OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

college of earth

New unmanned aircraft center should spur research, growth in evolving technology

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University was named this month by the Federal Aviation Administration to be part of the nation’s Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, and university officials are now making plans for the roles it will play in this new initiative.

OSU is one of 15 of the nation’s leading universities in this field, in a team that will be led by Mississippi State University. An initial $5 million in funding was granted to support a diverse agenda of research, training and certification of unmanned aircraft, with additional funding expected during the five-year agreement.

“This further puts OSU and Oregon on the map of leaders in unmanned aircraft systems,” said Michael Wing, director of the Aerial Information System Lab at OSU. “It will help us form ties with multiple institutions and partnerships, stimulate both public and private funding, and build on some of our historic strengths in fields such as remote sensing.”

Representatives of the new center will meet in early June in Washington, D.C., to begin plans for the program, Wing said. Some of the initial areas of emphasis will include detect and avoid technology; low-altitude operations safety; control and communications; spectrum management; human factors; compatibility with air traffic control operations; and training and certification of pilots and crew members.

Some of OSU’s early contributions, Wing said, may be in the area of low-altitude operations safety; detection and avoidance; human factors; and certification of flight operations.

“We envision some early work in Oregon being done with things such as wildfire monitoring and low-altitude, precision monitoring for agriculture or wildlife operations,” Wing said.

Some of that is already taking place. OSU has now gained 30 FAA agreements for locations to use unmanned aircraft throughout Oregon and the U.S. Applications include fire surveys, vineyard health, and identifying salmon spawning beds in rivers and streams. The salmon spawning bed identification work was highly successful, and the data quality exceeded what could be obtained by far more expensive and manned helicopters, Wing said.

The Center of Excellence of which OSU is a part already has 113 corporate partners nationally, Wing said, and more will be added. It was formed in competition with other applicants, and it’s expected that a complete research agenda will be developed by next year.

Two years ago, OSU was also selected as part of the Pan-Pacific Test Site, one of six test sites around the nation designed to help develop the use of unmanned aerial systems for civilian use. It will collaborate with the University of Alaska and Hawaii on that initiative, and offer some of the most unique land forms in the nation on which to test new technologies.

The three states have an extraordinary range of terrain in which to test new systems: mountains, rivers, valleys, high desert, Arctic tundra, volcanoes, many types of forest and agricultural areas, and tropical islands.

University, business and state leaders have said that the production, testing, research and use of unmanned aerial systems should be able to play an important role in Oregon’s future economic growth, employment and career opportunities.

Media Contact: 
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Michael Wing, 541-737-4009

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Unmanned aircraft

Ocean acidification discussion on tap at Corvallis Science Pub

CORVALLIS, Ore. – It’s been called the “evil twin” of climate change. As the oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and surface waters become more acidic, changes to marine ecosystems are likely to follow. Coral reefs, shell-forming organisms and the fish and marine mammals that depend on them are at risk.

At the May 11 Corvallis Science Pub, George Waldbusser will describe what scientists know about the biological effects of ocean acidification. The Science Pub presentation is free and open to the public. It begins at 6 p.m. at the Old World Deli, 341 S.W. 2nd St. in Corvallis.

On average, the oceans are about 30 percent more acidic today than they were a century ago, and impacts are already being seen along the West Coast. Waldbusser and his students have turned their attention to the region’s oyster industry, which had $73 million in sales in 2009.

Oyster larvae are sensitive to acidification and Waldbusser, an assistant professor in Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, is working to understand why.

“With larval oysters, what we see are developmental issues,” he said. “From the time eggs are fertilized, Pacific oyster larvae will precipitate roughly 90 percent of their body weight as a calcium carbonate shell within 48 hours.”

His research has been supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oregon Sea Grant and other agencies.

Waldbusser received his Ph.D. in biological oceanography at the University of Maryland in 2008. In addition to professional publications, his research has appeared in the New York Times, CBS and NBC News, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Mother Jones magazine and Forbes.

Sponsors of Science Pub include Terra magazine at OSU, the Downtown Corvallis Association and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

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Source: 

George Waldbusser, 541-737-8964

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Pacific Northwest volcanoes focus of Corvallis Science Pub

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Pacific Northwest owes some of its most dramatic scenery to the majesty of Cascade volcanoes, but the real action lies out of sight underground.

At the March 9 Corvallis Science Pub, Adam Schultz, director of the National Geoelectromagnetic Facility at Oregon State University, will describe what scientists have discovered about the plumbing beneath Oregon and Washington.

