OSU's Global Impact

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A world of research at Oregon State University
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Veterans for Peace

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 11:01am

Leah Bolger, a veteran who served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years, believes that all wars should be abolished.

“War is immoral, it’s illegal, it’s ineffective, and it costs too much.” Bolger says.

As a leader of Veterans for Peace, Bolger is working to promote the efforts of World Beyond War — a global network of organizations committed to ending all wars. Through education, lobbying, and nonviolent direct action, World Beyond War aims to raise the public awareness of the facts and myths of war, and to grow the opposition to war.

Event though it’s a worldwide movement, World Beyond War recognizes that the U.S. plays a disproportionate role. On its website, the organization says, “The United States builds, sells, buys, stockpiles, and uses the most weapons, engages in the most conflicts, stations the most troops in the most countries, and carries out the most deadly and destructive wars. By these and other measures, the U.S. government is the world’s leading war-maker, and — in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. — the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”

Maintaining such a large and powerful military comes not only with an enormous price tag ($618 billion in 2013), but a hefty carbon footprint as well.

“The United States military is the biggest consumer of fossil fuels of any other entity on Earth,” Bolger says.

With some military vehicles averaging less than one mpg in fuel economy, the Department of Defense uses approximately 300,000 barrels of oil per day.  This link between military operations and climate change adds new weight to discussions on the global impacts of war.

Dependence on fossil fuels is both a cause and an effect of war. “Not only are we responsible for the consumption of all this fuel which is leading to climate change, we actually invade other countries and fight and kill their citizens for geographic positioning so we can control the fuel,” Bolger adds. “It’s no coincidence that the recent wars in the Middle East have been in countries that are either neighboring oil rich countries or contain oil themselves.”

World Beyond War welcomes signatures on it Pledge to End War.


In February 2014, the First Alternative Co-op participated in Transformation Without Apocalypse at Oregon State University.

Categories: OSU's Global Impact

Water Action Team

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 10:59am

Oregon may have a reputation for an abundance of rain, but even in the lush Willamette Valley, water shortages are a growing concern. Sustainable water management is essential for maintaining productive agriculture, flood control and healthy stream habitats for fish.  That’s why the Water Action Team —a volunteer group of the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition is committed to reducing local tap water use as well as wastewater and stormwater.

What’s their strategy? The team is embracing a multi-pronged approach that includes both infrastructure and behavior. Actions such as de-paving parking lots, defrosting meat overnight (instead of in running water), and installing rainwater catchment systems are all part of their plan for a 50 percent reduction of the water flow through Corvallis’s municipal water systems (based on 2008 annual levels) by the year 2050.

“People don’t think there’s a water problem here,” said Dave Eckert, the Water Action Team leader. But according to the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, Oregon’s water resources are already seeing significant changes. Winter flooding is likely to result from more precipitation falling as rain instead of snow. In the summer, water shortages may become more frequent. Across the western U.S., the reality of a water crisis is even more severe, as many states confront wildfires and drought.

“[At the workshop] I asked a raise of hands of who had moved from Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico — all the dry states, and a bunch of hands sheepishly moved up,” Eckert said.

Even though Oregon faces water shortages too, Eckert thinks more “climate refugees” will be moving to this area as drought worsens in the Southwest.  This trend reinforces the importance of sustainably managing our current water resources in order to brace the region for a growing population.


In February 2014, the First Alternative Co-op participated in Transformation Without Apocalypse at Oregon State University.

Categories: OSU's Global Impact

Divestment Gathers Support

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 10:56am

A year ago, Oregon State University student Jessie Pettibone had never heard of divestment. But last April, a social-media post drew him into to a national movement started by the climate action nonprofit 350.org to divest funds from the fossil fuel industry. Part of the goal was to reinvest in sustainable practices. As president of the group, OSU Divest, Pettibone and almost 20 faculty and student members worked to pass a divestment resolution in the OSU Faculty Senate and one branch of the Associated Students of OSU government.

