OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

scientific research and advances

More Americans want government to stay out of international affairs

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The number of Americans wanting their government to stay out of international affairs is higher than it has been since the Vietnam War, according to a new analysis.

In an article published this week in Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs, Oregon State University historian Christopher McKnight Nichols notes that doubts about American involvement abroad are on the rise, up 10 percent in a decade. He connects current reluctance on the part of many Americans to get involved militarily and politically with foreign nations to a long-standing tradition in U.S. politics.

“Virtually all isolationists in the history of the United States have subscribed to some form of international engagement, whether that is economic, cultural, political or intellectual,” he said. “There is no such thing as a complete isolationist. What we do have is a rich history of Americans who have taken on isolationist or anti-interventionist beliefs at different times, and helped transform or influence the political system and policy.”

Nichols, an assistant professor in the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion at OSU, is an expert on isolationism, internationalism, and the history of U.S. roles in the world and military interventions abroad.

In his article, he links the “heyday” of American isolationism of the 1920s and 1930s to current events, including polls showing nearly 70 percent of Americans reject further U.S. efforts to intervene or to promote democracy abroad.

Nichols also wants to take back the term “isolationist” from its common stereotype of a conservative mindset that wants to wall off from the outside world. Famous figures, ranging from peace activist Jane Addams and racial reformer W.E.B. Du Bois to writer Mark Twain and former U.S. Sen. William Borah, a nationalist who opposed the League of Nations, have all favored anti-war and anti-imperialistic isolationist policies.

“They say politics makes strange bedfellows, and we can certainly trace this with the isolationist movement, which tended to attract people on both the far left and far right,” Nichols said. “Today we see that same sort of tendency with some young anti-war activists supporting someone like Ron Paul.”

Most of these type of isolationist sentiments can be traced to three “policy pillars” – expressed by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe – in laying out the relationship between domestic and foreign commitments, types of diplomatic and military isolation, and debates over foreign policy cautiousness that have had a deep impact on U.S. foreign relations for more than a century.

“These are the touchstones for all foreign policy debate, then and since,” he said. “The key precepts were: no permanent alliances or binding foreign entanglements, peace and honest friendship with all nations, enhancing and protecting international commerce, heralding unilateral action, and asserting U.S. rights to hemispheric defense and a wide sphere of primary U.S. influence abroad.”

Nichols said that isolationism as a strain of thought that informs how American citizens and policymakers evaluate options abroad and sometimes sways policy cannot be overstated. Eight years ago there were far more troops on the ground overseas than today, and he said President Obama has shown a reluctance to put “boots on the ground” in places like Libya and Syria, causing some of his critics to call him a “neo-isolationist.”

“With President Obama, we are back to small-scale, multilateral interventions, more like those that we had in the Clinton era,” Nichols said. “During Clinton’s presidency, the U.S. deployed forces abroad approximately 80 times in foreign humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, but these were mostly conflicts with small troop footprints, or Special Forces, characterized by few American causalities.

“In the wake of the Iraq War, in light of the drawdown in Afghanistan, and given pressing economic and political concerns at home, the U.S. public is increasingly reluctant to sacrifice American lives or to materially support intervention and aid abroad.”

Nichols is the author of “Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age,” which traces the origins of isolationism back to the debates over U.S. imperialism at the end of the 19th century and its continuities over the next-half century.

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Children with delayed motor skills struggle more socially

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Studies have shown that children with autism often struggle socially and now new research suggests that a corresponding lack of motor skills – including catching and throwing – may further contribute to that social awkwardness.

The findings, published in the July issue of Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, add to the growing body of research highlighting the link between autism and motor skill deficits.

Lead author Megan MacDonald is an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University. She is an expert on the movement skills of children with autism spectrum disorder.

In the study, researchers looked at a group of young people ages 6 to 15 diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. All 35 of the students were considered high-functioning and attended typical classrooms. The researchers looked at two types of motor skills – “object-control” motor skills, which involve more precise action such as catching or throwing – and “locomotion” skills, such as running or walking. Students who struggled with object-control motor skills were more likely to have more severe social and communication skills than those who tested higher on the motor skills test.

