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Animal trapping records reveal strong wolf effect across North America

Thu, 06/12/2014 - 9:15am
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Scientists have used coyote and red fox fur trapping records across North America to document how the presence of wolves influences the balance of smaller predators further down the food chain.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Scientists have used coyote and red fox fur trapping records across North America to document how the presence of wolves influences the balance of smaller predators further down the food chain.

From Alaska and Yukon to Nova Scotia and Maine, the researchers have demonstrated that a “wolf effect” exists, favoring red foxes where wolves are present and coyotes where wolves are absent.

This effect requires that enough wolves be present to suppress coyotes over a wide area. Fur trapping records from Saskatchewan and Manitoba reveal that where wolves are absent in the southern agricultural regions of each province, coyotes outnumber foxes on average by 3-to-1. However, where wolves are abundant in the North, the balance swings dramatically in favor of foxes on average by 4-to-1 and at an extreme of 500-to-1 at one site.

In between is a 200-kilometer (124-mile) transition zone where too few wolves are present to tip the balance between coyotes and foxes.

The results of the study by Thomas Newsome and William Ripple in the Oregon State University Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society were published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology by the British Ecological Society.

“As wolves were extirpated across the southern half of North America, coyotes dramatically expanded their range,” said Newsome, a post-doctoral researcher. “They were historically located in the middle and western United States, but they dispersed all the way to Alaska in the early 1900s and to New Brunswick and Maine by the 1970s.”

“So essentially coyotes have been dispersing into wolf and red-fox range in the North but also into areas where wolves are absent but red fox are present in the East,” Newsome added.

Newsome came to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship from Australia where he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney and specialized in the study of dingoes, that continent’s top predator. There’s a debate among Australians, he said, about the potential role of dingoes in suppressing introduced pests that have already decimated wildlife there.

“Over the last 200 years, Australia has had the highest extinction rate in the world,” Newsome said. “The debate is about whether the dingo can provide positive ecological benefits. Where dingoes have been removed, the impacts of introduced red foxes and feral cats have been quite severe on native fauna.”

Dingoes are managed as a pest in New South Wales, the country’s most populous state. To reduce dingo predation in the livestock industry, Australia also maintains the world’s longest fence, which runs for 5,500 kilometers (3,400 miles) in an attempt to exclude dingoes from almost a quarter of the continent.

In North America, the effect of wolves on coyotes and red foxes provides a natural case study that can be instructive for Australians. “Australians can learn a lot from how wolves are managed in North America, and Americans can learn from the ecological role of the dingo,” Newsome said.

As coyotes have expanded in North America, they have become a major cause of concern for the livestock industry. In the United States in 2004, researchers estimated annual losses due to coyote predation on sheep and cattle at $40 million. To reduce those damages, the Wildlife Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a program to reduce coyote numbers, an effort that has drawn criticism from conservation groups.

In reviewing the fur trapping data from two U.S. and six Canadian jurisdictions, Newsome and Ripple eliminated potential sources of bias such as records from fur farms that raise foxes. The fur prices of coyotes and red foxes are also strongly correlated, and the two species occupy much of the same types of habitat, so they are equally likely to be targeted and caught in hunters’ traps.

“This study gives us a whole other avenue to understand the ecological effects of wolves on landscapes and animal communities,” said Ripple. He has studied the influence of carnivores on their prey — such as deer and elk — and on vegetation from aspen trees to willows. He and his colleagues have shown that the removal of top predators can cause dramatic shifts within ecosystems.

Wolves are naturally recolonizing many areas of the United States following their reintroduction into Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas in 1995. Scientists are studying wolf interactions with other species, and in particular, there is interest in determining whether recolonizing wolves will suppress coyote populations and have cascading effects on red foxes and other species.

Newsome received funding from the Australian-American Fulbright Commission and from the government and universities of New South Wales in Australia.

 

College of Forestry Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Thomas Newsome, 541-737-3197

Wiliam Ripple, 541-737-3056

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Coyote (Photo: Shawn McCready)

Red fox (Photo: Kelly Colgan Azar)

Gray wolf (Photo: Doug McLaughlin)

Categories: Research news

Genome could unlock eucalyptus potential for paper, fuel and fiber

Thu, 06/12/2014 - 8:08am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – In a collaboration spanning five continents, scientists have announced the complete sequencing of one of the world’s most widely planted trees, Eucalyptus grandis.

Used for fuel and timber, the species is valued for fast growth and straight grain. Grown usually as a hybrid, it is one of more than 500 species of eucalyptus trees and shrubs that provide a renewable source of fiber, pulp, biofuel material, and medicinal and industrial oils. The accomplishment was published today in the scientific journal Nature.

On the research team were 12 Oregon State University scientists, including plant biologist Pankaj Jaiswal. "This genome sequence will help usher in a new era for studying the biology of the eucalyptus tree. Our advances in understanding could help redefine the possibilities of improving biomass yield, stress tolerance and other traits," said Jaiswal, a botany and plant pathology professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Jaiswal and his colleagues used the high-performance computing facility in Oregon State’s Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing to assign functions to the tree's 36,000-plus genes. They identified which genes correspond to biological processes that underpin control of growth rate, wood hardness, flowering and other attributes.

Plant breeders can use the eucalyptus genome to enhance or suppress traits in the tree, Jaiswal added. For example, breeding for more lignin, which confers strength to woody tissue, can produce wood better suited for furniture. Trees with less lignin could require less energy and fewer chemicals needed to make paper from eucalyptus pulp.

For breeding purposes, one of the most significant accomplishments stems from understanding the genes associated with flowering. Eucalyptus trees generally take three to 10 years to flower after they are propagated from seed, a process that slows the rate of breeding considerably, said Steve Strauss, a co-author of the Nature paper and an Oregon State distinguished professor of forest biotechnology in the College of Forestry.

Strauss has already shown that activating genes responsible for flower development can accelerate flowering. "By accelerating the speed of eucalyptus flowering, plant breeders can shorten generation time for developing new varieties with improved traits," he said.

Researchers can also use the floral gene sequences to prevent or disrupt flowering. That technology could help stop the undesirable spread of the tree and prevent it from becoming invasive.

The study is also leading to a better understanding of the evolutionary relationships of eucalyptus and its relatives. OSU professors Joseph Spatafora and Aaron Liston worked with Jaiswal to redefine the placement of eucalyptus in plant classification. "We managed to reassign its position in the evolutionary tree of life," said Liston.

“The genome provides a better roadmap for breeders to follow, although there is still a long road ahead of us to adapt the plant to all of our desired uses,” he added.

A research group from South Africa, led by Alexander Myburg of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute at the University of Pretoria, supplied the eucalyptus tissues and RNA sequenced by Oregon State.

Collaborating in the research were 80 scientists in South Africa, Brazil, North America, Europe and Australia (where eucalyptus originated). Among the funding sources were Oregon State University, the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative and the National Science Foundation. A contribution by the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute was supported by the DOE Office of Science.

Other OSU researchers contributing to the project were: Sushma Naithani, Justin Elser, Rajani Raja and Palitha Dharmawardhana in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology in the College of Agricultural Sciences; Martin Ranik, Vindhya Amarasinghe and Kelly Vining in the College of Forestry; Alexander E. Boyd and Christopher Sullivan in the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing.

