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OSU’s 13th president leaves legacy of university expansion and success

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 5:01pm
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OSU's 13th president Paul Risser left a legacy of university expansion, academic and athletic success. He died July 10 at the age of 74.

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Paul Risser, the 13th president of Oregon State University from 1996 to late 2002, died Thursday in Norman, Oklahoma. He was 74.

Risser was president at OSU through a period of significant enrollment growth, new facilities, expanded fund raising, renewed athletic success and the creation of the OSU-Cascades Campus.

“President Risser led Oregon State during a time of challenge and transition,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “He helped to re-energize our intercollegiate athletics programs, increased enrollment, led the successful effort to establish the Cascades Campus in Bend, guided the university through difficult financial times and helped to raise Beaver pride.”

Ray also pointed out Risser’s achievements in donor support and expansion of the OSU campus.

“Paul resumed the process of renovating and building important campus facilities and positioning the university for successful fundraising in the years ahead,” Ray said. “He wanted every student at the university to reach their full potential and promoted programs to achieve that goal. Paul was a wise and kind mentor to me, and we are grateful to him for his essential role in helping to build this great university.”

Under Risser's leadership, OSU boosted recruiting efforts, expanded scholarship offerings, broadened its marketing, and implemented new orientation and retention programs. In 2000, the Oregon State System of Higher Education selected Oregon State to develop the first branch campus in Oregon history, and the OSU-Cascades Campus opened in Bend in September, 2001.

Risser also helped Oregon State launch an effort to propel its College of Engineering into one of the top programs in the nation. In 2000, the university began an ambitious 10-year, $180 million fundraising campaign, with two-thirds of the funds to be raised privately. That campaign led to a $20 million gift from alumnus Martin E. Kelley to support the initiative.

As an advocate for a successful athletic program, Risser strongly supported more competitive teams, improved facilities, reduced athletic department debt, and watched as the university’s football team once again gained success and went to the 2001 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, defeating Notre Dame 41-9.

A number of campus buildings were constructed under Risser’s watch, including the CH2M-HILL Alumni Center, the $40 million expansion of Valley Library, and Richardson Hall. The university’s first new residence hall in 30 years, Halsell Hall, also opened.

An accomplished ecologist, researcher and scholar, Risser authored or edited six books and published more than 100 chapters and scientific papers in academic journals.

Risser had come to OSU from a position as president of Miami University in Ohio. He left in January, 2003, to return to his home state, becoming chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Ed Ray, 541-737-4133

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Paul Risser

Categories: Research news

Precipitation, not warming temperatures, may be key in bird adaptation to climate change

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 3:28pm
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Precipitation changes are more likely than regional warming to influence bird population trends in the future, a new study suggests.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new model analyzing how birds in western North America will respond to climate change suggests that for most species, regional warming is not as likely to influence population trends as will precipitation changes.

Several past studies have found that temperature increases can push some animal species – including birds – into higher latitudes or higher elevations. Few studies, however, have tackled the role that changes in precipitation may cause, according to Matthew Betts, an Oregon State University ecologist and a principal investigator on the study.

“When we think of climate change, we automatically think warmer temperatures,” said Betts, an associate professor in Oregon State’s College of Forestry. “But our analysis found that for many species, it is precipitation that most affects the long-term survival of many bird species.

“It makes sense when you think about it,” Betts added. “Changes in precipitation can affect plant growth, soil moisture, water storage and insect abundance and distributions.”

Results of the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation with support from the U.S. Geological Survey and others, are being published in the journal Global Change Biology.

The researchers examined long-term data on bird distributions and abundance covering five states in the western United States, and in the Canadian province of British Columbia, testing statistical models to predict temporal changes in population of 132 bird species over a 32-year period. They analyzed the impacts of temperature and precipitation on bird distributions at the beginning of the study period (the 1970s) and then tested how well the predictions performed against actual population trends over the ensuing 30 years.

The scientists keyed in on several variables, including possible changes during the wettest month in each region, the breeding season of different species, and the driest month by area. Their model found that models including precipitation were most successful at predicting bird population trends.

“For some species, the model can predict about 80 percent of variation,” Betts said, “and for some species, it’s just a flip of the coin. But the strongest message is that precipitation is an important factor and we should pay more attention to the implications of this moving forward.”

The study incorporated a lot of complex variables into the model, including micro-climatic changes that are present in mountainous environments. The research area encompassed California to northern British Columbia and the mountain systems drive much of the changes in both temperature and precipitation.

The researchers chose December precipitation as one variable and found it to be influential in affecting bird populations.

“Someone might ask why December, since half of the bird species usually present in the Pacific Northwest, for instance, might not even be here since they’re migratory,” Betts noted. “But much of the critical precipitation is snow that falls in the winter and has a carryover effect for months later – and the runoff is what affects stream flows, plant growth and insect abundance well down the road.”

