Oregon State University

Research news

Study confirms link between salmon migration and magnetic field

News - Thu, 02/06/2014 - 9:48am
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Chinook salmon use the Earth's magnetic field to orient themselves to their river of origin, a new study found, explaining how the fish navigation thousands of miles of open ocean.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A team of scientists last year presented evidence of a correlation between the migration patterns of ocean salmon and the Earth’s magnetic field, suggesting it may help explain how the fish can navigate across thousands of miles of water to find their river of origin.

This week, scientists confirmed the connection between salmon and the magnetic field following a series of experiments at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center in the Alsea River basin. 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 that toward the center of their marine feeding grounds.

The study, which was funded by Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, will be published this month in the forthcoming issue of Current Biology.

“What is particularly exciting about these experiments is that the fish we tested had never left the hatchery and thus we know that their responses were not learned or based on experience, but rather they were inherited,” said Nathan Putman, a postdoctoral researcher in Oregon State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and lead author on the study.

“These fish are programmed to know what to do before they ever reach the ocean,” he added.

To test the hypothesis, the researchers constructed a large platform with copper wires running horizontally and vertically around the perimeter. By running electrical current through the wires, the scientists could create a magnetic field and control both the intensity and inclination angle of the field. They then placed 2-inch juvenile salmon called “parr” in 5-gallon buckets and, after an acclimation period, monitored and photographed the direction in which they were swimming.

Fish presented with a magnetic field characteristic of the northern limits of the oceanic range of Chinook salmon were more likely to swim in a southerly direction, while fish encountering a far southern field tended to swim north. In essence, fish possess a “map sense” determining where they are and which way to swim based on the magnetic fields they encounter.

“The evidence is irrefutable,” said co-author David Noakes of OSU, senior scientist at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center and the 2012 recipient of the American Fisheries Society’s Award of Excellence. “I tell people: The fish can detect and respond to the Earth’s magnetic field. There can be no doubt of that.”

Not all of the more than 1,000 fish swam in the same direction, Putman said. But there was a clear preference by the fish for swimming in the direction away from the magnetic field that was “wrong” for them. Fish that remained in the magnetic field of the testing site – near Alsea, Ore. – were randomly oriented, indicating that orientation of fish subjected to magnetic displacements could only be attributable to change in the magnetic field.

“What is really surprising is that these fish were only exposed to the magnetic field we created for about eight minutes,” Putman pointed out. “And the field was not even strong enough to deflect a compass needle.”

Putman said that salmon must be particularly sensitive because the Earth’s magnetic field is relatively weak. Because of that, it may not take much to interfere with their navigational abilities. Many structures contain electrical wires or reinforcing iron that could potentially affect the orientation of fish early in their life cycle, the researchers say.

“Fish are raised in hatcheries where there are electrical and magnetic influences,” Noakes said, “and some will encounter electrical fields while passing through power dams. When they reach the ocean, they may swim by structures or cables that could interfere with navigation. Do these have an impact? We don’t yet know.”

Putman said natural disruptions could include chunks of iron in the Earth’s crust, though “salmon have been dealing with that for thousands of years.”

“Juvenile salmon face their highest mortality during the period when the first enter the ocean,” Putman said, “because they have to adapt to a saltwater environment, find food, avoid predation, and begin their journey. Anything that makes them navigate less efficiently is a concern because if they take a wrong turn and end up in a barren part of the ocean, they are going to starve.”

The magnetic field is likely not the only tool salmon use to navigate, however, Putman noted.

“They likely have a whole suite of navigational aids that help them get where they are going, perhaps including orientation to the sun, sense of smell and others,” Putman said.

The Oregon Hatchery Research Center is funded by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and jointly run by ODFW and Oregon State University.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

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

David Noakes, 541-737-1953; david.noakes@oregonstate.edu

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Orientation of

salmon to field

Categories: Research news

Behavior of man's best friend shaped by breed and hunting instincts

News - Mon, 02/03/2014 - 11:45am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – A dog's breed can determine how well it follows human commands, according to a new study from Oregon State University.

The study, which was published this month in the journal Animal Behaviour, found that dogs bred for predatory traits are better at following some human gestures.

"The more we know about the predatory behavioral tendencies of dogs, the better we can predict how successful they might be with humans in different home and working environments," said Monique Udell, an animal scientist at OSU and lead author of the study. “This may allow us to make better placement, ownership and training decisions in the future.”

"We can set dogs up to succeed by capitalizing on each breed's inherent strengths instead of treating all dogs as if they came from the same mold," she added.

OSU tested three breeds of dogs used for specific purposes: hunting, herding and livestock-guarding. In an experiment, dogs watched a researcher point to one of two identical empty cans. If the dog then approached that same can, food was placed on it. The test was repeated 10 times.

When choosing between the two cans, the researchers believe each breed drew on its natural predatory tendency to eye, stalk, chase and ultimately consume food triggered by movement – a pointing human hand, in this case.

Border collies, the herding dogs used in the test, chose the correct can more than 85 percent of the time. Researchers credit their success to the fact that border collies have been bred for exaggerated eye-stalk-chase behavior, hunting traits which dogs inherited from their wolf ancestors.

Airedale terriers also performed well, showing 70 percent success in tests. The hunting dogs have predatory instincts most similar to wolves and are extremely responsive to movement and inclined to follow it.

"These breeds are perceived to have an uncanny ability to read people, like when they anticipate owners taking them for a walk," said Udell, who is also the director of the OSU Human-Animal Interaction Lab and an assistant professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. “What people are picking up on is a predisposition in these dogs to watch for movement and respond accordingly.”

Anatolian shepherds, the livestock guarding dogs in the tests, initially responded to human gestures less than 50 percent of the time on average — not a single individual performed above chance.

This finding is consistent with their breeding, said Udell, because Anatolian shepherds have been bred for the absence of predatory traits to encourage them to protect instead of chase livestock. With additional training, however, Anatolian shepherds were able to learn to follow human pointing.

Although researchers are confident that breed helps predict the success of dogs in following human commands, they also note that it is only one factor among many.

"Behavior is not fixed,” Udell said. “A dog’s breed may simply signify a different starting point. If dog owners want their pets to behave in a way that is uncharacteristic of their breed, it is often possible, but may take more training and time. You can teach dogs – young and old – new tricks."

The study is online at http://bit.ly/OSU_DogBehaviorStudy.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Daniel Robison Source: 

Monique Udell, 541-737-9154

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Border collies, which are trained to herd sheep and other animals, show a strong ability to follow human commands because of predatory instincts inherited from wolves. (Photo by Lora Withnell.)

Categories: Research news

Genetic function discovered that could offer new avenue to cancer therapies

News - Fri, 01/31/2014 - 4:52pm
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OSU pharmacy researchers have discovered the function of a gene that may offer a new avenue to cancer therapies.

The study this story is based on is available online: http://rsc.li/1fcWMim

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered a genetic function that helps one of the most important “tumor suppressor” genes to do its job and prevent cancer.

Finding ways to maintain or increase the effectiveness of this gene – called Grp1-associated scaffold protein, or Grasp – could offer an important new avenue for human cancer therapies, scientists said.

The findings were just published in Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences, a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, by researchers from OSU and Oregon Health & Science University. The work was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The Grasp gene was studied in the skin of mice in this research, but is actually expressed at the highest levels in the brain, heart and lung, studies have shown. It appears to play a fundamental role in the operation of the p53 tumor suppressor gene, which is a focus of much modern cancer research.

