Oregon State University

Research news

Greener neighborhoods lead to better birth outcomes, new research shows

News - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 8:44am
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Mothers who live in greener neighborhoods are more likely to deliver at full term and their babies are born at higher weights, a new study shows.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Mothers who live in neighborhoods with plenty of grass, trees or other green vegetation are more likely to deliver at full term and their babies are born at higher weights, compared to mothers who live in urban areas that aren’t as green, a new study shows.

The findings held up even when results were adjusted for factors such as neighborhood income, exposure to air pollution, noise, and neighborhood walkability, according to researchers at Oregon State University and the University of British Columbia.

“This was a surprise,” said Perry Hystad, an environmental epidemiologist in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State and lead author of the study. “We expected the association between greenness and birth outcomes to disappear once we accounted for other environmental exposures such as air pollution and noise. The research really suggests that greenness affects birth outcomes in other ways, such as psychologically or socially.”

Researchers aren’t sure yet where the link between greenness and birth outcome is. More study is needed to determine if additional green space provides more social opportunities and enhances a person’s sense of belonging in the community, or if it has a psychological effect, reducing stress and depression, Hystad said.

In a study of more than 64,000 births, researchers found that very pre-term births were 20 percent lower and moderate pre-term births were 13 percent lower for infants whose mothers lived in greener neighborhoods.

They also found that fewer infants from greener neighborhoods were considered small for their gestational age. Babies from the greener neighborhoods weighed 45 grams more at birth than infants from less green neighborhoods, Hystad said.

The study establishes an important link between residential “greenness” and birth outcomes that could have significant implications for public health, said Hystad, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health.

“From a medical standpoint, those are small changes in birth weight, but across a large population, those are substantial differences that would have a significant impact on the health of infants in a community,” Hystad said.

Babies born early or underweight often have more health and developmental problems, not just at birth but also as they continue to grow up, and the cost to care for pre-term and underweight infants also can be much higher, Hystad said.

Results of the study were published recently in the journal “Environmental Health Perspectives.” Co-authors were Hugh W. Davies, Lawrence Frank, Josh Van Loon, Lillian Tamburic and Michael Brauer of the University of British Columbia; and Ulrike Gehring of Utrecht University in The Netherlands. The research was supported by a grant from Health Canada.

The study is also part of a growing body of work that indicates green space has a positive influence on health, Hystad said. Researchers examined more than 64,000 births in the Vancouver, British Columbia, area between 1999 and 2002, for individual environmental factors such as exposure to green space that might affect birth outcomes.

Since half the world’s population lives in urban areas, it’s important to understand how different aspects of the built environment – the buildings, parks and other human-made space we live in – might affect health, researchers said.

“We know a lot about the negative influences such as living closer to major roads, but demonstrating that a design choice can have benefits is really uplifting,” said Brauer, the study’s senior author. “With the high cost of healthcare, modifying urban design features such as increasing green space may turn out to be extremely cost-effective strategies to prevent disease, while at the same time also providing ecological benefits.”

It’s unclear how much or what type of green space is of most benefit to developing infants, but researchers do know that adding a planter to the patio or a tree to the sidewalk median probably won’t make a significant difference in birth outcomes.

“Planting one tree likely won’t help,” Hystad said. “You don’t really see the beneficial effects of green space until you reach a certain threshold of greenness in a neighborhood.”

One of the next steps for researchers is to better understand what that threshold is and why it makes a difference.

“We know green space is good. How do we maximize that benefit to improve health outcomes?” Hystad said. “The answer could have significant implications for land use planning and development.”

College of Public Health and Human Sciences Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Perry Hystad, 541-737-4829, perry.hystad@oregonstate.edu or Katherine Came, 604-822-0530, Katherine.came@ubc.ca

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This map shows levels of greenness in Vancouver, British Columbia. Babies in greener areas had higher birthweights.

Researcher Perry Hystad

Categories: Research news

NSF grant gives OSU unique materials characterization capability

News - Tue, 09/02/2014 - 10:35am
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A major new grant from the National Science Foundation to acquire a $1.4 million instrument package will enhance the materials science research at OSU.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has received a $648,000 “major research instrumentation” grant from the National Science Foundation, part of a $1.4 million package to allow the university to acquire a near-ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, or XPS system.

The grant will be matched by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, and Oregon BEST.

“There will be no other XPS system in the world that has all the same capabilities,” said Greg Herman, an associate professor of chemical engineering at OSU and the grant’s principal investigator. “This laboratory will enhance interdisciplinary research and education programs throughout the scientific and engineering communities.”

Conventional XPS technology is a surface analysis technique, which provides the composition, chemical and electronic states of surfaces and interfaces from materials or thin-film structures — information needed in many applications such as catalysis, corrosion, adhesion, semiconductor and dielectric materials, and magnetic media. XPS is used in the automotive, aerospace, electronics, healthcare, and petrochemical industries, and samples under study must be kept under ultra-high vacuum conditions during the analysis.

