UW News

Department of Biology


September 8, 2021

ArtSci Roundup: Faculty Seminar: A Conversation with Samuel Wasser of Conservation Canines, Hostile Terrain 94, and More

Through public events and exhibitions, connect with the UW community every week! This week, attend gallery exhibitions, watch recorded events, and more. While you’re enjoying summer break, connect with campus through UW live webcams of Red Square and the quad. Many of these online opportunities are streamed through Zoom. All UW faculty, staff, and students…


August 11, 2021

‘More pepper, please’: New study analyzes role of scent compounds in the coevolution of bats and pepper plants

An image of a short-tailed fruit bat

A study published Aug. 11 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B by researchers at the University of Washington and Stony Brook University reports on how bats and pepper plants in Central America have coevolved to help each other survive.


August 2, 2021

New DNA study provides critical information on conserving rainforest lizards

Close-up image of a male rough-nosed horned lizard.

A study published June 16 in Biotropica by a team of researchers at the University of Washington, the UW Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, WWF Hong Kong and the University of Colombo has provided an important road map to conserving rough-nosed horned lizards in Sri Lanka.


July 29, 2021

Climate change to fuel increase in human-wildlife conflict, UW biologist says

A herd of African elephants

Climate change is further exacerbating human-wildlife conflicts by straining ecosystems and altering behaviors, both of which can deepen the contacts — and potential competition — between people and animals. In an article published July 30 in the journal Science, Briana Abrahms, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Washington and its Center for Ecosystem Sentinels, calls for expanding research into the many ways that climate change will impact the complex interplay between human activities and wildlife populations.


July 20, 2021

New 3D images of shark intestines show they function like Nikola Tesla’s valve

three dogfish sharks

For more than a century, researchers have relied on flat sketches of sharks’ digestive systems to discern how they function — and how what they eat and excrete impacts other species in the ocean. Now, researchers have produced a series of high-resolution, 3D scans of intestines from nearly three dozen shark species that will advance the understanding of how sharks eat and digest their food.


July 16, 2021

20 UW researchers elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences for 2021

Twenty scientists and engineers at the University of Washington are among the 38 new members elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences for 2021, according to a July 15 announcement. New members were chosen for “their outstanding record of scientific and technical achievement, and their willingness to work on behalf of the Academy to bring the best available science to bear on issues within the state of Washington.”


May 27, 2021

Seabirds face dire threats from climate change, human activity — especially in Northern Hemisphere

seabird holding a fish

Many seabirds in the Northern Hemisphere are struggling to breed — and in the Southern Hemisphere, they may not be far behind. These are the conclusions of a study, published May 28 in Science, analyzing more than 50 years of breeding records for 67 seabird species worldwide.


May 21, 2021

Pandemic-era paleontology: A wayward skull, at-home fossil analyses and a first for Antarctic amphibians

An image showing a block of amphibian fossils from Early Triassic Antarctica

Researchers at the University of Washington and its Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture have discovered the first fossil evidence of an ancient amphibian, Micropholis stowi, from Antarctica. Micropholis lived in the Early Triassic, shortly after Earth’s largest mass extinction. It was previously known only from fossils in South Africa, and its presence in Antarctica has implications for how amphibians adapted to high-latitude regions in this dynamic period of Earth’s history.


April 29, 2021

6 UW-affiliated researchers elected to the National Academy of Sciences

The view of Mount Rainier from the UW campus in Seattle

Five faculty members and one affiliate professor at the University of Washington are among 120 new members and 30 international members elected to the National Academy of Sciences: Anna Karlin, professor of computer science and engineering; Rachel Klevit, professor of biochemistry; Randall LeVeque, professor emeritus of applied mathematics; Julie Theriot, professor of biology; Rachel Wong, professor of biological structure; and Julie Overbaugh, professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a UW affiliate professor of microbiology.


April 26, 2021

Four UW faculty named to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Four University of Washington faculty members have been inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.


April 22, 2021

UW biology professors Jeffrey Riffell, David Perkel awarded research grants from Human Frontier Science Program

UW biology professors Jeffrey Riffell and David Perkel have received grants from the Human Frontier Science Program.


April 21, 2021

Q&A: It’s not just social media — misinformation can spread in scientific communication too

When people think of misinformation, they often focus on popular and social media. But in a paper published April 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, University of Washington faculty members Jevin West and Carl Bergstrom write that scientific communication — both scientific papers and news articles written about papers — also has the potential to spread misinformation.


