Terra in Print: Fall 2013

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Click the cover to download a PDF of the Fall 2013 magazine

If you mention the word “drone” in casual conversation, expect talk to turn to spying or the military. As I conducted research for this issue’s cover story and shared what I was learning, I encountered that reaction more than once.

So it’s not surprising that the makers of autonomous planes and associated products (motors, cameras, lightweight composite frames) prefer the awkward term “unmanned aerial systems” or UAS. They’re preparing for rapid growth in the market once the Federal Aviation Administration sets the rules for operating UAS in civilian air space in 2015.

Companies such as PARADIGM (AKA Paradigm isr) in Bend, VDOS in Corvallis and Aerosight Innovations in Clackamas are developing aerial systems in service to agriculture, natural resources, education, fire fighting and business. With due regard for regulations and privacy concerns, Oregon State researchers and students are in the thick of this creative enterprise.

UAS are hardly the first military technologies to find uses off the battlefield. We can thank the Department of Defense (DOD) for radar that guides air traffic, GPS on our mobile phones and, of course, the Internet.

A quick scan of current research under way in the DOD’s Defense Sciences Office turns up these gems:
• “Fracture putty,” a material that could be packed in and around compound fractures to spur bone healing and reduce rehabilitation time
• “REMIND” (Restorative Encoding Memory Integration Neural Device), a type of neural prosthesis that can assist with memory recovery
• “BOLT” (Broad Operational Language Translation), a real-time language translation device that could enable fluid conversation between speakers of different languages

At Oregon State, the DOD supports research on the oceans, human cognition, microbial fuel cells and micro air vehicles. While the military has a clear need for science to protect our security, the results may also appear in hospitals, on our phones and in our skies.

Nick Houtman
Editor

On a Wing and a Dare

On a Wing and a Dare

Fall 2013, Healthy Economy, Innovation

On a warm afternoon last summer in the hills west of Corvallis, three Oregon State University students went hiking in the McDonald-Dunn Forest when they became “lost.” A few scattered belongings — a backpack, shoes, a shirt — marked their trail in an emergency response exercise. Rather than send out a full-scale operation on foot […]


An Elegant Matrix

An Elegant Matrix

Fall 2013, Healthy Economy, Healthy Planet, Multimedia, Stewardship

In the Northwest, where tons of biomass rots in forests or burns in slash piles, the conversion of waste into biochar is an environmental and economic win-win.


Forests at Risk

Forests at Risk

Earth, Fall 2013, Healthy Planet

“The margin between life and death in the forest can be rather small,” says Oregon State climate scientist Philip Mote. As wildfires widen, insects invade and drought deepens, the razor-thin margin for tree survival becomes ever thinner. A five-year, $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will speed the search for answers — […]


An Iceberg Roars

An Iceberg Roars

Earth, Fall 2013, Healthy Planet

What is the sound of an iceberg disintegrating? Would you believe it’s as loud as a hundred supertankers plying the open seas? OSU scientists were astounded recently when they listened to recordings of an iceberg that had formed in Antarctica, floated into the open ocean, and eventually melted and broke apart. Scientists have dubbed this […]


Where Growth Meets Decay

Where Growth Meets Decay

Fall 2013, Healthy Economy, Inquiry

Bowls made of hardwoods like curly soft maple, sugar maple, box elder and buckeye oak are adorned with pigments made by fungi whose ecological role is, ironically, to decompose wood.


Through the Ice

Through the Ice

Earth, Fall 2013, Healthy Planet

Andrew Thurber is a self-described “connoisseur of worms.” He finds these wriggling, sinuous creatures, many with jaws and enough legs to propel an army, to be “enticing.” In the Antarctic, where he dives through the ice in the name of science, a type of worm known as a nemertean can reach 7 feet long. Giant […]


End-of-Life Dilemma

End-of-Life Dilemma

Fall 2013, Healthy People, Vitality

When dying people choose to hasten death with a doctor’s help, their caregivers often face a troubling dilemma. In particular, hospice — the final stop for many terminal patients — poses an overlooked problem, OSU researchers report. That’s because hospice objects to physician-assisted death, yet most patients who choose assisted death are in hospice care. […]


Biological Origami and Naked Mole Rats

Biological Origami and Naked Mole Rats

Fall 2013, Healthy People, Vitality

A half-ounce flying mammal, a tiny marsupial that glides from tree limb to tree limb, and a hairless, burrowing rodent with supersize front teeth all share a trait that makes them intriguing to researcher Viviana Perez: exceptional longevity. The little brown bat (Myotis lucifungus), common across North America, has been known to live more than […]