A genome browser and further information on the project are available at http://www.phytozome.net/eucalyptus.php.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Daniel Robison Source: 

Pankaj Jaiswal, 541-737-8471; Steve Strauss, 541-737-6578; Joseph Spatafora, 541-737-5304; Aaron Liston, 541-737-5301

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Eucalyptus logs await shipment at a plantation in Brazil. (Photo by Steve Strauss.)


 

Plant breeders grow eucalyptus seedlings at a nursery in Brazil. (Photo by Steve Strauss)

Categories: Research news

ODFW, OSU to survey hunters about use of lead ammunition

Wed, 06/11/2014 - 2:07pm
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The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State University are collaborating on an effort to survey Oregon hunters about their use and knowledge of lead ammunition.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State University are collaborating on an effort to survey Oregon hunters about their use and knowledge of lead ammunition.

The random sample of 4,200 Oregon hunters will begin later this month and those selected should receive a letter from ODFW within the next two weeks. Oregon has approximately 250,000 hunters and the survey will include hunters from each geographic region of the state.

The use of lead ammunition has become a national issue because of impacts to wildlife and human health concerns, according to Ron Anglin, ODFW Wildlife Division administrator. Last year, California passed a law banning the use of lead ammunition for all hunting in the state beginning in 2019; other states have adopted voluntary measures encouraging the use of ammunition made from alternative compounds.

“There is no proposal to ban or limit use of lead ammunition in Oregon, but developments outside of Oregon could affect the use of lead ammunition within the state,” Anglin said. “The Environmental Protection Agency was petitioned to ban the use of lead in ammunition on a nationwide basis and there is the potential of condors being restored in northern California.”

The California legislature passed a law banning lead ammunition to protect endangered California condors, according to Dana Sanchez, an OSU Extension wildlife specialist and one of the project leaders. Condors can become ill after scavenging on animals that have been killed by lead bullets. The birds ingest lead fragments and can become sick or die, she said.

“Historically, Oregon has had condors, though none are known to live here now,” Sanchez pointed out. “However, there are efforts to re-establish populations in northern California and if they are successful, it is only a matter of time before condors begin frequenting the southern portions of Oregon.

“Once condors appear in Oregon, they would be subject to federal protection under the Endangered Species Act,” she added.

Sanchez said some conservation organizations in the state are monitoring lead levels in birds of prey brought into wildlife rehabilitation centers. There is increasing concern that lead exposure may be causing impacts to raptors and eagles in some areas, she said.

“This could lead to an initiative or other efforts to eliminate or restrict the use of lead ammunition,” Sanchez said.

The survey was developed by the OSU Survey Research Center, which will collect the data for ODFW and the OSU Wildlife Extension program. Survey results will be used to inform discussions among agencies, groups and others about any potential restrictions in the use of lead ammunition.

The purpose of the survey, Anglin said, is to gather information from the group of stakeholders who would be most affected by any restrictions on lead ammunition – Oregon hunters.

“Ideally, we would like to survey all Oregon hunters, but that is expensive,” Anglin said. “However, by selecting a random sample of hunters from regions across the state, we should get a clear picture of how Oregon hunters feel about lead ammunition and possible alternatives.”

Persons not chosen for the survey are welcome to provide comments on lead ammunition directly to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife at a special email address: ODFW.wildlifeinfo@state.or.us

Anglin said the ODFW/OSU project team plans to conduct a similar survey of non-hunting Oregonians in the future.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Ron Anglin, 503-947-6301; ODFW.wildlifeinfo@state.or.us; Dana Sanchez, 541-737-6003; dana.sanchez@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

OSU to hold 145th commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 14

Tue, 06/10/2014 - 9:31am
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Oregon State University will hold its 145th commencement on Saturday, June 14, beginning at 10:30 a.m. in Reser Stadium, graduating a record class of nearly 5,900 students.

CORVALLIS, Ore – Oregon State University will hold its 145th commencement on Saturday, June 14, beginning at 10:30 a.m. in Reser Stadium, graduating a record class of nearly 5,900 students.

The commencement speaker is Ann A. Kiessling, director of the independent Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation and a leader in both stem cell research and reproductive biology. She also will receive an honorary doctorate from the university.

Commencement is free and open to the public; no tickets are necessary. More information about OSU’s graduation is available online at: http://oregonstate.edu/events/commencement/. The OSU ceremony is being broadcast on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s OPB Plus channel.

OSU’s class of 2014 has 5,878 graduates, who will receive 6,194 degrees, according to OSU Registrar Rebecca Mathern. The previous largest class was in 2013, when 5,221 grads earned 5,483 degrees. (About 3,800 grads are expected to participate in Saturday’s commencement, along with an estimated 21,000 guests).

This year’s graduates have many compelling stories about their success. Sadie Davis is a former high school dropout, who pursued an OSU degree after earning her GED. The mother of a teenage daughter, this first-generation college student overcame personal issues to graduate magna cum laude. She managed the Women Returning to Higher Education Program at OSU’s Women’s Center, and was a staunch advocate for students battling addiction as well as for students pursuing education later in life.

Brian Benavidez spent four years in the U.S. Air Force as an avionics systems specialist and served for a time in Iraq. He was accepted into the Airman Scholarship Commissioning Program and became a cadet in OSU’s Air Force ROTC program. He commanded a wing of nearly 80 cadets, and served as president of the Veterans & Family Student Association. He is graduating summa cum laude in electrical and computer engineering.

Kayla Thorsness was a high school valedictorian from Philomath who was active in sports, 4-H, school leaderships and volunteerism when she was diagnosed with melanoma. She didn’t let that deter her – and less than three years later she is graduating from OSU with two degrees, in accounting and business information systems. She worked at Dixon Recreation Center and eventually became supervisor and center manager. She also completed an internship with a major accounting firm, and was a volunteer for the American Cancer Society, Heartland Humane Society, the Philomath Booster Club and the Junior Achievement Program.

Some statistics about the class of 2014:

  • Of the 6,194 degrees: 4,908 are baccalaureate degrees; 917, master’s degrees, 93 Doctor of Pharmacy degrees, 224 Doctor of Philosophy degrees, and 52 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees;
  • OSU’s graduates hail from 35 Oregon counties, 49 states, three U.S. territories or commonwealths and 55 countries;
  • The oldest member of the class of 2014 is 78 years of age and the youngest is 19;
  • A total of 107 members of the graduating class are veterans.

OSU’s commencement speaker Kiessling has a doctorate in biochemistry and biophysics from Oregon State. Born in Baker City, Ore., she graduated from Klamath Falls High School in 1960. She eventually joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1985, specializing in obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology, and working in the Department of Surgery. In the early 1990s, she pioneered reproductive options for couples living with the HIV disease and hepatitis C – techniques that led to the successful births of 121 children free of those diseases.

The Bedford Research Foundation she directs was founded in 1996 as a Massachusetts public charity to support research. By the year 2000, the foundation’s research laboratory expanded to include human stem cell research. To date, the foundation has collaborated with more than 60 clinics globally to find treatment for infectious diseases and spinal cord injuries.

Kiessling, the mother of four children, wrote one of the first books about the enormous potential of stem cells in treating supposedly “incurable” diseases, including spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, kidney failure and diabetes. She has been a pioneer in developing ways to create or identify “pluripotent” stem cells that do not involve the use of human embryos.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Rebecca Mathern, 541-737-4048; Rebecca.Mathern@oregonstate.edu

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Commencement

speaker

Ann Kiessling

Categories: Research news

Technology using microwave heating may impact electronics manufacture

Tue, 06/10/2014 - 9:20am
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OSU engineers have merged a microwave heating system with a continuous flow reactor to produce technology that may dramatically affect the electronics industry.