Currently six percent of the OSU Foundation’s total endowment is in the fossil fuel industry, but OSU Divest hopes to see that portion reinvested elsewhere. OSU Divest member Lexa McCallister sees divestment as a way to change our priorities, despite fossil fuels still comprising the bulk of the energy market due to their refined processes.

“We’re shifting gears and making fossil fuels less economically advantageous,” McCallister says.

This movement is anything but isolated. Campuses, cities and organizations across the country are pushing for divestment, and 10 colleges have already made the switch. With OSU President Ed Ray’s signature on a university agreement to be carbon neutral by 2025, supporting divestment is a step towards adapting to a changing planet.

“This affects everything,” Pettibone says. “We can turn off lights and recycle all we want, but there are bigger problems. Our core group is not that big — no more than 20 people — but we have made this big impact.”

While the OSU Foundation has yet to take an official stance, it has been receptive to the idea and is open to discussing it further. For now, the group will continue to press onwards through petitions and meetings as it demonstrates the impact that a small group of individuals can have on a global issue.


In February 2014, the First Alternative Co-op participated in Transformation Without Apocalypse at Oregon State University.

Categories: OSU's Global Impact

Climate Change for Introverts

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 10:53am

Jana Svoboda

If environmental catastrophe has you down, call Jana Svoboda. This Corvallis therapist assists people with an array of mental health issues, including sexuality, end-of-life care and even anxieties over a deteriorating environment. Several times a month, she says, patients talk with her about their climate change worries.

Svoboda admits that even she gets anxious about the state of the world at times. “We’re paralyzed and hopeless. We have to find reasons to be joyful in this moment in order to move forward.”

By working on interpersonal communication skills, individuals can become more skilled at working collectively towards a larger goal. Svoboda acknowledges that the current state of the world can cause distress, and she argues that the solution lies in our ability to find common ground with one another.

“We really are all connected, and if one of us is in trouble, we really do all have to pitch in. We have to have some idea of hope and that [our actions] will make some kind of difference. It will not change things if I change one light bulb, but with enough conversations things will change.”

Svoboda’s response to living on an altered planet might seem simple. She sums it up in one word: listen.

“We spend a lot of time preparing our replies but not listening. The solution for that is to practice compassionate curiosity to make [other people] less of an ‘other.’ We look for the other like, ‘Oh you’re a liberal or a gun nut etc.’ But beyond each of those is a person.”

With an issue as divisive as climate change, finding common ground with these “others” could change the entire tone of the discourse. Through small changes in our daily routine, the huge issue of climate change can become more manageable. By sharing smiles and tips of her own, Jana aims to replace anxiety with happiness through effective communication.


In February 2014, the First Alternative Co-op participated in Transformation Without Apocalypse at Oregon State University.

Categories: OSU's Global Impact

Oceanography Boot Camp

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 7:16pm

The marine reserve off Cape Perpetua served as a laboratory for Oregon college students in April 2014. (Photo: Molly O’Neill)

If they had come home early, you wouldn’t have been surprised. Half of them got seasick. Equipment failed. And the weather changed unexpectedly. But last April, 11 Oregon college students from three institutions — Oregon State University, the University of Oregon and Clatsop Community College — stuck it out for four days at sea on Oregon State’s research vessel Oceanus and learned what it’s like to run their own oceanographic research cruise. They returned with respect for the difficulties of doing science on a rolling ocean and a better understanding of what stirs beneath Oregon’s coastal waters.

The students deployed and piloted two autonomous underwater gliders, captured underwater video, collected data on water chemistry and phytoplankton and monitored currents as well as upwelling and downwelling events. Unfortunately, oxygen sensors on the ship’s ocean sampler failed, and some sensors secured to a mooring were lost in heavy seas.

OSU oceanographer Angelicque White helps students deploy equipment into the waters off Cape Perpetua. (Photo: Molly O’Neill)

When the unexpected happened, the two students who served as chief scientists (Alejandra Sanchez and Rosie Gradoville of OSU) had to make rapid adjustments, said Anqelicque White, one of the organizers and an assistant professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS). To compensate, the students collected extra water samples and relied heavily on the glider measurements.

