college of agricultural sciences

OSU uses unmanned aircraft to take temperatures up in the air

CORVALLIS, Ore. – For the first time, scientists at Oregon State University are measuring atmospheric temperatures with fiber optic thermometers suspended from unmanned aircraft—combining two emerging technologies to probe a poorly understood swath of Earth’s atmosphere.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, John Selker is buying two new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to loft sophisticated measuring instruments of his own design into an atmospheric zone that’s been hard to study until now.

“These two technologies together will add orders of magnitude to the precision and resolution of our atmospheric measurements,” said Selker, a hydrologist and professor in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. “We’ll be able to take a continuous slice of data through space and time, getting information that no one has been able to capture before.”

The high-powered thermometers use a down-to-earth technology: fiber-optic cable, similar to that used for telephone and internet communication. By measuring tiny pulses of light zipping along spun-glass strands, the fiber cables capture thousands of temperature readings along their length, detecting differences as slight as 0.01 degree Celsius.

In early-morning test flights near Hermiston, Selker’s OSU colleagues Michael Wing and Chad Higgins suspended a 400-foot sensing cable—not much thicker than a kite string—from an OSU-owned quad copter. They flew the aircraft at 30 miles an hour, sending it high enough that the tip of the cable just touched the ground. The cable reported temperatures every 13 centimeters.

The researchers started their flights at sunrise because they wanted to see how the atmosphere develops in the boundary layer, the lowest portion of Earth’s atmosphere, as the sun’s heat begins to move the air.

The Earth’s surface and near atmosphere—up to about 1,000 meters above the ground—is a critical zone of feedbacks between air, water and earth, Selker said. “It’s where processes interact, where synergies occur. And temperature is a critical driver of these interactions.”

Until now, he said, scientists have had a hard time taking comprehensive measurements of the lower atmosphere.

“Typically, you’d have to take readings from a fixed point, a tower or a balloon,” Selker said. “Now, instead of measuring one or two or three points at a time, we can measure a million points.”

Such detailed measurements promise to shed light on how clouds and rainstorms develop, how air pollution gets diluted, how pollen moves across the landscape and other important atmospheric dynamics, he said.

Selker’s sensors have captured data from land and sea—an old-growth forest canopy, the Pacific Ocean floor, Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf. Until now, there hasn’t been an easy way to deploy them in the air.

UAVs equipped with fiber-optic sensors represent “a fundamentally new way to look at the lower atmosphere,” Selker said. “It’s like living with 20-200 vision and then getting a good pair of glasses. You see a different universe.”

UAVs—popularly known as drones—are best known for their military uses, but they have found many civilian applications, including precision agriculture, traffic surveillance and wilderness rescue. They are a boon to environmental scientists, Selker said, because they can carry measuring instruments into places where it’s difficult or dangerous to send humans, or where other technology can’t easily reach.

Selker’s UAVs will join a growing suite of instruments and tools at the Center for Transformative Environmental Monitoring, or CTEMPs, an NSF-sponsored partnership between OSU and the University of Nevada-Reno. CTEMPs has a fleet of scientific instruments that it makes available, along with training, to environmental scientists throughout the United States.

Selker is a co-director of CTEMPs along with Scott Tyler of the University of Nevada. Wing is director of AirCTEMPs and directs UAV flights at OSU for agriculture, engineering, fish, wildlife and natural resource applications.

The $1.2 million NSF grant renewal will also fund CTEMPs’s purchase of other UAV-mountable instruments, including thermal imaging cameras and a small LIDAR, or laser-powered imaging tool, that captures three-dimensional measurements of landscape features.

Story By: 

John Selker, 541-737-6304;

Michael Wing, 541-737-4009

Multimedia Downloads

UAV with fiber optic cable

OSU scientist Michael Wing flies a UAV equipped with a fiber-optic temperature sensing cable over farm fields near Hermiston, Ore. Photo by Robert Predosa


UAV with fiber optic cable. Photo by Robert Predosa

UAV flies over clouds in eastern Oregon.

Climate change, plant roots may accelerate carbon loss from soils, say OSU researchers

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Soil, long thought to be a semi-permanent storehouse for ancient carbon, may be releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere faster than anyone thought, according to Oregon State University soil scientists.

