Researchers established a new breeding colony for one of the world’s most endangered seabirds – the Chinese crested tern – which had a global population of fewer than 50 birds.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – A collaborative project between researchers in Oregon and Asia last year helped establish a new breeding colony for one of the world’s most endangered seabirds – the Chinese crested tern – which then had a global population estimated at fewer than 50 birds.
This summer, at least 43 of the critically endangered birds arrived at the colony on the island of Tiedun Dao in Zhejiang Province, forming at least 20 breeding pairs. By early August, 13 young birds had fledged.
“It is a remarkable success story,” said Dan Roby, a professor of wildlife ecology at Oregon State University, who helped establish the new breeding colony. “The lessons that we learned in Oregon through luring Caspian terns to new breeding colonies away from the Columbia River translated quite well to the Chinese crested terns.”
Once thought to be extinct, there were no recorded sightings of Chinese crested terns from the 1930s until 2000, when a few birds were rediscovered on the Matsu Islands. Until last year, there were only two known breeding colonies for this species of tern – both in island archipelagos close to China’s southeast coast.
Both of these colonies have been susceptible to illegal egg collection for food, as well as to typhoons that can devastate seabird breeding colonies, Roby pointed out. The effort to establish a new colony was the first step toward creating a network of island sanctuaries where Chinese crested terns and other seabird species of conservation concern could raise their young, he added.
To establish a new colony, a project team including students and faculty from OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife worked with colleagues in China to clear part of Tiedun Dao of brush, then planted 300 tern decoys on the island and used solar-powered recorders to broadcast vocalizations of both Chinese crested terns and greater crested terns, which are more numerous and not endangered.
“When greater crested terns establish a breeding colony, sometimes it lures in Chinese crested terns as well,” Roby said. “We just didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.”
The China project was designed to recapture the success that Roby and the Army Corps of Engineers had in establishing new breeding colonies in Oregon for Caspian terns far away from the Columbia River, where they had been decimating juvenile salmon migrating downstream. They established new colonies in southeast Oregon and successfully lured thousands of birds to the new sites.
The technique of clearing vegetation, planting decoys and luring birds through playback of vocalizations was developed by Stephen Kress of the National Audubon Society.
Even though the new breeding colony for Chinese crested terns was successful, it wasn’t without peril, according to Simba Chan, senior conservation officer of BirdLife International’s Asia Division, who stayed on Tiedun Dao from early May to early August to monitor the colony. During that time, the endangered birds and their chicks endured attempted predation by peregrine falcons, attempted poaching by an egg collector, and three typhoons.
Chan and his colleagues collected a lot of data about the birds’ behavior that will help inform the management of the birds as well as the design of future colonies.
Chinese crested terns are highly efficient at finding and catching forage fish and adept at defending their nest sites during territorial disputes with their neighbors. Crested terns breed in very dense colonies with six to seven nesting pairs per square meter. The decline and near-extinction of Chinese crested terns in the 20th century was likely due to their restricted breeding range and widespread overharvest of seabird eggs.
“Having a new, productive breeding site away from the other two known colonies gives the species a far better chance to recover,” Roby said.
The project was supported by numerous international groups.College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact: Mark Floyd Source:
Dan Roby, 541-737-1955; Daniel.email@example.comMultimedia Downloads Multimedia:
Oregon State University received a five-out-of-five star rating from Campus Pride, ranking it among the top 50 colleges in the United States for LGBT students
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University received a five-out-of-five star rating from Campus Pride, ranking it among the top 50 colleges in the United States for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students.
OSU received top scores in LGBT campus safety, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life and many other areas. Portland State University, Southern Oregon University and the University of Oregon were also included in the top 50.
About 80 percent of the 425 colleges that participate in the survey showed some form of improvement over last year's scores.
For more information: http://www.campusprideindex.orgGeneric OSU Media Contact: Theresa Hogue Source:
Scientists for the first time have used tags to track the behavior of Antarctic minke whales and discovered that they feed in ways unique from other species.
NEWPORT, Ore. – Scientists for the first time have used tags to track the behavior of Antarctic minke whales and discovered that this smallest of the lunge-feeding whales utilizes the sea ice more than expected and feeds in ways unique from other species.
The study is also important from another standpoint: The researchers were able to acquire significant data on minke whales using non-lethal methods. Minkes have been the subject of lethal sampling by some countries under the label of “scientific whaling.”
Results of the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, are being published in the Journal of Experiment Biology.
“We know a lot about the feeding and diving behavior of larger whales, but not as much has been known about minke whales – especially in Antarctica,” said Ari Friedlaender, a principal investigator with the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “They are major krill predators and understanding how and where they feed is important.
“It gives us a better understanding of how changes in sea ice might affect these whales and the Antarctic ecosystem,” he added.
In their study, the researchers used suction cup tags equipped with multiple sensors to track the feeding performance of minke whales in Antarctica. They recorded 2,831 feeding events during 649 foraging dives from the tag records. They discovered that the small size of the minke whales provides them with better maneuverability, which enables them to navigate in and around the ice to locate krill.
Unlike larger whales, however, minke whales are limited by their comparatively small feeding apparatus. In other words, they cannot take in as much krill-filled water as their larger counterparts. Larger baleen whales feed by taking a small number of very large gulps – encompassing from 100 to 150 percent of their body mass.
Minke whales, in contrast, take high numbers of much smaller gulps – no more than 70 percent of their body mass, and often much less, according to Friedlander, an associate professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife who works out of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore.
“They compensate by making many more lunges per dive than other whales,” Friedlaender noted. “They are able to do this because their physiology keeps the energy cost of each lunge very low. We documented minke whales that made foraging dives beneath sea ice that included as many as 24 lunges for krill on each dive – the highest feeding rate for any lunge-feeding whale.”
The Antarctic minke whales occupy a unique niche in the ecosystem, the researchers pointed out. Penguins and seals also feed on krill, but the filter-feeding ability of minke whales allows them to consume greater quantities of the small crustaceans during their dives. The key, researchers say, is their ability to utilize dense patches of prey, which the minke whales can do because of their maneuverability.
The average dive of a minke whale was about 18 meters deep and lasted about a minute-and-a-half. However, the researchers documented dives as deep as 105 meters and lasting as long as seven minutes.
“These kinds of data are important to document because we just haven’t known much about minke whales in any region, but particularly in Antarctica,” Friedlaender pointed out. “The logistics of working in a remote environment, in and around the sea ice – and the difficulty of even approaching the whales - has made them a tough species to study.
“The recent advancement of multi-sensor tag technology helped make this possible.”
