OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

energy and sustainability

OSU scientists part of national APLU report outlining research challenges

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The national Association of Public and Land-grant Universities released a report today outlining six “grand challenges” facing the United States over the next decade in the areas of sustainability water, climate change, agriculture, energy and education.

The APLU project was co-chaired by W. Daniel Edge, head of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University. The report is available online at: http://bit.ly/1ksH2ud

The “Science, Education, and Outreach Roadmap for Natural Resources” is the first comprehensive, nationwide report on research, education and outreach needs for natural resources the country’s university community has ever attempted, Edge said.

“The report identifies critical natural resources issues that interdisciplinary research programs need to focus on over the next 5-10 years in order to address emerging challenges,” Edge noted. “We hope that policy-makers and federal agencies will adopt recommendations in the roadmap when developing near-term research priorities and strategies.”

The six grand challenges addressed in the report are: 

  • Sustainability: The need to conserve and manage natural landscapes and maintain environmental quality while optimizing renewable resource productivity to meet increasing human demands for natural resources, particularly with respect to increasing water, food, and energy demands.
  • Water: The need to restore, protect and conserve watersheds for biodiversity, water resources, pollution reduction and water security.
  • Climate Change: The need to understand the impacts of climate change on our environment, including such aspects as disease transmission, air quality, water supply, ecosystems, fire, species survival, and pest risk. Further, a comprehensive strategy is needed for managing natural resources to adapt to climate change.
  • Agriculture: The need to develop a sustainable, profitable, and environmentally responsible agriculture industry.
  • Energy: The need to identify new and alternative renewable energy sources and improve the efficiency of existing renewable resource-based energy to meet increasing energy demands while reducing the ecological footprint of energy production and consumption.
  • Education: The need to maintain and strengthen natural resources education at our schools at all levels in order to have the informed citizenry, civic leaders, and practicing professionals needed to sustain the natural resources of the United States.

 

Three other OSU researchers were co-authors on the report, including Hal Salwasser, a professor and former dean of the College of Forestry; JunJie Wu, the Emery N. Castle Endowed Chair in Resource and Rural Economics; and George Boehlert, former director of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center.

Wu played a key role in the climate change chapter in identifying the need to better understand the tradeoffs between investing now in climate change adaptation measures versus the long-term risk of not adopting new policies.

Edge and Boehlert contributed to the energy chapter, which focuses primarily on renewable energy.

“The natural resources issues with traditional sources of energy already are well-understood,” Boehlert said, “with the possible exception of fracking. As the country moves more into renewable energy areas, there are many more uncertainties with respect to natural resources that need to be understood and addressed. There are no energy sources that do not have some environmental issues.”

Salwasser was an author on the sustainability chapter that identifies many issues associated with natural resource use, including rangelands, forestry, fisheries and wildlife and biodiversity. The authors contend the challenge is to use these resources in a sustainable manner meeting both human and ecosystem needs.

The project was sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Oregon State University, which partnered with APLU and authors from numerous institutions.

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Dan Edge, 541-737-2810; Daniel.edge@oregonstate.edu

Amber fossil reveals ancient reproduction in flowering plants

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A 100-million-year old piece of amber has been discovered which reveals the oldest evidence of sexual reproduction in a flowering plant – a cluster of 18 tiny flowers from the Cretaceous Period – with one of them in the process of making some new seeds for the next generation.

The perfectly-preserved scene, in a plant now extinct, is part of a portrait created in the mid-Cretaceous when flowering plants were changing the face of the Earth forever, adding beauty, biodiversity and food. It appears identical to the reproduction process that “angiosperms,” or flowering plants still use today.

Researchers from Oregon State University and Germany published their findings on the fossils in the Journal of the Botanical Institute of Texas.

The flowers themselves are in remarkable condition, as are many such plants and insects preserved for all time in amber. The flowing tree sap covered the specimens and then began the long process of turning into a fossilized, semi-precious gem. The flower cluster is one of the most complete ever found in amber and appeared at a time when many of the flowering plants were still quite small.

Even more remarkable is the microscopic image of pollen tubes growing out of two grains of pollen and penetrating the flower’s stigma, the receptive part of the female reproductive system. This sets the stage for fertilization of the egg and would begin the process of seed formation – had the reproductive act been completed.