The rufous hummingbird is one species that appeared affected by changes in December precipitation, the researchers say. The species is declining across western North America at a rate of about 3 percent a year, and the model suggest it is linked to an overall drying trend in the Northwest. The evening grosbeak is similarly affected the authors say.

On the other hand, the California towhee shows a negative association with December precipitation, appears to be drought-tolerant – and its populations remain stable.

“We cannot say for certain that a change in December precipitation caused declines in evening grosbeaks or rufous hummingbirds,” said Javier Gutiérrez Illán, a former postdoctoral researcher at Oregon State and lead author on the study. “Our model shows, however, a strong association between the birds’ decline and precipitation changes and the fact that this variable pointed to actual past changes in populations gives it validity.”

“The study shows that models can predict the direction and magnitude of population changes,” he added. “This is of fundamental importance considering predictions were successful even in new locations.”

The next phase of the research is to use the model to determine if there are patterns in the sorts of species affected – for instance, birds that are migratory or non-migratory, or short- or long-lived. They also hope to test additional variables, including land use changes, wildfire impacts, competition between species and other factors.

“In general, our study suggests that if climate change results in winters with less precipitation, we likely will see a spring drying effect,” Betts said. “This means that populations of drought-tolerant species will expand and birds that rely heavily on moisture should decline.”

College of Forestry Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Matt Betts, 541-737-3841

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Rufous hummingbird

Categories: Research news

Sophisticated radiation detector designed for broad public use

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 11:08am
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A small, inexpensive radiation detector developed at OSU may help people around the world better understand radiation, and help detect risks if any are present.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Nuclear engineers at Oregon State University have developed a small, portable and  inexpensive radiation detection device that should help people all over the world better understand the radiation around them, its type and intensity, and whether or not it poses a health risk.

The device was developed in part due to public demand following the nuclear incident in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011, when many regional residents were unsure what level of radiation they were being exposed to and whether their homes, food, environment and drinking water were safe.

Devices that could provide that type of information were costly and not readily available to the general public, and experts realized there was a demand for improved systems that could provide convenient, accurate information at a low cost. The new system should eventually be available for less than $150.

Findings on the new technology were just published in Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, a professional journal. The systems are not yet available for commercial sale.

Beyond the extremely rare occasion of a radiological or nuclear incident, the new technology may also help interested consumers learn more about the world of radiation surrounding us, the constant exposure they receive – everything from a concrete wall to the air we breathe, soils around us or a granite kitchen counter top – and how to understand routine radiation exposure as a part of normal life.

“With a device such as this, people will be better able to understand and examine the environment in which they live,” said Abi Farsoni, an associate professor of nuclear engineering in the OSU College of Engineering. “Radiation is a natural part of our lives that many people don’t understand, but in some cases there’s also a need to measure it accurately in case something could be a health concern. This technology will accomplish both those goals.”

Of some interest, the researchers said, is that the technology being used in the new device provides measurements of radiation that are not only less expensive but also more efficient and accurate than many existing technologies that cost far more. Because of that, the system may find use not just by consumers but in laboratories and industries around the world that deal with radioactive material. This could include scientific research, medical treatments, emergency response, nuclear power plants or industrial needs.

The system is a miniaturized gamma ray spectrometer, which means it can measure not only the intensity of radiation but also identify the type of radionuclide that is creating it. Such a system is far more sophisticated than old-fashioned “Geiger counters” that provide only minimal information about the presence and level of radioactivity.

“The incident at Fukushima made us realize that many people wanted, but were not able to afford, a simple technology to tell them if their environment, food or water was safe,” Farsoni said. “This portable system, smaller than a golf ball, can do that, and it will also have wireless connectivity so it could be used remotely, or connected to the Internet.”

The system combines digital electronics with a fairly new type of “scintillation detector” that gives it the virtues of small size, durability, operation at room temperature, good energy resolution, low power consumption and light weight, while being able to measure radiation levels and identify the radionuclides producing them.

Various models may be developed for different needs, researchers said, one of which might be the ability to measure radon gas and check homes with possible concerns for that type of radiation exposure, which can sometimes come from soils, rocks, concrete walls or foundations.

“There are a lot of misconceptions by many people about radioactivity and natural background radiation, and technology of this type may help address some of those issues,” Farsoni said. “Sometimes, there are also real concerns, and the device will be able to identify them. And of some importance to us, we want the technology to be very simple and affordable so anyone can obtain and use it.”

The new device will ultimately be commercialized after final development is completed, researchers said.

College of Engineering Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Abi Farsoni, 541-737-9645

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Small detection device

Categories: Research news

Review: Lead ammunition can be deadly, though mitigation may help

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 2:19pm
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A review of scientific studies on lead ammunition found that lead ingestion accounts for illness and mortality in more than 120 bird species in North America, but mitigation will be challenging.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The ingestion of lead ammunition and lead fishing tackle accounts for illness and mortality in more than 120 different species of birds in North America, according to a newly published review of scientific studies on the issue.