In a study published in this week’s online edition of the journal Nature Climate Change, the researchers showed that chemicals emitted by plant roots act on carbon that is bonded to minerals in the soil, breaking the bonds and exposing previously protected carbon to decomposition by microbes.

The carbon then passes into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2), said the study’s coauthor, Markus Kleber, a soil scientist in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

He said the study challenges the prevailing view that carbon bonded to minerals stays in the soil for thousands of years. “As these root compounds separate the carbon from its protective mineral phase,” he said, “we may see a greater release of carbon from its storage sites in the soil.”

It’s likely that a warming climate is speeding this process up, he said. As warmer weather and more carbon dioxide in the air stimulate plants to grow, they produce more root compounds. This will likely release more stored carbon, which will enter the atmosphere as CO2—which could in turn accelerate the rate of climate warming.

“Our main concern is that this is an important mechanism, and we are not presently considering it in global models of carbon cycling,” Kleber said.

CO2 is a major driver of the current warming of Earth’s atmosphere. By failing to account for accelerated soil-carbon decomposition, the study suggests, current climate-change models may be underestimating carbon loss from soil by as much as 1 percent per year.

“There is more carbon stored in the soil, on a global scale, than in vegetation or even in the atmosphere,” said Kleber. “Since this reservoir is so large, even small changes will have serious effects on carbon concentrations in the atmosphere, and by extension on climate.”

One percent may not sound like much, he added. “But think of it this way: If you have money in the bank and you lose 1 percent per year, you would be down to two thirds of your starting capital after only 50 years.”

Between 60 and 80 percent of organic matter entering the soil gets broken down within the first year in a chain of decomposition that ends with CO2, Kleber said. Most of the remaining carbon gets bound to the soil’s minerals through a variety of physical and chemical mechanisms. When this happens, the carbon is protected because the microbes can’t get at it to break it down.

For the past couple of decades, scientists have assumed that these carbon-mineral bonds amounted to a long-lasting “sink” for soil carbon—keeping it out of the atmosphere by storing it in a stable form over many centuries.

“But from the beginning, there was a question that made a lot of folks uneasy,” said Kleber. “If carbon keeps going into the soil and staying there, then why aren’t we drowning in carbon? Isn’t there some process that takes it back into the cycle? That part was not very well researched, and it was what we were trying to find.”

The researchers tested three model compounds for common “root exudates”—chemicals commonly excreted by plant roots—to see how strongly each one stimulated the microbes that drive organic-matter decomposition.

In the laboratory, using a syringe and pump, they applied oxalic acid, acetic acid and glucose to soil taken from a dry-climate agricultural area and a wet-climate forest, both in Oregon. They conducted the experiment over 35 days to simulate a flush of root growth in the spring.

Prevailing theory, said Kleber, would predict that the hungry microbes would respond most strongly to the nutritious glucose, which would give them the energy to tackle the rest of the organic matter, including the carbon.

“And this is likely happening to a certain extent,” he said. “But our big surprise was that the energy-poor oxalic acid generated a much stronger response from the microbes than the energy-rich glucose.”

When they analyzed the water stored in the oxalic acid-treated soil, the researchers saw there was eight times more dissolved carbon in it than there had been before. Additional laboratory tests confirmed the finding that the acids were breaking the carbon-mineral bonds.

“The significance of this research,” Kleber said, “is that we have documented for the first time a mechanism by which long-stored soil carbon is cycled back into the system.”

Oxalic acid is a good stand-in for a whole suite of root compounds that are excreted by plants in the root zone, Kleber said. “Roots excrete several compounds similar to oxalic acid. We can assume that many root exudates act in a similar way.”

Kleber collaborated on the study with his doctoral student Marco Keiluweit and researchers from Australia and the United States. The work was funded by a U.S. Department of Energy grant and directed by Jennifer Pett-Ridge at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif.

Story By: 

Markus Kleber, 541-737-5718

Multimedia Downloads


Markus Kleber is a soil scientist at Oregon State University.

Baby boomers dance and cook their way to health in new OSU program

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A group of Deschutes County baby boomers got their groove on as music from a Wiggles children’s tape streamed from speakers. Behind them a kitchen was ready for the brain-beneficial menu next on the agenda. The fun had just begun.

It was the first day of a four-part Nourishing Boomers and Beyond program, a pilot project by Oregon State University’s Extension Service in Deschutes County in partnership with North Dakota State University, where the curriculum was developed.

