environment and natural resources

OSU to Study Air Pollutant's Impact on Chinese, U.S. Health

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Scientists at Oregon State University and China's Peking University plan to use part of a $12.4 million grant to study the impact that the burning of fuels like coal and biomass – as well as the smoking of meat – may have on the health of residents of China and the United States.

Additionally, the research will help determine the cancer-causing potential of certain air masses and where they came from, said OSU chemist and toxicologist Staci Simonich, the lead U.S. researcher on the project.

The research, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, will focus on air pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). They're produced when biomass (like straw and wood) and fossil fuels (like coal and gas) are burned as well as when meat is smoked or grilled. PAH compounds, some of which have been shown to cause cancer in humans, can attach to particles, like soot, and blow thousands of miles through the air and settle in the bottoms of lakes and rivers.

In China, which is a huge consumer of coal and a major emitter of PAHs, researchers will measure how much and what types of PAHs Chinese residents in 12 homes in the Beijing and Tianjin area are inhaling over the course of two years, starting in 2010. They'll analyze the urine of the 30 participants to find out what types of PAHs they’re exposed to. They’ll also ask them to wear air sampling devices, including ones that are worn as backpacks and have a motor that sucks in air. Air samplers will also be placed inside and outside their homes as well as in six locations throughout the Beijing and Tianjin area.

"The combined information on which PAH metabolites people are excreting and which PAHs are in air will help us identify the sources of the PAHs," said Simonich, who is a member of a National Academy of Sciences panel that studies air pollutants entering and leaving the United States.

The Chinese participants will live in three settings: urban apartments that use natural gas for cooking and heating, suburban residences that use coal stoves for these two purposes, and farm houses that use coal and biofuels to do so.

Across the Pacific Ocean in Oregon, air samplers will be set up at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Scientists will also ask a handful of tribal members to wear air samplers on several occasions while they're curing fish and game in smokehouses, which produce PAHs. Urine samples will be taken before and after the food smoking events.

Scientists selected these two groups because they wanted to study populations that were exposed to PAHs but from apparently different sources to understand how the different PAH mixtures are metabolized in the body and excreted in urine.

The tribal members, however, might not be inhaling PAHs solely from the smokehouses, said Anna Harding, an OSU public health professor who is one of the leaders of the portion of the project involving the American Indians. Their reservation is downwind of a coal-fired power plant in Boardman, Ore., and it's also home to a truck stop where diesel exhaust is emitted. Additionally, it's in an agricultural area where some fields are burned.

Also as part of the project, scientists will collect air samples from Okinawa, Japan; Portland, Ore.; a rural site in Oregon's Clackamas County; and Mount Bachelor, which is near Bend, Ore. However, people at these sites won't be asked to wear air samplers. Instead, samples will be taken using stationary equipment.

"This combination of sites will help the team understand if PAH emissions from Asia increase the PAH concentrations in populated areas of the western United States," Simonich said.

After collecting air samples, researchers will test the PAHs on bacteria to assess possible damage to DNA. They'll also test them on zebrafish, pregnant mice, and human lung and liver cell lines to find out if the PAHs cause cancer.

Scientists will also see if the PAHs morph, through photochemical reactions, into cancer-causing nitro- and oxy-PAH compounds as they attach to particles and are blown across the ocean to the West Coast of the United States. This will help the researchers understand if the air masses that reach the United States are more or less toxic than when they left Asia.

With additional funding from the National Science Foundation, researchers will simulate this transformation in laboratories at OSU and the University of Bordeaux in France so they can better understand how the changes in chemical composition happen.

The air sampling sites were selected for strategic reasons. Okinawa was chosen because it's downwind of Asia and because Simonich previously conducted research there that traced PAHs back to China. Portland was selected because it's home to a low-elevation urban setting, and researchers want to know if the air masses from Asia, which typically travel at higher elevations, swoop that low, Simonich said. Clackamas County was chosen because it's downwind of Portland.

