OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

scientific research and advances

Study reveals seven complete specimens of new flower, all 100 million years old

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A Triceratops or Tyrannosaurus rex bulling its way through a pine forest likely dislodged flowers that 100 million years later have been identified in their fossilized form as a new species of tree.

George Poinar Jr., professor emeritus in Oregon State University’s College of Science, said it’s the first time seven complete flowers of this age have been reported in a single study. The flowers range from 3.4 to 5 millimeters in diameter, necessitating study under a microscope.

Poinar and collaborator Kenton Chambers, professor emeritus in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences, named the discovery Tropidogyne pentaptera based on the flowers’ five firm, spreading sepals; the Greek word for five is “penta,” and “pteron” means wing.

“The amber preserved the floral parts so well that they look like they were just picked from the garden,” Poinar said. “Dinosaurs may have knocked the branches that dropped the flowers into resin deposits on the bark of an araucaria tree, which is thought to have produced the resin that fossilized into the amber. Araucaria trees are related to kauri pines found today in New Zealand and Australia, and kauri pines produce a special resin that resists weathering.”

This study builds on earlier research also involving Burmese amber in which Poinar and Chambers described another species in the same angiosperm genus, Tropidogyne pikei; that species was named for its flower’s discoverer, Ted Pike. Findings were recently published in Paleodiversity.

“The new species has spreading, veiny sepals, a nectar disc, and a ribbed inferior ovary like T. pikei,” Poinar said. “But it’s different in that it’s bicarpellate, with two elongated and slender styles, and the ribs of its inferior ovary don’t have darkly pigmented terminal glands like T. pikei.”

Both species have been placed in the extant family Cunoniaceae, a widespread Southern Hemisphere family of 27 genera.

Poinar said T. pentaptera was probably a rainforest tree.

“In their general shape and venation pattern, the fossil flowers closely resemble those of the genus Ceratopetalum that occur in Australia and Papua-New Guinea,” he said. “One extant species is C. gummiferum, which is known as the New South Wales Christmas bush because its five sepals turn bright reddish pink close to Christmas.”

Another extant species in Australia is the coach wood tree, C. apetalum, which like the new species has no petals, only sepals. The towering coach wood tree grows to heights of greater than 120 feet, can live for centuries and produces lumber for flooring, furniture and cabinetwork.

So what explains the relationship between a mid-Cretaceous Tropidogyne from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, and an extant Ceratopetalum from Australia, more than 4,000 miles and an ocean away to the southeast?

That’s easy, Poinar said, if you consider the geological history of the regions.

“Probably the amber site in Myanmar was part of Greater India that separated from the southern hemisphere, the supercontinent Gondwanaland, and drifted to southern Asia,” he said. “Malaysia, including Burma, was formed during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras by subduction of terranes that successfully separated and then moved northward by continental drift.”

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Tropidogyne pentaptera

Tropidogyne pentaptera

Richard van Breemen named director of Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has named Richard van Breemen as the director of the university’s Linus Pauling Institute.

Van Breemen, professor of pharmacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, will succeed Balz Frei as director and endowed chair of the institute, which studies the role of vitamins and other micronutrients in enhancing health and preventing disease.

Van Breemen characterized his new role as director of the Linus Pauling Institute as a “dream job.”

“Richard brings the prestige and accomplishments we were looking for in a new director,” said Cynthia Sagers, vice president for research at OSU. “He runs a National Institutes of Health-funded center for botanical dietary supplement research and is someone who makes things happen. He is very collaborative and people here already know his work. Richard feels a real passion for the work we do here at OSU and at the Linus Pauling Institute in particular.”

Van Breemen has a Ph.D. in pharmacology from Johns Hopkins University and was a post-doctoral scholar at Johns Hopkins in mass spectrometry. His undergraduate degree in chemistry is from Oberlin College.

His research includes clinical trials regarding prostate cancer prevention, and the safety and efficacy of botanical dietary supplements used by women.

At the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he has worked since 1994, van Breemen is the founding academic director of the Mass Spectrometry, Metabolomics and Proteomics Facility for the university’s Research Resources Center. He is also the director of the Botanical Center for Dietary Supplements Research, which has NIH funding through 2020 and has been continually funded since 1999.

