college of forestry

Water deficits and rising temperatures increase stress on Pacific Northwest forests

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Rising temperatures and late summer dryness are teaming up to push some types of forests beyond their ability to cope with stress, according to a new analysis of forest response to climate change across the Pacific Northwest.

Particularly vulnerable forests include those in drier areas such as the east side of the Cascade Range, the Blue Mountains and the Rocky Mountains of northeast Washington. High-elevation forests in these areas are poorly adapted to increasingly hot, dry conditions. Sensitive species include lodgepole pine, subalpine fir, spruce and mountain hemlock.

Over the last decade, increasing stress has peaked in August and September as greater water deficits and rising temperatures combined to affect forests across the region. This has created conditions potentially lethal to trees in some highly vulnerable areas, according to a report published this week in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment.

In those two months, the region’s extensive Douglas-fir forests saw an increase in the area subject to stressful conditions, from about 1 percent in August to almost 8 percent in September, said David Mildrexler, a doctoral student in the Oregon State University College of Forestry, and lead author of the report. Areas of high Douglas-fir vulnerability were largely concentrated in the southern portion of the Oregon Coast Range and western Cascade Range.

In ponderosa pine forests, the area of vulnerability rose from 5 percent in August to 33 percent in September. These forests are more adapted to drought but could be affected if prolonged stress continues.

Instead of focusing on air temperatures — the numbers commonly heard in daily weather reports — the analysis uses the actual temperature of surfaces, such as leaves and soil. Trees cool themselves by pumping water from the ground through their leaves, much as humans reduce heat stress by sweating on a hot summer day.

When moisture is lacking, that natural air conditioning shuts down.

“As soon as that stops, the canopy starts to heat up,” Mildrexler said. “When there is no water available to cool the leaves, at about 104 degrees Fahrenheit photosynthesis starts to decline in many plant species. At about 122 degrees, we start seeing effects that are lethal, even with fairly short time exposure. Higher temperature droughts really start to stress trees fast. And it’s projected to get much worse in the future, pushing more forests to the edge.

“You don’t see many places on Earth where forests get that hot,” he said. “It’s why forests are so important for cooling the Earth. With their deep roots that can access groundwater, forests help regulate high temperatures in the summer. The increasing dieback of forests globally is very concerning for this reason.”

In their analysis, Mildrexler and his colleagues tracked the month-to-month difference between water availability and surface temperature starting in 2003, using data from the Terra and Aqua satellites launched by NASA. These two satellites generate images of the entire Earth’s surface every day.

The scientists created a mathematical model — what they call the forest vulnerability index — that captures the relationship between water and temperature trends from one month to the next. In the Pacific Northwest, late-summer stress shows up clearly across the region.

In areas where seasonal dryness occurs regularly, forests have evolved mechanisms to cope with these conditions. Drought in the West isn’t that unusual, but the combination with higher surface temperatures makes this trend a concern, said Mildrexler.

By providing a way to monitor forest stress, the research will help managers in government agencies and private companies focus their efforts on vulnerable areas. Among the options that forest managers can pursue are removal of less drought-tolerant species such as grand fir from drier forests, and prescribed burning to improve fire- and drought-adapted stands.

Other actions include improving water retention in soils, retaining streamside vegetation and restoring beavers, whose dams can raise water tables and retain summer water flows.

“This monitoring method allows managers to better prioritize their activities,” Mildrexler said. “Right now, it isn’t always so clear, but we’re showing where on the landscape vulnerability is increasing and how it varies in each forest type. There is a lot of forest land out there, and the Forest Service has limited budgets for treatments across the landscape, so there’s a real need to get the maximum benefit for what they are doing.”

Co-authors of the Remote Sensing of Environment report include Zhiqiang Yang in the OSU College of Forestry and Warren B. Cohen and David M. Bell in the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service.


