OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

environment and natural resources

Riparian zones recover quickly after fire, need little management

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Riparian zones in many Pacific Northwest forests return to health fairly quickly after forest fires and may eventually provide the same ecosystem services and largely the same species mix, with little need for replanting or management, a new study from Oregon State University concludes.

It has been long understood, researchers say, that riparian areas are among the most important features of the forest: They harbor multiple species, a broad range of plants and trees, provide clean water, and are a key part of both the terrestrial and aquatic food chain. The shade from overhanging trees helps cool streams and nurture fisheries. Because of that, it has often been believed that after a fire they required special attention to prevent erosion and streambed damage, and were often targeted for that.

The new research concludes that the streams often do just fine on their own, and surprisingly quickly.

“In the past, most studies of streams after fire looked only at the short-term effect on fisheries,” said David Hibbs, a professor in the OSU Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society. “And there was a risk-averse approach to streams after fire, because we knew how important they were. So they were often managed fairly heavily after a fire, without a lot of evidence it was really necessary.”

The new study, just published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management, focused on areas burned in the 2002 Biscuit Fire in southwest Oregon and the 2003 B&B Complex Fire in the central Oregon Cascade Range. Areas were studied at two- and four-year intervals after they burned, to measure the amount of vegetation and streamside recovery.

“Other studies have observed that in some cases trees and shrubs were sprouting almost immediately after the fire, within two weeks,” said Jessica Halofsky, a lead author on this study, formerly an OSU doctoral student and now a research ecologist with the University of Washington. “That’s really amazing. And fireweed moved in very quickly to provide shade, cover and bank stability.”

After that, residual live trees dropped seed in following years, leading to pulses of tree seedling development. As often occurs after a fire, there was some heavier stream flow and higher rates of flooding for a period, which caused some erosion and sediment movement.

Some fire effects are temporarily harmful to salmon and other fish species, other studies have found, but in the long run highly positive. Post-fire flooding scours streams and moves sediment around, creating new and clean gravel beds, new inputs of large woody debris, and in general helps to rejuvenate the long-term health of the stream for fish spawning and survival. Hardwoods such as alder that can fix nitrogen, an important forest nutrient, may also play a role in riparian zone recovery.

The natural tree reproduction in and near the riparian zones was impressive – in streams in the B&B Complex Fire, four years after the fire, there were more than 27,000 seedlings per acre. And the study indicated that the mix of species would ultimately resemble what it was before the fire, more hardwoods such as red alder near the streambank and on the flood plain of larger streams, more conifers as you got further away from the stream and higher in elevation near its headwaters.

“The species mix seems to be largely dictated, in the long run, by the hydrology of the local area, not so much the fact that a fire came through,” Hibbs said.

The study also concluded that the tree mortality after a fire was about the same in riparian zones as in the surrounding uplands. However, due to the higher moisture level in riparian soils, there was more organic matter left on the forest floor near streams to help stabilize soil, retain nutrients and result in less exposed mineral soil.

“Generally, this research suggests that a lot of post-fire rehabilitation in riparian zones isn’t necessary following most fires,” Halofsky said. “The cover, stream shade and recovery of plant and animal species occurs rather quickly, without management. These are very resilient ecosystems.”

 

Media Contact: 
Source: 

David Hibbs, 541-737-6077

Multimedia Downloads
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B&B Complex Fire

Two years after the B&B Complex fire, vegetation and resprouting hardwoods in riparian areas are already providing stream bank stabilization and erosion control, even in areas with widespread canopy mortality

Biscuit Fire

A red alder seedling is coming up two years after the Biscuit Fire

Biscuit Fire 2

Nearby, riparian vegetation has adapted to disturbances and flooding fairly quickly in its recovery after the fire

STUDY FINDS ATTITUDES AGAINST ILLEGAL ALIENS MIRROR OTHER BELIEFS

CORVALLIS - A new study has found that American attitudes toward illegal aliens in the United States are built upon the same variables that fuel prejudice against African Americans, homosexuals and other minorities.

The strongest, most common variable among people who have negative feelings toward these groups is "authoritarianism," according to Knud S. Larsen, a professor of psychology at Oregon State University and principle investigator in the study.

