Category » Healthy Planet

Water World
May 25, 2016

Water World

Oregon State's research spans the whole cycle of H2O , from superheated venting at the bottom of the ocean to currents of air riding miles overhead.

FROM THERMAL VENTS SEEPING ON THE SEAFLOOR to thunderheads massing in the mountains, Earth’s water is in constant flux. Nearly all of it is salty, held in oceans that cover most of the planet. Much of what’s left is frozen, locked up in glaciers, icecaps, snowpack, sea ice and permafrost. Of Earth’s freshwater, only a […]


An Educational Leap into the Shimmering Sea
May 20, 2016

An Educational Leap into the Shimmering Sea

Oregon State Marine Studies Initiative will prepare ocean-literate problem solvers

THE OCEAN IS KEY TO LIFE ON OUR PLANET, supplying every second breath of oxygen and transporting heat from equator to pole. Over 1 billion people receive their primary source of protein from the sea, and humans will be looking increasingly to marine aquaculture to feed a hungry planet. Over 90 percent of goods travel […]


Changes in the Wind
May 19, 2016

Changes in the Wind

Science, collaboration and technology for ocean health

When Peter Ruggiero meets with people in coastal communities to discuss climate change, he asks them to consider what they like most about where they live. And then he asks them to imagine the future. “We get people to think about the positive aspects of the coast, what they like about working and playing along […]


Coral Bleaching Goes Viral
May 19, 2016

Coral Bleaching Goes Viral

WHEN TROPICAL WATERS WARM or get polluted, coral reefs may take drastic measures. They can expel the algae that provide them with stunning colors — and vital nutrients. So-called bleaching events have been documented across the globe with increasing frequency and can be fatal to the corals. Oregon State University researchers have discovered a new twist: […]


Microbeads Pose Pollution Threat
May 19, 2016

Microbeads Pose Pollution Threat

DOING SOMETHING AS SIMPLE as washing your hair may raise a new threat to aquatic health. Many personal-care products have been formulated with plastic beads the size of a sand grain — known as microbeads — which add a gritty texture. Microbeads are designed to be flushed down the drain. An analysis by a team of […]


Difficult Choices
May 19, 2016

Difficult Choices

In the face of rising seas, decisions matter

MANY SEASHORE DWELLERS face a tough question: How should they protect their property from rising seas and pounding waves? They can try to keep the surf at bay by building walls, or they can adjust to the slow but steady encroachment of the ocean. Such choices are becoming particularly acute on the West Coast. For decades, […]


OSU Opens Port Orford Field Station
May 19, 2016

OSU Opens Port Orford Field Station

STUDENTS, DIVERS AND SCIENTISTS can explore the spectacular waters of the southern Oregon coast through a new Oregon State University field station in Port Orford. An outgrowth of efforts to support research at the nearby Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve, the station provides space for experiments and classes as well as a fill station for scuba […]


A Research Ship for the 21st Century
May 19, 2016

A Research Ship for the 21st Century

New OSU-designed regional vessel will share data in real time

OUR VIEW OF THE OCEANS IS EXPANDING RAPIDLY: Underwater gliders patrol the Pacific, moored buoys monitor hot spots and satellites view swirling currents from near-Earth orbit. But, says Clare Reimers, we still need ships to put people on the water, to conduct the kind of science that requires a human touch. Reimers, a professor of […]


Acidification Likely to Intensify
May 19, 2016

Acidification Likely to Intensify

WEST COAST WATERS are likely to see continued impacts from acidification, warming temperatures and low-oxygen conditions. That’s the conclusion of a report in the journal BioScience co-authored by Francis Chan in the Oregon State College of Science. “The changes really stem from the basic impact to physiology, no voodoo involved,” says Chan. “We need to […]


Acidic Seawater Threatens Shellfish
May 19, 2016

Acidic Seawater Threatens Shellfish

Oysters and clams face an uncertain future

THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST, famous for its delectable fried oysters and succulent steamed clams, is one of several coastal “hot spots” where shellfish are subject to “acidification” — seawater whose chemistry is becoming corrosive because of greenhouse gases. Along with shellfish producers in New England, the Gulf of Mexico and East Coast estuaries like Chesapeake Bay, […]


