environment and natural resources

Program brings outdoor issues to inner city youth

PORTLAND - An inner city outreach program working with Portland Public Schools has been nationally recognized for its success in building bridges between natural resources issues, urban youth and the need to encourage more young scholars to pursue careers in the environmental sciences.

The program, organized by the College of Forestry at Oregon State University and supported by three other land management and research agencies, recently received the Annual Diversity Award for Partnership Achievement from Gale Norton, U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

"This is a chance to spark an interest in natural resource issues among young Portland-area students, and help steer them toward some subjects they might otherwise not have considered," said David Stemper, manager of pre-college programs for the OSU College of Forestry. "We also try to connect them to internships and job opportunities, even during high school, and ultimately take their interests to the next level at OSU or a community college."

Called the Inner City Youth Institute, the program since 1999 has been operating in northeast Portland, mostly at Grant High School and three area middle schools. The program director works with teachers and students, providing natural resource exploration opportunities, unique projects, mentors, and funding for field expeditions, equipment and substitute teachers.

Students have responded positively. At Portland's Jesuit High School, Danielle Jackson said that the program has piqued her interest in watersheds. "The McKenzie River is my favorite," Jackson said, noting that she is considering studying hydrology at OSU.

Oriented around field trips, the program is hands-on and offers contextual learning. Both high school and middle school students are working in the Columbia Slough on a salmon restoration project. In this instance, the city of Portland is planning next summer to do some dredging of silt in various areas to improve what was historically a site for salmon maturation and migration.

But management officials wanted some baseline data on what bird and mammal species are now using the area and might be affected by this project - and the students are providing that. In this context, the program is more than just a student exercise, it produces original research and data being used by land management agencies.

"The ICYI experience encourages high school teachers to incorporate natural resource management issues into their classroom curricula," Norton said in making the recent award. "Thank you and keep up the good work."

Collaboration and funding support for this project comes from OSU, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Topics of study for the students include such things as exploration of salmon habitat and stream ecology, forestry and terrestrial ecology, and wildlife survey and management issues. All of the issues are explored at least in part with a forestry context, and the students often get a chance to work with natural resource professionals and sophisticated equipment. Recently, Portland students were doing studies in the Bull Run watershed with a $700 turbidimeter, conducting water quality assessments. Further expansion of the program is being considered, Stemper said, and one immediate goal is to further develop the program's non-profit branch in order to facilitate funding by private foundations.

About two years ago one participant who was then in the eighth grade, Laura Harris, said she "just liked trees and exploring in the woods, and these trips give me a chance to do that."

"I either want to be a rock star or do something in science," Harris said at the time. "Maybe forest biology or marine biology."

Story By: 

David Stemper, 503-725-5752

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A student uses a tree corer.
Students place salmon carcasses in watersheds.

Oregon BEST, OSU team to help Iraq engineers rebuild their war-torn nation using green practices

PORTLAND, Ore. – While Oregon’s economy remains sluggish and the war in Iraq continues, the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center (Oregon BEST) has helped Oregon State University broker funding for a unique project that could boost business for the state’s green building and renewable energy sectors while helping the people of Iraq rebuild their war-ravaged infrastructure.

Engineering faculty from OSU, working with the Michael Scott Mater Foundation, used a $27,000 grant from Oregon BEST to leverage more than $400,000 that will support a two-week, hands-on workshop in August for 20 Iraqi delegates who will visit Oregon to learn about green building, sustainable design and renewable energy from researchers at OSU, University of Oregon and Portland State University.

“This will be the first time an event of this type has been undertaken in the United States,” said Scott Ashford, head of the OSU School of Civil and Construction Engineering, which is organizing the visit through its Kiewit Center for Infrastructure and Transportation.

Joshua Mater, CEO and founder of the Mater Foundation, said the American Embassy in Bagdad is excited about the project.

“We’ve been informed that Gen. (Ray) Odierno, who took over for Gen. (David) Petraeus, has received briefings on the project,” Mater said. “And we’ve even had calls from Hollywood producers who want to make a documentary about this project. It’s very exciting.”

