OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

scientific research and advances

Reflections on wilderness featured at Corvallis Science Pub

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Fifty years ago, Congress passed the Wilderness Act, which today protects nearly 110 million acres in the United States. At the June 9 Corvallis Science Pub, Cristina Eisenberg, an Oregon State University conservation biologist, will discuss why intact wilderness areas matter more today than they did in 1964.

The Science Pub presentation is free and open to the public and begins at 6 p.m. in the Majestic Theater, 115 S.W. Second St. in Corvallis.

Eisenberg’s intimate acquaintance with wilderness stems from 20 years of living with her family in a cabin adjacent to the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana. At 1 million acres, it comprises the second-largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states.

In her research, she studies interactions among wolves, elk, aspen and fire. In Rocky Mountain ecosystems, she has shown that relatively intact, large tracts of land are essential to create ecologically resilient landscapes. Such landscapes typically consist of extensive protected wilderness.

She will also read and show images from her recently published book, The Carnivore Way, in which she profiles the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, a 28-million-acre wildlife corridor that runs along the mountainous spine of North America.

Sponsors of Science Pub include Terra magazine at OSU, the Downtown Corvallis Association and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

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Cristina Eisenberg, 541-737-7524

Businesses need to plan for, address impacts on biodiversity, new report indicates

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Businesses large and small need to begin the difficult work of assessing and addressing their impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services in order to reduce risk to natural resources in the future, according to a new report from Oregon State University researchers.

Biodiversity and ecosystem services refer to the variety and diversity of plants and animals in the ecosystem and the benefits that nature provides, respectively. They should be part of companies’ strategic planning, said Sally Duncan, director of the OSU Policy Analysis Lab in the School of Public Policy.

“This is an issue of risk management – it has to be part of a strategic plan,” Duncan said. “As one pioneer company leader put it, the greatest risk of all is not doing anything.”

The report, “The New Nature of Business: How Business Pioneers Support Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services,” provides a framework for companies to begin identifying and addressing their potential impacts on the ecosystem.

The report was published this month and is available at www.newnatureofbusiness.org. Partners in the multidisciplinary, international project include Oregon State University and the University of Sydney Business School. Funding comes from the National Science Foundation’s National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, with additional support from the University of Sydney Business School.

Biodiversity of plants, animals and microorganisms is essential to a properly functioning ecosystem. Ecosystem services are the benefits of such a system, and include goods such as food and fiber or services such as flood control or pest management.

But biodiversity is threatened by environmental degradation due to things such as habitat destruction and climate change. That, in turn, poses challenges for business leaders, who will have to deal with the ramifications, including pressure from consumers to improve business practices.

“There are many, many companies that have started doing important work on water conservation and energy conservation,” Duncan said. “Biodiversity and ecosystem services are much more complicated. They’re very hard to measure and most companies haven’t even thought about it yet.”

Corporate giants Dow Chemical Co., Pfizer Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and smaller organizations such as the Eugene Water and Electric Board, are among the pioneers who are taking steps to address their impacts on biodiversity. Their efforts are highlighted in the report.

Pfizer created a Wildlife Management Team and employees are working to restore and enhance the wildlife on the company’s 2,200-acre manufacturing site in Michigan. Eugene Water and Electric is working with landowners and local government to change land management practices, rather than build a new water treatment plant and charge higher rates.

Researchers developed a decision-making framework to help other companies get started addressing their own impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems services. The hope is that business leaders will use and test the framework and share their experiences on the project website, Duncan said.

“Any change to a big organization is extremely difficult,” Duncan said. “If business leaders see a story on the website that they can relate to, it might seem less scary.”

Developing a tool to measure companies’ impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems services and making that tool available to companies around the world are some of the next steps for the project, she said.

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Sally Duncan, 541-737-9931 or Sally.duncan@oregonstate.edu

Study: Targeted funding can help address inequities in early child care programs

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The quality of early child care and education programs is influenced both by funding and by the characteristics of the communities in which the programs operate, new research from Oregon State University shows.

The findings indicate that law- and policy-makers may need to consider the demographics of communities when making funding decisions about early childhood programs, said Bridget Hatfield, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

That’s especially important now because many states, including Oregon, are adopting or revising quality ratings systems that tie funding to program quality, Hatfield said.

