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Reintroducing endangered northern leopard frogs in Washington

Erica Crespi.
Crespi

With the help of scientists from Washington State University, hundreds of endangered northern leopard frogs have taken a leap back into the wild in recent weeks at the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge in Grant County.

The releases were made possible by a partnership of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Oregon Zoo, and WSU.

Bernardo Traversari.
Traversari

WDFW collected northern leopard frog eggs earlier this spring, and after months of growing in conservation labs at WSU and the Oregon Zoo, the frogs were ready for release in recent weeks.

“It was really exciting to see these frogs go out into their world,” said Erica Crespi, assistant professor in the School of Biological Sciences. “It was like watching my children go off on their first day of school. It was especially great to see them start to eat their first insect meals as they hopped away. We are all hoping that they will continue to thrive in their original home.”

Caren Goldberg.
Goldberg

Crespi and her graduate student Bernardo Traversari, along with WSU collaborators Caren Goldberg, assistant professor in the School of the Environment, and Allan Pessier, clinical associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, played an important role in the project by rearing frog tadpoles at the Airport Gardens research facility in Pullman. The WSU team’s efforts also included disease surveillance, genetic assessment, population modeling, and experiments to determine optimal rearing conditions to maximize the probability of a successful reintroduction.

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WSU Insider

Unlocking secrets of the ice worm

Scott Hotaling.
Scott Hotaling

The ice worm is one of the largest organisms that spends its entire life in ice and Washington State University scientist Scot Hotaling is one of the only people on the planet studying it.

He is the author of a new paper that shows ice worms in the interior of British Columbia have evolved into what may be a genetically distinct species from Alaskan ice worms.

Hotaling and colleagues also identified an ice worm on Vancouver Island that is closely related to a separate population of ice worms located 1,200 miles away in southern Alaska. The researchers believe the genetic intermingling is the result of birds eating the glacier-bound worms (or their eggs) at one location and then dropping them off at another as they migrate up and down the west coast.

“If you are a worm isolated on a mountaintop glacier, the expectation is you aren’t going anywhere,” said Hotaling, a postdoctoral biology researcher. “But lo and behold, we found this one ice worm on Vancouver Island that is super closely related to ice worms in southern Alaska. The only reasonable explanation we can think of to explain this is birds.”

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WSU Insider

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Dear Dr. Universe: Why do flowers smell so nice?

Rachel Bonoan.
Bonoan

Flowers not only smell nice to humans, but also to many insects and birds who help the flowers do a really important job, according to Rachael Bonoan, a scientist with the Conservation Biology Laboratory at Washington State University.

Let’s imagine that you are a bee or a butterfly. You don’t have a nose on your face, but instead use your two antennae to smell things.

As you fly around, you catch a whiff of chemicals floating in the air. Down below, you see a field of daisies. The flowers are releasing some chemicals, which are the building blocks of a smell.

You fly down to the field and land on a daisy’s petal. It’s just what the flower wanted you to do.

Not only can you drink nectar from the flower to get some energy, but you can help the flower get ready to produce even more flowers.

As you sip on the daisy’s sweet, liquid nectar, the hairs on your body start picking up pollen, sticky grains on the flower. If you are imagining yourself as a bee, you might also use your front legs to put the grains into your pollen baskets, or pollen pants, near your back legs.

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Dr. Universe

WSU researchers see health effects across generations from popular weed killer

Washington State University researchers have found a variety of diseases and other health problems in the second- and third-generation offspring of rats exposed to glyphosate, the world’s most popular weed killer. In the first study of its kind, the researchers saw descendants of exposed rats developing prostate, kidney and ovarian diseases, obesity and birth abnormalities.

Michael Skinner.Michael Skinner, a WSU professor of biological sciences, and his colleagues exposed pregnant rats to the herbicide between their eighth and 14th days of gestation. The dose—half the amount expected to show no adverse effect—produced no apparent ill effects on either the parents or the first generation of offspring.

But writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers say they saw “dramatic increases” in several pathologies affecting the second and third generations.

In third-generation males, the researchers saw a 30 percent increase in prostate disease—three times that of a control population. The third generation of females had a 40 percent increase in kidney disease, or four times that of the controls.

More than one-third of the second-generation mothers had unsuccessful pregnancies, with most of those affected dying. Two out of five males and females in the third generation were obese.

“The ability of glyphosate and other environmental toxicants to impact our future generations needs to be considered,” they write, “and is potentially as important as the direct exposure toxicology done today for risk assessment.”

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WSU Insider
KREM

Dr. Universe: What can I do to help stop ocean pollution?

Richelle Tanner.
Tanner

One of the most important things we can do to prevent more pollution is to keep our garbage, especially plastic, out of the ocean. That’s what I found out from my friend Richelle Tanner, a marine biologist and researcher at Washington State University.

Tanner said it’s a lot easier to keep plastic out of the ocean than to get it out of the water. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates the amount of garbage humans put into the ocean every year is equal to about 90 aircraft carriers, those big ships at sea where planes take off and land.

Tanner said you might work with your class to pick up trash near waterways in your community. You might also share what you’ve learned and talk about it with family and friends.

One other thing you can do is try to reduce your own plastic use. For a week, keep track of all the plastic you use. Then, track another week and see if you’ve improved. Ocean pollution is a big problem, but we can all take small steps to help make a big difference.

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Dr. Universe