The plan is to repeat the course in June and have the program picked up by other counties, said Glenda Hyde, an Extension family and community health educator who started the project. Created to help boomers prevent chronic diseases by taking charge of their health, the course touches on strategies for nourishing the brain, skin, digestive system and heart.

Patty Stark, who has taken several classes through Extension, including canning and food preservation, heard about the class and thought, “Gosh, that sounds great. I figured I could really benefit from it.”

After the first class, she was convinced. The dancing, she said, was a kick, and she’d had no idea how important it is for brain health.

“I went home and told my husband that the research shows dancing is one of the best things you can do for memory and preventing Alzheimer’s,” she said. “Maybe we’ll dance more now.”

The cooking segment was even more meaningful for Stark, who is gluten intolerant and has a family history of heart attacks, stroke and Alzheimer’s. Learning to make a gluten-free blueberry buckle made an impression on her, as did a salmon salad with lemon-tarragon dressing.

“Oh yeah, that was a really nice salad,” she said. “I try to eat healthy, but we go out quite a bit. That was definitely something I’ll try at home.”

In the second class on caring for your skin, Hyde introduced facial masks made with ingredients like avocado, whipping cream, carrot, yogurt and flaxseed. She asked everyone to make and try one.

“It was a hoot,” Hyde said. “They made two and put one on each side of their faces. They put the yogurt one on one side first and it was really good. But then they put the second one on the other cheek and, holy smokes, they said they could tell a big difference between the two.”

When the class made oven-roasted sweet potatoes with walnuts, brown sugar and spices, they found out sweet potatoes are even more full of cancer-fighting antioxidants than blueberries. The gluten-free, whole-grain cornbread made with brown and white rice flour, potato and tapioca starch was a revelation, too.

“Nobody could believe how good it was,” Hyde said, adding that ingredients provided by sponsor Bob’s Red Mill went home with participants to encourage them to make the cornbread and other recipes on their own.

Hyde taught more hands-on cooking in the classes on the digestive system and heart, including a popular breakfast dish of whole-grain polenta, wilted spinach, grated Parmesan cheese, mango and just a bit of sausage.

“That went over really well,” she said. “The whole Boomers and Beyond course went over well. Everyone soaked up the information we gave them and everyone had fun, too.”

Story By: 

Glenda Hyde, 541-548-6088

Multimedia Downloads

Nourishing Boomers and Beyond

Patty Stark dishes up smoked salmon salad, a recipe she learned in the Nourishing Boomers and Beyond course in Deschutes County. Photo by Glenda Hyde.

OSU’s Seed to Supper program teaches low-budget vegetable gardening

CORVALLIS, Ore. – For many people a sweet carrot pulled from the soil or a spicy pepper picked fresh from the garden isn’t how they get their vegetables, if they get them at all.

The Seed to Supper program, a partnership between Oregon State University’s Extension Service and the Oregon Food Bank, is working to change that. The free, five-week course teaches adults from low-income families how to grow and enjoy their own vegetables, said Pami Opfer, a coordinator for Extension’s Master Gardener Program.

More than 800 people have completed the program, taught in large part by Master Gardeners, in 55 classes since 2013, according to Opfer. This year Seed to Supper has expanded to include Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Marion, Polk, Hood River, Tillamook, Umatilla, Morrow, Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties.

On a recent evening in Corvallis, a group of 13 people gathered around a table, pulling apart tiny starts of marjoram, parsley and thyme, then picking up bamboo chopsticks to gently tuck them into plastic containers filled with potting soil. Jennifer Klammer, an OSU Extension Master Gardener since 2011, and volunteer Donna Durbin led them through the process.

The two women, who founded a garden at their church that donates more than 2,000 pounds of produce a year to assist local residents in need, took it upon themselves to start the program in Linn and Benton counties in the winter of 2013 after Klammer saw information about Seed to Supper on the food bank’s website.

“Working in the garden and donating food, it seemed like there was a missing link,” Klammer said. “This gives people a sense of control over their food source. It’s especially hard for low-income folks to get high-quality produce. It’s expensive. But if you can grow a salad bowl on your deck and it’s easy, why not?”

Class participant Cindel Mikesell agreed.

