Unseen devastation from tsunamis can destroy coral reefs

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The large tsunami two years ago in American Samoa has given scientists a chance to examine an issue that often seems of little significance in the immediate aftermath of these massive disasters – the little-seen, rarely studied but often frightening damage done to offshore coral reefs.

A new study by scientists from Oregon and Michigan, done with a remotely operated undersea vehicle, or ROV, surveyed large areas of that area’s coral reefs, and revealed significant damage from sediment, debris, and the enormous forces of both the incoming and outgoing waves.

Corals are delicate living organisms that can only survive in shallow, nearshore areas where they get adequate sunlight. That’s also where the tsunami wave action is most violent, and they are especially vulnerable to its impacts – but often ignored in the understandable concern about terrestrial damage and loss of life.

“Very little until now has been known about the impact of tsunamis on coral reefs,” said Solomon Yim, a professor of structural and ocean engineering at Oregon State University and co-author of the study, which was supported by the National Science Foundation.

“These are huge forces and often these events have happened in remote locations of the world where we had little opportunity to study them,” Yim said. “American Samoa gave us the chance to use some very sophisticated equipment to gain a much better understanding of what damage is being done to coral reefs, and what might be done in the future to help reduce it.”

On Sept. 29, 2009, a magnitude 8.3 subduction zone earthquake near American Samoa sent waves crashing into many islands, destroying buildings and eroding coastlines with waves up to 20 feet high that came almost a mile inland and killed more than 180 people. It was the world’s largest earthquake that year.

The onshore devastation was heavy. Although not seen at the time, so was the underwater damage to coral reefs.

“We found tires, clothing, sheet metal roofs, and window frames littered on the reefs,” Yim said. “Much of the coral was broken or covered with sediments, and some of it died as a result. Both the run-up and run-down of the tsunami waves were very destructive. It will probably take years to decades for the reef to recover.”

The sediments and debris carried by the rapid drawdown back into the sea can be harmful to the delicate marine ecosystem, the researchers noted in their report. They introduce bacteria and toxic chemicals, erode the seafloor and destroy the reef.

Work with the ROV examined the reefs five weeks after the tsunami, when they were still deeply scarred. Some corals were ripped up and tossed onshore, others broken and sucked back into deep water. In either case they would not survive. Hours of video footage were made of the damage, and the research indicated the drawdown of the water was even more destructive than the incoming waves.

Most of the damage and debris was found in comparatively shallow ocean waters, about 30 to 70 feet deep.

Since so little is known about the damage to coral reefs by tsunamis, more studies are needed to examine the influence of water depth, three-dimensional effects, wave-wave interactions and coral strengths, the researchers said.

“In the aftermath of a destructive tsunami, there may be some things we could do to aid reef recovery after the more immediate needs onshore are tended to,” Yim said. “There’s probably not much we can do about the fine sediments that bury the coral, but we could perhaps clean up some of the larger debris and building materials like sheet metal roofing that cover up the coral. It’s a significant challenge.”

Collaborating on this research, which was published in Marine Geology, a professional journal, were Y.L. Young and D.L. Witt, scientists from the University of Michigan. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the video was produced by Paul Hillman of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Media Contact: 

Solomon Yim, 541-737-6894

OSU establishes center for Latino/Latina studies

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has established a new Center for Latino/Latina Studies and Engagement, and named a prominent faculty member as interim director.

Susana Rivera-Mills, a professor of Spanish and diversity advancement, will direct the new center, known as CL@SE (pronounced claw-SAY), which is designed to meet the research and outreach needs relating to Oregon’s growing Latino population. Rivera-Mills also is the associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and has been an active leader on the OSU campus in advancing diversity.

The new center emerged from discussions by leadership from OSU, the Oregon University System, and the State Board of Higher Education, according to Sabah Randhawa, OSU provost and executive vice president.

“Research and outreach on issues surrounding the Latino population are critical to enable success of this growing population segment in Oregon,” Randhawa said. “For OSU, the work will directly contribute to enhancing student retention and success of Latino students, and of all under-represented minorities.”

