Category » Healthy Planet

This Year’s Drought: A Glimpse into the Future
August 5, 2015

This Year’s Drought: A Glimpse into the Future

The Pacific Northwest looks toward a hotter, drier climate in coming decades

How did we get to the point where a rainforest in one of the wettest parts of the contiguous United States is able to catch fire?


Taking a Quick Scan
June 29, 2015

Taking a Quick Scan

New instrument promises better, faster information about ancient Earth

We can learn a lot by going back in time, but scientific methods for looking at the past can take, well, a lot of time. Ancient ash, pollen and chemical changes in ocean sediment cores give us glimpses into a long-gone world, but they also provide clues to our future. And yet, analyzing these cores […]


Undersea Gliders Think Like a Fish
May 12, 2015

Undersea Gliders Think Like a Fish

Sensors will shed light on ocean ecology

  BY EQUIPPING UNDERWATER GLIDERS with acoustic sensors and computer software, Oregon State oceanographers are teaching the autonomous vehicles to identify biological hot spots in the oceans. “We want to get a better handle on what kind of marine animals are out there, how many there are, where they are distributed and how they respond […]


Student-Built Solar Car to the Middle East
May 11, 2015

Student-Built Solar Car to the Middle East

Oregon State’s Phoenix runs in Abu Dhabi’s first solar race

AT LAST WINTER’S ABU DHABI Solar Challenge, residents of the Persian Gulf emirate would pull alongside competitors on the highway, lean out and take photos of the solar-powered vehicles. Solar cars are as much a novelty there as in the United States, says John Ren, a member of the solar car team at Oregon State […]


Student Research: Electric Earth
May 11, 2015

Student Research: Electric Earth

Honors student looks at how the West was made

Through the science of geomagnetics, an Oregon State University senior from Beaverton is peering into the structure of the Earth’s crust with an eye on how the continent is put together and what that might mean for our future.


The Crossing
May 11, 2015

The Crossing

A scholar resides comfortably astride the sciences-humanities divide

English professor Raymond Malewitz will take you on an intellectual romp that careens from crime-scene forensics to IKEA hackers, from the Sokal hoax to mad-cow disease, from “salvagepunks” to the Adventures of Tintin.


Anatomy of a Climate Tool
May 11, 2015

Anatomy of a Climate Tool

A scientist and a student achieve mind-meld with sagebrush managers

A climate scientist and a student surveyed land managers in sagebrush country to create a blueprint for a practical, nimble, accessible computer tool for helping manage fires, protect wildlife, reseed vegetation and control invasives in a shifting landscape.


Taking the Plunge
May 11, 2015

Taking the Plunge

First-year engineering student hits her stride

If engineering still seems like a male domain, you wouldn’t know it by talking to Amber Meeks. While she says she was “that one girl” growing up in Gaston, Oregon, with three brothers, she has plenty of female engineering peers at Oregon State. They run the gamut from chemical and biomedical to electrical and civil […]


Reefs Under Siege
April 22, 2015

Reefs Under Siege

The nose of the Boston Whaler dips into the trough of the wave for a stomach-dropping second. The crew and divers now face a wall of water topped by the frothing curl of a break. They ride up so steeply that the boat seems about to topple backward.


Oregon Welcomes Wayfaring Fish
April 15, 2015

Oregon Welcomes Wayfaring Fish

Finned stowaways travel 5,000 miles in a wrecked boat

THEY SCHOOL SILENTLY in a big blue tank, their slender, 2-foot-long bodies slipping through the saltwater like silken sashes. In their midst swims a different fish, smaller and blocky with black-and-white stripes. Outwardly, nothing about this scene at the Oregon Coast Aquarium seems especially noteworthy. But on this Friday afternoon, April 10, TV crews jostle […]