In addition to learning from their U.S. academic counterparts, the group of university presidents and engineering professors from 13 Iraqi universities will also visit a range of green building and renewable energy projects under way in the state and spend time with some of Oregon’s leading construction, engineering and architecture firms, including CH2M HILL, Granite Construction, Gerding Edlen Development, SERA Architects and others.

Delegates will also meet with Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and tour state agencies, including the Oregon Department of Transportation.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for Oregon businesses, universities and state agencies to make connections with Iraqi engineering professors and others involved in the rebuilding efforts under way in that country,” Ashford said. “Our Iraqi colleagues will have a tremendous impact on their students in Iraq, where they are tasked with essentially rebuilding the infrastructure of an entire country.”

The seminar is a part of the SENERGI Initiative (Sustainable ENERGy and Infrastructure) at OSU, which is having an impact on sustainability by sharing the university’s leadership on efficient use of limited resources, Ashford said.

“Oregon is internationally known for our green building and renewable energy research and innovation, and this is an excellent way to share that with the global community, which could lead to increased business for Oregon companies,” Ashford said. “Although their contribution is often overlooked, construction managers have a tremendous impact on green building, because they are the people tasked with making sustainable projects a reality.”

The exchange will also benefit Oregon faculty members and students, offering exposure to international and cultural differences that will prepare students to compete in the global marketplace.

“Not only will engineers from Iraq learn about green built materials and environments, but Oregon’s engineering faculty and students will learn how to incorporate sustainable engineering and design into new cultures – making them more competitive in a green jobs market,” Ashford said.

The relationship between OSU and the Iraqi campuses started a year ago, when then-U.S. Army Capt. Josh Mater, an Oregon State alumnus, gathered engineering textbooks worth $10,000 for donation to Dhi Qar University. Mater had been stationed in Iraq as part of rebuilding efforts, and had seen firsthand the dire need for supplies. He and his family, through the Michael Scott Mater Foundation, paid to ship the textbooks to Iraq. The foundation, which he founded, is named for Mater’s late father; his mother, Catherine Mater, is director of sustainability for the College of Engineering at OSU.

In February, the presidents of Dhi Qar University in southern Iraq, and Babylon University east of Baghdad, visited Corvallis to meet with OSU President Ed Ray and other campus leaders, tour the College of Engineering research facilities and sign memoranda of understanding between their institutions and Oregon State.

Since then, the project has come together quickly for OSU and the Mater Foundation with assistance from the U.S. Embassy in Bagdad and the U.S. Department of State helping to fast-track the project in Iraq.

“But none of this would have happened without the initial $27,000 investment from Oregon BEST,” he said. “And this is just the beginning. I believe we’ll be able to secure much higher levels of future funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, which is great news for Oregon’s economy.”

The initial funding from Oregon BEST helped leverage an additional $240,000 from the U.S. Department of State in Iraq and $50,000 from an OSU engineering alumnus. These funds were matched with cost sharing from the OSU College of Engineering ($75,000), the Michael Scott Mater Foundation ($14,000) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (up to $19,000).

“This is an excellent example of how Oregon BEST helps Oregon businesses and Oregon universities collaborate to help create jobs and develop a trained green jobs labor pool for the state’s emerging green economy,” said David Kenney, president and executive director of Oregon BEST. “This unprecedented visit will lead to stronger ties between Oregon and Iraq, which can create jobs for our state’s green building and renewable energy sectors.”

Following their stay in Oregon, the delegates will return to Iraq to apply their knowledge to the reconstruction efforts in their country and to improve the engineering curriculum at their universities.


David Kenney, 503-725-9849

Public invited to celebrate centennial of Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center

HERMISTON, Ore. – Oregon State University's Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center will celebrate its 100th birthday on June 30, and staff members are inviting the public to join the festivities.

