OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

marine science and the coast

OSU LAB TO HONOR CANCER RESEARCHER

CORVALLIS - Oregon State University's Food Toxicology and Nutrition Laboratory has been renamed the Sinnhuber Aquatic Research Laboratory to honor former OSU researcher Russell O. Sinnhuber.

The laboratory is located one mile east of Corvallis along Highway 34.

Sinnhuber retired from OSU as emeritus professor of food science and technology in 1981. He died last July at the age of 86.

While at OSU, Sinnhuber became internationally known for his research contributions in advancing the biomedical field, publishing more than 100 research papers in the areas of food science and toxicology.

From his research in the 1960s, Sinnhuber determined that a potent chemical carcinogen, aflatoxin, found in moldy cottonseed meal, caused liver cancer in hatchery-reared rainbow trout, in levels as low as 1 part per billion. He recognized that the trout's extreme sensitivity to aflatoxin made it an excellent model for cancer research.

In 1965, he established the OSU Food Nutrition and Toxicology Laboratory. The Sinnhuber Aquatic Research Laboratory remains the only trout hatchery in the world devoted to cancer research. Recently, the laboratory has added a zebrafish facility to conduct biomedical research on many diseases including cancer, fetal alcohol syndrome and nicotine addiction. The laboratory is funded through grants from the National Institutes of Health and operated by the Marine and Freshwater Biomedical Sciences and the Environmental Health Sciences Centers at OSU.

Sinnhuber also developed a method to measure the levels of aflatoxin in human foods as well as animal foods that is still widely used today.

In 1966, he received the United States Department of the Interior Conservation Service Award for his work with Duncan Law at the OSU Seafood Laboratory in Astoria in developing the Oregon Moist Pellet that still provides the major source of fish hatchery food.

Sinnhuber received his bachelor's degree in organic chemistry in 1939 from Michigan State College, now Michigan State University. He received his master's degree from Oregon State in 1941.

After retirement, he spent much of his time at his home on Yaquina Bay, near Toledo, as a commercial fisherman and oyster farmer.

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David Williams, 541-737-3277

ERUPTIONS, VOLCANIC WONDERLAND FOUND IN DEEP SEA

NEWPORT, Ore. - Oceanographic researchers who just completed a study of undersea volcanoes in the Mariana Arc south of Japan have discovered what the Cascade Range of Oregon, which has a similar geologic setting, might look like if it were buried deep beneath the sea - and erupting.

Instead of forested slopes, fresh alpine air and snow-capped peaks, this type of volcanic mountain range would feature plumes of molten sulfur, other-worldly life forms based on chemical energy instead of sunlight, "black smokers" churning hydrothermal fluids and sometimes explosive undersea eruptions.

Some cones look like an underwater version of Mount Hood, while others resemble Crater Lake.

This expedition, which for one of the first times in history was able to witness a small undersea eruption of an active volcano, was an enormous success, said Bill Chadwick, a volcanologist with the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resource Studies at Oregon State University.

The institute, based at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center, works closely with the agency that organized the expedition, the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"We were just going from one incredible event to the next, seeing things we had never witnessed before," said Chadwick, who was a key participant on this exploratory cruise largely funded by NOAA's Ocean Exploration Program. "It was very exciting, and quite remarkable in that every volcano we visited seemed to be unique in its own way."

The researchers made new findings about how life based on photosynthesis in the upper layers of the ocean makes a gradual transition to life further down based on chemosynthesis, or chemical energy - odd microbes, snails, barnacles and worms clinging to hydrothermal vents. They found an enormous variation in geology and life forms, which may lead to the identification of new species. One volcano appeared to have had a catastrophic eruption in its past and had formed a huge caldera just about the same size as the one which holds Oregon's Crater Lake, within prehistoric Mount Mazama.

They found carbon dioxide spewing from rocks under such enormous subsea pressure that it emerged as a bubbling liquid in one site named "champagne vent." And they had to back their equipment away from one ongoing eruption at a site named "Brimstone Pit" when the belching sulfur, acid, boiling water and rocks became too intense.

The basic geology of the Mariana Arc, which includes such islands as Guam, Saipan and Iwo Jima, is conceptually similar to the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest. Both are on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," and in each case, an oceanic plate is being subducted underneath another of the Earth's major crustal plates, and ultimately causing a string of volcanoes above the point where the subducted plate begins to melt.

In Oregon, that results in the Cascades, which have volcanism ranging from fairly benign lava flows to the catastrophic eruptions such as Mount St. Helens, along with hot springs and other features.

In the western Pacific Ocean, the same activities are taking place on the oldest and deepest seafloor in the world. The Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench, for instance, is the deepest part of the world's oceans, at 35,838 feet. If Mount Everest were cut off at sea level and placed there, its peak would still be a mile underwater.