What impact that has at the population level for species is less clear, the researchers say, as is how to deal with the growing controversy over the use of lead for hunting and fishing. The lead issue is complex and steps to mitigate the impacts will be challenging – from cost and performance factors to manufacturing output – but they are possible, the authors point out.

“Although lead shot has been banned for waterfowl hunting in the United States since 1991, and in Canada since 1999, exposure to lead remains a problem for many bird species,” said Susan Haig, supervisory wildlife ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and lead author on the study. “However, we did find several examples of ways wildlife managers have helped reduce exposure of birds to lead.”

The review of scientific studies, conducted by biologists from several different institutions and agencies, was published in the July edition of the journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications. A companion perspective article, written by Clinton Epps, an associate professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University, examines the challenges of transitioning to non-lead ammunition.

In their papers, the researchers do not call for any policy changes, but they outline some of the challenges of reducing the use of lead and explore tactics that have been used to reduce lead exposure.

“Shifting to non-lead alternatives is a lot more complicated than some people think,” said Epps, who has hunted for more than 30 years. “Any efforts to shift hunters and fishermen from using lead needs to be well-informed and collaborative. Everyone concerned with this issue must be prepared to invest time, money, and expertise to work not only with hunters and fishermen, but with ammunition and tackle manufacturers.”

Epps has looked at copper bullets as one less-toxic alternative to lead and notes that they generally work well in modern firearms commonly used for big game hunting. However, effective non-lead alternatives have not yet been developed for all types of hunting firearms, he added.

In the review article, the researchers outline the availability of non-lead ammunition in October 2013 in 35 different calibers and 51 rifle-cartridge configurations at three major online retailers. Of the non-lead options sold by those retailers, only a small proportion was actually in stock: Cabela’s had non-lead ammunition in 18 percent of available sizes; Cheaper Than Dirt, 27 percent; and Bass Pro Shops, 10 percent.

“Non-lead bullets can be difficult to find in all calibers needed, but availability is improving,” Epps said. “Premium quality hunting ammunition costs about the same for lead-based and non-lead options, but I see a lot of people using the cheaper options, which invariably contain lead, so cost may be an issue – particularly for high-volume users.”

The physical properties of lead – including high density, low melting point, malleability and resistance to corrosion – have made it popular in the manufacturing of ammunition and fishing sinkers. However, many birds are sensitive to lead exposure, affecting the structure and function of kidneys, bones, the central nervous system and the blood system. Impacts range from lethargy and anorexia, to reproductive issues and death.

In their review, the researchers noted that lead has widely varying impacts.

  • One study of common loon carcasses found across six New England states found that about 23 percent (118 of 522) of the deaths were caused by ingestion of lead fishing tackle and ammunition;
  • California condors are extremely susceptible to lead poisoning and suffer significant mortality, yet a related species known as turkey vultures can survive with greater and longer exposure to lead;
  • Few studies have been done on population-level impacts of lead with the most complete studies conducted on waterfowl, where deaths from lead poisoning are estimated to be 2-3 percent overall, and 4 percent in mallard ducks.

A survey by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2013 found that 69,000 metric tons (a metric ton is about 2,204 pounds) of lead were used in the production of ammunition in the United States in one year. Annual estimates of lead fishing weights sold in the U.S. equal 3,977 metric tons.

Birds and other animals ingest lead in different ways, according to Haig. Loons, for example, were found to have swallowed lead sinkers and jigs, perhaps mistaking them for prey. Scavengers including condors and eagles often feed on carcasses of animals killed by hunters and cannot avoid incidental lead ingestion.

“Some birds use lead pellets or fragments as grit to aid in digestion after consuming it at hunting areas or shooting ranges,” said Haig, who is a courtesy professor of wildlife ecology at OSU. “Another potentially important lead source is recreational shooting of ground squirrels, which leaves lead-laced carcasses available to be eaten by golden eagles, Swainson’s hawks and other birds of prey.

“We found one estimate that more than 1.1 million ground squirrels were shot in one state during a one-year period,” she added. “It would be helpful to better understand what kinds of risk this poses to raptor scavengers.”

The review outlines some steps to reduce lead exposure to birds, including redistributing shot in the surface soil by cultivating sediments; raising water levels in wetlands to reduce access by feeding birds; and providing alternative uncontaminated food sources.

“Managers have found a number of ways to reduce the risk of lead exposure to birds while preserving the important role hunting plays in wildlife conservation,” Haig said.

One example cited involved Arizona Game and Fish working with other groups in that state on a voluntary approach to the issue.

“They formed a coalition to educate hunters about the negative effects of lead,” Haig pointed out. “The result was more than 80 percent compliance with voluntary non-lead ammunition use among hunters on the Kaibab Plateau and no birds were found with lead poisoning the following year.”

