OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

scientific research and advances

“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.

Media Contact: 
Media Contact: 

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

Source: 

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.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

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.”

Media Contact: 
Source: 

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.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

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.”

 

Media Contact: 
Source: 

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.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Rick Spinrad, 541-737-0664

Phillips named director for OSU Office of Research Development

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Mary Phillips has been named director for the Office of Research Development, a new unit within the Research Office, effective Dec. 1.

Phillips is associate director for the Office for Commercialization and Corporate Development, where she oversees the management of intellectual property and licensing of OSU inventions. In her new role, Phillips will work with faculty and academic units to identify and pursue major funding opportunities, including federal, non-profit and corporate sources.

The creation of the Office for Research Development is a proactive step by the Research Office that addresses the challenge and goals articulated in the OSU research agenda by providing strategic institutional support for successful proposal development, Phillips said.

"What excites me about this position is the role I will play in developing new approaches that will enable our faculty to be highly competitive in securing grant funding in these times of dwindling federal funding and sequestration," Phillips noted. "This in itself is a grand challenge."

Vice President for Research Rick Spinrad said there is a lot of untapped potential for building OSU’s capacity and reputation.

“By establishing an Office of Research Development, we have created the structure to engage in strategic positioning of our research enterprise, long before specific solicitations for research are issued,” Spinrad said. “As part of OSU’s research agenda we are striving to diversify our sponsorship base.  We’ve done this very successfully with our industry engagement (40 percent increase in two years), now we have the staff and organization to start doing the same with other sponsors, notably federal agencies.”

Spinrad anticipates that OSU will dramatically increase the number of federal agencies supporting its research, and that OSU will take a much more forward-leaning posture in driving the research interests of traditional sponsors. 

“In addition, Mary’s role will allow us to be much more effective in strengthening our proposal efforts - for example by being more strategic in how we address ‘broader impacts,’” Spinrad said. “This is particularly important as general decreases in federal funding for research make for an even more competitive environment.”

Phillips will be supported by an advisory group that will consist of senior faculty representing each of the divisions within the university.

Prior to joining OSU in 2006, Phillips began her career in university technology transfer in 2001 at Oregon Health and Science University. She has a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of London’s Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine and gained postdoctoral experience in the areas of laser spectroscopy and molecular biology at the University of Oregon. 

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Mary Phillips

541-737-4437

OSU receives $1.25 million CDC grant to study Medicaid expansion in Oregon

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University and the Oregon Health Authority have received $1.25 million from the Centers for Disease Control to study the health impact of opening the Oregon Health Plan to more people.

The five-year study will evaluate how the health of low-income women and their infants is affected when more of them are eligible for Medicaid health care coverage, i.e., the Oregon Health Plan. According to researchers, this study’s results will inform health reform efforts in Oregon and across the nation, as many states and communities undergo sweeping changes under the Affordable Care Act.

The OSU team will be led by researchers in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, including Marie Harvey, Jeff Luck, Jocelyn Warren and Jangho Yoon.

“Oregon is an ideal state to conduct this study because of its ongoing commitment to Medicaid health care delivery for all, and the commitment of state leaders to collaborate to ensure this program’s success,” said Harvey, associate dean for research in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, and one of the grant’s principal investigators.

One of the study’s goals will be to create an integrated, state-level data system that links de-identified Medicaid information with other existing health care data, such as from hospitals and birth and death certificates. This data system will help answer critical questions about the effect of Medicaid expansion on the use of health services and health outcomes among women and their children. A diverse group of county and community groups in the state with interest in maternal and child health will participate in setting research priorities for the study.

The project has been endorsed by Gov. John Kitzhaber, who has led the state’s efforts on implementation of comprehensive reform of Oregon’s Medicaid financing and delivery system. The research will also be helpful as Oregon looks towards the adoption of a more coordinated care model across all types of health care delivery systems.

“This project is an ideal complement to ongoing health system innovation and reforms in Oregon,” said Mike Bonetto, senior health care policy adviser to Gov. Kitzhaber. “This project will play a key role in our action plan by providing concrete data on how we can improve the health care and health outcomes of Medicaid-eligible women and their infants, a particularly vulnerable population.” 

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Marie Harvey, 541-737-3824

GMOs in agriculture to be Corvallis Science Pub topic

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Direct modification of DNA, or genetic engineering, is a tool for plant breeding that has spread at unprecedented speed over the last two decades. At the Oct. 14 Corvallis Science Pub, Steve Strauss, director of Oregon State University’s Outreach in Biotechnology program, will discuss the pros and cons of gene technology for agriculture.

The Science Pub presentation begins at 6 p.m. in the Majestic Theater, at 115 S.W. Second St. in Corvallis. It is free and open to the public. In November, Science Pub will resume at its usual location at the Old World Deli.