From 1986 to 1993, van Breemen was a faculty member at North Carolina State, where he founded and directed the Mass Spectrometry Laboratory for Biotechnology Research.

Linus Pauling, who died in 1994 at age 93, was an Oregon State alumnus and is the only person to win two unshared Nobel Prizes – for chemistry in 1954 and for peace in 1962. A chemistry professor at California Institute of Technology, he founded what would become the Linus Pauling Institute in 1973.

Pauling bequeathed his vast scientific archives to OSU, and in 1996 the institute moved from Palo Alto, Calif., to Oregon State. The following year, Frei became director and endowed chair, a position he held until his retirement in June 2016.

Van Breemen met Pauling shortly before his death when the Nobel laureate spoke at a symposium at North Carolina State.

“Of course I had followed his work with dietary supplements for years, and I also got to know Balz upon visits to Oregon State,” van Breemen said. “I have visited several times and gotten to know the investigators and other faculty and have always known it to be a wonderful place to live and work. OSU and the Linus Pauling Institute offer a wealth of infrastructure and support that is unparalleled. The institute can help the work I have been doing be even more productive and make a bigger imprint and footprint on society.”

Van Breemen will start Jan. 1, 2018. Fred Stevens, professor of medicinal chemistry in the Oregon State College of Pharmacy, will continue as the interim director until then.

Van Breemen’s appointment at OSU will also be in the College of Pharmacy. 

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September workshop set to explore drilling project at Newberry Volcano

BEND, Ore. – An international group of geoscience experts will convene in Bend Sept. 10-14 to develop a proposal for drilling one of the hottest wells in the world at Newberry Volcano in central Oregon.

More than 40 scientists and engineers will meet at the Oregon State University-Cascades campus in Bend to explore options for the geothermal energy project, as well as funding potential. The workshop is sponsored by the International Continental Drilling Program, a non-profit organization that supports international science teams pursuing land-based drilling.

The event is being coordinated by the NEWGEN consortium, which was formed in 2015 by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, AltaRock Energy, Oregon State University and Statoil to develop a research observatory on geothermal energy on Newberry Volcano.

The Newberry Geothermal Test Facility, located on the western flank of the caldera rim of Newberry Volcano, is one of the largest geothermal heat reservoirs in the western United States. Hot rock is relatively close to the surface at the site, making it easier to drill super-hot wells and carry out enhanced geothermal system research, according to Adam Schultz, an OSU geologist and geophysicist involved with the effort.

“There is enormous geothermal energy potential in the United States, with the greatest concentration of resources in the West,” Schultz said. “Our test site at Newberry Volcano represents one of the most promising geologic settings for geothermal power in the West, where super-hot rock could produce a high yield of stable, baseline electric power production that – unlike other renewable energy sources – doesn’t vary with sunlight, wind or wave conditions.

“Geothermal can serve as a like-for-like replacement for coal, oil, gas and nuclear power that can operate 24/7 and underpin our nation’s energy supply. By drilling deep beneath the west flank of the volcano, we can develop new technologies for green, carbon-free energy production.”

The site has been studied for 40 years and millions of dollars have been invested there by the U.S. Department of Energy and private geothermal developers, resulting in a ready-to-use facility with the necessary infrastructure, environmental permits, land commitments, and monitoring plans.

An idle geothermal exploration well drilled in 2008, which is 3,500 meters deep, has temperatures of 320 degrees Celsius (608 degrees Fahrenheit) at the bottom. Researchers are evaluating plans to deepen the well another 1,500 meters to reach temperatures above 450 degrees Celsius (842 degrees Fahrenheit).

Scientists and engineers with expertise in geothermal energy, high-temperature drilling, seismology and volcanology are expected to attend the workshop. They are from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Norway, Iceland, France and Italy.

More information on the project is available at http://www.newberrygeothermal.com.

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Adam Schultz, 541-737-9832, adam.schultz@oregonstate.edu

For bacteria that cheat, food is at the forefront

CORVALLIS, Ore. – If you’ve got plenty of burgers and beers on hand and your own stomach is full, an uninvited guest at your neighborhood barbecue won’t put much strain on you.