The p53 gene is involved in repair of DNA damage and, if the damage is too great, causing a mutated cell to die before it can cause further problems, up to and including cancer. Dysfunction of p53 genetic pathways have been linked to more than half of all known cancers - particularly skin, esophageal, colon, pancreatic, lung, ovarian, and head and neck cancers.

“DNA mutations occur constantly in our bodies just by ordinary stresses, something as simple as exposure to sunlight for a few seconds,” said Mark Leid, professor of pharmacology and associate dean for research in the OSU College of Pharmacy, and one of the lead authors on this study.

“Just as constantly, the p53 gene and other tumor suppressors are activated to repair that damage,” Leid said. “And in cases where the damage is too severe to be repaired, p53 will cause the apoptosis, or death of the mutated cell. Almost all of the time, when they are working right, these processes prevent the formation of cancers.”

But the activity and function of p53 can sometimes decline or fail, Leid said, and allow development of cancer. Promising approaches to cancer therapy are now based on activating or stimulating the p53 protein to do its job.

The new study has found that the Grasp gene is significantly involved in maintaining the proper function of p53. When “Grasp” is not being adequately expressed, the p53 protein that has entered the cell nucleus to either repair or destroy the cell comes back out of the nucleus before its work is finished.

“It appears that a primary function of Grasp is to form sort of a halo around the nucleus of a damaged skin cell, and act as kind of a plug to keep the p53 cell inside the nucleus until its work is done,” Leid said. “A drug that could enhance Grasp function might also help enhance the p53 function, and give us a different way to keep this important tumor suppressor working the way that it is supposed to.

“This could be important,” he said.

OSU experts created laboratory mice that lacked the Grasp gene, and so long as the mice were reared in a perfect environment, they developed normally. But when they were exposed to even a mild environmental stress – ultraviolet light similar to moderate sun exposure – they began to develop cellular abnormalities much more rapidly than ordinary mice. Most significantly, mutated skin cells did not die as they should have.

In normal mice, the same moderate light exposure caused a rapid increase in expression of the Grasp gene, allowing the p53 protein to stay in the nucleus and normal protective mechanisms to do their work.

Most current cancer therapies related to the p53 tumor suppression process are directed toward activating the p53 protein, Leid said. A therapy directed toward improving the Grasp gene function would be a different approach toward the same goal, he said, and might improve the efficacy of treatment.

College of Pharmacy Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Mark Leid, 541-737-5809

Categories: Research news

OSU surpasses fundraising milestone of $1 billion

News - Fri, 01/31/2014 - 1:13pm
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OSU’s first comprehensive campaign has surpassed its $1 billion fund-raising goal – 11 months ahead of schedule.

 

A copy of President Ray’s speech is available online: http://bit.ly/1dRiaHx

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray announced today that the university’s first comprehensive campaign has surpassed its $1 billion fund-raising goal – 11 months ahead of schedule.

Ray made the announcement at his annual “State of the University” address in Portland to an audience of more than 600 business, political, civic and education leaders, alumni and friends of the university. He encouraged contributions through the remainder of the year to further deepen the university’s impact on students, the state, nation and world. Gifts to The Campaign for OSU now total $1,012,601,000.

“While this is a remarkable milestone, this campaign has never been about the big number,” Ray said. “Our generous donors are committed, as is the university, to transforming Oregon State into a top-10 land grant research university to significantly advance the health of the Earth, its people and our economy.”

Donors have brought private support for Oregon State to an all-time high, with annual totals exceeding $100 million for the last three years. More than 102,000 donors to the campaign have:

  • Created more than 600 new scholarships and fellowship funds – a 30 percent increase – with gifts for student support exceeding $170 million;
  • Contributed more than $100 million to help attract and retain leading professors and researchers, including funding for 77 of Oregon State’s 124 endowed faculty positions;
  • Supported the construction or renovation of more than two dozen campus facilities, including Austin Hall in the College of Business, the Linus Pauling Science Center, new cultural centers, and the OSU Basketball Center. Bonding support from the state was critical to many of these projects.

 

Business leaders Pat Reser, a 1960 OSU alumna; Patrick Stone, a 1974 graduate; and Jim Rudd have co-chaired the campaign since its public launch in 2007. All three have been trustees of the OSU Foundation, and Reser, board chair of Reser’s Fine Foods, also serves as chair of Oregon State’s new Board of Trustees that was appointed by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

“Our donor community is growing because people are deepening their ties to Oregon State – and that helps make us a better university,” said J. Michael Goodwin, CEO and president of the OSU Foundation, the nonprofit organization charged with raising, administering and stewarding private gifts to the university.  “This broad base of support positions Oregon State well for future philanthropic support and engagement from our alumni, parents and friends.”

Donors from every state and more than 50 countries have invested in OSU as part of the campaign. Almost 40 percent of these campaign donors are first-time donors to the university. More than 1,000 donors have made campaign gifts of more than $100,000, including 177 donors who have made gifts of $1 million or more. Oregon State joins only 34 other public universities in the country to have crossed the billion-dollar mark in a fund-raising campaign.

“The campaign is about developing and energizing a community of dedicated advocates, people who share our vision of what Oregon State can accomplish,” Ray said. “These partners have changed Oregon State forever – and I believe the best is yet to come.”

In his State of the University address, Ray said Oregon needs to quit talking and start planning to meet its goal of a more educated citizenry to achieve economic and social prosperity. He cited the state’s lack of apparent focus on reaching Oregon’s “40-40-20” educational achievement goal, which calls for 40 percent of adult Oregonians to hold a bachelor’s or advanced degree, 40 percent to have an associate’s degree or a meaningful postsecondary certificate, and all adult Oregonians to hold a high school diploma or equivalent by the year 2025.

OSU has developed a plan to do its part and is committed to those goals, already demonstrating success, Ray said. But more is needed.

“Beyond Oregon State University’s own enrollment management and strategic plan, I have no idea how the state will get to 40-40-20, which could require as many as 35,000 more students annually enrolled in our four-year universities and colleges,” Ray said. “There is no statewide blueprint.”

Ray went on to describe how OSU’s enrollment grew by 1,532 students in Corvallis and online and by another 135 students at OSU-Cascades in Bend.

“Despite those gains, the net increase in enrollment among all Oregon public universities outside of Oregon State totaled 14 students,” Ray pointed out. That includes an enrollment increase at the Oregon Institute of Technology of 413 students.

OSU has been following a plan for the past two years to help the state achieve its goals. Ray said the university expects to educate 28,000 students in Corvallis, 3,000 to 5,000 students at OSU-Cascades by 2025; and grow its online enrollment to more than 7,000 students. The university also plans to educate another 500 students annually by 2025 at a new marine studies campus located in Newport.

Ray, who recently completed his 10th year as OSU president, pointed to several Oregon State University initiatives that will help boost the economy:

 

  • OSU will lead a new national effort through its College of Forestry to advance the science and technology necessary to utilize wood in the construction of taller buildings in a public-private partnership that will advance manufacturing in Oregon and boost rural economies;
  • The university launched the OSU Advantage last year – a one-stop shop for linking businesses with the students and researchers of Oregon State to accelerate new business development and spinoff companies;
  • OSU’s research enterprise continues to grow and reached $263 million in 2013 – a 70 percent increase over the last decade. Two major initiatives include the selection of Oregon State to lead the design and construction of the next generation of ocean-going research vessels for the United States, and the selection of OSU, along with partners in Alaska and Hawaii, to operate one of six national sites for unmanned aircraft systems.

