Oregon State University

Research news

Science Pub focuses on getting ready for school

OSU News Releases - Fri, 08/30/2013 - 8:55am
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If you want to know if your kindergartener will succeed in school, look to Simon Says for an answer. Or to Red Light/Green Light. Or to the marshmallow game.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – If you want to know if your kindergartener will succeed in school, look to Simon Says for an answer. Or to Red Light/Green Light. Or to the marshmallow game. 

At the Corvallis Science Pub on Sept. 9, Megan McClelland will demonstrate how these and other tasks can be used to determine if a child is ready for school. Her Science Pub presentation begins at 6 p.m. at the Old World Deli, located at 341 S.W. Second St. in Corvallis. It is free and open to the public.

“We’re talking about being able to sit still, follow directions and play well with other kids,” said McClelland, an associate professor in the Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences. To be prepared for school, “they need to have some self-control as well as some basic academic skills.”

These games, she added, give children an opportunity to demonstrate self-regulation, the ability to control their behavior, thoughts and emotions.

McClelland specializes in early childhood development, but self-regulation turns out to be critical for success later in life as well. In 2012, McClelland reported that stronger self-regulation in young children is associated with later success in college.

McClelland is the director of the Early Childhood Research Core in the Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families at Oregon State. Her research focuses on social and cognitive development in young children and pathways to school readiness.

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: 

Megan McClelland, 541-737-9225

Categories: Research news

Growing populations of brown marmorated stink bug could harm late-season crops

OSU News Releases - Thu, 08/29/2013 - 11:59am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University researchers warn of an increased risk of damage to late-ripening crops this year after discovering record levels of the brown marmorated stink bug, a newly established invasive pest in Oregon.

The alert comes at a critical time with harvest looming for many crops, including blueberries, raspberries, apples, pears, hazelnuts, grapes, sweet corn, peppers, and edible beans. The pest has shown an appetite for more than 100 different crops.

Late-season feeding and contamination by adult stink bugs and nymphs can result in discoloration of fruit, vegetables and nuts – ultimately sullying the crops' value at the marketplace. While no economic damage from the pest has been documented thus far in Oregon, OSU researchers worry that could change after this summer.

"Even low levels of infestation can result in crop losses," said Vaughn Walton, an entomologist at OSU. "Stink bugs in commercial crops can lead to increased management costs, pesticide use and outbreaks of secondary pests. There's no question stink bugs could be an economic issue."

A native of southeast Asia, the brown marmorated stink bug arrived in the eastern United States in the late 1990s and has since spread to more than 30 states, reaching Oregon in 2004. The pest has damaged millions of dollars of crops on the East Coast.

OSU's statewide survey for the bug is ongoing and early returns this year show higher population densities in nearly every area of Oregon. While the stink bug been established in urban counties near Portland and the Willamette Valley for years – and in Hood River and Wasco County since 2012 – its range has recently expanded to more rural environments, including farms of all sizes. Most recently, the pest established a significant presence in the Columbia Gorge and southern Oregon.

Last year's mild winter in Oregon, coupled with this summer's heat, has driven the stink bug's population growth, said Nik Wiman, an OSU research entomologist. Populations are increasing faster than anticipated and tend to peak in late summer, he added.

"Pre-harvest is a time when stink bugs are more likely infest crops and lay eggs because late-stage crops are an attractive food source," said Wiman. "The adults and nymphs cause blemishes when they feed on ripening fruit, nuts and vegetables, rendering them unmarketable."

Farmers and growers are encouraged to look for the pest on their property or near crops as they ripen. The bugs are most easily found on indicator plants, like English holly, maples, lilacs or fruit trees.

If the pest is found, researchers recommend working with an OSU Extension Service entomologist or crop consultant to decide the best plan of action. For more information on managing the brown marmorated stink bug, Walton advises farmers and growers to use the Pacific Northwest Insect Management Handbook, which is available for free online at http://pnwhandbooks.org/insect.

OSU's latest information and research on the pest can be found at http://BMSB.hort.oregonstate.edu.

In the meantime, OSU researchers are testing specific insecticide controls for the brown marmorated stink bug, as none are registered for the insect. Herbicides and fungicides are not known to be effective.

The public can report sightings of the bug to bmsb@hort.oregonstate.edu to assist researchers in tracking its dispersal through the state. OSU Extension has published a free guide for distinguishing the brown marmorated stink bug from look-alike insects in both English and Spanish at http://horticulture.oregonstate.edu/content/biology-and-identification.

OSU is one of 11 institutions studying the brown marmorated stink bug in a project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Additional supporting funds are from the Oregon Hazelnut Commission, as well as the Oregon Blackberry and Raspberry Commission.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Daniel Robison Source: 

 Vaughn Walton, 541-740 4149;

Peter Shearer, 541-386-2030, ext. 215;

Nik Wiman 541-737-2534;

Silvia Rondon 541-567-8321, ext.108

Multimedia Downloads Multimedia: 



Oregon State University graduate student Chris Hedstrom is part of the OSU research team tracking the pest's spread through the state, while investigating new ways to suppress its impact on crops. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

 

A brown marmorated stink bug feeds on a red pepper plant in an Oregon State University lab in Corvallis. The pest feeds on more than 100 plants and has a particular appetite for late-ripening crops, such as hazelnuts, blueberries, raspberries and grapes. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Categories: Research news

Runs to benefit OSU’s MS Exercise Program held Sept. 21

OSU News Releases - Tue, 08/27/2013 - 10:50am
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Two different runs will be held Saturday, Sept. 21, at Willamette Park to benefit Oregon State University’s Multiple Sclerosis Exercise Program, an individualized exercise program for people with multiple sclerosis.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Two different runs will be held Saturday, Sept. 21, at Willamette Park to benefit Oregon State University’s Multiple Sclerosis Exercise Program, an individualized exercise program for people with multiple sclerosis.

The events will include a 4-mile timed trail run and a 2-mile fun run/walk accessible for people with limited mobility. Participants in the program receive free one-on-one assistance from OSU graduate students who are studying improved health for people with disabilities in the Movement Studies in Disability program, which is housed in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

The cost for the event, titled Corvallis Run for Your Life, is $15 for the 4-mile run and $10 for the 2-mile run/walk. All proceeds benefit the MS Exercise Program. To sign up, go to http://corvallisrunforyourlife.com/

Corvallis resident and OSU employee Rachel Robertson is organizing the event on behalf of her sister, Andrea Weiser. Weiser grew up in Corvallis and graduated from Crescent Valley High School in 1986. An avid outdoorswoman and athlete, Weiser was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years ago.

“When she first was diagnosed, she could barely walk,” Robertson said. “She is working her way back up now. It’s very important to stay active when you have MS, and the program at OSU provides such an essential service for so many in the community.”

Sponsors of the Run for Your Life include OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute, Coffee Culture, Encore Physical Therapy, Corvallis Radiology, Corvallis Sport and Spine Physical Therapy, Mazama Brewing, Pride Printing Company, Samaritan Health Services, and Ryan Sparks, DMD.

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

Rachel Robertson, 541-230-1282

Categories: Research news

Winter depression not as common as many think, OSU research shows

OSU News Releases - Tue, 08/27/2013 - 10:14am
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New research suggests that getting depressed when it’s cold and dreary outside may not be as common as is often believed.

The study this article is based on can be found at: http://hdl.handle.net/1957/41955.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – New research suggests that getting depressed when it’s cold and dreary outside may not be as common as is often believed.

In a study recently published online in the Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers found that neither time of year nor weather conditions influenced depressive symptoms. However, lead author David Kerr of Oregon State University said this study does not negate the existence of clinically diagnosed seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, but instead shows that people may be overestimating the impact that seasons have on depression in the general population.

