UW News

Department of Biology


July 16, 2020

7 University of Washington researchers elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences in 2020

Seven scientists and engineers at the University of Washington have been elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences, according to an announcement July 15 by the academy.


June 25, 2020

Sleep improving for university students under stay-at-home orders

an alarm clock at night

In a study published June 10 in Current Biology, a team from the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Washington reports that a group of students at CU Boulder generally got more sleep after widespread stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines were put into place in mid-March.


June 10, 2020

Passing crucial, challenging introductory chemistry course gives biggest boost to underrepresented students

A person at a chalkboard delivering a chemistry lecture

Researchers examined 15 years of records of student performance, education and demographics for chemistry courses at the University of Washington. They found that underrepresented students received lower grades in the general chemistry series compared to their peers and, if the grade was sufficiently low, were less likely to continue in the series and more likely to leave STEM. But if underrepresented students completed the first general chemistry course with at least the minimum grade needed to continue in the series, they were more likely than their peers to continue the general chemistry series and complete this major step toward a STEM degree.


April 27, 2020

Bacteria that are persistently resistant to one antibiotic are ‘primed’ to become multidrug-resistant bugs

A close-up image of E. coli bacteria.

Researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Idaho report that, for a bacterial pathogen already resistant to an antibiotic, prolonged exposure to that antibiotic not only boosted its ability to retain its resistance gene, but also made the pathogen more readily pick up and maintain resistance to a second antibiotic and become a dangerous, multidrug-resistant strain.


April 15, 2020

ArtSci Roundup: Earth Day with the Department of History, Ask Your Farmer, and more

collage of art events and portraits

During this time of uncertainty and isolation, find solace in digital opportunities to connect, share, and engage. Each week, we will share upcoming events that bring the UW, and greater community, together online.  Many of these online opportunities are streamed through Zoom. All UW faculty, staff, and students have access to Zoom Pro via UW-IT.  Earth Day…


March 30, 2020

Faculty/staff honors: Outstanding educator in landscape architecture, Royal Society of Edinburgh corresponding fellowship — and the Green Rat Clingfish takes a bow

A Green Rat Clingfish, Barryichthys algicola, from St. Helens, Tasmania.

Recent honors to University of Washington faculty and staff have come from the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the World Register of Marine Species.


March 9, 2020

Underrepresented college students benefit more from ‘active learning’ techniques in STEM courses

A college classroom with students seated in a lecture hall.

Students from different backgrounds in the United States enter college with equal interest in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But that equal interest does not result in equal outcomes. Six years after starting an undergraduate STEM degree, roughly twice as many white students finished it compared to African American students. A new…


Climate change at Mount Rainier expected to increase ‘mismatch’ between visitors and iconic wildflowers

A meadow filled with wildflowers in full bloom on the slopes of Mount Rainier.

The wildflowers of Mount Rainier’s subalpine meadows, which bloom once the winter snowpack melts, are a major draw for the more than 1 million visitors to this national park in Washington state each spring and summer. But by the end of this century, scientists expect that snow will melt months earlier due to climate change. New research led by the University of Washington shows that, under those conditions, many visitors would miss the flowers altogether.


March 2, 2020

New honors for scientists studying ‘ecosystem sentinels’

P. Dee Boersma, a UW professor of biology and director of the Center for Ecosystem Sentinels, is a finalist for the 2020 Indianapolis Prize for conservation, to be awarded later this year by the Indianapolis Zoological Society. Sue Moore, a scientist with the center and a UW affiliate professor of biology and of aquatic and fishery sciences, has won the 2020 IASC Medal, also known as the Arctic Medal, from the International Arctic Science Committee.


February 13, 2020

Immune cells consult with neighbors to make decisions

An illustration showing immune system cells migrating to a wound site.

Scientists and physicians have long known that immune cells migrate to the site of an infection, which individuals experience as inflammation — swelling, redness and pain. Now, researchers at the University of Washington and Northwestern University have uncovered evidence that this gathering is not just a consequence of immune activation. Immune cells count their neighbors before deciding whether or not the immune system should kick into high gear.


January 24, 2020

ArtsUW Roundup: Preserving Elephants in the Age of Extinction, Brian Brooks Moving Company, The Best of Everything, and more

This week in the arts, experience a free concert at Benaroya Hall commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz, attend a lecture about the story of Shawn Wong’s rediscovery of “No-No Boy,” and more! To learn about more events taking place, visit ArtsUW. Music of Remembrance: Art from Ashes – Free Concert Commemorating the 75th…


January 21, 2020

Mosquitoes are drawn to flowers as much as people — and now scientists know why

Despite their reputation as blood-suckers, mosquitoes actually spend most of their time drinking nectar from flowers. Scientists have identified the chemical cues in flowers that stimulate mosquitoes’ sense of smell and draw them in. Their findings show how cues from flowers can stimulate the mosquito brain as much as a warm-blooded host — information that could help develop less toxic repellents and better traps.


November 26, 2019

Six UW faculty members named AAAS fellows

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has named six faculty members from the University of Washington as AAAS Fellows, according to a Nov. 26 announcement. They are part of a cohort of 443 new fellows for 2019, all chosen by their peers for “scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.”


November 12, 2019

New Weill Neurohub will unite UCSF, UC Berkeley, UW in race to find new treatments for brain diseases

An image of neurons under a microscope

With a $106 million gift from the Weill Family Foundation, UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco and the University of Washington have launched the Weill Neurohub, an innovative research network that will forge and nurture new collaborations between neuroscientists and researchers working in an array of other disciplines — including engineering, computer science, physics, chemistry and mathematics — to speed the development of new therapies for diseases and disorders that affect the brain and nervous system.


October 24, 2019

New fossil trove documents recovery of life on Earth after dinosaur-killing asteroid impact

An image of an ancient mammal that is now extinct.

Scientists have discovered an extraordinary collection of fossils that reveal in detail how life recovered after a catastrophic event: the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous Period.


October 15, 2019

Piranha fish swap old teeth for new simultaneously

ct scan of a piranha fish

With the help of new technologies, a team led by the University of Washington has confirmed that piranhas — and their plant-eating cousins, pacus — lose and regrow all the teeth on one side of their face multiple times throughout their lives. How they do it may help explain why the fish go to such efforts to replace their teeth.


October 2, 2019

Abigail Swann on Science News’ list of 10 young scientists to watch

woman in blue dress by tree

The University of Washington’s Abigail Swann is honored by Science News on its list of 10 promising early- and mid-career scientists.


Inspired by Northern clingfish, researchers make a better suction cup

clingfish in water

A University of Washington team inspired by the clingfish’s suction power set out to develop an artificial suction cup that borrows from nature’s design. Their prototype actually performed better than the clingfish.


September 10, 2019

Tides don’t always flush water out to sea, study shows

Dawn in Willapa Bay in 2015, showing oysters on a tidal flat.

Researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Strathclyde report that, in Willapa Bay in Washington state, the water washing over the tidal flats during high tides is largely the same water that washed over the flats during the previous high tide. This “old” water has not been mixed in with “new” water from deeper parts of the bay or the open Pacific Ocean, and has different chemical and biological properties, such as lower levels of food for creatures within the tide flats.


July 18, 2019

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

A close-up image of a mosquito

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

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

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

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

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.



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