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Male Birth Control: Why We Don’t Have It, And When We Might

Not every man wants to be a father and not every father wants more kids. Roughly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. But when it comes to male birth control, none of the options are ideal and safe, reversible hormonal male contraception may be 10 years away.

Michael Skinner.
Skinner

But why has it taken this long? Why is there another decade to go? What barriers to male birth control still exist?

“Females only ovulate once per month, so it’s relatively easy to block with an endocrine approach,” Michael K. Skinner, director of the Center for Reproductive Biology at Washington State University told Fatherly. “Males produce millions of sperm daily…it’s difficult to design endocrine approach without shutting down all of male endocrinology.” In other words, in order to impact sperm production meaningfully, hormonal therapy would need to all but shutter the endocrine system—with serious side effects.

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Fatherly

Dr. Universe: How many different types of plankton are there? Are there freshwater plankton?

We can find millions and millions of plankton in bodies of water all over the world—from oceans, rivers, and lakes to ponds and mud puddles.

That’s what I found out from my friend Julie Zimmerman, a biologist with the Aquatic Ecology Lab at Washington State University. In the lab, researchers can use powerful microscopes to get an up-close look at these tiny creatures.

When Zimmerman dips her plankton net from a research boat into Willapa Bay, she is curious to learn more about the plankton communities. Back at the lab, the team can look at what the plankton eat, how they grow, and see what species might be moving around to new places.

Zimmerman also studies plankton that live in the Columbia River and Vancouver Lake. She reminded me that the amount of plankton we find can change depending on the season or the place. When she goes out to the lake in summer, she can sometimes find a million tiny plankton in just a single teaspoon of water.

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Dr. Universe

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