Category » Healthy Planet

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 […]


Oceanography Boot Camp
August 14, 2014

Oceanography Boot Camp

Students take the science helm in Oregon coast research cruise

If they had come home early, you wouldn’t have been surprised. Half of them got seasick. Equipment failed. And the weather changed unexpectedly. But last April, 11 Oregon college students from three institutions — Oregon State University, the University of Oregon and Clatsop Community College — stuck it out for four days at sea on […]


Learning to Dive
May 28, 2014

Learning to Dive

OSU’s scientific diving course opens underwater opportunities

It seemed that Kyle Neumann had a dream job: video broadcasting for the Portland Timbers. But something kept nagging at him. “For me, it just wasn’t fulfilling a higher purpose,” says the Oregon State University senior. He wanted to use his video storytelling skills, he decided, not for professional sports but for Planet Earth. First, […]


Trial by Fire
May 28, 2014

Trial by Fire

Cracking molecules in the W. M. Keck Collaboratory

Few places are as hot as 6,000 degrees Centigrade: the surface of the sun, the center of the Earth, the heart of a laboratory device at Oregon State University. In the lab, this is the temperature of a kind of flame produced when argon gas flows through an intense electromagnetic field. Appropriately, the part of […]


Cows Show Stress
May 24, 2014

Cows Show Stress

Simulated wolf attacks produce trauma

Livestock that have encountered wolves experience stress that may affect their health and productivity.


Taking the Measure of Seals and Those Who Study Them
April 18, 2014

Taking the Measure of Seals and Those Who Study Them

An undergrad tests her stamina on a frozen continent

In Antarctica, when you sedate a 1,000-pound Weddell seal, it can take a while for the animal to settle down.


Survivors from the Depths of Time
January 24, 2014

Survivors from the Depths of Time

Scientists and tribes work urgently to save the ancient Pacific lamprey

As one of the “first foods” of Northwest Indians (along with salmon, elk, huckleberries and camas bulbs) lamprey hold a place of high honor in tribal culture. But outside Indian culture, Pacific lamprey have a PR problem.


The Warsaw Discourses
January 24, 2014

The Warsaw Discourses

When the world convened in Poland for climate talks, Gregg Walker was there

Gregg Walker is making his way toward the University of Warsaw where the Global Landscapes Forum is being held as part of the United Nations climate change negotiations for 2013. The Oregon State University professor has been attending these international climate conferences for half a decade.


High Beams
January 24, 2014

High Beams

Electron microscopes light up the world of the small

For a place that takes pictures with what amounts to controlled bursts of lightning, the lab is quiet, almost hushed. Standing in the entrance to Oregon State University’s Electron Microscopy Facility (EMF), you might hear researchers’ soft voices as they discuss the best way to see pollen on a bee’s tongue or to look at […]


Carnivores in Retreat
January 23, 2014

Carnivores in Retreat

Researchers call for global conservation initiative

In ecosystems around the world, the decline of large predators such as lions, wolves and cougars is changing the face of landscapes from the tropics to the Arctic. An analysis of 31 carnivore species shows how threats such as habitat loss, persecution by humans and reductions in prey combine to create global hotspots of carnivore […]


Viral Diagnostics
January 23, 2014

Viral Diagnostics

Electron microscope helps pinpoint a disease-causing virus

Rocky Baker, supervisor of the virology lab in the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, identified this influenza virus in pet ferrets whose owner had come down with the flu. Ferrets are susceptible, he says, and the owner was concerned that his animals became sick after contact with a family member who had influenza symptoms. […]


Through the Needle
January 23, 2014

Through the Needle

Disease reduces Douglas-fir growth, costs more than $200 million annually

On the surface of a Douglas-fir needle, the spore of a fungal pathogen, Phaeocryptopus gaeumannii, germinates and sends forth threads (hyphae). It matures into an organism that will grow inside the needle and reproduce. By interfering with the tree’s ability to exchange air and water, it shuts down photosynthesis. Thus starts a disease known as […]


Oysters on Acid
January 23, 2014

Oysters on Acid

Ocean acidification dooms young oysters

The oceans are about 30 percent more acidic than they were a century ago, and scientists are beginning to understand the consequences for marine ecosystems. Oysters may provide an early warning of what’s to come. George Waldbusser, a biogeochemist in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, and Elizabeth Brunner, a master’s student, conducted […]


Nanocrystals for Solar
January 23, 2014

Nanocrystals for Solar

Function follows form in molecular structure

In Alex Chang’s lab in the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering, researchers arrange atoms in precise patterns to create materials with novel electrical and heat-transfer properties. Chang and his colleagues use electron microscopy to visualize and analyze structures that are often only a few atoms thick. “The EM facility is very important for […]


Illuminating Plankton
January 23, 2014

Illuminating Plankton

Consuelo Carbonell-Moore has made it her life’s work to document the diversity of one of the ocean’s most abundant life forms: dinoflagellates, a type of plankton. These organisms are no mere bystanders in marine ecosystems. Some produce life-giving oxygen. Others influence the formation of coral reefs. In coastal waters, they can bloom as “red tides” […]


Proof of Pollination
January 23, 2014

Proof of Pollination

As honeybees pick up pollen and nectar, they pollinate about one-third of the plants in the human diet. “Growers rent honeybees to pollinate their crops, and we are taking a close look to see what kinds of pollen the bees are actually collecting,” says Sujaya Rao, entomologist in Crop and Soil Science. Using a scanning […]


International Imperative in Science
January 22, 2014

International Imperative in Science

Research builds trust, mutual respect

My research career took me to the waters off Africa, South America and Central America. I found the experience of working with colleagues from many nations to be exciting, and I learned a lot about the scientific challenges we were addressing. In retrospect, I realize I learned a lot more about being a good citizen […]


Shoring Up Our Coasts
January 22, 2014

Shoring Up Our Coasts

Ocean communities plan for climate change by building trust

As a scholar in environmental communications, Miriah Russo Kelly is digging into the interpersonal dynamics of collaboration and cooperation among people who may share little in common except locale — fishermen and hotel managers, loggers and grocers, political leaders and homeowners, climate scientists and climate skeptics.


Lamprey Brain Trust
January 22, 2014

Lamprey Brain Trust

Northwest scientists confer at research center

“The situation for Pacific lamprey is bad and getting worse,” says OSU fisheries biologist David Noakes, director of the Oregon Hatchery Research Center in Alsea. “We have enormous gaps in our knowledge of even the most basic aspects of life history, ecology and behavior of our native lamprey.” To jumpstart the filling of those gaps, […]