Industry-sponsored research is up 60 percent in five years, Ray pointed out, and licensing agreements with industry have increased 83 percent. Since 2006, OSU has helped launched 20 startup companies, which have raised $190 million in venture capital and created hundreds of jobs.

“Economic development,” Ray said, “is part of our DNA.”

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Steve Clark, 503-502-8217

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Kearney Hall

 

Video that could be downloaded for B-roll is available online: http://bit.ly/1frg9Xc

Categories: Research news

Eliminating grazing won't reduce impact of climate change on rangeland, scientists say

News - Thu, 01/30/2014 - 10:27am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – Eliminating grazing won't reduce the impact of climate change on rangeland, according to nearly 30 scientists in the western United States.

The researchers, who work for nine universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, made this argument in a journal article in response to a debate over whether grazing on western public lands worsens ecological alterations caused by climate change.

"We dispute the notion that eliminating grazing will provide a solution to problems created by climate change," the 27 authors wrote in the peer-reviewed paper, which was a summary of scientific literature that was published online this month by the journal Environmental Management. "To cope with a changing climate, land managers will need access to all available vegetation management tools, including grazing."

Some scientists argue that livestock, deer, elk and wild horses and burros exacerbate the effects of climate change on vegetation, soils, water and wildlife on western rangelands. As a result, they claim that removing or reducing these animals would alleviate the problem.

In this latest paper, however, the authors argued that grazing can actually help mitigate some of the effects of climate change. Climate change, they said, is likely to increase the accumulation of flammable grasses and increase the chance of catastrophic wildfires unless those grasses are managed.

"Grazing is one of the few tools available to reduce the herbaceous vegetation that becomes fine fuel on rangelands," said co-author Dave Bohnert, the director of Oregon State University's Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center in Burns.

Globally, grazing is used for a variety of vegetation management objectives, in addition to fine fuel reduction, said lead author Tony Svejcar, a research leader at the USDA's office in Burns who also has a courtesy appointment in OSU's Animal and Rangeland Sciences Department.

The scientists also said that it's unclear how removing grazing would overcome the effects of large-scale climatic changes such as reduced snow packs.

The authors also pointed out that some criticism of grazing has been based on decades-old studies, when the scars of unfettered foraging were still fresh on the landscape. They added that in some places it's hard to tell if impacts from grazing are from current practices or if they are left over from the homesteading era when grazing was unregulated.

"Before the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, it was a first-come, first-served competition, with the winners taking as much of the forage as they could because if they didn’t someone else would," said Bohnert, who is a beef cattle specialist with the OSU Extension Service and a professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. “Since then, we've learned more about the ecology and management of rangelands. Ranchers are constantly looking at ways to be more sustainable in their grazing practices.”

Collaborators on the paper are from OSU, the University of Arizona, Brigham Young University, the University of California-Davis, the University of Idaho, Montana State University, the University of Nevada-Reno, Utah State University, the University of Wyoming and the USDA's Agricultural Research Service.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Tiffany Woods Source: 

Dave Bohnert, 541-573-8910;

Tony Svejcar, 541-573-8901

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Animal scientist Dave Bohnert works with cattle at Oregon State University's Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center in Burns. Bohnert is a co-author of a paper that says that eliminating grazing isn't the fix-all solution to protecting land affected by climate change. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)



Cattle graze near Prineville, Ore. Grazing is one way to reduce the risk of large wildfires, according to scientists from nine universities. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Categories: Research news

Study finds home births comparatively safe – for low-risk women, infants

News - Thu, 01/30/2014 - 9:24am
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The largest U.S. study of planned home births found that 93.6 percent of the 16,924 women had spontaneous vaginal births, and only 5.2 percent required a cesarean section.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The largest study ever conducted in the United States of planned home births found that 93.6 percent of the 16,924 women in the study had spontaneous vaginal births, and only 5.2 percent required a cesarean section for delivery.

Both mortality figures and the cesarean rate are lower than those reported at U.S. hospitals, which is to be expected the researchers say because the women in the study were primarily healthy and the pregnancies low-risk. Importantly, however, the numbers reported in this study are consistent with other large home birth studies conducted in Canada and Europe.

Results of the study are being published this week in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health. A companion article provides evidence of data validity.

“Given our findings, especially in light of other observational studies published in the last decade, I think it’s time to start shifting the discourse around home birth in this country,” said Melissa Cheyney, a medical anthropologist at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “We need to start focusing on who might be a good candidate for a home or birth center birth and stop debating whether women should be allowed to choose these options.

“Home birth is not for every woman and risk factors need to be weighed,” she added. “But the evidence strongly suggests that a healthy woman with an uncomplicated delivery and a single, term baby in a head-down position can safely give birth outside the hospital.”

Home births are on the rise in the United States – up about 40 percent in the last nine years – but still constitute only 1.2 percent of all deliveries. In contrast, 8 percent of women in Great Britain and 29 percent of women in the Netherlands give birth outside of an obstetric unit.

The study resulted from an analysis of data collected by the Midwives Alliance of North America Statistics Project, commonly referred to as MANA Stats. Most of the nearly 17,000 women in the study were attended by Certified Professional Midwives, who provided detailed reports on outcomes. Among the findings:

  • Of the 1,054 women who had previously given birth by cesarean section, 87 percent had a successful vaginal birth;
  • More than 89 percent of the women successfully gave birth at home, while only 11 percent of them required transport for medical treatment. Of those receiving additional medical care, the majority were for “failure to progress,” usually indicating that labor was proceeding slowly and that augmentation of the labor may have been needed.
  • Only 1.5 percent of the babies had a low Apgar score, a measure of how healthy the newborn is in the first five minutes following birth.

“One of the biggest risk factors we did find is with breech births, which have a higher mortality rate than do head-down babies,” said Cheyney, an associate professor in OSU’s College of Liberal Arts who also is a practicing certified professional midwife. “Most breeches are known prior to birth and many breech babies may successfully be turned to a head-down position prior to delivery.

“But this kind of information is important for mothers, physicians and midwives to discuss as they engage in shared decision-making.”

Women in this nationwide study were predominately white and married, and 58 percent were college-educated, according to Marit Bovbjerg, a postdoctoral research associate in epidemiology in Oregon State’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and a co-author on the study.

The study also found that 98 percent of the newborns were breastfeeding six weeks after birth, and 86 percent exclusively so – one of the strongest measures of future health and at a rate much higher than the national average.

The study was supported by the Foundation for the Advancement of Midwifery, the Transforming Birth Fund, and the MANA Board of Directors. Other authors on the paper include Courtney Everson, a doctoral student at OSU; Wendy Gordon, a faculty member in the Bastyr University Midwifery Department; Darcy Hannibal, a research associate at the University of California, Davis; and Saraswathi Vedam, an associate professor in the University of British Columbia faculty of medicine.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Melissa Cheyney, 541-737-4515; melissa.cheyney@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Poet Gary Young to read at OSU on Feb. 7

News - Wed, 01/29/2014 - 2:29pm
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Poet and artist Gary Young will read at Oregon State University on Friday, Feb. 7, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the Valley Library rotunda

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Poet and artist Gary Young will read at Oregon State University on Friday, Feb. 7, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the Valley Library rotunda. A question and answer session and book signing will follow. This event is part of the 2013-14 Visiting Writers Series at OSU.