“In Cretaceous flowers we’ve never before seen a fossil that shows the pollen tube actually entering the stigma,” said George Poinar, Jr., a professor emeritus in the Department of Integrative Biology at the OSU College of Science. “This is the beauty of amber fossils. They are preserved so rapidly after entering the resin that structures such as pollen grains and tubes can be detected with a microscope.”

The pollen of these flowers appeared to be sticky, Poinar said, suggesting it was carried by a pollinating insect, and adding further insights into the biodiversity and biology of life in this distant era. At that time much of the plant life was composed of conifers, ferns, mosses, and cycads.  During the Cretaceous, new lineages of mammals and birds were beginning to appear, along with the flowering plants. But dinosaurs still dominated the Earth.

“The evolution of flowering plants caused an enormous change in the biodiversity of life on Earth, especially in the tropics and subtropics,” Poinar said.

“New associations between these small flowering plants and various types of insects and other animal life resulted in the successful distribution and evolution of these plants through most of the world today,” he said. “It’s interesting that the mechanisms for reproduction that are still with us today had already been established some 100 million years ago.”

The fossils were discovered from amber mines in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar, previously known as Burma. The newly-described genus and species of flower was named Micropetasos burmensis.

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George Poinar, 541-752-0917

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Pollen tubes

OSU spinoff company NuScale to receive up to $226 million to advance nuclear energy

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A promising new form of nuclear power that evolved in part from research more than a decade ago at Oregon State University today received a significant boost: up to $226 million in funding to NuScale Power from the United States Department of Energy.

NuScale began as a spinoff company based on the pioneering research of OSU professor Jose Reyes, and since has become one of the international leaders in the creation of small “modular” nuclear reactors.

This technology holds enormous promise for developing nuclear power with small reactors that can minimize investment costs, improve safety, be grouped as needed for power demands and produce energy without greenhouse gas emissions. The technology also provides opportunities for OSU nuclear engineering students who are learning about these newest concepts in nuclear power.

“This is a wonderful reflection of the value that OSU faculty can bring to our global economy,” said Rick Spinrad, vice president for research at OSU. “The research conducted by Professor Reyes, colleagues and students at OSU has been a fundamental component of the innovation at NuScale.”

NuScale has continued to grow and create jobs in Oregon, and is bringing closer to reality a nuclear concept that could revolutionize nuclear energy. The Obama administration has cited nuclear power as one part of its blueprint to rebuild the American economy while helping to address important environmental issues.

In the early 2000s at OSU, Reyes envisioned a nuclear power reactor that could be manufactured in a factory, be transported to wherever it was needed, grouped as necessary to provide the desired amount of power, and provide another option for nuclear energy. It also would incorporate “passive safety” concepts studied at OSU in the 1990s that are already being used in nuclear power plant construction around the world. The design allows the reactor to shut down automatically, if necessary, using natural forces including gravity and convection.

The Department of Energy announcement represents a milestone in OSU’s increasing commitment to university and business partnerships and its goals of using academic research discoveries to promote new industries, jobs, economic growth, environmental protection and public health.

“OSU has made a strong effort to build powerful partnerships between our research enterprise and the private sector,” said OSU President Edward J. Ray. “The DOE support for NuScale is a vote of confidence in the strategy of building these meaningful relationships, and they are only going to pick up speed with our newest initiative, the OSU Advantage.”

The Oregon State University Advantage connects business with faculty expertise, student talent and world-class facilities to provide research solutions and help bring ideas to market. This effort is in partnership with the Oregon State University Foundation.

News of the NuScale grant award was welcomed by members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation.

 

“Oregon State University deserves a lot of credit for helping to develop a promising new technology that the Energy Department clearly thinks holds a lot of potential,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Today’s award shows that investing in strong public universities leads to innovative technologies to address critical issues, like the need for low-carbon sources of energy, while creating private sector jobs.”

U.S. Rep. Peter De Fazio added, “Congratulations to NuScale and Oregon State University. This is a big win for the local economy.” 

“This is an exciting time for us, as our students and faculty get incredibly valuable real-world experience in taking an idea through the startup and commercialization process,” said Kathryn Higley, professor and head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering & Radiation Health Physics. “We continue to work with NuScale as it goes through its design certification process, and we are particularly proud of Jose Reyes for his vision, enthusiasm and unwavering commitment to this concept.”

