- Int'l Programs
- Int'l Degree & Education Abroad
- Int'l Student Advising & Services
- Int'l Scholar & Faculty Services
OSU's Global Impact
A world of research at Oregon State University
Updated: 1 day 8 hours ago
Mon, 06/17/2013 - 6:20pm
They all grew up immersed in nature: catching frogs, climbing rocks, diving reefs, combing beaches, camping out. Now, they’re all committed to studying and restoring the natural world, each in his or her own way. For Justin Conner, that means investigating the chytrid fungus and other threats to amphibians. Allison Stringer’s ecosystem studies have taken her from Chile to Siberia. Elliott Finn spent a summer in Washington, D.C., learning about environmental policy and national politics in Senator Jeff Merkley’s office. Katlyn Taylor’s love of wildlife has taken her to an elephant sanctuary in Nepal and whale watching on the Oregon coast. As for Jake Tepper, researching coral reefs is how he plans to help save these fragile marine communities.
Here are the stories of five Oregon State University student researchers who are giving everything they’ve got to heal a planet in peril.Amphibians are crashing.
When manatees and alligators are members of your backyard ecosystem, it’s like living with a ready-made science project.There’s still hope.
Siberia seldom tempts Western travelers to explore its vast taiga forests and endless permafrost — unless that traveler happens to be Allison Stringer.Blanket solutions aren’t the answer.
What runs through the life of author Norman McLean is a river. In the life of Elliott Finn, it’s a plant.OMG, so much science!
Katlyn Taylor’s life has bumped into practically every phylum of the Animal Kingdom. Ask her how she got into science, and she’ll spin a narrative that spans sea lemons, orphaned chickens, 4-H rabbits, endangered Asian elephants, gray whale migration, sea lion pups, the genetics of microbacterial phages and the coloration of sea stars.Coral reefs are dying.
When Jacob (Jake) Tepper was an eighth-grader, he and his dad traded in their 20-gallon saltwater aquarium and transferred its inhabitants — an anemone and a pair of clownfish — to a spacious 50-gallon reef tank.
Mon, 06/17/2013 - 5:44pm
When Jacob (Jake) Tepper was an eighth-grader, he and his dad traded in their 20-gallon saltwater aquarium and transferred its inhabitants — an anemone and a pair of clownfish — to a spacious 50-gallon reef tank. They added corals and a porcupine pufferfish who begged for food by squirting water at passersby. And then there were the stowaways: bristle worms, snails and other ocean organisms that hitch a ride on the “live rock” that aquarium hobbyists often use in their “refugia” (connected tanks where beneficial flora and fauna live without predation).
“It was a self-contained marine ecosystem,” says Tepper, an OSU marine biology student. “Different life forms would pop up and dominate the system. I would spend hours just staring at it, observing.”
Fish were a fixture for Tepper. Growing up in Massachusetts meant catching sunfish on the Charles River and fishing for cod and striped bass in Gloucester. His 50-gallon aquarium eventually gave way to a 100-gallon tank in the basement of his Newton home. But he wasn’t satisfied to be on the outside looking in. At 13, he took up scuba so he could swim with the fish. His most enthralling dive happened in the Cayman Islands.
“You descend a hundred feet beside this vertical rock wall that reaches a depth of 3,000 feet and is covered with purple and pink corals,” he says. “Then you turn around and look at the open ocean, this vast blueness without boundaries. It’s mind-blowing.”
After visiting colleges around the country, he chose Oregon State for its top-notch marine biology program. “I wanted to have experiences outside the classroom,” he says. “This program offers lots of opportunities.” On top of that, he enrolled in OSU’s University Honors College.
Right away, he zeroed in on coral reefs for a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) undergrad research program. The summer after his freshman year, he worked on a joint experiment with a lab in Florida to study macro-algae (seaweed) encroachment in Key Largo, where corals are struggling to compete for habitat. “Why are the algae winning?” was the research question for Tepper and his team, led by OSU microbiologist Rebecca Vega Thurber. “What’s the role of micro-organisms like bacteria and viruses?”
Diving at Pickles Reef, Tepper collected mucus from the coral with a syringe for DNA analysis and took samples of three algae species, two brown and one green. He communicated with his dive partner using basic scuba hand signals and messages scrawled on underwater clipboards. His Rescue Diver and Scientific Diver training proved essential, particularly when one of his buddies was low on air and needed to share Jake’s.
Tepper presented his experiment at HHMI (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40gGgzZdiZc). Next fall, he heads to Bonaire for more reef research through the Council on International Educational Exchange. And as OSU’s most recent recipient of the prestigious NOAA Hollings Scholarship, he will be working with a NOAA scientist on yet another project, still to be decided.
“My focus is on marine conservation biology,” Tepper says. “Coral reefs are dying. Hurricanes, pollution, overfishing, farm runoff, ocean acidification, big city wastes, disease — all these things destroy reefs. I want to do research on reefs that will lead to the creation of a lot more marine protected areas.”
Mon, 06/17/2013 - 5:39pm
Katlyn Taylor’s life has bumped into practically every phylum of the Animal Kingdom. Ask her how she got into science, and she’ll spin a narrative that spans sea lemons, orphaned chickens, 4-H rabbits, endangered Asian elephants, gray whale migration, sea lion pups, the genetics of microbacterial phages and the coloration of sea stars.
And she’s just getting warmed up.
The research Taylor has done since coming to Oregon State from her hometown of Oregon City four years ago is the collegiate sequel to a childhood captivation with animals. When she was 9, for example, she rescued a baby chicken that somehow had wandered into a Fred Meyer restroom. Her little sister wanted a chick, too, so before long the Taylor family had a backyard coop that “accidentally” included a rooster. If the hens pecked each other, little Katlyn would bathe the injured birds in a salad bowl with diluted peroxide. On the yearly family holiday at Cannon Beach, her mom and dad — both high school educators — helped the girls ID the neon-bright, weirdly shaped organisms clinging to Haystack Rock. And how many young women would be rapturous about getting a beachcombers field guide for their 18th birthday?
When it came time to choose a college, Taylor liked OSU’s broad science options. “Half the campus is dedicated to science!” she enthuses. “Oh my gosh, so much science!”
No one could accuse Katlyn Taylor of hanging back or slacking off. Packing the maximum into her college experience seems to be her mission. During her first year as an International Degree student with majors in biology and Spanish, she worked on harvesting the DNA of a microbacterial phage (virus), a project funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. That spring, she presented her team’s findings in Washington, D.C., and went on to coauthor an entry on a National Institutes of Health database.
A Gift from Nepal
Next she went trekking in Nepal with the OSU Geosciences Club, a trip that included visits to Chitwan National Wildlife Refuge (an elephant sanctuary) and Mustang Kingdom, an ancient Buddhist community in the Himalayas. “There was a lady who gave each of us students a white scarf for good luck,” Taylor recalls, a tone of wonderment in her voice. This summer — her last before graduation — she’s off to Mexico to finish her fourth year of Spanish and complete her thesis on how governmental policies of the United States, Canada and Mexico work (or don’t work) to protect marine mammals in the Pacific. In between, she managed to fit in a study abroad experience in Spain and an experiment on the diet and coloration of sea stars.
She also assisted in an introductory marine mammal course at the Hatfield Marine Sciences Center. One mild spring morning, Taylor stands on the headland at Boiler Bay coaching students who are scanning the steely gray ocean for whale blows. Cormorants glide low over the swells while common murres nest on a nearby sea stack. “One of the last times I was here, I saw a juvenile gray whale foraging and some sea lions porpoising,” she says, training her gaze toward the Pacific. After clocking hundreds of hours in laboratories and libraries, and logging thousands of miles in flight and on foot, Taylor still finds enchantment in the sea life back home on the Oregon coast.
Mon, 06/17/2013 - 5:32pm
What runs through the life of author Norman McLean is a river. In the life of Elliott Finn, it’s a plant.
Vegetation, wild and domestic, wends through every childhood memory: playing hide-and-seek among fruit trees in his parents’ sprawling Soap Creek garden near Corvallis. Dashing through botanical gardens and greenhouses with his little brother Ian. Scrambling up and down granite boulders and hidden canyons among the shadows of Joshua trees in Nevada. Witnessing, after a heavy rain, an eruption of desert sunflowers on the “barren, hardscrabble terrain” of Death Valley.
Even the internship he did with Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley after his sophomore year at Oregon State had a plant component. Amidst the legislative hearings, policy briefings and phone calls from constituents in Washington, D.C., Finn got to do a “super-interesting, super-random” project about a dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) on the U.S. Capitol grounds, a 1985 Arbor Day gift from Oregon’s longtime senator Mark Hatfield.
All of his recollections come with Latin names. “There are eight species of the pitcher plant genus, Sarracenia,” he says, referring to the fly-eating flower that was his special favorite as a kid. He and his dad, a plant geneticist, experimented with cross-breeding Sarracenia and growing the cobra lily (Darlingtonia californica), Oregon’s only native pitcher plant species. Finn rattles off a series of multisyllabic species names and then smiles a little sheepishly. “When both of your parents are horticulturalists, it’s normal to know those terms.”
Connecting People, Solving Problems
But plants are just the buds on Finn’s ambition. It’s the bigger picture — the intersection of ecosystems and human systems — where he hopes to make his mark on the world. His double major — biology and EEPM (Environmental Economics, Policy and Management) — is his attempt to wrap his arms around both nature and humanity for the protection of each. He’s tried lab research but finds it tedious. Instead, he leans toward negotiation, conflict resolution, communication, interaction. For this member of the University Honors College, it’s integrating a “broad range of topics and ideas” that interests him, rather than zeroing in on one “super-specialized area of study.” An inspiring winter abroad in Chile, for example, showed him how environmental policy and community-based fish-and-wildlife management have converged for effective conservation.
