been waiting for the world to end for a long time. But that’s not to say they’ve just been sitting around. Apocalypticism has inspired evangelistic crusades, moral reform movements, and generations of political activism.

In his latest book, Matthew Avery Sutton, WSU professor of history, traces this history of American evangelical apocalypticism from the end of the 19th century to the present day. In the process, he proposes a revised understanding of American evangelicalism, focused on the urgent expectations of the end of human history. If you want to understand modern evangelicalism, Sutton says, you have to understand their End Times theology.

Daniel Silliman spoke with Sutton at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, in Heidelberg, Germany.

Read their Q&A online

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