OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

scientific research and advances

New program to train international specialists in water conflict resolution

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The increasing need for access to fresh water for drinking, agriculture, fisheries and other uses is at the root of a growing number of geopolitical conflicts around the world, yet there are few resource managers in charge who have training in both water science and diplomacy.

A new cooperative international education program aims to address that shortfall.

Oregon State University, the University for Peace in Costa Rica, and the UNESCO-IHE Water Education Center in The Netherlands are creating an international joint education program aimed at addressing water conflicts in a more professional manner. The program will launch this fall with about 10 students enrolled to earn master’s degrees, eventually growing to 30 students from around the world.

“There is a real need for people trained in the art of ‘hydro-diplomacy,’” said Aaron Wolf, an Oregon State University geographer and internationally recognized expert on water conflict. “The problem is really rather simple – there just isn’t enough water to go around for every need. So if you manage water, you have to know how to manage conflict and that’s where the training has been lacking.

“The good news is that water gives you the opportunity to get certain people into the room that wouldn’t ordinarily sit across from each other,” Wolf added. “And it gives them a common language.”

Students in the new program will study at each of the three sites, ending up at Oregon State where they will be required to conduct a collaborative, applied research project somewhere in the United States where water management issues are in play, according to Mary Santelmann, director of Oregon State’s Water Resources Graduate Program, which will coordinate the new degree in the U.S.

The venture builds on a certificate program OSU offers in water conflict management, and utilizes the expertise of each institution.

“Oregon State has some 90 faculty members who are involved in some aspect of water science and another 20 faculty members who focus on some aspect of public policy and conflict resolution,” Santelmann said. “That expertise, along with OSU’s work with a variety of federal agencies, made the university uniquely positioned to play a lead role in the new educational venture.”

The University for Peace in Costa Rica is a United Nations-mandated institution established in 1980 as a treaty organization by the UN General Assembly. Scholars there have a great deal of experience at high-level diplomacy, as well as conflict theory and geopolitical expertise with developing countries.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Water Education is the largest international graduate water education facility in the world, and has researchers with extensive experience in working on water resource issues in Europe and elsewhere.

“There is no single institution that could offer an entire curriculum and suite of experiences necessary to train a generation of students in hydro-diplomacy,” said Wolf, who is a 2015 recipient of the prestigious Heinz Award for public policy. “It had to be collaborative, international and experiential.”

The issues students will deal with are vast. In Oregon, for example, there has been a major conflict over water rights in the Klamath River basin, where agricultural interests compete with fisheries management and tribal rights.

These kinds of issues are not unusual in the United States, Wolf pointed out, and can become even more contentious when an international component is added.

“Ethiopia has been constructing a major dam and Egypt is so concerned about the impact on its water that it has discussed going to war over it,” Wolf said. “There are many countries in central and Southeast Asia where similar border tensions have arisen over water that flows across multiple jurisdictions.”

Water management is conflict management, Santelmann pointed out. The collaborative new program will focus on guiding students to gain skills in a variety of areas through field work, working with experts from different disciplines, and gaining a broad understanding of varying points of view, resolution processes, and water management science.

“Regardless of the scale, there is a demand for people who can ensure that the needs of the people and the ecosystem that rely on this critical resource will be met,” Santelmann said.

Santelmann and Wolf are in Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Mary Santelmann, 541-737-1215, santelmm@geo.oregonstate.edu;

Aaron Wolf, 541-737-2722; wolfa@geo.oregonstate.edu

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

 

 

 

This tributary of the Nu River in China has all of its water diverted by dams and is dry – just one example of water use conflict around the world. A new collaborative program that includes Oregon State University aims to help train leaders in water conflict resolution. (Photo by Kelly Kibler, courtesy of Oregon State University)

Researchers measure giant “internal waves” that help regulate climate

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Once a day, a wave as tall as the Empire State Building and as much as a hundred miles wide forms in the waters between Taiwan and the Philippines and rolls across the South China Sea – but on the surface, it is hardly noticed.

