OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

scientific research and advances

Publication bias and ‘spin’ raise questions about drugs for anxiety disorders

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new analysis reported in JAMA Psychiatry raises serious questions about the increasingly common use of second-generation antidepressant drugs to treat anxiety disorders.

It concludes that studies supporting the value of these medications for that purpose have been distorted by publication bias, outcome reporting bias and “spin.” Even though they may still play a role in treating these disorders, the effectiveness of the drugs has been overestimated.

In some cases the medications, which are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the world, are not significantly more useful than a placebo.

The findings were made by researchers from Oregon State University, Oregon Health & Science University, and the University of Groningen in The Netherlands. The work was supported by a grant from the Dutch Brain Foundation.

Publication bias was one of the most serious problems, the researchers concluded, as it related to double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials that had been reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If the FDA determined the study was positive, it was five times more likely to be published than if it was not determined to be positive.

Bias in “outcome reporting” was also observed, in which the positive outcomes from drug use were emphasized over those found to be negative. And simple spin was also reported. Some investigators concluded that treatments were beneficial, when their own published results for primary outcomes were actually insignificant.

“These findings mirror what we found previously with the same drugs when used to treat major depression, and with antipsychotics,” said Erick Turner, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry in the OHSU School of Medicine, and the study’s senior author. “When their studies don’t turn out well, you usually won’t know it from the peer-reviewed literature.”

This points to a flaw in the way doctors learn about the drugs they prescribe, the researchers said.

“The peer review process of publication allows, perhaps even encourages, this kind of thing to happen,” Turner said. “And this isn’t restricted to psychiatry – reporting bias has been found throughout the medical and scientific literature.”

Craig Williams, a professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy, and co-author of the study, said that “most of these drugs are fairly safe and well-tolerated, but if a medication is less effective than believed, this still raises serious questions about its use.

“The level of bias we found did not change the fact that some antidepressants can have value in treating anxiety disorders,” Williams said. “However, there is less evidence for value of these drugs than published studies would have you believe. And these concerns are increased when such medications are frequently prescribed by general practitioners with less training in psychiatry.”

In this study, the researchers examined a broad body of the evidence and scientific research that had been presented to the Food and Drug Administration, including studies that had been done but were not published in open scientific literature. They found that negative data on drug efficacy tended not to get published, or was de-emphasized when it was published.

Conclusions might have been manipulated or exaggerated because positive results receive more scientific attention, are published sooner, and lead to higher sales of a drug, said Annelieke Roest, the lead author of the publication at the University of Groningen.

“Lots of research is funded eventually by the taxpayer, and that’s reason enough to say that scientists should publish all their results,” Roest said.

The study reiterated this point, and the need to more routinely publish nonsignificant results.

“There is strong evidence that significant results from randomized controlled trials are more likely to be published than nonsignificant results,” the researchers wrote in their study. “As a consequence, the published literature . . . may overestimate the benefits of treatment while underestimating their harms, thus misinforming clinicians, policy makers and patients.”

Antidepressants are now widely prescribed for conditions other than depression, the study noted. They are being used for generalized anxiety, panic disorder, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other uses. In both the U.S. and Europe, use of antidepressant drugs has significantly increased in the past two decades, the researchers said, with much of that use driven by non-specialists in primary care settings.

The level of reporting bias in the scientific literature, the researchers wrote, “likely impacts clinicians’ perceptions of the efficacy of these drugs, which could reasonably be expected to affect prescription behavior.”

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Craig Williams, 503-494-1598

A mile deep, ocean fish facing health impacts from human pollution

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Deep-water marine fish living on the continental slopes at depths from 2,000 feet to one mile have liver pathologies, tumors and other health problems that may be linked to human-caused  pollution, one of the first studies of its type has found.

The research, conducted in the Bay of Biscay west of France, also discovered the first case of a deep water fish species with an “intersex” condition, a blend of male and female sex organs. The sampling was done in an area with no apparent point-source pollution, and appears to reflect general ocean conditions.

The findings have been published in Marine Environmental Research, by scientists from Oregon State University; the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in the United Kingdom; and other agencies. It was supported by the European Union.

The research is of particular interest, OSU researchers said, when contrasted to other studies done several years ago in national parks of the American West, which also found significant pollution and fish health impacts, including male fish that had been “feminized” and developed eggs.

