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Celebrated memoirist Nick Flynn to read at OSU on Oct. 11

OSU News Releases - Mon, 09/30/2013 - 8:31am
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Writer Nick Flynn will read from his work on Friday, Oct. 11, at Oregon State University’s Valley Library rotunda. The free public event begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be followed by a question and answer session and book signing.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Writer Nick Flynn will read from his work on Friday, Oct. 11, at Oregon State University’s Valley Library rotunda. The free public event begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be followed by a question and answer session and book signing.

Flynn is the author of three memoirs including “The Reenactments” (2013), “The Ticking is the Bomb: A Memoir of Bewilderment” (2010) and “Another … Night in Suck City” (2004). Flynn is also the author of three books of poetry.

Of Flynn’s most recent memoir, “The Reenactments,”  Kirkus Reviews wrote: “Flynn’s determination to better understand his life through the act of writing and remembering has yielded a truly insightful, original work.” Clea Simon of The Boston Globe said Flynn’s writing is “always specific and honest” and “dryly funny.”

His award-winning memoir “Another … Night in Suck City” was turned into the movie “Being Flynn,” starring Robert De Niro and Paul Dano. That book recounted his unusual relationship with his alcoholic father and the suicide of his mother.

Flynn, 52, is a professor of poetry and married to actress Lili Taylor.

Flynn has been awarded fellowships from The Guggenheim Foundation, The Library of Congress, The Amy Lowell Trust, and The Fine Arts Work Center.

The Visiting Writers Series brings nationally-known writers to Oregon State University. The program is made possible by support from The Valley Library, 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:  Angela Yeager Source: 

Rachel Ratner, 516-652-5817

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Nick Flynn

Categories: Research news

Author Paul Bogard to read from his book on Oct. 9

OSU News Releases - Fri, 09/27/2013 - 8:46am
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Paul Bogard, author of “The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light,” will read from his book on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Paul Bogard, author of “The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light,” will read from his book on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library. The reading begins at 7 p.m. at the library, located at 645 N.W. Monroe Ave., Corvallis.

The event is sponsored by Oregon State University’s Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word and Friends of the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library.

In his book, Bogard examines the night and how people experience it, traveling to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Walden Pond, and the Canary Islands to explore degrees of darkness. After talking to astronomers, lighting professionals, nurses, and other night-time workers, Bogard writes about the cultural, social and health implications of a night that’s getting brighter every minute, thanks in part to parking lot lights and streetlights.

Publishers Weekly wrote: “Even readers unable to tell Orion from the Big Dipper will find a new appreciation for the night sky after spending some time with this terrific book.”

A native of Minnesota, Bogard teaches creative nonfiction at James Madison University. He is also editor of the anthology “Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark.” 

College of Liberal Arts Source: 

Carly Lettero, 541-737-6198

Categories: Research news

Researchers describe unusual Mars rock in Science

OSU News Releases - Thu, 09/26/2013 - 11:31am
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The first rock that scientists analyzed on Mars using the Curiosity rover turned out to be a pyramid-shaped “mugearite” that is unlike any other Martian igneous rock ever found.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The first rock that scientists analyzed on Mars with a pair of chemical instruments aboard the Curiosity rover turned out to be a doozy – a pyramid-shaped volcanic rock called a “mugearite” that is unlike any other Martian igneous rock ever found.

Dubbed “Jake_M” – after Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Jake Matijevic – the rock is similar to mugearites found on Earth, typically on ocean islands and in continental rifts. The process through which these rocks form often suggests the presence of water deep below the surface, according to Martin Fisk, an Oregon State University marine geologist and member of the Mars Science Laboratory team.

Results of the analysis were published this week in the journal Science, along with two other papers on Mars’ soils.

“On Earth, we have a pretty good idea how mugearites and rocks like them are formed,” said Fisk, who is a co-author on all three Science articles. “It starts with magma deep within the Earth that crystallizes in the presence of 1-2 percent water. The crystals settle out of the magma and what doesn’t crystallize is the mugearite magma, which can eventually make its way to the surface as a volcanic eruption.”

Fisk, who is a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, said the most common volcanic rocks typically crystallize in a specific order as they cool, beginning with olivine and feldspar. In the presence of water, however, feldspar crystallizes later and the magma will have a composition such as mugearite.

Although this potential evidence for water deep beneath the surface of Mars isn’t ironclad, the scientists say, it adds to the growing body of studies pointing to the presence of water on the Red Planet – an ingredient necessary for life.

“The rock is significant in another way,” Fisk pointed out. “It implies that the interior of Mars is composed of areas with different compositions; it is not well mixed. Perhaps Mars never got homogenized the way Earth has through its plate tectonics and convection processes.”

In another study, scientists examined the soil diversity and hydration of Gale Crater using a ChemCam laser instrument. They found hydrogen in all of the sites sampled, suggesting water, as well as the likely presence of sulphates. Mars was thought to have three stages – an early phase with lots of water, an evaporation phase when the water disappeared leaving behind sulphate salts, and a third phase when the surface soils dried out and oxidized – creating the planet’s red hue.

“ChemCam found hydrogen in almost every place we found iron,” Fisk said.

The third study compared grains of rock on the surface with a darker soil beneath at a site called the Rocknest Sand Shadow. Some of the sand grains are almost perfectly round and may have come from space, Fisk said.

The studies were funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation, and supported by several international agencies.