These daily monstrosities are called “internal waves” because they are beneath the ocean surface and though scientists have known about them for years, they weren’t really sure how significant they were because they had never been fully tracked from cradle to grave.

But a new study, published this week in Nature Research Letter, documents what happens to internal waves at the end of their journey and outlines their critical role in global climate. The international research project was funded by the Office of Naval Research and the Taiwan National Science Council.

“Ultimately, they are what mixes heat throughout the ocean,” said Jonathan Nash, an Oregon State University oceanographer and co-author on the study. “Without them, the ocean would be a much different place. It would be significantly more stratified – the surface waters would be much warmer and the deep abyss colder.

“It’s like stirring cream into your coffee,” he added. “Internal waves are the ocean’s spoon.”

Internal waves help move a tremendous amount of energy from Luzon Strait across the South China Sea, but until this project, scientists didn’t know what became of that energy. As it turns out, it’s a rather complicated picture. A large fraction of energy dissipates when the wave gets steep and breaks on the deep slopes off China and Vietnam, much like breakers on the beach.

But part of the energy remains, with waves reflecting from the coast and rebounding back into the ocean in different directions.

The internal waves are caused by strong tides flowing over the topography, said Nash, who is in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. The waves originating in Luzon Strait are the largest in the world, based on the region’s tidal flow and topography. A key factor is the depth at which the warm- and cold-water layers of the ocean meet – at about 1,000 meters.

The waves can get as high as 500 meters tall and 100-200 kilometers wide before steepening.

“You can actually see them from satellite images,” Nash said. “They will form little waves at the ocean surface, and you see the surface convergences piling up flotsam and jetsam as the internal wave sucks the water down. They move about 2-3 meters a second.”

The waves also have important global implications. In climate models, predictions of the sea level 50 years from now vary by more than a foot depending on whether the effects of these waves are included.

“These are not small effects,” Nash said.

This new study, which was part of a huge international collaboration involving OSU researchers Nash and James Moum – as well as 40 others from around the world – is the first to document the complete life cycle of these huge undersea waves.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Jonathan Nash, 541-737-4573, nash@coas.oregonstate.edu

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

internalwaves

Large "internal waves" are generally not seen at the surface, but their signature is - visible slicks and changes in surface roughness and color.

Solomon Islands dolphin hunts cast spotlight on small cetacean survival

NEWPORT, Ore. – A new study on the impact of ‘drive-hunting’ dolphins in the Solomon Islands is casting a spotlight on the increasing vulnerability of small cetaceans around the world.

From 1976 to 2013, more than 15,000 dolphins were killed by villagers in Fanalei alone, where a single dolphin tooth can fetch the equivalent of 70 cents ($0.70 U.S.) – an increase in value of five times just in the last decade.

Results of the Solomon Islands study are being reported this week online in the new journal, Royal Society Open Science.

“In the Solomon Islands, the hunting is as much about culture as economic value,” said Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University and co-author on the study. “In other parts of the world, however, the targeting of dolphins and other small cetaceans appears to be increasing as coastal fishing stocks decline.

“The hunting of large whales is managed by the International Whaling Commission,” added Baker, who works out of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore. “But there is no international or inter-governmental organization to set quotas or provide management advice for hunting small cetaceans. Unregulated and often undocumented exploitation pose a real threat to the survival of local populations in some regions of the world.”

The drive-hunting of dolphins has a long history in the Solomon Islands, particularly at the island of Malaita, according to Marc Oremus, a biologist with the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium and lead author on the study. In 2010, the most active village, Fanalei, suspended hunting in exchange for financial compensation from an international non-governmental organization. The villagers resumed hunting in 2013.

“After the agreement broke down in 2013, a local newspaper reported that villagers had killed hundreds of dolphins in just a few months,” Oremus said. “So we went to take a look.”

Oremus and co-author John Leqata, a research officer with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, visited Fanalei in March of 2013 to document the impact on the population, and examine detailed records of the kills. During the first three months of that year, villagers killed more than 1,500 spotted dolphins, 159 spinner dolphins, and 15 bottlenose dolphins.