But if you’re hungry and food and drink supplies are running low when the moocher shows up, it’s a different story.

New research at Oregon State University indicates bacteria know just how you feel.

Microbes that produce important secretions for use in a community suffer a blow to their own fitness for supplying the non-producing “cheater” bacteria – but only when production requires the same nutrients that would otherwise go into growth and biomass.

Findings were published today in Nature Communications.

Bacteria are important organisms for evolutionary biology research because their fast growth allows scientists to study evolution in real time in the lab. The common, rod-shaped bacteria in the study, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, can lead to infections in humans, and cheater strains are often found among the infection-causing organisms.

“The big picture of this research is a better understanding of how cooperation works and how cooperation evolved,” said corresponding author Martin Schuster. “We can use microbes to study social evolution. Essentially every environment is nutrient limited in some way, and our study allows us to make predictions about what types of environments are conducive to cooperation or cheating.”

The study by Schuster and 2017 Ph.D. graduate Joe Sexton involved P. aeruginosa and a peptide siderophore it secretes, pyoverdine, or PVD.

P. aeruginosa uses PVD to scavenge iron, an essential and hard-to-get nutrient; the cheaters don’t produce PVD but have a receptor to collect the iron the siderophore binds with.

“The secretions benefit everyone, and cheating bacteria don’t participate in the production,” said Schuster, associate professor in OSU’s Department of Microbiology in the colleges of Science and Agricultural Sciences. “In general, cooperation is considered costly; therefore, cheaters can exploit the process by saving on the costs of cooperation.”

Building on earlier studies that showed cooperative behavior in P. aeruginosa can be exploited by mutant cheaters, this research demonstrates that the costs of bacterial cooperation are conditional.

“It’s all contextual and depends on the environment, the available nutrients, the bacterial diet,” Schuster said. “Sometimes cooperation is very costly, other times not at all. And if cooperation isn’t costly, it means that cheating doesn’t provide an advantage.”

In the case of PVD secretion, there’s a fitness cost involved for P. aeruginosa when carbon or nitrogen are in limited supply; those are building blocks for PVD and also necessary for producing cellular biomass.

But shortages of other nutrients – iron, phosphorus and sulfur – don’t result in a fitness cost; thus, the cheaters don’t gain an edge in those scenarios.

“Before, fitness cost was thought to be proportional to how much siderophore was being made,” Sexton said. “We showed that under different nutrient conditions the bacteria were still making the same amount, but the fitness costs varied dramatically.”

The researchers experimentally verified their modeling predictions with a chemostat format, an open system in which fresh nutrients flow in at the same rate spent growth medium flows out; cell density and growth rate are kept constant. In this system, the fitness costs of PVD production were apparent as growth differences between cooperators and cheaters in a mixed culture.

“In addition to fundamental questions about the evolution of cooperation, our work is also relevant to natural populations,” Sexton said. “There are siderophore-negative strains in the soil and the ocean and in human infections. Where did they come from? Did they evolve as cheaters, or for some other reason? Our work provides a new piece of the puzzle to consider in real-world contexts.”

The National Science Foundation and the Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers supported this research.

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Among gun owners, culturally tailored suicide prevention messages work best

BEND, Ore. – Gun owners are much more receptive to suicide-prevention messages tailored to respect their rights as firearms enthusiasts than they are to messages that use language that aims to be culturally neutral, a study published last week suggests.

The research at Oregon State University-Cascades is significant because more than half of the roughly 40,000 people in the United States who take their own lives every year do so with a gun.

Past research shows that the vast majority of people with “suicidal ideation” – thoughts of killing themselves – will live meaningful, productive lives if they get past the rough patch that caused them to think about suicide.

But only 5 percent of people who attempt suicide via firearm survive; hence the need for messaging that’s effective in helping friends and family members hold onto guns while their loved ones are experiencing suicidal ideation.

The researchers conducted interviews in 2015 with 39 adult gun owners from rural communities in central Oregon. The goal was to understand the culture of gun ownership and learn about acceptable, non-threatening methods of improving firearm safety that respect the rights of gun owners while also helping suicidal patients stay safe.

