OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

environment and natural resources

Lionfish expedition: down deep is where the big, scary ones live

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Last month, the first expedition to use a deep-diving submersible to study the Atlantic Ocean lionfish invasion found something very disturbing – at 300 feet deep, there were still significant populations of these predatory fish, and they were big.

Big fish in many species can reproduce much more efficiently than their younger, smaller counterparts, and lionfish are known to travel considerable distances and move to various depths. This raises significant new concerns in the effort to control this invasive species that is devastating native fish populations on the Atlantic Coast and in the Caribbean Sea.

“We expected some populations of lionfish at that depth, but their numbers and size were a surprise,” said Stephanie Green, the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow in the College of Science at Oregon State University, who participated in the dives. OSU has been one of the early leaders in the study of the lionfish invasion.

“This was kind of an ‘Ah hah!’ moment,” she said. “It was immediately clear that this is a new frontier in the lionfish crisis, and that something is going to have to be done about it. Seeing it up-close really brought home the nature of the problem.”

OSU participated in this expedition with researchers from a number of other universities, in work supported by Nova Southeastern University, the Guy Harvey Foundation, NOAA, and other agencies. The five-person  submersible “Antipodes” was provided by OceanGate, Inc., and it dove about 300 feet deep off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., near the “Bill Boyd” cargo ship that was intentionally sunk there in 1986 to create an artificial reef for marine life.

That ship has, in fact, attracted a great deal of marine life, and now, a great number of lionfish. And for that species, they are growing to an unusually large size – as much as 16 inches.

Lionfish are a predatory fish that’s native to the Pacific Ocean and were accidentally introduced to Atlantic Ocean waters in the early 1990s, and there became a voracious predator with no natural controls on its population. An OSU study in 2008 showed that lionfish in the Atlantic have been known to reduce native fish populations by up to 80 percent.

Eradication appears impossible, and they threaten everything from coral reef ecosystems to local economies that are based on fishing and tourism.

Whatever is keeping them in check in the Pacific – and researchers around the world are trying to find out what that is – is missing here. In the Caribbean, they are found at different depths, in various terrain, are largely ignored by other local predators and parasites, and are rapidly eating their way through entire ecosystems. They will attack many other species and appear to eat constantly.

And, unfortunately, the big fish just discovered at greater depths pose that much more of a predatory threat, not to mention appetite.

“A lionfish will eat almost any fish smaller than it is,” Green said. “Regarding the large fish we observed in the submersible dives, a real concern is that they could migrate to shallower depths as well and eat many of the fish there. And the control measures we’re using at shallower depths – catch them and let people eat them – are not as practical at great depth.”

Size does more than just increase predation.  In many fish species, a large, mature adult can produce far more offspring that small, younger fish. A large, mature female in some species can produce up to 10 times as many offspring as a fish that’s able to reproduce, but half the size.

Trapping is a possibility for removing fish at greater depth, Green said, and could be especially effective if a method were developed to selectively trap lionfish and not other species. Work on control technologies and cost effectiveness of various approaches will continue at OSU, she said.

When attacking another fish, a lionfish uses its large, fan-like fins to herd smaller fish into a corner and then swallow them in a rapid strike. Because of their natural defense mechanisms they are afraid of almost no other marine life, and will consume dozens of species of the tropical fish and invertebrates that typically congregate in coral reefs and other areas. The venom released by their sharp spines can cause extremely painful stings to humans.

Aside from the rapid and immediate mortality of marine life, the loss of herbivorous fish will also set the stage for seaweed to potentially overwhelm the coral reefs and disrupt the delicate ecological balance in which they exist.

This newest threat follows on the heels of overfishing, sediment deposition, nitrate pollution in some areas, coral bleaching caused by global warming, and increasing ocean acidity caused by carbon emissions. Lionfish may be the final straw that breaks the back of Western Atlantic and Caribbean coral reefs, some researchers believe.

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Stephanie Green, 541-737-5364

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Submersible research

Submersible in Florida


Exploring sunken ship

Lionfish near sunken ship


Lionfish

Lionfish

OSU study suggests reducing air-polluting PAHs may lower levels of lung cancer deaths

CORVALLIS, Ore. – High emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can be linked to lung cancer deaths in the United States and countries with a similarly high socioeconomic rank, including Canada, Australia, France, and Germany, according to a study by Oregon State University.

