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College of Arts and Sciences Biological Sciences

Wine and fungi: The perfect pairing?

Students on Tanya Cheeke's research team plant wine grape plants for their fungi experiment at WSU Tri-Cities.A team at WSU Tri-Cities is researching the impact that a type of fungus could have on vineyard growth and associated nutrient uptake, which could lead to less watering and less fertilizer required for a successful grape crop.

Tanya Cheeke, assistant professor of biology, was awarded a two-year $40,000 grant to support a field experiment from the BIOAg program of » More …

International workshop aims to boost number, success of women in STEM

Elissa Schwartz.Elissa Schwartz, an associate professor with faculty appointments in both the School of Biological Sciences and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and an affiliate faculty member of the Program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS), is committed to increasing the participation and success of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

In addition to a number of domestic and international activities in recent years, Schwartz recently organized a three-part, interactive forum featuring live mentoring by women scientists, mathematicians and » More …

The power of symbiosis

Stephanie Porter.“Understanding the complex and often positive role the microbiome plays in the health of plants and animals has precipitated a real renaissance in biology,” says microbiologist Stephanie Porter, who studies the evolution of cooperation and plant–microbe symbiosis. “There’s been a blossoming of ideas due to new genomic tools for understanding this microbiome—the set of all microbes that live in and on plants and animals.”

“But there’s also been a shift in our thinking about microbes. We’ve moved from microbes being viewed strictly as the cause of diseases or that they are at best harmless, to thinking they have » More …

Glacier mice at play

People at a beach.Glacier mice could be something from a fairytale—mossy little puffballs filled with tiny fanciful creatures.

“They are adorable—they really do look like little rodents,” says glacier biologist Scott Hotaling, a postdoctoral research associate in the School of Biological Sciences at WSU. Hotaling studies organisms that live in the world’s coldest locations such as the ice sheets in Alaska and Iceland where these glacier moss balls » More …

Blackwell to lead new human biology program

Aaron Blackwell.An expert in human evolution and immune function development, Aaron Blackwell, associate professor of anthropology, will direct the new human biology degree program at WSU, consisting primarily of courses in anthropology and biological sciences.

CAS launched the four-year, interdisciplinary bachelor of arts program this fall to help meet global demand for skilled professionals in health, social and environmental sciences and public policy. It melds approaches and content from social and biological sciences to provide students a vibrant understanding of » More …

Undergraduate fellowships support research, creative work

College of Arts and Sciences - Washington State University.The WSU Office of Undergraduate Research named 12 CAS students as recipients of four different fellowships for 2020-21. Each will receive funding to support of mentored research, scholarship and creative activities for the 2020-21 academic year.

“In addition to the long-established Auvil and Carson undergraduate research awards and the NSF-funded Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), we received additional support this year from an anonymous donor. This made it possible to support » More …

Tasmanian devil gene mutation offers insight on human cancer

Tasmanian DevilA rare, transmissible tumor has brought the iconic Tasmanian devil to the brink of extinction, but new research indicates hope for the animals’ survival and possibly new treatment for human cancers.

A team of international scientists led by Andrew Storfer, WSU professor of biological sciences, and Mark Margres, a former WSU postdoctoral fellow now at Harvard University, studied the genomes of cases of devil facial tumor disease, or DFTD, that regressed » More …

Climate change and glacial stream insects

Stonefly.An endangered aquatic insect that lives in icy streams fed by glaciers might not mind if the water grows warmer due to climate change.

A study co-authored by WSU post-doctoral researcher Scott Hotaling found that mountain stoneflies can tolerate warmer water temperatures, at least temporarily.

While the study goes against the prevailing theory that rising water temperatures will be devastating for the glacial stream insects, Hotaling said this does not mean that global warming will be » More …

Several fish adapt in same way to toxic water

Toxic fish.At least 10 different lineages of fish have adapted to live in an extreme environment using the same mechanism, according to a study led by WSU evolutionary biologists.

The fish, which were found living in streams with highly toxic levels of hydrogen sulfide in different locations in the United States, Mexico and the island of Hispaniola, all had adapted to their harsh environments by modifying an enzyme in their mitochondria, so the toxicant could not bind to it.

The study, recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Scienceschallenges the idea that » More …

Field work yields science and cultural understanding

Boersma and friends,Iridescent little fairywrens drew doctoral student Jordan Boersma to the grasslands of Papua New Guinea, but it was the unexpected generosity of the people that captured the researcher’s heart.

“I’ve traveled all over Asia and never experienced this level of hospitality. If you accept their culture, they’ll really take you in and look after you,” he says.

Hubert Schwabl, professor in the WSU School of Biological Sciences, says Boersma is one of the rare students who is able » More …