Oregon State University

Research news

As antibiotics ban nears, organic orchards have new tools to fight fire blight

News - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 8:12am
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Oregon State University researchers have proven the effectiveness of two organic alternatives for controlling a disease that can wipe out entire apple and pear orchards.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University researchers have proven the effectiveness of two organic alternatives for controlling a disease that can wipe out entire apple and pear orchards.

Scientists found that spraying a yeast-based product and new water-soluble copper products at the beginning of the growing season provided protection from the bacterial disease.

The findings come as organic growers prepare for a probable ban on two antibiotics previously allowed by the National Organics Standards Board. At the end of this year's growing season, oxytetracycline and potentially streptomycin will no longer be permitted in organic orchards for fire blight, a serious bacterial disease that can kill trees.

Spread by bees and rain, fire blight remains dormant in trees over winter and infects flowers in spring. Once infected, growers can only stop the disease by cutting out infections, which can prove fatal.

"In some cases, fire blight can kill a whole orchard in a short period of time," said OSU plant pathologist Ken Johnson.

Organic pome fruit growers are encouraged to test new approaches this year before antibiotics are no longer available as backup choices, added Johnson.

In OSU trials, researchers tested the commercially available Blossom Protect, a yeast that clings to apple blossoms and pears and prevents colonization by fire blight bacteria.

Blossom Protect was developed in Europe and registered by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2012. In apples, it was 90 percent effective when sprayed after lime sulfur to reduce crop load.

Copper has been used for fire blight for almost a century, but heavy applications can be toxic to trees or create rough blemishes on fruit, known as russeting – which downgrades the value. New water-soluble copper products, such as Cueva and Previsto, contain low concentrations of the metal, which lessens its negative effects while still combating fire blight, said Johnson.

"Whereas growers used to be scared to spray copper, the solubilized versions are safer than coppers from yesteryear," said Johnson, a professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Since the National Organic Program began in 2002, the use of antibiotics was allowed to control fire blight on apples and pears because no effective alternative was available at the time.

The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Tim Smith from Washington State University and Rachel Elkins from University of California Cooperative Extension also contributed research. The research team prepared a webinar on non-antibiotic treatment of fire blight, which is at: http://bit.ly/FireBlightWebinar.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Daniel Robison Source: 

Ken Johnson, 541-737-5249

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Wilted leaves on pear and apple trees are a sign of fire blight, a bacterial disease that can spread quickly and kill an orchard. (Photo by Ken Johnson.)

Categories: Research news

Corvallis Science Pub features talk on natural gas vehicles

News - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 1:50pm
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At the April 14 Corvallis Science Pub, Chris Hagen of OSU-Cascades in Bend will discuss his research on a system that would enable homeowners to power their vehicles on natural gas at home.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The growth of natural gas supplies in the United States has led to increased use of this fuel in industry and transportation.

At the April 14 Corvallis Science Pub, Chris Hagen of OSU-Cascades in Bend will discuss his research on a system that would enable homeowners to power their vehicles on natural gas at home. The Science Pub presentation, which is free and open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. in the Old World Deli located at 341 S.W. Second St. in Corvallis.

Hagen is testing an engine that can compress natural gas and store it in a vehicle fuel tank.

“Technologies for compressing natural gas already exist,” said Hagen, an assistant professor in the Energy Systems Engineering program. “We can buy a natural gas reciprocating compressor that operates separately and can fuel your car in eight hours. The question is whether we can come up with a commercially viable solution.”

Hagen’s research is supported by ARPA-E (the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency–Energy) through its new program titled Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy (MOVE).

Before coming to OSU-Cascades, Hagen was an assistant research professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State University. He had also worked at the Chevron Energy Technology Company where he investigated novel fuels for advanced internal combustion engines. His previous industry experience includes working as an application engineer for Woodward, Inc., a global energy system solution provider.

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

OSU-Cascades Campus Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Chris Hagen, 541-322-2061

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Categories: Research news

OSU hires Penn State viticulturist to head its wine research program

News - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 11:35am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has hired Penn State's top wine grape expert to lead its wine research and outreach program.

Mark Chien will take over as the program coordinator of OSU's Oregon Wine Research Institute on May 28. He was previously tasked with elevating the quality of Pennsylvania wines as the administrator of the Penn State Wine Grape Program.

OSU's wine institute is comprised of 12 core scientists with expertise in areas that include viticulture, enology, pest management, flavor chemistry and sensory analysis. It’s a virtual institute with offices and labs at OSU's Corvallis campus and several of its research centers around the state. Its mission is to address the needs of Oregon's wine industry through research and educational outreach.

Chien's position is a new one and has more of a coordinating and facilitating role than a directing role. The institute is led by interim director Bill Boggess, but that position will cease to exist once Chien arrives. The idea is for leadership to come from the scientists as opposed to having a top-down approach in which one person sets the research focus, said Boggess, who will continue to serve as executive associate dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences with overall responsibility for the institute.

