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Keszler named associate dean in OSU College of Science

News - 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

News - 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

Study finds wild coho may seek genetic diversity in mate choice

News - Wed, 05/28/2014 - 9:43am
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New research suggests that wild coho salmon that choose mates with disease-resistant genes different from their own are more likely to produce greater numbers of adult offspring returning to the river.

The study this story is based upon is available online, at http://bit.ly/1is9ydT

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study by researchers at Oregon State University suggests that wild coho salmon that choose mates with disease-resistant genes different from their own are more likely to produce greater numbers of adult offspring returning to the river some three years later.

The researchers also found that hatchery-reared coho – for some unknown reason – do not appear to have the same ability to select mates that are genetically diverse, which may, in part, explain their comparative lower reproductive success.

Results of the study have been published in this month’s Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. Funding was provided by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, The Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station, Oregon Sea Grant, and the Oregon legislature.

“This is the first study to examine mate choice among wild-spawning fish of both hatchery and wild origin, and the results suggest that greater diversity of immune genes between wild-born pairs of coho salmon may increase offspring survival,” said Amelia Whitcomb, who did the research as a master’s student at OSU and is lead author on the publication.

“These findings, along with future research, may have important implications for hatchery supplementation programs,” added Whitcomb, who now works for the Washington Department of Fish &Wildlife.

The key appears to be a suite of genes that include the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), which initiates immune response and ultimately provides disease resistance. Other factors, including size and timing of return to fresh water, also determined mate pair reproductive success. MHC genes are well-studied in many organisms, including humans, and have been shown to play a role in how individuals choose mates.

The researchers used genetic parentage analysis to study mating events among adult coho salmon – both wild-born and hatchery-reared – that returned and spawned in a natural context in the Umpqua River in southern Oregon. Adult coho salmon were fin-clipped for genetic identification so they could be linked to their offspring, which returned as adults three years later.

The researchers then compared reproductive success, defined as the number of adult offspring returns, from three different categories of naturally spawning mate pairs: two wild parents, two hatchery-reared parents, and a hatchery-reared/wild parent pair.

The study found that wild fish that bred with other wild fish that had dissimilar MHC profiles had an increased success rate compared to wild fish pairings of similar MHC diversity. In addition, wild fish that mated with hatchery fish that had intermediate rates of dissimilarity also had greater reproductive success than wild fish mated with hatchery fish that had little MHC diversity, or the greatest MHC diversity.

However, the mate selection of hatchery-raised fish with other hatchery-raised fish appeared to be totally random, according to Michael Banks, director of the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resource Studies at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, and co-author on the study. In other words, hatchery-raised fish didn’t appear to select mates based on any kind of genetic profile, “an indiscretion that may ultimately be lowering their reproduction success.”

“Evidence that the MHC is associated with mate choice is common in many species through chemical cues detected by olfaction,” Banks said, “so it isn’t necessarily surprising that selecting for MHC diversity would increase reproductive success in salmon as well. What is puzzling is why hatchery-raised fish appear to have lost that ability.”

Kathleen O’Malley, an assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife at OSU and co-author on the study, cautioned that genetic diversity is just one factor in mate selection and reproductive success.

“The ocean is like a black box for salmon and many factors can play a role in their survival,” said O’Malley, a geneticist with the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station at OSU’s Hatfield Center. “But the strength of this study is that it looks at the bottom line, which is what creates the best chance of success for salmon to produce offspring that survive to return as adults.”

O’Malley said the next logical step in the research is to develop selective breeding strategies that better emulate mating strategies that occur in the wild and to learn whether new strategies can reduce the difference in reproductive success among hatchery-raised and wild fish.

Hatfield Marine Science Center Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Michael Banks, 541-867-0420

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Salmon being tested



Salmon spawning

Categories: Research news

Butterfly “eyespots” add detail to the story of evolution

News - Tue, 05/27/2014 - 1:28pm
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Researchers at OSU are using the "eyespots" on butterfly wings to answer some fundamental questions about evolution.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study of the colorful “eyespots” on the wings of some butterfly species is helping to address fundamental questions about evolution that are conceptually similar to the quandary Aristotle wrestled with about 330 B.C. – “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

After consideration, Aristotle decided that both the egg and the chicken had always existed, which was not the right answer. The new Oregon State University research is providing a little more detail.

The study, published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, actually attempts to explain the existence of what scientists call “serial homologues,” or patterns in nature that are repetitive, serve a function and are so important they are often retained through millions of years and across vast numbers of species.

Repeated vertebra that form a spinal column, rows of teeth, and groups of eyespots on butterfly wings are all examples of serial homologues. Researchers have tracked the similarities and changes of these serial features through much time and many species, but it’s remained a question about how they originally evolved.

Put another way, it’s easier to see how one breed of chicken evolved into a different breed, rather than where chickens – or their eggs - came from to begin with.

Butterfly wings are helping to answer that question. These eyespots, common to the butterfly family Nymphalidae, now serve many butterflies in dual roles of both predator avoidance and mate identification. One theory of their origin is that they evolved from simpler, single spots; another theory is that they evolved from a “band” of color which later separated into spots.

“What we basically conclude is that neither of the existing theories about butterfly eyespots is correct,” said Jeffrey Oliver, a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Integrative Biology of the OSU College of Science. “The evidence suggests that a few eyespots evolved as a group at about the same time, but behaved somewhat as individual entities.”

Having appeared as a result of some genetic mutation, however, the eyespots then had the capability to move, acquire a function that had evolutionary value, and because of that value were retained by future generations of butterflies. And at all times, they retained the biological capacity for positional awareness – the eyespots formed in the same place until a new mutation came along.

“At first, it appears the eyespots helped this group of butterflies with one of the most basic aspects of survival value, which is avoiding predators,” Oliver said.

