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Bio-artist Sara Robinson works at intersections, at places where nature, ideas and emotions crisscross and often collide. She revels in the contrasts and contradictions inherent where growth meets decay, science meets art, reverence meets revulsion.
For Robinson, an assistant professor in Wood Science and Engineering, all these tensions come together in the wooden bowls she turns on a lathe: gleaming, satiny bowls that are both functional and ornamental, practical and beautiful. Made of hardwoods like curly soft maple, sugar maple, box elder and buckeye oak, the bowls are adorned with pigments made by fungi whose ecological role is, ironically, to decompose wood. For Robinson, it’s the quintessential contradiction.
“Wood is held in high esteem by humans, while fungus is disdained,” she says. “It’s an emotional conflict.”
Reminiscent of watercolor washes, shades of pink, blue and blue-green splash across bowls whose shapes echo the anatomy of the wood. Others have a bleached look after she treats them with white rot fungi. Still others are etched with lines of black and brown, “zone lines” that result from fungal antagonism — two species duking it out for territory. “It’s a war story,” Robinson likes to joke.
Dead Man’s Fingers
As Robinson explains, a bio-artist is one who creates art with living organisms. “Bio-art,” she says, “blurs the lines between science and art.” Her organisms of choice grow secreted in forests, the trees stretching toward the sky, the mushrooms skulking on the ground, their fruiting bodies popping up on the decaying logs they digest with enzymes. The mushrooms’ common names suggest their odd or whimsical shapes: dead man’s fingers (Xylaria polymorpha), green elf cup (Chlorociboria aeruginascens) turkey tail (Trametes versicolor). Machete in hand, Robinson has even hacked through a Peruvian rainforest and battled poisonous tangarana ants to hunt for fungi with fabulous tints. “We found some crazy colors!” she reports.
The “extracellular” pigments these fungal species produce, possibly to protect themselves from UV damage or incursions by other fungi, create a natural stain in contact with certain wood species. “Because of their role in the environment,” she says, “these colors are very stable, persisting in sun and rain.”
Since the Italian Renaissance, artists and woodworkers have used naturally tinted woods in panels and veneers. Violin and guitar makers have used them in musical instruments. Now, Robinson is helping to lead a resurgence of the art, called “spalting,” which adds value to wood that would otherwise bring little to the marketplace. She regularly advises woodworkers and is among a small group of artists and scientists who are taking spalting to new levels with support from the wood-products industry.
“Spalting is a value-added wood product that can be done to really low-value wood,” she says. “So you can spalt something like aspen, which has no real inherent value as a woodworking wood. Before, it was just firewood. Now, it’s a precious wood that can be sold to woodworkers and wood turners, who are mostly retired people who shop. There’s money to be had here.” Home improvement companies, too, are interested in mass-producing spalted wood for flooring and paneling, Robinson says.
Widely known in the woodworking blogosphere as “Dr. Spalting,” Robinson recently was dubbed by a blogger named Cody as “perhaps the foremost authority on spalted wood,” and by Tree Feller as “a bonafide expert on spalting (PhD).” At age 31, with some 25 peer-reviewed articles published in journals like Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology and Wood Science & Technology, she clearly has the academic creds as well as the crafter chops. Her research has ranged from seeking methods of minimizing strength loss while maximizing pigment production, to running experiments on the effects of wood pH and copper sulfate in stimulating pigments. There’s a lot more science that needs to happen, including toxicity testing, before spalting hits the mass market.
In her lab, Robinson opens drawer after drawer full of petri plates, stacked three or four deep. One by one, she holds the plates up to the light. The fungi growing inside create branching forms in colors from deep violet to bright yellow. On the shelves above are vials of pigments she has extracted from the plate cultures. On the counter sits a series of test strips in wool, cotton and acetate, revealing another direction for fungal pigments: spalted fabric.
“We collect the fungi, culture them in the lab and make pure cultures for inoculation into the wood,” she says. “Our process takes the guesswork out of spalting.” That precision is what will make fungal pigments commercially viable for industry.
Over in the College of Forestry woodshop, blocks called “rough blanks” taken from 22 species of native Northwest trees are being treated with fungal pigments in plastic bins. It takes about three months for the color to infuse the wood. Once the blanks have dried, Robinson will settle in at her lathe, turning bowls in a flurry of sawdust. Her finished bowls are represented by Michigamme Moonshine Art Gallery in Michigan. She exhibits her work worldwide.
