Oregon State University

Research news

Loss of large carnivores poses global conservation problem

News - Wed, 01/08/2014 - 7:12pm
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A new analysis reveals that the world is developing "hotspots" of decline in several species of large carnivorous predators, with significant repercussions on ecosystem function.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – In ecosystems around the world, the decline of large predators such as lions, dingoes, wolves, otters, and bears is changing the face of landscapes from the tropics to the Arctic – but an analysis of 31 carnivore species to be published Friday in the journal Science shows for the first time how threats such as habitat loss, persecution by humans and loss of prey combine to create global hotspots of carnivore decline.

More than 75 percent of the 31 large-carnivore species are declining, and 17 species now occupy less than half of their former ranges, the authors reported.

Southeast Asia, southern and East Africa and the Amazon are among areas in which multiple large carnivore species are declining. With some exceptions, large carnivores have already been exterminated from much of the developed world, including Western Europe and the eastern United States.

“Globally, we are losing our large carnivores,” said William Ripple, lead author of the paper and a professor in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University.

“Many of them are endangered,” he said. “Their ranges are collapsing. Many of these animals are at risk of extinction, either locally or globally. And, ironically, they are vanishing just as we are learning about their important ecological effects.”

Ripple and colleagues from the United States, Australia, Italy and Sweden called for an international initiative to conserve large predators in coexistence with people. They suggested that such an effort be modeled on the Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe, a nonprofit scientific group affiliated with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The researchers reviewed published scientific reports and singled out seven species that have been studied for their widespread ecological effects or “trophic cascades.” This includes African lions, leopards, Eurasian lynx, cougars, gray wolves, sea otters and dingoes.

Ripple and his Oregon State co-author Robert Beschta have documented impacts of cougars and wolves on the regeneration of forest stands and riparian vegetation in Yellowstone and other national parks in North America. Fewer predators, they have found, lead to an increase in browsing animals such as deer and elk. More browsing disrupts vegetation, shifts birds and small mammals and changes other parts of the ecosystem in a widespread cascade of impacts.

Studies of Eurasian lynx, dingoes, lions and sea otters have found similar effects, the authors reported.

Lynx have been closely tied to the abundance of roe deer, red fox and hare. In Australia, the construction of a 3,400-mile dingo-proof fence has enabled scientists to study ecosystems with and without the animals, which are closely related to gray wolves. In some parts of Africa, the decrease of lions and leopards has coincided with a dramatic increase in olive baboons, which threaten farm crops and livestock. In the waters off southeast Alaska, a decline in sea otters through killer whale predation has led to a rise in sea urchins and loss of kelp beds.

The authors call for a deeper understanding of the impact of large carnivores on ecosystems, a view that they trace back to the work of landmark ecologist Aldo Leopold. The classic concept that predators are harmful and deplete fish and wildlife is outdated, they said. Scientists and wildlife managers need to recognize a growing body of evidence for the complex roles that carnivores play in ecosystems and for their social and economic benefits.

Leopold recognized such relationships between predators and ecosystems, Ripple said, but his observations on that point were largely ignored for decades after his death in 1948.

“Human tolerance of these species is a major issue for conservation,” Ripple said. “We say these animals have an intrinsic right to exist, but they are also providing economic and ecological services that people value.”

Among the services that have been documented in other studies are carbon sequestration, riparian restoration, biodiversity and disease control.

Where large carnivores have been restored — such as wolves in Yellowstone or Eurasian lynx in Finland — ecosystems have responded quickly, said Ripple. “I am impressed with how resilient the Yellowstone ecosystem is. It isn’t happening quickly everywhere, but in some places, ecosystem restoration has started there.”

In those cases, where loss of vegetation has led to soil erosion, for example, full restoration in the near term may not be possible, he said.

“Nature is highly interconnected,” said Ripple. “The work at Yellowstone and other places shows how one species affects another and another through different pathways. It’s humbling as a scientist to see the interconnectedness of nature.”

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College of Forestry Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Bill Ripple, 541-737-3056

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Leopard



Dingo



Gray Wolf



Sea Otter



Eurasian Lynx



Puma


African Lion

Categories: Research news

Hundreds of small farmers to gather at annual OSU conference

News - Tue, 01/07/2014 - 9:37am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – Hundreds of farmers from throughout Oregon will gather in Corvallis this winter to improve their skills and get inspired for the next growing season. The 14th annual Oregon Small Farms Conference will take place Feb. 22 from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Oregon State University.

Michael Ableman, a nationally known farmer, author and photographer, will present the keynote address. For the first time, organizers are offering a special series of workshops in Spanish for Latino farmers. In the past the conference has provided translators for particular workshops already offered in English. Also new is a workshop on profitability for small farms.

Registration costs $45 per person until Feb. 2, then increases to $65 per person from Feb. 3-14 and $100 per person on the day of the conference – if space is still available. Organizers will cap attendance at 800 people. In the past, the popular conference has surpassed 800 attendees, said Garry Stephenson, the coordinator of OSU's Small Farms Program, which organizes the event.

"I think there's a huge social aspect to the conference – for a lot of people, this is the only time of year they get to see each other, so there's a lot of interaction and networking," said Stephenson. "We also bring in speakers who challenge people to think differently and offer a variety of workshops."

This year, attendees can register for specific workshops. The conference features 24 workshops in three concurrent sessions, as well as a lunch prepared with locally produced food. Workshops include financing a farm, growing quinoa in the Northwest, selling produce to schools and hospitals, transitioning to organic agriculture and health insurance options for farmers.

The conference is geared toward farmers, agriculture professionals, food policy advocates, students and managers of farmers markets.

For more information and to register, go to http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sfc.

Extension Service Media Contact:  Denise Ruttan Source: 

Garry Stephenson, 541-737-5833

Categories: Research news

New compounds discovered that are hundreds of times more mutagenic

News - Fri, 01/03/2014 - 4:32pm
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Novel compounds have been discovered that may be extremely mutagenic, produced by such processes as automobile combustion or grilling meat.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered novel compounds produced by certain types of chemical reactions – such as those found in vehicle exhaust or grilling meat - that are hundreds of times more mutagenic than their parent compounds which are known carcinogens.

These compounds were not previously known to exist, and raise additional concerns about the health impacts of heavily-polluted urban air or dietary exposure. It’s not yet been determined in what level the compounds might be present, and no health standards now exist for them.