The celebration begins at 2 p.m. at the center, which is located at 2121 South First St. in Hermiston, with a slide-show history of the experiment station and its successful collaborations with the community. There also will be exhibits, lab and field tours and entertainment for kids. Official presentations begin at 6 p.m., followed by a complimentary family-style dinner at 6:30 p.m. Live entertainment by country and folk singer John Wambeke is from 7 to 8 p.m.
Exhibits will feature 4-H projects, the Master Gardener program, and research and extension at the center. Tours around the station will showcase crops in the field; lab tours will highlight plant pathology, molecular genetics, riparian and agricultural entomology, horticulture and agronomy.

In 1909 the 40-acre "Umatilla Experiment Farm" began its mission to discover, teach and demonstrate how to make a living on the semi-arid land populated with little more than sagebrush in northwestern Umatilla County. During the 1930s the center moved to a larger tract of 260 acres, about four miles south of its former location.

Over the last 18 years, the center has installed five center-pivot irrigation systems funded through donations by local businesses and growers. It is one of the few experiment stations in the nation with its own extensive irrigation equipment to use for research. Public donations and grants also funded two 36-by-72-foot screen houses to help researchers study plant diseases carried by insects.

"HAREC researchers have helped growers turn what some once considered a wasteland into an irrigated production area of high-value crops," said Sandy DeBano, professor of fisheries and wildlife at the center. "For example, the value of watermelon – one of the prominent crops in the Hermiston area – can exceed $10,000 per acre."

Researchers at the Hermiston Center also are helping to produce potato varieties whose colored pigments increase antioxidant value and are marketed for their nutritional value, unique color and tuber shape.

The ongoing restoration of the Umatilla River continues to be a priority with Hermiston researchers. Irrigators and tribal leaders worked together in the 1980s to restore water to the Umatilla River, which now again sustains salmon and provides water for crops. The interaction between agriculture and ecosystem services provided by local streams and rivers, including fish production, is a major source of study at the center, DeBano said.

For 100 years OSU research at the Hermiston Center has served Umatilla County, which ranks third in farm sales in Oregon and also grows field and sweet corn, canola, grass seed, peas, carrots and onions.


Sandy DeBano, 541-567-6337, ext.116


CORVALLIS - Oregon State University Extension Service will explore a series of sustainability issues on a new cable network modeled after C-SPAN. Beginning Thursday evening, Dec. 9, viewers with cable access can tune in to some of OSU Extension's award-winning programs on the new Oregon Public Affairs Network (OPAN).

The series of eight 30-minute programs cover current public issues from rural community development to urban runoff to watershed restoration. Most stations will air the series on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. Check local listings.

The first program, "Towns in Transition," follows the fate of three natural resource-dependent communities in the Pacific Northwest as they manage changes in their local industries.

Following each program, viewers can go to a special web site to learn more. Online, they can access hundreds of publications and videos produced by OSU Extension experts.

OPAN is a new nonprofit television network bringing public issues and government to the living rooms and computer terminals of Oregonians. Modeled on the nationally successful C-SPAN, OPAN is a partnership among OSU, the State Legislative Media Service, the Oregon Wireless Instructional Network (WIN) and local cable access centers in six counties - Multnomah, Lane, Polk, Linn, Benton and Deschutes.

OPAN is broadcast from 6 to 8 p.m. each night, and also will provide daily gavel-to-gavel legislative coverage in Portland and the Corvallis area. Programs can also be viewed online at http://www.opan.org.

The eight OSU Extension programs that will air on OPAN include:

  • Dec. 9: "Towns in Transition: Managing Change in Natural-Resource- Dependent Communities"


  • Dec. 16: "The Miracle at Bridge Creek"


  • Dec. 23: "Rethinking the American Dream and Why Should I Bother? Waste Prevention in the Work Place"


  • Dec. 30: "Beyond Recycling: Waste Prevention in Manufacturing and Distribution" and "Better Than Recycling: Waste Prevention in the Office"


  • Jan. 6: "Strangers in Our Waterways"


  • Jan. 13: "We all Live Downstream"


  • Jan. 20: "After the Rain: Urban Runoff"


  • Jan. 27: "Life on the Edge: Improving Riparian Function and Buying Time: Instream Restoration"

Local cable networks that will broadcast the OSU Extension series include: the Eugene area, Channel 21; Corvallis/Albany, Channel 27; Washington and Clackamas County areas, Channel 28; the Portland area, Channel 29; Monmouth/Independence, Channel 17; Bend, Channel 11; Lane and Douglas County areas, Channel 9.