Which brings us back to the question, is spalting a science, or is it an art? Robinson challenges the very question and the assumptions that underlie it. To her, science and art are one and the same, both driven by discovery and creativity. “The only difference I can see,” she says, “is that scientists have lab notebooks.”
See photos and information about spalting workshops on Sara Robinson’s website.
Andrew Thurber is a self-described “connoisseur of worms.” He finds these wriggling, sinuous creatures, many with jaws and enough legs to propel an army, to be “enticing.” In the Antarctic, where he dives through the ice in the name of science, a type of worm known as a nemertean can reach 7 feet long.
Giant worms aren’t the only extreme feature of the seafloor next to the Ross Ice Shelf. Voracious sea stars and sponges the size of a person dot a muddy, rock-strewn landscape. At nearly 2 degrees below zero Celsius, sea water in the Southern Ocean is as cold as it can get without freezing. And it’s stunningly clear. Although sunlight filters dimly through surface ice, visibility can reach 500 feet on a bad day. On a good day, a diver can see underwater mountain ranges in the distance.
What attracts scientists like Thurber to this eerie, forbidding place is a riddle. Here, where darkness prevails for much of the year, the density of some species is higher than anywhere else on the planet. Colonies of worms, Thurber’s favorite animals, have five times the number of individuals, up to 150,000 per square meter, as one would predict and twice more than any other known location. In attempting to understand what’s going on in this remote habitat, Thurber is revealing fundamental processes that fuel deep-sea ecosystems worldwide. His work could also refine estimates of how carbon is sequestered in the deep sea, a critical question in climate change.
Diving Through the Ice
Over the last decade, Thurber has made the often turbulent trip to the frozen continent four times. Near the United States base at McMurdo, he and his team drill a hole through as much as 10 to 15 feet of ice to reach the water. They place a warming hut over the opening, as though they were preparing for a day of ice fishing.
Not surprisingly, divers take extraordinary care in this harsh environment. They wear extra layers, including three hoods, and cover nearly every inch of skin. “The only thing that is exposed is my lips, and when you get in the water, they go numb immediately,” says Thurber.
Divers avoid breathing into their scuba apparatus until they’re submerged. In the frigid Antarctic air, moisture in the breath can freeze the regulator and cause the entire air supply to discharge at once. And if vapor accidentally hits the inside of a facemask, it can rapidly turn into a sheet of ice and obscure vision.
Nevertheless, for Thurber, the sea is actually a relief from the bitter Antarctic wind. “The water is so much more pleasant than the air; it’s wonderful,” he says.
Once underwater, Thurber spends time exploring his surroundings and collecting samples of seafloor sediment to take back to his lab. In 2012, he and Rory Welsh, an Oregon State graduate student in microbiology, investigated the 100-foot face of a glacier that ended in the Ross Sea. Streaming out from the bottom of the ice onto rocks were mysterious filaments of microorganisms. “We have no idea what it is,” says Thurber. “It’s one of the things we hope to study in upcoming years.”
Thurber has set his sights on understanding the relationship between microorganisms and marine animals. In 2011, he reported on a type of crab that “farms” bacteria on its claws and lives off the harvest. “There’s an idea that bacteria don’t do well in the cold and play a minor role in these ecosystems compared to animals,” he says. “The general idea is that the worms bury their food in the mud and eat it throughout the year, sort of like putting their food in a refrigerator. This is called the ‘food bank hypothesis.’ I don’t know that I buy that, so that’s one of the things I’m testing.”
By “food,” Thurber means the algae that grow on the bottom and edges of the sea ice. For a brief period during the Antarctic summer, algae “rain down onto the seafloor” after they die, he says. Thurber is testing the possibility that worms and microorganisms feast on this abundance of organic matter. “By the end of the winter, the easily available food is gone, and the worms switch to eating their competitors. They are living off bacteria as a food source,” says Thurber.
To find out which idea — whether the worms store their food in the mud or dine on microorganisms — is closer to the truth, Thurber collects tubes of sediment during his dives. Within an hour, he can have them, complete with worms and other animals, back in a well-stocked biology lab. He analyzes some for microbial fingerprints to see how abundant the bacteria are and who’s eating whom. He conducts experiments on other tubes to see how the organisms process nutrients.