“In areas ranging from pristine, high mountain lakes of the United States to ocean waters off the coasts of France and Spain, we’ve now found evidence of possible human-caused pollution that’s bad enough to have pathological impacts on fish,” said Michael Kent, a professor of microbiology in the OSU College of Science, co-author on both these research projects and an international expert on fish disease.

“Deep in the ocean one might have thought that the level of contamination and its biological impact would be less,” Kent said. “That may not be the case. The pathological changes we’re seeing are clearly the type associated with exposure to toxins and carcinogens.”

However, linking these changes in the deep water fish to pollution is preliminary at this time, the researchers said, because these same changes may also be caused by naturally-occurring compounds. Follow up chemical analyses would provide more conclusive links with the pathological changes and man’s activity, they said.

Few, if any health surveys of this type have been done on the fish living on the continental slopes, the researchers said. Most past studies have looked only at their parasite fauna, not more internal biological problems such as liver damage. The issues are important, however, since there’s growing interest in these areas as a fisheries resource, as other fisheries on the shallower continental shelf become depleted.

As the sea deepens along these continental slopes, it’s been known that it can act as a sink for heavy metal contaminants such as mercury, cadmium and lead, and organic contaminants such as PCBs and pesticides. Some of the “intersex” fish that have been discovered elsewhere are also believed to have mutated sex organs caused by “endocrine disrupting chemicals” that can mimic estrogens.

In this study, the health concerns identified were found in black scabbardfish, orange roughy, greater forkbeard and other less-well-known species, and included a wide range of degenerative and inflammatory lesions that indicate a host response to pathogens, as well as natural cell turnover. The fish that live in these deep water, sloping regions usually grow slowly, live near the seafloor, and mature at a relatively old age. Some can live to be 100 years old.

Partly because of that longevity, the fish have the capacity to bioaccumulate toxicants, which the researchers said in their report “may be a significant human health issue if those species are destined for human consumption.” Organic pollutants in such species may be 10-17 times higher than those found in fish from the continental shelf, the study noted, with the highest level of contaminants in the deepest-dwelling fish.

However, most of those contaminants migrate to the liver and gonads of such fish, which would make their muscle tissue comparatively less toxic, and “generally not high enough for human health concern,” the researchers wrote.

The corresponding author on this study was Stephen Feist at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in Weymouth, England.

In the previous research done in the American West, scientists found toxic contamination from pesticides, the burning of fossil fuels, agriculture, industrial operations and other sources, which primarily found their way into high mountain lakes through air pollution. Pesticide pollution, in particular, was pervasive.

Together, the two studies suggest that fish from some of the most remote parts of the planet, from high mountains to deep ocean, may be impacted by toxicants, Kent said.

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Michael Kent, 541-737-8652

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Testicle with egg
Trout testicle with egg

Genetic discovery may offer new avenue of attack against schistosomiasis

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered a group of genes in one species of snail that provide a natural resistance to the flatworm parasite that causes schistosomiasis, and opens the door to possible new drugs or ways to break the transmission cycle of this debilitating disease.

Schistosomiasis infects more than 200 million people in more than 70 countries, and is most common in areas with poor sanitation. It can cause chronic, lifelong disability, beginning with gastrointestinal problems and sometimes leading to liver damage, kidney failure, infertility and bladder cancer.

Schistosomisasis, which is native to Africa but has now spread around the world, has been called a neglected global pandemic. Its impact on human health rivals that of malaria.

However, the circular transmission of this complex disease depends upon spending some time as an infection in aquatic snails, where the number of parasites is greatly magnified. Snails may therefore offer a key opportunity to break the cycle of transmission.

The findings about this genetic discovery were just published in PLOS Genetics, by researchers from OSU and the Universite de Perpignan Via Domitia in France. The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

“We’ve found a new class of previously unknown genes that appear to control the ability to resist schistosomes,” said Michael Blouin, a professor of integrative biology in the OSU College of Science. “It was found that a dominant genetic allele in this region conveys an eight-fold decrease in the risk of schistosomiasis infection.

“These genes are the type that, in other animal species, help to recognize pathogens and trigger an immune response,” Blouin said. “This is important new information. With further research we’ll learn more about the exact genetics and molecules that are involved as the parasite interacts with the host.”

There are two possible applications of these results that could be pursued in an effort to treat or control this disease, the researchers said. One would be development of new drugs, which could be important - right now only a single medication, praziquantel, exists to help treat the disease. With its increasingly widespread use, resistance to that drug is possible.