Mt. Bachelor made the list because its roughly 9,000-foot summit is accessible by chairlift and its high elevation makes it a good place for capturing pollutants from Asia, Simonich said. Additionally, she and her team have been collecting air samples there since 2004 and have detected chemicals from pesticides, fossil fuels, nonstick cookware coatings and stain-repellants. They traced them back to Asia, California, Oregon and Washington using computer models that followed the path of winds. Their findings have been published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

In her new research, Simonich will be collaborating with professor Shu Tao at Peking University. She worked with him last summer while monitoring the air quality in Beijing before and during the Olympics.


Staci Simonich,

Fifty years of collaboration: Warm Springs tribes, OSU build on historic partnership

CORVALLIS, Ore.— For some 11,000 years, native peoples of the Pacific Northwest gathered at Oregon’s Celilo Falls to fish its enormous salmon runs and trade such a wide range of goods that historians described the area in the 19th century as the “Wall Street of the West.”

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam project in 1957 flooded the iconic falls. When the federal government shortly thereafter compensated multiple tribes for loss of fishing rights caused by the project, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs chose to invest a portion of those funds in a “seminal economic development study” conducted by Oregon State University, beginning a close relationship between the Warm Springs tribes and OSU that now spans five decades.

On April 6, Tribal Council members and OSU leaders will renew and expand that partnership with a day of presentations and sharing at the university’s main campus that will culminate in a new memorandum of understanding between the Confederated Tribes and the university. Tribal Council Chairman Ron Suppah and OSU President Ed Ray will be on hand for the signing and multiple meetings throughout the day.

“This is perhaps the most profound example of Oregon State fulfilling its Land Grant mission to serve the people of Oregon,” said Ray. “The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs represent peoples and cultures that were here long before Oregon was Oregon, and we are honored to continue our rich, mutually beneficial relationship with the tribes. April 6 will be a special day for OSU.”

The study undertaken in the early days of the relationship, the Warm Springs Research Project, holds more than historic importance for the tribes, it continues to inform Warm Springs management and practices today.

“The study led to a strategic philosophy and our first comprehensive plan,” said Suppah. The plan addressed timber resources, rangeland management, education and business development. It has been updated several times since then and taken on a new name: “The People’s Plan.” Numerous enterprises were established through the plan, including a lumber company, forest products business, museum and Kah Nee Tah hotel and casino.

The Tribal-OSU bond is not only long lived, but well respected. Stories of dedicated Extension agents and their work with tribal members, both young and old, are fondly remembered. “Over the years we always looked at OSU—especially Extension and 4-H— as an active part in our lives,” Suppah said. “And we have been highly reliant on OSU professors, routinely working with them for years.”

As part of the April 6 agenda, Warm Springs leaders will get a detailed look at OSU Valley Library online resources that are available to the tribes for instructional, research and other purposes. Faculty presentations will focus on tribal interests related to wood products, natural resources, wind and solar energy, livestock and range management and engineering.

The updated memo of understanding creates new opportunities for the tribes and the university, according to Shawn Morford, chair of the OSU Extension Service office in Warm Springs.

“Although traditional culture has always been part of the relationship, new language reinforces a call for local expertise and cultural knowledge and skills,” she said. “Also, for the first time, the document acknowledges both indigenous and western science as respected resources for education and research.”

The updated memorandum also states that OSU and the Warm Springs tribes will work together to explore ways to link Warm Springs community members with OSU credit courses and degree programs.

About 3,500 tribal members live in or near Warm Springs, a valley surrounded by high plateaus, sage, scattered juniper and open range for cattle and wild horses. It is the governing center of the reservation, which includes about 570,000 acres in Jefferson and Wasco counties.

In 1855, a treaty required the Warm Springs and Wasco tribes to relinquish about 10 million acres of land. After the Paiute tribe also settled on the reservation, the three tribes became confederated and established themselves as a self-governing entity in 1937.

The Tribal Council today includes 12 members, all of whom will take part in the April 6 sessions with OSU administrators, faculty and students at the Valley Library, the OSU Native American Longhouse and other key locations around campus, said OSU Foundation development officer Karen Shaw, who is coordinating the visit.