On the side of the wing that predators saw when the wings were closed, the eyespots could have served as camouflage from a distance, and up close almost a “bulls-eye” for a predator to see and attack. But this directed the attack toward the tips of less-important wings, and not the more vulnerable head or body of the insect.

But just as important, Oliver said, the study indicates how through continued mutation these eyespots moved to a completely different place – the other side of the wing. There, they performed a completely different function – helping the butterfly to attract and be identified by optimal mates.

“If you take this same concept and apply it to other important features like vertebra and a spinal column, it suggests that some small number of bones would form through mutation, and eventually move, join and be perpetuated as they acquired a function with survival value,” Oliver said.

“There would be a biological position in which they were supposed to form, and that would be retained,” he said. “And over time, the vertebra might expand in number, and acquire other functions that had nothing to do with their original function, but which still had value.”

The evolution of life has never been simple, as Aristotle and the other early philosophers found out. But one bone or butterfly eyespot at a time, the pieces continue to come together.

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Jeffrey Oliver, 541-737-5736

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Squinting bush brown




Painted lady

Categories: Research news

Battle of the Bands, Dam Jam held May 30-31

News - Tue, 05/27/2014 - 9:17am
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The Memorial Union Program Council, a student-led organization of Oregon State University, will hold its annual spring concerts, Battle of the Bands and Dam Jam (formerly known as Flat Tail Music Festival) on Friday, May 30, and Saturday, May 31, respectively.

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The Memorial Union Program Council, a student-led organization of Oregon State University, will hold its annual spring concerts, Battle of the Bands and Dam Jam (formerly known as Flat Tail Music Festival) on Friday, May 30, and Saturday, May 31, respectively.

The events will be in the Memorial Union Quad as a celebration of student accomplishments throughout the year, and a precursor to commencement.

Battle of the Bands showcases 10 OSU student bands competing for cash prizes, with the winning band opening for the Dam Jam concert the following night. Battle of the Bands begins at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, May 30. The opening band for this year’s event is an all OSU professor band named B2K and the Delicious Spoon.  This event is free and open to the public.

The Dam Jam concert takes place Saturday, May 31, with gates opening at 7 p.m. and music beginning at 8 p.m.  Following the winner of Friday’s Battle of the Bands is The Flavr Blue from Seattle. The band will perform as opener to the headliner, Mike Posner.

Over the past two years MUPC has taken several measures to ensure a more safe and secure environment at these events as well as in the surrounding neighborhoods.  Steps that have been taken to improve these events include:

  •  Six-foot chain link fencing around the MU Quad, and entrances are gated with security personnel conducting bag checks. 
  • Security and law enforcement have been greatly increased.
  • Dam Jam concert on Saturday has been shortened to a concert with music beginning at 8 p.m. and ending promptly at 10:45 p.m.
  • Dam Jam concert on Saturday is ticketed.
  • Gates on Saturday will close at 10 p.m. and a no re-entry policy will be adhered to.
Generic OSU Media Contact:  Theresa Hogue Source: 

Linda Howard, 541-737-1369, 

Categories: Research news

OSU's 4-H awards nearly $22,000 in scholarships

News - Tue, 05/27/2014 - 8:54am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – Seventeen high school seniors earned nearly $22,000 in scholarships from the Oregon State University Extension Service's 4-H youth development program.

The scholarships are available to college-bound high school seniors who have been members of 4-H for at least three years, said Helen Pease, a program coordinator with 4-H. Members of the state 4-H Recognition Committee choose recipients based on their scholastic achievement, 4-H projects and activities and a personal essay.

Winners of OSU's 2014 State 4-H Scholarship Awards are:

Albany — Garrett Hurley, Ted and Betty Dietz Memorial 4-H Scholarship, $500

Baker City — Erin Parker, Minnick Memorial 4-H Scholarship, $500

Condon — Benjamin Rietmann, Martha MacGregor 4-H Scholarship, $3,500

Corvallis — Sheridan Long, A. Lois Redman 4-H Scholarship, $1,200

Eagle Point — Fiona Nevin, Klein-Youngberg Family 4-H Scholarship, $1,250

Gold Hill — Samantha Beck, H. Joe Myers Memorial 4-H Scholarship, $2,500

Hood River — Delia Dolan, H. Joe Myers Memorial 4-H Scholarship, $2,500

Independence — Olivia Miller, Kate Thiess Memorial 4-H Scholarship, $1,000

John Day — Hannah Brandsma, Jeanne Leeson Memorial 4-H Scholarship, $1,250

John Day – Samantha Snyder, Babe Coe Memorial 4-H Scholarship, $1,000

Klamath Falls — Brielle McKinney, Oregon 4-H Foundation Memorial 4-H Scholarship, $1,000

North Plains — Christiana Logan, Klein-Youngberg Family 4-H Scholarship, $1,250

North Powder — Christian Miles, Duane P. Johnson 4-H Scholarship, $500

Sandy — Jacob L. Johnson, Klein-Youngberg Family 4-H Scholarship, $1,250

Sweet Home — Katie Virtue, C.H.S. Foundation Scholarship, $1,000

Warren — Claire Bernert, Kate Thiess Memorial 4-H Scholarship, $1,000

West Linn — Conor McCabe, O.M. Plummer Scholarship, $700

For more information about OSU's 4-H scholarships, go to http://oregon.4h.oregonstate.edu/oregon-4h-scholarships.

Extension Service Media Contact:  Denise Ruttan Source: 

Helen Pease, 541-737-1314 

Categories: Research news

New method discovered to protect against chemical weapons

News - Tue, 05/27/2014 - 8:51am
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OSU chemist have discovered compounds that detoxify some types of nerve gas and might form the basis for new types of protection against them, in clothing or gas masks.