Young has authored seven volumes of poetry including his most recent collection, “Even So: New and Selected Poems” (2012).

Publisher’s Weekly notes that Young “writes with a unique combination of wisdom and terror, engendering a kind of sad calm, a hard-earned acceptance of life’s difficulty and openness to its beauty.”

Young’s honors include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council, the 1992 Pushcart Prize, the James D. Phelan Award for his collection “The Dream of a Moral Life,” the William Carlos Williams Award for “No Other Life,” and the 2013 Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America.

In 2010 Young was named the Poet Laureate of Santa Cruz County, where he teaches creative writing and directs the Cowell Press at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

His print work is represented in collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and The Getty Center for the Arts.

The Visiting Writers Series brings nationally-known writers to Oregon State. The program is supported by The Valley Library, the OSU Press, the OSU School of Writing, Literature, and Film, the College of Liberal Arts, Kathy Brisker and Tim Steele, and Grass Roots Books and Music.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact: 

Source: 

 Rachel Ratner, 516-652-5817; rachel.ratner@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

OSU to hold symposium Feb. 14-15 featuring LeGuin, others

News - Wed, 01/29/2014 - 2:26pm
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A symposium designed to explore ways to live on Earth without exploiting the planet will be held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 14-15, at Oregon State University.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A symposium designed to explore ways to live on Earth without exploiting the planet – featuring speakers ranging from author Ursula K. LeGuin to environmental activist Tim DeChristopher – will be held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 14-15, at Oregon State University.

The conference, “Transformation without Apocalypse: How to Live Well on an Altered Planet,” is at LaSells Stewart Center on campus. The event is free but participants should register on the Spring Creek Project website at http://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/centers-and-initiatives/spring-creek-project. Workshop spaces are limited and registration is on first-come basis.

Keynote speakers on Friday include Rob Nixon, author of “Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor,” Susana Almanza, co-director of People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources (PODER), and geographer Carolyn Finney, author of the forthcoming “Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors.”

Also on Friday, artist Amy Franceschini will speak on her environmentally related art projects and the work of Futurefarmers, an international collective of artists, activists, researchers and others who work together to propose alternatives to the social, political and environmental organization of space.

Saturday’s speakers include DeChristopher, an environmental activist featured in the film “Bidder 70,” authors LeGuin and Kim Stanley Robinson, eco-philosopher Joanna Macy, author and environmental philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore, and Yes! magazine editor Sarah Van Gelder.

“It’s going to take a powerful surge of human creativity, energy, and commitment to create a socially just and ecologically well-adapted future,” said Charles Goodrich, director of the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word, the symposium organizers. “So we’ve designed this gathering to bring together a diverse community to imagine tangible visions of new/old ways to live without exhausting the planet.”

“Transformation without Apocalypse” is sponsored by the Spring Creek Project, along with OSU School of History, Philosophy, and Religion, Hundere Endowment for Religion and Culture, Anarres Project, College of Liberal Arts, and OSU Arts and Humanities Initiative.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Charles Goodrich, 541-737-6198;  Charles.goodrich@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Braunworth named as head of OSU Department of Horticulture

News - Wed, 01/29/2014 - 10:13am
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CORVALLIS, Ore - Bill Braunworth has been selected to head the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University, following a national search.

Since 1992, Braunworth has served OSU as the program leader of the Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Extension Program. As program leader, he developed greater budget capacity and flexibility and worked to preserve the Extension horticulture program in Multnomah, Lane, Linn and Lincoln counties.

In 2001, he led a 30-member team of scientists from three universities that reported the impacts from reallocation of water in the Klamath Basin.

Braunworth, who earned a doctorate in horticulture from OSU in 1986, has worked as an agronomist on water use and management in Egypt and as a horticultural researcher in Malawi.

He served as the interim department head in horticulture after Anita Azarenko left the department in 2012 to become associate dean of OSU’s graduate school.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Peg Herring Source: 

Bill Braunworth, 541-760-1317

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Bill Braunworth is the new head of the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University. (Photo courtesy of OSU.)

Categories: Research news

OSU uses satellite images to detect underwater volcanic eruptions

News - Tue, 01/28/2014 - 11:06am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University scientists have discovered how to pinpoint the time and place of underwater volcanic eruptions using satellite images.

Volcanic eruptions on the ocean floor can spew large amounts of pumice and fine particles, as well as hot water that brings nutrients to the surface, resulting in plumes of algae. The plumes are picked up as shades of green in satellite images.

"Some volcanic eruptions take place hundreds of feet below water and show no changes to the sea surface to the naked eye," said Robert O'Malley, an OSU research assistant in botany and plant pathology in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. “It's amazing an orbiting satellite can detect color changes that indicate an eruption has taken place. Many times you can't spot an eruption if you were floating over it in a boat.”

Underwater volcanic eruptions are rarely detected, so little is known about them, according to Mike Behrenfeld, an OSU expert in marine algae and and one of the researchers on the project.

"Satellite measurements of the planet are made every day,” Behrenfeld said, “so this new method provides another tool for spotting these dramatic events that affect life in the oceans."

O'Malley and Behrenfeld developed a process for analyzing low-resolution images to show evidence of eruptions, which can extend over thousands of square miles, by matching five known eruptions with data from NASA satellites.

"We measured sunlight going into the ocean interacting with particles consistent with underwater volcanic eruptions," said O'Malley. “From there, we found we could connect color data with documented eruptions. Now we have a better idea of what to look for in the data when we don't know about the eruption first."

Next, the researchers plan to test how well their method works as eruptions are happening. Further study will also focus on the depth at which eruptions can be detected.

The research was funded by NASA's Ocean Biology and Geochemistry Program.

The study was published in the journal Remote Sensing of the Environment and can be found online at http://bit.ly/OSU_VolcanoStudy.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Daniel Robison Source: 

Robert O'Malley, 541-737-2316;

Mike Behrenfeld, 541-737-5289

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Categories: Research news

Innovative program producing needed computer science graduates

News - Mon, 01/27/2014 - 5:06pm
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An online program at OSU is helping to address a national shortage of computer science graduates, while opening new careers to anyone who already has a bachelor's degree.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – An online computer science degree program at Oregon State University – the only one of its type in the nation designed specifically for post-baccalaureate students – has grown rapidly, helping to address a national shortage of computer science graduates.

Although it was launched only 18 months ago by the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, by the end of this year the program will allow the school to double the number of its computer science graduates with a bachelor’s degree.

Developed in collaboration with OSU’s highly ranked Ecampus, the program allows students with a bachelor’s degree in another field to complete a degree in as little as 12 months because no general education courses are required. Many students choose a slower pace, however, and the courses are geared to people with no computer science experience.

The program has attracted students with a broad range of previous degrees including accounting, chemistry, engineering, history, journalism, law, psychology, and political science; 39 percent of the students come with backgrounds in humanities and social sciences. The online format allows individuals juggling work and family an easier way to go back to school.