“I want to work with people to get everyone on the same page — get everyone to understand one another so we can create solutions that work,” says Finn, who will graduate in fall term. “I’m interested in constellations and connections, in human relationships with one another and the planet, and how science can be applied to solution-making.”
Earth’s future hinges on national concerns being incorporated into regional and local frameworks, he explains. Big federal laws like the Clean Air and Clean Water acts are, of course, critical. “The challenge now is to find points of collaboration for local and regional environmental decision-making,” he says. He cites the work of OSU political science professor Edward Weber, who argues for “grassroots ecosystem management” — local stakeholders plugging into global problems such as climate change and then tackling them on a smaller, more personal scale. “Blanket solutions aren’t the answer,” says Finn.
Still, it’s the Plant Kingdom that lights up Finn’s face most brightly. One spring afternoon, for instance, he’s simultaneously marveling at and worrying about something he just learned in his ecology class: How desert plants like Joshua trees were “classically dispersed” by mastodons and ground sloths, now extinct, and how the trees are in trouble because they depend on a single endangered species of moth for pollination.
“On one hand, it’s sad,” says Finn. “It’s definitely disappointing. But it’s a call for us to pay attention, to make sure it doesn’t occur.”
Mon, 06/17/2013 - 5:23pm
Siberia seldom tempts Western travelers to explore its vast taiga forests and endless permafrost — unless that traveler happens to be Allison Stringer. For the OSU biology student, nothing could be more enticing than spending a summer month “out in the middle of nowhere”— living on a barge at the Northeast Science Station near a tiny town called Chersky, discovering the long-buried bones of mammoths and ancient bison in the eroded banks of a nearby river, measuring tree rings with a high-powered microscope and recording carbon levels in soils to gauge the impact of climate change on Arctic ecosystems.
“Preliminary findings show a general pattern of slowing growth rates in trees,” Stringer reports. “The hypothesis is that as temperatures increase and permafrost thaws, the water table drops and drops and drops, eventually dropping below where trees have roots.”
Not every college sophomore would be in her element in such a primitive place with few amenities and even fewer hours of darkness in midsummer. But as a kid growing up in Missoula, Montana, this was a girl who liked frogs more than Barbies, who preferred wildflowers to princesses, and who reveled in the Big Sky landscapes where she camped and fished with her family.
She didn’t wait around to start her career in research. As a high school senior, she worked with a biologist at Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge to monitor stream temperatures with electronic sensors that logged the data hourly. The water in many parts of the refuge, she discovered, was too warm to support native trout. She wrote “a big old paper,” won a bunch of awards, and traveled to Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs and Anchorage to present her poster.
She hasn’t shifted gears since coming to Oregon State, where she continues her full-throttle approach to life and learning as a member of the University Honors College. Besides majoring in biology with the “Marine Biology Option” (extra coursework), she also has a major in fisheries and wildlife and a minor in Spanish. But that’s only the basic framework. Like a zealous tourist who’s determined to fit every last item of clothing into her suitcase, even if it means sitting on the bag to get it latched, Allison Stringer is cramming into her college education every shred of experience she possibly can.
Russian in Her Spare Time
That means studying conservation and rural policymaking in Chile at the Universidad Austral de Chile with fisheries professor Dan Edge (“I do have a travel bug,” she admits). It means investigating nutrient cycling in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest with forestry professor Mark Harmon (“It’s a good opportunity to learn statistics and basic mathematical modeling,” she notes). It means working toward her “dive master” scuba certification with a grant from the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society (“I applied for so many random grants!” she confesses), plus being a diver-in-training for “scientific diver” certification — all in preparation to study lionfish in the Bahamas this summer with famed reef ecologist Mark Hixon. Oh, and she’s taking a non-credit course in Russian after learning a bit of the language out in Siberia. In her spare time.
Spanish and Russian, lionfish and permafrost, tree rings and native trout, Siberian tundra and Bahamian reefs: What ties these disparate threads together?
“Broadly, it’s ecology and ecosystems,” Stringer explains. “Underlying everything I do is wanting to give back to the world — to leave the world a better place than it was before. Right now, everything is overharvested, overused. But there’s still hope. I’d like to be that hope.”
Mon, 06/17/2013 - 5:10pm
When manatees and alligators are members of your backyard ecosystem, it’s like living with a ready-made science project. Justin Conner took full advantage of the biodiversity bursting in and around the Florida canal that linked his childhood home to the ocean. There were peacock bass and cichlids to hook. There were frogs and toads to collect. There were black racers and corn snakes to stalk beneath the dense, tropical foliage.
The curious little boy was boggled by the biology of it all.
“I was always out in nature catching stuff,” says OSU zoology student Justin Conner. “I always liked creepy and crawly — little tiny lizards, frogs, baby toads, snakes. I had just a plethora of reptile and amphibian pets. It was a mini-zoo in a 20-gallon tank. My mom was not too supportive of that.”
One day when he was 8 or 9, he was sitting in the living room riveted to Animal Planet, his favorite show.
The episode showed a guy milking snakes for venom. When the man on camera was identified as a “herpetologist,” Justin jumped up and rushed to the computer. H-e-r-p-e-t-o-l-o-g-i-s-t, he Googled. That’s the moment this child with an innate affinity for cold-blooded organisms (ectotherms) discovered there’s an actual job description for people like him. “I realized I could do this for a living!” Conner marvels.
Which is what brought him to Oregon State after he investigated universities with excellent zoology and ecology programs.
But “herps” aren’t Conner’s only passion. His other big cause is bringing minority students like himself into the sciences. “I’m an activist,” he declares. He recently launched a club on campus called CAMS — Council for the Advancement of Minorities in Science — to connect students of color to mentors, research opportunities and professional development.
He wants to help propel African Americans and other minorities in the same spirit in which scientist Tyrone Hayes helped propel Conner’s trajectory at OSU. Hayes, an amphibian researcher at UC Berkeley, was in Corvallis to address the Lois Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, a program for boosting minority completion of degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. After the keynote, Conner and some of his buddies wangled an audience with the high-profile scientist in the Memorial Union ballroom. Conner had been trying unsuccessfully to reach OSU’s prominent frog scientist Andy Blaustein. He asked Hayes for advice on getting Blaustein’s attention.
“I happen to know Andy Blaustein,” Hayes responded. “I’ll tell him you’re my cousin and you’re looking for a job in his lab.”
The ruse worked. Conner (who confessed the deception to Blaustein as soon as they met face-to-face) spent a summer researching “Bd” — Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a chytrid fungus that is decimating frog populations worldwide. When he was knee deep in a pond one morning, collecting egg masses and swabbing frogs for signs of the fungus, he heard a gurgling sound in his rubber boots. “Turns out I had holes in my waders,” he says. “My feet got cold. But we saw tons of tadpoles!”
He also worked on a collaborative project with the University of Pittsburgh, looking at the effects of carotenoids (plant pigments that are sources of vitamin A and antioxidants) on three species of frogs. “Amphibians are crashing at an astronomical rate,” laments Conner, who intends to study the threatened animals in tropical countries like Costa Rica after getting his Ph.D. “About 70 percent of species are threatened or endangered.”
After he presented his poster, “The Effect of Carotenoid Supplementation on Disease Susceptibility in Amphibians” at a professional meeting at Boise State, Conner won first place for undergraduate research. That led to a scholarship to present at Arizona State. “My poster’s my pride and joy,” he says, adding gratitude for grad student Stephanie Gervasi and others who guided him. “I had so much help. I’m thankful for the people who helped.”
Mon, 06/17/2013 - 4:30pm
It’s physical and sensual. It’s not an exercise in hypothetical counter-factuals or wonderings about brains in vats or the playing of a clever devil’s advocate. It’s hot and uncomfortable and smelly. You flail in vain at ginormous mosquitos with your forearms and shoulders (because your hands are covered in rubber gloves which are covered in moose grease and hold a sharp knife); you record information on a necropsy card; you walk ever-widening circles in search of bones dragged off and chewed on under a balsam fir tree; you cut the tendons between metatarsus and femur, and find the skull and the lower mandible; you tag, and bag, and carry them home.
But unless you have no soul or imagination it’s also stunning and humbling. Someone who was intelligent and sensitive and brave, who had no interest in being killed and eaten, fought very hard but died here. And others, who were also intelligent and sensitive and brave, who also fought very hard, were fed here. And the breeze picks up. Little lonely ghosts of an adrenalin-drenched drama linger in this place – you can feel them. And it’s appropriate to breathe in and to be deeply silenced by this truth.
Tue, 06/11/2013 - 4:28pm
Jane Lubchenco, Oregon State University professor and former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will give the opening night keynote address at Corvallis’ annual da Vinci Days festival on Friday, July 19.
Her presentation, “From the Silly to the Sublime: Stories about Science in D.C,” will begin at 7 p.m. in the Whiteside Theater. It is free and open to the public.
Lubchenco will reflect on her experiences with NOAA, the federal agency in charge of weather forecasts and warnings, climate records and outlooks. NOAA is also the nation’s ocean agency, managing fisheries, monitoring changes, and being the steward of ocean health in federal waters. NOAA’s satellites, ships, planes and other platforms and its cadre of scientists provide the information and understanding that support those activities.
Since stepping down from NOAA, Lubchenco has been on leave at Stanford University and plans to return to Oregon State in June.
Lubchenco’s talk will launch a weekend series of family-friendly talks by Oregon State researchers that will focus on the ongoing Mars rover mission, decoding the golden ratio, underwater photography from Antarctica and invasive bullfrogs in our lakes and streams.
