Oregon State University

Research news

Siuslaw National Forest, OSU Libraries bring forest history collection to public

OSU News Releases - Fri, 08/16/2013 - 8:46am
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Nearly 5,000 digital images of the Siuslaw National Forest are being made available to the public through Oregon State University Libraries.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Nearly 5,000 digital images of the Siuslaw National Forest are being made available to the public through Oregon State University Libraries. The images are part of the Siuslaw National Forest Digital Collection and include pictures dating back to the beginnings of the Siuslaw in 1908 to the present.

“This collection is the first step in a long-ranging joint project between OSU Libraries’ Center for Digital Scholarship, the Special Collections & Archives Research Center and the Siuslaw National Forest,” said Ruth Vondracek, natural resources archivist at OSU. “The collection showcases some important pieces of Oregon history and we’re excited to make it available to the public.”

One of the primary objectives behind the project is making forest history publicly accessible. The digital images made available in this collection were created by volunteers in the Passport in Time Program, a volunteer archaeology and historic preservation program of the U.S. Forest Service.  Under the supervision of former Siuslaw National Forest Heritage Program manager Phyllis Steeves, volunteers scanned images over the course of a decade, and even developed the database to store the associated information.

“Ranging from early 20th-century homesteading activities to modern stream restoration efforts, the collection includes a wide array of topics that reflect the changing management, landscapes, and people on the Siuslaw National Forest,” said Heritage Resource Program manager Kevin Bruce.

Siuslaw National Forest staff will provide historical information (photos, documents, audio, etc.) in digital format to OSU, which will store and manage the information for general public access. A highlight of the collection is a series of photographs taken by Corydon Cronk during his time as an assistant ranger on the forest in 1910-1911.

“In a time when budgets are limited, the project serves as a great example of how federal agencies and universities can work together to share resources to produce a quality product for the public,” said Jerry Ingersoll, Siuslaw National Forest supervisor. “With our headquarters located on campus, the forest is in good alignment with OSU.”

The collection will expand in the future as the forest continues to add additional images and other forms of historical information such as oral histories, Forest Service administrative documents, and newsletters.

The Siuslaw National Forest Digital Collection is available at: http://oregondigital.org/digcol/siuslaw

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Theresa Hogue Source: 

Kevin Bruce, 541-750-7053; Ruth Vondracek, 541-737-9273

Categories: Research news

Study documents early warming of West Antarctica at end of last ice age

OSU News Releases - Wed, 08/14/2013 - 9:50am
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A new study documents and explains how West Antarctic began emerging from the last ice age 2,000 to 4,000 years earlier than previously thought.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – West Antarctica began emerging from the last ice age about 22,000 years ago – well before other regions of Antarctica and the rest of the world, according to a team of scientists who analyzed a two-mile-long ice core, one of the deepest ever drilled in Antarctica.

Scientists say that changes in the amount of solar energy triggered the warming of West Antarctica and the subsequent release of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the Southern Ocean amplified the effect and resulted in warming on a global scale, eventually ending the ice age.

Results of the study were published this week in the journal Nature. The authors are all members of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide project, which was funded by the National Science Foundation.

The study is significant because it adds to the growing body of scientific understanding about how the Earth emerges from an ice age. Edward Brook, an Oregon State University paleoclimatologist and co-author on the Nature study, said the key to this new discovery about West Antarctica resulted from analysis of the 3,405-meter ice core.

“This ice core is special because it came from a place in West Antarctica where the snowfall is very high and left an average of 20 inches of ice or more per year to study,” said Brook, a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “Not only did it allow us to provide more accurate dating because we can count the layers, it gave us a ton more data – and those data clearly show an earlier warming of the region than was previously thought.”

Previous studies have pointed to changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun as the initial trigger in deglaciation during the last ice age. An increase in the intensity of summer sunlight in the northern hemisphere melted ice sheets in Canada and Europe starting at about 20,000 years ago and is believed to have triggered warming elsewhere on the globe.

It previously was thought that Antarctica started its major warming a few thousand years later, at about 18,000 years before present. However, the new study shows that at least part of Antarctica started to warm 2,000 to 4,000 years before this. The authors hypothesize that changes in the total amount of sunlight in Antarctica and melt-back of sea ice caused early warming at this coastal site – warming that is not recorded by ice cores in the interior of the continent.

“The site of the core is near the coast and it conceivably feels the coastal influence much more so than the inland sites where most of the high-elevation East Antarctic cores have been drilled,” Brook said. “As the sunlight increased, it reduced the amount of sea ice in the Southern Ocean and warmed West Antarctica. The subsequent rise of CO2 then escalated the process on a global scale.”

“What is new here is our observation that West Antarctica did not wait for a cue from the Northern Hemisphere before it began warming,” Brook said, “What hasn’t changed is that the initial warming and melting of the ice sheets triggered the release of CO2 from the oceans, which accelerated the demise of the ice age.”

Brook said the recent increase in CO2 via human causes is also warming the planet, “but much more rapidly.”

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Ed Brook, 541-737-8197; brook@geo.oregonstate.edu

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Categories: Research news

OSU ranked 11th in nation as “Cool School” by Sierra Club for green efforts

OSU News Releases - Wed, 08/14/2013 - 9:02am
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Oregon State University has once again been honored for its commitment to sustainability, making it one of the top green colleges in the nation.

CORVALLIS, OR. –Oregon State University has once again been honored for its commitment to sustainability, making it one of the top green colleges in the nation.

The Sierra Club has released its “Cool Schools” rankings based on the ‘greenness’ of participating universities, and Oregon State has the highest green ranking in the state, and is listed as 11th in the nation, rising from 24th in 2010.

Brandon Trelstad, OSU’s sustainability coordinator, said he is excited to see the university being honored by the Sierra Club.

“I’m delighted we have again been recognized for our sustainability efforts by the Sierra Club,” Trelstad said. “It showcases OSU’s strength in sustainability – a multifaceted approach that includes student engagement, reducing negative environmental impact, outstanding research and long-term cost savings, all aligned with OSU’s mission.”

“The recognition of Oregon State by the Sierra Club and its Cool Schools program helps the university by supporting our outreach and educational activities,” he added. “Several times in the past year, I have heard of students who, when they were thinking about where to pursue higher education, selected OSU because of its reputation for taking sustainability seriously.”

The Cool Schools ranking is open to all four-year undergraduate colleges and universities in the nation. The award honors 162 colleges that are helping to solve climate problems and making significant efforts to operate sustainably. Evaluations were based on survey information provided by the participating schools, as well as follow up inquiries and outside sources.

Oregon State’s emphasis on “being green” begins the moment when new students come on campus, according to the survey. Sustainability is a large part of the university’s new student orientation, including zero-waste food events, a Sustainability Fair, and an emphasis on recycling in the residence halls.

OSU has been honored for its efforts at supporting alternative transportation for students, faculty and staff living off campus, including ride sharing, a campus shuttle system, bike parking and lockers, utilization of Corvallis transit and WeCar sharing.

There are a number of active green student groups on the Oregon State campus, including the Student Sustainability Initiative, which is involved in everything from the restoration of local watersheds to composting on campus to sustainable food projects.

OSU offers hundreds of courses on campus with a sustainability emphasis, ranging from “Sustainable Forest Management” to “Renewable Energy Alternatives: Economics and Technology.” There are even study abroad programs with a sustainability focus to places like Australia and Costa Rica.

Other highlights include OSU’s leadership in the formation of Oregon BEST (Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center) which helps Oregon businesses compete globally by transforming and commercializing university research into new technologies, services, products, and companies, all with an emphasis in renewable energy and sustainable products.

