Terra in Print: Spring 2008

Spring 2008

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Difficult Terrain

Researchers and the people who document their work often travel on the edge. Portland photographer Gary Braasch trains his lens on scientists who work in what he calls “difficult terrain”: alpine mountaintops, Antarctic ice sheets and glacial valleys. In a recent presentation for OSU’s Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature and the Written Word, Braasch showed images from his new book Earth Under Fire, including this one taken from an ice cave on the Antarctic Peninsula.

OSU entomologist Chris Marshall knows about difficult terrain. To get to his latest collecting spot, he flew into a remote rainforest and traveled by canoe for two days with native guides. Jaguars stalked the underbrush where he searched for bugs. Electric eels lurked in the streams he crossed. For Marshall, facing these risks was worth the opportunity to find species unknown to science.

Landscapes formerly inhabited by North American Indians have become difficult for other reasons: Toxins contaminate the plants, soils and waters that sustained their ancestors. Scientists with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are working with OSU’s Department of Public Health to detail the risks faced by people who want to return to ancient ways.

And in the Oregon Cascades, researchers are investigating another kind of difficult terrain, the environmental consequences of modern forest harvesting practices. Industrial forestry sustains communities and Oregon’s forest products economy. Scientists and landowners have teamed up through OSU’s Watersheds Research Cooperative to understand how modern forest management affects stream ecosystems.

Research on the edge can be global but also nano – the scale where biology and medicine intersect with quantum physics. It can be social, examining the implications of past housing discrimination. And it can be fragile, revealing the fate of tropical coral reefs in the face of warming waters, acidification and fishing pressures.

I invite you to join these journeys in this issue of Terra.

— Nick Houtman, Editor

Thinking Like a Physicist

Thinking Like a Physicist

Departments, Healthy Planet, Innovation, Spring 2008

Walk into an upper-level college physics classroom almost anywhere in the country, and you’ll see students sitting down, listening to the professor and taking notes. Despite years of education research showing that students learn better by being active, the common curriculum for juniors and seniors in physics still emphasizes passivity. In recent years, a revolution […]


Sacred Landscape

Sacred Landscape

Features, Healthy People, Healthy Planet, Spring 2008

The traditions of native cultures — making reed baskets, eating wild foods, participating in sweat lodges — sustained people for centuries. Now those cultures are threatened by contamination. Researchers from the Umatilla reservation and OSU show why.


Expedition to the Edge

Expedition to the Edge

Features, Multimedia, Spring 2008

A love of bugs led Chris Marshall to take a white-knuckle flight into a remote South American rainforest. With an eye on cataloging the diversity of these rich ecosystems before they vanish, he returned with species never seen by scientists.


The Proboscis Hypothesis

Features, Healthy Planet, Spring 2008

Was the mighty dinosaur done in by a midge? Very likely, argues OSU zoologist George Poinar in his new book, What Bugged the Dinosaurs? Insects, Disease and Death in the Cretaceous. Midges, together with millions of other Cretaceous insect species, may well have landed the “final knockout blow” to the giant reptiles by infecting them […]


Musical Panache

Musical Panache

Features, Inquiry, Spring 2008

OSU percussionist Bob Brudvig is leading a five-person ensemble in a practice session on the second floor of historic Benton Hall. It may be winter in Corvallis, but the music makes you forget the drizzle outside. It evokes palm trees, Caribbean sun and pre-Lenten carnivals. Brudvig works the melody on his chrome-plated steel drum, tapping […]


Windows on Watersheds

Windows on Watersheds

Departments, Features, Healthy Planet, Spring 2008, Stewardship

Old-style logging left scars on the landscape, but nearly 40 years ago, research in Oregon changed tree-cutting practices. Now researchers are joining landowners to update the science behind modern forest management.


OSU Watersheds Research Cooperative

Departments, Healthy Planet, Spring 2008, Stewardship

Networking is key in watershed science. The WRC spurs collaboration by researchers from OSU, government and private companies. Members contribute money or in-kind resources such as land and expertise. Current WRC projects include the Hinkle Creek, Trask and Alsea projects. Funding has come from state and federal funds as well as WRC members. The WRC […]


Inside the Hinkle Creek project

Departments, Healthy Planet, Spring 2008, Stewardship

Stream flow Measuring flow rate and and stream height reveals how water moves through the landscape. Researchers are also tracking stream sediment loads using the next generation of computerized water-sampling devices. Arne Skaugset’s water-quality lab analyzes more than 2,000 samples per year from the Hinkle Creek, Trask, Alsea and Oak Creek (near Corvallis) watersheds. Insects […]


From Oppression to Religious Freedom

Features, Spring 2008

It took centuries for religious practices of American Indians to receive full protection under U.S. law. Until 1994, when President Clinton signed legislation granting Native Americans the right to use peyote for ceremonies without fear of losing their jobs, tribes suffered oppression and even death for their spiritual beliefs. Most notorious was the massacre at […]


Baskets of Concern

Features, Healthy People, Spring 2008

Food is only the most obvious way contaminants enter the human body. Poisons also come in through the pores of the skin and the lobes of the lungs. Living in intimate contact with the landscape, as many indigenous peoples do, raises the risks of exposure. Traditional practices of the Umatilla members of the Columbia Basin […]


Born To Love Bugs

Features, Spring 2008

There are two kinds of entomologists: those who love insects intellectually and those who love them viscerally. Without a doubt, Chris Marshall fits into the second category. The love of bugs smote him early, and it smote him hard. He grew up combing the fields and woodlands of his New England neighborhood with a glass […]


“Bug Poop Grows Trees” (BPGT)

Features, Healthy Planet, Spring 2008

In Andrew Moldenke’s forest ecology course, students get the BPGT acronym drilled into their heads from Day One. Oregon’s fabled old-growth forests owe their existence to insect digestion, and the professor wants to make sure nobody forgets it. “Old, decayed, and decaying logs and other detritus,” Moldenke explains to author Jon Luoma in the 1999 […]


Deep Ecology

Deep Ecology

Features, Healthy Planet, Spring 2008

When talk turns to the mud-dwelling creatures of the deep seafloor, Mark Hixon jumps up from his swivel chair, strides to a cabinet in his office and swings open the door. Taking out a long cardboard box, he gently lays it on his desk. “This,” he says, reaching inside, “is a sponge from just off […]


Coastlines and Cultures

Coastlines and Cultures

Features, Healthy Planet, Spring 2008, Student Research

Robbie Lamb’s love of marine biology started with his mother’s pre-dawn knocks on his door when he was a child. She woke him so the two could drive from their Portland home to see the Oregon coast’s well-known tide pools. He hated getting up early, but once there, Robbie managed to shake off his drowsiness. […]


A New Lens on Wildlife

A New Lens on Wildlife

Spring 2008, Stewardship

What do the following Oregon animals have in common: the northern red-legged frog, the chestnut-backed chickadee, the western pond turtle and the river otter? All fall into the traditional wildlife designation “non-game.” “It’s a catch-all category for those species that aren’t being managed for hunting or fishing,” says OSU wildlife ecologist Bruce Dugger. That once-undifferentiated […]