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Research

Spring 2012

Lessons from the Forest—The anthropology of childhood

Fresh out of college in 1971, with a little money saved up, Barry Hewlett bought a one-way ticket to Europe. He trekked around Europe for a while, but eventually started to get bored. He noticed many of his fellow youthful travelers were heading for India. So he headed south, for Africa.

He found a cargo boat that was going to Alexandria, Egypt, and booked passage. And kept going, up the Nile to Khartoum in Sudan. Along the way, he says, other travelers told him, you’ve got to see the pygmy people. So he made his way to Uganda to visit pygmies.

He didn’t stay long, … » More …

Spring 2012

On Closer Inspection—The curiouser and curiouser world of the small

In some ways, with so much science now involving tools that detect things outside the five senses, examining the world with a microscope seems quaint. But a corps of WSU researchers—let’s call them microscopists—are wrangling photons, electrons, glowing proteins, exotic stains, and remarkably powerful devices in their pursuit of the small.

» More ...
Carol Miles
Spring 2012

Mulch ado about garden plastics

In 2001, Carol Miles certified WSU’s first piece of organic land, a three-acre parcel at the WSU Vancouver Research and Extension Unit. It was a landmark moment, leading the way for organically managed land at all of WSU’s research facilities.

But one thing kept nagging her: the plastic.

In the absence of conventional herbicides, weed control was her number one issue, and laying down a layer of plastic took care of the problem handily. But it’s nonrenewable and not recycled.

If it’s going to be used in an organic production system, reasoned Miles, now a vegetable horticulturist at the WSU Mount Vernon … » More …

Madrone leaf blight
Spring 2012

A blighted Northwest icon

Last March, Gary Chastagner was driving around southwest Oregon scouting test plots for a study of madrone, the gnarly, reddish-brown tree found up and down the West Coast. A variety of diseases had been hitting the trees in recent years, and Chastagner, a plant pathologist in WSU’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center, was undertaking a study to see if some varieties might be more disease resistant than others.

Driving between Roseburg and Medford, he started seeing entire slopes of trees that looked decidedly disease prone.

“It just looked like someone went through with a blowtorch,” Chastagner recalls.

County extension agents and natural resource … » More …

Joe Keim Campbell
Spring 2012

The end of free will?

 

The wind said
You know I’m
the result of
forces beyond my control

A.R. Ammons, “The Wide Land”

When the subject of free will resurfaced on the media horizon recently, all I could think of was that last dorm room bull session on said topic many, many years ago. But up it pops again, not just in philosophy journals, but in the esteemed science, and generally nonphilosophical, journals Nature and Science. A subject that has been fervently teased, manipulated, and debated (by scholars decidedly more rigorous than a clutch of college students with a couple of semesters of introductory philosophy under … » More …

Spring 2012

Eat your broccoli or no cookie: Feeding styles and childhood obesity

Ever try to get a child to stop munching potato chips and eat some carrots? That push toward healthier foods can sometimes contribute to familial strife, make it difficult for children to tell when they are full, and even increase the possibility of children becoming obese.

“Parents struggle all the time to get their kids to eat the right foods or to try their fruits and vegetables,” says Thomas Power, chair of Washington State University’s Department of Human Development. And a child’s innate ability to determine how much to eat can be compromised in these situations, he adds.

» More …

ant artwork
Spring 2012

Living the right-sized life

I want to walk on water, climb walls, and dance on the ceiling. If insects can do it, it’s only fair that I should, too.

But this thing called physics has decreed otherwise. Carol Anelli, a WSU entomologist, can tell you why, having a lifelong fascination with ways insects can at times make us seem relatively slow, earthbound, and weak.

Carol Anelli
Carol Anelli (Photo Shelly Hanks)

Anelli first came upon the wonders of insects as a child among the woods and fields of a suburbanizing central Connecticut. She would pull caterpillars from … » More …

Winter 2011

An evolutionary myth is dismissed

Even though a paper on guppy senescence by evolutionary biologist Donna Holmes and her colleagues has circulated for several years, the “grandmother hypothesis” still persists.

And understandably so. One of those rare feel-good stories from evolutionary theory, the grandmother hypothesis attempts to explain menopause in humans as an evolutionary adaptation. Menopause is adaptive, the argument goes, in the sense that women’s reproductive capacity is cut short barely two-thirds of the way through their lives so that the grandmother can help raise the grandchildren, thereby improving the survival of her lineage.

In spite of its appeal, however, “I’ve always thought that was a dumb theory,” … » More …