According to a recent survey by the Technology Councils of North America, the entire nation is experiencing a shortage of people trained in computer science. Two-thirds of technology company executives in North America agreed there is a talent shortage, and the crisis is particularly acute in Oregon where 86 percent of executives reported there is a shortage of talent in a survey conducted by the Technology Association of Oregon.

A key strategy in the 2014 Oregon Business Plan is to better connect education with high-paying jobs in science and technology fields, including computer science.

Although the 755 students admitted to the online program are from all over the world, more than half of them are from Oregon, Washington and California, and 23 percent now live in Oregon.

“OSU’s one-year online degree program in computer science is working to help fill some of the gaps by offering students and professionals a flexible way to obtain valuable skills and increase their marketability within the local tech industry,” said Skip Newberry, president of the Technology Association of Oregon.

It’s also making a personal impact on individuals. With an established career in business and two small children, Bental Wong said he would not have been able to return to school to carry out his dream of becoming a software engineer, if it had not been for the flexibility of this program. After completing the program in a year, Wong immediately had three job offers and is now part of a small team at Hewlett Packard in Vancouver, Wash., creating innovative software for HP printers.

“It’s so rewarding to hear about the successes of our students,” said Terri Fiez, head of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “We are proud of the impact this program is having on the lives of our students and the tech industry.”

College of Engineering Media Contact: 

Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098

Source: 

Terri Fiez, 541-737-3118

Categories: Research news

Study identifies high level of “food insecurity” among college students

News - Mon, 01/27/2014 - 9:08am
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New research suggests many college students may experience "food insecurity," with possible impacts on their health and academic performance.

 

The study this story is based on is available in ScholarsArchive@OSU: http://bit.ly/LCp10Y

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – One of the few studies of its type has found that a startling 59 percent of college students at one Oregon university were “food insecure” at some point during the previous year, with possible implications for academic success, physical and emotional health and other issues.

Contrary to concerns about obesity and some students packing on “the freshman 15” in weight gain, another reality is that many students are not getting enough healthy food to eat as they struggle with high costs, limited income, and fewer food or social support systems than are available to other groups.

The findings were published recently in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, by researchers from Oregon State University, the Benton County Health Department, and Western Oregon University. Students at Western Oregon were surveyed as the basis for the study.

“Based on other research that’s been done, we expected some amount of food concerns among college students,” said Daniel López-Cevallos, associate director of research at OSU’s Center for Latino/a Studies and Engagement. “But it was shocking to find food insecurity of this severity. Several recent trends may be combining to cause this.”

The researchers said a combination of rising college costs, more low-income and first-generation students attending college, and changing demographic trends are making this issue more significant than it may have been in the past.

“For past generations, students living on a lean budget might have just considered it part of the college experience, a transitory thing,” said Megan Patton-López, lead author of the study with Oregon’s Benton County Health Department.

“But rising costs of education are now affecting more people,” she said. “And for many of these students who are coming from low-income families and attending college for the first time, this may be a continuation of food insecurity they’ve known before. It becomes a way of life, and they don’t have as many resources to help them out.”

Most college students, with some exceptions, are not eligible for food stamps and many are often already carrying heavy debt loads. And the study found that even though many of them work one or more jobs, the financial demands are such that they still may not have enough money for healthy food at all times.

Food insecurity is defined as limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and the ability to acquire such food in acceptable ways. It has been associated with depression, stress, trouble learning in the classroom, and poor health. When similar issues have been addressed with elementary school students, improvements were seen in academic performance, behavior and retention of knowledge.

But these problems have received scarcely any attention in the 19-24 year old, young-adult demographic that predominates in college, the scientists said.

Among the findings of this study:

  • While about 14.9 percent of all households in the nation report food insecurity, the number of college students voicing similar concerns in this report was almost four times higher, at 59 percent.
  • In the past three decades the cost of higher education has steadily outpaced inflation, the cost of living and medical expenses.
  • Food insecurity during college years could affect cognitive, academic and psychosocial development.
  • Factors correlated with reports of food insecurity include fair to poor health, a lower grade point average, low income and employment.

Employment, by itself, is not adequate to resolve this problem, the researchers found. Students reporting food insecurity also worked an average of 18 hours a week – some as high as 42 – but the financial demands they faced more than offset that income.

These findings were based on a survey of 354 students at Western Oregon University, a mid-size public university in a small town near the state capitol in Salem, Ore. Students at Western Oregon supported and assisted in this research, and Doris Cancel-Tirado and Leticia Vazquez with Western Oregon co-authored the study.

The findings probably reflect similar concerns at colleges and universities across the nation, the researchers said, although more research is needed in many areas to determine the full scope of this problem.

“One thing that’s clear is that colleges and universities need to be having this conversation and learning more about the issues their students may be facing,” said López-Cevallos. “There may be steps to take locally that could help, and policies that could be considered nationally. But it does appear this is a very serious issue that has not received adequate attention, and we need to explore it further.”

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Daniel López-Cevallos, 541-737-3850

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Student food bank

Categories: Research news

More benefits emerging for one type of omega-3 fatty acid: DHA

News - Wed, 01/22/2014 - 4:07pm
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Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, may have an even wider range of benefits that previously considered, new research suggests.

The study this story is based on is available online: http://bit.ly/1dDuf7i

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A study of the metabolic effects of omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, concludes that these compounds may have an even wider range of biological impacts than previously considered, and suggests they could be of significant value in the prevention of fatty liver disease.

The research, done by scientists at Oregon State University and several other institutions, was one of the first of its type to use “metabolomics,” an analysis of metabolites that reflect the many biological effects of omega-3 fatty acids on the liver. It also explored the challenges this organ faces from the “Western diet” that increasingly is linked to liver inflammation, fibrosis, cirrhosis and sometimes liver failure.

The results were surprising, researchers say.

Supplements of DHA, used at levels that are sometimes prescribed to reduce blood triglycerides, appeared to have many unanticipated effects. There were observable changes in vitamin and carbohydrate metabolism, protein and amino acid function, as well as lipid metabolism.

Supplementation with DHA partially or totally prevented metabolic damage through those pathways often linked to the Western diet – excessive consumption of red meat, sugar, saturated fat and processed grains.

The findings were published last month in PLOS One, an online professional journal.

“We were shocked to find so many biological pathways being affected by omega-3 fatty acids,” said Donald Jump, a professor in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “Most studies on these nutrients find effects on lipid metabolism and inflammation.

“Our metabolomics analysis indicates that the effects of omega-3 fatty acids extend beyond that, and include carbohydrate, amino acid and vitamin metabolism,” he added.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been the subject of much recent research, often with conflicting results and claims. Possible reasons for contradictory findings, OSU researchers say, are the amount of supplements used and the relative abundance of two common omega-3s – DHA and EPA. Studies at OSU have concluded that DHA has far more ability than EPA to prevent the formation of harmful metabolites. In one study, it was found that DHA supplementation reduced the proteins involved in liver fibrosis by more than 65 percent.

These research efforts, done with laboratory animals, used a level of DHA supplementation that would equate to about 2-4 grams per day for an average person. In the diet, the most common source of DHA is fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel or sardines.

The most recent research is beginning to break down the specific processes by which these metabolic changes take place. If anything, the results suggest that DHA may have even more health value than previously thought.

“A lot of work has been done on fatty liver disease, and we are just beginning to explore the potential for DHA in preventing or slowing disease progression,” said Jump, who is also a principal investigator in OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute.