Her findings were published recently in “Early Childhood Research Quarterly.” Co-authors were Joanna K. Lower of Lower & Company, Deborah J. Cassidy of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Richard A. Faldowski of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Lower received funding for the research from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Hatfield received funding for the research from the Institute of Education Sciences at the University of Virginia.

Hatfield studied about 7,000 licensed early child care and education programs in North Carolina, which has one of the nation’s oldest quality rating and improvement systems for early child care and education programs. These systems are used by many states to determine how much government funding an early child care and education program receives.

Oregon and many other states are in the midst of implementing a quality rating system.

Hatfield found that children from low-income communities have less access to high-quality early child care and preschool, even though they are likely to gain more benefits from it.

“There are a lot of barriers to high-quality education in disadvantaged communities,” she said. “Hiring teachers with bachelor’s degrees, providing appropriate school supplies and play equipment – you need money to do all those things.”

Her research also showed that additional government funding can provide a significant boost to the quality of programs in disadvantaged communities. Those programs make bigger quality improvements when they receive extra funding than programs that are in more affluent communities, Hatfield found.

“Just because a program is in a disadvantaged community doesn’t mean it can’t attain high quality,” she said. “The extra money helps the programs in disadvantaged communities close the gap.”

Hatfield studied family child care homes, where child care is provided in a private home, as well as child care centers and preschool programs, including federal programs such as Head Start.

The research shows that quality of child care can vary based on funding, but other factors also affect program quality, Hatfield said. For example, in other research projects, she is studying the interactions between teachers and children in the classroom. That kind of research will help child care program leaders determine how best to spend money they receive to improve their programs.

“If we give people more money, what’s the best way to spend it?” she said. “Do we buy more puzzles for the children or train the teachers to better use the puzzles they have?”

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Bridget Hatfield, 541-737-6438, Bridget.hatfield@oregonstate.edu

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Bridget Hatfield

Bridget Hatfield

Corvallis Science Pub focuses on the future of the oceans

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Warming ocean temperatures, rising acidity and reduced biological productivity threaten the livelihoods of about 2 billion people who depend on marine ecosystems, according to a report by an international team of 29 scientists last fall.

At the May 12 Corvallis Science Pub, Andrew Thurber, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University who helped to conceive the study, will discuss how the oceans are responding to a changing climate. The Science Pub presentation, which is free and open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. in the Majestic Theater located at 115 S.W. Second St. in Corvallis.

“What is really sobering about these findings is that they don’t even include other impacts to the world’s oceans such as sea level rise, pollution, over-fishing, and increasing storm intensity and frequency,” he said. “All of these could compound the problem significantly.”

Thurber’s research focuses on deep-sea ecosystems, particularly the role of invertebrates in recycling nutrients and sequestering carbon. He has conducted experiments under seasonal sea ice in Antarctica and explored communities that live around methane seeps near New Zealand and Costa Rica.

Thurber received his Ph.D. from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation.

Sponsors of Science Pub include Terra magazine at OSU, the Downtown Corvallis Association and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

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Andrew Thurber, 541-737-8251

“The Carnivore Way” could be key to large predator conservation

CORVALLIS, Ore. – North America’s mountainous backbone, stretching from Mexico to Alaska, could serve as a model for balancing the needs of large predators and people, an Oregon State University biologist suggests in a new book.

In “The Carnivore Way: Coexisting with and Conserving North America’s Predators,” published May 1 by Island Press, Cristina Eisenberg describes the ongoing efforts of humans to coexist with wolves, cougars, wolverines and other species in a largely wild but developing landscape.

Eisenberg, who grew up in a hunting and ranching family in northern Mexico, is an instructor in the Oregon State College of Forestry, a Smithsonian research associate and an Earthwatch scientist. She obtained her doctorate and completed two post-doctoral fellowships at Oregon State.

From her home in northwestern Montana, where grizzlies and wolves outnumber people, she traveled more than 13,000 miles – from the Arctic to northern Mexico – to trace corridors that link carnivores with the habitats they need to thrive. She met with scientists who studied these animals and with officials who found ways to conserve grizzlies, wolves, wolverines and other species. She talked with conservationists who hiked the trails and documented challenges to predators and their prey.

“Large carnivore conservation is ultimately about people,” Eisenberg wrote. “Science and environmental law can help us learn to share landscapes with fierce creatures, but ultimately coexistence has to do with our human hearts.”