Oceanic Oscillation
April 13, 2015

Oceanic Oscillation

Observing the secret lives of jellyfish

Jessica Luo and Kelly Robinson are jelly lovers — not the jellies you smear on your toast but the ones that float in the ocean, their bell-shaped bodies pulsing like slow-motion heartbeats in the currents of the sea. “I’m just blown away by the beauty and diversity of the jellies,” says Luo, a Ph.D. student […]


Adrift in a Sea of Data
April 3, 2015

Adrift in a Sea of Data

Stunning images of rare zooplankton garner worldwide citizen input

  THEY FLOAT IN THE OCEAN BY THE BILLIONS, these wandering animals whose Greek name means “drifter.” Most are smaller than a pinpoint, their adaptive peculiarities (whip-like propellers, bug-like antennae, hair-like fringes for foraging on algae) visible only under a microscope. Others can be seen with the naked eye, ranging in size from a pencil […]


When Will the Rains Come?
February 23, 2015

When Will the Rains Come?

This weather phenomenon feeds millions

Researchers at the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences are trying to improve our ability to forecast a phenomenon known as the Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO). This eastward-moving pulse of heavy rainfall and strong winds travels around the equator and has broad impacts on climate and weather. While statistical indices of the MJO from past […]


Where Rivers Run in the Human Heart
February 17, 2015

Where Rivers Run in the Human Heart

A stream ecologist tells the story of his watery journey

Kurt Fausch looked the part of a lifelong field researcher, his casual, earth-toned clothes hanging loose and comfortable on his long, lanky frame. But he was about to reveal his alter ego as a philosopher of wild waters.


Understanding Tropical Reefs
February 16, 2015

Understanding Tropical Reefs

Microbes may hold a key to threatened corals

    By David Baker All signs pointed to Ryan McMinds attending Oregon State University as an undergraduate. Both of his parents graduated from OSU, and he grew up just down the road in Jefferson, Oregon. It was always his default choice. “But at the last minute, I decided that I needed to travel and […]


Avian Nations
October 15, 2014

Avian Nations

Across Oregon’s ecoregions, birds struggle to survive

“(Animals) are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” – Henry Beston, The Outermost House Birdlife in Oregon is as diverse as its landscape. Species range from tiny and whimsical (such as […]


Blue Carbon
October 15, 2014

Blue Carbon

Tropical mangroves are supersinks for greenhouse gasses

Looking through J. Boone Kauffman’s photo collection is like thumbing a tropical bestiary. There’s a proboscis monkey from Borneo, its long, lumpy nose resembling an over-ripe mango. A gibbon and an orangutan from Kalimantan. A green python coiled around a tree. A herd of bristle-nosed pigs. A 15-foot saltwater crocodile whose jaw could crush a […]


The Most Dangerous Thing — “It’s not the large carnivores”
October 15, 2014

The Most Dangerous Thing — “It’s not the large carnivores”

“You asked me what’s the most dangerous thing I encounter in my work. It’s not the large carnivores such as crocodiles or tigers or poisonous snakes. It’s the little things. In the last few years, I have had two students come down with Dengue fever. This is a huge concern of ours. “In our years […]


New labs focus on stormwater, floods
October 15, 2014

New labs focus on stormwater, floods

Facilities supported by Oregon BEST

When floods arrive, hydrologists scramble. They run computer models to evaluate the need for evacuation. They gather data to understand impacts on fish, soils and water quality. Now, Oregon State researchers will have access to two new labs that enable them to test theories before the downpour. A Multipurpose River Hydraulics Research Facility will be […]


Oregon birders and citizen scientists join eBird project
October 13, 2014

Oregon birders and citizen scientists join eBird project

A team of ornithologists, birders and citizen scientists is collecting data on Oregon birds through a project called Oregon 2020. “Oregon has a few species of birds we know very well — like the spotted owl, the sage grouse and the meadowlark,” says W. Douglas Robinson, the Mace Professor of Watchable Wildlife at OSU and […]


