OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

college of agricultural sciences

Oregon State ranks seventh worldwide in agriculture and forestry

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has been recognized as a world-class center in agriculture and forestry, ranking seventh in a new international survey of more than 200 schools.

For the second year, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings has compiled a list of top agriculture and forestry institutions. The service considered nearly 3,000 universities in 30 subject areas in its overall review.

In 2013, OSU's agriculture and forestry programs placed eighth in the world.

“Our rising world ranking is a testament to the continued great work of our faculty and researchers,” said Dan Arp, dean of OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.

“We’re excited about another top global ranking that recognizes the breadth and depth of our research and teaching, and our great partnership with the College of Agricultural Sciences,” said Thomas Maness, dean of OSU’s College of Forestry. “It’s very satisfying to see the excellence of our faculty and students recognized internationally.”

Considered one of the most influential and respected firms surveying higher education, QS World University Rankings uses a variety of metrics to score universities in teaching and research, including academic and employer reputation surveys, the number of articles published in academic journals and the amount of citations generated by publications.

As the state's Land Grant University, Oregon State and its agricultural and forestry programs have been a vital component of the school's mission since its founding in 1870. The College of Agricultural Sciences is Oregon's principal source of knowledge and research in agricultural and food systems, environmental quality, natural resources, life sciences and rural economies.

In recent years, OSU's agricultural programs have also received national top-tier rankings from the Chronicle of Higher Education for research, with wildlife science and conservation biology ranking first, fisheries science second, botany and plant pathology and forest resources at fifth, and agricultural and resource economics seventh.

OSU's College of Forestry has also been recognized as the top university program of its kind in North America by the Journal of Forestry.

The College of Forestry is Oregon’s principal forest-related research institution, strengthening understanding of forested ecosystems, helping forest-based businesses compete globally, and informing public policy that balances environmental protection and economic development. 

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Dan Arp, 541-737-1297;

Tom Maness, 541-737-1585;

Bill Boggess, 541-737-2331

Ann Mary Quarandillo, 541-737-3140

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

OSU College of Agricultural Sciences Dean Dan Arp

Dan Arp, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, talks with an OSU student on a research farm. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

OSU College of Forestry

OSU Extension Forestry Educator Tim Delano teaches high school students about forestry in the Hopkins Demonstration Forest near Oregon City, Oregon. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Agricultural Research Foundation funds new OSU research

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Agricultural Research Foundation of Oregon has announced grants totaling $420,314 for projects in agriculture, chemistry, horticulture, and veterinary medicine at Oregon State University.

The 34 research projects funded this year represent a wide range of disciplines, from restoring sustainable environments to fighting disease in food crops, according to Kelvin Koong, the executive director of the Agricultural Research Foundation.

"We support research as broad as possible that enhances productivity and efficiency in agriculture, natural resources and the environment," said Koong. "Research is not restricted to any one college or discipline, as industries use new technology, knowledge and equipment to boost production."

Among the projects selected for the foundation’s funds:

  • The potential for hazelnut livestock feed to improve meat quality, shelf-life and nutrition;
  • Enhancing the nutritional value of oil seeds in poultry diets;
  • Elimination of Vibrio toxins from oysters;
  • Feeding selenium-fertilized hay to pregnant cows to improve calf performance;
  • Activating the immune system of potatoes to control disease;
  • The development of value-added food products from barley.

OSU researchers began using the funds on Feb. 1.

In more than 80 years distributing grants, the Agricultural Research Foundation has given more than $16 million to OSU scientists – in addition to channeling $157 million in donor gifts to the university's researchers.

The foundation is a private, non-profit corporation and an affiliate of OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. The board of directors is made up of representatives of numerous segments of Oregon's agriculture industry. Grants awarded during 2014-16 are dedicated to its founding members: William Schoenfeld, Ralph Besse, Judge Guy Boyington and R.L. Clark.

For more information about the Competitive Grants Program, contact Koong at 541-737-4066.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Kelvin Koong, 541-737-4066

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Oysters

OSU researchers in Astoria make raw oysters safer to eat by removing toxins from the shellfish, a project supported by a grant from the Agricultural Research Foundation. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

OSU website tracks Oregon's economic, social and environmental health

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The gap between the richest and poorest Oregonians has widened over the past 20 years. On a brighter note, the rates of population and job growth have outpaced the national average.