All weekend presentations will be held in Kearney Hall, which is located on the university campus across from the da Vinci Days fairgrounds. They are also free and open to the public.
Steve Amen, host of Oregon Public Broadcasting’s popular Oregon Field Guide, will conclude the series as the festival’s closing speaker. His presentation, “Oregon’s Splendor,” will begin at 4 p.m. Sunday in Kearney Hall. He will share some of his favorite spots in Oregon, from the high desert to the coast.
Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s left-brain-meets-right-brain genius, the first da Vinci Days festival was held in 1989. In addition to the speaker series, this celebration of arts, science and technology features independent films, live music and a kinetic sculpture race. Hands-on exhibition booths and demonstrations on the Oregon State campus invite students and families to explore the many creative sides of OSU and the Corvallis community.
See more about da Vinci Days at www.davincidays.org.
OSU speakers scheduled for da Vinci Days in 112 Kearney Hall
Saturday, July 20
11 a.m. Jack Barth, Ocean Exploration with Underwater Gliders
Underwater gliders are a key component of OSU’s new Ocean Observatories Initiative. As they patrol the ocean depths, these autonomous robots are giving scientists new views of the marine ecosystems. See a glider and learn how it navigates, dives and resurfaces in the course of collecting data on ocean currents, dissolved oxygen, plankton and more.
12 noon. Dan Rockwell, A Mathematical Detective Story: Decoding the golden ratio
We’re surrounded by pattern and rhythm. From the branching of an ancient oak to the classical architecture of a courthouse, our environment reflects principles of harmony and repetition. We can use the language of mathematics to see this underlying reality. We’ll explore our world through the Golden Ratio and other tools that show how forms lead to function.
1 p.m. Marty Fisk, Curiosity on Mars: NASA’s search for habitable environments.
Scientists have found life in surprising places: in rocks a mile under the ocean floor and in scalding pools of hot water. In comparison, Mars may not be such a long shot. Martin Fisk, OSU marine geologist, is part of the NASA team that analyzes the Martian landscape for places where life existed in the past or could exist today.
2 p.m. Seri Robinson, The Art and Science of Spalted Wood
The art of wood spalting dates back to 15th century Italy. Wood scientist Seri Robinson will talk about how it’s done and give visitors a chance to make their own by applying fungi to wood veneer.
3 p.m. Andrew Thurber, Life in the Polar Ocean
Life under polar ice thrives in surprising abundance. Sponges, sea stars, tube worms and anemones dot the sea floor around Antarctica while ice fish carve out caves to hid from predatory seals. Overhead during the summer, a light show flashes sunset colors and illuminates natural ice sculptures. At this presentation, see images from the seafloor near the U.S. Antarctic station at McMurdo, learn what it’s like to dive into a dark nearly frozen realm and hear how art is informed by science.
Sunday, July 21
12 noon Tiffany Garcia, Bullfrogs and Other Threats to Aquatic Ecosystems
Bullfrogs are native to the central and eastern United States. In the West, they eat native frogs, fish, reptiles and even birds and small mammals, “about anything it can fit down its throat,” according to the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. This demonstration will include live bullfrogs and discussion of other threats to aquatic ecosystems in Oregon.
1 p.m. Skip Rochefort, Engineering for the Fun of It
2 p.m. Zach Dunn, Kel Wer: A film about water, survival, and hope in Lela, Kenya
In July of 2012, a group of Oregon State University students traveled to the small village of Lela, Kenya with the goal of helping the community gain access to safe water. Kel Wer (“to bring song” in the native Dholuo language) is a film that tells the story of their journey, the challenges they faced, and the incredibly welcoming and resilient people they met along the way. Zachary Dunn, currently a graduate student at OSU, was part of that expedition and will present the film and answer questions.
3 p.m. Michael Wing, The Future of Unmanned Aerial Systems
Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are now becoming available at prices well below $2000. Coupled with light weight sensors, UAS are capable of capturing high resolution imagery that can support natural resource management, disaster response, and search and rescue operations. This presentation will include information about low-cost UAS and how this technology can be used for the benefit of society.
Tue, 06/11/2013 - 10:44am
We know that mutations in DNA enable organisms to evolve. But how? Jeremy Northway, an undergraduate in the Oregon State University Honors College, is intent on using this worm, known as C. elegans, to find answers. Few animals are as tough or as unassuming. Specimens of C. elegans survived the 2003 space shuttle Columbia disaster. They have been used in experiments on the International Space Station to investigate the effects of weightlessness on muscles. Technicians on Earth routinely freeze them in liquid nitrogen where they can remain viable for as along as 10 years. On their own, they thrive in compost heaps and garden soil.
As a freshman, Northway became interested in research during an introductory biology course. “It was called the phage genomics lab, and the whole concept was that students would go around campus and find their own phage out of an environmental sample,” Northway said. “Phage are viruses that infect bacteria.”
That was where Northway met Professor Dee Denver, a geneticist in the Department of Zoology who studied C. elegans for his doctoral thesis. Denver taught a section of the class on worm genomics.
All Honors College students conduct research and present an undergraduate thesis. Denver helped Northway to frame his research question into a doable project. “Dee is a really good researcher, especially for undergrads and people who haven’t done a lot of research,” Northway said. “He’s really good at the process of scientific discovery and letting you discover yourself.”
Northway received funding through a National Science Foundation grant to Oregon State to study the number of generations it takes for C. elegans to evolve in a new environment. His results could also have implications for the cellular process of aging. The genes he studied help control how cells break down as they age.
Nothing to Hide
The word “worm” evokes images of earthworms or parasites like roundworms. But C. elegans is so tiny that it eats bacteria. And since it is transparent, researchers can watch the developmental process unfold under a microscope.
Evolution can be hard to study in long-lived animals such as humans, but C. elegans speeds things up considerably. It reproduces in only four days, and a group of them can show evolutionary changes in a few weeks.
In Denver’s lab, a giant freezer holds the samples with the worms in capped cryogenic vials. The temperature is kept at -112 degrees Fahrenheit. Before Northway is able to pipette worms into a Petri dish and observe them, he must thaw them out for an hour.
Northway’s plan relied on natural selection. He exposed worms to Paraquat, a potent herbicide. Although many worms died, some managed to eke out an existence and reproduce. Those worms were repeatedly dosed with the chemical for 10 generations. By then, the majority of the worms was resistant to Paraquat. They had evolved to adapt to their environment.
Northway traces the results to changes in the cells of C. elegans. The chemical damages a part of the cell known as mitochondria, a kind of power plant for cellular processes. When mitochondria are damaged, cells die. In Northway’s experiments, the resistant worms may possess an advantage that enabled them to live.
Scientists hypothesize that similar processes are involved in aging, Northway said. Because the worms evolved to resist stress, genes in humans may also function in this manner. Northway’s research could lead to further investigation even if his data don’t turn out to be statistically significant. Analyzing C. elegans genes could provide clues to a long-sought goal in biology: the causes of aging.
Part of the answer could be in the way that genes are regulated. “It would be interesting to see what specific genes are being up- or down-regulated as a result of this stress, and I think that it might be a natural path to look at some kind of human aging diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s,” Northway said.
This summer Northway will continue his work with a graduate student on C. elegans genes related to aging.
Tue, 06/04/2013 - 10:52am
As an epidemiologist, Jeff Bethel understands the vital role of public health in saving lives after a natural disaster. Most at risk, he says, are vulnerable populations — migrant laborers and people who live alone or have chronic illnesses.
“If you’re in your little bubble, you’re at higher risk,” says the assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
Bethel studies how prepared people are to survive on their own when the power and water go out and food supplies are disrupted. In partnership with the Marion County Public Health Department, he is surveying Latino residents and identifying subgroups such as the elderly or the chronically ill. The county will use Bethel’s findings for publicity about disaster preparedness.
Epidemiologists can assist health-care professionals by providing up-to-date, population-based information, adds Michael Heumann, consulting epidemiologist with the Oregon Public Health Division. “In a disaster,” says Heumann, “we all need to be able to do the minimum until help arrives. That means having food, water and medicine. And we need to have the skills sets — stop the bleeding, take care of people with broken bones. It’s everybody’s business: schools, civic organizations, churches, trade associations, businesses, public health agencies.”
“Public health needs to be at the table in these conversations,” Bethel says. “It’s vital.”
Oregon State researchers are helping to prepare the state for the next great earthquake. See Oregon 9.0.
Sat, 05/25/2013 - 4:41pm
The last great earthquake to strike the Pacific Northwest occurred on January 26, 1700, at about 9 p.m. Parts of the coastline dropped three to six feet in an instant. It set off landslides throughout the Oregon Coast Range. Some of them are still moving. If you could hear soil, rocks and trees creep inch-by-inch downhill, some of those sounds would echo that massive jolt. At sea, it generated tsunamis that reshaped the Northwest coastline, traveled across the Pacific and swept through bays and coastal communities in Japan.
Scientists know that this scenario has happened repeatedly in the last 10,000 years and will do so again. Oregon State University geologist Chris Goldfinger calculates the chance of a major quake at 40 percent in the next 50 years off the southern Oregon coast. The frequency decreases as you move north, but the nearly 800-mile Cascadia subduction zone, where these quakes originate, could rupture anywhere. The last one wiped out villages. The next one will threaten cities and bring a regional economy to its knees.
Nevertheless, for most of us, the threat seems as likely as getting hit by lightning. We know it could happen, but we don’t take it seriously. It feels remote. “The paradigm shift among the citizens of the Northwest has not yet taken place,” says Bob Yeats, emeritus professor of geology at Oregon State and author of Living with Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest.