This is one of the largest documented hunts of dolphins in the world, rivaling even the more-industrialized hunting of dolphins in Japan, noted Baker, whose genetic identification research was featured in the Academy Award-winning documentary on dolphin exploitation, “The Cove.”

“It is also troubling that teeth are increasing in cash value, apparently creating a commercial incentive for hunting dolphins,” Baker said.

In drive-hunting, the hunters operate in close coordination from 20 to 30 traditional canoes. When dolphins are found, the hunters used rounded stones to create a clapping sound underwater. The hunters maneuver the canoes into a U-shape around the dolphins, using sound as an acoustic barrier to drive them toward shore where they are killed.

“The main objective of the hunt is to obtain dolphin teeth that are used in wedding ceremonies,” Oremus said. “The teeth and meat are also sold for cash.”

Oremus said the Solomon Island hunters understand the risk of exploiting the population.

“The government of the Solomon Islands has contributed substantially to research in recent years, but is not well-equipped to undertake the scale of research needed to estimate abundance and trends of the local dolphin population,” Oremus said. “This problem exists in many island nations with large ‘Exclusive Economic Zones.’”

The research was supported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Pew Environmental Group and the International Whaling Commission.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Scott Baker, 541-272-0560, scott.baker@oregonstate.edu

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 




dolphinteeth

Dolphin teeth are sold for necklaces

Emeritus OSU geologist outlines earthquake “time bombs” in a forthcoming book

CORVALLIS, Ore. – An emeritus Oregon State University geologist, who was one of the first scientists to point to the possibility of a major earthquake in the Pacific Northwest, outlines some of the world’s seismic “time bombs” in a forthcoming book.

One of those time bombs listed, in a segment he wrote last year, was Nepal where on April 25, an earthquake estimated at magnitude 7.8 struck the region, killing more than 7,500 people and injuring another 14,500.

Robert Yeats’ prescience is eerily familiar.

Five years ago, Yeats was interviewed by Scientific American on earthquake hazards and outlined the dual threats to Port au Prince, Haiti, of poverty and proximity to a major fault line. One week later, that time bomb went off and more than 100,000 people died in a catastrophic earthquake.

When the Scientific American reporter called Yeats after that seismic disaster to ask if he had predicted the quake, he said no.

“I could say where the time bombs are located – large, rapidly growing cities next to a tectonic plate boundary with a past history of earthquakes, but I had no way of knowing that the bomb would go off a week after my interview,” he said.

Fast forward to 2015 – Yeats has completed a new book, “Earthquake Time Bombs,” which will be published later this year by Cambridge University Press. In that book, he identifies other time bombs around the world; one is a region he has visited frequently in the past 30 years – the Himalayas, including Kathmandu, Nepal, a city of more than a million people.

Yeats points to several areas around the worlds where large cities lie on or adjacent to a major plate boundary creating a ticking time bomb: Tehran, the capital of Iran; Kabul in Afghanistan; Jerusalem in the Middle East; Caracas in Venezuela; Guantanamo, Cuba; Los Angeles, California; and the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the northwestern United States and near British Columbia.

“These places should take lessons from the regions that already have experienced major earthquakes, including Nepal,” said Yeats, who is with OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

Like Port au Prince, Kathmandu lies on a tectonic plate boundary – the thrust fault between the high Himalayas and the continent of India to the south. The plate began its northward movement 50 million years ago, Yeats said, and is progressing at the rate of about two-thirds of an inch a year. As the plate is forcing its way beneath Tibet, it is triggering periodic earthquakes along the way.

“It takes time to build up a sufficient amount of stress in these systems, but eventually they will rupture,” Yeats said. “The 2015 Nepal quake was, unquestionably, a disaster with losses of life in the thousands. But it could have been worse.”

“With the assistance of an American non-profit seismology group, the city of Kathmandu created a disaster management unit and a National Society for Earthquake Technology that established committees of citizens to raise awareness and upgrade buildings, especially public schools,” Yeats pointed out. “Other ‘time bombs’ would be wise to do the same.”

