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College of Arts and Sciences Research

Non-tobacco plant identified in ancient pipe for first time

Ancient smoking pipes.People in what is now Washington state were smoking Rhus glabra, a plant commonly known as smooth sumac, more than 1,400 years ago. The discovery, made by a team of WSU researchers, marks the first-time scientists have identified residue from a non-tobacco plant in an archeological pipe.

“The research casts doubt on the commonly held view that trade tobacco grown by Europeans overtook the use of natively-grown smoke plants after Euro-American contact,” said Shannon Tushingham, assistant professor of anthropology. » More …

Study indicates stereotypes can lead to workplace accidents

Pregnant woman.Fears of confirming stereotypes about pregnant workers as incompetent, weak or less committed to their job can drive pregnant employees to work extra hard, risking injury.

“The pregnancy stereotype is a silent stressor. It is not always visible, but it really impacts women in the workplace,” said Lindsey Lavaysse (’20 PhD), lead researcher for WSU recent study of pregnant women in physically demanding jobs. » More …

E-DNA detection could cut pathogens in pet trade

Salamander.As SARS-CoV-2 puts new focus on zoonotic pathogens, WSU disease ecology researcher Jesse Brunner  has developed a method using environmental DNA (eDNA) to detect disease in the vast international trade of aquatic animals.

The problem with monitoring the pet trade is one of magnitude: every year more than 225 million live animals are imported into the U.S. alone, with the majority destined for » More …

Ancient technology for today

Craft project.Long fascinated by early civilizations, Robert Ullerich signed up for a class in ancient art and culture at WSU this spring expecting to gain new insights to human history but not ancient skills – surely nothing he could apply in his 21st-century life.

But just finished with his bachelor’s degree and now preparing for graduate school, Ullerich is working in construction and landscaping this summer and using what he learned in his art history » More …

Psychologists study cannabis, PTSD relief connection

Cannabis leaf.According to a recent study led by Carrie Cuttler, assistant professor of psychology, people suffering from post‑traumatic distress disorder report that cannabis reduces the severity of their symptoms by more than half, at least in the short term.

Cuttler and her colleagues analyzed data of more than 400 people who tracked changes in their PTSD symptoms before and after cannabis use with Strainprint, an app developed to help » More …

Writing, currency fueled ancient society growth

The Parthenon.When it comes to the great civilizations of human history, the pen really might have been mightier than the sword.

“There’s a fundamental relationship that exists between the way in which societies process information and how large they are able to become,” said Tim Kohler, WSU an archaeologist and a corresponding author of an international study that shows the ability to store and process information was as critical to the growth of early human societies as it is today. “Early innovations in information processing such as writing and coinage » More …

Defending against invasive mussels

Mussels covering hydro dam equipment.So far, the Columbia River Basin, which spans an area the size of France and includes portions of seven states and parts of Canada, is the only major river basin in the United States that hasn’t been impacted by invasive quagga or zebra mussels. Researchers in the Aquatic Ecology Lab at WSU Vancouver are developing strategies to help keep it that way.

Preventing new introductions, quickly detect new arrivals, and controlling the bivalves’ spread is not an easy task: females can produce a million eggs a year and the size of larvae » More …

Interdisciplinary research on COVID-19 impact

Mother holding sleeping baby.Fifteen faculty and graduate student researchers from multiple colleges and campuses across the University recently joined forces to form the WSU COVID‑19 Infant, Maternal, and Family Health Research Collaborative.

Spanning a variety of disciplines, including biological sciences, anthropology, and psychology, the collective already has a half dozen studies lined up to address critical questions related to the impact of COVID‑19 on the health of mothers, babies, and families. » More …

Research opens a new approach to mental illness

Silhouette of someone on a bench with hands held to head.Some of the most common mental disorders, including depression, anxiety and PTSD, might not be disorders at all, according to a recent paper by WSU biological anthropologists.

The researchers propose a new approach to mental illness that would be informed by human evolution, noting that modern psychology, and in particular its use of drugs like antidepressants, has largely failed to reduce the prevalence of mental disorders. For example, the global prevalence of » More …

Exhibition studies students research presidential art collection

Painting, “Snow and Stubble,” Z. Vanessa Helder.In 1935, Washington State College President Ernest Holland wrote to Charles Duveneck, the brother of American figure and portrait painter Frank Duveneck, who created a portrait of Charles in 1890. Holland had acquired the portrait for his personal collection. “I am fortunate to have been able to purchase the pastel portrait of yourself; and I shall be grateful to have you tell me if you know of some paintings by your brother which I might obtain…at a reasonable price,” wrote Holland.

With such gently persuasive letters, Holland was able to acquire close to 100 artworks that eventually became a founding collection for » More …