The new center will integrate studies of Latino communities in the United States with analyses of their histories, politics, cultures and societies, officials say. Among the research themes that will be explored are colonialism, race, gender, nationalism, globalism, immigration, economic development, language and identity.

“The center will promote engaged research and outreach devoted to advancing knowledge and understanding of Latino contributions and the issues surrounding this population in our state, region and beyond,” Rivera-Mills said. “I am enthusiastic about the opportunities. Our action-based agenda will promote economic, political, physical and educational well-being and development.”

Rivera-Mills has been on the OSU faculty since 2007, and has mentored Latino students and been involved with the university’s internationalization and transnational efforts, as well as been a leader in student engagement and global learning initiatives. She specializes in Spanish language maintenance and loss, sociolinguistics, and Spanish as a first and second language.

CL@SE will be affiliated with both the OSU Provost’s Office and the Research Office, officials say.

“Our recently developed research agenda emphasizes relevance, integration, collaboration and leadership,” said Richard Spinrad, OSU’s vice president for research. “Its principles support team-based research, student involvement, partnership with communities, and transdisciplinary research. CL@SE has at its core all of these principles and reflects the values of the OSU research community.”

Scott Reed, OSU’s vice provost for University Outreach and Engagement, said Rivera-Mills is ideally suited to direct the launch of the new center. “The advancement of social justice is among the important things that will be fostered with Susana’s able leadership,” Reed said.

CL@SE will collaborate with several units on campus, especially the colleges of liberal arts, science and education, and Outreach and Engagement.

Media Contact: 

Rick Spinrad, 541-737-0662

Multimedia Downloads

Susana Rivera-Mills
Susana Rivera-Mills

OSU Diversity Summit features poet Joaquín Zihuatanejo and TV's Nancy Giles

Acclaimed performers Joaquin Zihuatanejo and Nancy Giles, who use their talents to create thought-provoking dialogue on society and social justice, will give public performances at Oregon State University during the OSU Diversity Summit being held Nov. 2-3.

On Wednesday, Nov. 2, Zihuatanejo, a poet, spoken word artist and award-winning teacher, will perform his spoken word routine. Giles, best known for her work as a comedian, actress and CBS Morning contributor, will also speak at the event and answer questions from the audience.

The event is free and open to the public as part of the OSU Diversity Summit. Zihuatanejo’s performance begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by Giles at 7 p.m. Both segments will be in the Austin Auditorium of LaSells Stewart Center, 875 S.W. 26th St., Corvallis.

Zihuatanejo was born and raised in the barrio of East Dallas, Texas. He strives to capture the duality of the Chicano culture in his poems. His sometimes brutal but honest work depicts the essence of barrio life and the dreams of a boy who found refuge in stories and poems. In 2008, Zihuatanejo won the Individual World Poetry Slam Championship, besting 77 poets representing cities all over North America, France and Australia.

Giles has found acclaim from TV audiences with her social commentaries and from theater fans with her solo pieces. She has been called a funny, yet provocative observer of today’s world and has made her mark dismantling misconceptions about race, feminism and sexism. She has also offered her social and political perspectives to viewers of The Today Show and Hardball with Chris Matthews. In 2010, Giles performed in the off-Broadway production of “Love, Loss, and What I Wore,” written by Nora and Delia Ephron.

The OSU Diversity Summit is sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs. For more information on the public event or the OSU Diversity Summit, visit http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/care

Media Contact: 

Jennifer Viña, 541-737-8187

Debris from Japanese tsunami slowly making its way toward West Coast

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A massive trail of debris from the devastating tsunami that struck Japan in March of 2011 is slowly making its way across the Pacific Ocean en route to the West Coast of the United States, where scientists are predicting it will arrive in the next two to three years – right on schedule.

The mass of debris, weighing millions of tons and forming a trail a thousand miles long, will likely strike Oregon and Washington, according to models based on winds and currents.