Story By: 

David Mildrexler, 541-786-9354

Multimedia Downloads


Art and science in the life of a dead tree

CORVALLIS, Ore. – We may value forests most for timber, wildlife and scenic beauty, but the real treasure may lie largely hidden in the soil.

At the Nov. 9 Corvallis Science Pub, an Oregon State University forest researcher and four visual artists will discuss their efforts to understand the “life” of dead trees through science and the arts. They are all participating in a project, The Afterlife of Trees, organized by the Corvallis Arts Center in partnership with the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature and the Written Word at OSU.

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.


“In many cases, dead trees are more alive than living ones,” said Mark Harmon, professor and holder of the Richardson Chair in the Oregon State College of Forestry who will speak at the event. “Dead trees are used by almost every group of major organisms in forests – plants, animals, microbes, protozoans and lichens.


“We need to make informed decisions about dead trees,” Harmon added. “In the past, we have not, and it has been costly economically and ecologically.”


Artists Leah Wilson, David Paul Bayles, Bob Keefer and Andries Fourie will describe their visual interpretations of tree decomposition. Their work will be part of a show at the Arts Center, which is scheduled to run from Jan. 15 to Feb. 25.


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

Story By: 

Mark Harmon, 541-737-8455

Prehistoric predators kept large animals in check, shaped ecosystems

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Our prehistoric ancestors may have had large carnivores – giant lions, sabertooth cats, bears and hyenas up to twice the size of their modern relatives – to thank for an abundance and diversity of plants and wildlife.

Likewise, modern ecosystems, from tropical forests to the American West, may depend on the ability of large carnivores to control grazing animals.

Those are among the conclusions of scientists who used ice-age fossils and historical data from modern surveys of animal populations to investigate the nature of predator-prey relationships. Researchers led by Blaire Van Valkenburgh of UCLA published their findings today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. William Ripple, distinguished professor in the Oregon State University College of Forestry, is among the co-authors.

“Large predators can have a major role in limiting their prey and in determining the structure and function of ecosystems,” said Ripple. “But scientists have thought that the largest herbivores, such as elephants, were immune from predation. We now know that’s not the case, and based on these data from the Pleistocene (the epoch which lasted from about 2.5 million to 11,700 years ago), we now think that large carnivores did limit the large herbivores at that time.”

Using Pleistocene fossils, Ripple and his colleagues concluded that juvenile members of large herbivores – such as woolly mammoths and giant bison, sloths and camels — were well within the size range of prey available to the carnivores that roamed the landscape.

“Imagine a large population of herbivores: If they had not been under control, they could have eaten themselves out of house and home,” Ripple added. “It would not have been sustainable.”

The researchers synthesized data on predator and prey body masses, historical data on group size in large carnivores and paleontological data on ancient carnivores. Their analysis of data on more than 50,000 individual kills in the wild enabled them to predict the probable prey sizes of the extinct predators using a mathematical model derived from modern data. They estimated the body mass of young mammoths and mastodons using data on the relationship between shoulder height and age and, for living elephants, shoulder height and mass.

Today in Africa, lions do prey on young elephants, but since lions have declined dramatically in pride size and geographic range, they are not thought to provide an ecologically effective control on elephant populations. Safari hunting parties and explorers recorded prides containing an average of 24 and as many as 40 animals in the late 1800s, but today, lion prides have dwindled to an average of nine animals, based a recent analysis of 27 African reserves.

In African national parks, elephants can be destructive to the landscape, said Ripple, knocking down trees and tearing up vegetation.

“There’s evidence that larger prides had more success at killing elephants,” said Ripple. “Sometimes a group of lions will run down a fairly young elephant, some jumping on its back and others nipping at its sides. They’ll just wear it out and bring it down. We tallied 173 elephant kills by lions and hyenas, and 75 percent of these elephants were younger than nine years old.”

The findings have implications for modern wildlife management policies, the authors said. “Recreating these (Pleistocene) communities is not possible, but their record of success compels us to maintain the diversity we have and rebuild it where feasible (e.g., rewilding),” they write.