March 31, 2021

Thicker-leaved tropical plants may flourish under climate change, which could be good news for climate

tropical forest

As carbon dioxide continues to rise, multiple changes in the leaves of tropical plants may help these ecosystems perform better under climate change than previous studies had suggested.


February 24, 2021

Scientists describe earliest primate fossils

An artistic rendering of an ancient primate eating fruit in a tree shortly after the extinction of the dinosaurs

A new study published Feb. 24 in the journal Royal Society Open Science documents the earliest-known fossil evidence of primates. These creatures lived less than 150,000 years after the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction event that killed off non-avian dinosaurs and saw the rise of mammals.


January 27, 2021

On nights before a full moon, people go to bed later and sleep less, study shows

picture of the moon

Sleep cycles in people oscillate during the 29.5-day lunar cycle: In the days leading up to a full moon, people go to sleep later in the evening and sleep for shorter periods of time. The team, led by researchers at the University of Washington, observed these variations in both the time of sleep onset and the duration of sleep in urban and rural settings — from Indigenous communities in northern Argentina to college students in Seattle, a city of more than 750,000. They saw the oscillations regardless of an individual’s access to electricity, though the variations are less pronounced in individuals living in urban environments.


December 7, 2020

The Smellicopter is an obstacle-avoiding drone that uses a live moth antenna to seek out smells

A hawkmoth in the lower right hand corner of the photo with an out of focus drone behind it

A team led by the UW has developed Smellicopter: an autonomous drone that uses a live antenna from a moth to navigate toward smells. Smellicopter can also sense and avoid obstacles as it travels through the air.


December 3, 2020

Researchers discover how bean plants fend off famished foes

A photograph of a beet armyworm caterpillar crawling across the surface of a tobacco plant.

A team led by scientists at the University of Washington and the University of California, San Diego has discovered that cowpeas — a type of bean plant — harbor receptors on the surface of their cells that can detect a compound in caterpillar saliva and initiate anti-herbivore defenses.


November 24, 2020

Study shows plant extinction is more common than previously realized

A photograph of a museum specimen of a now-extinct plant species.

A new study reveals that 65 plant species have gone extinct in the continental United States and Canada since European settlement, more extinctions than any previous scientific study has ever documented.


November 2, 2020

No social distancing in the Cretaceous: New study finds earliest evidence for mammal social behavior

An illustration of ancient mammals in an underground burrow.

A new study led by paleontologists at the University of Washington indicates that the earliest evidence of mammal social behavior goes back to the Age of Dinosaurs. A multituberculate that lived 75.5 million years ago, Filikomys primaevus engaged in multi-generational, group-nesting and burrowing behavior, and possibly lived in colonies.


September 17, 2020

Watching over whales: Online tool detects whales and ships in California’s Santa Barbara Channel in near real-time

An image of a blue whale tail surfacing near a large cargo ship.

Whale Safe — an online tool launched Sept. 17 by scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Washington and other partner institutions — allows users to detect and better protect these endangered animals in the Santa Barbara Channel. It is a mapping and analysis tool to help prevent ships from running into whales.


August 27, 2020

Frequently asked questions: torpor in Antarctic Lystrosaurus

An artist's rendition of an ancient vertebrate called Lystrosaurus

This FAQ discusses evidence for a hibernation-like condition in Lystrosaurus, a mammal relative that lived in the Antarctic portion of Pangea about 250 million years ago. This discovery was enabled by high-resolution of incremental growth marks preserved in the tusks of Lystrosaurus.


Weathering the tough times: Fossil evidence of ‘hibernation-like’ state in 250-million-year-old Antarctic animal

An artist's rendition of an ancient vertebrate called Lystrosaurus

University of Washington scientists report evidence of a hibernation-like state in Lystrosaurus, an animal that lived in Antarctica during the Early Triassic, some 250 million years ago. The fossils are the oldest evidence of a hibernation-like state in a vertebrate, and indicate that torpor — a general term for hibernation and similar states in which animals temporarily lower their metabolic rate to get through a tough season — arose in vertebrates even before mammals and dinosaurs evolved.


August 26, 2020

Mount Everest summit success rates double, death rate stays the same over last 30 years

mount everest

A new study led by researchers at the University of Washington and the University of California, Davis, finds that the success rate of summiting Mount Everest has doubled in the last three decades, even though the number of climbers has greatly increased, crowding the narrow route through the dangerous “death zone” near the summit. However, the death rate for climbers has hovered unchanged at around 1% since 1990.


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.



Next page