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

Martin Fisk, 541-737-5208; mfisk@coas.oregonstate.edu

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Jake M

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Bob Moore to give talk, free cooking demonstration, on Oct. 9

OSU News Releases - Wed, 09/25/2013 - 9:12am
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Bob Moore, founding CEO of Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, will give a free, public talk and a cooking demonstration at Oregon State University on Wednesday, Oct. 9.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Bob Moore, founding CEO of Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, will give a free, public talk and a cooking demonstration at Oregon State University on Wednesday, Oct. 9.

At noon, Moore will give a talk on “Bob Moore and the Bob's Red Mill Story – The Importance of Whole Grains,” in the Construction and Engineering Hall of LaSells Stewart Center, 875 S.W. 26th St., Corvallis. At 1 p.m., Moore and Lori Sobelson, instructor and director of corporate outreach for Bob's Red Mill, will conduct a food and cooking demonstration titled “Cooking with Ancient Grains."

The event is sponsored by OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and its Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Public Health.

Recipes and food samples will be given to those who attend. Questions may be sent to moorefamilycenter@oregonstate.edu

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

Emily Ho, 541-737-9559

Categories: Research news

Study: Dams provide resilience to Columbia from climate change impacts

OSU News Releases - Wed, 09/25/2013 - 8:42am
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Dams have criticized for harming water quality and fish passage, but a new study suggests they provide “ecological and engineering resilience” to climate change in the Columbia River basin.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Dams have been vilified for detrimental effects to water quality and fish passage, but a new study suggests that these structures provide “ecological and engineering resilience” to climate change in the Columbia River basin.

The study, which was published in the Canadian journal Atmosphere-Ocean, looked at the effects of climate warming on stream flow in the headwaters and downstream reaches of seven sub-basins of the Columbia River from 1950 to 2010. The researchers found that the peak of the annual snowmelt runoff has shifted to a few days earlier, but the downstream impacts were negligible because reservoir management counteracts these effects.

“The dams are doing what they are supposed to do, which is to use engineering – and management – to buffer us from climate variability and climate warming,” said Julia Jones, an Oregon State University hydrologist and co-author on the study. “The climate change signals that people have expected in stream flow haven’t been evident in the Columbia River basin because of the dams and reservoir management. That may not be the case elsewhere, however.”

The study is one of several published in a special edition of the journal, which examines the iconic river as the United States and Canada begin a formal 10-year review of the Columbia River water management treaty in 2014. The treaty expires in 2024.

Jones said the net effect of reservoir management is to reduce amplitude of water flow variance by containing water upstream during peak flows for flood control, or augmenting low flows in late summer. While authorized primarily for flood control, reservoir management also considers water release strategies for fish migration, hydropower, ship navigation and recreation.

These social forces, as well as climate change impacts, have the potential to create more variability in river flow, but the decades-long hydrograph chart of the Columbia River is stable because of the dams, said Jones, who is on the faculty of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU.

“The climate change signal on stream flow that we would expect to see is apparent in the headwaters,” she said, “but not downstream. Historically, flow management in the Columbia River basin has focused on the timing of water flows and so far, despite debates about reservoir management, water scarcity has not been as prominent an issue in the Columbia basin as it has elsewhere, such as the Klamath basin.”

The study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation’s support to the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, looked at seven sub-basins of the Columbia River, as well as the main stem of the Columbia. These river systems included the Bruneau, Entiat, Snake, Pend Oreille, Priest, Salmon and Willamette rivers.

“One of the advantages of having a long-term research programs like H.J. Andrews is that you have detailed measurements over long periods of time that can tell you a lot about how climate is changing,” Jones pointed out. “In the case of the Columbia River – especially downstream – the impacts haven’t been as daunting as some people initially feared because of the engineering component.

“Will that be the case in the future?” she added. “It’s possible, but hard to predict. Whether we see a strong climate change signal producing water shortages in the Columbia River will depend on the interplay of social forces and climate change over the next several decades.”

Also co-author on the study is Kendra Hatcher, a graduate student in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, who studied under Jones.

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

Julia Jones, 541-737-1224; jones@geo.oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Traber honored for research on vitamin E

OSU News Releases - Thu, 09/19/2013 - 8:30am
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Maret Traber, a professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, and principal investigator in the Linus Pauling Institute, has received an international honor for her work on vitamin E.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Maret Traber, a professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, and principal investigator in the Linus Pauling Institute, has received an international honor for her work on vitamin E.

Traber received the DSM Nutritional Science Award 2013 on fundamental or applied research in human nutrition, which included an honorarium of 50,000 Euros. It recognizes her lifetime commitment to research on vitamin E and many new insights into its role in human nutrition and optimum health.

Traber is director of the Oxidative and Nitrative Stress Laboratory at OSU and is the Helen P. Rumbel Professor for Micronutrient Research. She has published nearly 250 professional publications on vitamin E, on such topics as its bioavailability, kinetics, metabolism, and effects of vitamin E deficiency – especially in people with particular health concerns, such as burn victims or diabetics.

She received the award in Granada, Spain at the IUNS 20th International Congress of Nutrition.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Angela Yeager Source: 

Maret Traber, 541-737-7977

Categories: Research news

OSU program to spur start-ups moves into downtown Corvallis

OSU News Releases - Wed, 09/18/2013 - 3:14pm
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The Oregon State University Advantage Accelerator has a new home in downtown Corvallis.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Advantage Accelerator has a new home in downtown Corvallis.

The Accelerator, created to spur the creation of new companies from Oregon State University-based research, will be located at 200 S.W. 4th St., less than a block from Corvallis City Hall. Mark Lieberman, co-director of the OSU Advantage Accelerator and chief startup officer, said his team will move into the building in October.