As recently as 30 years ago, most scientists didn’t think a major quake could happen here. But, says Yeats in an upcoming book, evidence from coastal marshes, seafloor canyons, GPS monitoring stations and native traditions tell a compelling story: The western edge of North America is locked against another part of the Earth’s crust, the Juan de Fuca Plate, which is diving beneath us. Like wrestlers in mortal combat, they occasionally break their hold on each other and lurch into a new position. Geologists have given such events a name right out of Saturday night wrestling — “megathrust.” When it happens, the landscape vibrates like a bass drum. Seismic waves pulse through the crust for three minutes or more. Some types of soil liquefy and spread out. Bridge and building foundations get pushed out of alignment. Other soils could amplify the shaking from below, subjecting buildings, especially high-rises, to even more violent motion.
Scott Ashford has seen the consequences of these quakes in Chile, Japan and New Zealand: buildings and bridges tilted and broken like toys, beachfront tourist towns reduced to rubble, pipelines squeezed out of the ground like toothpaste out of a tube, businesses closed or forced to relocate.
“Many of Oregon’s lifeline providers have shared research needs, whether it’s to improve our ground motion predictions, to assess liquefaction potential of Oregon soils or to develop retrofit technologies for our legacy systems.”
— Matthew L. Garrett, Director, Oregon Department of Transportation
The Oregon State Kearney Professor of Engineering is determined to soften the blow when Oregon’s turn arrives. In 2010, after viewing damage from a megathrust quake in Chile, Ashford developed the idea for the Cascadia Lifelines Program, a consortium of Oregon businesses, government agencies and universities. The goal is to save lives and to shorten the time it will take for the state and the nation to recover.
“If you look at the effect on the people and at recovery, a key part of our resilience is lifelines,” Ashford says. “Electric power, natural gas, transportation systems, telecommunications, drinking water, sewer. And critical facilities like the Port of Portland and the Portland International Airport. All of these lifeline providers have common challenges to prepare for this next earthquake. None by itself has the financial ability to fund the research necessary. My vision is to pursue research of common interest to develop cost-effective solutions to mitigate the Cascadia earthquake.”
Members of the consortium already include the Oregon Department of Transportation, Portland General Electric, NW Natural (Northwest Natural Gas), the Port of Portland, the Portland Water Bureau and the Bonneville Power Administration. Ashford is lining up others as well. Among their concerns are building standards, landslides, communications and recovery strategies. But first up on their research agenda is an Oregon State study of soil liquefaction, the phenomenon that compounds the damage caused by seismic shaking.
Soils are often named for the places where they’re found. California’s state soil is called San Joaquin. In Washington, Tokul soil is named after a community in King County. Oregon’s state soil is Jory, named for a hill in Marion County where a family of that name settled in 1852. For geotechnical engineers, another local soil poses a potential risk in a megathrust earthquake: Willamette silt.
With a texture midway between sand and clay, this remnant of the ancient Missoula Floods underlies much of the Willamette Valley. From McMinnville nearly to Eugene, bridge piers, roads (I-5, U.S. Highway 99) and pipelines run through or on top of Willamette silt. It carries railroad tracks and electric transmission lines. Large parts of Salem sit on it, as do Albany, Corvallis and Sweet Home. It is up to 130 feet deep in some places.
“We don’t really know anything about how Willamette silt responds to earthquakes,” says Ben Mason, an assistant professor of civil engineering at Oregon State. What he does know is that, as soils go, it doesn’t take much water for it to change from being dry and crumbly to taking on the properties of a liquid. “It has a low plasticity index. What that means is that it can liquefy during an earthquake,” he says. At least theoretically.
To find out for sure, Mason has collected Willamette silt from the Oregon State campus. Last winter, he and a colleague, Li Zheng from the Nanjing Hydraulic Research Institute in China (Li wants to know how earthen dams will perform during an earthquake), placed soil samples the size of hockey pucks in a device that simulates conditions deep underground. They subjected the samples to repeated, precisely controlled cycles of shaking. As a piston shook the sample, simulating seismic waves, sensors measured changes in volume and in water pressure inside the soil.
As the shaking continued, “the water pressure builds up, builds up and builds up and eventually the soil will act like a liquid,” says Mason. “And that’s when we say liquefaction happens.” In effect, he explains, soil structure breaks down, water oozes from pores where it had been bound and the soil turns into a mass with the consistency of pea soup.
We can see liquefaction in action when we walk on a beach, Mason adds. “If you run, you cause these minor liquefaction events. It’s a very dynamic load hitting the sand.” Water is forced out from between the grains and pools briefly on the surface. In contrast, water underground has nowhere to go. As Mason’s experiments show, pressure rises. The question is: Will it get high enough to trigger liquefaction? If it does and the soil happens to be on a slope, it can spread out, jeopardizing any structure that is in the way, such as a bridge pier, building foundation or pipeline.
Mason’s experiments are the first to be supported by Cascadia Lifelines Program funding. His lab is one of the few on the West Coast with the ability to subject soils to a wide range of precisely controlled earthquakes. His “cyclic simple shear” device can be programmed to mimic seismic waves with varying duration and strength. With accurate information about Willamette silt, engineers will be able to design structures that can minimize the damage from the possibility of soil movement caused by liquefaction. Engineering firms are already contacting him to test soil samples for project design purposes.
Buildings and Bridges
Most schools, city halls, bridges, commercial buildings and other structures in Oregon were built before the possibility of big earthquakes was taken seriously. “We don’t know how these buildings will perform (in an earthquake),” says Andre Barbosa, an Oregon State structural engineer. “We have a very rough idea. We know by year and type of construction, whether this or that building may behave well or not so well. But we don’t really know.”After the Quake
As an epidemiologist, Jeff Bethel understands the vital role of public health in saving lives after a natural disaster. Most at risk, he says, are vulnerable populations — migrant laborers and people who live alone or have chronic illnesses.
Because seismic stresses were not even recognized in the state’s building codes until 1974, our infrastructure and architectural heritage are highly vulnerable. According to the Oregon Resilience Plan, a report produced by the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission (OSSPAC) in 2013, nearly half of 2,193 schools assessed in the state have a high to very high potential for collapse. More than a third of the 2,567 bridges in the state highway system were built with no seismic considerations. All nine of Portland’s bridges over the Willamette were built before seismic codes were in force, although some have been strengthened.
But estimating vulnerability is only the start, says Barbosa, who specializes in structural performance in earthquakes. Engineers also need to evaluate strategies for retrofitting old structures and improving standards for new construction. Toward that end, Barbosa conducts experiments on building and bridge components in the Oregon State structures lab, which boasts the second-largest “strong floor” on the West Coast. It allows researchers to simulate earthquake forces up to 1 million pounds on frames up to two stories high. In a project for the Oregon Department of Transportation, Barbosa is evaluating the performance of high-strength reinforcing steel (aka “rebar”) to resist long-duration shaking.
That fills an important need in the Northwest where subduction zone earthquakes are likely to last three to five minutes or more. In contrast, crustal earthquakes, such as those along the famed San Andreas Fault in California, typically last 30 seconds or less. The difference adds up to higher demands on buildings, especially where the frequency of the seismic waves matches a structure’s internal characteristics.
“The main objective of our modern building codes is life safety,” Barbosa adds. “We design structures so that people can evacuate in case of strong shaking. The structure can vibrate back and forth, but it is designed not to collapse. That’s the life safety design approach.”
In addition to living in earthquake country, Barbosa has a personal connection to such events. He grew up in Lisbon, Portugal, which suffered a cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami in 1755. Geologists now estimate that it approached the strength of the 1700 megathrust earthquake in the Pacific Northwest. Since then, Portugal and the Northwest have experienced thousands of smaller quakes centered in local faults, but there have been no large events of the kind seen recently in Chile and Japan. “The problems we have in Portugal are the same as we have here in Oregon,” he says. “The return period for large earthquakes is very long. People just don’t remember.”
Nevertheless, Oregon is taking a leadership role in planning. Elsewhere, agencies and regions (the San Francisco Bay Area) have developed a holistic approach to resilience, but Oregon is the first to do so at the state level. “Through OSSPAC,” says Barbosa, “Oregon is doing something that is amazing.”
When Michael Olsen pulls up a map of the Oregon Coast Range on his computer, he sees wide swaths of red dots. Each one represents landslide-prone areas identified through the highly accurate lens of a remote sensing technology known as LIDAR (“light detection and ranging”). The Oregon State civil engineer and Hoffman Faculty Scholar specializes in the emerging field of geomatics, which is land surveying on steroids. Geomatics practitioners analyze landscapes by combining remote sensing data (from the ground, the air or planetary orbit) and large spatial datasets for soils, vegetation, precipitation, streams and other features.
In the Coast Range, Olsen and his graduate students are assembling LIDAR data and layering it with what engineers know about the terrain. Working with the Oregon Department of Transportation, their goal is to estimate the likelihood of earthquake-triggered landslides near highways that link the I-5 corridor with coastal communities.
These mountains might be beautiful, but Olsen’s picture isn’t pretty. “The Coast Range consists of very loose soils that are of very poor quality. They don’t have a lot of strength to them,” he says. In an emergency, “barriers along these lifeline corridors would be a big problem. Even a small landslide can close down a road for a day or two.”
And it doesn’t take much to start Coast Range soils moving. Based on the locations of previous slides and knowledge of soil types, it appears that slopes as low as 10 to 15 percent are vulnerable to sliding. “That isn’t that much. It’s pretty scary that it’s that low,” Olsen says.
Landslides are hardly a new phenomenon in Oregon, but they are more common in some years than in others. The winter storms of 1996-97 generated an estimated 9,500 landslides, mostly in western Oregon. Scientists at the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) have calculated that, while economic losses exceed $10 million in a typical year, they exceeded $100 million that winter.