Chien will manage the institute's daily operations, monitor progress on funded projects, oversee its educational outreach efforts, help attract resources and facilitate communication and engagement with the industry. He'll spend his initial months traveling around the state to meet with industry representatives and find out what kind of research they need OSU to carry out.

"I don't have an agenda," he said. "I'll get a sense of what the industry wants and match that with resources here. Part of my job is to make sure that there's open communication between industry and researchers and that expectations are clear."

Chien is no stranger to Oregon, which was home to 905 vineyards and 379 grape-crushing wineries in 2012, according to the Southern Oregon University Research Center. Chien managed the grape-growing operations at Temperance Hill Vineyard near Salem from 1985-1999. During that time, he helped establish research priorities for the then-Oregon Wine Advisory Board and helped OSU acquire Woodhall Vineyard. He also helped create the viticulture and enology program at Chemeketa Community College and the nonprofit known as LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology), which certifies vineyards and wineries that use sustainable practices.

From 1983-85, he was the vineyard manager and winemaker at Pindar Vineyards in New York.

The Pennsylvania State University hired him in 1999 as its viticulture educator to establish its wine grape Extension program, with the ultimate goal of helping the state's vineyards improve the quality of their grapes. The eastern United States, including Pennsylvania, is arguably one of the hardest places in the world to grow grapes for high-quality wine, he said. While there, he provided empirical and research-based information to growers via a website, an electronic newsletter, workshops and field demonstrations.

OSU hired Chien because of his experience in the public and private sectors, Boggess said.

"Mark had a foot in industry at Temperance Hill and he understands the academic side from his Penn State work," Boggess said. "He's already well-known in Oregon and has good connections with national research groups and funding sources."

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Tiffany Woods Source: 

 Mark Chien; Bill Boggess, 541-737-2331

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Mark Chien is the new head of Oregon State University's Oregon Wine Research Institute. Photo by Stephen Ward.

Categories: Research news

OSU to host screening, discussion of documentary ‘American Promise’

News - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 11:04am
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The award-winning documentary about the struggles of two middle-class African American families as they educate and parent their sons, will be shown at Oregon State University on Tuesday, April 15.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The award-winning documentary “American Promise,” about the struggles of two middle-class African American families as they educate and parent their sons, will be shown at Oregon State University on Tuesday, April 15.

The screening begins at 7 p.m. in the auditorium in Milam Hall, 2520 S.W. Campus Way, Corvallis. A question-and-answer session with filmmaker Michèle Stephenson will follow. The event is free and open to the public. Lead sponsors for the event are the College of Education and the Division of Student Affairs, with additional support from several other OSU programs.

A 30-minute version of the film will be shown at 4 p.m. Monday, April 14, in the theater at Corvallis High School, 1400 N.W. Buchanan Ave. A panel discussion about the African American male experience in predominately white schools will follow. That event is also free and open to the public.

“We hope the film will help us better understand some of the issues surrounding the black male achievement gap as it exists in our community,” said Felicia Reid-Metoyer, a faculty member in the College of Education and one of the organizers of the events.

“In particular, we would like for the two-day event to advance the discussion as it relates to teachers, administrators, and staff who work with underrepresented minorities in Corvallis and other local schools,” said Reid-Metoyer, who was inspired to bring the film to Corvallis after watching it in Los Angeles last year.

In “American Promise,” Stephenson and her partner, Joe Brewster, follow their son, Idris, and his best friend, Oluwaseun “Seun” Summers, as they move through school and confront issues of class, race and opportunity. The film begins with the boys’ entry into kindergarten at a prestigious private school and follows them through their school years to high school graduation.

“American Promise” premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Award for Achievement in Filmmaking. To learn more about the film or watch the trailer, visit www.americanpromise.org.

College of Education Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Karla Rockhold, 541-737-2226, karla.rockhold@oregonstate.edu

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Idris Brewster and Oluwaseun “Seun” Summers are featured in the documentary 'American Promise.' Credit: Michèle Stephenson

Categories: Research news

Trees go high-tech: process turns cellulose into energy storage devices

News - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 9:36am
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OSU chemists have discovered a way to convert cheap cellulose directly into the materials to make a high-tech energy storage product.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Based on a fundamental chemical discovery by scientists at Oregon State University, it appears that trees may soon play a major role in making high-tech energy storage devices.

OSU chemists have found that cellulose – the most abundant organic polymer on Earth and a key component of trees – can be heated in a furnace in the presence of ammonia, and turned into the building blocks for supercapacitors.

These supercapacitors are extraordinary, high-power energy devices with a wide range of industrial applications, in everything from electronics to automobiles and aviation. But widespread use of them has been held back primarily by cost and the difficulty of producing high-quality carbon electrodes.

The new approach just discovered at Oregon State can produce nitrogen-doped, nanoporous carbon membranes – the electrodes of a supercapacitor – at low cost, quickly, in an environmentally benign process. The only byproduct is methane, which could be used immediately as a fuel or for other purposes.

“The ease, speed and potential of this process is really exciting,” said Xiulei (David) Ji, an assistant professor of chemistry in the OSU College of Science, and lead author on a study announcing the discovery in Nano Letters, a journal of the American Chemical Society. The research was funded by OSU.