The campus participates in an annual, month-long Campus Carbon Challenge, which encourages students, staff and faculty to reduce their carbon footprint by changing their daily behaviors. There is an emphasis on reducing waste and using sustainable products in the dining centers, and around campus, a variety of alternative energy approaches have been used, including the utilization of solar hot water systems at the Kelley Engineering Building and at the International Living Center, which supply half of those buildings’ hot water needs.

To learn more about the Sierra Club’s “Cool Schools” survey, go to: www.sierraclub.org/coolschools.

Lewis & Clark College came in at in 19th place, followed by Southern Oregon at 26th, Portland State University at 31st, and University of Oregon at 46th.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Theresa Hogue Source: 

Brandon Trelstad, 541-737-3307, Brandon.trelstad@oregonstate.edu

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Students recycle items
when moving out of dorms

Categories: Research news

Researchers use circulation models, genetics to track “lost years” of turtles

OSU News Releases - Wed, 08/14/2013 - 7:40am
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When green turtles toddle out to the ocean after hatching from eggs they disappear and aren’t seen again for several years. A new study shows where they may go during these "lost years."

CORVALLIS, Ore. – When green turtles toddle out to the ocean after hatching from eggs at sandy beaches they more or less disappear from view and aren’t seen again for several years until they show up as juveniles at coastal foraging areas.

Researchers have long puzzled over what happens to the turtles during these “lost years,” as they were dubbed decades ago. Now a new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society outlines where they likely would be based on ocean currents.

It is the first quantitative estimate of juvenile turtle distribution across an entire ocean basin and experts say it is significant because it gives researchers in North America, South America, Europe and Africa an idea of where hatchlings that emerge on beaches will go next, and where the juveniles foraging along the coastlines most likely came from.

“Hatchling sea turtles are too small for transmitters and electronic tags, and their mortality rate is sufficiently high to make it cost-prohibitive anyway,” said Nathan F. Putman, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “Even if you could develop a perfect sensor, you would need tens of thousands of them because baby turtles get gobbled up at such a fast rate. So we decided to look at an indirect approach.”

Putman and his colleague, Eugenia Naro-Maciel of City University of New York, used sophisticated ocean circulation models to trace the likely route of baby green turtles from known nesting sites once they entered the water. They also identified known locations of foraging sites where the turtles reappeared as juveniles, and went backwards – tracing where they most likely arrived via currents.

“This is not a definitive survey of where turtles go – it is more a simplification of reality – but it is a starting point and a big and comprehensive starting point at that,” Putman pointed out. “Turtles have flippers and can swim, so they aren’t necessarily beholden to the currents. But what this study provides is an indication of the oceanic environment that young turtles encounter, and how this environment likely influences turtle distributions.

“When we compared the predictions of population connectivity from our ocean current model and estimates from a genetic model, we found that they correlate pretty well,” said Putman, a researcher in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. “Each approach, individually, has limitations but when you put them together the degree of uncertainty is substantially reduced.”

The researchers simulated the dispersal of turtles from each of 29 separate locations in the Atlantic and West Indian Ocean and identified “hot spots” throughout these basins where computer models suggest that virtual turtles would be densely aggregated. This includes portions of the southern Caribbean, the Sargasso Sea, and portions of the South Atlantic Ocean and the West Indian Ocean.

In contrast, they estimate that the fewest number of turtles would be located in the open ocean along the equator between South America and central Africa.

Based on the models, it appears that turtles from many populations would circumnavigate the Atlantic Ocean basin. “Backtracking” simulations revealed that numerous foraging grounds were predicted to have turtles arrive from the North Atlantic, South Atlantic and Southwest Indian oceans. Thus, a high degree of connectivity among populations appears likely based on circulation patterns at the ocean surface.

Putman said the next step in the research might be for turtle biologists throughout the Atlantic Ocean basin to “ground truth” the model by looking for young turtles in those hotspots. Knowing more about their early life history and migration routes could help in managing the population, he said.

“Perhaps the best part about this modeling is that it is a testable hypothesis,” Putman said. “People studying turtles throughout the Atlantic basin will have predictions of turtle distributions based on solid oceanographic data to help interpret what they are observing.

“Finding these little turtles is like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack,” Putman added. “But at least we’ve helped researchers understand where that haystack most likely would be located.”

Putman also has a study coming out in Biology Letters using similar methodology to predict ocean distribution patterns for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Nathan Putman, 205-218-5276; Nathan.putman@oregonstate.edu

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Hatchling green turtle

 


Distribution of turtles
from Florida

Categories: Research news

Study finds novel worm community affecting methane release in ocean

OSU News Releases - Mon, 08/12/2013 - 9:31am
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Scientists have discovered a super-charged methane seep in the ocean off New Zealand with a unique food web, resulting in more methane escaping from the ocean floor.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Scientists have discovered a super-charged methane seep in the ocean off New Zealand that has created its own unique food web, resulting in much more methane escaping from the ocean floor into the water column.

Most of that methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming our atmosphere, is likely consumed by biological activity in the water, the scientists say. Thus it will not make it into the atmosphere, where it could exacerbate global warming. However, the discovery does highlight scientists’ limited understanding of the global methane cycle – and specifically the biological interactions that create the stability of the ocean system.

Results of the study, which was funded primarily by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany, have just been published online in the journal Limnology and Oceanography.

“We didn’t discover any major ‘burps’ of methane escaping into the atmosphere,” said Andrew R. Thurber, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “However, some of the methane seeps are releasing hundreds of times the amounts of methane we typically see in other locations, so the structure and interactions of this unique habitat certainly got our attention.

“What made this discovery most exciting was that it is one of the first and best examples of a direct link between a food web and the dynamics that control greenhouse gas emissions from the ocean,” Thurber added.

The scientists first discovered this new series of methane seeps in 600 to 1,200 meters of water off North Island of New Zealand in 2006 and 2007. The amount of methane emitted from the seeps was surprisingly high, fueling a unique habitat dominated by polychaetes, or worms, from the family Ampharetidae.

"They were so abundant that the sediment was black from their dense tubes,” Thurber pointed out.

Those tubes, or tunnels in the sediment, are critical, the researchers say. By burrowing into the sediment, the worms essentially created tens of thousands of new conduits for methane trapped below the surface to escape from the sediments. Bacteria consumes much of the methane, converting it to carbon dioxide, and the worms feast on the enriched bacteria – bolstering their healthy population and leading to more tunnels and subsequently, greater methane release.

The researchers say that there is one more critical element necessary for the creation of this unique habitat – oxygen-rich waters near the seafloor that the bacteria harness to consume the methane efficiently. The oxygen also enables the worms to breathe better and in turn consume the bacteria at a faster rate.

“In essence, the worms are eating so much microbial biomass that they are shifting the dynamics of the sediment microbial community to an oxygen- and methane-fueled habitat – and the worms’ movements and grazing are likely causing the microbial populations to eat methane faster,” said Thurber, who works in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “That process, however, also leads to more worms that build more conduits in the sediments, and this can result in the release of additional methane.”

Methane seeps and worm communities are present in many other areas around the world, the researchers point out, including the Pacific Northwest. However, the deep water in many of these locations has low levels of oxygen, which the scientists think is a factor that constrains the growth of the worm populations. In contrast, the study sites off New Zealand are bathed in cold, oxygen-rich water from the Southern Ocean that fuels these unique habitats.

“The large amounts of methane consumed by bacteria have kept it from reaching the surface,” Thurber said. “Those bacteria essentially are putting the pin back in the methane grenade. But we don’t know if the worms ultimately may overgraze the bacteria and overtax the system. It’s something we haven’t really seen before.”

Also participating in the study were scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in Wellington, New Zealand, and the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Germany.