Other authors on the paper include Jeremy Goldbogen, Stanford University; Doug Nowacek, Andrew Read and David Johnston, Duke University; and Nick Gales, Australian Antarctic Division.Hatfield Marine Science Center Media Contact: Mark Floyd Source:
Ari Friedlaender, 541-867-0202; firstname.lastname@example.orgMultimedia Downloads Multimedia:
Health warnings issued when beaches have high levels of bacteria do not keep many surfers out of the water, according to a new study by Oregon State University.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Health warnings issued when beaches have high levels of bacteria do not keep many surfers out of the water, according to a new study by Oregon State University.
Nearly three in 10 surfers admit they knowingly surf during health advisories – nearly the same amount that chooses not to surf during periods of elevated bacteria. About 40 percent of surfers said they were unaware if they had ever surfed during an active health advisory.
The data can help public officials better warn surfers of potential health risks, said Anna Harding, co-author of the study and professor in OSU's College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
"Beach advisories for bacteria are not having their intended effect of dissuading surfers,” Harding said. “The lack of awareness about advisories – and willingness to take risks surfing in water that may be contaminated – suggests the need to educate surfers about behaviors that make them vulnerable to illness."
More than 500 surfers from the Pacific Northwest provided information for OSU's study and spanned a wide range of ages, incomes, surfing frequency and other demographics.
Of those surveyed by OSU, nearly 40 percent reported ear infections or discharge at some point during surfing; 30 percent, a sore throat or cough; 16 percent experienced diarrhea; 10 percent, fever; and 7 percent had vomited. Results were consistent across experience levels and were not lessened by showering after surfing.
Surfing during and after rain also led to higher rates of waterborne illnesses. Surfers are attracted to large waves that accompany a storm, but rain can send fecal bacteria from stormwater outfalls into the Pacific Ocean, as well as flush harmful microbes from animal feces present in streams and rivers onto beaches.
Surfers cannot avoid swallowing water – which can include harmful bacteria – during wipeouts, Harding said. They ingest 10 times more ocean water than swimmers, about 170 milliliters a day, or half a can of soda, she added.
Health advisories are posted online and on signs around the West Coast. But not every beach entrance has a warning sign, and many surfers do not notice them, said Dave Stone, co-author of the study and an environmental and molecular toxicology professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.
Beach sampling by states is intermittent, tends to lag behind current conditions and cannot cover all waters, Stone added.
"The best thing surfers can do is pay attention to the weather and where stormwater outfalls are located," said Stone, a toxicologist with OSU Extension. “They should also bookmark beach advisory websites with the latest information.”
"Surfers can go far in minimizing their exposure to microbes just by choosing when and where to surf," he added.
When an advisory is issued for a particular beach, water contact is discouraged and state websites advise beachgoers to avoid any activities during which they might swallow water, such as swimming, surfing, diving, and kayaking.
Using earplugs during surfing also leads to higher rates of ear infections, OSU researchers found. Generic earplugs tend to let water and bacteria inside the ear, Stone said, and then trap it inside the canal.
OSU's study was funded by Oregon Sea Grant and is available online in the Journal of Water and Health.College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact: Daniel Robison Source:
Anna Harding, 541-737-3830Multimedia Downloads Multimedia:
The Forest Research Laboratory at Oregon State University has published “Douglas-fir: The Genus Pseudotsuga,” which details more than a century of research.
CORVALLIS, Ore. — The Pacific Northwest’s iconic Douglas-fir tree rivals coast redwood for honors as the world’s tallest tree. It isn’t a true fir – the species that was named for Scottish botanist David Douglas is, however, the mostly widely distributed North American conifer.
And it is a marvel of water engineering. From root to top, a mature tree transmits water across more than 22,000 cell walls, each equipped with 50 to 60 elegantly designed valves.
In recognition of this commercially important tree, the Forest Research Laboratory at Oregon State University has published “Douglas-fir: The Genus Pseudotsuga,” which details more than a century of research. It covers what is known about the species’ evolutionary history, genetics, environmental requirements and breeding programs in Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and North America.
Douglas-fir is native to western North America but has been accepted in forest management programs around the world. It is a member of the genus Pseudotsuga, which includes up to a dozen species in Asia and North America. In Europe, Douglas-fir is the most commonly planted North American tree.
Two OSU forest scientists, Denis Lavender and Richard Hermann, wrote “Douglas-fir.” Both received Ph.Ds. from Oregon State in botany and went on to conduct research on the species through the OSU Forest Research Lab until they retired.
“When Denis and I were at the Forest Research Lab, we received questions about Douglas-fir from around the world,” said Hermann. “So we decided to collect everything we could find and write a book.”
A native of Germany, Hermann specialized in Douglas-fir management in plantations and natural regeneration. In addition to his work at Oregon State, he held research appointments in Poland, France, Germany and Italy and served in leadership positions with the International Union of Forest Research Organizations.
Lavender, who died last spring, focused on reproductive biochemistry and the role of dormancy in tree vitality. After leaving Oregon State in 1984, he served as the head of the Forest Science Department at the University of British Columbia and helped to establish the Silvicultural Institute of British Columbia. His method for storing and planting seedlings increased the survival rate of conifers by 20 percent.
“Douglas-fir” is available free online at http://hdl.handle.net/1957/47168 or in print for $45 ($60 for international orders) from the communications office in the OSU College of Forestry, email@example.com.College of Forestry Media Contact: Nick Houtman Source:
Richard Hermann, 503-223-8307
OSU has received one of the first seven grants from the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund created by Walmart and The Walmart Foundation to help accelerate manufacturing in the U.S.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has been chosen for one of the first seven grants from the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund created by Walmart and The Walmart Foundation to help accelerate manufacturing in the United States.
The $590,000 grant will support the development of innovations in plastics injection molding – one of the most common manufacturing processes for making consumer products – in which melted plastic resins are injected into a shaped cavity made by two metallic molds.
“Current practices for fabricating these molds are labor-intensive and costly, and much of the mold material is wasted as metal chips,” said Sundar V. Atre, OSU associate professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering. “We estimate that mold-making costs can be reduced by 40 to 50 percent.”
“That will give U.S. manufacturing an edge,” Atre added.
The Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund, in collaboration with the Conference of Mayors, will provide a total of $10 million in grants over the next five years. The first $4 million in grants were announced Thursday (Aug. 14) at the 2014 U.S. Manufacturing Summit in Denver.
“Researchers at many of America’s best universities are hard at work on tough manufacturing challenges,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of The Walmart Foundation. “We are excited to support the development of innovative solutions, which we hope will unlock new opportunity for manufacturing in this country.”
Mayor Julie Manning of Corvallis noted that her city has earned a national reputation for innovation, ranking fourth last year in a report of patents per capita.
“A manufacturing renaissance is taking place in our region,” she said. “This project builds on the steps taken in recent years to more closely align the economic development strategy of Corvallis and Benton County with the growing success of Oregon State University and other local employers in fostering innovation and job creation.”