“For the first time we’ve proven that you can react cellulose with ammonia and create these N-doped nanoporous carbon membranes,” Ji said. “It’s surprising that such a basic reaction was not reported before. Not only are there industrial applications, but this opens a whole new scientific area, studying reducing gas agents for carbon activation.

We’re going to take cheap wood and turn it into a valuable high-tech product,” he said.

These carbon membranes at the nano-scale are extraordinarily thin – a single gram of them can have a surface area of nearly 2,000 square meters. That’s part of what makes them useful in supercapacitors. And the new process used to do this is a single-step reaction that’s fast and inexpensive. It starts with something about as simple as a cellulose filter paper – conceptually similar to the disposable paper filter in a coffee maker.

The exposure to high heat and ammonia converts the cellulose to a nanoporous carbon material needed for supercapacitors, and should enable them to be produced, in mass, more cheaply than before.

A supercapacitor is a type of energy storage device, but it can be recharged much faster than a battery and has a great deal more power. They are mostly used in any type of device where rapid power storage and short, but powerful energy release is needed.

Supercapacitors can be used in computers and consumer electronics, such as the flash in a digital camera. They have applications in heavy industry, and are able to power anything from a crane to a forklift. A supercapacitor can capture energy that might otherwise be wasted, such as in braking operations. And their energy storage abilities may help “smooth out” the power flow from alternative energy systems, such as wind energy.

They can power a defibrillator, open the emergency slides on an aircraft and greatly improve the efficiency of hybrid electric automobiles.

Besides supercapacitors, nanoporous carbon materials also have applications in adsorbing gas pollutants, environmental filters, water treatment and other uses.

“There are many applications of supercapacitors around the world, but right now the field is constrained by cost,” Ji said. “If we use this very fast, simple process to make these devices much less expensive, there could be huge benefits.”

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

David Xiulei Ji, 541-737-6798

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Conversion process





Trees for paper

Categories: Research news

OSU to host Art About Agriculture reception April 16

News - Fri, 04/04/2014 - 8:46am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – The work of 13 handpicked artists illustrating food and agriculture is in an exhibition now open at Oregon State University.

OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences is sponsoring the 32nd annual Art About Agriculture exhibition, which is on display from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through April 28 at LaSells Stewart Center. A reception at which the public can meet the artists is set April 16 from 6-8 p.m. Admission is free.

This year's art explores the availability of food and agricultural products, and concepts relevant to agricultural bounty and community in cities, towns and villages, said curator Shelley Curtis. Artists depict this theme in a range of mediums, including mixed media, oil and wood.

Participating artists are:

Susan Burnes — Rogue River, Ore.

Lisa Caballero — Portland, Ore.

Mark Clarke — Eugene, Ore.

Jon Jay Cruson — Eugene, Ore.

Kim Hamblin — Sheridan, Ore.

Eric Jacobsen — Glenwood, Wash.

Diane Kingzett — Portland, Ore.

David Mensing — Albion, Idaho

Caleb Meyer — Twin Falls, Idaho

Larry Passmore — Corvallis, Ore.

Sarah Tabbert — Fairbanks, Alaska

Noel Thomas — Astoria, Ore.

David Wilson — Missoula, Mont.

For more information, go to http://agsci.oregonstate.edu/art.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Denise Ruttan Source: 

Shelley Curtis, 541-737-2662

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Artist Jon Jay Cruson painted "Roadside Stand to Table #3" for the Art About Agriculture exhibition at Oregon State University. (Photo by Jon Jay Cruson)

Categories: Research news

Auditions for OSU’s one-act festival to be held April 8-9

News - Thu, 04/03/2014 - 9:25am
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Auditions for the annual student-directed Spring One-Act Festival will be held in Oregon State University’s Lab Theatre and are open to students, staff, faculty and the community.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Auditions for the annual student-directed Spring One-Act Festival will be held at 7 p.m. April 8 and 9 in Oregon State University’s Lab Theatre.

Auditions will consist of cold readings and no preparation is necessary. They are open to all OSU students, faculty and staff and to members of the Corvallis community. The theatre is located in Withycombe Hall, 2901 S.W. Campus Way, Corvallis.

The Spring One-Act Festival 2014, presented by OSU Theatre, will be held at 7:30 p.m. June 4, 5 and 6 and at 2 p.m. June 8. One-act plays will be directed by the students of an advanced directing class. Rehearsals will be scheduled with each director. Those auditioning are asked to bring their schedules and note any potential conflicts with rehearsals.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Contact: Elizabeth Helman, Elizabeth.Helman@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Energy breakthrough uses sun to create solar energy materials

News - Thu, 04/03/2014 - 9:22am
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An important advance by OSU engineers will allow the sun not only to power solar cells, but to create the material used in them.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – In a recent advance in solar energy, researchers have discovered a way to tap the sun not only as a source of power, but also to directly produce the solar energy materials that make this possible.

This breakthrough by chemical engineers at Oregon State University could soon reduce the cost of solar energy, speed production processes, use environmentally benign materials, and make the sun almost a “one-stop shop” that produces both the materials for solar devices and the eternal energy to power them.

