Oregon State University

Research news

OSU to offer first free, massive course online

News - Wed, 06/18/2014 - 2:16pm
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OSU is planning its first MOOC, or massive, open online course, which may attract thousands of K-12 educators when it begins this fall.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University this fall will launch its first massive, open online course, or MOOC, partnering with Stanford University and the Oregon Department of Education to deliver a free, professional learning opportunity to potentially thousands of K-12 educators in the state and around the world.

The eight-week course, Supporting English Language Learners under New Standards, is funded by the Oregon Department of Education and begins Oct. 1. It will further position OSU and the state of Oregon as national leaders in how English language learners are served.

As many institutions have rushed to join this educational phenomenon in recent years, OSU administrators said they judged this to be the right time and opportunity for OSU to offer its inaugural MOOC, which are courses aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. OSU is already a national leader in more traditional online education.

“This will help us learn first-hand about this type of teaching platform, and identify how and where MOOCs fit in our learning ecosystem,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Sabah Randhawa. “It’s important to be open to new possibilities, and flexible and adaptable to new learning paradigms, including the MOOC learning format.”

Randhawa said OSU enters the MOOC arena with the university’s educational mission in clear focus - a commitment to help Oregon create a more educated citizenry and to provide students with broader, more affordable access to course options.

The developers and instructors of OSU’s first massive course expect widespread participation. It is open to teachers outside of Oregon and is especially relevant to educators in the 11-state ELPA21 consortium that is developing an assessment system based on new English Language Proficiency Standards.

“This is a perfect opportunity for OSU to enter the MOOC sphere because we’re doing it in collaboration with people who have successfully done it before,” said Karen Thompson, one of the course’s three instructors and an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Education.

“People have started to consider OSU a statewide leader in ELL education, and this MOOC represents an exciting opportunity for OSU to impact teaching and learning for ELLs everywhere.”

Course participants will work in teams to gather and analyze language samples from their students, exploring how ELLs construct claims supported by evidence. Thompson says the information educators gather one day in the MOOC can be directly applied in their K-12 classrooms the following day.

Joining Thompson as course instructors are Kenji Hakuta and Sara Rutherford-Quach of Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, and the university’s Understanding Language initiative.

Oregon State Ecampus is also a partner in the MOOC and has provided multimedia and support services for the course, which opens for registration later this summer. More information is available at ecampus.oregonstate.edu/ell.

“Delivering a course in this open format goes hand-in-hand with Oregon State’s mission to provide access to high-quality education to learners around the state, country and world,” said Ecampus executive director Lisa L. Templeton. “Ecampus is excited to partner with the College of Education, Stanford and ODE to deliver this with no cost involved for learners.”

In recent years OSU Ecampus has gained national recognition as one of the best online extended education programs in the nation, from U.S. News and World Report, SuperScholar and other ranking agencies. The ranking criteria are based on such factors as faculty credentials, student engagement, degree diversity, academic quality and other issues.

Ecampus: Media Contact: 

Tyler Hansen, 520-312-1276

Source: 

Karen Thompson, 541-737-2988

Categories: Research news

OSU names Jonathan Stoll director of Corvallis community outreach

News - Wed, 06/18/2014 - 11:06am
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Jonathan Stoll has been named the director of Corvallis Community Outreach at Oregon State University.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Jonathan Stoll, who has spent much of his career facilitating collaborative partnerships and communication among organizations and individuals, has been named the director of Corvallis Community Outreach at Oregon State University.

In this new position, Stoll will be responsible for helping to for develop and implement programs and activities that foster positive relationships between the university, OSU students and the Corvallis community.

Stoll most recently has been the manager of Associated Students’ Diversity Center at California State University, East Bay, where he directed campus diversity efforts, launched several programs to support multiculturalism and student retention, and led a number of outreach and engagement initiatives. He has been with CSU-East Bay, which is located in Hayward, since 2007.

He will begin his new duties at Oregon State immediately.

“Oregon State and the Corvallis community intersect on many different levels and having a point person to facilitate discussions on key issues was one of the key recommendations from the Collaboration Corvallis process,” said Steve Clark, vice president for University Relations and Marketing at OSU. “Creation of this position was first recommended through the Collaboration Corvallis process.”

“Jonathan Stoll has a background that is ideally suited for this new position,” Clark added, “and we look forward to his leadership in continuing the university’s efforts in creating an environment where students engage in productive and civil behaviors both on and off campus.”

Stoll said he was pleased to join the Oregon State community and anxious to begin meeting people throughout Corvallis.

“I am ready and eager to begin working closely with students, campus partners, the City of Corvallis, community residents, organizations and businesses to foster stronger community relations,” Stoll said. “It is an opportunity not only to address problems, but to create and achieve new opportunities.”

“Collaboration Corvallis has provided a wonderful roadmap to build upon,” he added.

Stoll will report both to OSU’s dean of Student Life and the vice president for University Relations and Marketing. Among his duties:

  • Develop and implement programming to create positive relationships between the university, OSU students and the community;
  • Collaborate with established work teams already created to address commonly identified goals between OSU and the community;
  • Serve as the liaison with off-campus living groups, neighborhood associations, city governments, student living groups and others;
  • Participate in aspects of university/city activities to improve relations, and attend appropriate meetings for the City of Corvallis, the university, neighborhood groups, and associations.

Stoll is a graduate of San Jose State University, where he received bachelor of arts degrees in humanities and economics. He earned a master’s degree in public administration at California State University East Bay.

He began his career working as controller and chief financial officer for the Associated Students of San Jose State University in 2003, and then founded the Cesar Chavez Community Action Center there two years later. Serving as development coordinator, he oversaw eight service programs and activities within the center that engaged more than 350 university students to partner with 23 community organizations for community service.

“That is the kind of partnership we can envision between Oregon State University students and the community,” Clark said.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Steve Clark, 503-502-8217

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Jonathan Stoll

Categories: Research news

OSU faculty art exhibit on display at Fairbanks Gallery

News - Wed, 06/18/2014 - 9:42am
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twork by members of the art faculty at Oregon State University will be on display in the Fairbanks Gallery on campus, June 19 through Oct. 8.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Artwork by members of the art faculty at Oregon State University will be on display in the Fairbanks Gallery on campus, June 19 through Oct. 8.

The exhibit demonstrates a broad diversity of styles and approaches to the making of art, with faculty members working in the areas of photography, painting, drawing, mixed media, printmaking, installation and video. 

Works from Michael Boonstra, Julia Bradshaw, Sandra Brooke, Kathleen Caprario, Julie Green, Stephen Hayes, Yuji Hiratsuka, Shelley Jordon, Nathan Langner, Andy Myers, Felix Oliveros, Kerry Skarbakka and Lorenzo Triburgo are included in the exhibit.

The Fairbanks Gallery, 220 S.W. 26th St., Corvallis, is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

A closing reception will be held from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 8 at the gallery. The public is welcome to attend.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Douglas Russell, 541-737-5009, or drussell@oregonstate.edu

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“Guardian,” mixed-media on paper by Andy Myers

Untitled, ink jet on aluminum, by Michael Boonstra

Categories: Research news

OSU's Food Innovation Center to showcase local food entrepreneurs

News - Tue, 06/17/2014 - 10:51am
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PORTLAND, Ore. – Local food entrepreneurs will show off their unique creations to the public at a free farmers market-like event at the Food Innovation Center in Portland on June 24.

The inaugural Time To Market Trade Show, which will take place from 4-7 p.m., offers a delicious array of free samples, including crème brûlée, gelato, pickles, peppers, cocktails and health foods. Gluten-free, diabetic-friendly and vegan options will be available. Consumers can buy the products, too.