Over the course of the three-year project, Atre and his co-principal investigator, Oregon State mechanical engineering assistant professor Rajiv Malhotra, will work with three industrial partners – Metal Technology, Inc., in neighboring Albany, Ore., plus Arburg and North American Höganäs – to develop and test their manufacturing innovations. Part of the work will take place at the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute, collaboratively managed by OSU and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
The team will work with the OSU Advantage Accelerator to develop a commercialization plan. This program helps move promising ideas out of the laboratory and into the marketplace, strengthening the economy.
Atre’s and Malhotra’s project is a prime example of the university’s leading-edge research that creates a better future for Oregon and the nation, said Robert B. Stone, head of OSU’s School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering.
“Making U.S. manufacturing more competitive globally is something all of us can relate to,” Stone said. “When we shop, we know the ‘Made in the USA’ label signifies jobs and stronger communities. This support from Walmart, The Walmart Foundation and the Conference of Mayors represents a vote of confidence in our track record at Oregon State of doing research with real-world impact, as we work in partnership with industry.”
In 2010 alone the U.S. plastics industry produced an estimated 16 billion pounds of injection-molded products for applications in packaging, electronics, housewares and biomedical areas.
The grant to Oregon State is part of The Campaign for OSU, which has raised more than $1.06 billion to support university priorities, including more than $140 million in private faculty research grants. The university community will celebrate the campaign’s impact Oct. 31 during Homecoming.
OSU Foundation Media Contact:
Michelle Williams, 541-737-6126Source:
Lionfish are so voracious in eating prey in the Atlantic Ocean that they sometimes can drive populations to local extinction, a type of behavior far more aggressive than most native predators.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – New research on the predatory nature of red lionfish, the invasive Pacific Ocean species that is decimating native fish populations in parts of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, seems to indicate that lionfish are not just a predator, but more like the “terminator” of movie fame.
The finding of behavior that was called “alarming” was presented today by Kurt Ingeman, a researcher from Oregon State University, at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America.
Most native predatory fish are attracted to prey when their numbers are high, when successful attacks are easy and when a minimum of energy is needed to catch and eat other fish, according to previous research done by Michael Webster, a fish ecologist who received his doctorate from OSU. As the population of prey diminishes, the native predators often move on to other areas where, literally, the fishing is better.
The new research concludes that lionfish, by comparison, appear to stay in one area even as the numbers of prey diminish, and in some cases can eat the population to local extinction. They have unique characteristics that make this possible, and like the terminator, they simply will not stop until the last of their prey is dead.
“Lionfish seem to be the ultimate invader,” said Ingeman, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Integrative Biology within the OSU College of Science. “Almost every new thing we learn about them is some characteristic that makes them a more formidable predator. And it’s now clear they will hunt successfully even when only a few fish are present. This behavior is unusual and alarming.”
This research was conducted on replicated natural reefs in the Bahamas, measuring prey mortality of the fairy basslet – a popular aquarium fish and a common prey of lionfish.
Predation rates were compared between reefs with the invasive lionfish and reefs with native predators alone, and across a range of population levels of the fairy basslet. Ingeman found that when prey fish were present at a low population density, the rate of mortality with lionfish present was four times higher than that caused by native predators alone, such as medium-sized groupers or trumpet fish.
The findings are of some importance, researchers said, because fairy basslet live in small local populations, which are most vulnerable to local extinction. It also shows that the mechanisms that ordinarily regulate population size can be altered.
“Reef fish usually hide in rocks and crevices for protection, and with high populations, there is a scramble for shelter,” Ingeman said. “Native predators take advantage of this situation by mostly eating when and where prey are abundant. As prey population levels decline, it takes a lot more energy to catch fish, so the predators often move on to other areas.”
Because of this process that scientists call “density-dependent” predation, populations of native prey fish tend to shrink when they get too large, grow when they get too small, and are rarely ever wiped out completely.
Lionfish, however, have such advantages as an invasive species that they apparently feel no need to move on for better or easier hunting. They may not be recognized as a predator by other fish, leading to high mortality even when shelter is abundant. Lionfish are also very efficient hunters, are well-defended themselves by poisonous spines, and can thrive at deep levels in the ocean. They tolerate a wide range of habitats and water conditions, reproduce rapidly most of the year, eat many different species of native fish and may overeat rare species.
Still unclear, Ingeman said, is whether evolutionary pressures may allow native fish in the Atlantic Ocean to adapt new behaviors that provide better defense against lionfish.
“There’s a strong pressure here for natural selection to come into play eventually,” Ingeman said. “We know that fish can learn and change their behavior, sometimes over just a few generations. But we don’t have any studies yet to demonstrate this is taking place with native fish populations in the Atlantic.”
The lionfish invasion in the Atlantic Ocean is believed to have begun in the 1980s and now covers an area larger than the entirety of the United States. Ingeman’s adviser, Mark Hixon, and fellow graduate students have shown that lionfish can wipe out more than 90 percent of the native fish in some hard-hit areas.
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Cape Eleuthera Institute of the Bahamas.College of Science Media Contact: David Stauth Source:
Kurt Ingeman, 541-908-0805Multimedia Downloads Multimedia:
Researchers have created a model that can explain how geckos perform some of their remarkable feats, like running on a ceiling.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have developed a model that explains how geckos, as well as spiders and some insects, can run up and down walls, cling to ceilings, and seemingly defy gravity with such effortless grace.
This ability, outlined today in the Journal of Applied Physics, is a remarkable mechanism in the toes of geckos that uses tiny, branched hairs called “seta” that can instantly turn their stickiness on and off, and even “unstick” their feet without using any energy.
These extraordinary hairs contribute to the ability of geckos to run, evade predators, and protect their very lives and survival. In essence, a gecko never has a bad hair day.
“These are really fascinating nanoscale systems and forces at work,” said Alex Greaney, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Engineering. “It’s based not just on the nature of the seta but the canted angles and flexibility they have, and ability to work under a wide range of loading conditions.”
Even more compelling, Greaney said, is the minimal amount of energy expended in the whole process, as a gecko can race across a ceiling with millions of little hairy contact points on its feet turning sticky and non-sticky in a precisely integrated process. This “smart” adhesion system allows them to run at 20 body-lengths per second and, hanging from a ceiling, the forces provided by the seta could actually support 50 times the body weight of the gecko.
In continued research the scientists want to find out more about this mechanism to recover stored energy, to see if more practical uses could be made of it – better adhesives, for instance, or robots that can use some of these principles for improved performance or use in extreme environments.
The adhesion system used by geckos and insects has literally been studied for thousands of years, Greaney said, and it was only in 2000 that experts proved they are taking advantage of a concept in physics called van der Waals forces, a type of weak intermolecular force.