"These people are generally submissive to authority, preoccupied with status, preoccupied with conventional middle class values, and they persistently denigrate minorities," Larsen said. "They make their way through society by conforming and they have a very jaundiced eye toward those who do not conform."

An estimated 500,000 illegal aliens enter the country each year and the increasing numbers have prompted both political rhetoric and legislative action. In 1994, California voters passed Proposition 187, which sought to eliminate welfare, and other medical and social benefits for illegal aliens.

Other, more spontaneous responses from individuals have ranged from name calling to violence.

Larsen said racism and other forms of prejudice increase during times of economic strife in society. Social psychologists refer to the phenomenon as the frustration-aggression hypothesis or, more commonly, "scapegoating."

Scapegoating, he points out, is a convenient way to vent anger without taking on the real problem.

"Rather than deal with the trials and tribulations of our complex and often frustrating economic system, certain people target and blame minorities and the focus now is on illegal aliens," Larsen said.

Larsen said there often is an element of justification behind the attitudes - in the case of illegal aliens, the fear that our society is not equipped to handle a huge, comparatively sudden influx of additional people.

But, he added, negative attitudes toward aliens do little to address the problem.

"People see illegal aliens as a growing threat, not just in the U.S., but in Europe," Larsen said. "However, instead of dealing with the issue rationally (and through due process), the responses have included an increase of Neo-Nazism in Germany and a rise among the radical right wing in France."

The OSU study found attitudes toward illegal aliens were strongest on issues of access to U.S. borders and American payment for the care and education of illegal aliens. One of the strongest perceptions, Larsen said, is that illegal aliens cost the U.S. millions and millions of dollars each year.

"Other studies have shown that, overall, illegal aliens contribute more in economic worth than they cost," Larsen said.

The issue of what to do about illegal aliens won't go away, Larsen pointed out, and it likely will escalate.

"There are people all over the world right now, living more or less in crisis," he said. "They can't make enough to buy food, or there isn't enough food to eat. Or the government cannot provide the services that the citizens think it should.

"Those are dangerous times," Larsen added. "That is when fascism can rear its ugly head."

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Knud Larsen, 541-737-1365

OSU HOLDS EARTH WEEK CELEBRATION

CORVALLIS - Music, speakers and how-to demonstrations highlight Oregon State University's annual Earth Week Celebration.

Activities are free and open to the public and start on the 26th anniversary of Earth Day - Monday, April 22, said Julie McGowan, an OSU junior in science, and events coordinator.

Focal point of the week is "to celebrate the Earth and get out all information possible to promote environmental awareness," McGowan said. Events are sponsored by Associated Students of OSU Environmental Affairs Task Force.

Top draw is an information fair scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday, April 24, in OSU's Memorial Union Ballroom, McGowan said. The fair features ways to decrease the environmental impacts of everyday life.

Earth Week activities include:

 

Monday, April 22

  • Noon: William Lunch, OSU associate professor of political science, will speak about the concepts of Earth Day; OSU president Paul Risser also will speak. (MU lounge) Tree planting at OSU's Gilbert Hall follows.

 

Tuesday, April 23

  • 1 p.m.: A series of presentations by the Corvallis Environmental Center, including the Oregon bottle bill expansion initiative, the sustainable forestry initiative and the clean streams initiative. MU Room 211. Time subject to change.

 

Wednesday, April 24

  • 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Information Fair, featuring ways people can learn to live in closer harmony with the earth. Memorial Union Ballroom.

     

  • Noon: "Oregonians for Environmental Rights," a talk hosted by the Corvallis Environmental Center. MU lounge.

     

  • 6-7 p.m.: Survey on public perceptions of forestry issues, hosted by the Corvallis Environmental Center. MU Martin Luther King Jr. Room.

 

Thursday, April 25

  • 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.: "Vegetarian Table," an exhibit on vegetarian eating by the Vegetarian Supper Club. "Waste Audit," by Campus Recycling explores what enters the garbage stream at OSU. Both events in Memorial Union Quad.

 

Friday, April 26

  • 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.: Campus Recycling display. MU Quad.

     

  • Noon - 2 p.m.: A series of speakers will discuss environmental issues, topics to be announced. MU lounge.