“The Accelerator facility will be a hub for creative and innovative thinking for technology start-ups,” he said. “We will offer essential networking events, as well as educational and leadership opportunities, including CEO roundtables, presentations and one-on-one meetings with successful entrepreneurs, investors, and venture capitalists.”

Lieberman, co-director John Turner, and program administrator Betty Nickerson, will have offices in the downtown facility. Turner said space for eight student interns, plus an entrepreneur-in-residence, will also be provided.

“We’re excited to be in the heart of downtown Corvallis. The Accelerator is focused on creating new companies and new jobs, and we see the city of Corvallis as an important partner in this goal," Turner said. "This gives us a place where we can all be together of course, and also gives us a public face so we can meet with researchers and companies from the community."

The OSU Advantage Accelerator is one component of the Oregon State University Advantage, an educational, research and commercialization initiative begun earlier this year. OSU’s Accelerator recently announced its first 13 clients.

The OSU Advantage Accelerator is a component of the South Willamette Valley Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network, or RAIN, which was made possible by recent legislative approval and funding.

Oregon State University Advantage Media Contact:  Angela Yeager Source: 

Mark Lieberman, 541-737-9016

Categories: Research news

Auditions for sign language-interpreted play held Oct. 9-10

OSU News Releases - Wed, 09/18/2013 - 8:58am
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Auditions are set for Wednesday, Oct. 9, and Thursday, Oct. 10, for the Oregon State University Theatre’s production of “The King of Spain's Daughter.”

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Auditions are set for Wednesday, Oct. 9, and Thursday, Oct. 10, for the Oregon State University Theatre’s production of “The King of Spain's Daughter.”

Auditions will begin at 7 p.m. at the Withycombe Hall lab theater on the OSU campus. The play will be presented Dec. 5-7.

“The King of Spain’s Daughter,” a one act comedy by Teresa Deevy, will be an unusual presentation. The production will be “shadowed” by interpreters using American Sign Language. For every speaking actor there will be an interpreting actor in costume.

The cast includes parts for a female lead and two male actors. All OSU students and members of the community are welcome to audition.

For more information contact the director, Charlotte Headrick, at cheadrick@oregonstate.edu

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Angela Yeager Source: 

Charlotte Headrick

Categories: Research news

New study finds charred forests increase snowmelt rate

OSU News Releases - Tue, 09/17/2013 - 7:57am
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A new study by OSU researchers has found that snow melts faster in forests that have been burned, raising concern about earlier seasonal runoff in streams.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – When a major wildfire destroys a large forested area in the seasonal snow zone, snow tends to accumulate at a greater level in the burned area than in adjacent forests. But a new study found that the snowpack melts much quicker in these charred areas, potentially changing the seasonal runoff pattern of rivers and streams.

The study by Oregon State University researchers, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, documented a 40 percent reduction of albedo – or reflectivity – of snow in the burned forest during snowmelt, and a 60 percent increase in solar radiation reaching the snow surface.

The reason, the researchers say, is that fires burn away the forest canopy and later, the charred tree snags shed burned particles onto the snow, lowering its reflectivity and causing it to absorb more solar radiation.

Results of the study were published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“As the snow accumulates in the winter, you don’t see much of a difference in albedo between a healthy, unburned forest and a charred forest,” said Kelly Gleason, an OSU doctoral student in geography and lead author on the study. “But when the snow begins to melt in the spring, large amounts of charred debris are left behind, darkening the snow to a surprising extent.”

In the study site, at an elevation of nearly 5,000 feet in the Oregon High Cascades near the headwaters of the McKenzie River, the researchers founded that the snowpack in the charred forest disappeared 23 days earlier and had twice the “ablation” or melting rate than an adjacent unburned forest in the same watershed.

Anne Nolin, who is Gleason’s major professor and a co-author on the study, said the researchers have not yet examined the hydrological effect of this earlier melting, but “logic suggests that it would contribute to what already is a problem under climate change – earlier seasonal runoff of winter snow.”

“The impact of these charred particles is significant,” said Nolin, a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “They are really dark – much darker than the needles, lichens and other naturally occurring materials that fall in a healthy, unburned forest.

“We know that the shedding of the charred particles lasts at least two years – and it might extend as long as eight to 10 years before the trees fall,” she added.  “It has a major impact on snowmelt that hasn’t fully been appreciated.”

The problem may be compounded in the future as climate change is expected to significantly increase the occurrence of wildfires in the western United States – and perhaps beyond.

“Most of the precipitation in the mountains of the western U.S. falls as snow and the accumulated snowpack acts as kind of a winter reservoir, holding back water until summer when the highest demand for it occurs,” Gleason pointed out. “Our findings could help resource managers better anticipate the availability of water in areas that have been affected by severe forest fires.”

Such areas are increasingly plentiful, according to Nolin. The OSU researchers conducted a spatial analysis of major forest fires from 2000 to 2012 and found that more than 80 percent of those fires in the western U.S. were in the seasonal snow zone, and were on average 4.4 times larger than fires outside the seasonal snow zone. Nearly half of those major fires were within the Columbia River basin, especially in Idaho and the northern Rockey Mountains.

Other areas are affected as well, including the southern Oregon/northern California mountain regions, and the high country of Arizona and New Mexico. The amount of burned area since 2000 that the OSU researchers examined in their spatial analysis of where forest fires occurred in the seasonal snow zone was roughly the size of Ohio.

“It’s a bit of a paradox,” Nolin said. “Other studies have shown that when you remove the dark forest canopy and expose the snow, the area gets brighter and acts as a negative forcing on atmospheric temperatures, slowing climate change. But hydrologically, the effect is the opposite – the increased solar radiation and decreased snow albedo causes much earlier snowmelt, potentially amplifying the effects of climate change.