“It is clear from prior research that SAD exists,” Kerr said. “But our research suggests that what we often think of as the winter blues does not affect people nearly as much as we may think.”

Kerr, who is an assistant professor in the School of Psychological Science at OSU, said the majority of studies of seasonal depression ask people to look back on their feelings over time.

“People are really good at remembering certain events and information,” he said. “But, unfortunately, we probably can’t accurately recall the timing of day-to-day emotions and symptoms across decades of our lives. These research methods are a problem.”

So Kerr and his colleagues tried a different approach. They analyzed data from a sample of 556 community participants in Iowa and 206 people in western Oregon. Participants completed self-report measures of depressive symptoms multiple times over a period of years. These data were then compared with local weather conditions, including sunlight intensity, during the time participants filled out the reports.

In one study, some 92 percent of Americans reported seasonal changes in mood and behavior, and 27% reported such changes were a problem. Yet the study suggests that people may be overestimating the impact of wintery skies.

“We found a very small effect during the winter months, but it was much more modest than would be expected if seasonal depression were as common as many people think it is,” said Columbia University researcher Jeff Shaman, a study co-author and a former OSU faculty member. “We were surprised. With a sample of nearly 800 people and very precise measures of the weather, we expected to see a larger effect.”

Kerr believes the public may have overestimated the power of the winter blues for a few reasons. These may include awareness of SAD, the high prevalence of depression in general, and a legitimate dislike of winter weather.

“We may not have as much fun, we can feel cooped up and we may be less active in the winter,” Kerr said. “But that’s not the same as long-lasting sadness, hopelessness, and problems with appetite and sleep – real signs of a clinical depression.”

According to Kerr, people who believe they have SAD should get help. He said clinical trials show cognitive behavior therapy, antidepressant medication, and light box therapy all can help relieve both depression and SAD.

“Fortunately, there are many effective treatments for depression, whether or not it is seasonal,” he said. “Cognitive behavior therapy stands out because it has been shown to keep SAD from returning the next year.”

Kerr is an expert on the development of depression and risky behavior in youth in OSU’s College of Liberal Arts. He received a 2010 New Investigator Award from the Oregon Health and Science University Medical Research Foundation to conduct this research, which is building upon two ongoing studies that have been funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers from OSU, Columbia University, the Oregon Social Learning Center, Iowa State University and the University of California, Davis contributed to this study.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Angela Yeager Source: 

David Kerr, 541-737-1364

Categories: Research news

Ocean sound: The Oregon Coast rules when it comes to ambient noise

OSU News Releases - Tue, 08/20/2013 - 9:32am
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A year-long study of the ambient noise off the Oregon Coast confirms that it is one noisy place - from breaking surf, to ship traffic to the sounds of blue whales.

NEWPORT, Ore. – For more than a year, scientists at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center deployed a hydrophone in 50 meters of water just off the coast of Newport, Ore., so they could listen to the natural and human-induced sounds emanating from the Pacific Ocean environment.

Their recently published analysis has a simple conclusion: It’s really noisy out there.

There are ships, including container shipping traffic, commercial fishers and recreationalists. There are environmental sounds, from waves pounding the beach, to sounds generating by heavy winds. And there are biological sounds, especially the vocalizations of blue whales and fin whales. And not only is Oregon’s ocean sound budget varied, it is quite robust.

“We recorded noise generated from local vessels during 66 percent of all hours during the course of a year,” said Joe Haxel, an OSU doctoral student who is affiliated with both the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies (CIMRS) and NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory acoustics program at the Hatfield center. “In fact, there is an acoustic spike during the opening of the commercial crabbing season related to the high number of boats working the shallow coastal waters at the same time.

“But, at times, the biggest contributor to the low-frequency sound budget is from the surf breaking on the beach a few kilometers away,” he added. “That’s where Oregon trumps most other places. There haven’t been a lot of studies targeting surf-generated sound and its effect on ambient noise levels in the coastal ocean, but the few that are out there show a lot less noise than we have. Our waves are off the charts.”

The year-long study of noise, which was published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, was supported by the Department of Energy, the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, NOAA and OSU.

The study is about more than scientific curiosity, researchers say. The research was carried out in support of OSU’s Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center and will play an important role in determining whether testing of wave energy devices off the Oregon coast may have environmental impacts.

Scientists must know what naturally occurring sounds exist, and at what levels, so when new sounds are introduced, there is some context for evaluating their intensity and impact.

Documenting marine noises for an entire year isn’t easy, the researchers pointed out. First, the equipment must withstand the rugged Pacific Ocean, so the OSU researchers deployed the hydrophone near the seafloor in about 50 meters of water so violent winter storms wouldn’t destroy the instrumentation. They focused on low-frequency sounds, where the majority of noise emitted by wave energy converters is expected to occur.

After combing through an entire year of data, they determined that Oregon’s low-frequency noise budget is often dominated by the constant sounds of breaking surf. These weren’t necessarily the loudest noises, though.

“The strongest signal we got during the course of the year came from a boat that drove right over our mooring,” said Haxel, who is pursuing his doctorate through OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “The second loudest sound came from the vocalizations of a blue whale, which can be incredibly loud. We were told by colleagues at the Marine Mammal Institute that blue whales have been sighted close to shore in recent years and it was probably within several kilometers of the hydrophone.”

Haxel said the OSU researchers also recorded numerous vocalizations of fin whales and humpback whales, but a startling omission was that of gray whales, one of the most common West Coast whales.

“We didn’t document a single gray whale sound during the entire year, which was really surprising,” Haxel said. “Even during times when gray whales were visually sighted from shore within close proximity of the hydrophone, we never recorded any vocalizations. One theory is that they are trying to keep as quiet as possible so they don’t give away their location to orcas, which target their calves.”

Another unusual source of noise was the wind. Even at 50 meters below the surface, the hydrophone picked up sound from the wind – but not in the way one might think. It wasn’t the howling of the wind that was noticeable, Haxel said, but the ensuing waves, known as “whitecaps” or “wind chop,” and the clouds of bubbles that were injected into the water column.

Haxel compared his data on Oregon sounds to a handful of studies in the literature associated with high-energy environmental conditions to see how the region fared. All of the other studies were limited: a Monterey Bay, Calif., survey focused only on surf noises. A study off the Florida coast examined wind-generated sounds. And a study of the Scotia Shelf in Canada looked at wind and surf.

Oregon noise levels were similar to other regions for frequencies above 100 Hz, Haxel said, but rose sharply for frequencies affected by surf-generated noise – generally below 100 Hz.

“The bottom line is that the Pacific Ocean in the Northwest can be a remarkably loud environment and our wave climate in particular is amazing,” Haxel said. “That’s why wave energy is being targeted for this region in the first place. The study will provide some valuable information as the wave energy industry goes forward.

“We will be able to measure noise levels from the testing, or even the loading and unloading of equipment from the vessels, and compare those measurements with the range of background ambient sound levels already occurring in the area,” he added.

“It is a balancing act as some noise from the testing sites may serve as a warning signal for whales and other animals to avoid the area, helping to reduce the risk for collision or entanglement,” Haxel said. “But adding too much noise can be harmful, disrupting their communication or navigation.”

Hatfield Marine Science Center Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Joe Haxel, 541-867-0282; joe.haxel@oregonstate.edu

Multimedia Downloads Multimedia: 


Blue whale vocalizations
are second loudest


 
Breaking surf tops
the charts for noise

 

Sound file of breaking surf:

http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ncs/media/wave-breaking.wav

 

Sound file of boat motors:

http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ncs/media/boat-noise.wav

Categories: Research news

Gov. Kitzhaber announces nominees for OSU Board of Trustees

OSU News Releases - Mon, 08/19/2013 - 2:10pm
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Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber today announced the nominations of 14 members of OSU’s new institutional board of trustees. The nominees must still be confirmed by the Oregon Senate.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber today announced the nominations of 14 members of Oregon State University’s new institutional board of trustees. The nominees must still be confirmed by the Oregon Senate, which is expected to meet next month.