Making buildings more earthquake-resistant is imperative for cities near a fault, yet economics often preclude such measures. Yeats said some of the greatest losses in the Nepal quake took place in United Nations World Heritage sites of Bhaktapur and Patan, where ancient buildings had not been strengthened.

“We are not able to predict an earthquake, but we can identify potential trouble,” Yeats said. A seismic gap in the Himalayas was identified years ago by the late Indian seismologist K.N. Khattri in between western Himalaya of India and Kathmandu, where a magnitude 8.1 quake hit in 1934, he pointed out. The earthquake on April 25 struck within Khattri’s seismic gap, Yeats noted.

The 1934 earthquake killed an estimated 20 percent of the population of Kathmandu Valle, some 30,000 people. The population there was much smaller than it is today.

“The 1934 epicenter apparently was east of the city, whereas the epicenter of April 25’s earthquake was to the west, meaning that the two earthquakes may have ruptured different parts of the plate-boundary fault,” Yeats said.

Earlier earthquakes that damaged Kathmandu struck in 1833 and 1255. The location and magnitude of those two quakes are uncertain.

“Videos of this year’s earthquake focused on damaged and destroyed buildings and many of these were old historical buildings that had not been upgraded,” Yeats said. “Photos also showed new buildings that did not appear to be damaged. There’s a lesson there.”

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Robert “Bob” Yeats, yeatsr@science.oregonstate.edu

Researchers think Axial Seamount off Northwest coast is erupting – right on schedule

NEWPORT, Ore. – Axial Seamount, an active underwater volcano located about 300 miles off the coast of Oregon and Washington, appears to be erupting – after two scientists had forecast that such an event would take place there in 2015.

Geologists Bill Chadwick of Oregon State University and Scott Nooner of the University of North Carolina Wilmington made their forecast last September during a public lecture and followed it up with blog posts and a reiteration of their forecast just last week at a scientific workshop.

They based their forecast on some of their previous research – funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which showed how the volcano inflates and deflates like a balloon in a repeatable pattern as it responds to magma being fed into the seamount.

Since last Friday, the region has experienced thousands of tiny earthquakes – a sign that magma is moving toward the surface – and the seafloor dropped by 2.4 meters, or nearly eight feet, also a sign of magma being withdrawn from a reservoir beneath the summit. Instrumentation recording the activity is part of the NSF-funded Ocean Observatories Initiative. William Wilcock of the University of Washington first observed the earthquakes.

“It isn’t clear yet whether the earthquakes and deflation at Axial are related to a full-blown eruption, or if it is only a large intrusion of magma that hasn’t quite reached the surface,” said Chadwick, who works out of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport and also is affiliated with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. “There are some hints that lava did erupt, but we may not know for sure until we can get out there with a ship.”

In any case, the researchers say, such an eruption is not a threat to coastal residents. The earthquakes at Axial Seamount are small and the seafloor movements gradual and thus cannot cause a tsunami. Nor is the possible eruption tied to a possible Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.

“I have to say, I was having doubts about the forecast even the night before the activity started,” Chadwick admitted. “We didn’t have any real certainty that it would take place – it was more of a way to test our hypothesis that the pattern we have seen was repeatable and predictable.”

Axial Seamount provides scientists with an ideal laboratory, not only because of its close proximity to the Northwest coast, but for its unique structure.

“Because Axial is on very thin ocean crust, its ‘plumbing system’ is simpler than at most volcanoes on land that are often complicated by other factors related to having a thicker crust,” said Chadwick, who is an adjunct professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “Thus Axial can give us insights into how volcano magma systems work – and how eruptions might be predicted.”

Axial Seamount last erupted in 2011 and that event was loosely forecast by Chadwick and Nooner, who had said in 2006 that the volcano would erupt before 2014. Since the 2011 eruption, additional research led to a refined forecast that the next eruption would be in 2015 based on the fact that the rate of inflation had increased by about 400 percent since the last eruption.

“We’ve learned that the supply rate of magma has a big influence on the time between eruptions,” Nooner said. “When the magma rate was lower, it took 13 years between eruptions. But now when the magma rate is high, it took only four years.”