 

The study this news story is based on is available in ScholarsArchive@OSU: http://bit.ly/1n0gqnR

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered that some compounds called polyoxoniobates can degrade and decontaminate nerve agents such as the deadly sarin gas, and have other characteristics that may make them ideal for protective suits, masks or other clothing.

The use of polyoxoniobates for this purpose had never before been demonstrated, scientists said, and the discovery could have important implications for both military and civilian protection. A United Nations report last year concluded that sarin gas was used in the conflict in Syria.

The study findings were just published in the European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry.

Some other compounds exist that can decontaminate nerve gases, researchers said, but they are organic, unstable, degraded by sunlight and have other characteristics that make them undesirable for protective clothing – or they are inorganic, but cannot be used on fabrics or surfaces.

By contrast, the polyoxoniobates are inorganic, do not degrade in normal environmental conditions, dissolve easily and it should be able to incorporate them onto surfaces, fabrics and other material.

“This is a fundamental new understanding of what these compounds can do,” said May Nyman, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry in the OSU College of Science. “As stable, inorganic compounds they have an important potential to decontaminate and protect against these deadly nerve gases.”

As a chemical group, polyoxoniobates have been known of since the mid-1900s, Nyman said, but a detailed investigation of their complex chemistry has revealed this new potential. Besides protection against nerve gas, she said, their chemistry might allow them to function as a catalyst that could absorb carbon dioxide and find use in carbon sequestration at fossil-fuel power plants – but little has been done yet to explore that potential.

A new method to protect against nerve agents could be significant. These organofluorophosphate compounds can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin, and in military use are considered weapons of mass destruction. They can be lethal even at very small levels of exposure.

“In continued work we hope to incorporate the protective compounds onto surfaces or fabrics and explore their function,” Nyman said. “They could form the basis for an improved type of gas mask or other protection. We would also need to test the material’s ability to withstand very arid environments, extreme heat or other conditions.”

A goal will be materials that are durable, high performing and retain a high level of protection against nerve agents such as sarin and soman gas even in harsh environmental conditions, researchers said.

The OSU research demonstrated the ability of polyoxoniobates to neutralize both actual and simulated nerve agents. Testing against actual nerve agents was done at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, a U.S. Army facility designed for that purpose.

OSU has collaborated on this research with Sandia National Laboratories and the U.S. Army. The work at Edgewood was supported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a unit of the U.S. Department of Defense.

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

May Nyman, 541-737-1116

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Nerve gas decontamination

Categories: Research news

OSU to name new residence hall after pioneering student

News - Fri, 05/23/2014 - 4:24pm
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A new residence hall at OSU is being named after the first African American male to earn a degree at the university - after being denied access to university housing.

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University will name its new residence hall after William "Bill" Tebeau, a pioneering student who persevered through numerous challenges to become the first African American male to earn a degree from the university.

William Tebeau Hall, located just east of the Kerr Administration Building on Washington Way, will open in fall of 2014. A dedication ceremony will be held at the site in October.

Tebeau was admitted to what was then Oregon State College in 1943 and, according to stories, was not offered a housing assignment because of the color of his skin.

Undaunted, he took a job in a fraternity tending the furnace in exchange for a room in the basement and set out in pursuit of an engineering degree, which he received in 1948.

“Bill Tebeau did not let this act of bias keep him from his goals, and he went on to a tremendously successful career – staying  connected to his alma mater for his entire life," said Dan Larson, executive director of University Housing and Dining Services at OSU.

"Our history does not always reflect the best of us," Larson said. “The naming committee and UHDS Leadership believed strongly that honoring Mr. Tebeau by naming our newest residence hall after him not only recognizes a man of great humility and strength, but will represent our ongoing commitment to learning from our past, the imperative of seeking our own personal awareness and growth and an unwavering pursuit of a socially just community.” 

Born in 1925, Tebeau grew up in Baker, Oregon where he was an avid Boy Scout and ambitious student. After graduating from Baker High School, he was admitted to Oregon State College, where his lifelong love of education continued. After earning his Chemical Engineering degree at OSU , he received his civil engineering license and joined the State Highway Department (later Oregon Department of Transportation), where he enjoyed a 36-year career doing everything from surveying and planning to designing highways and bridges.

He also taught part-time at Chemeketa Community College, and in 1970 was named the institution's Teacher of the Year. In 2010, he was inducted into the OSU Engineering Hall of Fame.

Tebeau died at the age of 87 on July 5, 2013, leaving behind his wife of 62 years, Genevieve, seven children, 13 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, and eight great-great-grandchildren.

When completed, William Tebeau Hall will house about 324 students. The five-floor, 76,400-square-foot building will become OSU's 15th residence hall. The $28 million facility, which is adjacent to Wilson and Callahan halls, is funded through state bonds that will be repaid by resident fees.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Dan Larson, 541-737-4771

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William Tebeau




Artist rendering

Categories: Research news

OSU Ballroom Dance Company to perform showcase in Corvallis

News - Fri, 05/23/2014 - 9:29am
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The May 30 and 31 performances at Corvallis High School will feature two pieces with country western flair.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Ballroom Dance Company will perform May 30 and 31 at Corvallis High School.

The company’s showcase, “Swingin’ Ballroom,” will feature two pieces with country western flair. Other numbers include a West Coast Swing interpretation of the movie “Men in Black” and a Lindy hop, as well as dances featuring salsa, fox trot, cha cha, tango and more.

The 42-member company is comprised of the original Cool Shoes Dance Troupe and an additional team, New Shoes. The company is sponsored by the Physical Activity Course Program in OSU’S College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

The OSU Ballroom Dance Company, under the direction of Cathy Dark and Mark Baker, has toured throughout the Pacific Northwest. This spring, Cool Shoes toured southern Oregon and San Francisco, receiving numerous accolades for their performances.