Karen Shaw,

OSU to reopen gardening hotline in Multnomah County

PORTLAND, Ore. – Gardeners in Multnomah County now have a new way to get answers to questions ranging from how to keep black spot off their roses to how to grow beans and blueberries.

All they need to do is pick up the phone.

The Oregon State University Extension Service will open a gardening hotline (503-445-4608) on March 30 for the county's residents, the first time Extension has had one there since 2003 when budget cuts forced it to close its office in the county.

Volunteer Master Gardeners, who are trained by Extension to help answer the public's questions about horticulture, will staff the hotline Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The public can also ask them questions in person by stopping by their office in Portland at 2701 N.W. Vaughn St., Suite 453, during these same hours.

The office is located at the headquarters of the West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, which is providing the equipment, phone line and office space as part of a new partnership.

Extension offices in 27 counties in the state have their own gardening hotlines, and most receive thousands of calls each year. Last year, the hotline in Washington County answered 4,500 calls while the one in Clackamas County responded to 3,500, said Weston Miller, an OSU Extension urban horticulturist for the Portland metro area.

For phone numbers and more information about the gardening hotlines in the Portland metro area, go to http://extension.oregonstate.edu/mg/metro/questions .


Weston Miller,

Help available for first-time gardeners

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The faltering economy combined with interest in healthy food choices has led to an increase in calls to Oregon State University Extension Service county offices with questions about growing food in home gardens – and more calls are expected as spring approaches.

One of the most compelling phone calls came in late fall of last year, according to Gail Langellotto, statewide coordinator of the Master Gardeners program.

"It was a difficult time as gas prices and subsequently the cost of food surpassed the means of many people," she said. “The man on the phone asked, ‘What can I grow that will produce food for my family right now?’"

The worried caller's options for starting a garden late in the fall were limited. But Langellotto had an answer: A container garden would be easiest, she told him, and leafy greens could survive the winter if the containers were placed in the sun, out of the wind, and wrapped with plastic to keep the soil warm.

People who want to start gardening are concerned not only about the price of food, but growing fresh produce that they know is safe. Many also want to know what grows well in their area and how to participate in community gardens, according to reports from county Extension staff members.

Gardening seminars also have seen increasing numbers. A Benton County lecture in January on planning a garden in the Willamette Valley drew a standing-room-only crowd of 220. The number of names on a waiting list to rent plots in the Portland area's 30 community gardens has grown to 1,000, according to Extension's Clackamas County horticulturist Weston Miller, and landowners are offering to donate land for more community gardens.

Gardening help is available at most county Extension offices from home horticulture experts and Master Gardeners, who are trained to answer questions. More than 3,500 Master Gardeners are active in 28 of Oregon's 36 counties as volunteers and last year donated more than 173,000 hours to helping home gardeners.

"When the Master Gardener program began in 1976, its focus was on diagnosing plant problems and offering solutions," Langellotto said. "While still a major focus, Master Gardener volunteers also provide educational programs on topics such as pest management, composting and sustainable landscaping, as well as getting a garden started.”

OSU Extension's, "Growing Your Own," a practical guide to gardening for first-time gardeners, is available online at: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/html/grow/grow/. Copies of a printed version are available at county Extension offices.

Most Extension offices offer gardening classes on a variety of topics. Check with your local Extension county office for details (listed below). Websites for each county are at: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/locations.php

Oregon State University Extension Service county offices:

OSU Extension Service, Baker County
2610 Grove Street
Baker City, OR 97814

OSU Extension Service, Benton County
1849 NW 9th Street
Corvallis, OR 97330-2144

OSU Extension Service, Clackamas County
200 Warner Milne Road
Oregon City, OR 97045

OSU Extension Service, Clatsop County
2001 Marine Drive, Room 210
Astoria, OR 97103

OSU Extension Service, Columbia County
505 N. Columbia River Highway
St. Helens, OR 97051

OSU Extension Service, Coos County
Ohlsen Baxter Building, 631 Alder St.
Myrtle Point, OR 97458
541-572-5263, 1-800-730-4978