But new accounts of where the trail has progressed suggest that at least some of that debris may peel off and enter the infamous “Garbage Patch,” a huge gyre in the Pacific where plastic and other debris has accumulated over the years, according to Jack Barth, an Oregon State University oceanographer and an expert on Pacific Ocean currents and winds.

“Recent reports of debris are from farther south than the axis of the main ocean currents sweeping across the north Pacific toward Oregon,” said Barth, a professor in OSU’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. “This means a fair amount of debris may enter the patch. We should still see some of the effects in Oregon and Washington, but between some of the materials sinking, and others joining the garbage patch, it might not be as bad as was originally thought.”

Barth said as time goes on, more of the materials will sink as they become waterlogged, or become heavy from barnacles and other organisms growing on them.

Conversely, he said, items of debris that are higher in the water and can be caught by the winds – such as small boats – may arrive more quickly than anticipated. The “westerlies,” as these winds are called, blow straight across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to the Pacific Northwest coast “and they can be pretty strong,” Barth pointed out.

Recent reports that the debris is ahead of schedule don’t match Barth’s calculations, which suggest that the bulk of the debris should arrive along the West Coast in 2013 to 2014. It appears to be moving about 10 miles a day, he said.

Fears of contamination from the debris are largely unfounded, Barth said. The OSU scientist just returned from a meeting of PICES - the North Pacific Marine Science Organization, where Japanese scientists reported that radiation levels in the waters off the Japanese coast were below a safe threshold.

“The dilution power of the Pacific Ocean is enormous,” Barth said.

Barth led a five-year study a decade ago looking at how water moves off the Oregon coast in the aftermath of the 1999 shipwreck of the New Carissa. Hundreds of gallons of oil leaked from the vessel and despite sophisticated ocean current models, the fuel appeared in places that surprised scientists.

Although the westerlies will bring some of the debris toward the Northwest coast, what happens as it arrives near the shore will depend on the time of year, Barth said.

“One thing we learned from the New Carissa, is that when things get dumped off the Oregon coast in winter, they go quickly northward,” Barth pointed out. “If the debris arrives in the winter, some of it may get pushed up to Vancouver Island. If it gets here in the summer, it is more likely to drift down to the south.”

Local winds can further confuse the issue, keep debris off-shore in the summer when the winds are from the north, and pushing it on-shore in the winter.

Media Contact: 

Jack Barth, 541-737-1607

International Film Festival to showcase variety of cultures Nov. 7-11

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The third International Film Festival, showcasing a diverse array of movies from international cultures, will be held Nov. 7-11 in Corvallis.

The International Film Festival started in 2009, organized by faculty teaching film courses in the foreign languages and literature areas at Oregon State University to showcase the variety of international cultures. Now the festival has moved to the Darkside Cinema to accommodate growing interest from the community.

Admission is free and open to the public. All screenings are held at 6 and 8 p.m. at the Darkside Cinema, 215 S.W. 4th St. in Corvallis.

Here is the schedule of film screenings:

Monday, Nov. 7: “Last Train Home,” China, 2009. Directed by Lixin Fan, this documentary focuses on a family that is part of the 130 million Chinese citizens who have left their provincial village to take jobs at factories in the city.

Tuesday, Nov. 8: “Andalucia,” France, 2007. This drama directed by French-Senegalese filmmaker Alain Gomis is an intimate study in identity loss, disenfranchisement, and the search for inner peace involving a Frenchman of Algerian origin who longs to find his place in modern France.

Wednesday, Nov. 9: “Toilet,” Japan, 2010. Director Naoko Ogigami brings his deadpan humor to the big screen with this tale of an emotionless engineer who finds his life turned upside-down by his quirky family.

Thursday, Nov. 10: “Schlafkrankheit,” Germany, 2011. Also known as “Sleeping Sickness,” this German film written and directed by Ulrich Köhler concerns the intertwined lives of two doctors and their work concerning the illness of the title. The film won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Friday, Nov. 11: “Un Novio para Yasmina,” Spain, 2008. This romantic comedy follows the exploits of Lola, who loves weddings but suspects that her fiancé Jorge has fallen in love with Yasmina. Yasmina is in a hurry to get married to Javi, a police officer who prefers to take his time.