But beneath the surface of the ocean, scientists are now discovering a murky and exceedingly active group of volcanoes that appear to rival any of their terrestrial cousins. The most recent visit was the culmination of a two-year, $2 million project funded by NOAA's Ocean Exploration Program, aboard the R/V Thomas G. Thompson and using a remotely-operated undersea vehicle called ROPOS. In the past, scientists say, much of this type of research was done at "spreading centers" such as the mid-ocean ridges, where new ocean floor is formed. This time, they examined the volcanoes that occur when plates collide and ocean floor is eventually melted and recycled deep within the Earth.

The work was a collaboration of scientists from NOAA, OSU, the University of Washington, University of Victoria, U.S. Geological Survey, and other institutions, including scientists from Canada, New Zealand and Japan.

Using ROPOS, the researchers were able to take video, make scientific measurements and recover samples at sites ranging from about 70 feet deep to almost a mile. They explored both the peaks and flanks of seven volcanoes, and near their summits often found seafloor hot springs and unique biological communities that depend on them.

These types of volcano are generally more conical and explosive, Chadwick said.

"One of the most dramatic events was the eruptive activity on Northwest Rota 1, a volcano about 60 miles north of Guam," Chadwick said. "At a depth of about 540 meters in what we called Brimstone Pit, there was a large plume of hot water, drops of molten sulfur, bursts of rocks. It would be considered a pretty small event by volcanic standards but it was definitely eruptive and one of the first times we've ever seen and recorded anything like that beneath the ocean."

At other sites, the researchers found black smokers, which are chimneys made from spewing minerals and hydrothermal vents. In the past, such vents have usually been observed only deep beneath the sea. But on the upper flanks of these volcanoes, some of them had schools of tropical fish, tuna or sharks swimming nearby. One site had so many chimneys it was named the "Black Forest," with some of these bizarre chemical vents up to 30 feet high.

"As the ROPOS came closer to the surface, where sunlight was able to penetrate, it was just a riot of life with incredible amounts of fish and corals," Chadwick said. "And we found at least some life forms, such as one type of spider crab, that could live in either environment, either the one based on sunlight or the one based on chemicals. Most scientists believe life on Earth may have originated in deep ocean vents."

It will still take the researchers some amount of time to compile, analyze and publish all the data that emerged from these cruises, Chadwick said, which only concluded in late April. Scientists in Washington, D.C., today announced some of the findings from this cruise, and more information on the expedition can be obtained at the web site of NOAA's Ocean Exploration Program, at http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/04fire/welcome.html.

"Unlike much scientific research, this type of expedition is a little riskier, because you often have no idea what, if anything, you will find," Chadwick said. "But this research provided some remarkable findings, some things never seen before, and allowed us to learn about a portion of the world that had not been explored before."

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Bill Chadwick, 541-867-0179

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Mariana Arc

Researchers from Oregon State University, NOAA and other universities and agencies recently completed a historic visit to the subsea volcanoes of the Mariana Arc in the western Pacific Ocean.  The geologic formation of the area is seen in this image...

Mariana Arc

...and a bathymetric view is derived from satellite images.

Mariana Arc, bubbles

In some places, liquid carbon dioxide under enormous pressure streamed from a volcanic vent named “champagne vent.”

Mariana Arc, chemosyntheis

One of the most interesting phenomena was the intersection of life forms based on chemosyntheis, such as these microbial mats, covering red algae and coral based on photosynthesis, or life from the sun

Mariana Arc comparison

Some of the undersea volcanos bore a striking similarity to Oregon’s Crater Lake, as seen in this image

Maug caldera corals

Corals blossom in Maug caldera

Mariana Arc, Galatheid crabs and shrimp

Galatheid crabs and shrimp graze on bacterial filaments

OSU, NOAA RESEARCHERS "LISTENING" TO OFFSHORE QUAKES

NEWPORT, Ore. - During the past 12 years, researchers at Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center have recorded more than 30,000 earthquakes in the Pacific Ocean off the Northwest coast - few of which have ever shown up on land-based seismic equipment.

The earthquakes, most having a magnitude of 2.0 to 4.0, originate where the Juan de Fuca plate, which is creeping inland, is gradually is being subducted beneath the North American plate. Scientists from OSU and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration utilize a network of underwater military hydrophones to listen to the sounds of seafloor earthquakes and other phenomena from their laboratories at the Newport center.

Robert Dziak, who has dual appointments with OSU and NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, said the use of the U.S. Navy's hydrophones is providing critical data to scientists.

"It is the only real-time hydrophone system in the world - at least for civilians," Dziak said. "It allows us to listen to the earthquakes as they occur and when something unusual happens, we can send out a group of scientists to study the events as they unfold."