For more information about OPAN programming, see: http://www.opan.org. For more information about OSU Extension programs and publications, see: http://extension.oregonstate.edu.

Story By: 

Lynn Ketchum, 541-737-0802


CORVALLIS, Ore. - Research about wolves that began in Yellowstone National Park has been replicated in an adjacent area, and a growing body of evidence leads scientists to conclude that this historic predator may have an ecological impact far more important than realized in the American West.

The near extinction of the gray wolf across most of the West in the past century now appears to have removed the natural element of "fear" from these ecosystems. It has triggered a cascade of ecological effects on everything from elk populations to beaver, birds, fish, and even stream systems - and helped lead directly to the collapsing health of aspen and some other tree species and vegetation.

Two recent studies by forestry scientists from Oregon State University, published in the journals BioScience and Forest Ecology and Management, outline a role for the gray wolf that is complex and rarely understood, but helps explain many major problems facing western streams, forests and wildlife.

"It would appear that the loss of a keystone predator, the gray wolf, across vast areas of the American West may have set the stage for previously unrecognized and unappreciated ecological changes in riparian and upland plant communities, and the functions they provide," the scientists concluded.

The studies were authored by William Ripple, a professor, and Robert Beschta, a professor emeritus, in the OSU College of Forestry.

In their research, the scientists explore a concept that has been called "the ecology of fear."

The ecological and historical significance of wolves is only partly due to the actual impact they have by preying on other animals, both large and small, the OSU researchers have found. Just as important is the fear that many larger animals have of wolves, and the resulting behavioral changes in elk and some other grazing animals.

"Prey species will alter their use of space and their foraging patterns according to the features of the terrain and how that affects the risk of predation," Ripple and Beschta noted in their study. "They forage or browse less intensively at high-risk sites."

Some of those sites, the researchers say, are streamsides rich in aspen, cottonwood, willow and other edible vegetation. When healthy and normal, such areas naturally grow large trees and other streamside vegetation that provides the basis for supporting beaver, other wildlife, fish populations, native bird communities, and stable channel banks.

The OSU scientists, in previous work, documented that the loss of aspen and cottonwood trees in Yellowstone National Park dated almost exactly to the extermination of the last wolf packs in the park in the mid-1920s.

The elk moved in, ate young trees before they could become established, and the entire riparian ecosystem began a slow demise that was only reversed recently - when wolves were re-introduced to the park.

In their newest work, the researchers have found exactly the same forces at work along the Gallatin River in southwestern Montana. Coincidental with the return of wolves to that area, there has been a dramatic recovery of willow populations along streams, and other possible factors such as changing climate conditions have been ruled out as a possible cause.

A modest recovery of willows may not seem that significant. But the OSU researchers say it has set the stage for ecological "spin-offs," including an increase in plant biomass, improved streambank stability, better floodplain functioning, reduced soil erosion, and better food web support for everything from beaver to river otter, fish, birds, amphibians, and insects. Biodiversity will increase and rising beaver populations will lead to even more changes, including sediment retention, wetland maintenance and nutrient cycling.

And the story, the OSU scientists say, appears to be much larger than just Yellowstone National Park or the mountainous regions around it, as demonstrated by a broad range of research.

One study suggested that the loss of wolves has allowed increases in deer populations across much of North America, which led to a browsing pressure on plants that was unprecedented. Predation effects involving wolves and elk were also found in aspen growth in Jasper National Park. In Grand Teton National Park, the local extinction of grizzly bears and wolves caused an increase in herbivory on willow by moose, and ultimately decreased the diversity of neotropical migrant birds.

The role of fear, while emphasizing the value of wolves, is not exclusive to them, the scientists said. Even the fear of human sport hunters has a role.

One study in Montana showed that elk adjusted their foraging behavior by browsing far from roads to avoid human contact and possible predation. And research in Colorado has found that aspen was far more heavily browsed, and used year-round by elk, where sport hunting was excluded.