Alternatively, researchers might attempt to insert these parasite-resistant genes into the species of snails that most commonly transmit schistosomiasis.

“There are ways to drive new genes into a population,” said Jacob Tennessen, an OSU postdoctoral research associate and lead author on this study.

This is already being tried for some other diseases, the scientists noted, such as in mosquitos that transmit malaria. Modifying snail populations to be resistant is currently not practical, they said, but identifying new genes that control resistance to the parasite is a critical first step.

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Michael Blouin, 541-737-2362

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Resisting schistosomiasis
Schistosomiasis resistance

Trematode eggs
Trematode eggs

Massive amounts of fresh water, glacial melt pouring into Gulf of Alaska

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Incessant mountain rain, snow and melting glaciers in a comparatively small region of land that hugs the southern Alaska coast and empties fresh water into the Gulf of Alaska would create the sixth largest coastal river in the world if it emerged as a single stream, a recent study shows.

Since it’s broken into literally thousands of small drainages pouring off mountains that rise quickly from sea level over a short distance, the totality of this runoff has received less attention, scientists say. But research that’s more precise than ever before is making clear the magnitude and importance of the runoff, which can affect everything from marine life to global sea level.

The collective fresh water discharge of this region is more than four times greater than the mighty Yukon River of Alaska and Canada, and half again as much as the Mississippi River, which drains all or part of 31 states and a land mass more than six times as large.

“Freshwater runoff of this magnitude can influence marine biology, nearshore oceanographic studies of temperature and salinity, ocean currents, sea level and other issues,” said David Hill, lead author of the research and an associate professor in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University.

“This is an area of considerable interest, with its many retreating glaciers,” Hill added, “and with this data as a baseline we’ll now be able to better monitor how it changes in the future.”

The findings were reported in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, by Hill and Anthony Arendt at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. It was supported by the North Pacific Research Board.

This is one of the first studies to accurately document the amount of water being contributed by melting glaciers, which add about 57 cubic kilometers of water a year to the estimated 792 cubic kilometers produced by annual precipitation in this region. The combination of glacial melt and precipitation produce an amount of water that’s larger than many of the world’s great rivers, such as the Ganges, Nile, Volga, Niger, Columbia, Danube or Yellow River.

“By combining satellite technology with on-the-ground hydraulic measurements and modeling, we’re able to develop much more precise information over a wider area than ever before possible,” Hill said.

The data were acquired as an average of precipitation, glacial melting and runoff over a six-year period, from 2003 to 2009. Knocked down in many places by steep mountains, the extraordinary precipitation that sets the stage for this runoff averages about 6 feet per year for the entire area, Hill said, and more than 30 feet in some areas.

The study does not predict future trends in runoff, Hill said. Global warming is expected in the future, but precipitation predictions are more variable. Glacial melt is also a variable. A warmer climate would at first be expected to speed the retreat of existing glaciers, but the amount of water produced at some point may decrease as the glaciers dwindle or disappear.

Additional precision in this study was provided by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE satellites, which can make detailed measurements of gravity and, as one result, estimate the mass of glaciers they are flying over. As the glacial mass decreases over time, the amount of melted water that was produced can be calculated.

The close agreement of land-based measurements also help confirm the accuracy of those made from space, a point that will be important for better global understanding of water stored in a high-altitude environment.

Some of the processes at work are vividly illustrated at Glacier Bay National Park, where some of the most rapidly retreating glaciers in the world are visited each year by hundreds of thousands of tourists, many on cruise ships.

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David Hill, 541-737-4939

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Exit Glacier
Exit Glacier


Glacial melt
Melt into sea

“Distracted driving” at an all-time high; new approaches needed

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Young, inexperienced drivers have always gotten into more automobile accidents, but if you add in a lot of distractions, it’s a recipe for disaster – and a new Pacific Northwest research program is learning more about these risks while identifying approaches that may help reduce them.

Distractions have been an issue since the age of the Model T, whether a driver was eating a sandwich or talking to a passenger. But the advent of cell phones, text messaging and heavy urban traffic has taken those distractions to a historic level, say researchers, who emphasize that there appears to be value in educating young drivers about these special risks.

A new study of 3,000 teenage drivers in Alaska, Washington, Idaho and Oregon has found that interactive presentations administered to young drivers in a classroom or auditorium – more than passive listening – can have some ability to raise their awareness of this problem. Experts conclude that more work of this type should be pursued nationally.