“I tell people I know who have balconies and say they can’t garden, ‘Yes, you can,’ Mikesell said.  “I’ve read about a woman in England that grew $5,000 worth of food on her balcony. I’d like to do that.”

Breanne and Bobby Taylor, who brought along their new baby, said they came to the class so they could help Bobby’s aging father manage his garden and to learn time-saving tips that would help them as new parents, who both work full-time and manage a community garden plot.

To help, they’ll receive a 96-page handbook, seeds and starts.

“They have the booklet, which is always a reference,” Durbin said. “And they can always contact the Master Gardeners. People end up feeling connected. Their response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Participants learn the basics in classes that include lessons in how to build healthy soil and plan, plant, care for and harvest a garden.

Brittney Fry, who enthusiastically jotted notes as the class went on, said she’d shown up because she’s motivated to garden but has never done it before.

“I have a weed patch now,” she said. “I have three small kids, and I’m really excited getting them into it – growing things they’ll love and enjoy.”

Upcoming classes are being held in the following locations:

Linn and Benton counties

Albany: March 19 to April 16

Lebanon: March 10 to April 7

Portland metro area

Portland: March 1-29; April 12 to May 17

Sandy: March 7 to April 4

In other counties, check with your local Master Gardener program.

Story By: 

Pami Opfer, 541-766-6750

Multimedia Downloads


Low-income adults learn to grow their own vegetables in Oregon State University Extension Service’s Seed to Supper program. Photo by Lynn Ketchum.

OSU to host small farms conference Feb. 28

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The 15th annual Oregon Small Farms Conference, which drew 800 people last year, takes place Feb. 28 at Oregon State University.

The event, one of the flagship educational offerings of OSU Extension Service’s Small Farms Program, is geared toward farmers, agriculture professionals, food policy advocates, students, restaurant owners, food retailers and managers of farmers markets. Over the years, participants have learned how to harvest rainwater, market meat products, develop a business plan, sell products to schools, graft vegetables and lease land.

This year, presenters will include farmers, OSU faculty and representatives of agribusiness and government agencies. Five of the speakers, including Jean-Martin Fortier, will conduct full-day sessions.

Fortier founded the organic farm Jardins de la Grelinette near Quebec, which is recognized internationally for its high productivity and profitability using low-tech, high-yield methods of production. A graduate of the McGill School of Environment in Montreal, Fortier is a passionate advocate for strengthening local food systems and has facilitated more than 50 workshops and conferences in Canada, France, Belgium and the United States promoting the idea of micro-scale farming. His session covers Six Figure Farming for Small Plots.

In addition, the Oregon Small Farms Conference will feature 24 workshops, including three in Spanish, on topics that include:

  • Healthier animals, healthier profits;
  • Diversification of orchards and markets;
  • Climate change and perennial fruit and nut production;
  • Marketing farmers markets;
  • Crunching numbers to determine greenhouse costs;
  • Exploring the small farm dream;
  • Advanced plant disease management on organic vegetable farms;
  • New grant opportunities for farmers markets;
  • Impacts of organic certification.

The cost, which includes lunch, is $65 per person or $100 at the door. Registration is open until midnight on Feb. 18. The conference will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the LaSells Stewart Center. To register, go to the Small Farms Conference website.

OSU will host a free screening of the documentary “Dryland” at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27 at the conference center.

An after-conference hootenanny with dinner, local beer and cider, and dancing to live music will start at 5 p.m. Tickets are $15 through Feb. 15, and then $20.

Story By: 

Chrissy Lucas, 541-766-3556

Multimedia Downloads

Oregon Small Farms Conference

Everything from how to market farmers markets to the impacts of organic certification will be covered at the Oregon Small Farms Conference at OSU. Photo by Tiffany Woods.

Another reason to drink wine: it could help you burn fat

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Drinking red grape juice or wine – in moderation – could improve the health of overweight people by helping them burn fat better, according to a new study coauthored by an Oregon State University researcher.

The findings suggest that consuming dark-colored grapes, whether eating them or drinking juice or wine, might help people better manage obesity and related metabolic disorders such as fatty liver.

Neil Shay, a biochemist and molecular biologist in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences, was part of a study team that exposed human liver and fat cells grown in the lab to extracts of four natural chemicals found in Muscadine grapes, a dark-red variety native to the southeastern United States.