Geckos’ feet are, by default, non-sticky, but the stickiness can be activated by a small shear force to produce this surprisingly tough form of adhesion.College of Engineering Media Contact: David Stauth Source:
James “Jim” Patterson, city manager and CEO of the City of Corvallis, has been named the OSU Foundation's new lead fundraiser for OSU athletics.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – James “Jim” Patterson, city manager and CEO of the City of Corvallis, has been named the Oregon State University Foundation's new senior associate athletics director/senior director of development for intercollegiate athletics.
Patterson brings to the foundation 12 years of experience in the public sector as well as 20 years of experience in private sector sales, executive sales management, marketing and promotions. In addition to providing leadership to the OSU Foundation athletics development staff and Our Beaver Nation, he will oversee fundraising communications, donor relations and the annual fund for OSU athletics, all of which support Beaver student-athletes.
The unit recently surpassed its $180 million fundraising goal as part of The Campaign for OSU and has begun planning for its next major initiatives. In his new role, Patterson will report directly to Mike Goodwin, president and CEO of the OSU Foundation.
As city manager and CEO of the City of Corvallis, Patterson led the strategic rebuilding of the city’s general fund reserves to more than $5 million; successfully negotiated union contracts projected to save the city millions of dollars in the future by moving employees to more affordable health care plans; and spearheaded the creation of a city budget development process that requires firm expenditure limits and revenues that equal expenditures.
Patterson is no stranger to the Oregon State community. As city manager, he worked as a partner and collaborator with various OSU entities, including the president’s office and board of trustees, to strengthen and enhance the relationship between the city and the university community. He is the public address announcer for OSU women’s basketball, an OSU parent and longtime supporter of Beaver athletics.
“I am proud to be joining two great organizations whose partnership has meant so much to OSU,” said Patterson. “The campaign has demonstrated the significant impact generous donors can have. I know that Oregon State University aspires to continue to improve the educational experience for all students and I look forward to being a part of that effort.”
The candidates who came forward for this position “made it a very competitive field,” according to OSU Foundation President and CEO Goodwin.
“Jim’s skills and knowledge stood out in what was a highly competitive national search,” Goodwin said. “He brings a wealth of critical experience to this role with the foundation, as well as a great deal of enthusiasm and relationship-building skills that will rally support for Beaver athletics.”
Prior to serving as the Corvallis city manager and CEO, Patterson served in the same capacity for the City of Sherwood, Oregon, from 2004–11. His time in the private sector included positions with United Advertising Media, United and Allied Van Lines, and OWNCO Marketing in Portland. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Portland State University.
Patterson will begin his work at the OSU Foundation on Aug. 25.OSU Foundation Source:
Michelle Williams, 541-737-6126Multimedia Downloads Multimedia:
An OSU workshop on Aug. 23-24 called ChickTech is designed to encourage high school girls to enter computer and technical fields.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – ChickTech is hosting a workshop on Aug. 23-24 at Oregon State University to encourage high school girls to enter computing and technical fields.
The event culminates with a show on Sunday, Aug. 24, that’s free and open to the public. It will be from 4:30-5:45 p.m. at the Kelley Engineering Center on the OSU campus, and participants will display the projects they built.
The students may help create a robot, build a video game, or make a smartphone application, and are mentored by industry and academic professionals from high-tech fields. The event is free for participants, and includes an overnight stay in an OSU residence hall. It’s sponsored or supported by the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the Women and Minorities program, the OSU Library, Tektronix, HP, Kattare, and Korvis.
The event is designed as a fun, positive learning experience to build participants’ confidence in their technical abilities, provide positive role models, and create connections with other young women from the area.
ChickTech is a non-profit organization, founded in Portland in 2013 by OSU alumna, Janice Levenhagen-Seeley, who was motivated by her own experiences to foster a more inviting culture for women.
“It was hard to feel like I belonged as a woman in computer engineering,” Levenhagen-Seeley said. “So I started ChickTech to give other girls and women the support that I didn’t have. I want them to feel like they are welcome and have unique things that they are bringing to the industry.”College of Engineering Media Contact:
Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098Source:
OSU is joining a new national movement to create "badges" that recognize learning, and offer an online credential of education and knowledge.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Professional and Continuing Education, or PACE program at Oregon State University has begun an educational “badge” initiative, becoming part of an innovative national movement to expand the way learning accomplishments can be recognized.
These digital badges offer an additional method to recognize skills, education and abilities. As an “open credential,” they are detailed and personalized – and via computers can offer a more current and exact description of just what a person knows how to do.
The movement is conceptually similar to the “merit badges” that scouts have used for decades. But instead of a canoeing badge sewn onto a sash that verifies a person knows how to paddle a canoe, digital badges are computer icons that both recognize and can link to a full description of a person’s knowledge in a particular field – anything from robotics to welding to financial management.
At OSU, the first 300 badges have been issued to graduates of the popular “master gardener” online program. About 700 more badges are going to be presented to graduates of four other PACE programs in coming months.
“With employers relying more heavily on social media platforms like LinkedIn to make salary and career advancement decisions, we wanted to provide our students with a form of web-based credentialing that is secure, portable and meets contemporary workforce-related needs,” said Chris LaBelle, director of Professional and Continuing Education.
At OSU, LaBelle said, badges may be used to signify completion of a certificate program, an intensive workshop or the acquisition of a certain set of skills. They will be offered as a supplement to traditional degrees and certifications.
The badge movement is still in its infancy, but is already being embraced by a variety of institutions, from universities to private industry, government agencies and trade organizations. Open source computer software companies are among its advocates, and the system being used at OSU will work on multiple digital platforms.
In this initiative, OSU is working with the Oregon Badge Alliance, a non-profit organization working to set up a system of badges and micro-certifications in the state. Badges can provide detail on skills and achievements that aren’t available on traditional academic records and may include a range of work and studies far beyond a person’s academic degree. Creators of a badge clearly spell out the criteria for earning them, and they can recognize a specific accomplishment or sometimes continued growth in a general area of study.
“Because open badges can be collected from multiple sources, the possibilities are really endless,” said Wayne Skipper, founder of the Oregon Badge Alliance Wayne Skipper said. “In a rapidly evolving education landscape, the ability for students to quantify their own learning achievements is paramount. That requires more granular data than what we normally see on a transcript.”
PACE’s digital badge program has attracted the attention of other OSU colleges and departments as well, LaBelle said.
“Digital badges have the potential to become a university-wide program,” LaBelle said. “While non-degree students will receive the first wave of digital badges issued by our unit, I fully expect a demand for this form of micro-credentialing to spill over to OSU's student services and degree-based programs.”
Digital badges are already a national movement.
One university, for instance, provides different badges for various milestones in robotics, and another provides badges for reaching benchmarks of learning in regular, credit-bearing college courses.
Once awarded, badges can also be linked to a wide range of information that would never be found on an academic transcript, such as workshops attended, awards won, projects completed, essays written or work samples.