     

  • 7 p.m. - 11 p.m.: Singer Rob Hoyt takes center stage at a musical Earth Week celebration hosted by the Corvallis Environmental Center. Refreshments will be provided. MU lounge.

Source: 

Julie McGowan, 541-737-2101

OSU ARCHAEOLOGY PROJECT IN WOODBURN CONTINUES THIS WEEK

CORVALLIS - Archaeologists from Oregon State University will team with workers from the City of Woodburn this week to search for evidence of a rich deposit of Ice Age animal remains discovered near Mill Creek in the 1980s.

The project is being coordinated by the Center for the Study of the First Americans at OSU, in cooperation with the City of Woodburn and Woodburn High School. The site is on high school property.

On Thursday, city workers will use backhoes to carefully begin a deep extraction of dirt, retracing the utility route workers used nine years ago when the site was discovered. Along with rock and silt deposits, workers in 1987 uncovered evidence of numerous extinct paleontological animals, including mammoth, mastodon, bison, ground sloth, wolf, bear and horse remains.

For a variety of reasons - including a lack of funding - the site was never developed, though scientists say it may be "one of the richest deposits of Ice Age animals in Oregon."

"The animal remains were all found in a black, organic muck," said Rob Bonnichsen, director of OSU's Center for the Study of the First Americans. "They should be in an anaerobic - oxygen free - environment and have the potential for being preserved in mint condition."

The backhoes will carefully scoop out dirt until scientists locate the remains, according to Chuck Hibbs, one of the archaeologists leading the project. "We know roughly where they are - within 100 meters or so," he said.

A team of archaeologists will be ready to process any samples that are found. OSU researchers also will be looking for Ice Age hair samples to continue their work of extracting ancient DNA from archaeological sites.

If this week's project is successful, a more formal excavation effort is planned for the site in mid-August.

 

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Alison Stenger, 503-292-5862

OSU OFFERS NEW ENVIRONMENTAL SOIL SCIENCE MASTER'S

CORVALLIS - A growing concern about risks to clean water, ecosystem viability, wetland conservation and nonpoint source pollution has prompted the Oregon State University Department of Crop and Soil Science to offer a new, one-year, non-thesis master of science program in environmental soil science.

"The environmental soil science M.S. degree program will prepare candidates for work in soils consulting, waste management, bioremediation, environmental impact assessment, land evaluation, agricultural chemicals management, wetlands and water quality, in the public or private sectors," explained Richard Dick, professor of soil science at OSU.

"This one-year, non-thesis program is designed for those who have been working full-time or for recent graduates," he said.

Course work includes 45 quarter hours of advanced soil science, business administration and engineering. A project is a part of the program and may be completed as an internship with a public or private agency or in cooperation with a faculty member at OSU.

Applicants are encouraged to get in touch with the program before applying, said Dick. Applications can be submitted any time. Students must gain admission into the OSU Graduate School. No previous coursework in soils is required, though it is helpful. For those with a non-science degree, additional coursework in fundamentals of chemistry, math, biology and physics would be required before admittance into the program.

The program will be starting up in the fall of 1996. For more information, contact Richard Dick, Environmental Soil Science M.S. Program, Department of Crop and Soil Science, OSU, 3017 Ag and Life Sciences Bldg., Corvallis, OR 97331-5718.

Source: 

Richard Dick, 541-737-5718

PLANT DOCTOR DIAGNOSES OREGON'S DIVERSE FLORA

CORVALLIS - Melodie Putnam cares for about 2,000 plants a year - most of them are dying or diseased.

Depressing? It could be, but Putnam says there is an element of detective work needed for every sample she receives in her position as chief diagnostician at the Oregon State University Extension Plant Disease Clinic.

They come to this "plant doctor" in the form of whole trees, single leaves or, sometimes, plastic bags full of rotting goo.

On a good day Putnam gets a conifer that freshens the laboratory air. On other days, she receives plants that with have fungal problems or viral infections, or others that just look odd.

Despite the case load and the condition of some of her "patients," Putnam says she enjoys the job because she is able help people solve problems. Seldom does she have to administer last rights and sometimes she even discovers a new disease to add to the body of research.

Putnam is sort of a plant doctor of last resort. Before reaching her, Oregonians first can take their questions to an OSU Extension Service county office. If agents there don't have the answer they can refer the case to Putnam. In addition to many questions that originate with home owners and gardeners, she gets hundreds from commercial growers.