Other authors on the review include Jesse D’Elia, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and OSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife; Collin Eagles-Smith, U.S. Geological Survey and OSU Fisheries and Wildlife; Garth Herring, U.S. Geological Survey; Jeanne M. Fair, Los Alamos National Laboratory; Jennifer Gervais, Oregon Wildlife Institute and OSU Fisheries and Wildlife; James W. Rivers, OSU Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society; and John H. Schulz, University of Missouri.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Susan Haig, 541-750-0981, susan_haig@usgs.gov; Clint Epps, 541-737-2478, Clinton.epps@oregonstate.edu

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magpie feedng on a carcass

Categories: Research news

SAR11, oceans’ most abundant organism, has ability to create methane

Mon, 07/07/2014 - 9:47am
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A new study by researchers at Oregon State University demonstrates the ability of some strains of the oceans’ most abundant organism – SAR11 – to generate methane.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The oxygen-rich surface waters of the world’s major oceans are supersaturated with methane – a powerful greenhouse gas that is roughly 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – yet little is known about the source of this methane.

Now a new study by researchers at Oregon State University demonstrates the ability of some strains of the oceans’ most abundant organism – SAR11 – to generate methane as a byproduct of breaking down a compound for its phosphorus.

Results of the study are being published this week in Nature Communications. It was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

“Anaerobic methane biogenesis was the only process known to produce methane in the oceans and that requires environments with very low levels of oxygen,” said Angelicque “Angel” White, a researcher in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and co-author on the study. “In the vast central gyres of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the surface waters have lots of oxygen from mixing with the atmosphere – and yet they also have lots of methane, hence the term ‘marine methane paradox.’

“We’ve now learned that certain strains of SAR11, when starved for phosphorus, turn to a compound known as methylphosphonic acid,” White added. “The organisms produce enzymes that can break this compound apart, freeing up phosphorus that can be used for growth – and leaving methane behind.”

The discovery is an important piece of the puzzle in understanding the Earth’s methane cycle, scientists say. It builds on a series of studies conducted by researchers from several institutions around the world over the past several years.

Previous research has shown that adding methylphosphonic acid, or MPn, to seawater produces methane, though no one knew exactly how. Then a laboratory study led by David Karl of the University of Hawaii and OSU’s White found that an organism called Trichodesmium could break down MPn and thus it could be a potential source of phosphorus, which is a critical mineral essential to every living organism.

However, Trichodesmium are rare in the marine environment and unlikely to be the only source for vast methane deposits in the surface waters.

So White turned to Steve Giovannoni, a distinguished professor of microbiology at OSU, who not only maintains the world’s largest bank of SAR11 strains, but who also discovered and identified SAR11 in 1990. In a series of experiments, White, Giovannoni, and graduate students Paul Carini and Emily Campbell tested the capacity of different SAR11 strains to consume MPn and cleave off methane.

“We found that some did produce a methane byproduct, and some didn’t,” White said. “Just as some humans have a different capacity for breaking down compounds for nutrition than others, so do these organisms. The bottom line is that this shows phosphate-starved bacterioplankton have the capability of producing methane and doing so in oxygen-rich waters.”

SAR11 is the smallest free-living cell known and also has the smallest genome, or genetic structure, of any independent cell. Yet it dominates life in the oceans, thrives where most other cells would die, and plays a huge role in the cycling of carbon on Earth.

These bacteria are so dominant that their combined weight exceeds that of all the fish in the world's oceans, scientists say. In a marine environment that's low in nutrients and other resources, they are able to survive and replicate in extraordinary numbers – a milliliter of seawater, for instance, might contain 500,000 of these cells.

"The ocean is a competitive environment and these bacteria apparently won the race," said Giovannoni, a professor in OSU’s College of Science. "Our analysis of the SAR11 genome indicates that they became the dominant life form in the oceans largely by being the simplest.”

“Their ability to cleave off methane is an interesting finding because it provides a partial explanation for why methane is so abundant in the high-oxygen waters of the mid-ocean regions,” Giovannoni added. “Just how much they contribute to the methane budget still needs to be determined.”

Since the discovery of SAR11, scientists have been interested in their role in the Earth’s carbon budget. Now their possible implication in methane creation gives the study of these bacteria new importance.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Angel White, 541-737-6397; awhite@coas.oregonstate.edu; Steve Giovannoni, 541-737-1835, steve.giovannoni@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Questions and answers on pest management from OSU experts

Mon, 07/07/2014 - 9:40am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – What to do about garden pests, including insects, plant diseases and weeds, can be a challenge for gardeners who want to effectively manage the pests without damage to the environment and human health.

The question-and-answer series below illustrates a strategy called Integrated Pest Management, a systematic approach to identify pests and use tactics that are cultural, physical, biological or chemical.

The least toxic and effective methods are always considered first, according to Oregon State University researchers Andy Hulting, a weed control specialist, and Gail Langellotto, an entomologist.

Q: How do I know if I have pest problems in my garden?

A: Check your plants regularly for pest damage such as missing leaves, flowers or fruit or changes in color, texture or size. Most plant problems in home gardens are caused by poor growing conditions, temperature extremes, poor water management or compacted soil. Look under leaves and use a flashlight after dark, which is when many insects are active.

Q: How do I identify what is causing the problem?

