Washington State University students and faculty recently returned from a 10-day volunteer effort to help assess whether a health project designed to increase iron levels in the blood of rural Guatemalan people has been successful.
WSU participants worked hand in hand with Hearts in Motion (HIM), a nonprofit organization, on the medical service project.
“After my first year participating in HIM, I realized Guatemalan diets are primarily starch-based,” said Kathy Beerman, a WSU professor in the School of Biological Sciences and a veteran HIM volunteer. “This caused me to believe that many Guatemalans are probably faced with a lack of iron in their diets, and therefore at increased risk for iron deficiency anemia. That is when we started our research.”
Researchers at Washington State University seek to improve drought-resistant crops, thanks to more than $900,000 in funding from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Mechthild Tegeder, professor in the WSU School of Biological Sciences, received $494,000 to study the role of important compounds, called ureides, in soybeans. In the long term, her team’s work could enhance soybean productivity and transfer these discoveries to other crops, improving yields.
The research, published in the scientific journal Ecology Letters, shows that devils that catch devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) have higher survival and reproductive rates prior to disease-induced death than individuals that do not become infected.
Typically infectious diseases affect mostly older, younger, or less healthy individuals. However, the team of scientists from Australia and the US found that devils with higher fitness are at highest risk of infection and death from facial tumours. Dr Konstans Wells of Griffith’s Environmental Futures Research Institute (EFRI) said this was probably because of the disease’s mode of transmission among socially dominant individuals.
Professor Andrew Storfer, of Washington State University, said the study also revealed how resistance to the disease may be evolving.
“Our results show a recent decline in the likelihood that devils become infected. This could indicate some evolving resistance of devils to the cancer, as recently shown by researchers from our team,” he said.
A new study by WSU researchers has found that toxic effects of exposure to mercury in fish can be passed on to later generations.
The WSU School of Biological Sciences study looked at zebrafish that were exposed to very low levels of methylmercury, which occurs in nature when mercury is metabolized by small organisms. It found that the toxic effects of exposure were passed on not only to their offspring, but also the third generation of zebrafish. The toxic effects were neurological and included abnormal locomotion, impaired vision, and hyperactivity.
Michael Skinner, a professor of biological sciences, says mercury is present as a toxin in our environment through several sources, like burning coal, and can make its way to humans through eating fish, like tuna, that have that been exposed to the heavy metal.
Three Washington State University College of Arts and Sciences students have been chosen for National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships. The prestigious awards have trained generations of American scientists and engineers, including Nobel laureates.
The College of Arts and Sciences’ honorees are:
Avery Anne Lane, an anthropology student from Tucson, Ariz., who is working on a master’s in Courtney Meehan’s biocultural anthropology lab.
Shawn Trojahn, a biology master’s student from Virginia Beach, Va., who is looking at the global decline in biodiversity in the vulnerable mangrove forest, a habitat affected by logging and water pollution.
Lindsey Marie Lavaysse, a psychology master’s student from San Francisco, is focusing on occupational health and safety threats to vulnerable populations like pregnant and minority workers.