Like an MRI of the human body, the technology known as magnetotellurics reveals contrasts in the electrical properties of the Earth. The resulting images illuminate the nature of subsurface structures, including their geometry and possible composition. When scientists apply this and other methods in the same location, they can improve interpretations of these features

A professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU, Schultz also directs the magnetotelluric component of Earthscope. This National Science Foundation-funded program investigates North America’s basement, the structure of the continental plate from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

Schultz received his Ph.D. in 1986 from the University of Washington. He has taught at the University of Cambridge and Cardiff University in the United Kingdom and came to OSU in 2003.

The Science Pub presentation is free and open to the public. It begins at 6 p.m. at the Old World Deli, 341 S.W. 2nd St. in Corvallis. Sponsors of Science Pub include Terra magazine at OSU, the Downtown Corvallis Association and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

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Adam Schultz, 541-737-3811

OSU among best Earth and environmental sciences programs in the world

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University is ranked among the strongest Earth and environmental sciences programs in the world by the journal Nature.

OSU is ranked 30th among all programs (which includes both universities and federal agencies), 20th among world universities, and 16th among American universities.

The rankings are based on the number of articles by researchers associated with an institution that appear in one of 68 natural science journals that comprise the Nature Index, with a weighted score given to articles with a large number of citations by other researchers, as well as the amount of attention received online.

The top five institutions are all agencies, led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In second was the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, followed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in third; National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), fourth; and the French National Centre for Scientific Research, fifth.

The leading university is the California Institute of Technology, which overall ranked sixth in the world. Other leading U.S. universities included the University of Colorado, seventh; the University of California at San Diego, eighth; and the University of Washington, 10th.

Among non-U.S. academic institutions, the University of Tokyo was ranked highest at 11th. Other international leaders were the University of Oxford, 14th; Utrecht University in The Netherlands, 23rd; and Australian National University, 29th.

Oregon State has strong international programs in Earth and marine sciences – primarily in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, but also in several other colleges.

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Jack Barth, 541-737-1607; barth@coas.oregonstate.edu

Expert on subsurface life to present Condon Lecture

CORVALLIS, Ore. – T.C. Onstott, a geologist, geochemist, biogeochemist and expert on unusual microbial life forms in the Arctic and deep beneath the surface of the Earth, will present the 2014 Thomas Condon Lecture on Thursday, Nov. 20, at Oregon State University.

The lecture is free, open to the public and designed for a non-specialist audience. It is titled "The Hidden Universe."

The presentation will be at 7:30 p.m. in the Construction and Engineering Hall of the LaSells Stewart Center on the OSU campus, preceded by a reception with refreshments. The Condon Lecture, named after a pioneer of Oregon geology, helps to interpret significant scientific research for non-scientists.

Onstott is a professor of geochemistry in the Department of Geosciences at Princeton University. He has won numerous awards, and was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2008.

Onstott studies subsurface microbial life and microbial ecosystems of permafrost, and its implications for global warming, petroleum biodegradation, life on Mars and the origin of life. The work also raises questions about how deeply into a planet life can penetrate and whether life could originate inside a planet.

This research has explored the Canadian High Arctic, the mines of South Africa to depths of more than two miles, and Yellowstone National Park. Onstott’s research also involves collaborations with NASA scientists on the development of space-flight capable instrumentation for detecting life. 

Onstott will also give a more technical presentation on a related topic, in the George Moore Lecture titled “Carbon cycling in the deep subsurface: Never was so much owed by so many to so few.” That event will be Friday, Nov. 21, at noon in Gilbert Hall, Room 124.

The presentations are sponsored by the OSU Research Office and the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

Source: 

Rick Colwell, 541-737-5220

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T.C. Onstott
T.C. Onstott

Corvallis Science Pub focuses on the future of the oceans

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Warming ocean temperatures, rising acidity and reduced biological productivity threaten the livelihoods of about 2 billion people who depend on marine ecosystems, according to a report by an international team of 29 scientists last fall.

At the May 12 Corvallis Science Pub, Andrew Thurber, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University who helped to conceive the study, will discuss how the oceans are responding to a changing climate. The Science Pub presentation, which is free and open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. in the Majestic Theater located at 115 S.W. Second St. in Corvallis.

“What is really sobering about these findings is that they don’t even include other impacts to the world’s oceans such as sea level rise, pollution, over-fishing, and increasing storm intensity and frequency,” he said. “All of these could compound the problem significantly.”

Thurber’s research focuses on deep-sea ecosystems, particularly the role of invertebrates in recycling nutrients and sequestering carbon. He has conducted experiments under seasonal sea ice in Antarctica and explored communities that live around methane seeps near New Zealand and Costa Rica.

Thurber received his Ph.D. from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation.