These tidbits and other data are part of a new website created in part by the Oregon State University Extension Service. The Tracking Oregon's Progress website follows 88 indicators that describe economic, social and environmental progress in each of Oregon's 36 counties from 1990 to 2011.

The Oregon Community Foundation, the OSU Extension Service, OSU's Rural Studies Program, OSU's Valley Libraries and the Institute for Natural Resources worked on the project.

People can visit the website at http://bit.ly/1bSCBY6 to download a report. They can also compare conditions and trends throughout the state by creating custom reports. For example, users can view a report and chart that shows that Multnomah County's unemployment rate among Latinos was 10.2 percent between 2007 and 2011 compared with 8.5 percent in rural Oregon in the same years.

The data, which come from the U.S. Census Bureau and a variety of government agencies, are helpful for state legislators, county officials, philanthropists, nonprofit professioaals, state agency professionals, educators and businesses, said Bruce Weber, the director of OSU's Rural Studies Program and lead author of the report.

"If you're in a position to make changes that can improve the economy, society or environment, this gives you some idea of where changes need to be made," said Weber, a professor of applied economics in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.

"It is valuable for the state to have data to look at trends over time across a wide variety of indicators, from environment to education to crime," said Sonia Worcel, research director for the Oregon Community Foundation.

Statewide highlights from the report include the following:

  • For several decades, the numbers of residents and jobs in Oregon have grown faster than the national average. Oregon's share of the nation's population increased from 1.15 percent in 1990 to 1.24 percent in 2011. Its share of the nation's jobs grew from 1.18 percent in 1990 to 1.25 percent in 2011. 
  • Per capita income in Oregon, or total income divided by population, has been dropping relative to the nation since 1990.
  • The unemployment rate in Oregon has risen since 1990, especially for Oregonians of color.  
  • Overall high school graduation rates increased in Oregon between 2010 and 2012, but there are large differences in high school graduation rates across racial and ethnic groups.
  • Oregon adults and teens have been living more healthily and Oregonians have been living longer, but there have been continuing increases in young teen drug use and disparities between racial and ethnic groups in teen pregnancy and low birth-weight babies.   

The site points to some interesting county-level highlights, according to Lena Etuk, a social demographer with the OSU Extension Service and OSU's College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

Gilliam County, for example, has the lowest income inequality between its richest and poorest residents, while Benton County has the highest.

Hood River County stands out as a county with one of the state's highest Latino populations at 30 percent and the highest high school graduation rate of that ethnic group at 76 percent.

Wallowa, Sherman, Wasco, Gilliam, Deschutes, and Columbia counties have the highest rates of prenatal care usage, at 80 percent or more. Morrow and Malheur counties have the lowest rates of prenatal care usage. Less than 60 percent of pregnant women in those two counties are seeing doctors before their babies are born.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Bruce Weber, 541-737-1432;

Lena Etuk, 541-737-6121;

Sonia Worcel, 503-227-6846

OSU creates cider course for entrepreneurs as industry grows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – As demand for hard cider grows, Oregon State University is offering a new workshop to help entrepreneurs start their own cider startup companies.

"I see this as a second coming for craft cider," said Aaron Brodniak, who will teach the workshop. “We've had a huge amount of interest in craft beer and we're starting to see growth in cider. There's a great need for education in the cider industry just as it is needed for beer.”

Brodniak, who is a brewery business consultant and former head brewer for Pyramid Brewery, said the local food movement has intensified interest in hard cider. And the numbers of new cideries illustrate the industry's growth. The Northwest Cider Association lists 39 cider makers in Oregon and Washington as members. Additionally, Portland hosts Cider Summit PDX, which draws more than 100 artisanal ciders from 29 vendors, according to its website.

OSU's new Craft Cidery Startup Workshop is a mix of online and onsite instruction. The online part will be offered from April 28 to May 9. The onsite portion will take place in Portland from May 12-16. Students will study the basics of business plans, market feasibility, equipment, local and national regulations, distribution and marketing. Students will learn how to connect with orchards to buy apples best suited for cider. OSU's Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) unit developed the course with help from Snowdrift Cider. Registration information is at http://bit.ly/1l2fOOG.