The findings were published in December in Environmental Science and Technology, a professional journal.

The compounds were identified in laboratory experiments that mimic the type of conditions which might be found from the combustion and exhaust in cars and trucks, or the grilling of meat over a flame.

“Some of the compounds that we’ve discovered are far more mutagenic than we previously understood, and may exist in the environment as a result of heavy air pollution from vehicles or some types of food preparation,” said Staci Simonich, a professor of chemistry and toxicology in the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences.

“We don’t know at this point what levels may be present, and will explore that in continued research,” she said.

The parent compounds involved in this research are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, formed naturally as the result of almost any type of combustion, from a wood stove to an automobile engine, cigarette or a coal-fired power plant. Many PAHs, such as benzopyrene, are known to be carcinogenic, believed to be more of a health concern that has been appreciated in the past, and are the subject of extensive research at OSU and elsewhere around the world.

The PAHs can become even more of a problem when they chemically interact with nitrogen to become “nitrated,” or NPAHs, scientists say. The newly-discovered compounds are NPAHs that were unknown to this point.

This study found that the direct mutagenicity of the NPAHs with one nitrogen group can increase 6 to 432 times more than the parent compound. NPAHs based on two nitrogen groups can be 272 to 467 times more mutagenic. Mutagens are chemicals that can cause DNA damage in cells that in turn can cause cancer.

For technical reasons based on how the mutagenic assays are conducted, the researchers said these numbers may actually understate the increase in toxicity – it could be even higher.

These discoveries are an outgrowth of research on PAHs that was done by Simonich at the Beijing Summer Olympic Games in 2008, when extensive studies of urban air quality were conducted, in part, based on concerns about impacts on athletes and visitors to the games.

Beijing, like some other cities in Asia, has significant problems with air quality, and may be 10-50 times more polluted than some major urban areas in the U.S. with air concerns, such as the Los Angeles basin.

An agency of the World Health Organization announced last fall that it now considers outdoor air pollution, especially particulate matter, to be carcinogenic, and cause other health problems as well. PAHs are one of the types of pollutants found on particulate matter in air pollution that are of special concern.

Concerns about the heavy levels of air pollution from some Asian cities are sufficient that Simonich is doing monitoring on Oregon’s Mount Bachelor, a 9,065-foot mountain in the central Oregon Cascade Range. Researchers want to determine what levels of air pollution may be found there after traveling thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean.

This work was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Science Foundation. It’s also an outgrowth of the Superfund Research Program at OSU, funded by the NIEHS, that focuses efforts on PAH pollution. Researchers from the OSU College of Science, the University of California-Riverside, Texas A&M University, and Peking University collaborated on the study.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Staci Simonich, 541-737-9194

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Grilled meat

Categories: Research news

Living with HIV/AIDS to be focus of Corvallis Science Pub

News - Fri, 01/03/2014 - 11:41am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – A positive test for HIV used to be a death sentence. Now, with advances in treatment, the virus that causes AIDS can be held at bay. At the Jan. 13 Corvallis Science Pub, Dr. Sugat Patel, infectious disease physician at Good Samaritan Hospital, will discuss trends in HIV/AIDS and how he and his colleagues treat people in the mid-Willamette Valley.

The Science Pub presentation begins at 6 p.m. in the Old World Deli located at 341 S.W. Second St. in Corvallis. It is free and open to the public.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. Patel came to Corvallis in 2009 after serving in the U.S. Navy. He received his training at the Internal Medicine Facility of the Naval Medical Center in San Diego.

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

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Generic OSU Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Dr. Sugat Patel, 541-768-5810

Categories: Research news

Corvallis screening of classic silent horror film set Jan. 13

News - Fri, 01/03/2014 - 9:41am
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The 1920 German horror film “Der Golem: How He Came into the World” will be shown at the Whiteside Theatre in Corvallis on Monday, Jan. 13, beginning at 6 p.m.

The 1920 German horror film “Der Golem: How He Came into the World” will be shown at the Whiteside Theatre in Corvallis on Monday, Jan. 13, beginning at 6 p.m.

The silent film will be accompanied on the piano by Portland musician and composer Beth Karp, who has written her own score for the screening. The event is sponsored by the Oregon State University School of Language, Culture, and Society in the College of Liberal Arts.

The German Expressionist film, which was directed by Paul Wegener and Carl Boese, is about a 16th-century Prague rabbi who creates a giant creature from clay – a Golem – whom he brings to life in order to protect the city’s Jewish population from persecution.

Karp is a faculty member at Portland Community College, where she teaches composition, piano, music theory, and 20th-century music history. She is also a frequent performer, collaborator and solo artist.

Admission to the screening is free and open to the public. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. 

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact: 

Celene Carillo, 541-737-2137

Source: 

Sebastian Heiduschke, 541-737-3957, Sebastian.heiduschke@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Amber fossil reveals ancient reproduction in flowering plants

News - Thu, 01/02/2014 - 4:57pm
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Researchers have discovered an ancient flowering plant preserved in amber, the oldest known fossil specimen of sexual reproduction in plants.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A 100-million-year old piece of amber has been discovered which reveals the oldest evidence of sexual reproduction in a flowering plant – a cluster of 18 tiny flowers from the Cretaceous Period – with one of them in the process of making some new seeds for the next generation.

The perfectly-preserved scene, in a plant now extinct, is part of a portrait created in the mid-Cretaceous when flowering plants were changing the face of the Earth forever, adding beauty, biodiversity and food. It appears identical to the reproduction process that “angiosperms,” or flowering plants still use today.

Researchers from Oregon State University and Germany published their findings on the fossils in the Journal of the Botanical Institute of Texas.

The flowers themselves are in remarkable condition, as are many such plants and insects preserved for all time in amber. The flowing tree sap covered the specimens and then began the long process of turning into a fossilized, semi-precious gem. The flower cluster is one of the most complete ever found in amber and appeared at a time when many of the flowering plants were still quite small.

Even more remarkable is the microscopic image of pollen tubes growing out of two grains of pollen and penetrating the flower’s stigma, the receptive part of the female reproductive system. This sets the stage for fertilization of the egg and would begin the process of seed formation – had the reproductive act been completed.

“In Cretaceous flowers we’ve never before seen a fossil that shows the pollen tube actually entering the stigma,” said George Poinar, Jr., a professor emeritus in the Department of Integrative Biology at the OSU College of Science. “This is the beauty of amber fossils. They are preserved so rapidly after entering the resin that structures such as pollen grains and tubes can be detected with a microscope.”