“If a manager’s goal is to have sustainable predator prey relationships in highly functional ecosystems, it can be important to have predators at ecologically effective population sizes,” Ripple said.

In addition to Van Valkenburgh and Ripple, co-authors include Matthew Hayward, a senior lecturer in conservation with the UK’s Bangor University College of Natural Sciences; Carlo Meloro, a vertebrate palaeontologist with the UK’s Liverpool John Moores University; and V. Louise Roth, professor of biology at Duke University.

Story By: 

Bill Ripple, 541-737-3056

Multimedia Downloads



Illustrations by Mauricio Anton

Sierra Pacific commits $6 million to OSU Advanced Wood Products Laboratory

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Sierra Pacific Industries, one of the largest lumber producers in the United States, has committed $6 million to the College of Forestry at Oregon State University to support construction of an advanced wood products laboratory.

The project is part of OSU’s Oregon Forest Science Complex initiative, which will create a new home for the college on campus.

In the 20,000-square-foot laboratory, faculty and students will develop products like cross-laminated timber - the engineered wood panels at the center of growing global interest in substituting wood for steel and concrete in high-rise buildings.

California-based Sierra Pacific Industries is a third-generation, family-owned forest products company founded by A. A. “Red” Emmerson and his father, R. H. “Curly” Emmerson. In recognition of Sierra Pacific’s investment, the advanced wood products laboratory at OSU will be named in Red Emmerson’s honor.

Red Emmerson’s sons George Emmerson – who graduated from Oregon State in 1978 – and Mark Emmerson, a graduate of the University of California/Berkeley, lead the company as president and chairman/chief financial officer, respectively. Their sister Carolyn Emmerson Dietz, a 1982 OSU alumna, is president of the Sierra Pacific Foundation.

“We are extremely pleased to be associated with OSU’s Advanced Wood Products Laboratory,” George Emmerson said. “Sierra Pacific Industries has grown dramatically in the past 25 years, and we attribute much of that growth to a belief that advanced mill technology is an essential element of maintaining a competitive edge in the wood products industry.

“Wood has become the building product of choice in a carbon-constrained world, and no other material can match it for sustainability and renewability,” he said. “Success requires constant innovation.”

The 85,000-square-foot Oregon Forest Science Complex will itself be made with advanced wood products, showcasing the beauty and usefulness of this building technique. In partnership with architecture firm Miller Hull, Michael Green, a leading innovator in high-rise wood construction, is designing the facility.

The A. A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory will give students access to groundbreaking research opportunities in a program that is consistently ranked as one of the best forestry schools in the world, said Thomas Maness, the Cheryl Ramberg Ford and Allyn C. Ford Dean of OSU’s College of Forestry.

“We’re confident that this laboratory will enhance our students’ experience and provide innovative solutions to the forest products industry,” Maness said. “This gift will allow us to build the state-of-the-art facility we need to test new ideas, yielding sustainable and advanced wood products that can change the world we live in.”

One of the university’s goals is to use the laboratory to establish Oregon as an international leader in the way wood is used in tall commercial and residential structures. That research, said OSU president Ed Ray, could have a profound impact on the state’s economy.

“Sierra Pacific’s commitment is a tremendous investment in the region’s future,” Ray said. “By developing new technologies and products that could be manufactured in Oregon and throughout the West, this lab will have a lasting positive impact on our state and its rural communities. We are deeply grateful for the company’s partnership.”

Efforts to secure funding for the Oregon Forest Science Complex, including $29.7 million in approved state bonds, are nearing completion. The project is one of several fundraising initiatives being led by the Oregon State University Foundation to advance the university’s strategic plan – creating transformative student learning experiences and building on the institution’s areas of greatest strength and potential impact.

