OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

scientific research and advances

Even small stressors may be harmful to men’s health, new OSU research shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Older men who lead high-stress lives, either from chronic everyday hassles or because of a series of significant life events, are likely to die earlier than the average for their peers, new research from Oregon State University shows.

“We’re looking at long-term patterns of stress – if your stress level is chronically high, it could impact your mortality, or if you have a series of stressful life events, that could affect your mortality,” said Carolyn Aldwin, director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.

Her study looked at two types of stress: the everyday hassles of such things as commuting, job stress or arguments with family and friends; and significant life events, such as job loss or the death of a spouse.

Both types appear to be harmful to men’s health, but each type of stress appears to have an independent effect on mortality. Someone experiencing several stressful life events does not necessarily have high levels of stress from everyday hassles, Aldwin said. That is determined more by how a person reacts to the stress.

“It’s not the number of hassles that does you in, it’s the perception of them being a big deal that causes problems,” Aldwin said. “Taking things in stride may protect you.”

Aldwin’s latest research on long-term patterns of stress in men was published recently in the journal “Experimental Gerontology.” Co-authors of the study were Yu-Jin Jeong of Chonbuk National University in Korea; Heidi Igarashi and Soyoung Choun of OSU; and Avron Spiro III of Boston University. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The researchers used data from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study. They studied stressful life events and everyday hassles for 1,293 men between 1989 and 2005 then followed the men until 2010. About 43 percent of the men had died by the end of the study period.

About a third of the men who reported having few stressful life events had died, while closer to half of the men reporting moderate or high numbers of stressful events had died by the end of the study.

Men who reported few everyday hassles had the lowest mortality rate, at 28.7 percent. Just under half of the men reporting a mid-range number of hassles had died by the end of the study, while 64.3 percent of the men reporting a high number of hassles had died.

Stressful life events are hard to avoid, but men may live longer if they’re able to control their attitudes about everyday hassles, such as long lines at the store or traffic jams on the drive home, Aldwin said.

“Don’t make mountains out of molehills,” she said. “Coping skills are very important.”

The study gives a snapshot of the effects of stress on men’s lives and the findings are not a long-term predictor of health, she said. Stress and other health issues can develop over a long period of time.

Aldwin said future research will look more closely at the different stressors’ effects on health to see if the two types of stress have similar or different impacts on the body’s physiology. Understanding how stress affects health.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Carolyn Aldwin, 541-737-2024, Carolyn.aldwin@oregonstate.edu

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Carolyn Aldwin

Carolyn Aldwin

Greener neighborhoods lead to better birth outcomes, new research shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Mothers who live in neighborhoods with plenty of grass, trees or other green vegetation are more likely to deliver at full term and their babies are born at higher weights, compared to mothers who live in urban areas that aren’t as green, a new study shows.

The findings held up even when results were adjusted for factors such as neighborhood income, exposure to air pollution, noise, and neighborhood walkability, according to researchers at Oregon State University and the University of British Columbia.

“This was a surprise,” said Perry Hystad, an environmental epidemiologist in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State and lead author of the study. “We expected the association between greenness and birth outcomes to disappear once we accounted for other environmental exposures such as air pollution and noise. The research really suggests that greenness affects birth outcomes in other ways, such as psychologically or socially.”

Researchers aren’t sure yet where the link between greenness and birth outcome is. More study is needed to determine if additional green space provides more social opportunities and enhances a person’s sense of belonging in the community, or if it has a psychological effect, reducing stress and depression, Hystad said.

In a study of more than 64,000 births, researchers found that very pre-term births were 20 percent lower and moderate pre-term births were 13 percent lower for infants whose mothers lived in greener neighborhoods.

They also found that fewer infants from greener neighborhoods were considered small for their gestational age. Babies from the greener neighborhoods weighed 45 grams more at birth than infants from less green neighborhoods, Hystad said.

The study establishes an important link between residential “greenness” and birth outcomes that could have significant implications for public health, said Hystad, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health.

“From a medical standpoint, those are small changes in birth weight, but across a large population, those are substantial differences that would have a significant impact on the health of infants in a community,” Hystad said.

