Category » Healthy Planet

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 […]


Capsules of Chemicals
February 3, 2016

Capsules of Chemicals

Insecticides show more toxicity inside tiny pellets

Packaging certain insecticides inside tiny plastic pellets may amplify their toxicity in the environment, a new study suggests. The same chemical used naked — suspended only in water — was significantly less toxic than its capsulated counterpart, researcher Stacy Harper reported recently in the journal Environment International. The chemical in question (a “pyrethroid” whose active […]


Swimming Through Science
February 3, 2016

Swimming Through Science

Culture and biology connect for an undergraduate from Bend

If science were the Pacific Ocean, Kylie Welch would be halfway to Japan by now. With the persistence of a long-distance swimmer, she has plunged through a double major in biochemistry and anthropology, worked in an oceanography lab and traveled abroad. Still amazed by new experiences, the Oregon State University senior sees herself as a […]


Prehistoric Sampling and Futuristic Forecasting
February 3, 2016

Prehistoric Sampling and Futuristic Forecasting

Climate researchers dig into the past and model the future

For two weeks in the fall of 2015, the whole world convened in Paris to tackle the looming dangers of a warming planet. President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Microsoft mogul Bill Gates were among the luminaries who took the stage at the 21st annual UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The conference […]


January 6, 2016

Atoms for Peas

In the early days of atomic energy, scientists used radioactivity to study plants

The specter of nuclear technology gone wrong haunts the Pacific Northwest. From recent radioactivity traced to Fukushima to issues with waste containment along the Columbia River at Hanford, Washington, citizens have good reason to be suspicious. Radioactive materials can benefit society in many ways: They are used to produce carbon-free electricity, to diagnose disease, and […]


Volcano Comeback
December 23, 2015

Volcano Comeback

Dome-Building Beneath Indonesia’s Lake Toba

At the world’s largest caldera lake, geologists are seeking clues to future volcanic activity, not only at Lake Toba in Indonesia but also at other supervolcano sites around the world, including the one at Yellowstone National Park.


Cerebral Songs
October 15, 2015

Cerebral Songs

Doug Robinson never forgets a warble, chirp or twitter

Douglas Robinson has “some kind of filing system in his brain that lets him readily access bird vocalizations even when he hasn’t heard them in years.”


Supersinks for Carbon
October 15, 2015

Supersinks for Carbon

Saving mangroves can mitigate climate change

Keeping greenhouse gases sequestered in the tangled roots and soggy detritus of mangrove forests could be vital to keeping the planet cool enough for habitation, scientists say.


October 15, 2015

Seventy Years of Peril and Hope

View the sweep of nuclear history at the Valley Library

LINUS PAULING, OREGON STATE’S MOST FAMOUS ALUMNUS, spent the latter years of his life warning the world about the humanitarian and environmental threats posed by nuclear weapons. His international activism earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962. (See “Like Looking Over His Shoulder,” Terra, Summer 2008.) Now, Pauling’s alma mater is again raising nuclear […]


Sequencing the Beaver
October 14, 2015

Sequencing the Beaver

Researchers will do the first whole-genome analysis

  IT HAS ORANGE TEETH that grow throughout its lifetime. It chews relentlessly on trees and builds dams that shape habitats across the continent. In earlier centuries, its fur was the currency of empires. While a lot is known about the North American beaver (Castor canadensis), the animal’s complete genome has never been sequenced. Until […]


The Mystery of the Disappearing Birds
October 13, 2015

The Mystery of the Disappearing Birds

How a mountaintop became an island and what it teaches us about biogeography and fragmentation

Once upon a time Barro Colorado Island was a mountaintop, rising from the trackless rainforest that carpeted the Isthmus of Panama. Its deep-green slopes hosted pumas and jaguars and more than 200 species of birds.


This Year’s Drought: A Glimpse into the Future
September 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 […]