The interviews led to a one-page suicide prevention message that encouraged restricting firearm access and also respected the cultural values and rights of gun owners; the opening, for example, read “People who love guns, love you. For many of us, firearms are an American way of life – a constitutional right and a necessity in order to protect ourselves and our families. And with this right to bear arms comes responsibility. Just as we must refuse to be a victim of violent crime, we must also use common sense.”

The culturally tailored message was then used as part of a nationwide survey of more than 800 gun owners to determine the likelihood of it causing owners of firearms to engage in multiple key gun safety behaviors for suicide prevention – such as asking a suicidal person to give away his or her guns temporarily to another trusted individual.

Survey participants were randomly assigned to receive one of four messages: a control message that read only, “Mental health and suicide prevention are important public health issues”; a standard, one-page message explaining that suicide is preventable, what the warning signs are, and how to take action; the culture-specific message that resulted from the interviews with gun owners; and a message that combined the tailored message with the standard message.

“Respondents who received our culturally specific message in conjunction with standard suicide prevention content reported the greatest likelihood of taking steps to restrict access to firearms for those deemed at risk of suicide,” said OSU-Cascades anthropologist Elizabeth Marino. “This tendency was enhanced for individuals who were more politically conservative, lived in more rural areas, and supported gun rights to a stronger degree.

“The findings underscore the importance of cultural factors in public health messaging,” she said. “Messaging that respects the values of gun owners could hold promise in promoting firearm safety for suicide prevention. It’s important to understand what matters most to people and not use language that inadvertently promotes values or judgments that are not meaningful to the group you’re trying to reach.”

In this case, inadvertent promotion could come via words or sentences that suggested an anti-firearm bias.

The study found the standard one-page public health message was no more effective in moving people’s attitudes than the one-sentence control message, which was effectively no message.

“Information by itself isn’t changing minds at all,” Marino said. “But if the language in the message is sensitive and respects culturally specific values, then people are more open to the information and will maybe change their decisions. In such politically and culturally divisive times, it’s especially worth noting that there are in fact joint goals that people with diverse perspectives can talk about and reach consensus on as long as we understand each person’s cultural framework.”

Marino said one of the findings from the informational interviews was that many gun owners are already intervening when necessary by temporarily limiting access to firearms when someone is suicidal.

“This really speaks toward understanding the coping strategies and resilience in communities to solve problems and find ways to build on those,” she said. “We based our message on what people are already doing.”

Joining Marino in the study were two OSU-Cascades colleagues, psychologist and corresponding author Christopher Wolsko and public health specialist Susan Keys, as well as Holly Wilcox of Johns Hopkins University. The La Pine Community Health Center and its medical director, Laura Pennavaria, also collaborated on the study.

“That interdisciplinary perspective really helped us pay attention to the cultural framework from which all of these attitudes and actions emerge,” Marino said. “There are more deaths by suicide than deaths by car accidents every year in the U.S., and suicide is the No. 1 means of violent death globally. It’s a really important, pressing issue nationally and internationally.”

Marino notes that often someone will make the decision to take his or her life, and then act on it, inside a five-minute window.

“People believe if someone wants to kill himself or herself, they will just eventually do it, but that’s actually not the case,” she said. “If we can help them get past the rough patch, chances are great that people will survive. They go on to lead full, meaningful lives.”

The University of Rochester’s Injury Control Research Center for Suicide and the Oregon Health Authority supported this research.

Findings were published last week in Archives of Suicide Research.

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Vitamin E-deficient embryos are cognitively impaired even after diet improves

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Zebrafish deficient in vitamin E produce offspring beset by behavioral impairment and metabolic problems, new research at Oregon State University shows.

The findings are important because the neurological development of zebrafish is similar to that of humans, and nutrition surveys indicate roughly 95 percent of women in the U.S. have inadequate intakes of this critical micronutrient.

The problem may be exacerbated in women of child-bearing age who avoid high-fat foods and may not have a diet rich in oils, nuts and seeds, which are among the foods with the highest levels of vitamin E, an antioxidant necessary for normal embryonic development in vertebrates. 

Corresponding author Maret Traber and collaborators at OSU compared offspring from fish on vitamin E-deficient diets – the E-minus group – with those on vitamin E-adequate diets, the E-plus fish.