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

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Engineers at Oregon State University have successfully shown that a continuous flow reactor can produce high-quality nanoparticles by using microwave-assisted heating – essentially the same forces that heat up leftover food with such efficiency.

Instead of warming up yesterday’s pizza, however, this concept may provide a technological revolution.

It could change everything from the production of cell phones and televisions to counterfeit-proof money, improved solar energy systems or quick identification of troops in combat.

The findings, recently published in Materials Letters, are essentially a “proof of concept” that a new type of nanoparticle production system should actually work at a commercial level.

“This might be the big step that takes continuous flow reactors to large-scale manufacturing,” said Greg Herman, an associate professor and chemical engineer in the OSU College of Engineering. “We’re all pretty excited about the opportunities that this new technology will enable.”

Nanoparticles are extraordinarily small particles at the forefront of advances in many biomedical, optical and electronic fields, but precise control of their formation is needed and “hot injection” or other existing synthetic approaches are slow, costly, sometimes toxic and often wasteful.

A “continuous flow” system, by contrast, is like a chemical reactor that moves constantly along. It can be fast, cheap, more energy-efficient, and offer lower manufacturing cost. However, heating is necessary in one part of the process, and in the past that was best done only in small reactors.

The new research has proven that microwave heating can be done in larger systems at high speeds. And by varying the microwave power, it can precisely control nucleation temperature and the resulting size and shape of particles.

“For the applications we have in mind, the control of particle uniformity and size is crucial, and we are also able to reduce material waste,” Herman said. “Combining continuous flow with microwave heating could give us the best of both worlds – large, fast reactors with perfectly controlled particle size.”

The researchers said this should both save money and create technologies that work better. Improved LED lighting is one possibility, as well as better TVs with more accurate colors. Wider use of solid state lighting might cut power use for lighting by nearly 50 percent nationally. Cell phones and other portable electronic devices could use less power and last longer on a charge.

The technology also lends itself well to creation of better “taggants,” or compounds with specific infrared emissions that can be used for precise, instant identification – whether of a counterfeit $20 bill or an enemy tank in combat that lacks the proper coding.

In this study, researchers worked with lead selenide nanoparticles, which are particularly good for the taggant technologies. Other materials can be synthesized using this reactor for different applications, including copper zinc tin sulfide and copper indium diselenide for solar cells.

New Oregon jobs and businesses are already evolving from this work.

OSU researchers have applied for a patent on aspects of this technology, and are working with private industry on various applications. Shoei Electronic Materials, one of the collaborators, is pursuing “quantum dot” systems based on this approach, and recently opened new manufacturing facilities in Eugene, Ore., to use this synthetic approach for quantum dot enabled televisions, smartphones and other devices.

The research has been supported by the Air Force Research Laboratory, OSU Venture Funds, and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, or ONAMI.

College of Engineering Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Greg Herman, 541-737-2496

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Continuous flow reactor

Categories: Research news

Statin use associated with less physical activity

Mon, 06/09/2014 - 1:34pm
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New research has associated statin use with less physical activity among older men, which could be a significant concern.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – One of the longest studies of its type has found that use of statins in older men is associated with less physical activity, a significant issue for a population that’s already sedentary.

The findings, published today in JAMA Internal Medicine, raise concerns about a decline in much-needed physical activity among men who take some of the most widely prescribed medications in the world. Almost one-third of older Americans take statins, usually to reduce their cholesterol levels.

The research did not identify why men who took statins exercised less – it just confirmed that they did. Possible causes include the muscle pain that can be a side effect of statin use, and also disruption of the mitochondrial function in cells, which could contribute to fatigue and muscle weakness.

Physical activity in older adults helps to maintain a proper weight, prevent cardiovascular disease and helps to maintain physical strength and function,” said David Lee, an assistant professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy, and lead author of the study.

“We’re trying to find ways to get older adults to exercise more, not less,” Lee said. “It’s a fairly serious concern if use of statins is doing something that makes people less likely to exercise.”

Muscle pain is found in 5-30 percent of people who take statins, Lee said, and some people also report feeling less energetic, weak or tired.

In an analysis of 3,071 community-living men, age 65 or older, from six geographic regions in the United States, researchers found that men who took statins averaged about 40 minutes less of moderate physical activity over a one-week period, compared to those who weren’t taking the medication.

That would equate to the loss of 150 minutes a week of slow-paced walking, Lee said.

“For an older population that’s already pretty sedentary, that’s a significant amount less exercise,” he said. “Even moderate amounts of exercise can make a big difference.”

Of some significance, the study also found that new statin users had the largest drop in physical activity. An increase in sedentary behavior, which is associated with all-cause mortality and also death from cardiovascular disease, was also observed in statin users.

Some previous studies with older adults and statins had found similar results, but those analyses were short-term. This research followed men for almost seven years after initial baseline studies were done, and compared changes in physical activity among users and non-users of statins. In parts of the experiments, men wore accelerometers for a week to track by the minute their level of activity.

“Given these results, we should be aware of a possible decrease in physical activity among people taking a statin,” Lee said.

“This could decrease the benefit of the medication,” he said. “If someone is already weak, frail, or sedentary, they may want to consider this issue, and consult with their doctor to determine if statin use is still appropriate.”

This study was done with older men, and generalization of the findings to older women may not be appropriate, the researchers noted in their study.

The research was done by scientists from OSU; the Oregon Health & Science University; the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Portland, Ore.; the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco; the Stanford Prevention Research Center; and the Department of Medicine at the University of California.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon.

College of Pharmacy Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

David Lee, 503-494-2258

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Maintaining activity

Categories: Research news

Computer science student beats odds, hopes to expand computer usability

Mon, 06/09/2014 - 8:55am
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Charles Hill struggled through 17 years of foster care, health problems and other challenges to earn a degree this year in computer science.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The odds were stacked against Charles Hill ever receiving a computer science degree from Oregon State University.

Hill spent 17 years in foster care, from which only a small fraction of people obtain college degrees. He experienced abuse, neglect and hunger during his childhood; had no family support to attend college; and copes with ADHD and depression.

But with the help of an OSU professor and others who believed in him, Hill will participate in commencement ceremonies in June and graduate this summer with a degree in computer science. He will also go on to pursue a doctoral degree, as one of only 13 Google Lime Scholars in the nation – $10,000 awards made to students with mental or physical disadvantages to encourage them to stay in the field of engineering.

“One of my major goals in becoming a professor is to rectify some of the inequalities in our education system for those who are less fortunate,” Hill said.

For his graduate work, Hill plans to investigate differences in the problem-solving strategies of people in lower socioeconomic groups, and how to improve software tools to better match their problem-solving needs.

From the age of 10 months to 18 years, Hill remained in foster care. Of the 27,000 children each year who reach the age of 18 in foster care, only 6 percent successfully complete a two-year or four-year degree.

At OSU, Hill met Margaret Burnett, a professor of computer science who does research in how to improve human and computer interaction. She selected Hill as an undergraduate research assistant in her lab – and, further impressed with his capabilities, accepted him as a graduate student, and encouraged him to apply for the Google Lime scholarship.

“I've never met anyone more intellectually curious than he is,” Burnett said. “He just drinks in knowledge.”

