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Big data on big animals

Work at the WSU Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center goes well beyond important things like enrichment programs and energy-monitoring collars. WSU scientists are looking at the genomic level to try and determine the myriad ways that bears adapt to their climate.

Joanna Kelley, an evolutionary geneticist and assistant professor in the School of Biological Sciences, said for the last two years, her lab has collected three different samples from six of the bears three times a year. Each sample has over 200 million pieces of data, giving them 10.8 billion pieces of data to wade through each » More …

Off the beaten path

monarch butterfly on yellow plant“The monarchs were a big surprise for me,” says Rod Sayler. “It’s the first time I’ve seen them at WSU except for fly-bys. I thought, ‘Wow, it finally happened!’”

Sayler, an unabashed naturalist known for his signature straw hat, is project director for the WSU arboretum and an associate professor in the School of the Environment. In an age of climate specialists and policy wonks, Sayler revels in the down-to-earth study of nature in all its intricate bounty.

For the last nine years, he and his colleagues have painstakingly transformed a wedge of farmland into a botanical garden alive with wildflowers, native bees, meadowlarks, amphibians, rabbits, deer, and more. It’s a campus dream over a century in the making, says Sayler, one that finally came to fruition in 2008.

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Time, Place, and the River

River and students-WSUVA research project led by scientists at WSU Vancouver is working to understand how increasing human activity affects the Columbia River, upstream and down. Called CRESCENDO, the Columbia River Scientific Education and Outreach program is a partnership between five Washington high schools along the river and WSU Vancouver that integrates scientific and educational research. CRESCENDO has received $213,496 for this two-year project from Washington Sea Grant, a state entity set up to manage funds from the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Read more on page 19 in WSU Vancouver’s Crimson and Gray magazine >>

WSU research highlights deforestation threat to jaguars

PULLMAN, Wash. – Accelerating deforestation of jaguar habitat, especially in corridors connecting conservation areas, threatens the long-term survival of the iconic predator, according to new research by Dan Thornton, an assistant professor in the Washington State University School of the Environment.

He and colleague Peter Olsoy, a WSU environmental sciences doctoral student, suggest conservation groups and scientists focus efforts on working with local communities and elected officials to protect these vital forest corridors. » More …