“What does it mean for your water supply when headwater catchments burn, the snow melts faster and the spring runoff begins even earlier?” she added. “It is a provocative question for resource managers.”

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

Kelly Gleason, gleasoke@science.oregonstate.edu

 

Anne Nolin, 541-737-8051 (cell phone: 541-740-6804); nolina@geo.oregonstate.edu

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Researchers going public on quest to identify plankton species

OSU News Releases - Tue, 09/17/2013 - 7:39am
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Researchers using an innovative underwater imaging system have taken millions of photos of plankton – and now they are seeking help from the public to identify the species.

NEWPORT, Ore. – Researchers using an innovative underwater imaging system have taken millions of photos of plankton ranging from tiny zooplankton to small jellyfish – and now they are seeking help from the public to identify the species.

The “Plankton Portal” project is a partnership between the University of Miami, Oregon State University and Zooniverse.org to engage volunteers in an online citizen science effort.

“One of the goals of the project is discovery,” said Robert Cowen, new director of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore., who led the project to capture the images while at Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. “Computers can take pictures and even analyze images, but it takes humans to identify relationships to other organisms and recognize their behavior.

“Computers don’t really care about context – whether something is up or down in the water column and what else might be in the neighborhood,” he added. “People can do that. And we hope to have thousands of them look at the images.”

Interested persons may sign up for the project at www.planktonportal.org, which goes online this week (the official launch is Sept. 17).

Zooniverse.org is a popular citizen science website that engages millions of participants to study everything from far-away stars, to whale sounds, to cancer cells – and aid scientists with their observations. It works by training volunteers and validating their credibility by how often their observations are accurate.

“It is an increasingly popular pursuit for people interested in science and nature – from high school students to senior citizens,” said Jessica Luo, a University of Miami doctoral student working with Cowen.

“Each image is looked at by multiple users and identification is done by a weighting system,” said Luo, who is now working at OSU’s Hatfield center. “The system not only looks for consensus, but rapidity of conclusion. It works amazingly well and the data from this project will help us better begin to explore the thousands of species in the planktonic world.”

With funding from the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Geosciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Cowen developed the “In Situ Ichthyoplankton Imaging System,” or ISIIS, while at Miami – along with Cedric Guigand of UM and Charles Cousin of Bellamare, LLC.

ISIIS combines shadowgraph imaging with a high-resolution line-scan camera to record plankton at 17 images per second. Cowen and his colleagues have used the system to study larval fish, crustaceans and jellyfish in diverse marine systems, including the Gulf of Mexico, the mid-Atlantic Ocean, the California coast, and the Mediterranean Sea.

At the same time ISIIS is capturing images, he says, other instruments are recording oceanographic conditions, including temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and other measurements. These data, coupled with the images, are available to the public via Zooniverse.org.

“In three days, we can collect data that would take us more than three years to analyze,” Cowen said, “which is why we need the help of the public. With the volume ISIIS generates, it is impossible for a handful of scientists to classify every image by hand, which is why we are exploring different options for image analysis – from automatic image recognition software to crowd-sourcing to citizen scientists.”

Luo said the researchers hope to secure future funding to study plankton – which includes a variety of crustaceans and jellyfish in the water column – off the Pacific Northwest coast.

“Most images of plankton are taken in a laboratory, or collected from nets on a ship,” said Cowen, who is a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “ISIIS gives us the rare ability to see them in their natural environment, which is a unique perspective that will enable us to learn more about them and the critical role they play in the marine food web.”

Other researchers on the project include graduate student Adam Greer, and undergraduate students Dorothy Tang, Ben Grassian and Jenna Binstein – all at the University of Miami.

Hatfield Marine Science Center Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Jessica Luo, 650-387-5700; Jessica.luo@rsmas@miami.edu;

 

Bob Cowen, 541-867-0211; Robert.Cowen@oregonstate.edu

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Categories: Research news

Red grapes, blueberries may enhance immune function

OSU News Releases - Fri, 09/13/2013 - 11:04am
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An analysis of 446 compounds found just two that had a surprising impact on the innate immune system in humans - the resveratrol in red grapes and pterostilbene from blueberries.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – In an analysis of 446 compounds for their the ability to boost the innate immune system in humans, researchers in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University discovered just two that stood out from the crowd – the resveratrol found in red grapes and a compound called pterostilbene from blueberries.

Both of these compounds, which are called stilbenoids, worked in synergy with vitamin D and had a significant impact in raising the expression of the human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide, or CAMP gene, that is involved in immune function.

The findings were made in laboratory cell cultures and do not prove that similar results would occur as a result of dietary intake, the scientists said, but do add more interest to the potential of some foods to improve the immune response.

The research was published today in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, in studies supported by the National Institutes of Health.

“Out of a study of hundreds of compounds, just these two popped right out,” said Adrian Gombart, an LPI principal investigator and associate professor in the OSU College of Science. “Their synergy with vitamin D to increase CAMP gene expression was significant and intriguing. It’s a pretty interesting interaction.”

Resveratrol has been the subject of dozens of studies for a range of possible benefits, from improving cardiovascular health to fighting cancer and reducing inflammation. This research is the first to show a clear synergy with vitamin D that increased CAMP expression by several times, scientists said.

The CAMP gene itself is also the subject of much study, as it has been shown to play a key role in the “innate” immune system, or the body’s first line of defense and ability to combat bacterial infection. The innate immune response is especially important as many antibiotics increasingly lose their effectiveness.