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Andrew Thurber, 541-737-8251; athurber@coas.oregonstate.edu

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Worm feeding

 

Worm outside its tube

 

Worm bed off coast

of New Zealand

Categories: Research news

Pass the salt: Common condiment could enable new high-tech industry

OSU News Releases - Thu, 08/08/2013 - 9:19am
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Ordinary table salt may be the key to an important new industry in silicon nanostructures, which have promise for energy storage, biomedicine and other fields.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Chemists at Oregon State University have identified a compound that could significantly reduce the cost and potentially enable the mass commercial production of silicon nanostructures – materials that have huge potential in everything from electronics to biomedicine and energy storage.

This extraordinary compound is called table salt.

Simple sodium chloride, most frequently found in a salt shaker, has the ability to solve a key problem in the production of silicon nanostructures, researchers just announced in Scientific Reports, a professional journal.

By melting and absorbing heat at a critical moment during a “magnesiothermic reaction,” the salt prevents the collapse of the valuable nanostructures that researchers are trying to create. The molten salt can then be washed away by dissolving it in water, and it can be recycled and used again.

The concept, surprising in its simplicity, should open the door to wider use of these remarkable materials that have stimulated scientific research all over the world.

“This could be what it takes to open up an important new industry,” said David Xiulei Ji, an assistant professor of chemistry in the OSU College of Science. “There are methods now to create silicon nanostructures, but they are very costly and can only produce tiny amounts.

“The use of salt as a heat scavenger in this process should allow the production of high-quality silicon nanostructures in large quantities at low cost,” he said. “If we can get the cost low enough many new applications may emerge.”

Silicon, the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, has already created a revolution in electronics. But silicon nanostructures, which are complex structures much smaller than a speck of dust, have potential that goes far beyond the element itself.

Uses are envisioned in photonics, biological imaging, sensors, drug delivery, thermoelectric materials that can convert heat into electricity, and energy storage.

Batteries are one of the most obvious and possibly first applications that may emerge from this field, Ji said. It should be possible with silicon nanostructures to create batteries – for anything from a cell phone to an electric car – that last nearly twice as long before they need recharging.

Existing technologies to make silicon nanostructures are costly, and simpler technologies in the past would not work because they required such high temperatures. Ji developed a methodology that mixed sodium chloride and magnesium with diatomaceous earth, a cheap and abundant form of silicon.

When the temperature reached 801 degrees centigrade, the salt melted and absorbed heat in the process. This basic chemical concept – a solid melting into a liquid absorbs heat – kept the nanostructure from collapsing.

The sodium chloride did not contaminate or otherwise affect the reaction, researchers said. Scaling reactions such as this up to larger commercial levels should be feasible, they said.

The study also created, for the first time with this process, nanoporous composite materials of silicon and germanium. These could have wide applications in semiconductors, thermoelectric materials and electrochemical energy devices.

Funding for the research was provided by OSU. Six other researchers from the Department of Chemistry and the OSU Department of Chemical Engineering also collaborated on the work.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

David Xiulei Ji, 541-737-6798

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Silicon nanostructures




Table salt

Categories: Research news

Oregon State University students produce interactive iBook Atlas of the Columbia River Basin

OSU News Releases - Wed, 08/07/2013 - 3:00pm
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Another version of this story is available on Terra magazine at Oregon State.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — The Columbia River Basin comes to life in a new digital atlas produced by Oregon State University cartography students. Starting with ArcMap, they created an iBook — accessible via Apple’s iPad — which combines the look and feel of a traditional paper book with the touch-screen features of a tablet computer.

Through colorful maps, animations, photos and video, the new atlas allows users to explore the basin’s geology, climate, social history and land use. It shows the location and extent of historical and current tribal lands — Kootenai, Nez Perce, Umatilla and others — the region’s population centers and a time-lapse display of dam construction from 1900 to the present. Maps also show the location of salmon runs, recreation sites and public lands. 

Under the guidance of Bernhard Jenny, cartographer and assistant professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, 17 graduate and undergraduate students published the Atlas of the Columbia River Basin. It can be downloaded free as a PDF or iBook from the cartography and visualization group at Oregon State. Jenny has submitted it to Apple’s iTunes library.

Creating the interactive and static maps required the use of three different software packages, says Jenny. Students used ArcMap to merge geospatial data from different sources and design the maps. They reprojected the maps to a local coordinate system that was optimized for the portrayal of the transboundary Columbia Basin. After exporting the maps from ArcMap into Adobe Illustrator, they fine-tuned symbolization, labeling and layout. The last step consisted of placing the maps in iBooks Author, the authoring software for creating eBooks for the iPad. The maps were combined with interactive features, text, diagrams and other elements and laid out in this authoring software.

Unlike most atlases that are restricted by national and state borders, this atlas crosses the boundary between Canada and the United States, says Kimberly Ogren, an Oregon State Ph.D. student. Ogren helped to develop the 33-page document as a student in Jenny’s course on computer-assisted cartography.

“If you apply cartography concepts in the right way,” she says, “you will create a map that draws people to the information and conveys it effectively. People will want to learn more. That’s our hope for this atlas.”

Not Just Another Digital Map

More than a useful resource about the Columbia basin, the new atlas is also a milestone in cartography. “Cartographers haven’t used these new formats with all their features,” says Jenny. He notes that the first digital map (The Electronic Atlas of Canada) was created in 1981, but it and its successors have been more useful for specialists than for the general public.

“Those atlases don’t have individual page layouts or elements like diagrams and pictures,” he says. “They’re more standardized in their appearance and functionality.” In essence, most digital atlases provide a visual interface for viewing and analyzing data rather than an educational resource for the public.

In contrast, the Atlas of the Columbia River Basin presents information in a format that is accessible. It includes a table of contents and chapters. It integrates digital data with other book-like features and touch-screen functions that are familiar to any smart phone or tablet computer user.

The advantage for mapmakers, says Jenny, lies in the ease with which such atlases can be created. The downside is that creativity in terms of interactivity is limited to what the authoring software allows. In addition, e-books cannot be exported to multiple brands of devices. Apple’s iBook authoring software, for example, creates e-books only for Apple devices.

The evolution of atlases to tablet computers follows the growth in sales of iPads, Amazon’s Kindle and other tablets in the last few years. In 2014, says Jenny, sales of tablet computers are expected to outpace sales of desktop and notebook PCs combined. E-books have grown in popularity as well and accounted for about 20 percent of publishers’ revenues in 2012. In 2011, sales of e-books outpaced sales of hardcover adult fiction.

Jenny plans to continue incorporating iBook publishing in his cartography classes. Both he and Ogren say that students in the cartography class benefited by creating a product that they could show to future employers as well as family and friends.

-30-

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Bernhard Jenny, 541-737-1204

Categories: Research news

Veterinary hospital resuming normal operation after equine influenza outbreak

OSU News Releases - Wed, 08/07/2013 - 12:28pm
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The Veterinary Teaching Hospital has resumed normal operations following an outbreak of equine influenza, which for the past two weeks kept it from accepting horses for anything but emergency services.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Oregon State University has resumed normal operations following an outbreak of equine influenza, which for the past two weeks kept it from accepting horses for anything but emergency services.

There were six confirmed cases of equine influenza, a highly contagious respiratory disease in horses that usually isn’t fatal, but is a particular concern to foals and pregnant horses, since it can cause abortion. The original source of the infection appears to be a horse admitted to the hospital. Four horses are still shedding the virus but are now contained in an isolation facility, and all are expected to make a full recovery.

All horses in the Large Animal Hospital are testing negative for the virus, and stalls have been disinfected, then left empty for at least 48 hours, an adequate time to kill any remaining flu virus in a dry environment.

“We’d like to thank all of our clients for their patience and cooperation while we worked through this issue,” said Ron Mandsager, interim associate director of the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “The most important thing is to protect the health of all our animals. Unfortunately, equine influenza is endemic in the U.S. and sometimes these situations occur.”