"Most of the easy-to-diagnose cases get handled at county extension agents' offices, so the samples I get usually have people stumped," Putnam said. "People want to know, 'Will these mushrooms poison my dog?' Or 'Will I have to cut down my pin oak tree?'

"There are about 330 different crops being grown in Oregon," she added. "Some, such as corn, have been studied to death. Others are more exotic. Echinacea and ginseng, for instance, are new high-value crops in the expanding medicinal herb business."

Echinacea is a flowering plant thought to fight colds and the flu. Marketers say ginseng boosts vitality.

"Just like people, some of the plants that come in have viruses," she said. "And, like viruses that attack humans, these cannot be cured. Some are not deadly, but there isn't much you can do once the plant is infected. There is no Ebola virus in the plant world, but some viruses will kill plants - it may just take a while."

Sometimes no treatment is necessary, Putnam pointed out. Many of the plant problems that come to her lab are "abiotic" - that is, they have a problem not caused by living organisms. They may just have an abnormality or be suffering from excess fertilizer, cold injury or general stress.

Many of the samples coming in now were injured from late-winter freezes, Putnam said. The leaves are not coming out fully or there are unexpectedly few flowers. The tissues that transport water were damaged, so after the leaves came out they wilted. Or, plants such as forsythia, didn't flower well because their buds were killed by late-season freezing.

"Some politicians make jokes about studying stress in plants as if it were somehow a frivolous waste of money," said Putnam. "No, plants don't experience stress over divorce, mortgage or loss of income. But, like humans, plants that are stressed are more likely to contract diseases. Is plant stress frivolous? We depend on plants for food, fiber and building materials.

"The stress that plants experience can be from things such as unseasonable cold weather, drought, transplanting or being taken out of their natural environment," she added. "Take a sycamore tree that is adapted for growth near a stream bed and transplant it to the middle of a park with no provision for irrigation and you're going to have a problem."

"The good news is that most plants are resilient," said Putnam. "I usually give people a 'cultural' and 'chemical' prescription for their plant's disease. A cultural treatment might be pruning off the diseased tissue or simply rotating crops or planting sites. A chemical approach might be applying a commercial fungicide."

Putnam warned Oregonians to be cautious about cultural controls that "you just hear about somewhere." One disease remedy involving a large dose of baking powder and Epsom salts may scorch all the leaves on your plants.

"Your best defense against plant disease is to buy healthy, disease-free and disease-resistant stock," said Putnam. "Look for statements of resistance in seed catalogs or ask at the nursery. The next step, if your plant still develops a problem, is to have it correctly diagnosed before you start any type of treatment.

"One of the best home diagnosis books is Westcott's Plant Disease Control Handbook," she added. "Another option is to take as large a sample as practical to an OSU Extension Service county office. This is a free service. You can save time, effort and a lot of money by getting the correct diagnosis. For example, you could purchase an expensive fungicide only to discover later that your plant has a bacterial problem."

Similar to being a doctor to humans, sometime as a plant doctor you have to deliver bad news. Occasionally you have to tell people it is too late to do anything.

Or, in the case of Dutch Elm disease, you may have to say that immediate removal of the tree is necessary.

"There are no Jack Kevorkian plant doctors," Putnam said, "but telling someone to remove a large living tree that may have been part of their yard for years can be pretty traumatic."

Source: 

Melodie Putnam, 541-737-3472

PROJECT AIMS TO HELP NATURAL RESOURCE-DEPENDENT TOWNS

CORVALLIS - Oregon State University has released a video called "Towns in Transition" and a companion study guide designed to help communities across the United States whose economies are linked to natural resource industries.

"Global, national and local forces have been causing dramatic economic and social changes in natural resource-dependent communities," said Lyla Houglum, director of the OSU Extension Service. "The goal of this educational package is to lend a helping hand to the families that live and work in them." Produced by an Extension Service and Agricultural Experiment Station team, the 30-minute "Towns in Transition" video examines the experiences of residents in three towns adjusting to significant change. They are Tulelake, Calif.; Forks, Wash.; and Astoria, Ore. Historical mainstays of the three communities' economies are farming, logging and fishing, respectively.