“A unique aspect of this XPS system is that it allows us to study reactions at pressures close to those on the Earth’s surface, while typical XPS systems operate near lunar surface pressures,” said Herman. “These pressure extremes can significantly change the chemistries that can take place.”

The near-ambient XPS system will be the foundation of the surface characterization laboratory in Johnson Hall, a state-of-the-art engineering building and the future home of the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering. It will be available to researchers from OSU, the Oregon University System, and national and international collaborators from academia, government laboratories, and industry.

College of Engineering Media Contact: 

Thuy Tran, 541-737-0787

Source: 

Greg Herman, 541-737-2496

Categories: Research news

Study: Pacific Northwest shows warming trend over past century-plus

News - Tue, 09/02/2014 - 9:23am
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Annual mean temperature in the Northwest has warmed by about 1.3 degrees (F) since the early 20th century – a warming trend that has been accelerating over the past 3-4 decades.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The annual mean temperature in the Pacific Northwest has warmed by about 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit since the early 20th century – a gradual warming trend that has been accelerating over the past 3-4 decades and is attributed to anthropogenic, or human, causes.

The study is one of the first to isolate the role of greenhouse gases associated with regional warming, the authors say. It was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Climate, a publication of the American Meteorological Society.

“The amount of warming may not sound like a lot to the casual observer, but we already are starting to see some of the impacts and what is particularly significant is that the rate of warming is increasing,” said Philip Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University and a co-author on the study.

“Just a 1.3-degree increase has lengthened the ‘freeze-free’ season by 2-3 weeks and is equivalent to moving the snowline 600 feet up the mountain,” Mote added. “At the rate the temperature is increasing, the next 1.3-degree bump will happen much more quickly.”

In their study, the researchers looked at temperatures and precipitation from 1901 to 2012 in the Northwest, which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana, and the northwestern tip of Wyoming. They examined four different factors to determine the influence of human activities, including greenhouse gases and aerosols; solar cycles; volcanic eruptions; and naturally occurring phenomena including El Niño events and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

Using what is called a “multilinear regression” approach, they were able to tease out the influences of the different factors. Volcanic activity, for example, led to cooler temperatures in 1961, 1982 and 1991. Likewise, El Niño events led to warming in numerous years.

“Natural variation can explain much of the change from year to year, but it cannot account for this long-term warming trend,” noted David Rupp, a research associate with the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute and co-author on the report. “Anthropogenic forcing was the most significant predictor of, and leading contributor to, the warming.”

Among the study’s findings:

  • The Northwest experienced relatively cool periods from 1910-25 and from 1945-60, and a warm period around 1940 and from the mid-1980s until the present.
  • The warmest 10-year period has been from 1998 to 2007, and very few years since 1980 have had below average annual mean temperatures.
  • The most apparent warming trend is in the coldest night of the year, which has warmed significantly in recent decades.
  • The only cooling trend the study documented was for spring temperatures the last three decades and is tied to climate variability and increasing precipitation during those spring months.

“The spring has been robustly wetter,” Mote said, “and that has brought some cooler temperatures for a couple of months. But it has been drier in the fall and winter, and the warming in fall and winter has been steepest since the 1970s.”

Lead author John Abatzoglou of the University of Idaho said that the study ties the warming trend to human activities.

“Climate is a bit like a symphony where different factors like El Niño, solar variability, volcanic eruptions and manmade greenhouse emissions all represent different instruments,” Abatzoglou said. “At regional scales like in the Northwest, years or decades can be dominated by natural climate variability, thereby muffling or compounding the tones of human-induced warming.

“Once you silence the influence of natural factors,” he said, “the signal of warming due to human causes is clear – and it is only getting louder.”

The researchers also explored but were unable to find any link between warming in the Northwest over the past century and solar variability.

A major concern, the authors say, is that the warming seems to be increasing.

“Climate is complex and you can get significant variations from year to year,” Mote said. “You have to step back and look at the big picture of what is happening over time. Clearly the Northwest, like much of the world, is experiencing a warming pattern that isn’t likely to change and, in fact, is accelerating.

“At this rate, the chance of the temperature only going up 1.3 degrees in the next century is close to zero.”

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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

Phil Mote, 541-913-2274, philip.mote@coas.oregonstate.edu

David Rupp, 541-737-5222, David.Rupp@oregonstate.edu

John Abatzoglou, jabatzoglous@uidaho.edu, 208-885-6239

Categories: Research news

Grant will support, encourage women in academic STEM careers at OSU

News - Tue, 09/02/2014 - 9:17am
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A $3.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation will be used to improve conditions for women in the academic science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, disciplines.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has been awarded a $3.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to improve conditions for women in the academic science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, disciplines.

The five-year ADVANCE grant will be used to help recruit, retain and promote more women in STEM and the social and behavioral sciences at OSU; provide support for women in STEM and implement policies and programs that aid in these efforts.