The findings were just published in RSC Advances, a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, in work supported by the National Science Foundation.

“This approach should work and is very environmentally conscious,” said Chih-Hung Chang, a professor of chemical engineering at Oregon State University, and lead author on the study.

“Several aspects of this system should continue to reduce the cost of solar energy, and when widely used, our carbon footprint,” Chang said. “It could produce solar energy materials anywhere there’s an adequate solar resource, and in this chemical manufacturing process, there would be zero energy impact.”

The work is based on the use of a “continuous flow” microreactor to produce nanoparticle inks that make solar cells by printing. Existing approaches based mostly on batch operations are more time-consuming and costly.

In this process, simulated sunlight is focused on the solar microreactor to rapidly heat it, while allowing precise control of temperature to aid the quality of the finished product. The light in these experiments was produced artificially, but the process could be done with direct sunlight, and at a fraction of the cost of current approaches.

“Our system can synthesize solar energy materials in minutes compared to other processes that might take 30 minutes to two hours,” Chang said. “This gain in operation speed can lower cost.”

In these experiments, the solar materials were made with copper indium diselenide, but to lower material costs it might also be possible to use a compound such as copper zinc tin sulfide, Chang said. And to make the process something that could work 24 hours a day, sunlight might initially be used to create molten salts that could later be used as an energy source for the manufacturing. This could provide more precise control of the processing temperature needed to create the solar energy materials.

State-of-the-art chalcogenide-based, thin film solar cells have already reached a fairly high solar energy conversion efficiency of about 20 percent in the laboratory, researchers said, while costing less than silicon technology. Further improvements in efficiency should be possible, they said.

Another advantage of these thin-film approaches to solar energy is that the solar absorbing layers are, in fact, very thin - about 1-2 microns, instead of the 50-100 microns of more conventional silicon cells. This could ease the incorporation of solar energy into structures, by coating thin films onto windows, roof shingles or other possibilities.

Additional support for this work was provided by the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, or ONAMI, and the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center, or Oregon BEST.

College of Engineering Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Chih-hung Chang, 541-737-8548

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Powered by the sun

Categories: Research news

New Centro Cultural Cesar Chavez building opens on campus

News - Thu, 04/03/2014 - 8:49am
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Latino students at Oregon State University now have a brand new home away from home, and the campus will celebrate the new Centro Cultural Cesar Chavez during a grand opening ceremony Monday, April 7, beginning at 5 p.m.

CORVALLIS – Latino students at Oregon State University now have a brand new home away from home, and the campus will celebrate the new Centro Cultural Cesar Chavez during a grand opening ceremony Monday, April 7, beginning at 5 p.m.

The new building is one of four new cultural centers being built on campus to replace aging structures. The centers provide space for students to socialize, celebrate and study, learn more about their own culture and explore the world of other students of different backgrounds.

“Oregon State does a great job in supporting students from diverse backgrounds, and the Centro provides a space for dialogue and an opportunity to share perspectives,” said Miguel Arellano, a graduate assistant who helps coordinate Centro activities. “That combined with the support services offered at OSU provides a place where students from different backgrounds are able to thrive. This is a welcoming space for all students to learn about or retain Latino culture.”

In 1971, a group of nine students met in the basement of Milam Hall in an effort to establish a Latino student organization. Originally called the Chicano Cultural Center, the basement location was less than ideal, and students eventually asked for a more permanent and independent location on campus. After temporarily moving into a house on Orchard Street, in 1977 they moved into an older, former family home on A Street.

After four decades, the house has finally been replaced. A crowded living room and sun-faded deck have been swapped for a spacious building that includes a large gathering hall, multiple office and study spaces and a large kitchen for hosting social events. The Centro is affiliated with 17 different student organizations on campus and is a popular spot for many different events, from cultural celebrations to social justice activities.

“It’s a space where students can gain a broader world view,” Arellano said, and the new building will offer many more opportunities to bring people from around campus into the Centro to celebrate Latino heritage.

“I grew up in Woodburn, and coming from a place that is 60 percent Latino to a place where the Latino population is around 6 percent, there’s a big difference,” Arellano said, which is why having a place like the Centro is so important to student retention. “When you’re participating in events here, you see people who look like you, and who share similar passions and experiences.”

Latino identity is broad and complex, and represents people from many different parts of the world, which can be difficult to encompass in one building. But the Centro staff tries to make the space welcoming not just for Latino students, but anyone on campus who wants to stop in.

For Joyce Contreras, a human development and family sciences major who grew up in Beaverton, the Centro has provided her the chance to explore aspects of her Mexican background that she had previously not been in touch with.

"I wanted to be involved with the Centro because I wanted to further my knowledge about my own heritage and be a welcoming individual to others. What we say about our center is 'This is a home away from home.' I wanted to be in that environment and learn more about my culture," she said. For Contreras, it was important to find her roots. Before she became involved with Centro, she didn't know whether to identify as Mexican or Hispanic, and often switched between the two. Now she proudly identifies as Latina, and understands the cultural and political context of the term.