Establishment of institutional governing boards at three of Oregon’s public universities was authorized with the passage of Senate Bill 270 during the 2013 legislative session.

The OSU board members reflect the university’s broad teaching and research disciplines, as well as its statewide presence. Kitzhaber selected members who represent the state’s diverse geographic regions as well as its significant economic sectors.

OSU President Edward J. Ray expressed appreciation for the governor’s approach.

“The most important factor in guiding Oregon State’s future is to have a board that understands the unique role that the university plays in the state, nation and world,” Ray said. “The board members nominated by Gov. Kitzhaber reflect that and I am very pleased with the breadth of experience in many facets of life that our board members bring to the table.”

Among the responsibilities of the Oregon State University Board of Trustees will be establishing policies for all aspects of the university’s operations; overseeing tuition and fees; guiding academic programs; approving the university’s budget for submission to the state; and appointing and employing OSU’s president in consultation with the governor.

The board members include:

  • Mark Baldwin, of Albany, Ore., is an analyst and programmer in OSU’s Information Services division. He has had a long and successful career in information systems and technology in higher education and the private sector. Prior to joining the OSU staff, he worked at Western Oregon University and a number of private sector firms. As specified in SB 270, he represents the staff at Oregon State.
  • Patricia Bedient, of Sammamish, Wash., has been executive vice president and chief financial officer of Weyerhaeuser Company since 2007. She began her career and worked for 27 years with Arthur Andersen LLP, becoming partner in 1987. She serves on the boards of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, and has served two terms on the OSU Foundation Board of Trustees. She also is on the World Forestry Center board.
  • Rani Borkar, of Portland, Ore., is corporate vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Development Group for Intel Corporation. She leads numerous global engineering teams that are responsible for the development of a full range of processors for server, client, and handheld devices. She has been with Intel since 1988 and earned the Intel Achievement Award in 2002.
  • Darald “Darry” Callahan, of San Rafael, Calif., is former president of Chevron Chemical Company, and served as executive vice president of Power, Chemicals and Technology for ChevronTexaco Corp. from 2001 until his retirement in 2003. He also has served as president of Chevron Oil Bahamas Limited and president of Warren Petroleum Company. He is a former chair of the OSU Foundation Board of Trustees.
  • Michele Longo Eder, of Newport, Ore., is an attorney whose practice includes an emphasis in marine and fisheries law.  In partnership with her husband, Bob Eder, she is a shareholder in Argos Inc. and is president of Eder Fish Company, a wholesale fish dealer for domestic and foreign buyers. She is a member of the NOAA Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee and former commissioner of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. 
  • Elson Floyd, of Pullman, Wash., has been president of Washington State University since 2007. He was president of the University of Missouri from 2003-07, and Western Michigan University from 1998 to 2003. He began his career at University of North Carolina, where he held several executive positions. He is on numerous national boards including the Washington STEM Center Board, Association of Public Land Grant Universities Board, and the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.
  • Orcilia Zúñiga Forbes, of Portland, was appointed to the State Board of Higher Education in July 2012; her term expires in 2014. She retired from OSU in 2004 as vice president of University Advancement, and has served as a trustee for the Meyer Memorial Trust since 1999. She is also serving on the boards of the Chalkboard Project and the University of New Mexico Foundation.
  • Paul Kelly, of Portland, Ore., was named to the Oregon State Board of Higher Education in 2007 and served as president from 2008-11. He recently retired from the law firm Garvey Schubert Barer. From 1987 to 2005, he served in several positions at Nike, Inc., including general counsel and global director of public affairs. He is on the Oregon School Funding Defense Foundation board and Legal Aid Services of Oregon board, among others.
  • Brenda McComb, of Philomath, Ore., is dean of the OSU Graduate School and a former forest habitat researcher. Before being named dean of the graduate school in April of 2011, she led the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society in the College of Forestry. Her research has focused on the effects of land management practices on animals and natural habitats. As specified in SB 270, she represents the faculty at Oregon State.
  • Laura Naumes, of Medford, Ore., is vice president of Naumes Inc. The company has orchards in California, Oregon and Washington and is a leading producer of pears. It also produces several varieties of apples, along with cherries, Asian pears and persimmons. She is a former member of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco advisory council and began her first term as trustee on the OSU Foundation Board in 2012.
  • Patricia “Pat” Reser, of Beaverton, Ore., is board chair of Reser’s Fine Foods, Inc., a family-owned fresh refrigerated food company. She previously served as corporate secretary for 13 years, and is a retired employee of the Beaverton School District. She is one of three co-chairs of OSU’s Capital Campaign Steering Committee and is serving her third term as an OSU Foundation Trustee.
  • Taylor Sarman, of Corvallis, Ore., is a sophomore majoring in political science at Oregon State and is executive director of government affairs for the Associated Students of OSU. In that role, he oversees ASOSU’s local, state and federal lobbying efforts. The graduate of Union High School in eastern Oregon served as an intern during the 2013 Oregon Legislative session, and is a past president of the national Future Business Leaders of America. As specified in SB 270, he represents the students of OSU.
  • Kirk Schueler, of Bend, Ore., is chief administrative officer for St. Charles Health System. Previously, he was president of Brooks Resources Corporation, a real estate development firm in Bend.  He was appointed to the State Board of Higher Education in 2009; his term expires in 2013. He serves on the boards of the Bend Foundation, Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation, and the Jeld-Wen Tradition Foundation.
  • John Turner, of Pendleton, Ore., retired as president of Blue Mountain Community College in June. He joined the college in 2003 as executive vice president and provost, becoming president in 2005. He retired from the U.S. Marine Corps as a colonel with more than 28 years of service, including a stint as president of the Marine Corps War College in Quantico, Va.  He serves as a commissioner of the Port of Umatilla.

OSU’s President Ray will serve as an ex-officio, non-voting member of the board. More information on Oregon State‘s Board of Trustees is available at: http://oregonstate.edu/leadership/trustees

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

 Steve Clark, 541-737-3808 (cell 503-502-8217); steve.clark@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Bald eagles increasing impact on murre colony at Yaquina Head

OSU News Releases - Mon, 08/19/2013 - 8:06am
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The recovery of bald eagle populations in Oregon is an environmental success story, which is good news – unless you happen to be a common murre living at the coast.

NEWPORT, Ore. – The recovery of bald eagle populations in Oregon is an environmental success story that has resulted in a resurgence of this iconic symbol in the state, which is good news – unless you happen to be a common murre living at the coast.

Scientists at Oregon State University who are studying the seabird have documented how the increase of bald eagles – especially along the central Oregon coast – is having a significant impact on the murre’s reproductive success. It is developing into a fascinating ecological tale of which the ending has not yet played out.

What has happened, the researchers say, is that bald eagles have taken up a seasonal residence near Yaquina Head and forage on the murres, which have a major nesting colony there. The predation of an occasional adult murre isn’t the issue, the researchers point out – it is the encroachment of “secondary predators” that is having a negative impact on the murres’ reproductive success.

“An adult eagle that swoops down and grabs an adult murre may disrupt the colony for a minute or two, but things get back to normal rather quickly,” said Robert Suryan, an OSU seabird expert at the university’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. “The problem arises when the eagles – especially juveniles that are not yet accomplished hunters – land on the colony and send the adult murres scurrying.

“That opens the door for brown pelicans and gulls to come in and grab the eggs, or even the murre chicks, and the results are pretty devastating,” Suryan added. “They literally will destroy hundreds of eggs in just a few minutes.”

