News

  • Assistant Prof. Greg Wilson and his team have discovered a Tyrannosaurus rex, including the skull, which is believed to be one of just 15 T. rex skulls found anywhere in the world! 

    The T. rex skull and other bones are currently covered in a plaster jacket — similar to a cast used to cover a broken bone — in order to protect the skull during transport. The public can see the plaster-covered T. rex skull, along with other T. rex fossils and paleontology field tools, in a lobby display at the UW’s Burke Museum from August 20 to October 2. Special T. rex-themed activities will take place over Labor Day Weekend and on Sunday, September 25.

     

    Other news:

    GeekWire | seattlepi | ABC News (AP) | Seeker | KIRO 7

    Fri, Aug 19 at 10 AM
  • Congratulations to Dr. Mallorie Taylor-Teeples, post-doc from the Nemhauser lab, who has been awarded a 3-year Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology from the National Science Foundation! The fellowships encourage independence at an early stage of the research career to permit Fellows to pursue their research and training goals in the most appropriate research locations regardless of the availability of funding for the Fellows at that site.

    Increasing crop yield is essential to meet the rising demand for food, feed and fuel. One major area for improvement is the manipulation of plant architecture. The patterning of flowers along the shoot (phyllotaxy) determines the positioning of grain or fruit along a stem. Recent research in the Nemhauser Lab has found that changing one protein in the auxin response pathway can alter phyllotactic patterning in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Dr. Taylor-Teeples' project aims to test whether these findings can be applied to crop plants, namely maize and canola. If successful, this work will pilot a pipeline to precision engineer desirable agronomic traits into diverse crop, even those with limited genomic infrastructure.

    Mon, Aug 8 at 9 AM
  • Prof. Adam Summers is keeping the new CT scanner at FHL busy with his latest project. Check out how he is digitizing every fish species in the world! 

    Thu, Jul 21 at 2 PM
  • Greenhouse staff Terry Huang wrote an article featuring his fellow staff members for the Whole U! 

    What are you going to plant this summer? 

    Thu, Jul 21 at 2 PM
  • Check out Medicinal Herb Garden curator Keith Possee and this feature in  the UW Sustainability Blog "In Our Nature"!

    Fri, Jul 8 at 11 AM
  • In cooperation with the Society for Experimental Biology, the UW Office of News & Information has posted a story about new research from Emily Carrington’s laboratory on the impact of ocean acidification on mussel populations. Dr. Carrington presented this research at a meeting this week across the Atlantic in Brighton.


     

    Thu, Jul 7 at 4 PM
  • Men cite themselves more than women according to Prof. Carl Bergstrom's research, published in Nature News!

    Other news:

    Times of London | Vice Media's Motherboard | WA Post

    Wed, Jul 6 at 10 AM
  • A collaboration between Prof. Emeritus Ray Huey and Associate Prof. of Oceanography, Curtis Deutsch, resulted in a Science Perspectives article and NPR feature on how frigate birds fly around doldrums. 

    Tue, Jul 5 at 9 AM
  • Asst. Prof. Abby Swann was quoted on an Inside Climate News article about climate scientists' own carbon footprints.

    A new study suggests people are more likely to believe a scientist talking about the perils of climate change if that scientist take personal actions to reduce his or her own carbon footprint, such as driving electric cars. (Credit: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

    Wed, Jun 29 at 9 AM
  • Two Biology (formerly Zoology) graduate alumns were elected to the National Academy of Sciences this past May! Check out the full announcement here

    Dr. Hopi E. Hoekstra: investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology,
    departments of organismic and evolutionary biology and of molecular and cellular biology, Harvard University,
    Cambridge, Mass.

    Dr. Stephen R. Palumbi: Jane and Marshall Steele Chair of Biology and director, Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford
    University, Pacific Grove, Calif.

    Fri, Jun 24 at 10 AM
  • Biomechanics expert Prof. Adam Summers advised Pixar on its sequel to Finding Nemo, released this past weekend. Check out this Q&A in Nature with the "fish guy" himself.