“So much of the focus on autism has been on developing social skills, and that is very crucial,” MacDonald said. “Yet we also know there is a link between motor skills and autism, and how deficits in these physical skills play into this larger picture is not clearly understood.”

Developing motor skills can be crucial for children because students often “mask” their inability to participate in basic physical activities. A student with autism may not be participating on the playground because of a lack of social skills, but the child may also be unsure of his or her physical ability to play in these activities.

“Something which seems as simple as learning to ride a bike can be crucial for a child with autism,” MacDonald said. “Being able to ride a bike means more independence and autonomy. They can ride to the corner store or ride to a friend’s house. Those kind of small victories are huge.”

She said the ability to run, jump, throw and catch isn’t just for athletic kids – physical activity is linked not only to health, but to social skills and mental well-being.

“I often show people photos of what I like to do in my spare time – canoeing, hiking, snowshoeing, and then point out that these require relatively proficient motor skills,” she said. “But that is not why I do those things. I’m doing it because I’m with my friends and having fun.”

MacDonald said the positive news for parents and educators is that motor skills can be taught.

“We have programs and interventions that we know work, and have measurable impact on motor skill development,” MacDonald said. “We need to make sure we identify the issue and get a child help as early as possible.”

This study was coauthored by Catherine Lord of Weill Cornell Medical College and Dale Ulrich of the University of Michigan.

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Megan MacDonald, 541-737-3273

Climate change threatens forest survival on drier, low-elevation sites

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Predicted increases in temperature and drought in the coming century may make it more difficult for conifers such as ponderosa pine to regenerate after major forest fires on dry, low-elevation sites, in some cases leading to conversion of forests to grass or shrub lands, a report suggests.

Researchers from Oregon State University concluded that moisture stress is a key limitation for conifer regeneration following stand-replacing wildfire, which will likely increase with climate change. This will make post-fire recovery on dry sites slow and uncertain. If forests are desired in these locations, more aggressive attempts at reforestation may be needed, they said.

The study, published in Forest Ecology and Management, was done in a portion of the Metolius River watershed in the eastern Cascade Range of Oregon, which prior to a 2002 fire was mostly ponderosa pine with some Douglas-fir and other tree species. The research area was not salvage-logged or replanted following the severe, stand-replacing fire.

“A decade after this fire, there was almost no tree regeneration at lower, drier sites,” said Erich Dodson, a researcher with the OSU Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society. “There was some regeneration at higher sites with more moisture. But at the low elevations, it will be a long time before a forest comes back, if it ever does.”

Similar situations may be found in many areas of the American West in coming decades, the researchers say, and recruitment of new forests may be delayed or prevented – even in climate conditions that might have been able to maintain an existing forest. While mature trees can use their roots to tap water deeper in the soil, competition with dense understory vegetation can make it difficult for seedlings to survive.

Openings in ponderosa pine forests created by wildfire have persisted for more than a century on harsh, south-facing slopes in Colorado, the researchers noted in their report. And fire severity is already increasing in many forests due to climate change – what is now thought of as a drought in some locations may be considered average by the end of the next century.

If trees do fail to regenerate, it could further reduce ecosystem carbon storage and amplify the greenhouse effect, the study said.

Restoration treatment including thinning and prescribed burning may help reduce fire severity and increase tree survival after wildfire, as well as provide a seed source for future trees, Dodson said. These dry sites with less resilience to stand-replacing fire should be priorities for treatment, if maintaining a forest is a management objective, the study concluded.

Higher-elevation, mixed conifer forests in less moisture-limited sites may be able to recover from stand-replacing wildfire without treatment, the researchers said.

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Erich Dodson, 541-908-0227

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Slow recovery

Slow forest recovery

New dispatch system could save money for trucking industry, make life easier for drivers

The study this story is based on is available online: http://hdl.handle.net/1957/38433

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Engineers at Oregon State University are studying a new approach to organize and route truck transportation that could save millions of dollars, improve the quality of life for thousands of truck drivers and make freight transportation far more efficient.

The findings, published recently in Transportation Research Part E, show the feasibility of the new system. More research is still needed before implementation, but there’s potential to revolutionize the way that truck transportation is handled in the United States and around the world, some experts say.