Story By: 

Thomas Maness, 541-737-1585

Multimedia Downloads

Timber research
Cross laminated timber

Plum Creek Contributes $1 million to Oregon Forest Science Complex

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Plum Creek, one of the largest private land and timber owners in the United States, has committed $1 million to Oregon State University’s College of Forestry to support construction of the school’s new Oregon Forest Science Complex.

In addition to serving as the college’s home, the 85,000-square-foot complex will include a state-of-the-art advanced wood products laboratory. The research facility will be built from and dedicated to developing sustainable new building products that could be manufactured in the Pacific Northwest, including cross-laminated timber.

“OSU’s College of Forestry is one of the premier forestry programs in the country, and the Oregon Forest Science Complex is proof of their commitment to sustainable forestry research,” said Rick Holley, Plum Creek, chief executive officer. “We see the OSU complex as a unique place that will effectively showcase the innovation and sustainability of wood products.”

“As architects and engineers around the world begin to increasingly appreciate the multiple benefits of wood construction, OSU is positioned to be a global industry leader in the field,” said Thomas Maness, the Cheryl Ramberg Ford and Allyn C. Ford Dean of the College of Forestry.

“We are excited about leading a new national effort to advance the science and technology needed to use wood as a safe and renewable building material in the construction of tall wood buildings,” Maness said. “We are deeply grateful for Plum Creek’s partnership. The company’s gift will help us expand our program while attracting visionary faculty and the talented students who will become the next generation of forest industry leaders.”

Headquartered in Seattle, Plum Creek previously gave $500,000 to create an endowment supporting an OSU postdoctoral fellow who studies the impacts of active forest management on water quality and aquatic systems. The first fellow, Matt Sloat, focused his research on how contemporary forest harvest practices affect fish.

The $60 million Oregon Forest Science Complex will be funded by private gifts and $29.7 million in approved state bonds. The project is one of several fundraising initiatives being led by the Oregon State University Foundation to advance the university’s strategic plan – creating transformative student learning experiences and building on the institution’s areas of greatest strength and potential impact.

Story By: 
Media Contact: 

Kate Tate, Plum Creek, 206-467-3676


Thomas Maness, 541-737-1585

Oregon State research reaches record, exceeds $308 million

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Oregon State University research funding reached $308.9 million, its highest level ever, in the fiscal year that ended on June 30. A near doubling of revenues from licensing patented technologies and an 8.5 percent increase in competitive federal funding fueled OSU research on a range of projects including advanced ocean-going research vessels, the health impacts of pollution and sustainable materials for high-speed computing.

“This is a phenomenal achievement. I've seen how OSU research is solving global problems and providing innovations that mean economic growth for Oregon and the nation,” said Cynthia Sagers, OSU’s vice president for research who undertook her duties on August 31. “OSU’s research performance in the last year is amazing, given that federal funds are so restricted right now.”

The overall economic and societal impact of OSU’s research enterprise exceeds $670 million, based on an analysis of OSU’s research contributions to the state and global economy that followed a recent economic study of OSU’s fiscal impact conducted by ECONorthwest.

Technology licensing almost doubled in the last year alone, from just under $6 million in 2014 to more than $10 million this year. Leading investments from business and industry were patented Oregon State innovations in agriculture, advanced materials and nuclear technologies.

OSU researchers exceeded the previous record of $288 million, which the university achieved in 2010. Although federal agencies provided the bulk of funding, most of the growth in OSU research revenues over the past five years stems from nonprofit organizations and industry.

Since 2010, total private-sector funding from sponsored contracts, research cooperatives and other sources has risen 60 percent — from $25 million to more than $40 million in 2015. Oregon State conducts research with multinationals such as HP, Nike and Boeing as well as with local firms such as Benchmade Knife of Oregon City, Sheldon Manufacturing of Cornelius and NuScale Power of Corvallis.