A strong link has been established between adequate vitamin D levels and the function of the CAMP gene, and the new research suggests that certain other compounds may play a role as well.

Stilbenoids are compounds produced by plants to fight infections, and in human biology appear to affect some of the signaling pathways that allow vitamin D to do its job, researchers said. It appears that combining these compounds with vitamin D has considerably more biological impact than any of them would separately.

Continued research could lead to a better understanding of how diet and nutrition affect immune function, and possibly lead to the development of therapeutically useful natural compounds that could boost the innate immune response, the researchers said in their report.

Despite the interest in compounds such as resveratrol and pterostilbene, their bioavailability remains a question, the researchers said. Some applications that may evolve could be with topical use to improve barrier defense in wounds or infections, they said.

The regulation of the CAMP gene by vitamin D was discovered by Gombart, and researchers are still learning more about how it and other compounds affect immune function. The unique biological pathways involved are found in only two groups of animals – humans and non-human primates. Their importance in the immune response could be one reason those pathways have survived through millions of years of separate evolution of these species.

Linus Pauling Institute Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Adrian Gombart, 541-737-8018

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Blueberries




Red grapes

Categories: Research news

Gut microbes closely linked to range of health issues

OSU News Releases - Fri, 09/13/2013 - 10:06am
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Researchers are gaining a new appreciation of the critical role that gut microbes play in the immune system, and how their disruption may lead to disease.

CORVALLIS, Ore. –A new understanding of the essential role of gut microbes in the immune system may hold the key to dealing with some of the more significant health problems facing people in the world today, Oregon State University researchers say in a new analysis.

Problems ranging from autoimmune disease to clinical depression and simple obesity may in fact be linked to immune dysfunction that begins with a “failure to communicate” in the human gut, the scientists say. Health care of the future may include personalized diagnosis of an individual’s “microbiome” to determine what prebiotics or probiotics are needed to provide balance.

Appropriate sanitation such as clean water and sewers are good. But some erroneous lessons in health care may need to be unlearned – leaving behind the fear of dirt, the love of antimicrobial cleansers, and the outdated notion that an antibiotic is always a good idea. We live in a world of “germs” and many of them are good for us.

“Asked about their immune system, most people might think of white blood cells, lymph glands or vaccines,” said Dr. Natalia Shulzhenko, author of a new report in Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology, and assistant professor and physician in the OSU Department of Biomedical Sciences. “They would be surprised that’s not where most of the action is. Our intestines contain more immune cells than the entire rest of our body.

“The human gut plays a huge role in immune function,” Shulzhenko said. “This is little appreciated by people who think its only role is digestion. The combined number of genes in the microbiota genome is 150 times larger than the person in which they reside. They do help us digest food, but they do a lot more than that.”

An emerging theory of disease, Shulzhenko said, is a disruption in the “crosstalk” between the microbes in the human gut and other cells involved in the immune system and metabolic processes.

“In a healthy person, these microbes in the gut stimulate the immune system as needed, and it in turn talks back,” Shulzhenko said. “There’s an increasing disruption of these microbes from modern lifestyle, diet, overuse of antibiotics and other issues. With that disruption, the conversation is breaking down.”

An explosion of research in the field of genomic sequencing is for the first time allowing researchers to understand some of this conversation and appreciate its significance, Shulzhenko said. The results are surprising, with links that lead to a range of diseases, including celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Obesity may be related. And some studies have found relevance to depression, late-onset autism, allergies, asthma and cancer.

In the new review, researchers analyzed how microbe dysfunction can sometimes result in malabsorption and diarrhea, which affects tens of millions of children worldwide and is often not cured merely by better nutrition. In contrast, a high-fat diet may cause the gut microbes to quickly adapt to and prefer these foods, leading to increased lipid absorption and weight gain.

The chronic inflammation linked to most of the diseases that kill people in the developed world today – heart disease, cancer, diabetes – may begin with dysfunctional gut microbiota.

Understanding these processes is a first step to addressing them, Shulzhenko said. Once researchers have a better idea of what constitutes healthy microbiota in the gut, they may be able to personalize therapies to restore that balance. It should also be possible to identify and use new types of probiotics to mitigate the impact of antibiotics, when such drugs are necessary and must be used.

Such approaches are “an exciting target for therapeutic interventions” to treat health problems in the future, the researchers concluded.

The study, supported by OSU, included researchers from both the College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Pharmacy.

College of Veterinary Medicine Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Dr. Natalia Shulzhenko, 541-737-1051

Categories: Research news

Viruses associated with coral epidemic of “white plague”

OSU News Releases - Thu, 09/12/2013 - 9:09am
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OSU researchers have identifed one of the causes of the "white plague," a disease that is causing great damage to coral reefs in the Carribean Sea.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – They call it the “white plague,” and like its black counterpart from the Middle Ages, it conjures up visions of catastrophic death, with a cause that was at first uncertain even as it led to widespread destruction – on marine corals in the Caribbean Sea.

Now one of the possible causes of this growing disease epidemic has been identified – a group of viruses that are known as small, circular, single-strand DNA (or SCSD) viruses. Researchers in the College of Science at Oregon State University say these SCSD viruses are associated with a dramatic increase in the white plague that has erupted in recent decades.

Prior to this, it had been believed that the white plague was caused primarily by bacterial pathogens. Researchers are anxious to learn more about this disease and possible ways to prevent it, because its impact on coral reef health has exploded.

“Twenty years ago you had to look pretty hard to find any occurrences of this disease, and now it’s everywhere,” said Nitzan Soffer, a doctoral student in the Department of Microbiology at OSU and lead author on a new study just published in the International Society for Microbial Ecology. “It moves fast and can wipe out a small coral colony in a few days.