Today’s agricultural bounty can be traced to traditional plant breeding and other technologies, but population growth and demands for higher quality food will require large improvements in agricultural productivity, said Strauss. The undesirable environmental and social effects of more intense farming systems also need to be minimized.

“Gene technology is a valuable tool, not a silver bullet,” Strauss added. “It can do a lot, but it must be used with due caution and as part of integrated, ecologically-guided management systems for sustained benefit.”

Biotechnology appears capable of providing major humanitarian benefits to the poor by improving nutrition and food security.

“Despite the fears and growing legal barriers, the stakes in this debate are too high to turn away from,” he said. “We must find socially acceptable ways to move forward.”

While genetic engineering can provide nutritional and agronomic benefits, it has also come up against strong social and legal resistance in many countries, making its future uncertain. Strauss will review what the technology actually is, how it is similar and different from conventional breeding, and how it has impacted agriculture to date. He will also discuss diverse sources of the controversy surrounding it, including the numerous myths and confusing science that pervade the online world.

Strauss is a distinguished professor in the Oregon State College of Forestry and a fellow of the Leopold Leadership Program at Stanford University. He is also the director of the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative at OSU that conducts research on mitigation of risks from genetic engineering in forestry.

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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Media Contact: 
Source: 

Steve Strauss, 541-737-7568

China honors Oregon State researcher for decade of scientific collaboration

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Major advances against some of the world’s most devastating plant diseases are starting to emerge from more than a decade of international scientific collaboration led by Brett Tyler, director of the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing at Oregon State University. Tyler has fostered collaborative research in China, the United States and Europe on a group of organisms that cause diseases such as late blight in potatoes and soybean root rot. Both diseases cost millions of dollars in annual crop losses worldwide.

The joint research activities have advanced food production by understanding how plants such as potatoes and soybeans resist disease and how the genes responsible for resistance can be incorporated into new varieties. Potatoes developed by European researchers that incorporate these findings are just starting to hit commercial markets, and research is continuing on soybean diseases in the U.S. and China.

The People’s Republic of China recognized Tyler on Sept. 29 for his achievements with its highest civic award for non-Chinese scientists. Tyler, who is also a professor in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, received the Friendship Award of China for a decade of technical assistance and scientific collaboration with researchers at Nanjing Agricultural University and other Chinese institutions.

“It’s a wonderful bridge across the Pacific with the joint objective of increasing food security,” Tyler said.

Tyler, holder of the Stewart Chair in Gene Research, coordinates a worldwide research program on plant pathogens known to scientists as oomycetes. He and his colleagues have identified plant genes that confer long-term resistance to these pathogens. Scientists have focused on plant and pathogen genetics because the diseases can be so devastating, and pesticides tend to be rapidly evaded by these adaptable organisms.

“I have been working with an expanding circle of collaborators in China,” said Tyler, who has traveled to China 13 times. “We have published papers in top journals and established a growing collaborative research program.” In addition to his collaboration with researchers in Nanjing, he has worked with scientists at the Northwest Agricultural and Forestry University, Tsinghua University, the Beijing Genome Institute, Shandong Agricultural University and Yangzhou University.

Tyler’s Chinese partners — especially Yuanchao Wang at Nanjing and Weixing Shan at the NW Agricultural and Forestry University — have formed a consortium in China to apply the results of their disease resistance work in soybean and potato breeding. At the same time, Tyler has developed a similar network involving 19 institutions in the United States. With funding from the U.S. and Chinese governments, labs on both sides of the Pacific have hosted exchange students, jointly planned experiments and shared data.

“During our ten years of cooperation, Brett has helped to guide our research,” said Wang. “Research on the molecular genetics of oomycetes in China started from our cooperation. Brett helped us set up a great platform of genetic transformation and bioinformatics in Nanjing, and many other groups in China learned how to do this research from my group.”

The Chinese government has invested heavily in research in the last decade, added Tyler. “Our colleagues in China now have research facilities that are equal to or surpass what we have available in the United States,” he said.

Genes that provide long-term resistance to oomycete diseases are just starting to emerge in commercially available crops. “Resistance genes have been used in breeding for a long time, but many of them have been quickly defeated by the pathogens,” said Tyler. “We’ve uncovered why that happens. The pathogen produces a group of proteins that the plant has learned to detect. Unfortunately, these are proteins that the pathogen can quickly change. Now we have started to identify proteins the pathogen cannot change.”

In 2011, the USDA awarded $9.3 million to Tyler and his colleagues to apply their research to the U.S. soybean crop. Tyler’s Chinese collaborators are also contributing to that project. Soybean root rot causes major crop losses in China.

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Media Contact: 
Source: 

Brett Tyler, 541-737-3686

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Brett Tyler