Babies born early or underweight often have more health and developmental problems, not just at birth but also as they continue to grow up, and the cost to care for pre-term and underweight infants also can be much higher, Hystad said.

Results of the study were published recently in the journal “Environmental Health Perspectives.” Co-authors were Hugh W. Davies, Lawrence Frank, Josh Van Loon, Lillian Tamburic and Michael Brauer of the University of British Columbia; and Ulrike Gehring of Utrecht University in The Netherlands. The research was supported by a grant from Health Canada.

The study is also part of a growing body of work that indicates green space has a positive influence on health, Hystad said. Researchers examined more than 64,000 births in the Vancouver, British Columbia, area between 1999 and 2002, for individual environmental factors such as exposure to green space that might affect birth outcomes.

Since half the world’s population lives in urban areas, it’s important to understand how different aspects of the built environment – the buildings, parks and other human-made space we live in – might affect health, researchers said.

“We know a lot about the negative influences such as living closer to major roads, but demonstrating that a design choice can have benefits is really uplifting,” said Brauer, the study’s senior author. “With the high cost of healthcare, modifying urban design features such as increasing green space may turn out to be extremely cost-effective strategies to prevent disease, while at the same time also providing ecological benefits.”

It’s unclear how much or what type of green space is of most benefit to developing infants, but researchers do know that adding a planter to the patio or a tree to the sidewalk median probably won’t make a significant difference in birth outcomes.

“Planting one tree likely won’t help,” Hystad said. “You don’t really see the beneficial effects of green space until you reach a certain threshold of greenness in a neighborhood.”

One of the next steps for researchers is to better understand what that threshold is and why it makes a difference.

“We know green space is good. How do we maximize that benefit to improve health outcomes?” Hystad said. “The answer could have significant implications for land use planning and development.”

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Perry Hystad, 541-737-4829, perry.hystad@oregonstate.edu or Katherine Came, 604-822-0530, Katherine.came@ubc.ca

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

 

This map shows levels of greenness in Vancouver, British Columbia. Babies in greener areas had higher birthweights. Vancouvergreenness

Researcher Perry Hystad

Hystad

Grant will support, encourage women in academic STEM careers at OSU

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has been awarded a $3.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to improve conditions for women in the academic science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, disciplines.

The five-year ADVANCE grant will be used to help recruit, retain and promote more women in STEM and the social and behavioral sciences at OSU; provide support for women in STEM and implement policies and programs that aid in these efforts.

“The goal of the grant is to transform the institutional climate for women in the STEM fields,” said Susan Shaw, the grant’s principal investigator. “What we want is an institution where difference is welcome and the value of different perspectives and experiences is understood.”

OSU is the first institution in the state to receive an institutional transformation grant from the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program. ADVANCE began in 2001 with the goal of increasing the representation and advancement of women in STEM and developing a more diverse science and engineering workforce. Past grant recipients include the University of Washington, Michigan State University and Cornell University.

“Through ADVANCE, the National Science Foundation invests in the future of women in STEM,” said program director Beth Mitchneck. “Supporting institutional change that furthers the advancement of women faculty is a means to making the institution more receptive to talent from all backgrounds.”

Women have historically been underrepresented in the STEM fields ­in academia. In 2012, 23 percent of Oregon State’s STEM faculty, including faculty in the social and behavioral sciences, were women. Women accounted for 20.8 percent of the full professorships in those disciplines.

OSU leaders have taken significant steps to enhance diversity on campus in recent years, and the ADVANCE grant is designed to further the university’s goals, Shaw said.

“A lot of the previous ADVANCE grants have tended to look at women as one group,” said Shaw, who is director of the School of Language, Culture and Society and a professor of women, gender and sexuality studies in the College of Liberal Arts.

“We’re looking at women across differences – race, sexual identity, social, class,” she said. “Those intersections are critically important to understanding women’s professional experiences and challenges.”

A new version of the university’s Difference, Power and Discrimination faculty development program will be crafted to focus on STEM issues. The program includes a summer seminar for STEM faculty and administrators on theories about systems of oppression and the impacts gender, race and class may have on how people participate in an institution, Shaw said.

The first steps to implementing the grant are hiring a program manager and establishing a website for the project. The first faculty seminars are expected next summer, she said.

