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College of Arts and Sciences Biological Sciences

Book review: The Whaler and the Girl in the Deadfall

Book cover: The Whaler and the Girl in the Deadfall, by Mahlon E. Kriebel.Influenced by real events of fall 1998 to spring 1999, when the Makah harvested their first whale in seven decades and made headlines worldwide, Mahlon Kriebel (’58 zoology) blends fact with fiction and explores the history of the whale hunt as well as complex cultural issues and tensions past and present. He provides historical context peppered with references to Native works of art, fiction, films, museum exhibits, and more. » More …

Wildfire changes songbird plumage

Red backed fairywren.Fire can put a tropical songbird’s sex life on ice.

Following habitat-destroying wildfires in Australia, a team of researchers led by WSU biology doctoral student Jordan Boersma found that many male red-backed fairywrens failed to molt into their red-and-black ornamental plumage, making them less attractive to potential mates. They also had lowered circulating testosterone, which has been associated with their showy feathers. » More …

Dr. Universe: How do trees give us air to breathe?

Dr. UniverseOur planet is home to all kinds of different plants, and they help make a lot of the oxygen we breathe. To find out how plants make oxygen, I asked my friend Balasaheb Sonawane, a scientist at WSU who researches photosynthesis, or the ways plants use energy from the sun and make oxygen. He said that in a way, plants breathe, too. » More …

Q&A with alumnus Edward Felt

Edward Felt.A biology and organizational communication double major, Edward Felt (’09) is the north American sales manager for VMRD, Inc., a Pullman-based company that develops and manufactures veterinary diagnostic test kits and reagents for distribution in more than 77 countries, as well as performing specialized testing for the global serum, veterinary, and pharmaceutical industries. » More …

Q&A with Heather Watts

Heather Well.Providing excellent training and mentoring for students in a supportive and inclusive environment that values diversity is a priority for Heather Watts. An associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences, she integrates behavior, physiology, ecology and evolution to investigate the relationships between environmental variation, life history patterns, and the behavior and physiology of individuals. » More …

Nelson honored for teaching excellence

Lori Nelson drawing on a lightboard.An early adopter of the Looking Glass technology, Lori Nelson actively engages her biology students and promotes the development of a growth mindset in every course she teaches. She was honored with this year’s WSU Tri-Cities Distinguished Teaching Award in recognition of her commitment to improvement, thoughtful approach to course design, and development of classes that are creative, interesting, and fun. » More …

Teaching the teachers

Writing with a fountain pen.Earlier this year, six CAS professors spent 12 weeks as learners themselves in the new WORD! Faculty Fellowship program. The experienced educators were challenged to think about how to help students write within the context of their various disciplines.

WORD! workshops help faculty understand “how writing can be the process through which students learn the content and [how to] inspire students to become better » More …

Toxin-adapted fish pass down epigenetic mutations

Two sliver fish on a white background, top fish is larger with orange highlights on its fins, bottom fish is smaller with some blue tones.You can take a fish out of toxic water, but its epigenetic mutations will remain for at least two generations.

A research team led by Washington State University scientists analyzed the epigenetics—molecular factors and processes that determine whether genes are turned on or off—of a group of Poecilia mexicana fish, or Atlantic molly, that live in springs naturally high in hydrogen sulfide, which is normally toxic to most organisms. » More …

Making a difference

Lead Ceremony 2021. President's Awards.The 2021 WSU President’s Awards for Leadership and Engagement Award of Distinction (LEAD) recognized 17 CAS students and a faculty member for outstanding contributions across our diverse campus communities.

“This is a prestigious award that recognizes…the ways they give back to the community and empower others,” said Phillip Sinapati, ASWSU advisor and » More …

Leveraging the secrets of hibernation to treat diabetes

Grizzly bears.WSU evolutionary biologist Joanna Kelley studies genetic adaptation to extreme environments: tropical fish that thrive in waters thick with hydrogen sulfide; an Antarctic midge which can survive brutally cold temperatures of -50 degrees Celsius; and now, the charismatic grizzly bear, a species that is insulin-resistant—a metabolic state similar to diabetes in humans—during hibernation but insulin-sensitive during its active season. » More …