Although all Coast Range roads pass through slide-prone terrain, some may be less vulnerable and easier to re-open than others. Such information, says Olsen, will help ODOT prioritize roads for earthquake recovery purposes.
A Statewide Effort
By coordinating these and other research investments, Cascadia Lifelines meets an important need for state agencies and utility companies and fills a critical niche in statewide preparedness efforts. Spurred by the state Legislature, scientists, utility companies and agencies are evaluating risks and identifying solutions to mitigate the most significant impacts of the next megathrust earthquake. Schools and other public buildings have been assessed, and retrofits have begun. Roadways are being ranked for vulnerability to landslides and bridge failures. On the coast, evacuation routes are being marked to help coastal residents and visitors escape the tsunami zone.
“Given the nature and wide-ranging impact of seismic activity, it is appropriate that a consortium of organizations engaged in building, operating and maintaining critical infrastructure in Oregon could work together to identify and address concerns about improving seismic resilience.”
— Grant Yoshihara, Vice President, NW Natural
In 2011, Oregon’s Earthquake Commission (aka the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission or OSSPAC) assembled experts to lay out the risks and recommend a series of steps for the next 50 years. It released a final report — The Oregon Resilience Plan — last February. “The broad picture of what needs to be done is pretty straightforward,” says Ian Madin, chief scientist for DOGAMI and an Oregon State alum who helped to lead the planning. “We need to strengthen our infrastructure so that it physically resists the effects of the earthquake, so that it is either undamaged or easily repairable.”
Engineers know how to design earthquake-resilient structures, say Madin and Ashford. They can “harden” foundation soils to resist liquefaction and construct bridges and buildings that can survive shaking. Such measures carry a stiff price tag, but the return on investment can be positive. For example, says Ashford, after the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, earthquake preparedness steps saved $10 for $1 spent.
Power to Recover
Ultimately, recovery is about more than engineering. It is about assistance for a traumatized citizenry, strategies for keeping small businesses afloat, security to prevent looting, radio systems that will work after cell-phone towers and land lines go down and policies that allow restoration projects to be fast-tracked. In Chile, Ashford adds, electricity was crucial for recovery efforts. Water pumps in rural areas, for example, couldn’t even be tested until power was restored.
In New Zealand, homeowners insure against earthquakes as well as fire. The government helped businesses get back on their feet by creating a temporary mall out of shipping containers. Grants kept paychecks flowing to employees who otherwise would have qualified for unemployment. Some businesses provided food and fuel to employees’ families so that workers could focus on the job of rebuilding without worrying if their loved-ones were safe.
Individuals need to prepare as well. “I’m a big believer in personal responsibility,” says Ashford. He has installed an electrical generator port on his home, keeps extra medication on hand and fills his truck’s fuel tank when it hits half empty. “Every family needs to be prepared to be on their own for a few days. Every community needs to be prepared to be on its own. If you are expecting the government to come in immediately with assistance, it may take many days or weeks for that help to arrive.”
Fri, 05/24/2013 - 4:49pm
Why would binoculars be an essential tool for a scholar of Renaissance literature during a study tour of Europe? What does crawling around on a castle floor have to do with researching the writings of Shakespeare and Spenser? Why would a professor of 15th- and 16th-century poetry and drama desperately need a therapeutic massage after a day of intense investigation? The answer is tapestries.
Massive, intricate, otherworldly weavings called “arras” were commissioned by European royals and nobles to adorn the walls of their palaces and estates. Peopled with life-sized figures depicting scripture, myth and legend as well as hunting, falconry and winemaking, they brought color and life to drab, drafty halls. But adornment was only part of the purpose of these colossal works of art, says Rebecca Olson, who has spent more than a decade studying their role in literature and, by extension, in Renaissance society. They also reinforced power and inspired loyalty by evoking tradition and royal status.
“I use the analogy of Kindles and e-readers and how they retain some of the elements of an actual book.”
— Rebecca Olson
“These tapestries were everywhere,” says Olson, an assistant professor in the Oregon State University School of Writing, Literature and Film. “Besides the magnificent large-scale hangings, there were smaller, cheaper versions adorning humbler settings. They were as ubiquitous as TV is today. They had practical uses, educational uses, political uses. You can’t really understand Renaissance literature unless you understand how they were used and how people thought about them.”
Crafted of wool and threaded with strands of silk, gold and silver, the most impressive tapestries sometimes unfurled 30 feet long and soared 15 feet high, all the better to awe, educate and even intimidate the viewer. Studying them can be a workout. Olson once slid herself along the cold stones of Hampton Court Palace to view the underside of an arras laid out on a rack for repairs. To examine details at the top, she often resorts to peering upward through a pair of binoculars. After days of scrutinizing every last detail, she can wind up with a serious crick.
“Just to look at them is very physical,” says Olson. “You’re moving because you can’t take them all in at once, so you’re craning your neck, you’re bending down, you’re walking up to look closely, you’re stepping back. My neck often hurts quite a bit.”
Stories from the Past
The first arras hangings she saw with her own eyes were in the banquet hall of England’s Hampton Court Palace. Even as frayed and faded as the massive tapestries were, she found them enchanting, particularly the heroic scenes depicting the labors of Hercules. The 500-year-old weavings felt like silent emissaries from Shakespeare’s era. As she gazed on them — realizing that the Bard’s contemporaries had sat among these very hangings eating, drinking and watching live actors perform — her arms prickled with goose bumps.
In the years since, she has discovered a rich — and largely overlooked — literary and historical presence for the arras, which she documents in her upcoming book, Arras Hanging: The Textile that Determined Modern Literature and Drama (University of Delaware Press, in press). The arras was, for instance, central to one of Shakespeare’s most dramatic scenes: Hamlet’s stabbing of Polonius. In Act III when Lord Polonius plots with Hamlet’s mother and stepfather to hide behind a tapestry to eavesdrop (“Behind the arras I’ll convey myself”), he makes a fatal mistake. Hamlet, hearing the hidden voice, thrusts his sword through the arras (translated as a “curtain” in some editions), killing Polonius.
“The idea of a prince damaging one of these very expensive tapestries really makes us wonder about Hamlet’s sanity in that scene,” Olson says. Modern audiences, she adds, would fail to grasp the import of his action without the historical context. “It’s like when a rock star smashes his expensive guitar. It has real shock value.”
In Book III of Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queen, one of the great classics of Renaissance literature, the writer devotes 18 stanzas to the virgin warrior Britomart’s night in a room draped floor to ceiling with arras tapestries (“For round about, the wals yclothed were With goodly arras of great majesty, Wouen with gold and silke…”). On the tapestries were bawdy scenes of debauchery and sensuality, which Spenser introduced to contrast with Britomart’s chastity.
Inspired to Reverence
For the rich and the royal, arras hangings were status symbols. They depicted ancient stories of valor and virtue. Often designed to inspire viewers to be braver and better, they also were instruments of political propaganda and puffery. King Henry VIII favored images of King David in an attempt to associate himself with the great biblical figure. Queen Elizabeth I lined her outer chambers with woven figures of small size, yet as the visitor proceeded toward her inner chambers, the figures got bigger and bigger. “They were supposed to make you feel smaller and smaller, so by the time you got to the queen you just felt tiny,” says Olson.
Olson’s research has taken her to the Tower of London and to the National Archives of the United Kingdom, where she scoured ancient ledgers and inventories for clues to ownership and transport of arras hangings. She also has found evidence that tapestries were used to teach a young prince about the Battle of Troy, and that queens gave birth in chambers swathed in weavings.
As important as the woven images is the literary symbolism embedded in the act of weaving. Olson points out that the words “text” and “textile” derive from the same Latin roots texo and texere — “weaving” or “to weave.” Even though the loom has largely disappeared from daily life, the metaphor (to weave a story, spin a tale, follow a narrative thread) has survived all these centuries, cropping up in our most advanced communications lingo (the Web, the Net, an email thread).
Just as many moderns cling nostalgically to bound books of paper and ink, Olson notes, medieval Europeans would have felt attached to stories told upon the tactile surface of a weaving, even as the printing press was beginning to push the technology.
Thu, 05/23/2013 - 12:49pm
It was dinnertime at the Milston-Clements home. The hubbub of feeding a 6-month-old baby and a hungry toddler was at full clamor when a ringtone interrupted. Handing off the jar of creamed spinach to her husband, Ruth grabbed her cell phone.
“Ruth, we have a broken pipe.”
As manager of Oregon State’s Salmon Disease Lab, Ruth Milston-Clements is on-call 24/7. With a network of alarms protecting the facility’s 25,000 research fish from disasters both natural and human (power outages, floods, equipment malfunctions, vandalism), she’s accustomed to running out the door at odd times. It happens once a month, on average.
So this dinnertime call seemed fairly routine. A researcher had accidentally backed her truck into a water pipe supplying 30 fiberglass tanks full of fingerlings, the caller reported. Quickly, an onsite technician cranked down the valve to stop the flow. He then rigged a fix that should hold till morning. However, the margin of error between life and death is, for a fish, as thin as a fin. “Without water flow or oxygen, the fish will suffocate in about 20 minutes,” says Milston-Clements, a fish biologist who grew up in Lancaster, England. In her field, there’s no such thing as an excess of caution. So, after tucking her little girls into bed, she spent the next few hours at the lab helping to construct a temporary backup system in case the quick fix failed before morning. It was after midnight when she finally flopped into bed.