“The goal of the grant is to transform the institutional climate for women in the STEM fields,” said Susan Shaw, the grant’s principal investigator. “What we want is an institution where difference is welcome and the value of different perspectives and experiences is understood.”

OSU is the first institution in the state to receive an institutional transformation grant from the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program. ADVANCE began in 2001 with the goal of increasing the representation and advancement of women in STEM and developing a more diverse science and engineering workforce. Past grant recipients include the University of Washington, Michigan State University and Cornell University.

“Through ADVANCE, the National Science Foundation invests in the future of women in STEM,” said program director Beth Mitchneck. “Supporting institutional change that furthers the advancement of women faculty is a means to making the institution more receptive to talent from all backgrounds.”

Women have historically been underrepresented in the STEM fields ­in academia. In 2012, 23 percent of Oregon State’s STEM faculty, including faculty in the social and behavioral sciences, were women. Women accounted for 20.8 percent of the full professorships in those disciplines.

OSU leaders have taken significant steps to enhance diversity on campus in recent years, and the ADVANCE grant is designed to further the university’s goals, Shaw said.

“A lot of the previous ADVANCE grants have tended to look at women as one group,” said Shaw, who is director of the School of Language, Culture and Society and a professor of women, gender and sexuality studies in the College of Liberal Arts.

“We’re looking at women across differences – race, sexual identity, social, class,” she said. “Those intersections are critically important to understanding women’s professional experiences and challenges.”

A new version of the university’s Difference, Power and Discrimination faculty development program will be crafted to focus on STEM issues. The program includes a summer seminar for STEM faculty and administrators on theories about systems of oppression and the impacts gender, race and class may have on how people participate in an institution, Shaw said.

The first steps to implementing the grant are hiring a program manager and establishing a website for the project. The first faculty seminars are expected next summer, she said.

Shaw and several co-investigators, including faculty in the sciences and social sciences, also will research how OSU’s ADVANCE program is working. They will present findings at conferences, share best practices with other institutions and develop an online journal about program activities, Shaw said.

The co-investigators are Rebecca Warner, senior vice provost for academic affairs; Michelle Bothwell, associate professor of bioengineering in the College of Engineering; Sarina Saturn, assistant professor of psychology in the College of Liberal Arts; and Tuba Ozkan-Haller, professor of earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences and professor of civil and construction engineering.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Susan Shaw, 541-737-3082, sshaw@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Grant to improve STEM success among underrepresented students

News - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 3:21pm
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A new $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation will help OSU increase retention and graduation rates of underrepresented students in STEM fields.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has received a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to improve the retention and graduation rates of underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM fields.

The program will benefit underrepresented minorities, women, and economically disadvantaged individuals, and help address a growing national need for workers trained in STEM disciplines.

Targeted at students in the colleges of science, engineering, and agricultural sciences, the OSU program will use methods proven to increase STEM success, such as small, cohort-based orientation courses; mentoring by student peers; and workshops given by upper-class STEM students.

Faculty-directed undergraduate research in the freshman and early sophomore years, and the immediate post-transfer year for community college students, will also help provide students with enriching experiences that increase learning and provide economic support to help disadvantaged students remain in school.

The program is designed to benefit 276 student participants over its five-year span, and will be evaluated and communicated to other universities, for them to benefit by replicating its successes.

“This should also help build a structure, design and institutional culture of support for STEM students that will be retained long after the funding has ended,” said Kevin Ahern, principal investigator on the grant and a leader in university efforts to get more undergraduate students involved in experiential learning.

Generic OSU Source: 

Kevin Ahern, 541-737-2305

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Student research

Categories: Research news

Intricate algae produce low-cost biosensors

News - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 2:59pm
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OSU engineers are using diatoms, a type of single-celled algae, as a building block to create new types of biosensors.

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University researchers are combining diatoms, a type of single-celled photosynthetic algae, with nanoparticles to create a sensor capable of detecting miniscule amounts of protein or other biomarkers.

This is a new and innovative approach to optical biosensors, which are important in health care for such applications as detecting levels of blood glucose or the presence of antibodies. They are also used for chemical detection in environmental protection.

Existing biosensors often require high-cost fabrication using artificial photonic crystals to make a precisely structured device. But diatoms appear to have just the right kind of intricate structure to integrate with gold or silver nanoparticles and produce a low-cost optical biosensor.

 “I've been working on this kind of sensor for a long time, and using diatoms instead of fabricating photonic crystals makes life much easier,” said Alan Wang, an assistant professor of electrical engineering in the OSU College of Engineering. “And from a commercial point of view it's much lower cost, about 50 cents compared to $50.”

Jeremy Campbell, a graduate student in chemical engineering working with OSU professor Greg Rorrer, brought the diatom to Wang’s attention. This launched a collaboration sponsored by the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute and Marine Polymer Technologies.