Loads could be delivered more rapidly, costs could be lowered, and the exhausting experience of some truck drivers who often spend two to three weeks on the road between visits back home might be greatly reduced. This difficult lifestyle often leads them to quit their job as a result.

That turnover problem is sufficiently severe that more long-haul, full-truckload drivers quit every year than there are trucks of that type on the road.

“The perceived quality of life for long-haul truck drivers is poor, and it shouldn’t have to be that way,” said Hector Vergara, an assistant professor in the OSU School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, who is working on this project in collaboration with researchers at the University of Arkansas.

“It will take a transition for companies to see how the approach we are studying can work effectively, but it should help address several of the problems they face,” he said.

In truck transportation, some of the existing approaches include “point to point,” in which one driver stays with a full load all the way to its often-distant destination; “hub and spoke” systems in which less-than-full loads are changed at selected points; and “relay” networks in which the drivers change but the load stays on the truck.

None of these systems by themselves are ideal for long-haul transport. The hub and spoke system is among the most popular with drivers because they get home much more frequently, but it can be costly and inefficient for full-truckload transportation. Relay networks make sense in theory but are difficult to implement.

The new approach under study combines the relay system and the point-to-point system for full-truckload transport. The researchers at OSU developed a new mathematical approach to optimize the design of the dispatching system for the movement of goods and to minimize the impact on drivers. It’s one of the first models of its type to create a mixed-fleet dispatching system at a large scale.

“We now know this approach can work,” Vergara said. “Compared to point-to-point, this system should cut the length of trips a driver makes by about two-thirds, and get drivers back to their homes much more often. We can also keep loads moving while drivers rest, and because of that save significant amounts of money on the number of trucks needed to move a given amount of freight.”

The computer optimization determines the best way to dispatch loads and tells where to locate relay points, and how different loads should be routed through the relay network.

Truck transportation systems will never be perfect, researchers concede, because there are so many variables that can cause unpredictable problems – weather delays, road closures, traffic jams, truck breakdowns, driver illnesses. But the current system, especially for long-haul, point-to-point transport, is already riddled with problems, and significant improvements based on computer optimization should be possible.

Disillusionment with existing approaches led to a shortage of 125,000 truck drivers in 2011, the researchers noted in the study. The negative economic impacts of this system also reach beyond just the trucking industry, they said.

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Hector Vergara, 541-737-0955

Genetics of cervical cancer raise concern about antiviral therapy in some cases

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new understanding of the genetic process that can lead to cervical cancer may help improve diagnosis of potentially dangerous lesions for some women, and also raises a warning flag about the use of anti-viral therapies in certain cases – suggesting they could actually trigger the cancer they are trying to cure.

The analysis provides a clearer picture of the chromosomal and genetic changes that take place as the human papillomavirus sometimes leads to chronic infection and, in less than 1 percent of cases, to cervical cancer. It is the first to identify specific genes that are keys to this process.

Researchers say they want to emphasize, however, that the HPV vaccine commonly used by millions of women around the world is perfectly safe if done prior to infection with the virus. The concerns raised by this study relate only to viral therapies or possible use of a therapeutic vaccine after the virus has already been integrated into human cells.

“It’s been known for decades that only women with prior infection with HPV get cervical cancer,” said Andrey Morgun, an assistant professor and a leader of the study in the OSU College of Pharmacy. “In about 90 percent of cases it’s naturally eliminated, often without any symptoms. But in a small fraction of cases it can eventually lead to cancer, in ways that have not been fully understood.”

These findings were published recently in Nature Communications by researchers from Oregon State University and a number of other universities or agencies in the United States, Norway and Brazil. Collaborators at OSU included Natalia Shulzhenko, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine.

The study found that some pre-cancerous lesions can acquire a higher level of chromosomal imbalances in just a small number of cells. These new features appear to do two things at the same time – finally eliminate the lingering virus that may have been present for many years, and set the stage for the beginning of invasive cancer.

So long as the virus is not eliminated, it helps to keep under control viral oncogenes that have been integrated into the patient’s genome, researchers said.