“Based on recent studies, anything that takes your attention away, any glance away from the road for two seconds or longer can increase the risk of an accident from four to 24 times,” said David Hurwitz, an assistant professor of transportation engineering in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University, and corresponding author of the study, which was published in the Journal of Transportation Safety and Security.

“This is a dramatic increase in risk, with inexperienced drivers who are least able to handle it,” he said. “The absolute worst is texting on a cell phone, which is a whole group of distractions. With texting, you’re doing something besides driving, thinking about something besides driving, and looking at the wrong thing.”

One study has equated texting on a cell phone equivalent to driving drunk.

While many young drivers understand the risks of texting, Hurwitz said, they are much less aware of other concerns that can be real – eating, drinking, talking on a cell phone, smoking, adjusting the radio, changing a CD, using a digital map or other controls.

“Automobile manufacturers have made cars significantly safer, but in the interests of passenger comfort they also continue to add more pleasant distractions within the vehicle,” Hurwitz said. “More experienced drivers learn how to control these distractions, but we’re finding the most problems with the very young driver, within six months of getting a license.”

Aside from lack of experience, he said, young drivers also have a higher risk tolerance, use seat belts less, and choose higher speeds. The recent research found that 27 percent of respondents changed clothes or shoes while driving, and some worked on homework. Adding more distractions doesn’t help.

What researchers found that can help is “interactive” driver training that focuses on the issue of distractions, which can be done with driving simulators or simple computers, and can involve writing, discussion and tactile problem-solving.

“Young people learn better when they are involved in the process, not just sitting and listening to a lecture,” Hurwitz said. “We think an increase in active learning will help with this problem and can improve driver education. Students doing this can see how much better their awareness and reaction time are when they aren’t distracted.”

The research is finding some surprises, as well.

Studies are showing that “hands-free” cell phones are really no safer than a hand-held cell phone. The real distraction appears to be the driver talking to someone who is not in the car, a distant voice who’s oblivious to the freeway traffic jam.

“The evidence suggests that it may be reasonably safe to have passengers that you talk to in the car,” Hurwitz said. “For one thing, if an incident happens that requires a quick reaction, everyone in the car may see it, stop talking and pay immediate attention. And you literally have more sets of eyes on the road to see upcoming problems.”

There are some gender differences among young drivers. Females are more likely to use a cell phone while driving, and males are more likely to look away from the road while talking to others in the car.

A large increase in this type of training will be necessary for it to become more widely integrated, the researchers said.

This project was funded by the Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium, an initiative supported by OSU, the University of Washington, University of Idaho, Washington State University and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

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David Hurwitz, 541-737-9242

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A YouTube video about

this “distracted driver”

program is available online:

http://bit.ly/1MuqpNC

“Additive manufacturing” could greatly improve diabetes management

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Engineers at Oregon State University have used “additive manufacturing” to create an improved type of glucose sensor for patients with Type 1diabetes, part of a system that should work better, cost less and be more comfortable for the patient.

A key advance is use of electrohydrodynamic jet, or “e-jet” printing, to make the sensor. Conceptually, e-jet printing is a little like an inexpensive inkjet printer - but it creates much finer drop sizes and works with biological materials such as enzymes, instead of ink.

The technology would create an “artificial pancreas” using a single point of bodily entry, or catheter, instead of existing systems that require four entry points, usually in a type of belt worn around the waist.

“This technology and other work that could evolve from it should improve a patient’s health, comfort and diabetes management,” said Greg Herman, an OSU associate professor of chemical engineering.

These systems provide constant monitoring of blood glucose concentrations and are matched with portable infusion pumps. They control delivery of the hormones insulin and glucagon, and maintain safe levels of glucose in the blood.

The findings have been reported in the ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology, in work supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Type 1 diabetes, which used to be called juvenile diabetes, can lead to serious health complications unless glucose levels are carefully controlled. Problems can include retinopathy, blindness, neuropathy, kidney and cardiac disease.

Researchers say that this system may ultimately prove useful with Type 2 diabetes as well, and that it has the capability of making other biological measurements, beyond just blood sugar.

Diabetes is a global, rapidly increasing health problem. In 2014, the International Diabetes Federation estimated that 387 million people around the world had some type of diabetes, and that number is expected to rise to 592 million within 20 years. The global economic cost last year was estimated at $612 billion, and the agency reported that more than three out of four people with diabetes live in low or middle-income countries.

From an engineering perspective, the new approach is more precise, less intrusive, uses fewer processing steps, avoids waste and costs less.

