Loud noises are emanating from the laboratory these days, but they’re declamations, not explosions. This month scientists and other advocates for science assembled in cities around the country for the second annual March for Science. The organizers called on people to march for “a future where science is fully embraced in public life and policy.”
Such outreach is multiplying outside the classroom. too. In March, Science Talk, a new science-communication organization co-founded by Allison Coffin, associate professor of integrative physiology and neuroscience at Washington State University Vancouver, held its second annual conference in Portland, Ore.
She had taught science-communication workshops, and “wanted to create a forum for science communicators to come together, share ideas, and network,” Coffin said.
Fish research at Washington State University could help scientists better understand some developmental disorders that cause facial deformities.
Jim Cooper, a WSU Tri-Cities assistant professor of biological sciences, studies “jaw protrusion,” a biomechanical ability shared by many fish. For a fish, pushing its jaw out allows it to more easily catch prey, and is an evolutionary advantage comparable with the ability of most birds to fly, Cooper said. The difference is, there’s about twice as many fish with the ability as there are living bird species.
“If you’re talking about biomechanical abilities that have been useful in terms of promoting diversification of lots of species, jaw protrusion is a champ,” he said.
Washington State University researchers have found that salmon face a double whammy when they swim in the stormwater runoff of urban roadways.
First, as scientists learned a couple years ago, toxic pollution in the water can kill them. WSU researchers have now determined that fish that survive polluted stormwater are still at risk.
“We’re showing that even if the fish are surviving the stormwater exposure, they still might not be able to detect the world around them as well, which can make it harder for them to find food or more likely for them to get eaten,” said Allison Coffin, an assistant professor of neuroscience at WSU Vancouver.
Columbia River Chinook salmon have lost as much as two-thirds of their genetic diversity, Washington State University researchers have found.
Writing in the journal PLOS One, the researchers say their analysis “provides the first direct measure of reduced genetic diversity for Chinook salmon from the ancient to the contemporary period.”
“The big question is: Is it the dams or was it this huge fishing pressure when Europeans arrived?” said Bobbi Johnson, who did the study as part of her WSU doctorate in biological sciences. “That diversity could have been gone before they put the dams in.”
As weird animals go, the mangrove killifish is in a class of its own.
It flourishes in both freshwater and water with twice as much salt as the ocean. It can live up to two months on land, breathing through its skin, before returning to the water with a series of spectacular 180-degree flips.
And it is one of only two vertebrates — the other is a close relative — that fertilizes itself.
This last part intrigues scientists like Luana Lins, a postdoctoral researcher in the Washington State University School of Biological Sciences.