The 3,565 square-foot building cost $2,521,051. It was designed by Seattle-based architects Jones & Jones, who also designed the Native American Longhouse, which opened the doors on its new building last spring. They are also designing new buildings for the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center and the Asian Pacific Cultural Center.

The four cultural centers are being funded with a combination of private gifts and university funds. The project got off the ground with a $500,000 gift from the late Portland philanthropist Joyce Collin Furman to create the OSU President’s Fund for Cultural Centers. The 1965 OSU alumna was a strong supporter of her alma mater and served on the steering committee for The Campaign for OSU.

The Centro is located at 691 S.W. 26th Street. For more information on the grand opening, go to https://www.facebook.com/events/754118061279312/

 

 

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Theresa Hogue Source: 

Miguel Arellano, 541-737-3790

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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

Noted oceanographer to speak Nov. 12 at Hatfield

OSU News Releases - Wed, 10/30/2013 - 9:31am
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Don Walsh, a pioneering oceanographer famous for his 1960 dive to the deepest part of the ocean, will visit OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

NEWPORT, Ore. – Don Walsh, a pioneering oceanographer famous for his 1960 dive to the deepest part of the ocean, will visit Newport on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

Walsh will give a free public lecture at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. His presentation, “Lunch on Board the Titanic: Two Miles Deep in the Atlantic,” begins at 6:30 p.m. In his talk, Walsh will share his experience diving in a submersible down to the Titanic and other adventures from his career of more than 40 years.

A retired captain from the U.S. Navy, Walsh went on to enjoy a lengthy career as an oceanographer and ocean engineer who explored the deep oceans and polar regions. He has commanded submarines as a naval officer and deep-sea submersibles as a researcher.

In 1960, Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard boarded the bathyscaphe Trieste and descended to the floor of the Mariana Trench in the northern Pacific Ocean – a depth of more than 35,000 feet, or nearly seven miles. It took five hours to reach the seafloor, and at 30,000 feet they heard a loud crack. Upon reaching the bottom, they discovered cracks in the window, and quickly began ascending.

The historic dive received worldwide attention. It also remained a world record dive for 52 years until James Cameron piloted his Deepsea Challenger to the same place in 2012.

Walsh, who has a courtesy appointment in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, will also visit schools in Newport during the week and give a seminar at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. That talk, intended for a research audience, is titled “Going the Last Seven Miles – Looking Backwards at the Future.” It begins at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 in the Hennings Auditorium.

Hatfield Marine Science Center Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Maryann Bozza, 541-867-0234; maryann.bozza@oregonstate.edu

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Don Walsh

Categories: Research news

Former FBI fugitive Katherine Ann Power returns to Corvallis for talk

OSU News Releases - Tue, 10/29/2013 - 11:30am
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A former fugitive who spent 23 years on the run from the FBI is returning to Corvallis to talk for the first time about her experiences.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A former fugitive who spent 23 years on the run from the FBI is returning to Corvallis to talk for the first time about her experiences as a student activist, a wanted criminal, and a woman who now embraces peace activism rather than violent revolution.

Katherine Ann Power has written a book titled “Surrender,” about her life on the run. She will speak on that topic at Oregon State University at noon on Thursday, Oct. 31, in Memorial Union Room 206.

In 1970, while a student at Brandeis University, Power was involved in a bank heist. She and four other activists were hoping to use the money to buy explosives that would help them procure weapons to arm the Black Panthers. During the robbery, one of the participants shot and killed a Boston police officer responding to the crime. Power, who was the getaway driver, escaped capture and disappeared for more than two decades.

She ended up in Lebanon, Ore., working in Corvallis and Albany, as well as teaching cooking classes at Linn-Benton Community College. She took on the name of Alice Metzinger, raised a son and married a local man.

But in 1993, Power decided she had lived in hiding long enough. She negotiated terms of surrender and pled guilty to two counts of armed robbery and manslaughter. She was released from prison in 1999, and returned to Oregon. She completed a master’s degree at Oregon State University in interdisciplinary studies, and taught English as an instructor. She later moved to Boston.

Part of Power’s sentence restricted her from speaking and publishing about her experiences until her 20-year probation period ended in 2013.

The talk, titled “Surrender: Gorilla to Grandmother,” is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the OSU Peace Studies Program, the School of History, Philosophy and Religion and the Annares Project.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Angela Yeager Source: 

Joseph Orosco, 541-737-4335

Categories: Research news

Phillips named director for OSU Office of Research Development

OSU News Releases - Tue, 10/29/2013 - 10:45am
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Mary Phillips has been named director for the Office of Research Development, a new unit within the Research Office, effective Dec. 1.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Mary Phillips has been named director for the Office of Research Development, a new unit within the Research Office, effective Dec. 1.

Phillips is associate director for the Office for Commercialization and Corporate Development, where she oversees the management of intellectual property and licensing of OSU inventions. In her new role, Phillips will work with faculty and academic units to identify and pursue major funding opportunities, including federal, non-profit and corporate sources.