New Flu Clues

New Flu Clues

Fall 2013, Healthy People, New Terrain, Vitality

When flu season rolls around, hundreds of thousands of Americans will get sick. Nearly a quarter-million will be hospitalized. Tens of thousands will die. Despite the risks, only about a third of Americans will get vaccinated. Researchers now say the nation’s vaccination priorities need to shift. That’s because the groups least likely to get the […]


A Cheaper Cell

A Cheaper Cell

Fall 2013, Healthy Economy, Innovation

Faster, cheaper, better. The conventional wisdom says you can’t get all three at the same time. But researchers at Oregon State say otherwise — at least when it comes to new materials for making solar cells. Engineers have found a less expensive, less toxic, better performing — and surprising — substance for solar cell manufacturing: […]


Peak Water

Peak Water

Earth, Fall 2013, Healthy Planet

Oregon is warming, and snow is waning. The clear, clean water that supplies many of Oregon’s cities and farms originates high in the Cascades. Stored on snowy peaks, the water feeds rivers and aquifers that supply some of the state’s most populous regions. In one key watershed, the McKenzie, snowpack is predicted to drop more […]


Deep Trouble

Deep Trouble

Fall 2013, Healthy Planet

When a submersible dove into deep waters off Florida not long ago, the scientists aboard saw an alarming sight: big lionfish, lots of them. “This was kind of an ah-ha moment,” says OSU researcher Stephanie Green. “It was immediately clear that this is a new frontier in the lionfish crisis.” Lionfish, native to the Pacific […]


“I’ve Never Been So Excited”

“I’ve Never Been So Excited”

Fall 2013, Healthy Planet, Student Research

Portland ninth-grader Meghana Rao was scouring the Web for information on biochar when she stumbled across an intriguing paper by a researcher named Markus Kleber. When she realized he was at Oregon State University, just 90 miles down the freeway from where she was a student at Jesuit High School, she emailed him with “a […]


Seeing the Planet

Seeing the Planet

Earth, Fall 2013, Healthy Planet, Innovation, Terra Blog

From satellites, balloons, high-altitude surveillance planes and even a two-seater Cessna, Oregon State scientists have been gathering data on the planet for nearly a half century. Their work has helped manage crops, detect threats to Western forests, track activity in Cascade volcanoes and reveal new details about ocean currents and how they interact with the […]


The Hidden Costs of Research

The Hidden Costs of Research

Fall 2013, Healthy Economy, Innovation, Terra Blog

Imagine for just a moment that you: 1) are independently wealthy; 2) are a genius, and; 3) have a brilliant idea for a research project (for those readers who already satisfy all three criteria, please indulge me a bit of editorial whimsy). You begin your project with every intention of following the scientific method. You […]


Seedbed for Startups

Seedbed for Startups

Fall 2013, Healthy Economy, Innovation

Methane-powered engines. Autonomous helicopters. Online shopping assistants. Electricity from wastewater. These new products and the business opportunities they generate are in the pipeline at Oregon State University’s Advantage Accelerator. They are among 14 research concepts or spinoff companies selected to participate in a program that spurs the creation of new companies from university-based research. Five […]


“I Thought I Wanted to Work with Fish”

“I Thought I Wanted to Work with Fish”

Earth, Fall 2013, Healthy Planet

When Andrew Thurber started his journey in marine biology at Hawaii Pacific University, he got a surprise. “I thought I wanted to work with fish,” he says. “Turns out I don’t.” Instead, in an Antarctic research lab, he became enamored with worms. “Worms are incredibly diverse. That was one of the most amazing things to […]


The Economics of Carbon Reduction

The Economics of Carbon Reduction

Fall 2013, Healthy Economy, Perspectives, Terra Blog

To influence policy, research on climate change must incorporate many disciplines and bridge the divide between the natural and social sciences. I see similarities and important differences in the way that research is done in the environmental sciences and in economics. One similarity is that, like climate science, economics research on climate change has been […]


Eco-Excellence

Eco-Excellence

Fall 2013, Healthy Planet, Student Research, Summer 2013

They all grew up immersed in nature: catching frogs, climbing rocks, diving reefs, combing beaches, camping out. Now, they’re all committed to studying and restoring the natural world, each in his or her own way. For Justin Conner, that means investigating the chytrid fungus and other threats to amphibians. Allison Stringer’s ecosystem studies have taken […]


Singing His Story

Singing His Story

Fall 2013, Student Research, Summer 2013

When Joshua Rist walked into the music department’s audition room at Oregon State University in 2009, he aimed to impress the faculty with a composition combining the driving energy of rock ‘n’ roll with the emotional power of a classical symphony. “I had written this piano concerto that was exciting to me, and I thought […]