OSU Extension Service, Crook County
498 SE Lynn Blvd
Prineville, OR 97754

OSU Extension Service, Curry County Fair Grounds
29390 Ellensburg (Hwy 101)
Gold Beach, OR 97444
541-247-6672, 1-800-356-3986

OSU Extension Service, Deschutes County
3893 SW Airport Way
Redmond, OR 97756-8697

OSU Extension Service, Douglas County
1134 S.E. Douglas
Roseburg, OR 97470
541-672-4461, 1-800-883-7568 (in Douglas County)

OSU Extension Service, Gilliam County
333 S. Main
Condon, OR 97823

OSU Extension Service, Grant County
Courthouse, 201 S. Humboldt, Suite 190
Canyon City, OR 97820

OSU Extension Service, Harney County
450 N. Buena Vista #10
Burns, OR 97720

OSU Extension Service, Hood River County
2990 Experiment Station Drive
Hood River, OR 97031

OSU Extension Service, Southern Oregon Research/Jackson County Extension
569 Hanley Road
Central Point, OR 97502-1251
541-776-7371, 541-772-5165

OSU Extension Service, Jefferson County
34 SE D Street
Madras, OR 97741

OSU Extension Service, Josephine County
215 Ringuette St
Grants Pass, OR 97527

Klamath Basin Research and OSU Extension Service
3328 Vandenberg Road
Klamath Falls, OR 97603

OSU Extension Service, Lake County
103 South E Street
Lakeview OR 97630

OSU Extension Service, Lane County
950 West 13th Avenue
Eugene, OR 97402-3913

OSU Extension Service, Lincoln County
29 SE 2nd Street
Newport, OR 97365-4496

OSU Extension Service, Linn County
Old Armory Building Room 102
104 4th Ave SW
Albany, OR 97321

OSU Extension Service, Malheur County
710 SW Fifth Ave
Ontario, OR 97914

OSU Extension Service, Marion County
3180 Center St NE RM 1361
Salem, OR 97301
503-588-5301, Gardening Questions: 503-373-3770

Morrow County
54173 Hwy 74
Heppner, OR 97836

OSU Extension Service, Polk County
182 SW Academy, Suite 102
Dallas OR 97338

Sherman County
409 Hood St.
Moro OR 97039

OSU Extension Service, Tillamook County
2204 Fourth Street
Tillamook, OR 97141

OSU Extension Service, Umatilla County
Blue Mountain Community College Campus
2411 NW Carden, Ave. Umatilla Hall
Pendleton, Oregon 97801

OSU Extension Service, Umatilla Milton-Freewater
418 N. Main St
Milton-Freewater, OR 97862

OSU Extension Service, Union County
10507 N McAlister Rd, Rm 9
La Grande, OR 97850

Wallowa County
668 NW 1st
Enterprise, OR 97828

Warm Springs Reservation
1110 Wasco St.
Warm Springs, OR 97761

OSU Extension Service, Wasco County
400 E. Scenic Drive, Suite 2.278
The Dalles, OR 97058

OSU Extension Service, Washington County
18640 NW Walker Rd. #1400
Beaverton, OR 97006-8927

Wheeler County
701 Adams St., Room 102
Fossil, OR 97830

OSU Extension Service, Yamhill County
2050 NE Lafayette Avenue
McMinnville, OR 97128
Master Gardeners: 503-434-8918


Gail Langellotto,

Fish Trax: Consumers Can Track Fish, Meet the Fishermen

PORTLAND, Ore. – Seafood lovers who prefer eating local products will soon have another tool at their disposal – a bar-coding system that traces the history of their fish from ocean to market and introduces the buyer to the fishermen who supplied their meal.

It’s all part of a new pilot project called “Pacific Fish Trax,” which will be unveiled Feb. 20 in the Portland area at two New Seasons Market locations – in Cedar Hills (3495 Cedar Hills Blvd.) and Arbor Lodge (6400 N. Interstate).

A joint venture between Oregon State University, the Community Seafood Initiative and Oregon commercial fishermen, Pacific Fish Trax is a combination scientific venture and public outreach effort that is designed to ultimately shed light on the state’s commercial fishing industry and strengthen wild fish runs.

