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A new color of blue discovered at Oregon State has been approved for wider use

Scientists: Oregon dodges a ‘dead zone’ bullet in 2017; hypoxia season similar to wildfire

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon coast is now facing annual threats from hypoxia, or low oxygen, and scientists liken the phenomenon to the wildfire season the state faces every summer and fall.

The oxygen content of Oregon’s near-shore Pacific Ocean waters plummeted to dangerously low levels this summer before a timely storm arrived in mid-September to “flush” the system and ease the threat to many marine creatures. Hypoxia has become a seasonal threat. 

“We are now living on a knife edge in terms of hypoxia, and this year we crossed the threshold into danger,” said Francis Chan, an Oregon State University marine ecologist and an expert on ocean chemistry. “It was one of the worst years we have had in a while and it looked like it was going to get really bad before that storm came in.

“This is something that only happened occasionally in the 20th century, but has been taking place on a near-yearly basis for the past 15 years. The leading hypothesis for why this is happening is that the ocean is changing. Warmer water holds less oxygen, for one, but there also may be increased stratification and other factors.” 

Chan said he and his colleagues began hearing anecdotal reports about abnormal conditions and animal behavior in July. Researchers from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife collected video of crabs in a research trap dying from lack of oxygen. Marine educators at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center said crabs were leaving the ocean to enter bays and estuaries – some even burying themselves in sandy flats exposed to the air at low tide.

Researchers on survey ships run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told Chan that when they sampled the ocean waters off Oregon this summer for juvenile fish, they caught almost nothing. 

Jack Barth, director of the Marine Studies Initiative at Oregon State and a principal investigator with the National Science Foundation-funded Ocean Observatories Initiative, retrieved data that showed the level of oxygen in the ocean off Yaquina Head – in 25 meters of water – was down to 0.5 milliliters of oxygen per liter of water. That is classified as “severe” hypoxia, he noted.

“It lasted from mid-August to early September,” Barth said, “which is enough time to do some damage, but not as bad as the event in 2006, which killed thousands of crabs and other marine organisms. Oxygen levels were down to zero that year and it persisted well into September. We were lucky this year – we dodged a bullet.” 

When water near the seafloor reaches hypoxic levels – below 1.4 milliliters of oxygen per liter of water – some fish and other creatures have the ability to flee the area and find more oxygenated water. However, some animals don’t have that ability and those that do, when the hypoxia is severe and widespread, may not find a place to go.

“The good thing is that we now have a lot of eyes on the ocean, with more and more people reporting abnormalities,” Chan said. “We can use instrumentation from the Ocean Observatories Initiative, research ships and gliders to determine where the levels of low oxygen are and when they occur, as well as where there may be areas of more oxygenated water. We are learning more each year.” 

Near-shore hypoxia, which can lead to the aforementioned marine “dead zones,” first came to researchers’ attention in 2002 when crabbers pulled up pots of dead crabs, Chan said.

“When you look back to data from the 1950s and 1960s, the low oxygen values were just not there,” he noted. “It’s been much more prevalent over the past 15 or so years. It’s like a special season out there in mid- to late-summer that we can’t see, but is very important. On land, we get smoke and fires. In the ocean, it’s dead crabs.” 

The Oregon legislature has recognized the threat and established an ocean acidification and hypoxia council, which Barth co-chairs. Chan is meeting with fishermen in October to brief them on the oceanographic data OSU has recorded, and to get their insights and observations from up and down the Oregon coast.

“Every year, things get a little weird and though we are observing more of it, there’s still a lot to learn,” Chan said. “This spring, for example, millions of pyrosomes showed up in the water – they are a luminescent, jellyfish-like sea creature that can grow up to two feet long – and no one is sure why, or if they may have contributed to the hypoxia. 

“As the ocean changes, and we experience an annual hypoxia season, we can expect more surprises.”

Chan is in OSU’s College of Science, while Barth is on the faculty of OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

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Francis Chan, 541-737-9131; chanft@science.oregonstate.edu; Jack Barth, 541-737-1607, barth@coas.oregonstate.edu

Oregon State University breaks record with $441 million in research grants

CORVALLIS, Ore. –Oregon State University crossed the $400 million threshold in grants and contracts for the first time in the fiscal year that ended June 30, including being awarded a grant to build a $122 million regional research vessel.

Oregon State received $441 million from state and federal governments, businesses and foundations for research on a wide range of projects in natural resources, health, engineering and science across the state and around the world. Federal agencies provided $315 million (71 percent), and additional funds came from state agencies, businesses and foundations.