“They had a profound lesson in doing real oceanography,” added Kipp Shearman, associate professor in CEOAS. “It was particularly exciting for me to see how they grappled with a lot of the same things that I do now as a scientist.”

The students were tackling an oceanographic conundrum: what underlies occasionally rapid and drastic changes to underwater habitats. They zeroed in on a hotspot along the central Oregon coast, the Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve. In past years, this area has seen abnormally low oxygen conditions — leading to what has been called a “dead zone.”

Breanne Dale, Clatsop Community College student, brings a water sampling device on board the Oceanus (Photo: Molly O’Neill)

The students looked at the factors that might cause extreme low oxygen conditions to arise. They also considered how those factors might affect fish, crabs and other sea life. The issue is particularly important now because fishing restrictions went into effect in the reserve in 2013, and scientists want to know whether future ecosystem changes are due to natural variability or to changes in fishing.

Lives on the Line

The students’ results are providing scientists with useful data about the Reserve, but the experience of planning and carrying out experiments was life changing. “The thing that surprised me the most was the amount of foresight and planning that is required for a successful cruise,” said Molly O’Neill a University of Oregon graduate student in an email. “Even for just a four-day cruise, the principal investigators (scientists) expend an enormous amount of time and energy planning every hour of every day. From the loading dock to the university, there is so much that needs to be accounted for. The logistics need to be thought through in such extreme detail because time, money and people’s lives are on the line. It was a tremendous learning experience that will stay with us forever.”

For Alejandra Sanchez, an Oregon State graduate student, the trip was worth the problems the students encountered. “I always get seasick in research ships, sometimes worse than others, but I really enjoy going out and do it anyway,” she said. “It’s the adventure that attracts me. You are out there trying to find something, and you are using all this equipment to find it, so I feel like an explorer. Sometimes you find what you are looking for, and sometimes you find something else, but you always learn something new.”

Students, scientists and crew on Oregon State’s R/V Oceanus

The level of teamwork also provided an important lesson. “One of my favorite things about the cruise was the opportunity to work on a tight-knit team, aligned towards the same goal,” wrote O’Neill. “Everyone had a job, but we all relied on each other for support and morale. Perhaps the most important thing we learned was how to safely work aboard a pitching and rolling vessel on the high seas.”

Shearman, White and their CEOAS colleague Laurie Juranek applied for financial support for the trip through what may be a unique program in the United States. In 2013, the State Legislature created a $300,000 fund at Oregon State University for oceanographic research. State agencies and Oregon University System faculty and students are eligible to apply for funding. A Research Vessel Council chaired by Jack Barth, professor and associate dean for research in CEOAS, reviews grant requests.

“State funding for an educational expedition like this is huge,” said White. “We are so grateful to the legislators for making this possible for the students.”

Categories: OSU's Global Impact

The Climate Diet

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 9:46am

Staff at the First Alternative Co-op in Corvallis.

Supermarkets always tend to be one or two steps behind the First Alternative Co-op in Corvallis. Since its creation in 1970, this organization successfully led both a buy-local and an organic movement long before they became national trends. With citizens serving as both owners and shoppers, the co-op has its roots spread throughout the community.

As climate change alters the planet, identifying sustainable ways to get our meals poses a real challenge. For example, after the stock market crashed in 2008, the Oregon grass seed industry struggled. So the co-op struck a deal with a local farmer who converted his grass fields to wheat for sale in local stores. He currently distributes his wheat across the state to businesses such as Dave’s Killer Bread in Milwaukie.

“We have helped to create a more stable local food system that will help us through whatever happens to be coming,” says co-op Marketing Director Emily Stimac.

“Everyone should feel empowered that they can make a difference with their food choices,” says Stimac. “It was Michael Pollen who said that, ‘You get a chance to vote with your fork at least 3 times a day.’ We’ve seen those differences with what we’ve done at the co-op by labeling local foods. We’ve seen an increase from 16 percent to 35 percent of our sales for local ingredients. Giving people the choice to choose local has empowered them to choose local and shows that they want to.”