"This is the public's first chance to get a taste of what we've cooked up with our students," said Sarah Masoni, the center's product development manager. "This event is a perfect way for us to reach out to businesses we've helped over the years and treat the taste buds of Oregon."

The Food Innovation Center is a collaborative effort between Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Agriculture. It is located at 1207 N.W. Naito Parkway in Portland. For more information, call 503-872-6680.

The vendors are graduates of the Getting Your Recipe to Market class, which OSU faculty help teach. Students learn how to turn their recipes into commercial-ready products by developing business and marketing plans, crafting elevator pitches, solving packaging and food safety issues, and meeting one-on-one with retail buyers.

In the hours preceding the trade show, each exhibitor will meet privately with interested investors, distributors and local retail buyers – a valuable networking opportunity, Masoni said. These food industry partners are able to place products in stores, restaurants, hospitals, college campuses and large companies, such as Intel and Nike.

The center plans to host similar showcases each month this summer, recruiting from among its 200-plus alumni. The June 24 event will also feature a sign-up sheet for potential participants.

"We'd love to see our whole parking lot filled with booths of graduated students," said Masoni, who is also a food products specialist with the OSU Extension Service.

Getting Your Recipe to Market is a collaborative effort between OSU, Portland Community College's Small Business Development Center and New Seasons Market, a regional grocer. Now in its sixth year, the class runs 14 weeks at PCC and is also offered online as a series of four courses offered through OSU's Professional and Continuing Education unit.

Extension Service Media Contact:  Daniel Robison Source: 

Sarah Masoni, 503-872-6655

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Open in downtown Portland since 1999, the Food Innovation Center helps create food products using Northwest ingredients. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)



Oregon State University's Food Innovation Center helped Connie Rawlings-Dritsas develop formulas for her line of flavored vinegars. (Photo by Stephen Ward.)

Categories: Research news

Discovery of a bud-break gene could lead to trees adapted for a changing climate

News - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 2:51pm
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Researchers have identified the function of a gene that controls when trees awaken from winter dormancy, a critical factor in their ability to adapt to climate change.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Scientists have confirmed the function of a gene that controls the awakening of trees from winter dormancy, a critical factor in their ability to adjust to environmental changes associated with climate change.

While other researchers have identified genes involved in producing the first green leaves of spring, the discovery of a master regulator in poplar trees (Populus species) could eventually lead to breeding plants that are better adapted for warmer climates.

The results of the study that began more than a decade ago at Oregon State University were published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by scientists from Michigan Technological University and Oregon State.

“No one has ever isolated a controlling gene for this timing in a wild plant, outside of Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to mustard and cabbage,” said Steve Strauss, co-author and distinguished professor of forest biotechnology at OSU. “This is the first time a gene that controls the timing of bud break in trees has been identified.”

The timings of annual cycles — when trees open their leaves, when they produce flowers, when they go dormant — help trees adapt to changes in environmental signals like those associated with climate, but the genetics have to keep up, Strauss said.

While trees possess the genetic diversity to adjust to current conditions, climate models suggest that temperature and precipitation patterns in many parts of the world may expose trees to more stressful conditions in the future. Experts have suggested that some tree species may not be able to cope with these changes fast enough, whether by adaptation or migration. As a result, forest health may decline, trees may disappear from places they are currently found, and some species may even go extinct. 

“For example, are there going to be healthy and widespread populations of Douglas fir in Oregon in a hundred years?” said Strauss. “That depends on the natural diversity that we have and how much the environment changes. Will there be sufficient genetic diversity around to evolve populations that can cope with a much warmer and likely drier climate? We just don’t know.”

Strauss called the confirmation of the bud-break gene — which scientists named EBB1 for short — a “first step” in developing the ability to engineer adaptability into trees in the future.

“Having this knowledge enables you to engineer changes when they might become urgent,” he said.

Yordan Yordanov and Victor Busov at Michigan Tech worked with Cathleen Ma and Strauss at Oregon State to trace the function of EBB1 in buds and other plant tissues responsible for setting forth the first green shoots of spring. They developed modified trees that overproduced EBB1 genes and emerged from dormancy earlier in the year. They also showed that trees with less EBB1 activity emerged from dormancy later.

“The absence of EBB1 during dormancy allows the tree to progress through the physiological, developmental and adaptive changes leading to dormancy,” said Busov, “while the expression of EBB1 in specific cell layers prior to bud-break enables reactivation of growth in the cells that develop into shoots and leaves, and re-entry into the active growth phase of the tree.”

The study began when Strauss noticed poplar trees emerging earlier than others in an experimental field trial at Oregon State. One April morning, he found that four seedling trees in a 2.5-acre test plot were putting forth leaves at least a week before all the other trees. Strauss and Busov, a former post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State, led efforts to identify the genes responsible.

They found that EBB1 codes for a protein that helps to restart cell division in a part of the tree known as meristem, which is analogous to stem cells in animals. EBB1 also plays a role in suppressing genes that prepare trees for dormancy in the fall and in other processes such as nutrient cycling and root growth that are critical for survival. Altogether, they found nearly 1,000 other poplar genes whose activity is affected by EBB1.

It’s unlikely that plant breeders will use the finding any time soon, Strauss said. Breeders tend to rely on large clusters of genes that are associated with specific traits such as hardiness, tree shape or flowering. However, as more genes of this kind are identified, the opportunity to breed or engineer trees adapted to extreme conditions will grow.

Funding for the research was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative at Oregon State.

College of Forestry Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Steve Strauss, 541-737-6578

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Tree research




Early leaf flush

Categories: Research news

OSU Open Campus growth, innovations recognized with national award

News - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 9:57am
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It's only five years old but OSU Open Campus is already serving a broad cross section of educational needs in Oregon.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – OSU Open Campus, a pioneering program begun just five years ago by Oregon State University to better serve the diverse educational needs of the state, has expanded rapidly, kept students in school, put people to work and is addressing the needs of many Oregon communities.

For its innovations and success, the program was just recognized as one of four national winners of the Outreach Scholarship W.K. Kellogg Foundation Engagement Award. It will also compete for the C. Peter Magrath University Community Engagement Award, the top honor nationally for this type of initiative.

OSU Open Campus, at its inception, recognized that education costs were increasing, many smaller or remote communities required programs tailored to their needs, and that only a broad coalition of K-12 schools, community colleges, local governments and businesses could hope to address that challenge.

A collaborative effort of the OSU Extension Service and OSU Extended Campus helped to create that coalition, and the results have been extraordinary for Tillamook, Hood River, Madras, Prineville, Klamath Falls and Coos Bay.

“OSU Open Campus expands the university’s commitment to the people of Oregon,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “In six communities throughout the state, progress is being made in college attainment, economic development, and successful partnerships to encourage a seamless transition into and through the educational pipeline.”

Along with other aspects of recent OSU expansion and leadership, OSU Open Campus is helping entire communities to support the statewide goal of “40-40-20,” which requires that by 2025 40 percent of adults have an undergraduate degree, 40 percent an associate’s degree or certificate, and 20 percent a high school diploma.

The program is fast and flexible. It cuts bureaucratic red tape, taps into local community needs and tries to provide the type of education needed at costs that local residents can afford. Sometimes that will result in students who progress all the way to a bachelor’s degree. Other times, the goals are more immediate.

In Jefferson County, a small business owner faced closure due to a lack of qualified welders in the area. OSU Open Campus coordinated a plan, beginning with a local high school offering use of an unused welding lab for an eight-week course. Central Oregon Community College provided an instructor, and a local charity provided funds for equipment and gear. The course ultimately had 17 participants, including eight high school students and nine unemployed or under-employed adults.