Colleges like OSU, the University of California and Carnegie Mellon are being joined by many other institutions in the badge movement. The Smithsonian Institution is awarding badges, as are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Association of Manufacturers, Intel and Disney-Pixar.Outreach and Engagement Media Contact:
Chris LaBelle, 541-737-2807Multimedia Downloads Multimedia:
A disproportionate number of Hispanics are housed in private prisons across the United States, a pattern that could leave such prisons vulnerable to legal challenges.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – A disproportionate number of Hispanics are housed in private prisons across the United States, a pattern that could leave such prisons vulnerable to legal challenges, new research from Oregon State University shows.
The percentage of adult Hispanic inmates in private prisons was two points higher than those in public facilities, while the percentage of white inmates in private prisons was eight points lower than in public facilities, said Brett Burkhardt, an assistant professor of sociology in the School of Public Policy at OSU’s College of Liberal Arts.
“This is a systemic issue,” Burkhardt said. “Prison administrators should be aware of racial disparities in inmate placement to ensure that inmates’ rights are being upheld and to avoid future lawsuits.”
Private prisons are those operated by private for-profit or non-profit companies that have contracts with government agencies. In some cases, the private company operates an existing prison, while in others the company builds and operates the facility. About 8 percent of those sentenced to state or federal prison are being held in private facilities, according to a 2011 study.
But there are some concerns that those in private prisons have fewer opportunities for jobs and rehabilitation and are more likely to get in trouble while incarcerated, which could raise questions about whether private prisons provide inmates equal protection under U.S. civil rights laws.
Research has shown that private prisons have higher rates of inmate misconduct; fewer work assignments for prisoners; more inmate grievances; and more escapes than public facilities, Burkhardt said.
“The data can’t demonstrate that there is a violation of inmates’ rights,” Burkhardt said. “But prison officials should be aware of the pattern because it could trigger lawsuits.”
Burkhardt’s study is the latest in a growing body of research on racial disparities in the criminal justice system. African-Americans and Hispanics are incarcerated at much higher rates than whites in the U.S. and previous research has found widespread racial disparities throughout the criminal justice system.
The disparity in prison placement is not linked to higher overall incarceration rates of Hispanics. It appears to stem from the process in which inmates are assigned to a correctional facility, Burkhardt said. How those decisions are made is unclear; they typically are handled by prison administrators. The research indicates there is a racial pattern to inmate assignment at correctional facilities, which also could raise legal concerns for corrections officials, he said.
Burkhardt’s findings were outlined in an article titled “Where Have All the (White and Hispanic) Inmates Gone? Comparing the Racial Composition of Private and Public Adult Correctional Facilities.” The article was recently published in the journal “Race and Justice.” The research was supported by OSU.
Burkhardt analyzed national correctional facility data for all state and federal correctional institutions from 2005, about 1,500 in all. Federal immigration detention facilities were excluded. He found that Hispanics were overrepresented and whites were underrepresented in private prison populations.
African-Americans also were overrepresented in private prisons, but the difference was not considered statistically significant, Burkhardt said. When populations of African-American and Hispanic inmates were combined, they were four percentage points higher in private facilities than in public ones, which was significant, Burkhardt said.
The racial disparity is present in both federal and state facilities and it does not appear to be connected to the security level, size or age of the facility, he said. More research is needed to determine why Hispanics are over-represented in the private prison population, he said. For example, private firms may prefer healthier inmates, which tend to be young, non-white inmates; or the assignments may be tied to prisoners’ gang affiliations.
“It’s not entirely obvious why this is happening,” Burkhardt said. “It’s a little bit of a mystery.”College of Liberal Arts Media Contact: Michelle Klampe Source:
Brett Burkhardt, 541-737-2310 or Brett.firstname.lastname@example.org
Three OSU faculty members have been named 2014 fellows of the American Geophysical Union. They are the only three fellows in this class from the state of Oregon.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Three Oregon State University faculty members have been named 2014 fellows of the American Geophysical Union. They are the only three fellows in this class from the state of Oregon.
The three selected as fellows were Edward Brook and Gary Egbert from the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences; and Beverly Law from the College of Forestry.
Brook is a paleoclimatologist who studies the Earth’s ancient climates through examination of ice cores, specializing in the history of greenhouse gases. His studies have helped explain the processes that led to large-scale climate shifts throughout Earth’s history. In 2011, he was part of a team that completed the excavation of a 10,928-foot ice core – the longest core ever drilled by United States scientists – with ice more than 67,000 years old.
Egbert is a geophysicist and oceanographer whose studies range from ocean tides to electromagnetic imaging of the solid Earth. In one pioneering study, he and his colleagues used satellite altimetry data to show that ocean tides lose significant energy over rough topography in the open ocean. These results imply that the tides may provide an important source of mechanical energy for vertical ocean mixing, and large-scale heat transport in the ocean – processes which are critical to Earth’s climate.
Law is a professor of global change biology and terrestrial systems science who examines the role of forests in the global carbon cycle, and the impacts of climate change on those forests. She was science chair of the AmeriFlux network of more than 100 research sites for 11 years, and in 2014 was listed as a “most highly cited” researcher, in the top 1 percent for the period of 2002-12. She is a principal investigator on a five-year, $4 million project studying the impacts of drought, insects and fires on western forests.
The American Geophysical Union established the AGU Fellows program in 1962, and restricts annual recognition to less than 0.1 percent of its overall membership. This year, 62 fellows were named for their scientific eminence, a major breakthrough, a major discovery, paradigm shifts and/or sustained scientific impact. They will be recognized on Dec. 17 at the annual AGU conference in San Francisco.Generic OSU Media Contact: Mark Floyd Source:
Joan Buhrman, 1+ 202 777-7509, email@example.com
Heidi Schellman, an expert on high energy physics, has been appointed to head the Department of Physics in the OSU College of Science.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Heidi Schellman has been appointed to head the Department of Physics in the College of Science at Oregon State University, beginning in January, 2015.
Schellman, a fellow of the American Physical Society who does international research on high energy physics, has chaired the physics and astronomy program in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University since 2010.
“Dr. Schellman will work with the Department of Physics to enhance our research excellence and to advance our teaching and learning initiatives,” said Sastry G. Pantula, dean of the OSU College of Science. “With her research experience, academic leadership, innovative approach to course development, and support for underrepresented student populations, I know she will be an excellent addition to our college and to Oregon State.”
At Northwestern, Schellman has increased funding support for graduate students, created smaller class sizes and drop-in tutoring for undergraduate students, developed courses to help underrepresented groups succeed in academia, and pursued other initiatives.College of Science Source:
Debbie Farris, 541-737-862Multimedia Downloads Multimedia:
Two OSU professors have been named as fellows of the American Chemical Society. Honored were Kevin Gable and Robert McGorrin.