Equine influenza is not transferable to humans or other animal species, but can spread rapidly among horses and other equines. It is the most common contagious respiratory pathogen for horses and most animals fully recover. However, young, elderly or pregnant animals are more at-risk for viral diseases such as equine influenza.

“The incident should be a reminder to all horse owners,” said Keith Poulsen, associate professor of large animal internal medicine. “It’s important to vaccinate their animals, practice good biosecurity, and monitor horses closely when they are in contact with other horses during and after events like fairs, competitions and trail rides.”

The first clinical sign of this disease in horses is typically a fever, followed by cough, nasal discharge and lethargy. Horses with a fever of greater than 102.5 degrees should be seen by a veterinarian.

Anyone who has concerns about the health of their animals should contact their veterinarian or the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital at OSU, at 541-737-2858 or http://vetmed.oregonstate.edu/

Hospital officials say they plan to investigate the impact the outbreak has had on hospital operations and the local equine community.

College of Veterinary Medicine Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Keith Poulsen, 541-737-6939

Categories: Research news

OSU faculty selected for “Early Career Development” award

OSU News Releases - Wed, 08/07/2013 - 10:07am
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The National Science Foundation has awarded prestigious Early Career Development grants to three College of Engineering faculty for research in computer science, mathematics and nanotechnology.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Three researchers in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University have received a Faculty Early Career Development award from the National Science Foundation.

These prestigious five-year grants recognize promising faculty at the beginning of their career for excellence and innovation in both research and teaching.

Raviv Raich, an assistant professor in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, develops methods to analyze complex multi-instance data. Applications include training computers to identify bird species from bird song recordings made in the wild, and improving automated tests of blood samples to detect cancer. The $477,000 award will support undergraduate and graduate students who are helping to develop the methods and algorithms for this research.

Glencora Borradaile, an assistant professor in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, advances mathematical techniques to solve problems such as how to connect wind generators to a power grid. Her research seeks to broaden the scope of information used in algorithms to make them more useful for real-world applications. This $500,000 grant will support research by undergraduates and graduate students, and Borradaile will also involve high school students in learning the fundamentals of discrete math, which is the foundation of her research.

Jeff Nason, an assistant professor in the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering, is developing “labeled” nanoparticles that can be detected in complex environmental matrices. This $455,000 award will allow study of the risks associated with nanomaterials and their distribution in the environment.

College of Engineering Media Contact: 

Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098

Source: 

Raviv Raich, (541) 737-9862

Categories: Research news

Cognitive decline with age is normal, routine – but not inevitable

OSU News Releases - Wed, 08/07/2013 - 9:14am
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The process of cognition and making memories is being tracked to its biological roots - and there may be ways to slow or prevent the natural decline in these abilities with age.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – If you forget where you put your car keys and you can’t seem to remember things as well as you used to, the problem may well be with the GluN2B subunits in your NMDA receptors.

And don’t be surprised if by tomorrow you can’t remember the name of those darned subunits.

They help you remember things, but you’ve been losing them almost since the day you were born, and it’s only going to get worse. An old adult may have only half as many of them as a younger person.

Research on these biochemical processes in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University is making it clear that cognitive decline with age is a natural part of life, and scientists are tracking the problem down to highly specific components of the brain. Separate from some more serious problems like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, virtually everyone loses memory-making and cognitive abilities as they age. The process is well under way by the age of 40 and picks up speed after that.

But of considerable interest: It may not have to be that way.

“These are biological processes, and once we fully understand what is going on, we may be able to slow or prevent it,” said Kathy Magnusson, a neuroscientist in the OSU Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, and professor in the Linus Pauling Institute. “There may be ways to influence it with diet, health habits, continued mental activity or even drugs.”

The processes are complex. In a study just published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that one protein that stabilizes receptors in a young animal – a good thing conducive to learning and memory – can have just the opposite effect if there’s too much of it in an older animal.

But complexity aside, progress is being made. In recent research, supported by the National Institutes of Health, OSU scientists used a genetic therapy in laboratory mice, in which a virus helped carry complementary DNA into appropriate cells and restored some GluN2B subunits. Tests showed that it helped mice improve their memory and cognitive ability.

The NMDA receptor has been known of for decades, Magnusson said. It plays a role in memory and learning but isn’t active all the time – it takes a fairly strong stimulus of some type to turn it on and allow you to remember something. The routine of getting dressed in the morning is ignored and quickly lost to the fog of time, but the day you had an auto accident earns a permanent etching in your memory.

Within the NMDA receptor are various subunits, and Magnusson said that research keeps pointing back to the GluN2B subunit as one of the most important. Infants and children have lots of them, and as a result are like a sponge in soaking up memories and learning new things. But they gradually dwindle in number with age, and it also appears the ones that are left work less efficiently.

“You can still learn new things and make new memories when you are older, but it’s not as easy,” Magnusson said. “Fewer messages get through, fewer connections get made, and your brain has to work harder.”

Until more specific help is available, she said, some of the best advice for maintaining cognitive function is to keep using your brain. Break old habits, do things different ways. Get physical exercise, maintain a good diet and ensure social interaction. Such activities help keep these “subunits” active and functioning.

Gene therapy such as that already used in mice would probably be a last choice for humans, rather than a first option, Magnusson said. Dietary or drug options would be explored first.

“The one thing that does seem fairly clear is that cognitive decline is not inevitable,” she said. “It’s biological, we’re finding out why it happens, and it appears there are ways we might be able to slow or stop it, perhaps repair the NMDA receptors. If we can determine how to do that without harm, we will.”

Linus Pauling Institute Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Kathy Magnusson, 541-737-6923

Categories: Research news

Climate center at OSU gets major grant to study forest mortality

OSU News Releases - Tue, 08/06/2013 - 11:08am
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A large grant to OSU researchers will help them explore how drought, insect attack and climate change may affect forest die-offs in the future.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has received a five-year, $4 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to investigate increasing impacts of drought, insect attacks and fires on forests in the western U.S., and to project how the influence of climate change may affect forest die-offs in the future.

The researchers will also enhance an earth system model to allow them to predict when forests are becoming vulnerable to physiological stress and then create strategies to minimize impacts of climate, insects and fire.

“The western United States has gone through two decades of devastating forest loss and we don’t even fully know why it happened, much less how to predict these events,” said Philip Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at OSU and a principal investigator on the grant. “Certainly wildfire, bark beetle infestation and drought play a role, but the intersection of these factors with forest management decisions hasn’t been well-explored.

“A change in severity of drought, for example, can make the difference between trees losing some needles and wiping out the entire stand,” added Mote, a professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU. “The margin between life and death in the forest can be rather small.”

Other lead investigators from OSU on the project include Beverly Law, a professor in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, who will focus on modeling forest processes with the Community Land Model; and Andrew Plantinga, a professor in the Department of Applied Economics, whose expertise is on the economics of land use, climate change and forests.

“Climate variation and extremes can impact trees differently depending on species-specific traits that determine how they compete and respond to environmental conditions,” Law said. “We know little about how physiological limits vary by species, and have not incorporated such knowledge in earth system models.”

The OSU researchers note that forest management decisions could potentially play a role during periods of drought, for example. Drought-stressed trees become vulnerable when they experience vapor pressure deficits – and cannot take in enough water to sustain them, or to remain vigorous enough to help repel invading bark beetles, said Law, who is co-lead principal investigator on the project.

An excess of trees in an area of limited water might benefit from targeted thinning so fewer trees remain to compete for the same amount of water, Law noted. However, forests that already have low densities “are not expected to respond well,” she said.

“What we don’t know,” Mote said, “is what the threshold is between stress and mortality, which trees to thin and how many, and whether such a strategy not only works, but is economically feasible for landowners.”

Law said the intervention strategies “should not result in potentially harmful ecological impacts on habitat and soil quality.”