Medicines from the Deep
May 19, 2016

Medicines from the Deep

Strange sea creatures hold promise for cures

IN THE OCEANS’ DARKEST DEPTHS, superheated water seeps from cracks on the seabed. This lightless world supports exotic creatures like tubeworms and giant clams. It’s their very oddity that makes them exciting to OSU medicinal chemist Kerry McPhail. That’s because organisms from extreme environments have novel chemistries to match their novel habitats. The thick bacterial […]


Minerals from the Seafloor
May 19, 2016

Minerals from the Seafloor

Mining could upset delicate ecosystem functions

TO MEET THE WORLD’S DEMAND FOR MINERALS, oil and geothermal energy, humans are now looking toward the seabed. Miles-deep deposits of manganese, iron, nickel, cobalt and copper already have spurred exploration by mining companies. The next step, lowering heavy machinery onto the ocean floor, is just around the corner, says OSU researcher Andrew Thurber. He […]


Green Power from Waves
May 19, 2016

Green Power from Waves

Tapping the ocean’s vast energy potential

THE WHOLE WORLD COULD BE POWERED by a tiny fraction of the ocean’s untapped energy — if it could be harnessed. This is the vision guiding researchers at OSU who are developing and testing devices for capturing energy from waves, tides and currents that can be sent to the electrical grid through underwater cables. The […]


Spillover
May 19, 2016

Spillover

Oregon’s marine reserves may help sustain valuable fisheries

  ON A TYPICAL, LOW-VISIBILITY DAY out among Oregon’s rocky reefs, scuba divers float in a murky, monochromatic world. Sunlight filtering through the algae-rich brine of near-shore waters casts a green patina on everything. These days, scientific divers are regulars at four of Oregon’s reefs and headlands — Redfish Rocks, Otter Rock, Cascade Head and […]


Learning Opportunities by Design
May 19, 2016

Learning Opportunities by Design

An underwater robotics competition in North Bend, teacher workshops in Newport, a student-built unmanned sailboat in Astoria — all reflect an ambitious educational initiative known as the Oregon Coast STEM Hub. Organizers coordinate activities with school districts, community colleges, agencies, businesses and other groups to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) opportunities for students. […]


Fishing the Food Web
May 19, 2016

Fishing the Food Web

SARDINES, MACKEREL AND OTHER “FORAGE FISH” are more valuable as food for larger species such as cod and tuna than as a commercial catch in their own right. In 2012, an international panel recommended that harvest limits should “be more conservative than those for other species,” says Oregon State fish biologist Selina Heppell, a member […]


How Much Is a Sand Dune Worth?
May 19, 2016

How Much Is a Sand Dune Worth?

WITH A GRANT from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oregon State University economists are studying the economic value of coastal features, such as sand dunes, wetlands and estuaries. Such “natural infrastructure” supports a variety of social and economic benefits, says Steven J. Dundas, principal investigator. Researchers will develop methods for estimating optimal levels of […]


A Side of Seaweed, Please
May 19, 2016

A Side of Seaweed, Please

Bacon-flavored dulse gives “seafood” a marketing twist

IMAGINE THE TASTE OF SEAWEED.  Something briny, slightly “fishy,” you think. A flavor reminiscent of the pungent scent of the seashore, perhaps? The taste and smell of bacon sizzling in a pan probably doesn’t cross your mind. But last summer when Oregon State University researchers announced the development of a new strain of seaweed tasting […]


Science for the Ocean
May 19, 2016

Science for the Ocean

A precious resource for precarious times

  I WAS IN COLLEGE before I ever stepped foot in an ocean. It was during a spring-break trip to Vero Beach, Florida, with my sister and best friend. Before then, my impressions had come from a movie, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City, which I saw at the Pastime Theatre in Maquoketa, Iowa, when […]


Predation in a Patchy Sea
May 19, 2016

Predation in a Patchy Sea

Ocean life in four dimensions

  ONE HOWLING, FOG-SHROUDED NIGHT on the Bering Sea, two small boats pitch and roll on a convulsion of waves. From the bridge of the fishing vessel Frosti, marine ecologist Kelly Benoit-Bird is staring hard off to starboard, where a halo of light dances on the slate-gray ocean. She can see the expedition’s second boat, […]


