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College of Arts and Sciences Graduate student

eDNA: An early warning system for deadly pathogens

A mountain yellow-legged frog. Photo credit: Michael Hernandez A new technology being developed at Washington State University could help save amphibians around the world from deadly pathogens like Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a particularly nasty type of fungus that attacks the skin of frogs and salamanders.

The new tool, know as environmental DNA, or eDNA, detects telltale bits of genetic material that living creatures shed into their environment, and enables wildlife scientists to confirm the presence of a wide variety of aquatic organisms without the hassle of finding them. » More …

Nicotine identified in ancient dental plaque

A 1945 picture of a Yokuts Native American woman smoking a pipeA team of scientists including researchers from Washington State University has shown for the first time that nicotine residue can be extracted from plaque, also known as “dental calculus”, on the teeth of ancient tobacco users.

Their research provides a new method for determining who was consuming tobacco in the ancient world and could help trace the use of tobacco and other intoxicating plants further back into prehistory.

“The ability to identify nicotine and other plant-based drugs in ancient dental plaque could help us answer longstanding questions about the consumption of intoxicants by » More …

To catch a cat

TTravis King travels through a Costa Rican swamp at Tortuguero National Park in 2014, with a team from Panthera and local guides.rekking through one of the largest unexplored rainforests in the world, La Mosquitia in Honduras, Travis King set up traps last spring to catch jaguars—or whatever other animal came into range of the cameras.

King, a WSU environmental science graduate student, was one of 12 biologists conducting the first biological survey of the area known as La Ciudad Blanca or the Lost City of the Monkey God, astounding ruins first identified in 2012.

It was already familiar work for King, who has used remote-sensing camera traps and other methods to identify the behavior and distribution of elusive big cats from Costa Rica, Honduras, and Belize all the way to central Washington. » More …

Learning Náhuatl

Miriam FernandezDoctoral student Miriam Fernandez discovers a new direction through language.

In August of 1521, Spanish and indigenous soldiers conquered Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec Empire. Historians believe nearly a quarter million Tenochtitlán citizens died in the conquest, and all of the majestic temples, palaces, pyramids, and artifacts were destroyed. But the Aztec culture and its language— Náhuatl —survived, dominating much of central and eastern Mexico in the following centuries in spite of King Charles of Spain’s decree in 1560 that all Mexican natives were to be taught in Spanish. » More …

Wine industry history project earns Boeing graduate fellowship

vineyardFour years ago, on his way home to Walla Walla from school in Arizona, Taylor Hermsen was thumbing through an in-flight magazine when he was struck by an idea for his doctoral research.

“The magazine was all about wine,” Hermsen said. “Being a native of the Inland Northwest, I thought I knew a lot about my home, but the fact that many people visiting eastern Washington are doing so because of the wine industry had never really occurred to me before. I started wondering how it all got going, and the project kind of snowballed from there.” » More …

What’s at the core of a dark personality?

interconnected circles and linesDark personality traits such as narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy are socially aversive personality styles that are often confused because of their similarities.

Using a quantitative technique called network analysis, WSU psychologists David Marcus and Jonathan Preszler, along with their colleague Virgil Zeigler-Hill at Oakland University, are investigating the behaviors that make up the common core of dark personality traits. » More …

Dramatic decline in genetic diversity of Northwest salmon charted

Chinook SalmonColumbia River Chinook salmon have lost as much as two-thirds of their genetic diversity, Washington State University researchers have found.

The researchers reached this conclusion after extracting DNA from scores of bone samples — some harvested as many as 7,000 years ago — and comparing them to the DNA of Chinook currently swimming in the Snake and Columbia rivers.

Preserving genetic diversity is a central goal of the Endangered Species Act, in part because it helps a species adapt to changing environments. Yet it is rarely measured to this degree. » More …

Foreign languages and cultures department newsletter, Fall 2017

In this issue of News Travels, learn about our new language certificate programs, a wide range of student activities held throughout the semester, creative learning activities like dancing lessons, field trips, and tasty tiramisu. Plus, don’t miss the photos from three faculty-led study abroad trips and a recap of honors and achievements by faculty and students. Read the full newsletter on the department website. >>>

Campus involvement empowers first-generation, non-traditional student to soar

WSU graduate in his cap and gown getting photo takenWSU Tri-Cities alumnus Geoff Schramm never thought he would go to college.

Coming from a family where no one before him in his family had gone to college, he said it was sort of a family tradition that he goes straight into the workforce after high school.

“That’s just what you did in my family,” he said. “I didn’t have a blueprint for college or someone that could tell me about the experience. In some odd way, I felt it wasn’t for me when I was young.” » More …

Master’s student blends overseas research, local outreach

Amanda TheilPassionate about plants and nearing graduation with a master’s in cultural anthropology, Amanda Thiel has traveled overseas for her research and educated elementary school children about botany.

Thiel went to rural Guatemala in the summer of 2016 to research ethnobotany, the study of how people use plants in their region. During her two-month stay, she interviewed Q’eqchi’ Maya villagers about the type of plants growing in their gardens, and used the information » More …

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