Ultimately, however, the value of large predators needs to be reconsidered, the reports conclude. The body of evidence has become compelling, the OSU researchers say, that predation by top carnivores, especially wolves, may be pivotal to maintaining biodiversity in some ecosystems.

More information on this research can be found on the Web at www.cof.orst.edu/wolves.

"The ranges of large carnivores are continuing to collapse around the world," the scientists note in their report. "In North America, the gray wolf and the grizzly bear have faced nearly complete extirpation in the lower 48 states, although populations of these carnivores have been increasing in recent years."

"Growing evidence points to the importance of conserving these animals because they have cascading effects on lower trophic levels."

A similar point, they said, was made by the great naturalist Aldo Leopold in 1949, who predicted this crisis.

"I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves," Leopold wrote 55 years ago. "I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anemic desuetude, and then to death."

Story By: 

William Ripple, 541-737-3056

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Aspens in Yellowstone National Park

A withering stand of aspen in Yellowstone National Park reflect a phenomenon that researchers from Oregon State University believe is now far more widespread - the loss of wolves in the American West leading to the decline of tree and stream ecosystems.

Twenty-five years later, volcano research is booming

CORVALLIS - If Mount St. Helens caused many tragic deaths when it exploded 25 years ago, it has also saved lives - possibly thousands of them - as the lessons learned and the studies spawned by this catastrophic event set the stage for a new generation of scientific research into the world of volcanoes.

Geologists at Oregon State University say that the May, 1980, eruption of Mount St. Helens gave researchers an unprecedented opportunity to see and monitor volcanic forces in action, obtain data and develop new avenues of research on volcanism.

Those efforts are still picking up speed, they say, and millions of dollars of promising studies are under way at OSU that are trying to trace volcanic action to its geological foundations deep in the Earth.

"Being able to actually see and monitor the ground deformations and 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens really opened some eyes in our research community," said Frank Tepley, an assistant professor of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU. "We learned a tremendous amount from that event and used it to help understand what we see elsewhere in the geologic record. We're now in a position where we can make pretty rapid progress in understanding volcanism at a very basic level."

Although the Pacific Northwest landscape is dominated by towering volcanoes, the science of plate tectonics is well-established, and monitors can record every hiccup of active volcanoes, there is still much that scientists don't understand about these awesome geologic forces.

"In general terms, we can tell you the environments where volcanoes occur, why they are there, where the heat comes from, and how eruptions occur in a crude sense," said Adam Kent, an assistant professor of geosciences at OSU, and one of a group of experts working in volcanology and petrology.

But the list of what the scientists still don't know is just as long - where the actual material comes from that becomes magma, what pathways it takes to move to the surface of the of the Earth, the time scale of these processes, what controls the magma's ascent and - most importantly - when and why a major eruption will take place.

"The biggest difference right now is we can ask much better questions about the fundamental forces of volcanism," said Roger Nielsen, chair of the OSU Department of Geosciences "We're in an era of analytical microchemistry, which will help tell us about the larger forces really at work. And we're tackling difficult issues, such as what might happen in a few years, not just tomorrow or next week."

In collaboration with experts at the U.S. Geological Survey, Portland State University, the University of Oregon, and Hewlett Packard, a whole range of new technologies have been obtained and studies are under way. They include:

  • A new $1 million Electron Microprobe Laboratory at OSU is providing detailed and improved analysis of minerals and glass, helping researchers to understand the exact composition of volcanic materials and where they came from.


  • An ICP mass spectrometry facility, including equipment for laser ablation microchemistry studies, can reveal the isotopic and trace element characteristics of materials.


  • A number of new studies of volcanic rocks that apply this new technology, and new satellite imaging techniques are now taking place in the Cascade Range.


  • An NSF-funded project lead by Anita Grunder, a professor of volcanic geology at OSU, is coordinating studies of the volcanic rocks along the axis of the Cascade Range in order to understand the geochemistry and structure of the Earth that the lavas passed through.
  • Another NSF-funded study involving a west-east transect of the Central Oregon Cascade Range is examining the chemistry of volatiles and trace elements, looking for the key signals about the deep causes of volcanic eruptions within Earth's mantle.