Shaw and several co-investigators, including faculty in the sciences and social sciences, also will research how OSU’s ADVANCE program is working. They will present findings at conferences, share best practices with other institutions and develop an online journal about program activities, Shaw said.

The co-investigators are Rebecca Warner, senior vice provost for academic affairs; Michelle Bothwell, associate professor of bioengineering in the College of Engineering; Sarina Saturn, assistant professor of psychology in the College of Liberal Arts; and Tuba Ozkan-Haller, professor of earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences and professor of civil and construction engineering.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Susan Shaw, 541-737-3082, sshaw@oregonstate.edu

Fungi that changed the world featured at Corvallis Science Pub

If you eat bread, drink beer or take antibiotics, thank the fungi that make these things possible. At the Sept. 8 Corvallis Science Pub, Joey Spatafora, a leading fungal biologist, will share the often-bizarre tales of this kingdom of life and reveal how human civilization would be so much poorer without it.

The Science Pub presentation is free and open to the public. It begins at 6 p.m. at the Old World Deli, 341 SW 2nd St. in Corvallis.

“Without fungi, human life would be very different — no beer or cheese; no penicillin or cyclosporin antibiotics,” said Spatafora, professor of botany and plant pathology at Oregon State University. “Our forests would be far less resilient and productive. And we’d be swimming in every manner of waste product.”

Spatafora specializes in fungal evolution and leads an international effort funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to sequence the genomes for 1,000 fungal species. He also led a 10-year study called Assembling the Fungal Tree of Life. Out of the estimated 1.5 million species of fungi, scientists have described only about 100,000.

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

 

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Joey Spatafora, 541-737-5304

OSU sociologist: Policy will determine economic impact of legal marijuana

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The economic impact of legalizing marijuana in Oregon is difficult to estimate because the potential market will depend in large part on what kind of policies would be adopted if a proposed ballot measure passes in November, according to an Oregon State University sociologist who studies the issue.

“Marijuana is already a serious economic force in Oregon,” said Seth Crawford, an expert on the policies and market structure of marijuana in Oregon. “When you consider the proposed excise tax and additional revenue from income taxes, it could become a sizeable income stream for the state.”

Oregon voters will decide in November whether to legalize recreational marijuana production and use. Policymakers are trying to determine the economic impact of legalizing marijuana and Crawford’s research was recently cited in an economic report commissioned by backers of the ballot initiative, as well as by the state legislative revenue office.

If marijuana is legalized in Oregon, the state could net anywhere from $35 million to $105 million in new tax revenue per year, Crawford estimated in research published earlier this year in the Humboldt Journal of Social Relations.

Any additional expenses generated from legalizing marijuana would be small in comparison to money generated from the taxes, Crawford believes. Police and court expenses would be lower if marijuana use was legalized, he pointed out.

“From a purely economic standpoint, it’s a net win for the state’s budget,” he said. “There are still going to be enforcement issues, but the costs are likely to be lower than what is spent on enforcement now.”

The economic effect of legalizing marijuana will be determined in part by how much of the existing black market moves into the new legal market and by how much marijuana producers will be allowed to grow, Crawford said. Under the proposed ballot measure, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission would determine how marijuana would be legally sold and distributed.

“We won’t know what’s going to happen until those policies are settled, though the conversations have already begun in earnest,” said Crawford, an instructor in the School of Public Policy in the College of Liberal Arts.

Crawford also serves on the state’s Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana, which advises the director of the Oregon Department of Human Services on administrative aspects of the state’s medical marijuana program. He has provided expert testimony on marijuana-related policies in Oregon.

Crawford specializes in analyzing social networks and began studying the underlying structure of marijuana production and user networks as a doctoral student several years ago because there was no available data on Oregon producers or users.

In his study of Oregon’s informal marijuana economy, Crawford surveyed Oregon residents 18 and older to collect information about marijuana use and sales patterns. He found that the average marijuana user pays about $177 per ounce of the drug and uses about 6.75 ounces per year.

Marijuana producers generally sell small amounts, earning less than $10,000 per year; they generally are educated and employed in other legitimate occupations, Crawford found. His research also indicated that many marijuana producers in the current black market live in economically depressed regions of the state, particularly in southern Oregon, and use marijuana sales to augment low incomes.