“Fish oils, a common supplement used to provide omega-3, are also not prescribed to regulate blood glucose levels in diabetic patients,” he said. “But our studies suggest that DHA may reduce the formation of harmful glucose metabolites linked to diabetic complications.”

Both diabetes and liver disease are increasing steadily in the United States.

The American Liver Foundation has estimated that about 25 percent of the nation’s population, and 75 percent of those who are obese, have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. This can progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, cirrhosis and cancer.

This study established that the main target of DHA in the liver is the control of inflammation, oxidative stress and fibrosis, which are the characteristics of more progressively serious liver problems. Omega-3 fatty acids appear to keep cells from responding to and being damaged by whatever is causing inflammation.

Collaborators on this research were from OSU, the Baylor College of Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and Metabolon, Inc. It was supported by the USDA and the National Institutes of Health.

College of Public Health and Human Sciences Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Donald Jump, 541-737-4007

Categories: Research news

War on lionfish shows first promise of success

News - Tue, 01/21/2014 - 2:15pm
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Manual removal of invasive lionfish from some reefs shows promise in allowing the comeback of native fish populations in the Atlantic Ocean.

 

 

The study this story is based on is available online: http://bit.ly/1f9fqbg

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – It may take a legion of scuba divers armed with nets and spears, but a new study confirms for the first time that controlling lionfish populations in the western Atlantic Ocean can pave the way for a recovery of native fish.

Even if it’s one speared fish at a time, it finally appears that there’s a way to fight back.

Scientists at Oregon State University, Simon Fraser University and other institutions have shown in both computer models and 18 months of field tests on reefs that reducing lionfish numbers by specified amounts – at the sites they studied, between 75-95 percent – will allow a rapid recovery of native fish biomass in the treatment area, and to some extent may aid larger ecosystem recovery as well.

It’s some of the first good news in a struggle that has at times appeared almost hopeless, as this voracious, invasive species has wiped out 95 percent of native fish in some Atlantic locations.

“This is excellent news,” said Stephanie Green, a marine ecologist in the College of Science at Oregon State University, and lead author on the report just published in Ecological Applications. “It shows that by creating safe havens, small pockets of reef where lionfish numbers are kept low, we can help native species recover.

“And we don’t have to catch every lionfish to do it.”

That’s good, researchers say, because the rapid spread of lionfish in the Atlantic makes eradication virtually impossible. They’ve also been found thriving in deep water locations which are difficult to access.

The latest research used ecological modeling to determine what percentage of lionfish would have to be removed at a given location to allow for native fish recovery. At 24 coral reefs near Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, researchers then removed the necessary amount of lionfish to reach this threshold, and monitored recovery of the ecosystem.

On reefs where lionfish were kept below threshold densities, native prey fish increased by 50-70 percent. It’s one of the first studies of its type to demonstrate that reduction of an invasive species below an environmentally damaging threshold, rather than outright eradication, can have comparable benefits.

Some of the fish that recovered, such as Nassau grouper and yellowtail snapper, are critically important to local economies. And larger adults can then spread throughout the reef system – although the amount of system recovery that would take place outside of treated areas is a subject that needs additional research, they said.

Where no intervention was made, native species continued to decline and disappear.

The lionfish invasion in the Atlantic, believed to have begun in the 1980s, now covers an area larger than the entirety of the United States. With venomous spines, no natural predators in the Atlantic Ocean, and aggressive behavior, the lionfish have been shown to eat almost anything smaller than they are – fish, shrimp, crabs and octopus. Lionfish can also withstand starvation for protracted periods – many of their prey species will disappear before they do.

Governments, industry and conservation groups across this region are already trying to cull lionfish from their waters, and encourage their use as a food fish. Some removal efforts have concentrated on popular dive sites.

The scientists said in their report that the model used in this research should work equally well in various types of marine habitat, including mangroves, temperate hard-bottom systems, estuaries and seagrass beds.

A major issue to be considered, however, is where to allocate future removal efforts. Marine reserves, which often allow “no take” of any marine life in an effort to recover fish populations, may need to be the focus of lionfish removal. The traditional, hands-off concept in such areas may succeed only in wiping out native species while allowing the invasive species to grow unchecked.

Keeping lionfish numbers low in areas that are hot spots for juvenile fish, like mangroves and shallow reefs, is also crucial, the report said.

This research was done in collaboration with scientists at Simon Fraser University, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, and the Cape Eleuthera Institute. It has been supported by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Boston Foundation and a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship.

“Many invasions such as lionfish are occurring at a speed and magnitude that outstrips the resources available to contain and eliminate them,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion. “Our study is the first to demonstrate that for such invasions, complete extirpation is not necessary to minimize negative ecological changes within priority habitats.”

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Stephanie Green, 541-908-3839

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Hunting lionfish




Lionfish




Stephanie Green

 

Video of researcher netting lionfish in the Bahamas:

High resolution downloadable video: http://bit.ly/1jnJ1mD

YouTube: http://bit.ly/LUj6VX

Categories: Research news

Study: Even low-intensity activity shows benefits for health

News - Tue, 01/21/2014 - 9:04am
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A newly published study found that you don’t need to run 10 miles a day to gain health benefits – just log more minutes of light physical activity than of sedentary behavior.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A newly published study looking at activity trends and outcomes among American adults found that you don’t need to kill yourself by running 10 miles a day to gain health benefits – you merely need to log more minutes of light physical activity than of sedentary behavior.

And the bar is pretty low for what constitutes light physical activity, researchers say. It can mean sauntering through a mall window-shopping instead of ordering online, fishing along a riverbank, or ballroom dancing.

In other words, casting a spinner or spinning on the dance floor can help offset our sedentary ways.

The problem, the authors say, is that nearly half of Americans surveyed did not engage in a sufficient amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (more than 150 minutes a week) and, in fact, spent more time in sedentary mode than even doing light physical activity.

“That’s actually rather frightening,” said Bradley Cardinal, co-director of the Sport and Exercise Psychology Program at Oregon State University and co-author on the study. “About half of the people in this country are incredibly sedentary – basically, couch potatoes. And that can have some very negative effects on one’s health.”

Results of the study have been published online in the journal Preventive Medicine.

The study looked at the activity patterns of more than 5,500 adults through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.  Participants wore accelerometers recording movements that could be broken down by the minute, and the researchers found that 47.2 percent of Americans engaged in less than 150 minutes a week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and, perhaps more importantly, logged fewer minutes of light physical activity than of sedentary behavior.

They found that when the balance was on the positive side – adults spent more time moving than sitting – there was a strong association with favorable levels of triglycerides and insulin.

“It is preferable to get at least 30 minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in each day, but we now know that if you sit for the remainder of the day after getting this dose of exercise, you might not necessarily be escaping the risk of developing chronic disease,” said Paul Loprinzi, a former doctoral student under Cardinal in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. Now an assistant professor at Bellarmine University, Loprinzi is lead author on the study.

“These findings demonstrate the importance of minimizing sedentary activities and replacing some of them with light-intensity activities, such as pacing back and forth when on the phone, standing at your desk periodically instead of sitting, and having walking meetings instead of sit-down meetings,” he added.