“In recent years the white plague has killed 70-80 percent of some coral reefs,” Soffer said. “There are 20 or more unknown pathogens that affect corals and in the past we’ve too-often overlooked the role of viruses, which sometimes can spread very fast.”

This is one of the first studies to show viral association with a severe disease epidemic, scientists said. It was supported by the National Science Foundation.

Marine wildlife diseases are increasing in prevalence, the researchers pointed out. Reports of non-bleaching coral disease have increased more than 50 times since 1965, and are contributing to declines in coral abundance and cover.

White plague is one of the worst. It causes rapid tissue loss, affects many species of coral, and can cause partial or total colony mortality. Some, but not all types are associated with bacteria. Now it appears that viruses also play a role. Corals with white plague disease have higher viral diversity than their healthy counterparts, the study concluded.

Increasing temperatures that stress corals and make them more vulnerable may be part of the equation, because the disease often appears to be at its worst by the end of summer. Overfishing that allows more algae to grow on corals may help spread pathogens, researchers said, as can pollution caused by sewage outflows in some marine habitats.

Viral infection, by itself, does not necessarily cause major problems, the researchers noted. Many healthy corals are infected with herpes-like viruses that are persistent but not fatal, as in many other vertebrate hosts, including humans.

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Nitzan Soffer

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Coral with white plague




Taking samples

Categories: Research news

Autistic children with better motor skills more adept at socializing

OSU News Releases - Wed, 09/11/2013 - 8:28am
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In a new study looking at toddlers and preschoolers with autism, researchers found that children with better motor skills were more adept at socializing and communicating.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – In a new study looking at toddlers and preschoolers with autism, researchers found that children with better motor skills were more adept at socializing and communicating.

Published online today in the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, this study adds to the growing evidence of the important link between autism and motor skill deficits.

Lead author Megan MacDonald is an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University. She is an expert on the movement skills of children with autism spectrum disorder.

Researchers tested 233 children ages 14 to 49 months diagnosed with autism.

“Even at this early age, we are already seeing motor skills mapping on to their social and communicative skills,” MacDonald said. “Motor skills are embedded in everything we do, and for too long they have been studied separately from social and communication skills in children with autism.”

Developing motor skills is crucial for children and can also help develop better social skills. MacDonald said in one study, 12-year-olds with autism were performing physically at the same level as a 6-year-old.

“So they do have some motor skills, and they kind of sneak through the system,” she said. “But we have to wonder about the social implications of a 12-year-old who is running like a much younger child. So that quality piece is missing, and the motor skill deficit gets bigger as they age.”

In MacDonald’s study, children who tested higher for motor skills were also better at “daily living skills,” such as talking, playing, walking, and requesting things from their parents.

“We can teach motor skills and intervene at young ages,” MacDonald said. “Motor skills and autism have been separated for too long. This gives us another avenue to consider for early interventions.”

MacDonald said some programs run by experts in adaptive physical education focus on both the motor skill development and communicative side. She said because autism spectrum disorder is a disability that impacts social skills so dramatically, the motor skill deficit tends to be pushed aside.

“We don’t quite understand how this link works, but we know it’s there,” she said. “We know that those children can sit up, walk, play and run seem to also have better communication skills.

This study was coauthored by Catherine Lord of Weill Cornell Medical College and Dale Ulrich of the University of Michigan. It was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Simons Foundation, First Words and Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Michigan.

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

Megan MacDonald, 541-737-3273

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Researcher Megan MacDonald practices important motor skills, like throwing a ball, with a child. (photo courtesy of OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences)

Categories: Research news

OSU, local agencies to host biohazard emergency response drill on campus Sept. 12-13

OSU News Releases - Tue, 09/10/2013 - 9:21am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – A large-scale hazardous materials emergency response drill will take place on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 12-13, at Oregon State University.

The drill will involve numerous agencies and organizations and is intended to test procedures and facilitate lines of communication among first responders that might be activated during an actual incident, according to Matt Philpott, OSU’s biological safety officer with Environmental Health & Safety.

“We want the campus and community to be aware that there may be a number of emergency response vehicles on campus – especially on Friday – but it is a drill,” Philpott said. “It should have minimal impact on pedestrian and automobile traffic.

“It is important for the public to know that OSU and its many partners regularly collaborate and practice for emergency situations that we hope never happen,” he added.

The drill will include state and federal law enforcement, fire departments, hazard response units, uniformed Oregon National Guard members and others.  Participating OSU units include Student Health Services, Environmental Health & Safety, Public Safety and the Oregon State Police.

The Campus Way bike path (where the covered bridge is located) may have higher-than-usual vehicle traffic on Thursday, and the Reser Stadium parking lot and South Farm area off Brooklane Drive will be used as staging areas for Friday’s activities.

The drill has been organized by OSU’s Environmental Health & Safety office as a way to coordinate and practice responses among the different agencies and departments and be equipped to handle a variety of hazardous material scenarios if they should arise.

In the emergency drill scenario, a biohazard situation will be reported at the South Farm near campus that results in a mass contamination incident near Reser Stadium.  Responding units will have to deal with a scenario of exposure and decontamination, as well as a clandestine laboratory that may have biohazards.

Among the agencies participating are: local fire departments; the 102nd Civil Support Team of the Oregon National Guard, Hazmat teams from Corvallis and surrounding communities, the FBI, Oregon State Police; the Benton County Health Department; OSU Student Health Services, and OSU’s Environmental Health & Safety team.