In one experiment on the seafloor, Thurber placed transparent tubes vertically into the sediment. He put some in the dark by covering them with black electrical tape. The next day, he took them back to the lab — including the muddy, wriggling contents — to see if organisms on the seafloor were actually producing food through photosynthesis. “It turned out that diatoms on the seafloor were producing about 25 percent of the daily energy for the community, the whole community, including the bacteria, worms and other animals,” Thurber says.
“That may be an additional food source during the light time of the year. Since there may be more food available than scientists thought, that means the worms have even a greater swing between feast and famine over the course of the year.”
Almost two-thirds of the planet is covered by a vast expanse of dark, muddy seafloor where life thrives despite extreme conditions. These mechanisms — how animals compete with and eat bacteria, how seasonal pulses of nutrients stimulate growth — may control the long-term productivity of the marine environment as well as long-term carbon sequestration, a critical step in the global carbon cycle. Since most of the seafloor is thousands of meters deep, well beyond the range of divers, the Antarctic happens to be the most easily accessible place to find out how these systems work.I thought I wanted to work with fish
In an Antarctic research lab, Andrew Thurber became enamored with worms. “Worms are incredibly diverse. That was one of the most amazing things to me,” he says. “They don’t all look like earthworms. They have feet and these crazy breathing structures. I found them kind of enticing.”
Ecologists, Thurber says, have spent a lot of time studying how large animals interact — wolves and moose, for example, or lions and gazelle. In contrast, science has largely ignored how animals compete with and prey on microorganisms. “Since bacteria and archaea perform most of the important chemical reactions on the planet, that’s a real shortcoming in our understanding of the globe,” he adds.
See Thurber’s blog for more photos and last winter’s reports from the field.
When dying people choose to hasten death with a doctor’s help, their caregivers often face a troubling dilemma. In particular, hospice — the final stop for many terminal patients — poses an overlooked problem, OSU researchers report. That’s because hospice objects to physician-assisted death, yet most patients who choose assisted death are in hospice care.
“The conventional approach to the question of legalized physician-assisted death… has missed the issue of how the requirements of a new law are carried out by the primary care-giving institution, hospice care,” says philosopher Courtney Campbell, an expert in medical ethics. “Balancing core beliefs, such as compassion and non-abandonment of a patient, with the new law has been difficult at best for hospice professionals.”
Campbell and his colleagues are encouraging informed dialogue around topics such as hospice’s mission, legal options, emotional and religious factors, family responsibilities and many other issues.
A half-ounce flying mammal, a tiny marsupial that glides from tree limb to tree limb, and a hairless, burrowing rodent with supersize front teeth all share a trait that makes them intriguing to researcher Viviana Perez: exceptional longevity.
The little brown bat (Myotis lucifungus), common across North America, has been known to live more than 30 years. So has the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) from East Africa. The sugar glider (Petaurus brevicepts), native to Australia, can live 15 years. In contrast, most similarly sized mammals, such as mice and “lab opossums,” have a lifespan of only three or four years.
Uncovering the secrets to these animals’ remarkable staying power could point the way to healthier aging for humans, says Perez, a biochemist in Oregon State’s Linus Pauling Institute. She is investigating the animals’ “cellular surveillance” abilities — that is, how well their bodies can find and repair damaged proteins before they cause harm.
You might imagine that she would need colonies of mole rats, bats and sugar gliders for her experiments. But maintaining such species in labs — especially the finicky mole rat, which demands ample space for burrowing plus a daily diet of fresh fruits and veggies — is too expensive and labor intensive, she says. To prove her point, she reports that only two labs in the United States maintain colonies of naked mole rats.
So instead of using live animals, she works with live cells. These she obtains from her collaborators at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, which maintains a cell bank representing at least 30 animal species. When she views those cells under her microscope, she’s looking for aggregations of malformed proteins and the mechanisms that resist, repair or recycle the damage.
Scientists call such protein malformation “misfolding.” You can think of protein formation as a kind of biological origami, in which a coil or strand of amino acids “folds” itself into a 3-D structure to become functional. Sometimes, helper molecules called “protein chaperones” assist in the folding and refolding. When the malformed proteins can’t be repaired, a properly functioning system will send in enzymes to break them down and carry them away. But if something goes wrong and the bad proteins don’t get cleaned up, they stick together to form aggregates that can lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other chronic illnesses associated with aging.