As a result, all the adults now have good-paying jobs as welders, two small businesses were saved, and one participant finished his GED and is enrolled at Central Oregon Community College.

If a person’s ultimate goal is a full college education, OSU Open Campus can help with that, too.

“Some students are place-bound for a number of reasons,” said program director Jeff Sherman. “They can’t afford the costs of living on a campus, or have family responsibilities and employment that make moving impossible.”

One analysis in Klamath County concluded that, through an Open Campus collaboration of local high schools, Klamath Community College and OSU Ecampus, degrees in high local demand such as agricultural sciences or natural resources could be obtained for less than half the cost of attending OSU’s main campus, without ever having to leave the county.

Among the growth trends and accomplishments of the program:

  • OSU Open Campus is now serving six communities in nine rural counties, and the number of learners has more than doubled since its inception.
  • Initiatives include precollege programs at local K-12 schools, small business development workshops, parent education and academic support for Latino students, community literacy projects and youth entrepreneurship courses.
  • The “Juntos” program for Latino students has dramatically increased their graduation rates at Madras High School and within the next year the first cohort from that program will be starting college.
  • In the Columbia Gorge, collaboration with a local OSU 4-H program is involving 1,640 students a year in science, technology, engineering and math programs, and regularly win robotic competitions at all grade levels.
  • OSU Ecampus sees OSU Open Campus as its key partner for student retention and degree completion in Oregon.

In the future, Oregon State hopes to further expand the number of its faculty who work at OSU Open Campus sites, bring community teams to the university campus for recognition, and take other steps to grow the program.

“OSU Open Campus is a concept, not a place,” said Scott Reed, Oregon State Vice Provost for University Outreach and Engagement. “It’s helping all of our internal and external partners to change and adapt. We’re empowering communities, crossing traditional boundaries, and in the process, the university gets better.”

 

Generic OSU Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Jeff Sherman, 541-737-1384

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Science project

Categories: Research news

Record number of OSU students graduate via degree programs online

News - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 9:43am
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Oregon Ecampus will have a record number of graduates this year as its programs continue to grow in popularity.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A record number of distance students will receive degrees from Oregon State University on Saturday after completing their course work online.

Oregon State will graduate 501 students through its Ecampus on Saturday, nearly 100 more than the previous high set in 2012. This year’s distance graduates hail from 42 states and six countries, including Japan, Puerto Rico and the United Arab Emirates – further evidence that OSU’s academic impact continues to grow globally.

“The tireless dedication of our learners is a constant source of inspiration, and this record-setting class is a prime example,” said Ecampus executive director Lisa L. Templeton. “We are committed to giving learners around the world access to a high-quality education, and our growth is a testament to the outstanding OSU faculty who develop our programs online.”

Ecampus delivers 36 degree and certificate programs online, and more than 15,000 students took at least one OSU class online in 2013-14 – more than double the total from five years ago. Since last summer, the university has launched online programs in sustainability, wildlife management and an executive leadership MBA track that combines online learning with in-person sessions in Portland.

The most popular of the Ecampus offerings is a post-baccalaureate program in computer science that can be completed in as little as one year. Launched in the summer of 2012, it now has 886 admitted students with 62 set to receive their diplomas Saturday – and some will transition immediately to the workforce.

Bryan Robinson studied online from Irvine, California, while working full time and raising two young children with his wife. He turned his OSU degree into a new job as a reporting analyst for a computing company in Portland.

“Much of my background is in web development, but I found it difficult to get a job without a degree in computer science,” Robinson said. “The OSU program was the perfect marriage because it was online and allowed me to work and raise my family, and it was from a reputable university that I knew a lot about.”

Ecampus will host a reception Saturday morning in The Valley Library for 70 graduates who are traveling to Corvallis, some from as far away as Connecticut and Minnesota. It’s the first – and only – time many of them will set foot on the OSU campus.

Linda Sanderford had no connection to Oregon State prior to enrolling with Ecampus in 2011. The Monroe, Louisiana, resident was a college “stop-out” – a student who started a degree program but was unable to finish amid the responsibilities of raising five children – until she found OSU’s agricultural sciences program online in her late 30s.

On Saturday, a journey that lasted more than two decades will reach its end.

“There were times when I didn’t think that I was going to make it, but I did,” Sanderford said. “I chose OSU because it’s the best agricultural school in the United States. The courses required a lot of outside fieldwork, and I was challenged every step of the way. Graduating from OSU means the world to me.”

The number of Ecampus graduates who will be awarded diplomas Saturday includes students who are expected to complete degree requirements this summer and fall.

Ecampus: Media Contact: 

Tyler Hansen, 520-312-1276

Source: 

Lisa L. Templeton, 541-737-1279

Categories: Research news

OSU's food preservation and safety hotline opens July 14

News - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 9:39am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Extension Service's food preservation and safety hotline will help Oregonians safely can and preserve their garden's abundance again this summer.

The toll-free hotline at 1-800-354-7319 is available July 14 to Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The hotline remains a useful resource for food safety information even in the Internet age, said Nellie Oehler, a faculty member with the OSU Extension Service's Family and Community Health program and Master Food Preserver coordinator in Lane County.

"There's a lot of misinformation online and you have to know the right websites to get accurate information or you could literally kill yourself if you use techniques that are not safe," Oehler said. "People call us to get reliable information from a real person. The Lane and Douglas County Master Food Preservers who answer the calls have good training and years of experience canning and preserving food."

Like all Extension-certified Master Food Preservers, those who staff the hotline have completed 40 hours of training and agreed to spend a similar amount of time sharing their new knowledge with the public. Last year, 460 new and veteran Master Food Preservers throughout the state volunteered more than 20,000 hours of their time on the statewide hotline and at workshops and exhibits.

Master Food Preservers answered 2,262 calls during the 2013 summer season. About 80 percent of those dealt with food safety questions. Typical questions include where to get pressure gauges tested, how long in advance you can cook chicken before the big family picnic and whether grandma's canning recipe is still safe.  

For more information, go to the OSU Extension website on food preservation at http://bit.ly/YqgsFE. OSU Extension's Ask an Expert service also takes online questions about food preservation. Master Food Preservers also run a holiday food safety hotline every November. Find more information about the Master Food Preserver program at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/volunteer-programs.

Extension Service Media Contact:  Denise Ruttan Source: 

Nellie Oehler, 541-757-3937

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Michele Pryse, a Master Food Preserver trained by the Oregon State University Extension Service, teaches food preservation techniques and safety guidelines to clients in the Medford area. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Categories: Research news

Findings point toward one of first therapies for Lou Gehrig’s disease

News - Thu, 06/12/2014 - 9:56am
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Researchers are getting close to one of the first significant therapies ever known for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers have determined that a copper compound known for decades may form the basis for a therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

In a new study just published in the Journal of Neuroscience, scientists from Australia, the United States (Oregon), and the United Kingdom showed in laboratory animal tests that oral intake of this compound significantly extended the lifespan and improved the locomotor function of transgenic mice that are genetically engineered to develop this debilitating and terminal disease.

In humans, no therapy for ALS has ever been discovered that could extend lifespan more than a few additional months. Researchers in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University say this approach has the potential to change that, and may have value against Parkinson’s disease as well.

“We believe that with further improvements, and following necessary human clinical trials for safety and efficacy, this could provide a valuable new therapy for ALS and perhaps Parkinson’s disease,” said Joseph Beckman, a distinguished professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the OSU College of Science.

“I’m very optimistic,” said Beckman, who received the 2012 Discovery Award from the OHSU Medical Research Foundation as the leading medical researcher in Oregon.