Although diatoms are being studied by other groups for applications such as batteries, no one else is researching their use for optical biosensors. Producing a low-cost sensor is important for a consumable product that is thrown away after one use.

Research has shown that using diatoms boosts the performance of the nanoparticles by increasing the absolute value of the signal by 10 times, and the sensitivity by 100 times. The current sensitivity of the OSU biosensor is 1 picogram per milliliter, which is much better than optical sensors used in clinics for detecting glucose, proteins and DNA, which have a sensitivity of 1 nanogram per milliliter.

“Combining naturally created structures with chemically synthesized nanoparticles has the potential to revolutionize the fabrication of photonic devices,” Wang said.

College of Engineering Media Contact: 

By Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098

Source: 

Alan Wang

Categories: Research news

Fungi that changed the world featured at Corvallis Science Pub

News - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 12:51pm
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If you eat bread, drink beer or take antibiotics, thank the fungi that make these things possible. At the Sept. 8 Corvallis Science Pub, Joey Spatafora, a leading fungal biologist, will share the often-bizarre tales of this kingdom of life and reveal how human civilization would be so much poorer without it.

If you eat bread, drink beer or take antibiotics, thank the fungi that make these things possible. At the Sept. 8 Corvallis Science Pub, Joey Spatafora, a leading fungal biologist, will share the often-bizarre tales of this kingdom of life and reveal how human civilization would be so much poorer without it.

The Science Pub presentation is free and open to the public. It begins at 6 p.m. at the Old World Deli, 341 SW 2nd St. in Corvallis.

“Without fungi, human life would be very different — no beer or cheese; no penicillin or cyclosporin antibiotics,” said Spatafora, professor of botany and plant pathology at Oregon State University. “Our forests would be far less resilient and productive. And we’d be swimming in every manner of waste product.”

Spatafora specializes in fungal evolution and leads an international effort funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to sequence the genomes for 1,000 fungal species. He also led a 10-year study called Assembling the Fungal Tree of Life. Out of the estimated 1.5 million species of fungi, scientists have described only about 100,000.

Sponsors of Science Pub include Terra magazine at OSU, the Downtown Corvallis Association and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

 

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Joey Spatafora, 541-737-5304

Categories: Research news

Businesses and government agencies increase Oregon State research funding in 2014

News - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:44pm
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Oregon State University’s growing research enterprise achieved its second highest level of funding support ever, in the fiscal year that ended June 30 – $285 million in total grants and contracts to support work in public health, the environment, advanced engineering and projects to help develop Oregon’s and the nation’s economy.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Oregon State University’s growing research enterprise achieved its second highest level of funding support ever, in the fiscal year that ended June 30 – $285 million in total grants and contracts to support work in public health, the environment, advanced engineering and projects to help develop Oregon’s and the nation’s economy.

In 2010 OSU received $288 million, a total boosted by a $36 million shot-in-the-arm from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). “If you take that one-time funding out of the picture, this past year was our best,” said Ron Adams, interim vice president for research at Oregon State.

“The success of our researchers in competing for grants shows we have a portfolio that is broad and deep,” Adams added. “We have support from more than two dozen state and federal agencies. And on the strength of that work, we continue to attract investment by business, industry and private foundations.”

In the past year, private-sector funding reached a record $37 million, a 50 percent increase over 2010.

Business payments to Oregon State to license patented technologies for product development reached nearly $6 million, more than double what the university received in 2010. OSU patents for transparent transistors, wheat varieties and formaldehyde-free adhesives generated most of that income, said Brian Wall, director of OSU Office for Commercialization and Corporate Development.

Through the Oregon State University Advantage, OSU continues to spin off new companies and to partner with existing ones. During the past year, 19 university and community clients have advanced toward launching new companies. They include:

  • Beet, developer of a thin-film solar cell that aims to increase energy efficiency and accelerate the adoption of solar electricity;
  • MuTherm, which is advancing a microscale combustion and heat exchanger system for heating air, water and other fluids;
  • Waste2Watergy, a company focused on microbial fuel cells to generate electricity and treat wastewater;
  • OnBoard Dynamics, whose goal is to commercialize an at-home natural-gas vehicle fueling system being developed at OSU-Cascades in Bend.

The OSU Advantage Accelerator is a component of the Oregon Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network, or Oregon RAIN. With support from the Oregon Legislature, collaborators include OSU, the University of Oregon, the cities of Eugene, Springfield, Corvallis and Albany and economic development organizations.

At any one time, OSU researchers are conducting more than 1,400 active research projects on topics such as aging, robotics, materials, pharmaceuticals, computer software, salmon recovery, climate, education and health risks from pollutants. They are developing new crop varieties, investigating the use of unmanned aerial systems in agriculture and forest management, improving the understanding of ocean productivity and studying new materials for energy storage.

In 2014, work continued on the design of a new ocean-going research vessel with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). OSU leads this project, estimated to reach $360 million if NSF opts to build three new ships over the next 10 years.