“Some of what’s taking place here was surprising,” Morgun said. “But with continued work it should help us improve diagnosis and early monitoring, to tell which lesions may turn into cancer and which will not.”

The study also concludes it could be dangerous to use antiviral treatments or therapeutic vaccines with women whose lesions already show signs of HPV integration.

This may help explain why use of the antiviral drug interferon had inconclusive results in the past, in some studies of its value in treating cervical cancer. Patients with existing HPV lesions may wish to discuss findings of this study with their physicians before starting such treatments, researchers said.

Other researchers using a similar analytical approach also found key driver genes in melanoma, according to the report. This approach may have value in identifying genomic changes that are relevant to a range of malignant tumors, scientists said.

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Andrey Morgun, 541-737-3424

Dam construction to reduce greenhouse gases causes ecosystem disruption

The study this story is based on is available online: http://bit.ly/14XWxBu

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers conclude in a new report that a global push for small hydropower projects, supported by various nations and also the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, may cause unanticipated and potentially significant losses of habitat and biodiversity.

An underlying assumption that small hydropower systems pose fewer ecological concerns than large dams is not universally valid, scientists said in the report. A five-year study, one of the first of its type, concluded that for certain environmental impacts the cumulative damage caused by small dams is worse than their larger counterparts.

The findings were reported by scientists from Oregon State University in the journal Water Resources Research, in work supported by the National Science Foundation.

The conclusions were based on studies of the Nu River system in China but are relevant to national energy policies in many nations or regions – India, Turkey, Latin America - that seek to expand hydroelectric power generation. Hydropower is generally favored over coal in many developing areas because it uses a renewable resource and does not contribute to global warming. Also, the social and environmental problems caused by large dam projects have resulted in a recent trend toward increased construction of small dams.

“The Kyoto Protocol, under Clean Development Mechanism, is funding the construction of some of these small hydroelectric projects, with the goal of creating renewable energy that’s not based on fossil fuels,” said Desiree Tullos, an associate professor in the OSU Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering.

“The energy may be renewable, but this research raises serious questions about whether or not the overall process is sustainable,” Tullos said.

“There is damage to streams, fisheries, wildlife, threatened species and communities,” she said. “Furthermore, the projects are often located in areas where poverty and illiteracy are high. The benefit to these local people is not always clear, as some of the small hydropower stations are connected to the national grid, indicating that the electricity is being sent outside of the local region.

“The result can be profound and unrecognized impacts.”

This study was one of the first of its type to look at the complete range of impacts caused by multiple, small hydroelectric projects, both in a biophysical, ecological and geopolitical basis, and compare them to large dam projects. It focused on the remote Nu River in China’s Yunnan Province, where many small dams producing 50 megawatts of power or less are built on tributaries that fall rapidly out of steep mountains. There are already 750,000 dams in China and about one new dam is being built every day, researchers say.

Among the findings of the report as it relates to this region of China:

  • The cumulative amount of energy produced by small hydroelectric projects can be significant, but so can the ecological concerns they raise in this area known to be a “hotspot” of biological diversity.
  • Per megawatt of energy produced, small tributary dams in some cases can have negative environmental impacts that are many times greater than large, main stem dams.
  • Many dams in China are built as part of a state-mandated policy to “Send Western Energy East” toward the larger population and manufacturing centers.
  • Small dams can have significant impacts on habitat loss when a river’s entire flow is diverted into channels or pipes, leaving large sections of a river with no water at all.
  • Fish, wildlife, water quality and riparian zones are all affected by water diversion, and changes in nearby land use and habitat fragmentation can lead to further species loss.
  • The cumulative effect on habitat diversity can be 100 times larger for small dams than large dams.
  • Policies encouraging more construction of small dams are often developed at the national or international level, but construction and management of the projects happen at the local level.
  • As a result, mitigation actions and governance structures that would limit social and environmental impacts of small hydropower stations are not adequately implemented.

“One of the things we found generally with small dams is that there was much less oversight and governance with the construction, operation and monitoring of small hydropower,” Tullos said. “On the large, main stem dams, people pay attention to what’s going on. On a small hydropower project, no one notices if minimum flows are being maintained. Or if a pump breaks, the hydropower station might sit idle for long periods of time.”