Hill’s interest in computer science sparked when, as a middle-schooler, he picked up a computer at a thrift store for $25 and on his own figured out how to fix it. Although his initial goal was to get it to play video games, he soon became the go-to guy for computer problems among his friends and family.

Hill’s dual interests in psychology and computer science matched well with Burnett’s work, the study of how software design can better support the humans who use it. For example, she has studied gender differences in problem solving, to help design tools that serve female and male users equally.

Due to his disabilities, Hill’s first two years of college were a struggle and he lost access to financial aid because of low grades. Rather than give up, Hill sought therapy for ADHD, turned around his grades, and worked as many as three jobs while going to school.

Hill is committed not just to his research and a desire to teach, but also in his personal life. He and his wife became foster care providers while they were both working and going to school. His wife’s grandmother had been caring for an elderly man with intellectual disabilities when she passed away. Rather than see him moved into a group home or with people he didn’t know, they stepped up to take over his care.

Hill credits key people throughout his life to help him stay on a path to success — from a good friend in middle school, to a teacher who motivated him to graduate from high school, his wife who kept after him to not give up on college, and finally Burnett who encouraged him to continue on to graduate school.

“Having someone so accomplished as Professor Burnett believe in my abilities has helped me embrace my potential,” Hill said.

College of Engineering Media Contact: 

Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098

Source: 

Margaret Burnett, 541-737-2539

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Charles and Mary Beth Hill

Categories: Research news

Research could lead to new cancer assay, aid both dogs and humans

Thu, 06/05/2014 - 10:07am
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Research at OSU should lead to a new assay for bladder cancer, in both dogs and humans, and improve treatment success.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Veterinary researchers at Oregon State University have identified a unique group of proteins that indicate the presence of transitional cell carcinoma – the most common cause of bladder cancer – and may lead to a new assay which could better diagnose this disease in both dogs and humans.

Bladder cancer is particularly common in some dog breeds, such as collies, sheepdogs and terriers, but is rarely diagnosed in animals before it has spread significantly. Some assays exist to detect it in humans, but they often have a high-number of false-positive identifications.

An improved assay to detect this serious disease much earlier in both animals and humans should be possible, scientists said, and may even become affordable enough that it could be used as an over-the-counter product to test urine, much like a human pregnancy test. Some of the work may also contribute to new therapies, they said.

“Research of this type should first help us develop a reliable assay for this cancer in dogs, and improve the chance the disease can be caught early enough that treatments are effective,” said Shay Bracha, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine.

“However, this type of cancer is essentially the same in dogs and humans,” Bracha said. “Dogs are an excellent model for human cancer research, and an assay that works with dogs should be directly relevant to creation of a similar assay for humans. We hope to make it inexpensive and convenient, something that people could use routinely to protect either the health of their pets or themselves.”

The findings were published recently in Analytical Chemistry, a professional journal.

In this research, scientists used mass spectrometry and the evolving science of proteomics to identify 96 proteins that appear related to transitional cell carcinoma. This is a fairly common cancer in dogs, often as a result of exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and poor quality foods; and in humans is closely related to smoking.

Advanced-stage disease in both dogs and humans has a poor prognosis, as chemotherapy and radiation treatments are often ineffective. Average survival time is less than one year. Some assays exist to help identify the disease in humans but can produce false positive results, often as a result of urinary tract infections. And the biopsies used to make a definitive diagnosis require general anesthesia and also run the risk of actually spreading the disease.

The group of proteins identified in this research already have a 90 percent accuracy, and researchers say they hope to improve upon that with continued research.

However, researchers say that some of these proteins are more than just biomarkers of the disease – they are part of the disease process. Identifying proteins that are integral to the spread of the cancer may allow new targets for intervention and cancer therapies, they said.

Collaborators on this research included the OSU Department of Chemistry. A mathematical model that was integral to the study was created by Jan Medlock, an OSU assistant professor of veterinary medicine, and veterinary researchers Michael McNamara and Ian Hilgart helped initiate the project. The work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health.

College of Veterinary Medicine Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Shay Bracha, 541-737-4844

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Border collie

Categories: Research news

OSU calculator helps organic farmers use fertilizer more efficiently

Thu, 06/05/2014 - 8:56am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – Organic farmers use cover crops and organic fertilizers, compost and other amendments to add nutrients to their soil. But are they getting the best bang for their buck?

A new online tool from the Oregon State University Extension Service does the math so that small-scale organic farmers can figure that out more precisely. Nick Andrews, an instructor with the OSU Extension Service's small farms program, helped develop the free, spreadsheet-based tool, which is called the Organic Fertilizer and Cover Crop Calculator, at http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/calculator.

"The calculator lets you estimate how much nitrogen and other nutrients your cover crops and fertilizers will provide for your next cash crop," Andrews said. "That could help you cut back on fertilizer use and benefit from your soil building practices."

Farmers can save money on fertilizer, while also using this information to reduce the risk of nutrient runoff into waterways, Andrews said. On the flip side, farmers might discover that they're not using enough fertilizer, he said.

Farmers and gardeners who don't use cover crops can still use the calculator to determine which types and amounts of organic and synthetic fertilizers to use.

The new calculator estimates the amount of nitrogen needed in pounds per 1,000 square feet while taking into account the amount of nitrogen added by cover crops and other soil amendments such as compost. The original 2010 calculator made calculations on a per acre basis.

This new calculator is most useful for small-scale farmers and experienced gardeners who are interested in refining their fertilizer programs. Before using the calculator, be sure to sample your soil. The calculator helps you account for legume cover crop nitrogen contributions and select the most cost-effective fertilizers, Andrews said.

Read more about cover crops, soil fertility and soil labs in the following Cooperative Extension publications.

Extension Service Media Contact:  Denise Ruttan Source: 

Nick Andrews, 503-678-1264

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Oregon State University has developed a new spreadsheet-based tool that will allow small-scale organic farmers to more accurately estimate nutrient contributions from cover crops and fertilizers. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Categories: Research news

Sea star disease epidemic surges in Oregon, local extinctions expected

Wed, 06/04/2014 - 1:21pm
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In the past two weeks an epidemic of sea star wasting syndrome has exploded in Oregon, creating a significant threat to marine intertidal ecosystems.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Just in the past two weeks, the incidence of sea star wasting syndrome has exploded along the Oregon Coast and created an epidemic of historic magnitude, one that threatens to decimate the entire population of purple ochre sea stars.

Prior to this, Oregon had been the only part of the West Coast that had been largely spared this devastating disease.

The ochre sea star, which is the species most heavily affected by the disease in the intertidal zone, may be headed toward localized extinction in Oregon, according to researchers at Oregon State University who have been monitoring the outbreak. As a “keystone” predator, its loss could disrupt the entire marine intertidal ecosystem.

Researchers say this is the first time that die-offs of sea stars, more commonly known as starfish, have ever been identified at one time along such a wide expanse of the West Coast, and the sudden increase in Oregon has been extraordinary.

The best information is from the intertidal zone, which is easier to access for monitoring. In this area, less than 1 percent of the ochre sea stars in Oregon were affected in April, and only slightly more than that by mid-May.

Today, an estimated 30-50 percent of the Oregon populations of this sea star species in the intertidal zone have the disease. The highest losses are at Fogarty Creek, where about 60 percent are affected. Researchers project that the epidemic will intensify and, at some sites, nearly 100 percent of the ochre sea stars could die.