Chadwick and Nooner are scheduled to go back to Axial in August to gather more data, but it may be possible for other researchers to visit the seamount on an expedition as early as May. They hope to confirm the eruption and, if so, measure the volume of lava involved.

Evidence that was key to the successful forecast came in the summer of 2014 via measurements taken by colleagues Dave Caress and Dave Clague of Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and Mark Zumberge and Glenn Sasagawa of Scripps Oceanographic Institution. Those measurements showed the high rate of magma inflation was continuing.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Bill Chadwick, 541-867-0179, bill.chadwick@oregonstate.edu

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 










Boca vent

Axial Seamount vent taken in 2011


NE-Pac-2011-Axial-Location-hires

Researchers find 200-year lag between climate events in Greenland, Antarctica

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study using evidence from a highly detailed ice core from West Antarctica shows a consistent link between abrupt temperature changes on Greenland and Antarctica during the last ice age, giving scientists a clearer picture of the link between climate in the northern and southern hemispheres.

Greenland climate during the last ice age was very unstable, the researchers say, characterized by a number of large, abrupt changes in mean annual temperature that each occurred within several decades. These so-called “Dansgaard-Oeschger events” took place every few thousand years during the last ice age. Temperature changes in Antarctica showed an opposite pattern, with Antarctica cooling when Greenland was warm, and vice versa.

In this study funded by the National Science Foundation and published this week in the journal Nature, the researchers discovered that the abrupt climates changes show up first in Greenland, with the response to the Antarctic climate delayed by about 200 years. The researchers documented 18 abrupt climate events during the past 68,000 years.

“The fact that temperature changes are opposite at the two poles suggests that there is a redistribution of heat going on between the hemispheres,” said Christo Buizert, a post-doctoral research at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “We still don’t know what caused these past shifts, but understanding their timing gives us important clues about the underlying mechanisms.

“The 200-year lag that we observe certainly hints at an oceanic mechanism,” Buizert added. “If the climatic changes were propagated by the atmosphere, the Antarctic response would have occurred in a matter of years or decades, not two centuries. The ocean is large and sluggish, thus the 200-year time lag is a pretty clear fingerprint of the ocean’s involvement.”

These past episodes of climate change differ in a major way from what is happening today, the researchers note. The abrupt events of the ice age were regional in scope – and likely tied to large-scale changes in ocean circulation. Warming today is global and primarily from human carbon dioxide emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The key to the discovery was the analysis of a new ice core from West Antarctica, drilled to a depth of 3,405 meters in 2011 and spanning the last 68,000 years, according to Oregon State paleoclimatologist Edward Brook, a co-author on the Nature study and an internationally recognized ice core expert.

Because the area where the ice core was drilled gets high annual snowfall, Brook said, the new ice core provides one of the most detailed records of Antarctic temperatures at a very high resolution. Greenland temperatures were already well-established, the researchers say, because of high annual snowfall and more available ice core data.

“Past ice core studies did not reveal the temperature changes as clearly as this remarkable core,” said Eric Steig, a professor in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, who co-wrote the paper. Steig’s laboratory made one of the key measurements that provides past Antarctic temperatures.

“Previous work was not precise enough to determine the relative timing of abrupt climate change in Antarctica and Greenland, and so it was unclear which happened first,” Steig noted. “Our new results show unambiguously that the Antarctic changes happen after the rapid temperature changes in Greenland. It is a major advance to know that the Earth behaves in this particular way.”

Kendrick Taylor, chief scientist on the project, said the core enabled the research team to get the relative timing of Greenland and Antarctic temperatures down to several decades.

“We needed a climate record from the Southern Hemisphere that extended at least 60,000 years into the past and was able to resolve fast changes in climate,” said Taylor, from the Desert Research Institute in Nevada. “We considered sites all over Antarctica before selecting the site with the best combination of thick ice, simple ice flow and the right amount of annual snowfall.”

