Fellowships connect OSU faculty with key journalists

Reporters from National Geographic, Scientific American, The Associated Press and others learned about OSU's marine-related expertise.

Reporters from National Geographic, Scientific American, The Associated Press and others learned about OSU's marine-related expertise.

For three days in August, influential news media representatives from around the country got a taste of what makes OSU one of the nation’s top marine research universities.

As part of “Our Changing Coastal Ocean: A News Media Fellowship Program,” journalists toured labs and heard presentations in Corvallis and at Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport on topics ranging from coastal ecology and salmon hatcheries to the ocean observing initiative.

Participants represented National Geographic, Scientific American, The Seattle Times, The Oregonian, Environmental Science and Technology, National Public Radio’s Pacific Northwest affiliates, the Associated Press and Oregon Public Broadcasting. The head of media relations for the National Science Foundation (NSF) also joined the program. The goal was to familiarize reporters with OSU’s expertise in issues related to climate change, marine mammals, commercial fisheries, ocean productivity and marine observing technologies.

“OSU’s marine researchers are leaders in their fields,” said Luanne Lawrence, vice president for University Advancement, which created and funded the program. “We help to develop ocean policies at the international and national levels and lead state and regional organizations. We wanted reporters who cover marine topics to meet our scientists in person and hear about their latest work.”

The program focused on the coastal ocean. Reporters learned about ongoing research on the seasonal “dead zone,” on marine mammal migrations and on wave energy developments. At OSU’s NSF-funded ocean sediment core repository, they heard how evidence in ocean sediment cores is shedding light on the frequency and severity of subduction zone earthquakes, such as the one that devastated countries around the Indian Ocean in 2004. At the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab, the group visited the tsunami wave basin and heard about plans to build a facility to study hurricane-generated waves.

In addition to lab visits, reporters met informally with OSU scientists at the HMSC and with community representatives at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. The impact of science on decision-making was the focus of discussions with state Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose, state Rep. Jean Cowan of Newport and with people from local government and the fishing, economic development and tourism industries.

OSU is home to the third-largest assembly of marine researchers in the nation. They are based in the colleges of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Agricultural Sciences and Science as well as the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station, Oregon Sea Grant, the Marine Mammal Institute, the Hatfield Marine Sciences Center and the OSU Seafood Research Laboratory in Astoria.

Just a few days later, select OSU Agricultural Sciences and Extension and Experiment Station faculty had a similar opportunity to get up close and personal with key media during a fellowship produced by the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources. Since 1995, IJNR has sought to foster higher standards of news coverage of natural resources and the environment, and its “Willamette Valley Institute” brought journalists together for one week to hear from experts and tour key areas.

At OSU, they heard from a panel of faculty on the topic of genetic modification of crop plants and from individual researchers on organic agriculture. Participating reporters represented such outlets as the Associated Press, the Washington Post and Jefferson Public Radio.

~ by Nick Houtman

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