The hydrophone system - called the Sound Surveillance System, or SOSUS - was used during the decades of the Cold War to monitor submarine activity in the northern Pacific Ocean. As the Cold War ebbed, these and other unique military assets were offered to civilian researchers performing environmental studies, Dziak said.

This past November, the Navy completed a series of repairs on the hydrophone arrays used to monitor the Juan de Fuca Ridge earthquakes. At the same time, the OSU/NOAA team installed a new data acquisition center at the naval air station on Whidbey Island near Seattle, where the hydrophone data is encrypted and sent to OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center for decoding and analysis.

The sharpened new system is up and working - and revealing that the earthquakes are ongoing.

The number of earthquakes offshore initially stunned researchers because they weren't being detected on land - even by the most sensitive seismometers. The scientists also discovered that these quakes occurred daily, but every so often there would be a "swarm" of as many as a thousand quakes in a three-week period.

"In the last 10 years, I've seen seven of these swarms," Dziak said. "The plate doesn't move in a continuous manner and some parts move faster than others. When it gets caught up and meets resistance, these swarms occur and when they do, lava breaks through onto the seafloor.

"Usually, the plate moves at about the rate a fingernail might grow - say three centimeters a year," he added. "But when these swarms take place, the movement may be more like a meter in a two-week period."

Since the scientists began using the hydrophones to monitor quakes - and observe seafloor spreading - the research has paid unexpected dividends. While one swarm was taking place, a research vessel dispatched to the region began taking surveys of the water column and seafloor and discovered a large colony of micro-organisms that had been lying dormant within the shallow ocean crust and were "awakened" by the heat of the volcanic spreading.

"The heat from the lava was like activating yeast," Dziak said. "The bacteria could have been down there literally for centuries. It gives us another little clue to how life may have formed on Earth, and may be lying dormant on other planets."

The hydrophone research also has recorded vocalizations of marine mammals, and a research team led by David Mellinger, Kate Stafford and Sharon Nieukirk has been able to detect regional differences in the sounds made by blue whales and fin whales. Like humans, whales from different parts of the globe apparently have their own "accents."

One of the keys to the success of hydrophone use is the existence of a two-dimension underwater layer of certain water pressure, salinity and temperature that creates a "sound channel." Located about 1,000 feet below the surface, this layer focuses sound energy horizontally like a wire.

"During a test, we exploded a stick of dynamite below the surface and it didn't register on land at all," Dziak said. "Yet hydrophones recorded it as a magnitude 1 event 6,000 miles away. That's why the hydrophone array is so important to our research."

Now the OSU/NOAA researchers are working on a portable hydrophone system developed by Haru Matsumoto that they can deploy in hotspots around the globe. During the first tests, they attached the instruments - which are housed in a titanium casing that looks like a diving air tank - to upright moorings anchored on the ocean floor. The recording equipment was powered by 50 C-cell batteries.

"The limitation was that is was not in real time," Dziak said. "The portables weren't powerful enough to transmit data, so it has to be recorded. We'd have to haul them up every few months to see what happened and, if there was an earthquake swarm, we wouldn't know it until a year later."

A new prototype has been tested that is based on a buoyancy system. When the machine records an earthquake event, it ascends to the surface and transmits a satellite signal to alert the researchers to unusual seismic activity.

"The portable hydrophones will give us the ability to study and compare different areas around the world," Dziak said. "The East Pacific Rise off South America is the fastest seafloor spreading area in the world, but it is a lot quieter in terms of earthquakes. The crust is very thin and moves so fast that we don't get a lot of noise. The mid-Atlantic region, in comparison, has infrequent quakes, but they are bigger. Next year, we hope to set up a system near Antarctica.

"Most of the models on seafloor spreading and plate tectonics are based on magnetic anomalies that have been recorded every million years or so," he added. "Now, for the first time, we are able to determine exactly how these tectonic plates are moving."

 

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Robert Dziak, 541-867-0175

ADVISORY GROUP ENDORSES FINDINGS OF MAJOR OCEAN STUDY

CORVALLIS - An advisory committee of Oregon marine scientists has reviewed a recent report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy at the request of Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, and strongly endorsed some of the key findings of that study - the oceans are in serious trouble, major changes are needed and current ocean policies do not reflect existing science and sound management principles.

Major changes in federal and regional government structure are envisioned in that report, along with expanded public educational programs, doubling the federal ocean and coastal research budget in the next five years, training more experts to deal with these complex issues and improved ocean monitoring.

The review has been submitted to the Ocean-Coastal Management Program of the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, and may be used to help inform the governor's response to the new federal study, which was one of the first major reviews of ocean policies in almost 40 years.

The work was done by researchers from Oregon State University, the University of Oregon and the Oregon Sea Grant program, and organized by OSU's Institute for Natural Resources. A full copy of the review can be found on the web at http://inr.oregonstate.edu/.