A: Often it's not a pest, but another problem such as sun scald or nutrient deficiencies. "Don't apply pesticides without understanding the problem you are trying to solve," Langellotto advised. "Many insects are beneficial and actually help gardens grow better. Others do no damage." Some insect pests can be dislodged with simple methods such as shaking the plant or spraying with a high-pressure stream of water.

Your local OSU Extension office and its Master Gardeners can help correctly identify the culprit and at what point in the pest's life cycle it is most susceptible to control measures.

Q: What pest management tool should I use?

A: Integrated Pest Management utilizes a combination of methods to keep pest populations at an acceptable level, with the least toxic and effective first.

  • Cultural methods: Choose healthy plants that are not prone to pest problems, plant them where they will grow well and rotate where annuals are planted to avoid buildup of disease populations.
  • Physical methods: Pull or dig weeds and hand-pick or trap insect pests off of plants. Row covers designed to extend the gardening season have been found to also keep insect pests away from plants.
  • Biological methods: Garden plants can attract beneficial insects, such as parasitic wasps and green lacewings, to help keep pests at bay. Some of the more common ones are alyssum, coreopsis and sunflower.  The flowers of plants in the Apiaceae family (including carrots, parsnips, celery, parsnip, cilantro and dill) are known to be especially good at attracting parasitic wasps and other beneficial insects.

Q: When and how should I use chemical methods?

A: Some pest problems are difficult to manage without chemical pesticides.  However, chemicals can affect human health and be toxic to other organisms. Thus, use them judiciously and only after you are confident you have identified the pest, have chosen an appropriate pesticide, and that other methods are not likely to provide acceptable levels of control.  Read all label directions before choosing and using pesticides in the garden. 

"If you want to utilize biological controls in the garden, avoid broad-spectrum insecticides whenever possible," Langellotto said. "They may help you manage your insect pests, but they also kill other insects they contact, including beneficial ones."

Q: What precautions should I take with chemical pesticides?

A: If you decide to use a chemical, check the label to make sure your intended use or site is included on the label. Then choose one that is least harmful to the environment and to the applicator, specific to the pest and least harmful to beneficial organisms.

Pesticides labeled "Caution" are the least toxic to humans, "Warning" are more toxic, and "Danger-Poison" (with a skull and crossbones), are the most toxic. The law requires that you read the label. Be sure to wear protective clothing, especially eye protection, gloves and long pants.

Pesticides are more concentrated than they used to be, according to Hulting, and are made for very specific uses. "You might need only a fraction of an ounce to treat a large area or number of plants, perhaps less than in previous years," he said. "Don't use more product than the label specifies. More is not better."

Q: Where can I get more specific information?

A: For fact sheets, frequently asked questions and podcasts on pesticide use, check online at http://npic.orst.edu/ or call the National Pesticide Information Center at OSU at 1-800-858-7378.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Daniel Robison Source: 

Gail Langellotto, 541-737-5175;

Andy Hulting, 541-737-5098

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As green lacewing larvae grow, they benefit gardens by eating immature pests. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Categories: Research news

Oregon State University hires new director for School of Arts and Communication

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 1:35pm
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Lee Ann Garrison, an administrator at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has been named the director of the School of Arts and Communication.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Lee Ann Garrison, an administrator at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has been named the director of the School of Arts and Communication in the College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University.

Garrison has been executive director of the Design Research Institute at the Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin. An art and design professor, Garrison also is the interim associate dean for curricular design and innovation in the Lubar School of Business and interim associate dean of academic and student affairs at the Zilber School of Public Health.

Garrison comes to Corvallis with a strong background in curriculum development and creating collaborative teaching and research opportunities at UW-Milwaukee. She will continue to use those skills as director of the School of Arts and Communication.

At Oregon State, Garrison will work to elevate the arts on campus and throughout the community, and also to create opportunities for students and faculty to work with others in the arts and beyond. 

“As an artist, Lee Ann is a bridge-builder who’s been especially adept at working across many disciplines in a university setting,” said Lawrence Rodgers, executive dean of the Division of Arts and Science. “She has a history as an especially accomplished administrator known for her ability to build coalitions and collaborate in a large institution.” 

Garrison will begin her new position Aug. 11.

College of Liberal Arts Source: 

Celene Carillo, 541-737-2137 or Celene.carillo@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

OSU students to run across Oregon this summer promoting health and physical activity

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 9:03am
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The Health Extension Run 2014 was designed to inspire Oregonians to improve their health through better eating and exercise.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University students and brothers Jeremiah and Isaiah Godby will spend their summer running across Oregon in an effort to encourage Oregonians to improve their health through better eating and exercise.

The “Health Extension Run 2014” was designed to inspire Oregonians to take charge of their health and educate community residents about the role the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences and OSU Extension Service offices in each county play in building healthy communities. The event coincides with the recent accreditation of the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

The run begins July 7 on the Oregon State campus in Corvallis and is expected to finish Sept. 5 at OSU. The Godbys plan to run 1,675 miles through 30 Oregon counties, with stops in many communities along the route for public events such as health festivals and county fairs. OSU students, alumni and all other supporters are encouraged to run or walk with the brothers in their communities.