“There is a community of interest involved with Pacific Fish Trax and all of the participants have similar goals of using science to improve management of the resource and to help sustain our seafood harvest,” said Gil Sylvia, an OSU seafood economist and superintendent of the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station in Newport, Ore.

Here’s how it works. Shoppers who purchase albacore tuna fillets at the two New Seasons Market stores beginning on Feb. 20 can stop at specially designed kiosks there and run a bar code on the label through a scanner that will introduce the consumer to the local fisherman who caught the fish, the boat from which it was caught, and the processor who packaged it.

Once home, they can access the Pacific Fish Trax website that will tell them where the fish was caught, its temperature history and other information. Maps and graphics will reveal ocean locations, conditions and even the contour of the seafloor.

Sylvia and others say this type of data has the potential to capture consumers in many venues.

“You can envision a chef at a seafood restaurant or a retailer at New Seasons telling the story of who caught this particular fish, and where it was caught,” Sylvia said. “It’s a way of connecting people directly to the food they eat.”

This is a pilot project to see how consumers respond to such a marketing effort. Three Newport fishermen participated in this first venture and caught about 1,400 pounds of albacore that will be sold under the Pacific Fish Trax system.

Sylvia says this is just the first step and, in fact, the pilot project was supposed to focus on Oregon’s ocean salmon, but the widespread closure of the Pacific Ocean to salmon fishing in 2008 to protect a weak run of Sacramento River fish prompted the project coordinators to opt for albacore.

The pilot marketing effort is part of a larger program that originated at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center called Project CROOS, which stands for Collaborative Research on Oregon’s Ocean Salmon. As part of that project, 100 Oregon commercial fishermen have logged catch locations and ocean conditions of the salmon they’ve caught in 2006 and 2007 and sent fin and tissue sample to the laboratory of OSU geneticist Michael Banks, who runs DNA profiles to look for their river basin of origin.

The effort has been funded in part by the Oregon Innovation Council, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and federal Disaster Relief Funds, administered through the Oregon Salmon Commission and the Oregon Albacore Commission. Other partners include Oregon Sea Grant, NOAA Fisheries and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The idea of Project CROOS is to see if fish from certain rivers school together in the ocean and, if so, where. The scientists have a 94 percent success rate in identifying the origin of the fish, comparing the isotopic signatures with established data banks of 200 rivers in the Northwest, and validating their findings with fish that have coded wire tags. They can run the tests within 24 hours.

Eventually they hope their studies will enable resource managers to make in-season management decisions using real time data that will keep much of the ocean open for fishing while protecting weakened runs.

All of the scientific data gathered will soon be on the Pacific Trax website, available to researchers, the public and the fishermen themselves. It can be accessed after Feb. 20 at: http://www.PacificFishTrax.org

“The fishermen are sharing the data voluntarily because they want to improve the science and enhance the sustainability of the resource,” Sylvia said. “That’s kind of cool. This isn’t something that came through a regulatory agency, it was a grass roots effort.”

Two photos of the kiosk are available as well as a demonstration video. Please credit Lynn Ketchum, Oregon State University, for all images.

• Oregon fisherman Paul Stannard, a participant in the CROOS project, checks out his image on the kiosk: http://www.flickr.com/photos/33247428@N08/3526220499/

• Oregon fisherman Bob Aue, also a participant in the CROOS project, scans a frozen fish fillet with a barcode during a test run of the project: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oregonstateuniversity/4255046400/

• Jeff Feldner, a former commercial fisherman now with OSU-based Oregon Sea Grant, explains on video how the bar code system works: http://oregonstate.edu/media/szvmq

Story By: 

Gil Sylvia,

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Paul Stannard

Paul Stannard

Researchers Find Key Link Between Influenza Prevalence, Absolute Humidity

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study by Oregon researchers has found a significant correlation between “absolute” humidity and influenza virus survival and transmission. When absolute humidity is low – as in peak flu months of January and February – the virus appears to survive longer and transmission rates increase.