The OSU-led project is supported by the Bureau of Land Management, the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Suryan and his colleagues conducted studies of the Yaquina Head colony in 2007-10 and documented reproductive success of 55 to 80 percent – even with some eagle disturbance. By 2011, however, when more eagles began hunting at this colony, that success dropped to 20 percent. And it has gotten worse since after brown pelicans arrived last year.

Cheryl Horton, an OSU graduate student working with Suryan on the project, said the eagles affect the colony in other ways as well.

“When juvenile pelicans or eagles land on the rocks, all of the birds scatter,” said Horton, a master’s candidate in fisheries and wildlife. “We documented some 300 murre chicks that washed up dead on the beach last summer after a single pelican disturbance. They no doubt panicked and slipped off the rock and weren’t yet able to swim.”

Horton said in past years, one or two bald eagles would perch in the trees above Yaquina Head and swoop down to prey on the murres. This year, the number has grown to as many as a dozen – many of them juveniles.

The eagles’ appearance is a reflection of protective measures adopted more than three decades ago, Horton said. In 1978, researchers documented 101 bald eagle breeding sites in Oregon; in 2007, that number had climbed to 662 sites.

Suryan said the eagles’ predation hasn’t had an apparent impact on the overall population of murres at the colony, but if the reproductive failures of the past couple of years continue, that will change.

“During the past 2-3 years, we are not only seeing more eagles, but the disturbances are lasting longer – into July – and more juveniles are hanging out at the colony,” Suryan said. “The implications really are quite interesting. Is the predation of the eagles on murres a learned behavior, or are they missing another food source?

“In Alaska, eagles feast on dead salmon on the streambanks, but when salmon numbers are low, they head over to the coast and decimate seabird colonies,” added Suryan, an associate professor of fisheries and wildlife at OSU. “What we’re seeing at Yaquina Head could just be a natural rebalancing of predators and prey as eagles recover, or it might be that the eagles are recovering into a system that is different than the one they previously occupied.”

As Yaquina Head is turning into an outdoor laboratory for this evolving ecological puzzle, the researchers are learning more than they ever imagined, Horton said.

“We captured video of a pelican grabbing a murre chick and shaking it until it regurgitated a fish that its parents had fed it,” Horton said. “Then the pelican dropped the chick and gobbled down the fish. Why were juvenile pelicans doing this? It seems like such a desperate way of finding food.”

Hatfield Marine Science Center Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Rob Suryan, 541-867-0223; rob.suryan@oregonstate.edu;

Cheryl Horton, 845-548-2187; hortonc@onid.orst.edu

Multimedia Downloads Multimedia: 

Bald eagle intrusion

"Secondary" predators

Young murres drown

Categories: Research news

Siuslaw National Forest, OSU Libraries bring forest history collection to public

OSU News Releases - Fri, 08/16/2013 - 8:46am
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Nearly 5,000 digital images of the Siuslaw National Forest are being made available to the public through Oregon State University Libraries.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Nearly 5,000 digital images of the Siuslaw National Forest are being made available to the public through Oregon State University Libraries. The images are part of the Siuslaw National Forest Digital Collection and include pictures dating back to the beginnings of the Siuslaw in 1908 to the present.

“This collection is the first step in a long-ranging joint project between OSU Libraries’ Center for Digital Scholarship, the Special Collections & Archives Research Center and the Siuslaw National Forest,” said Ruth Vondracek, natural resources archivist at OSU. “The collection showcases some important pieces of Oregon history and we’re excited to make it available to the public.”

One of the primary objectives behind the project is making forest history publicly accessible. The digital images made available in this collection were created by volunteers in the Passport in Time Program, a volunteer archaeology and historic preservation program of the U.S. Forest Service.  Under the supervision of former Siuslaw National Forest Heritage Program manager Phyllis Steeves, volunteers scanned images over the course of a decade, and even developed the database to store the associated information.

“Ranging from early 20th-century homesteading activities to modern stream restoration efforts, the collection includes a wide array of topics that reflect the changing management, landscapes, and people on the Siuslaw National Forest,” said Heritage Resource Program manager Kevin Bruce.

Siuslaw National Forest staff will provide historical information (photos, documents, audio, etc.) in digital format to OSU, which will store and manage the information for general public access. A highlight of the collection is a series of photographs taken by Corydon Cronk during his time as an assistant ranger on the forest in 1910-1911.

“In a time when budgets are limited, the project serves as a great example of how federal agencies and universities can work together to share resources to produce a quality product for the public,” said Jerry Ingersoll, Siuslaw National Forest supervisor. “With our headquarters located on campus, the forest is in good alignment with OSU.”

The collection will expand in the future as the forest continues to add additional images and other forms of historical information such as oral histories, Forest Service administrative documents, and newsletters.

The Siuslaw National Forest Digital Collection is available at: http://oregondigital.org/digcol/siuslaw

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Theresa Hogue Source: 

Kevin Bruce, 541-750-7053; Ruth Vondracek, 541-737-9273

Categories: Research news

Study documents early warming of West Antarctica at end of last ice age

OSU News Releases - Wed, 08/14/2013 - 9:50am
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A new study documents and explains how West Antarctic began emerging from the last ice age 2,000 to 4,000 years earlier than previously thought.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – West Antarctica began emerging from the last ice age about 22,000 years ago – well before other regions of Antarctica and the rest of the world, according to a team of scientists who analyzed a two-mile-long ice core, one of the deepest ever drilled in Antarctica.

Scientists say that changes in the amount of solar energy triggered the warming of West Antarctica and the subsequent release of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the Southern Ocean amplified the effect and resulted in warming on a global scale, eventually ending the ice age.

Results of the study were published this week in the journal Nature. The authors are all members of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide project, which was funded by the National Science Foundation.

The study is significant because it adds to the growing body of scientific understanding about how the Earth emerges from an ice age. Edward Brook, an Oregon State University paleoclimatologist and co-author on the Nature study, said the key to this new discovery about West Antarctica resulted from analysis of the 3,405-meter ice core.

“This ice core is special because it came from a place in West Antarctica where the snowfall is very high and left an average of 20 inches of ice or more per year to study,” said Brook, a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “Not only did it allow us to provide more accurate dating because we can count the layers, it gave us a ton more data – and those data clearly show an earlier warming of the region than was previously thought.”

Previous studies have pointed to changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun as the initial trigger in deglaciation during the last ice age. An increase in the intensity of summer sunlight in the northern hemisphere melted ice sheets in Canada and Europe starting at about 20,000 years ago and is believed to have triggered warming elsewhere on the globe.

It previously was thought that Antarctica started its major warming a few thousand years later, at about 18,000 years before present. However, the new study shows that at least part of Antarctica started to warm 2,000 to 4,000 years before this. The authors hypothesize that changes in the total amount of sunlight in Antarctica and melt-back of sea ice caused early warming at this coastal site – warming that is not recorded by ice cores in the interior of the continent.

“The site of the core is near the coast and it conceivably feels the coastal influence much more so than the inland sites where most of the high-elevation East Antarctic cores have been drilled,” Brook said. “As the sunlight increased, it reduced the amount of sea ice in the Southern Ocean and warmed West Antarctica. The subsequent rise of CO2 then escalated the process on a global scale.”

“What is new here is our observation that West Antarctica did not wait for a cue from the Northern Hemisphere before it began warming,” Brook said, “What hasn’t changed is that the initial warming and melting of the ice sheets triggered the release of CO2 from the oceans, which accelerated the demise of the ice age.”

Brook said the recent increase in CO2 via human causes is also warming the planet, “but much more rapidly.”

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

Ed Brook, 541-737-8197; brook@geo.oregonstate.edu

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Categories: Research news

OSU ranked 11th in nation as “Cool School” by Sierra Club for green efforts

OSU News Releases - Wed, 08/14/2013 - 9:02am
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Oregon State University has once again been honored for its commitment to sustainability, making it one of the top green colleges in the nation.