“This is an unprecedented event,” said Bruce Menge, the Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology in the Department of Integrative Biology of the OSU College of Science. “We’ve never seen anything of this magnitude before.

“We have no clue what’s causing this epidemic, how severe the damage might be or how long that damage might last,” he said. “It’s very serious. Some of the sea stars most heavily affected are keystone predators that influence the whole diversity of life in the intertidal zone.”

Colleagues from the Oregon Coast Aquarium are monitoring subtidal sites in Yaquina Bay, where wasting was first observed in April. Photos and video of that work are available at http://bit.ly/1kMlG9s

Altogether, mortality has been documented in 10 species of sea stars on the West Coast. No definitive cause has yet been identified, and it could include bacterial or viral pathogens. Researchers around the nation are working on the issue. More information, including an interactive map of all observations, and opportunities for interested citizens to participate in the observation effort are available online at http://bit.ly/1o5bWNi

Sea star wasting syndrome is a traumatic process in which, over the course of a week or less, the sea stars begin to lose legs, disintegrate, ultimately die and rot. They sometimes physically tear their bodies apart. Various epidemics of the syndrome have been observed in the past, but none of this extent or severity.

In a healthy ecosystem, sea stars are beautiful, but also tenacious and important parts of the marine ecosystem. In particular, they attack mussels and keep their populations under control. Absent enough sea stars, mussel populations can explode, covering up algae and other small invertebrates. Some affected sea stars also eat sea urchins. This could lead to increased numbers of sea urchins that can overgraze kelp and sea grass beds, reducing habitat for other fish that use such areas for food and refuge.

The very ecological concept of “keystone predators,” in fact, originated from work in 1969 at the University of Washington using this same purple ochre sea star as a model.

“Parts of California, Washington, and British Columbia had already been affected by this outbreak of the wasting syndrome,” said Kristen Milligan, program coordinator at OSU for the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, or PISCO, which is a collaboration of OSU, the University of California/Santa Cruz, UC/Santa Barbara and Stanford University.

“It wasn’t clear why those areas had been hit and Oregon had not,” Milligan said. “We were hoping that Oregon’s coast would be spared. Although it was hit late, we are obviously being hit hard by this potentially devastating syndrome.”

A group of OSU undergraduate students have assisted in recent monitoring of the OSU outbreak, studying conditions at 10 sites from south of Cape Blanco to north of Depoe Bay. Researchers say this is one of the best documented outbreaks of marine disease ever undertaken in North America.

Besides OSU and PISCO, other collaborators in this Oregon initiative include the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon Coast Watch, Haystack Rock Awareness Program in Cannon Beach, and the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network. Oregon Sea Grant provides funding for volunteer surveys in the intertidal zone, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation provides support to PISCO.

In some past cases, ecosystems have recovered from severe losses of sea stars, but in others damage has been long-lasting.

In the past, some of the outbreaks were associated with warm-water conditions during El Nino events, but currently the water temperatures in Oregon “are only at the high end of a normal range,” Menge said.

 

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Kristen Milligan, 541-737-8862

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Dying sea star




Oregon Coast Aquarium diver monitoring




OSU students monitoring


YouTube video
http://bit.ly/1mazKuT

Categories: Research news

Iron, steel in hatcheries may distort magnetic “map sense” of steelhead

Tue, 06/03/2014 - 4:08pm
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Exposure to iron pipes and steel rebar, such as the materials found in most hatcheries, affects the navigation ability of young steelhead trout, according to new research from Oregon State University.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Exposure to iron pipes and steel rebar, such as the materials found in most hatcheries, affects the navigation ability of young steelhead trout by altering the important magnetic “map sense” they need for migration, according to new research from Oregon State University.

The exposure to iron and steel distorts the magnetic field around the fish, affecting their ability to navigate, said Nathan Putman, who led the study while working as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, part of OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

Just last year Putman and other researchers presented evidence of a correlation between the oceanic migration patterns of salmon and drift of the Earth’s magnetic field. Earlier this year they confirmed the ability of salmon to navigate using the magnetic field in experiments at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center. Scientists for decades have studied how salmon find their way across vast stretches of ocean.

“The better fish navigate, the higher their survival rate,” said Putman, who conducted the research at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center in the Alsea River basin last year. “When their magnetic field is altered, the fish get confused.”

Subtle differences in the magnetic environment within hatcheries could help explain why some hatchery fish do better than others when they are released into the wild, Putman said. Stabilizing the magnetic field by using alternative forms of hatchery construction may be one way to produce a better yield of fish, he said.

“It’s not a hopeless problem,” he said. “You can fix these kinds of things. Retrofitting hatcheries with non-magnetic materials might be worth doing if it leads to making better fish.”

Putman’s findings were published this week in the journal Biology Letters. The research was funded by Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, with support from Oregon State University. Co-authors of the study are OSU’s David Noakes, senior scientist at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center, and Amanda Meinke of the Oregon Hatchery Research Center.

The new findings follow earlier research by Putman and others that confirmed the connection between salmon and the Earth’s magnetic field. Researchers exposed hundreds of juvenile Chinook salmon to different magnetic fields that exist at the latitudinal extremes of their oceanic range.

Fish responded to these “simulated magnetic displacements” by swimming in the direction that would bring them toward the center of their marine feeding grounds. In essence, the research confirmed that fish possess a map sense, determining where they are and which way to swim based on the magnetic fields they encounter.

Putman repeated that experiment with the steelhead trout and achieved similar results. He then expanded the research to determine if changes to the magnetic field in which fish were reared would affect their map sense. One group of fish was maintained in a fiberglass tank, while the other group was raised in a similar tank but in the vicinity of iron pipes and a concrete floor with steel rebar, which produced a sharp gradient of magnetic field intensity within the tank. Iron pipes and steel reinforced concrete are common in fish hatcheries.

The scientists monitored and photographed the juvenile steelhead, called parr, and tracked the direction in which they were swimming during simulated magnetic displacement experiments. The steelhead reared in a natural magnetic field adjusted their map sense and tended to swim in the same direction. But fish that were exposed to the iron pipes and steel-reinforced concrete failed to show the appropriate orientation and swam in random directions.

More research is needed to determine exactly what that means for the fish. The loss of their map sense could be temporary and they could recalibrate their magnetic sense after a period of time, Putman said. Alternatively, if there is a critical window in which the steelhead’s map sense is imprinted, and it is exposed to an altered magnetic field then, the fish could remain confused forever, he said.

“There is evidence in other animals, especially in birds, that either is possible,” said Putman, who now works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “We don’t know enough about fish yet to know which is which. We should be able to figure that out with some simple experiments.”

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Nathan Putman, 205-218-5276 or Nathan.putman@gmail.com; or David Noakes, 541-737-1953, David.noakes@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

New York Yankee Jacoby Ellsbury commits $1 million to alma mater

Tue, 06/03/2014 - 1:49pm
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Jacoby Ellsbury of the New York Yankees has contributed $1 million to help expand the locker room facilities at OSU, his alma mater.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Jacoby Ellsbury, center fielder for the New York Yankees and former student-athlete at Oregon State University, has committed $1 million to help the OSU baseball program expand its locker room facilities.

Goss Stadium, which has stood on the Oregon State campus since 1907, is the oldest continuous ballpark in the nation, and has been home to the Beavers since the program’s first pitch more than 100 years ago.

“We are tremendously thankful,” said Pat Casey, who is in his 20th year as OSU’s head coach. “Great facilities are at the core of great programs, and with Jacoby’s generous gift we will be able to continue to offer our student-athletes a world-class experience.”