"Our work with the governor's office to support and enrich Oregon's response to the national oceans commission report illustrates why Oregon's legislature set up the Institute for Natural Resources," said Gail Achterman, director of the institute. "It gave the governor a place to call to tap into the incredible expertise of our Oregon University System faculty."

In their review, this Marine Science Advisory Panel recommended six key priorities for action:

  • A mechanism is needed to coordinate and implement ocean policy development at the federal level. This may entail major structural changes at high levels of government, including creation of a National Ocean Council.

     

  • Regional ocean governance should address ocean problems at ecological scales which can work and involve multiple governmental groups. This type of regional collaboration must tackle such issues as sustainable fisheries, ecosystem-based ocean management, protection of human health, seafood safety, conserving and restoring coastal habitat, development of marine protected areas, management of offshore energy and mineral resources, preventing the spread of invasive species, and moving towards sustainable aquaculture.

     

  • Americans must be educated and informed about marine issues and the connections between oceans, land and the atmosphere. This lifelong effort should include contributions by the Sea Grant College Program, other educational outreach efforts at every age level, and creation in Oregon of a Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence. Interdisciplinary graduate programs should also be expanded in the Oregon University System.

     

  • Additional research is needed to inform these approaches to policy and management. Within five years the federal budget for ocean and coastal research should be doubled, a national ocean research strategy should be developed, Sea Grant should be expanded, socioeconomic research should receive more emphasis, and ocean exploration expanded. Several initiatives could be of special importance to Oregon, such as studies of coasts and their watersheds, managing shoreline erosion and improvement of coastal navigation.

     

  • An integrated ocean observation system is needed to improve the information base. Regional efforts to achieve programs of this type are already underway in the Pacific Northwest, but they can be improved and expanded, with multiple benefits for fisheries management, tsunami warning, protection of coastal habitat, water quality monitoring, climate studies and other issues.

     

  • Investments should be expanded in scientific, technical and human infrastructure. Universities must play a key role in this, more technical experts will be required, funding mechanisms should be identified for new ocean research vessels, and better information technology is needed.

In their report, the Oregon scientists said that current ocean policies focus too much on short-term benefits and lack the long-term, ecosystem-wide perspective that would create healthy, resilient ocean systems which provide multiple benefits.

In many areas, they say, some of the more progressive research, monitoring and educational efforts already under way in Oregon could help serve as national models for more effective and enlightened ocean management. But the problems, both here and across the nation, are still critical.

"In recent years scientists have increasingly come to recognize the interconnectedness among the physical, chemical, geological and biological aspects of the ocean, and their interactions with human society," the researchers wrote in their report. "Yet, a long-term focus has been inadequately represented in the development and implementation of ocean policy."

The many recommendations of the federal report "mesh well" with Oregon's goals for managing its natural resources, the scientists said. Issues such as depleted fisheries, habitat degradation, marine protected areas, shoreline erosion and invasive species are all addressed by parts of the federal study, and much of the work being done in Oregon could be integrated into new national plans.

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Gail Achterman, 503-725-3099

OSU receives grant to fund biomedical center

CORVALLIS - Oregon State University has received a five-year, $2.1 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences that will fund the university's Marine and Freshwater Biomedical Sciences Center through March of 2009.

The center is one of only four biomedical centers in the U.S. focusing on aquatic research, and it is instrumental in fundamental studies of cancer and other diseases.

"The funding is welcome news because we were up against stiff competition, including Harvard, Yale, MIT, Duke and others," said David Williams, director of the OSU center. "But we're involved in some exciting things and our researchers bring in an additional $5 million annually in research grants, so the quality of the center's work was apparent."

The NIEHS is a branch of the National Institutes of Health.

The Marine and Freshwater Biomedical Sciences Center was established in 1985, focusing on the use of rainbow trout as a model to study cancer tumors. Those studies remain a critical part of the center's mission, Williams said, and it also has branched into studies of neurotoxicology.

William Gerwick, associate director of the center, has become a world leader in the investigation of marine organisms for their anti-cancer and anti-viral properties. Gerwick's research team recently discovered a compound from a blue-green alga in Panama that causes nerve regeneration activity.

"It is an exciting find, but it is very, very preliminary," Gerwick cautioned. "We were collecting specimens in early June and one of the compounds we extracted in our bio-screening showed neuron regeneration activity that was very strong - it was as active as some of our positive controls."

Another neurotoxicology researcher affiliated with the center is Phil McFadden, who studies how certain fish change color when exposed to toxicants. Such behavior likely developed as a defense mechanism for the fish, but could be invaluable in serving as an early detection indicator for humans in a wide range of areas, including toxic chemicals.

McFadden's research is funded by the Department of Defense.