One of the chemicals, ellagic acid, proved particularly potent: It dramatically slowed the growth of existing fat cells and formation of new ones, and it boosted metabolism of fatty acids in liver cells.

These plant chemicals are not a weight-loss miracle, cautions Shay. “We didn’t find, and we didn’t expect to, that these compounds would improve body weight,” he said. But by boosting the burning of fat, especially in the liver, they may improve liver function in overweight people.

“If we could develop a dietary strategy for reducing the harmful accumulation of fat in the liver, using common foods like grapes,” Shay said, “that would be good news.”

The study, which Shay conducted with colleagues at the University of Florida and University of Nebraska, complements work with mice he leads at his OSU laboratory. In one 2013 trial, he and his graduate students supplemented the diets of overweight mice with extracts from Pinot noir grapes harvested from Corvallis-area vineyards.

Some of the mice were fed a normal diet of “mouse chow,” as Shay calls it, containing 10 percent fat. The rest were fed a diet of 60 percent fat – the sort of unhealthy diet that would pile excess pounds on a human frame.

“Our mice like that high-fat diet,” said Shay, “and they overconsume it. So they’re a good model for the sedentary person who eats too much snack food and doesn’t get enough exercise.”

The grape extracts, scaled down to a mouse’s nutritional needs, were about the equivalent of one and a half cups of grapes a day for a person. “The portions are reasonable,” said Shay, “which makes our results more applicable to the human diet.”

Over a 10-week trial, the high-fat-fed mice developed fatty liver and diabetic symptoms – “the same metabolic consequences we see in many overweight, sedentary people,” Shay said.

But the chubby mice that got the extracts accumulated less fat in their livers, and they had lower blood sugar, than those that consumed the high-fat diet alone. Ellagic acid proved to be a powerhouse in this experiment, too, lowering the high-fat-fed mice’s blood sugar to nearly the levels of the lean, normally fed mice.  

When Shay and his colleagues analyzed the tissues of the fat mice that ate the supplements, they noted higher activity levels of PPAR-alpha and PPAR-gamma, two proteins that work within cells to metabolize fat and sugar.

Shay hypothesizes that the ellagic acid and other chemicals bind to these PPAR-alpha and PPAR-gamma nuclear hormone receptors, causing them to switch on the genes that trigger the metabolism of dietary fat and glucose. Commonly prescribed drugs for lowering blood sugar and triglycerides act in this way, Shay said.

The goal of his work, he added, is not to replace needed medications but to guide people in choosing common, widely available foods that have particular health benefits, including boosting metabolic function.

“We are trying to validate the specific contributions of certain foods for health benefits,” he said. “If you’re out food shopping, and if you know a certain kind of fruit is good for a health condition you have, wouldn’t you want to buy that fruit?”

The research was supported by the Institute of Food and Agricultural Science at the University of Florida and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The study appears in the January issue of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

Shay’s research with mice was supported by the Blue Mountain Horticultural Society, the Erath Family Foundation, and the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences.

Story By: 

Neil Shay, 541-737-0685

Multimedia Downloads

Neil Shay 1

Neil Shay, biochemist and food researcher at Oregon State University, at the university’s research vineyard near Alpine, Oregon. Photo by Lynn Ketchum

OSU to host Willamette Valley Bird Symposium on Jan. 24

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University and the American Ornithologists’ Union will host the Willamette Valley Bird Symposium, a one-day event focusing on research and careers in avian biology, on Saturday, Jan. 24, at the Linus Pauling Science Center on the OSU campus.

The symposium is aimed at high school students, teachers and undergraduates. It is also supported by The Audubon Society of Corvallis and the U.S. Geological Survey Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center. More information is available at: http://www.audubon.corvallis.or.us/wbs.shtml

Eric Forsman, a bird expert from the U.S. Forest Service in Corvallis, will give the keynote talk: “A Thirty-Year Study of Spotted Owls in the Old-Growth Forests of Western Oregon.”

The symposium will feature more than 20 short talks on bird research. Among the topics:

  • Mercury in Willamette Valley riparian songbirds;
  • Snowy plover survival, population and management in Oregon;
  • Effectiveness of backyard wildlife habitats;
  • The Oregon 2020 project of citizen scientists contributing to Oregon bird surveys;
  • New research on Adelie penguins.