Research funding totaling about $171 million was obtained from more than a dozen federal agencies, with the NSF and the Departments of Energy and Agriculture being the most significant contributors. That was an 11 percent increase over federal funds received in 2013.

Private foundations also provided significant support. The Keck Foundation approved a $1 million grant to OSU to study materials that can change shape when exposed to light and may lead to novel ways to store hydrogen and capture carbon-dioxide. The David and Lucille Packard Foundation provided $1 million for PISCO, the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, for work on climate change and West Coast marine ecosystems.

Technologies developed at OSU continue to make an impact on global markets and the local economy. Transparent transistors developed in the past decade are a critical component in virtually all flat-panel display screens. NuScale Power, an Oregon-based energy development company, is expanding its workforce in response to a $217 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Ron Adams, Vice President for Research, 541-737-7722

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Malwina Gradecka, Ph.D. student from the Warsaw University of Technology

Siva Kolluri, associate professor and cancer researcher, Environmental and Molecular Toxicology

Jonathan Hurst, assistant professor of robotics

Categories: Research news

OSU construction will impact game day traffic

News - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 4:20pm
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Oregon State University opens its football season this Saturday, Aug. 30, with a 1 p.m. game against Portland State in Reser Stadium and OSU officials are urging Beaver fans to budget extra time for traffic and parking because of continuing construction on campus.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University opens its football season this Saturday, Aug. 30, with a 1 p.m. game against Portland State in Reser Stadium and OSU officials are urging Beaver fans to budget extra time for traffic and parking because of continuing construction on campus.

Normal traffic patterns have been altered and some parking areas are no longer accessible.

“Due to the current construction and need for re-routing traffic, there could be delays as officers from Corvallis Police Department, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon State Police safely facilitate traffic flow,” said Lt. Teresa Bloom, Oregon State Police station commander at OSU.

“As we move into the football season, I know fans are excited and we ask for assistance in making this a fun and safe season for all,” Bloom added.

The biggest traffic obstruction is the closure of 15th Street from Jefferson Avenue on the north end to Western Boulevard on the south end. This limits access to several parking lots on the east side of campus. Access to the parking lots south of Callahan and McNary Halls is now only available off 11th Street. Within that parking area, construction of the new residence building, William Tebeau Hall, is in the final stages, blocking access to parts of 13th and 14th Streets around the building.

For the Aug. 30 game, there will be a temporary crosswalk established at Washington Avenue to allow pedestrians to cross 15th through the Facilities Shops area toward Reser Stadium.  This temporary crosswalk will only be in-place for the game.

Officials are hopeful that 15th Street will reopen Sept. 19, before the next home game. The official reopening date is set for Oct. 1.

Another temporary change involves parking around Kerr Administration building, which is only available via S.W. Benton Place, to the west of Kerr, or Washington Way, which can only be accessed from the west (it will continue to be blocked off at 15th Street).

East-west traffic going through campus is also affected as Jefferson Way is closed from Waldo Place to 26th Street. OSU officials hope that Jefferson will reopen before the Sept. 20 home game.

Additionally, off campus construction by private companies along the borders of campus – including a major new housing development off 35th Street – could also impact traffic flow. Road work on 35th Street is scheduled to be completed before Sept. 15.

 

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Theresa Hogue Source: 

Steve Clark, 503-502-8217

Categories: Research news

New degrees place OSU at forefront of robotics research and education

News - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 3:00pm
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New master's and doctoral degrees in robotics will make OSU one of the national leaders in this growing field of study.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University this fall will begin both a master’s and doctoral degree program in robotics, one of only a few universities in the nation to offer such graduate level programs, and a recognition of the changing face of global industry.

OSU has rapidly expanded its robotics faculty, research programs and course offerings in recent years, making the new degrees possible. But this is also a reflection of the changing nature of traditional job roles in American industry and the enormous new educational opportunities it opens for students.

“With robotics, we’re in the middle of something analogous to the Industrial Revolution,” said Jonathan Hurst, an OSU associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of its Dynamic Robotics Laboratory. “The introduction of robots to our lives and the workplace will continue to present both challenges and opportunities, just like the growth of the Internet did.

“But it also creates a huge demand for people with the education and training to build, create, repair and operate those robots,” he added.

Recent advances in robotics now extend them far beyond the factory floor, and robots are poised to significantly enhance human society, OSU experts say.

“We’re talking about driverless cars, improved care for the elderly and disabled, robotic surgery, and robotic limbs,” said Kagan Tumer, an OSU professor of mechanical engineering. “The impact of robotics is extending beyond factories and labs, into the everyday lives of ordinary citizens, and we envision OSU graduates as becoming leaders of these changes.”

Students with both an interest and ability in this emerging field of engineering should easily find employment, university officials say.

"OSU students with robotics training are already being hired into the jobs of their choice, with a 100 per cent hiring rate,” Hurst said. “We hope and expect that the new graduate program will only enhance and extend that record."  