Naked mole rats hold special interest in aging research. While they live to ripe old ages eating tubers in their lightless warrens, the wrinkly rodents never develop cancer. Bats, too, rarely get cancer. Perez thinks these long-lived species may be more resistant to protein misfolding and aggregation because evolution has equipped them with better protein equilibrium or “homeostasis.” Her earlier studies with bats and mole rats have suggested that, compared with mice, “proteins from long-lived species are structurally more stable.” Her current study will test this hypothesis by comparing the three long-lived species against three short-lived species of rodent, bat and marsupial (lab mouse, evening bat and lab opossum). She adds a fluorescent protein associated with Huntington’s disease to the animal cells and then follows it to see whether it forms clumps.
“If all three of the long-lived species show better quality control for proteins,” she says, “my study would show for the first time that protein homeostasis might be an important mechanism in how species have evolved to have long lifespans.”
Known for their exceptional longevity, these three mammalian species — the little brown bat, the naked mole rat and the sugar glider — may hold clues to healthy human aging.
Despite the risks, only about a third of Americans will get vaccinated. Researchers now say the nation’s vaccination priorities need to shift. That’s because the groups least likely to get the shots — kids and young adults — are the most likely to spread the germs. “In most cases, the available flu vaccine could be used more effectively and save more lives by increasing the number of vaccinated children and young adults,” says Jan Medlock of OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Historically, flu prevention efforts have targeted the elderly, the chronically ill, people with weak immunity, health-care workers — in other words, those most at-risk for death or severe illness. But a computer model shows that stopping flu bugs at schools and workplaces helps break the cycle of transmission to all populations, Medlock says.
Faster, cheaper, better. The conventional wisdom says you can’t get all three at the same time. But researchers at Oregon State say otherwise — at least when it comes to new materials for making solar cells. Engineers have found a less expensive, less toxic, better performing — and surprising — substance for solar cell manufacturing: antifreeze (ethylene glycol). Current technologies use rare and costly chemical elements like indium and gallium.
“The global use of solar energy may be held back if the materials we use to produce solar cells are too expensive or require the use of toxic chemicals in production,” says researcher Greg Herman. “We need technologies that use abundant, inexpensive materials, preferably ones that can be mined in the U.S. This process offers that.”
Oregon is warming, and snow is waning. The clear, clean water that supplies many of Oregon’s cities and farms originates high in the Cascades. Stored on snowy peaks, the water feeds rivers and aquifers that supply some of the state’s most populous regions.
In one key watershed, the McKenzie, snowpack is predicted to drop more than half by mid-century, OSU researchers project. This determination, based on a temperature increase just over 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit, could hold dire implications for similar “low-elevation maritime snow packs” across the globe. That’s because even small increases in temperature can flip precipitation from snow to rain.
“This is not an issue that will just affect Oregon,” says OSU researcher Anne Nolin, who co-authored the study with Ph.D. student Eric Sproles. “You may see similar impacts almost anywhere around the world that has low-elevation snow in mountains, such as in Japan, New Zealand, Northern California, the Andes Mountains, a lot of Eastern Europe and the lower-elevation Alps.”
When a submersible dove into deep waters off Florida not long ago, the scientists aboard saw an alarming sight: big lionfish, lots of them. “This was kind of an ah-ha moment,” says OSU researcher Stephanie Green. “It was immediately clear that this is a new frontier in the lionfish crisis.”
Lionfish, native to the Pacific Ocean, are invaders threatening reef ecosystems in the Atlantic and Caribbean. But until scientists onboard the vessel Antipodes witnessed the extra-large, extra-fertile fish thriving at 300 feet deep, they didn’t realize just how extensive the invasion had become.
A lionfish, with its festive stripes, flowing fins and spiky rays, cuts a dramatic figure in a home aquarium. But in coral reefs outside its native waters, it is an ever-growing scourge, gobbling up smaller fish and reproducing at alarming rates. Accidentally or deliberately released from aquariums a decade or more ago, lionfish have no natural predators in their new environment. They have taken full advantage. “A lionfish,” says Green, “will eat almost any fish smaller than it is.”
Portland ninth-grader Meghana Rao was scouring the Web for information on biochar when she stumbled across an intriguing paper by a researcher named Markus Kleber. When she realized he was at Oregon State University, just 90 miles down the freeway from where she was a student at Jesuit High School, she emailed him with “a few ideas.”
Before long, she was conducting her own experiments in Kleber’s lab in Crop and Soil Sciences with guidance from the professor and graduate student Myles Gray.