The performances begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Corvallis High School Auditorium, 1400 N.W. Buchanan Ave. Tickets are $10 for general admission or $8 for students and seniors, and can be purchased at the door the nights of the performances.

College of Public Health and Human Sciences Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Cathy Dark, 541-737-5929 or cathy.dark@oregonstate.edu

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Cool Shoes Ballroom Dance Troupe

 

Categories: Research news

OSU College of Liberal Arts hosts scholarship and creativity fair

News - Thu, 05/22/2014 - 12:09pm
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The Scholarship and Creativity Fair at Oregon State University will showcase the research and creative accomplishments of College of Liberal Arts faculty.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University will host a Scholarship and Creativity Fair to showcase the research and creative accomplishments of its faculty on Thursday, May 29.

The fair runs from 5 to 8 p.m. on the Club Level in Reser Stadium in Corvallis. It is free and open to the public.

The event will include interactive displays, demonstrations, musical performances and more. Each of the college’s six schools will have a space to feature two or three projects. Faculty will compete in a 60-second “lecture slam,” where they present important findings and insights in a minute or less. Creative writers will team with a wind instrument group to perform. 

“The goal of the fair is to bring the work of humanities faculty to the public in an accessible way,” said Peter Betjemann, an associate professor of English in the School of Art, Literature and Film and a coordinator of the event. 

For more information, visit http://bit.ly/1jyUizI.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Shelly Signs, 541-737-0724, Shelly.signs@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Businesses need to plan for, address impacts on biodiversity, new report indicates

News - Thu, 05/22/2014 - 10:14am
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Businesses large and small need to begin the difficult work of assessing and addressing their impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services in order to reduce risk to natural resources, OSU researchers found.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Businesses large and small need to begin the difficult work of assessing and addressing their impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services in order to reduce risk to natural resources in the future, according to a new report from Oregon State University researchers.

Biodiversity and ecosystem services refer to the variety and diversity of plants and animals in the ecosystem and the benefits that nature provides, respectively. They should be part of companies’ strategic planning, said Sally Duncan, director of the OSU Policy Analysis Lab in the School of Public Policy.

“This is an issue of risk management – it has to be part of a strategic plan,” Duncan said. “As one pioneer company leader put it, the greatest risk of all is not doing anything.”

The report, “The New Nature of Business: How Business Pioneers Support Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services,” provides a framework for companies to begin identifying and addressing their potential impacts on the ecosystem.

The report was published this month and is available at www.newnatureofbusiness.org. Partners in the multidisciplinary, international project include Oregon State University and the University of Sydney Business School. Funding comes from the National Science Foundation’s National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, with additional support from the University of Sydney Business School.

Biodiversity of plants, animals and microorganisms is essential to a properly functioning ecosystem. Ecosystem services are the benefits of such a system, and include goods such as food and fiber or services such as flood control or pest management.

But biodiversity is threatened by environmental degradation due to things such as habitat destruction and climate change. That, in turn, poses challenges for business leaders, who will have to deal with the ramifications, including pressure from consumers to improve business practices.

“There are many, many companies that have started doing important work on water conservation and energy conservation,” Duncan said. “Biodiversity and ecosystem services are much more complicated. They’re very hard to measure and most companies haven’t even thought about it yet.”

Corporate giants Dow Chemical Co., Pfizer Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and smaller organizations such as the Eugene Water and Electric Board, are among the pioneers who are taking steps to address their impacts on biodiversity. Their efforts are highlighted in the report.

Pfizer created a Wildlife Management Team and employees are working to restore and enhance the wildlife on the company’s 2,200-acre manufacturing site in Michigan. Eugene Water and Electric is working with landowners and local government to change land management practices, rather than build a new water treatment plant and charge higher rates.

Researchers developed a decision-making framework to help other companies get started addressing their own impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems services. The hope is that business leaders will use and test the framework and share their experiences on the project website, Duncan said.

“Any change to a big organization is extremely difficult,” Duncan said. “If business leaders see a story on the website that they can relate to, it might seem less scary.”

Developing a tool to measure companies’ impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems services and making that tool available to companies around the world are some of the next steps for the project, she said.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Michelle Williams Source: 

Sally Duncan, 541-737-9931 or Sally.duncan@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Public urged to refrain from approaching seal pups

News - Thu, 05/22/2014 - 9:44am
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Oregon State University researchers are encouraging the public to refrain from approaching or "rescuing" seal pups on Northwest beaches this spring.

NEWPORT, Ore. – Numerous young seal pups are venturing onto Oregon beaches, where they are at-risk from well-meaning coastal visitors who mistakenly try to rescue them.

Oregon State University marine mammal biologist Jim Rice is urging the public to refrain from touching or approaching the seal pups, which in most cases are not orphaned or abandoned, he pointed out. They frequently are left on the beach by their mothers, who are out looking for food.

“It is perfectly normal for seal pups to be left alone on the beach in the spring,” said Rice, who coordinates the statewide Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network headquartered at OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. “Newborn pups typically spend several hours each day waiting for their mothers to reunite with them.”

“Adult female seals spend most of their time in the water, hunting for food, and only come ashore periodically to nurse their pups,” Rice said. “But the mothers are wary of people and unlikely to rejoin a pup if there is activity nearby.”

Rice said concerned but uninformed beach-goers will sometimes interfere, picking up seal pups and taking them away from the beaches – and their mothers. A more common threat is hovering by curious onlookers, which can cause stress to the pups and prevents their mothers from returning to them.

“It’s tempting for some people to attempt to ‘rescue’ these seemingly hapless pups,” Rice said, “but a pup’s best chance for survival is to be left alone. A dependent pup that’s taken away from its mother will certainly die.”