The 3 a.m. ringtone blaring from her nightstand jolted her upright. “My heart started beating really loud, and I was hyperventilating,” she recalls. The electronic message from the lab’s security company read: Zone 1, low water. “This is the worst! This is what I’ve been dreading! Thousands of fish could die!” she moaned to her husband as she threw on her sweats and rubber boots and headed out once again.
In fact, no fish died that night. The second alarm turned out to be a minor malfunction unrelated to the burst pipe. But the adrenaline rush highlights what’s at stake in a live-animal research facility.
Crabs Count, Too
Of the 600,000 animals used in Oregon State’s research and teaching programs, 80 percent are aquatic species. Most of these half-million water dwellers are housed in fiberglass tanks on and around the Corvallis campus or at a research hatchery in the Alsea River Basin. Some live in simulated streams or raceways. Still others are on display in touch tanks or seawater aquariums at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. They come in outrageous colors and preposterous designs: pouty, big-eyed rockfish in shimmery golds and coppers; pincushion-like sea urchins bristling with purple spines; a giant Pacific octopus, its suction-cupped arms undulating around a bulbous orange body. The charismatic Chinook salmon, the elusive black prickleback, the tendrilled basket star, the diminutive zebrafish — more than 400 species in total — all are members of Oregon State’s aquatic animal community.
The vertebrates among them are subject to the rigorous protocols of humane treatment laid out by the AAALAC (Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International) and overseen by OSU’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (see Terra, “The Ethic of Care,” Fall 2012; and “Caring for Cows,” Winter 2013). But the ethical distinction between the spined and the spineless has blurred in recent years. In the same way that the animal-care ethos for rodents and livestock has evolved, so have sensibilities for aquatic animals of all kinds. Just ask Tim Miller-Morgan. In his two-decade career, OSU’s aquatic veterinarian has witnessed an ethical sea change.
Take the case of the ailing crustaceans, for example. Miller-Morgan was moonlighting at the Oregon Aquarium a few years back when he noticed that the spider crabs were lethargic and droopy-mouthed. In the old days, he says, a sick crab would have been euthanized. “The attitude was, ‘It’s only an invertebrate; let’s just get another one.’” But instead of discarding the crabs, he drew their blood and discovered a bacterial infection. He treated the animals with antibiotic injections and medicated feed. “Typically, this wasn’t something that was done,” says Miller-Morgan, who also serves as backup veterinarian for OSU Attending Veterinarian Helen Diggs. “But now we understand that we shouldn’t look at these animals as disposable. We brought them into captivity, and we have an obligation to keep them as long as we can, as close to their natural lifespan as possible — or even longer.”
It’s today’s students, he says, who are driving the new morality. In the aquatic-medicine classes he teaches at OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, questions about animal welfare are top-of-mind among the Millennials, also known as Gen Y. “Eight or nine years ago, students started telling me, ‘We’d like to hear information on what we know about fish welfare, how we assess welfare, what do we know about pain?’ That was a new thing.”
He hears the same kinds of queries from students enrolled in the aquarium science program he helped develop at Oregon Coast Community College. It boils down to a centuries-old debate among philosophers, scientists, veterinarians, farmers, ranchers, aquarists, and pet owners: What is our obligation to captive animals?
For researcher David Noakes, the answer is crystal clear. “We have an inordinate responsibility,” says Noakes, who directs the Oregon Hatchery Research Center run jointly by Oregon State and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). “We need to go to extraordinary lengths.”
It’s the Water
Because of the extraordinary lengths taken by Noakes and his staff, international scientists flock to the research center on Fall Creek, a tributary of the Alsea River, which ripples prettily through a mixed woodland of fir, aspens and big-leaf maple. From faraway nations like Japan, China, Iceland and South Korea, they come to conduct studies on the secrets of salmon navigation, the impact of temperature on sexual maturity, the ability of steelhead to negotiate woody debris, and other hot topics in fish biology. “This is the only place on the planet that has everything in one location for salmonid research,” explains Joseph O’Neil, a senior ODFW technician who lives onsite at the hatchery. “It’s the No. 1 destination in the world.”
If O’Neil were to tell you that water is the most critical component for fish husbandry, you might be tempted to say “duh.” But “water” doesn’t come close to conveying the complexity of the systems that support research fish. When O’Neil says, “Fish need water,” he’s not talking about any old water. Whether it fills a 50-gallon fiberglass tank full of Coho smolts, a 40,000-gallon simulated stream stocked with brook trout, or racks of incubation trays, flushing a million salmon eggs at a rate of five gallons per minute, the water O’Neil is talking about is some of the world’s most pampered. Pumped mainly from Fall Creek, this water may be treated with UV sterilization, carbon filtration or aeration so it’s free of viruses and bacteria. O’Neil’s also talking about precise temperature regulation matched to each species’ native environment and each animal’s stage of life. Eight miles of underground pipe circulate up to 2,500 gallons of freshwater a minute and return it to Fall Creek.
Out here in the Siuslaw National Forest, where the nearest town is picturesque Alsea, population 1,153, things do indeed go wrong. The power fails when gale-force winds howl through the hills; the property floods when biblical rains push the creeks beyond their banks; outdoor tanks crack and pipes rupture when branches crash to the ground. The staff takes pride in being able to improvise a solution or jury-rig a repair for just about any piece of equipment, even amidst the wildest squall, wettest deluge or blackest night.
How to Ship a Fish
In Oregon State fish circles, they’re known as “The Two Carries.” The self-described “guard dogs” of OSU’s zebrafish lab, Cari Buchner and Carrie Barton make a solemn commitment each morning when they punch in their pass codes at the high-security building across the river from downtown Corvallis. Tens of thousands of lives hinge on the skill and vigilance of these fish-husbandry professionals.
Barton and Buchner are co-managers of OSU’s Sinnhuber Aquatic Research Laboratory. The species they oversee — a type of minnow that has been dubbed the “new lab rat” for its growing popularity among biomedical researchers — multiplies fast, matures quickly, shares important disease processes with humans, and rapidly regenerates certain body parts and organs. Best of all, it’s transparent during development. Researchers can see what’s happening inside, literally.
For these reasons, zebrafish make great animal models for medical and environmental research.
“The water here is probably cleaner than most people drink at home,” Buchner attests. That level of purity applies even to water flowing into the staff restrooms, toilets included. If you are granted a visit to Sinnhuber, expect this email in your inbox: “Due to our biosecurity protocols we need to ask that you refrain from any contact with other aquatic species, labs, water sources — especially home aquariums, pet stores and outdoor fish habitats — for 24 hours prior to your visit.” Once you arrive, anticipate being asked to sanitize your hands and slip sterile booties over your shoes.
No one here is taking any chances of jeopardizing the lab’s highly specialized, technically sophisticated, razor-edged enterprise: raising fish that are free of the pathogen Pseudoloma neurophilia, rampant in the commercial aquarium trade and common in many research facilities. “Every fish in this room will be tested for that specific pathogen,” says Buchner. Newly arriving fish are raised, spawned and rigorously tested in a quarantine chamber before their offspring can join the general population.
These uniquely healthy zebrafish are in demand not only at Oregon State but also at other labs. So a couple of years ago, Sinnhuber decided to sell them on its website at a nominal cost. But safely shipping live fish is as tricky as it sounds. The package has to be double-bagged, foam insulated, heat controlled and hand-delivered on the tarmac for transfer to the airplane. For months, Barton and Buchner worked with FedEx, testing various containers and running multiple mock shipments, climaxing with a battery of bumping, shaking, dropping, crushing and tumbling trials.
“The container has to be 100 percent secure,” Barton explains. “It has to hold up even when someone says, ‘Oops, that box fell off the forklift.’” (All this TLC comes at a price, ranging from $50 to $500 for U.S. shipments to $1,700 for international deliveries.)
Soon after becoming a Certified Research Fish Shipper, the lab passed a harrowing real-life test when a container of fish en route to Australia got held up in customs during the hottest part of the summer. Despite an extra five days of travel, the fish arrived in perfect health and were spawning within a fortnight.
Fish Food a la Carte
A “happy tank” is the gold standard in a fish lab. When Ruth Milston-Clements lifts the lid of a tank and sees the sleek, silvery smolts schooling round and round in vigorous uniformity, she can rest easy. But if the fish are “dancing” or “flashing” or “looking a bit itchy,” she immediately calls in the lab pathologist. The telltale signs of trouble recently showed up among some rainbow trout. A scale swipe revealed a parasite called Gyrodactalus. She treated the tank with a hydrogen peroxide solution and monitored the fishes’ behavior every 10 minutes for an hour. They revived. Happy tank.
Fish like it when someone lifts the lid on their tank. That’s because it usually means mealtime. Over at Sinnhuber, the two Carries show off their brand-new commercial-grade kitchen where they concoct customized diets to researchers’ specs.
The proteins, carbs, oils, vitamins and minerals are tightly calibrated for optimal animal health. For many studies, researchers order special formulas. One of those researchers had a terrifying jolt a week before Christmas when he discovered his supply of custom fish food wasn’t going to last through his experiment. So while most people were baking gingerbread cookies and fig puddings, Barton was down at the lab whipping up an emergency ration of experimental fish food. “I went into my superhero mode,” Barton says with a satisfied grin. She saved the day — and the study.
“Basic care for aquatic animals is much more intricate than it is for most mammals,” she observes. “It’s really a science unto itself.”
Wed, 05/22/2013 - 3:42pm
If your memory of college includes trying to stay awake in large lecture halls, Cub Kahn has news for you. When he thinks about the future of higher education, he sees hybrids. Forget the cars that combine gas engines and electric motors. These hybrids are the latest in college courses. They enable students to learn via computer with online videos and activities that can be done at home or in the library or coffee shop. Hybrids meet less often in actual classrooms, but when they do, their sessions resemble hands-on workshops where students solve problems and apply their knowledge. Done well, hybrids can improve learning and help students get more mileage out of education.