Researchers reviewed a range of information from 136 countries, including average body mass index, gross domestic product per capita, the price of cigarettes, smoking rates, and the amount of PAHs emitted into the air. PAHs are a group of more than 100 chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic when inhaled or ingested. They most commonly come from vehicle exhaust and burning coal and wood.

OSU researchers calculated how measures of health, wealth and pollution related to lung cancer deaths in each country.

"Analyzing data on a global scale revealed relationships between PAH emissions and smoking rates on the lung cancer death rates in each country," said Staci Simonich, a co-author of the study and toxicologist at OSU. "Ultimately, the strength of the relationships was determined by the country’s socioeconomic status."

While the link between smoking and lung cancer is well-established, OSU researchers did not find a correlation between cigarette smoking rates and lung cancer death rates in countries with high levels of income. Researchers attribute this conclusion to previous studies showing high-income smokers tend to light up less often.

OSU's study also suggests that reducing smoking rates could significantly lessen lung cancer deaths in countries with a lower socioeconomic status, including North Korea, Nepal, Mongolia, Cambodia, Bangladesh and many others. Researchers found that lung cancer mortality rates in these countries negatively correlated with price – meaning cheaper cigarettes are often associated with higher levels of deaths from lung cancer.

Detectable lung cancer can take 20 years to develop, and the poorest countries in the study had an average age of death of 54. OSU researchers suggest heavy smokers in these countries can sometimes die before tumors attributable to lung cancer become apparent.

"If the life expectancies were the same in all of the countries we reviewed, it's possible we would see a consistent relationship between PAH emissions and lung cancer," said Simonich, an OSU professor of environmental and molecular toxicology.

The study, "Association of Carcinogenic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Emissions and Smoking with Lung Cancer Mortality Rates on a Global Scale," was recently published in the journal Environmental Science and Toxicology.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratories in Richland, Wash. assisted with calculating the statistical associations between data used in the study. The National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences funded the research through OSU’s Superfund Research Program.

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide. Lung cancer accounts for 12 percent of all cancer diagnoses and is the leading cancer killer of men and second among women, according to the American Cancer Society.

Note to Editors: To request a copy of the study, please email Daniel Robison at daniel.robison@oregonstate.edu.

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Staci Simonich, 541-737-9194

Like birds? Oregon 2020 project seeking citizen scientists for bird surveys

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University researchers are hoping to tap into the state’s growing population of bird-watching enthusiasts to create a volunteer team of “citizen scientists” to gather data on Oregon’s resident and visiting birds.

Their project, called Oregon 2020, is seeking to fill some of the large gaps in data about Oregon birds, organizers say. Information about the project is available online at: http://oregon2020.com/.

“Oregon has a few species of birds we know very well – like the spotted owl, the sage grouse and the meadowlark,” said W. Douglas Robinson, the Mace Professor of Watchable Wildlife at OSU and director of the Oregon 2020 project. “However, the state has more than 500 species of birds and we know very little about many of them – even where they live.

“One goal of Oregon 2020 is to establish a baseline for the abundance and distribution of these birds so that in the future we can evaluate the impacts on them from disease, wildfire, climate change, or whatever other issues emerge,” he added.

To help the OSU scientists, Robinson hopes to enlist a cadre of volunteers in each county to gather data on birds in their area. The project will offer online tutorials and guidance on how to collect and log the data, which will be part of the national eBird database run by Cornell University. The popular eBird site receives more than 1 million submissions each month – but few from Oregon.

As part of the project, Robinson and others will hold periodic “bird blitzes” in Oregon counties where they will go out with volunteers to canvas all types of terrain. The first of these blitzes will take place June 21-23 in Polk County.

“Polk County has the least amount of data in eBird for any county west of the Cascades,” pointed out Robinson, who is a professor in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. “Most of the data we do have comes from Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, which is a unique habitat that draws waterbirds, migratory birds and those birds that prefer an oak savannah. But we’d like to know what else the county has to offer in the way of species.”

The eBird database likewise has few listings for birds on most of the counties east of the Cascades, so getting volunteers there is critical, Robinson pointed out. Sometimes these surveys provide data that turns out to be surprising, he added.

“Some species that are thought to be rare turn out to be more common than we previously thought,” Robinson pointed out. “The Oregon vesper sparrow, for instance, has declined along with its oak savannah habitat and there was concern it might be listed as endangered. But we conducted a series of roadside surveys in Benton County and found plenty of them.