Other talks will cover a variety of bird species, including swallows, Aphelocoma jays, Pfrimer’s parakeet, songbirds, seabirds, Caspian terns, bald eagles and common murres. Monitoring technology will be covered in talks on solar-powered cameras, use of drones in ornithology, archival GPS tags on diving seabirds, and other topics.

The symposium runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It also will feature a live bird exhibition from Chintimini Wildlife Center, demonstrations of ornithological research techniques, and a panel discussion on careers in ornithology.

Story By: 

Sue Haig, 541-750-0981; willamettebirds15@gmail.com

Why do plankton bloom? The answer could force rethinking of ocean’s food web

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study at Oregon State University could overturn conventional wisdom about the role of phytoplankton in the Earth’s carbon cycle, potentially changing scientists’ understanding of how global warming will alter the environment for marine life.

OSU researcher Michael Behrenfeld, an expert in marine plants, is leading a $30 million NASA-funded study of a phytoplankton “hot spot” in a triangle of ocean stretching from Woods Hole, Massachusetts to the Azores and north to Greenland’s southern tip.

Behrenfeld’s team will gather shipboard and in-ocean data from four sea cruises over the course of the five-year study. The two spring cruises will catch the North Atlantic plankton bloom – one of the biggest on the planet – in its most southerly latitude and follow it as it progresses north with the warming weather.

Simultaneously, aircraft will fly near the ship and take measurements of tiny airborne particles called aerosols, which are linked to plankton activity and which also play a big role in the Earth’s energy cycle.  

Phytoplankton – which are an assortment of single-celled plants dwelling in the ocean’s upper layer – are the foundation of the marine food web.

“They are tiny, but they’re extremely abundant,” said Behrenfeld. “If you look at the photosynthesis of all these microscopic plants on a global basis, it’s the equivalent of the photosynthesis of all the plants on land.” 

As they capture sunlight and turn it into sugar, they become food for zooplankton (the animal variety of plankton), which are eaten in turn by other organisms, and so on up the chain.

Phytoplankton are present throughout the world’s oceans and are most abundant in the high latitudes of the northern and southern hemispheres. In these cold, nutrient-rich waters, they typically undergo seasonal population explosions, or blooms.

For decades, scientists have attributed these blooms to springtime increases in sunlight and warming temperatures – much the same seasonal pattern that makes gardens bloom on land. This explanation is based on a limited number of measurements from ships in the early 20th century.

Under this traditional scenario, warmer oceans should produce bigger blooms, which should produce more food for ocean-dwelling life.

Yet satellite images suggest a different story, Behrenfeld said. Sophisticated instruments continuously monitor global plankton populations year-round by measuring shifts in light-wave frequencies that capture changes in phytoplankton abundance. Studying these images a few years ago, Behrenfeld noticed phytoplankton blooming when they shouldn’t have been.

“In the middle of winter, in the worst conditions for growth, we saw that the pigment concentrations actually started to increase,” he said. “That alone tells us that the old hypothesis is incorrect.”

Behrenfeld proposes a different explanation: The blooms are born in early winter, when the ocean’s upper waters – the so-called mixed layer – are agitated by strong winds. They also are churned by a process called thermal convection, in which the top tier of water gets cold and sinks, causing the warmer waters beneath to well up to the surface.

These physical forces cause a deepening of the mixed layer, and this, Behrenfeld believes, gives the phytoplankton room to spread out, making it easier for them to escape being eaten by zooplankton.

“You can think of phytoplankton as the grass and the zooplankton as the grazers – the cows, if you will,” Behrenfeld explained. “The idea is that these strong physical processes deepen the mixing layer and dilute the phytoplankton to such low levels that the zooplankton can’t effectively feed on them.”

He hypothesizes that the phytoplankton take advantage of their competitive edge to out-multiply their grazers and begin a population increase that culminates in a spring bloom.

If the winter turbulence of the ocean is what triggers a plankton bloom, as Behrenfeld believes, and not spring warming, then a warming ocean should produce smaller blooms, reducing photosynthesis and potentially limiting the ocean’s food supply.

The new study will provide the measurements needed to test this hypothesis and compare it to the traditional explanation.

“Our investigation will address two basic questions,” Behrenfeld said. “First, what processes allow the bloom to be recreated each year? And second, how do blooms impact atmospheric aerosols and clouds? By answering these questions, we will be able to make better predictions on how marine ecosystems, including fisheries, will be affected.”