“It’s these small producers who have the most to lose in the policy development process,” Crawford said. “If they’re unable to participate in the legal market, marijuana legalization could result in increased economic inequality, particularly in traditional areas of production like southern Oregon.”

Setting a high tax rate or imposing hefty capital requirements could serve as barriers for current small-scale marijuana producers to enter the legal market, Crawford said. In Washington state, the requirements to obtain a permit were so stringent that many were shut out of the market, he said.

Also, Washington’s taxes and early supply woes put marijuana between $420 and $840 per ounce, while in Colorado, marijuana is slightly more than $260 per ounce after taxes. At rates that high, there is a strong chance users won’t actually enter the legal market; they’ll continue making small-scale purchases from friends or acquaintances or grow their own, Crawford said.

“We don’t know if people will go to retail stores,” he said. “If the ballot initiative passes, the market will be shaped by policies adopted by the OLCC.”

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Seth Crawford, 541-760-5419, seth.crawford@oregonstate.edu

Walmart and The Walmart Foundation award OSU grant to help boost U.S. manufacturing

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has been chosen for one of the first seven grants from the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund created by Walmart and The Walmart Foundation to help accelerate manufacturing in the United States.

The $590,000 grant will support the development of innovations in plastics injection molding – one of the most common manufacturing processes for making consumer products – in which melted plastic resins are injected into a shaped cavity made by two metallic molds.

“Current practices for fabricating these molds are labor-intensive and costly, and much of the mold material is wasted as metal chips,” said Sundar V. Atre, OSU associate professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering. “We estimate that mold-making costs can be reduced by 40 to 50 percent.”

“That will give U.S. manufacturing an edge,” Atre added.

The Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund, in collaboration with the Conference of Mayors, will provide a total of $10 million in grants over the next five years. The first $4 million in grants were announced Thursday (Aug. 14) at the 2014 U.S. Manufacturing Summit in Denver.

“Researchers at many of America’s best universities are hard at work on tough manufacturing challenges,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of The Walmart Foundation. “We are excited to support the development of innovative solutions, which we hope will unlock new opportunity for manufacturing in this country.” 

Mayor Julie Manning of Corvallis noted that her city has earned a national reputation for innovation, ranking fourth last year in a report of patents per capita.

“A manufacturing renaissance is taking place in our region,” she said. “This project builds on the steps taken in recent years to more closely align the economic development strategy of Corvallis and Benton County with the growing success of Oregon State University and other local employers in fostering innovation and job creation.”

Over the course of the three-year project, Atre and his co-principal investigator, Oregon State mechanical engineering assistant professor Rajiv Malhotra, will work with three industrial partners – Metal Technology, Inc., in neighboring Albany, Ore., plus Arburg and North American Höganäs – to develop and test their manufacturing innovations. Part of the work will take place at the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute, collaboratively managed by OSU and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The team will work with the OSU Advantage Accelerator to develop a commercialization plan. This program helps move promising ideas out of the laboratory and into the marketplace, strengthening the economy.

Atre’s and Malhotra’s project is a prime example of the university’s leading-edge research that creates a better future for Oregon and the nation, said Robert B. Stone, head of OSU’s School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering.

“Making U.S. manufacturing more competitive globally is something all of us can relate to,” Stone said. “When we shop, we know the ‘Made in the USA’ label signifies jobs and stronger communities. This support from Walmart, The Walmart Foundation and the Conference of Mayors represents a vote of confidence in our track record at Oregon State of doing research with real-world impact, as we work in partnership with industry.”

In 2010 alone the U.S. plastics industry produced an estimated 16 billion pounds of injection-molded products for applications in packaging, electronics, housewares and biomedical areas.

The grant to Oregon State is part of The Campaign for OSU, which has raised more than $1.06 billion to support university priorities, including more than $140 million in private faculty research grants. The university community will celebrate the campaign’s impact Oct. 31 during Homecoming.

 

Media Contact: 

Michelle Williams, 541-737-6126

Source: 

Sundar V. Atre, 541-908-1483; Rajiv Malhotra, 541-737-5621

Racial makeup of private prisons shows disparities, new OSU study finds

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A disproportionate number of Hispanics are housed in private prisons across the United States, a pattern that could leave such prisons vulnerable to legal challenges, new research from Oregon State University shows.