ALS was first identified as a progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disease in the late 1800s and gained international recognition in 1939 when it was diagnosed in American baseball legend Lou Gehrig. It’s known to be caused by motor neurons in the spinal cord deteriorating and dying, and has been traced to mutations in copper, zinc superoxide dismutase, or SOD1. Ordinarily, superoxide dismutase is an antioxidant whose proper function is essential to life.

When SOD1 is lacking its metal co-factors, it “unfolds” and becomes toxic, leading to the death of motor neurons. The metals copper and zinc are important in stabilizing this protein, and can help it remain folded more than 200 years.

“The damage from ALS is happening primarily in the spinal cord and that’s also one of the most difficult places in the body to absorb copper,” Beckman said. “Copper itself is necessary but can be toxic, so its levels are tightly controlled in the body. The therapy we’re working toward delivers copper selectively into the cells in the spinal cord that actually need it. Otherwise, the compound keeps copper inert.”

“This is a safe way to deliver a micronutrient like copper exactly where it is needed,” Beckman said.

By restoring a proper balance of copper into the brain and spinal cord, scientists believe they are stabilizing the superoxide dismutase in its mature form, while improving the function of mitochondria. This has already extended the lifespan of affected mice by 26 percent, and with continued research the scientists hope to achieve even more extension.

The compound that does this is called copper (ATSM), has been studied for use in some cancer treatments, and is relatively inexpensive to produce.

“In this case, the result was just the opposite of what one might have expected,” said Blaine Roberts, lead author on the study and a research fellow at the University of Melbourne, who received his doctorate at OSU working with Beckman.

“The treatment increased the amount of mutant SOD, and by accepted dogma this means the animals should get worse,” he said. “But in this case, they got a lot better. This is because we’re making a targeted delivery of copper just to the cells that need it.

“This study opens up a previously neglected avenue for new disease therapies, for ALS and other neurodegenerative disease,” Roberts said.

Other collaborators on this research include OSU, the University of Melbourne, University of Technology/Sydney, Deakin University, the Australian National University, and the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.

Funding has been provided by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Linus Pauling Institute and other groups in Australia and Finland.

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Joseph Beckman, 541-737-8867

Categories: Research news

Animal trapping records reveal strong wolf effect across North America

News - Thu, 06/12/2014 - 9:15am
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Scientists have used coyote and red fox fur trapping records across North America to document how the presence of wolves influences the balance of smaller predators further down the food chain.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Scientists have used coyote and red fox fur trapping records across North America to document how the presence of wolves influences the balance of smaller predators further down the food chain.

From Alaska and Yukon to Nova Scotia and Maine, the researchers have demonstrated that a “wolf effect” exists, favoring red foxes where wolves are present and coyotes where wolves are absent.

This effect requires that enough wolves be present to suppress coyotes over a wide area. Fur trapping records from Saskatchewan and Manitoba reveal that where wolves are absent in the southern agricultural regions of each province, coyotes outnumber foxes on average by 3-to-1. However, where wolves are abundant in the North, the balance swings dramatically in favor of foxes on average by 4-to-1 and at an extreme of 500-to-1 at one site.

In between is a 200-kilometer (124-mile) transition zone where too few wolves are present to tip the balance between coyotes and foxes.

The results of the study by Thomas Newsome and William Ripple in the Oregon State University Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society were published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology by the British Ecological Society.

“As wolves were extirpated across the southern half of North America, coyotes dramatically expanded their range,” said Newsome, a post-doctoral researcher. “They were historically located in the middle and western United States, but they dispersed all the way to Alaska in the early 1900s and to New Brunswick and Maine by the 1970s.”

“So essentially coyotes have been dispersing into wolf and red-fox range in the North but also into areas where wolves are absent but red fox are present in the East,” Newsome added.

Newsome came to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship from Australia where he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney and specialized in the study of dingoes, that continent’s top predator. There’s a debate among Australians, he said, about the potential role of dingoes in suppressing introduced pests that have already decimated wildlife there.

“Over the last 200 years, Australia has had the highest extinction rate in the world,” Newsome said. “The debate is about whether the dingo can provide positive ecological benefits. Where dingoes have been removed, the impacts of introduced red foxes and feral cats have been quite severe on native fauna.”

Dingoes are managed as a pest in New South Wales, the country’s most populous state. To reduce dingo predation in the livestock industry, Australia also maintains the world’s longest fence, which runs for 5,500 kilometers (3,400 miles) in an attempt to exclude dingoes from almost a quarter of the continent.

In North America, the effect of wolves on coyotes and red foxes provides a natural case study that can be instructive for Australians. “Australians can learn a lot from how wolves are managed in North America, and Americans can learn from the ecological role of the dingo,” Newsome said.

As coyotes have expanded in North America, they have become a major cause of concern for the livestock industry. In the United States in 2004, researchers estimated annual losses due to coyote predation on sheep and cattle at $40 million. To reduce those damages, the Wildlife Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a program to reduce coyote numbers, an effort that has drawn criticism from conservation groups.

In reviewing the fur trapping data from two U.S. and six Canadian jurisdictions, Newsome and Ripple eliminated potential sources of bias such as records from fur farms that raise foxes. The fur prices of coyotes and red foxes are also strongly correlated, and the two species occupy much of the same types of habitat, so they are equally likely to be targeted and caught in hunters’ traps.

“This study gives us a whole other avenue to understand the ecological effects of wolves on landscapes and animal communities,” said Ripple. He has studied the influence of carnivores on their prey — such as deer and elk — and on vegetation from aspen trees to willows. He and his colleagues have shown that the removal of top predators can cause dramatic shifts within ecosystems.

Wolves are naturally recolonizing many areas of the United States following their reintroduction into Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas in 1995. Scientists are studying wolf interactions with other species, and in particular, there is interest in determining whether recolonizing wolves will suppress coyote populations and have cascading effects on red foxes and other species.

Newsome received funding from the Australian-American Fulbright Commission and from the government and universities of New South Wales in Australia.

 

College of Forestry Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Thomas Newsome, 541-737-3197

Wiliam Ripple, 541-737-3056

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Coyote (Photo: Shawn McCready)

Red fox (Photo: Kelly Colgan Azar)

Gray wolf (Photo: Doug McLaughlin)

Categories: Research news

Genome could unlock eucalyptus potential for paper, fuel and fiber

News - Thu, 06/12/2014 - 8:08am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – In a collaboration spanning five continents, scientists have announced the complete sequencing of one of the world’s most widely planted trees, Eucalyptus grandis.

Used for fuel and timber, the species is valued for fast growth and straight grain. Grown usually as a hybrid, it is one of more than 500 species of eucalyptus trees and shrubs that provide a renewable source of fiber, pulp, biofuel material, and medicinal and industrial oils. The accomplishment was published today in the scientific journal Nature.

On the research team were 12 Oregon State University scientists, including plant biologist Pankaj Jaiswal. "This genome sequence will help usher in a new era for studying the biology of the eucalyptus tree. Our advances in understanding could help redefine the possibilities of improving biomass yield, stress tolerance and other traits," said Jaiswal, a botany and plant pathology professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Jaiswal and his colleagues used the high-performance computing facility in Oregon State’s Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing to assign functions to the tree's 36,000-plus genes. They identified which genes correspond to biological processes that underpin control of growth rate, wood hardness, flowering and other attributes.

Plant breeders can use the eucalyptus genome to enhance or suppress traits in the tree, Jaiswal added. For example, breeding for more lignin, which confers strength to woody tissue, can produce wood better suited for furniture. Trees with less lignin could require less energy and fewer chemicals needed to make paper from eucalyptus pulp.

For breeding purposes, one of the most significant accomplishments stems from understanding the genes associated with flowering. Eucalyptus trees generally take three to 10 years to flower after they are propagated from seed, a process that slows the rate of breeding considerably, said Steve Strauss, a co-author of the Nature paper and an Oregon State distinguished professor of forest biotechnology in the College of Forestry.

