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Study: Young women with sexy social media photos seen as less competent

News - Mon, 07/14/2014 - 11:31am
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Girls and young women who post sexy or revealing photos are viewed by their female peers as less attractive and less competent, research shows.

BEND, Ore. – Girls and young women who post sexy or revealing photos on social media sites such as Facebook are viewed by their female peers as less physically and socially attractive and less competent to perform tasks, a new study from Oregon State University indicates.

“This is a clear indictment of sexy social media photos,” said researcher Elizabeth Daniels, an assistant professor of psychology who studies the effect of media on girls’ body image. Daniels’ findings are based on an experiment she conducted using a fictitious Facebook profile.

“There is so much pressure on teen girls and young women to portray themselves as sexy, but sharing those sexy photos online may have more negative consequences than positive,” Daniels said.

Girls and young women are in a “no-win” situation when it comes to their Facebook photos, Daniels said. Those who post sexy photos may risk negative reactions from their peers, but those who post more wholesome photos may lose out on social rewards, including attention from boys and men, she said.

“Social media is where the youth are,” she said. “We need to understand what they’re doing online and how that affects their self-concept and their self-esteem.”

Daniels’ research was published today in the journal “Psychology of Popular Media Culture.” The article, titled “The price of sexy: Viewers’ perceptions of a sexualized versus non-sexualized Facebook profile photo,” was co-authored by Eileen L. Zurbriggen of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Daniels conducted the research while on the faculty at OSU-Cascades and received two Circle of Excellence grants from OSU-Cascades to support the study. She is now an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs.

For the study, Daniels created two mock Facebook profiles for the fictitious 20-year-old Amanda Johnson. In both versions, Amanda liked musicians such as Lady Gaga, books such as “Twilight,” and movies like “The Notebook,” that would be appropriate for a person her age.

The only difference between the two was the profile photo. The photos were actual high school senior portrait and prom photos of a real young woman who allowed the photos to be used for the experiment.

In the sexy photo, “Amanda” is wearing a low-cut red dress with a slit up one leg to mid-thigh and a visible garter belt. In the non-sexy photo, she’s wearing jeans, a short-sleeved shirt and a scarf draped around her neck, covering her chest. 

Study participants were 58 teen girls, ages 13-18, and 60 young adult women no longer in high school, ages 17-25. They were randomly assigned one of the profiles and asked questions based on that profile.

The participants were asked to assess Amanda’s physical attractiveness (I think she is pretty), social attractiveness (I think she could be a friend of mine), and task competence (I have confidence in her ability to get a job done) on a scale from 1-7, with one being strongly disagree and 7 being strongly agree.

In all three areas, the non-sexy profile scored higher, indicating that those who viewed that photo thought Amanda was prettier, more likely to make a good friend and more likely to complete a task. The largest difference was in the area of task competence, suggesting a young woman’s capabilities are really dinged by the sexy photo, Daniels said.

The research underscores the importance of helping children and young people understand the long-term consequences of their online posts, Daniels said. Parents, educators and other influential adults should have regular conversations about the implications of online behavior with teens and young adults, Daniels suggested.

“We really need to help youth understand this is a very public forum,” she said.

The research also highlights the need for more discussion about gender roles and attitudes, particularly regarding girls and young women, she said.

“Why is it we focus so heavily on girls’ appearances?” she said. “What does this tell us about gender? Those conversations should be part of everyday life.”

Daniels’ advice for girls and young women is to select social media photos that showcase their identity rather than her appearance, such as one from a trip or one that highlights participation in a sport or hobby.

“Don’t focus so heavily on appearance,” Daniels said. “Focus on who you are as a person and what you do in the world.”

OSU-Cascades Campus Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Elizabeth Daniels, 831-345-8447 or daniels.psychology@gmail.com

Categories: Research news

Antibiotic use prevalent in hospice patients despite limited evidence of its value

News - Mon, 07/14/2014 - 9:05am
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Research suggests that antibiotics are probably being used more than is appropriate in hospice patients, sometimes making life for the terminally ill worse instead of better.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – New research suggests that use of antibiotics is still prevalent among terminal patients who have chosen hospice care as an end-of-life option, despite little evidence that the medications improve symptoms or quality of life, and sometimes may cause unwanted side effects.

The use of antibiotics is so engrained in contemporary medicine that 21 percent of patients being discharged from hospitals directly to a hospice program leave with a prescription for antibiotics, even though more than one fourth of them don’t have a documented infection during their hospital admission.