Nationally, college faculty have been experimenting with hybrid courses for many years, but they are only now gaining traction in standard curricula, says Kahn, an instructional designer for Oregon State University’s Extended Campus and the Center for Teaching and Learning. Test scores and grades show they are at least as effective as traditional classrooms. Moreover, they appear to help students prepare more effectively for class.
“Think of education as a whole — what is it? Is it just the transfer of information? If that’s the case, then Harvard has a problem, and all other universities have a problem too.”
— Eric Mazur, physicist, Harvard Magazine
“If you walk into classrooms today, you’re likely to see someone reading PowerPoint slides to students. In 10 years, if you walk around the hallways, you’ll see something substantially different,” says Kahn. “Nobody will be talking about hybrid courses. They will be the norm.”
Teaching in this fashion requires a sea change in academia. The hallowed “sage on the stage” tradition — an instructor who lectures uninterrupted for 50 minutes or more, students who sit passively and take notes — is giving way to a more interactive process leavened by Wi-Fi and the Web. The shift pushes against centuries of ingrained pedagogical practice, so Kahn leads OSU faculty members in their own course of study. Through collaborations that he calls Learning Communities, instructors are creating hybrid courses that fit their teaching styles and disciplines.
The move to hybrids is only one example of a broader trend at Oregon State. As one-way information delivery moves online, face-to-face classes are getting recharged. Students are engaging in debates, creating videos, building three-dimensional models, visualizing ideas and even reviewing each other’s exams. Instructors roam the room and vary the pace by challenging students to solve problems or address questions in small groups.
To advance this vision, a new classroom building is on the drawing boards, one that will offer unusual room arrangements and a hub for faculty who want to conduct research on new teaching methods (see “Flexibility to Learn” sidebar).
Jon Dorbolo directs Oregon State’s Technology Across the Curriculum program and was recognized by the Center for Digital Education (an educational research institute in Folsom,
California) last fall as one of 50 Top Innovators in Education. He works with faculty members on methods for stimulating student engagement. “Ultimately what we work for academically,” he says, “is for our students to see themselves as scholars. Not as passive recipients of information but as active scholars, researchers.”
Teaching, he adds, is an example of the scientific method in action. “Every lecture is a hypothesis. An instructor goes in there saying, ‘I’m going to communicate in this fashion, with the expectation that what I’m doing — the examples I’m giving, the analogies I’m using, what I’m drawing on the board, the questions I ask — is going to have an effect on the learner. If they (the students) pay attention and follow along with me, by the end of this, they ought to be different than they were before.’”
Measuring student learning is typically done through exams, which Dorbolo calls “this blunt and unsatisfying instrument.” Ultimately, evidence of teaching effectiveness, faculty members say, lies in the ability of students to think creatively and apply new knowledge.
The foundation for this new approach comes down to how people learn. “We have to allow the integration of knowledge,” says Kay Sagmiller, director of the OSU Center for Teaching and Learning. That requires active engagement in an environment in which students feel welcome, safe and confident. “Our challenge is to figure out how to open up the hearts and minds of those in the classroom to integrate what we offer into their existing knowledge,” she adds.
“Many faculty members don’t want to talk to a sea of faces. They prefer to engage with each person,” adds Dedra Demaree, assistant professor of physics who studies instructional methods in introductory courses. In her research, she has focused on how her own teaching affects student engagement. “My general philosophy is that I want to be able to quantify things so I can measure outcomes. But,” she says, “there are a lot of deep things you can’t get to by measurement.”
Classroom as Studio
While Demaree teaches first- and second-year students in lecture halls, she has also designed a classroom — a “physics studio” — that invites student participation. Instead of facing forward in rows, students work together at round tables. They get out of their seats to demonstrate concepts on electronic displays positioned around the room. A low-friction floor enables them to experiment with phenomena such as momentum and inertia.
With her graduate student team, Demaree analyzes videos of activity in class to understand what students actually do as she leads a discussion. She wants to know if they are disconnected or partially or fully engaged and how they are engaging in and interpreting discourse in the classroom. The team complements those analyses with interviews of students to delve deeply into the learning process.
Demaree’s group has shown that even small unintentional cues from the instructor can make a big difference for students. For example, in two separate sections of a class, Demaree gave two different messages about her expectations. “I told one section, ‘Remember this course is for everyone, even if you’ve never had physics before. We should all be able to reason through the process.’” To the other group, she said, “We started this on Friday and you should already know the answer.” Her explanation stimulated engagement in the first group and depressed it in the second. “The difference in engagement was phenomenal,” she says.
Pushing this educational shift, adds Kahn, is communication technology that students already know and trust. From laptops to smart phones to tablets, students have many opportunities to get information and exercise their brains. “Students are quite adept at accessing information. They’re going to use these devices no matter what. Why not try to get them to use those tools to accomplish the learning outcomes of the course? For better or worse,” he says, “they’re going to educate themselves.”
“In general,” says Sagmiller, “we underestimate how complex teaching and learning and assessment are. It’s exceedingly complex. It’s hard. Anybody who thinks it’s easy should stand up in a classroom of 600 undergraduates and give it a go and see how that feels. Or be held captive in a classroom with 35 kindergartners.”
Engagement Across the Curriculum
Many Oregon State faculty members are challenging their students in new ways. Here are a few examples from across campus.
Applets for Algebra. Scott Peterson wants students to think mathematically, not just to memorize formulas. He teaches introductory algebra, a fundamental course for most students. Online, he provides applets, software that allows students to visually perform mathematical tasks. Two of three weekly classes are spent in active exploration of algebraic concepts. In weekly lectures, he prompts students to discuss problems. He monitors conversations and tracks solutions through a rapid response system known as a clicker. He uses the results as a springboard for deeper discussion. About 2,000 OSU students take introductory algebra every year. Next fall, all sections are scheduled to adopt Peterson’s methods.
Roaming with an iPad. Devon Quick typically has 500 to 600 students in her introduction to human anatomy and physiology class. Like Peterson, she uses clickers, and she posts her lectures and other materials online for students to review. During class, she roams the room with an iPad. Using software from Doceri.com, she draws and manipulates images on a screen at the front of the room. She may hand the iPad to a student to demonstrate a concept. In surveys, 88 percent of her students have indicated that they like her use of the iPad and feel it makes the class more interactive.
Hybrid Versus Traditional. In two sections of Introduction to Psychology (300 or more students), Kathy Becker-Blease compared a hybrid to a traditional teaching approach. Each section used the same classroom, time of day, learning objectives, textbook and exam questions. Through quizzes, exams and homework scores, Becker-Blease found that student learning was equivalent. She also works with textbook publishers who offer online “diagnostic quizzing.” Students get immediate feedback as they answer questions, and instructors see how individuals and the class as a whole perform. Becker-Blease says students come to class better prepared. She is planning research to analyze the effectiveness of this approach.
Collaborative Testing. Tests need not be a cause for jitters. Engineering professor John Selker’s high-tech secret: two pens with different colors. After students complete their tests with one pen, he hands out the second and has them work in groups to identify mistakes and come up with the right answers. Students get full credit for their initial work in the first color and partial credit for writing corrections in the second color. By working out solutions with their peers, students fill in knowledge gaps and strengthen peer relationships. “At last,” says Selker, “the smartest student is also the most popular!”
Video Demonstrations. An engineering course, Strength of Materials, focuses on the forces that push, pull, bend and break everything from steel to carbon fiber. To help his 230 students master the mathematics and the concepts, Joseph Zaworski created 35 short online videos. Playable on any device from desktop computer to mobile phone, they allow students to pause and review as often as necessary. Between classes, students review videos and read the textbook. Class meetings include quizzes and team-based problem solving. Zaworski uses software from TopHatMonacle.com to monitor student responses and address common concerns.On the Drawingboard
A new learning laboratory will be a seedbed for the latest concepts in active teaching and learning to Oregon State.
Wed, 05/22/2013 - 3:25pm
In the green-construction field, there’s a window technology called “Low-E,” the user-friendly term for “low emissivity.” Now Oregon scientists and startups have joined forces to create the next generation of Low-E — an anti-reflective, thin-film coating for glass that will block infrared heat (keeping heat inside during winter’s cold and keeping heat outside during summer’s sizzle) and allow more visible light to penetrate year-round.
This “new recipe” for advanced, energy-efficient window coatings got a big push toward the marketplace in March, when Oregon BEST (Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center) awarded a commercialization grant to an industry-university team to support research, testing and product development. Oregon State’s Chih-hung Chang and University of Oregon’s G.Z. “Charlie” Brown will be working with startup companies CSD Nano of Corvallis and Indow Windows of Portland.
The saved energy and reduced costs could be gigantic, says Paul Ahrens, CEO of the OSU spinout company CSD Nano. “If you were to put the coating we’re developing on all the architectural glass out there, you would save hundreds of millions of dollars in electricity currently used for lighting,” says Ahrens.
Wed, 05/22/2013 - 3:18pm
One of those hypotheses — that family bonds play into the stranding phenomenon — is now subject to question, based on genetic analysis of hundreds of beached whales in New Zealand and Australia. The mothers of beached calves, for instance, often were missing entirely from the beach, says cetacean researcher Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State. Given whales’ strong kinship bonds, this familial separation could signal some disruption prior to the stranding — a disruption that could, in fact, play a role in triggering the event.
“Rescue efforts aimed at ‘refloating’ stranded whales often focus on placing stranded calves with the nearest mature female” on the assumption she’s the mother, Baker says. “Our results suggest that rescuers should be cautious when making difficult welfare decisions … based on this assumption alone.”