Even with the best of intentions, Rice said, people can do a great deal of harm. And additionally, persons who disturb seal pups – even those who are just trying to help – risk being fined under laws intended to protect marine mammals from harassment. The Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits interference with seal pups and other marine mammals on the beach.

Bystanders should stay at least 50 yards away and keep their dogs leashed, Rice said.

“After suckling for about four weeks, weaned pups are abandoned by their mothers, left to fend for themselves,” Rice added. “They will continue to come onto beaches periodically to rest as they grow and learn how to catch their own food.”

The harbor seal pupping season on the Oregon coast is generally March through June, with a peak in mid-May. Anyone who observes incidents of seal pup harassment, or animals in distress, should call the Oregon State Police at 1-800-452-7888, Rice said.

The Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network is an organization comprised of state agencies, universities, and volunteers, working together to investigate the causes of marine mammal strandings, provide for the welfare of live stranded animals, and advance public education about marine mammal strandings.

You can visit the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network online at http://mmi.oregonstate.edu/ommsn

Hatfield Marine Science Center Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Jim Rice, 541-867-0446; jim.rice@oregonstate.edu;

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Categories: Research news

Humpback whale populations more distinct than previously thought

News - Wed, 05/21/2014 - 8:16am
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A new study concludes that humpback whales in three different ocean basins are distinct from one another, evolved independently and should be considered separate subspecies.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new genetic study concludes that humpback whales in three different ocean basins are distinct from one another and are on independent evolutionary trajectories – and should be considered separate subspecies.

The research, led by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey and Oregon State University, is being published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The new study builds on previous research led by Scott Baker at Oregon State and published in December 2013, which identified five distinct populations of humpback whales in the North Pacific Ocean. This latest study found that populations of humpback whales in the North Pacific, North Atlantic and Southern Hemisphere are more distinct than previously thought.

Lead author Jennifer Jackson, of the British Antarctic Survey, said that despite seasonal migrations by humpback whales of more than 16,000 kilometers, whale populations are more isolated from one another than previously thought.

“Their oceanic populations appear separated by warm equatorial waters that they rarely cross,” Jackson said. “But until this study, we didn’t realize the extent of long-term isolation between the North Pacific, the North Atlantic and the Southern Hemisphere.”

Humpback whales are listed as endangered in the United States under the Endangered Species Act, but had recently been downlisted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature on a global level, according to Baker, who is associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore.

However, two population segments recently were relisted as endangered by the IUCN – one in the Sea of Arabia, the other in Oceania (the South Pacific) – and it is likely that at least one of the newly identified populations in the North Pacific will be considered endangered, Baker pointed out.

The newest findings – that humpback whales in the world’s major ocean basins are genetically different – should change the way scientists and resource managers look at these animals, the researchers say.

“This has implications for how we think about conservation of humpback whales,” Baker said. “We now propose that oceanic populations should be recognized as subspecies. Within ocean basins, we would also recognize a number of ‘Distinct Population Segments’ – each of which has a different history of exploitation and recovery.”

The researchers gathered genetic samples from free-swimming humpback whales using a small biopsy dart and then analyzed both mitochondrial DNA inherited from the mother and nuclear DNA from both parents. Mitochondrial DNA enabled the researchers to trace the exchange of female humpback whales among the world’s oceans over the past million years; the nuclear DNA provided insight into male interchange and reproductive isolation.

“We found that although female whales have crossed from one hemisphere to another at certain times in the last few thousand years, they generally stay in the ocean of birth,” Jackson said. “This isolation means oceanic populations have been evolving independently on an evolutionary time scale.”

In addition to Jackson and Baker, the project team included researchers from Florida State University, James Cook University, University of Auckland, Fundacion CEQUA, Wildlife Conservation Society, the American Museum of Natural History and the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium.

The study was funded by the New Zealand Royal Society Marsden Fund and the Lenfest Ocean Program.

Hatfield Marine Science Center Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Scott Baker, 541-867-0255 (cell phone: 541-272-0560), scott.baker@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Research explains action of drug that may slow aging and related disease

News - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 10:30am
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Researchers in the Linus Pauling Institute have outlined the biochemical action of rapamycin, a drug that appears to mimic the effect of dietary restriction in slowing the aging process.

 

The study this story is based on is available in ScholarsArchive@OSU: http://bit.ly/1sQeLkz

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A proven approach to slow the aging process is dietary restriction, but new research in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University helps explain the action of a drug that appears to mimic that process – rapamycin.

Rapamycin, an antibiotic and immunosuppressant approved for use about 15 years ago, has drawn extensive interest for its apparent ability – at least in laboratory animal tests – to emulate the ability of dietary restriction in helping animals to live both longer and healthier.

However, this medication has some drawbacks, including an increase in insulin resistance that could set the stage for diabetes. The new findings, published in the Journals of Gerontology: Biological Sciences, help to explain why that happens, and what could be done to address it.

They suggest that a combination of rapamycin and another drug to offset that increase in insulin resistance might provide the benefits of this medication without the unwanted side effect.

“This could be an important advance if it helps us find a way to gain the apparent benefits of rapamycin without increasing insulin resistance,” said Viviana Perez, an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the OSU College of Science.

“It could provide a way not only to increase lifespan but to address some age-related diseases and improve general health,” Perez said. “We might find a way for people not only to live longer, but to live better and with a higher quality of life.”

Age-related diseases include many of the degenerative diseases that affect billions of people around the world and are among the leading causes of death: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

Laboratory mice that have received rapamycin have reduced the age-dependent decline in spontaneous activity, demonstrated more fitness, improved cognition and cardiovascular health, had less cancer and lived substantially longer than mice fed a normal diet.

Rapamycin, first discovered from the soils of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui in the South Pacific Ocean, is primarily used as an immunosuppressant to prevent rejection of organs and tissues. In recent years it was also observed that it can function as a metabolic “signaler” that inhibits a biological pathway found in almost all higher life forms – the ability to sense when food has been eaten, energy is available and it’s okay for cell proliferation, protein synthesis and growth to proceed.

