UW News

Department of Biology


July 18, 2019

Scientists discover how the mosquito brain integrates diverse sensory cues to locate a host to bite

A team, led by researchers at the University of Washington, has discovered how the female mosquito brain integrates visual and olfactory signals to identify, track and hone in on a potential host for her next blood meal: After the mosquito’s olfactory system detects certain chemical cues, the mosquito uses her visual system to scan her surroundings for certain shapes and fly toward them, presumably associating those shapes with potential hosts.


June 20, 2019

Mammals and their relatives thrived, diversified during so-called ‘Age of Dinosaurs,’ researchers show

Illustration of an extinct marsupial.

Old myths state that, during the time of the dinosaurs, mammals and their relatives were small and primitive. But new research shows that, during the time of the dinosaurs, mammals and their relatives actually underwent two large ecological radiations, diversifying into climbing, gliding and burrowing forms with a variety of diets.


May 23, 2019

Hot spots in rivers that nurture young salmon ‘flicker on and off’ in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region

A spawning sockeye salmon.

Chemical signatures imprinted on tiny stones that form inside the ears of fish show that two of Alaska’s most productive salmon populations, and the fisheries they support, depend on the entire watershed.


May 2, 2019

Bats evolved diverse skull shapes due to echolocation, diet

A close-up image of a California leaf-nosed bat.

In a paper published May 2 in Nature Communications, a University of Washington team reports that two major forces have shaped bat skulls over their evolutionary history — echolocation and diet — generating a huge diversity of skull shapes across 1,300 bat species today.


April 30, 2019

Flowering plants, new teeth and no dinosaurs: New study sheds light on the rise of mammals

Well-preserved fossils ― like this Yanoconodon allini (Specimen No.: NJU P06001; Formation: Yixian; Age: 122.2–124.6 million years ago; Provenance: China) ― enabled the team to infer ecology of these extinct mammal species and look at changes in mammal community structure during the last 165 million years.

A new study published April 30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences identified three factors critical in the rise of mammal communities since they first emerged during the Age of Dinosaurs: the rise of flowering plants; the evolution of tribosphenic molars in mammals; and the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, which reduced competition between mammals and other vertebrates in terrestrial ecosystems.


March 18, 2019

Information School to welcome high school students March 19 for ‘MisInfo Day’ – from ‘Calling BS’ faculty duo

RainbowW

The UW Information School is taking a leading role in helping people better navigate this era of increasing online fakery and falsehood. On March 19, the school will welcome 200-some Seattle-area high school students for “MisInfo Day,” a daylong workshop on how to navigate the misinformation landscape, from Jevin West and Carl Bergstrom, the faculty duo behind “Calling BS in the Age of Big Data.”


March 4, 2019

Fake faces: UWs ‘Calling BS’ duo opens new website asking ‘Which face is real?’

Which of these two very realistic renderings of faces is real, and which is a computer-generated fake? Biology professor Carl Bergstrom and Information School professor Jevin West -- creators of the "Calling BS" class and site -- now have a website to help you better discern between fake and real images online. Here, the image on the right is real. Check your own skills at their site, WhichFaceisReal.com

A new website from the UW’s Jevin West and Carl Bergstrom, the duo behind the popular “Calling BS” class, asks viewers to choose which of two realistic face photos is real and which is a complete fake.


February 13, 2019

Parents don’t pick favorites, at least if you’re a Magellanic penguin

A penguin feeding one of its chicks.

Researchers at the University of Washington wanted to know how Magellanic penguin parents in South America balance the dietary demands of multiple chicks. As they report in a paper published Jan. 23 in the journal Animal Behaviour, when a Magellanic penguin parent returns to its nest with fish, the parent tries to feed each of its two chicks equal portions of food, regardless of the youngsters’ differences in age or size.


January 31, 2019

Iguana-sized dinosaur cousin discovered in Antarctica, shows how life at the South Pole bounced back after mass extinction

An illustration of a forest in Antarctica 250 million years ago, showing reptiles that lived there.

Scientists have just discovered a dinosaur relative that lived in Antarctica 250 million years ago. The iguana-sized reptile’s genus name, Antarctanax, means “Antarctic king.”


January 2, 2019

The number of single male Magellanic penguins is rising at this breeding colony. Here’s why.

A curious Magellanic penguin looking into the camera lens

Female Magellanic penguins are more likely to die at sea as juveniles, which has caused a skewed sex ratio of nearly three adult males to every female, as well as population decline of more than 40 percent since 1987 at one of their largest breeding colonies — Punta Tombo in Argentina.


How economic theory and the Netflix Prize could make research funding more efficient

campus-TILE

In a paper published Jan. 2 in PLOS Biology, two scientists at the University of Washington and North Carolina State University use the economic theory of contests to illustrate how the competitive grant-application system has made the pursuit of research funding inefficient and unsustainable — and that alternative methods, such as a partial lottery to award grants, could relieve pressure on professors and free up time for research.