For Eisenberg, it also has much to do with ecosystems. Wildlife scientists have documented the crucial role that large carnivores play in shaping forests and rangelands, she said.

“When you’re out there on the ground and a wolf shows up or a cougar shows up and starts doing what they do, you have these ‘aha’ moments,” Eisenberg said. “What I’m doing in ‘The Carnivore Way’ is providing a lot of stories and examples. There’s a massive amount of science in the book, but in the end, it’s sharing those ‘aha’ moments that help people connect with these animals.”

In a world in which ecosystems are reeling from climate change and other human influences, she said, wolves and other carnivores can restore resilience that benefits the resources that people depend on. By maintaining a role for carnivores, ecosystems are more likely to rebound in the face of drought, fire and other disturbances linked to a changing climate.

"Scientists studying ecosystems worldwide have found that carnivores indirectly improve the health and vigor of plant communities by reducing the density of their prey and in some cases by changing prey behavior,” said Eisenberg. “In many places in North America, for example, by preying on elk, wolves reduce the browsing pressure that elk place on plants. This enables trees and shrubs to grow to maturity and provide habitat for many other species, such as songbirds.”

Eisenberg’s research on the effects of predators on ecosystems has been supported by Parks Canada and the High Lonesome Ranch, which occupies 400 square miles in western Colorado. She and Oregon State co-investigator David Hibbs recently obtained Earthwatch Institute funding that will support their research on wolves, elk, and fire for several years. Articles featuring her research have appeared in National Geographic, The New York Times, High Country News and other outlets.

In 2010, Island Press published her previous book, “The Wolf’s Tooth,” which describes the ecological roles of large carnivores. She is writing a book on climate change, “Taking the Heat: Wildlife, Food Webs, and Extinction in a Warming World,” also for Island Press.

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Jaime Jennings, Island Press, 202-232-7933, ext. 44

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Cristina Eisenberg, 406-270-5153

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Changes in processing, handling could reduce commercial fishing injuries, research shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Handling frozen fish caused nearly half of all injuries aboard commercial freezer-trawlers and about a quarter of the injuries on freezer-longliner vessels operating off the coast of Alaska, new research from Oregon State University shows.

Many of those injuries and others aboard the two types of vessels could be prevented with the right interventions, and the research methods used in the study could help identify and reduce injuries and fatalities in other types of commercial fishing, said researcher Devin Lucas. His findings were published in the “American Journal of Industrial Medicine.”

“We’ve drilled down to such a detailed level in the injury data that we can actually address specific hazards and develop prevention strategies,” said Lucas, who recently received his Ph.D. in public health from OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and works for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the Alaska Pacific office.  

Lucas’ study is the first scientific assessment of the risk of fishing on freezer-trawlers and freezer-longliners. In both types of vessels, the processing of fish is handled on-board. The vessels had reputations for being among the most dangerous in commercial fishing in part because of a few incidents that resulted in multiple fatalities.

However, an analysis of 12 years of injury data showed that fishing on the freezer vessels was less risky than many other types of commercial fishing, which is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States, Lucas said. The rate of injury on freezer-trawlers was about the same as the national average for commercial fishing, while the rate aboard freezer-longliners was about half of the national average.

“The reality is that many fisheries elsewhere in the U.S., including Oregon Dungeness crabbing, are much more dangerous,” Lucas said.

His review of injury data indicated that the majority of injuries in the freezer-trawler fleet occurred in the factories and freezer holds, while the most common injuries in the freezer-longliner fleet occurred on deck while working the fishing gear. Injuries from processing and handling fish were also common on the longliners, the research showed.

Study co-author Laurel Kincl, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health and safety in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, said the methods used in the research, including describing and categorizing the types of injuries, can now be applied to other commercial fishing industries to identify safety issues and pinpoint areas for prevention.

“Not all commercial fishing is the same,” Kincl said. “You have different equipment, different processes.”

Kincl said researchers are hoping to build from this research and explore other fishing-related injuries and prevention strategies. The Dungeness crab industry is one area that may be explored and another is land-based fish-processing, she said.

Additional authors of the study were Viktor E. Bovbjerg and Adam J. Branscum, associate professors in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU and Jennifer M. Lincoln of NIOSH. The research was supported by OSU and NIOSH.