“These are disposable devices that only last about a week and then need to be replaced,” Herman said. “Some other approaches used to make them might waste up to 90 percent of the materials being used, and that’s a problem in a throw-away sensor. It’s also important to keep costs as low as possible, and printing systems are inherently low-cost.”

Another important advance was the use of plastic substrates, which are the same thickness as kitchen plastic wrap, so that the sensors can be wrapped around a catheter.

“The challenges of making these sensors on such thin plastic films were difficult to overcome, but we found that additive manufacturing approaches simplified the process, and should lead to much lower costs,” said John Conley, an OSU professor of electrical engineering.

A patent has been applied for on the technology by OSU and Pacific Diabetes Technologies of Portland, Ore., which is working to commercialize the system. It’s already being tested in animals, and there are no apparent obstacles to its development in the health marketplace, Herman said.

Collaborators on the research included the OSU School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering; OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Oregon Health & Science University; and Pacific Diabetes Technologies. Other support came from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

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Greg Herman, 541-737-2496

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New sensor
New sensor technology

High cholesterol, triglycerides can keep vitamin E from reaching body tissues

CORVALLIS, Ore. – In the continuing debate over how much vitamin E is enough, a new study has found that high levels of blood lipids such as cholesterol and triglycerides can keep this essential micronutrient tied up in the blood stream, and prevent vitamin E from reaching the tissues that need it.

The research, just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also suggested that measuring only blood levels may offer a distorted picture of whether or not a person has adequate amounts of this vitamin, and that past methods of estimating tissue levels are flawed.

The findings are significant, the scientists say, because more than 90 percent of the people in the United States who don’t take supplements lack the recommended amount of vitamin E in their diet.

Vitamin E is especially important in some places such as artery walls, the brain, liver, eyes and skin, but is essential in just about every tissue in the body. A powerful, fat-soluble antioxidant, it plays important roles in scavenging free radicals and neurologic function. In the diet, it’s most commonly obtained from cooking oils and some vegetables.

Some experts have suggested that recommended levels of vitamin E should be lowered. But because of these absorption issues, the recommended level of 15 milligrams per day is about right, said Maret Traber, the lead author of this study. Inadequate vitamin E intake remains a significant societal problem, she said.

“This research raises particular concern about people who are obese or have metabolic syndrome,” said Traber, who is the Helen P. Rumbel Professor for Micronutrient Research in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, and a principal investigator in OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute.

“People with elevated lipids in their blood plasma are facing increased inflammation as a result,” Traber said. “Almost every tissue in their body is under oxidative attack, and needs more vitamin E. But the vitamin E needed to protect these tissues is stuck on the freeway, in the circulatory system. It’s going round and round instead of getting to the tissues where it’s needed.”

This research was done with 41 men and women, including both younger and older adults, who obtained vitamin E by eating deuterium-labeled collard greens, so the nutrient could be tracked as it moved through the body. Of some interest, it did not find a significant difference in absorption based solely on age or gender. But there was a marked difference in how long vitamin E stayed in blood serum, based on higher level of lipids in the blood – a more common problem as many people age or gain weight.

The study also incorporated a different methodology, using a stable isotope instead of radioactive tracers, than some previous research, to arrive at the estimates of vitamin E that made it to body tissues. Using the stable isotope methodology that these researchers believe is more accurate, they concluded that only 24 percent of vitamin E is absorbed into the body, instead of previous estimates of 81 percent measured by the use of radioactive vitamin E.

“In simple terms, we believe that less than one third the amount of vitamin E is actually making it to the tissues where it’s most needed,” Traber said.

Vitamin E in the blood stream is not completely wasted, Traber noted. There, it can help protect LDL and HDL cholesterol from oxidation, which is good. But that doesn’t offset the concern that not enough of this micronutrient may be reaching tissues, she said.

Collaborators on this study were from the USDA Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts University, and the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at the Baylor College of Medicine. The work was supported by the USDA Agricultural Research Service and the National Institutes of Health.

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Maret Traber, 541-737-7977

Map outlines western Oregon landslide risks from a subduction zone earthquake

CORVALLIS, Ore. – New landslide maps have been developed that will help the Oregon Department of Transportation determine which coastal roads and bridges in Oregon are most likely to be usable following a major subduction zone earthquake that is expected in the future of the Pacific Northwest.