Called mTOR in mammals, for the term “mammalian target of rapamycin,” this pathway has a critical evolutionary value – it helps an organism avoid too much cellular expansion and growth when energy supplies are insufficient. That helps explain why some form of the pathway has been conserved across such a multitude of species, from yeast to fish to humans.

“Dietary restriction is one of the few interventions that inhibits this mTOR pathway,” Perez said. “And a restricted diet in laboratory animals has been shown to increase their lifespan about 25-30 percent. Human groups who eat fewer calories, such as some Asian cultures, also live longer.”

Aside from a food intake in laboratory mice that’s about 40 percent fewer calories than normal, however, it’s been found that another way to activate this pathway is with rapamycin, which appears to have a significant impact even when used late in life. Some human clinical trials are already underway exploring this potential.

A big drawback to long-term use of rapamycin, however, is the increase in insulin resistance, observed in both humans and laboratory animals. The new research identified why that is happening. It found that both dietary restriction and rapamycin inhibited lipid synthesis, but only dietary restriction increased the oxidation of those lipids in order to produce energy.

Rapamycin, by contrast, allowed a buildup of fatty acids and eventually an increase in insulin resistance, which in humans can lead to diabetes. However, the drug metformin can address that concern, and is already given to some diabetic patients to increase lipid oxidation. In lab tests, the combined use of rapamycin and metformin prevented the unwanted side effect.

“If proven true, then combined use of metformin and rapamycin for treating aging and age-associated diseases in humans may be possible,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion.

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health. Collaborators included researchers from Oklahoma University Health Science Center, the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center, University of Michigan-Flint, and South Texas Veterans Health Care System.

“There’s still substantial work to do, and it may not be realistic to expect with humans what we have been able to accomplish with laboratory animals,” Perez said. “People don’t live in a cage and eat only the exact diet they are given. Nonetheless, the potential of this work is exciting.”

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Viviana Perez, 541-737-9551

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Action of rapamycin

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Study finds Oregon’s most common fish at least three distinct species

News - Mon, 05/19/2014 - 9:09am
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A new study has found that the most common fish species in Oregon – the speckled dace – is actually at least three separate and distinct species.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study has found that the most common fish species in Oregon – the speckled dace – is actually at least three separate and distinct species.

The findings suggest that Oregon may have greater biological diversity in its native fish populations than previously recognized, said researchers at Oregon State University who led the study. The management implications for the discovery are not yet known.

Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

The speckled dace is a small minnow that appears in ponds, rivers, springs, lakes and other waterways from Canada to Mexico. It is the most common fish in Oregon, meaning that it appears in more bodies of water than any other fish, the researchers say, yet little is known about its genetic makeup.

“For some reason, the speckled dace has never been fully investigated,” said Kendra Hoekzema, a faculty research assistant in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and lead author on the study. “Yet it varies greatly in genetics and morphology and now we’re finding that more than one species is out there in a small corner of Oregon.

“Who knows how many other species there might be?” she added. “The Great Basin has a lot of springs.”

The study began as a review of the Foskett Spring speckled dace which, as a listed federally threatened subspecies, must be investigated every five years. This particular dace has only been found in a single spring within Warner Valley in southeast Oregon, and as part of her study, Hoekzema collected speckled dace from surrounding basins, including the Warner system, Goose Lake, Lake Abert, Silver Lake and the Malheur River system, as well as Stinking Lake Spring on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

DNA analysis led Hoekzema and co-author Brian Sidlauskas, an assistant professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at OSU, to determine that there are three “highly divergent” evolutionary lineages of speckled dace that warrant species-level status – the Malheur stream dace, Stinking Lake Spring dace, and dace from the other four basins combined.

“The speckled dace has been on the books for decades as one species and yet when we look at one small corner of Oregon, we find three distinct species,” Sidlauskas said. “Typically, when we think about new species being discovered, we think about some isolated part of the tropics. This is in our own backyard.”

“It goes to show both how much diversity may exist,” he added, “and how little we know about it.”

Hoekzema said the Stinking Lake Spring dace appeared to have branched off genetically some 2.5 million years ago, while the Foskett Spring dace – and perhaps others – became isolated just 10,000 years ago.

The researchers also recommended that the Foskett Spring dace should be listed as an “Evolutionarily Significant Unit” (ESU) and not a subspecies, a technical status change that would not necessarily affect how it is protected.

Paul Scheerer, a biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, has been working at Foskett Spring since 2005 evaluating population status, trends and habitat conditions. He and his colleagues became concerned, Scheerer said, that the speckled daces’ population was declining and that their habitat was shifting from open water vegetated habitat to emergent marsh.

The Bureau of Land Management, ODFW and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted controlled burns of some of the vegetation in 2009 and then excavated new pools fed by the spring.

“Foskett speckled dace quickly expanded into the new pools,” Scheerer said, “and since then we’ve experienced a seven-fold increase in the speckled dace to about 13,000 fish. We also introduced dace into nearby, recently restored ponds to expand their abundance and reduce the risk of catastrophic loss.

“The OSU study results suggest there are more dace species out there than we previously knew,” he added. “It will allow us to adequately protect and enhance these unique fish into the future. The work by OSU is invaluable and will allow us to better understand the diversity of the fish fauna that has evolved in these isolated desert basins.”

The management implications on a broader scale are unclear, Sidlauskas said, because while the new species have been recognized as genetically distinct, their full geographic ranges are unknown. Nevertheless, the discovery of a distinct, unrecognized and possibly endemic species within the Malheur refuge underscores the importance of such areas, he added.