Strauss has already shown that activating genes responsible for flower development can accelerate flowering. "By accelerating the speed of eucalyptus flowering, plant breeders can shorten generation time for developing new varieties with improved traits," he said.

Researchers can also use the floral gene sequences to prevent or disrupt flowering. That technology could help stop the undesirable spread of the tree and prevent it from becoming invasive.

The study is also leading to a better understanding of the evolutionary relationships of eucalyptus and its relatives. OSU professors Joseph Spatafora and Aaron Liston worked with Jaiswal to redefine the placement of eucalyptus in plant classification. "We managed to reassign its position in the evolutionary tree of life," said Liston.

“The genome provides a better roadmap for breeders to follow, although there is still a long road ahead of us to adapt the plant to all of our desired uses,” he added.

A research group from South Africa, led by Alexander Myburg of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute at the University of Pretoria, supplied the eucalyptus tissues and RNA sequenced by Oregon State.

Collaborating in the research were 80 scientists in South Africa, Brazil, North America, Europe and Australia (where eucalyptus originated). Among the funding sources were Oregon State University, the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative and the National Science Foundation. A contribution by the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute was supported by the DOE Office of Science.

Other OSU researchers contributing to the project were: Sushma Naithani, Justin Elser, Rajani Raja and Palitha Dharmawardhana in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology in the College of Agricultural Sciences; Martin Ranik, Vindhya Amarasinghe and Kelly Vining in the College of Forestry; Alexander E. Boyd and Christopher Sullivan in the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing.

A genome browser and further information on the project are available at http://www.phytozome.net/eucalyptus.php.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Daniel Robison Source: 

Pankaj Jaiswal, 541-737-8471; Steve Strauss, 541-737-6578; Joseph Spatafora, 541-737-5304; Aaron Liston, 541-737-5301

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Eucalyptus logs await shipment at a plantation in Brazil. (Photo by Steve Strauss.)


 

Plant breeders grow eucalyptus seedlings at a nursery in Brazil. (Photo by Steve Strauss)

Categories: Research news

ODFW, OSU to survey hunters about use of lead ammunition

News - Wed, 06/11/2014 - 2:07pm
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The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State University are collaborating on an effort to survey Oregon hunters about their use and knowledge of lead ammunition.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State University are collaborating on an effort to survey Oregon hunters about their use and knowledge of lead ammunition.

The random sample of 4,200 Oregon hunters will begin later this month and those selected should receive a letter from ODFW within the next two weeks. Oregon has approximately 250,000 hunters and the survey will include hunters from each geographic region of the state.

The use of lead ammunition has become a national issue because of impacts to wildlife and human health concerns, according to Ron Anglin, ODFW Wildlife Division administrator. Last year, California passed a law banning the use of lead ammunition for all hunting in the state beginning in 2019; other states have adopted voluntary measures encouraging the use of ammunition made from alternative compounds.

“There is no proposal to ban or limit use of lead ammunition in Oregon, but developments outside of Oregon could affect the use of lead ammunition within the state,” Anglin said. “The Environmental Protection Agency was petitioned to ban the use of lead in ammunition on a nationwide basis and there is the potential of condors being restored in northern California.”

The California legislature passed a law banning lead ammunition to protect endangered California condors, according to Dana Sanchez, an OSU Extension wildlife specialist and one of the project leaders. Condors can become ill after scavenging on animals that have been killed by lead bullets. The birds ingest lead fragments and can become sick or die, she said.

“Historically, Oregon has had condors, though none are known to live here now,” Sanchez pointed out. “However, there are efforts to re-establish populations in northern California and if they are successful, it is only a matter of time before condors begin frequenting the southern portions of Oregon.

“Once condors appear in Oregon, they would be subject to federal protection under the Endangered Species Act,” she added.

Sanchez said some conservation organizations in the state are monitoring lead levels in birds of prey brought into wildlife rehabilitation centers. There is increasing concern that lead exposure may be causing impacts to raptors and eagles in some areas, she said.

“This could lead to an initiative or other efforts to eliminate or restrict the use of lead ammunition,” Sanchez said.

The survey was developed by the OSU Survey Research Center, which will collect the data for ODFW and the OSU Wildlife Extension program. Survey results will be used to inform discussions among agencies, groups and others about any potential restrictions in the use of lead ammunition.

The purpose of the survey, Anglin said, is to gather information from the group of stakeholders who would be most affected by any restrictions on lead ammunition – Oregon hunters.

“Ideally, we would like to survey all Oregon hunters, but that is expensive,” Anglin said. “However, by selecting a random sample of hunters from regions across the state, we should get a clear picture of how Oregon hunters feel about lead ammunition and possible alternatives.”

Persons not chosen for the survey are welcome to provide comments on lead ammunition directly to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife at a special email address: ODFW.wildlifeinfo@state.or.us

Anglin said the ODFW/OSU project team plans to conduct a similar survey of non-hunting Oregonians in the future.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Ron Anglin, 503-947-6301; ODFW.wildlifeinfo@state.or.us; Dana Sanchez, 541-737-6003; dana.sanchez@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

OSU to hold 145th commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 14

News - Tue, 06/10/2014 - 9:31am
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Oregon State University will hold its 145th commencement on Saturday, June 14, beginning at 10:30 a.m. in Reser Stadium, graduating a record class of nearly 5,900 students.

CORVALLIS, Ore – Oregon State University will hold its 145th commencement on Saturday, June 14, beginning at 10:30 a.m. in Reser Stadium, graduating a record class of nearly 5,900 students.

The commencement speaker is Ann A. Kiessling, director of the independent Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation and a leader in both stem cell research and reproductive biology. She also will receive an honorary doctorate from the university.

Commencement is free and open to the public; no tickets are necessary. More information about OSU’s graduation is available online at: http://oregonstate.edu/events/commencement/. The OSU ceremony is being broadcast on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s OPB Plus channel.

OSU’s class of 2014 has 5,878 graduates, who will receive 6,194 degrees, according to OSU Registrar Rebecca Mathern. The previous largest class was in 2013, when 5,221 grads earned 5,483 degrees. (About 3,800 grads are expected to participate in Saturday’s commencement, along with an estimated 21,000 guests).

This year’s graduates have many compelling stories about their success. Sadie Davis is a former high school dropout, who pursued an OSU degree after earning her GED. The mother of a teenage daughter, this first-generation college student overcame personal issues to graduate magna cum laude. She managed the Women Returning to Higher Education Program at OSU’s Women’s Center, and was a staunch advocate for students battling addiction as well as for students pursuing education later in life.

Brian Benavidez spent four years in the U.S. Air Force as an avionics systems specialist and served for a time in Iraq. He was accepted into the Airman Scholarship Commissioning Program and became a cadet in OSU’s Air Force ROTC program. He commanded a wing of nearly 80 cadets, and served as president of the Veterans & Family Student Association. He is graduating summa cum laude in electrical and computer engineering.

Kayla Thorsness was a high school valedictorian from Philomath who was active in sports, 4-H, school leaderships and volunteerism when she was diagnosed with melanoma. She didn’t let that deter her – and less than three years later she is graduating from OSU with two degrees, in accounting and business information systems. She worked at Dixon Recreation Center and eventually became supervisor and center manager. She also completed an internship with a major accounting firm, and was a volunteer for the American Cancer Society, Heartland Humane Society, the Philomath Booster Club and the Junior Achievement Program.