As part of the growth of the program at OSU, the robotics faculty will be moving into and plan a significant renovation of Graf Hall, Hurst said. There are now about 10 “dedicated robotics” faculty at OSU, and more than 30 other faculty from related disciplines who will participate in the new degree offerings. Robotics provides a new platform for collaboration among successful OSU programs in mechanical engineering, artificial intelligence and oceanography, among others.

More information about the robotics and autonomous systems research program at OSU is available online, at http://bit.ly/1nFgl6o

The new graduate degrees will also facilitate expansion of scientific research in robotics, a field that’s still in its infancy. OSU research programs are already active in autonomous robots, multi-robot coordination, legged locomotion, human-robot interactions, robotic prosthetics, and other fields.

College of Engineering Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Jonathan Hurst, 541-737-7010

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Jonathan Hurst

Categories: Research news

Study provides new look at ancient coastline, pathway for early Americans

News - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 7:57am
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The Northwest coast looked vastly different 14,000 years ago from what scientists previously thought, and the exposed land mass may have allowed the First Americans to enter the region.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The first humans who ventured into North America crossed a land bridge from Asia that is now submerged beneath the Bering Sea, and then may have traveled down the West Coast to occupy sites in Oregon and elsewhere as long as 14,000 to 15,000 years ago.

Now a new study has found that the West Coast of North America may have looked vastly different than scientists previously thought, which has implications for understanding how these early Americans made this trek.

The key to this new look at the West Coast landscape is a fresh approach to the region’s sea level history over the last several thousand years. Following the peak of the last ice age about 21,000 years ago, the large continental ice sheets began to retreat, causing sea levels to rise by an average of about 430 feet. When the ice was prominent and sea levels were lower, large expanses of the continental shelf that today are submerged were then exposed.

As the melting progressed and sea levels rose, likely archaeological sites along the coast were submerged.

Most past models have assumed that as the massive North American ice sheets melted, global sea levels rose in concert – a phenomenon known as “the bathtub model.” But the authors of this new study, which was just published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, say sea level rise does not happen uniformly.

“During the last deglaciation, sea level rise was significantly influenced by the weight of the large ice sheets, which depressed the land under and near the ice sheets,” said Jorie Clark, a courtesy professor at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “As the ice sheets melted, this land began to rise. At the same time, the weight of the water melting from the ice sheets and returning to the oceans also depressed the ocean basins.

“This exchange of mass between ice sheets and oceans led to significant differences in sea level at any given location from the assumption of a uniform change,” she added.

The implications of this new approach are significant. The researchers ran models of what the sea level may have looked like over the last 20,000 years – based on knowledge of ice sheet dimensions and the topography of the ocean floor – and concluded that parts of the West Coast looked radically different than previous reconstructions based on a model of uniform sea level rise.

The central Oregon shelf, for example, was thought to be characterized by a series of small islands some 14,000 years ago. However, the models run by Clark and her colleagues suggest that much of the continental shelf was exposed as a solid land mass, creating an extensive coastline. In some areas, the change in estimated sea level may have been as much as 100 feet.

 “There has been new evidence that the peopling of the Americas happened earlier than was long thought to be the case, which has put a lot of focus on coastal paleogeography,” said Clark, who is in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “This new look at sea level changes helps explain how that earlier introduction into the Americas could be possible.”

 “It is also important for predicting where coastal villages that are now submerged on the continental shelf may be located.”

 Other authors on the study were Jerry Mitrovica of Harvard University, and Jay Alder of the U.S. Geological Survey.

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

Jorie Clark, 541-737-1575; clarkjc@geo.oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

OSU researchers tagging whales off southern California

News - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 4:59pm
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OSU researchers are tagging blue and fin whales off southern California as a follow-up to their landmark 15-year analysis on blue whale distribution published last month.

NEWPORT, Ore. – Oregon State University researchers are tagging blue and fin whales off the coast of southern California this summer to study their movements, some of which include preferred feeding grounds near areas of heavy ship traffic.

The project, which is being funded by the U.S. Navy, will build on a previous study by OSU researchers that documented the seasonal distribution of blue whales, including their appearance near established shipping lanes off Santa Barbara. That analysis was based on satellite tracking of 171 blue whales for up to 13 months during a 15-year stretch from 1993 to 2008.

It was published last month in the journal PLOS ONE. Since that publication, six major shipping companies voluntarily agreed to slow their ships near Santa Barbara to lessen the chance of striking endangered blue whales, and to reduce pollution.

“No one wants to see whales hit by ships, and it is clear from the analysis that there has been some historic overlap of blue whale feeding areas and shipping lanes,” said Bruce Mate, director of Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, which is conducting the tagging project. “The goal of the new Navy-funded project is to better understand the seasonal occurrence of blue and fin whales in southern California and determine if that overlap is still taking place for these protected species.”