“As it turns out, they were considered rare because there weren’t enough watchers to explore the countryside,” Robinson added. “That’s what makes these surveys so important.”

Robinson is eBird’s official reviewer for Benton County, which means he looks over the submissions and analyzes them for their validity.

“Sometimes, a volunteer may log the sighting of a golden eagle, when it is far more likely to be an immature bald eagle,” Robinson said. “As a reviewer, I can correspond with the observer to make sure we get the correct identification. This gives us confidence that observations logged in eBird are valid.”

Persons interested in volunteering should log onto the Oregon 2020 website. In addition to county blitzes, participants will be offered workshops to learn better methods for counting birds, documenting species and using eBird. A GPS instrument is helpful, but not essential, Robinson said, since eBird has a mapping function.

“We’re hoping to do what we wish Lewis and Clark could have done more than 200 years ago,” Robinson said. “Imagine if they could have logged not just observations of species, but actual numbers and specific locations. That’s what we’d like to create. We want future generations to be able to go to exact locations in Oregon and compare species and numbers to what we observe today.”

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 Doug Robinson, 541-737-9501; douglas.robinson@oregonstate.edu

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Killdeer
Killdeer

 


Steller Jay

Steller Jay

 

Horned Grebe
Horned Grebe

Earth Week at OSU offers sustainable events, opportunities

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University is promoting sustainability and awareness with an array of events during Earth Week, which begins Saturday, April 20.

Several new events this year include Campus Creature Census, in which community members are invited to contribute a creative work inspired by the various plants and animals that inhabit OSU. Participants may submit an entry in prose, field guide, artistic, or poetry form, which may be added to a compilation.

Returning events include the Hoo-Haa Earth Day Celebration, hosted by the Organic Grower’s Club at their farm on April 22. From 3-7 p.m., guests may enjoy free food and live music, watch a bubble artist in action, learn about soil, and discover how chickens may be used to till the earth. A shuttle bus will leave campus every 15 minutes from outside the OSU Beaver Store.

The 13th annual Earth Week Community Fair will be April 23. About 50 groups, both on and off of campus, will offer activities and environmental information. Students may also bring styrofoam for free recycling. Acceptable items include foam sheets and wraps, as well as bendable and rigid blocks. However, food packaging and expanding foam will not be accepted.

OSU Surplus Property will host the OSUsed Store Earth Week sale on April 24. Furniture, computers, electronics, housewares, and more will be on sale to students and community members from noon to 3 p.m.

This year also marks the 100-year anniversary of the planting of the elm trees that stand in the library quad.  A celebration will be held from noon to 1 p.m. on April 26, as an additional tree is planted to commemorate the next 100 years.

A more detailed list of events may be found at:  (http://tiny.cc/earth-calendar).

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Andrea Norris, 541-737-5398

Oregon State University featured in The Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University received 98 points out of a possible 99 as a ‘green’ school in the latest edition of “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2013 Edition.” The schools are chosen based on a 50-question survey conducted at hundreds of four-year colleges.

The Princeton Review analyzes data from the survey about the schools' course offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation to measure their commitment to the environment and to sustainability.

“The OSU community has once again demonstrated a high level of interest in and competency around sustainability,” said Brandon Trelstad, OSU’s sustainability coordinator. 

The 215-page guide is the only free comprehensive resource of its kind. It can be downloaded at www.princetonreview.com/green-guide and 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/).

The 322 school profiles in the guide feature essential information for applicants – facts and stats on school demographics, admission, financial aid – plus write-ups on the schools' specific sustainability initiatives.  A "Green Facts" sidebar reports on a wide range of topics from the school's use of renewable energy sources, recycling and conservation programs to the availability of environmental studies and career guidance for green jobs.

“The volume and breadth of sustainability related work at this institution is amazing, and fascinatingly diverse,” Trelstad said. “I think what continually sets OSU apart is its broad spectrum of sustainability expertise. This is supported by students who care about global issues and come to OSU to build on that interest.”

Among OSU’s green highlights were an overall waste diversion rate of 42 percent, its numerous sustainability awards, its annual Nonprofit Career Day, and a building policy that ensures students will typically walk no further than 10 minutes across campus for class.