Wed, 05/22/2013 - 3:11pm
Hmong women in Oregon are not as wary of Western medicine as some national studies of Hmong communities have suggested. A study of Hmong adults living in Portland and Salem found much higher rates of breast and cervical cancer screenings than the researchers expected, says Oregon State public health professor Sheryl Thorburn, lead author.
Screenings may have been underreported in part because Hmong women typically keep health decisions private. And while many Hmong have indeed been screened, those screenings tend to be one-time or occasional events rather than regular routines. “It is not enough to have been screened once,” says Jennifer Kue, who grew up in Portland’s Hmong community and conducted the study with Thorburn as a Ph.D. candidate. The risks are especially high among the Hmong, whose cervical cancer rates are some of the nation’s highest.
Another surprising finding: Hmong women make many health decisions independently of their husbands. “In our culture, we place a heavy emphasis on communal decision-making and it’s male-dominant,” Kue, now an assistant professor at Ohio State. “I would have expected men to have more influence.”
Wed, 05/22/2013 - 10:50am
When Michael P. Nelson talks about his work, he mentions carcasses and cadavers to a startling degree — startling because Nelson is not a physician or a veterinarian or even a biologist. He’s a philosopher. So at first glance, necropsy seems an odd topic of discourse. But it starts to make sense when you notice that Nelson’s office is in Oregon State’s College of Forestry, not the College of Liberal Arts where universities typically house their philosophers. And, as the only philosopher ever hired to lead one of the National Science Foundation’s 27 Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites — in this case, OSU’s H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest — Nelson again defies tradition.
“We started the search assuming we’d end up with some sort of ecologist, hydrologist or biophysical scientist,” recounts John Bliss, the associate dean of forestry who led the hiring process. “I knew we’d turned a corner when the ecologists on the committee stopped me in the hall to say things like, ‘Maybe a philosopher is what we need!’”
With -ologists already well represented, they opted instead for Nelson’s novel viewpoint. “Michael brings a philosopher’s logic to complex problems, unencumbered by disciplinary straitjackets,” Bliss says.
Mind Over Matter
To understand these discrepancies, you have to go back to Nelson’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, where, in a high school anatomy class, he saw a dead body laid out on a steel slab. “I thought that cadaver was the coolest thing in the world,” he recalls. But once he got to college, the study of biology struck him as tedious. Too many equations to solve, too many chemical reactions to memorize. In contrast, he found himself relishing his philosophy classes. Ideas like the moral imperative and the inherent nature of being quickened his imagination. He soon switched majors and began to ponder the world on a cerebral rather than cellular level.
His fascination with biological systems, however, never went away. Eventually, this man whose mental petri dish was awash in syllogisms instead of cell divisions circled back to where he started — to that raw, physical nexus of life and death that is a carcass. It happened about a decade after he earned his Ph.D. at England’s Lancaster University, the cradle of environmental philosophy. By then, Nelson was teaching at Michigan State University, where he met John A. Vucetich, co-director of a long-term, multidisciplinary study of predator-prey dynamics. Vucetich invited Nelson to visit the study site: a wild, isolated, mist-wrapped island in Lake Superior. Nelson was enchanted. Soon he became the “resident philosopher” for Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale.
Which is how, in 2005, he came to be kneeling beside a pile of bones and sinews where wolves had devoured a moose. Every summer, Nelson participates in collecting biological samples, including scat and skulls, for DNA analysis and pathology studies. Now in its 55th year, the project has tracked the dynamics between wolves and moose over a timespan unprecedented in the annals of predator-prey studies. Surprising insights into island biogeography and wildlife management are emerging from the mists.
“What I really like about my work, is that it exists at the edges of disciplines.”
— Michael P. Nelson
Sting Like a Bee
In front of a crowd, Nelson moves nimbly, like a boxer, on the balls of his feet. An aura of great energy emanates from his face and hands. It’s clear that he’s in a hurry to push his thoughts outward. Planet Earth is, after all, poised on the cliff of calamity, he says during a joint presentation on ethics and climate change with OSU conservation philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore. He and Moore challenge the scientists in the audience to couple their facts (climate models, data sets, statistical analyses) to their values (as parents, as community members, as global citizens). It’s time to kick the advocacy taboo to the curb, the two philosophers exhort, arguing that meaningful action arises only when facts (“what is”) are welded to values (“what ought to be”).What It’s Like to Necropsy a Moose
It’s physical and sensual. It’s not an exercise in hypothetical counter-factuals or wonderings about brains in vats or the playing of a clever devil’s advocate. It’s hot and uncomfortable and smelly.
To drive home the urgency of curbing fossil fuel use, Nelson cites sources as diverse as “Genesis” and Dr. Seuss. At last year’s meeting of LTER scientists nationwide he did a riff inspired by The Lorax. This scholar of striking contrasts can recite playful couplets one moment and the next, dare scientists to rethink the most basic assumptions of their careers.
“Look, we don’t know how to create careers in science that fully empower scientists,” Nelson tells a roomful of researchers. “What we do know is this: Everything has changed. You have taught us that. You should ask yourself some questions: Are the old forms of scientific practice working? Or do you need to create another path? What does it mean to be a scientist now? You are studying systems, ecosystems; you know about the necessity of connections. Live what you know. That’s integrity.”
See details about Michael Nelson’s teaching, books, ongoing projects and affiliations.
Predator and Prey, a Delicate Dance, The New York Times, May 8, 2013
Wolves Teach Scientists Their Limitations, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 1, 2013
Tue, 05/21/2013 - 5:05pm
Barely a century has passed since Louis Pasteur developed a vaccination for rabies. Since then, scientists have discovered treatments for some of the worst human scourges: smallpox, tuberculosis, polio and influenza. Much of their success can be traced to experiments on animals under circumstances that would shock us today.
Pasteur learned about rabies by infecting guinea pigs, rabbits and dogs with the invariably fatal disease. In the 20th century, the search for a polio vaccine took the lives of millions of monkeys (rhesus macaques). AIDS researchers still rely on monkeys to understand how the immune system responds to HIV and why some (sooty mangabeys) harbor the virus but never develop the disease.
In her book, Experimenting with Humans and Animals, From Galen to Animal Rights (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), Anita Guerrini tells the story of the scientists whose achievements transformed medical care and of the controversies that erupted around the use of animals for science. “It’s about how this theme traces through the Western tradition and enters into the history of medicine,” says Guerrini, a historian and Horning Professor in the Humanities at Oregon State University.
Advances in medical knowledge and the debate over human and animal rights go back to ancient Greece and Rome. They surface again in 17th century England, a time “when dancing bears, bears fighting with dogs, cockfighting and all manner of cat torture were commonplace, and everyday cruelty to animals was the rule rather than the exception,” writes Guerrini.Scientists such as William Harvey, Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke experimented on insects, rabbits, birds, fish, deer and dogs (Harvey even dissected the dead bodies of his wife’s dearly loved parrot and his own father) in the name of science. Harvey’s success in describing the circulatory system “brought animal experimentation into the forefront as a scientific method,” Guerrini adds.
Guerrini traces the philosophical roots of arguments for and against vivisection (the cutting of live animals) and of the trade-off between suffering and knowledge. For example, Rene Descartes argued that animals lack souls and can’t suffer in the way that humans can, but few accepted this argument.
England passed the first national law to regulate animal research in 1876. It took the United States 90 years to follow suit with the Animal Welfare Act. “Up to then, we had always trusted scientists to do the right thing,” Guerrini says. In 1985, universities and other organizations were required to establish institutional animal care and use committees (IACUC) to enforce higher standards of inspection and care. Those years also saw the rise of citizen activism through groups such as the Animal Liberation Front and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Before coming to Oregon State in 2008, Guerrini served on the IACUC at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is now a member of OSU’s IACUC.
In her own research, Guerrini is completing a book on anatomical research in pre-French Revolution Paris and looking at urban animals in pre-modern Paris and London.
Tue, 05/21/2013 - 4:57pm
Babies don’t wait for you to get your master’s degree. They arrive on their own schedules and change your life. Drew Arnold learned that lesson when he became a father. He also found that sleep comes in a distant third to family and education.
In 2010, he began a graduate program in mechanical engineering at Oregon State University. He wanted to work on innovative, high-risk projects that solve problems and push technology in new directions. So for his thesis, he aimed to reduce injury risk for chainsaw users. The problem is called “kickback” and happens when the tip of a fast-moving chain accidentally hits an object and lurches toward the user’s face. Chainsaw injuries now send about 36,000 Americans to the emergency room every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arnold combined a miniature gyroscope with other sensors to create a brake that would stop the chain more rapidly than the mechanical devices used on most saws today.
When baby Claire entered the world, she shifted priorities for Drew and his wife Ashleigh. Education became more than progress toward a degree and an engineering career. It became a stepping stone toward a secure future for their daughter.
Personal and professional lives overlap. Take two other examples from this issue of Terra. Ruth Milston-Clements is on-call 24/7 for the care of laboratory fish. The phone might wake her from a deep sleep or interrupt dinner for her family. Scott Ashford, an earthquake engineer, understands what will happen when the next major quake hits the Northwest. He worries about the safety of his own family as well as the future of communities across the region.
Drew Arnold now works as a product engineer for one of Oregon’s most respected manufacturers, Blount International in Portland. His job is demanding, but the Arnold family also enjoys company-sponsored Easter egg hunts, barbecues and other activities. Moreover, through the Oregon State University Advantage program, Blount sharpens its competitive edge with research by Oregon State engineers. The company’s long-term success rides on the shoulders of such partnerships and on the babies who are our future.