    Wed, Jun 22 at 10 AM
  • Robert Treat Paine III
    April 13, 1933 – June 13, 2016

    Dr. Robert (Bob) Paine holds iconic status within ecology, and his death brings both immense loss and a reminder that he will always be with us through his shaping of ecological ideas and practices.

    He is justly famous for coining the term “keystone species” in reference to predators whose effects indirectly maintain the diversity, structure, and functioning of ecological communities. Like the keystone in an arch, these species hold a system together. Bob’s field study of a keystone species is so familiar as a textbook example that it hardly needs repeating: When he removed ochre sea stars from a rocky shoreline, mussels began to monopolize space, halving the number of species attached to the rocks. The description of the rocky shore food web, originally published in 1966 (with the keystone term appearing in a subsequent paper), has been cited several thousand times and reprinted as one of the key papers in the development of the discipline in “Foundations of Ecology” (1991). The global value of understanding how predators shape ecosystems comes to life in a recent video, including recollections of and interviews with Bob. 

    Bob helped rescue the keystone species concept several decades after its inception, when its application to any species considered for conservation had diluted its original meaning. The effort generalized the keystone term to encompass strong single-species impacts that were out of proportion to the species’ abundance. “The Importance of Species” book (2002) arose from a retirement tribute to Bob, highlighting his commitment to learning about strong species interactions. In recent collaborations, he has pointed out the shambles of structure and function resulting from trophic downgrading, or the loss of top predators from ecosystems.

    Bob also transformed how ecology was carried out, ushering in to the last half of the 20th century an era of field experimentation rather than relying primarily on observations of the environment. The drawback of observations is that patterns or changes can happen for any number of reasons, whereas an experiment tests specific, plausible drivers. Bob’s commitment to field experimental ecology permeates his book, “Marine Rocky Shores and Community Ecology: An Experimentalist’s Perspective” (1994), where he wrote of “experimental manipulation as the surest means of both testing and rejecting hypotheses and generating novel insights.”

    Bob was recognized internationally for his contributions to ecology, including eminent ecologist to deliver the Tansley Lecture to the British Ecological Society (1979), the MacArthur Award for lifetime achievement from the Ecological Society of America (1983), the ECI prize from the Ecology Institute in Germany (1989), and the International Cosmos Prize (2013). He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1986. The accompanying explanations for these awards often make no mention of keystone species, but emphasize other foundational contributions to ecological ideas on food webs, patch dynamics, non-equilibrial nature of communities, or implications for biodiversity conservation.

    How can one person contribute so many game-changing ideas? By his own assessment, these did not emerge from the intellectual milieu at the time, or from theoretical explorations, but from careful examination of living systems. Scientifically, he was inspired by nature.

    From the start, Bob’s wooded neighborhood near Cambridge, Massachusetts was a paradise for a free-roaming, curious child. He was a self-described “boy birder” with a keen eye for detail and penchant for the outdoors. As he grew up, this study and care of nature became central elements of his vocation. He received his bachelors degree from Harvard University (1954) and PhD from the University of Michigan (1961). Bob joined the faculty of the Department of Zoology at the University of Washington in 1962, where he remained throughout his career, including eight years as chair. Even after reaching emeritus status, he maintained an active research program at his long-term study site on Tatoosh Island, among the best- studied ecological systems on the planet as recorded in his chapter of “The Ecology of Place” (2011, with C. Pfister and J.T. Wootton). Work on Tatoosh has been carried out with the permission of the Makah Tribe, for whom the island is part of their cultural home.

    The outer coast of Washington, of which Tatoosh is the western-most gem, reveals stunning pattern and rich biodiversity at low tide. On simple two-dimensional surfaces, where different species appear with small changes in inundation time, the wave-exposed rocky intertidal zone became Bob’s natural laboratory. Working on a remote island was not easy: leaps of faith across surge channels, slippery algae that could take down the most sure-footed, boats overturned and scientists bodily moved by rogue waves, all supplies hefted from the beach to the top of the island via a hundred home-made steps. Every two weeks during the summer, when the tides reached their extreme lows, and at longer intervals in winter for tides in the dark, Tatoosh Island had its vital signs checked and challenged. Bob wrote his observations in bold strokes on plastic slates, each one then run through a copier for transfer to paper and permanent archiving by being taped into a leather-bound book. This series is now up to more than 20 volumes, containing decades of records of weather, bird lists, contents of the wrack line on the beach, as well as experimental results. As each tide rose and chased ecologists from their intertidal studies, Bob doled out a measure of box wine into a mug and sat down with his current scientific family to talk about what each had seen and learned.