By the end of the 2013 school year, Rao was standing on the White House lawn describing her experiments on the carbon-holding capacity of biochar to President Barack Obama. She was one of a handful of high school students nationwide selected to present their science projects at the third annual White House Science Fair. “I took my biochar stove with me — it’s a little at-home pyrolysis unit,” she says.
The White House honor came on the heals of Rao’s winning a Young Naturalists Award from the American Museum of Natural History for the same project in 2012. She is now a senior at Jesuit.
Read more about Oregon State research on biochar in An Elegant Matrix.
From satellites, balloons, high-altitude surveillance planes and even a two-seater Cessna, Oregon State scientists have been gathering data on the planet for nearly a half century. Their work has helped manage crops, detect threats to Western forests, track activity in Cascade volcanoes and reveal new details about ocean currents and how they interact with the atmosphere to affect global climate.
Researchers have a term for such long-distance observation: “remote sensing.” With funding from NASA, Professor Charles Poulton established OSU’s first center, the Environmental Remote Sensing Applications Laboratory (ERSAL), in 1972.
By repeatedly capturing images of forested and agricultural landscapes, scientists detect trends in plant stress, disease and forest composition, says Barry Schrumpf, former director of ERSAL.
“OSU was a pioneer partly because Oregon has such a wide range of terrain in a small area: rainforests, high desert, mountains, agricultural valleys,” says Chuck Rosenfeld, geoscientist and professor emeritus. Rosenfeld flew his Cessna to take thermal infrared and visible light photos of the Oregon coast and Cascade volcanoes, including Mount St. Helens after it erupted. Professors Bill Ripple and Michael Wing in the College of Forestry continue to manage ERSAL.
Scientists in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS) have helped to shape the global remote sensing enterprise. Since the early 1980s, they have designed satellite sensors and developed analytical techniques for interpreting ocean data. Their precise measurements of surface waters have identified currents that set the stage for fisheries, marine mammals and other aspects of near-shore ecosystems.
CEOAS is also home to one of only two non-commercial direct-broadcast satellite stations on the West Coast. It serves fishermen, the U.S. Coast Guard, search-and-rescue teams and other agencies by downloading data directly from satellite color sensors and providing regional ocean, land and atmospheric information in near-real time.
See A History of Satellite Remote Sensing Research at Oregon State University about the satellite remote sensing accomplishments of OSU oceanographers.
Researchers in the colleges of Forestry, Agricultural Sciences, Engineering and Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences are experimenting with unmanned aerial systems. See On a Wing and a Dare.
Imagine for just a moment that you: 1) are independently wealthy; 2) are a genius, and; 3) have a brilliant idea for a research project (for those readers who already satisfy all three criteria, please indulge me a bit of editorial whimsy). You begin your project with every intention of following the scientific method. You design the experiments, determine whom you need to hire, and start to build a budget. After accounting for the usual expenses (salaries, benefits, supplies, travel, equipment, etc.) you realize there are some other things you’re just taking for granted.
You’ll need a place to conduct the research. It will have lights, heat, water, sewer and so forth. You realize that the facility will be insured against unforeseen circumstances. And of course someone will do maintenance — mow the lawn, clean the windows, repair the stairs. You suddenly see that for every precious dollar that you’ve budgeted directly for research, you need another big chunk of change just to keep the operation running. Since you’re independently wealthy, however, you just bite the bullet and dig a bit deeper into your pocket.
Now imagine you’re a university researcher and also a genius with a brilliant idea. The situation is no different, except now you need to find a fair way to convince someone else to support your work and pay the costs of the project: the “overhead.” And those costs mount up. For example, consider one of our successful endeavors, the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry, led by Oregon State professors Doug Keszler and John Wager. It was recently awarded a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation. This research will provide new understanding and novel materials for use in a wide range of products, such as commercial electronics and health care equipment. But by standard negotiation with the federal government, no less than $2,479,359 will go to “overhead.”
Last year, Oregon State University spent $4.8 million on electricity alone! It’s virtually impossible to know exactly how much of that is directly attributable to research, but rest assured, it’s a very large number. The same is true for all of the other categories of administrative, maintenance and infrastructural costs needed to keep the research enterprise running.