Taylor and colleagues formed a science and engineering team consisting of 28 laboratories from around the United States. “The resulting information provides unprecedented detail about many aspects of the Earth’s past climate,” Taylor said. “This will provide a generation of climate researchers a way to test and improve our understanding of how and why global climate changes.”

OSU’s Buizert said it is “very likely” that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, is involved in these abrupt climate reversals.

“This ocean circulation brings warm surface waters from the tropics to the North Atlantic,” said Buizert, who is in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “As these water masses cool, they sink to the bottom off the ocean. This happens right off the coast of Greenland, and therefore Greenland is located in a sweet spot where the climate is very sensitive to changes in the AMOC.”

Brook said the AMOC seems to be critical, but was probably part of a combination of factors that ultimately controlled these past abrupt changes.

“Although ocean circulation may be the key, there are probably other feedbacks involved, such as the rise and fall of sea ice and changes in ice and snow cover on land,” Brook said. “There is probably some kind of threshold in the system – say, in the salinity of the surface ocean – that triggers temperature reversals.

“It’s not a problem to find potential mechanisms; it’s just a question of figuring out which one is right. And the precise timing of these events, like we describe in this study, is an important part of the puzzle.”

 

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Christo Buizert, 541-737-1209

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

antarctica surface
Antarctica

Drug prices to treat multiple sclerosis soar, point to larger problem

PORTLAND, Ore. – A new study released today found that drugs used to treat multiple sclerosis have soared in price in the past two decades, in some cases more than 700 percent, even though newer drugs have come to the market - a process that normally should have stabilized or reduced the cost of at least the older medications.

There are no multiple sclerosis drugs now available in the United States with a list price below $50,000 a year, which is two to three times more than the price in Canada, Australia or the United Kingdom. The group of drugs available to treat this disease is rising in price at five to seven times the normal rate of drug inflation in the U.S.

The findings of this research also point to a systemic problem in the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, with relevance to more than just drugs for multiple sclerosis, according to the authors of the study, which was supported by the Oregon State University College of Pharmacy.

Enormous, uncontrolled and rapidly increasing prices for some types of drugs, they say, may be linked to non-transparent drug pricing policies, a dysfunctional market and the lack of a national healthcare system to negotiate prices more aggressively and directly with pharmaceutical companies.

The end result, they say in the report, may be another industry “too big to fail.”

This research was published today in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, by scientists at the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy, the Oregon Health & Science University, and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Portland, Oregon.

“The issue of astronomical drug costs, especially for newer drugs or rare conditions, is more and more common,” said Daniel Hartung, lead author of the study and an associate professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy.

“There are often several drugs in a class available to treat a disease or condition, and ‘economics 101’ would suggest that competition should lower prices,” Hartung said. “In the pharmaceutical industry we often don’t see that. Many professionals now believe that it’s time to push back, to say enough is enough.”

Escalating costs for specialty pharmaceuticals, for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, and hepatitis C, have been a growing concern among many in the health care industry, the authors wrote in their study, raising questions about the ethics of our current approach, exorbitant pricing and increased burdens on “our already stressed healthcare system.”

“Pricing in the pharmaceutical industry increasingly is a case of whatever the market will bear,” Hartung said. “We used to think that any drug with $1 billion in sales was a blockbuster, but last year a drug for hepatitis C had 10 times that, or $10 billion in sales. This does not necessarily mean that drug research and innovation will be 10 times better.”

In the specific case of multiple sclerosis, the research looked at first-generation drugs which became available in the 1990s at prices ranging from $8,000 to $10,000 a year. More competition from other drugs then entered the field. But instead of the price of the original drugs staying about the same or going down, as classic economic theory might dictate, their price soared. One drug that originally cost $8,700 now costs $62,400 a year.

The cause for escalation in the cost of these older drugs is unexplained and “alarming,” the researchers said. It most likely was not attributable to a rise in manufacturing costs, and general and prescription drug inflation was only about 3-5 percent a year over the same period.