“OSU research spurs solutions to problems and serves and involves people, communities and businesses across the state and world,” said Cynthia Sagers, OSU vice president for research. “Investment in research affects our daily lives —  the food we eat, health care, the environment — and pays back dividends in economic growth for Oregonians. Researchers are starting new businesses and assisting established companies.”

Altogether, Oregon State’s research revenues leapt 31 percent over last year’s record-breaking total of $336 million. Over the past 10 years, OSU’s research revenues have more than doubled and exceed those of Oregon’s public universities combined.

OSU research totals surged in June with a $122 million grant from the National Science Foundation for a new regional research vessel, which will be stationed at the university’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. It was the largest single grant ever received by the university.

Revenues from business and industry — including technology testing, sponsored contracts and licensing of innovations developed at the university — grew to $34 million last year, up 10 percent from the previous year.

“Our latest success is the result of hard work and strategic decisions by our faculty and partners in business, local and state government and the federal delegation,” Sagers said.

Based on past OSU research, startup companies such as Agility Robotics (animal-like robot motion), Outset Medical (at-home kidney dialysis) and Inpria (photolithography for high-performance computer chips) are attracting private investment and creating jobs. Advances in agricultural crops (winter wheat, hazelnuts, small fruits and vegetables) and forest products (cross-laminated timber panels for high-rise construction) are bolstering rural economies as well.

Since it began in 2013, the Oregon State University Advantage program has provided market analysis and support services to more than 70 local technology businesses and start-up companies. 

Other major grants last year included:

  • Up to $40 million by the U.S. Department of Energy for testing systems for ocean wave energy technologies;
  • $9 million for a next-generation approach to chemical manufacturing known as RAPID, in partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory;
  • $6.5 million from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to make artificial-intelligence systems more trustworthy;
  • A combined $1.15 million in state, federal and foundation funding for a state-of-the-art instrument known as an X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy system. The XPS system brings world-class capabilities to the Pacific Northwest to address challenges in surface chemistry. Partners included the Murdock Charitable Trust, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI), the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center and the National Science Foundation.

 “Whether it’s with the fishing and seafood industries on our coast, federal labs working on energy and the environment or local governments concerned about jobs and education, partnerships with business, government and other research organizations are absolutely vital to our work,” said Sagers. “We care about these relationships, the benefits they bring to our communities and the educational opportunities they create for our students.”

Research has long been a hallmark of graduate education, and undergraduate students are increasingly participating in research projects in all fields, from the sciences to engineering, health and liberal arts. OSU provided undergraduates with more than $1 million last year to support projects conducted under the mentorship of faculty members.

“Research is fundamental to President Ray’s Student Success Initiative,” said Sagers. “Studies show time and again that students who participate in research tend to stay in school, connect with their peers and find meaningful work after they graduate. Research is a key part of the educational process.”

Federal agencies represent the lion’s share of investment in OSU research. That investment has more than doubled in the last five years. The National Science Foundation provided the largest share of funding, followed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Energy. 

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Project summaries and FY17 research totals for OSU colleges are posted online:

College of Agricultural Sciences: http://agsci.oregonstate.edu/our-best/research-awards-2016-17

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences: http://ceoas.oregonstate.edu/research/map/

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

College of Engineering:  http://engineering.oregonstate.edu/fy17-research-funding-highlights

College of Forestry: http://www.forestry.oregonstate.edu/college-forestry-continues-advance-research-efforts#

College of Liberal Arts: http://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/cla-research/2017-research-summary

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

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

College of Science: http://impact.oregonstate.edu/2017/08/research-funding-continues-upward-trajectory/

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

Video b-roll is available with comments by Cindy Sagers, vice president of research, at https://youtu.be/pkGD-lhVTwo.

 

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Cynthia Sagers, vice president for research, cynthia.sagers@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-0664

    

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Oregon State University names new College of Science dean

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University Provost and Executive Vice President Ed Feser Monday appointed Roy Haggerty, associate vice president for research, the dean of OSU’s College of Science.

Haggerty, who served as associate vice president for research since August 2016, replaces Sastry Pantula, who stepped down as dean on Monday and will return to his appointment as a professor of statistics at Oregon State.

“Roy is a highly skilled and experienced administrator in addition to being an exceptional scholar,” Feser said. “I look forward to working closely with him to advance the College of Science’s goals as well as those of the university.”