The stadium has undergone several enhancements in recent years with support from donors. Prior to the 2009 season, nearly 1,000 seats were added down the left and right field lines and the Omaha Room created seating for approximately 70.

Despite the recent improvements, the baseball program has outgrown its locker room space, Casey said. The proposed $2.8 million project will expand and enhance the locker room, update the equipment room, add team meeting space, and include both a new recruiting area and a centralized main entrance. In recognition of the gift, the OSU locker room facilities will be named in honor of Ellsbury.

“OSU Baseball has given me so much,” said Jacoby Ellsbury, who holds among his accolades the Beavers’ run record at 168. “I am thrilled I am able to help my alma mater carry on its proud tradition; and perhaps, this expansion will convince a few more Pacific Northwest recruits to wear OSU orange and black.”

The Madras, Ore., native played for Oregon State from 2003-2005 before being drafted 23rd overall by the Boston Red Sox in 2005. In 2007, he helped the club win the World Series. In 2011, he won the Rawlings Gold Glove Award, the Silver Slugger Award, and was the American League MVP runner-up. He earned his second World Series ring in 2013, before signing with the New York Yankees.

“Oregon State is where I got my start,” explained Ellsbury. “It’s where I learned—from Coach Casey, teammates, and assistant coaches—how to be a successful athlete, a successful person. For that, I am forever grateful.”

With this gift, donors to The Campaign for OSU have committed more than $172 million for OSU Athletics. University leaders announced in January that the campaign had passed its overall $1 billion goal with 11 months to spare, making OSU one of only 35 public universities to achieve the billion-dollar milestone in a campaign.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Michelle Williams Source: 

Pat Casey, 541-737-7472

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Goss Stadium

Categories: Research news

Reflections on wilderness featured at Corvallis Science Pub

Tue, 06/03/2014 - 10:16am
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At the June 9 Corvallis Science Pub, Cristina Eisenberg, an Oregon State University conservation biologist, will discuss why intact wilderness areas matter more today than they did in 1964.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Fifty years ago, Congress passed the Wilderness Act, which today protects nearly 110 million acres in the United States. At the June 9 Corvallis Science Pub, Cristina Eisenberg, an Oregon State University conservation biologist, will discuss why intact wilderness areas matter more today than they did in 1964.

The Science Pub presentation is free and open to the public and begins at 6 p.m. in the Majestic Theater, 115 S.W. Second St. in Corvallis.

Eisenberg’s intimate acquaintance with wilderness stems from 20 years of living with her family in a cabin adjacent to the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana. At 1 million acres, it comprises the second-largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states.

In her research, she studies interactions among wolves, elk, aspen and fire. In Rocky Mountain ecosystems, she has shown that relatively intact, large tracts of land are essential to create ecologically resilient landscapes. Such landscapes typically consist of extensive protected wilderness.

She will also read and show images from her recently published book, The Carnivore Way, in which she profiles the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, a 28-million-acre wildlife corridor that runs along the mountainous spine of North America.

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

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Cristina Eisenberg, 541-737-7524

Categories: Research news

Blueberries coated in leaf extracts have longer shelf life

Tue, 06/03/2014 - 9:55am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – An Oregon State University researcher has helped discover a substance in blueberry leaves – which are usually wasted – that can be added to berry coatings, extending their shelf life while adding antioxidants.

Working with an international team of scientists in China, OSU food scientist Yanyun Zhao found that an edible coating containing blueberry leaf extracts helped delay decay and retain water, which slowed down their natural deterioration. The extra weight could also mean extra cash for growers, because blueberries are often sold by volume.

The natural coatings can allow fresh blueberries to be washed and prepared as ready-to-eat products. Most blueberries in stores are unwashed because rinsing them removes their natural waxy coating that preserves the fruit.

"Normally, blueberry leaves fall to the ground as waste," said Zhao, a food science and technology professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. “We've discovered a use that can change how the berries are stored, sold, as well as increasing their nutritional value.”

Blueberry leaves, which have been used as an herbal remedy, contain high levels of antioxidant phenolics – chemical compounds with antimicrobial properties that protect against fungi and bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella.

To create the coatings, researchers mixed these phenolic extracts with chitosan, a natural preservative that comes from crustacean shells. OSU tested coatings made from leaves that were picked at different stages of berry maturity, and leaf extracts were formulated into five different coating treatments based on varying levels of phenols.

Blueberries were dipped in the liquid coating and then dried at room temperature to form dried coatings. Nozzles can also spray the coatings on the surface of the berries as they pass by on a conveyor belt, according to Zhao, a value-added food products specialist with the OSU Extension Service.

Coating the blueberries will add to their cost, she said, although it's unclear how much.

The research was conducted in collaboration with scientists in China, including Yun Deng, at Shanghai Jiao Tong University at the school's Bor Luh Food Safety Center, and published in the journals of Food Control and Postharvest Biology and Technology.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Daniel Robison Source: 

Yanyun Zhao, 541-737-9151

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To create edible coatings, researchers mixed extracts from blueberry leaves with chitosan, a natural preservative that comes from crustacean shells. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Categories: Research news

Tracking potato famine pathogen to its home may aid $6 billion global fight

Mon, 06/02/2014 - 8:19am
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OSU researchers have identified the Toluca Valley of central Mexico as the ancestral home of one of the world's most costly and deadly plant pathogens.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The cause of potato late blight and the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s has been tracked to a pretty, alpine valley in central Mexico, which is ringed by mountains and now known to be the ancestral home of one of the most costly and deadly plant diseases in human history.

Research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by researchers from Oregon State University, the USDA Agricultural Research Service and five other institutions, concludes that Phytophthora infestans originated in this valley and co-evolved with potatoes over hundreds or maybe a few thousand years, and later spread repeatedly to much of the world.

Knowing the origin of the pathogen does more than just fill in a few facts in agricultural history, the scientists say. It provides new avenues to discover resistance genes, and helps explain the mechanisms of repeated emergence of this disease, which to this day is still the most costly potato pathogen in the world.

Potato late blight continues to be a major threat to global food security and at least $6 billion a year is spent to combat it, mostly due to the cost of fungicides and substantial yield losses. But P. infestans is now one of the few plant pathogens in the world with a well-characterized center of origin.

“This is immensely important,” said Niklaus Grunwald, who is a courtesy professor in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University, a researcher with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, and lead author on the study.

“This is just a textbook example of a center of origin for a pathogen, and it’s a real treat,” Grunwald said. “I can’t think of another system so well understood. This should allow us to make significant headway in finding additional genes that provide resistance to P. infestans.”

Finding ways to genetically resist the potato late blight, scientists say, could help reduce the use of fungicides, and the expense and environmental concerns associated with them.

There had been competing theories about where P. infestans may have evolved, with the leading candidates being the Toluca Valley near Mexico City, or areas in South America where the potato itself actually evolved thousands of years ago.

Gene sequencing technology used by this research group helped pin down the Toluca Valley as the ancestral hot spot. The P. infestans pathogen co-evolved there hundreds of years ago with plants that were distant cousins of modern potatoes, which produced tubers but were more often thought of as a weed than a vegetable crop.

Today, the newly-confirmed home of this pathogen awaits researchers almost as a huge, natural laboratory, Grunwald said. Since different potato varieties, plants and pathogens have been co-evolving there for hundreds of years, it offers some of the best hope to discover genes that provide some type of resistance.