An OSU team led by Ladd Irvine began tagging the whales last month and thus far has successfully deployed 21 tags. The researchers hope to attach 24 long-term satellite tracking tags – a dozen each for blue whales and fin whales – and another eight more sophisticated tags that will track the whales’ underwater feeding habits. They hope to attach four of these Advanced-Dive-Behavior tags on blue whales and four on fin whales.

OSU’s recently published 15-year analysis was the most comprehensive study of blue whales movements ever conducted. It 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 Irvine, who was 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.”

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. 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.

At a distance, fin whales look a lot like blue whales. They are the second largest of the whales and reach 75 feet in length – the size of two buses. The tall, columnar blows of fin whales look much like that of blue whales. Fin whales have a taller, sickle-shaped dorsal fin, a lower right lip that is white, and feed on schooling fish as well as krill.

Hatfield Marine Science Center Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Bruce Mate, 541-867-0202; bruce.mate@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Science study: Sunlight, not microbes, key to CO2 in Arctic

News - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 11:06am
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A new study published in Science concludes that sunlight, not bacteria, is the key to converting organic carbon stored in Arctic tundra into carbon dioxide.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The vast reservoir of carbon stored in Arctic permafrost is gradually being converted to carbon dioxide (CO2) after entering the freshwater system in a process thought to be controlled largely by microbial activity.

However, a new study – funded by the National Science Foundation and published this week in the journal Science – concludes that sunlight and not bacteria is the key to triggering the production of CO2 from material released by Arctic soils.

The finding is particularly important, scientists say, because climate change could affect when and how permafrost is thawed, which begins the process of converting the organic carbon into CO2.

“Arctic permafrost contains about half of all the organic carbon trapped in soil on the entire Earth – and equals an amount twice of that in the atmosphere,” said Byron Crump, an Oregon State University microbial ecologist and co-author on the Science study. “This represents a major change in thinking about how the carbon cycle works in the Arctic.”

Converting soil carbon to carbon dioxide is a two-step process, notes Rose Cory, an assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Michigan, and lead author on the study. First, the permafrost soil has to thaw and then bacteria must turn the carbon into greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide or methane. While much of this conversion process takes place in the soil, a large amount of carbon is washed out of the soils and into rivers and lakes, she said.

“It turns out, that in Arctic rivers and lakes, sunlight is faster than bacteria at turning organic carbon into CO2,” Cory said. “This new understanding is really critical because if we want to get the right answer about how the warming Arctic may feedback to influence the rest of the world, we have to understand the controls on carbon cycling.

“In other words, if we only consider what the bacteria are doing, we’ll get the wrong answer about how much CO2 may eventually be released from Arctic soils,” Cory added.

The research team measured the speed at which both bacteria and sunlight converted dissolved organic carbon into carbon dioxide in all types of rivers and lakes in the Alaskan Arctic, from glacial-fed rivers draining the Brooks Range to tannin-stained lakes on the coastal plain. Measuring these processes is important, the scientists noted, because bacteria types and activities are variable and the amount of sunlight that reaches the carbon sources can differ by body of water.

In virtually all of the freshwater systems they measured, however, sunlight was always faster than bacteria at converting the organic carbon into CO2.

“This is because most of the fresh water in the Arctic is shallow, meaning sunlight can reach the bottom of any river – and most lakes – so that no dissolved organic carbon is kept in the dark,” said Crump, an associate professor in Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “Also, there is little shading of rivers and lakes in the Arctic because there are no trees.”

Another factor limiting the microbial contribution is that bacteria grow more slowly in these cold, nutrient-rich waters.

“Light, therefore, can have a tremendous effect on organic matter,” University of Michigan’s Cory pointed out.

The source of all of this organic carbon is primarily tundra plants – and it has been building up for hundreds of thousands of years, but doesn’t completely break down immediately because of the Arctic’s cold temperatures. Once the plant material gets deep enough into the soil, the degradation stops and it becomes preserved, much like peat.

“The level of thawing only gets to be a foot deep or so, even in the summer,” Crump said. “Right now, the thaw begins not long before the summer solstice. If the seasons begin to shift with climate change – and the thaw begins earlier, exposing the organic carbon from permafrost to more sunlight – it could potentially trigger the release of more CO2.”

The science community has not yet been able to accurately calculate how much organic carbon from the permafrost is being converted into CO2, and thus it will be difficult to monitor potential changes because of climate change, they acknowledge.

“We have to assume that as more material thaws and enters Arctic lakes and rivers, more will be converted to CO2,” Crump said. “The challenge is how to quantify that.”

Some of the data for the study was made available through the National Science Foundation’s Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research project, which has operated in the Arctic for nearly 30 years.

Other authors on the study are Collin Ward and George Kling of the University of Michigan.