Researchers said the key finding of the research, contrary to prevailing but unvalidated belief, is that “biophysical impacts of small hydropower may exceed those of large hydropower, particular with regard to habitat and hydrologic change.”

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Desiree Tullos, 541-737-2038

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Normal water flow
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Water diverted by dam

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Bullfrogs may help spread deadly amphibian fungus, but also die from it

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Amphibian populations are declining worldwide and a major cause is a deadly fungus thought to be spread by bullfrogs, but a two-year study shows they can also die from this pathogen, contrary to suggestions that bullfrogs are a tolerant carrier host that just spreads the disease.

When researchers raised the frogs from eggs in controlled experimental conditions, they found at least one strain of this pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, also called Bd or a chytrid fungus, can be fatal to year-old juveniles. However, bullfrogs were resistant to one other strain that was tested.

The findings, made by researchers at Oregon State University and the University of Pittsburgh, show that bullfrogs are not the sole culprit in the spread of this deadly fungus, and add further complexity to the question of why amphibians are in such serious jeopardy.

About 40 percent of all amphibian species are declining or are already extinct, researchers say. Various causes are suspected, including this fungus, habitat destruction, climate change, pollution, invasive species, increased UV-B light exposure, and other forces.

“At least so far as the chytrid fungus is involved, bullfrogs may not be the villains they are currently made out to be,” said Stephanie Gervasi, a zoology researcher in the OSU College of Science. “The conventional wisdom is that bullfrogs, as a tolerant host, are what helped spread this fungus all over the world. But we’ve now shown they can die from it just like other amphibians.”

The research suggests that bullfrogs actually are not a very good host for the fungus, which first was identified as a novel disease of amphibians in 1998. So why the fungus has spread so fast, so far, and is causing such mortality rates is still not clear.

“One possibility for the fungal increase is climate change, which can also compromise the immune systems of amphibians,” said Andrew Blaustein, a distinguished professor of zoology at OSU and international leader in the study of amphibian declines. “There are a lot of possible ways the fungus can spread. People can even carry it on their shoes.”

The average infection load of the chytrid fungus in bullfrogs, regardless of the strain, is considerably lower than that of many other amphibian species, researchers have found. Some bullfrogs can reduce and even get rid of infection in their skin over time.

While adult bullfrogs may be carriers of some strains of Bd in some areas, the researchers concluded, different hosts may be as or more important in other locations. International trade of both amphibian and non-amphibian animal species may also drive global pathogen distribution, they said.

The findings of this study were published in EcoHealth, a professional journal.

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Andrew Blaustein, 541-737-3705

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Bullfrog

Bullfrog

Study: Ocean acidification killing oysters by inhibiting shell formation

CORVALLIS, Ore. – For the past several years, the Pacific Northwest oyster industry has struggled with significant losses due to ocean acidification as oyster larvae encountered mortality rates sufficient to make production non-economically feasible.

Now a new study led by researchers at Oregon State University has documented why oysters appear so sensitive to increasing acidity. It isn’t necessarily a case of acidic water dissolving their shells, researchers say. Rather it is a case of water high in carbon dioxide altering shell formation rates, energy usage and, ultimately, the growth and survival of the young oysters.

Results of the study have been published online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“From the time eggs are fertilized, Pacific oyster larvae will precipitate roughly 90 percent of their body weight as a calcium carbonate shell within 48 hours,” said George Waldbusser, an OSU marine ecologist and lead author on the study. “The young oysters rely solely on the energy they derive from the egg because they have not yet developed feeding organs.”

Under exposure to increasing carbon dioxide in acidified water, however, it becomes more energetically expensive for organisms to build shell. Adult oysters and other bivalves may grow slower when exposed to rising CO2 levels, other studies have shown. But larvae in the first two days of life do not have the luxury of delayed growth, the researchers say.

“They must build their first shell quickly on a limited amount of energy – and along with the shell comes the organ to capture external food more effectively,” said Waldbusser, who is in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “It becomes a death race of sorts. Can the oyster build its shell quickly enough to allow its feeding mechanisms to develop before it runs out of energy from the egg?”