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Devin Lucas, 907-271-2386, dlucas@cdc.gov

Laurel Kincl, 541-737-1445, Laurel.kincl@oregonstate.edu

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Devin Lucas

Researcher Devin Lucas

Mistrust, discrimination influence Latino health care satisfaction

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Mistrust of the medical community and perceived discrimination by health care providers can affect how satisfied young adult Latinos in rural Oregon are with their health care, new research from Oregon State University shows.

Health care satisfaction, or the lack of, could influence health outcomes for patients, affect participation in health care programs under the new Affordable Care Act, and contribute to disparities in health care access for Latinos, said lead researcher Daniel López-Cevallos, associate director of research for the Center for Latino/a Studies and Engagement at OSU

“Health care reform is about people getting insurance so they have access to services, but mistrust may lead people to delay care,” López-Cevallos said.

Findings of the research were published recently in “The Journal of Rural Health.”  The article was co-authored by S. Marie Harvey, associate dean and professor of public health, and Jocelyn T. Warren, assistant research professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. Harvey received funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the research.

Researchers surveyed 387 young adult Latinos, 18 to 25, living in rural Oregon. Patient satisfaction information was collected as part of a larger study about health issues among young, rural Latinos. Participants were not asked about their immigration status; more than half, about 58 percent, were born outside the U.S. and the average length of U.S. residency was 13.8 years.

The majority of participants, about 73 percent, reported being moderately or very satisfied with their health care. Among those who were not satisfied, medical mistrust and perceived discrimination were identified as factors. Other factors including age and health insurance did not affect satisfaction, the study showed.

The research suggests a need to improve “cultural competency” among health care providers, from the doctors to the receptionists to the lab technicians, so Latinos are treated with respect and dignity, the researchers said. A bilingual/bicultural workforce may be more effective in addressing health issues affecting a patient.

“Trust is huge; it allows patients to disclose concerns and be honest,” Harvey said. “In a previous study we conducted, young adult Latino men reported that ‘confianza,’ a term that encompasses trust, respect, level of communication and confidentiality, affected their access to and use of health care services.  

Efforts to enroll Latinos in health care programs under the Affordable Care Act won’t be successful if patients don’t feel comfortable at their doctor’s office, López-Cevallos said.

“These are young, healthy adults,” he said. “We want them in our health insurance pools to help average the risk and keep costs down. This is an opportunity, but we have a lot of work to do.”

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S. Marie Harvey, 541-737-3824, Marie.harvey@oregonstate.edu

Daniel López-Cevallos, 541-737-3850, Daniel.lopez-cevallos@oregonstate.edu

Science of skin to be presented at Corvallis Science Pub

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Americans spend billions to beautify their outermost organ – to make it softer and younger, to erase wrinkles, conceal freckles, fake a tan, or flaunt a tattoo.

At the March 10 Corvallis Science Pub, Arup Indra of the Oregon State University College of Pharmacy will discuss what scientists know about skin development and what happens when things go awry. The Science Pub presentation, which is free and open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. in the Old World Deli located at 341 S.W. Second St. in Corvallis.

Indra and his wife, Gitali Indra, collaborate in studies of skin cell development. Their goal is to identify treatment options to help protect against diseases such as skin cancer and eczema. More cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year than of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined. 

And while skin cancer rates vary geographically, the nation’s highest are in the Pacific Northwest.

Sponsors of Science Pub include Terra magazine at OSU, the Downtown Corvallis Association and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

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Arup Indra, 541-737-5775

Corvallis, Albany teachers link Costa Rica with Oregon schools

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Three elementary school teachers – two from Corvallis and one from Albany – are conducting fieldwork with Oregon State University scientists at the Las Cruces Biological Station in Costa Rica this month.

As they band birds and track pollinators, the teachers will communicate with their pupils through a blog and enable students to share information with their counterparts in Costa Rica.

The research is supported by a multi-year grant from the National Science Foundation to Matthews Betts, associate professor in the OSU College of Forestry. The goal is to understand how hummingbirds and other pollinators are affected by land use patterns.

Teachers participating in the project include Claudia Argo and Alleya Jack from Garfield Elementary School in Corvallis and Cindy Drouhard from the Timber Ridge School in Albany. They will be at the field station from Feb. 16 to March 1.