By contrast, federal research grants in 2015 were only 0.2 percent higher than those received in 2010, a year in which American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds gave university research a one-time shot in the arm across the country. According to the National Science Foundation, federal agency obligations for research have dropped from a high of $36 billion in 2009 to $29 billion in 2013, the last year for which cumulative figures are available. The Department of Health and Human Services accounted for more than half of that spending.

“We’ve worked hard to diversify our research portfolio,” said Ron Adams, who retired as interim vice president for research at the end of August. “But it’s remarkable that our researchers have succeeded in competing for an increase in federal funding. This speaks to the success of our strategic initiatives and our focus on clusters of excellence.”

Economic impact stems in part from new businesses launched this year through the Oregon State University Advantage program. Among them are:

  •  OnBoard Dynamics, a Bend company designing a natural-gas powered vehicle engine that can be fueled from home
  •  Valliscor, a Corvallis company that manufactures ultra-pure chemicals
  • eChemion, a Corvallis company that develops and markets technology to extend battery life

Altogether, 15 new companies have received mentoring assistance from Oregon State’s Advantage Accelerator program, part of the state-funded Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network, or RAIN. Six new companies are working with the Advantage program this fall.

Additional economic impact stems from the employment of students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty. According to the OSU Research Office, about a quarter of OSU undergraduates participate in research projects, many with stipends paid by grant funds. In addition, grants support a total of 843 graduate research positions and 165 post-doctoral researchers.

The College of Agricultural Sciences received the largest share of research grants at Oregon State with $49.4 million last year, followed by the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at $39 million and the College of Engineering at $37 million. The College of Science saw a 170 percent increase in research funding to $26.7 million, its largest total ever and the biggest rise among OSU colleges. Among the largest grants received in FY15 were:

  •  $8 million from the NSF to the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry (College of Science) for new high-speed information technologies
  •  $4 million from the Department of Energy to reduce barriers to the deployment of ocean energy systems (College of Engineering)
  •  $4 million from US Agency for International Development to the AquaFish Innovation Lab (College of Agricultural Sciences) for global food security
  •  $3.5 million from the USDA for experiential learning to reduce obesity (College of Public Health and Human Sciences)
  •  $2.3 million from the NSF for the ocean observing initiative (College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences)
  •  $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education for school readiness in early childhood (OSU Cascades)


Editor’s Note: FY15 research totals for OSU colleges and OSU-Cascades are posted online.

College of Agricultural Sciences: http://agsci.oregonstate.edu/story/osu%E2%80%99s-college-agricultural-sciences-receives-494-million-research-grants 

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences: http://ceoas.oregonstate.edu/features/funding/

College of Education: http://education.oregonstate.edu/research-and-outreach 

College of Engineering:  http://engineering.oregonstate.edu/fy15-research-funding-highlights

College of Forestry: http://www.forestry.oregonstate.edu/research/college-forestry-receives-near-record-grant-awards-fy-2015

College of Liberal Arts: http://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/cla-research/2015-research-summary

College of Pharmacy: http://pharmacy.oregonstate.edu/grant_information

College of Public Health and Human Sciences: http://health.oregonstate.edu/research 

College of Science: http://impact.oregonstate.edu/2015/08/record-year-for-research-funding/

College of Veterinary Medicine: http://vetmed.oregonstate.edu/research-highlights

OSU-Cascades: http://osucascades.edu/research-and-scholarship 

Story By: 

Cynthia Sagers, vice president for research, 541-737-0664; Rich Holdren on OSU research trends, 541-737-8390; Brian Wall on business spinoffs and commercialization, 541-737-9058

Multimedia Downloads

Surface chemistry research

Masters students at OSU worked to improve the performance of thin-film transistors used in liquid crystal displays. (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University)

OOI mooring

The Oregon shelf surface mooring is lowered to the water using the R/V Oceanus ship's crane. (photo courtesy of Oregon State University). Wave Energy

The Ocean Sentinel, a wave energy testing device, rides gentle swells near Newport, Ore. (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University) Hernandez3-2

An undergraduate student at the Autonomous Juarez University of Tabasco, Mexico, is working with cage culture of cichlids in an educational partnership with the AquaFish collaborative Support Program. (Photo: Tiffany Woods)

Global water analysis re-thinks key part of the hydrologic cycle

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A global analysis of how water moves through the ground and is taken up by plants may overturn the way scientists understand a key part of the hydrologic cycle.

