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Franceschi Microscopy and Imaging Center acquires new microscope

Michael Knoblauch.Washington State University’s Franceschi Microscopy and Imaging Center has acquired a microscope so powerful and versatile that Michael Knoblauch, the center director, compares it to a pig capable of making wool, milk and eggs. Or, to quote his native German, an eierlegende Wollmilchsau.

Technically, it’s an Apreo VolumeScope, and it brings a suite of imaging techniques, including the piecing together of detailed three‑dimensional images with a resolution of 10 nanometers, or about 1/10,000th of the width of a human hair.

The VolumeScope’s 3D reconstruction feature “allows identification of subcellular structures at unprecedented detail for life scientists,” according to the center’s grant application.

“This instrument will allow us to perform cutting‑edge research,” Knoblauch wrote in the center’s grant application, “and will significantly increase our capabilities and competitiveness.”

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WSU Insider

Dr. Universe: Do fish pee?

Not only do fish pee, but their pee gives other animals in the ocean what they need to survive.

Cori Kane.That’s what I found out from my friend, Cori Kane, a marine biologist who earned her doctoral degree in biological sciences at Washington State University. She knows a lot about coral reefs in our oceans. Coral reefs look like a ridge made of rock, but they are actually made up of living things.

Corals need a few things to survive. They need clear, warm water, sunlight, and nutrients, a kind of food that helps them grow. There aren’t usually a lot of nutrients in water near coral reefs. Luckily, there are a lot of nutrients in fish pee—and a lot of fish in the reef.

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Dr. Universe

Smithsonian researcher in shark conservation to present Jonas Lecture

Charles Bangley.Charles Bangley, an international expert in shark ecology and conservation, will present the 2019 Robert Jonas Lecture in Biological Sciences on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at WSU Pullman.

Bangley is a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, where his research focuses on the movement ecology of coastal sharks and rays as part of the Smithsonian Movement of Life Initiative.

His free, public address, “Where sharks want to be: Using tracking technology to define important habitat,” begins 6 p.m. in the CUB Auditorium. It is sponsored by the WSU Zoology Club, School of Biological Sciences and College of Arts & Sciences.

He will discuss efforts to conserve and manage sharks and rays, which is difficult because of their wide‑ranging habitats. Many sharks and rays undergo long‑distance seasonal migrations across entire coastlines and even across oceans, but they also show fidelity to specific areas of particular importance such as nurseries, refuges and foraging grounds that are disproportionately important to their survival and population health.

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WSU Insider

With 86% Drop, California’s Monarch Butterfly Population Hits Record Low

They arrive in California each winter, an undulating ribbon of orange and black. There, migrating western monarch butterflies nestle among the state’s coastal forests, traveling from as far away as Idaho and Utah only to return home in the spring.

This year, though, the monarchs’ flight seems more perilous than ever. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit group that conducts a yearly census of the western monarch, said the population reached historic lows in 2018, an estimated 86 percent decline from the previous year.

Cheryl Schulz.In a 2017 study, scientists estimated that the monarch butterfly population in western North America had a 72 percent chance of becoming near extinct in 20 years if the monarch population trend was not reversed. One of the study’s researchers, Cheryl Schultz, an associate professor of biology at Washington State University Vancouver, said at the time that an estimated 10 million monarchs spent the winter in coastal California in the 1980s.

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Climate change affects breeding birds

The breeding seasons of wild house finches are shifting due to climate change, a Washington State University researcher has found.

Heather Watts.
Watts

The effect of climate change on the breeding season of birds has been documented before, but in a limited context. Heather Watts, an avian physiologist, reported her finding in Ibis, the International Journal of Avian Science.

“We know that many birds are breeding earlier as temperatures get warmer,” Watts said. “Almost all of those studies are on birds that eat insects or other animals. What we don’t know is if seed-eating birds are shifting the timing of breeding too.”

Until now.

Studying seed-eaters is important because it can help clarify how temperature is affecting breeding habits. It is still uncertain if temperature is having a direct effect on the animals or if it causes indirect effects like shifts in the timing of plant growth. Previous studies suggest that plant-eating animals are likely to experience stronger effects due to climate change compared to those that eat other foods because of these indirect influences.

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