Some statistics about the class of 2014:

  • Of the 6,194 degrees: 4,908 are baccalaureate degrees; 917, master’s degrees, 93 Doctor of Pharmacy degrees, 224 Doctor of Philosophy degrees, and 52 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees;
  • OSU’s graduates hail from 35 Oregon counties, 49 states, three U.S. territories or commonwealths and 55 countries;
  • The oldest member of the class of 2014 is 78 years of age and the youngest is 19;
  • A total of 107 members of the graduating class are veterans.

OSU’s commencement speaker Kiessling has a doctorate in biochemistry and biophysics from Oregon State. Born in Baker City, Ore., she graduated from Klamath Falls High School in 1960. She eventually joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1985, specializing in obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology, and working in the Department of Surgery. In the early 1990s, she pioneered reproductive options for couples living with the HIV disease and hepatitis C – techniques that led to the successful births of 121 children free of those diseases.

The Bedford Research Foundation she directs was founded in 1996 as a Massachusetts public charity to support research. By the year 2000, the foundation’s research laboratory expanded to include human stem cell research. To date, the foundation has collaborated with more than 60 clinics globally to find treatment for infectious diseases and spinal cord injuries.

Kiessling, the mother of four children, wrote one of the first books about the enormous potential of stem cells in treating supposedly “incurable” diseases, including spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, kidney failure and diabetes. She has been a pioneer in developing ways to create or identify “pluripotent” stem cells that do not involve the use of human embryos.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Rebecca Mathern, 541-737-4048; Rebecca.Mathern@oregonstate.edu

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Commencement

speaker

Ann Kiessling

Categories: Research news

Technology using microwave heating may impact electronics manufacture

News - Tue, 06/10/2014 - 9:20am
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OSU engineers have merged a microwave heating system with a continuous flow reactor to produce technology that may dramatically affect the electronics industry.

The study this story is based on is available online: http://bit.ly/1pJjhnK

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Engineers at Oregon State University have successfully shown that a continuous flow reactor can produce high-quality nanoparticles by using microwave-assisted heating – essentially the same forces that heat up leftover food with such efficiency.

Instead of warming up yesterday’s pizza, however, this concept may provide a technological revolution.

It could change everything from the production of cell phones and televisions to counterfeit-proof money, improved solar energy systems or quick identification of troops in combat.

The findings, recently published in Materials Letters, are essentially a “proof of concept” that a new type of nanoparticle production system should actually work at a commercial level.

“This might be the big step that takes continuous flow reactors to large-scale manufacturing,” said Greg Herman, an associate professor and chemical engineer in the OSU College of Engineering. “We’re all pretty excited about the opportunities that this new technology will enable.”

Nanoparticles are extraordinarily small particles at the forefront of advances in many biomedical, optical and electronic fields, but precise control of their formation is needed and “hot injection” or other existing synthetic approaches are slow, costly, sometimes toxic and often wasteful.

A “continuous flow” system, by contrast, is like a chemical reactor that moves constantly along. It can be fast, cheap, more energy-efficient, and offer lower manufacturing cost. However, heating is necessary in one part of the process, and in the past that was best done only in small reactors.

The new research has proven that microwave heating can be done in larger systems at high speeds. And by varying the microwave power, it can precisely control nucleation temperature and the resulting size and shape of particles.

“For the applications we have in mind, the control of particle uniformity and size is crucial, and we are also able to reduce material waste,” Herman said. “Combining continuous flow with microwave heating could give us the best of both worlds – large, fast reactors with perfectly controlled particle size.”

The researchers said this should both save money and create technologies that work better. Improved LED lighting is one possibility, as well as better TVs with more accurate colors. Wider use of solid state lighting might cut power use for lighting by nearly 50 percent nationally. Cell phones and other portable electronic devices could use less power and last longer on a charge.

The technology also lends itself well to creation of better “taggants,” or compounds with specific infrared emissions that can be used for precise, instant identification – whether of a counterfeit $20 bill or an enemy tank in combat that lacks the proper coding.

In this study, researchers worked with lead selenide nanoparticles, which are particularly good for the taggant technologies. Other materials can be synthesized using this reactor for different applications, including copper zinc tin sulfide and copper indium diselenide for solar cells.

New Oregon jobs and businesses are already evolving from this work.

OSU researchers have applied for a patent on aspects of this technology, and are working with private industry on various applications. Shoei Electronic Materials, one of the collaborators, is pursuing “quantum dot” systems based on this approach, and recently opened new manufacturing facilities in Eugene, Ore., to use this synthetic approach for quantum dot enabled televisions, smartphones and other devices.

The research has been supported by the Air Force Research Laboratory, OSU Venture Funds, and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, or ONAMI.

College of Engineering Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Greg Herman, 541-737-2496

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Continuous flow reactor

Categories: Research news

Statin use associated with less physical activity

News - Mon, 06/09/2014 - 1:34pm
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New research has associated statin use with less physical activity among older men, which could be a significant concern.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – One of the longest studies of its type has found that use of statins in older men is associated with less physical activity, a significant issue for a population that’s already sedentary.

The findings, published today in JAMA Internal Medicine, raise concerns about a decline in much-needed physical activity among men who take some of the most widely prescribed medications in the world. Almost one-third of older Americans take statins, usually to reduce their cholesterol levels.

The research did not identify why men who took statins exercised less – it just confirmed that they did. Possible causes include the muscle pain that can be a side effect of statin use, and also disruption of the mitochondrial function in cells, which could contribute to fatigue and muscle weakness.

Physical activity in older adults helps to maintain a proper weight, prevent cardiovascular disease and helps to maintain physical strength and function,” said David Lee, an assistant professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy, and lead author of the study.

“We’re trying to find ways to get older adults to exercise more, not less,” Lee said. “It’s a fairly serious concern if use of statins is doing something that makes people less likely to exercise.”

Muscle pain is found in 5-30 percent of people who take statins, Lee said, and some people also report feeling less energetic, weak or tired.

In an analysis of 3,071 community-living men, age 65 or older, from six geographic regions in the United States, researchers found that men who took statins averaged about 40 minutes less of moderate physical activity over a one-week period, compared to those who weren’t taking the medication.

That would equate to the loss of 150 minutes a week of slow-paced walking, Lee said.

“For an older population that’s already pretty sedentary, that’s a significant amount less exercise,” he said. “Even moderate amounts of exercise can make a big difference.”

Of some significance, the study also found that new statin users had the largest drop in physical activity. An increase in sedentary behavior, which is associated with all-cause mortality and also death from cardiovascular disease, was also observed in statin users.

Some previous studies with older adults and statins had found similar results, but those analyses were short-term. This research followed men for almost seven years after initial baseline studies were done, and compared changes in physical activity among users and non-users of statins. In parts of the experiments, men wore accelerometers for a week to track by the minute their level of activity.

“Given these results, we should be aware of a possible decrease in physical activity among people taking a statin,” Lee said.

“This could decrease the benefit of the medication,” he said. “If someone is already weak, frail, or sedentary, they may want to consider this issue, and consult with their doctor to determine if statin use is still appropriate.”

This study was done with older men, and generalization of the findings to older women may not be appropriate, the researchers noted in their study.

The research was done by scientists from OSU; the Oregon Health & Science University; the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Portland, Ore.; the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco; the Stanford Prevention Research Center; and the Department of Medicine at the University of California.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon.

College of Pharmacy Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

David Lee, 503-494-2258

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Maintaining activity

Categories: Research news

Computer science student beats odds, hopes to expand computer usability

News - Mon, 06/09/2014 - 8:55am
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Charles Hill struggled through 17 years of foster care, health problems and other challenges to earn a degree this year in computer science.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The odds were stacked against Charles Hill ever receiving a computer science degree from Oregon State University.