Cardinal said results can vary with individuals, based on age, fitness levels, movement “pace” and other factors. In general, however, when even light activity minutes in a day surpass sedentary minutes, it can result in improved triglyceride and insulin levels.

“Someone just ambling along on a leisurely stroll may not get the same benefits as someone moving briskly – what we call a ‘New York City walk,’” Cardinal said, “but it still is much better than lying on the couch watching TV. Even sitting in a rocking chair and rocking back-and-forth is better than lying down or just sitting passively.

“Think about all the small things you can do in a day and you’ll realize how quickly they can add up,” Cardinal pointed out.

Some of the ways Americans can get in some light physical activity without Olympic-style training:

  • Go on a leisurely bicycle ride, at about 5-6 miles an hour;
  • Use a Wii Fit program that requires a light effort, like yoga or balancing;
  • Do some mild calisthenics or stretching;
  • If you want to watch television, do it sitting on a physioball;
  • Play a musical instrument;
  • Work in the garden.

“Even everyday home activities like sweeping, dusting, vacuuming, doing dishes, watering the plants, or carrying out the trash have some benefits,” Cardinal said.

“Remember, it’s making sure you’re moving more than you’re sitting that’s the key.”

The study was supported by Oregon State University. Hyo Lee, a former Ph.D. student at OSU now with Sangmyung University in Korea, is also a co-author on the study.

College of Public Health and Human Sciences Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Brad Cardinal, 541-737-2506; brad.cardnal@oregonstate.edu; Paul Loprinzi, 502-272-8008; ploprinzi@bellarmine.edu

Categories: Research news

Social shopping via mobile app: do you like the mint green or coral?

News - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 5:16pm
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A new business being aided by the Oregon State Advantage Accelerator will offer users a mobile app to enhance their social shopping experience.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new business concept aided by the Oregon State University Advantage Accelerator will get its first test run on Tuesday, Jan. 21, when about 120 OSU sorority members get a chance to see what all their friends think about the new shoes they may buy – and which color looks best.

It’s the beginning of Tally, a mobile app developed by two recent OSU graduates to make shopping or just getting dressed a more fun, interactive and social experience.

With Tally, users can receive side-by-side images of their friend’s shopping options, vote on their favorite image and get results delivered in real time.

The developers of this company will also be interviewed on Jan. 30 at OSU by Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit.com, one of the world’s leading web sites.  Ohanian will be speaking about his new book, Without Their Permission, as part of a 77-university tour about Internet entrepreneurship, at the LaSells Stewart Center beginning at 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

“Our release of the app to the OSU sororities is really exciting, and we’ll be very interested in their feedback as we try to fine tune the user experience,” said Ryan Connolly, a graduate last year in marketing and entrepreneurship in the OSU College of Business, who co-founded the company with Andy Miller, an OSU computer science graduate.

“We are very optimistic about the app and anxious to see what’s in store for the future,” Connolly said. “It’s free for people to download and use, and will help make shopping a more social experience, even if your friends live in another city or on the other side of the country. People can see what their friends think before they make a decision, and in our tests about 65 percent of our current users vote on each new poll within 20 minutes.”

The OSU Advantage Accelerator, which was recently formed to help this and other small business enterprises get the assistance they need to move out of academia and into the private sector, was a great help, Connolly said.

“The Accelerator gave us two mentors to work with, helped flush out our revenue model, introduced us to investors, and gave us exposure we wouldn’t have otherwise had,” he said.

The business concept of the company is to develop a large and active user base, Connolly said, and then approach clothing retailers and brands as a pinpoint marketing platform. Information will be acquired about merchandise, style, color and product preferences that would be of value to retailers, manufacturers and brand owners. The company web site is at tallyfashion.com

Oregon State University Advantage Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Ryan Connolly, 503-961-5778

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Shopping choices

Categories: Research news

2014 Starker Lectures at OSU to explore “Working Forests”

News - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 4:30pm
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The 2014 Starker Lecture Series at OSU begins Thursday, Feb. 6, when speaker John Gordon outlines the future of forestry in Oregon. The theme for this year’s series is “Working Forests Across the Landscape.”

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The 2014 Starker Lecture Series at Oregon State University will begin on Thursday, Feb. 6, when speaker John Gordon outlines the future of forestry in Oregon. The theme for this year’s series is “Working Forests Across the Landscape.”

Gordon is the Pinchot Professor emeritus and former dean of the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. His free public talk, which begins at 3:30 p.m. in Richardson Hall Room 107, is titled “Forestry Diversity: A Key to Oregon’s Future.”

The Starker Lectures are sponsored by the OSU College of Forestry and funded primarily through a donation by the Starker family in memory of T.J. and Bruce Starker, late leaders of the Oregon forest industry, with support from the college and the Oregon Forest Resources Institute. Each year, the lecture series explores forestry issues in the Northwest and beyond.

Other events in the 2014 series include:

  • Feb. 27 Lecture – “A Luxuriant Landscape: Oregon’s Working Forest Landscapes, an Ecological Perspective,” by Tom Spies, a research forester with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station (3:30 to 5 p.m., Richardson Hall 107);
  • April 24 Lecture – “Beyond Boundaries: Social Challenges and Opportunities in Forest Landscape Management,” by Paige Fischer, a research social scientist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center (3:30 to 5 p.m., Richardson Hall 107);
  • May 29 Capstone Field Trip – A tour of the Cool Soda All Lands Collaborative Project in Linn County, led by representatives of Cascade Timber Consulting, South Santiam Watershed Council, U.S. Forest Service, and the Sweet Home Ranger District (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Registration is required by May 20.

More information on the Starker Lectures is available at: http://starkerlectures.forestry.oregonstate.edu/

College of Forestry Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Jessica Fontaine, 541-737-3161; Jessica.fontaine@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

One step at a time, researchers learning how humans walk

News - Thu, 01/16/2014 - 4:49pm
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Researchers are near a complete understanding of how humans walk, with implications for improved robotics, biomedical devices and other fields.

 

 

The study this story is based on is available online: http://bit.ly/1d1KZ3u

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Humans and some of our hominid ancestors such as Homo erectus have been walking for more than a million years, and researchers are close to figuring out how we do it.

It’s never been completely clear how human beings accomplish the routine, taken-for-granted miracle we call walking, let alone running. But findings published last month in the Journal of Experimental Biology outline a specific interaction between the ankle, knee, muscles and tendons that improve the understanding of a leg moving forward in a way that maximizes motion while using minimal amounts of energy.

The research could find some of its earliest applications in improved prosthetic limbs, said researchers in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University. Later on, a more complete grasp of these principles could lead to walking or running robots that are far more agile and energy-efficient than anything that exists today.

“Human walking is extraordinarily complex and we still don’t understand completely how it works,” said Jonathan Hurst, an OSU professor of mechanical engineering and expert in legged locomotion in robots. There’s a real efficiency to it – walking is almost like passive falling. The robots existing today don’t walk at all like humans, they lack that efficiency of motion and agility.

“When we fully learn what the human leg is doing,” Hurst added, “we’ll be able to build robots that work much better.”

Researchers have long observed some type of high-power “push off” when the leg leaves the ground, but didn’t really understand how it worked. Now they believe they do. The study concluded there are two phases to this motion. The first is an “alleviation” phase in which the trailing leg is relieved of the burden of supporting the body mass.

Then in a “launching” phase the knee buckles, allowing the rapid release of stored elastic energy in the ankle tendons, like the triggering of a catapult.