Among the goals of the project are to:

  • Improve the ability of a leading land surface model to predict tree mortality;
  • Map the vulnerability of western forests to mortality under present and future climate conditions,  particularly in Oregon, Washington, California and Idaho;
  • Apply forest vulnerability data to forest sector models to help land managers better predict ecological and economic outcomes, including timber production, forest recreation and water use.

As part of the study, the researchers will run computer models that will utilize a crowd-sourced computing effort called Weatherathome.net, through which a network of thousands of volunteers will use their home computers to run climate model scenarios. Such a network can equal or exceed the output of a supercomputer.

The OSU grant is part of the inter-agency Decadal and Regional Climate Prediction Using Earth System Models Program, which is coordinated by the National Science Foundation and includes USDA and the Department of Energy.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Phil Mote, 541-737-5694

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Forest die-off

Categories: Research news

New companies, research ideas chosen to join OSU Venture Accelerator

OSU News Releases - Tue, 08/06/2013 - 10:09am
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A dozen spinoff companies or research concepts have been chosen as the first participants in the OSU Venture Accelerator, designed to help speed their products to the commercial marketplace.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Administrators of the Venture Accelerator at Oregon State University have chosen the first 12 research concepts or spinoff companies to participate in the program, which is designed to spur the creation of new companies from university-based research.

The Venture Accelerator is one component of the Oregon State University Advantage, an educational, research and commercialization initiative begun earlier this year. Officials say it should increase industry investment in OSU research by 50 percent and lead to the creation of 20 new businesses within five years.

With the announcement of its first participants, some of those companies may already be taking shape.

In the future this could lead to innovative types of automobiles, improved heating systems, more efficient solar cells, electricity produced from wastewater, an enhanced online shopping experience or – in a pinch – a safe and efficient caesarian delivery of a baby in small, rural hospitals.

“These concepts and companies are emerging from OSU or the Corvallis community, and we feel good about the commercial potential of all of them,” said John Turner, co-director of the Venture Accelerator Program.

“We think the Venture Accelerator will contribute at all stages of their commercial development and really speed the companies toward success,” Turner said. “It’s also worth noting that we’ve chosen some technologies that are incremental advances in a field, and others may represent breakthroughs of global importance. There’s a place for both in what we’re trying to do in job creation and economic advancement.”

The Venture Accelerator at OSU is designed to identify innovation or research findings that might form the basis for profitable companies, and then streamline their development with the legal, marketing, financial and mentoring needs that turn good ideas into real-world businesses. The approach can be customized to each client’s needs and also allows them to tap into the resource of OSU students who can assist in research and business development.

The new companies and innovations include:

  • Waste2Watergy – A Corvallis startup company to commercialize OSU research on the production of electricity from wastewater, while also treating the wastewater.
  • Valliscor, LLC –Valliscor is a chemical manufacturing company that provides innovative solutions to access compounds for the pharmaceutical, agricultural, polymer and electronics industries.
  • MOVE – Referring to “methane opportunities for vehicle energy,” this company is being developed from research at OSU-Cascades to allow a car that runs on methane to compress its own fuel and be re-fueled from a homeowner’s natural gas supply.
  • Macromolecular structure characterization – This is based on a patent of a new way to solve protein structures that could transform biological research.
  • Heating systems – Devices using microchannel arrays to heat air or water that are small or portable could offer much higher efficiency for residential or other uses.
  • Beet – A solar cell device will be developed based on patented absorber material that allows high conversion efficiency.
  • Multicopter Northwest – This company will develop and sell small helicopter and photographic systems to produce photos or video at an altitude up to 400 feet.
  • PlayPulse – The physiological responses of video game users will be measured to help producers understand user behavior.
  • InforeMed – The company will create serious games for health care education.
  • BuyBott – This online website will simplify shopping and enhance social interaction.
  • Bauer Labs LLC – Technology from the company includes a facilitator for emergency caesarean delivery, a special challenge in rural hospitals.
  • FanTogether – Sports fans will stay connected to their favorite teams or individuals.

The OSU Venture Accelerator is a component of the South Willamette Valley Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network, or RAIN, which was made possible by recent legislative approval and funding of $3.75 million.

The University of Oregon and OSU, along with the cities of Eugene, Springfield, Albany and Corvallis, are all collaborating in this broad initiative that taps into the research and educational expertise of academia and aggressively moves it toward private economic growth.

Oregon State University Advantage Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

John Turner, 541-737-9219

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Electricity from wastewater

Categories: Research news

OSU names Susan Tornquist interim dean of veterinary medicine

OSU News Releases - Thu, 08/01/2013 - 3:25pm
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – Susan Tornquist, associate dean in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University, has been named interim dean of the college.

She succeeds Cyril Clarke, who will become dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine effective Oct. 1.

Tornquist has been on the faculty at Oregon State since 1996, most recently as associate dean of student and academic affairs in OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where she also is a professor of clinical pathology. Her research interests have focused on immune responses to infectious and metabolic diseases in animals, particularly llama and alpacas.

As associate dean Tornquist has helped the college grow its enrollment, coordinate student internships, build partnerships with the Oregon Humane Society and other organizations, and make student experiential learning a hallmark of the program.

Tornquist received her veterinary medical degree from Colorado State University and her doctorate in veterinary pathology from Washington State University.

Sabah Randhawa, OSU provost and executive vice president, said Tornquist will transition into the role of interim dean over the next several weeks. He has begun a national search to fill Clarke’s position.

College of Veterinary Medicine Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Sabah Randhawa, 541-737-2111

Categories: Research news

OSU receives $1.2 million to expand fermentation science program

OSU News Releases - Thu, 08/01/2013 - 10:09am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. - In the closing days of the 2013 legislative session, Oregon lawmakers approved $1.2 million for Oregon State University to enhance the Agricultural Experiment Station’s fermentation sciences program.

Demonstrating broad bipartisan support, the legislation was sponsored by 41 Oregon lawmakers.

“It’s significant that a strong coalition of industry members and key legislators supported this initiative, given the challenging funding environment,” said Jim Bernau, founder of the Willamette Valley Vineyards. “This research effort will create more Oregon jobs in these growing industries.”

The funding will support university research in all aspects of the production of high value wine, beer, cheese, breads and distilled spirits, all products of fermentation.

Fermentation adds value to many of Oregon’s crops, according to Bill Boggess, an economist and interim director of the Oregon Wine Research Institute. For example, he said, artisan cheese increases the value of a gallon of milk ten-fold; high quality wine increases the value of Pinot noir grapes up to eight times; and craft beer increases the value of hops and barley as much as 30 times. In addition, distillation adds significant value to fruits and grains.

Among other enhancements to the existing program, the legislative funding will help establish a new research distillery at OSU, adding another key feature to its fermentation program.

The program began in 1995 when the Oregon legislature voted to match a $500,000 gift from Jim Bernau to establish the nation’s first endowed professorship in fermentation science. It quickly grew into a full suite of programs in brewing science, enology and viticulture, dairy, and breads.

With the additional investment from the 2013 legislature, OSU will be the first university in the nation with a working research winery, brewery and distillery, keeping pace with Oregon’s rapidly diversifying fermentation industries, according to Bob McGorrin, Jacobs-Root Professor and head of OSU’s Food Science and Technology Department.

“Oregon’s distilled spirits industry is relatively young and rapidly growing,” McGorrin said, “similar to where the Oregon wine and microbrew industries were 25 years ago.

In fact, all Oregon’s fermentation industries are advancing rapidly, bringing with them an increased demand for quality local ingredients, such as fruits, grains and milk, according to Dan Arp, Reub Long Professor and dean of OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

“We need to advance our research in order to keep up with these industries and their needs for product innovation, food safety and sustainable production. It’s all part of assuring Oregon’s reputation for premium quality products,” Arp said.