    Generations of students and colleagues have been touched directly and indirectly by Bob’s ideas. He instilled a love of natural history in those who shared time with him in the field, including field courses which he led not just at the University of Washington but worldwide. He held deep respect for nature and an esthetic appreciation of patterns, while nurturing the curiosity and interventions to find out how complex systems work. He remained true to his ideas that consumers – predators, grazers, herbivores, everything that eats – shape the world. In his honor, we can always ask, with a gleam in the eye and intent to spark a spirited discussion, “What would have happened in that study if the consumers were caged out?” He leaves a lasting legacy as a keystone ecologist, whose contributions – disproportionate even to his imposing biomass – influence the diversity of ideas about how to study and interpret the complex systems of the living earth.

    This spring, I had the pleasure of leading a graduate seminar on modern ecological game-changers. Bob regularly weighed in by email, though he couldn’t attend in person. The “game-changer” topic had been chosen prior to Bob’s cancer diagnosis, but ended up providing a weekly opportunity for me to reflect on him. I was reminded of the graduate seminars that he organized himself, decades ago, which the students affectionately dubbed “Paine-bull” to reflect the exchange of perspectives, sometimes deliberately extreme to draw out debate. I was also reminded of Bob’s career-long commitment to graduate mentoring, which has grown a rich extended family of successful ecologists in their own right. Bob always held to the opinion that individual efforts were more cost-effective than Big Science, and that graduate students should practice independent research, rather than be cogs in bigger wheels. A perfect example of this opinion was his establishment of an endowed fund in Biology to support graduate research, re-named to include his name on the occasion of his 80th birthday: the Robert T. Paine Experimental and Field Ecology Award. This spring, the “game-changer” seminar raised an unexpected challenge of trying to figure out, given the three-year time window to which we had limited ourselves, what was really going to transform ecology, rather than be a weird splash or a dead end. So I asked Bob: how did you know that you had contributed a game-changer? He told me that a couple of months after his 1966 paper was published, he had received a letter from Robert MacArthur, the most prominent American ecologist at the time and a strict adherent to community structure driven by competition. MacArthur had read about sea stars as predators maintaining the diversity of rocky shores and was willing to admit, in writing to Bob: “This changes everything.”

    Indeed it has. Thanks, Bob, for everything.

    Bob's strong and loving daughters have concurred with Bob's own wishes to support graduate students, and that there would be no better place for memorial gifts than to the Paine Experimental and Field Ecology Endowed Fund in Biology at the University of Washington.

    Sincerely, Jennifer Ruesink 

    Gifts in honor of Bob can be directed to the Robert T. Paine Experimental & Field Ecology Endowed Fund. Please make checks out to the University of Washington, with "Paine endowment" on the memo line. For questions, email <lisatran@uw.edu> or call 206.685.2185

    From Bob Paine’s Family:

    We will be forever grateful for the outpouring of sympathy and support we have received from the University of Washington, and dad’s friends and many other professional and personal associates during the ordeal of his illness and passing. And our thanks go out to Swedish Hospital, Group Health, and the doctors and caregivers who provided the wonderful care that helped Dad through this difficult process and eased his pain.

    This has been difficult for all concerned, and especially for his family. All of us are grateful that so many of Dad’s closest companions from his long career as a dedicated biologist traveled from places near and far to his bedside to show their loving support. All these visits, letters, and expressions of affection were enjoyed and appreciated by him – and all of us – gave us peace and closure through this ordeal.

    Many thanks to you all!

    Other announcements:

    ABC News | Associated Press | The Atlantic | WA Post | NAS | ESA | The Scientist | SNS Blog | Seattle Times | Nature

    Wed, Jun 15 at 8 AM
  • Prof. Sam Wasser was featured in a New York Times article on his career and experience in conservation biology. 

    Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

    Tue, Jun 14 at 11 AM