The creation of the Office for Research Development is a proactive step by the Research Office that addresses the challenge and goals articulated in the OSU research agenda by providing strategic institutional support for successful proposal development, Phillips said.

"What excites me about this position is the role I will play in developing new approaches that will enable our faculty to be highly competitive in securing grant funding in these times of dwindling federal funding and sequestration," Phillips noted. "This in itself is a grand challenge."

Vice President for Research Rick Spinrad said there is a lot of untapped potential for building OSU’s capacity and reputation.

“By establishing an Office of Research Development, we have created the structure to engage in strategic positioning of our research enterprise, long before specific solicitations for research are issued,” Spinrad said. “As part of OSU’s research agenda we are striving to diversify our sponsorship base.  We’ve done this very successfully with our industry engagement (40 percent increase in two years), now we have the staff and organization to start doing the same with other sponsors, notably federal agencies.”

Spinrad anticipates that OSU will dramatically increase the number of federal agencies supporting its research, and that OSU will take a much more forward-leaning posture in driving the research interests of traditional sponsors. 

“In addition, Mary’s role will allow us to be much more effective in strengthening our proposal efforts - for example by being more strategic in how we address ‘broader impacts,’” Spinrad said. “This is particularly important as general decreases in federal funding for research make for an even more competitive environment.”

Phillips will be supported by an advisory group that will consist of senior faculty representing each of the divisions within the university.

Prior to joining OSU in 2006, Phillips began her career in university technology transfer in 2001 at Oregon Health and Science University. She has a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of London’s Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine and gained postdoctoral experience in the areas of laser spectroscopy and molecular biology at the University of Oregon. 

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Theresa Hogue Source: 

Mary Phillips

541-737-4437

Categories: Research news

Cascadia Lifelines Program begun to aid earthquake preparation

OSU News Releases - Tue, 10/29/2013 - 8:50am
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A new Cascadia Lifelines Program led by OSU and involving private industry will expedite the research needed to address the subduction zone earthquake looming in Oregon's future.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University and eight partners from government and private industry this month began studies for the Cascadia Lifelines Program, a research initiative to help improve critical infrastructure performance during an anticipated major earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone.

The program, coordinated by the OSU School of Civil and Construction Engineering, will immediately begin five research projects with $1.5 million contributed by the partners. Recent work such as the Oregon Resilience Plan has helped to define the potential problems, experts say, and this new initiative will begin to address them in work that may take 50 years or more to implement.

Looming in Oregon’s future is a massive earthquake of about magnitude 9.0, which could significantly damage Pacific Northwest roads, bridges, buildings, sewers, gas and water lines, electrical system and much more.

“Compared to the level of earthquake preparedness even in California and Washington, it’s clear that Oregon is bringing up the rear,” said Scott Ashford, director of the new program. He is the Kearney Professor of Engineering in the OSU College of Engineering, and an international expert who has studied the impact of subduction zone earthquakes in much of the Pacific Rim – including Japan’s major disaster of March, 2011.

“Most of Oregon’s buildings, roads, bridges and infrastructure were built at a time when it was believed the state was not subject to major earthquakes,” Ashford said. “Because of that we’re going to face serious levels of destruction. But with programs like this and the commitment of our partners, there’s a great deal we can do to proactively prepare for this disaster, and get our lifelines back up and running after the event.”

Those “lifelines,” Ashford said, are the key not just to saving lives and minimizing damage, but aiding in recovery of the region following a disaster that scientists say is a near certainty. The list of participating partners reflects agencies and companies that understand the challenges they will face, Ashford said.

The partners include the Oregon Department of Transportation, Portland General Electric, Northwest Natural Gas, the Bonneville Power Administration, Port of Portland, Portland Water Bureau, Eugene Water and Electric Board, and Tualatin Valley Water District.

“When I studied areas that had been hard-hit by earthquakes in Chile, New Zealand and Japan, it became apparent that money spent to prepare for and minimize damage from the earthquake was hugely cost-effective,” Ashford said. “One utility company in New Zealand said they saved about $10 for every $1 they had spent in retrofitting and rebuilding their infrastructure.

“This impressed upon me that we do not have to just wait for the earthquake to happen,” he said. “There’s a lot we can do to prepare for it right now that will make a difference. And we have the expertise right here at OSU – in engineering, business, earth sciences, health – to get these programs up and running.”

The initial subjects OSU researchers will focus on in the new program include:

  • Studies of soil liquefaction, which can greatly reduce the strength of soils and lead to road, bridge, building and other critical infrastructure facility failure;
  • Cost effective improvements that could be done to existing and older infrastructure;
  • Evacuation routes for Oregonians to use following a major earthquake;
  • Tools to plan for hazards and anticipate risks;
  • Where and how earthquakes could trigger landslides in Oregon.

Ashford said the consortium will seek additional federal support for the needed research, and also more partners both in government and private industry.