Besides the establishment of a new distilling program, the legislative funding will expand OSU’s fermentation research in areas such as:

• new varieties of aroma hops and new methods for assessing beer bitterness;

• molecular and microbial factors that affect wine quality;

• cheese fermentation methods for greater consistency and food safety.

Funding will also support research into the sustainable production of high quality ingredients used in fermentation, with emphasis on:

• wine grape research and innovative vineyard management;

• barley, hop and wheat breeding, creating new varieties for new products;

• milk production research and teaching at the OSU Dairy herd and student experience producing Beaver Classic cheese;

• anticipating agricultural challenges from emerging pests, disease, and climatic conditions.

Oregon is home to more than 460 wineries, 850 vineyards, and 170 microbreweries. The annual economic impact of Oregon’s wine and beer industries is approximately $5.5 billion, according to the Oregon Wine Board and the Oregon Brewers’ Guild.

In parallel with the growth of industries, student enrollment in the fermentation sciences program at OSU has grown 500 percent in the last 10 years, according to McGorrin.

OSU’s undergraduate and graduate degree programs build on certificate and associate degree programs at Chemeketa and Umpqua community colleges, partners in providing a strong workforce for Oregon’s fermentation industries, McGorrin said.

Representatives from those industries, in particular Sam Tannahill of A to Z Wineworks and Ed King of King Estate Winery, were instrumental in supporting funding for fermentation sciences at OSU.      

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Peg Herring Source: 

Bob McGorrin, 541-737-8737;

Bill Boggess, 541-737-1395;

Dan Arp, 541-737-2331

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Professors Tom Shellhammer (second from left) and Shaun Townsend (far right) test the taste and aroma of an experimental beer in Oregon State University's research brewery on campus. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum)

Categories: Research news

OSU announces plan to pursue independent institutional board

OSU News Releases - Tue, 07/30/2013 - 8:27am
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Oregon State University President Ed Ray announced today that OSU will establish its own independent institutional board to govern Oregon’s only university with a statewide presence.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University President Ed Ray announced today that OSU will establish its own independent institutional board to govern Oregon’s only university with a statewide presence and help guide OSU’s mission to serve the state and the needs of its citizens in a growing global economy.

“Oregon State University, Oregon’s statewide university, was created to serve the higher education needs of the people of Oregon,” Ray said. “That service is our core mission and part of our DNA.”

“Advancing Oregon’s future and attaining the state’s 40-40-20 educational achievement goals are central to OSU’s mission as a 21st-century land grant university and can best be accomplished through the creation of a university governing board that represents all of our state.”

Ray confirmed his intent to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber in writing and in personal phone calls.

Under Senate Bill 270, which was adopted by the 2013 Oregon Legislative Assembly, Oregon State University, the University of Oregon and Portland State University are established as legal entities separate from each other as well as from the remaining four regional universities and the Oregon University System. OSU, UO and PSU will each have its own institutional board with 11 to 15 members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Oregon Senate.

“Guided by our mission and values, we are working closely with the governor as he seeks leaders from across the state and nation to serve as board members who represent the diversity of Oregon and understand the needs of its residents and regional concerns,” Ray said.

Membership on Oregon State’s board will include civic, business and educational leaders and will include one student, one faculty member and one university employee who is not from the faculty. As president, Ray will serve as an ex-officio, non-voting member. Kitzhaber will announce his appointments in mid-August with a Senate confirmation process expected in September. Board members serve voluntarily and do not earn a salary.

More information about why OSU opted for an institutional board is available online at: http://oregonstate.edu/leadership/institutional-board-faq

Ray’s decision followed an extensive outreach effort this spring in which he met with hundreds of OSU students, faculty, staff and alumni, industry leaders and members of the OSU Foundation and the OSU Alumni Association.

“I have talked to many individuals and groups regarding institutional boards, and I have heard two clear and distinct messages: First, given the adoption of Senate Bill 270, OSU should have an institutional board and on the same timeline as the University of Oregon and Portland State.

“The second message surprised me a little and pleased me a lot,” Ray said. “People told me that we should step up and do all that we can to maintain a sense of a system in higher education by promoting collaboration and affiliations. Simply put, we must not let down the people of Oregon just to make the university better off. We view advancing Oregon’s future and attaining Oregon’s 40-40-20 educational achievement goals as mission critical.”

Oregon’s “40-40-20 Goal” is for 40 percent of adult Oregonians to hold a bachelor’s or advanced degree, 40 percent to have an associate’s degree or a meaningful postsecondary certificate, and all adult Oregonians to hold a high school diploma or equivalent by the year 2025.

As provided in Senate Bill 270, the board has broad authority and will be responsible for developing a budget proposal for the 2015-17 biennium by April 2014. Under the bill, the board’s establishment becomes formal in July 2014. Board responsibilities include:

  • Establishing policies for all aspects of the university’s business;
  • Establishing tuition and fees;
  • Providing academic program oversight;
  • Approving the university’s budget for submission to the state;
  • Appointing and employing OSU’s president in consultation with the governor.

“We are not taking this step just to advance our own reputation,” Ray said. “We are taking this step as Oregon’s statewide university. This university was created to serve the educational needs of the people of Oregon and to advance economic and social progress. We are committed to engage with Gov. Kitzhaber and help attain Oregon’s 40-40-20 educational achievement goals in a partnership with the state’s entire education continuum – from pre-kindergarten through all of Oregon’s universities.”

“We will work enthusiastically and collaboratively with university colleagues to address the statewide higher education needs of all Oregonians,” Ray added, “while retaining the benefits of a university system.”

Oregon State University’s main campus is located in Corvallis, and the OSU–Cascades branch campus is located in Bend. OSU operates the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport as well as 15 agricultural experiment stations and research centers and six forest research laboratories around the state. OSU Extension has offices and programs in all 36 Oregon counties.

OSU is Oregon’s fastest growing university with 26,000-plus students. OSU graduates come from all 36 Oregon counties. During the last five years the university has attracted more valedictorians and salutatorians from Oregon high schools than any other university in the state. OSU received $281 million in funded research last year, more than all of Oregon’s other public universities combined.

Meanwhile, the Campaign for OSU led by the OSU Foundation raised more than $100 million last year to reach $948 million, toward a $1 billion campaign goal that will conclude in December 2014.  OSU’s statewide economic impact is more than $2 billion.

Generic OSU Source: 

Steve Clark, 541-737-3808 (cell phone: 503-502-8217); steve.clark@oregonstate.edu

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OSU President Ed Ray

Categories: Research news

Of bears and berries: return of wolves aids grizzly bears in Yellowstone

OSU News Releases - Fri, 07/26/2013 - 3:59pm
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For most of a century grizzly bears in Yellowstone have been missing most of the berries they historically ate - now, with the return of wolves, the berries are back.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study suggests that the return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park is beginning to bring back a key part of the diet of grizzly bears that has been missing for much of the past century – berries that help bears put on fat before going into hibernation.

It’s one of the first reports to identify the interactions between these large, important predators, based on complex ecological processes. It was published today by scientists from Oregon State University and Washington State University in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

The researchers found that the level of berries consumed by Yellowstone grizzlies is significantly higher now that shrubs are starting to recover following the re-introduction of wolves, which have reduced over-browsing by elk herds. The berry bushes also produce flowers of value to pollinators like butterflies, insects and hummingbirds; food for other small and large mammals; and special benefits to birds.

The report said that berries may be sufficiently important to grizzly bear diet and health that they could be considered in legal disputes – as is white pine nut availability now - about whether or not to change the “threatened” status of grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act.

“Wild fruit is typically an important part of grizzly bear diet, especially in late summer when they are trying to gain weight as rapidly as possible before winter hibernation,” said William Ripple, a professor in the OSU Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, and lead author on the article. “Berries are one part of a diverse food source that aids bear survival and reproduction, and at certain times of the year can be more than half their diet in many places in North America.”