OSU officials say the development of new technologies such as those launched from NuScale could have significant implications for future energy supplies.

“The nation’s investment in the research of small-scale nuclear devices is a significant step toward a diverse and secure energy portfolio,” said Sandra Woods, dean of the College of Engineering at OSU. “Collaborative research is actively continuing between engineers and scientists at Oregon State and NuScale, and we’re proud and grateful for the role Oregon State plays in assisting them in developing cleaner and safer ways to produce energy.

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Rick Spinrad, 541-737-0662 or 541-220-1915 (cell)

Sustainability

 

About the OSU Sustainabiity Office: The OSU Sustainability Office focuses on integrating sustainability into OSU's mission and operations.  It provides consultation and support to departments across campus and directly manages operations, outreach and assessment programming.

OSU recognized for sustainability efforts

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has been recognized as a top performer in the 2016 Sustainable Campus Index.

The university ranked seventh overall among universities identified as doctoral/ research institutions, and fifth among all participating universities in the grounds category.

The 2016 Sustainable Campus Index, a publication of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), highlights top-performing colleges and universities in 17 areas and overall by institution type, as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, or STARS.

Oregon State was the first Oregon university to be rated by STARS, and received gold designations in 2011, and 2013- 2016.

“Being included in AASHE’s 2016 Sustainable Campus Index is always great, and it’s nice to see a summary of the best sustainability-related work of our fellow higher education institutions,” said Brandon Trelstad, OSU’s sustainability coordinator.

“However, one of the nicest surprises was we were featured in the very short list of colleges and universities with zero or near-zero data errors in their STARS submission. STARS requires input of thousands of data points and I’m glad that the culture of high-quality control and attention to detail in the Sustainability Office, and our partner departments, is recognized.” 

The index also featured a short story on OSU’s humanitarian engineering program, which is one of the few of its kind co-located with a Peace Corps Masters International program. Faculty from engineering, the humanities, public health and forestry all participate in the program. Recent projects by students in the program include creating modeling tools for micro-hydro development in Pakistan and ground-sensing stations for an international trans-African hydro-meteorological observatory.

To view the complete index: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bxl_G1Xg76XlMTNPZ2pLa3NrUjg/view

For more information on OSU’s efforts in sustainability, go to http://fa/oregonstate.edu/sustainability/

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Brandon Trelstad, 541-737-3307; Brandon.trelstad@oregonstate.edu

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Recycling Pledge

New type of cement could offer environmental protection, lower cost

CORVALLIS, Ore. – If widely adopted, a new approach to making cement could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, help address global warming, produce a more durable concrete, and save industry time and significant costs.     

The findings of a recent study show great potential for a type of cement that gains strength through carbonation, rather than the use of water. Concrete made with this cement also appears to better resist some of the most common de-icing salts that can lead to failure and dramatically reduce the lifespan of roads.

The research was published in Construction and Building Materials, by engineers from Oregon State University, Purdue University and Solidia Technologies. This work was supported in part by Solidia Technologies, which licensed core technology from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. 

“Instead of water reacting with cement, this carbonated cement reacts with carbon dioxide and calcium silicate,” said Jason Weiss, the Miles Lowell and Margaret Watt Edwards Distinguished Chair in the OSU College of Engineering.

“This new product at first blush looks like conventional concrete, but it has properties that should make it last longer in some applications,” Weiss said. “In addition, use of it could reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which is an important goal of the cement industry.” 

Crude cement was used by the Egyptians to build the pyramids, improved during the time of the Roman Empire, and reached its modern form around 180 years ago. When used to make concrete – a combination of cement, sand and crushed rock - it’s one of the most proven building materials in human history.

This is actually part of the problem – concrete works so well, for so many uses, that 2-4 tons per year are produced for every person on Earth. It’s popular, plentiful, cost effective, and research is continuing to reduce its environmental impact. Production of the cement used in concrete is believed to be responsible for 5-8 percent of the global emissions of carbon dioxide, largely just because so much concrete is used. 

The cement industry has committed itself to the goal of cutting those emissions in half, and this new approach might help. Beyond that, the new research shows the ability of this “carbonated calcium silicate-based cement,” or CCSC, to be far more resistant to degradation from deicing salts such as sodium chloride and magnesium chloride.