About 27 percent of hospice patients are still taking antibiotics in the final week of their life.

This raises serious questions about whether such broad and continued antibiotic use is appropriate in so many hospice cases, experts say, where the underlying concept is to control pain and protect the remaining quality of life without aggressively continuing medical treatment.

Additional concerns with antibiotic use, the study concluded, include medication side effects and adverse events, increased risk of subsequent opportunistic infections, prolonging the dying process and increasing the risk of developing antibiotic resistant microorganisms.

The findings were just published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy by researchers from Oregon State University and the Oregon Health & Science University. It was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

“Hospice care is very patient centered and in terminal patients it focuses on palliative care and symptom relief, not curative therapy,” said Jon Furuno, an associate professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy.

“It’s not for everyone, and it’s a serious decision people usually make in consultation with their family, nurses and doctors. These are tough conversations to have.

“Having decided to use hospice, however, the frequency and prevalence of antibiotic use in this patient population is a concern,” Furuno said. “Antibiotics themselves can have serious side effects that sometimes cause new problems, a factor that often isn’t adequately considered. And in terminally-ill people they may or may not work anyway.”

Issues such as this, Furuno said, continue to crop up in the evolving issue of hospice care, which is still growing in popularity as many people choose to naturally allow their life to end with limited medical treatment and often in their own homes. Hospice is covered by Medicare for people with a life expectancy of less than six months, helps to control medical costs and reduce hospital stays, and its services are now used by more than one third of dying Americans.

Unnecessary and inappropriate antibiotic use is already a concern across all segments of society, researchers said in the report, and more efforts are clearly needed to address the issue in hospice patients. The design of the study probably leads to it underestimating the significance of the problem, the researchers wrote in their conclusion.

College of Pharmacy Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Jon Furuno, 503-418-9361

Categories: Research news

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

News - 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

News - 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

News - 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

News - 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

News - 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

News - 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

News - 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

News - 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

News - 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

News - 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

News - 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

Legacy of Oregon Gov. Tom McCall featured at Corvallis Science Pub

OSU News Releases - Tue, 11/05/2013 - 9:40am
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The late Oregon Gov. Tom McCall’s pioneering fight to clean up the state’s waterways and to control development in the late 1960s still resonates today.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The late Oregon Gov. Tom McCall’s pioneering fight to clean up the state’s waterways and to control development in the late 1960s still resonates today. At the Nov. 11 Corvallis Science Pub, Oregon State University historian Bill Robbins will discuss the significance of McCall’s leadership.

Robbins will also show McCall’s famous documentary, Pollution in Paradise, which aired on KGW-TV in 1962.

The Science Pub presentation begins at 6 p.m. in the Old World Deli located at 341 S.W. Second St. in Corvallis. It is free and open to the public. 

“With an aristocratic, East Coast family background and a large-sized ego, McCall proved himself a man of the people, one who inspired deep affection for his adopted and beloved state,” Robbins said. “In a significantly less-polarized political environment, he worked across party lines to achieve significant policy objectives that we live with to the present day.”

Robbins is an emeritus distinguished professor of history at Oregon State and the author of 12 books, including Landscapes of Promise: The Oregon Story, 1800-1940 (1997); Landscapes of Conflict: The Oregon Story, 1940-2000 (2005); and Oregon: This Storied Land (2006). 

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

 

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Generic OSU Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Bill Robbins, 541-602-3867

Categories: Research news

New 4-H program aims to prepare culturally diverse youth for college

OSU News Releases - Mon, 11/04/2013 - 9:46am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – High school students will explore college and career opportunities in a new 4-H program coordinated by the Oregon State University Extension Service.

The 4-H Outreach Leadership Institute aims to prepare high school students from diverse cultural backgrounds to attend college and pursue a variety of career paths, according to organizer Mario Magaña, an outreach specialist for OSU Extension 4-H. Magaña hopes the leadership institute will reach Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders and African-Americans, as well as rural Caucasians who would be first-generation college students.

It's set for Nov. 15-17 at OSU in Corvallis, with additional multi-day sessions in March of 2014 at OSU and May of 2014 at the Oregon 4-H Conference and Education Center in Salem. The leadership institute is an expansion of the former 4-H Camp Counselor Trainings and the replacement of the high school International Summer Camp.