The NASA team includes four other researchers from OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences (Stephen Giovannoni, Kimberly Halsey, Allen Milligan and Toby Westberry) and scientists from NASA, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and six other U.S. universities. Almost $4 million of the grant funds will go to the OSU team.

Story By: 

Michael Behrenfeld, 541-737-5289

Multimedia Downloads

Michael Behrenfeld

Scientist Michael Behrenfeld is leading a major study that may overturn the accepted theory about plankton blooms. Behrenfeld is a marine botanist at Oregon State University. (Photo by Gail Wells)

OSU’s Art About Agriculture exhibit open in Newberg

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University’s Art About Agriculture exhibit celebrating the bond between Oregonians and the land will hang in the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg through Feb. 12.

For 33 years, artists around the Northwest have been asked to submit pieces related to an agricultural theme for the curated show presented by the OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. The 2015 show, called This Everlasting Valley: Willamette River Valley and Basin, is the third to play homage to the fertile Willamette Valley.

On March 9, the exhibit moves to the Memorial Union Concourse Gallery on the OSU campus, where it will remain until May 7. A reception for the campus exhibit will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. April 6 in Joyce Powell Leadership Center Room 106.

The first of the Willamette Valley exhibitions took place in 2005 and focused on the upper part of the valley from the river’s source to Albany. In 2009, the second turned to the mid-valley from Albany to Newberg.

“The works of art are always local and personal,” said OSU’s Shelley Curtis, curator of the exhibit since 1999. “We don’t ask the artists for specific things. They interpret the theme from their inspiration of the connection between community and agriculture. This year it was the idea of linking the river and natural resources. That has everything to do with what you’ll see in the show.”

The 45 pieces of artwork, most of which are for sale, feature a multitude of media ranging from watercolors and oils on paper to mixed media and silkscreen. The majority of artists are included in the college’s permanent collection, which includes more than 250 works and is supported by private donations.

“The thing that struck me as the person who gets to see the art come in, is the vast diversity,” Curtis said. “I’d love to get a map and go see where these artists did their work or what they saw to inspire them to do the work.”

She thinks others will be similarly inspired.

“The audience is going to appreciate more of what they see on a daily basis and want to explore,” she said. “They’ll think, ‘I’d really like to find out where Elk Rock is. I’d like to see the Steel Bridge from this outlook. I want to see the field where those cows are grazing.’ It’s personal responses.”

Learn more about Art About Agriculture in a video featuring Curtis.

Story By: 

Shelley Curtis, 541-737-5534

Multimedia Downloads

Art About Agriculture

November Moon and Cows, oil on paper, 7 by 5 inches, Sally Cleveland

Art About Agriculture

Peaceful Lilies, acrylic on canvas, 36 by 48 inches, Phyllis Yes

OSU awards $70,000 in agricultural scholarships

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University's College of Agricultural Sciences awarded 39 undergraduates $70,000 in scholarships for the 2014-2015 school year.

The scholarships are made possible by gifts to the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences. Recipients of the 2014-2015 scholarships are:

AMITY: Lea Hudson, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship, and the $1,000 Loren J. Smith Memorial Agricultural Honors Scholarship.

ASHLAND: Sara Dunagan, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Paul and Frances Montecucco Beginning Venture Scholarship.

BEAVERTON: Emilirose Ammons, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship, and the $1,000 Oregon Women for Agriculture Honors Scholarship.

BEAVERTON: Madeline Broussard, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Herb and Anita Summers Agricultural Honors Scholarship.

BEAVERTON: Austin Nguyen, bioresource research major, received the $1,000 Frank Burlingham Memorial Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship.

BOULDER CREEK, CA: Lauren Smith, fisheries and wildlife major, received the $1,000 Frank Burlingham Memorial Agricultural Scholarship, and the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship.

CENTRAL POINT: Marie Nelson, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Lawrence E. and Marguerite Kaseberg Memorial Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 Ursula Bolt Knaus Scholarship.

CENTRAL POINT: Gabrielle Redhead, agricultural business management major, received the $1,000 John and Florence Scharff Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 Ursula Bolt Knaus Scholarship.

CORBETT: Marina Clark, bioresearch research major, received the $1,000 Charles E. and Clara Marie Eckelman Scholarship, and the $1,000 Ursula Bolt Knaus Scholarship.