The Price of Tradition
May 19, 2016

The Price of Tradition

Dolphins slaughtered for their teeth

THE 2010 ACADEMY AWARD-WINNING MOVIE The Cove — which documented dolphin slaughter in Japan — included scenes of OSU researcher Scott Baker conducting DNA analysis covertly in his hotel room. Baker’s stealth genetic science helped ID the marine mammal species being sold in local meat markets. More recently, Baker has studied the killings of thousands […]


Lifestyles of  Marine Microbes
May 19, 2016

Lifestyles of Marine Microbes

How one-celled ocean organisms affect the global carbon cycle

FLOATING IN THE SEAS are zillions of microscopic creatures called “protists,” a catchall term for a group of algae-eating organisms that are neither animal, plant or fungus. As ubiquitous as they are, scientists don’t yet fully grasp their role in the marine carbon cycle, according to OSU researcher Stephen Giovannoni. The microbes’ biology, he says, […]


Enduring Vigil
May 19, 2016

Enduring Vigil

Buoys and gliders stand watch on the Pacific Ocean

  AT 8:46 P.M. ON A SATURDAY NIGHT LAST DECEMBER, Tully Rohrer received an SOS from a machine. It came as text messages on his cell phone and indicated that one of the ocean-monitoring buoys he had helped to deploy off the Oregon and Washington coast a few months earlier had come loose from its […]


Meadows of the Sea
May 19, 2016

Meadows of the Sea

Climate change could alter seagrass-seaweed balance

IN THE ESTUARIES of the Pacific Northwest, seagrasses grow in underwater meadows, perfect havens and nurseries for sea life. So far, seagrasses are holding their own against “macroalgaes” — large seaweeds that in some regions have bloomed wildly, smothering native species like eelgrass. A study of four Oregon and Washington estuaries (Coos, Yaquina, Netarts and […]


Bloom of the  Jellyfish
May 19, 2016

Bloom of the Jellyfish

Gelatinous “jellies” compete with sardines and other forage fish

HUGE SPIKES IN JELLYFISH NUMBERS cause mayhem for fishermen, clogging their nets and wasting their effort. These “blooms” may stem from changing climate and ocean conditions, as well as overfishing of forage fish (sardines, anchovies, herring and the like). These tiny fish normally keep jellies in check by competing for the same food. When jellyfish […]


Zooplankton Come in Wild Colors and Shapes
May 19, 2016

Zooplankton Come in Wild Colors and Shapes

TINY ZOOPLANKTON, often juvenile fish, feed on their plantlike cousins, the phytoplankton, at the base of the vast marine food web. Photos from the Cowen Lab show them in their wild and whimsical colorfulness, common names from top left:  sea butterfly, blue button jellyfish, lookdown, armored searobin, octopus and surgeon-fish. (Photos: Cedric Guigand)     […]


A Forest Pastiche
May 10, 2016

A Forest Pastiche

A new exhibit traces shifting views of Northwest forestlands, from infinite to fragile, used to mused

Waiting for you in the stillness of Oregon State University’s Valley Library’s fifth floor is an exhibit as richly layered as the forests it portrays. It tells the story of trees as old as Methuselah, of the plants and animals they shade and shelter, and the people who, over time, have used them, studied them, cherished them, explored them, and found in them an irresistible muse.


At the Apex
February 3, 2016

At the Apex

The return of wolves to Oregon sparks old conflicts and prompts new science about top predators

A cougar, silent and unseen in the thick understory, is emitting a beacon from its tracking collar. “She’s close, about a hundred meters to the north,” says Beth Orning, a Ph.D. student at Oregon State University. Orning has evidence that cougar No. C216 is raising a litter in this hidden ravine.


In a Forest with Wolves
February 3, 2016

In a Forest with Wolves

When the wind nudges the sugar maples, branches rub together and creak, your head snaps to the right, scanning the downed log, the hillside, the horizon line, hovering at the edges of fear and excitement and hope. Relief for a moment, then another creak-snap-scan. A scat or a print on the trail is a drop […]


Taking Stock of Recovery
February 3, 2016

Taking Stock of Recovery

Digital photos become a research tool

Grazing helps to shape ecosystems, but the effects depend on management and the environment. Stream bank or upland meadow? Willow or sagebrush? Over much of the 20th century, cattle grazed in the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in southeastern Oregon. In riparian areas where animals had congregated, channels were eroded and vegetation was sparse. Cattle […]