"I really believe that high school is the time to expose kids to college information and leadership activities," Magaña said. "The leadership institute will help them gain the knowledge, confidence and skills needed to apply for competitive scholarships and to apply for top universities. If kids start attending the leadership institute during their freshman year, we're going to mentor them three times a year for every year of their high school careers."

On the OSU campus in Corvallis, students will get hands-on practice from several Oregon universities on how to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, fill out a college application, write a college admissions essay and compose a personal biography. They will learn about careers from OSU student and faculty mentors in engineering, forestry, veterinary medicine, health and nutrition, fisheries and wildlife, solar energy, wave energy, science and robotics.

The session in May in Salem will train students to become camp counselors for 4-H International Summer Camps in 2014. It will offer students activities to develop leadership skills. Activities will include campfire skits, games, songs and role-plays. Workshops will teach students about a camp counselor's roles and responsibilities, as well as camp rules and regulations. Students will also learn about the physical and educational activities that will take place during summer camps, ranging from swimming to archery to building Lego robotics, as well as other workshops related to science, engineering and technology.  

Jessica Casas of Salem participated in 4-H International Summer Camps as a camper and counselor. She is a sophomore at OSU majoring in sociology and hopes to earn her master's degree in public policy.

"I did see myself in college, but I did not know how I was going to get there,” Casas said. “I got to know about the resources available when I attended 4-H International Summer Camps. After I got to meet Latino and Latina students attending college and getting financial aid, I talked to my mom and knew I was going to college."  

Now Casas is attending OSU on a Gates Millennium Scholarship. Her ultimate career goal is to represent Latinos in government-level legislature, with the hope of creating positive change in public policy for the Latino community. She is already on the path to pursuing that dream. At the leadership institute, Casas will coach students on applying for the competitive Gates Millennium Scholarship, which includes writing eight essays. 

Applications to the leadership institute are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. High school students in grades 9-12 from anywhere in Oregon are encouraged to apply. There is no cost to attend but an application is required. Students can apply at http://bit.ly/Outreach_Institute.

The Oregon Outreach project, which oversees the leadership institute, is an initiative of the OSU Extension 4-H Youth Development Program. Oregon Outreach aims to support and expand the quality and quantity of community-based, culturally relevant educational programs for underserved populations. For more information, go to http://oregon.4h.oregonstate.edu/oregonoutreach.

4-H is the largest out-of-school youth development program nationwide. The OSU Extension Service administrates Oregon's 4-H program within OSU's College of Public Health and Human Sciences. 4-H reached nearly 117,000 youth in kindergarten through 12th grade via a network of 8,534 volunteers in 2012. Activities focus on areas like healthy living, civic engagement, science and animal care. Learn more about 4-H at: http://oregon.4h.oregonstate.edu.

Extension Service Media Contact:  Denise Ruttan Source: 

Mario Magaña, 541-737-0925

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Students at a past 4-H International Summer Camp learn about engineering concepts in a hands-on activity. The Oregon State University Extension Service coordinates the camps. (Photo by Mario Magaña.)

Categories: Research news

Climate report: Wildfires, snowmelt, coastal issues top Northwest risks

OSU News Releases - Fri, 11/01/2013 - 11:07am
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The Northwest is facing increased risks from the decline of forest health, earlier snowmelt, and issues facing the coastal region, according to a new climate assessment report.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Northwest is facing increased risks from the decline of forest health, earlier snowmelt leading to low summer stream flows, and an array of issues facing the coastal region, according to a new climate assessment report.

Written by a team of scientists coordinated by the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI) at Oregon State University, the report is the first regional climate assessment released since 1999. Both the 1999 report and the 2013 version were produced as part of the U.S. National Climate Assessment; both Washington and Oregon produced state-level reports in 2009 and 2010.

OSU’s Philip Mote, director of the institute and one of three editors of the 270-page report (as well as the 1999 report), said the document incorporates a lot of new science as well as some additional dimensions – including the impact of climate change on human health and tribal issues. A summary of the report is available online at: http://occri.net/reports

Amy Snover, director of the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington, said there are a number of issues facing the Northwest as a result of climate change.

“As we looked across both economic and ecological dimensions, the three that stood out were less snow, more wildfires and challenges to the coastal environment and infrastructure,” said Snover, who is one of the editors on the report.

The report outlines how these three issues are affected by climate change.

