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Food Science, Innovator, Bears, Meehan

Posted by | August 20, 2008

New School of Food Science Crosses Borders

An academic merger will draw together Washington State University and the University of Idaho food science departments.

The new School of Food Science at the University of Idaho and Washington State University formalizes historic ties that have reached across the seven miles between them for decades.

The partnership, which has been approved by both universities’ governing bodies, will benefit the Northwest’s $17-billion food processing industry, students and consumers through expanded cooperation.

“This merger will combine the strengths of both institutions, increasing the capabilities of both land-grant institutions in food science and related technologies,” said John Hammel, Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences dean at Moscow.

WSU’s Dan Bernardo, dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Pullman, agreed.

“A combined School of Food Science broadens the opportunities available to students, expands the research possibilities and offers a wider range of professional expertise to better serve both states,” he said. “It is a smart move at the right time.”

The Northwest Food Processors Association said the region’s food industry generates $17 billion a year and employs an estimated 100,000 workers.

The two universities are searching for a new director for the School of Food Science who will work for both.

WSU and UI departments of food science merge

WSU and UI departments of food science merge. Visit the new School of Food Science Web site at

Intelli-GEN-Design: Fruit of the Future

Big ideas don’t grow on trees–they help trees grow better. In Washington state, where tree fruit is a multibillion dollar industry, WSU researcher Amit Dhingra’s big ideas for improving fruit quality and growing techniques are making a world of difference.

Please join us at noon on Wednesday, Aug. 27 at the Rainier Club in Seattle to learn about the fruit of the future.

A WSU horticultural genomics expert, Dhingra is a leader in genetics research focused on understanding and enhancing the unique biology of major food crops, including apples, grapes, cherries, and pears.

Dhingra’s pioneering work in genome sequencing is creating new knowledge for developing crops to meet the demands of our changing economic and environmental conditions. Through gene discovery and biotechnology applications, Dhingra and his colleagues at WSU are identifying the keys to growing more nutritious and delicious fruit. Just as mapping the human genome has revolutionized how scientists think about human biology, so too Dhingra’s work is changing the way we think about fruit.

Washington produces some of the world’s best fruit, and WSU, with its expertise in horticultural genomics, is uniquely positioned to advance crop development, spurring economic growth in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

For more information about the event, please visit or call 877-978-3668.

Amit Dhingra talks about the fruit of the future at the next Innovators lecture, Aug. 27

Amit Dhingra talks about the fruit of the future at the next Innovators lecture, Aug. 27

Bears Offer Insights to Human Health

In hibernation, a bear’s heart function mimics certain heart diseases of humans and other animals. When a bear comes out of hibernation, its heart resumes normal functioning, unlike humans and other animals with diseased hearts.

Hibernating bears have heart rates of about 18 beats per minute. In humans, heart rates this slow would cause congestion and heart failure, usually within a matter of weeks. The bears show no illeffects, even after four or five months of slow heart rates.

Lynne Nelson, a cardiologist in WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and Charles Robbins, director of the university’s Bear Research, Education and Conservation Center, are collaborating on a study to assess the myocardial function in grizzly bears during hibernation. Luna, Mica, Kio and Peeka, four hand-raised grizzly bears, have been participating in a study designed to evaluate a bear’s heart function during hibernation. The bears routinely coorperate in echocardiograms studies to assess heart rate and rhythm, how much blood their heart chambers are pumping, and how well heart muscles contract and relaxes.

In humans, it is well recognized that the symptoms of heart failure occur more frequently due to abnormalities in heart relaxation versus contraction or pumping. Heart failure is also often accompanied by changes in heart muscle stiffness or elasticity.

With bears, though, the heart muscle’s ability to relax appears enhanced. This adaptation may help the bears’ heart chambers cope with the increased stress on the muscle that likely develops during the long pauses between heart contractions during slow heart rates. The enhanced relaxation of the muscle could help avoid congestion and congestive heart failure.

Nelson and her colleagues are evaluating the mechanisms by which bears can adapt to hibernation and that these adaptations may be applicable to treatment for humans and animals with heart disease.

“Often, if we can understand the biology and how things happen — how certain receptors are being stimulated — then therapies can be developed to target muscle protein changes, block the receptors or stimulate the receptors to give that effect,” Nelson said.

For more information, check out this short video overview of research at the WSU Bear Research, Education and Conservation Center: or visit the Bear Center Web site at

Lynne Nelson and one of her research collaborators

Lynne Nelson and one of her research collaborators

Meehan Named Natural Resources Stewardship Program Director

Don Meehan, who has been director of WSU Island County Extension for 26 years, has been named to the new statewide position of director of the WSU Extension Natural Resources Stewardship Program. Meehan will officially assume his new role on Oct. 1, according to Linda Kirk Fox, associate vice president and dean of WSU Extension.

“Don has an incredibly strong history of leadership in environmental and natural resources stewardship, including his creation of the highly successful and acclaimed WSU Puget Sound Beach Watchers volunteer program,” Fox said. “I couldn’t be more pleased that he has accepted this important appointment.”

In his new role, Meehan will provide statewide leadership in coordinating and directing the efforts of all WSU colleges and units, partner organizations and volunteer groups involved in achieving the goals of the university’s Natural Resources Stewardship program. The program calls for improving the state’s economy and quality of life by applying science-based management to assuring healthier forests, rangelands, fish and wildlife habitat, and addressing the complex issues involved in assuring adequate and clean water supplies.

“I’ll continue to support and look after Island County in my new role, but now I’ll be responsible for 38 more counties,” Meehan said. “I really look forward to being a part of a higher emphasis on sustaining our natural resources for extension.”

Don Meehan is new director of WSU Extension's Natural Resources Stewardship Program

Don Meehan is new director of WSU Extension’s Natural Resources Stewardship Program