“In places where deicing salts are routinely used, they can cause damage to roadways that cost about $1 million a mile to fix, and can reduce a 40-year lifespan of a surface to as little as 8-10 years,” Weiss said. “By using a type of cement that requires carbon dioxide to make, and in turn greatly extend the lifespan of some roads, the environmental benefits could be enormous.” 

These products are just now being developed and tested, Weiss said, and some obstacles exist to their widespread, global use. New construction codes and standards would need to be developed. However, the new approach has already been adapted to existing raw materials, formulas and equipment.

Some of the first uses of these products, Weiss said, will be in pre-cast concrete products that can be created in a factory and transported to where they are needed. More ambitious and widespread use of the new approach may take longer. Other technologies, such as topical treatments to resist deicing salts, or the use of waste products to produce supplemental cements, may gain earlier use to address some of these issues. 

In the latest research, the new CCSC concrete was shown not to react with deicing chemicals in the way that conventional concrete does. Such chemicals can cause a serious and premature deterioration in concrete pavements, even if the concrete does not experience freezing and thawing.

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Jason Weiss, 541-737-1885 or Jason.weiss@oregonstate.edu

OSUsed Store changing, expanding schedules in 2016

The OSUsed Store, OSU's on-campus reuse store, is changing its public and departmental sales schedules in 2016.

Public sales will now be held twice a week, instead of once, on Tuesdays from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and Fridays from noon to 3 p.m. The changes, which are now in effect, will allow extra times to shop, more evening times, and a schedule that does not change from week-to-week, officials say.

Between 250 and 275 members of the public currently attend weekly sales at the OSUsed store. These changes will provide more opportunity and evening sales for people with busy schedules and work, said Rae DeLay, manager for materials management with Surplus Property.

The new public schedule will also be consistent from week to week, rather than offering one monthly evening sale and three afternoon sales.

With this change, the new hours for OSU departments, government agencies and nonprofits to shop will be Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They may also shop during the public sales, but will have better selection and faster service during these times.

 

The shop’s merchandise has increased dramatically over the last three years, DeLay said, and opening the shop to the public more often will help turn over items more quickly and allow new ones to be added. Staff will also be able to more promptly pick up surplus items from campus departments.

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Andrea Norris, 541-737-5398; andrea.norris@oregonstate.edu

“Beyond Earth Day” celebrations begin at OSU

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University is expanding this year’s Earth Day celebration into 11 days of festivities.

“Beyond Earth Day” will include 24 events from April 18-28. The events will include a wide range of sustainability-related topics, as well as activities related to the environment and social justice, film showings, educational events and service projects.

Many of the events occur annually, such as the 15th annual Community Fair on April 21 from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Student Experience Center Plaza. With more than 40 booths from local student and community organizations, students can learn about sustainability topics through interactive games and activities.

The celebrations will begin on April 18 with the fourth annual Earth Day of Service, where students can help at one of five projects. Last year, more than 100 volunteers provided a total 400 hours of service.

The celebration concludes April 28 with a screening of the film “Food Chains” about the impact and buying power of major supermarkets. The film’s producer and several local organizations will hold a dialogue after the film. It takes place from 6 to 8:15 p.m., in the Memorial Union Horizon Room.

Visit the official calendar at http://bit.ly/1JQCyuL for a full list of events, locations and times.

 

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Andrea Norris, andrea.norris@oregonstate.edu or 541-737-5398

OSU again named green college by Princeton Review

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University received 95 points out of a possible 99 as a ‘green’ school in the latest edition of “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges: 2014 Edition.”

The Princeton Review tallies its Green Rating scores based on institutional data it obtains from colleges in response to survey questions focused on alternative transportation, advancing sustainability, waste-diversion rate and other related topics.

“It’s great to be recognized by Princeton Review for a fourth year in a row,” said Brandon Trelstad, OSU’s sustainability coordinator. “I believe it’s OSU’s diverse and broad sustainability efforts that have gotten us this far.  Student efforts, specifically, have been key in maintaining our leadership role.”

The guide is the only free comprehensive resource of its kind. It can be downloaded at http://www.princetonreview.com/green-guide and http://www.centerforgreenschools.org/greenguide.  It does not rank schools hierarchically, but each school’s green score can be found in their school profile on the main site (http://www.princetonreview.com/).