“Studies are showing that snowmelt is occurring earlier and earlier and that is leading to a decline in stream flows in summer,” Mote said. “Northwest forests are facing a huge increase in wildfires, disease and other disturbances that are both direct and indirect results of climate change. And coastal issues are mounting and varied, from sea level rise and inundation, to ocean acidification. Increased wave heights in recent decades also threaten coastal dwellings, roads and other infrastructure.”

OCCRI’s Meghan Dalton, lead editor on the report, notes that 2,800 miles of coastal roads are in the 100-year floodplain and some highways may face inundation with just two feet of sea level rise. Sea levels are expected to rise as much as 56 inches, or nearly five feet, by the year 2100.

Earlier snowmelt is a significant concern in the Northwest, where reservoir systems are utilized to maximize water storage. But, Dalton said, the Columbia River basin has a storage capacity that is smaller than its annual flow volume and is “ill-equipped to handle the projected shift to earlier snowmelt…and will likely be forced to pass much of these earlier flows out of the system.”

The earlier peak stream flow may significantly reduce summer hydroelectric power production, and slightly increase winter power production.

The report was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, through the Oregon Legislature’s support of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at OSU, and by in-kind contributions from the authors’ institutions.

Mote said new research has led to improved climate models, which suggest that the Northwest will warm by a range of three to 14 degrees (Fahrenheit) by the year 2100. “The lower range will only be possible if greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced.” In contrast, the Northwest warmed by 1.3 degrees from the period of 1895 to 2011.

Future precipitation is harder to project, the report notes, with models forecasting a range from a 10 percent decrease to an 18 percent increase by 2100. Most models do suggest that more precipitation will fall as rain and earlier snowmelt will change river flow patterns.

That could be an issue for agriculture in the future as the “Northwest’s diverse crops depend on adequate water supplies and temperature ranges, which are projected to change during the 21st century,” the report notes. Pinpointing the impacts on agriculture will be difficult, said Sanford Eigenbrode of the University of Idaho, another co-author.

“As carbon dioxide levels rise, yields will increase for some plants, and more rainfall in winter could mean wetter soils in the spring, benefitting some crops,” Eigenbrode pointed out. “Those same conditions could adversely affect other crops. It is very difficult to say how changing climate will affect agriculture overall in the Northwest, but we can say that the availability of summer water will be a concern.”

Mote said there may be additional variables affecting agriculture, such what impacts the changing climate has on pests, diseases and invasive species.

“However, the agricultural sector is resilient and can respond more quickly to new conditions than some other sectors like forestry, where it takes 40 years or longer for trees to reach a harvestable age,” noted Mote, who is a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

The Northwest has not to date been vulnerable to many climate-related health risks, the report notes, but impacts of climate change in the future are more likely to be negative than positive. Concerns include increased morbidity and mortality from heat-related illness, air pollution and allergenic disease, and the emergence of infectious diseases.

“In Oregon, one study showed that each 10-degree (F) increase in daily maximum temperature was associated with a nearly three-fold increase of heat-related illness,” said Jeff Bethel, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU and one of the co-authors of the report. “The threshold for triggering heat-related illness – especially among the elderly – isn’t much.”

Northwest tribes may face a greater impact from climate change because of their reliance on natural resources. Fish, shellfish, game and plant species could be adversely affected by a warming climate, resulting in a multitude of impacts.

“When tribes ceded their lands and were restricted to small areas, it resulted in a loss of access to many species that lived there,” said Kathy Lynn, coordinator of the Tribal Climate Change Project at the University of Oregon and a co-author of the report. “Climate change may further reduce the abundance of resources. That carries a profound cultural significance far beyond what we can document from an economic standpoint.”

Snover said that the climate changes projected for the coming decades mean that many of the assumptions “inherent in decisions, infrastructure and policies – where to build, what to grow where, and how to manage variable water sources to meet multiple needs – will become increasingly incorrect.

“Whether the ultimate consequences of the climate impacts outlined in this report are severe or mild depends in part on how well we prepare our communities, economies and natural systems for the changes we know are coming,” Snover said.

Other lead co-authors on the report are Rick Raymondi, Idaho Department of Water Resources; W. Spencer Reeder, Cascadia Consulting Group; Patty Glick, National Wildlife Federation; Susan Capalbo, OSU; and Jeremy Littell, U.S. Geological Survey.