Another scientist, Robert Tanguay, has brought a major research project to the university with his study of zebrafish, a species that is an excellent model for developmental toxicology because they reach sexual maturity in a matter of weeks, instead of two years as in trout. The zebrafish genome also has been sequenced. Tanguay uses zebrafish as a model for his studies of fetal alcohol syndrome.

Donald Buhler also uses zebrafish for his basic studies on cancer tumors. Buhler received national attention five years ago when his study of flavonoids determined that hops - a key ingredient in beer - had anti-cancer properties.

Larry Curtis, head of the Department of Molecular and Environmental Toxicology at OSU, also works with the center. A well-known toxicologist, he is close to completing a study on the effects of pollutants in the Newberg pool of the Willamette River outside of Salem. He and his research team are scheduled to present the findings of those efforts to the legislature next spring.

Rainbow trout are still an important part of the center's work and researcher George Bailey, the first director of the center, is completing a major study on cancer that should be published in 2004.

"It could have major implications in a regulatory sense," Williams said, "but it is premature to talk about the findings right now."

Bailey also recently completed a clinical study in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in which the researchers discovered that inexpensive daily supplements of chlorophyllin can reduce DNA damage caused by aflatoxin contamination. Aflatoxins are known carcinogens produced by a fungus that contaminates corn, peanuts and soybeans, and are a major cause of liver cancer in China and other countries.

The first benefits of chlorophyllin were discovered by Bailey in his work with rainbow trout. His study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Bailey, Williams and Rod Dashwood, a researcher at OSU's Linus Pauling Institute, are collaborating on a three-pronged study funded by the National Cancer Institute. While Bailey continues to study the use of chlorophyllin in reducing DNA damage, Williams is seeing if similar proactive measures can help in the protection of fetuses in pregnant animals. Dashwood is evaluating the effect of green and white teas in the prevention of colon cancer.

"While research is the primary thrust of the center's work, we also are heavily involved in community outreach and education," Williams said. "We partner with the Environmental Health Sciences Center at OSU, which also is funded by NIEHS."

Among their efforts is a K-12 education initiative called the Hydroville project, directed by Kendra Mingo, in which students in the fictional town of Hydroville tackle real life environmental and health issues. The center also works closely with the Science and Math Investigative Learning Experience (SMILE) program for minority and rural youths.

OSU is the only university in the nation with two fully funded NIEHS centers, Williams said.

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David Williams, 541-737-3277

INAUGURAL CRUISE OF OCEAN PROGRAM PLANNED AT ASTORIA

CORVALLIS - The port of Astoria in Oregon will be the site of the inaugural cruise of the new Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, in which the R/V JOIDES Resolution will begin a new era of international scientific ocean drilling for Earth system studies.

The ship will spend eight days in Astoria prior to its launch, including a June 25 open house.

This will be the largest international program studying ocean processes, and builds on the explorations of the Ocean Drilling Program through enhanced collaborations with Japan and a consortium of European countries. Researchers will try to better understand and predict future climate change, geologic hazards such as major earthquakes, the extent of the marine biosphere in the Earth, potential new energy sources, and data on the Earth's environment.

Nick Pisias, a professor of oceanography at OSU and former interim director of the Ocean Drilling Program, said that OSU has been a lead player in ocean drilling programs since its inception.

"OSU has played a key role in ocean drilling through its involvement with science planning, expedition development, and participation in the largest sea-going oceanographic program in the world," said Pisias.

From 1988 to 2004, OSU ranked fifth in direct National Science Foundation funding to support preparations for Ocean Drilling Program expeditions. OSU scientists initiated the planning and execution of six expeditions, and OSU has sailed more co-chief scientists than most other U.S. institutions.

The 469-foot long R/V JOIDES Resolution is 70 feet wide, and uses 12 computer-controlled thrusters and the main propulsion system to position the ship over a drilling site. The vessel can suspend as much as 30,020 feet of drill pipe to an ocean depth of 27,000 feet.

IODP will replace the Ocean Drilling Program. That was a 20-year partnership of scientists and research institutions funded principally by the National Science Foundation and 22 international partners that conducted basic research into the history of the ocean basins and the overall nature of the crust beneath the ocean floor. Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Inc., a group of 18 U.S. institutions which included OSU, administered the program.

The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program is funded by the National Science Foundation; the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Technology of Japan; and the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling. Additional information about ODP and IODP may be found on these websites: http://www.oceandrilling.org/ or http://www.ig.utexas.edu/imi/.

Source: 

Nick Pisias, 541-737-5213

OSU'S HATFIELD CENTER INKS PARTNERSHIP WITH PACIFIC RIM LABS

NEWPORT, Ore. - Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center has formed a partnership with marine research laboratories in Hawaii and Japan for a program of cooperative research, as well as student and faculty exchange.

George Boehlert, director of OSU's Newport-based center, traveled to Ehime University in Matsuyama, Japan, to sign the agreement along with a representative of the University of Hawaii.