CORVALLIS, OR. –Oregon State University has once again been honored for its commitment to sustainability, making it one of the top green colleges in the nation.

The Sierra Club has released its “Cool Schools” rankings based on the ‘greenness’ of participating universities, and Oregon State has the highest green ranking in the state, and is listed as 11th in the nation, rising from 24th in 2010.

Brandon Trelstad, OSU’s sustainability coordinator, said he is excited to see the university being honored by the Sierra Club.

“I’m delighted we have again been recognized for our sustainability efforts by the Sierra Club,” Trelstad said. “It showcases OSU’s strength in sustainability – a multifaceted approach that includes student engagement, reducing negative environmental impact, outstanding research and long-term cost savings, all aligned with OSU’s mission.”

“The recognition of Oregon State by the Sierra Club and its Cool Schools program helps the university by supporting our outreach and educational activities,” he added. “Several times in the past year, I have heard of students who, when they were thinking about where to pursue higher education, selected OSU because of its reputation for taking sustainability seriously.”

The Cool Schools ranking is open to all four-year undergraduate colleges and universities in the nation. The award honors 162 colleges that are helping to solve climate problems and making significant efforts to operate sustainably. Evaluations were based on survey information provided by the participating schools, as well as follow up inquiries and outside sources.

Oregon State’s emphasis on “being green” begins the moment when new students come on campus, according to the survey. Sustainability is a large part of the university’s new student orientation, including zero-waste food events, a Sustainability Fair, and an emphasis on recycling in the residence halls.

OSU has been honored for its efforts at supporting alternative transportation for students, faculty and staff living off campus, including ride sharing, a campus shuttle system, bike parking and lockers, utilization of Corvallis transit and WeCar sharing.

There are a number of active green student groups on the Oregon State campus, including the Student Sustainability Initiative, which is involved in everything from the restoration of local watersheds to composting on campus to sustainable food projects.

OSU offers hundreds of courses on campus with a sustainability emphasis, ranging from “Sustainable Forest Management” to “Renewable Energy Alternatives: Economics and Technology.” There are even study abroad programs with a sustainability focus to places like Australia and Costa Rica.

Other highlights include OSU’s leadership in the formation of Oregon BEST (Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center) which helps Oregon businesses compete globally by transforming and commercializing university research into new technologies, services, products, and companies, all with an emphasis in renewable energy and sustainable products.

The campus participates in an annual, month-long Campus Carbon Challenge, which encourages students, staff and faculty to reduce their carbon footprint by changing their daily behaviors. There is an emphasis on reducing waste and using sustainable products in the dining centers, and around campus, a variety of alternative energy approaches have been used, including the utilization of solar hot water systems at the Kelley Engineering Building and at the International Living Center, which supply half of those buildings’ hot water needs.

To learn more about the Sierra Club’s “Cool Schools” survey, go to: www.sierraclub.org/coolschools.

Lewis & Clark College came in at in 19th place, followed by Southern Oregon at 26th, Portland State University at 31st, and University of Oregon at 46th.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Theresa Hogue Source: 

Brandon Trelstad, 541-737-3307, Brandon.trelstad@oregonstate.edu

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Students recycle items
when moving out of dorms

Categories: Research news

Researchers use circulation models, genetics to track “lost years” of turtles

OSU News Releases - Wed, 08/14/2013 - 7:40am
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When green turtles toddle out to the ocean after hatching from eggs they disappear and aren’t seen again for several years. A new study shows where they may go during these "lost years."

CORVALLIS, Ore. – When green turtles toddle out to the ocean after hatching from eggs at sandy beaches they more or less disappear from view and aren’t seen again for several years until they show up as juveniles at coastal foraging areas.

Researchers have long puzzled over what happens to the turtles during these “lost years,” as they were dubbed decades ago. Now a new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society outlines where they likely would be based on ocean currents.

It is the first quantitative estimate of juvenile turtle distribution across an entire ocean basin and experts say it is significant because it gives researchers in North America, South America, Europe and Africa an idea of where hatchlings that emerge on beaches will go next, and where the juveniles foraging along the coastlines most likely came from.

“Hatchling sea turtles are too small for transmitters and electronic tags, and their mortality rate is sufficiently high to make it cost-prohibitive anyway,” said Nathan F. Putman, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “Even if you could develop a perfect sensor, you would need tens of thousands of them because baby turtles get gobbled up at such a fast rate. So we decided to look at an indirect approach.”

Putman and his colleague, Eugenia Naro-Maciel of City University of New York, used sophisticated ocean circulation models to trace the likely route of baby green turtles from known nesting sites once they entered the water. They also identified known locations of foraging sites where the turtles reappeared as juveniles, and went backwards – tracing where they most likely arrived via currents.

“This is not a definitive survey of where turtles go – it is more a simplification of reality – but it is a starting point and a big and comprehensive starting point at that,” Putman pointed out. “Turtles have flippers and can swim, so they aren’t necessarily beholden to the currents. But what this study provides is an indication of the oceanic environment that young turtles encounter, and how this environment likely influences turtle distributions.

“When we compared the predictions of population connectivity from our ocean current model and estimates from a genetic model, we found that they correlate pretty well,” said Putman, a researcher in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. “Each approach, individually, has limitations but when you put them together the degree of uncertainty is substantially reduced.”

The researchers simulated the dispersal of turtles from each of 29 separate locations in the Atlantic and West Indian Ocean and identified “hot spots” throughout these basins where computer models suggest that virtual turtles would be densely aggregated. This includes portions of the southern Caribbean, the Sargasso Sea, and portions of the South Atlantic Ocean and the West Indian Ocean.

In contrast, they estimate that the fewest number of turtles would be located in the open ocean along the equator between South America and central Africa.

Based on the models, it appears that turtles from many populations would circumnavigate the Atlantic Ocean basin. “Backtracking” simulations revealed that numerous foraging grounds were predicted to have turtles arrive from the North Atlantic, South Atlantic and Southwest Indian oceans. Thus, a high degree of connectivity among populations appears likely based on circulation patterns at the ocean surface.

Putman said the next step in the research might be for turtle biologists throughout the Atlantic Ocean basin to “ground truth” the model by looking for young turtles in those hotspots. Knowing more about their early life history and migration routes could help in managing the population, he said.

“Perhaps the best part about this modeling is that it is a testable hypothesis,” Putman said. “People studying turtles throughout the Atlantic basin will have predictions of turtle distributions based on solid oceanographic data to help interpret what they are observing.

“Finding these little turtles is like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack,” Putman added. “But at least we’ve helped researchers understand where that haystack most likely would be located.”

Putman also has a study coming out in Biology Letters using similar methodology to predict ocean distribution patterns for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

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

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Hatchling green turtle

 


Distribution of turtles
from Florida

Categories: Research news

Study finds novel worm community affecting methane release in ocean

OSU News Releases - Mon, 08/12/2013 - 9:31am
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Scientists have discovered a super-charged methane seep in the ocean off New Zealand with a unique food web, resulting in more methane escaping from the ocean floor.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Scientists have discovered a super-charged methane seep in the ocean off New Zealand that has created its own unique food web, resulting in much more methane escaping from the ocean floor into the water column.

Most of that methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming our atmosphere, is likely consumed by biological activity in the water, the scientists say. Thus it will not make it into the atmosphere, where it could exacerbate global warming. However, the discovery does highlight scientists’ limited understanding of the global methane cycle – and specifically the biological interactions that create the stability of the ocean system.

Results of the study, which was funded primarily by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany, have just been published online in the journal Limnology and Oceanography.

“We didn’t discover any major ‘burps’ of methane escaping into the atmosphere,” said Andrew R. Thurber, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “However, some of the methane seeps are releasing hundreds of times the amounts of methane we typically see in other locations, so the structure and interactions of this unique habitat certainly got our attention.