Results of the study were published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Researchers have long suspected a link between humidity and flu transmission and prevalence; however, these efforts have focused on relative humidity, according to lead author Jeffrey Shaman, an Oregon State University atmospheric scientist who specializes in ties between climate and disease transmission. Relative humidity is the ratio of air water vapor content to the saturating level, which itself varies with temperature, while absolute humidity quantifies the actual amount of water in the air, irrespective of temperature.

The PNAS study re-analyzed data from a 2007 study published in PLoS Pathogens, which found a tenuous relationship between influenza transmission and relative humidity. Shaman used the team's research data and substituted absolute humidity for relative humidity in analyzing potential correlations with flu transmission. This effort led to additional investigation of the relationship between absolute humidity and influenza “survival,” which is the length of time the virus remains viable once airborne.

"The correlations were surprisingly strong," Shaman said. "When absolute humidity is low, influenza virus survival is prolonged and transmission rates go up.” Shaman's co-author on the study is Melvin Kohn, an epidemiologist with the Oregon Department of Health Services.

The 2007 PLoS Pathogens study, by researchers at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, looked at the effects of temperature and relative humidity on transmission of influenza using influenza-infected guinea pigs in climate-controlled chambers. The researchers used 20 different combinations of temperature and relative humidity in an effort to identify a trigger point for changes in transmission of the virus between infected guinea pigs and adjacent control animals.

In general, the study found that there were more infections when it was colder and drier. However, Shaman and Kohn demonstrated that relative humidity could only explain about 12 percent of the variability of influenza virus transmission from these data. In addition, numerous other experiments, dating back to the 1940s, have shown that low relative humidity favors increased influenza virus survival.

However, in their PNAS analysis, Shaman and Kohn demonstrated that relative humidity only explains about 36 percent of influenza virus survival. The Oregon researchers then retested the various data using absolute humidity and found a dramatic rise in accounting for both transmission (50 percent, up from 12 percent) and survival (90 percent, up from 36 percent).

For decades, researchers have been searching for answers as to why there is such a pronounced seasonality of influenza incidence, which peaks during the winter in temperate regions. Potential explanations are that people spend more time indoors and thus transmit the virus more easily; less sunlight may have a chemical effect on the virus and/or people's immune response; or there might be an unknown environmental control.

The findings of Shaman and Kohn indicate that absolute humidity is the control. Though counter-intuitive, absolute humidity is much higher in the summer. On a typical summer day in Oregon there is twice as much water vapor in the air as in winter, even though it may be raining.

“In some areas of the country, a typical summer day can have four times as much water vapor as a typical winter day – a difference that exists both indoors and outdoors,” Shaman said. “Consequently, outbreaks of influenza typically occur in winter when low absolute humidity conditions strongly favor influenza survival and transmission.”

Story By: 

Jeff Shaman,

Report: OSU reduced net greenhouse emissions 30 percent in 2007-08

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Large purchases of renewable energy – funded by a fee that Oregon State University students imposed upon themselves – helped OSU reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent during the 2007-08 fiscal year, according to a new report.

Conducted by the university’s Sustainability Office, the second annual inventory measured the university’s greenhouse gas emissions across the state, according to Brandon Trelstad, who coordinates OSU’s sustainability efforts.

The inventory includes not just the university’s main campus, but its Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, the OSU-Cascades Campus in Bend, OSU Extension Service offices in most Oregon counties, and various facilities operated by Forest Research Laboratory and Agricultural Experiment Station.

Overall, the university had a 2 percent increase in gross emissions, which Trelstad attributes primarily to increased consumption of natural gas. “Some of that could have been weather-related,” he said. “We’ll have to check the weather data.”

The university also experienced small increases in electricity consumption and air miles flown. All of those increases, however, were more than offset by purchases of renewable energy funded primarily by student fees. In 2007, OSU students overwhelmingly voted to assess themselves a fee of up to $8.50 per student each term to pay for “green” energy. The proposal passed by a margin of 71 percent to 29 percent, making OSU one of the first universities in the country to adopt such a measure.

“It has made a significant difference,” Trelstad said. “Those funds have boosted our ability to purchase renewable energy certificates from off-site sources, including wind energy, biogas and biomass.”

