College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

WSU’s Voice of the Vine: Brains to Grapes, Wine in Provence, Inmates as Researchers, and Blackleaf in Grapes

From brains to grapes

Three months ago, Berenice Burdet was in Argentina, studying the intricacies of the human brain. Now, she is in central Washington, studying something slightly different: sugar transporter genes in wine grapes.

“Before this I was working with brains and rats. Now, I’m working with berries,” said Burdet, a postdoctoral research associate at the WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser. “The physiology, the anatomy — everything is different.”

The transition from neurobiology to viticulture was difficult, but it was something she really wanted to do, Burdet said. In Argentina she visited vineyards and, through her family, became familiar with … » More …

A better way to shine light in a dark world

Years ago I purchased a headlamp — a small flashlight that straps around your head to light your way. It’s really useful because it leaves both your hands free as you work or walk. I used my headlamp during the dark half of the year to exercise my dog in dark pastures and an undeveloped No Man’s Land on a steep hill near my house.

My headlamp used an old fashioned light bulb and a fairly heavy battery to run it. I used it for years but it finally stopped working, so I recently purchased a new headlamp. Technology has changed, and for the better … » More …

WSU’s Green Times: Beetles, Bees, Beef & Bread

NEW! sustainable ag online graduate certificate

LynneCarpenterWashington State University will launch an online graduate certificate in sustainable agriculture in the spring.

The nine-credit certificate provides expertise in researching, assessing and improving sustainable agriculture, said Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, the professor directing the program. It is designed for researchers already enrolled in graduate-level agriculture programs and for working professionals such as producers, organic certifying agents and corporate sustainability officers. Read more.

 

Nature’s pooper scoopers: Can dung beetles aid food safety?

For farmers, especially organic farmers, who are increasingly challenged by food safety guidelines, dung beetles could provide an … » More …

Triggering the Ice Age

By Dr. E. Kirsten Peters

From time to time I give public talks on climate change — those large scale changes geologists have been studying since the 1830s. At those talks I’m often asked a basic question about climate that, until now, has stumped scientists. Here’s the background.

In the 1830s a Swiss naturalist named Louis Agassiz started promoting the idea that Europe had once been enveloped in a cold time in which large areas had been covered in glacial ice. He called that interval “the Ice Age.”

Working in this country in later decades, geologists studying glacial debris and soil layers came up … » More …

Correcting errors in the language of life

My word processor is set up to deal with the errors I make when writing. The programmers who wrote the computer program knew I’d screw things up, so they built in corrective functions like spellcheck and the ability to simply backspace to delete typos. Those of us old enough to remember manual typewriters still sometimes marvel at the ease with which corrections in documents can now be made.

Mother Nature also has a built-in corrective function, one at work in organisms as simple as yeast and as complex as people.

“Each human cell experiences 10,000 to 100,000 injuries or lesions in its DNA per day,” … » More …

WSU’s On Solid Ground: Cattle and prairies, Nematodes, Soil quality, Grape harvest

Cattle could protect butterflies, conserve prairies

Butterflies, cattle and the military may seem like unlikely bedfellows, but for native prairies—some of the most threatened habitats in the world—the trio are closely connected.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the improbable pairing of cattle grazing and native prairie conservation is not only compatible, but mutually beneficial. Carefully managed grazing regimes can improve weed control and plant health, help re-establish native plants, and increase plant diversity compared with an unmanaged system. However, until now no systematic study has attempted to track the impacts of managed grazing on native prairie plant communities in western Washington.

Scientists at WSU, in partnership with … » More …

Plants Respond to Sounds of Insects Eating Leaves

Plants are not as dumb as they look.

At least to me, plants have never seemed like the brightest bulb in the box. They stand around, looking green, hoping for a sunny day but not able to walk, talk or turn on the TV. However, due to a recent university press release, I’ve got to rethink my attitudes about vegetation.

Two scientists at the University of Missouri, Heidi Appel and Rex Cocroft, studied a plant called Arabidopsis. That’s a common experimental plant, used by researchers because it’s fast growing and a great deal is known about it. Arabidopsis is a flowering plant that you can … » More …

WSU’s Voice of the Vine: Grape Moods, Electric Tongue, and WSU Visitor’s Center

The mysterious moods of the wine grape

Pessimism and optimism are personality traits usually assigned to humans. Generally it’s people who can have either a negative or positive outlook on life, but one Washington State University graduate student is studying the outlooks of an unlikely subject: the wine grape.

Joelle Bou Harb travelled from Lebanon to join the WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) viticulture team two months ago to pursue her doctorate in horticulture. Bou Harb has spent the summer studying what she describes as the “personalities” of 30 different varieties of wine grapes based on their isohydric or anisohydric behaviors, that is, … » More …

WSU’s Green Times: Monarchs, honey bees, dairy footprints, food economy

Wanted: Monarch butterflies, last seen heading south

Researchers at Washington State University are calling upon the public throughout the western U.S. to report sightings of tagged monarch butterflies that are making their way from Washington State to as far south as Mexico.

WSU entomologist David James has released close to 1,500 butterflies so far with plans to release up to 1,000 more by early October. Each butterfly has a small circular sticker attached to a wing. He wants to know where butterflies from the Pacific Northwest go for overwintering.

“We are beginning to get reports of people seeing them but we’d like to alert more … » More …

Forensic science meets nuclear chemistry

As a kid, I read the Sherlock Holmes stories and the mysteries of Agatha Christie. As an adult, I wrote four mysteries that focused on a Quaker heroine solving crimes she happened across in her religious community. (I published them using my grandmother’s name — Irene Allen — as a pseudonym.) And, as a geologist, I’ve read about real-life criminal investigations that involved samples of sand and soil.

But it wasn’t until I talked with Dr. Nathalie Wall of the chemistry department at Washington State University that I got my head around forensic science that relates to radioactive materials.

“The basic definition of forensics is … » More …

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