Today, we have an officially negotiated federal overhead rate of 46 percent. That is, for every dollar of modified direct costs – salaries, benefits, supplies and equipment, minus major equipment purchases and agreements with other universities – we are required to charge the federal agency an additional 46 cents. And our rate is quite low. Some institutions charge more than 100 percent for overhead. These rates are renegotiated every few years and are based on how much was spent previously.
Just for reference, OSU’s rate 30 years ago was 31 percent. Some sponsors insist on lower overhead rates — a challenge, since those electric bills and maintenance charges still have to be paid by someone. It can get very complicated very quickly.
The costs of doing research are high and continue to increase. The supplemental costs of supporting that research are also rising. Download the 2013 Annual Report of Research to see a breakdown of our research operations. And keep in mind, that unless you are an independently wealthy genius, you need to know the true costs of supporting research.
Methane-powered engines. Autonomous helicopters. Online shopping assistants. Electricity from wastewater. These new products and the business opportunities they generate are in the pipeline at Oregon State University’s Advantage Accelerator.
They are among 14 research concepts or spinoff companies selected to participate in a program that spurs the creation of new companies from university-based research. Five of them were started by Oregon State students.
The results could lead to automotive innovation, improved heating systems, more efficient solar cells or safe and efficient cesarean delivery of a baby in small, rural hospitals.
“These concepts and companies are emerging from Oregon State or the Corvallis community, and we feel good about the commercial potential of all of them,” says John Turner, co-director of the Advantage Accelerator.
Turner and co-director Mark Lieberman identify innovation and research findings that might form the basis for profitable companies. By tapping into the skills of Oregon State students who are trained venture interns, Turner and Lieberman facilitate each company’s development with legal, marketing, financial and mentoring expertise. Their goal is to turn good ideas into real-world businesses.
The Advantage Accelerator is a component of the Oregon State University Advantage, an educational, research and commercialization initiative of the Research Office. Officials expect it to increase industry investment in Oregon State research by 50 percent and to lead to the creation of 20 new businesses within five years.
The program is also affiliated with the South Willamette Valley Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network, or RAIN, which received $3.75 million in funding from the state Legislature in 2013.
Advantage Accelerator Companies
The Advantage program connects businesses with Oregon State faculty and students, research facilities and startup companies emerging from OSU research.
IIE launches groundbreaking research to analyze the impact of the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program on its more than 4,300 alumni from 22 countries.
When Andrew Thurber started his journey in marine biology at Hawaii Pacific University, he got a surprise. “I thought I wanted to work with fish,” he says. “Turns out I don’t.”
Instead, in an Antarctic research lab, he became enamored with worms. “Worms are incredibly diverse. That was one of the most amazing things to me,” he says. “They don’t all look like earthworms. They have feet and these crazy breathing structures. I found them kind of enticing.”
After getting his bachelor’s, Thurber conducted graduate work in Antarctic ecology at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory near Monterey, California. He worked with veteran Antarctic seafloor ecologist Stacy Kim to understand how sea stars and microorganisms decompose sewage waste in the Ross Sea. He received his Ph.D. at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, working on deep-sea habitats fueled by bacteria and archaea.
Thurber’s research has taken him to soft sediments, hydrothermal vents and methane seeps from Costa Rica to New Zealand and Antarctica.
Now a post-doctoral scientist in the Oregon State University College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, he studies the role of a family of worms (Ampharetidae) in the release of methane from the seafloor and the boom-and-bust cycle of productivity in deep-sea ecosystems.
His research in the Antarctic has been supported by the Office of Polar Programs of the National Science Foundation.
Café-Rencontres Francophones, an initiative of the OSU French Department, is a casual French conversation group open to members of the OSU and greater-Corvallis communities. We welcome all levels of French from beginner to native, and we enjoying speaking French in a laid-back atmosphere. It's not a class, but we help each other as we go along :-)
Please pass this message on to your fellow Francophone / Francophile friends.
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Want to learn more about how you can study abroad in 8-14 countries in the Fall term, Winter/Spring semester or Summer term and recieve transferrable OSU resident credit ALL while living on a 590 foot long floating campus? Come hear from current OSU students and a program representative who have all travelled with Semester at Sea.
Can't make it? They will also be at an info table in Marketplace West Dining Hall 10am-1pm that same day.
The IRC in located on the right-hand side as you enter the MU lounge.
Join other students, faculty and staff for group walks around campus and the surrounding neighborhoods during the lunch hour. We meet at 12:00 p.m. each Monday at Student Health Services (Plageman Building) near the east entrance and walk for approximately 45 minutes. We walk rain or shine, so bring an umbrella or jacket if it's raining!