As consumers make choices for their three meals a day, it’s important to remember that the food we eat is directly related to living sustainably on an altered planet.


In February 2014, the First Alternative Co-op participated in Transformation Without Apocalypse at Oregon State University.

Categories: OSU's Global Impact

Living Well on an Altered Planet

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 9:28am

Kris Paul of the climate action group 350.org helped participants envision the consequences of steps toward a more sustainable future.

With reports of climate doomsday on the horizon, many people seek a brighter outlook on the future but aren’t sure where to turn. In February 2014, the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature and the Written Word at Oregon State University hosted a two-day symposium to highlight strategies for coping — and even thriving — in a world confronted by these global-scale challenges.

“I think when people really engage with issues of climate change, environmental degradation, social problems….it’s scary,” says Charles Goodrich, director of the Spring Creek Project. “Often times people withdraw, and the biggest challenge is not to feel alone.

The need for an antidote to isolation inspired Goodrich and his team of writers and philosophers to organize the symposium on a theme of Transformation Without Apocalypse: How to Live Well on an Altered Planet.

With more than 1,000 people in attendance, the free public conference featured speakers, workshops and a “radical reimagining fair” to showcase innovations and organizations dedicated to sustainability. Participants explored a variety of environmental, social and economic solutions, such as water conservation, abolishing war, food co-ops, fossil fuel divestment and personal reflection on grief.

“We hope that with all these organizations and the many, many, many great ideas, there should be something for everyone,” Goodrich adds.

During the event, a small crew of Terra reporters set out to capture attendees’ perspectives on some of these ideas. Here is a collection of their responses.

“We want people to go home feeling less alone,” Goodrich says.  “I’m still scared. I’m still angry. But now I know what to do, and I know who to do it with, so I’m not going to sit at home and sulk.”

Keynote speakers at the event included environmental activist Tim DeChristopher, “Yes! Magazine” editor Sarah Van Gelder and OSU Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Kathleen Dean Moore. The weekend culminated with readings by creative visionaries and authors Ursula K. Le Guin and Kim Stanley Robinson.

Visit the Spring Creek Project to see videos of all the keynote presenters, and to learn more about the symposium’s Eco-Art Sculpture, soon to be installed on the Oregon State campus.




Categories: OSU's Global Impact

Across the Cultural Divide

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 4:55pm

For an artist, science can be confusing, full of numbers, variables and technical terms. Whereas for a scientist, art can seem like a fantasy, a distraction from the real world.

Austin’s Agitation Table in the Ecological Engineering Lab, oil on panel, 2014 (Alice Marshall)

Such differences lie behind the classic chasm between art and science, which British scientist and author C. P. Snow immortalized in his famous 1959 speech, The Two Cultures. Snow derided the mutual lack of understanding between these two camps. Former Oregon State art student Alice Marshall thinks this separation results from feelings of intimidation, and she used her creative skills to overcome them.

With support from art professor Julie Green and the OSU Research Office, Marshall created a series of paintings that bring the two cultures together. She collaborated with scientists to explore the function and relevance of their most important laboratory instruments. Her project, “Tools of the Trade,” shows the hard edge of science with soft colors and brush strokes.

“I think people in the sciences and the arts are wrongly intimidated by each other,” says, Marshall, who graduated last spring. “If that intimidation factor was lessened, Oregon State University would be a lot more unified.”

Marshall is no stranger to either view of the world. At West Albany High School, she filled her senior year with science courses, and in her first year at OSU, she intended to pursue aquatic entomology. But it wasn’t long before she was exploring the arts and decided to change her focus.

“I was enjoying the objectiveness of the science classes, but I wanted the creativity of the art classes,” she says. In the art department, Marshall still embraced the insights and curiosity of science, but she began doing so with pen and paper rather than with lab equipment.