On the beer front, OSU's PACE unit will continue to offer the following courses for craft brewers this spring and summer. They debuted last year, except for the Craft Brewery Startup Workshop II, which is new.

  • The Craft Brewery Startup Workshop I at http://bit.ly/1fHDC5X is an onsite workshop at the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend from Sept. 8-12. Serious entrepreneurs hoping to start a craft brewery or brewpub will learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship from OSU instructors and Ninkasi Brewing Co. owners and leaders.
  • The Craft Brewery Startup Workshop II at http://bit.ly/1fpvchU is April 21-May 9 online and May 10-13 at Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland. Craft brewery entrepreneurs who are within a year of opening a brewery will work with consultants to develop a business plan.
  • The Brewing Analytics Course Series at http://bit.ly/1kH1jxd begins May 1 online for six weeks and then continues at OSU's on-campus brewery in Corvallis from June 16-20. It will teach professional and hobbyist brewers the fundamentals of basic microbiology and its role in the brewing process. Concepts are first taught online, then in-person using high-end fermentation equipment.
  • Beer Proficiency Testing and Sensory Analysis at http://bit.ly/1fpvzJg is an in-person workshop July 15-18 at OSU's Food Innovation Center in Portland. It teaches students about malting, aroma standards, yeast, descriptive analysis and the brewing process.

"Since our unit is focused on workforce development, we've seen a growing need for training in entrepreneurship, specifically in the context of beer and cider businesses," said Chris LaBelle, the unit's director. "We want to produce entry-level and intermediate-level courses on entrepreneurship, providing students with more information about real startup costs and requirements. We also want to provide students access to successful industry leaders."

For more information and to register for any of the classes, visit https://pace.oregonstate.edu, call 541-737-4197 or email learn@oregonstate.edu.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Chris LaBelle, 541-737-2807

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Group tasting

Sensory testing in Oregon State University's brewery gives students a foundation in beer flavor characteristics. (Photo courtesy of OSU.)

OSU study: Osteoporosis drug may treat breast and liver cancers

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A drug used to prevent and treat osteoporosis in post-menopausal women may also be able to treat some breast and liver cancers, according to a new study from Oregon State University.

Although clinical trials on patients are still needed, in lab tests researchers found that the drug raloxifene, which is marketed under the brand name Evista by Eli Lilly and Co., killed human breast cancer cells that are "triple-negative” as well as liver cancer cells.

Triple-negative breast cancers represent about 15-20 percent of all breast cancers in the United States and are more common in younger and African-American women, according to a factsheet from the Susan G. Komen organization. Chemotherapy, radiation and surgery are the preferred treatments because triple-negative breast cancers don't respond to typical medications like tamoxifen or trastuzumab. That's because their cells lack receptors for estrogen, progesterone and a protein known as human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.

Receptors, which are proteins in or on cells, are like a lock. Hormones act like keys to these receptors to unlock different cellular functions. For example, estrogen causes uncontrolled proliferation of breast cancer cells by binding to a receptor. It's known that raloxifene blocks estrogen from binding to its receptor and thus keeps breast cancer cells from multiplying.

But what OSU researchers discovered is that raloxifene also binds with a protein called the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) and kills cancer cells that do not have receptors for estrogen, said Ed O’Donnell, a postdoctoral scholar at OSU who conducted the research.

O’Donnell also analyzed survival data on women who had breast cancers that didn't require hormones to fuel the proliferation of the tumor cells. He found an increased survival rate in the women whose breast cancers had higher levels of the AhR protein.

"Our findings are exciting for two reasons," said OSU cancer researcher Siva Kolluri, who led the research, which was published in the journal Cell Death and Disease. "No. 1, our research revealed that we can target a specific protein, the AhR, to potentially develop new drugs for liver cancer and a subset of stubborn breast cancers. That's a major goal of our lab. No. 2, we discovered that raloxifene, a known drug, could potentially be repurposed to treat two distinct types of cancers."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved raloxifene for use in bone loss prevention in post-menopausal women in 1997. In 1999, it was approved for treating postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. In 2007, the agency approved the use of raloxifene for reducing the risk of invasive breast cancer in post-menopausal women with osteoporosis and in post-menopausal women at high risk for invasive breast cancer, which spreads outside the lobules or milk ducts into surrounding breast tissue.

