Washington State Magazine

Winter 2008


Winter 2008

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In This Issue...

Features

On the waterfront: Tacoma's past may be a key to its future Twenty years ago, the City Club of Tacoma approached the city with a plan to unify the waterfront and build a walking path from the Tacoma Dome to Point Defiance. The painstakingly researched report urged that the entire waterfront be redesigned as a people place. Lara Hermann '95 was thrilled when a city hall worker handed her the document. "It was like a present just lands in your lap," she says. by Hannelore Sudermann; Photos by Ingrid Barrentine { WEB EXCLUSIVE–COORDINATES: Tacoma's Waterfront. An interactive map and photo gallery. View photographer Ingrid Barrentine's images along the Tacoma waterfront. }

Fine Specimens Washington State University is home to three superb research collections, all begun soon after the young agricultural college opened its doors. What makes them research collections, says Ownbey Herbarium director Larry Hufford, is "sheer numbers." The Conner Zoology Museum has about 69,000 specimens, the Herbarium about 375,000, and the James Entomology Collection more than 1.25 million. These numbers make WSU's collections among the best in the nation. by Cherie Winner { WEB EXCLUSIVES: Videos and stories }

Rethinking the fundamentals Feeding the world may require us to use old knowledge in new ways. Although the prices of fuel and commodities have dropped since early summer, the volatility of their relationship will surely dog us for the foreseeable future. While stock prices may temporarily overshadow food prices in the public consciousness, some farmers and researchers are looking at different ways of doing business, perhaps moving the land-grant university back to its founding purpose. by Tim Steury

L'Américain en Provence A story about an expatriate—and about his wine. Provence is a world away from Bellevue, where Denis Gayte '97 grew up. And French winemaking is another world away from the public relations career he abandoned. So there he was, with his French heritage and a newly minted "young French winemaker" degree—but still referred to (and always affectionately) as l'Américain. by Andrea Vogt

Panoramas

{ WEB EXCLUSIVEGallery: Afghanistan success story - a gallery }

Departments

:: FIRST WORDS

:: SPORTS: Unstoppable Rueben Mayes

:: LAST WORDS: Murrow's door

:: LETTERS

:: IN SEASON: A Season for Seeds

{ WEB EXCLUSIVESVideo: "This is W.S.C." - A movie introducing Washington State College in 1952, narrated by Edward R. Murrow. }

Tracking

Cover illustration: Marbled murrelets take flight, by Darlene McElroy.

Winter 2008
Web Exclusives

Value of the collections

by Cherie Winner | © Washington State University

"[The collections] answer to a lot of people," says Rich Zack. "They answer a lot of questions, and at times they can generate funds, but it's not a steady stream of funds. Often you're answering small questions from hundreds of people." Any one of those hundreds might get along OK if the collections shut down, "but because we serve so many, it would be a major loss," says Zack.

Anthropologist Karen Lupo, whose students make frequent use of the Conner Museum's bone collection, says she was disturbed to learn that WSU once considered closing the Conner. With new analytical techniques making collections more valuable than ever before, she says, getting rid of them now would be woefully short-sighted.

"Do you really want to be the one that pressed the button and flushed it away because 'it wasn't making enough money'? And then later we find out that, 'oh, we should have saved that'?"

She shakes her head.

"We can't let these go. We just can't."

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What's so great about having really old specimens?

The value of having so many specimens, and such old specimens, can be perplexing for the general public.

"Someone says, 'why do we need those insects that were collected in 1910?" says Rich Zack. "'Why do we really need to know any of this stuff? This doesn't add to our ability to get money for biofuel research or whatever the next big thing is going to be.'"

He says even the oldest specimens in the James Collection have potential benefits for agriculture. Whenever a new pest turns up in fields, a farmer or extension agent or Zack himself will go looking for it among the old specimens. Did it arrive in the area recently? Or has it been here along?

"Say we've got those back to 1910," says Zack. "What's changing that's causing it now to become a pest, when it hadn't been for a hundred years? What's going on? [Having the old specimens] allows you to start asking questions that make a little more sense, because you've got at least some preliminary information from which you can formulate those questions."

Categories: Biological sciences, Botany | Tags: Museums