The pollen of these flowers appeared to be sticky, Poinar said, suggesting it was carried by a pollinating insect, and adding further insights into the biodiversity and biology of life in this distant era. At that time much of the plant life was composed of conifers, ferns, mosses, and cycads.  During the Cretaceous, new lineages of mammals and birds were beginning to appear, along with the flowering plants. But dinosaurs still dominated the Earth.

“The evolution of flowering plants caused an enormous change in the biodiversity of life on Earth, especially in the tropics and subtropics,” Poinar said.

“New associations between these small flowering plants and various types of insects and other animal life resulted in the successful distribution and evolution of these plants through most of the world today,” he said. “It’s interesting that the mechanisms for reproduction that are still with us today had already been established some 100 million years ago.”

The fossils were discovered from amber mines in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar, previously known as Burma. The newly-described genus and species of flower was named Micropetasos burmensis.

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

George Poinar, 541-752-0917

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Ancient flower




Pollen tubes

Categories: Research news

Oregon State University Board of Trustees notice of regular meeting

News - Thu, 01/02/2014 - 1:03pm
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The Oregon State University Board of Trustees will meet on Thursday and Friday, January 9-10, 2014, on the OSU campus.

The Oregon State University Board of Trustees will meet on Thursday and Friday, January 9-10, 2014, on the OSU campus.

The meeting will be held in the CH2M Hill Alumni Center, located at 725 S.W. 26th St. in Corvallis. The purpose of the meeting is to orient trustees to their new role and responsibilities and to introduce trustees to the leadership and operations of the University.

Board members may choose to elect an interim chair and vice-chair of the board, adopt bylaws and establish one or more committees. The board’s meeting times are Thursday, January 9, 8:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., and Friday, January 10, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

An initial meeting of the Board of Trustees was scheduled for December 10-11, 2013, but was postponed because of a snowstorm.

Members of the public who may require special accommodations should contact Mark Huey at 541-737-8260 at least 72 hours in advance of the meeting. 

More information about the OSU Board of Trustees is available online at: http://oregonstate.edu/leadership/trustees

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

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

Categories: Research news

Dan Larson named head of University Housing and Dining at OSU

News - Thu, 01/02/2014 - 12:05pm
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Oregon State University has named Dan Larson executive director of University Housing & Dining Services.

Oregon State University has named Dan Larson executive director of University Housing & Dining Services.

Larson, who formerly was associate director for operations and facilities with the department, has worked there for 13 years. He succeeds longtime director Tom Scheuermann, who is transitioning to a teaching role in OSU’s College Student Services Administration graduate program.

Known for his collaborative work, Larson provided leadership in the development of a curriculum for the Weatherford Residential College’s Austin Entrepreneurship Program partnership with the College of Business. The program is known for combining academic pursuits with life skills to provide a holistic experience for students.

He also was instrumental in the construction and design of the International Living-Learning Center, dedicated in fall 2011, and the continued collaboration with INTO OSU to provide a global experience for international and domestic students. 

Larson has represented University Housing & Dining Services and OSU through participation in community boards and discussions, including the Collaboration Corvallis Neighborhood Planning Workgroup.

Generic OSU Media Contact: 

Jennifer Viña, 541-737-8187

Source: 

 Dan Larson, 541-737-4771

Categories: Research news

Noted biologist, OSU science historian to discuss salmon recovery

News - Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:47pm
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Jim Lichatowich, a noted biologist and author, will discuss the fate of Pacific salmon during a presentation on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at Oregon State University.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Jim Lichatowich, a noted biologist and author, will discuss the fate of Pacific salmon during a presentation on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at Oregon State University. The free, public event begins at 7 p.m. in the rotunda of the Valley Library on campus.

Lichatowich will speak about his new book, “Salmon, People, and Place: A Biologist’s Search for Salmon Recovery,” which was just published by the OSU Press.

Joining Lichatowich will be Carmel Finley, an OSU science historian, and author of “All the Fish in the Sea,” which was published in 2012 by the University of Chicago Press.

In his OSU Press book, Lichatowich points out many misconceptions about salmon that have hampered management and limited recovery programs. These programs will continue to fail, he argues, as long as resource managers look at salmon as “products” and ignore their essential relationship with the environment.

Finley and Lichatowich will discuss the status of salmon recovery, address its problems and outline the potential for revitalization. Audience members will have the opportunity to pose questions to the scientists, purchase books and have them signed.

Earlier on Jan. 15, Lichatowich will present a seminar, “Salmon Management and Salmon Science at a Crossroads” as part of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife seminar series. It takes place from 4-5 p.m. in Nash 206.

“Salmon, People, and Place” is available in bookstores, online at http://osupress.oregonstate.edu, or can be ordered by calling 1-800-621-2736.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Micki Reaman, 541-737-4620; Micki.reaman@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Authors Ponteri, Serber to read at OSU on Jan. 17

News - Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:43pm
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Authors Jay Ponteri and Natalie Serber will read from their most recent books at Oregon State University on Friday, Jan. 17, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the Valley Library rotunda.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Authors Jay Ponteri and Natalie Serber will read from their most recent books at Oregon State University on Friday, Jan. 17, 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 2013-2014 Literary Northwest Series,

Ponteri is author of the memoir, “Wedlocked,” (2013) and “Darkmouth Strikes Again,” a chapbook of short prose, which will be released this summer. His essay, “Listen to This” was mentioned as a Notable Essay in “Best American Essays 2010.” Ponteri directs the undergraduate creative writing program at Marylhurst University and Show:Tell: The Workshop for Teen Writers & Artists.

Renee Nicholson of “The Los Angeles Review” writes, “Sometimes filled with raw sexual ambition, other times quietly sad and contemplative, Ponteri dares memoir to go in a bold direction, with precedence on the intimacy between writer and reader."

Serber’s debut story collection, “Shout Her Lovely Name,” (2012) was a New York Times Notable Book of 2012 and a summer reading pick by “O, the Oprah Magazine.” Serber teaches at Marylhurst University and is working on a novel set in Boring, Ore.  

Joan Frank of The San Francisco Chronicle writes that Serber’s story collection “plunges us into the humid heat and lightning of a perfect storm: that of American mothers and daughters struggling for power, love, meaning, and identity…Serber's writing sparkles: practical, strong, brazenly modern, marbled with superb descriptions.”