Jeremiah, 21, and Isaiah, 23, are exercise and sports science majors in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. They said they are motivated to run in hopes that they can inspire others to get more exercise, eat better and make other health improvements.

Jeremiah Godby is an example of the difference exercise can make. After he decided to cut back on video-game playing and began running in high school, he lost 45 pounds.

“I feel so much better,” he said. “I just enjoy life more.”

He and his brother took up long-distance running as a form of advocacy and, after completing similar long runs in the past, volunteered for this summer’s Health Extension Run. 

“We just want to inspire people to live a balanced life,” said Isaiah Godby. “It’s not as complicated as people think. Walk an extra block or park your car further away in the parking lot.”

The run will kick off at 9:30 a.m. on July 7 with a short send-off ceremony on the steps of the Memorial Union quad on the Oregon State campus in Corvallis. The Godbys will then run around the OSU campus before heading north on Highway 99.

The brothers will run about 32 miles a day, traveling north from Corvallis to Astoria, down the Oregon Coast, across to Eugene and then south to Medford before heading east to Klamath Falls, where they’ll participate in the 100th anniversary celebration of the Klamath Basin Research & Extension Center. From Klamath Falls, they’ll run to Bend, Prineville, John Day, Burns and Ontario.

The Godbys also will spend a day in Boise, Idaho, where they’ll run through the city and participate in a Beavers alumni event. For more information or to register for that event, visit http://bit.ly/1rf1gOT.

From Boise, the runners will head back to Ontario, where they’ll head north to Baker City and LaGrande, then work their way back west through towns including Pendleton, Heppner, Condon, The Dalles and Hood River. They’ll be in Portland for a few days before running to Salem for the Oregon State Fair, then to Albany before wrapping in Corvallis on Sept. 5.

Find more information about events in the community at http://bit.ly/V9zK8a and follow along with the Godbys on their blog, http://bit.ly/1z65ue8.

Editor's note: Video b-roll is available to download for use with this news release: http://health.oregonstate.edu/broll/healthextensionrun. College of Public Health and Human Sciences Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Isaiah Godby, 530-574-7420 or godbyi@onid.oregonstate.edu; Jeremiah Godby, 530-574-7421 or godbyj@onid.oregonstate.edu; Kathryn Stroppel, 541-737-6612 or Kathryn.Stroppel@oregonstate.edu

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Jeremiah, left, and Isaiah Godby

Categories: Research news

OSU to observe Veterans Day as official holiday beginning in 2015

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 4:04pm
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Oregon State University will begin observing Veterans Day as an official holiday beginning in 2015.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University will begin observing Veterans Day as an official holiday beginning in 2015.

The decision was announced today by OSU President Edward J. Ray, after consultation with both the OSU Faculty Senate and the Associated Students of Oregon State University.

“I am proud that the university will begin honoring our veterans with the observance of this national holiday,” Ray said. “This is a meaningful decision. Last year, Oregon State had 1,025 students who received veteran educational benefits – the most of any university in Oregon – and it is important that we recognize and honor the many sacrifices that our nation’s veterans have made.”

Veterans now account for about one out of every 25 students at OSU. A range of programs have been initiated or expanded to help support the university’s student veterans.

Ray also announced that the university will begin its academic year earlier in 2015, with the first day of classes scheduled on Wednesday, Sept. 23, that year.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Steve Clark, 503-502-8217, steve.clark@oregonstate.edu

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OSU students, supporters at

2013 Veterans Day parade

Categories: Research news

OSU receives federal grant to study academic outcomes of Oregon’s English learners

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 3:47pm
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Oregon State University will receive a grant of nearly $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to investigate what happens to Oregon students who begin school as English language learners.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has won a grant of nearly $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to investigate what happens to Oregon students who begin school as English language learners.

Researchers will use the grant to examine the academic performance of current and former English language learners and determine how best to support their academic achievement, said Karen Thompson, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Education, who will lead the study.

“Being able to see, over a long period of time, how a student is doing is very important,” Thompson said. “Some students might need ongoing assistance even after they are considered proficient in English, while others might achieve at very high levels.”

Students who do not speak English proficiently when they enter school are considered English language learners. When students master the language, they are no longer considered English language learners and are reclassified as English proficient students.

Some states continue to monitor former English language learners throughout their school careers, but until recently, Oregon has only monitored them for two years, as required by the federal government, Thompson said.

The grant, from the education department’s research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences, will give investigators the opportunity to assess the longer-term academic success of students who enter school as English language learners, including graduation rates, she said. Researchers will also collect and analyze data about how current and former English language learners are faring in different types of programs, including dual-language programs, which have greatly expanded in Oregon schools in recent years, Thompson said.