Along with other staple foods such as corn, rice and wheat, the potato forms a substantial portion of the modern human diet. A recent United Nations report indicated that every person on Earth eats, on average, more than 70 pounds of potatoes a year. Potatoes contain a range of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber and – for hungry populations – needed calories.

It’s believed that the potato was first domesticated more than 7,000 years ago in parts of what are now Peru and Bolivia, and it was brought to Europe by Spanish explorers in the late 1500s. A cheap and plentiful crop that can grow in many locations, the ability to increase food production with the potato eventually aided a European population boom in the 1800s.

But what the New World provided, it also took away - in the form of a potato late blight attack that originated from Mexico, caused multiple crop failures and led, among other things, to the Irish potato famine that began in 1845. Before it was over, 1 million people had died and another 1 million emigrated, many to the U.S.

That famine was exacerbated by lack of potato diversity, as some of the varieties most vulnerable to P. infestans were also the varieties most widely cultivated.

Collaborators on the research were from the University of Florida, the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, the University of the Andes in Colombia, Cornell University, and the International Potato Center in Beijing. It was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Scottish government.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Niklaus Grunwald, 541-738-4049

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Toluca Valley




Potato relative




Infected plant

Categories: Research news

Exhibit featuring graduating seniors’ artwork on display at OSU

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 9:15am
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The exhibit featuring the artwork of graduating seniors will be on display in the Fairbanks Gallery from June 2 through June 13.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — “So Long, Suckers,” an exhibit featuring the artwork of graduating seniors, will be on display in the Fairbanks Gallery at Oregon State University from June 2 through June 13.

A reception will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 4. Exhibit awards, including the President’s Award for Excellence in Art, the Provost's Purchase Award and the College of Liberal Arts Dean's Purchase Award will be announced at the event, which is free and open to the public.

Seven graduating art students from different disciplines will participate in this year’s exhibit. They are:

  • Savannah Youngquist, silk-screen printing. Using her family and friends as influences for her work, she has been working with patterning using foods that remind her of her family members.
  • Allison Yano, ink drawings, painting and monotype printmaking. The driving force behind her work lies in the concept of spaces and their occupants and the forming of relationships between people and the impermanence of their presence.
  • Alice Marshall, three-dimensional drawings. She emphasizes the relationship between human and nature, exploring what happens when the intention is to preserve a part of the natural world.
  • Daniel Johnson, landscape painting. Working primarily in oil, he draws inspiration from his scenic hometown of Moab, Utah.
  • Alyssa Elkins is exploring the connections between the human and our natural environment. She is interested in the way we alter our world to better fit our needs and the ways in which the world reacts and changes itself to compensate for our adjustments.
  • Kusra Kapuler, sculpture and video addresses core human experiences. Focusing on emotions, reactions and thoughts, the work has different mediums. These include paper, bronze and fabric.
  • Darlayne Buys, who is exploring the discarded nature of objects and the obsessive or emotional associations we make with objects through a series of paintings of wedding dresses.

At the reception, scholarships for the upcoming year will be announced and senior of distinction certificates will be presented to outstanding seniors. Community-sponsored awards acknowledging outstanding artwork in the exhibit will also be presented. Blick Art Materials, the OSU Bookstore and Peak Sports are sponsors.

The Fairbanks Gallery, 220 S.W. 26th St., Corvallis, is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Douglas Russell, 541-737-5009, drussell@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Student-directed one-act play festival opens June 4

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 9:12am
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Oregon State University Theatre’s annual Spring One-Act Festival will run June 4 through June 8 in the Lab Theatre in Withycombe Hall.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University Theatre’s annual Spring One-Act Festival will run June 4 through June 8 in the Lab Theatre in Withycombe Hall, 2901 S.W. Campus Way, Corvallis.

The festival includes ten one-act plays featuring an eclectic mix of comedy and drama directed by advanced directing students. The plays will be presented in two panels. Panel A runs June 4 and June 6 at 7:30 p.m., and June 7 at 2 p.m. Panel B will run June 5 and June 7 at 7:30 p.m., and June 8 at 2 p.m.

Plays in Panel A are:

  • “Check Please!” directed by Deborah Shapiro, is a series of blind dinner dates that turn into comic chaos. It features Joe Hill, Caitlin Reichmann, Renee Zipp, Brice Amarasinghe, Mike Turner, Beth Kowal, Scott D. Shapton and Sarah Koonse.
  • “Judgment Morning,” directed by Mark McIntyre, is the story of a trio of siblings facing judgment on the morning of a funeral. It features Reed Morris, Blair Bowmer and Elise Barberis.
  • “Heart of Hearing,” directed by Sam Zinsli, is a classic “will-they-or-won’t-they” drama featuring Alex Graham and Bria Love Robertson.
  • “The Worker,” directed by Troy Toyama, portrays a dystopian future and a man with a secret featuring Melissa Cozzi, Kolby Baethke and Joe Hill.
  • “The Merchandise King,” directed by Teri Straley, is a comic parody of Disney’s “The Lion King,” featuring Mike Stephens, Kyle Stockdall, Erin Wallerstein, Alex Toner and Annie Parham.

Plays in Panel B are:  

  • “The Problem,” directed by Anna Mahaffey, features Chris Peterman and Arin Dooley as a married couple from the late 1960s.
  • “Evanescence, or Shakespeare in the Ally,” directed by Ricky Zipp, is about a woman who faces an existential crisis after sudden life changes and features Sarah Clausen and Bryan Smith.
  • “Murder by Midnight,” directed by Bryanna Rainwater, is a clever campy murder mystery featuring students J. Garrett Luna, Sarah Sutton and Kolby Baethke.
  • “The Sign,” directed by Joseph Workman, is the poignant story of two childhood friends reunited at a funeral. It features Bryan Smith and Thoman Nath.
  • “The Lifeboat is Sinking,” directed by Sam Thompson, is a quirky comedy about marriage and compromise featuring Elise Bareris and Alex Small.

Tickets are $8 for general admission, $6 for seniors, $5 for youths and students, and $4 for OSU students. For information or to purchase tickets, contact the OSU Theatre Box Office at 541-737-2784 or visit the website at http://bit.ly/1jdKUgy.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Elizabeth Helman, Elizabeth.helman@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Amber discovery indicates Lyme disease is older than human race

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 4:09pm
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Researchers have discovered that lyme disease, once considered a fairly "new" disease only identified 40 years ago, has actually been around since long before humans existed.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Lyme disease is a stealthy, often misdiagnosed disease that was only recognized about 40 years ago, but new discoveries of ticks fossilized in amber show that the bacteria which cause it may have been lurking around for 15 million years – long before any humans walked on Earth.

The findings were made by researchers from Oregon State University, who studied 15-20 million-year-old amber from the Dominican Republic that offer the oldest fossil evidence ever found of Borrelia, a type of spirochete-like bacteria that to this day causes Lyme disease. They were published in the journal Historical Biology.

In a related study, published in Cretaceous Research, OSU scientists announced the first fossil record of Rickettsial-like cells, a bacteria that can cause various types of spotted fever. Those fossils from Myanmar were found in ticks about 100 million years old.

As summer arrives and millions of people head for the outdoors, it’s worth considering that these tick-borne diseases may be far more common than has been historically appreciated, and they’ve been around for a long, long time.