The Literary Northwest Series brings Pacific Northwest writers to OSU. This program is made possible by support from the Valley Library and 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:  Mark Floyd Source: 

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

Categories: Research news

Postponed OSU play to be performed in January

News - Tue, 12/31/2013 - 2:58pm
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The University Theatre production of “The King of Spain’s Daughter," postponed in December because of a snowstorm, will resume showing beginning Jan. 17.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – After a successful opening night performance on Dec. 5, the Oregon State University Theatre had to postpone its production of “The King of Spain’s Daughter” because of a major snowstorm that blanketed the area.

The play has been rescheduled for Friday and Saturday, Jan. 17-18, at the Lab Theatre in OSU’s Withycombe Hall beginning at 7:30 p.m. An additional matinee performance has been scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 18, beginning at 2:30 p.m. at the Majestic Theatre in downtown Corvallis.

Tickets for the Lab Theatre production are $5 for general admission and $3 for students. Tickets for the matinee at the Majestic are $8 for general admission and $6 for students. More information is available at: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/theatre. Because of the configuration of the Lab Theatre, latecomers cannot be seated once the production has begun.

“The King of Spain’s Daughter” is a one-act comedy by Irish playwright Teresa Deevy, a prominent Abbey Theatre dramatist of the 1930s. Deevy was deaf and could lip-read in three languages. The OSU production of the play will be unique – for every speaking actor in the production, there will be an interpreting actor using American Sign Language.

Director Charlotte Headrick said this is the first time an OSU production will be “shadowed” by interpreters using American Sign Language.

Jo Alexander, a nationally certified sign language interpreter who manages accommodations at OSU for hearing-impaired students, faculty, staff, and visitors, will interpret the role of Mrs. Marks working alongside actress Vreneli Farber who is her speaking counterpart.

“The King of Spain’s Daughter” follows Annie Kinsella, a young woman with a rich imagination who has to deal with the limited opportunities for young women in 1930s Ireland. Live music before the performance will be provided by Jean Dick on violin playing traditional Irish tunes with Richelle Jean-Bart performing the title song.

Voiced actors are Rick Wallace as Annie Kinsella’s father Peter, Caitlin Reichmann as Annie Kinsella, Michael Beaton as her love interest Jim Sheridan, and Davey Kashuba as Roddy Mann, the loafer. Actors who are interpreting are Cheryl Witters as Annie, Peter Norland as Jim Sheridan, Steve Rianda as Peter Kinsella, and Lee Rianda as Roddy.

The production is underwritten by the office of the Vice-Provost of Student Affairs with the support of the OSU Theatre.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Charlotte Headrick, 541-737-4918; cheadrick@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

$1 million USDA grant boosts Oregon State tree research for bioenergy

News - Tue, 12/31/2013 - 10:22am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – A $1 million grant to a research team led by Steve Strauss, Oregon State University distinguished professor of forest biotechnology, aims to boost America’s energy independence by helping to develop a tree-based bioenergy industry.

The funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will support an investigation into the genetics of fast-growing cottonwood trees. The researchers will focus on the molecular mechanisms of hybrid vigor, which promote growth and productivity. All commercially grown cottonwoods in the Pacific Northwest are hybrids between different species, and it is costly and time-consuming for industries to identify the most productive hybrids.

“The research may enable more rapid development of highly productive and stress-tolerant varieties,” Strauss said.

The research will be carried out in collaboration with Portland-based GreenWood Resources, the major grower of cottonwoods in the Pacific Northwest. Other major scientific collaborators include Stephen DiFazio of West Virginia University and Todd Rosenstiel of Portland State University.

The grant is part of an $8 million national bioenergy initiative supported by the USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy.

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College of Forestry Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Steven Strauss, 541-737-6578

Categories: Research news

“Pan-Pacific Test Site” to aid growth of unmanned aerial systems

News - Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:25pm
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OSU and the state of Oregon will participate in testing of new systems for unmanned aerial systems, the FAA has announced as part of a national initiative.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Federal Aviation Administration has chosen the states of Alaska, Oregon and Hawaii to operate one of six test sites for unmanned aircraft systems, the agency announced today.

The test site, led by the University of Alaska and including Oregon State University, will be collectively known as the Pan-Pacific Test Site. It will offer unique terrain and scientific capabilities to help develop the future of unmanned aerial vehicles for civilian uses, in everything from crop monitoring to search-and-rescue or fighting forest fires.

The initiative is also a critical step forward for Oregon to be a major player in the evolution of this new industry, with the advances in science, manufacturing and employment opportunities that it offers.

“This will help put OSU and the state of Oregon on the map for the future of unmanned aerial systems,” said Rick Spinrad, vice president for research at OSU. “As one of only six test sites in the nation, we’ll be able to fly UAVs more freely and actively, get our students involved in an evolving industry, and help Oregon take advantage of research, development and manufacturing that will be needed.”

The FAA was given a mandate by Congress to integrate civilian use of unmanned aerial vehicles into the nation’s skies by 2015, and the six test sites just announced will explore airspace use, safety, certification, technological development, environmental and human factors and many other issues.

The FAA made its decision on the sites after considering 25 proposals from 24 states.

The Pan-Pacific Test Site will combine OSU’s historic strengths in remote sensing, platform development and other fields with extensive flying experience and Department of Defense collaboration at the University of Alaska and in Hawaii. The three states also offer an extraordinary range of terrain in which to test new systems: mountains, rivers, valleys, high desert, Arctic tundra, volcanoes, many types of forest and agricultural areas, and tropical islands.

Three specific areas in Oregon are already designated for use in the new test sites, Spinrad said. They include the Warm Springs Reservation in the central Oregon Cascade Range; the Pacific Ocean off Tillamook; and areas near Pendleton in eastern Oregon.

A range of air operations are already under way near Pendleton, and the Tillamook site will offer interesting marine and coastal research options. In cooperation with their tribal council, work done at the Warm Springs Reservation site will provide a range of alpine, river, forest and agricultural areas in which to test various types of devices.

Unmanned aerial systems in civilian use are expected to become a multi-billion dollar industry while opening new opportunities in scientific research and student education. OSU has worked closely with such collaborators as Economic Development for Central Oregon, the U.S. Department of Defense, OSU-Cascades Campus, the state of Oregon, Oregon Congressional leaders, private industry and others to help get the state involved.

