Category » Terra Blog

da Vinci Days 2013: Stories from the Edge of Science
July 25, 2013

da Vinci Days 2013: Stories from the Edge of Science

Oregon State scientists take audiences on a planetary journey

Leonardo da Vinci combined the practical and the beautiful, the mechanical and artistic. At the 2013 da Vinci Days festival in Corvallis, Oregon State University scientists, engineers and mathematicians shared their journeys under Antarctic sea ice, to an African village, to Mars and through a mathematical landscape.


Lamprey Has Star Power at da Vinci Days
July 24, 2013

Lamprey Has Star Power at da Vinci Days

OSU partners with U.S. Fish & Wildlife to share the plight of Oregon's ancient, threatened fish

The “Forgotten Fish,” an ancient (and threatened) species native to Oregon’s rivers, found many new supporters among the hundreds who enjoyed da Vinci Days in July.


What It’s Like to Necropsy a Moose
June 17, 2013

What It’s Like to Necropsy a Moose

It’s physical and sensual.  It’s not an exercise in hypothetical counter-factuals or wonderings about brains in vats or the playing of a clever devil’s advocate.  It’s hot and uncomfortable and smelly.  You flail in vain at ginormous mosquitos with your forearms and shoulders (because your hands are covered in rubber gloves which are covered in […]


Balancing Work and Family
May 21, 2013

Balancing Work and Family

Drew Arnold juggles personal and professional

Babies don’t wait for you to get your master’s degree. They arrive on their own schedules and change your life. Drew Arnold learned that lesson when he became a father. He also found that sleep comes in a distant third to family and education. In 2010, he began a graduate program in mechanical engineering at […]


Flight Plan
May 21, 2013

Flight Plan

UAV technology can create jobs, save money and lives

UAVs can help manage wildfires, support a search-and-rescue mission, plant trees to avoid wind or heat damage, monitor wildlife, improve irrigation, detect crop-disease outbreaks and gauge environmental health.


Freedom of Access
May 21, 2013

Freedom of Access

The public deserves and needs scientific information

“For scholars, access to the work of their peers is fundamental to the advancement of research.”


Science that Breaks Your Heart
February 27, 2013

Science that Breaks Your Heart

Coupling facts and morality to save our Earth

As a thinking community, we face a conundrum: Scientists uncover some of the empirical knowledge we need to save our planet and ourselves. Yet their devotion to neutrality — an unquestioned necessity in the lab — impedes their voices in the wider world.


Roots of Relationship
February 26, 2013

Roots of Relationship

Under the pine needles lies one of the secrets to forest health

The summer is warm and sunny in Corvallis, but my travels draw me east. Over and past the Cascades is an open land where the cold sparkling waters of a river flow north, and the sweet smell of Ponderosa pine blends with the fresh scent of lodgepole — the Deschutes National Forest. My one-person tent […]


February 1, 2013

10 Steps for Innovators

The journey from idea to innovation turns, twists and hits the occasional roadblock. Follow the progress of an Oregon State idea that is making the wood-products industry more sustainable. Research by wood-science professor Kaichang Li has enabled Columbia Forest Products, North America’s largest manufacturer of hardwood plywood, to switch from adhesives made with formaldehyde to […]


Documenting the Giants
January 29, 2013

Documenting the Giants

Canopy science for old-growth forests

Forest scientist and Oregon State University alumnus Steve Sillett studies and climbs the largest trees in the world. Since 1987, he’s climbed more than 1,000 of these arboreal giants, many of which reach heights greater than 200 feet tall and diameters upwards of 20 feet. Sillett’s study of old-growth forests — and in particular redwood […]


Volunteers for Science
January 24, 2013

Volunteers for Science

Citizens contribute valuable data

I get to call myself a scientist because I’ve got a Ph.D. in oceanography, but is that a prerequisite? No. Before there were “scientists,” even “ordinary people” did science. They learned to grow crops and domesticate animals. They associated the heavens with the seasons and events on Earth. Keen insight into plant properties, animal behavior […]


Normative Science
January 23, 2013

Normative Science

It is easy — and wrong — for scientists to become stealth policy advocates

Too often, however, scientific information presented to the public and decision-makers is infused with hidden policy preferences. Such science is termed normative, and it is a corruption of the practice of good science.


How Fire Saves Water
December 26, 2012

How Fire Saves Water

Controlled burns can keep water-hogging juniper in check

Parts of the Oregon outback are a poetic juxtaposition of passionate color scattered among charred, stalagmitic trees piercing the sky above like mighty javelins. In autumn, the understory blazes in hues of red, orange and yellow — colors that light the burnt forest as if it were once again on fire.


‘Tis the Season
November 27, 2012

‘Tis the Season

Winter brings flu — and drug awareness, too

PORTLAND – It was a nippy November day in Pioneer Courthouse Square. The city’s annual Christmas tree was going up — a giant evergreen to mark the holiday season. But that wasn’t the only super-sized object with a seasonal message. A couple of strides from the mega-tree stood a monstrous nose, a reminder that the […]


Tethered by Respect
November 15, 2012

Tethered by Respect

Forging a bond with a wild bird

It was a chill December day in Eugene. I was with my falconry sponsor, Christian Fox, who was there in the park with me to observe a training session. I had been training Inanna, my 3-pound red-tailed hawk for about three weeks. Chris was evaluating whether she was ready to come off the creance (a […]


Octo-Enchantment
November 6, 2012

Octo-Enchantment

Finding solace and stress relief in an elusive cephalopod

A volunteer told me later that the nocturnal octopus rarely comes out during the day.