“OSU has a history of creating innovative projects to reduce energy use and meet its goal of climate neutrality by 2024,” the guide states.

The Princeton Review created its "Guide to 322 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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Source: 

Brandon Trelstad, 541-737-3307

Generic OSU

About Oregon State University: OSU is one of only two U.S. universities designated a land-, sea-, space- and sun-grant institution. OSU is also Oregon’s only university to hold both the Carnegie Foundation’s top designation for research institutions and its prestigious Community Engagement classification. Its more than 26,000 students come from all 50 states and more than 90 nations. OSU programs touch every county within Oregon, and its faculty teach and conduct research on issues of national and global importance.

Salmon research will take the stage at Corvallis Science Pub

CORVALLIS, Ore. – David Noakes, an internationally known fish biologist, will bring the science of salmon to the Corvallis Science Pub on Monday, Sept. 10. He’ll review what scientists know about how size affects survival, how a jack salmon can become a king and how wild and hatchery-raised fish compete.

The presentation will begin at 6 p.m. at the Old World Deli, 341 S.W. Second St., in Corvallis. It is free and open to the public.

In developing the knowledge to support effective salmon policies, Noakes and other scientists use telemetry to follow smolts from stream to sea, analyze diets and strive to understand the mystery of how salmon find their way back home to spawn.

Noakes is an Oregon State University professor of fisheries and wildlife and senior scientist with the Oregon Hatchery Research Center. He will describe research under way at the center as well as educational and public outreach programs in Oregon and as far away as Russia.

The center is a unique research laboratory in the natural environment of the Alsea River watershed. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the OSU Fisheries and Wildlife Department established the center to address research and educational questions about hatchery and wild fish.

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

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David Noakes, 541-737-1953

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Salmon

Returning chinook salmon on the Umatilla River. Photo by Lynn Ketchum

Beetlemania is coming to Corvallis Science Pub May 14

Beetlemania is coming to Corvallis Science Pub May 14

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

Source: Chris Marshall, marshach@onid.orst.edu, 541-737-4349

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Beetles have talent. They fly, tunnel, crawl and communicate with each other through chemical clues. Chris Marshall, curator of the Oregon State University Arthropod Collection, will bring the fascinating world of beetles — their history, behavior and ecology — to the Corvallis Science Pub on May 14.

Marshall will show examples of unusual beetles from around the world and discuss ways in which the Oregon State Arthropod Collection is helping scientists and the general public learn about the amazing beetle fauna here in the Pacific Northwest.

As a youth in New England, he started as many amateur bug collectors do, netting butterflies around his neighborhood. But he also found joy in stalking the creepers in creek beds and rotting logs. As a young scientist at Reed College, Harvard and then Cornell, he dug for treasure in insect collections and joined an expedition to Costa Rica. In 2006, he participated in a National Geographic-funded expedition to the remote rainforests of the Guyana Shield.

Today, Marshall manages a collection of more than 3 million insects, the world’s largest repository of bugs native to the Pacific Northwest. It focuses on meeting the needs of researchers but is open to the public by appointment.

Corvallis Science Pub will begin at 6 p.m. on May 14 at the Old World Deli, 341 Second St. in Corvallis. It is free and open to the public.

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

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Source: 

Chris Marshall, 541-737-4349

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Chris Marshall with three-toed sloth

Chris Marshall with three-toed sloth in 2006. (Photo: Piotr Naskrecki, courtesy of Oregon State University)

 

Chris Marshall in Guyana

Chris Marshall strode through a Wai Wai village during an international expedition to Guyana in 2006. (Photo: Piotr Naskrecki, courtesy of Oregon State University)

Study: Forested riparian zones important to nitrogen control, stream health

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Human activities from agriculture to fossil fuel consumption have resulted in high levels of nitrates in many streams and rivers; now a new study suggests that nurturing riparian zone forests may be a key in maintaining healthy waterways.

Streams flowing through urban areas and agricultural lands may have some of the same ability to process nitrates as healthy forest streams – if they have adequate forest buffer zones along their banks, the researchers say.

Results of the research were just published the professional journal, Ecosystems.

“There are many important ways in which streamside trees help maintain healthy river systems,” said lead author Daniel Sobota, who conducted the research as part of his doctoral studies at Oregon State University. “The shade they offer may reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the stream, preventing excessive algae growth.