Sponsors of Science Pub include Terra magazine at OSU, the Downtown Corvallis Association and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

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Andrew Thurber, 541-737-8251

Geochemist to present Condon Lecture

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Richard Carlson, a geologist, geochemist, and planetary scientist from the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., will present the 2014 Thomas Condon Lecture at Oregon State University on Wednesday, March 5.

The free public lecture, "A History of Earth Formation," is designed for a non-specialist audience. It begins at 7:30 p.m. in Austin Auditorium of the LaSells Stewart Center on the OSU campus. The Condon Lecture, named after a pioneer of Oregon geology, helps to interpret significant scientific research for non-scientists.

Carlson is a staff scientist at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution. He conducts research on the history and evolution of the crust and interior of Earth, Mars, the moon and different asteroids to understand the mechanisms of planet formation and the way in which planets develop habitable surfaces.

He uses isotope geochemistry to study element formation in stars and how those elements are delivered throughout the solar system. His studies have taken to southern Africa, Brazil, the Arctic coast of Hudson’s Bay, eastern Oregon, and most recently, central Mongolia.

The recipient of numerous awards, Carlson was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2012.

While at OSU, Carlson will also give a more technical presentation on a related topic. His George Moore Lecture, “Pacific Northwest Volcanism: The Connection of Mantle Dynamics and Continent Formation,”   will be held Thursday, March 6, beginning at 4 p.m. in Kelley Engineering Room 1003.

The presentations are sponsored by the OSU Research Office and the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

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John Dilles, 541-737-1245 or dillesj@geo.oregonstate.edu

Noted oceanographer to speak Nov. 12 at Hatfield

NEWPORT, Ore. – Don Walsh, a pioneering oceanographer famous for his 1960 dive to the deepest part of the ocean, will visit Newport on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

Walsh will give a free public lecture at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. His presentation, “Lunch on Board the Titanic: Two Miles Deep in the Atlantic,” begins at 6:30 p.m. In his talk, Walsh will share his experience diving in a submersible down to the Titanic and other adventures from his career of more than 40 years.

A retired captain from the U.S. Navy, Walsh went on to enjoy a lengthy career as an oceanographer and ocean engineer who explored the deep oceans and polar regions. He has commanded submarines as a naval officer and deep-sea submersibles as a researcher.

In 1960, Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard boarded the bathyscaphe Trieste and descended to the floor of the Mariana Trench in the northern Pacific Ocean – a depth of more than 35,000 feet, or nearly seven miles. It took five hours to reach the seafloor, and at 30,000 feet they heard a loud crack. Upon reaching the bottom, they discovered cracks in the window, and quickly began ascending.

The historic dive received worldwide attention. It also remained a world record dive for 52 years until James Cameron piloted his Deepsea Challenger to the same place in 2012.

Walsh, who has a courtesy appointment in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, will also visit schools in Newport during the week and give a seminar at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. That talk, intended for a research audience, is titled “Going the Last Seven Miles – Looking Backwards at the Future.” It begins at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 in the Hennings Auditorium.

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Maryann Bozza, 541-867-0234; maryann.bozza@oregonstate.edu

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Don Walsh

OSU oceanography dean to speak at ARCS Foundation

PORTLAND, Ore. – Mark Abbott, dean of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, will give the keynote speech at the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation scholars luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 22, in Portland.

The event begins at 11 a.m. at the Portland Art Museum, where 52 ARCS scholars will be honored and present posters of their research. Ticket information is available online at: https://www.arcsfoundation.org/portland/news/portland-chapters-9th-annual-luncheon-celebrates-50-american-science-scholars

Abbott’s talk, “Our Oceans under Pressure,” will outline how human impacts on the world’s oceans are increasing, raising concern for such issues as declining fisheries, sea level rise, pollution, acidification, harmful algal blooms, and marine “dead zones.”

Abbott is president of the Oceanographic Society and a former member of the National Science Board. In 2011, he received the prestigious Jim Gray eScience Award in Stockholm, Sweden, from Microsoft Research for his leadership in blending science and computing technology. He joined the OSU faculty in 1988 and has served as dean of the college since 2001.

Julia Maxson of Oregon Health & Science University will be the featured ARCS Scholar Alumna speaker. Her talk is titled “Using Genetics to Find Better Cancer Treatments.”

Fifty-two scholars at OSU and OHSU will be honored at this ninth annual luncheon.

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Jean Josephson, ARCS president, jeanjosephson@gmail.com

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Mark Abbott
Mark Abbott

Ocean sound: The Oregon Coast rules when it comes to ambient noise

NEWPORT, Ore. – For more than a year, scientists at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center deployed a hydrophone in 50 meters of water just off the coast of Newport, Ore., so they could listen to the natural and human-induced sounds emanating from the Pacific Ocean environment.