“The simplest explanation is that pharmaceutical companies raise prices of new and old MS disease modifying therapies in the United States to increase profits, and our healthcare system puts no limits on these increases,” the researchers wrote in their report. “The U.S. Medicare program, the largest single-payer healthcare system in the U.S., is legally prohibited from negotiating drug prices directly with the pharmaceutical industry.”

There’s some evidence that generic drug growth might slow the rising drug costs in the U.S., the researchers said, but so far most multiple sclerosis drugs are not exposed to price competition from generics.

For the patient, the soaring costs of these drugs threaten access to them, the study indicated. Initial denials of insurance coverage for multiple sclerosis drugs, for both new and established patients, occur much more often now than in the past, the study reported, often requiring multiple approval steps for patients and their neurologists.

“As a doctor, I’m deeply concerned about making sure these life-changing drugs are within reach for patients,” said Dr. Ruth H. Whitham, co-author of the study, a professor of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine, and co-founder of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at OHSU. “The driving force behind this study was our experience that the high cost of MS drugs interferes with our ability to take good care of our patients.

“We decided to shine a light on this growing problem so that those of us who care for patients with chronic illness can work together and advocate for changes to drug pricing mechanisms,” she said.

Hartung suggested that, lacking other major changes in the health care system, public awareness and involvement may be an important first step.

“The court of public opinion is pretty powerful,” he said. “We need to shed some light on this issue and do something about it.”

Authors of the study concluded that “it is time for neurologists to begin a national conversation about unsustainable and suffocating drug costs for people with MS – otherwise we are failing our patients and society.”

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Dan Hartung, 503-494-4720

OSU’s Aaron Wolf receives prestigious Heinz Award

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University’s Aaron Wolf, an internationally recognized expert on water conflict resolution, has been named a 2015 recipient of the Heinz Award in the category of public policy.

Established to honor the memory of U.S. Sen. John Heinz, the awards recognize significant contributions in arts and humanities, environment, human condition, public policy, and technology, the economy and employment. Wolf’s award, given by the Heinz Family Foundation, includes an unrestricted cash award of $250,000.

Wolf was cited for “applying 21st-century insights and ingenuity, as well as ancient wisdoms, to problems that few are paying attention to for the security of the planet.”

“In a world where water is rapidly becoming the most precious of resources and most geopolitical of issues, Aaron Wolf has found practical solutions to protect our water resources and find common ground on water-centered conflicts,” said Teresa Heinz, chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation.

“Water issues cross state and national boundaries, and his advocacy has driven treaties and agreements that recognize our competing demands on water resources and the vital importance of protecting those resources from a modern-day ‘tragedy of the commons.’”

A professor of geography in Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Wolf decided early in his career to find ways to ease the tension over water rights, developing a negotiation approach that emphasizes listening and finding shared values among competing users.

Wolf also was cited for working to prepare future generations of scholars and leaders in water conflict resolution. He and other leading academics founded a consortium of 10 universities on five continents that seeks to build a global water governance culture focused on peace, sustainability and human security.

He also helped develop a new partnership between Oregon State, the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in The Netherlands and the University for Peace in Costa Rica that will offer a joint master’s degree program on water cooperation and peace.

“One thing I’m struck by over and over is what people of goodwill and creativity can accomplish, even in situations where everybody feels like they’re going to lose something,” Wolf said. “As I’ve watched the discourse change from water wars to water cooperation and peace, I’ve learned firsthand that people will resolve seemingly intractable problems when they’re given the space and the opportunity.”

Other Heinz Award winners include:

  • Roz Chast of Ridgefield, Connecticut, best-selling illustrator and cartoonist, the arts and humanities category;
  • Frederica Perera of New York, and environmental health researcher at Columbia University, the environment category;
  • William McNulty and Jacob Wood, founders of Team Rubicon in Los Angeles – which engages returning veterans to help in global relief efforts – the human conditions category;
  • Sangeeta Bhatia, a bioengineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the technology, economy and employment category for pioneering efforts to cultivate liver cells outside the human body.

