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CAS in the Media Arts and Sciences Media Headlines

Undergraduate researchers tackle important questions in sciences, humanities

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, relieving chronic pain, understanding protest behavior and conserving wildlife are among the goals of eight faculty-mentored undergraduate research projects funded this spring by the College of Arts and Sciences.

Students from across the college—in mathematicschemistryforeign languages and politicalpsychologicalenvironmental and biological sciences—are working with faculty researchers to solve questions as diverse as what are a book’s chances of becoming a best seller and which food sources threatened butterflies prefer.

Courtney Meehan.

“The College of Arts and Sciences enthusiastically supports our students’ intellectual curiosity and the wide range of exciting and impactful research they conduct,” said Courtney Meehan, CAS associate dean for research and graduate studies. “Providing funds for these projects, and many more, advances the college’s ongoing commitment to support undergraduate students’ participation in an array of innovative research, scholarship and creative activities.”

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WSU Insider

High protein diet may harm polar bears

Charles Robbins.

A high protein diet appears linked to kidney disease and shortened lifespans for captive polar bears, a relationship similarly suspected in humans, according to a review led by Washington State University wildlife biologist Charlie Robbins.

“Zoos made some assumptions in the past about the nutritional requirements of polar bears because their diet is almost exclusively animals,” said Robbins, professor and founder of WSU’s Bear Center. “But, unlike cats, they do not need and cannot tolerate high protein.”

“Although we knew that polar bears selected for the blubber of their prey, this was the first time we were able to quantify how much fat they were actually consuming,” Robbins said. “When it comes to feeding polar bears, the general mindset has been that they are carnivores. No one has really been paying attention to the amount of protein they might need, much less limitations on how much they might tolerate.”

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WSU Insider

WSU Tri-Cities is one of nine College Campuses in the US chosen for a Learner Success Lab

Shifting economic pressures and changing technologies have caused universities and colleges to make extensive changes to their delivery of educational experiences, which has only been expedited amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

That is why Washington State University Tri-Cities is participating in a new cohort of nine colleges and universities for a Learner Success Laboratory.

Kathleen McAteer
Kathleen McAteer

Kate McAteer, WSU Tri-Cities vice chancellor for academic and student affairs and professor of biological sciences, said the pandemic has exposed inequities and has created new challenges that demand that universities and colleges adapt and innovate.

“WSU Tri-Cities serves a high population of students that are the first in their families to attend college, but also a high population of students that have to work to support their families, in addition to other pressures, while they are going to school,” she said. “We are building on efforts during the pandemic to create a place where all students have a strong sense of belonging. The Learner Success Lab will help equip us with tools, important discussions with fellow institutions and research-driven practices that will help us shape the future of learning at WSU Tri-Cities.”

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Honoring the milestones and contributions of WSU employees

Staff and faculty play a crucial part in WSU’s work and the university each year recognizes employees for their contributions, including milestones in their time at Washington State.

Michael Griswold

Griswold, Regents Professor and director of the School of Molecular Biosciences, joined the WSU faculty in 1976 as a biochemist.

He served terms as chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and as dean of the College of Sciences. Griswold gave the WSU Distinguished Faculty address in 1994, received the Sahlin Award for research in 1999 and the WSU Eminent Faculty award in 2009. His research focuses on spermatogenesis with an emphasis on the function of Sertoli cells. His work provided fundamental and groundbreaking insights into Sertoli cell-germ cell interactions and the crucial role of vitamin A during spermatogenesis. The NIH has continuously funded Griswold’s research since 1977, with nearly $30 million in total funding.  One grant is currently in its 43rd year.

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WSU Insider

Do Animals Fall in Love?

If love is life’s greatest mystery, then perhaps its second-greatest mystery is whether humans are alone in experiencing it. We talk about lovebirds and puppy love, but biologists are cautioned against anthropomorphizing their animal subjects and assigning human traits and meaning where they don’t belong. Instead, scientists scan brains, measure hormone production and conduct “speed dating for pandas,” all of which could help answer the question, “Do animals fall in love?” And if so, how, and why?

Meghan Martin.

When creating breeding programs for endangered animals, scientists “need to figure out how to make them fall in love, and it’s not as easy as turning on Marvin Gaye,” says Meghan Martin, an adjunct biology professor at Washington State University-Vancouver and director of the nonprofit PDX Wildlife. “We have to break their specific code.”

“The general assumption is that if given the chance to breed with the last panda on Earth, which is theoretically what’s happening, that all animals would do that,” says Martin. “But that is not the case. I have seen species go almost into extinction in the conservation breeding world” because the researchers tried to pair uninterested animals together.

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