The grant runs from Aug. 1 through July 31, 2016. The Oregon Department of Education and WestEd, a nonprofit education research agency, are partnering with OSU on the project. David Bautista, an assistant superintendent at the Oregon Department of Education, will serve as co-principal investigator.

The three agencies have established the Oregon English Learner Alliance in an effort to improve educational outcomes for Oregon’s English language learners. The alliance is part of a larger effort by the Oregon Department of Education to improve educational outcomes for students learning English.

The number of English language learners in Oregon has grown dramatically over the last 20 years and now makes up about 10 percent of the state’s kindergarten- through 12th-grade population. The number of reclassified students also has grown, making it more important than ever to understand how those students do in school once they’re no longer receiving extra help to learn English, Thompson said.

If researchers identify areas where current and former English language learners do well, they want to examine practices in those classrooms or schools and share the best of them with other educators, Thompson said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This work will be supported by U.S. Department of Education grant number R305H140072. The amount of federal funding is $399,928, the non-federal funding for the project is $29,009 and the project’s total funding is $428,937. Of the total funding, 93 percent is federal and 7 percent is non-federal.

College of Education Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Karen Thompson, 541-737-2988, Karen.Thompson@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Video games could provide venue for exploring sustainability concepts

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 9:54am
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Video games have the potential to educate the public and encourage development of creative solutions to social, economic and environmental problems, said OSU’s Shawna Kelly.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Could playing video games help people understand and address global sustainability issues such as pollution, drought or climate change? At least two researchers believe so, outlining their argument in a concept paper published in the journal “First Monday.”

Video games have the potential to educate the public and encourage development of creative solutions to social, economic and environmental problems, said Oregon State University’s Shawna Kelly, one of the two authors of the article.

“Video games encourage creative and strategic thinking, which could help people make sense of complex problems,” said Kelly, who teaches new media communications in the School of Arts and Communication at Oregon State’s College of Liberal Arts.

“Entertainment has always been a space for exposing people to new ideas. Using video games, it’s possible to introduce sustainability concepts to the mass public in a way that’s not pedantic, that’s not educational,” Kelly said. “Instead, it could be fun and it could be challenging.”

Kelly wrote the paper with Bonnie Nardi, an anthropologist with University of California, Irvine's Department of Informatics, who studies sustainability, collapse-preparedness and information technology. 

Kelly and Nardi identified four key areas in which video games could support sustainable practices. The areas are:

  • Shift away from growth as the end goal of a game. Uncontrollable growth is unsustainable and asks little of players’ imaginations.
  • Emphasize scavenging instead of combat to collect resources. Encourage players to interact with their environment in creative ways instead of simply looking for targets.
  • Offer complex avenues for social interaction. Move beyond “us versus them” and focus on other types of social collaborations.
  • Encourage strategizing with resources such as scenarios that incorporate long-term consequences and interdependencies of resource use.

Some video games already are using some of the elements Kelly and Nardi recommend. Economics-based games such as “EVE Online” challenge players to strategize between their short-term personal resource demands and the long-term needs of a larger group of players, their corporation. “DayZ” is a combat simulation game that requires players to scavenge for resources and work with other players, deciding on their own which players are friends and which are enemies.

Those are the kinds of game mechanics that make video games fun and challenging, but those mechanics also could be used to encourage players to think about real problems related to sustainability, Kelly said.

The culture of video gaming rewards people for solving problems and coming up with unique solutions. There is a common interest and connection among players, and knowledge is easily shared via game-specific wikis, message boards, instant messaging and more, Kelly pointed out.

“There’s a huge set of people out there who love to problem-solve,” she said. “Why not harness that power that is already there?”

That doesn’t mean someone should go out and develop “The Sustainability Game,” Kelly said. While video games have proven to be a good educational tool, there is a sense that those who play video games for entertainment don’t want forced educational components, she said.

“The attitude is ‘don’t make me learn something,’ ” Kelly said. “Instead, make the problems accessible to the gaming community and see what emerges.”

Kelly plans to continue exploring the relationship between video games and sustainability through additional research supported by OSU’s New Media Communications department. She’s planning to conduct a systematic survey of the use of sustainability concepts in current video games during the 2014-15 school year using undergraduate student research assistants and resources from New Media Communications.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Shawna Kelly, Shawna.kelly@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Oregon honeybee losses continue at economically unsustainable rate, OSU survey finds

Mon, 06/30/2014 - 9:48am
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More than one in five commercial honeybee hives in Oregon did not survive last winter, continuing a financially challenging trend for professional beekeepers.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – More than one in five commercial honeybee hives in Oregon did not survive last winter, continuing a financially challenging trend for professional beekeepers.

Between Oct. 1 and March 31, Oregon beekeepers reported a 21.1 percent loss in colonies of the crucial crop pollinators, according to a survey by Oregon State University. The latest figures are a slight improvement over the state's average annual loss of 22 percent over the past six years.

Nationally, commercial beekeepers reported a 23.2 percent decline last winter, according to a survey by the Bee Informed Partnership, a countrywide collaboration among research labs focusing on honeybee declines. An average of about 30 percent of colonies nationwide has died each winter over the past decade.