Raloxifene again hit the news in January when the federal government announced that most health insurance plans will be required to offer the prescription medicine at no cost to women who have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

The OSU research article is called "The Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Mediates Raloxifene-induced Apoptosis in Estrogen Receptor Negative Hepatoma and Breast Cancer Cells." It is online at http://hdl.handle.net/1957/45321. OSU researcher William Bisson was a co-author on the paper.

The research was funded by the American Cancer Society, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the U.S. Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Siva Kolluri, 541-737-1799

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Siva Kolluri

Siva Kolluri, a cancer researcher at Oregon State University, uses assays in "well plates" to identify chemical compounds that could kill cancer cells. His lab has found that raloxifene, a drug used to prevent and treat osteoporosis in post-menopausal women, may also be able to treat some breast and liver cancers. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Ed O'Donnell

Ed O’Donnell reaches for a vial from a shelf in a lab at Oregon State University. O'Donnell, a postdoctoral scholar, conducted research that led to the discovery that raloxifene, a drug used to prevent and treat osteoporosis in post-menopausal women, may also be able to treat some breast and liver cancers. (Photo by Tiffany Woods.)

Hundreds of woodland owners expected at OSU's 'Tree Schools'

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Organizers with the Oregon State University Extension Service expect more than 800 woodland owners to attend its three Tree Schools around the state this spring as the forestry sector emerges from a challenging recession.

Woodland owners, arborists, forestry advocates and students will network and gain new skills at Tree School Clackamas on March 22 in Oregon City. Tree School Umpqua will take place March 27 in Roseburg and Tree School East will return to Baker City on April 26.

"Word has gotten out – it’s one of the few opportunities of its kind in the region, and forestry is big in Clackamas County," said Extension forester Glenn Ahrens, who coordinates the event in Oregon City.

Ahrens sent the Tree School Clackamas course catalog to 13,500 private family forest landowners in six counties in the northern Willamette Valley. Those landowners collectively manage more than 400,000 acres of forestland, he said.

The Tree Schools come as the economic outlook has improved for forest products since the industry's low point in 2007, said Michael Bondi, who founded Tree School Clackamas and now directs OSU's North Willamette Research and Extension Center. During 2007 and 2008, attendance hovered around 545. But as the economy slowly turned around, partly thanks to a boost in export markets, more woodland owners returned to the event, he said.

In 2011, harvest volume across all ownerships was 3.65 billion board feet, just 16 percent below pre-recession harvest levels, according to the 2012 Forest Report commissioned by the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) at http://theforestreport.org.. More than 75 percent of this harvest came from private land, according to OFRI's report.

Nearly 60 volunteers and 64 instructors will help organize 70 workshops for Tree School Clackamas, which will be held March 22 at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City. Workshops will include weed management, beekeeping, mushroom cultivation, a truffle dog demonstration and chainsaw safety. Registration for Tree School Clackamas closes Feb. 21. A schedule is at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/clackamas/forestry. You can register online or call the OSU Extension office at 503-655-8631. Registration costs $45 for Clackamas County residents and $60 for others. Youth ages 13-18 pay $25.

For Tree School East, the OSU Extension Service will offer 24 classes taught by 40-50 instructors. It will take place at Baker High School in Baker City. Classes will include management of weeds, diseases and insects; chainsaw operation; wolves in northeast Oregon; pioneer skills such as flint knapping and Dutch oven cooking; Oregon Trail history; and solar energy. Registration opened Feb. 3 and you can register by calling the Extension office at 541-523-6418 and requesting a booklet. Registration costs $50 for adults and $20 for high school students.

Tree School Umpqua will feature 24 classes taught by 20 instructors at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg. Workshops will include restoring forests for fire resiliency; beekeeping; identifying native Oregon shrubs; commercial truffle production; enhancing wildlife habitat; and using Google Earth to map woodlands. The event averages about 100 attendees each year. Register by calling the OSU Extension office at 541-672-4461 or visiting the website at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/douglas/treeschool. Registration costs $50 for an individual or $90 per couple.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Glenn Ahrens, 503-722-6718;

Bob Parker, 541-523-6418;

Steve Bowers, 541-672-4461

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

TS_0146

Participants learn how to safely operate equipment at the Oregon State University Extension Service's annual Tree School in Oregon City. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Behavior of man's best friend shaped by breed and hunting instincts

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A dog's breed can determine how well it follows human commands, according to a new study from Oregon State University.