It has been assumed for more than a century that once water enters the ground, it becomes part of a well-mixed pool. From there, the theory goes, water flows into groundwater below, remains trapped in soil particles, or is withdrawn from the soil and sent back into the air by plants.

However, by analyzing the chemical signatures of water at 47 sites on six continents, researchers have discovered that the notion of a well-mixed pool in the ground is wrong. In fact, they report in a letter in this week’s edition of the journal Nature, water in plants comes from a compartment in the soil that is separate and disconnected from water that flows elsewhere.

“This is a new interpretation of the hydrologic cycle,” said Jeff McDonnell, co-author and a courtesy professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. McDonnell is the former Richardson Chair in Watershed Science at Oregon State and a professor and associate director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan.

The findings are based on analyses of chemical isotopes — different versions of an element — of hydrogen and oxygen at locations representing tropical and temperate environments including forests, grasslands and deserts. The work builds on previous research that McDonnell published with colleagues at Oregon State and at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (led by Renee Brooks) in Corvallis.

If they are confirmed, the findings would require revision of computer models that are used for irrigation, in-stream flows and climate analysis as well as for other purposes, said lead author Jaivime Evaristo, a Ph.D. student working with McDonnell at Saskatchewan. “All existing models of water flows — many, if not most of which, are being used in a wide range of water resource management purposes — are predicated on the assumption that the waters underneath our feet are well mixed, as though they are in one, huge tank,” said Evaristo. 

It is not yet known what the implications will be for water management practices in forested watersheds or on farms. The work suggests that trees do not use water that would otherwise make it to streams that serve towns and cities. In addition, knowing that plants have a preference for taking water from some parts of the hydrologic cycle and not others may affect the way fertilizers are applied to farmland.

“Fast flowing water and all that is dissolved in it will eventually recharge the ground and make its way into the streams. Nutrients (from fertilizers) will only be useful for plants if they are retained by the soil,” said Evaristo. “Down the line, this new knowledge will translate into redefining how we view and model water flows for practical purposes.”

Story By: 

Jeffrey McDonnell, 306-966-8529

Jaivime Evaristo, 306-966-2828

Multimedia Downloads

Mack Creek

Mack Creek flows through the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest east of Eugene, Oregon. (Photo: Tom Iraci)

Regulatory, certification systems creating paralysis in use of genetically altered trees

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Myriad regulations and certification requirements around the world are making it virtually impossible to use genetically engineered trees to combat catastrophic forest threats, according to a new policy analysis published this week in the journal Science.


In the United States, the time is ripe to consider regulatory changes, the authors say, because the federal government recently initiated an update of the overarching Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, which governs use of genetic engineering.


North American forests are suffering from an onslaught of threats including local and imported pests, as well as the impacts of a shifting climate. These threats pose “a real and present danger” to the future of many of our forest trees, notes Steven Strauss, a distinguished professor of forest biotechnology at Oregon State University and lead author on the analysis.


“The forest health crisis we’re facing makes it clear that regulations and certification policies must change to consider catastrophic losses that could be mitigated by using advanced forest biotechnologies, including genetic engineering,” Strauss said. “With the precision enabled by new advances in genetic engineering – and their ability to make changes more rapidly and with less disruption to natural tree genetics than hybrid breeding methods – they can provide an important new tool.”


In their analysis, Strauss and coauthors Adam Costanza, of the Institute of Forest Biosciences in Cary, North Carolina, and Armand Séguin of Natural Resources Canada in Quebec, argue that new regulatory approaches should be implemented in the United States and globally that focus on the product, not the process – and consider need, urgency and genetic similarity of modifications to those used in breeding.