A 40-page, companion study guide applies a model for managing change to the communities featured in the video, discusses how informal and formal leaders can help, and identifies useful tools.

The video was aired via satellite on July 10 - through the national Agricultural Distance Education Consortium - to the extension services in every state for use with local communities.

The "Towns in Transition" VHS video tape, and study guide (VTP 025), are available as a package for $30 including shipping and handling. Additional copies of the study guide (EM 8648) are $2.50 each. To order write: Publication Orders, Extension and Station Communications, Oregon State University, 422 Kerr Admin., Corvallis, OR 97331-2119. Make check or money order payable to OSU Extension Service.

The video was produced by Andy Duncan and Lynn Ketchum of OSU's Department of Extension and Experiment Station Communications. The study guide was written by Flaxen D.L. Conway, Pat Corcoran and Greg Tillson, Extension Service community development specialists, who consulted on the video.

The project was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, call OSU Extension and Experiment Station Communications, 541-737-3311.

Source: 

Flaxen D.L. Conway, 541-737-1418

10 MILLION MITES FIGHTING TO SAVE OREGON CROPS

CORVALLIS - In the world of mighty mites, Oregon has a classic case of good versus bad. And the good guys are getting the edge, with millions having been released in Oregon fields to rescue high-value crops.

As a result, many growers in the Pacific Northwest will eventually cut pest control costs in half, and considerably reduce their need for pesticides.

Here's the story:

The bad guys are spider mites that take a multi-million dollar toll each year on mint crops, strawberries, ornamentals and trees. The good guys are predator mites. Just about all they eat are spider mites.

So the world needs more predator mites. To make that happen, Brian Croft has a plan.

Croft, a professor in Oregon State University's Department of Entomology working with OSU's Agricultural Experiment Station, has studied mites for more than 15 years.

The good mites (Neoseiulus fallacis) occur naturally, Croft said. So growers have to minimize the pesticides that might kill the good mites. They probably also need an extra supply of good mites so they have the numbers to zap all the bad mites.

So far, the plan is working best in mint. Predator mites multiply like crazy in top-irrigated mint. "They like the high humidity," Croft said.

In the greenhouses of A.M. Todd Co., a mint handler near Jefferson, Ore., researchers have been multiplying mites on lima bean plants since spring.

Starting in late August, they began turning loose more than 10 million predators in mint fields around the wetter areas of Jefferson, Eugene and Junction City, and in the drier areas of the Pacific Northwest, such as central and north-central Oregon, the Columbia River Basin and the East Yakima Valley of Washington and Idaho.

"We should have had more predators in the fields by April, but our greenhouses weren't ready in time," said Joyce Takeyasu, an entomologist for A.M. Todd. "Now we are concentrating on post-harvest releases (August and September). Predator mites are good at over-wintering, so we should have enough in fields when spring rolls around if they disperse adequately."

Next April, mint growers should check their fields. If they average more than one spider mite per plant and if the ratio of spider mites to predator mites is too high, they will have to spray with pesticides or bring in predator mites or both.

Spider mite control is a big deal to Oregon's peppermint producers, whose $51 million crop is the biggest of any state's.

Currently, mint growers with spider mite problems apply Comite, often spending up to $35 an acre on the miticide and application cost. With some help from predator mites, applications can be reduced, significantly lowering pest control costs, according to Mark Morris, an OSU doctoral student who works for A.M. Todd Co. in research and development.

Morris said new miticides are even more expensive, so biological control could have even a greater payoff.

"When spider mites approach the treatment threshold, we figure one predator mite for every 10 spider mites will do the job," Takeyasu said. "In early spring if spider mite populations are below one spider mite per plant, we can start with a one to 100 ratio and the predator mites will hopefully catch up and deplete the population of spider mites."

Morris believes the pinpoint-sized predators "should eventually replace chemical pesticides as a first line of defense in growers' arsenals - although pesticides are needed as a backup in cases where biological control is not effective enough."

Morris said he won't inoculate a field with predators if a grower already has enough in a field. In those cases, natural biological control should control the spider mites.

Croft said predator mites are put into fields in one of three ways: - INOCULATION: "In strawberries, we inoculate plants in a new field that won't be harvested that year. If we inoculate a thousand plants, that's enough to get predator mite coverage of a 10- to 20-acre field by the next year."