OSU will also continue its collaboration with PEER, the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, which includes work by the leading academic institutions in this field on the West Coast. The Cascadia Lifelines Program will add an emphasis on subduction zone earthquakes, which can behave quite differently and produce shaking that lasts for minutes, instead of the type of strike-slip quakes most common in California that last for tens of seconds. And the utility lifelines work will be focused on the specific challenges facing Oregon.

Aside from some of the infrastructure not being built to withstand major earthquakes, Oregon and the Willamette Valley may face particular risks from liquefaction, in which soil can develop the consistency of “pea soup” and lose much of its strength. Liquefaction helped cause much of the damage in Japan, which has still not recovered from the destruction more than two years after the event.

College of Engineering Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Scott Ashford, 541-737-4934

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Sinking structures


Video of liquefaction in Japan:

http://bit.ly/dK6mfa

 

Categories: Research news

It's time to enroll in OSU Extension's Master Gardener training

OSU News Releases - Mon, 10/28/2013 - 9:38am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – If you call yourself a "gardening geek" or simply want to know more about the natural world, now's the time to sign up for the Oregon State University Extension Service's annual Master Gardener training.

But don't be intimidated by the "master" part of a title that describes a dedicated volunteer force, said Gail Langellotto, the statewide coordinator of the Master Gardener program.

"The class is meant to be accessible to people from across a variety of educational backgrounds who have a passion for learning more about horticulture," Langellotto said. "The 'Master' title is used to designate volunteers for Oregon State University Extension Service, such as Master Food Preservers. More than anything, Master Gardeners have a good understanding of how to use research-based information to help people plan, plant and maintain sustainable gardens."

Master Gardeners are trained by the OSU Extension Service and offer reliable, relevant and reachable information and educational opportunities. They answer questions at OSU Extension offices, farmers markets and community events. They create and manage demonstration gardens, school gardens and community gardens. They also coordinate gardens at correctional facilities, health care centers and libraries. In addition, they host garden tours, workshops and classes.

A total of 4,160 Master Gardeners donated 194,898 hours of their time across Oregon in 2012, according to Langellotto.

The OSU Extension Service offers its Master Gardener training in 30 of Oregon's 36 counties. For a list of trainings and local coordinators, go to http://bit.ly/OSU_MGLocations. Registration deadlines vary by county.

Master Gardener training typically kicks off in January, though starting dates vary by county. Trainees take a series of classes from local and OSU experts on subjects ranging from botany basics to pest identification.

Master Gardeners volunteer their time so that they can teach others in their community about sustainable gardening. Master Gardener training fees vary by county and reflect local costs. OSU Extension requires a basic application. Those who want to work with children as part of their volunteer service must also undergo a background history check. Candidates must explain in a statement their reasons for volunteering and describe their volunteer history.

For those who work during the day, Extension offices in Lane County, central Oregon and Hood River offer night and Saturday classes. OSU's Professional and Noncredit Education unit offers an online version of the training at https://pne.oregonstate.edu/catalog/master-gardener-online.

Sign up to receive more information by e-mail about Master Gardener training at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/mg/signup. OSU Extension also offers the following publications on the topic: "An Introduction to Being a Master Gardener Volunteer" at http://bit.ly/Intro_MG and a brochure at http://bit.ly/MG_Brochure.

Extension Service Media Contact:  Denise Ruttan Source: 

Gail Langellotto, 541-737-5175

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Master Gardeners trained by the Oregon State University Extension Service place plants in the soil in a demonstration garden at the entrance to the Benton County Fairgrounds. (Photo by Ryan Creason.)

Categories: Research news

Excess omega-3 fatty acids could lead to negative health effects

OSU News Releases - Mon, 10/28/2013 - 9:19am
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A new review suggests that excess omega-3 fatty acids could have unintended health consequences, and that evidence-based dietary standards need to be established.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new review suggests that omega-3 fatty acids taken in excess could have unintended health consequences in certain situations, and that dietary standards based on the best available evidence need to be established.

“What looked like a slam dunk a few years ago may not be as clear cut as we thought,” said Norman Hord, associate professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and a coauthor on the paper.

“We are seeing the potential for negative effects at really high levels of omega-3 fatty acid consumption. Because we lack valid biomarkers for exposure and knowledge of who might be at risk if consuming excessive amounts, it isn’t possible to determine an upper limit at this time.”

Previous research led by Michigan State University’s Jenifer Fenton and her collaborators found that feeding mice large amounts of dietary omega-3 fatty acids led to increased risk of colitis and immune alteration. Those results were published in Cancer Research in 2010.

As a follow-up, in the current issue of the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes & Essential Fatty Acids, Fenton and her co-authors, including Hord, reviewed the literature and discuss the potential adverse health outcomes that could result from excess consumption of omega-3 fatty acids.

Studies have shown that omega-3s, also known as long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs), are associated with lower risk of sudden cardiac death and other cardiovascular disease outcomes.

“We were inspired to review the literature based on our findings after recent publications showed increased risk of advanced prostate cancer and atrial fibrillation in those with high blood levels of LCPUFAs,” Fenton said.

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, which is one of the reasons they can be beneficial to heart health and inflammatory issues. However, the researchers said excess amounts of omega-3 fatty acids can alter immune function sometimes in ways that may lead to a dysfunctional immune response to a viral or bacterial infection.