“Additionally, the leaves and woody debris generated by streamside forests hold the nitrogen and prevent it from being released downstream all at once,” added Sobota, whose Ph.D. was in fisheries and wildlife at OSU. “This ability of a stream to ‘take up’ the nitrogen can help reduce the impacts of nitrogen enrichment in human-altered river basins.”

In the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, Sobota and his colleagues looked at nine streams in Oregon’s Willamette Valley that flowed through forest, agricultural or urban landscapes. Among their goals was to discover how much nitrogen was absorbed by the streams near the source, and how much went downriver.

In tests in Willamette Valley streams, the researchers discovered that 21 to 72 percent of nitrates entering the waterway could be stored in leaves, wood and aquatic mosses within one kilometer downstream.

The inability of a stream or river to hold nitrogen can cause “eutrophication,” or excess algae growth that can die and lead to low-oxygen waters. Eutrophication has caused significant problems in the Gulf of Mexico where the Mississippi River drains, as well as in the Chesapeake Bay.

“Forested riparian buffers can help delay nitrogen from going downstream so there isn’t a large influx at one time that could trigger harmful algal blooms,” Sobota said. “From a management perspective, that is a desirable trait.”

Rivers also can process nitrogen naturally through a process called “denitrification.” When oxygen levels in the water are low, bacteria will consume nitrogen instead and release it into the atmosphere – mostly as a harmless gas, Sobota pointed out. However, previous studies by researchers at OSU and the U.S. Forest Service found that the Oregon streams in their study have lower-than-average rates of denitrification.

The reason is a combination of high-gradient streams, oxygenated water and porous streambeds, which are not conducive to denitrification, said Sherri Johnson, a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service and a courtesy professor of fisheries and wildlife at OSU.

“A lot of streams in Oregon have subsurface water flowing beneath the streambed through the gravel,” said Johnson, also an author on the Ecosystems article. “This ‘hyporheic’ flow intermixes with the river water and limits the anaerobic processes.”

Linda Ashkenas, a senior faculty research assistant in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at OSU and an author on the study, said maintaining complex river channels is also important to stream health.

“Human impacts on rivers have eliminated many of the braids and channels that existed naturally, causing water to flow downstream faster, carrying nitrates with it,” Ashkenas said. “River systems that are more complex slow the water down and give organisms time to filter out the nitrogen.”

Sobota is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency office on the OSU campus as a National Research Council post-doctoral researcher. The Ecosystems study is part of a large, multi-institution project called Lotic Intersite Nitrogen Experiment II, or LINX II.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Daniel Sobota, 541-754-4833

Corvallis Science Pub to feature Engineers Without Borders, Beavers Without Borders

CORVALLIS, Ore. – At the Oct. 10 Corvallis Science Pub, two Oregon State University groups will describe their efforts to bring shelter and clean water to people in developing countries.

Jordan Machtelinckx, emeritus president of OSU’s Engineers Without Borders chapter, will discuss the challenges of providing safe drinking water to rural communities in El Salvador and Kenya. Taylor Kavanaugh, a 2010 OSU engineering graduate and representative of Beavers Without Borders, will describe the group’s effort to build housing in Guatemala, Macedonia and other countries.

The program begins at 6 p.m. at the Old World Deli, 341 Second St., in downtown Corvallis. It is free and open to the public.

In much of the world, lack of access to potable water is a major public health problem. More than a million children die annually from water-related diseases, according to the World Health Organization. “Engineers Without Borders is a chance for students to combine technical and social knowledge to provide basic human needs to some of the more remote communities around the world,” Machtelinckx said.

Starting in 2006, OSU students undertook the challenge of providing clean water to a remote mountain village in El Salvador. They installed a rainwater catchment system and a gravity-fed network that delivers filtered spring water to a school. In 2010, they shifted their focus to Lela, Kenya, a community of about 400 people who lack access to clean water year around. During annual droughts, they must walk for miles to reach available supplies.

Beavers Without Borders, sponsored by the OSU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, got under way in 2010, when athletes representing soccer, gymnastics, football, basketball and other sports traveled to Alotenango, Guatemala, to build a new house for a family living in a make-shift shelter. The organization sent another group to Macedonia last spring and has plans to do construction projects in Haiti, Cambodia and Ethiopia.

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

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Media Contact: 
Source: 

Jordan Machtelinckx, 503-734-7929