The E-minus embryos had more deformities and greater incidence of death as well as an altered DNA methylation status through five days after fertilization; five days is the time it takes for a fertilized egg to become a swimming zebrafish.

For the next seven days, all of the normal-looking fish, irrespective of diet history, were fed a vitamin E-adequate diet.

Both groups grew normally and showed similar DNA methylation, but the E-minus fish failed to learn and were afraid. They also continued to have metabolic defects and indications of mitochondrial damage.

Because insufficient vitamin E reached the E-minus embryos’ brains, those brains continued to lack choline and glucose and simply did not develop correctly, said Traber, a professor in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences, and Ava Helen Pauling Professor in the Linus Pauling Institute.

“They managed to get through the critical period to get the brain formed, but they were stupid and didn’t learn and didn’t respond right,” Traber said. “They had so much oxidative damage they essentially had a screwed-up metabolism. These outcomes suggest embryonic vitamin E deficiency in zebrafish causes lasting impairments that aren’t resolved via later dietary vitamin E supplementation.

“What that means for people is that many people are walking around with inadequate intakes, and how is their metabolism being affected and especially the brain, which is highly polyunsaturated and has specific mechanisms for retaining vitamin E? It takes awhile to get vitamin E into the brain to protect it, and this has me concerned about teenage girls who eat inadequate diets and get pregnant.”

Traber said a lack of vitamin E causes a chain reaction that dramatically changes cell metabolism.

“It’s the secondary ripples of having inadequate vitamin E that are really causing the problems, and it takes a fair amount of time to correct all of those things that go wrong,” she said. “It’s very frightening is what it really comes down to.”

Traber’s collaborators included OSU colleagues Melissa McDougall, Jaewoo Choi, Lisa Truong and Robert Tanguay.

Findings were recently published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine. The National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences supported this research.

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Maret Traber, 541-737-7977
maret.traber@oregonstate.edu

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New algorithm, metrics improve autonomous underwater vehicles’ energy efficiency

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Robotics researchers have found a way for autonomous underwater vehicles to navigate strong currents with greater energy efficiency, which means the AUVs can gather data longer and better.

AUVs such as underwater gliders are valuable research tools limited primarily by their energy budget – every bit of battery power wasted via inefficient trajectories cuts into the time they can spend working.

“Historically, a lot of oceanography data sets and sampling came from using ships, which are expensive and can only really be out for a few days at a time,” said Dylan Jones, a third-year Ph.D. student in Oregon State University’s robotics program and lead author on the study. “With autonomous underwater vehicles, you can get months-long monitoring. And a way to extend those vehicles’ missions is through smarter planning for how they get from one point of interest to another.”

Jones and Ph.D. advisor Geoff Hollinger, assistant professor of mechanical engineering in OSU’s College of Engineering, have built a framework for the vehicles to plan energy-efficient trajectories through disturbances that are strong and uncertain, like ocean currents and wind fields.

The framework involves an algorithm that samples alternate paths, as well as comparison metrics that let a vehicle decide when it makes sense to switch paths based on new information collected about environmental disturbances.

The researchers tested the framework in a simulated environment – a data set of currents from the Regional Ocean Modeling System – and also on a windy lake with an autonomous boat.

The results, recently published in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, show that the algorithm can plan vehicle paths that are more energy efficient than ones planned by existing methods, and that it’s robust enough to deal with environments for which not much data is available.

Findings also indicate that three of the framework’s five path comparison metrics can be used to plan more efficient routes compared to planning based solely on the ocean current forecast.

“We generalized past trajectory optimization techniques and also removed the assumption that trajectory waypoints are equally spaced in time,” Jones said. “Removing that assumption improves on the state of the art in energy-efficient path planning. 

“These are under-actuated vehicles – they don’t go fast in relation to the strong ocean currents, so one way to get them to travel more efficiently is to go with the flow, to coast and not use energy,” he added. “We’re building more intelligence into these vehicles so they can more reliably accomplish their missions.”

Jones notes that overcoming strong disturbances is a critical component of putting any kind of robot in a real-life environment. Past planning algorithms haven’t always considered the dynamics of the vehicle they were planning for, he said.

