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College of Arts and Sciences science and technology

Grizzlies show remarkable gene control before and during hibernation

Researchers conduct a cardiac ultrasound on a groggy bear during hybernation.Being a human couch potato can greatly increase fat accumulation, hasten the onset of Type II diabetes symptoms, result in detrimental blood chemistry and cardiovascular changes, and eventually, bring about one’s death.

Large hibernators such as bears however have evolved to adapt to and reverse similar metabolic stressors they face each year before and during hibernation to essentially become immune to these » More …

Saving sage-grouse by relocation

A grouse flying across the landscape with Mt. Rainier in the background.Moving can be tough, but eventually most of us acclimate to new surroundings. That’s true for humans, and research from Washington State University shows it’s the same for sage-grouse too.

A team of scientists successfully moved sage-grouse, a threatened bird species in Washington state, from one area of » More …

Unlocking secrets of the ice worm

A close up shot of a human finger with mud and sand covering the tip. In the mud is a tiny black worm.The ice worm is one of the largest organisms that spends its entire life in ice and Washington State University scientist Scott 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. » More …

WSU smart home tests first elder care robot

Nisha Raghunath demonstrates the interactions between a human and a helper robot.A robot created by Washington State University scientists could help elderly people with dementia and other limitations live independently in their own homes.

The Robot Activity Support System, or RAS, uses sensors embedded in a WSU smart home to determine where its residents are, what they are doing and when they need assistance with daily activities. » More …

New federal grants support energy research

Kevin Lynn.Kelvin Lynn, Regents Professor with a dual appointment in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, has received a $200,000 award from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office to advance solar research and development.

Lynn, who is also the Boeing Chair for Advanced Materials, and his group are working to improve cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar technology. Silicon solar cells represent 90 percent of the solar cell market, but CdTe solar cells offer a low‑cost alternative. They have the lowest carbon footprint in solar technology and » More …

Climate change affects breeding birds

White House Finch.The breeding seasons of wild house finches are shifting due to climate change, a Washington State University researcher has found.

The effect of climate change on the breeding season of birds has been documented before, but in a limited context. Heather Watts, an avian physiologist, reported her finding in Ibis, the International Journal of Avian Science. » More …

$3M interdisciplinary grant to pursue epigenetic biomarkers

Michael Skinner in his laboratoryWashington State University researchers have received nearly $3 million from the John Templeton Foundation, the second such grant in four years, to see if they can anticipate and prevent diseases by developing epigenetic biomarkers that could provide early stage diagnostics for disease susceptibility. Their approach would be a departure from traditional “reactionary medicine,” which treats diseases after they develop, as well as from diagnoses based on an individual’s genetic profile. » More …

Northwest Indians used tobacco long before European contact

David Gang, left, and Shannon Tushingham holding ancient tobacco pipes WSU researchers have determined that Nez Perce Indians grew and smoked tobacco at least 1,200 years ago, long before the arrival of traders and settlers from the eastern United States. Their finding upends a long-held view that indigenous people in this area of the interior Pacific Northwest smoked only kinnikinnick or bearberry before traders brought tobacco starting around 1790.

Shannon Tushingham, a WSU assistant professor and director of its Museum of Anthropology, made the discovery after teaming up with David Gang, a professor in the Institute of Biological Chemistry, to analyze pipes and » More …

Cacao analysis dates domesticated trees back 3,600 years

Theobroma cacao tree fruitsResearchers analyzing the genomes of cultivated cacao trees have traced their origin to a “single domestication event” some 3,600 years ago. The discovery opens a new front in a long-running argument regarding when and where humans started growing the source of chocolate.

“This evidence increases our understanding of how humans moved and established in America,” said Omar Cornejo, a Washington State University population geneticist and lead author of an article on the study in » More …

Researcher warns of possible reprise of worst known drought, famine

Engraving showing the plight of animals as well as humans in Bellary district A Washington State University researcher has completed the most thorough analysis yet of The Great Drought — the most devastating known drought of the past 800 years — and how it led to the Global Famine, an unprecedented disaster that took 50 million lives. She warns that the Earth’s current warming climate could make a similar drought even worse.

Deepti Singh, an assistant professor in the School of the Environment, used tree‑ring data, rainfall records and climate reconstructions to characterize the conditions leading up to the Great Drought, a period of widespread » More …