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Winter 2002

A summer job that meant something

An entomology undergrad combats the worm in the apple

When they hatch, they’re so tiny you can barely see them. Then they eat. They bore their way inside an apple and consume it from within. After two weeks, they’re half an inch long, pinkish orange, and engorged, with tiny dark heads. They’re also translucent, so if you look closely, you can see their food moving along their digestive tracts.

They’re codling moth larvae, the number one adversary of Washington apple orchard growers and the subject of her fascinating summer of research at the Washington State University Tri-Cities’ Food and Environmental Quality Lab. With faculty members … » More …

Winter 2002

What's protein got to do with it?

it is now possible to measure the activities of thousands of genes and corresponding proteins-all at once. The methods are reasonably straightforward technically, and all the necessary bits and pieces are available to anyone-for a price. A lot of razzle-dazzle and hype have accompanied this technological breakthrough. Certainly mountains of data will be generated, and many interesting insights will be gained in the next few years.

But then what? Ironically, we are blessed with almost too much of a good thing. University labs worldwide and dozens of newly spawned biotech companies are working day and night to devise methods for sorting out all this information. … » More …

Winter 2002

Don't panic yet

An asteroid may be heading for a collision with earth, reports a group of researchers including Washington State University’s Scott Hudson. Fortunately, the actual probability of a collision is only one-third of one percent, and we have 878 years to prepare.

In an article in the April 5 Science, scientists predict that Asteroid 1950 DA, about one kilometer in diameter, could hit earth in March 2880. Typically, it is very difficult to predict asteroid collisions this far into the future. However, by obtaining radar imagery of the asteroid, the researchers were able to model in detail the evolution of its orbit for the next several … » More …

Winter 2002

The sink's nearly full

Some climate change researchers have placed high hopes in forest and grassland soils and their ability to act as carbon “sinks.” These sinks store excess atmospheric carbon and thus partially offset the effect of increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, a recent study by Washington State University environmental scientist Richard Gill and his colleagues indicate the sink may be reaching capacity.

Although carbon dioxide has been increasing in the atmosphere for the last 10,000 years, the increase has been especially rapid in the last 150 years because of the industrial revolution and the conversion of land to agricultural uses. The rate of … » More …

Winter 2002

A bizarre, slimy animal shows its stuff

Without jaws, most vertebrates-including us-would be stuck hanging around in the ocean or on the ground, unable to bite and scooping up or filtering food. We’d also be smaller. Instead, we’re fearsome predators and herbivores, with big brains and an infinite range of food sources. We have evolution to thank for our fortune-and  Jon Mallatt to thank for helping us appreciate the fact.

“The evolution of jaws a half billion years ago was the single most important factor in the success of vertebrates,” says Mallatt, associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences and in basic medical sciences.

Mallatt began his study of the evolution … » More …

Spring 2004

On the origin of species—again

Everyone calls them genius awards, except the foundation that gives them. When describing recipients of its annual $500,000 grants, the MacArthur Foundation avoids “genius”-rather, says the Foundation, MacArthur Fellows are people who transcend boundaries, take risks, and synthesize disparate ideas and approaches. That’s a dead-on definition of Loren Rieseberg (’87 Ph.D. Botany), an evolutionary biologist at Indiana University Bloomington who received a MacArthur Fellowship in October 2003.

When Rieseberg arrived at Washington State University in 1984 to pursue his doctorate, he was a model student, energetic and eager, recalls his advisor and former WSU professor, Douglas Soltis, now at University of Florida. Soltis handed him … » More …