Hill spent 17 years in foster care, from which only a small fraction of people obtain college degrees. He experienced abuse, neglect and hunger during his childhood; had no family support to attend college; and copes with ADHD and depression.

But with the help of an OSU professor and others who believed in him, Hill will participate in commencement ceremonies in June and graduate this summer with a degree in computer science. He will also go on to pursue a doctoral degree, as one of only 13 Google Lime Scholars in the nation – $10,000 awards made to students with mental or physical disadvantages to encourage them to stay in the field of engineering.

“One of my major goals in becoming a professor is to rectify some of the inequalities in our education system for those who are less fortunate,” Hill said.

For his graduate work, Hill plans to investigate differences in the problem-solving strategies of people in lower socioeconomic groups, and how to improve software tools to better match their problem-solving needs.

From the age of 10 months to 18 years, Hill remained in foster care. Of the 27,000 children each year who reach the age of 18 in foster care, only 6 percent successfully complete a two-year or four-year degree.

At OSU, Hill met Margaret Burnett, a professor of computer science who does research in how to improve human and computer interaction. She selected Hill as an undergraduate research assistant in her lab – and, further impressed with his capabilities, accepted him as a graduate student, and encouraged him to apply for the Google Lime scholarship.

“I've never met anyone more intellectually curious than he is,” Burnett said. “He just drinks in knowledge.”

Hill’s interest in computer science sparked when, as a middle-schooler, he picked up a computer at a thrift store for $25 and on his own figured out how to fix it. Although his initial goal was to get it to play video games, he soon became the go-to guy for computer problems among his friends and family.

Hill’s dual interests in psychology and computer science matched well with Burnett’s work, the study of how software design can better support the humans who use it. For example, she has studied gender differences in problem solving, to help design tools that serve female and male users equally.

Due to his disabilities, Hill’s first two years of college were a struggle and he lost access to financial aid because of low grades. Rather than give up, Hill sought therapy for ADHD, turned around his grades, and worked as many as three jobs while going to school.

Hill is committed not just to his research and a desire to teach, but also in his personal life. He and his wife became foster care providers while they were both working and going to school. His wife’s grandmother had been caring for an elderly man with intellectual disabilities when she passed away. Rather than see him moved into a group home or with people he didn’t know, they stepped up to take over his care.

Hill credits key people throughout his life to help him stay on a path to success — from a good friend in middle school, to a teacher who motivated him to graduate from high school, his wife who kept after him to not give up on college, and finally Burnett who encouraged him to continue on to graduate school.

“Having someone so accomplished as Professor Burnett believe in my abilities has helped me embrace my potential,” Hill said.

College of Engineering Media Contact: 

Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098

Source: 

Margaret Burnett, 541-737-2539

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Charles and Mary Beth Hill

Categories: Research news

Research could lead to new cancer assay, aid both dogs and humans

News - Thu, 06/05/2014 - 10:07am
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Research at OSU should lead to a new assay for bladder cancer, in both dogs and humans, and improve treatment success.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Veterinary researchers at Oregon State University have identified a unique group of proteins that indicate the presence of transitional cell carcinoma – the most common cause of bladder cancer – and may lead to a new assay which could better diagnose this disease in both dogs and humans.

Bladder cancer is particularly common in some dog breeds, such as collies, sheepdogs and terriers, but is rarely diagnosed in animals before it has spread significantly. Some assays exist to detect it in humans, but they often have a high-number of false-positive identifications.

An improved assay to detect this serious disease much earlier in both animals and humans should be possible, scientists said, and may even become affordable enough that it could be used as an over-the-counter product to test urine, much like a human pregnancy test. Some of the work may also contribute to new therapies, they said.

“Research of this type should first help us develop a reliable assay for this cancer in dogs, and improve the chance the disease can be caught early enough that treatments are effective,” said Shay Bracha, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine.

“However, this type of cancer is essentially the same in dogs and humans,” Bracha said. “Dogs are an excellent model for human cancer research, and an assay that works with dogs should be directly relevant to creation of a similar assay for humans. We hope to make it inexpensive and convenient, something that people could use routinely to protect either the health of their pets or themselves.”

The findings were published recently in Analytical Chemistry, a professional journal.

In this research, scientists used mass spectrometry and the evolving science of proteomics to identify 96 proteins that appear related to transitional cell carcinoma. This is a fairly common cancer in dogs, often as a result of exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and poor quality foods; and in humans is closely related to smoking.

Advanced-stage disease in both dogs and humans has a poor prognosis, as chemotherapy and radiation treatments are often ineffective. Average survival time is less than one year. Some assays exist to help identify the disease in humans but can produce false positive results, often as a result of urinary tract infections. And the biopsies used to make a definitive diagnosis require general anesthesia and also run the risk of actually spreading the disease.

The group of proteins identified in this research already have a 90 percent accuracy, and researchers say they hope to improve upon that with continued research.

However, researchers say that some of these proteins are more than just biomarkers of the disease – they are part of the disease process. Identifying proteins that are integral to the spread of the cancer may allow new targets for intervention and cancer therapies, they said.

Collaborators on this research included the OSU Department of Chemistry. A mathematical model that was integral to the study was created by Jan Medlock, an OSU assistant professor of veterinary medicine, and veterinary researchers Michael McNamara and Ian Hilgart helped initiate the project. The work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health.

College of Veterinary Medicine Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Shay Bracha, 541-737-4844

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Border collie

Categories: Research news

OSU calculator helps organic farmers use fertilizer more efficiently

News - Thu, 06/05/2014 - 8:56am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – Organic farmers use cover crops and organic fertilizers, compost and other amendments to add nutrients to their soil. But are they getting the best bang for their buck?

A new online tool from the Oregon State University Extension Service does the math so that small-scale organic farmers can figure that out more precisely. Nick Andrews, an instructor with the OSU Extension Service's small farms program, helped develop the free, spreadsheet-based tool, which is called the Organic Fertilizer and Cover Crop Calculator, at http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/calculator.

"The calculator lets you estimate how much nitrogen and other nutrients your cover crops and fertilizers will provide for your next cash crop," Andrews said. "That could help you cut back on fertilizer use and benefit from your soil building practices."

Farmers can save money on fertilizer, while also using this information to reduce the risk of nutrient runoff into waterways, Andrews said. On the flip side, farmers might discover that they're not using enough fertilizer, he said.

Farmers and gardeners who don't use cover crops can still use the calculator to determine which types and amounts of organic and synthetic fertilizers to use.

The new calculator estimates the amount of nitrogen needed in pounds per 1,000 square feet while taking into account the amount of nitrogen added by cover crops and other soil amendments such as compost. The original 2010 calculator made calculations on a per acre basis.

This new calculator is most useful for small-scale farmers and experienced gardeners who are interested in refining their fertilizer programs. Before using the calculator, be sure to sample your soil. The calculator helps you account for legume cover crop nitrogen contributions and select the most cost-effective fertilizers, Andrews said.

Read more about cover crops, soil fertility and soil labs in the following Cooperative Extension publications.

Extension Service Media Contact:  Denise Ruttan Source: 

Nick Andrews, 503-678-1264

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Oregon State University has developed a new spreadsheet-based tool that will allow small-scale organic farmers to more accurately estimate nutrient contributions from cover crops and fertilizers. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Categories: Research news

Sea star disease epidemic surges in Oregon, local extinctions expected

News - Wed, 06/04/2014 - 1:21pm
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In the past two weeks an epidemic of sea star wasting syndrome has exploded in Oregon, creating a significant threat to marine intertidal ecosystems.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Just in the past two weeks, the incidence of sea star wasting syndrome has exploded along the Oregon Coast and created an epidemic of historic magnitude, one that threatens to decimate the entire population of purple ochre sea stars.