For questions or more information, contact OSU biological safety officer Matthew Philpott at 541-737-4557.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Matt Philpott, 541-737-4557; matthew.philpott@oregonstate.edu

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From the 2011 drill

Categories: Research news

Statins being overprescribed for growing number of kidney disease patients

OSU News Releases - Mon, 09/09/2013 - 4:40pm
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Statin drugs are often being inappropriately prescribed for a growing number of patients with kidney disease, researchers say in a new report.

PORTLAND, Ore. – A new analysis concludes that large numbers of patients in advanced stages of kidney disease are inappropriately being prescribed statins to lower their cholesterol – drugs that offer them no benefit and may increase other health risks such as diabetes, dementia or muscle pain.

The findings, which were published in the American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs as a review of multiple studies, raise serious questions about the value of cholesterol-lowering therapies in kidney disease.

The issue is important, the researchers say, because the incidence of chronic kidney disease is rising in the United States at what they called “an alarming rate.” Also, kidney disease patients are 23 times more likely to get cardiovascular disease, and for them it’s the leading cause of death.

But for these patients, the frequent decision to prescribe statin drugs to lower cholesterol in order to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease is not supported by the wider body of research, experts say.

“There is very little benefit to statin drugs for patients in the early stages of kidney disease, and no benefit or possible toxicity for patients in later stages,” said Ali Olyaei, a professor of pharmacotherapy in the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University, and lead author on the new report.

“I believe the evidence shows that the majority of people with chronic kidney disease are taking statins inappropriately,” Olyaei said. “They may help a little in early-stage disease, but those people are not the ones who generally die from cardiovascular diseases. And by the end stages the risks outweigh any benefit. More drugs are not always better.”

Some of the particular risks posed by statin use, especially at higher doses, include severe muscle pain known as rhabdomyolysis, an increase in dementia and a significant increase in the risk of developing diabetes. The body of research also shows that statins do nothing to slow the progression of kidney disease, contrary to some reports that it might.

The impetus to use statin drugs – some of the most widely prescribed medications in the world to lower cholesterol – is obvious in end-stage kidney disease, because those patients have a mortality rate from coronary heart disease 15 times that of the general population. Unfortunately, evidence shows the drugs do not help prevent mortality in that situation. There is also no proven efficacy of the value of statins in patients using dialysis, researchers said.

If statins are prescribed in early-stage kidney disease, the study concluded that low dosages are more appropriate.

Collaborators on this report, which was supported by OSU, included researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

College of Pharmacy Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Ali Olyaei, 503-494-1308

Categories: Research news

Auditions for OSU Theatre’s fall play held Oct. 7-8

OSU News Releases - Mon, 09/09/2013 - 9:11am
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Auditions are set for Monday, Oct. 7, and Tuesday, Oct. 8, for the Oregon State University Theatre’s production of Arthur Miller’s play “After the Fall.”

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Auditions are set for Monday, Oct. 7, and Tuesday, Oct. 8, for the Oregon State University Theatre’s production of Arthur Miller’s play “After the Fall.”

Auditions will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Withycombe Hall main stage theater on the OSU campus. Rehearsals will start Oct. 15 and run Sundays through Thursdays. The play opens Nov. 14.

Miller’s highly personal and controversial 1964 “memory play” explores the nature of family, guilt, regret, and love. Set against a backdrop of American history ranging from World War I to the early 1960s, this tragic play is Miller’s fictionalized account of his own experiences, including his devastating marriage to Marilyn Monroe.

The cast includes parts for five males and six females. All OSU students and members of the community are welcome to audition. Scripts are available to check out in Withycombe Hall Room 141.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Angela Yeager Source: 

Elizabeth Helman

Categories: Research news

New director named for OSU’s Center for Latino/Latina Studies and Engagement

OSU News Releases - Thu, 09/05/2013 - 8:56am
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Sociologist and immigration scholar Ronald Mize has been named the new director of Oregon State University’s Center for Latino/Latina Studies and Engagement (CL@SE).

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Sociologist and immigration scholar Ronald Mize has been named the new director of Oregon State University’s Center for Latino/Latina Studies and Engagement (CL@SE).

Mize, formerly with Humboldt State University and Cornell University, conducts research focusing on the history of Mexican immigration to the United States, and how understanding immigration patterns are critical to often-contentious discussions on the subject.

Susana Rivera-Mills, associate dean in OSU’s College of Liberal Arts, said that Mize is poised to carry on the dual mission of the center: to engage in research necessary to understand the social issues that Latinos in the region face, as well as work with community partners to create solutions.

"I'm thrilled to have Ron as the new CL@SE director,” Rivera-Mills said. “Not only are his skills and experience as a researcher an asset for the center, but he shares the vision, passion, and commitment to serving Latino communities and advancing community engagement with OSU.”

Mize will also serve as an associate professor in the School of Language, Culture and Society.

“My hope is that we solidify our connections with the Latino community in Oregon, and solidify Latino studies as an area of scholarly inquiry at Oregon State,” Mize said. “It’s mutually beneficial that we know our stakeholders better, and that the stakeholders look to us as a place where knowledge is created, validated, disseminated and relevant.”

In the past year, CL@SE has created partnerships with Casa Latinos of Benton County; PCUN, Oregon’s Farmworker Union in Woodburn; its sister organization, the CAPACES Leadership Institute; and Centro Latino Americano in Eugene.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Angela Yeager Source: 

Susana Rivera-Mills, 541-737-4586

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Ron Mize

Categories: Research news

Overgrazing turning parts of Mongolian Steppe into desert

OSU News Releases - Wed, 09/04/2013 - 3:40pm
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Overgrazing by sheep and goats is helping to turn huge amounts of land in Mongolia into desert, a result of surging populations of livestock with global climate implications.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Overgrazing by millions of sheep and goats is the primary cause of degraded land in the Mongolian Steppe, one of the largest remaining grassland ecosystems in the world, Oregon State University researchers say in a new report.