“Sometimes we make assumptions in the lab or do simulations that don’t translate in the real world,” Jones said. “Sometimes a disturbance is too strong to be overcome, or sometimes it can be overcome but the path deviates so significantly that it would put the robot in a danger area. We have to consider all the possible locations of a robot. There are smarter ways of considering these various disturbances, and this gives us a better way of planning paths that are least affected by disturbances.”

Any disconnect between the controller and the planner can be dangerous, Jones said.

“The way we see this work going is to bridge that gap – how do we look at paths that are easier for controllers to follow, and how do we make controllers follow paths better?” he said. “We can be more energy efficient when we consider the whole environment, planning paths so that the controller of the vehicle doesn’t have to work as hard.”

Future research will also deal with “informative path planning” – planning paths that initially gather information about the environment and disturbances that the algorithm can use later to plan more energy-efficient routes.

“How do we combine these two ideas – planning a path for energy efficiency while also trying to gather information that will inform efficient path planning?” Jones said. “There will be tradeoffs and it might come down to, do I pay five hours now to save six hours later on? Another possible research direction is to look at a multivehicle situation where one vehicle can scout ahead and relay information to one or more others – they could possibly have a low shared energy cost by intelligently assigning goals and sharing information.”

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New assessment identifies global hotspots for water conflict

CORVALLIS, Ore. – More than 1,400 new dams or water diversion projects are planned or already under construction and many of them are on rivers flowing through multiple nations, fueling the potential for increased water conflict between some countries.

A new analysis commissioned by the United Nations uses a comprehensive combination of social, economic, political and environmental factors to identify areas around the world most at-risk for “hydro-political” strife. This river basins study was part of the U.N.’s Transboundary Waters Assessment Program.

Researchers from the United States, Spain and Chile took part in the analysis, which has been recommended by the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe as an indicator for the U.N.’s sustainable development goals for water cooperation.

Results of the study have just been published in the journal Global Environment Change. 

The analysis suggests that risks for conflict are projected to increase over the next 15 to 30 years in four hotspot regions – the Middle East, central Asia, the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin, and the Orange and Limpopo basins in southern Africa.

Additionally, the Nile River in Africa, much of southern Asia, the Balkans in southeastern Europe, and upper South America are all areas where new dams are under construction and neighboring countries face increasing water demand, may lack workable treaties, or worse, haven’t even discussed the issue.

“If two countries have agreed on water flow and distribution when there’s a dam upstream, there usually is no conflict,” said Eric Sproles, an Oregon State University hydrologist and a co-author on the study. “Such is the case with the Columbia River basin between the United States and Canada, whose treaty is recognized as one of the most resilient and advanced agreements in the world. 

“Unfortunately, that isn’t the case with many other river systems, where a variety of factors come into play, including strong nationalism, political contentiousness, and drought or shifting climate conditions.”

The conflict over water isn’t restricted to human consumption, the researchers say. There is a global threat to biodiversity in many of the world’s river systems, and the risk of species extinction is moderate to very high in 70 percent of the area of transboundary river basins.

Asia has the highest number of dams proposed or under construction on transboundary basins of any continent with 807, followed by South America, 354; Europe, 148; Africa, 99; and North America, 8. But Africa has a higher level of hydro-political tension, the researchers say, with more exacerbating factors.

The Nile River, for example, is one of the more contentious areas of the globe. Ethiopia is constructing several dams on tributaries of the Nile in its uplands, which will divert water from countries downstream, including Egypt. Contributing to the tension is drought and a growing population more dependent on a water source that may be diminishing.

“When you look at a region, the first thing you try to identify is whether there is a treaty and, if so, is it one that works for all parties and is flexible enough to withstand change,” Sproles said. “It’s easy to plan for water if it is the same every year – sometimes even when it’s low. When conditions vary – and drought is a key factor – the tension tends to increase and conflict is more likely to occur.”

In addition to environmental variability and lack of treaties, other factors leading to conflict include political and economic instability, and armed conflict, the analysis shows.

Sproles said one reason the Columbia River Basin treaty between the U.S. and Canada has worked well is the relative stability of the water supply. In contrast, climate models suggest that the Orinoco River Basin in northern Brazil and the Amazon Basin in upper South America may face drier conditions, which could lead to more strife.