“The dysfunctional immune response to excessive omega-3 fatty acid consumption can affect the body’s ability to fight microbial pathogens, like bacteria,” Hord said.

Generally, the researchers point out that the amounts of fish oil used in most studies are typically above what one could consume from foods or usual dosage of a dietary supplement. However, an increasing amount of products, such as eggs, bread, butters, oils and orange juice, are being “fortified” with omega-3s. Hord said this fortified food, coupled with fish oil supplement use, increases the potential for consuming these high levels.

“Overall, we support the dietary recommendations from the American Heart Association to eat fish, particularly fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, lake trout or sardines, at least two times a week, and for those at risk of coronary artery disease to talk to their doctor about supplements,” he said.

“Our main concern here is the hyper-supplemented individual, who may be taking high-dose omega-3 supplements and eating four to five omega-3-enriched foods per day,” Hord added. “This could potentially get someone to an excessive amount. As our paper indicates, there may be subgroups of those who may be at risk from consuming excess amounts of these fatty acids.”

Hord said there are no evidence-based standards for omega-3 intake and no way to tell who might be at health risk if they consume too high a level of these fatty acids.

“We’re not against using fish oil supplements appropriately, but there is a potential for risk,” Hord said. “As is all true with any nutrient, taking too much can have negative effects. We need to establish clear biomarkers through clinical trials. This is necessary in order for us to know who is eating adequate amounts of these nutrients and who may be deficient or eating too much.

“Until we establish valid biomarkers of omega-3 exposure, making good evidence-based dietary recommendations across potential dietary exposure ranges will not be possible.”

Sanjoy Ghosh from University of BC-Okanagan, Canada and Eric Gurzell from Michigan State University also contributed to this study, which was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Diabetes Association.

College of Public Health and Human Sciences Media Contact:  Angela Yeager Source: 

Norman Hord, 541-737-5923

Categories: Research news

Breakthrough in study of aluminum should yield new technological advances

OSU News Releases - Fri, 10/25/2013 - 4:48pm
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Researchers have discovered a new way to study aqueous aluminum - a fundamental advance that should open doors to many new technologies and products.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University and the University of Oregon today announced a scientific advance that has eluded researchers for more than 100 years – a platform to study and fully understand the aqueous chemistry of aluminum, one of the world’s most important metals.

The findings, reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, should open the door to significant advances in electronics and many other fields, ranging from manufacturing to construction, agriculture and drinking water treatment.

Aluminum, in solution with water, affects the biosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere and anthrosphere, the scientists said in their report. It may be second only to iron in its importance to human civilization. But for a century or more, and despite the multitude of products based on it, there has been no effective way to explore the enormous variety and complexity of compounds that aluminum forms in water.

Now there is.

“This integrated platform to study aqueous aluminum is a major scientific advance,” said Douglas Keszler, a distinguished professor of chemistry in the OSU College of Science, and director of the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry.

“Research that can be done with the new platform should have important technological implications,” Keszler said. “Now we can understand aqueous aluminum clusters, see what’s there, how the atomic structure is arranged.”

Chong Fang, an assistant professor of chemistry in the OSU College of Science, called the platform “a powerful new toolset.” It’s a way to synthesize aqueous aluminum clusters in a controlled way; analyze them with new laser techniques; and use computational chemistry to interpret the results. It’s simple and easy to use, and may be expanded to do research on other metal atoms.

“A diverse team of scientists came together to solve an important problem and open new research opportunities,” said Paul Cheong, also an OSU assistant professor of chemistry.

The fundamental importance of aluminum to life and modern civilization helps explain the significance of the advance, researchers say. It’s the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust, but almost never is found in its natural state. The deposition and migration of aluminum as a mineral ore is controlled by its aqueous chemistry. It’s found in all drinking water and used worldwide for water treatment. Aqueous aluminum plays significant roles in soil chemistry and plant growth.

Aluminum is ubiquitous in cooking, eating utensils, food packaging, construction, and the automotive and aircraft industries. It’s almost 100 percent recyclable, but in commercial use is a fairly modern metal. Before electrolytic processes were developed in the late 1800s to produce it inexpensively, it was once as costly as silver.

Now, aluminum is increasingly important in electronics, particularly as a “green” component that’s cheap, widely available and environmentally benign.

Besides developing the new platform, this study also discovered one behavior for aluminum in water that had not been previously observed. This is a “flat cluster” of one form of aluminum oxide that’s relevant to large scale productions of thin films and nanoparticles, and may find applications in transistors, solar energy cells, corrosion protection, catalytic converters and other uses.

Ultimately, researchers say they expect new technologies, “green” products, lowered equipment costs, and aluminum applications that work better, cost less and have high performance.

The research was made possible, in part, by collaboration between chemists at OSU and the University of Oregon, through the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry. This is a collaboration of six research universities, which is sponsored and funded by the National Science Foundation.

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Douglas Keszler, 541-737-6736

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Aluminum manufacturing

Categories: Research news

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