The maps were created by Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, or DOGAMI, as part of a research project for ODOT. They outline the landslide risks following a large earthquake on the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

The mapping is part of ongoing ODOT efforts to preserve the critical transportation routes that will facilitate response and recovery.

“Landslides are a natural part of both the Oregon Coast Range and Cascade Range, but it’s expected there will be a significant number of them that are seismically induced from a major earthquake,” said Michael Olsen, an assistant professor in the OSU School of Civil and Construction Engineering. “A massive earthquake can put extraordinary additional strain on unstable slopes that already are prone to landslides.”

Landslides are already a serious geologic hazard for western Oregon. But during an earthquake, lateral ground forces can be as high as half the force of gravity.

The Coast Range is of special concern, officials say, because it will be the closest part of the state to the actual subduction zone earthquake, and will experience the greatest shaking and ground movement. The research identified some of the most vulnerable landslide areas in Oregon as parts of the Coast Range between Tillamook and Astoria, and from Cape Blanco south to the California border – in each case, from the coast to about 30 miles inland.

“Major landslides have been identified by DOGAMI throughout western Oregon using high-resolution lidar mapping,” Olsen said. “Some experts believe that a number of these landslides date back to the last subduction zone earthquake in Oregon, in 1700. Coast Range slopes that are filled with weak layers of sedimentary rock are particularly vulnerable, and many areas are already on the verge of failure.”

According to the new map, the highway corridors to the coast that will face comparatively less risk from landslides will be Oregon Highway 36 from near Eugene to Florence; Oregon Highway 38 from near Cottage Grove to Reedsport; Oregon Highway 18 from Salem to Lincoln City; and large portions of U.S. Highway 30 from Portland to Astoria. However, landslides or other damages could occur on any road to the coast or in the Cascade Range due to the anticipated high levels of ground shaking.

The new research, along with other considerations, will help ODOT and other officials determine which areas merit the most investment in coming years as part of long-term planning for the expected earthquake. Given the high potential for damage and minimal resources available for mitigation, experts may choose to focus their efforts on highway corridors that are expected to receive less damage from the earthquake, Olsen said.

The research reflected in the new map considered such factors as slope, direction of ground movement, soil type, vegetation, distance to rivers, roads and fault locations, peak ground acceleration, peak ground velocity, annual precipitation averages, and other factors.

ODOT, Oregon State and DOGAMI have been state leaders in research on risks posed by the Cascadia Subduction Zone, earthquake and tsunami impacts, and initiatives to help the state prepare for a future disaster that scientists say is a certainty.

Officials said it’s important to consider not just the damage to structures that can occur as a result of an earthquake, but also landslide and transportation issues.

“ODOT recognizes the potential not only for casualties due to landslides during and after an earthquake, but also for the likelihood of isolating whole segments of the state’s population,” one ODOT official said. “Thousands of people in the coastal communities would be stranded and cut off from rescue, relief and recovery that would arrive by surface transport.”

ODOT recently completed a seismic vulnerability assessment and selected lifeline corridor routes to prioritize following an earthquake.  ODOT also maintains an unstable slopes program, evaluating the frequency of rockfalls and landslides affecting highway corridors.

DOGAMI recently released another open file report as part of the Oregon Resilience Plan, which evaluated multiple potential hazards resulting from a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake, including landslides, liquefaction, and tsunamis.

Some recent efforts at OSU have also focused on understanding the different concerns raised by a subduction zone earthquake compared to the type of strike-slip faults more common in California, on which many seismic plans are based. Subduction earthquakes tend to be larger, affect a wider area and last longer.

Following are publications that are available:

DOGAMI Open-File Report O-15-01, Landslide Susceptibility Analysis of Lifeline Routes in the Oregon Coast Range, by Rubini Mahalingam; Michael J. Olsen; Mahyar Sharifi-Mood; and Daniel T. Gillins, Oregon State University School of Civil and Construction Engineering.  The report can be purchased on DVD for $30 each from the Nature of the Northwest Information Center (NNW), 800 N.E. Oregon St., Suite 965, Portland, Ore., 97232. You may also call NNW at (971) 673-2331 or order online at www.NatureNW.org. There is a $4.95 shipping and handling charge for all mailed items.