“This suggests that the refuge may harbor even more diversity than we knew and highlights the importance of preserving and valuing such wild places,” Sidlauskas said.

Although the minnows, which grow to a length of about three inches, don’t carry the iconic status of Northwest salmon or steelhead, they are important parts of the food web in many areas. Many species of fish-eating fish love them.

“Speckled dace are the bon-bons of the fish world for piscatorial fish,” Sidlauskas said, “and they are likely important prey for birds and other animals as well.”

The study was funded by the Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences, and the OSU Research Office.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Kendra Hoekzema, 541-737-6035, Kendra.hoekzema@oregonstate.edu; Brian Sidlauskas, 541-737-6789, brian.sidlauskas@oregonstate.edu

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Coleman Lake

Categories: Research news

Smithsonian mobile exhibit on May 19 explores the human-animal bond

News - Fri, 05/16/2014 - 2:50pm
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A mobil museum exhibit featuring the human/animal bond will be in Corvallis on Monday, May 19.

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The special relationship between humans and animals is explored in a new mobile exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution, which will be open in the Reser Stadium parking lot at Oregon State University on Monday, May 19.

“Animal Connections: Our Journey Together,” a custom-built exhibition housed on an 18-wheel truck that expands into 1,000 square feet of space, is traveling throughout the United States. It’s free, and will be open to the public in Corvallis from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“Animal Connections” marks the 150th anniversary of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the exhibit is made possible through the support of founding sponsor Zoetis, Inc., and the AVMA.

A video of the exhibit is available online, at animalconnections.com

The exhibition focuses on animals in the home, on the farm, at the zoo, in the wild and at the veterinary clinic. Visitors are offered a variety of ways to learn through informative displays, dynamic videos and interactive experiences. The exhibit also highlights the roles veterinarians play in the health of animals.

“At the AVMF, we are committed to advancing the well-being and medical care of animals,” said Michael Cathey, AVMF executive director. “This exhibition will not only help inspire the next generation of veterinarians, but improve current animal care through a better understanding of the role animals and veterinarians play in our lives.”

College of Veterinary Medicine Source: 

Lyn Smith-Gloria

Categories: Research news

Linda Bacon to speak about obesity myths and body acceptance at OSU

News - Fri, 05/16/2014 - 1:29pm
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The author of 'Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About your Weight,' will speak about weight prejudice and body acceptance in Corvallis on Thursday, May 22.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Linda Bacon, author of “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About your Weight,” will speak about weight prejudice and body acceptance at Oregon State University in Corvallis on Thursday, May 22.

Bacon’s presentation, “The Next Public Health Challenge: Losing the Anti-Obesity Paradigm,” will examine myths about obesity and problems with a health agenda that is focused on the concept of thinness. She’ll also offer an alternative that does not use weight as a barometer for health or promote weight loss as a means to achieving better health.

Bacon will speak from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Withycombe Theatre, 2901 S.W. Campus Way. The event is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by Healthy Campus Initiatives and the School of Psychological Science in the College of Liberal Arts at OSU.

Bacon is a professor, researcher and author who combines academic expertise and clinical experience to bring together scientific research and practical application. She focuses on well-being rather than weight to help people of all sizes achieve fitness, health and happiness without dieting.

She is an assistant researcher in the nutrition department and teaches nutrition at City College of San Francisco. She holds a doctorate in physiology from the University of California, Davis.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Patti Watkins, 541-737-9234, pwatkins@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Library receives endowment to fund student research scholarships

News - Thu, 05/15/2014 - 10:57am
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Oregon State University Libraries and Press has received a $100,000 estate gift to endow the Library Undergraduate Research Award. 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University Libraries and Press has received a $100,000 estate gift to endow the Library Undergraduate Research Award.

The annual Library Undergraduate Research Award (LURA) recognizes outstanding research, scholarship, and originality in writing a paper or completing a project. The winning students receive a $1000 scholarship and present their research findings at a formal ceremony. This year’s winners are Brittany Backen, a history major; and Arlyn Y. Moreno Luna, a bioresource research major. Backen’s research paper is entitled “Coed Cheesecake:  The 1959 Wrestling Court and the Politics of the Marriage Market at Oregon State College.” Luna’s research paper is on “The Effects of Xanthohumol on Biomarkers of Metabolic Syndrome in Obese Rats.”

The endowment was created from funds provided by the estate of Gilbert and Marie Cleasby. Marie, a 1952 OSU graduate, majored in home economics and was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. She also was a member of the college chorus during her freshman year. She became a master gardener. Gilbert W. Cleasby, M.D., was a well-respected ophthalmologist in the Bay Area.

LURA was created seven years ago as an initiative of the Library Advisory Council. Previous winners have submitted papers on topics ranging from the socio-religious implications of the hijab headscarf to the impact of the grapevine leafroll virus on pinot noir fruit.

“Oregon State University Libraries and Press contributes to student success in many ways,” said Faye A. Chadwell, Donald & Delpha Campbell University Librarian and OSU Press Director. “Funding LURA in perpetuity demonstrates our strong commitment to undergraduates at OSU.”

Previous winning papers are available online in ScholarsArchive@OSU, the university’s institutional repository, at http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/handle/1957/4505.

The Cleasbys’ bequest is part of the $1 billion Campaign for OSU, the university’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign. An important part of the campaign, estate gifts and other planned gifts support programs, faculty, and students throughout the university.

 

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Theresa Hogue Source: 

Rhonda Hankins, 541-737-4633

Categories: Research news

Study: Targeted funding can help address inequities in early child care programs

News - Thu, 05/15/2014 - 9:36am
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The quality of early child care and education programs is influenced both by funding and by the characteristics of the communities in which the programs operate.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The quality of early child care and education programs is influenced both by funding and by the characteristics of the communities in which the programs operate, new research from Oregon State University shows.