Feser credited Pantula for many accomplishments while serving as dean, including growing the profile of the College of Science; increasing the diversity of faculty and administrators; and strong gains in philanthropy serving the college.

Haggerty joined the OSU faculty in 1996 and specializes in hydrology, hydrogeology and echohydrology, and served previously as the Hollis M. Dole Professor of Environmental Geology. Prior to joining the university’s research office, he served as interim dean for the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences beginning in October 2015. He also led the university’s geology program from 2003-2006.

“I am pleased to serve the university as the new dean of the College of Science,” Haggerty said. “Universities are one of the best things human beings have ever invented. Science plays a foundational role at every university, and I am committed to ensuring that OSU’s College of Science continues its important work of teaching, research and discovery.”

Media Contact: 

By Annie Athon Heck, 541-737-0790, annie.heck@oregonstate.edu

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Roy Haggerty, 541-737-0663, roy.haggerty@oregonstate.edu

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Roy Haggerty

Roy Haggerty

Size matters, and so do temperature and habitat, to scavengers and the carcasses they eat

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Size matters in the carrion world, and so do habitat and temperature.

New research has shed fresh light on the largely understudied area of vertebrate scavenging ecology, particularly how biotic factors – living organisms – and abiotic ones such as heat or cold influence communities of scavengers.

The findings are important because carrion, the decaying flesh of dead animals, is a key nutrient for vertebrates worldwide and comparatively little is known about how all of the interplay works.

“A common perception is most things are depredated and eaten quickly, but in actuality, carrion is a highly available resource that’s contributing significantly to the food web,” said Erin Abernethy, a Ph.D. student in integrative biology in Oregon State University’s College of Science and second author on the study.

“There’s been a lot of research on how much carrion invertebrates eat, and they do eat a lot, and how the size of a carcass can tell you how much goes to vertebrates or invertebrates,” Abernethy said. “But there hasn’t been much on who among the vertebrate scavengers – coyotes, vultures, hogs, foxes, etc. – is getting what and how much, and how carcass size and habitat affect all of that. The nutrients from carcasses are reaching higher levels of the food web, and that knowledge is now getting fleshed out more.”

Working at the Savannah River Site, a 78,000-hectare coastal plain in South Carolina managed by the U.S. Department of Energy, researchers conducted scavenging trials across four habitat types: clearcut, mature hardwood forest, immature pine forest and mature pine forest.

They used carcasses of three different types and sizes – rat, rabbit and wild pig, representing small, medium and large. Scientists did trials both in a cool-weather time of year and in warm weather to measure changes in scavenger community dynamics as a result of seasonal differences in what microbes and invertebrates eat.

Hidden cameras captured “scavenging events” – an animal feeding on a carcass. Collectively, the photos – nearly 400,000 were analyzed – told a story of scavenger efficiency, scavenger species composition and carcass persistence as functions of carcass size, habitat type, and season.

“All of these photos, it’s kind of like spying on wildlife,” Abernethy said. “It’s a really nice way of communicating science, tickling people’s senses about a really integral part of the ecosystem.

“One of the most interesting aspects of this study was learning the sheer amount, the volume of carcasses, consumed by vertebrates.”

Animals with backbones partially or fully scavenged more than three-quarters of the carcasses, research showed.

“The results suggest vertebrate communities are efficient at locating varying sized carcasses, even in warmer months when invertebrate and microbial communities are most active, but not as efficiently as in cooler months when invertebrate and microbial activity isn’t as high,” Abernethy said. “We think carcass fate is ultimately determined by the scavenging community’s ability to find carrion as well as the availability of the carcass to vertebrate scavengers, both of which vary not only by season but also by habitat and carcass size.”

Abernethy said the study points out the importance of building multiple variables into carrion research.

“Not incorporating a range of carcass sizes, habitat types and air temperatures into scavenging studies can greatly diminish any potential derived insights into rates of carcass acquisition and community composition of scavengers,” she said.

The corresponding author is Kelsey Turner of the University of Georgia, and two other collaborators, Olin Rhodes Jr. and James Beasley, are from the University of Georgia as well. The research team also included L. Mike Conner of the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center in Newton, Ga.

Abernethy works in the lab of David Lytle, professor of integrative biology at OSU.

The U.S. Department of Energy supported this research. Findings were recently published in Ecology.