Wolf and the other winners will be honored at a ceremony on May 13 in Pittsburgh.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Aaron Wolf, 541-737-2722; wolfa@geo.oregonstate.edu

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Natural Resources Leadership Academy 2012
OSU's Aaron Wolf

Faster method to spay cats found to be safe, effective

PORTLAND, Ore. – A new type of procedure to spay female cats has been shown to be safe, effective, and saves a little bit of time – which can be important in some high-volume programs such as those operated by animal shelters.

A study on the procedure has been published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, by Kirk Miller, a clinical instructor with the College of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University, and practicing veterinarian with the Oregon Humane Society in Portland.

It found that a procedure called a “pedicle tie” is effective at stopping blood flow through two vessels that that go to a cat’s ovary, a preliminary step to removing the ovary and uterus. It’s essentially tying the vessels in a knot – and works just as well, and is about 30 percent faster, than a procedure used for decades that required multiple ligatures to accomplish the same purpose.

There had been no prior study on this approach, and some concern it might cause additional bleeding. But in a survey of 2,136 kittens and adult cats that were neutered using the new technique, it was found to safe with no significant increase in hemorrhagic complications, and slightly reduced the time the animal needed to be under anesthesia.

And, for an average procedure, it saves a couple of minutes out of an overall operation that can take from six to 20 minutes, depending on the skill and experience of the practitioner.

“Saving two minutes may not sound like much, but when you do thousands of these procedures every year, like we do, it can add up in savings of both time and money,” Miller said. “Over the course of a year this may free up about two weeks of time for both the surgeon and anesthetist. That increased efficiency means we can serve more animals, provide the care they need and make them eligible to find new homes.”

The procedure can be taught fairly easily and expertise in it gained within a week or two, Miller said. With its safety and efficacy now verified, it’s anticipated that the procedure may soon be used much more broadly, he said.

Aggressive spay and neuter programs are needed to help address broader concerns about unwanted and homeless companion animals. The American Society for Prevention to Cruelty to Animals estimates there may be as many as 70 million stray cats in the United States. Neutering of dogs and cats helps to address this critical problem, while improving both their behavior and their health.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

OSU innovation boosts Wi-Fi bandwidth tenfold

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Researchers at Oregon State University have invented a new technology that can increase the bandwidth of WiFi systems by 10 times, using LED lights to transmit information.

The technology could be integrated with existing WiFi systems to reduce bandwidth problems in crowded locations, such as airport terminals or coffee shops, and in homes where several people have multiple WiFi devices.

Experts say that recent advances in LED technology have made it possible to modulate the LED light more rapidly, opening the possibility of using light for wireless transmission in a “free space” optical communication system.

“In addition to improving the experience for users, the two big advantages of this system are that it uses inexpensive components, and it integrates with existing WiFi systems,” said Thinh Nguyen, an OSU associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. Nguyen worked with Alan Wang, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, to build the first prototype.

The prototype, called WiFO, uses LEDs that are beyond the visual spectrum for humans and creates an invisible cone of light about one meter square in which the data can be received. To address the issue of a small area of usability, the researchers created a hybrid system that can switch between several LED transmitters installed on a ceiling, and the existing WiFi system.

“I believe the WiFO system could be easily transformed into a marketable product, and we are currently looking for a company that is interested in further developing and licensing the technology,” Nguyen said.

The system can potentially send data at up to 100 megabits per second. Although some current WiFi systems have similar bandwidth, it has to be divided by the number of devices, so each user might be receiving just 5 to 10 megabits per second, whereas the hybrid system could deliver 50-100 megabits to each user.

In a home where telephones, tablets, computers, gaming systems, and televisions may all be connected to the internet, increased bandwidth would eliminate problems like video streaming that stalls and buffers.

The receivers are small photodiodes that cost less than a dollar each and could be connected through a USB port for current systems, or incorporated into the next generation of laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

A provisional patent has been secured on the technology, and a paper was published in the 17th ACM International Conference on Modeling, Analysis and Simulation of Wireless and Mobile Systems. The research has been supported by the National Science Foundation.

Media Contact: 

Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098

Source: 

Thinh Nguyen, 541-737-3470

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Improved WiFi bandwidth

LED transmission system