For more information about Beaver Strides, go to http://studenthealth.oregonstate.edu/beaverstrides
Co-authors: Dudley B. Chelton, Ricardo M. Letelier and P. Ted Strub
The College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS) at Oregon State University has a long history of research in satellite remote sensing of the ocean dating back to the early 1980s when most of the sensors were still in developmental stages. CEOAS faculty have been involved in every aspect of satellite remote sensing, including sensor and satellite mission design, development of algorithms for retrievals of the physical and biological variables of interest, and applications of satellite observations to study a host of oceanographic research questions.
Satellites are able to measure the sea surface temperature (SST), salinity and elevation, upper-ocean chlorophyll content, and surface wind speed and direction. The spatial resolution of these ocean properties depends on the electromagnetic wavelengths measured by the satellite sensor. For the short infrared and visible wavelengths at which SST and chlorophyll are measured from space, footprint sizes on the sea surface are a few kilometers (km) but the measurements can only be made in clear-sky conditions. In contrast, measurements at the much longer microwave wavelengths can be made through clouds, but the footprint size is 25 km or larger. SST, salinity, sea surface height and winds can all be measured with microwave sensors.
Professor Dudley Chelton has been working with microwave data since the earliest instruments were launched in the late 1970s. His analysis of microwave measurements of SST and radar measurements of surface winds has revealed a previously unappreciated strong relationship between the ocean and atmosphere on scales of 100-1000 km. Surface winds are modified by the underlying SST in a way that feeds back on the ocean and alters the currents and the SST itself. The ocean and atmosphere thus fluctuate as a fully coupled system. The analysis of satellite data is leading to improvements in the forecasts of surface winds, as well as to an improved understanding of oceanic variability.
This is analogous to being able to measure the thickness of a sheet of paper from the altitude of a commercial airliner.
Professor Chelton has also worked with microwave radar measurements of the sea surface elevation since the late 1970s. Present instruments are capable of measuring the sea surface height to an accuracy of better than 1 centimeter (cm) from an altitude of 1300 km. This is analogous to being able to measure the thickness of a sheet of paper from the altitude of a commercial airliner. Surprisingly, this accuracy is required for studies of ocean circulation since a change of only 1 cm over a distance of 10 km corresponds to a surface current speed of about 10 cm/s, which is large for ocean currents. The variability of surface currents throughout most of the ocean is dominated by swirling currents called eddies that are the oceanic analog of hurricanes in the atmosphere, though with much less devastating effects. The satellite data have revealed extensive new information about the dynamics of these eddies and their impacts on the mixing of water properties and upper-ocean biology.
Satellite data are also used by CEOAS faculty to improve the accuracies of computer model forecasts of ocean conditions along the coasts of Oregon and Washington. Prof. Ted Strub has developed special procedures for retrieving satellite data close to the coast, which is especially problematic for microwave sensors. Prof. Alexander Kurapov has developed a computer model of the coastal ocean circulation that assimilates these satellite observations to improve the accuracy of prediction of ocean currents and temperatures several days in the future. The model forecasts are available online and are used routinely by fishermen, Coast Guard search and rescue teams and public agencies that are monitoring the movement of marine debris, hazardous spills and harmful algal blooms.
CEOAS faculty have also developed a strong program in satellite studies of ocean biology. Beginning in the late 1980s with Dean Mark Abbott and later with Professors Ricardo Letelier, Pete Strutton, Michael Berhenfeld, Curt Davis and Anglicque White, CEOAS faculty have developed new procedures for measuring and interpreting satellite measurements of ocean color. In addition to improved estimates of upper-ocean chlorophyll content, key contributions of this work include advances in the study of algal fluorescence and its use to estimate phytoplankton biomass and productivity. Satellite measurements of ocean color are also leading to improvements in our understanding on how eddies and fronts affect open ocean productivity, which may help explain the development and propagation of harmful algal blooms along the Oregon/Washington coast.
CEOAS is also home to one of only two non-commercial satellite direct broadcast stations on the West Coast. This station serves local and regional communities by downloading data directly from satellite color sensors and providing regional ocean, land and atmospheric products in near-real time. This near real-time access to the data is valuable to a diverse range of users:
Leading Bay Area and Silicon Valley companies to host technology program for emerging women leaders from 15 countries