  • The role of ancient water that was carried by subduction processes deep into the Earth millions of years ago is at the forefront of research, since it may hold the key to understanding the explosive nature of Cascade volcanoes and the way that water affects how the materials in the deep Earth melt.


  • New clues to volcanic action are being provided by "melt inclusions," microscopic droplets of lava that have been trapped within a crystal, almost like a volcanic fossil, and can help scientists learn about conditions at the time the lava existed long before it erupted.

Despite not being able to answer questions about exactly when and where the next big volcanic event may occur - that's a little like the dicey science of earthquake prediction, researchers say - the lessons learned in recent years have already saved lives. Taken together, the information gathered will help us to understand in greater detail where the lavas come from, what they do on the way to the surface and why they behave the way they do.

"The researchers in the 1980s would be amazed at what we can do now," said Nielsen. "Much of what we learned from Mount St. Helens helped to save thousands of lives in the Philippines when Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991."

An OSU graduate student, Michael Rowe, is now working with the USGS at Mount St. Helens, taking "fingerprints" of volcanic ash. Through sophisticated new tests, researchers are able to determine the age of the magma the ash came from, where the magma was and how fast it had been moving.

The science is getting better in many respects and leading to constant advances, the researchers say. But they are also quick to concede it has room for improvement and that volcanic hazards are still very difficult to predict.

A helicopter landed at what appeared to be a safe site in the crater of Mount St. Helens not long ago on a science mission - a volcanic area that has, in general, received more scientific study in the past 25 years than just about anywhere on Earth.

Just 36 hours after the helicopter's landing, that exact site blew up in a volcanic explosion.


Story By: 

Roger Nielsen, 541-737-1235


CORVALLIS - The National Academy of Sciences has appointed Wayne C. Huber, a professor of water resources engineering at Oregon State University, to chair a high-profile national research committee charged with reviewing a massive, $8 billion, 30-year restoration project in the Everglades.

Huber will serve on the Committee on Independent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration Progress, part of the National Research Council, and will help prepare a report to Congress during the next two years on progress of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

"Everglades restoration is important for the whole country," said Huber, who is a professor in OSU's Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering. "The Everglades themselves are a unique national treasure, and under the 50-50 federal-state cost-sharing agreement, all federal taxpayers are paying half the $8 billion bill over the 30-year restoration project lifetime."

The historic greater Everglades ecosystem stretches more than 200 miles, from Orlando in the north to Everglades National Park, southwest of Miami, and is home to an enormous variety of sub-tropical wildlife. The whole south Florida region, and especially the "River of Grass" inland from Miami, has been encroached upon for more than 120 years, with attendant floods, droughts and pollution.

"If the restoration effort does not succeed, the ecology of Everglades National Park and other substantial natural areas may continue to decline," Huber said.

The essence of the restoration plan is to return the Everglades hydrology to as natural a condition as possible by preventing human-made drainage of water to the ocean, with the hope that the ecology of the Everglades will respond positively. Since water is also needed by urban areas and agriculture, a key aspect of restoration progress will be to ensure that the natural system receives its allocated share of this precious and limited resource.

The review that Huber will lead will assess progress in restoring all the land and water managed by the state and federal government within the South Florida Ecosystem, as well as scientific and engineering issues that might affect progress in achieving the natural system restoration goals.

Huber is an expert in urban hydrology and stormwater management, nonpoint source pollution, and transport processes related to water quality. Prior to joining the OSU faculty in 1991, Huber served as a professor of environmental engineering sciences at the University of Florida.


Wayne Huber, 541-737-6150


CORVALLIS - Oregon State University researchers working with the People's Republic of China have developed a web-based Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping tool they hope will help solve the massive loss of topsoil on high elevation plateaus in western and northern China.

The online mapping system, part of OSU's Spatial Climate Analysis Service, (http://www.ocs.orst.edu/prism/) and linked to the OSU Forage Information System, (http://forages.oregonstate.edu/), is designed to let users quickly identify grasses and legumes that are best adapted to the climate and soils of a particular geographic location.