CORVALLIS, Ore. - Two professors at Oregon State University have been named as fellows of the American Chemical Society.
Kevin P. Gable, a professor of chemistry, was honored for the study of chemical processes important to industrial manufacturers of antifreeze, plastics precursors and the pharmaceutical industry. An expert in reaction processes involved in metal-catalyzed oxidations, Gable received his doctorate from Cornell University and has been on the OSU chemistry faculty since 1988. He has also been active in both academic and administrative leadership at OSU and with the ACS.
Robert J. McGorrin, the Jacobs-Root Professor and head of the Department of Food Science and Technology at OSU, was honored for his contributions to food chemistry and more than 35 years of leadership in ACS. McGorrin, who is a national expert on flavor chemistry and trace volatile analysis, received his doctorate from the University of Illinois and has been on the OSU faculty since 2000. He worked in private industry for 23 years, and while at OSU has helped to greatly expand food science educational and research programs, along with student enrollment.
With more than 161,000 members, the ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and one of the world’s leading sources of authoritative scientific information. The 2014 ACS fellows will be inducted at the national meeting of the organization in San Francisco in August.Generic OSU Source:
Debbie Farris, 541-737-862Multimedia Downloads Multimedia:
The world’s oceans are vast and deep, yet technology and the quest for extracting resources from previously unreachable depths is beginning to put the deep seas on the cusp of peril.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The world’s oceans are vast and deep, yet rapidly advancing technology and the quest for extracting resources from previously unreachable depths is beginning to put the deep seas on the cusp of peril, an international team of scientists warned this week.
In an analysis in Biogeosciences, which is published by the European Geosciences Union, the researchers outline “services” or benefits provided by the deep ocean to society. Yet using these services, now and in the future, is likely to make a significant impact on that habitat and what it ultimately does for society, they point out in their analysis.
“The deep sea is the largest habitat on Earth, it is incredibly important to humans and it is facing a variety of stressors from increased human exploitation to impacts from climate change,” said Andrew Thurber, an Oregon State University marine scientist and lead author on the study. “As we embark upon greater exploitation of this vast environment and start thinking about conserving its resources, it is imperative to know what this habitat already does for us.”
“Our analysis is an effort to begin to summarize what the deep sea provides to humans because we take it for granted or simply do not know that the deep sea does anything to shape our daily lives,” he added. “The truth is that the deep sea affects us, whether we live on the coast or far from the ocean – and its impact on the globe is pervasive.”
The deep sea is important to many critical processes that affect the Earth’s climate, including acting as a “sink” for greenhouse gases – helping offset the growing amounts of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. It also regenerates nutrients through upwelling that fuel the marine food web in productive coastal systems such as the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Chile and others. Increasingly, fishing and mining industries are going deeper and deeper into the oceans to extract natural resources.
“One concern is that many of these areas are in international waters and outside of any national jurisdiction,” noted Thurber, an assistant professor (senior research) in Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “Yet the impacts are global, so we need a global effort to begin protecting and managing these key, albeit vast, habitats.”
Fishing is an obvious concern, the scientists say. Advances in technology have enabled commercial fisheries to harvest fish at increasing depths – an average of 62.5 meters deeper every decade, according to fisheries scientists. This raises a variety of potential issues.
“The ability to fish deeper is shifting some fisheries to deeper stocks, and opening up harvests of new species,” Thurber said. “In some local cases, individual fisheries are managed aggressively, but due to how slow the majority of the fish grow in the deep, some fish populations are still in decline – even with the best management practices.”
The orange roughy off New Zealand, for instance, is both a model of effective and conservation-based management, yet its populations continue to decline, though at a slower rate than they would have experienced without careful management, Thurber noted.
“We also have to be concerned about pollution that makes its way from our continental shelves into the deep sea,” he added. “Before it was ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ However, some of the pollution can either make it into the fish that we harvest, or harm the fishers that collect the fish for us. It is one of the reasons need to identify how uses of the deep sea in the short term can have long-term consequences. Few things happen fast down there.”
Mining is a major threat to the deep sea, the researchers point out in their analysis. In particular, the quest for rare earth and metal resources, which began decades ago, has skyrocketed in recent years because of their increased use in electronics, and because of dwindling or limited distribution of supplies on land. Mining the deep ocean for manganese nodules, for example – which are rich in nickel – requires machines that may directly impact large swaths of the seafloor and send up a sediment plume that could potentially affect an even larger area, the scientists note.
These mining resources are not limited to muddy habitats, Thurber pointed out. Massive sulfides present at hydrothermal vents are another resource targeted by mining interests.
“The deep sea has been an active area for oil and gas harvesting for many years,” he said, “yet large reservoirs of methane and other potential energy sources remain unexploited. In addition to new energy sources, the potential for novel pharmaceuticals is also vast.
“There are additional threats to these unique habitats, including ocean acidification, warming temperatures and possible changes to ocean circulation through climate change.”
The next step, the researchers say, is to attach an economic value to both the services provided by the deep sea – and the activities that may threaten those services.
“What became clear as we put together this synopsis is that there is vast potential for future resources but we already benefit greatly through this environment,” Thurber said. “”What this means is that while the choices to harvest or mine will be decided over the coming decades, it is important to note that the stakeholders of this environment represent the entire world’s population.”
“The Bible, the Koran, the Torah, and early Greek texts all reference the deep sea,” he added. “Maybe it’s time for all of us to take a closer look at what it has to offer and decide if and how we protect it.”College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences Media Contact: Mark Floyd Source:
Andrew Thurber, 541-737-4500; firstname.lastname@example.orgMultimedia Downloads Multimedia:
Oral birth control may not work as well in obese women, but Oregon researchers have found new strategies to help address that concern.
PORTLAND, Ore. – The findings of a new study suggest two ways to effectively address the problem that birth control pills may not work as well in obese women, compared to women of a normal body mass index.
Birth control pills are a one-size-fits-all method, researchers say, but as the population has increased in weight, concern has grown about how well the pill works for obese women. Studies have consistently found that obesity has a negative impact on drug levels in the body, which may in turn affect how well the pill prevents pregnancy.
“Birth control pills have been shown in a large population study to fail at a higher rate in women who are obese,” said Ganesh Cherala, an assistant professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy.
“Our original studies were focused on why this might occur,” Cherala said, “and we found that obesity changes how a woman’s body clears contraceptive hormones.”
It takes longer for the pill to reach a steady state level in obese women, with possible impacts on efficacy of the birth control, and putting them at greater risk for a pill failure if they forget to take a pill or take it later.
In order to offset these changes, Cherala and Dr. Alison Edelman, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University, studied two alternative strategies. They found that either a slight increase in the pill dose, from a very low dose to a low dose pill; or using the pill continuously without a “period week” off, appeared to counteract the changes that obesity causes.