"These are challenging times for beekeeping and we have reason to be alarmed," said Ramesh Sagili, an entomologist with Oregon State University's College of Agricultural Sciences who has been conducting honeybee colony loss surveys for the past five years. "While 10-15 percent loss of colonies is considered acceptable, current rates of decline could drive professional beekeepers out of business."

To replace lost colonies, beekeepers must split healthy hives of 50,000 bees or more – a process that takes months and adds substantial costs for labor, new queens and equipment. However, as these lost colonies are replaced, there is not a drop in the total number of hives each year, according to Sagili.

The United States is home to 2.6 million managed honey bee colonies, according to the Bee Informed Partnership.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture credits honeybees with pollinating more than $15 billion worth of crops in the U.S., including pears, blueberries, cherries, apples, and vegetable seeds such as broccoli, mustard, carrots and onions. Many nut trees also rely on bees for pollination, including nearly 900,000 acres of almond trees in California, according to the USDA.

Bee colonies are in significant decline for a variety of reasons, according to Sagili. He said these include Varroa mites, which transmit viral diseases to bees; poor nutrition from a restricted diet resulting from large-scale monocropping; and exposure to pesticides when bees are foraging for nectar and pollen.

"We wish there was an easy answer," said Sagili, who is also a honeybee expert with the OSU Extension Service. “Each of these factors add stress to the bees and compromise their immune systems.”

OSU is home to the Honey Bee Lab, which tests beekeepers' honeybees for mites, diseases and protein levels for a small fee. The lab is estimated to save Oregon's beekeepers about $1.4 million a year in reduced costs for medications, according to Sagili.

More information on the nationwide survey of 2013-14 honeybee colony losses is at http://beeinformed.org/2014/05/colony-loss-2013-2014. Sagili and entomologist Dewey Caron are also co-authors of the nationwide survey; Caron helped conduct OSU's survey and process data.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Daniel Robison Source: 

Ramesh Sagili, 541-737-5460

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Oregon State University entomologist Ramesh Sagili blows smoke in a hive to calm bees. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Categories: Research news

“Molecular movie” technology may enable big gains in bioimaging, health research

Mon, 06/30/2014 - 9:23am
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OSU researchers have created a new type of imaging technology fast enough to capture life processes as they occur at the molecular level.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers today announced the creation of an imaging technology more powerful than anything that has existed before, and is fast enough to observe life processes as they actually happen at the molecular level.

Chemical and biological actions can now be measured as they are occurring or, in old-fashioned movie parlance, one frame at a time. This will allow creation of improved biosensors to study everything from nerve impulses to cancer metastasis as it occurs.

The measurements, created by the use of short pulse lasers and bioluminescent proteins, are made in femtoseconds, which is one-millionth of one-billionth of a second. A femtosecond, compared to one second, is about the same as one second compared to 32 million years.

That’s a pretty fast shutter speed, and it should change the way biological research and physical chemistry are being done, scientists say.

Findings on the new technology were published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by researchers from Oregon State University and the University of Alberta.

“With this technology we’re going to be able to slow down the observation of living processes and understand the exact sequences of biochemical reactions,” said Chong Fang, an assistant professor of chemistry in the OSU College of Science, and lead author on the research.

“We believe this is the first time ever that you can really see chemistry in action inside a biosensor,” he said. “This is a much more powerful tool to study, understand and tune biological processes.”

The system uses advanced pulse laser technology that is fairly new and builds upon the use of “green fluorescent proteins” that are popular in bioimaging and biomedicine. These remarkable proteins glow when light is shined upon them. Their discovery in 1962, and the applications that followed, were the basis for a Nobel Prize in 2008.

Existing biosensor systems, however, are created largely by random chance or trial and error. By comparison, the speed of the new approach will allow scientists to “see” what is happening at the molecular level and create whatever kind of sensor they want by rational design. This will improve the study of everything from cell metabolism to nerve impulses, how a flu virus infects a person, or how a malignant tumor spreads.

“For decades, to create the sensors we have now, people have been largely shooting in the dark,” Fang said. “This is a fundamental breakthrough in how to create biosensors for medical research from the bottom up. It’s like daylight has finally come.”

The technology, for instance, can follow the proton transfer associated with the movement of calcium ions – one of the most basic aspects of almost all living systems, and also one of the fastest. This movement of protons is integral to everything from respiration to cell metabolism and even plant photosynthesis.  Scientists will now be able to identify what is going on, one step at a time, and then use that knowledge to create customized biosensors for improved imaging of life processes.

“If you think of this in photographic terms,” Fang said, “we now have a camera fast enough to capture the molecular dance of life. We’re making molecular movies. And with this, we’re going to be able to create sensors that answer some important, new questions in biophysics, biochemistry, materials science and biomedical problems.”

The research was supported by OSU, the University of Alberta, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Chong Fang, 541-737-6704

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Molecular movies

Categories: Research news

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