The project's sponsors include the Oregon Seed Council and the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Market Access Program and Emerging Markets Program.

China is keenly interested in the project because they need grasses that are well-suited to slow the soil erosion that is gradually turning large areas of the country into desert, the researchers say. Enormous dust storms in northern China have blown as far east as the west coast of the United States.

"The Chinese have recognized the degraded condition of many of their semi-arid rangelands since the 1970s," said David Hannaway, OSU Extension forage specialist. "Some of these areas are high plateaus that receive little rain or snowfall and are very cold in the winter. There are too many people and too many animals on these grasslands due to dramatic population growth in China and subsequent demand for increased food production.

"The result has been severe overgrazing that has almost exhausted forage grass resources and led to desertification in marginal areas," Hannaway added.

The challenge for China's land managers is to find forage grass species and varieties that are well-adapted to the extreme climates of these areas and get them established and growing in the shortest possible time, Hannaway explained.

Hannaway and Chris Daly, an OSU climatologist with experience in developing climate maps, began work on creating a 'forage crop selection tool' in the late 1990s with the goal of building an online information system capable of matching forage species growth requirements with the soils and climate characteristics of particular areas. That project has now evolved into the Species Suitability modeling system available online at http://mistral.coas.oregonstate.edu/forages/.

"China's interest in this project was a tremendous opportunity for us because of all the resources they are investing in the agricultural development of these lands," said Daly. "They saw our project as an important step forward in getting erosion problems under control."

A wealth of information on climate, soils and plant species is available from many sources, but it is not always easily accessible, Daly said. The goal of the project has been to put all that information together in one tool that users can easily access via the Internet, he added.

"The dynamic feature of this tool is that it can create new forage species suitability maps when quantitative tolerances for that species are entered," said Daly. "The user designates the area of interest and the tool uses climate and soil maps of the area to show where the forage crop species selected would be most likely to grow successfully."

According to Hannaway, the Chinese want to establish forage grasses over huge areas with a broad range of climate characteristics.

"Because these high plateau areas cover thousands of square miles, it just isn't practical there to conduct on-the-ground planting trials to find out what species of forage grasses are best adapted to the different regions with their varying climates," Hannaway said. "The species suitability mapping tool allows us to take a bit of a short cut in this process.

"It's still necessary to do some planting trials to validate our maps, but we can jump a few steps ahead by letting the mapping tool identify the forage crop species most likely to succeed," he added.

Daly and Hannaway believe the web-based mapping tool may have far-reaching impact.

"Although our project focuses on China, the technology we're using can be configured to work anywhere in the world," said Daly. "This tool has tremendous potential for agricultural and environmental uses in any country where growers or land managers need to find desirable plant species quickly that are well-adapted to local growing conditions."


David Hannaway, 541-737-5863

Programs airing on OPAN to examine salmon issues

CORVALLIS - The Oregon Sea Grant program at Oregon State University will explore biological, economic, and social issues concerning salmon in the Pacific Northwest on the new Oregon Public Affairs Network (OPAN). Some of Sea Grant's award-winning educational videos will air on OPAN the next three Thursday evenings at 7 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 17, features "Return of the Salmon," a half-hour documentary premiered on Oregon Public Broadcasting and the winner of two national awards. The program offers an overview of causes of the historic decline of salmon populations, importance of watersheds in restoration, and the actions of watershed groups.

The second Thursday, Feb. 24, offers three short videos by Sea Grant. "Life Cycle of the Salmon" captures the story of the salmon's life with images that reveal its world, often from an underwater point of view. In an interview, former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber reflects on the biological and cultural importance of salmon, his approach to environmental policy, and his belief that individual Oregonians will make the difference in restoration. In "Salmon: Why Bother?" six concerned Oregonians with varying perspectives answer the title question candidly and personally.