The study is important, scientists say, because it documents for the first time the links among shell formation rate, available energy, and sensitivity to acidification.

“The failure of oyster seed production in Northwest Pacific coastal waters is one of the most graphic examples of ocean acidification effects on important commercial shellfish,” said Dave Garrison, program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the study.  “This research is among the first to identify the links among organism physiology, ocean carbonate chemistry and oyster seed mortality.”

The authors say that the faster the rate of shell formation, the more energy is needed and oyster embryos building their first shell need “to make a lot of shell material on short order.”

“As the carbon dioxide in seawater increases, but before waters become corrosive, calcium carbonate precipitation requires significantly more energy to maintain the higher rates of shell formation found during this early stage,” Waldbusser said.

The OSU researchers worked with Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery in Netarts Bay, Ore., on the study.  Using stable isotopes, they found that on the second day of life, 100 percent of the larval tissue growth was from egg-derived carbon.

“The oyster larvae were still relying on egg-derived energy until they were 11 days old,” said Elizabeth Brunner, a graduate student working in Waldbusser’s laboratory and co-author on the study.

The earliest shell material in the larvae contained the greatest proportion of carbon from the surrounding waters, with increasing amounts of carbon from respiration incorporated into the shell after the first 48 hours, indicating ability to isolate and control shell surfaces where calcium carbonate is being deposited.

Waldbusser notes that adult bivalves are well-adapted to grow shell in conditions that are more acidified, and have evolved several mechanisms to do including use of organic molecules to organize and facilitate the formation of calcium carbonate; pumps that remove acid from the calcifying fluids; and outer shell coatings that protect the mineral to some degree from surrounding waters. These adaptations allow bivalves to generate calcium carbonate more rapidly than is possible without biological intervention.

The study notes that kinetics, or the rate of reaction, provides a physical constraint on the calcification process in seawater absent of life; for calcium carbonate the rate is proportional to the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) present, before water actually becomes corrosive to the mineral

Waldbusser said the study helps explain previous findings at Whiskey Creek Hatchery of larval sensitivity to waters that are elevated in CO2 but not corrosive to calcium carbonate. They also explain carryover effects later in larval life of exposure to elevated CO2, similar to neonatal nutrition.

The discovery may actually be good news, scientists say, because there are interventions that can be done at the hatcheries that may offset some of the effects of ocean acidification.

Some hatcheries have begun “buffering” water for larvae – essentially adding antacid to the incoming water – including the Whiskey Creek Hatchery and the Taylor Shellfish Farm in Washington. The OSU-led study provides a scientific foundation for the target level of buffering.

“Whiskey Creek Hatchery figured this out by trial and error in the last couple years arriving at an amount of buffering that was more than we initially thought would be needed,” Waldbusser said. “On the energy side, you can make sure that eggs have more energy before they enter the larval stage, so a well-balanced adult diet may help larval oysters cope better with the stress of acidified water.”

Breeding for specific traits is another strategy, researchers say. Chris Langton, a co-author on the study, who for years directed the Molluscan Broodstock Program at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore., is leading an effort to use selective breeding to isolate certain favorable traits in oysters.

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George Waldbusser, 541-737-8964

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Oyster larvae

Oyster larvae

 

 

Whiskey Creek Hatchery

Whiskey Creek Hatchery

 


Oyster larvae and acidification

Effects of acidification

Jane Lubchenco kicks off OSU speaker series at da Vinci Days

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Jane Lubchenco, Oregon State University professor and former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will give the opening night keynote address at Corvallis’ annual da Vinci Days festival on Friday, July 19.

Her presentation, “From the Silly to the Sublime: Stories about Science in D.C,” will begin at 7 p.m. in the Whiteside Theater. It is free and open to the public.

Lubchenco will reflect on her experiences with NOAA, the federal agency in charge of weather forecasts and warnings, climate records and outlooks. NOAA is also the nation’s ocean agency, managing fisheries, monitoring changes, and being the steward of ocean health in federal waters. NOAA’s satellites, ships, planes and other platforms and its cadre of scientists provide the information and understanding that support those activities.