The percentage of adult Hispanic inmates in private prisons was two points higher than those in public facilities, while the percentage of white inmates in private prisons was eight points lower than in public facilities, said Brett Burkhardt, an assistant professor of sociology in the School of Public Policy at OSU’s College of Liberal Arts.

“This is a systemic issue,” Burkhardt said. “Prison administrators should be aware of racial disparities in inmate placement to ensure that inmates’ rights are being upheld and to avoid future lawsuits.”

Private prisons are those operated by private for-profit or non-profit companies that have contracts with government agencies. In some cases, the private company operates an existing prison, while in others the company builds and operates the facility. About 8 percent of those sentenced to state or federal prison are being held in private facilities, according to a 2011 study.

But there are some concerns that those in private prisons have fewer opportunities for jobs and rehabilitation and are more likely to get in trouble while incarcerated, which could raise questions about whether private prisons provide inmates equal protection under U.S. civil rights laws.

Research has shown that private prisons have higher rates of inmate misconduct; fewer work assignments for prisoners; more inmate grievances; and more escapes than public facilities, Burkhardt said. 

“The data can’t demonstrate that there is a violation of inmates’ rights,” Burkhardt said. “But prison officials should be aware of the pattern because it could trigger lawsuits.”

Burkhardt’s study is the latest in a growing body of research on racial disparities in the criminal justice system. African-Americans and Hispanics are incarcerated at much higher rates than whites in the U.S. and previous research has found widespread racial disparities throughout the criminal justice system.

The disparity in prison placement is not linked to higher overall incarceration rates of Hispanics. It appears to stem from the process in which inmates are assigned to a correctional facility, Burkhardt said. How those decisions are made is unclear; they typically are handled by prison administrators. The research indicates there is a racial pattern to inmate assignment at correctional facilities, which also could raise legal concerns for corrections officials, he said.

Burkhardt’s findings were outlined in an article titled “Where Have All the (White and Hispanic) Inmates Gone? Comparing the Racial Composition of Private and Public Adult Correctional Facilities.” The article was recently published in the journal “Race and Justice.” The research was supported by OSU.

Burkhardt analyzed national correctional facility data for all state and federal correctional institutions from 2005, about 1,500 in all. Federal immigration detention facilities were excluded. He found that Hispanics were overrepresented and whites were underrepresented in private prison populations.

African-Americans also were overrepresented in private prisons, but the difference was not considered statistically significant, Burkhardt said. When populations of African-American and Hispanic inmates were combined, they were four percentage points higher in private facilities than in public ones, which was significant, Burkhardt said.

The racial disparity is present in both federal and state facilities and it does not appear to be connected to the security level, size or age of the facility, he said. More research is needed to determine why Hispanics are over-represented in the private prison population, he said. For example, private firms may prefer healthier inmates, which tend to be young, non-white inmates; or the assignments may be tied to prisoners’ gang affiliations.

“It’s not entirely obvious why this is happening,” Burkhardt said. “It’s a little bit of a mystery.”

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Brett Burkhardt, 541-737-2310 or Brett.burkhardt@oregonstate.edu

Study: Young women with sexy social media photos seen as less competent

BEND, Ore. – Girls and young women who post sexy or revealing photos on social media sites such as Facebook are viewed by their female peers as less physically and socially attractive and less competent to perform tasks, a new study from Oregon State University indicates.

“This is a clear indictment of sexy social media photos,” said researcher Elizabeth Daniels, an assistant professor of psychology who studies the effect of media on girls’ body image. Daniels’ findings are based on an experiment she conducted using a fictitious Facebook profile.

“There is so much pressure on teen girls and young women to portray themselves as sexy, but sharing those sexy photos online may have more negative consequences than positive,” Daniels said.

Girls and young women are in a “no-win” situation when it comes to their Facebook photos, Daniels said. Those who post sexy photos may risk negative reactions from their peers, but those who post more wholesome photos may lose out on social rewards, including attention from boys and men, she said.