ODOT Research Report SPR-740, Impacts of Potential Seismic Landslides on Lifeline Corridors, by Michael J. Olsen; Scott A. Ashford; Rubini Mahalingam; Mahyar Sharifi-Mood; Matt O’Banion and Daniel T. Gillins, Oregon State University School of Civil and Construction Engineering.  Download the report:  http://1.usa.gov/18352DF

 

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Michael Olsen, 541-737-9327

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Coast Range landslide
Landslide


Landslide map
New maps

Fish native to Japan found in Port Orford waters

NEWPORT, Ore. – A team of scientists from Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is studying an unusual fish captured alive in a crab pot near Port Orford this week called a striped knifejaw that is native to Japan, as well as China and Korea.

The appearance in Oregon waters of the fish (Oplegnathus fasciatus), which is sometimes called a barred knifejaw or striped beakfish, may or may not be related to the Japanese tsunami of 2011, the researchers say, and it is premature to conclude that this non-native species may be established in Oregon waters.

But its appearance and survival certainly raises questions, according to OSU’s John Chapman, an aquatic invasive species specialist at the university’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

“Some association with Japanese tsunami debris is a strong possibility, but we cannot rule out other options, such as the fish being carried over in ballast water of a ship or an aquarium fish being released locally,” Chapman said. “But finding a second knifejaw nearly two years after the discovery of fish in a drifting Japanese boat certainly gets my attention.”

In March 2013, five striped knifejaws were found alive in a boat near Long Beach, Washington, that had drifted over from Japan. Four of the fish were euthanized, but one was taken to the Seaside Aquarium, where it is still alive and well.

OSU marine ecologist Jessica Miller examined the four euthanized knifejaws from Washington in 2013, analyzing their otoliths, or ear bones, for clues to their origin.

“The young fish of these species are known to associate with drift and may be attracted to floating marine debris,” Miller said. “Japanese tsunami marine debris continues to arrive on beaches in Oregon and Washington – and some debris from Japan washed up on the southern Oregon coast this month – so it is not inconceivable that the Port Orford fish was associated with Japanese marine debris.

“The species is also found in other parts of Asia and the northwest Hawaiian islands, so it is native to a broader range than just Japan,” she added. “At this time, there is no evidence that they are successfully reproducing in Oregon.”

Tom Calvanese, an Oregon State graduate student researcher working with Oregon Sea Grant on the start-up of a new OSU field station in Port Orford, worked with the fisherman to secure the exotic species. The fish is approximately 13 centimeters in length, and thus not a fully grown adult, and was captured in a crab pot between Port Orford and Cape Blanco  - just off the Elk River in southern Oregon.

“We are fortunate to have this occur in a fishing community that is ocean-aware,” Calvanese said. “The fisherman who caught the fish identified it as an exotic then transported it to shore alive, where the fish buyer was able to care for it. It was then brought to my attention, initiating a response from the scientific community that will result in an exciting learning opportunity for all.

“It appears to be in good shape and was swimming upright, though it had a small cut in its abdomen,” Calvanese said. “I talked to Keith Chandler at the Seaside Aquarium who suggested feeding it razor clams, which it took readily.”

Steven Rumrill, a biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, is working with Calvanese and others to transport the fish to a quarantine facility at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, where it will be under the care of OSU aquatic veterinarian Tim Miller-Morgan of Oregon Sea Grant.

“It is important that the fish be held in quarantine until the wound is healed and for sufficient time to ensure that it is free from any pathogens or parasites that could pose a threat to our native fishes,” Rumrill said.

Sam Chan, an OSU invasive species expert affiliated with Oregon Sea Grant and vice-chair of the Oregon Invasive Species Council, has seen striped knifejaws in Japan and estimates this fish may be 1-2 years old.

“Therefore, it is unlikely to have left Japan in the 2011 tsunami,” Chan said, “but a boat could have been milling around Asian waters for the past 2-3 years and then picked up the fish and ridden the currents over. The big question is – are there more of these?”

Chan said Oregon Sea Grant – an OSU-based marine research, education and outreach program – would work with Oregon fishermen, crabbers and others to keep a lookout for additional striped knifejaws and other exotic species.

Calvanese posted a brief video of the fish on you-tube: http://youtu.be/XzA4NPXTYqg

Oregonians who believe they have spotted an invasive species are encouraged to report it at http://oregoninvasiveshotline.org, or call 1-866-INVADER.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

John Chapman, 541-961-3258, john.chapman@oregonstate.edu;

Jessica Miller, 541-867-0381, Jessica.miller@oregonstate.edu;

Tom Calvanese, 415-309-6568, tom.calvanese@oregonstate.edu;

Sam Chan, 503-679-4828, sam.chan@oregonstate.edu;

Steven Rumrill, 541-867-0300, ext. 245; Steven.S.Rumrill@state.or.us

OSU to outfit undersea gliders to “think like a fish”

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University researchers have received a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation that will allow them to outfit a pair of undersea gliders with acoustical sensors to identify biological “hot spots” in the coastal ocean.