Of Spots and Stripes
October 13, 2014

Of Spots and Stripes

Two related owl species compete for the last stands of old-growth forest

To hear Katie Dugger tell it, you’d think catching a baby northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) for scientific banding was as easy as taking a Tootsie Roll from a toddler. “They’re so mellow and laid-back,” the ornithologist says. “If the owl is sitting low enough in a tree, as is often the case, you […]


Back from Prehistory
October 13, 2014

Back from Prehistory

When condors soar again in Oregon, lead ammunition could undo their recovery

The “butifull Buzzard of the Columbia ” was Captain William Clark’s descriptor in 1805 for the prehistoric vultures he observed riding thermals on 9-foot wings in the Columbia River Gorge. Yet just 100 years later, the giant condors were all but gone in Oregon. Now, ornithologist Susan Haig is helping to bring them back. At […]


A Rocky Outlook
October 13, 2014

A Rocky Outlook

Seabirds suffer huge losses to opportunistic predators

A light wind froths across the headland, kicking up the churn below. Just off Yaquina Head, atop a sea stack named Colony Rock, more than 60,000 seabirds huddle in a wing-towing crush. Audible from shore is a raucous din, the collective cry of nesting females incubating eggs and raising chicks while their mates fly in […]


A Moveable Feast
October 13, 2014

A Moveable Feast

Getting fish-eaters to switch from salmon to sardines to carp takes scientific cunning

When Dan Roby floated the idea of relocating 18,000 seabirds in 1999, there was a lot of eye-rolling among wildlife experts in Oregon. “No one believed it would work,” says Roby, an ornithologist at Oregon State University specializing in marine species. But everyone agreed that something had to be done. With suitable seabird habitat shrinking […]


A Delicate Balance
October 11, 2014

A Delicate Balance

Songbirds, cows, bugs and Buteos live in precarious harmony on the prairie

Nothing looks more vulnerable than a meadowlark hatchling: a scrap of fluff, a fraction of an ounce, blind, immobile except for its gaping mouth. As if that’s not enough fragility, the baby bird’s bowl-shaped nest sits on the ground — the same ground where herds of 800-pound cattle may graze. But the threat implied by […]


Small-Scale Science
October 11, 2014

Small-Scale Science

Pint-sized humans study tiny birds facing big problems

Little kids have a lot in common with hummingbirds. Both are small in size, quick in motion and fond of sugar. Plus, kids think hummingbirds are cool. So pairing Oregon schoolchildren with the feisty, orange-throated hummers that share their Willamette Valley habitat seemed like a scientific and educational slam-dunk to ornithologist Matt Betts, a researcher […]


The GMO Conundrum
October 10, 2014

The GMO Conundrum

We could lose an important crop-improvement tool to politics and fear

Oregonians will go to the polls on November 4 to decide whether or not to require prominent labels on food containing ingredients made from genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The issue of labeling has been around for years, and — déjà vu! — Oregonians have even voted on it before. But the rhetoric has heated […]


Arrested Development
October 10, 2014

Arrested Development

Intellectual property and regulations hinder research

Genetic engineering has become a valuable scientific tool. It has enabled us to gain tremendous insight into the mechanisms of plant reproduction, disease resistance and other useful traits. However, commercial use of this technology has not lived up to expectations and has created serious hurdles for plant breeders. That in turn hampers genetic progress and […]


University of Alaska Joins Wave Energy Partnership
October 7, 2014

University of Alaska Joins Wave Energy Partnership

Wave energy researchers will focus on the tidal inlets and coastal waves of Alaska as a result of a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Until now, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center has been a partnership of Oregon State University and the University of Washington. “Alaska has an enormous energy […]


Aspen Recovery in Yellowstone Spurred by Wildlife Shifts
October 6, 2014

Aspen Recovery in Yellowstone Spurred by Wildlife Shifts

Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park is undergoing dramatic shifts with consequences that are beginning to return the landscape to conditions not seen in nearly a century. In the park’s northeast section, elk have decreased in number in their historic winter range in the Lamar Valley and are now more numerous outside the park. Aspen recovery […]