Ground Lines
November 2, 2012

Ground Lines

Maps guide us through unfamiliar terrain

I remember my first day at what’s called “baby field camp” in the Oregon State geology program. Outside Bishop, California, we mapped the area around a cinder cone, long since dead. I quickly learned that the hot sun is a never-ending force of nature, not to be underestimated. I drank at least a gallon of […]


After Fukushima
October 12, 2012

After Fukushima

Nuclear power's future remains strong

As concern about climate change has grown, nuclear energy — long a polarizing subject — has gained increasing favorability. Its low carbon footprint, reliable power supply and strong safety record convinced many critics that nuclear power should be a bigger part of our energy mix. That newfound favorability suffered a setback on March 11, 2011, […]


Degrees of Separation
September 26, 2012

Degrees of Separation

Scientists weigh in on biodiversity quest through Facebook

Facebook may be great for cute kitty videos and baby pictures, but who knew it could play a role in science? Brian Sidlauskas, an Oregon State University fish biologist, and his team used the popular social network to advance their study of biodiversity in a South American rain forest. This video produced by Facebook, Degrees […]


Beyond Junk Food
August 24, 2012

Beyond Junk Food

The science of flavor could lead to a better diet

Did you ever wonder why so many people are attracted to junk food? Why ice cream, french fries and soda pop so often win out over brown rice and broccoli? It’s not actually a conspiracy by fast-food companies to bewitch people into eating things that aren’t good for them. Well, not completely. It’s largely due […]


Space Dreams
August 6, 2012

Space Dreams

Don Pettit talks about exploration, colonizing other planets and raising zucchini on the International Space Station

When he’s on Earth, Don Pettit dreams about space. But when he’s in space, he dreams about walking on Earth.  “Dreams may have something to do with humans never being satisfied, which is why we go exploring in the first place,” he says. If there’s a gene for the urge to explore new worlds, Pettit […]


Bug Problems? Call in the Chickens
July 25, 2012

Bug Problems? Call in the Chickens

Oregon State Extension experiments with pest control in organic apple orchard

“Aw, no bugs!” exclaims Betsey Miller after meticulously pouring over a wheelbarrow’s worth of decomposing leaf litter and manure. “The chickens are doing a great job, but it’s still fun for us entomologists to find insects once in a while!” A pen of praiseworthy red-ranger chickens peck away at the grass a few yards away, […]


Science Without Borders
June 29, 2012

Science Without Borders

Want to do science today? Make sure your passport is up to date.

When land grant universities were created 150 years ago, science was already an international activity. Well before the signing of the Morrill Act in 1862, American scientists aboard six U.S. Navy vessels had circumnavigated the globe, collected thousands of plant and animal specimens and mapped parts of the Pacific Ocean from the Columbia River to […]


Life-Saving Science
May 30, 2012

Life-Saving Science

At a recent meeting of the American Meteorological Society in New Orleans, I participated in a discussion of early warning systems that give the public time to take cover from tornadoes and to prepare for hurricanes. Today, we have hours or days to get out of harm’s way. Contrast that with the hurricane in Galveston, […]


Evidence for Change
May 25, 2012

Evidence for Change

Rigorous climate science trumps our senses

Some people take a dim view of the idea that Oregon, as well as the rest of the world, could be expected to continue warming in coming decades. They may cite March snowfall in the Willamette Valley or unpublished comparisons of mean temperatures over a given time period in specific places. Appealing as it is, […]


Green mulch
May 25, 2012

Green mulch

More veggies and more fruit = more plastic mulch on farms. Oregon State students look for alternatives.

Bear with me; here’s the problem. Plastic mulch — those shiny sheets spread across row upon row of veggies, strawberries and other crops — enables farmers to produce more types and greater quantities of food. It makes farming more profitable, preserves soil moisture, reduces weeds and saves on labor costs. But this type of mulch […]


Toward a scholarly embrace
April 11, 2012

Toward a scholarly embrace

Environmental Humanities Initiative brings science and the humanities together

Ambling along the oaky trails at Finley Wildlife Refuge last Saturday morning — one of the first days without rain in a long, long time — my two friends and I paused at the edge of a pond along Woodpecker Loop.  Just under the murky surface, several rough-skinned newts were swimming in slow motion, their […]


From concert hall to lecture hall
March 18, 2012

From concert hall to lecture hall

How music set the stage for a life in science

James Cassidy doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a scientist. Two star-shaped earrings dangle from his left ear. A fetching fedora is perched on top of his head. He’s swapped his white lab coat for a charcoal sports jacket. A chic checkered shirt peeks out underneath. His alert grey eyes are framed by dark glasses. […]


Fishing for Facts in Guyana
March 2, 2012

Fishing for Facts in Guyana

For two weeks in 2011, dawn signaled the beginning of another day of fish sampling for Oregon State University professor Brian Sidlauskas and his small team of colleagues and graduate students. Their camp was wedged within a mountainous area of northern South America called the Guyana Shield.


Climate roulette
February 21, 2012

Climate roulette

If you like to gamble, you might think that nature is bluffing. With each passing year, it appears she is not.