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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Coyotes

Coyotes scavenging a pig carcass

Study illuminates fate of marine carbon in last steps toward sequestration

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The ocean sequesters massive amounts of carbon in the form of “dissolved organic matter,” and new research explains how an ancient group of cells in the dark ocean wrings the last bit of energy from carbon molecules resistant to breakdown.

A look at genomes from SAR202 bacterioplankton found oxidative enzymes and other important families of enzymes that indicate SAR202 may facilitate the last stages of breakdown before the dissolved oxygen matter, or DOM, reaches a “refractory” state that fends off further decomposition.

Findings from the study by scientists at Oregon State University were recently published by the American Society for Microbiology. 

The ocean sequesters nearly as much carbon as exists in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2) and the new research into deep-water bacteria’s genomes sheds key new light on how the carbon storehouse operates.

Stephen Giovannoni, OSU distinguished professor of microbiology, said that near the ocean surface, the DOM carbon goes unconsumed because the cost of harvesting the resources is too high. Currents transport the “recalcitrant” forms of DOM that remain to the deep ocean, where they are slowly broken down to compounds that can persist for thousands of years.

Zach Landry, an OSU graduate student and first author of the study, named SAR202 “Monstromaria” from the Latin term for “sea monster.”

“They’re very abundant in the dark ocean where no photosynthesis is happening and planktonic cells are living off whatever rains down from surface,” Giovannoni said. “The big carbon cycle unknown is why so much carbon accumulates as organic matter in the ocean. In principle, micro-organisms could use it as chow to make energy and build biomass – and return CO2 to the atmosphere, which would be a disaster.

“At the surface, where there’s intense competition for nitrogen and phosphorus, and grazing by bigger plankton cells, Monstromaria's activities don’t pay out well enough for them to make a living,” Giovannoni said. “It’s so difficult to break down the resistant compounds that it’s not worth the cost. It’s like trying to make a living farming in an urban area – it isn’t going to work because the cost of living is too high.

”The resistant DOM carbon is like the last thing you’d want at a buffet, but the SAR202 consumes it in the deep ocean because it's all that is left.”

The research was done in Giovannoni’s lab by Landry, then a Ph.D. candidate at OSU and now a post-doctoral scholar, and collaborators at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, the University of Vienna, and Utrecht University.

“Since SAR202 are ancient and today dominate in the dark ocean realm, we speculate their arrival in ancient oceans may have impacted the early carbon cycle,” Landry said.

Simons Foundation International, the National Science Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the European Research Council and the Austrian Science Fund supported this study.

Media Contact: 

Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

Science writer for The Atlantic to give lecture on microbes in human body

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Author and science journalist Ed Yong will present a free public lecture on the human microbiome from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 11, in the Horizon Room of the Memorial Union, 2501 S.W. Jefferson Way on Oregon State University’s Corvallis campus.

Yong, the first staff science writer in the 159-year history of The Atlantic magazine, is author of “I Contain Multitudes,” a book about the trillions of microbes in the body.

A reception will precede the lecture. Those who wish to attend the reception are asked to RSVP

Yong has written for a variety of publications on topics including microbes, animal behavior, science policy, paleontology and reproducibility in science.

Until January 2017, he was the author of the blog Not Exactly Rocket Science, hosted by National Geographic.

Yong’s lecture is part of SPARK: The Year of Arts and Science at OSU, a yearlong celebration of how arts and science ignite innovation.

Media Contact: 

Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

Total solar eclipse featured topic at Corvallis Science Pub

CORVALLIS, Ore. – This Aug. 21, North America will experience a total solar eclipse when the moon passes directly between the sun and Earth. At the May 8 Corvallis Science Pub, Randall Milstein will discuss the science and history of solar eclipses and offer practical tips on how to witness the event safely.

“With it crossing so much of North America, it may become the most widely shared natural event in human history,” said Milstein, an astronomy instructor and astronomer-in-residence with the Oregon Space Grant program at Oregon State University.

This is the first total solar eclipse to target the continental United States since 1979, the first to run from the North American Pacific Coast to Atlantic Coast since 1918, and the first total solar eclipse since 1776 with its path of totality completely within the continental United States.

Science Pub will begin at 6 pm and is free and open to the public. Due to high interest in this topic, note that it will not be held in the usual location, the Old World Deli in downtown Corvallis. Instead it will be in the Learning Innovation Center (Room 100) on the OSU campus. Food and beverages will not be available. Free parking is available on the campus after 5 pm.

Podcasts of previous Corvallis Science Pub events on topics such as marijuana metabolism, foreign relations and soft robotics are available at http://communications.oregonstate.edu/podcast.