It’s envisioned that a multitude of devices in the future will fly, walk, swim or crawl to perform valuable or dangerous tasks at very modest expense. Largely because they will be so much cheaper, routine uses in agriculture are planned, environmental monitoring could be improved, forest or crop diseases could be spotted early, fire fighting or search-and-rescue might be enhanced.

Oregon already has a large aviation industry in such fields as helicopters, small aircraft, aviation components and other technology. Along with the state’s exceptional range of terrain in which to test new devices, this makes it a natural location in which to help unmanned aerial systems grow.

Further development of the industry, officials say, will require technological advances, regulatory work to ensure privacy rights, improved manufacturing to lower costs, and many other steps.

Other locations for test sites announced today included universities or facilities in Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Rick Spinrad, 541-737-0664

Categories: Research news

OSU names new Gray Family Chair for Innovative Library Services

News - Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:22pm
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Korey Jackson has been named the new Gray Family Chair for Innovative Library Services at Oregon State University Libraries and the OSU Press.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Korey Jackson has been named the new Gray Family Chair for Innovative Library Services at Oregon State University Libraries and the OSU Press.

Established with a $2 million endowment, the Gray Family Chair is designed to identify innovative means for accessing and improving the delivery of information to students, faculty and staff – and establish OSU Libraries and Press to the forefront as an information provider.

“It is an exciting time for an organization like ours that combines the skills and expertise of both librarians and university press professionals,” said Faye A. Chadwell, the Donald and Delpha Campbell University Librarian and OSU Press director.

“We have established a reputation for experimenting to enhance existing services or create new ones,” Chadwell said. “In the coming years we intend to focus on innovative ways to enable the creation and dissemination of knowledge and enhance digital scholarship. Dr. Jackson brings the right blend of experience, vision and talent to lead a deeper investigation of digital publishing opportunities for the Libraries and Press.”

Before coming to OSU, Jackson was an American Council of Learned Societies public fellow at Anvil Academic, a digital humanities publisher sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources and the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education. While at Anvil he served as program coordinator, helping to create editorial partnerships, engage in social media relations and implement digital publishing strategies for a number of humanities projects.

Prior to this he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan’s Michigan Publishing, where he developed campus-wide outreach efforts around open access publishing and digital humanities training and discussion.

Jackson earned his Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan.

Jackson is the third holder of this position. It was first awarded in 2003 to Jeremy Frumkin, followed by Terry Reese in 2008.

The Gray Family Chair for Innovative Library Services was created by the late Portland developer and philanthropist John D. Gray. A 1940 Oregon State alumnus, Gray was widely known for his commitment to education. Among his other gifts to OSU, he gave $1 million for the construction of John D. Gray Hall at the Oregon 4-H Conference and Education Center in Salem.

 

Media Contact:  Theresa Hogue Source: 

Faye Chadwell, 541-737-7300

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Categories: Research news

Urban areas tough on fish – but Portland leads way on mitigation

News - Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:14pm
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The restoration of Northwest salmon and steelhead has focused largely on rural areas, but researchers increasingly are looking at the impact of urban areas on the well-being of fish.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The restoration of salmon and steelhead habitat in the Pacific Northwest has focused largely on rural areas dominated by agricultural and forested lands, but researchers increasingly are looking at the impact of urban areas on the well-being of these fish.

Metropolitan areas – and even small towns – can have a major impact on the waterways carrying fish, researchers say, but many progressive cities are taking steps to mitigate these effects. The issues, policies and impacts of urban areas on salmon, steelhead and trout are the focus of a new book, “Wild Salmonids in the Urbanizing Pacific Northwest,” published by Springer.

The influx of contaminants and toxic chemicals are two of the most obvious impacts, researchers say, but urban areas can heat rivers, alter stream flows and have a number of impacts, according to Carl Schreck, a professor of fisheries and wildlife at Oregon State University and a contributing author on the book.

“One of the biggest issues with cities and towns is that they have huge areas of compacted surfaces,” Schreck pointed out. “Instead of gradually being absorbed into the water table where the ground can act as a sponge and a filter, precipitation is funneled directly into drains and then quickly finds its way into river systems.

“But urban areas can do something about it,” Schreck added, “and Portland is very avant-garde. They’ve put in permeable substrate in many areas, they’ve used pavers instead of pavement, and the city boasts a number of rain gardens, roof eco-gardens and bioswales. When it comes to looking for positive ways to improve water conditions, Portland is one of the greenest cities in the world.”

The origin of the “Wild Salmonids” book began in 1997, when the Oregon Legislature established the Independent Multidisciplinary Science Team (IMST) to address natural resource issues. In 2010, the group – co-chaired by Schreck – created a report for Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and the legislature that provided an in-depth look at the issues and policies affecting salmonid success in Oregon and the influence of urban areas. That report was so well-accepted by Oregon communities, the researchers wrote a book aimed at the public.

The new book, “Wild Salmonids in the Urbanizing Pacific Northwest,” is available from Springer at: http://bit.ly/J5Dn8x. Dozens of scientists contributed to the book, which was edited by Kathleen Maas-Hebner and Robert Hughes of OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and Alan Yeakley of Portland State University, who was senior editor.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is add the social dimension to the science,” said Kathleen Maas-Hebner, a senior research scientist and one of the editors of the book. “The science is important, but the policies and the restoration efforts of communities are a huge part of improving conditions for fish.”

Many Northwest residents are unaware of some of the everyday ways in which human activities can affect water quality and conditions, and thus fish survivability. Products from lawn fertilizers to shampoos eventually make their way into rivers and can trigger algal blooms. Even septic tanks can leach into the groundwater and contribute the byproducts of our lives.

“Fish can get caffeine, perfume and sunblock from our groundwater,” Schreck said. “The water that flows from our cities has traces of birth control pills, radiation from medical practice, medical waste, deodorants and disinfectants. We could go on all day. Suffice it to say these things are not usually good for fish.”

The most effective strategy to combat the problem may be to reduce the use of contaminants through education and awareness, and ban problematic ingredients, Maas-Hebner said.

“Phosphates, for example, are no longer used in laundry detergents,” she said. “Fertilizer and pesticide users can reduce the amounts that get into rivers simply by following application instructions; many homeowners over-apply them.”