“We calculated what muscles could do and found it insufficient, by far, for generating this powerful push off,” said Daniel Renjewski, a postdoctoral research associate in the Dynamic Robotics Laboratory at OSU. “So we had to look for a power-amplifying mechanism.

“The coordination of knee and ankle is critical,” he said. “And contrary to what some other research has suggested, the catapult energy from the ankle is just being used to swing the leg, not add large amounts of energy to the forward motion.”

Walking robots don’t do this. Many of them use force to “swing” the leg forward from something resembling a hip point. It can be functional, but it’s neither energy-efficient nor agile. And for more widespread use of mobile robots, energy use is crucially important, the researchers said.

“We still have a long way to go before walking robots can move with as little energy as animals use,” Hurst said. “But this type of research will bring us closer to that.”

The research was supported by the German Research Foundation. The Dynamic Robotics Laboratory at OSU is supported by the Human Frontier Science Program, the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and has helped create some of the leading technology in the world for robots that can walk and run.

One model can run a nine-minute mile and step off a ledge, and others are even more advanced. Robots with the ability to walk and maneuver over uneven terrain could ultimately find applications in prosthetic limbs, an exo-skeleton to assist people with muscular weakness, or use in the military, disaster response or any dangerous situation.

College of Engineering Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Jonathan Hurst, 541-737-7010

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Walking mechanics

Categories: Research news

Oldest trees are growing faster, storing more carbon as they age

News - Mon, 01/13/2014 - 4:17pm
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In a finding that overturns the conventional view that large old trees are unproductive, scientists have determined that for most species, the biggest trees increase their growth rates and sequester more carbon as they age.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – In a finding that overturns the conventional view that large old trees are unproductive, scientists have determined that for most species, the biggest trees increase their growth rates and sequester more carbon as they age.

In a letter published today in the journal Nature, an international research group reports that 97 percent of 403 tropical and temperate species grow more quickly the older they get. The study was led by Nate L. Stephenson of the U.S. Geological Survey Western Ecological Research Center. Three Oregon State University researchers are co-authors: Mark Harmon and Rob Pabst of the College of Forestry and Duncan Thomas of the College of Agricultural Sciences.

The researchers reviewed records from studies on six continents. Their conclusions are based on repeated measurements of 673,046 individual trees, some going back more than 80 years.

This study would not have been possible, Harmon said, without long-term records of individual tree growth. “It was remarkable how we were able to examine this question on a global level, thanks to the sustained efforts of many programs and individuals.”

Extraordinary growth of some species, such as Australian mountain ash – also known as eucalyptus –  (Eucalyptus regnans), and the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), is not limited to a few species, the researchers said. “Rather, rapid growth in giant trees is the global norm and can exceed 600 kg (1,300 pounds) per year in the largest individuals,” they wrote.

“In human terms, it is as if our growth just keeps accelerating after adolescence, instead of slowing down,” said Stephenson. “By that measure, humans could weigh half a ton by middle age, and well over a ton at retirement.”

The report includes studies from the Pacific Northwest. Harmon and his colleagues worked in forest plots – some created as early as the 1930s – at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest east of Eugene and Mount Rainier National Park. Researchers measured growth in Douglas-fir, western hemlock, Sitka spruce, western red cedar and silver fir. The National Science Foundation and the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the USDA Forest Service provided funding.

Under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Tropical Forest Science, Thomas and colleagues in Africa established a 123-acre forest research site in Cameroon in 1996. They measured growth in about 495 tree species.

“CTFS does very important work facilitating collaboration between forest ecologists worldwide and therefore enabling us to gain a better insight into the growth of trees and forests,” Thomas said. “This model for collaboration was the basis of the Nature study.”

While the finding applies to individual trees, it may not hold true for stands of trees, the authors cautioned. As they age, some trees in a stand will die, resulting in fewer individuals in a given area over time.

The study was a collaboration of 38 scientists from research universities, government agencies and non-governmental organizations in the United States, Panama, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, Colombia, Argentina, Thailand, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Spain.

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College of Forestry Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Mark Harmon, 541-737-8455; Duncan Thomas,  541-752-5211

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Photo by Duncan Thomas

Photo by Duncan Thomas


Photo by Al Levno

Categories: Research news

OSU Student Success Center will be renamed to honor First Lady Beth Ray

News - Sat, 01/11/2014 - 3:19pm
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Oregon State University’s First Lady, Beth Ray, will be celebrated Monday, Jan. 13, in a ceremony renaming the OSU Student Success Center in her honor.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University’s First Lady, Beth Ray, will be celebrated Monday, Jan. 13, in a ceremony renaming the OSU Student Success Center in her honor. It will now be called The Beth Ray Center for Academic Support.

The rededication ceremony begins with a reception at 4:30 p.m., followed by a program at 5 p.m. The center is located just south of the parking structure on 26th Street, in the center of campus.

Ray, who is currently battling advanced small cell carcinoma, an incurable cancer, is a greatly loved member of the OSU community, and the push to rename the center in her honor was largely driven by student enthusiasm. After the idea was proposed by OSU Athletic Director Bob DeCarolis, the Oregon State Student Athlete Advisory Committee unanimously supported the idea of changing the name of the center to honor Ray, and the student government organization ASOSU also supported the plan. Support for the re-naming was also provided by the university’s building naming committee and the OSU Faculty Senate and was authorized by Oregon University System Interim Chancellor Melody Rose.

Ray is seen by many students as a mentor and supporter, making the building, which is oriented toward student support, a natural extension of her interest in student success.

“The Beth Ray Center for Academic Support will serve as an essential place where all students can gather throughout the day and evenings to receive personal assistance along their path to graduation,” said Provost and Vice President Sabah Randhawa.

Ray said she was both surprised and excited about the news of the building renaming, and pleased that the honor focused on student support. A former business law professor, academic counselor and assistant dean for academic advising, Ray, 67, has been been teaching and mentoring students for many years.

“Most of my career involves working with students,” Ray said.

In her 10 years at OSU, Ray has seen many of the students she’s mentored go on to graduate and thrive. She keeps in contact with a number of them, taking the opportunity to have lunch and visit when they’re in the area. And each year a whole new crop of students arrives on campus in need of support and advice.

“I would tell freshmen to talk to their professors and advisors, and if they have a problem to share it,” she said. “Most people try to hide their problems, but you shouldn’t feel bad about asking people questions.”

Jaimee Kirkpatrick, executive assistant to Head Men’s Basketball Coach Craig Robinson, was one of the students Ray took under her wing as an OSU student. She said through many challenges and successes, the Rays were always there to support and guide her.

“Beth Ray holds an even more special place in my heart as she was one of the only female adults that took care of me as I went through some major surgeries during my time as a student at Oregon State,” Kirkpatrick said. “While my parents were living in Alaska, Beth took over and comforted, encouraged, and supported me through some very significant challenges in my life to date.”

 The $14 million Student Success Center opened in 2012, and houses programs that provide both the general student population and student-athletes with a range of academic support services. Hundreds of students are served every day in the building. The facility includes classrooms, a computer lab, study lounge and commons area as well as academic counseling and advising offices, meeting rooms and tutorial spaces.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Theresa Hogue Source: 

Steve Clark, 541-737-3808; steve.clark@oregonstate.edu

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Student Success Center

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