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Research exchange to explore resilient, high-yielding crops

School of Biological Sciences postdoctoral researcher Mingzhu Lu and doctoral candidates Sandi Thu, Samantha The, and Rachel Snyder show some of their research experiments into plant biology and traits in professor Mechthild Tegeder’s lab.Students from Washington State University will travel to Germany next summer for a new research exchange program exploring complex plant traits underlying resilience and yield.

Funded by a $300,000 award from the National Science Foundation’s International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) initiative, the 10-week program expands WSU’s partnership with Germany’s CEPLAS—Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences—which integrates resources at the » More …

Self‑pollinating plant shows rapid loss of genetic variation

Jeremiah Busch.Pollinators like bees are important to biodiversity in their own right, but a study led by Jeremiah Busch, a Washington State University evolutionary biologist, indicates that their decline will also have potentially devastating impacts on plants, and quickly.

“If pollinators are lost, it’s not just going to be a problem for the pollinators: plant populations will lose genetic variation in tens of generations — not thousands, but tens,” said Busch. » More …

Examining socio‑economics of flexible rules

Resevior.An interdisciplinary team of WSU researchers has been awarded a $1.6 million grant to study under what conditions are individuals, groups and institutions likely to follow rules about the environment “to the letter” versus exercising discretion or making new rules.

“In the realm of science-based environmental management, it is useful to have flexibility to adapt to changing conditions, but it is also good to have clear rules as a basis for making investments toward long-term goals,” said John Harrison, Edward R. Meyer distinguished professor in » More …

Scientists look to public to help collect migratory data

During the Western Monarch Mystery Challenge, which started on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, and runs through April 22, Earth Day, California residents are asked to report sightings of monarchs. The data they collect will give much-needed insight into the butterflies’ habitat needs during the spring months, so researchers can better target conservation efforts.

“We are already receiving sighting reports, which is very exciting,” said Cheryl Schultz, a WSU biology professor and a lead researcher on the project. “The reports show » More …

Revealing how bacteria and grasses fix nitrogen

SwitchgrassReducing synthetic fertilizer use, pollution, farming costs, while freeing up nitrogen, mark possible benefits of a research project by Sarah Roley, assistant professor with the School of the Environment, Washington State University Tri-Cities.

Roley, and her two colleagues, recently landed a $483,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation, to pursue a more detailed understanding of how bacteria work with perennial grasses to fix nitrogen. » More …

Hydrologist earns NSF CAREER award

NSF logo.Kevan Moffett, assistant professor of environmental hydrology at WSU Vancouver, has earned a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Program award from the National Science Foundation. Highly competitive, ‘CAREER’ awards emphasize the importance of developing academic careers in which the excitement of research is enhanced by inspired teaching and dissemination of new knowledge.

Moffett’s research explores how the urban water cycle interacts with the heat generated by urban areas. Most hydrological research takes place » More …

Making sense of big data

colorful icons connected with dots and linesPeople, businesses and institutions are collecting more and more data, but often don’t know what to do with it. That’s where mathematics comes in. Bala Krishnamoorthy, associate professor and program leader of mathematics and statistics at WSU Vancouver, is participating in a project funded by the National Science Foundation that he describes as follows: “The grant is about applying mathematical techniques to make sense of the loads and loads of data that people are collecting.” » More …

Ancient Inland Northwest volcanic eruptions blocked out sun, cooling planet

Palouse Falls (c)WSU Photo ServicesThe Pacific Northwest was home to one of the Earth’s largest known volcanic eruptions, a millennia-long spewing of sulfuric gas that blocked out the sun and cooled the planet, Washington State University researchers have determined.

“This would have been devastating regionally because of the acid-rain effect from the eruptions,” said John Wolff, a professor in the WSU School of the Environment. “It did have a global effect on temperatures, but not drastic enough to start killing things, or it did not kill enough of them to affect the fossil record.”

The research, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, appears in Geology, the top journal in the field. Starting 16.5 million years ago, they say, vents in southeast Washington » More …

Physicists write with light, turn crystal into an electrical circuit

artistic depiction of writing with lightWashington State University physicists have found a way to write an electrical circuit into a crystal, opening up the possibility of transparent, three-dimensional electronics that, like an Etch A Sketch, can be erased and reconfigured.

The work, to appear in the on-line journal Scientific Reports, serves as a proof of concept for a phenomenon that WSU researchers first discovered by accident four years ago. » More …