Their recently published analysis has a simple conclusion: It’s really noisy out there.

There are ships, including container shipping traffic, commercial fishers and recreationalists. There are environmental sounds, from waves pounding the beach, to sounds generating by heavy winds. And there are biological sounds, especially the vocalizations of blue whales and fin whales. And not only is Oregon’s ocean sound budget varied, it is quite robust.

“We recorded noise generated from local vessels during 66 percent of all hours during the course of a year,” said Joe Haxel, an OSU doctoral student who is affiliated with both the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies (CIMRS) and NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory acoustics program at the Hatfield center. “In fact, there is an acoustic spike during the opening of the commercial crabbing season related to the high number of boats working the shallow coastal waters at the same time.

“But, at times, the biggest contributor to the low-frequency sound budget is from the surf breaking on the beach a few kilometers away,” he added. “That’s where Oregon trumps most other places. There haven’t been a lot of studies targeting surf-generated sound and its effect on ambient noise levels in the coastal ocean, but the few that are out there show a lot less noise than we have. Our waves are off the charts.”

The year-long study of noise, which was published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, was supported by the Department of Energy, the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, NOAA and OSU.

The study is about more than scientific curiosity, researchers say. The research was carried out in support of OSU’s Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center and will play an important role in determining whether testing of wave energy devices off the Oregon coast may have environmental impacts.

Scientists must know what naturally occurring sounds exist, and at what levels, so when new sounds are introduced, there is some context for evaluating their intensity and impact.

Documenting marine noises for an entire year isn’t easy, the researchers pointed out. First, the equipment must withstand the rugged Pacific Ocean, so the OSU researchers deployed the hydrophone near the seafloor in about 50 meters of water so violent winter storms wouldn’t destroy the instrumentation. They focused on low-frequency sounds, where the majority of noise emitted by wave energy converters is expected to occur.

After combing through an entire year of data, they determined that Oregon’s low-frequency noise budget is often dominated by the constant sounds of breaking surf. These weren’t necessarily the loudest noises, though.

“The strongest signal we got during the course of the year came from a boat that drove right over our mooring,” said Haxel, who is pursuing his doctorate through OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “The second loudest sound came from the vocalizations of a blue whale, which can be incredibly loud. We were told by colleagues at the Marine Mammal Institute that blue whales have been sighted close to shore in recent years and it was probably within several kilometers of the hydrophone.”

Haxel said the OSU researchers also recorded numerous vocalizations of fin whales and humpback whales, but a startling omission was that of gray whales, one of the most common West Coast whales.

“We didn’t document a single gray whale sound during the entire year, which was really surprising,” Haxel said. “Even during times when gray whales were visually sighted from shore within close proximity of the hydrophone, we never recorded any vocalizations. One theory is that they are trying to keep as quiet as possible so they don’t give away their location to orcas, which target their calves.”

Another unusual source of noise was the wind. Even at 50 meters below the surface, the hydrophone picked up sound from the wind – but not in the way one might think. It wasn’t the howling of the wind that was noticeable, Haxel said, but the ensuing waves, known as “whitecaps” or “wind chop,” and the clouds of bubbles that were injected into the water column.

Haxel compared his data on Oregon sounds to a handful of studies in the literature associated with high-energy environmental conditions to see how the region fared. All of the other studies were limited: a Monterey Bay, Calif., survey focused only on surf noises. A study off the Florida coast examined wind-generated sounds. And a study of the Scotia Shelf in Canada looked at wind and surf.

Oregon noise levels were similar to other regions for frequencies above 100 Hz, Haxel said, but rose sharply for frequencies affected by surf-generated noise – generally below 100 Hz.

“The bottom line is that the Pacific Ocean in the Northwest can be a remarkably loud environment and our wave climate in particular is amazing,” Haxel said. “That’s why wave energy is being targeted for this region in the first place. The study will provide some valuable information as the wave energy industry goes forward.

“We will be able to measure noise levels from the testing, or even the loading and unloading of equipment from the vessels, and compare those measurements with the range of background ambient sound levels already occurring in the area,” he added.

“It is a balancing act as some noise from the testing sites may serve as a warning signal for whales and other animals to avoid the area, helping to reduce the risk for collision or entanglement,” Haxel said. “But adding too much noise can be harmful, disrupting their communication or navigation.”

Media Contact: 
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Joe Haxel, 541-867-0282; joe.haxel@oregonstate.edu

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Tail of the whale
Blue whale vocalizations
are second loudest


 Coastal waves
Breaking surf tops
the charts for noise

 

Sound file of breaking surf:

http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ncs/media/wave-breaking.wav

 

Sound file of boat motors:

http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ncs/media/boat-noise.wav