Terra in Print: Summer 2007

Summer 2007

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Planet Watch

Too much information! That can be the reaction when conversation turns to the intimate details of illness, personal relationships or other difficult topics. You might expect the same response from Earth scientists as they digest data streaming in from satellites, ocean buoys, air monitors, soil probes and other sources.

As we embark on the International Polar Year and continue studies closer to home, the sheer amount of information can be staggering. In the past, 10 good data points could provide the basis for a thesis. Today, they can be the tip of an iceberg that fills computers with enough details to last a lifetime.

This issue takes us to the Oregon coast, where oceanographers are using subsurface gliders to complement information from satellites, shipboard surveys and moored buoys. These technologies expand our view, but they are still no match for this complex natural system. While fishermen continue to bring in plenty of Dungeness crabs and see a salmon and sardine resurgence, OSU scientist Jack Barth and his colleagues see a troubling pattern of delayed upwelling and plankton production careening from one extreme to another. More information will be needed to solve this puzzle.

Interpreting data is a task for field researchers, computer scientists and mathematicians. Dawn Wright and Malgorzata Peszynska demonstrate different types of analysis. Wright uses data from sonar and other sources to develop geographic information system maps of the seafloor. Peszynska improves the mathematical basis for computer models of groundwater. In each case, they and their colleagues are providing better ways to visualize and interpret an expanding data flow.

Turning data into knowledge takes time, as every student knows. Among the students in this issue is Kim Johnson, a physics and Honors College senior who is getting a first-hand look at the genesis of clouds. Equipped with knowledge about the principles of air movement and cloud formation, she will pursue her childhood dream to understand hurricanes. No doubt, she will find herself in a storm of data about one of nature’s most powerful forces.

Nick Houtman, Editor

Caring for the Caregivers

Caring for the Caregivers

Summer 2007, Vitality

The typical middle-aged woman takes care of everybody in her household except one — herself. The consequences of this benevolent self-neglect can be dire: chronic disease, even death. Even the healthiest lifestyle can’t always prevent disease. Still, millions of wives, mothers and grandmothers could better fend off, or at least slow down, the ravages of […]


Cyberforest Unplugged

Cyberforest Unplugged

Earth, Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Student Research, Summer 2007

The science of mountain airsheds requires a strong back as well as a sharp mind — especially when you’re lugging a 65-pound golf-cart battery in your pack. An interdisciplinary team of OSU students spent 10 weeks this summer scaling the steep slopes of H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest to enable researchers to unplug their high-tech gear […]


Found in Translation

Found in Translation

Healthy Economy, Student Research, Summer 2007

Words and language have always fascinated Michael Goodman. Growing up in Florence, Oregon, he liked tracing the roots of words that most of us take for granted, and at Oregon State University, he has minored in Japanese. But it is his affinity for computers that is propelling the senior in the School of Electrical Engineering […]


Dreaming of Hurricanes

Dreaming of Hurricanes

Earth, Healthy Planet, Student Research, Summer 2007

When Kim Johnson was 8 years old, she would race through her school work so she could watch the Weather Channel. Her favorite show was “Weather in the Classroom,” and Johnson was in love with the subject. Seeing weather in action gave her a thrill. Now, the OSU senior and Honors College student from Beaverton, […]


Great Blue Engine

Great Blue Engine

Healthy Planet, Multimedia, Stewardship, Summer 2007

The ocean shimmers to the curved rim of the Earth. Pressing her face against the jetliner window, Dawn Wright scans the azure expanse for a glimpse of her destination, a tiny volcanic archipelago that is barely a blip in the vast South Pacific. At 5,000 miles from Wright’s office at Oregon State University, American Samoa […]


The Priority of Story

The Priority of Story

Inquiry, Summer 2007

In the modern university, the academic and spiritual quests for understanding appear to be in conflict: the rational versus the mystical. The natural versus the supernatural. The intellectual versus the intuitive. Mind versus heart. But these are false dichotomies, according to OSU English Professor Chris Anderson. The quest of the scholar, he argues, is the […]


Heady Discovery

Heady Discovery

Innovation, Summer 2007

Under the rosy glow of deep-red lights, a panel of tasters swirl, sniff and sip mystery beers from dark-red glasses. On rating sheets, they note hints of lemon, straw, tea, smoke, malt, soy, sulfide, even dirty sweat socks. The palate and the patience to parse these subtleties are qualities revered by craft brewers who, after […]


Oregon Online

Oregon Online

Innovation, Summer 2007

Have you ever tried to imagine how the Willamette Valley will look when your grandchildren are grown? Now you can go beyond imagining. Three visions of the valley’s future are laid out in the Willamette Basin Explorer, which is part of a new family of Web sites called Oregon Explorer. Curious about the quality-of-life consequences […]


More Than Machines

More Than Machines

Healthy Economy, Innovation, Multimedia, Summer 2007

Educating tomorrow’s electrical engineers has come to this: Teamwork, creativity and ownership are as important as the principles of theory and design. All get rolled into a box that first-year Oregon State University students receive in their introduction to the field. Inside are circuit and charger boards, wheels, a steel roller ball and assorted electrical […]


Glass Half Full (roughly speaking)

Glass Half Full (roughly speaking)

Earth, Healthy Planet, Summer 2007

The next time you sip a glass of spring water, consider this: Before it got to your lips, that water was soaking through soil, creeping along basalt crevices or flowing through porous volcanic rock. It nurtured microbes, carried dissolved minerals and may have spread the byproducts of human activities. Its pivotal role in the environment […]


Vital Signs

Vital Signs

Summer 2007, Vitality

In late April, lush vegetation hems the Coquille Valley in hues of emerald and chartreuse and the forest-greens of Douglas fir. The fertile earth, alive with new growth, suggests vitality and prosperity. On Main Street, the truth is more complicated than that. Like so many rural Oregon communities, the small towns snuggled against timbered hills […]


Grasping for Air

Earth, Healthy Planet, Multimedia, Summer 2007

Under a blue sky in mid-March, an Oregon State University research team left Corvallis to collect data in a valley deep in Oregon’s western Cascades. The two-hour ride to the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest gave the technicians and graduate students time to catch up before arriving at the facility’s headquarters near Blue River. They would […]


Winds of Change

Winds of Change

Earth, Healthy Planet, Multimedia, Summer 2007

In his 32 years as a crab fisherman off the central Oregon coast, Al Pazar has pulled up a lot of strange things in his pots: wolf eels, skates, huge starfish, fossilized rocks, octopi, fish that rarely stray south of Alaska, and others that prefer the warm subtropical waters off Mexico. But until July 2002, […]


Energy Source

Energy Source

Summer 2007, Vitality

The mixed messages blare at every grocery checkout: supermodels smiling seductively from magazines that push chocolate-cake recipes and weight-loss tips on the same page. No wonder millions of American females struggle with food and body image, laments OSU Professor Melinda Manore. The health of women across the age and activity spectrums — from teenage Olympic […]


Salmon Survival

Features, Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Summer 2007

Ocean conditions play a key role in the health of Northwest salmon runs, and scientists at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center are trying to pinpoint why. Clearly there are more salmon during cold-water regimes, when strong and persistent upwelling fertilizes the marine food web. Bill Peterson, a federal biologist at the Hatfield Center, says one […]


Feast or Famine

Features, Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Student Research, Summer 2007

Gray whales have roamed the world’s oceans for some 30 million years. The species hasn’t survived that long without adapting to changes, such as those in the California Current over the past decade. 2006 was a banner year for the whales and whale watching on the central Oregon coast. In kelp beds a mere quarter-mile […]