CORVALLIS: Victoria Jansen, agricultural sciences major, received the $1,000 Lawrence E. and Marguerite Kaseberg Memorial Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 Ursula Bolt Knaus Scholarship.

CORVALLIS: Jamie Lach, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Eugene H. Fisher Agricultural Honors Scholarship.

ELKTON: Kaila Trout, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Clifford Smith Memorial Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship.

EUGENE: Meghan Knettle, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Lawrence E. and Marguerite Kaseberg Memorial Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 Ursula Bolt Knaus Scholarship.

GOLD HILL: Samantha Beck, agricultural sciences major, received the $1,000 Wilco Farmers Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 John. W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship.

HAPPY VALLEY: Taelor Anderegg, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Herb and Anita Summers Agricultural Honors Scholarship.

HOOD RIVER: Austyn Polzel, agricultural business management major, received the $1,000 Savery Agricultural Honors Scholarship.

INDEPENDENCE: Olivia Miller, food science and technology major, received the $1,000 Clifford Smith Memorial Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 Ursula Bolt Knaus Scholarship.

KEIZER: Menley Neitzel, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Frank Burlingham Memorial Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship.

KLAMATH FALLS: Shelby Stiller, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Grange Co-op Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship.

LAKE OSWEGO: Danica Berry, food science and technology major, received the $1,000 Wilco Farmers Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship.

LAKEVIEW: Ashley Reese, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 John and Florence Scharff Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 Ursula Bolt Knaus Scholarship.

LANGLOIS: Bennett Wahl, environmental economics and policy major, received the $1,000 Karla S. Chambers Leadership Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship.

MANZANITA: Alicia Torppa, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Tillamook County Creamery Association Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship.

MCMINNVILLE: Lauren Bernards, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Herb and Anita Summers Agricultural Honors Scholarship.

MCMINNVILLE: Moriah Mansour, food science and technology major, received the $1,000 Loren J. Smith Memorial Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship.

MILWAUKIE: Julia Barnes, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Oregon Women for Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship.

MISSION VIEJO, CA: Trevor Penner, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Frank Burlingham Memorial Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship.

MYRTLE CREEK: Mary Ruble, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Fisher Farm and Lawn Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 Ursula Bolt Knaus Scholarship.

MYRTLE CREEK: Cassandra Van Atta, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Clifford Smith Memorial Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship.

PORTLAND: Lucy Carr, fisheries and wildlife sciences major, received the $1,000 Charles E. and Clara Marie Eckelman Scholarship, and the $1,000 Ursula Bolt Knaus Scholarship.

SACRAMENTO, CA: Kayla Chang, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Charles E. and Clara Marie Eckelman Scholarship, and the $1,000 Ursula Bolt Knaus Scholarship.

SAN BERNARDINO, CA: Amani Carr, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Charles E. and Clara Marie Eckelman Scholarship, and the $1,000 Ursula Bolt Knaus Scholarship.

SHORELINE, WA: Margaret McCormick, fisheries and wildlife sciences major, received the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship, and the $1,000 A/B Technologies International, Inc. Agricultural Honors Scholarship.

SPRINGFIELD: Sarah Akers, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Charles E. and Clara Marie Eckelman Scholarship, and the $1,000 Ursula Bolt Knaus Scholarship.

SUTHERLIN: Heather Brown, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Naumes Family Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship.

SUTHERLIN: Jerry Risk III, bioresource research major, received the $1,000 Savery Agricultural Honors Scholarship.

TOLEDO: Karisa Howry, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Ursula Bolt Knaus Scholarship, and the $1,000 Savery Agricultural Honors Scholarship.

WARRENTON: Christina Lynn, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Eugene H. Fisher Agricultural Honors Scholarship.

WEST LINN: Abigail Chadwick, animal sciences major, received the $1,000 Naumes Family Agricultural Honors Scholarship, and the $1,000 John W. DeMuth, Jr. Agricultural Sciences Scholarship. 

Several of these scholarships were made possible by donors to The Campaign for OSU. Supporters of the university have contributed $1.1 billion to the campaign, including more than $184 million in scholarship and fellowship support for OSU students. Learn more at Campaign for OSU.

Story By: 

Paul Dorres, 541-737-5655