Media Contact: 

Sebastian Heiduschke, 541-737-3957

Multimedia Downloads

LAST TRAIN HOME a film by Lixin Fan
Last Train Home
Un Novio para Yasmina Ebbo (Pierre Bokma) provoziert Alex (Jean-Christophe Folly) mit seinem Desinteresse an der Evaluierung.
Sleeping Sickness

International Forest Film Festival to begin in Corvallis

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The International Forest Film Festival will begin in Corvallis on Monday, Oct. 24, and continue through January, in celebration of the United Nation’s International Year of Forests 2011.

Films will be shown every other week, all of which are free and open to the public. The festival is sponsored by the OSU College of Forestry, International Forestry Students Association, Student Sustainability Initiative, Majestic Theatre and Corvallis Sustainability Coalition.

The 16 films are winners in six categories, selected from 160 films submitted from 30 countries. The festival is a collaboration of the United Nations Forum on Forests and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.

Opening night will feature two films:  “Of Forests and Men,” commissioned by the United Nations to kick off Forests 2011; and “The Queen of Trees,” winner of the best in festival award. They will be shown on two occasions, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Majestic Theatre, and Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. in Richardson Hall Room 107 on the OSU campus.

“The International Forest Film Festival offers a unique opportunity to bring the issues and objectives of Forests 2011 to a global audience,” said Jan McAlpine, director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat. “The power of cinematic art is universal. It connects with people all over the world on a personal level.”

The films are part of a global effort to raise awareness of the importance of forests, their relationship with people and the planet. Organizers say they hope to inspire a sense of personal responsibility and stewardship for a green, more equitable and sustainable future.

More information, the complete screening schedule in Corvallis and descriptions of each film are available online at http://bit.ly/rbjZbp

Following the Corvallis screenings, the films will be available for OSU, K-12 or other public screenings.  Additional titles may be ordered from the International Forest Film Festival at http://bit.ly/pR6mbY

Media Contact: 

$1 million gift to OSU pushes campaign past $550 million

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A $1 million gift to support an international exchange program in Oregon State University’s College of Business has brought the university’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign past the $550 million milestone on its way to its $625 million goal.

“To see this kind of steadfast dedication from the university’s friends and alumni is incredibly heartwarming – and that’s all the more true at this time of year,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “These gifts are an investment in OSU’s future. They are having an amazing impact on our students and faculty and on their work to benefit the state of Oregon and our world.”

The $1 million gift will provide scholarships for the Arthur Stonehill International Business Exchange Program and support curriculum development on international topics in the College of Business. The exchange program was founded in 1987 by Stonehill, a former finance department chair who taught finance and international business at OSU for more than 20 years.

Donor Joe Lobbato, one of Stonehill’s former students, earned his undergraduate and MBA degrees from OSU in 1981 and 1982. He was a founding partner of Accenture and currently resides in Thailand.

The Arthur Stonehill International Business Exchange Program is the largest program of its kind in the state. Through the exchange, each year approximately 60 OSU College of Business students enroll in programs in Austria, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Singapore, Sweden and Thailand.

Professor emeritus Stonehill noted that more than a thousand students have taken part in the exchange. “When they come back,” he said, “they all say the same thing: that it’s been a life-changing experience.”

He cites the example of Avelino Solomon, a 2009 business graduate from Albany, Ore., who spent five months in Thailand. In a report afterward Solomon wrote, “I’ve been positively affected in such a way that I can’t describe it. This journey has made me even more capable of affecting positive change in our world, and I’m forever grateful.”

To date more than 50,000 households have contributed to The Campaign for OSU, benefiting students, faculty and outreach programs. Gifts to the campaign have created more than 350 new scholarship funds, established 28 endowed faculty positions and constructed new facilities for research and learning.


Ilene Kleinsorge, dean of the College of Business, 541-740-0225