Sproles is a courtesy faculty member in Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, where he received his doctorate.

More information on the United Nations Transboundary Waters Assessment Program is available at: http://www.geftwap.org/.

A shorter version of the paper was published July 13 on the Sustainable Security website.

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OSU inks largest research grant in its history to begin ship construction

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has just received a grant of $121.88 million from the National Science Foundation to spearhead the construction of a new class of research vessels for the United States Academic Research Fleet. It is the largest grant in the university’s history.

This grant will fund the construction of the first of three planned vessels approved by Congress for research in coastal regions of the continental United States and Alaska. When funding for the next two vessels is authorized, the total grant to OSU could increase to as much as $365 million. The first vessel is slated to be operated by OSU for research missions focusing on the U.S. West Coast. The NSF will begin the competitive selection of operating institutions for the second and third vessels later this year – likely to universities or consortia for operations on the U.S. East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

“Oregon State University is extremely proud to lead this effort to create the next generation of regional ocean-going research vessels funded by NSF,” said OSU President Edward J. Ray. “Our exceptional marine science programs are uniquely positioned to advance knowledge of the oceans and to seek solutions to the threats facing healthy coastal communities – and more broadly, global ecological well-being – through their teaching and research.”

OSU was selected by the National Science Foundation in 2013 to lead the initial design phase for the new vessels, and to develop and execute a competitive selection for a shipyard in the United States to do the construction. Gulf Island Shipyards, LLC, in Louisiana was chosen and will conduct the detailed design verification over the next year. Officials hope to have a keel-laying ceremony for the first vessel in the spring of 2018, with the ship delivered to OSU for a year of extensive testing in 2020.

This new class of modern well-equipped ships is essential to support research encompassing marine physical, chemical, biological and geologic processes in coastal waters, said Roberta Marinelli, dean of Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

“Rising sea levels, ocean acidification, low-oxygen waters or ‘hypoxia,’ declining fisheries, offshore energy, and the threat of catastrophic tsunamis are issues not only in the Pacific Northwest but around the world,” Marinelli said. “These new vessels will provide valuable scientific capacity for better understanding our changing oceans.”

The ships will be equipped to conduct detailed seafloor mapping, to reveal geologic structures important to understanding processes such as subduction zone earthquakes that may trigger tsunamis. The Pacific Northwest is considered a high-risk region because of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which has produced about two dozen major earthquakes of magnitude 8.0 or greater over the past 10,000 years.

The new ships will also be equipped with advanced sensors that will be used to detect and characterize harmful algal blooms, changing ocean chemistry, and the interactions between the sea and atmosphere. The emerging fields of wave, tidal and wind energy will benefit from ship observations. Oregon State is the site of the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, which in December was awarded a grant of up to $35 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to create the world’s premier wave energy test facility in Newport.

Some characteristics of the new regional class research vessels (RCRVs), which were designed by The Glosten Associates, a naval architecture firm based in Seattle:

  • 193 feet long with a 41-foot beam;
  • Range of approximately 7,000 nautical miles;
  • Cruising speed is 11.5 knots with a maximum speed of 13 knots;
  • 16 berths for scientists and 13 for crew members;
  • Ability to stay out at sea for at least 21 days before returning to port;
  • High bandwidth satellite communications for streaming data and video to shore;

“This class of ships will enable researchers to work much more safely and efficiently at sea because of better handling and stability, more capacity for instrumentation and less noise,” said Clare Reimers, a professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and project co-leader. “The design also has numerous ‘green’ features, including an optimized hull form, waste heat recovery, LED lighting, and variable speed power generation.”

Oregon State is expected to begin operating the first of the new ships in the fall of 2021, after a year of testing and then official Academic-Fleet designation by the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), according to Demian Bailey, also a project co-leader for OSU.

“There will be a full year of testing because there are many interconnected systems to try out,” Bailey said. “Any new ship needs to have shakedown cruises, but we’ll have to test all of the scientific instrumentation as well, from the acoustic multibeam seafloor mapping system to its seawater and meteorological data collection, processing and transfer capabilities.

“These ships will be very forward-looking and are expected to support science operations for 40 years or longer. They will be the most advanced ships of their kind in the country.”