“What made this discovery most exciting was that it is one of the first and best examples of a direct link between a food web and the dynamics that control greenhouse gas emissions from the ocean,” Thurber added.

The scientists first discovered this new series of methane seeps in 600 to 1,200 meters of water off North Island of New Zealand in 2006 and 2007. The amount of methane emitted from the seeps was surprisingly high, fueling a unique habitat dominated by polychaetes, or worms, from the family Ampharetidae.

"They were so abundant that the sediment was black from their dense tubes,” Thurber pointed out.

Those tubes, or tunnels in the sediment, are critical, the researchers say. By burrowing into the sediment, the worms essentially created tens of thousands of new conduits for methane trapped below the surface to escape from the sediments. Bacteria consumes much of the methane, converting it to carbon dioxide, and the worms feast on the enriched bacteria – bolstering their healthy population and leading to more tunnels and subsequently, greater methane release.

The researchers say that there is one more critical element necessary for the creation of this unique habitat – oxygen-rich waters near the seafloor that the bacteria harness to consume the methane efficiently. The oxygen also enables the worms to breathe better and in turn consume the bacteria at a faster rate.

“In essence, the worms are eating so much microbial biomass that they are shifting the dynamics of the sediment microbial community to an oxygen- and methane-fueled habitat – and the worms’ movements and grazing are likely causing the microbial populations to eat methane faster,” said Thurber, who works in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “That process, however, also leads to more worms that build more conduits in the sediments, and this can result in the release of additional methane.”

Methane seeps and worm communities are present in many other areas around the world, the researchers point out, including the Pacific Northwest. However, the deep water in many of these locations has low levels of oxygen, which the scientists think is a factor that constrains the growth of the worm populations. In contrast, the study sites off New Zealand are bathed in cold, oxygen-rich water from the Southern Ocean that fuels these unique habitats.

“The large amounts of methane consumed by bacteria have kept it from reaching the surface,” Thurber said. “Those bacteria essentially are putting the pin back in the methane grenade. But we don’t know if the worms ultimately may overgraze the bacteria and overtax the system. It’s something we haven’t really seen before.”

Also participating in the study were scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in Wellington, New Zealand, and the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Germany.

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

Andrew Thurber, 541-737-8251; athurber@coas.oregonstate.edu

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Worm feeding

 

Worm outside its tube

 

Worm bed off coast

of New Zealand

Categories: Research news

Pass the salt: Common condiment could enable new high-tech industry

OSU News Releases - Thu, 08/08/2013 - 9:19am
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Ordinary table salt may be the key to an important new industry in silicon nanostructures, which have promise for energy storage, biomedicine and other fields.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Chemists at Oregon State University have identified a compound that could significantly reduce the cost and potentially enable the mass commercial production of silicon nanostructures – materials that have huge potential in everything from electronics to biomedicine and energy storage.

This extraordinary compound is called table salt.

Simple sodium chloride, most frequently found in a salt shaker, has the ability to solve a key problem in the production of silicon nanostructures, researchers just announced in Scientific Reports, a professional journal.

By melting and absorbing heat at a critical moment during a “magnesiothermic reaction,” the salt prevents the collapse of the valuable nanostructures that researchers are trying to create. The molten salt can then be washed away by dissolving it in water, and it can be recycled and used again.

The concept, surprising in its simplicity, should open the door to wider use of these remarkable materials that have stimulated scientific research all over the world.

“This could be what it takes to open up an important new industry,” said David Xiulei Ji, an assistant professor of chemistry in the OSU College of Science. “There are methods now to create silicon nanostructures, but they are very costly and can only produce tiny amounts.

“The use of salt as a heat scavenger in this process should allow the production of high-quality silicon nanostructures in large quantities at low cost,” he said. “If we can get the cost low enough many new applications may emerge.”

Silicon, the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, has already created a revolution in electronics. But silicon nanostructures, which are complex structures much smaller than a speck of dust, have potential that goes far beyond the element itself.

Uses are envisioned in photonics, biological imaging, sensors, drug delivery, thermoelectric materials that can convert heat into electricity, and energy storage.

Batteries are one of the most obvious and possibly first applications that may emerge from this field, Ji said. It should be possible with silicon nanostructures to create batteries – for anything from a cell phone to an electric car – that last nearly twice as long before they need recharging.

Existing technologies to make silicon nanostructures are costly, and simpler technologies in the past would not work because they required such high temperatures. Ji developed a methodology that mixed sodium chloride and magnesium with diatomaceous earth, a cheap and abundant form of silicon.

When the temperature reached 801 degrees centigrade, the salt melted and absorbed heat in the process. This basic chemical concept – a solid melting into a liquid absorbs heat – kept the nanostructure from collapsing.

The sodium chloride did not contaminate or otherwise affect the reaction, researchers said. Scaling reactions such as this up to larger commercial levels should be feasible, they said.

The study also created, for the first time with this process, nanoporous composite materials of silicon and germanium. These could have wide applications in semiconductors, thermoelectric materials and electrochemical energy devices.

Funding for the research was provided by OSU. Six other researchers from the Department of Chemistry and the OSU Department of Chemical Engineering also collaborated on the work.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

David Xiulei Ji, 541-737-6798

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Silicon nanostructures




Table salt

Categories: Research news

Oregon State University students produce interactive iBook Atlas of the Columbia River Basin

OSU News Releases - Wed, 08/07/2013 - 3:00pm
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Another version of this story is available on Terra magazine at Oregon State.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — The Columbia River Basin comes to life in a new digital atlas produced by Oregon State University cartography students. Starting with ArcMap, they created an iBook — accessible via Apple’s iPad — which combines the look and feel of a traditional paper book with the touch-screen features of a tablet computer.

Through colorful maps, animations, photos and video, the new atlas allows users to explore the basin’s geology, climate, social history and land use. It shows the location and extent of historical and current tribal lands — Kootenai, Nez Perce, Umatilla and others — the region’s population centers and a time-lapse display of dam construction from 1900 to the present. Maps also show the location of salmon runs, recreation sites and public lands. 

Under the guidance of Bernhard Jenny, cartographer and assistant professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, 17 graduate and undergraduate students published the Atlas of the Columbia River Basin. It can be downloaded free as a PDF or iBook from the cartography and visualization group at Oregon State. Jenny has submitted it to Apple’s iTunes library.

Creating the interactive and static maps required the use of three different software packages, says Jenny. Students used ArcMap to merge geospatial data from different sources and design the maps. They reprojected the maps to a local coordinate system that was optimized for the portrayal of the transboundary Columbia Basin. After exporting the maps from ArcMap into Adobe Illustrator, they fine-tuned symbolization, labeling and layout. The last step consisted of placing the maps in iBooks Author, the authoring software for creating eBooks for the iPad. The maps were combined with interactive features, text, diagrams and other elements and laid out in this authoring software.

Unlike most atlases that are restricted by national and state borders, this atlas crosses the boundary between Canada and the United States, says Kimberly Ogren, an Oregon State Ph.D. student. Ogren helped to develop the 33-page document as a student in Jenny’s course on computer-assisted cartography.

“If you apply cartography concepts in the right way,” she says, “you will create a map that draws people to the information and conveys it effectively. People will want to learn more. That’s our hope for this atlas.”

Not Just Another Digital Map

More than a useful resource about the Columbia basin, the new atlas is also a milestone in cartography. “Cartographers haven’t used these new formats with all their features,” says Jenny. He notes that the first digital map (The Electronic Atlas of Canada) was created in 1981, but it and its successors have been more useful for specialists than for the general public.

“Those atlases don’t have individual page layouts or elements like diagrams and pictures,” he says. “They’re more standardized in their appearance and functionality.” In essence, most digital atlases provide a visual interface for viewing and analyzing data rather than an educational resource for the public.