The findings indicate that law- and policy-makers may need to consider the demographics of communities when making funding decisions about early childhood programs, said Bridget Hatfield, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

That’s especially important now because many states, including Oregon, are adopting or revising quality ratings systems that tie funding to program quality, Hatfield said.

Her findings were published recently in “Early Childhood Research Quarterly.” Co-authors were Joanna K. Lower of Lower & Company, Deborah J. Cassidy of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Richard A. Faldowski of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Lower received funding for the research from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families. Hatfield received funding for the research from the Institute of Education Sciences at the University of Virginia.

Hatfield studied about 7,000 licensed early child care and education programs in North Carolina, which has one of the nation’s oldest quality rating and improvement systems for early child care and education programs. These systems are used by many states to determine how much government funding an early child care and education program receives.

Oregon and many other states are in the midst of implementing a quality rating system.

Hatfield found that children from low-income communities have less access to high-quality early child care and preschool, even though they are likely to gain more benefits from it.

“There are a lot of barriers to high-quality education in disadvantaged communities,” she said. “Hiring teachers with bachelor’s degrees, providing appropriate school supplies and play equipment – you need money to do all those things.”

Her research also showed that additional government funding can provide a significant boost to the quality of programs in disadvantaged communities. Those programs make bigger quality improvements when they receive extra funding than programs that are in more affluent communities, Hatfield found.

“Just because a program is in a disadvantaged community doesn’t mean it can’t attain high quality,” she said. “The extra money helps the programs in disadvantaged communities close the gap.”

Hatfield studied family child care homes, where child care is provided in a private home, as well as child care centers and preschool programs, including federal programs such as Head Start.

The research shows that quality of child care can vary based on funding, but other factors also affect program quality, Hatfield said. For example, in other research projects, she is studying the interactions between teachers and children in the classroom. That kind of research will help child care program leaders determine how best to spend money they receive to improve their programs.

“If we give people more money, what’s the best way to spend it?” she said. “Do we buy more puzzles for the children or train the teachers to better use the puzzles they have?”

College of Public Health and Human Sciences Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Bridget Hatfield, 541-737-6438, Bridget.hatfield@oregonstate.edu

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Bridget Hatfield

Categories: Research news

Extended-release medication offers promise for alcohol, opioid dependence

News - Wed, 05/14/2014 - 12:53pm
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A once-a-month injection of a particular drug appears more effective than other medications in treating alcohol and opioid dependence.

The study this story is based on is available online: http://bit.ly/1i9n2tD

 

PORTLAND, Ore. – A comparatively new form of a medication for alcohol and opioid dependence that’s injected once a month instead of taken orally once a day appears to be significantly more effective than some other medications – because more patients actually continue the prescribed regimen.

The findings, published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment by researchers from Oregon State University and other institutions, offer support for a wider use of medications that may help reduce or prevent substance abuse and related hospital admissions.

The cost savings could offset the cost of the medication, researchers said.

In the past, there has been fairly low use of medications to treat alcohol and opioid dependence. Several treatment options are available, with differing mechanisms of action, and they generally work to reduce the pleasurable feelings associated with drug and alcohol use, thereby discouraging the use of them.

The medication in the study that was found to be more effective than some past approaches was extended-release Naltrexone, which is administered once a month by injection in a medical setting. The research was supported by Alkermes, Inc., the manufacturer of that medication.

“Some of these medications are opioid antagonists, which reduce the euphoric effects of alcohol and some drugs,” said Dan Hartung, an associate professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy, and lead author on the study.

“Historically, oral medications for substance abuse have not often been prescribed or found to have a high degree of success, mostly because patients stopped taking them,” Hartung said. “But there are patients who are committed to treating their problems and data showed that they clearly appear to have success with extended-release Naltrexone, which is administered just once a month.”

The issue may be of increased importance, experts said, because of health and prescription drug coverage that is now being made available through the Affordable Care Act. It may make such medications available to many people who previously did not have access to them, and in the process achieve some goals of reducing hospital admissions.

The new meta-analysis combined findings from five other papers, comprising a total of 1,565 patients who received extended-release Naltrexone compared to other therapies for six months, among nearly 60,000 overall patients – the only comprehensive analysis of its type that has been completed.

It found that even though extended-release Naltrexone is expensive – about $1,100 a month – the total health care utilization and costs were generally lower for patients taking it, compared to those using other alcohol-dependence treatments.

They found that significant savings were produced by fewer days of detoxification facility use and inpatient utilization.

Alcohol and drug use disorders affect more than 21 million Americans, the researchers noted in their study – or about 8 percent of the nation’s population. Research in New York found that substance abuse more than doubled the number of preventable hospital re-admissions. But despite this, treatment of alcohol dependence with medications ranks the lowest among 25 health and behavioral conditions.

“There has always been some reluctance on the part of health care practitioners, as well as the patients they are treating, to use prescription medication to treat a substance abuse problem,” Hartung said.  “Medication-assisted therapy is underutilized. With more people having access to these medications, now would be a good time to do further research on the comparative efficacy and use of them.”

Although most studies of extended-release Naltrexone have been six months in duration, longer-term data suggest effectiveness is maintained for longer durations of therapy. Very limited research has been done comparing the efficacy of various drugs for these purposes.

Nationally, even at addiction treatment centers, only 24 percent used pharmacotherapy for alcohol dependence and 34 percent for opioid dependence. Barriers to use include financing, concerns about cost, medical staffing, education and attitudes.

“Given rising pressures to reduce potentially preventable hospital readmissions and other reducible cost and morbidity causes,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion, “the optimization of patient care and management of resources warrant systemic change in the delivery of addiction treatment, in the advancing era of health care reform.”

College of Pharmacy Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Dan Hartung, 503-494-4720

Categories: Research news

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