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

Philip Mote, 541-737-5694; pmote@coas.oregonstate.edu; Amy Snover, 206-221-0222; aksnover@uw.edu

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Coastal issues

Snowmelt

Wildfires

Categories: Research news

“Flipping the switch” reveals new compounds with antibiotic potential

OSU News Releases - Wed, 10/30/2013 - 2:49pm
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OSU biochemists have unlocked some of the genetic constraints on a common fungus, in work that may lead to important new antibiotics.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered that one gene in a common fungus acts as a master regulator, and deleting it has opened access to a wealth of new compounds that have never before been studied – with the potential to identify new antibiotics.

The finding was announced today in the journal PLOS Genetics, in research supported by the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society.

Scientists succeeded in flipping a genetic switch that had silenced more than 2,000 genes in this fungus, the cereal pathogen Fusarium graminearum. Until now this had kept it from producing novel compounds that may have useful properties, particularly for use in medicine but also perhaps in agriculture, industry, or biofuel production.

“About a third of the genome of many fungi has always been silent in the laboratory,” said Michael Freitag, an associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the OSU College of Science. “Many fungi have antibacterial properties. It was no accident that penicillin was discovered from a fungus, and the genes for these compounds are usually in the silent regions of genomes.

“What we haven’t been able to do is turn on more of the genome of these fungi, see the full range of compounds that could be produced by expression of their genes,” he said. “Our finding should open the door to the study of dozens of new compounds, and we’ll probably see some biochemistry we’ve never seen before.”

In the past, the search for new antibiotics was usually done by changing the environment in which a fungus or other life form grew, and see if those changes generated the formation of a compound with antibiotic properties.

“The problem is, with the approaches of the past we’ve already found most of the low-hanging fruit, and that’s why we’ve had to search in places like deep sea vents or corals to find anything new,” Freitag said. “With traditional approaches there’s not that much left to be discovered. But now that we can change the genome-wide expression of fungi, we may see a whole new range of compounds we didn’t even know existed.”

The gene that was deleted in this case regulates the methylation of histones, the proteins around which DNA is wound, Freitag said. Creating a mutant without this gene allowed new expression, or overexpression of about 25 percent of the genome of this fungus, and the formation of many “secondary metabolites,” the researchers found.

The gene that was deleted, kmt6, encodes a master regulator that affects the expression of hundreds of genetic pathways, researchers say. It’s been conserved through millions of years, in life forms as diverse as plants, fungi, fruit flies and humans.

The discovery of new antibiotics is of increasing importance, researchers say, as bacteria, parasites and fungi are becoming increasingly resistant to older drugs.

“Our studies will open the door to future precise ‘epigenetic engineering’ of gene clusters that generate bioactive compounds, e.g. putative mycotoxins, antibiotics and industrial feedstocks,” the researchers wrote in the conclusion of their report.

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Michael Freitag, 541-737-4845

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Pigments produced





Fungus on corn

Categories: Research news

Noted oceanographer to speak Nov. 12 at Hatfield

OSU News Releases - Wed, 10/30/2013 - 9:31am
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Don Walsh, a pioneering oceanographer famous for his 1960 dive to the deepest part of the ocean, will visit OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

NEWPORT, Ore. – Don Walsh, a pioneering oceanographer famous for his 1960 dive to the deepest part of the ocean, will visit Newport on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

Walsh will give a free public lecture at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. His presentation, “Lunch on Board the Titanic: Two Miles Deep in the Atlantic,” begins at 6:30 p.m. In his talk, Walsh will share his experience diving in a submersible down to the Titanic and other adventures from his career of more than 40 years.

A retired captain from the U.S. Navy, Walsh went on to enjoy a lengthy career as an oceanographer and ocean engineer who explored the deep oceans and polar regions. He has commanded submarines as a naval officer and deep-sea submersibles as a researcher.

In 1960, Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard boarded the bathyscaphe Trieste and descended to the floor of the Mariana Trench in the northern Pacific Ocean – a depth of more than 35,000 feet, or nearly seven miles. It took five hours to reach the seafloor, and at 30,000 feet they heard a loud crack. Upon reaching the bottom, they discovered cracks in the window, and quickly began ascending.

The historic dive received worldwide attention. It also remained a world record dive for 52 years until James Cameron piloted his Deepsea Challenger to the same place in 2012.

Walsh, who has a courtesy appointment in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, will also visit schools in Newport during the week and give a seminar at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. That talk, intended for a research audience, is titled “Going the Last Seven Miles – Looking Backwards at the Future.” It begins at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 in the Hennings Auditorium.