The study, which was published this month in the journal Animal Behaviour, found that dogs bred for predatory traits are better at following some human gestures.

"The more we know about the predatory behavioral tendencies of dogs, the better we can predict how successful they might be with humans in different home and working environments," said Monique Udell, an animal scientist at OSU and lead author of the study. “This may allow us to make better placement, ownership and training decisions in the future.”

"We can set dogs up to succeed by capitalizing on each breed's inherent strengths instead of treating all dogs as if they came from the same mold," she added.

OSU tested three breeds of dogs used for specific purposes: hunting, herding and livestock-guarding. In an experiment, dogs watched a researcher point to one of two identical empty cans. If the dog then approached that same can, food was placed on it. The test was repeated 10 times.

When choosing between the two cans, the researchers believe each breed drew on its natural predatory tendency to eye, stalk, chase and ultimately consume food triggered by movement – a pointing human hand, in this case.

Border collies, the herding dogs used in the test, chose the correct can more than 85 percent of the time. Researchers credit their success to the fact that border collies have been bred for exaggerated eye-stalk-chase behavior, hunting traits which dogs inherited from their wolf ancestors.

Airedale terriers also performed well, showing 70 percent success in tests. The hunting dogs have predatory instincts most similar to wolves and are extremely responsive to movement and inclined to follow it.

"These breeds are perceived to have an uncanny ability to read people, like when they anticipate owners taking them for a walk," said Udell, who is also the director of the OSU Human-Animal Interaction Lab and an assistant professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. “What people are picking up on is a predisposition in these dogs to watch for movement and respond accordingly.”

Anatolian shepherds, the livestock guarding dogs in the tests, initially responded to human gestures less than 50 percent of the time on average — not a single individual performed above chance.

This finding is consistent with their breeding, said Udell, because Anatolian shepherds have been bred for the absence of predatory traits to encourage them to protect instead of chase livestock. With additional training, however, Anatolian shepherds were able to learn to follow human pointing.

Although researchers are confident that breed helps predict the success of dogs in following human commands, they also note that it is only one factor among many.

"Behavior is not fixed,” Udell said. “A dog’s breed may simply signify a different starting point. If dog owners want their pets to behave in a way that is uncharacteristic of their breed, it is often possible, but may take more training and time. You can teach dogs – young and old – new tricks."

The study is online at http://bit.ly/OSU_DogBehaviorStudy.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Monique Udell, 541-737-9154

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Border collie

Border collies, which are trained to herd sheep and other animals, show a strong ability to follow human commands because of predatory instincts inherited from wolves. (Photo by Lora Withnell.)

Eliminating grazing won't reduce impact of climate change on rangeland, scientists say

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Eliminating grazing won't reduce the impact of climate change on rangeland, according to nearly 30 scientists in the western United States.

The researchers, who work for nine universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, made this argument in a journal article in response to a debate over whether grazing on western public lands worsens ecological alterations caused by climate change.

"We dispute the notion that eliminating grazing will provide a solution to problems created by climate change," the 27 authors wrote in the peer-reviewed paper, which was a summary of scientific literature that was published online this month by the journal Environmental Management. "To cope with a changing climate, land managers will need access to all available vegetation management tools, including grazing."

Some scientists argue that livestock, deer, elk and wild horses and burros exacerbate the effects of climate change on vegetation, soils, water and wildlife on western rangelands. As a result, they claim that removing or reducing these animals would alleviate the problem.

In this latest paper, however, the authors argued that grazing can actually help mitigate some of the effects of climate change. Climate change, they said, is likely to increase the accumulation of flammable grasses and increase the chance of catastrophic wildfires unless those grasses are managed.

"Grazing is one of the few tools available to reduce the herbaceous vegetation that becomes fine fuel on rangelands," said co-author Dave Bohnert, the director of Oregon State University's Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center in Burns.

Globally, grazing is used for a variety of vegetation management objectives, in addition to fine fuel reduction, said lead author Tony Svejcar, a research leader at the USDA's office in Burns who also has a courtesy appointment in OSU's Animal and Rangeland Sciences Department.