“I see myself as a draftsman above all,” she explains. “Drawing is the fundamental core of visually interpreting and describing ideas and subjects. I soon found out that art was where I wanted to be, and once I switched to the art department, everything kind of clicked. I realized I could be an art major and research any topic I was interested in.”

Cody’s Feed Funnel at the Fish Research Lab, oil on panel, 2014 (Alice Marshall)

Artists and scientists, she says, go through the same basic processes of developing a hypothesis, conducting research, making observations and drawing conclusions, although the results take different forms. So Marshall worked with art professor Green to develop a proposal for the OSU Research Office. The goal was to present science through art. The Research Office supported Marshall’s efforts through the Undergraduate Research Innovation, Scholarship and Creativity award, or URISC, a program that is open to all OSU students.

Marshall interviewed science students who had also received URISC grants and asked them to identify the piece of lab equipment they couldn’t live without. She aimed to bring a personal view to what might be perceived as a mechanical, imposing environment. In addition, she wanted to offer scientists a chance to connect their most useful tools to research outcomes.

Talking Points

While meandering through the nooks and crannies of science labs, Marshall had to overcome a problem with language. Each branch of science creates its own vernacular. Students in chemistry, for example, use a different language than those in fish biology.

“That was one of the most creatively challenging parts about this project,” she adds, “trying to learn how to talk to different scientists depending on what they study. I purposely scheduled lab tours at least a week in advance so I could get familiar with what they were doing.”

Inside the labs, she took reference photos of equipment. She sifted through her images and made series of sketches. For her final paintings, she chose to focus on six instruments and explored them in drawings from different perspectives.

In the fall of 2013, she displayed her paintings in the Oregon State art gallery in Fairbanks Hall. Each work of art was accompanied by a description of the function and relevance of the instrument shown.

Andrea’s Centrifuge at the Oncology Lab, oil on panel, 2014 (Alice Marshall)

“Each painting makes a personal statement that draws the viewer in,” says Green, who emphasizes that any OSU student can take an art course. “The handmade quality gives them a human touch. This is not what we would see in photograph. It makes us question what we’re looking at and want to know more. I think her project is highly successful and a credit to her persistence and creativity.”

Marshall’s paintings were displayed in the Beth Ray Center at OSU for the 2014 academic school year. And in a show with other artists, the Albany Public Library also presented Marshall’s work that winter, following another exhibit with a family connection. Her father — a landscape architect, sculptor and lifelong painter — had shown a series of landscapes in acrylics. Alice credits her dad with inspiring her love of art. She remembers him rolling out giant sheets of white paper on the floor so they could draw for hours.

The project left Marshall with a desire to continue to bring the arts and sciences together. She continues to use drawing as a way to explore relationships and meaning. This summer, she is exploring the interaction of honeybees with humans and the environment. “I believe that the arts and sciences provide a wealth of inspiration for each other, and a healthy symbiotic relationship between them is crucial for their success,” says Marshall.

Her work also gave the Research Office a chance to bridge the gap between the fine arts and natural sciences. “We can chip away at the oft perceived gulf between the arts and the sciences,” says Rich Holdren, associate vice president for research. “And we’d like to help foster more collaborations among artists and scientists. Creativity is at the heart of both.”

Cody’s Zebrafish Incubator Tank at the Fish Research Lab, oil on panel, 2014 (Alice Marshall)


Editor’s Note:

Listen to a podcast with Alice Marshall.

Julie Green works with students to combine training in the visual arts with other disciplines, from engineering to the sciences and humanities. “Art is about life,” she says. “We learn through both ways of seeing the world.”

Green’s own project, The Last Supper, shows the meals ordered by death-row prisoners before execution. Each meal is presented in blue paint on a ceramic plate. The CUE Art Foundation, 137 West 25th St., New York, has included 12 of her plates in a show this summer, “To Shoot a Kite,” curated by Yaelle Amir, July 5 to August 2.

Green is also showing narrative plates and tempera paintings in a four-person show at the Laura Russo Gallery, 805 NW 21st St. in Portland, Oregon, from August 7 to 30.

Categories: OSU's Global Impact