“Social media is where the youth are,” she said. “We need to understand what they’re doing online and how that affects their self-concept and their self-esteem.”

Daniels’ research was published today in the journal “Psychology of Popular Media Culture.” The article, titled “The price of sexy: Viewers’ perceptions of a sexualized versus non-sexualized Facebook profile photo,” was co-authored by Eileen L. Zurbriggen of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Daniels conducted the research while on the faculty at OSU-Cascades and received two Circle of Excellence grants from OSU-Cascades to support the study. She is now an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs.

For the study, Daniels created two mock Facebook profiles for the fictitious 20-year-old Amanda Johnson. In both versions, Amanda liked musicians such as Lady Gaga, books such as “Twilight,” and movies like “The Notebook,” that would be appropriate for a person her age.

The only difference between the two was the profile photo. The photos were actual high school senior portrait and prom photos of a real young woman who allowed the photos to be used for the experiment.

In the sexy photo, “Amanda” is wearing a low-cut red dress with a slit up one leg to mid-thigh and a visible garter belt. In the non-sexy photo, she’s wearing jeans, a short-sleeved shirt and a scarf draped around her neck, covering her chest. 

Study participants were 58 teen girls, ages 13-18, and 60 young adult women no longer in high school, ages 17-25. They were randomly assigned one of the profiles and asked questions based on that profile.

The participants were asked to assess Amanda’s physical attractiveness (I think she is pretty), social attractiveness (I think she could be a friend of mine), and task competence (I have confidence in her ability to get a job done) on a scale from 1-7, with one being strongly disagree and 7 being strongly agree.

In all three areas, the non-sexy profile scored higher, indicating that those who viewed that photo thought Amanda was prettier, more likely to make a good friend and more likely to complete a task. The largest difference was in the area of task competence, suggesting a young woman’s capabilities are really dinged by the sexy photo, Daniels said.

The research underscores the importance of helping children and young people understand the long-term consequences of their online posts, Daniels said. Parents, educators and other influential adults should have regular conversations about the implications of online behavior with teens and young adults, Daniels suggested.

“We really need to help youth understand this is a very public forum,” she said.

The research also highlights the need for more discussion about gender roles and attitudes, particularly regarding girls and young women, she said.

“Why is it we focus so heavily on girls’ appearances?” she said. “What does this tell us about gender? Those conversations should be part of everyday life.”

Daniels’ advice for girls and young women is to select social media photos that showcase their identity rather than her appearance, such as one from a trip or one that highlights participation in a sport or hobby.

“Don’t focus so heavily on appearance,” Daniels said. “Focus on who you are as a person and what you do in the world.”

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Elizabeth Daniels, 831-345-8447 or daniels.psychology@gmail.com

OSU receives federal grant to study academic outcomes of Oregon’s English learners

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has won a grant of nearly $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to investigate what happens to Oregon students who begin school as English language learners.

Researchers will use the grant to examine the academic performance of current and former English language learners and determine how best to support their academic achievement, said Karen Thompson, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Education, who will lead the study.

“Being able to see, over a long period of time, how a student is doing is very important,” Thompson said. “Some students might need ongoing assistance even after they are considered proficient in English, while others might achieve at very high levels.”

Students who do not speak English proficiently when they enter school are considered English language learners. When students master the language, they are no longer considered English language learners and are reclassified as English proficient students.

Some states continue to monitor former English language learners throughout their school careers, but until recently, Oregon has only monitored them for two years, as required by the federal government, Thompson said.

The grant, from the education department’s research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences, will give investigators the opportunity to assess the longer-term academic success of students who enter school as English language learners, including graduation rates, she said. Researchers will also collect and analyze data about how current and former English language learners are faring in different types of programs, including dual-language programs, which have greatly expanded in Oregon schools in recent years, Thompson said.

The grant runs from Aug. 1 through July 31, 2016. The Oregon Department of Education and WestEd, a nonprofit education research agency, are partnering with OSU on the project. David Bautista, an assistant superintendent at the Oregon Department of Education, will serve as co-principal investigator.

The three agencies have established the Oregon English Learner Alliance in an effort to improve educational outcomes for Oregon’s English language learners. The alliance is part of a larger effort by the Oregon Department of Education to improve educational outcomes for students learning English.