On Thursday, March 3, "Coming Home Was Easy" explores the history and culture of salmon trolling through the recollections of 15 fishermen and women. Their honest, funny, and thoughtful stories put a personal face on the business of fishing. So does historic footage and photographs taken by the trollers themselves, which mixes with contemporary footage in this award-winning documentary.

OPAN is a nonprofit network bringing public issues and government to the living rooms and computer terminals of Oregonians. Modeled after the national C-SPAN network, OPAN is a partnership among OSU, the State Legislative Media Service, Oregon Wireless Instructional Network (WIN) and local cable access centers in Multnomah, Lane, Polk, Linn, Benton and Deschutes counties.

Local cable networks that will broadcast the Sea Grant series include: the Eugene area, Channel 21; Corvallis Channel 27; the Portland area, Channel 29; Monmouth/Independence, Channel 17; Lane and Douglas County areas, Channel 9.

For more information about OPAN programming and for a channel locator with other local times for these salmon programs, see: http://www.opan.org. For more information about Oregon Sea Grant's educational videos and publications, see: http://seagrant.oregonstate.edu/sgpubs/.


John Greydanus, 541-737-9099

Good news in the forecast? Oregon could face wet spring

CORVALLIS - Oregon's dry winter is bad news for rain lovers, but if history holds true, Pacific Northwest residents may be in for a wet spring.

"Historically, dry winters preceded by a wet fall are very likely to be followed by a wet spring," said George Taylor, an atmospheric scientist at Oregon State University who serves as the state climatologist.

And late last summer, through early fall, it was wet.

Portland was 1.75 inches above normal for August precipitation, hitting 2.68 inches for the month. September actually dipped below normal by 0.62 for the Portland area, but the rain was back in October, hitting 0.48 inches above normal.

"There are always a lot of variables in rainfall for specific spots throughout the region," Taylor said, "but in general, August, September and October were wetter than average throughout Oregon."

Then came November and wet and wild turned into dry and mild, said Taylor, a faculty member in OSU's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.

Precipitation totals at Taylor's home base in Corvallis show 12.08 inches of precipitation from October 2004 through January 2005. That's the seventh driest such period on record for the Corvallis area since records started being kept in 1889, he said. In a normal year, precipitation would total 23.85 inches during the four-month span.

Statewide, it was the same story, except in southeastern Oregon, which actually has done better than the rest of the state this winter, Taylor said.

"Ironically, southeast Oregon has been the driest part of the state for the last several years," he pointed out. And while the dry weather has made everyone from farmers to municipal water managers nervous, if history repeats itself, the state may escape water woes this summer.

"We don't even need a particularly wet spring," Taylor said. "For example, 15.58 inches is the normal rainfall for February through May in Corvallis. If we got 10 to 12 inches of rain or more for that period, it would probably be OK - it would help a great deal."

Even Oregon's dismal snowpack, which is at 32 percent of normal in early February, while disheartening, isn't necessarily ruinous.

"We still have time for it to build," Taylor said, explaining that snow typically accumulates in Oregon's mountains until April 1.

"We certainly are not going to make up our current deficit. But a wet spring accomplishes much the same thing because it's coming closer to demand."

Timing is the key for this season, Taylor said. Oregon needs to receive the water just prior to demand. And demand creeps up as late spring blossoms and municipal and agricultural water use leaps.

The Oregon Drought Council meets Feb. 22 to discuss water supplies. Comprised of state and federal representatives, the council will assess the issues and then advise Gov. Ted Kulongoski. It appears several counties are already preparing to ask the governor to declare drought emergencies in their regions, Taylor said.

While the winter of 2004-05 has been dry, it's far from lows recorded in 1976-77, the worst since records have been kept. From October 1976 through January 1977, 5.1 inches of precipitation were recorded in Corvallis - 18.75 inches below average, Taylor said.

The second worst year was 1891 when 9.42 inches of winter precipitation was recorded in Corvallis.

In 2001, the fourth driest year on record and the most recent dry year, 10.92 inches of winter precipitation fell in Corvallis. The winter was followed by a very dry spring with only 7.49 inches recorded.

"That was the year that Detroit Reservoir was virtually empty," Taylor said.


George Taylor, 541-737-5694