In contrast, the Atlas of the Columbia River Basin presents information in a format that is accessible. It includes a table of contents and chapters. It integrates digital data with other book-like features and touch-screen functions that are familiar to any smart phone or tablet computer user.

The advantage for mapmakers, says Jenny, lies in the ease with which such atlases can be created. The downside is that creativity in terms of interactivity is limited to what the authoring software allows. In addition, e-books cannot be exported to multiple brands of devices. Apple’s iBook authoring software, for example, creates e-books only for Apple devices.

The evolution of atlases to tablet computers follows the growth in sales of iPads, Amazon’s Kindle and other tablets in the last few years. In 2014, says Jenny, sales of tablet computers are expected to outpace sales of desktop and notebook PCs combined. E-books have grown in popularity as well and accounted for about 20 percent of publishers’ revenues in 2012. In 2011, sales of e-books outpaced sales of hardcover adult fiction.

Jenny plans to continue incorporating iBook publishing in his cartography classes. Both he and Ogren say that students in the cartography class benefited by creating a product that they could show to future employers as well as family and friends.

-30-

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Bernhard Jenny, 541-737-1204

Categories: Research news

Veterinary hospital resuming normal operation after equine influenza outbreak

OSU News Releases - Wed, 08/07/2013 - 12:28pm
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The Veterinary Teaching Hospital has resumed normal operations following an outbreak of equine influenza, which for the past two weeks kept it from accepting horses for anything but emergency services.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Oregon State University has resumed normal operations following an outbreak of equine influenza, which for the past two weeks kept it from accepting horses for anything but emergency services.

There were six confirmed cases of equine influenza, a highly contagious respiratory disease in horses that usually isn’t fatal, but is a particular concern to foals and pregnant horses, since it can cause abortion. The original source of the infection appears to be a horse admitted to the hospital. Four horses are still shedding the virus but are now contained in an isolation facility, and all are expected to make a full recovery.

All horses in the Large Animal Hospital are testing negative for the virus, and stalls have been disinfected, then left empty for at least 48 hours, an adequate time to kill any remaining flu virus in a dry environment.

“We’d like to thank all of our clients for their patience and cooperation while we worked through this issue,” said Ron Mandsager, interim associate director of the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “The most important thing is to protect the health of all our animals. Unfortunately, equine influenza is endemic in the U.S. and sometimes these situations occur.”

Equine influenza is not transferable to humans or other animal species, but can spread rapidly among horses and other equines. It is the most common contagious respiratory pathogen for horses and most animals fully recover. However, young, elderly or pregnant animals are more at-risk for viral diseases such as equine influenza.

“The incident should be a reminder to all horse owners,” said Keith Poulsen, associate professor of large animal internal medicine. “It’s important to vaccinate their animals, practice good biosecurity, and monitor horses closely when they are in contact with other horses during and after events like fairs, competitions and trail rides.”

The first clinical sign of this disease in horses is typically a fever, followed by cough, nasal discharge and lethargy. Horses with a fever of greater than 102.5 degrees should be seen by a veterinarian.

Anyone who has concerns about the health of their animals should contact their veterinarian or the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital at OSU, at 541-737-2858 or http://vetmed.oregonstate.edu/

Hospital officials say they plan to investigate the impact the outbreak has had on hospital operations and the local equine community.

College of Veterinary Medicine Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Keith Poulsen, 541-737-6939

Categories: Research news

OSU faculty selected for “Early Career Development” award

OSU News Releases - Wed, 08/07/2013 - 10:07am
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The National Science Foundation has awarded prestigious Early Career Development grants to three College of Engineering faculty for research in computer science, mathematics and nanotechnology.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Three researchers in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University have received a Faculty Early Career Development award from the National Science Foundation.

These prestigious five-year grants recognize promising faculty at the beginning of their career for excellence and innovation in both research and teaching.

Raviv Raich, an assistant professor in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, develops methods to analyze complex multi-instance data. Applications include training computers to identify bird species from bird song recordings made in the wild, and improving automated tests of blood samples to detect cancer. The $477,000 award will support undergraduate and graduate students who are helping to develop the methods and algorithms for this research.

Glencora Borradaile, an assistant professor in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, advances mathematical techniques to solve problems such as how to connect wind generators to a power grid. Her research seeks to broaden the scope of information used in algorithms to make them more useful for real-world applications. This $500,000 grant will support research by undergraduates and graduate students, and Borradaile will also involve high school students in learning the fundamentals of discrete math, which is the foundation of her research.

Jeff Nason, an assistant professor in the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering, is developing “labeled” nanoparticles that can be detected in complex environmental matrices. This $455,000 award will allow study of the risks associated with nanomaterials and their distribution in the environment.

College of Engineering Media Contact: 

Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098

Source: 

Raviv Raich, (541) 737-9862

Categories: Research news

Cognitive decline with age is normal, routine – but not inevitable

OSU News Releases - Wed, 08/07/2013 - 9:14am
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The process of cognition and making memories is being tracked to its biological roots - and there may be ways to slow or prevent the natural decline in these abilities with age.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – If you forget where you put your car keys and you can’t seem to remember things as well as you used to, the problem may well be with the GluN2B subunits in your NMDA receptors.

And don’t be surprised if by tomorrow you can’t remember the name of those darned subunits.

They help you remember things, but you’ve been losing them almost since the day you were born, and it’s only going to get worse. An old adult may have only half as many of them as a younger person.

Research on these biochemical processes in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University is making it clear that cognitive decline with age is a natural part of life, and scientists are tracking the problem down to highly specific components of the brain. Separate from some more serious problems like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, virtually everyone loses memory-making and cognitive abilities as they age. The process is well under way by the age of 40 and picks up speed after that.

But of considerable interest: It may not have to be that way.

“These are biological processes, and once we fully understand what is going on, we may be able to slow or prevent it,” said Kathy Magnusson, a neuroscientist in the OSU Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, and professor in the Linus Pauling Institute. “There may be ways to influence it with diet, health habits, continued mental activity or even drugs.”

The processes are complex. In a study just published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that one protein that stabilizes receptors in a young animal – a good thing conducive to learning and memory – can have just the opposite effect if there’s too much of it in an older animal.

But complexity aside, progress is being made. In recent research, supported by the National Institutes of Health, OSU scientists used a genetic therapy in laboratory mice, in which a virus helped carry complementary DNA into appropriate cells and restored some GluN2B subunits. Tests showed that it helped mice improve their memory and cognitive ability.

The NMDA receptor has been known of for decades, Magnusson said. It plays a role in memory and learning but isn’t active all the time – it takes a fairly strong stimulus of some type to turn it on and allow you to remember something. The routine of getting dressed in the morning is ignored and quickly lost to the fog of time, but the day you had an auto accident earns a permanent etching in your memory.

Within the NMDA receptor are various subunits, and Magnusson said that research keeps pointing back to the GluN2B subunit as one of the most important. Infants and children have lots of them, and as a result are like a sponge in soaking up memories and learning new things. But they gradually dwindle in number with age, and it also appears the ones that are left work less efficiently.

“You can still learn new things and make new memories when you are older, but it’s not as easy,” Magnusson said. “Fewer messages get through, fewer connections get made, and your brain has to work harder.”

Until more specific help is available, she said, some of the best advice for maintaining cognitive function is to keep using your brain. Break old habits, do things different ways. Get physical exercise, maintain a good diet and ensure social interaction. Such activities help keep these “subunits” active and functioning.

Gene therapy such as that already used in mice would probably be a last choice for humans, rather than a first option, Magnusson said. Dietary or drug options would be explored first.

“The one thing that does seem fairly clear is that cognitive decline is not inevitable,” she said. “It’s biological, we’re finding out why it happens, and it appears there are ways we might be able to slow or stop it, perhaps repair the NMDA receptors. If we can determine how to do that without harm, we will.”