Another hazard of urban areas is blocking fish passage through small, natural waterways. Many streams that once meandered are channeled into pipe-like waterways, and some culverts funnel water in ways that prevent fish from passing through, Schreck said.

“If the water velocity becomes too high, some fish simply can’t or won’t go through the culvert,” said Schreck, who in 2007 received the Presidential Meritorious Rank Award from the White House for his fish research.  “Some cities, including Salem, Ore., are beginning to use new and improved culverts to aid fish passage.”

Other tactics can also help. Smaller communities, including Florence, Ore., offer incentives to developers for maintaining natural vegetation along waterways, the researchers say.

Despite the mitigation efforts of many Northwest cities and towns, urban hazards are increasing for fish. One of the biggest problems, according to researchers, is that no one knows what effects the increasing number of chemicals humans create may have on fish.

“There are literally thousands of new chemical compounds being produced every year and while we may know the singular effects of a few of them, many are unknown,” Schreck said. “The mixture of these different compounds can result in a ‘chemical cocktail’ of contaminants that may have impacts beyond those that singular compounds may offer. We just don’t know.

“The research is well behind the production of these new chemicals,” Schreck added, “and that is a concern.”

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Carl Schreck, 541-737-1961; carl.schreck@oregonstate.edu; Kathy Maas-Hebner, 541-737-6105; kathleen.maas-hebner@oregonstate.edu

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Delta Ponds, Eugene

Corvallis wetland

 

Categories: Research news

Review: Most clinical studies on vitamins flawed by poor methodology

News - Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:33am
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Most clinical trials of vitamin supplements are fundamentally flawed and are providing a misleading picture of the value of such supplements.

 

 

The study this story is based on is available online: http://bit.ly/1lbi4PB

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Most large, clinical trials of vitamin supplements, including some that have concluded they are of no value or even harmful, have a flawed methodology that renders them largely useless in determining the real value of these micronutrients, a new analysis suggests.

Many projects have tried to study nutrients that are naturally available in the human diet the same way they would a powerful prescription drug. This leads to conclusions that have little scientific meaning, even less accuracy and often defy a wealth of other evidence, said Balz Frei, professor and director of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, in a new review published in the journal Nutrients.

These flawed findings will persist until the approach to studying micronutrients is changed, Frei said. Such changes are needed to provide better, more scientifically valid information to consumers around the world who often have poor diets, do not meet intake recommendations for many vitamins and minerals, and might greatly benefit from something as simple as a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement.

Needed are new methodologies that accurately measure baseline nutrient levels, provide supplements or dietary changes only to subjects who clearly are inadequate or deficient, and then study the resulting changes in their health. Tests must be done with blood plasma or other measurements to verify that the intervention improved the subjects’ micronutrient status along with biomarkers of health. And other approaches are also needed that better reflect the different ways in which nutrients behave in cell cultures, lab animals and the human body.

The new analysis specifically looked at problems with the historic study of vitamin C, but scientists say many of the observations are more broadly relevant to a wide range of vitamins, micro nutrients and studies.

“One of the obvious problems is that most large, clinical studies of vitamins have been done with groups such as doctors and nurses who are educated, informed, able to afford healthy food and routinely have better dietary standards than the public as a whole,” said Frei, an international expert on vitamin C and antioxidants.

Vitamin or mineral supplements, or an improved diet, will primarily benefit people who are inadequate or deficient to begin with, OSU researchers said. But most modern clinical studies do not do baseline analysis to identify nutritional inadequacies and do not assess whether supplements have remedied those inadequacies. As a result, any clinical conclusion made with such methodology is pretty much useless, they said.

“More than 90 percent of U.S. adults don’t get the required amounts of vitamins D and E for basic health,” Frei said. “More than 40 percent don’t get enough vitamin C, and half aren’t getting enough vitamin A, calcium and magnesium. Smokers, the elderly, people who are obese, ill or injured often have elevated needs for vitamins and minerals.

“It’s fine to tell people to eat better, but it’s foolish to suggest that a multivitamin which costs a nickel a day is a bad idea.”

Beyond that, many scientists studying these topics are unaware of ways in which nutrients may behave differently in something like a cell culture or lab animal, compared to the human body. This raises special challenges with vitamin C research in particular.

“In cell culture experiments that are commonly done in a high oxygen environment, vitamin C is unstable and can actually appear harmful,” said Alexander Michels, an LPI research associate and lead author on this report. “And almost every animal in the world, unlike humans, is able to synthesize its own vitamin C and doesn’t need to obtain it in the diet. That makes it difficult to do any lab animal tests with this vitamin that are relevant to humans.”

Even though such studies often significantly understate the value of vitamin supplements, the largest and longest clinical trial of multivitamin/mineral supplements found a total reduction of cancer and cataract incidence in male physicians over the age of 50. It suggested that if every adult in the U.S. took such supplements it could prevent up to 130,000 cases of cancer each year, Frei said.

“The cancer reduction would be in addition to providing good basic health by supporting normal function of the body, metabolism and growth,” he said. “If there’s any drug out there that can do all this, it would be considered unethical to withhold it from the general public. But that’s basically the same as recommending against multivitamin/mineral supplements.”

Linus Pauling Institute Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Balz Frei, 541-737-5078

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Vitamin D studies

Categories: Research news

Legacy of Oregon Gov. Tom McCall featured at Corvallis Science Pub

OSU News Releases - Tue, 11/05/2013 - 9:40am
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The late Oregon Gov. Tom McCall’s pioneering fight to clean up the state’s waterways and to control development in the late 1960s still resonates today.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The late Oregon Gov. Tom McCall’s pioneering fight to clean up the state’s waterways and to control development in the late 1960s still resonates today. At the Nov. 11 Corvallis Science Pub, Oregon State University historian Bill Robbins will discuss the significance of McCall’s leadership.

Robbins will also show McCall’s famous documentary, Pollution in Paradise, which aired on KGW-TV in 1962.

The Science Pub presentation begins at 6 p.m. in the Old World Deli located at 341 S.W. Second St. in Corvallis. It is free and open to the public. 

“With an aristocratic, East Coast family background and a large-sized ego, McCall proved himself a man of the people, one who inspired deep affection for his adopted and beloved state,” Robbins said. “In a significantly less-polarized political environment, he worked across party lines to achieve significant policy objectives that we live with to the present day.”