December 13, 2018

Hark! UW talents — on page and disc — for the good Dawgs on your holiday shopping list

collage of books and CD covers

As the year comes to a close and festivities abound, some UW faculty creations can make great gifts for the thinking Dawg on your giving list.


December 12, 2018

Teens get more sleep, show improved grades and attendance with later school start time, researchers find

Photo by Katherine Turner.

In 2016, Seattle Public Schools pushed back the start times for the district’s 18 high schools by 55 minutes, from 7:50 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. And as hoped, teenagers used the extra time to sleep in.


November 7, 2018

After a bad winter in the ocean, female Magellanic penguins suffer most, study shows

A view of South America from space.

Researchers from the University of Washington have shown how Magellanic penguins fare during the winter months when they spend months at sea feeding. They have discovered that oceanographic features are more likely to negatively impact the body conditions of Magellanic penguin females, but not males, when the penguins return to their nesting grounds in spring.


October 8, 2018

Awards to UW affiliate professor recognize career of conservation and research on penguins

two people standing on a stage

Pablo García Borboroglu, president of the Global Penguin Society and a UW affiliate associate professor of biology, has won the Whitley Gold Award and the National Geographic/Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation, as well as accolades from the Argentine National Congress, for his research and advocacy for penguin conservation.


October 1, 2018

High CO2 levels cause plants to thicken their leaves, which could worsen climate change effects, researchers say

A tree canopy in a tropical rainforest.

When levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rise, most plants do something unusual: They thicken their leaves. Now two University of Washington scientists have shown that this reaction by plants will actually worsen climate change by making the global “carbon sink” contributed by plants was less productive.


September 24, 2018

Burst of morning gene activity tells plants when to flower

Arabidopsis thaliana plants flowering outside under natural light.

For angiosperms — or flowering plants — one of the most important decisions facing them each year is when to flower. It is no trivial undertaking. To flower, they must cease vegetative growth and commit to making those energetically expensive reproductive structures that will bring about the next generation. Knowledge of this process at the…


September 19, 2018

DNA testing of illegal ivory seized by law enforcement links multiple ivory shipments to same dealers

African elephants examining a bone from another elephant

The international trade in elephant ivory has been illegal since 1989, yet African elephant numbers continue to decline. In 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature cited ivory poaching as a primary reason for a staggering loss of about 111,000 elephants between 2005 and 2015 — leaving their total numbers at an estimated 415,000….


September 7, 2018

New Life Sciences Building is a nexus for modern-age teaching and research at the University of Washington

building

The University of Washington today opened the doors to a new Life Sciences Building that will transform learning, teaching and research for generations.

The $171 million Life Sciences complex includes seven floors and 207,000 square feet that encourages and makes possible team-oriented science. Designed by Perkins+Will and built by Skanska, the building encompasses a 187,000-square-foot research and teaching facility and a 20,000-square-foot research greenhouse with UW plant collections.


June 27, 2018

To tell the sex of a Galápagos penguin, measure its beak, researchers say

A Galapagos penguin.

In a paper published April 5 in the journal Endangered Species Research, scientists at the University of Washington announced that, for a Galápagos penguin, beak size is nearly a perfect indicator of whether a bird is male or female.


June 15, 2018

Study: Undergrad research experiences make a noticeable difference

Photo by Katherine Turner. The Block W statue at the North entrance to the UW Seattle campus.

A new analysis suggests the value of structured research programs for undergraduates extends to society as a whole by encouraging participants to seek advanced degrees in scientific and technological fields.


May 17, 2018

Washington Research Foundation grant brings on four new biology faculty just in time for new Life Sciences Building

RainbowW

With the grand opening of the new $171 million Life Sciences Building just months away, it’s time to fill the building with faculty. That was the idea behind a $3 million Washington Research Foundation (WRF) grant to hire four biology professors. It’s called a cluster hire and will help maintain the University of Washington’s leading reputation in primary research and life sciences.


May 15, 2018

Forest loss in one part of US can harm trees on the opposite coast

forest with dead trees

If an entire forest dies, new research shows, it has ricocheting effects in the atmosphere that can affect vegetation on the other side of the country.


May 7, 2018

Stomata — the plant pores that give us life — arise thanks to a gene called MUTE, scientists report

A microscopy image of the surface of a plant.

New research in plants shows that a gene called MUTE is required for the formation of stomata — the tiny pores that are critical for gas exchange, including releasing the oxygen gas that we breathe.


April 10, 2018

UW’s Samuel Wasser receives prestigious Albert Schweitzer Medal

head shot

A University of Washington professor has been awarded the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Medal for his work for developing noninvasive tools for monitoring human impacts on wildlife. Samuel K. Wasser was honored in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., Tuesday evening. The award was presented by Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell.


March 28, 2018

Decade of fossil collecting in Africa gives new perspective on Triassic period, emergence of dinosaurs

an artist rendering of teleocrater, an early dinosaur relative

A University of Washington-led project spanning countries, years and institutions has attempted to reconstruct what the southern end of the world looked like during the Triassic period, 252 to 199 million years ago.