When wolves were removed from Yellowstone early in the 1900s, increased browsing by elk herds caused the demise of young aspen and willow trees – a favorite food – along with many berry-producing shrubs and tall, herbaceous plants. The recovery of those trees and other food sources since the re-introduction of wolves in the 1990s has had a profound impact on the Yellowstone ecosystem, researchers say, even though it’s still in the very early stages.

“Studies like this also point to the need for an ecologically effective number of wolves,” said co-author Robert Beschta, an OSU professor emeritus. “As we learn more about the cascading effects they have on ecosystems, the issue may be more than having just enough individual wolves so they can survive as a species. In some situations, we may wish to consider the numbers necessary to help control overbrowsing, allow tree and shrub recovery, and restore ecosystem health.”

As wolves help reduce elk numbers in Yellowstone and allow tree and shrub recovery, researchers said, this improves the diet and health of grizzly bears. In turn, a healthy grizzly bear population provides a second avenue of control on wild ungulates, especially on newborns in the spring time.

Yellowstone has a wide variety of nutritious berries – serviceberry, chokecherry, buffaloberry, twinberry, huckleberry and others – that are highly palatable to bears. These shrubs are also eaten by elk and thus likely declined as elk populations grew over time. With the return of wolves, the new study found the percentage of fruit in grizzly bear scat in recent years almost doubled during August.

Because the abundant elk have been an important food for Yellowstone grizzly bears for the past half-century, the increased supply of berries may help offset the reduced availability of elk in the bears’ diet in recent years. More research is needed regarding the effects of wolves on plants and animals consumed by grizzly bears.

There is precedent for high levels of ungulate herbivory causing problems for grizzly bears, who are omnivores that eat both plants and animals. Before going extinct in the American Southwest by the early 1900s, grizzly bear diets shifted toward livestock depredation, the report noted, because of lack of plant-based food caused by livestock overgrazing. And, in the absence of wolves, black bears went extinct on Anticosti Island in Canada after over-browsing of berry shrubs by introduced while-tailed deer.

Increases in berry production in Yellowstone may also provide a buffer against other ecosystem shifts, the researchers noted – whitebark pine nut production, a favored bear food, may be facing pressure from climate change. Grizzly bear survival declined during years of low nut production.

Livestock grazing in grizzly bear habitat adjacent to the national park, and bison herbivory in the park, likely also contribute to high foraging pressure on shrubs and forbs, the report said. In addition to eliminating wolf-livestock conflicts, retiring livestock allotments in the grizzly bear recovery zone adjacent to Yellowstone could benefit bears through increases in plant foods.

The research was supported by private, state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey.

College of Forestry Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

William Ripple, 541-737-3056

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Grizzly bear




Serviceberries

Categories: Research news

New OSU longhouse features gift of Native American art

OSU News Releases - Fri, 07/26/2013 - 10:47am
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The two Houser sculptures – “Mountain Echoes” and the 8-foot, 600-pound “Watercarrier” – were donated to the center by the family of Portland developer and philanthropist John D. Gray. The 1940 OSU alumnus, who passed away last year, and his late wife, Betty, were friends with Houser and avid collectors of Native American art.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Partially framed with massive Douglas fir beams and sided with cedar planks, Oregon State University’s new Native American Longhouse stands out from the campus’s traditional red brick.

Like a wooden jewelry box, the cultural center holds several significant pieces of art, representing a variety of Native American traditions. Among its treasures are two bronze sculptures by the late Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache artist, Allan Houser. Originally from Santa Fe, Houser is often cited as the “father” of contemporary American Indian sculpture.

The two Houser sculptures – “Mountain Echoes” and the 8-foot, 600-pound “Watercarrier” – were donated to the center by the family of Portland developer and philanthropist John D. Gray. The 1940 OSU alumnus, who passed away last year, and his late wife, Betty, were friends with Houser and avid collectors of Native American art.

Another prominent artwork inside the longhouse is a 12-foot, one-of-a-kind totem pole created by Clarence Mills. A member of the Haida Nation, an indigenous people located in Canada and Alaska, Mills and two assistants carved the totem from an 800-year-old cedar tree that fell in Vancouver, B.C.’s Stanley Park in 2006, and was donated to Mills. Thirteen creatures appear on the 360-degree totem, including a beaver, Oregon State’s mascot.

The totem was commissioned by Vancouver residents Jim and Luana Whyte, who graduated from OSU in 1970 and 1972. Longtime admirers of Native American art, the Whytes also contributed a painting by Haidi artist Bill Reid to the longhouse. Reid is known worldwide for his “Spirit of Haida Gwaii” sculpture, which is pictured on the Canadian $20 bill.

“The idea of carving all the way around the pole was inspired by another artist’s sculpture that’s less than a foot high,” Jim Whyte said.  “Working at a much larger scale was far more difficult. It took 10 times longer than a traditional totem. No one has created a 360-degree, full-size totem before, and I wouldn’t expect others to attempt it; it’s far too expensive.”

Additional artwork in the center by Oregon artists includes paintings by Rick Bartow, of Wiyot and Yurok heritage, and metalwork by Tony Johnson of the Chinook Tribe and Shirod Younker of the Coquille and Coos Indian Tribes.

“We are pleased that we can share art of this quality with the Oregon State community and visitors to our campus, thanks to our generous donors,” said OSU President Ray. “Our longhouse is nicknamed Eena Hawes, or ‘Beaver House,’ signifying that it’s for all Oregon State Beavers. At OSU we believe that art, too, is for everyone. It enriches the experience of students from every major.”

The Native American Longhouse is the first of four new cultural center facilities to open its doors on campus. The initiative got off the ground with a $500,000 gift from the late Portland philanthropist Joyce Collin Furman to create the OSU President’s Fund for Cultural Centers. The 1965 OSU alumna was a strong supporter of her alma mater and served on the steering committee for The Campaign for OSU. 

The cultural centers are among 24 major facility projects that have been completed or are under way at OSU as a result of the current $1 billion campaign.

Media Contact:  Michelle Williams Source: 

Michelle Williams, 541-737-6126 

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Categories: Research news

Global warming to cut snow water storage 56 percent in Oregon watershed

OSU News Releases - Thu, 07/25/2013 - 9:17am
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The water found in snowpack on the McKenzie River watershed is expected to drop 56 percent by the middle of this century, with impacts on everything from agriculture to hydropower and industry.

The study this story is based on is available online: http://bit.ly/13ZLzl1

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new report projects that by the middle of this century there will be an average 56 percent drop in the amount of water stored in peak snowpack in the McKenzie River watershed of the Oregon Cascade Range -  and that similar impacts may be found on low-elevation maritime snow packs around the world.

The findings by scientists at Oregon State University, which are based on a projected 3.6 degree Fahrenheit temperature increase, highlight the special risks facing many low-elevation, mountainous regions where snow often falls near the freezing point. In such areas, changing from snow to rain only requires a very modest rise in temperature.

As in Oregon, which depends on Cascade Range winter snowpack for much of the water in the populous Willamette Valley, there may be significant impacts on ecosystems, agriculture, hydropower, industry, municipalities and recreation, especially in summer when water demands peak.

The latest study was one of the most precise of its type done on an entire watershed, and was just published in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, with support from the National Science Foundation. It makes it clear that new choices are coming for western Oregon and other regions like it.

“In Oregon we have a water-rich environment, but even here we will have to manage our water resources differently in the future,” said Eric Sproles, who led this study as a doctoral student at OSU.

“In the Willamette River, for instance, between 60-80 percent of summer stream flow comes from seasonal snow above 4,000 feet,” he said. “As more precipitation falls as rain, there will more chance of winter flooding as well as summer drought in the same season. More than 70 percent of Oregon’s population lives in the Willamette Valley, with the economy and ecosystems depending heavily on this river.”