The scientists also said that it's unclear how removing grazing would overcome the effects of large-scale climatic changes such as reduced snow packs.

The authors also pointed out that some criticism of grazing has been based on decades-old studies, when the scars of unfettered foraging were still fresh on the landscape. They added that in some places it's hard to tell if impacts from grazing are from current practices or if they are left over from the homesteading era when grazing was unregulated.

"Before the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, it was a first-come, first-served competition, with the winners taking as much of the forage as they could because if they didn’t someone else would," said Bohnert, who is a beef cattle specialist with the OSU Extension Service and a professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. “Since then, we've learned more about the ecology and management of rangelands. Ranchers are constantly looking at ways to be more sustainable in their grazing practices.”

Collaborators on the paper are from OSU, the University of Arizona, Brigham Young University, the University of California-Davis, the University of Idaho, Montana State University, the University of Nevada-Reno, Utah State University, the University of Wyoming and the USDA's Agricultural Research Service.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Dave Bohnert, 541-573-8910;

Tony Svejcar, 541-573-8901

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Dave Bohnert

Animal scientist Dave Bohnert works with cattle at Oregon State University's Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center in Burns. Bohnert is a co-author of a paper that says that eliminating grazing isn't the fix-all solution to protecting land affected by climate change. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Cattle grazing

Cattle graze near Prineville, Ore. Grazing is one way to reduce the risk of large wildfires, according to scientists from nine universities. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Braunworth named as head of OSU Department of Horticulture

CORVALLIS, Ore - Bill Braunworth has been selected to head the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University, following a national search.

Since 1992, Braunworth has served OSU as the program leader of the Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Extension Program. As program leader, he developed greater budget capacity and flexibility and worked to preserve the Extension horticulture program in Multnomah, Lane, Linn and Lincoln counties.

In 2001, he led a 30-member team of scientists from three universities that reported the impacts from reallocation of water in the Klamath Basin.

Braunworth, who earned a doctorate in horticulture from OSU in 1986, has worked as an agronomist on water use and management in Egypt and as a horticultural researcher in Malawi.

He served as the interim department head in horticulture after Anita Azarenko left the department in 2012 to become associate dean of OSU’s graduate school.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Bill Braunworth, 541-760-1317

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Bill Braunworth

Bill Braunworth is the new head of the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University. (Photo courtesy of OSU.)

OSU uses satellite images to detect underwater volcanic eruptions

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University scientists have discovered how to pinpoint the time and place of underwater volcanic eruptions using satellite images.

Volcanic eruptions on the ocean floor can spew large amounts of pumice and fine particles, as well as hot water that brings nutrients to the surface, resulting in plumes of algae. The plumes are picked up as shades of green in satellite images.

"Some volcanic eruptions take place hundreds of feet below water and show no changes to the sea surface to the naked eye," said Robert O'Malley, an OSU research assistant in botany and plant pathology in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. “It's amazing an orbiting satellite can detect color changes that indicate an eruption has taken place. Many times you can't spot an eruption if you were floating over it in a boat.”

Underwater volcanic eruptions are rarely detected, so little is known about them, according to Mike Behrenfeld, an OSU expert in marine algae and and one of the researchers on the project.

"Satellite measurements of the planet are made every day,” Behrenfeld said, “so this new method provides another tool for spotting these dramatic events that affect life in the oceans."

O'Malley and Behrenfeld developed a process for analyzing low-resolution images to show evidence of eruptions, which can extend over thousands of square miles, by matching five known eruptions with data from NASA satellites.

"We measured sunlight going into the ocean interacting with particles consistent with underwater volcanic eruptions," said O'Malley. “From there, we found we could connect color data with documented eruptions. Now we have a better idea of what to look for in the data when we don't know about the eruption first."

Next, the researchers plan to test how well their method works as eruptions are happening. Further study will also focus on the depth at which eruptions can be detected.

The research was funded by NASA's Ocean Biology and Geochemistry Program.

The study was published in the journal Remote Sensing of the Environment and can be found online at http://bit.ly/OSU_VolcanoStudy.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Robert O'Malley, 541-737-2316;

Mike Behrenfeld, 541-737-5289

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

seafloor