Linus Pauling Institute Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Kathy Magnusson, 541-737-6923

Categories: Research news

Climate center at OSU gets major grant to study forest mortality

OSU News Releases - Tue, 08/06/2013 - 11:08am
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A large grant to OSU researchers will help them explore how drought, insect attack and climate change may affect forest die-offs in the future.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has received a five-year, $4 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to investigate increasing impacts of drought, insect attacks and fires on forests in the western U.S., and to project how the influence of climate change may affect forest die-offs in the future.

The researchers will also enhance an earth system model to allow them to predict when forests are becoming vulnerable to physiological stress and then create strategies to minimize impacts of climate, insects and fire.

“The western United States has gone through two decades of devastating forest loss and we don’t even fully know why it happened, much less how to predict these events,” said Philip Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at OSU and a principal investigator on the grant. “Certainly wildfire, bark beetle infestation and drought play a role, but the intersection of these factors with forest management decisions hasn’t been well-explored.

“A change in severity of drought, for example, can make the difference between trees losing some needles and wiping out the entire stand,” added Mote, a professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU. “The margin between life and death in the forest can be rather small.”

Other lead investigators from OSU on the project include Beverly Law, a professor in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, who will focus on modeling forest processes with the Community Land Model; and Andrew Plantinga, a professor in the Department of Applied Economics, whose expertise is on the economics of land use, climate change and forests.

“Climate variation and extremes can impact trees differently depending on species-specific traits that determine how they compete and respond to environmental conditions,” Law said. “We know little about how physiological limits vary by species, and have not incorporated such knowledge in earth system models.”

The OSU researchers note that forest management decisions could potentially play a role during periods of drought, for example. Drought-stressed trees become vulnerable when they experience vapor pressure deficits – and cannot take in enough water to sustain them, or to remain vigorous enough to help repel invading bark beetles, said Law, who is co-lead principal investigator on the project.

An excess of trees in an area of limited water might benefit from targeted thinning so fewer trees remain to compete for the same amount of water, Law noted. However, forests that already have low densities “are not expected to respond well,” she said.

“What we don’t know,” Mote said, “is what the threshold is between stress and mortality, which trees to thin and how many, and whether such a strategy not only works, but is economically feasible for landowners.”

Law said the intervention strategies “should not result in potentially harmful ecological impacts on habitat and soil quality.”

Among the goals of the project are to:

  • Improve the ability of a leading land surface model to predict tree mortality;
  • Map the vulnerability of western forests to mortality under present and future climate conditions,  particularly in Oregon, Washington, California and Idaho;
  • Apply forest vulnerability data to forest sector models to help land managers better predict ecological and economic outcomes, including timber production, forest recreation and water use.

As part of the study, the researchers will run computer models that will utilize a crowd-sourced computing effort called Weatherathome.net, through which a network of thousands of volunteers will use their home computers to run climate model scenarios. Such a network can equal or exceed the output of a supercomputer.

The OSU grant is part of the inter-agency Decadal and Regional Climate Prediction Using Earth System Models Program, which is coordinated by the National Science Foundation and includes USDA and the Department of Energy.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Phil Mote, 541-737-5694

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Forest die-off

Categories: Research news

New companies, research ideas chosen to join OSU Venture Accelerator

OSU News Releases - Tue, 08/06/2013 - 10:09am
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A dozen spinoff companies or research concepts have been chosen as the first participants in the OSU Venture Accelerator, designed to help speed their products to the commercial marketplace.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Administrators of the Venture Accelerator at Oregon State University have chosen the first 12 research concepts or spinoff companies to participate in the program, which is designed to spur the creation of new companies from university-based research.

The Venture Accelerator is one component of the Oregon State University Advantage, an educational, research and commercialization initiative begun earlier this year. Officials say it should increase industry investment in OSU research by 50 percent and lead to the creation of 20 new businesses within five years.

With the announcement of its first participants, some of those companies may already be taking shape.

In the future this could lead to innovative types of automobiles, improved heating systems, more efficient solar cells, electricity produced from wastewater, an enhanced online shopping experience or – in a pinch – a safe and efficient caesarian delivery of a baby in small, rural hospitals.

“These concepts and companies are emerging from OSU or the Corvallis community, and we feel good about the commercial potential of all of them,” said John Turner, co-director of the Venture Accelerator Program.

“We think the Venture Accelerator will contribute at all stages of their commercial development and really speed the companies toward success,” Turner said. “It’s also worth noting that we’ve chosen some technologies that are incremental advances in a field, and others may represent breakthroughs of global importance. There’s a place for both in what we’re trying to do in job creation and economic advancement.”

The Venture Accelerator at OSU is designed to identify innovation or research findings that might form the basis for profitable companies, and then streamline their development with the legal, marketing, financial and mentoring needs that turn good ideas into real-world businesses. The approach can be customized to each client’s needs and also allows them to tap into the resource of OSU students who can assist in research and business development.

The new companies and innovations include:

  • Waste2Watergy – A Corvallis startup company to commercialize OSU research on the production of electricity from wastewater, while also treating the wastewater.
  • Valliscor, LLC –Valliscor is a chemical manufacturing company that provides innovative solutions to access compounds for the pharmaceutical, agricultural, polymer and electronics industries.
  • MOVE – Referring to “methane opportunities for vehicle energy,” this company is being developed from research at OSU-Cascades to allow a car that runs on methane to compress its own fuel and be re-fueled from a homeowner’s natural gas supply.
  • Macromolecular structure characterization – This is based on a patent of a new way to solve protein structures that could transform biological research.
  • Heating systems – Devices using microchannel arrays to heat air or water that are small or portable could offer much higher efficiency for residential or other uses.
  • Beet – A solar cell device will be developed based on patented absorber material that allows high conversion efficiency.
  • Multicopter Northwest – This company will develop and sell small helicopter and photographic systems to produce photos or video at an altitude up to 400 feet.
  • PlayPulse – The physiological responses of video game users will be measured to help producers understand user behavior.
  • InforeMed – The company will create serious games for health care education.
  • BuyBott – This online website will simplify shopping and enhance social interaction.
  • Bauer Labs LLC – Technology from the company includes a facilitator for emergency caesarean delivery, a special challenge in rural hospitals.
  • FanTogether – Sports fans will stay connected to their favorite teams or individuals.

The OSU Venture 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 of $3.75 million.

The University of Oregon and OSU, along with the cities of Eugene, Springfield, Albany and Corvallis, are all collaborating in this broad initiative that taps into the research and educational expertise of academia and aggressively moves it toward private economic growth.

Oregon State University Advantage Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

John Turner, 541-737-9219

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Electricity from wastewater

Categories: Research news

OSU names Susan Tornquist interim dean of veterinary medicine

OSU News Releases - Thu, 08/01/2013 - 3:25pm
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – Susan Tornquist, associate dean in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University, has been named interim dean of the college.

She succeeds Cyril Clarke, who will become dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine effective Oct. 1.

Tornquist has been on the faculty at Oregon State since 1996, most recently as associate dean of student and academic affairs in OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where she also is a professor of clinical pathology. Her research interests have focused on immune responses to infectious and metabolic diseases in animals, particularly llama and alpacas.

As associate dean Tornquist has helped the college grow its enrollment, coordinate student internships, build partnerships with the Oregon Humane Society and other organizations, and make student experiential learning a hallmark of the program.

Tornquist received her veterinary medical degree from Colorado State University and her doctorate in veterinary pathology from Washington State University.

Sabah Randhawa, OSU provost and executive vice president, said Tornquist will transition into the role of interim dean over the next several weeks. He has begun a national search to fill Clarke’s position.

College of Veterinary Medicine Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Sabah Randhawa, 541-737-2111

Categories: Research news

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