Annual precipitation in the future may be either higher or lower, the OSU researchers said. They did calculations for precipitation changes that could range 10 percent in either direction, although change of that magnitude is not anticipated by most climate models.

The study made clear, so far as snowpack goes, that temperature is the driving force, far more than precipitation. Even the highest levels of anticipated precipitation had almost no impact on snow-water storage, they said.

“This is not an issue that will just affect Oregon,” said Anne Nolin, a professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, and co-author of the study. “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.”

The focus of this study was the McKenzie River, a beautiful, clear mountain river that rises in the high Cascade Range near the Three Sisters volcanoes, and supplies about 25 percent of the late summer discharge of the Willamette River. Researchers said this is one of the most detailed studies of its type done on a large watershed.

Among the findings of the study:

  • The average date of peak snowpack in the spring on this watershed will be about 12 days earlier by the middle of this century.
  • The elevation zone from 1,000 to 1,500 meters will lose the greatest volume of stored water, and some locations at that elevation could lose more than 80 days of snow cover in an average year.
  • Changes in dam operations in the McKenzie River watershed will be needed, but will not be able to make up for the vast capability of water storage in snow.
  • Summer water flows will be going down even as Oregon’s population surges by about 400,000 people from 2010 to 2020.
  • Globally, maritime snow comprises about 10 percent of the Earth’s seasonal snow cover.
  • Snowmelt is a source of water for more than one billion people.
  • Precipitation is highly sensitive to temperature and can fall as rain, snow, or a rain-snow mix.

The model developed for this research, scientists said, could be readily adapted to help other regions in similar situations determine their future loss of snow water in the future.

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Eric Sproles, 541-729-1377

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McKenzie River watershed




McKenzie River

Categories: Research news

Study explains Pacific equatorial cold water region

OSU News Releases - Thu, 07/25/2013 - 8:37am
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New research published in the journal Nature outlines how cold, deep water from below mix at sea, with implications for global warming and El Nino events.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study published this week in the journal Nature reveals for the first time how the mixing of cold, deep waters from below can change sea surface temperatures on seasonal and longer timescales.

Because this occurs in a huge region of the ocean that takes up heat from the atmosphere, these changes can influence global climate patterns, particularly global warming.

Using a new measurement of mixing, Jim Moum and Jonathan Nash of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University have obtained the first multi-year records of mixing that permit assessment of seasonal changes. This is a significant advance beyond traditional shipboard measurements that are limited to the time that a ship can be away from port. Small instruments fueled by lithium batteries were built to be easily deployed on deep-sea equatorial moorings.

Moum employs a simple demonstration to show how mixing works.

He pours cold, white cream into a clear glass mug full of hot, black coffee, very carefully, using a straw to inject the heavier cream at the bottom of the mug, where it remains.

“Now we can wait until the cream diffuses into the coffee, and we’ll have a nice cuppa joe,” Moum says. “Unfortunately, the coffee will be cold by then. Or, we can introduce some external energy into the system, and mix it.”

A stirring spoon reveals motions in the mug outlined by the black/white contrasts of cream in coffee until the contrast completely disappears, and the color achieves that of café au lait.

“Mixing is obviously important in our normal lives, from the kitchen to the dispersal of pollutants in the atmosphere, reducing them to levels that are barely tolerable,” he said.

The new study shows how mixing, at the same small scales that appear in your morning coffee, is critical to the ocean. It outlines the processes that create the equatorial Pacific cold tongue, a broad expanse of ocean near the equator that is roughly the size of the continental United States, with sea surface temperatures substantially cooler than surrounding areas.

Because this is a huge expanse that takes up heat from the atmosphere, understanding how it does so is critical to seasonal weather patterns, El Nino, and to global climate change.

In temperate latitudes, the atmosphere heats the ocean in summer and cools it in winter. This causes a clear seasonal cycle in sea surface temperature, at least in the middle of the ocean. At low latitudes near the equator, the atmosphere heats the sea surface throughout the year. Yet a strong seasonal cycle in sea surface temperature is present here, as well. This has puzzled oceanographers for decades who have suspected mixing may be the cause but have not been able to prove this.

Moum, Nash and their colleagues began their effort in 2005 to document mixing at various depths on an annual basis, which previously had been a near-impossible task.

“This is a very important area scientifically, but it’s also quite remote,” Moum said. “From a ship it’s impossible to get the kinds of record lengths needed to resolve seasonal cycles, let alone processes with longer-term cycles like El Nino and La Nina. But for the first time in 2005, we were able to deploy instrumentation to measure mixing on a NOAA mooring and monitor the processes on a year-round basis.”

The researchers found clear evidence that mixing alone cools the sea surface in the cold tongue, and that the magnitude of mixing is influenced by equatorial currents that flow from east to west at the surface, and from west to east in deeper waters 100 meters beneath the surface.

“There is a hint – although it is too early to tell – that increased mixing may lead, or have a correlation to the development of La Niña,” Moum said. “Conversely, less mixing may be associated with El Niño. But we only have a six-year record – we’ll need 25 years or more to reach any conclusions on this question.”

Nash said the biggest uncertainty in climate change models is understanding some of the basic processes for the mixing of deep-ocean and surface waters and the impacts on sea surface temperatures. This work should make climate models more accurate in the future.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, and deployments have been supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Continued research will add instruments at the same equatorial mooring and an additional three locations in the equatorial Pacific cold tongue to gather further data.

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Jim Moum, 541-737-2553

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Buoy at sea

Categories: Research news

Veterinary hospital managing equine influenza outbreak

OSU News Releases - Tue, 07/23/2013 - 3:53pm
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Oregon State University will not accept horses for anything but emergency services until at least Tuesday, July 30, due to an outbreak of equine influenza virus at the hospital.

Three horses are known to be infected with this virus, and others could be, officials say. The virus is a highly contagious respiratory disease in horses that typically is not fatal, but is a particular concern to foals and pregnant horses, since it can cause abortion.

Other than equines, the situation will not affect the care of any other small or large animals at the hospital.

The three infected horses have been placed in isolation and are being treated. Officials say they wish to emphasize that this is equine influenza virus, not equine herpes virus-1, a more serious disease that is often confused with the influenza virus.

Equine influenza is not transferable to humans or other animal species, but can spread rapidly among horses and other equines. It is the most common contagious respiratory pathogen for horses and most animals fully recover. However, young, elderly or pregnant animals are more at-risk for viral diseases such as equine influenza.

“Equine influenza virus is endemic in the U.S., and we just happened to catch these cases,” said Keith Poulsen, an internal medicine specialist at the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital in OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “We’ve acted quickly so that hopefully no other animals will get infected.”

The Large Animal Internal Medicine and Surgery Services program at OSU is working with the state veterinarian’s office to inform veterinarians and horse owners about the disease.

The first clinical sign in horses is typically a fever, followed by cough, nasal discharge and lethargy. Horses with a fever of greater than 102.5 degrees should be seen by a veterinarian.

Infected horses can “shed” or transmit the virus for up to 10 days after incubation, although the peak of shedding is three to five days after infection. Horses that show signs of the disease should be isolated from other horses for 10 days after clinical signs first appear.

The virus is easily killed by many disinfectants, and thorough cleaning of stalls and equipment can help prevent the virus from spreading. Vaccination of horses during an outbreak in a training facility or barn can be beneficial, in consultation with a veterinarian.

Anyone who has concerns about the health of their animals should contact their veterinarian or the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital at OSU, at 541-737-2858 or http://vetmed.oregonstate.edu/

The OSU equine facility typically treats 5-10 horses at a time. All horses currently hospitalized will be monitored closely and tested for equine influenza prior to discharge.

College of Veterinary Medicine Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Keith Poulsen, 541-737-6939

Categories: Research news

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