The agreement will create a new partnership focusing on marine sciences between OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center, Ehime University's Center for Marine Environmental Studies, and the University of Hawaii's Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

"Each of our institutions has strengths in teaching, research and facilities that complement those of the others," said Boehlert. "We anticipate that this agreement will create opportunities for students and faculty at all three institutions."

Ehime University center has received a major Japanese award as a "21st Century Center of Excellence" and has expanded marine research in several areas. It has strengths in coastal oceanography, marine microbiology and pollutant stressors in marine ecosystems.

The University of Hawaii center has strengths in coral reef and tropical ecology, and a new director - JoAnn Leong - who formerly was on the OSU faculty as a professor of microbiology.

The first tangible results of the partnership should come soon, when Ehime University students journey to Newport, and possibly to OSU's main campus in Corvallis, for research internships and coursework in topics not available at Ehime.

Initial collaborative research may include work on the role of viruses in fish disease and on pollutant levels in tissues of marine mammals and seabirds.

"Many of the issues we face in marine science are Pacific-wide," said Boehlert, "and agreements of this kind allow us to address the science in a broader fashion. We are looking forward to further collaboration with the Japanese and Hawaiian scientists."

Source: 

George Boehlert, 541-867-0211

OSU TAKES ENTREPRENEURIAL PATH TO BANDWIDTH EXPANSION

CORVALLIS - When network engineers flip the switch this Monday (June 28) on a new fiber-optic connection, Oregon State University will have increased its bandwidth capability - especially for critical research - by a quantum leap.

But the story-within-a-story is even more impressive: To make that connection work, the university literally went out and created its own 20-mile stretch of fiber, which it now owns and can lease out to others. Ownership also allows OSU to significantly expand its own capacity for the future.

"Expanding our bandwidth capability is absolutely critical to attracting major national and international research projects," said OSU President Ed Ray, who saw the benefits of increased capacity at The Ohio State University, where he served as provost until 2003.

"What makes the accomplishment so exceptional here is that our people used their entrepreneurial spirit to get things done," he added.

OSU's bandwidth to the Internet and Internet 2 is limited, and several years ago Oregon State began investigating the cost of using a traditional telecommunications company to connect with the Pittock Internet Exchange in Portland, which would give OSU greater bandwidth and international connectivity.

"For a circuit that would give us speeds in excess of a gigabit per second, we were told it would cost us about $564,000 a month, or $6 million-plus a year," said Jon Dolan, associate director of Network Services at OSU. "That's more than half of our budget for Information Services."

Then one spring day in 2002, Curt Pederson, OSU's vice provost for Information Services got a visit from an old colleague named Ben Doty, who was heading a new nonprofit cooperative called NoaNet Oregon, which was established to build and operate "public purpose" data networks. NoaNet uses Bonneville Power Administration fiber to build connectivity to rural Oregon and Washington.

"As it turns out, the nearest BPA access was 20 miles to the east, along the I-5 corridor," Pederson said. "NoaNet was looking to expand to Corvallis at the same time we were looking to hook into a major network. Thus began a beautiful friendship."

OSU paid for the infrastructure development of building the 20-mile connection at a cost of about $504,000 - or less than one month's estimate with a commercial carrier. NoaNet constructed the fiber plant, and will manage the plant and provide any necessary maintenance.

NoaNet also has agreed to lease any extra capacity from OSU, and a portion of those profits will pay for right-of-way access fees to the City of Corvallis. Others will benefit from the new connectivity, too, OSU officials say.

"The path of the fiber goes right by the new research facility at Hewlett Packard that houses the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, as well as OSU's Hyslop Farm," Dolan said, "so we were able to connect those facilities. "This will also increase the capacity for the City of Corvallis, Benton County, and the Education Service District, and possibly others in the future."

Initially, OSU will "light" the fiber to a speed of 2.5 gigabits per second, which is about 2,500 times the capacity of the fastest connection a resident may have at home. But the capacity is much greater, says Dolan, who points out that the fiber-optic system can be broken down into 16 or 32 different wavelengths, each with the capacity for speeds of up to 10 gigabits a second.

"The equipment to do that is expensive, but the price goes down significantly every month," he said. "We have the infrastructure in place for the next generation of Internet2. We'll just have to work out the politics and the money." One of the first beneficiaries of the new system may be international researchers who will be able to perform real-time experiments at OSU's Tsunami Wave Basin, the largest tsunami research facility in the world. That kind of virtual connectivity was a critical component of the university's $4.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create the research facility.

OSU's Open Source Lab also will benefit from the increased bandwidth, according to Pederson. OSU has developed one of the most sophisticated, well-used distribution sites in the world for Open Source products, which are shared, modified, and improved by developers who create reliable software based on certain open standards.