Prior to this, Oregon had been the only part of the West Coast that had been largely spared this devastating disease.

The ochre sea star, which is the species most heavily affected by the disease in the intertidal zone, may be headed toward localized extinction in Oregon, according to researchers at Oregon State University who have been monitoring the outbreak. As a “keystone” predator, its loss could disrupt the entire marine intertidal ecosystem.

Researchers say this is the first time that die-offs of sea stars, more commonly known as starfish, have ever been identified at one time along such a wide expanse of the West Coast, and the sudden increase in Oregon has been extraordinary.

The best information is from the intertidal zone, which is easier to access for monitoring. In this area, less than 1 percent of the ochre sea stars in Oregon were affected in April, and only slightly more than that by mid-May.

Today, an estimated 30-50 percent of the Oregon populations of this sea star species in the intertidal zone have the disease. The highest losses are at Fogarty Creek, where about 60 percent are affected. Researchers project that the epidemic will intensify and, at some sites, nearly 100 percent of the ochre sea stars could die.

“This is an unprecedented event,” said Bruce Menge, the Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology in the Department of Integrative Biology of the OSU College of Science. “We’ve never seen anything of this magnitude before.

“We have no clue what’s causing this epidemic, how severe the damage might be or how long that damage might last,” he said. “It’s very serious. Some of the sea stars most heavily affected are keystone predators that influence the whole diversity of life in the intertidal zone.”

Colleagues from the Oregon Coast Aquarium are monitoring subtidal sites in Yaquina Bay, where wasting was first observed in April. Photos and video of that work are available at http://bit.ly/1kMlG9s

Altogether, mortality has been documented in 10 species of sea stars on the West Coast. No definitive cause has yet been identified, and it could include bacterial or viral pathogens. Researchers around the nation are working on the issue. More information, including an interactive map of all observations, and opportunities for interested citizens to participate in the observation effort are available online at http://bit.ly/1o5bWNi

Sea star wasting syndrome is a traumatic process in which, over the course of a week or less, the sea stars begin to lose legs, disintegrate, ultimately die and rot. They sometimes physically tear their bodies apart. Various epidemics of the syndrome have been observed in the past, but none of this extent or severity.

In a healthy ecosystem, sea stars are beautiful, but also tenacious and important parts of the marine ecosystem. In particular, they attack mussels and keep their populations under control. Absent enough sea stars, mussel populations can explode, covering up algae and other small invertebrates. Some affected sea stars also eat sea urchins. This could lead to increased numbers of sea urchins that can overgraze kelp and sea grass beds, reducing habitat for other fish that use such areas for food and refuge.

The very ecological concept of “keystone predators,” in fact, originated from work in 1969 at the University of Washington using this same purple ochre sea star as a model.

“Parts of California, Washington, and British Columbia had already been affected by this outbreak of the wasting syndrome,” said Kristen Milligan, program coordinator at OSU for the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, or PISCO, which is a collaboration of OSU, the University of California/Santa Cruz, UC/Santa Barbara and Stanford University.

“It wasn’t clear why those areas had been hit and Oregon had not,” Milligan said. “We were hoping that Oregon’s coast would be spared. Although it was hit late, we are obviously being hit hard by this potentially devastating syndrome.”

A group of OSU undergraduate students have assisted in recent monitoring of the OSU outbreak, studying conditions at 10 sites from south of Cape Blanco to north of Depoe Bay. Researchers say this is one of the best documented outbreaks of marine disease ever undertaken in North America.

Besides OSU and PISCO, other collaborators in this Oregon initiative include the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon Coast Watch, Haystack Rock Awareness Program in Cannon Beach, and the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network. Oregon Sea Grant provides funding for volunteer surveys in the intertidal zone, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation provides support to PISCO.

In some past cases, ecosystems have recovered from severe losses of sea stars, but in others damage has been long-lasting.

In the past, some of the outbreaks were associated with warm-water conditions during El Nino events, but currently the water temperatures in Oregon “are only at the high end of a normal range,” Menge said.

 

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Kristen Milligan, 541-737-8862

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Categories: Research news

Iron, steel in hatcheries may distort magnetic “map sense” of steelhead

News - Tue, 06/03/2014 - 4:08pm
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Exposure to iron pipes and steel rebar, such as the materials found in most hatcheries, affects the navigation ability of young steelhead trout, according to new research from Oregon State University.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Exposure to iron pipes and steel rebar, such as the materials found in most hatcheries, affects the navigation ability of young steelhead trout by altering the important magnetic “map sense” they need for migration, according to new research from Oregon State University.

The exposure to iron and steel distorts the magnetic field around the fish, affecting their ability to navigate, said Nathan Putman, who led the study while working as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, part of OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

Just last year Putman and other researchers presented evidence of a correlation between the oceanic migration patterns of salmon and drift of the Earth’s magnetic field. Earlier this year they confirmed the ability of salmon to navigate using the magnetic field in experiments at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center. Scientists for decades have studied how salmon find their way across vast stretches of ocean.

“The better fish navigate, the higher their survival rate,” said Putman, who conducted the research at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center in the Alsea River basin last year. “When their magnetic field is altered, the fish get confused.”

Subtle differences in the magnetic environment within hatcheries could help explain why some hatchery fish do better than others when they are released into the wild, Putman said. Stabilizing the magnetic field by using alternative forms of hatchery construction may be one way to produce a better yield of fish, he said.

“It’s not a hopeless problem,” he said. “You can fix these kinds of things. Retrofitting hatcheries with non-magnetic materials might be worth doing if it leads to making better fish.”

Putman’s findings were published this week in the journal Biology Letters. The research was funded by Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, with support from Oregon State University. Co-authors of the study are OSU’s David Noakes, senior scientist at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center, and Amanda Meinke of the Oregon Hatchery Research Center.

The new findings follow earlier research by Putman and others that confirmed the connection between salmon and the Earth’s magnetic field. Researchers exposed hundreds of juvenile Chinook salmon to different magnetic fields that exist at the latitudinal extremes of their oceanic range.

Fish responded to these “simulated magnetic displacements” by swimming in the direction that would bring them toward the center of their marine feeding grounds. In essence, the research confirmed that fish possess a map sense, determining where they are and which way to swim based on the magnetic fields they encounter.

Putman repeated that experiment with the steelhead trout and achieved similar results. He then expanded the research to determine if changes to the magnetic field in which fish were reared would affect their map sense. One group of fish was maintained in a fiberglass tank, while the other group was raised in a similar tank but in the vicinity of iron pipes and a concrete floor with steel rebar, which produced a sharp gradient of magnetic field intensity within the tank. Iron pipes and steel reinforced concrete are common in fish hatcheries.

The scientists monitored and photographed the juvenile steelhead, called parr, and tracked the direction in which they were swimming during simulated magnetic displacement experiments. The steelhead reared in a natural magnetic field adjusted their map sense and tended to swim in the same direction. But fish that were exposed to the iron pipes and steel-reinforced concrete failed to show the appropriate orientation and swam in random directions.

More research is needed to determine exactly what that means for the fish. The loss of their map sense could be temporary and they could recalibrate their magnetic sense after a period of time, Putman said. Alternatively, if there is a critical window in which the steelhead’s map sense is imprinted, and it is exposed to an altered magnetic field then, the fish could remain confused forever, he said.

“There is evidence in other animals, especially in birds, that either is possible,” said Putman, who now works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “We don’t know enough about fish yet to know which is which. We should be able to figure that out with some simple experiments.”

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Nathan Putman, 205-218-5276 or Nathan.putman@gmail.com; or David Noakes, 541-737-1953, David.noakes@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

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