The researchers note the striking discrepancy between the speed at which pests and changing climates are affecting trees and modifying both natural and planted forests, and the onerous and slow pace of modifications to certification policies and regulatory review of genetically engineered trees that could be used to help fight these threats.


“If we have a technology that can help stop a forest health crisis, we should also have a regulatory system that can respond in a time frame that can make a difference, and certification policies that do not impede such efforts,” said Costanza, who is president of the non-profit Institute of Forest Biosciences.


All major sustainable certification systems for forestry ban genetically engineered trees and will not certify any land as sustainable if genetically engineered trees are grown at all – even if the trees are being used solely for research or are designed to help stop a forest threat.


The authors stress that they are not advocating for separate regulations for genetically engineered trees. Rather, they call for an approach that would give agencies the option to fast-track field research for products intended to address forest health problems or that use methods that modify natural genes and thus are comparable in scope to those of conventional breeding.


“Obviously, these changes will take time and require wide-ranging input,” said Strauss, a professor in OSU’s College of Forestry, “but we need to start now. We depend on forests for so many ecological, social and economic values – and all of these are being threatened.”

Story By: 

Steven Strauss, 541-737-6578, steve.strauss@oregonstate.edu 

Media advisory: Oregon State wildfire experts


The following Oregon State University faculty members have expertise related to wildfire issues and are willing to speak with journalists. Their specific expertise, and contact information, is listed below.  For help with other OSU faculty experts, contact Mark Floyd, 541-737-0788, mark.floyd@oregonstate.edu.

OSU wildfire experts

John Bailey, 541-737-1497, john.bailey@oregonstate.edu

Bailey studies the role of forest management in accomplishing landowner objectives, including fire resilience, habitat and restoration. His areas of expertise include:

  • Fuels management for fire risk reduction
  • Wildland fire ecology
  • Prescribed fire

Stephen Fitzgerald, 541-737-3562, stephen.fitzgerald@oregonstate.edu

Amy Jo Detweiler, 541-548-6088, amyjo.detweiler@oregonstate.edu

Detweiler and Fitzgerald are faculty members in the OSU Extension Service and co-authors of a publication, Fire-Resistant Plants for Home Landscapes, published in 2006 and due to be updated next year. They can discuss ways for homeowners to reduce fire risk to their homes.

  • Types of shrubs and trees that are less likely to burn
  • Maintenance tips for fire resistant plantings
  • Bark mulches and other ground covers
  • Fuel reduction around homes


Beverly Law, 541-737-6111, bev.law@oregonstate.edu

Law is a professor in the OSU Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society and former Science Chair of the Ameriflux network. She studies carbon and water cycling in ecosystems and exchange with the atmosphere, including the forests of the Pacific Northwest. She has focused on, among other topics, the role of fire in the carbon cycle. She can comment on:

  • Modeling ecosystem responses to disturbances such as fire and insects
  • The effects of climate change, fire and forest management on carbon and water cycles
  • The combination of remote sensing and field observations to understand regional ecosystem processes


Claire Montgomery, 541-737-1362, claire.montgomery@oregonstate.edu

Montgomery studies the economic implications of fire management decisions, from the initial determination whether to let a fire burn or to put it out. She can address the likely impacts of fire management decisions on the value of timber and other forest resources in the future.