Since stepping down from NOAA, Lubchenco has been on leave at Stanford University and plans to return to Oregon State in June.

Lubchenco’s talk will launch a weekend series of family-friendly talks by Oregon State researchers that will focus on the ongoing Mars rover mission, decoding the golden ratio, underwater photography from Antarctica and invasive bullfrogs in our lakes and streams.

All weekend presentations will be held in Kearney Hall, which is located on the university campus across from the da Vinci Days festival site. They are also free and open to the public.

Steve Amen, host of Oregon Public Broadcasting’s popular Oregon Field Guide, will conclude the series as the festival’s closing speaker. His presentation, “Oregon’s Splendor,” will begin at 4 p.m. Sunday in Kearney Hall. He will share some of his favorite spots in Oregon, from the high desert to the coast.

Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s left-brain-meets-right-brain genius, the first da Vinci Days festival was held in 1989. In addition to the speaker series, this celebration of arts, science and technology features independent films, live music and a kinetic sculpture race. Hands-on exhibition booths and demonstrations on the Oregon State campus invite students and families to explore the many creative sides of OSU and the Corvallis community. 

See more about da Vinci Days at www.davincidays.org.

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Michael Dalton, 541-992-1929

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Study finds disincentives to energy efficiency can be fixed

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study finds that utilities aren't rewarded for adopting energy efficiency programs, and that reforms are needed to make energy efficiency as attractive as renewables.

The article, just published in the current issue of Environmental Law, examines key differences between energy efficiency projects and renewable resources. Author Inara Scott, an assistant professor at Oregon State University, outlines ways to increase the amount of energy utilities save each year through efficiency programs.

“Right now, the system actually discourages utilities from building programs to increase efficiency,” she said. “We need to start addressing efficiency as we do renewable energy – by looking at it systemically and removing the barriers.”

Scott spent a decade as a lawyer specializing in energy and regulatory law. Her research in the College of Business centers on the transformation of utility systems, clean energy, energy efficiency, and utility regulation.

Her study makes four key recommendations: redesigning rate structures, setting hard targets, streamlining cost-effective tests and addressing market barriers.

Cost-recovery systems for many investor-owned utilities in the United States are based on an old rate structure model – the more energy that is produced, the higher return for shareholders. “You don’t want to penalize utilities for selling less energy,” Scott said.

Instead, she said, states can use ratemaking mechanisms to decouple the link between utility sales and revenues and establish performance incentives for the adoption of efficiency programs.

“Decoupling mechanisms may add complexity to utility rate structures, but they are essential to eliminating environmentally nonsensical ratemaking models that reward utilities for higher sales and penalize them for efficiency.”

Setting hard targets is doable, she said. The state of Oregon has set a goal for 25 percent of its energy to be consumed through renewables by 2025. Scott said other states also could set aspirational goals for energy efficiency.

“If states are committed to reducing the strain on the electric grid, diversifying utility resource portfolios, reducing dependence on foreign markets, and reducing carbon emissions through the adoption of renewable resources, they should be just as willing to do so through the adoption of energy efficiency as they are through the purchase of renewable resources.”

Streamlining cost-effectiveness tests will be difficult, Scott said, because a simple, accurate way to measure energy efficiency does not exist. “The difficulty is that you’re trying to measure energy you didn’t use. So really, you’re measuring something that doesn’t exist.”

Many of the tests that do exist are so complicated that they may discourage utilities from adopting energy efficiency. Issues with cost-effectiveness testing will be difficult to fully remedy, Scott said, but these steps —conducting assessments at a programmatic level, streamlining the precision of tests, and considering the development of national standards — will move the bar forward.

Market barriers, Scott said, can be addressed through incentives. Some states, including Colorado and Michigan, have increased the size of incentives for consumers to take on energy efficiency programs (including, in some cases, reimbursing consumers 100 percent of their investment) and finding ways to make incentives more attractive to customers through advertising and education.

“There needs to be better marketing around efficiency,” Scott said. “We need to make increasing energy efficiency as attractive as opting for ‘green’ or ‘salmon-friendly’ renewables.”

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Inara Scott, 541-737-4102