Earlier this year, OSU students gained national attention for their energy generation. Oregon State became one of the first universities in the country to tap the kinetic energy generated by students working out on cardio machines and turning it into a form of renewable energy. OSU retrofitted 22 elliptical exercise machines in its student fee-funded Dixon Recreation Center and is collecting the power produced by students and feeding it back into the power grid.

The effort will produce an estimated 3,500 kilowatt hours of electricity in a year, said Trelstad, enough to power a “small, very efficient house.”

“The amount of power generated isn’t overwhelming,” he said, “but it really helps students think about issues relating to energy production and consumption and encourages their activity in other areas. OSU students are quite energy-conscious – and becoming more so every day.”

The university’s ability to use renewable power should get a boost later this year when the new $55 million energy center becomes fully operational, replacing a decades-old steam heating plant. The new center will allow OSU to produce about half of its electricity through co-generation.

OSU’s comprehensive inventory, which is available online at http://oregonstate.edu/sustainability/energy/climate.html, tracks the university’s carbon footprint by measuring not just energy consumption, but commuting miles logged by faculty, staff and students; air miles traveled during the year; solid waste taken to local landfills; refrigerants used in dining halls, restaurants and research; and even fertilizer and animal waste from the university’s agricultural programs.

“Every year we get a little bit better in our calculations and analysis,” said Greg Smith, who helped Trelstad conduct the inventory. “There is a lot of interest on campus – from faculty, staff and administration, as well as students – in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions as much as we can.”

Story By: 

Brandon Trelstad,

Hummingbird “Tag” Suggests Fragmentation May Be Part of Pollination Crisis

CORVALLIS, Ore. – To find out the cause of what’s being called a global “pollination crisis,” researchers at Oregon State University have successfully attached an electronic tracking device to a hummingbird for the first time – and the darting travels of the tiny bird may be pointing the way to at least part of the problem.

In the tropical forests of Costa Rica, this green hermit hummingbird, which is an important pollinator of some forest plants, in essence refused to visit isolated sites and traveled only in narrow corridors of the remaining forest – even if that meant taking the roundabout way back home.

This supports the theory that fragmentation and disturbance of landscapes may indeed be a significant contributor to pollination problems that are plaguing plants around the world, researchers say.

The findings will be published soon in Biology Letters, a professional journal.

“It’s been widely observed in many studies that we’re seeing a global decline in both pollinators and plant diversity, to the point that many ecologists are calling it a crisis,” said Matthew Betts, an OSU assistant professor of forest ecosystems and society. “It’s less clear exactly what is causing this. But it’s a serious concern, since 70-80 percent of all plants are pollinated by animals.”

Most of those pollinators, the researchers said, are insects – but it’s not practical to put electronic trackers on the back of a bee. So the OSU scientists moved up to a slightly larger pollinator that was just barely big enough to handle a transmitter – a hummingbird. With recent advances in the miniaturization of tracking devices and a little non-toxic eyelash glue on the bird’s lower back, they were able to attach an electronic tracker for about two weeks to green hermit hummingbirds that live in tropical forests.

“These birds fly very quickly and in theory they could move easily through open spaces,” said Adam Hadley, a doctoral student at OSU. “But we found that they chose to stick closely to areas with forest cover and take the long route back home, possibly to stay close to food or in fear of predation.”

The birds would move along corridors that connected larger patches of forest, the research found, but would not go through open areas to visit isolated fragments. With no pollination of their plants, the researchers said, it’s likely that plant diversity in these separated fragments will ultimately decline. The study supports the importance of remnant forest strips and riparian buffers that connect separated forest fragments in heavily managed landscapes.

What was observed in this case with a bird in a tropical setting, the scientists said, cannot immediately be extrapolated to what insects or other pollinators would do in a temperate zone.

“This does not prove what other animal pollinators would do in similar circumstances,” Betts said. “However, most animals need or prefer a connectivity of the resources they depend on. This does support the concept that landscape fragmentation is restricting the movement of pollinators, and that may be a part of our pollination problem.