  • Incentives for cost-effective wildland fire management
  • Community considerations of forest fuel treatments
  • The opportunity costs of fire suppression


Roger Hammer, 541-760-1009, rhammer@oregonstate.edu

Hammer is a professor in the School of Public Policy and studies the interface between communities and undeveloped lands such as forests. He studies strategies to mitigate fire risk in the face of urban development. He can comment on:

  • U.S. demographic trends at the urban-wildland interface
  • Fire risk and development at the urban-wildland interface
  • New construction after a fire

Kathie Dello, 541-737-8927, kdello@coas.oregonstate.edu

Dello is the deputy director of the Oregon Climate Service and associate director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute. She studies Pacific Northwest weather patterns and compiles reports for use by businesses and government agencies. She can comment on weather patterns as they influence fire risk, including:

  • Long-term trends in Pacific Northwest weather
  • The impact of landscape features (mountains, forests) on weather
  • Weather data collection by citizens


Compiled by Nick Houtman

541-737-0783, nick.houtman@oregonstate.edu

Story By: 

Nick Houtman, 541-737-0783

Rising fossil fuel energy costs spell trouble for global food security

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Ongoing efforts to feed a growing global population are threatened by rising fossil-fuel energy costs and breakdowns in transportation infrastructure. Without new ways to preserve, store, and transport food products, the likelihood of shortages looms in the future.

In an analysis of food preservation and transportation trends published in this week’s issue of the journal BioScience, scientists warn that new sustainable technologies will be needed for humanity just to stay even in the arms race against the microorganisms that can rapidly spoil the outputs of the modern food system.

“It is mostly a race between the capacity of microbe populations to grow on human foodstuffs and evolve adaptations to changing conditions and the capacity of humans to come up with new technologies for preserving, storing, and transporting food,” wrote lead author Sean T. Hammond, a postdoctoral researcher and interdisciplinary ecologist in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University.

Hammond developed the analysis with colleagues at the University of New Mexico, Arizona State University and Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos in Mexico.

The authors note that increased energy use in food-preservation systems does not always prolong shelf life. For example, drying and canning tend to use less energy than freezing, which requires ongoing energy consumption. Moreover, as cities expand and food is produced by fewer people, dependence grows on fossil-fuel transportation systems. The cargo ships, trucks and trains that carry most of the world’s food run almost exclusively on oil.

“Getting food from the field to your table is a matter of production, storage and transportation,” said Hammond. “It sounds trivial to say that, but if there’s a problem with any of those – a drought, problems with roads or problems keeping foods cool and dry for storage during transport – the system breaks down and people starve.

“More people moving to cities means there are fewer people working to produce food, which means we need to use more energy in the form of machinery to grow and harvest things,” Hammond noted. “Problems with bridges, rail and port infrastructure increase the time needed to transport food and lead to even more energy needed to keep food from spoiling while it is transported.”

Technological advances in preservation and transportation systems have improved the diversity and nutritional qualities of food over what was available to pre-industrial societies. Nevertheless, it’s been estimated that up to 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is lost or wasted. The estimate is lower in developing countries, about 10 percent, due to different diets and cultural norms.

In their analysis, Hammond and his colleagues considered the growth of microorganisms on food products as temperatures increase in storage; the shelf life of foods such as fish, potatoes, strawberries and wheat; the amounts of energy used in preservation methods; and historical advances in the transportation of different foodstuffs.

“As humans push up against the limits of the finite Earth,” they wrote, “food security is a major concern.” To meet future needs, decreasing numbers of farmers, ranchers and fishermen will need to become more efficient and productive. In short, they will need to produce more food per acre and use less fossil-fuel energy, Hammond and his co-authors write.

Innovations that use other energy sources will be required in preservation, storage and transportation systems. The issue is particularly acute in tropical areas where higher average temperatures and humidity translate into faster rates of food spoilage than in temperate climates.

“We can transport any food, even foods that spoil quickly like fish or fruits, to any point on the surface of the planet before it goes bad,” Hammond said. “That’s pretty amazing, but I think we need to question whether we should. Maybe the local-food movement is less of a trend in modern society and more of a necessity.”

Researchers conducting the analysis received support from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the James S. McDonnell Foundation.

Story By: 

Sean T. Hammond, 415-828-1674

Multimedia Downloads


Sean T. Hammond

Box figure-300 copy
Illustration by Trevor Fristoe