Using a new satellite-based vegetation monitoring system, researchers found that about 12 percent of the biomass has disappeared in this country that’s more than twice the size of Texas, and 70 percent of the grassland ecosystem is now considered degraded. The findings were published in Global Change Biology.

Overgrazing accounts for about 80 percent of the vegetation loss in recent years, researchers concluded, and reduced precipitation as a result of climatic change accounted for most of the rest. These combined forces have led to desertification as once-productive grasslands are overtaken by the Gobi Desert, expanding rapidly from the south.

Since 1990 livestock numbers have almost doubled to 45 million animals, caused in part by the socioeconomic changes linked to the breakup of the former Soviet Union, the report said. High unemployment led many people back to domestic herding.

The problem poses serious threats to this ecosystem, researchers say, including soil and water loss, but it may contribute to global climate change as well. Grasslands, depending on their status, can act as either a significant sink or source for atmospheric carbon dioxide.

“This is a pretty serious issue,” said Thomas Hilker, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Forestry. “Regionally, this is a huge area in which the land is being degraded and the food supply for local people is being reduced.

“Globally, however, all ecosystems have a distinct function in world climate,” he said. “Vegetation cools the landscape and plays an important role for the water and carbon balance, including greenhouse gases.”

Even though it was clear that major problems were occurring in Mongolia in the past 20 years, researchers were uncertain whether the underlying cause was overgrazing, climate change or something else. This report indicates that overgrazing is the predominant concern.

Mongolia is a semi-arid region with harsh, dry winters and warm, wet summers. About 79 percent of the country is covered by grasslands, and a huge surge in the number of grazing animals occurred during just the past decade - especially sheep and goats that cause more damage than cattle. Related research has found that heavy grazing results in much less vegetation cover and root biomass, and an increase in animal hoof impacts.

Collaborators on this research included Richard H. Waring, a distinguished professor emeritus of forest ecology from OSU; scientists from NASA and the University of Maryland; and Enkhjargal Natsagdorj, a former OSU doctoral student from Mongolia. The work has been supported by NASA and OSU.

College of Forestry Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Thomas Hilker, 541-737-2608

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Grazing in Mongolia




Mongolian herders

Categories: Research news

Growth in licensing and industry funding spurs research at Oregon State University

OSU News Releases - Wed, 09/04/2013 - 9:58am
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Oregon State University recorded its best year ever in technology licensing – nearly triple what it earned just five years ago – during the last fiscal year, which ended June 30.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University recorded its best year ever in technology licensing – nearly triple what it earned just five years ago – during the last fiscal year, which ended June 30. Combined with continued growth in funding from private industry, the increase cushioned a nearly 13 percent decline in federal funding stemming largely from budget cuts known as sequestration.

Oregon State research grants and contracts totaled almost $263 million last year, just shy of its fiscal year 2009 level. Meanwhile, OSU received a record $7.7 million in licensing and royalty income. Private sector financing reached nearly $36 million, a 65 percent increase over the past five years, as calculated on an annual basis.

“Licenses are a measure of how effective we are in helping industry turn research into marketable products,” said Rick Spinrad, vice president for research at Oregon State. “Companies in the electronics, chemical processing and natural resources industries are looking to OSU for innovations to help them compete.”

“By licensing the results of our research, they are increasing their value in the marketplace and creating jobs in Oregon,” Spinrad added.

In the last year, OSU signed 88 new licenses with organizations in the fields of information technology, agriculture, industrial materials, biotechnology, forest products, healthy aging and manufacturing.

Oregon State’s statewide role in stimulating economic development stems from research and begins when scientists file notices known as invention disclosures with the university’s Research Office. In 2013, they filed more such notices, 80, than ever before.

It was also a record year for new start-up companies to license OSU technology. Among them were: CSD Nano of Corvallis, which sells a high-performance, anti-reflective coating to increase the performance of solar cells; OilEx Tech of Monmouth, producer of a microwave oil extraction device; NW Medical Isotopes of Corvallis, which offers a domestic option for production of a medically critical isotope, molybdenum-99; and Online Labs of Corvallis, which provides a virtual online chemistry laboratory experience for high school and college students.

The federal government provided more than 58 percent of Oregon State’s research grants and contracts from all sources in FY13, compared to almost 63 percent in FY12. Among the university’s largest federal grants in FY13 were:

  • Nearly $4.7 million from the U.S. Department of Energy for ocean wave energy research at the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center;
  • A $3.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study and avoid threats from wildfire, drought and disease to western forests;
  • A $3.7 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development for a worldwide program of aquaculture and fisheries research;
  • Nearly $3 million from the National Science Foundation for design and coordination of construction for up to three new coastal research vessels to bolster the nation’s marine science capabilities;
  • A $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation for investigation of a diatom-based biorefinery.

Funding from state and local governments grew 46 percent in fiscal year 2013 to a total of $7.8 million. Revenue from industrial testing services grew by 25 percent to $11.8 million.

With more than $53 million in grants and contracts, the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences brought in OSU’s largest share of research funding, followed by the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences ($40 million) and the College of Engineering ($30 million).

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Generic OSU Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Rick Spinrad, 541-737-0664

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Tree species across the West face threats to their ability to survive. (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University)


Architect's rendering of a coastal research vessel. (Drawing courtesy of Oregon State University)

Categories: Research news

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