“Ticks and the bacteria they carry are very opportunistic,” said George Poinar, Jr., a professor emeritus in the Department of Integrative Biology of the OSU College of Science, and one of the world’s leading experts on plant and animal life forms found preserved in amber. “They are very efficient at maintaining populations of microbes in their tissues, and can infect mammals, birds, reptiles and other animals.

“In the United States, Europe and Asia, ticks are a more important insect vector of disease than mosquitos,” Poinar said. “They can carry bacteria that cause a wide range of diseases, affect many different animal species, and often are not even understood or recognized by doctors.

“It’s likely that many ailments in human history for which doctors had no explanation have been caused by tick-borne disease.”

Lyme disease is a perfect example. It can cause problems with joints, the heart and central nervous system, but researchers didn’t even know it existed until 1975. If recognized early and treated with antibiotics, it can be cured. But it’s often mistaken for other health conditions. And surging deer populations in many areas are causing a rapid increase in Lyme disease – the confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease in Nova Scotia nearly tripled in 2013 over the previous year.

The new research shows these problems with tick-borne disease have been around for millions of years.

Bacteria are an ancient group that date back about 3.6 billion years, almost as old as the planet itself. As soft-bodied organisms they are rarely preserved in the fossil record, but an exception is amber, which begins as a free-flowing tree sap that traps and preserves material in exquisite detail as it slowly turns into a semi-precious mineral.

A series of four ticks from Dominican amber were analyzed in this study, revealing a large population of spirochete-like cells that most closely resemble those of the present-day Borrelia species. In a separate report, Poinar found cells that resemble Rickettsia bacteria, the cause of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and related illnesses. This is the oldest fossil evidence of ticks associated with such bacteria.

In 30 years of studying diseases revealed in the fossil record, Poinar has documented the ancient presence of such diseases as malaria, leishmania, and others. Evidence suggests that dinosaurs could have been infected with Rickettsial pathogens.

Humans have probably been getting diseases, including Lyme disease, from tick-borne bacteria as long as there have been humans, Poinar said. The oldest documented case is the Tyrolean iceman, a 5,300-year-old mummy found in a glacier in the Italian Alps.

“Before he was frozen in the glacier, the iceman was probably already in misery from Lyme disease,” Poinar said. “He had a lot of health problems and was really a mess.”

College of Science Source: 

George Poinar, Jr.

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Tick carrying spirochetes




Spirochetes that carry lyme disease



 

Rickettsia-like cells




Tick carrying rickettsia

Categories: Research news

Keszler named associate dean in OSU College of Science

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 2:56pm
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Douglas Keszler, a distinguished professor in the OSU Department of Chemistry, has been named associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Science.

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The College of Science at Oregon State University has named Douglas Keszler as associate dean for research and graduate studies.

Keszler, a distinguished professor in the OSU Department of Chemistry and director of the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry, earned his doctorate from Northwestern University and in 1984 joined OSU.

He is an expert on the synthesis and study of inorganic molecules and materials that will enable next-generation electronic and energy devices, including high-efficiency solar cells. His pioneering science contributions are being commercialized by three start-up companies – Inpria, Amorphyx, and Beet.

“I am confident that Doug will have a tremendous impact on the college’s research excellence, collaborations across departments and colleges, mentorship of faculty, industry partnerships and start-ups,” said Sastry G. Pantula, dean of the college, “while increasing the quality, quantity, and diversity of our graduate programs.”

The associate dean supports graduate and faculty research, cultivates collaborative research and large-scale interdisciplinary projects, and helps to identify potential industry partners and start-ups.

 “I look forward to enhancing a supportive and creative research environment, advancing high-quality graduate programs that support broad professional development of students, and enriching the scientific research community at OSU,” Keszler said.

Home to the life, statistical, physical and mathematical sciences, the College of Science has graduated more than 25,000 students since 1932 and is recognized for excellence in research and scholarship.

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Debbie Farris, 541-737-4862

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Doug Keszler

Categories: Research news

Antarctic Ice Sheet unstable at end of last ice age

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 10:28am
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The Antarctic Ice Sheet began melting about 5,000 years earlier than previously thought coming out of the last ice age – and that shrinkage of the vast ice sheet accelerated during eight episodes, causing rapid sea level rise.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study has found that the Antarctic Ice Sheet began melting about 5,000 years earlier than previously thought coming out of the last ice age – and that shrinkage of the vast ice sheet accelerated during eight distinct episodes, causing rapid sea level rise.

The international study, funded in part by the National Science Foundation, is particularly important coming on the heels of recent studies that suggest destabilization of part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has begun.

Results of this latest study are being published this week in the journal Nature. It was conducted by researchers at University of Cologne, Oregon State University, the Alfred-Wegener-Institute, University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Lapland, University of New South Wales, and University of Bonn.

The researchers examined two sediment cores from the Scotia Sea between Antarctica and South America that contained “iceberg-rafted debris” that had been scraped off Antarctica by moving ice and deposited via icebergs into the sea. As the icebergs melted, they dropped the minerals into the seafloor sediments, giving scientists a glimpse at the past behavior of the Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Periods of rapid increases in iceberg-rafted debris suggest that more icebergs were being released by the Antarctic Ice Sheet. The researchers discovered increased amounts of debris during eight separate episodes beginning as early as 20,000 years ago, and continuing until 9,000 years ago.

The melting of the Antarctic Ice Sheet wasn’t thought to have started, however, until 14,000 years ago.

“Conventional thinking based on past research is that the Antarctic Ice Sheet has been relatively stable since the last ice age, that it began to melt relatively late during the deglaciation process, and that its decline was slow and steady until it reached its present size,” said lead author Michael Weber, a scientist from the University of Cologne in Germany.

“The sediment record suggests a different pattern – one that is more episodic and suggests that parts of the ice sheet repeatedly became unstable during the last deglaciation,” Weber added.

The research also provides the first solid evidence that the Antarctic Ice Sheet contributed to what is known as meltwater pulse 1A, a period of very rapid sea level rise that began some 14,500 years ago, according to Peter Clark, an Oregon State University paleoclimatologist and co-author on the study.

The largest of the eight episodic pulses outlined in the new Nature study coincides with meltwater pulse 1A.

“During that time, the sea level on a global basis rose about 50 feet in just 350 years – or about 20 times faster than sea level rise over the last century,” noted Clark, a professor in Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “We don’t yet know what triggered these eight episodes or pulses, but it appears that once the melting of the ice sheet began it was amplified by physical processes.”

The researchers suspect that a feedback mechanism may have accelerated the melting, possibly by changing ocean circulation that brought warmer water to the Antarctic subsurface, according to co-author Axel Timmermann, a climate researcher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

“This positive feedback is a perfect recipe for rapid sea level rise,” Timmermann said.

Some 9,000 years ago, the episodic pulses of melting stopped, the researchers say.

“Just as we are unsure of what triggered these eight pulses,” Clark said, “we don’t know why they stopped. Perhaps the sheet ran out of ice that was vulnerable to the physical changes that were taking place. However, our new results suggest that the Antarctic Ice Sheet is more unstable than previously considered.”

Today, the annual calving of icebergs from Antarctic represents more than half of the annual loss of mass of the Antarctic Ice Sheet – an estimated 1,300 to 2,000 gigatons (a gigaton is a billion tons). Some of these giant icebergs are longer than 18 kilometers.

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

Peter Clark, 541-740-5237

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Recover sediment cores




Sheared icebergs




Retrieving cores

Categories: Research news

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