February 7, 2018

Fruit bat’s echolocation may work like sophisticated surveillance sonar

blue bat head shape

High-speed recordings of Egyptian fruit bats in flight show that instead of using a primitive form of echolocation, these animals actually use a technique recently developed by humans for surveillance and navigation.


January 25, 2018

If you swat mosquitoes, they may learn to avoid your scent

A tethered, flying Aedes aegypti mosquito.

In a published Jan. 25 in Current Biology, University of Washington researchers report that mosquitoes can learn to associate a particular odor with an unpleasant mechanical shock akin to being swatted. As a result, they’ll avoid that scent the next time.


January 22, 2018

Lab-made hormone may reveal secret lives of plants

Chemical structure of a plant hormone

By developing a synthetic version of the plant hormone auxin and an engineered receptor to recognize it, University of Washington biology professor Keiko Torii and her colleagues are poised to uncover plants’ inner workings, raising the possibility of a new way to ripen fruits such as strawberries and tomatoes.


January 17, 2018

Scale-eating fish adopt clever parasitic methods to survive

scan

A small group of fishes — possibly the world’s cleverest carnivorous grazers — feeds on the scales of other fish in the tropics. A team led by biologists at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories is trying to understand these scale-feeding fish and how this odd diet influences their body evolution and behavior.


December 3, 2017

Kim Nasmyth — a UW postdoctoral alumnus — wins Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for discoveries in cell biology, genetics

Kim Nasmyth

Kim Nasmyth, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Oxford and former postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington, is one of five recipients of the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. Nasmyth and other prize recipients were honored by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation at a ceremony December 3 at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.


November 7, 2017

With climate change, Mount Rainier floral communities could ‘reassemble’ with new species relationships, interactions

Wildflowers growing on a mountain.

An unseasonably warm, dry summer on Mount Rainier in 2015 caused subalpine wildflowers to change their bloom times and form ‘reassembled’ communities, with unknown consequences for species interactions among wildflowers, pollinators and other animals.


September 25, 2017

Group project? Taking turns, working with friends may improve grades

A University of Washington study has found that social dynamics affect student performance on group projects. The more comfortable students are in the group, the better they perform.

  It has become an almost essential element of academic life, from college lecture halls to elementary classrooms: the group assignment. Dreaded by some, loved by others, group projects typically aim to build teamwork and accountability while students learn about a topic. But depending on the assignment and the structure of the groups, a project…


August 24, 2017

Scientists to create digital encyclopedia of 3-D vertebrate specimens

snake scan

A $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant will daylight thousands of specimens from their museum shelves by CT scanning 20,000 vertebrates and making these data-rich, 3-D images available online to researchers, educators, students and the public. The University of Washington is a partner institution contributing most of the fish and bat scans.


August 10, 2017

Public has rare opportunity to view work on T. rex skull

A dinosaur fossil

Starting Aug. 12, the public can watch fossil preparation of the University of Washington Burke Museum’s Tyrannosaurus rex skull “live.”


June 29, 2017

Study shows high pregnancy failure in southern resident killer whales; links to nutritional stress and low salmon abundance

A killer whale leaping from the water.

A multi-year survey of the nutritional, physiological and reproductive health of endangered southern resident killer whales suggests that up to two-thirds of pregnancies failed in this population from 2007 to 2014. The study links this orca population’s low reproductive success to stress brought on by low or variable abundance of their most nutrient-rich prey, Chinook salmon.


June 6, 2017

Hiding in plain sight: new species of flying squirrel discovered

The newly-described Humboldt’s flying squirrel is the third-known species of flying squirrel in North America.

A new study published May 30 in the Journal of Mammalogy describes a newly discovered third species of flying squirrel in North America — now known as Humboldt’s flying squirrel, or Glaucomys oregonensis. It inhabits the Pacific Coast region of North America, from southern British Columbia to the mountains of southern California.


March 14, 2017

In times of plenty, penguin parents keep feeding their grown offspring

A juvenile Galapagos penguin being fed by an adult.

A research team led by University of Washington biology professor Dee Boersma reports that fully grown Galapagos penguins who have fledged — or left the nest — continue to beg their parents for food. And sometimes, probably when the bounty of the sea is plentiful, parents oblige and feed their adult offspring.


February 16, 2017

Immune cell serves as an essential communications link for migrating cells

Two cells under a microscope

Scientists at the University of Washington have discovered that a common type of cell in the vertebrate immune system plays a unique role in communication between other cells. It turns out that these cells, called macrophages, can transmit messages between non-immune cells.


January 30, 2017

Artists in the lab: Talk will highlight a creative partnership between art and science

a work of art

Jennifer Nemhauser leads a research laboratory of scientists, all immersed in the complex world of plant hormones. But last year, the University of Washington professor of biology boosted her lab’s roster with some unexpected talent. Claire Cowie — an artist, UW alumna and lecturer — spent three months in 2016 as a part-time artist-in-residence in Nemhauser’s lab….



Next page