“If we get to the point where almost all patches of forests are fragmented, it’s possible that could completely disrupt forest plant ecosystems,” he said.

Story By: 

Matthew Betts,

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green hermit2

Green Hermit Hummingbird

New wood composites course to aid industry professionals

CORVALLIS, Ore. – An online short course series on wood-based composite science will begin May 11 to provide professionals with a fundamental knowledge of wood as an engineering material in the manufacture of wood-based composites.

To expand the reach of its wood-based composite manufacturing training resources, the College of Forestry at Oregon State University has teamed up with the Wood-Based Composites Center, the Oregon Wood Innovation Center and OSU Extended Campus to deliver the program in a 19-course online series. Courses will be taught by experts in the field of wood science and technology, and have been selected from top universities, government research labs and industry.

The series will focus on manufacturing efficiency, product performance and troubleshooting of processing problems.

“Helping ensure that wood products manufacturers have access to our faculty and facilities in a key goal,” said Scott Leavengood, director of the Oregon Wood Innovation Center. “There is an opportunity here to provide education to industry personnel who cannot spend days away from the mill.”

Each course is five weeks long and includes five to 10 hours of instruction. The fee for a 10-hour course is $750. Students who complete courses from the series may be eligible for a certificate of mastery, which requires a minimum of 120 hours of instruction.

More information can be obtained on the web at http://www.ecampus.oregonstate.edu/woodscience. For information about other online programs, degrees and courses, contact OSU Extended Campus at (800) 667-1465 or visit OSU Extended Campus.


Fred Kamke,

Green buildings laboratory to boost sustainable construction

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Imagine taking wood that’s soft and weak and using a combination of heat, steam and pressure to transform it into a product more than twice as strong as Douglas fir. And consider that this wood comes from trees that grow incredibly fast and thrive in the Pacific Northwest.

Such technology, experts say, may produce a new type of wood product industry in Oregon based on hybrid poplar – and nurtured by a new Green Buildings Material Testing Laboratory being set up at Oregon State University. It is one part of a new grant announced today from the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center, or Oregon BEST.

“When hybrid poplar took off in the Pacific Northwest, it was envisioned that most of it would be used for pulp and paper,” said Fred Kamke, the JELD-WEN professor of wood science and engineering at OSU. “It’s a low-density wood with low strength. But we want to make it stronger, stiffer and harder, and able to compete for other uses that have a much higher value. And I think we can do that.”

Hybrid poplar trees can grow up to 12 feet a year and be produced in plantations much like an agricultural crop, but the wood itself is about 60 percent voided space. Researchers are using a technique called “viscoelastic thermal compression” that combines moisture, heat and mechanical compression to reduce that space, creating veneers that resemble hardwoods in their strength and density.

“Some of the first uses of this type of product might be as structural beams or perhaps wood flooring,” Kamke said. “Ultimately, these types of wood products could be so strong they might replace steel and concrete in some construction purposes.”

The new laboratory, Kamke said, will be very important in helping researchers to produce samples more quickly and efficiently, and test the results. A challenge in the near future will be to scale up what’s already working in the laboratory to commercial applications.

The new Green Building Materials Laboratory is a collaboration of OSU’s College of Engineering, College of Forestry, and one of Oregon BEST’s shared-use research facilities, and will be designed to serve as a showcase for green building in Oregon.

In the first year of the laboratory’s work, a high intensity concrete mixer is also envisioned, that incorporates non-traditional materials. Other initiatives are planned in future years as the laboratory evolves. An accelerated pavement testing machine will be constructed to more effectively analyze warm mix asphalt and “perpetual pavements,” which are types of sustainable asphalt pavement technology. Advanced fiber-reinforced composites can be created that will enhance new construction and help repair and lengthen the life of existing structures.

And as more of these renewable, bio-based materials become incorporated into buildings of the future, evaluation systems will be needed to assess the long-term effects of wetting, humidity, temperature cycles and exposure to biological agents. Toward that goal, an assessment facility for green building systems is envisioned, which will be able to simulate everything from ultraviolet light and humidity to wind-driven rain.

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Fred Kamke,

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