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

Byron Crump, 541-737-4369; bcrump@coas.oregonstate.edu;

Rose Cory, 734-615-3199, rmcory@umich.edu

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Byron Crump, OSU

 


Rose Cory, Michigan

Categories: Research news

OSU sociologist: Policy will determine economic impact of legal marijuana

News - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 1:43pm
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The economic impact of legalizing marijuana in Oregon is difficult to estimate because the potential market will depend in large part on policy decisions, according to sociologist Seth Crawford.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The economic impact of legalizing marijuana in Oregon is difficult to estimate because the potential market will depend in large part on what kind of policies would be adopted if a proposed ballot measure passes in November, according to an Oregon State University sociologist who studies the issue.

“Marijuana is already a serious economic force in Oregon,” said Seth Crawford, an expert on the policies and market structure of marijuana in Oregon. “When you consider the proposed excise tax and additional revenue from income taxes, it could become a sizeable income stream for the state.”

Oregon voters will decide in November whether to legalize recreational marijuana production and use. Policymakers are trying to determine the economic impact of legalizing marijuana and Crawford’s research was recently cited in an economic report commissioned by backers of the ballot initiative, as well as by the state legislative revenue office.

If marijuana is legalized in Oregon, the state could net anywhere from $35 million to $105 million in new tax revenue per year, Crawford estimated in research published earlier this year in the Humboldt Journal of Social Relations.

Any additional expenses generated from legalizing marijuana would be small in comparison to money generated from the taxes, Crawford believes. Police and court expenses would be lower if marijuana use was legalized, he pointed out.

“From a purely economic standpoint, it’s a net win for the state’s budget,” he said. “There are still going to be enforcement issues, but the costs are likely to be lower than what is spent on enforcement now.”

The economic effect of legalizing marijuana will be determined in part by how much of the existing black market moves into the new legal market and by how much marijuana producers will be allowed to grow, Crawford said. Under the proposed ballot measure, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission would determine how marijuana would be legally sold and distributed.

“We won’t know what’s going to happen until those policies are settled, though the conversations have already begun in earnest,” said Crawford, an instructor in the School of Public Policy in the College of Liberal Arts.

Crawford also serves on the state’s Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana, which advises the director of the Oregon Department of Human Services on administrative aspects of the state’s medical marijuana program. He has provided expert testimony on marijuana-related policies in Oregon.

Crawford specializes in analyzing social networks and began studying the underlying structure of marijuana production and user networks as a doctoral student several years ago because there was no available data on Oregon producers or users.

In his study of Oregon’s informal marijuana economy, Crawford surveyed Oregon residents 18 and older to collect information about marijuana use and sales patterns. He found that the average marijuana user pays about $177 per ounce of the drug and uses about 6.75 ounces per year.

Marijuana producers generally sell small amounts, earning less than $10,000 per year; they generally are educated and employed in other legitimate occupations, Crawford found. His research also indicated that many marijuana producers in the current black market live in economically depressed regions of the state, particularly in southern Oregon, and use marijuana sales to augment low incomes.

“It’s these small producers who have the most to lose in the policy development process,” Crawford said. “If they’re unable to participate in the legal market, marijuana legalization could result in increased economic inequality, particularly in traditional areas of production like southern Oregon.”

Setting a high tax rate or imposing hefty capital requirements could serve as barriers for current small-scale marijuana producers to enter the legal market, Crawford said. In Washington state, the requirements to obtain a permit were so stringent that many were shut out of the market, he said.

Also, Washington’s taxes and early supply woes put marijuana between $420 and $840 per ounce, while in Colorado, marijuana is slightly more than $260 per ounce after taxes. At rates that high, there is a strong chance users won’t actually enter the legal market; they’ll continue making small-scale purchases from friends or acquaintances or grow their own, Crawford said.

“We don’t know if people will go to retail stores,” he said. “If the ballot initiative passes, the market will be shaped by policies adopted by the OLCC.”

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Seth Crawford, 541-760-5419, seth.crawford@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

OSU research helps Chinese crested terns make comeback

News - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 1:10pm
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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.roby@oregonstate.edu

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Categories: Research news

OSU among top 50 colleges in US for LGBT students

News - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 11:27am
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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.org

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Theresa Hogue Source: 

http://www.campusprideindex.org

Categories: Research news

First tagging study of Antarctic minke whales shows unique feeding

News - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 9:12am
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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; ari.friedlaender@oregonstate.edu

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Categories: Research news

Few surfers are deterred by ocean bacteria that makes them sick

News - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 2:50pm
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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, 541-737-3830

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Beach signs

Categories: Research news

New book details world-wide research on Douglas-fir

News - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 9:06am
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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, forestrycommunications@oregonstate.edu.

College of Forestry Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Richard Hermann, 503-223-8307

Categories: Research news

Walmart and The Walmart Foundation award OSU grant to help boost U.S. manufacturing

News - Thu, 08/14/2014 - 2:00pm
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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, 541-737-6126

Source: 

Sundar V. Atre, 541-908-1483; Rajiv Malhotra, 541-737-5621

Categories: Research news

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