"The use of Open Source guarantees that data ownership and access are not restricted to a single provider," Pederson said. "There is a thriving Open Source community out there that relies on our ability to distribute Open Source products, and we are becoming known around the world for that service. "And now it's about to get better," he added.

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Jon Dolan, 541-737-5402

Red sea urchins discovered to be one of the Earth's oldest animals

CORVALLIS, Ore. - A new study has concluded that the red sea urchin, a small spiny invertebrate that lives in shallow coastal waters, is among the longest living animals on Earth - they can live to be 100 years old, and some may reach 200 years or more in good health with few signs of age.

In other words, an individual red sea urchin that hatched on the day in 1805 that Lewis and Clark arrived in Oregon may still be thriving - and even breeding. The research was just published in a professional journal, the U.S. Fishery Bulletin, by scientists from Oregon State University and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It may have important implications for management of a commercial fishery and our understanding of marine biology, as well as challenge some erroneous assumptions about the life cycle of this never-say-die marine species.

It used to be believed that red sea urchins lived to be only seven to 15 years of age, experts say. But the newest findings are based on the use of two completely different techniques of determining sea urchin ages - one biochemical and the other nuclear - that produced the same results. The studies show red sea urchins can have a vast lifespan surpassing that of virtually all terrestrial and most marine animal species, and seem to show almost no signs of senescence, or age-related dysfunction, right up until the day that something kills them.

"No animal lives forever, but these red sea urchins appear to be practically immortal," said Thomas Ebert, a marine zoologist at OSU. "They can die from attacks by predators, specific diseases or being harvested by fishermen. But even then they show very few signs of age. The evidence suggests that a 100-year-old red sea urchin is just as apt to live another year, or reproduce, as a 10-year-old sea urchin."

The more mature red sea urchins, in fact, appear to be the most prolific producers of sperm and eggs, and are perfectly capable of breeding even when incredibly old. There is no sea urchin version of menopause.

Some of the new studies on this species were done with funding support from the Pacific States Fishery Commission to gain more information about the species, its life cycle, biology, survival rate, growth patterns, and perhaps shed light on why the red sea urchin resource was declining in some areas.

This small marine animal, which is found in shallow Pacific Ocean coastal waters from Alaska to Baja California and also elsewhere in the world's oceans, lives by grazing quietly on marine plants and deterring most predators with its pointy spines. Historically, it had been considered a nuisance.

"In the U.S. in the 1960s, sea urchins were considered the scourge of the sea, a real menace," Ebert said. "They ate plants in kelp forests and people believed they were at least partly responsible for the decline of that marine ecosystem, so they tried to poison them, get rid of them however possible."

But in the 1970s a commercial fishery developed in the U.S. based on sea urchins, which were sold primarily to Japan where their sex organs were considered a delicacy. They brought high prices, and at one point in the 1990s were one of the most valuable marine resources in California.

Ebert did some early work on the red sea urchin, along with colleagues Steve Schroeter at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and John Dixon, of the California Coastal Commission. It quickly became apparent that sea urchins, among other things, grew a lot more slowly and lived a lot longer than had been believed. "Sea urchins live as male and females, and fertilization of eggs takes place while they float in the ocean," Ebert said. "The larvae then feed for a month or more before turning into tiny sea urchins."

The red sea urchin, in fact, does grow fairly quickly when it's young - at the age of two years, it can grow from two centimeters to four centimeters in one year, doubling its size. But even at that, it still takes at least 6-7 years before the sea urchin is of harvestable size, the scientists say, compared to the two years that had previously been believed.

By the time the sea urchin is a teenager, its growth slows dramatically. And at the age of 22, researchers found it grew each year from about 12 centimeters to only 12.1 centimeters. But somewhat remarkably, it appears to never really stop growing. It's just very, very slow.

"Some of the largest and we believe oldest red sea urchins up to 19 centimeters in size have been found in waters off British Columbia, between Vancouver Island and the mainland," Ebert said. "By our calculations they are probably 200 or more years old."

The first studies indicating these ages was done with tagging of individual sea urchins and injection with tetracycline, which becomes incorporated into the sea urchin skeleton and can be used to track the growth rates. The latest work, which was just published, used measures of carbon-14, which has increased in all living organisms following the atmospheric testing of atomic weapons in the 1950s.

"Radiocarbon testing in this type of situation provided a very strong and independent test of growth rates and ages," Ebert said. "Among other things, it confirmed that in older sea urchins there is a very steady, very consistent growth that's quite independent of ocean conditions or other variables, and once they near adult size our research indicates they do not have growth spurts. With this species, it's pretty simple. The bigger they are, the older they are."

The research was done with red sea urchins, Ebert said, but may be at least partly relevant to other sea urchin species.

The study suggests, among other things, that this invertebrate species has a fairly poor ability to survive various threats during the first year of life and reach reproductive age. Otherwise there would be a great many more sea urchins.