This, in turn, may provide improved pregnancy prevention for women of differing weights who use the pill, the researchers said. Their work is published in Contraception, a professional journal, and was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
“Since oral contraception remains one of the most popular forms of birth control in the United States and the majority of our population is obese or overweight, it’s important to find methods of contraception that work for all women, no matter what their weight,” Edelman said.
“The strategies that we studied can be, and are currently being used by women, but now we know that they help to counteract the adverse effects of weight on contraceptive hormones,” she said.
For obese women, simply shifting to an alternative form of birth control is an option, the researchers said. But they also pointed out that oral contraceptives are the most preferred form of birth control and that a woman’s individual preference influences her adherence and continuation with any method.College of Pharmacy Media Contact: David Stauth Source:
Ganesh Cherala, 503-418-0447
The first four companies working with the OSU Advantage Accelerator have completed the program and are moving toward commercial success.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Four promising startup companies in fields ranging from social media to chemical manufacturing are among the first “graduating class” of the Oregon State University Advantage Accelerator, upon completion of a program designed to help lead them toward commercial success.
Organizers of the new program say it’s off to a promising start in efforts to bring more university research and community ideas to the commercial marketplace. This and other elements of the OSU Advantage form partnerships with industry and work to boost the Oregon economy, while providing invaluable experiences for OSU students involved in many aspects of the program.
“Our program has unfolded as well or better than we had hoped, and we now plan to increase the output,” said John Turner, co-director of the Advantage Accelerator. “Completion of this program means that companies have an increased chance to succeed and have a step-by-step plan to approach the future.”
“Based on our experience in the first year of this program, we’ve decided to conduct two cohort groups each year rather than one,” Turner said. “The coming year will result in about 15-20 new startup companies.”
Success in a tough and competitive commercial marketplace is not automatic, however, and not all companies have the will and strength to complete the rigorous program.
The first graduates have completed a “portfolio” of accomplishments, Turner said, that included training to attract investors, a validated business model, a schedule for future steps, and an initial product to show prospective customers, investors or manufacturers. A few clients are already attracting attention through the sale of products and generating profit.
The OSU Advantage Accelerator provides mentoring with industry and entrepreneurial experts, consulting sessions, access to seed grants and the OSU Venture Fund, meetings with active investors, workshops on various topics, networking events and many other activities.
One of the early participants in the program, Onboard Dynamics of Bend, Ore., plans to market technology that could ultimately revolutionize the way America drives. It has developed systems that compress natural gas right in the vehicle and take advantage of the enormous current supplies of low-cost natural gas. The innovation is able to cut automobile fuel costs to the gasoline-equivalent of less than $1 a gallon.
“An intern working with the Advantage Accelerator performed a lot of tasks relating to market analysis and startup activities that were incredibly helpful to the company,” said CEO Rita Hansen.
“We’re in an excellent position right now, having been formally selected by the Department of Energy for a $2.88 million award, and our initial target markets are the underserved, small, light-duty commercial fleets,” Hansen said. “We’re very bullish about widespread adoption by these fleets of our products.”
A few other companies that have completed the program include:
- Pikli, a student-based company based on social media that allows individuals to involve their friends and family in their shopping experiences;
- Waste2Watergy, which is commercializing a microbial fuel cell technology to reduce or eliminate significant wastewater costs and produce electricity from the resultant effluence; and
- Valliscor, a chemical manufacturing company that licensed technology developed at OSU to produce high-value chemicals for the pharmaceutical, agricultural, polymer and electronics industries.
“The OSU Advantage Accelerator program was very helpful and their mentorship was really first-rate,” said Rich Carter, professor and chair of the OSU Department of Chemistry, and CEO of Valliscor. “They helped us develop the necessary tools to become a functioning company, and whenever you needed advice all you had to do was pick up the phone.”
Carter said he’s “very optimistic” about the company going forward, which is already producing and selling its first products.
The OSU Advantage Accelerator is one component of the Oregon Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network, or Oregon RAIN. With support from the Oregon legislature, collaborators on the initiative include OSU, the University of Oregon, the cities of Eugene, Springfield, Corvallis and Albany, and other economic development organizations. All the participants are focused on creating new business, expanding existing business, creating jobs and helping to build the Oregon and national economy.Oregon State University Advantage Media Contact: David Stauth Source:
John Turner, 541-368-5204Multimedia Downloads Multimedia:
A study by OSU researchers suggests that synchronization of climate patterns in the North Pacific and North Atlantic oceans may be the early warning sign for a climate change "tipping point."
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Scientists have long been concerned that global warming may push Earth’s climate system across a “tipping point,” where rapid melting of ice and further warming may become irreversible – a hotly debated scenario with an unclear picture of what this point of no return may look like.
A newly published study by researchers at Oregon State University probed the geologic past to understand mechanisms of abrupt climate change. The study pinpoints the emergence of synchronized climate variability in the North Pacific Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean a few hundred years before the rapid warming that took place at the end of the last ice age about 15,000 years ago.
The study suggests that the combined warming of the two oceans may have provided the tipping point for abrupt warming and rapid melting of the northern ice sheets.
Results of the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, appear this week in Science.
This new discovery by OSU researchers resulted from an exhaustive 10-year examination of marine sediment cores recovered off southeast Alaska where geologic records of climate change provide an unusually detailed history of changing temperatures on a scale of decades to centuries over many thousands of years.
“Synchronization of two major ocean systems can amplify the transport of heat toward the polar regions and cause larger fluctuations in northern hemisphere climate,” said Summer Praetorius, a doctoral student in marine geology at Oregon State and lead author on the Science paper. “This is consistent with theoretical predictions of what happens when Earth’s climate reaches a tipping point.”
“That doesn’t necessarily mean that the same thing will happen in the future,” she pointed out, “but we cannot rule out that possibility.”
The study found that synchronization of the two regional systems began as climate was gradually warming. After synchronization, the researchers detected wild variability that amplified the changes and accelerated into an abrupt warming event of several degrees within a few decades.
“As the systems become synchronized, they organized and reinforced each other, eventually running away like screeching feedback from a microphone,” said Alan Mix, a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and co-author on the paper. “Suddenly you had the combined effects of two major oceans forcing the climate instead of one at a time.”
“The example that we uncovered is a cause for concern because many people assume that climate change will be gradual and predictable,” Mix added. “But the study shows that there can be vast climate swings over a period of decades to centuries. If such a thing happened in the future, it could challenges society’s ability to cope.”
What made this study unusual is that the researchers had such a detailed look at the geologic record. While modern climate observations can be made every day, the length of instrumental records is relatively short – typically less than a century. In contrast, paleoclimatic records extend far into the past and give good context for modern changes, the researchers say. However, the resolution of most paleo records is low, limited to looking at changes that occur over thousands of years.