OSU previously operated the 184-foot R/V Wecoma from 1975 until 2012, when it was retired. The university then assumed operations of Wecoma’s sister ship, R/V Oceanus, from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; that ship will be retired when the new ship is ready.

The tentative timetable for the new ships:

  • Ship No. 1 keel laying – spring 2018;
  • Ship No. 1 transition to OSU for a year of testing – fall 2020;
  • Ship No. 1 should be fully tested, have UNOLS designation and be fully operational by fall 2021;
  • Ship No. 2 – Keel laying in winter of 2018, delivery in spring 2021, and UNOLS designation in late spring 2022;
  • Ship No. 3 – Keel laying in fall 2020, delivery in spring 2022, and UNOLS designation in spring 2023.

More information on the ships and the project is available at: http://ceoas.oregonstate.edu/ships/rcrv/.

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Mark Floyd, 541-737-0788

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OSU researcher studies cross-laminated timber as seismic retrofit tool

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Safer historic buildings and more jobs for the timber industry are the goals of a partnership between an Oregon State University structural engineering researcher and a newly formed nonprofit group in Corvallis, Oregon.

Andre Barbosa of the OSU College of Engineering is collaborating with Cascadia Seismic Strategies on a $150,000 project to study the use of cross-laminated timber panels for seismic retrofits on unreinforced masonry buildings. 

A grant coordinated through the Downtown Corvallis Association and Oregon Main Street is covering roughly two-thirds of the cost of the project, which will result in mockups of CLT retrofit systems at the 107-year-old Harding Building at Third Street and Madison Street in Corvallis.

“We’ll build prototypes that will provide details that will let engineers and construction folks see how things go together,” said Barbosa, a volunteer with Cascadia Seismic Strategies.

Barbosa is one of the original members of the group, named after the subduction zone that lies off the coast of Oregon. The major Cascadia earthquake that experts say is on the horizon would be particularly damaging to vintage masonry structures like the Harding Building, the cornerstone of the original Third Street business district.

“The DCA is concerned about the potential devastation that a Cascadia Subduction Zone mega-quake would wreak,” said Cascadia Seismic Strategies spokeswoman Roz Keeney. “Members of the DCA’s design committee recruited structural engineers, historic architects and other building professionals to join in a conversation about earthquake preparedness and historic building preservation. This group went on to form Cascadia Seismic Strategies, which is now focused on this cutting-edge project to develop a low-cost reinforcement method using local wood products and off-the-shelf steel connectors.”

Engineering work is scheduled to start in August. The grant for the 34-month project underwrites multiple design and construction strategies for dealing with weaknesses in unreinforced masonry buildings, as well as production of a video demonstrating how to implement upgrades that can serve as a guide for other communities wanting to use similar strategies in preservation and retrofitting efforts.

“This project identifies seismic retrofits for historic buildings that improve their safety performance without compromising their historic integrity,” said project manager and historic preservation architect Sue Licht. “It also demonstrates that historic rehabilitation can create local, site-specific jobs that cannot be outsourced.”

Barbosa notes that OSU is a leader in developing new wood products such as cross-laminated timber and in growing forest-products jobs amid reduced harvest levels.

“It’s important to bring jobs back to the timber industry in Oregon and to find new applications for mass timber,” he said. “This could potentially be one of them, while improving the resiliency of downtowns and the older buildings that give us liveliness and history.”

Portland firm KPFF Consulting Engineers will handle most of the structural engineering, led by Reid Zimmerman, with Barbosa lending his expertise in cross-laminated timber and seismic retrofits.

“This comes from what we’ve been learning by visiting different earthquake sites, like Napa (California) and Nepal,” Barbosa said. “We keep learning and try to bring back that knowledge and share it with communities, including by creating a model for affordable seismic retrofits for historic buildings. This is a grass-roots, community-driven solution for a big problem, a huge Cascadia quake.” 

The primary funding organization, Oregon Main Street, is a Main Street America coordinating program administered by the State Historic Preservation Office. It works with Oregon communities to “develop comprehensive, incremental revitalization strategies based on a community’s unique assets, character and heritage.”

Its goal is to build “high-quality, livable and sustainable communities that will grow Oregon’s economy while maintaining a sense of place.”

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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