Around the beginning of the twentieth century, William Jasper Spillman, one of Washington State’s first faculty members, recognized that eastern Washington farmers were committed to lucrative wheat as their primary crop. Spillman experimented by crossing wheat varieties to find traits desirable for the Inland Northwest.
Variations didn’t appear in the first generation, but Spillman soon observed that the second generation of plants had combinations of the parents’ traits. He then applied a mathematical formula to predict inherited traits, to the benefit of the wheat farmers.
Many of us know the basics of this research from high school science: Gregor Mendel’s laws of inheritance, … » More …
For the better part of four decades, Mark Wildung (’89 BS, ’92 MS) felt lousy.
He felt like he had a flu, but wrote it off, thinking everyone felt that way. He had a hollow leg, packing twice as much food as his friends on backpacking trips, but his body was withering away, his weight dropping to 138 pounds.
Finally, at a going-away party before a trip to Germany, a physician-assistant friend suggested he might have celiac disease, an autoimmune reaction to certain gluten proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. His symptoms got worse in Germany, a land of great bread and … » More …
Few things are as mysterious and amazing as the life of the queen bee, says bee breeder Sue Cobey. Just a few days after she hatches from her cell, the queen’s fertility is optimal and she has just a brief time to mate for the rest of her four-year life.
The timing is critical, says Cobey, as she describes the process to a roomful of rapt Puget Sound-area beekeepers. If the weather is warm and mild, she leaves the hive, flying low at first to avoid her own colony’s drones before heading to a place where drones from other hives are waiting for a queen … » More …
Taking archeology a step beyond traditional pottery shards, Brian Kemp analyzes ancient DNA (aDNA) from bones, teeth, and desiccated feces (coprolites) to help bring prehistoric Native American cultures alive in ways never before possible. As a molecular anthropologist, Kemp compares archeological findings with genetic information to detect past demographic shifts, population interactions, and movements throughout the Americas.
By plotting aDNA together with artifacts in the ground, specific tribes in the Southwest can be seen to virtually travel across the high desert through the eons. The picture Kemp paints seems so real that one can almost hear the hunter-gatherer songs and shouts drifting in the air.
The rainbow trout has evolved over millions of years to survive in varied but
particular circumstances in the wild. The hatchery rainbow fl ourishes in its relatively
new, artificial surroundings, but its acquired skill set compromises its evolution.
The rainbow has so straddled the worlds of nature and nurture, says biologist Gary
Thorgaard, that it has become “a world fish.” » More ...
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 …
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 …
While Listeria monocytogenes accounts for only 1/100th of 1
percent of all food-borne illnesses in the United States, it's
responsible for a whopping 28 percent of annual deaths. Development of
a quick test for the pathogen promises to drastically reduce that
statistic. » More ...