Robbins is an emeritus distinguished professor of history at Oregon State and the author of 12 books, including Landscapes of Promise: The Oregon Story, 1800-1940 (1997); Landscapes of Conflict: The Oregon Story, 1940-2000 (2005); and Oregon: This Storied Land (2006). 

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

 

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Generic OSU Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Bill Robbins, 541-602-3867

Categories: Research news

New 4-H program aims to prepare culturally diverse youth for college

OSU News Releases - Mon, 11/04/2013 - 9:46am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – High school students will explore college and career opportunities in a new 4-H program coordinated by the Oregon State University Extension Service.

The 4-H Outreach Leadership Institute aims to prepare high school students from diverse cultural backgrounds to attend college and pursue a variety of career paths, according to organizer Mario Magaña, an outreach specialist for OSU Extension 4-H. Magaña hopes the leadership institute will reach Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders and African-Americans, as well as rural Caucasians who would be first-generation college students.

It's set for Nov. 15-17 at OSU in Corvallis, with additional multi-day sessions in March of 2014 at OSU and May of 2014 at the Oregon 4-H Conference and Education Center in Salem. The leadership institute is an expansion of the former 4-H Camp Counselor Trainings and the replacement of the high school International Summer Camp.

"I really believe that high school is the time to expose kids to college information and leadership activities," Magaña said. "The leadership institute will help them gain the knowledge, confidence and skills needed to apply for competitive scholarships and to apply for top universities. If kids start attending the leadership institute during their freshman year, we're going to mentor them three times a year for every year of their high school careers."

On the OSU campus in Corvallis, students will get hands-on practice from several Oregon universities on how to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, fill out a college application, write a college admissions essay and compose a personal biography. They will learn about careers from OSU student and faculty mentors in engineering, forestry, veterinary medicine, health and nutrition, fisheries and wildlife, solar energy, wave energy, science and robotics.

The session in May in Salem will train students to become camp counselors for 4-H International Summer Camps in 2014. It will offer students activities to develop leadership skills. Activities will include campfire skits, games, songs and role-plays. Workshops will teach students about a camp counselor's roles and responsibilities, as well as camp rules and regulations. Students will also learn about the physical and educational activities that will take place during summer camps, ranging from swimming to archery to building Lego robotics, as well as other workshops related to science, engineering and technology.  

Jessica Casas of Salem participated in 4-H International Summer Camps as a camper and counselor. She is a sophomore at OSU majoring in sociology and hopes to earn her master's degree in public policy.

"I did see myself in college, but I did not know how I was going to get there,” Casas said. “I got to know about the resources available when I attended 4-H International Summer Camps. After I got to meet Latino and Latina students attending college and getting financial aid, I talked to my mom and knew I was going to college."  

Now Casas is attending OSU on a Gates Millennium Scholarship. Her ultimate career goal is to represent Latinos in government-level legislature, with the hope of creating positive change in public policy for the Latino community. She is already on the path to pursuing that dream. At the leadership institute, Casas will coach students on applying for the competitive Gates Millennium Scholarship, which includes writing eight essays. 

Applications to the leadership institute are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. High school students in grades 9-12 from anywhere in Oregon are encouraged to apply. There is no cost to attend but an application is required. Students can apply at http://bit.ly/Outreach_Institute.

The Oregon Outreach project, which oversees the leadership institute, is an initiative of the OSU Extension 4-H Youth Development Program. Oregon Outreach aims to support and expand the quality and quantity of community-based, culturally relevant educational programs for underserved populations. For more information, go to http://oregon.4h.oregonstate.edu/oregonoutreach.

4-H is the largest out-of-school youth development program nationwide. The OSU Extension Service administrates Oregon's 4-H program within OSU's College of Public Health and Human Sciences. 4-H reached nearly 117,000 youth in kindergarten through 12th grade via a network of 8,534 volunteers in 2012. Activities focus on areas like healthy living, civic engagement, science and animal care. Learn more about 4-H at: http://oregon.4h.oregonstate.edu.

Extension Service Media Contact:  Denise Ruttan Source: 

Mario Magaña, 541-737-0925

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Students at a past 4-H International Summer Camp learn about engineering concepts in a hands-on activity. The Oregon State University Extension Service coordinates the camps. (Photo by Mario Magaña.)

Categories: Research news

Climate report: Wildfires, snowmelt, coastal issues top Northwest risks

OSU News Releases - Fri, 11/01/2013 - 11:07am
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The Northwest is facing increased risks from the decline of forest health, earlier snowmelt, and issues facing the coastal region, according to a new climate assessment report.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Northwest is facing increased risks from the decline of forest health, earlier snowmelt leading to low summer stream flows, and an array of issues facing the coastal region, according to a new climate assessment report.

Written by a team of scientists coordinated by the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI) at Oregon State University, the report is the first regional climate assessment released since 1999. Both the 1999 report and the 2013 version were produced as part of the U.S. National Climate Assessment; both Washington and Oregon produced state-level reports in 2009 and 2010.

OSU’s Philip Mote, director of the institute and one of three editors of the 270-page report (as well as the 1999 report), said the document incorporates a lot of new science as well as some additional dimensions – including the impact of climate change on human health and tribal issues. A summary of the report is available online at: http://occri.net/reports

Amy Snover, director of the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington, said there are a number of issues facing the Northwest as a result of climate change.

“As we looked across both economic and ecological dimensions, the three that stood out were less snow, more wildfires and challenges to the coastal environment and infrastructure,” said Snover, who is one of the editors on the report.

The report outlines how these three issues are affected by climate change.

“Studies are showing that snowmelt is occurring earlier and earlier and that is leading to a decline in stream flows in summer,” Mote said. “Northwest forests are facing a huge increase in wildfires, disease and other disturbances that are both direct and indirect results of climate change. And coastal issues are mounting and varied, from sea level rise and inundation, to ocean acidification. Increased wave heights in recent decades also threaten coastal dwellings, roads and other infrastructure.”

OCCRI’s Meghan Dalton, lead editor on the report, notes that 2,800 miles of coastal roads are in the 100-year floodplain and some highways may face inundation with just two feet of sea level rise. Sea levels are expected to rise as much as 56 inches, or nearly five feet, by the year 2100.

Earlier snowmelt is a significant concern in the Northwest, where reservoir systems are utilized to maximize water storage. But, Dalton said, the Columbia River basin has a storage capacity that is smaller than its annual flow volume and is “ill-equipped to handle the projected shift to earlier snowmelt…and will likely be forced to pass much of these earlier flows out of the system.”

