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Washington State University
College of Arts and Sciences Biological Sciences

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 …

Mt. St. Helens: Lessons learned

Mount St. Helens.In the days after Mount St. Helens first erupted—sending some 540 million tons of ash over an area of 22,000 square miles—WSU ecology professor Richard “Dick” Mack was already thinking of its potential research value.

“It wasn’t research that I intended to do,” Mack says, “but there was a unique opportunity and it would be remiss of me to ignore it.” He and a group of graduate students spent the summer of 1980 doing field work between Pullman and Vantage, studying the effects of the ash on vegetation—particularly native plants, such as » 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 …

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 …

SBS director earns WSU leadership honor

Carter.Listen to Pat Carter, recipient of the 2020 WSU Outstanding Chair/Director award, talk about the School of Biological Sciences for a few minutes and you’ll be ready to jump online and register for every course the school offers.

“I see the role as creating an environment where students, faculty and staff can be successful” said Carter. He tries to keep all three aspects of WSU’s land-grant mission — to advance knowledge, to extend » More …