Hatfield Marine Science Center Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Maryann Bozza, 541-867-0234; maryann.bozza@oregonstate.edu

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Don Walsh

Categories: Research news

Former FBI fugitive Katherine Ann Power returns to Corvallis for talk

OSU News Releases - Tue, 10/29/2013 - 11:30am
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A former fugitive who spent 23 years on the run from the FBI is returning to Corvallis to talk for the first time about her experiences.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A former fugitive who spent 23 years on the run from the FBI is returning to Corvallis to talk for the first time about her experiences as a student activist, a wanted criminal, and a woman who now embraces peace activism rather than violent revolution.

Katherine Ann Power has written a book titled “Surrender,” about her life on the run. She will speak on that topic at Oregon State University at noon on Thursday, Oct. 31, in Memorial Union Room 206.

In 1970, while a student at Brandeis University, Power was involved in a bank heist. She and four other activists were hoping to use the money to buy explosives that would help them procure weapons to arm the Black Panthers. During the robbery, one of the participants shot and killed a Boston police officer responding to the crime. Power, who was the getaway driver, escaped capture and disappeared for more than two decades.

She ended up in Lebanon, Ore., working in Corvallis and Albany, as well as teaching cooking classes at Linn-Benton Community College. She took on the name of Alice Metzinger, raised a son and married a local man.

But in 1993, Power decided she had lived in hiding long enough. She negotiated terms of surrender and pled guilty to two counts of armed robbery and manslaughter. She was released from prison in 1999, and returned to Oregon. She completed a master’s degree at Oregon State University in interdisciplinary studies, and taught English as an instructor. She later moved to Boston.

Part of Power’s sentence restricted her from speaking and publishing about her experiences until her 20-year probation period ended in 2013.

The talk, titled “Surrender: Gorilla to Grandmother,” is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the OSU Peace Studies Program, the School of History, Philosophy and Religion and the Annares Project.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Angela Yeager Source: 

Joseph Orosco, 541-737-4335

Categories: Research news

Phillips named director for OSU Office of Research Development

OSU News Releases - Tue, 10/29/2013 - 10:45am
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Mary Phillips has been named director for the Office of Research Development, a new unit within the Research Office, effective Dec. 1.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Mary Phillips has been named director for the Office of Research Development, a new unit within the Research Office, effective Dec. 1.

Phillips is associate director for the Office for Commercialization and Corporate Development, where she oversees the management of intellectual property and licensing of OSU inventions. In her new role, Phillips will work with faculty and academic units to identify and pursue major funding opportunities, including federal, non-profit and corporate sources.

The creation of the Office for Research Development is a proactive step by the Research Office that addresses the challenge and goals articulated in the OSU research agenda by providing strategic institutional support for successful proposal development, Phillips said.

"What excites me about this position is the role I will play in developing new approaches that will enable our faculty to be highly competitive in securing grant funding in these times of dwindling federal funding and sequestration," Phillips noted. "This in itself is a grand challenge."

Vice President for Research Rick Spinrad said there is a lot of untapped potential for building OSU’s capacity and reputation.

“By establishing an Office of Research Development, we have created the structure to engage in strategic positioning of our research enterprise, long before specific solicitations for research are issued,” Spinrad said. “As part of OSU’s research agenda we are striving to diversify our sponsorship base.  We’ve done this very successfully with our industry engagement (40 percent increase in two years), now we have the staff and organization to start doing the same with other sponsors, notably federal agencies.”

Spinrad anticipates that OSU will dramatically increase the number of federal agencies supporting its research, and that OSU will take a much more forward-leaning posture in driving the research interests of traditional sponsors. 

“In addition, Mary’s role will allow us to be much more effective in strengthening our proposal efforts - for example by being more strategic in how we address ‘broader impacts,’” Spinrad said. “This is particularly important as general decreases in federal funding for research make for an even more competitive environment.”

Phillips will be supported by an advisory group that will consist of senior faculty representing each of the divisions within the university.

Prior to joining OSU in 2006, Phillips began her career in university technology transfer in 2001 at Oregon Health and Science University. She has a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of London’s Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine and gained postdoctoral experience in the areas of laser spectroscopy and molecular biology at the University of Oregon. 

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Theresa Hogue Source: 

Mary Phillips

541-737-4437

Categories: Research news

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