Older sea urchins can help provide more young and therefore may play a key role in creating a sustainable fishery, so a return to harvest policies that limits harvest above a certain size might be prudent, the researchers said.

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NATURE STUDY: SCIENTISTS DISCOVER "ANTI-PLUME" OFF COAST

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The gradual subduction of the Juan de Fuca plate beneath the North American plate puts tremendous stress on the seafloor, creating cracks and fissures, hydrothermal vents, seafloor spreading, and literally hundreds of small earthquakes on a near-daily basis.

Now a North American team of scientists has documented for the first time a new phenomenon - the creation of a void in the seafloor that draws in - rather than expels - surrounding seawater.

They report their discovery in the July 15 issue of the journal Nature.

Oregon State University oceanographer Robert Dziak said the discovery is important because it adds a new wrinkle to scientific understanding of seafloor spreading, the fundamental process of plate tectonics and the creation of ocean crust. Dziak has a dual appointment with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.

"Just when you think you're beginning to understand how the process works, there's a new twist," Dziak said. "There was an episode of seafloor spreading on a portion of the Juan de Fuca Ridge that was covered with about a hundred meters of sediment and what usually happens in that case is that lava erupts onto the ocean floor and hot fluid is expelled into the water.

"In this case, though, it actually drew water down into the subsurface, which is something scientists have never before observed," he said.

The research team included Earl Davis, of the Geological Survey of Canada's Pacific Geoscience Centre; Keir Becker, from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Florida; Dziak; and John Cassidy, Kelin Wang and Marvin Lilley of the University of Washington.

Dziak said the researchers think the seafloor spreading caused the ocean crust to dilate, increasing the pore space much like a sponge. "It's like an anti-plume," he said. "Instead of sending materials from within the Earth to the ocean floor, it simply sucks down the surrounding seawater."

The researchers aren't sure exactly what causes the dilation, but it has multiple implications. First, it changes how scientists view seafloor spreading since there isn't an automatic outpouring of lava, or hot liquid via hydrothermal vents previously associated with tectonic plate theory.

The size of these potential "voids" also intrigues scientists, who wonder how much seawater can be subsumed. If large, or frequent, they could affect surrounding water temperatures and chemical composition, Dziak said.

Finally, water migrating downward through the Earth may be enough to trigger the growth of bacteria at startling depths. Last year, in an unrelated study, OSU oceanographer Martin Fisk and a team of researchers found bacteria in a hole drilled 4,000 feet through volcanic rock. Basalt rocks have all of the elements required for life, Fisk pointed out, including carbon, phosphorous and nitrogen. Only water is needed to complete the formula.

Dziak is able to monitor offshore activities from his laboratory at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, where he uses an array of undersea hydrophones through a unique arrangement with the U.S. Navy. During the past dozen years, Dziak and his research team have recorded more than 30,000 earthquakes in the Pacific Ocean off the Northwest coast - few of which have ever shown up on land-based seismic equipment.

The earthquakes, most having a magnitude of 2.0 to 4.0, originate along the Juan de Fuca Ridge, a submarine mountain range 300 miles west of the Oregon coast that was formed by seafloor spreading or the movement of oceanic plates away from one another.

"It is the only real-time hydrophone system in the world available for civilian research," Dziak said. "It allows us to listen to the earthquakes as they occur and when something unusual happens, we can send out a group of scientists to study the events as they unfold."

The hydrophone system - called the Sound Surveillance System, or SOSUS - was used during the decades of the Cold War to monitor submarine activity in the northern Pacific Ocean. As the Cold War ebbed, these and other unique military assets were offered to civilian researchers performing environmental studies, Dziak said.

SOSUS also pointed the researchers to the activities leading to the "anti-plume" discovery outlined in Nature.

The number of earthquakes offshore initially stunned researchers because they weren't being detected on land - even by the most sensitive seismometers. The scientists also discovered that these quakes occurred daily, but every so often there would be a "swarm" of as many as a thousand quakes in a three-week period.

"In the last 10 years, I've seen seven of these swarms," Dziak said. "The plate doesn't move in a continuous manner and some parts move faster than others. Every four years or so, a section of the Juan de Fuca Ridge exhibits a large earthquake swarm and lava breaks through onto the seafloor.

"Usually, the plate moves at about the rate a fingernail might grow - say three centimeters a year. But when these swarms take place, the movement may be more like a meter in a two-week period."

On Monday, July 12, the region was jolted by a 4.9 magnitude quake just offshore from Dziak's Newport lab - one that was felt more than 50 miles inland at the main OSU campus.

"There's a lot of activity going on out there," Dziak said of the offshore quakes. "That was one of the few that did show up on conventional seismic equipment and drew the attention of the public. There are hundreds, even thousands more that do not."

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