“Sustainability at OSU is a campus-wide endeavor that includes areas of institutional strength, like research, diversity, affordability, sustainability coordination and governance,” Trelstad said. “We are lucky to have high on- and off-campus community involvement in addressing campus and community sustainability.”

Among OSU’s green highlights were an overall waste diversion rate of 40 percent, its environmentally based degrees including ecological engineering, and the fact that the campus is in the process of bringing online five planned ground-mounted solar electrical arrays that will generate 2.9 megawatts of solar power.

"Best of all, OSU will help you put that academic knowledge into practice; it hosts a Nonprofit Career Day, with significant participation from national and local green groups," the guide states.

The Princeton Review created its "Guide to 332 Green Colleges" in partnership with the Center for Green Schools (www.usgbc.org) at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)), with generous support from United Technologies Corp. (www.utc.com), founding sponsor of the Center for Green Schools.

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Brandon Trelstad, 541-737-3307; Brandon.trelstad@oregonstate.edu

OSU ranked 11th in nation as “Cool School” by Sierra Club for green efforts

CORVALLIS, OR. –Oregon State University has once again been honored for its commitment to sustainability, making it one of the top green colleges in the nation.

The Sierra Club has released its “Cool Schools” rankings based on the ‘greenness’ of participating universities, and Oregon State has the highest green ranking in the state, and is listed as 11th in the nation, rising from 24th in 2010.

Brandon Trelstad, OSU’s sustainability coordinator, said he is excited to see the university being honored by the Sierra Club.

“I’m delighted we have again been recognized for our sustainability efforts by the Sierra Club,” Trelstad said. “It showcases OSU’s strength in sustainability – a multifaceted approach that includes student engagement, reducing negative environmental impact, outstanding research and long-term cost savings, all aligned with OSU’s mission.”

“The recognition of Oregon State by the Sierra Club and its Cool Schools program helps the university by supporting our outreach and educational activities,” he added. “Several times in the past year, I have heard of students who, when they were thinking about where to pursue higher education, selected OSU because of its reputation for taking sustainability seriously.”

The Cool Schools ranking is open to all four-year undergraduate colleges and universities in the nation. The award honors 162 colleges that are helping to solve climate problems and making significant efforts to operate sustainably. Evaluations were based on survey information provided by the participating schools, as well as follow up inquiries and outside sources.

Oregon State’s emphasis on “being green” begins the moment when new students come on campus, according to the survey. Sustainability is a large part of the university’s new student orientation, including zero-waste food events, a Sustainability Fair, and an emphasis on recycling in the residence halls.

OSU has been honored for its efforts at supporting alternative transportation for students, faculty and staff living off campus, including ride sharing, a campus shuttle system, bike parking and lockers, utilization of Corvallis transit and WeCar sharing.

There are a number of active green student groups on the Oregon State campus, including the Student Sustainability Initiative, which is involved in everything from the restoration of local watersheds to composting on campus to sustainable food projects.

OSU offers hundreds of courses on campus with a sustainability emphasis, ranging from “Sustainable Forest Management” to “Renewable Energy Alternatives: Economics and Technology.” There are even study abroad programs with a sustainability focus to places like Australia and Costa Rica.

Other highlights include OSU’s leadership in the formation of Oregon BEST (Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center) which helps Oregon businesses compete globally by transforming and commercializing university research into new technologies, services, products, and companies, all with an emphasis in renewable energy and sustainable products.

The campus participates in an annual, month-long Campus Carbon Challenge, which encourages students, staff and faculty to reduce their carbon footprint by changing their daily behaviors. There is an emphasis on reducing waste and using sustainable products in the dining centers, and around campus, a variety of alternative energy approaches have been used, including the utilization of solar hot water systems at the Kelley Engineering Building and at the International Living Center, which supply half of those buildings’ hot water needs.

To learn more about the Sierra Club’s “Cool Schools” survey, go to: www.sierraclub.org/coolschools.

Lewis & Clark College came in at in 19th place, followed by Southern Oregon at 26th, Portland State University at 31st, and University of Oregon at 46th.

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Brandon Trelstad, 541-737-3307, Brandon.trelstad@oregonstate.edu

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recycling
Students recycle items
when moving out of dorms