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

Media Contact: 

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

Source: 

Randall Milstein, 541-737-2414, randall.milstein@oregonstate.edu

    

OSU College of Science to host “The Colorful World of Pigments” on May 5

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University will celebrate the blue pigment discovered at the university and its impact on art, culture and industry at an event called “The Colorful World of Pigments” scheduled for May 5 on OSU’s Corvallis campus.

Hosted by the College of Science, the event will include a discussion of color by a panel that will feature the pigment’s discoverer, Oregon State chemist Mas Subramanian; Christopher Manning of the Shepherd Color Company, OSU’s licensing partner for the pigment, named YInMn blue; a color theorist from Nike; and the curator of Harvard University’s 2,500-specimen Forbes Pigment Collection, a scientific catalog of color that includes YInMn blue. 

The Colorful World of Pigments is part of a series known as SPARK: The Year of Arts and Science at OSU. The series explores the intersections of art and science.

Running from 8 a.m. to noon at LaSells Stewart Center, 875 S.W. 26th St., the pigments event also includes an exhibit featuring artworks using YInMn blue, and a wall on which children can color and paint from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

The panel discussion will go from 9 to 10:30 a.m.

At 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., Subramanian will lead tours of the lab where YInMn blue was discovered, and demonstrate how it was discovered. Space on the tours is limited.

YInMn blue was discovered by accident in 2009 when Subramanian and his team were experimenting with new materials that could be used in electronics applications. The researchers mixed manganese oxide – which is black in color – with other chemicals and heated them in a furnace to nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. One of their samples turned out to be a vivid blue. Oregon State graduate student Andrew Smith initially made these samples to study their electrical properties.

The pigment features a unique crystal structure that allows the manganese ions to absorb red and green wavelengths of light while only reflecting blue. The vibrant blue is so durable, and its compounds are so stable – even in oil and water – that the color does not fade.

These characteristics make the new pigment versatile for a variety of commercial products. Used in paints, for example, they can help keep buildings cool by reflecting infrared light. Better yet, Subramanian said, the pigment’s ingredients are non-toxic.

Media Contact: 

Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

Source: 

Mas Subramanian, 541-737-8235
mas.subramanian@oregonstate.edu

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Blue pigment

YInMn blue

Monkey business produces rare preserved blood in amber fossils

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Two monkeys grooming each other about 20-30 million years ago may have helped produce a remarkable new find – the first fossilized red blood cells from a mammal, preserved so perfectly in amber that they appear to have been prepared for display in a laboratory.

The discovery, published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, also describes the only known fossils of a type of parasite that still exists today, Babesia microti, which infects the blood cells of humans and other animals.

Two small holes in the back of a blood-engorged tick, which allowed blood to ooze out just as the tick became stuck in tree sap that later fossilized into amber, provide a brief glimpse of life in a tropical jungle millions of years ago in what is now the Dominican Republic.

“These two tiny holes indicate that something picked a tick off the mammal it was feeding on, puncturing it in the process and dropping it immediately into tree sap,” said George Poinar, Jr., professor emeritus in the College of Science at Oregon State University, author of the study and an international expert on plant and animal life forms found preserved in amber.

“This would be consistent with the grooming behavior of monkeys that we know lived at that time in this region. The fossilized blood cells, infected with these parasites, are simply amazing in their detail. This discovery provides the only known fossils of Babesia-type pathogens.”

The fossil parasites add to the history of the Order Piroplasmida, of which the Babesiidae is one family. In humans, the parasite B. microti can cause babesiosis, a disease with symptoms that resemble malaria and can be fatal. A related parasite in cattle can cause Texas cattle fever, which has been a historic problem in the plains states, and just this spring is causing another outbreak that has led to quarantines on more than 500,000 acres of land in Texas.

“The life forms we find in amber can reveal so much about the history and evolution of diseases we still struggle with today,” Poinar said. “This parasite, for instance, was clearly around millions of years before humans, and appears to have evolved alongside primates, among other hosts.”

Part of what makes these fossils unique, Poinar said, is the clarity by which the parasites and blood cells are preserved, almost as if they had been stained and otherwise treated in a laboratory for inspection. The parasites were different enough in texture and density to stand out clearly within the red blood cells during the natural embalming process for which amber is famous.

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George Poinar, Jr.

poinarg@science.oregonstate.edu

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Blood engorged tick


Blood-engorged tick


Fossil blood cells
Fossilized red blood cells