In this study, the researchers examined sediment cores taken from the Gulf of Alaska in 2004 during an expedition led by Mix. The mountains in the region are eroding so fast that sedimentation rates are “phenomenal,” he said. “Essentially, this rapid sedimentation provides a ‘climate tape recorder’ at extremely high fidelity.”
Praetorius then led an effort to look at past temperatures by slicing the sediment into decade-long chunks spanning more than 8,000 years – a laborious process that took years to complete. She measured ratios of oxygen isotopes trapped in fossil shells of marine plankton called foraminifera. The isotopes record the temperature and salinity of the water where the plankton lived.
When the foraminifera died, their shells sank to the sea floor and were preserved in the sediments that eventually were recovered by Mix’s coring team.
The researchers then compared their findings with data from the North Greenland Ice Core Project to see if the two distinct high-latitude climate systems were in any way related.
Most of the time, the two regions vary independently, but about 15,500 years ago, temperature changes started to line up and then both regions warmed abruptly by about five degrees (C) within just a few decades. Praetorius noted that much warmer ocean waters likely would have a profound effect on northern-hemisphere climates by melting sea ice, warming the atmosphere and destabilizing ice sheets over Canada and Europe.
A tipping point for climate change “may be crossed in an instant,” Mix noted, “but the actual response of the Earth’s system may play out over centuries or even thousands of years during a period of dynamic adjustment.”
“Understanding those dynamics requires that we look at examples from the past,” Mix said. “If we really do cross such a boundary in the future, we should probably take a long-term perspective and realize that change will become the new normal. It may be a wild ride.”
Added Praetorius: “Our study does suggest that the synchronization of the two major ocean systems is a potential early warning system to begin looking for the tipping point.”College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences Media Contact: Mark Floyd Source:
A 15-year analysis of satellite-tagged blue whales off the West Coast found that their favored feeding areas are bisected by heavily used shipping lanes, increasing the threat of injury and mortality.
NEWPORT, Ore. – A comprehensive 15-year analysis of the movements of satellite-tagged blue whales off the West Coast of the United States found that their favored feeding areas are bisected by heavily used shipping lanes, increasing the threat of injury and mortality.
The researchers note that moving the shipping lanes off Los Angeles and San Francisco to slightly different areas – at least, during summer and fall when blue whales are most abundant – could significantly decrease the probability of ships striking the whales. A similar relocation of shipping lanes in the Bay of Fundy off eastern Canada lowered the likelihood of vessels striking endangered right whales an estimated 80 percent.
Results of the study – which was supported by the Office of Naval Research, the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, private gifts to the Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute and others – are being published this week in the journal PLOS ONE.
The analysis is the most comprehensive study of blue whales movements ever conducted. It was led by researchers at Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, who tracked the movement of blue whales off the West Coast to identify important habitat areas and environmental correlates, and subsequently to understand the timing of their presence near major ports and shipping traffic.
“The main areas that attract blue whales are highly productive, strong upwelling zones that produce large amounts of krill – which is pretty much all that they eat,” said Ladd Irvine, a researcher with OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute and lead author on the PLOS ONE study. “The whales have to maximize their food intake during the summer before they migrate south for the winter, typically starting in mid-October to mid-November.”
“It appears that two of their main foraging areas are coincidentally crossed by shipping lanes,” Irvine added.
In their study, the researchers attached transmitters to 171 blue whales off California at different times between 1993 and 2008 and tracked their movements via satellite. Their study looked at seasonal as well as individual differences in whale distribution, documenting a high degree of variability – but also a strong fidelity to the upwelling zones that coincide with ship traffic to and from the major ports of Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Blue whales can grow to the length of a basketball court, weigh as much as 25 large elephants combined, and their mouths could hold 100 people, though their diet is primarily krill – tiny shrimp-like creatures less than two inches in length. The blue whale is the largest creature to ever inhabit the Earth, yet little was known about their range or where they went to breed until Oregon State’s Bruce Mate led a series of tracking studies featured in the popular 2009 National Geographic documentary, “Kingdom of the Blue Whale.”
An estimated 2,500 of the world’s 10,000 blue whales spend time in the waters off the West Coast of the Americas and are known as the eastern North Pacific population. The huge whales can travel from the Gulf of Alaska all the way down to an area near the equator known as the Costa Rica Dome.
The majority of the population spends the summer and fall in the waters off the U.S. West Coast, with the areas most heavily used by the tagged whales occurring off California’s Santa Barbara and San Francisco, which puts them in constant peril from ship strikes.
“During one year, while we were filming the documentary, five blue whales were hit off of southern California during a seven-week period,” said Mate, who directs the Marine Mammal Institute at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore. “Blue whales may not be as acoustically aware as species that rely on echolocation to find prey and there is some evidence that the location of the engines in the rear of the ship creates something of an acoustic shadow in front of them, making it hard for whales to hear the ship coming.
“Putting some kind of noise deterrent on the ships isn’t really an option, however,” Mate added. “You don’t really want to drive endangered whales out of their prime habitat and best feeding locations.”
Moving the shipping lanes would not be unprecedented, the researchers note. Scientists brought concerns about right whale ship strikes in the Bay of Fundy to the International Maritime Organization, and the industry led the effort to modify shipping lanes in the North Atlantic more than a decade ago.
Daniel Palacios, also a co-author on the paper and a principal investigator with OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute, said vessel traffic between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles moved south of its current location in the past to comply with the California Clear Air Act, but shifted back to its current location after getting an exemption to the legislation.
“It is not often that research results are so applicable to a policy decision.” Palacios said, “It’s not really our place to make management decisions, but we can inform policy-makers and in this case it is pretty straightforward. You will eliminate many of the ship strikes on blue whales by moving the shipping lanes south of the northern Channel Islands.”
The solution for the San Francisco area is similar, the researchers note, though not quite as simple. Three separate shipping lanes are used in the region and all cross through the home range and core areas of blue whales tagged in this study.
“We did find that the northernmost shipping lanes crossed the area that was most heavily used by tagged whales,” Irvine noted. “Restricting use of the northern lane during the summer and fall when more whales are present is one option; another would be to extend one lane further offshore before separating it into different trajectories, minimizing the overlap of the shipping lanes with the areas used by blue whales.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is planning a review of shipping lanes in the southern California area, which will be informed by this study. A variety of stakeholders must be consulted, however, before any changes are implemented.
Other funding sources for this study over the years including the TOPP Program (Tagging of Pacific Pelagics), the OSU Marine Mammal Institute Endowment, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Packard Foundation, NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Smithsonian Institution.Hatfield Marine Science Center Media Contact: Mark Floyd Source:
(photo at left and below by
Flip Nicklin/Minden Pictures)
Image by Ladd Irvine
Photo by Craig Hayslip
photo by Craig Hayslip
Photo by Flip Nicklin/Minden Pictures
Photo by Craig Hayslip