“This project has all the elements of a real-world learning experience,” said Kari O’Connell, an educator with Oregon State’s Oregon Natural Resources Education Program. “The students will be doing math, science and art and practicing their language skills. It also involves their families. One of the teachers has already translated information into Spanish so that Spanish-speaking families in Oregon can be involved.”

While in Costa Rica, the teachers will help researchers observe and band hummingbirds, O’Connell added. “They all teach science, so they will be talking with their students about what it’s like to do fieldwork, collect data and interpret it.”

 

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Kari O'Connell, 541-737-6495

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11Cloud Forest

This montane tropical cloud forest at Las Cruces Biological Reserve in Costa Rica is the site of another study being led by Matthew Betts. (Photo: Matthew Betts)

Green Hermit Hummingbird

This green hermit hummingbird visits a Heloconia tortuosa in Costa Rica. The species is part of an OSU study that tracks hummingbird travels with a tiny radio transmitter attached to its back. Photo by Matt Betts

12Northern Waterthrush

The northern waterthrush migrates from the Cascades to Costa Rica, where Matthew Betts and his fellow researchers are studying the effects of forest fragmentation on bird behavior and pollination dynamics. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Betts)

“Pan-Pacific Test Site” to aid growth of unmanned aerial systems

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Federal Aviation Administration has chosen the states of Alaska, Oregon and Hawaii to operate one of six test sites for unmanned aircraft systems, the agency announced today.

The test site, led by the University of Alaska and including Oregon State University, will be collectively known as the Pan-Pacific Test Site. It will offer unique terrain and scientific capabilities to help develop the future of unmanned aerial vehicles for civilian uses, in everything from crop monitoring to search-and-rescue or fighting forest fires.

The initiative is also a critical step forward for Oregon to be a major player in the evolution of this new industry, with the advances in science, manufacturing and employment opportunities that it offers.

“This will help put OSU and the state of Oregon on the map for the future of unmanned aerial systems,” said Rick Spinrad, vice president for research at OSU. “As one of only six test sites in the nation, we’ll be able to fly UAVs more freely and actively, get our students involved in an evolving industry, and help Oregon take advantage of research, development and manufacturing that will be needed.”

The FAA was given a mandate by Congress to integrate civilian use of unmanned aerial vehicles into the nation’s skies by 2015, and the six test sites just announced will explore airspace use, safety, certification, technological development, environmental and human factors and many other issues.

The FAA made its decision on the sites after considering 25 proposals from 24 states.

The Pan-Pacific Test Site will combine OSU’s historic strengths in remote sensing, platform development and other fields with extensive flying experience and Department of Defense collaboration at the University of Alaska and in Hawaii. The three states also offer an extraordinary range of terrain in which to test new systems: mountains, rivers, valleys, high desert, Arctic tundra, volcanoes, many types of forest and agricultural areas, and tropical islands.

Three specific areas in Oregon are already designated for use in the new test sites, Spinrad said. They include the Warm Springs Reservation in the central Oregon Cascade Range; the Pacific Ocean off Tillamook; and areas near Pendleton in eastern Oregon.

A range of air operations are already under way near Pendleton, and the Tillamook site will offer interesting marine and coastal research options. In cooperation with their tribal council, work done at the Warm Springs Reservation site will provide a range of alpine, river, forest and agricultural areas in which to test various types of devices.

Unmanned aerial systems in civilian use are expected to become a multi-billion dollar industry while opening new opportunities in scientific research and student education. OSU has worked closely with such collaborators as Economic Development for Central Oregon, the U.S. Department of Defense, OSU-Cascades Campus, the state of Oregon, Oregon Congressional leaders, private industry and others to help get the state involved.

It’s envisioned that a multitude of devices in the future will fly, walk, swim or crawl to perform valuable or dangerous tasks at very modest expense. Largely because they will be so much cheaper, routine uses in agriculture are planned, environmental monitoring could be improved, forest or crop diseases could be spotted early, fire fighting or search-and-rescue might be enhanced.

Oregon already has a large aviation industry in such fields as helicopters, small aircraft, aviation components and other technology. Along with the state’s exceptional range of terrain in which to test new devices, this makes it a natural location in which to help unmanned aerial systems grow.

Further development of the industry, officials say, will require technological advances, regulatory work to ensure privacy rights, improved manufacturing to lower costs, and many other steps.

Other locations for test sites announced today included universities or facilities in Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.

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Rick Spinrad, 541-737-0664