- INUNDATION: "That means putting on a lot of predators and using them like a pesticide," Croft said. "This tactic is like releasing 10,000 coyotes to wipe out 100,000 rabbits, but is necessary and economical on high value crops."

In mint, Takeyasu said, biological control requires at least 1,000 predator mites per acre - at a cost to growers of $8 to $10. But this rate depends on initial spider mite densities and presence of natural predator mites or other generalist predators.

Even if more predators are needed, the price might seem like a bargain to mint growers whose crop is worth more than $1,000 an acre and who have seen spider mites wipe out all of a field's mint leaves - and their valuable oil. - PERIODIC RELEASES: The ploy is to scout fields for predator mites and to manage pesticide use accordingly. Mites are added from time to time when the predators are in short supply.

Croft said OSU extension specialists and Agricultural Experiment Station scientists are working with growers to encourage the natural spread of predator mites.

"It's a matter of multi-crop management," Croft said. "Growers need to integrate production practices' so natural predator control is encouraged."

Besides their value to mint and strawberries, Croft said predator mites can control spider mites on rhododendrons, virburnum, magnolias, azaleas and shade trees such as linden.

Source: 

Brian Croft, 541-737-5498

HERE'S WHAT TO GROW ON THE 'BACK FORTY'

HERMISTON - The trouble with center pivot irrigation systems is that they water a circular area, while most land is parceled out in squares. You don't have to remember much geometry to realize there are going to be some unirrigated corners.

But researchers at Oregon State University's Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center are testing a variety of grasses and forages to cover problem areas such as these.

"These grasses are not just for farmers with irrigation pivots," said Jeffrey McMorran, an OSU Extension agent and agronomist. "They are applicable for anyone who has a 'back forty' that they don't want to blow away or become overrun with weeds."

Last fall, researchers planted trial patches of about 150 different species of grass and broadleaf forages. This spring it was found that Piute orchard grass, tall fescue, wild oats, tetraploid perennial ryegrass, covar sheep fescue and black mountain cereal rye are the best candidates for this job. Application rates should be about 15 pounds of pure live seed per acre, with plantings done no later than March 15.

"Typically, in this part of the Columbia Basin Russian thistle and puncturevine take over any disturbed land," McMorran said. "These weeds are generally not a problem on uncultivated lands such as native grasslands, but they are a big problem in places where the earth has been disturbed and no crops are growing, such as between pivots or in large backyards."

"Ideally you'd rather have something that will hold the soil, require little or no watering, out-compete the weeds and look nice," he said. "If it can provide food for birds and doesn't need to be mowed, all the better."

Source: 

Jeffrey McMorran, 503-567-8321

OSU to host '96 flood conference in Portland Oct. 7-8

PORTLAND - Oregon State University is co-sponsoring a conference to try to put the flood of 1996 into historic, scientific and political perspective.

The conference, "The Flood of '96: Causes, Effects and Consequences," will be held Oct. 7-8 at the Columbia River Red Lion Hotel in Portland. It is the second annual Pacific Northwest Water Issues Conference.

It is designed for scientists, policy makers, students, interested citizens, land owners, regulators, land use planners and managers.

"The flood of 1996 had a significant impact on the Pacific Northwest, closing highways, damaging water supplies, flooding thousands of homes, businesses and acres of farmlands, affecting fish and wildlife habitat and taxing emergency management personnel," said Kelly Bartron of OSU's Oregon Water Resources Research Institute, a co-sponsor of the event.

Presentations at the conference will focus on: watershed and urban hydrology, meteorology, flood policy, water quality and ground water, water supply and emergency management. Field trips to flood sites are offered the day before and the day after the conference.

Registration fees are $225 per person, including conference materials, Monday evening reception, catered lunches, continental breakfasts, post-conference proceedings and refreshment breaks. Partial registration is possible. Field trips cost an extra $25 each.

For registration and information, contact: Oregon Water Resources Research Institute, 541-737-4022.

The Oregon section of American Institute of Hydrology and the Washington section of American Water Resources Association is co-sponsoring the conference with OSU.

Source: 

Kelly Bartron, 541-737-4402