The number of English language learners in Oregon has grown dramatically over the last 20 years and now makes up about 10 percent of the state’s kindergarten- through 12th-grade population. The number of reclassified students also has grown, making it more important than ever to understand how those students do in school once they’re no longer receiving extra help to learn English, Thompson said.

If researchers identify areas where current and former English language learners do well, they want to examine practices in those classrooms or schools and share the best of them with other educators, Thompson said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This work will be supported by U.S. Department of Education grant number R305H140072. The amount of federal funding is $399,928, the non-federal funding for the project is $29,009 and the project’s total funding is $428,937. Of the total funding, 93 percent is federal and 7 percent is non-federal.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Karen Thompson, 541-737-2988, Karen.Thompson@oregonstate.edu

Iron, steel in hatcheries may distort magnetic “map sense” of steelhead

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Exposure to iron pipes and steel rebar, such as the materials found in most hatcheries, affects the navigation ability of young steelhead trout by altering the important magnetic “map sense” they need for migration, according to new research from Oregon State University.

The exposure to iron and steel distorts the magnetic field around the fish, affecting their ability to navigate, said Nathan Putman, who led the study while working as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, part of OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

Just last year Putman and other researchers presented evidence of a correlation between the oceanic migration patterns of salmon and drift of the Earth’s magnetic field. Earlier this year they confirmed the ability of salmon to navigate using the magnetic field in experiments at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center. Scientists for decades have studied how salmon find their way across vast stretches of ocean.

“The better fish navigate, the higher their survival rate,” said Putman, who conducted the research at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center in the Alsea River basin last year. “When their magnetic field is altered, the fish get confused.”

Subtle differences in the magnetic environment within hatcheries could help explain why some hatchery fish do better than others when they are released into the wild, Putman said. Stabilizing the magnetic field by using alternative forms of hatchery construction may be one way to produce a better yield of fish, he said.

“It’s not a hopeless problem,” he said. “You can fix these kinds of things. Retrofitting hatcheries with non-magnetic materials might be worth doing if it leads to making better fish.”

Putman’s findings were published this week in the journal Biology Letters. The research was funded by Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, with support from Oregon State University. Co-authors of the study are OSU’s David Noakes, senior scientist at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center, and Amanda Meinke of the Oregon Hatchery Research Center.

The new findings follow earlier research by Putman and others that confirmed the connection between salmon and the Earth’s magnetic field. Researchers exposed hundreds of juvenile Chinook salmon to different magnetic fields that exist at the latitudinal extremes of their oceanic range.

Fish responded to these “simulated magnetic displacements” by swimming in the direction that would bring them toward the center of their marine feeding grounds. In essence, the research confirmed that fish possess a map sense, determining where they are and which way to swim based on the magnetic fields they encounter.

Putman repeated that experiment with the steelhead trout and achieved similar results. He then expanded the research to determine if changes to the magnetic field in which fish were reared would affect their map sense. One group of fish was maintained in a fiberglass tank, while the other group was raised in a similar tank but in the vicinity of iron pipes and a concrete floor with steel rebar, which produced a sharp gradient of magnetic field intensity within the tank. Iron pipes and steel reinforced concrete are common in fish hatcheries.

The scientists monitored and photographed the juvenile steelhead, called parr, and tracked the direction in which they were swimming during simulated magnetic displacement experiments. The steelhead reared in a natural magnetic field adjusted their map sense and tended to swim in the same direction. But fish that were exposed to the iron pipes and steel-reinforced concrete failed to show the appropriate orientation and swam in random directions.

More research is needed to determine exactly what that means for the fish. The loss of their map sense could be temporary and they could recalibrate their magnetic sense after a period of time, Putman said. Alternatively, if there is a critical window in which the steelhead’s map sense is imprinted, and it is exposed to an altered magnetic field then, the fish could remain confused forever, he said.

“There is evidence in other animals, especially in birds, that either is possible,” said Putman, who now works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “We don’t know enough about fish yet to know which is which. We should be able to figure that out with some simple experiments.”

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Nathan Putman, 205-218-5276 or Nathan.putman@gmail.com; or David Noakes, 541-737-1953, David.noakes@oregonstate.edu