The earlier peak stream flow may significantly reduce summer hydroelectric power production, and slightly increase winter power production.

The report was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, through the Oregon Legislature’s support of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at OSU, and by in-kind contributions from the authors’ institutions.

Mote said new research has led to improved climate models, which suggest that the Northwest will warm by a range of three to 14 degrees (Fahrenheit) by the year 2100. “The lower range will only be possible if greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced.” In contrast, the Northwest warmed by 1.3 degrees from the period of 1895 to 2011.

Future precipitation is harder to project, the report notes, with models forecasting a range from a 10 percent decrease to an 18 percent increase by 2100. Most models do suggest that more precipitation will fall as rain and earlier snowmelt will change river flow patterns.

That could be an issue for agriculture in the future as the “Northwest’s diverse crops depend on adequate water supplies and temperature ranges, which are projected to change during the 21st century,” the report notes. Pinpointing the impacts on agriculture will be difficult, said Sanford Eigenbrode of the University of Idaho, another co-author.

“As carbon dioxide levels rise, yields will increase for some plants, and more rainfall in winter could mean wetter soils in the spring, benefitting some crops,” Eigenbrode pointed out. “Those same conditions could adversely affect other crops. It is very difficult to say how changing climate will affect agriculture overall in the Northwest, but we can say that the availability of summer water will be a concern.”

Mote said there may be additional variables affecting agriculture, such what impacts the changing climate has on pests, diseases and invasive species.

“However, the agricultural sector is resilient and can respond more quickly to new conditions than some other sectors like forestry, where it takes 40 years or longer for trees to reach a harvestable age,” noted Mote, who is a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

The Northwest has not to date been vulnerable to many climate-related health risks, the report notes, but impacts of climate change in the future are more likely to be negative than positive. Concerns include increased morbidity and mortality from heat-related illness, air pollution and allergenic disease, and the emergence of infectious diseases.

“In Oregon, one study showed that each 10-degree (F) increase in daily maximum temperature was associated with a nearly three-fold increase of heat-related illness,” said Jeff Bethel, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU and one of the co-authors of the report. “The threshold for triggering heat-related illness – especially among the elderly – isn’t much.”

Northwest tribes may face a greater impact from climate change because of their reliance on natural resources. Fish, shellfish, game and plant species could be adversely affected by a warming climate, resulting in a multitude of impacts.

“When tribes ceded their lands and were restricted to small areas, it resulted in a loss of access to many species that lived there,” said Kathy Lynn, coordinator of the Tribal Climate Change Project at the University of Oregon and a co-author of the report. “Climate change may further reduce the abundance of resources. That carries a profound cultural significance far beyond what we can document from an economic standpoint.”

Snover said that the climate changes projected for the coming decades mean that many of the assumptions “inherent in decisions, infrastructure and policies – where to build, what to grow where, and how to manage variable water sources to meet multiple needs – will become increasingly incorrect.

“Whether the ultimate consequences of the climate impacts outlined in this report are severe or mild depends in part on how well we prepare our communities, economies and natural systems for the changes we know are coming,” Snover said.

Other lead co-authors on the report are Rick Raymondi, Idaho Department of Water Resources; W. Spencer Reeder, Cascadia Consulting Group; Patty Glick, National Wildlife Federation; Susan Capalbo, OSU; and Jeremy Littell, U.S. Geological Survey.

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

Philip Mote, 541-737-5694; pmote@coas.oregonstate.edu; Amy Snover, 206-221-0222; aksnover@uw.edu

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Coastal issues

Snowmelt

Wildfires

Categories: Research news

“Flipping the switch” reveals new compounds with antibiotic potential

OSU News Releases - Wed, 10/30/2013 - 2:49pm
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OSU biochemists have unlocked some of the genetic constraints on a common fungus, in work that may lead to important new antibiotics.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered that one gene in a common fungus acts as a master regulator, and deleting it has opened access to a wealth of new compounds that have never before been studied – with the potential to identify new antibiotics.

The finding was announced today in the journal PLOS Genetics, in research supported by the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society.

Scientists succeeded in flipping a genetic switch that had silenced more than 2,000 genes in this fungus, the cereal pathogen Fusarium graminearum. Until now this had kept it from producing novel compounds that may have useful properties, particularly for use in medicine but also perhaps in agriculture, industry, or biofuel production.

“About a third of the genome of many fungi has always been silent in the laboratory,” said Michael Freitag, an associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the OSU College of Science. “Many fungi have antibacterial properties. It was no accident that penicillin was discovered from a fungus, and the genes for these compounds are usually in the silent regions of genomes.

“What we haven’t been able to do is turn on more of the genome of these fungi, see the full range of compounds that could be produced by expression of their genes,” he said. “Our finding should open the door to the study of dozens of new compounds, and we’ll probably see some biochemistry we’ve never seen before.”

In the past, the search for new antibiotics was usually done by changing the environment in which a fungus or other life form grew, and see if those changes generated the formation of a compound with antibiotic properties.

“The problem is, with the approaches of the past we’ve already found most of the low-hanging fruit, and that’s why we’ve had to search in places like deep sea vents or corals to find anything new,” Freitag said. “With traditional approaches there’s not that much left to be discovered. But now that we can change the genome-wide expression of fungi, we may see a whole new range of compounds we didn’t even know existed.”

The gene that was deleted in this case regulates the methylation of histones, the proteins around which DNA is wound, Freitag said. Creating a mutant without this gene allowed new expression, or overexpression of about 25 percent of the genome of this fungus, and the formation of many “secondary metabolites,” the researchers found.

The gene that was deleted, kmt6, encodes a master regulator that affects the expression of hundreds of genetic pathways, researchers say. It’s been conserved through millions of years, in life forms as diverse as plants, fungi, fruit flies and humans.

The discovery of new antibiotics is of increasing importance, researchers say, as bacteria, parasites and fungi are becoming increasingly resistant to older drugs.

“Our studies will open the door to future precise ‘epigenetic engineering’ of gene clusters that generate bioactive compounds, e.g. putative mycotoxins, antibiotics and industrial feedstocks,” the researchers wrote in the conclusion of their report.

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Michael Freitag, 541-737-4845

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Pigments produced





Fungus on corn

Categories: Research news

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