They also hope to develop an onboard computing system that will program the gliders to perform different functions depending on what they encounter.

In other words, the scientists say, they want to outfit a robotic undersea glider to “think like a fish.”

“We spend all of this time on ships, deploying instrumentation that basically is designed to see how ocean biology aggregates around physical features – like hake at the edge of the continental shelf or salmon at upwelling fronts,” said Jack Barth, a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and a principal investigator on the project. “But that just gives us a two-week window into a particular area.

“We already have a basic understanding of the ecosystem,” Barth added. “Now we want to get a better handle of what kind of marine animals are out there, how many there are, where they are distributed, and how they respond to phytoplankton blooms, schools of baitfish or oceanic features. It will benefit a variety of stakeholders, from the fishing industry and resource managers to the scientific community.”

Barth is a physical oceanographer who knows the physical processes of the coastal ocean. He’ll work with Kelly Benoit-Bird, a marine ecologist, who specializes in the relationships among marine organisms from tiny plankton to large whales. Her work utilizes acoustics to identify and track animals below the ocean surface – and it is these sensors that will open up a new world of research aboard the gliders.

“Our first goals are to understand the dynamics of the Pacific Northwest upwelling system, find the biological hotspots, and then see how long they last,” Benoit-Bird said. “Then we’d like to learn what we can about the distribution of prey and predators – and the relationship of both to oceanic conditions.”

Using robot-mounted acoustic sensors, the OSU researchers will be able to identify different kinds of marine animals using their unique acoustical signatures. Diving seabirds, for example, leave a trail of bubbles through the water like the contrail left by a jet. Zooplankton show up as a diffuse cloud. Schooling fish create a glowing, amoeba-shaped image.

“We’ve done this kind of work from ships, but you’re more or less anchored in one spot, which is limiting,” Benoit-Bird said. “By putting sensors on gliders, we hope to follow fish, or circle around a plankton bloom, or see how seabirds dive. We want to learn more about what is going on out there.”

Programming a glider to spend weeks out in the ocean and then “think” when it encounters certain cues, is a challenge that falls upon the third member of the research team, Geoff Hollinger, from OSU’s robotics program in the College of Engineering. Undersea gliders operated by Oregon State already can be programmed to patrol offshore for weeks at a time, following a transect, moving up and down in the water column, and even rising to the surface to beam data back to onshore labs via satellite.

But the instruments aboard the gliders that measure temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen are comparatively simple and require limited power. Using sophisticated bioacoustics sensors that record huge amounts of data, and then programming the gliders to respond to environmental cues, is a significant technological advance.

“All of the technology is there,” Hollinger said, “but combining it into a package to perform on a glider is a huge robotics and systems engineering challenge. You need lots of computing power, longer battery life, and advanced control algorithms.”

Making a glider “think,” or respond to environmental cues, is all about predictive algorithms, he said.

“It is a little like looking at economic indicators in the stock market,” Hollinger pointed out. “Just one indicator is unlikely to tell you how a stock will perform. We need to develop an algorithm that essentially turns the glider into an autonomous vehicle that can run on autopilot.”

The three-year research project should benefit fisheries management, protection of endangered species, analyzing the impacts of new ocean uses such as wave energy, and documenting impacts of climate change, the researchers say.

Oregon State has become a national leader in the use of undersea gliders in research to study the coastal ocean and now owns and operates more than 20 of the instruments through three separate research initiatives. Barth said the vision is to establish a center for underwater vehicles and acoustics research – which would be a key component of its recently announced Marine Studies Initiative.

The university also has a growing program in robotics, of which Hollinger is a key faculty member. This collaborative project funded by Keck exemplifies the collaborative nature of research at Oregon State, the researchers say, where ecologists, oceanographers and roboticists work together.

“This project and the innovative technology could revolutionize how marine scientists study the world’s oceans,” Barth said.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Jack Barth, 541-737-1607, barth@coas.oregonstate.edu;

Kelly Benoit-Bird, 541-737-2063, kbenoit@coas.oregonstate.edu;

Geoff Hollinger, 541-737-5906, Geoff.hollinger@oregonstate.edu

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