Washington State Magazine

Spring 2007

Spring 2007

In This Issue...


Bright plumage against green foliage: the grandeur and beauty of evolution :: Some have told me that evolutionary explanation robs nature of beauty. This attitude puzzles me, because all the evolutionary biologists whom I know are driven by a love for nature, and to them nothing is more exciting than to uncover some hidden aspect of a natural system. by Michael Webster

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Story: A Conversation about Art and Biology with Ellen Dissanayake '57 }

Ray Troll: A story of fish, fossils, and funky art :: Ray Troll '81 has a species of ratfish named after him, Hydrolagus trolli. He calls Darwin "Chuckie D" and paints pictures of him driving around in an Evolvo. This is a man who has embraced his past and paints it wildly and beautifully. by Hannelore Sudermann

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: Strollin' and Trollin': A tour of Ray Troll's Ketchikan, with music unlike anything you've ever heard before. :: He draws. He paints. He writes songs and—oh lord—he sings them! Hear him for yourself as you tour the world of Ray Troll '81 via an audio slide show produced especially for Washington State Magazine Online. }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Activity: Flying With the Dragon :: Know anyone with crayons? If so, we have a coloring treat for you: an Evon Zerbetz '82 original, uncolored. }

Darwin was just the beginning: A sampler of evolutionary biology at WSU :: All of modern biology and medicine is based on the theory of evolution, and every life scientist arguably is an evolutionary biologist. So where to start in exploring evolutionary biology at WSU? How about with dung beetles, African violets, and promiscuous wrens? by Cherie Winner

Zoology 61: Teaching eugenics at WSU :: Eugenics was the dark side of our understanding of human evolution. American eugenicists were united by the idea that the human race was degenerating because inferior people were breeding more quickly than those who were "well born." Zoology 61, Genetics and Eugenics, was finally dropped from the course catalog at Washington State College in 1950. by Stephen Jones

Why Doubt? Skepticism as a basis for change and understanding :: Skepticism can forestall a too-willing acquiescence to the-way-things-are; it can distance us from dogmatism and ward us away from zealotry; it can expose our mistakes. by Will Hamlin



:: SPORTS: Vaulting ambition

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: Forgetting gravity :: WSU student Todd Griffiths performing gymnastics atop a stationary, then a cantering, horse. }


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Music: Horace Alexander Young plays "That Kind of Girl" :: Listen to a performance by WSU music faculty member Horace Alexander Young on a track from his CD, Acoustic Contemporary Jazz. }

Cover: One Small Step for a Fish, One Giant Leap for Fishkind, 1995, pastel on paper. "Every mammal, reptile and amphibian alive on the earth today descended from the lobefinned fish that left the water 375 million years ago." —Ray Troll


Welcome to Mildew Manor (And you think your house needs work.)

by | © Washington State University

Check out the new building at Washington State University's Extension campus in Puyallup. The foundation is cracked. The front stoop tilts toward the house. Window flashing was installed wrong or not at all, the attic insulation runs right up against ventilation holes, and there's a persistent leak around the toilet.

Contrary to what you might think, the designers and builders of the 1,152-square-foot house made it that way on purpose.

"We were told the other morning that we were good at doing things wrong," says construction maintenance mechanic Ron Froemke, who helped build the house. "It felt like a low blow to me, but I guess if everyone's happy..."

"Everyone" in this case includes pesticide educator Carrie Foss and the advisory committee for WSU's structural pest integrated pest management (IPM) program. A few years ago the committee suggested building the house as a teaching aid for structural pest managers and inspectors. The "Structural Pest IPM Facility," as it is formally called, will give students a chance to see for themselves a variety of poor building techniques and the pest problems they help create.

"Conducive conditions" is a key concept, says Foss. Poor construction doesn't always lead to pest problems, but it does create conditions, such as excess moisture, that encourage pests and give them a foothold within the home. Subterranean termites, carpenter ants, and the fungus that causes wood rot are just a few of the pestiferous guests Foss expects to see in the house eventually.

Foss says many of the problems that plague homeowners aren't easy to find. They sprout behind walls, under floors, in cracks and corners. In their early stages they can be hard even for experienced inspectors and pest pros to detect. How-to books, diagrams, and checklists can help, but there's no substitute for the real thing.

"What's of value here is being able to see where the problems—that might not be obvious—are going to be," says Foss. "To know where to look, and what clues to see."

Foss and her crew will monitor the house over the next few years, and when they find damage in out-of-sight places, they'll make it easier to view by replacing portions of walls or flooring with Plexiglas panels.

The house will be officially dedicated this spring, but it made its instructional debut last October. In a weekend workshop for 25 pest managers from six western states, the house was a hit. Until now, students in this region haven't had the chance to see many of these problems before they get out into "the real world." Similar facilities have been built in the eastern half of the country, but Puyallup's "mildew manor" is the only such structure in the western U.S. That distinction might not last long. After the first class, two California attendees, a student and an instructor, went home convinced that their state should have such a facility, too.

In addition to being built wrong, the house incorporates a variety of different materials—several kinds of siding, roofing materials, flooring, attic and subfloor structures—that aren't necessarily bad, but may not be appropriate for conditions in the Pacific Northwest.

It might reassure prospective homebuyers to know that Foss had a tough time getting building permits for the house. When county authorities saw the plans-which obviously included several major no-nos-they balked.

"This is out of the context of what they normally do," says Foss. "This is a training facility. It's not like a house that they would normally permit."

The logic of using poor construction techniques as a teaching tool finally won out, and the project went forward. It was a challenge for mechanic Froemke and carpenter Curt Bod to do so much of it so wrong. In fact, other than the parts that were deliberately done wrong, the building is solid.

"For a house that's built to fail," says Bod, "it's pretty well built."

Categories: Architecture and design, Biological sciences | Tags: Pest management, Mildew

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