OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

scientific research and advances

Running robots to be discussed at Corvallis Science Pub

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Robots already build cars, perform household chores and explore the oceans, but most of these machines are not ready to walk safely among humans.

At the Sept. 14 Corvallis Science Pub, Oregon State University’s Jonathan Hurst will describe efforts to teach a robot how to walk with dexterity on uneven terrain.

“It’s possible to have robots that walk and run and manipulate things and do all the physical interactions that people can do,” said Hurst, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Oregon State and a leader of its growing robotics program.

“We have physical proof. I can do it. Why not a robot? Where will it happen first? That’s the question.”

Working with OSU students and with colleagues at the University of Michigan and Carnegie-Mellon, he designed a robot known as ATRIAS, the first machine to reproduce human-like and animal-like ground reaction forces and center-of-mass motion for a bipedal walking gait. The researchers derive inspiration from the locomotion of birds.

The Science Pub presentation is free and open to the public. It begins at 6 p.m. at the Old World Deli, 341 S.W. 2nd St. in Corvallis. 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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Jonathan Hurst, 541-737-7010

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Oregon State research reaches record, exceeds $308 million

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Oregon State University research funding reached $308.9 million, its highest level ever, in the fiscal year that ended on June 30. A near doubling of revenues from licensing patented technologies and an 8.5 percent increase in competitive federal funding fueled OSU research on a range of projects including advanced ocean-going research vessels, the health impacts of pollution and sustainable materials for high-speed computing.

“This is a phenomenal achievement. I've seen how OSU research is solving global problems and providing innovations that mean economic growth for Oregon and the nation,” said Cynthia Sagers, OSU’s vice president for research who undertook her duties on August 31. “OSU’s research performance in the last year is amazing, given that federal funds are so restricted right now.”

The overall economic and societal impact of OSU’s research enterprise exceeds $670 million, based on an analysis of OSU’s research contributions to the state and global economy that followed a recent economic study of OSU’s fiscal impact conducted by ECONorthwest.

Technology licensing almost doubled in the last year alone, from just under $6 million in 2014 to more than $10 million this year. Leading investments from business and industry were patented Oregon State innovations in agriculture, advanced materials and nuclear technologies.

OSU researchers exceeded the previous record of $288 million, which the university achieved in 2010. Although federal agencies provided the bulk of funding, most of the growth in OSU research revenues over the past five years stems from nonprofit organizations and industry.

Since 2010, total private-sector funding from sponsored contracts, research cooperatives and other sources has risen 60 percent — from $25 million to more than $40 million in 2015. Oregon State conducts research with multinationals such as HP, Nike and Boeing as well as with local firms such as Benchmade Knife of Oregon City, Sheldon Manufacturing of Cornelius and NuScale Power of Corvallis.

By contrast, federal research grants in 2015 were only 0.2 percent higher than those received in 2010, a year in which American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds gave university research a one-time shot in the arm across the country. According to the National Science Foundation, federal agency obligations for research have dropped from a high of $36 billion in 2009 to $29 billion in 2013, the last year for which cumulative figures are available. The Department of Health and Human Services accounted for more than half of that spending.

“We’ve worked hard to diversify our research portfolio,” said Ron Adams, who retired as interim vice president for research at the end of August. “But it’s remarkable that our researchers have succeeded in competing for an increase in federal funding. This speaks to the success of our strategic initiatives and our focus on clusters of excellence.”

Economic impact stems in part from new businesses launched this year through the Oregon State University Advantage program. Among them are:

  •  OnBoard Dynamics, a Bend company designing a natural-gas powered vehicle engine that can be fueled from home
  •  Valliscor, a Corvallis company that manufactures ultra-pure chemicals
  • eChemion, a Corvallis company that develops and markets technology to extend battery life

Altogether, 15 new companies have received mentoring assistance from Oregon State’s Advantage Accelerator program, part of the state-funded Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network, or RAIN. Six new companies are working with the Advantage program this fall.

Additional economic impact stems from the employment of students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty. According to the OSU Research Office, about a quarter of OSU undergraduates participate in research projects, many with stipends paid by grant funds. In addition, grants support a total of 843 graduate research positions and 165 post-doctoral researchers.

The College of Agricultural Sciences received the largest share of research grants at Oregon State with $49.4 million last year, followed by the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at $39 million and the College of Engineering at $37 million. The College of Science saw a 170 percent increase in research funding to $26.7 million, its largest total ever and the biggest rise among OSU colleges. Among the largest grants received in FY15 were:

  •  $8 million from the NSF to the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry (College of Science) for new high-speed information technologies
  •  $4 million from the Department of Energy to reduce barriers to the deployment of ocean energy systems (College of Engineering)
  •  $4 million from US Agency for International Development to the AquaFish Innovation Lab (College of Agricultural Sciences) for global food security
  •  $3.5 million from the USDA for experiential learning to reduce obesity (College of Public Health and Human Sciences)
  •  $2.3 million from the NSF for the ocean observing initiative (College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences)
  •  $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education for school readiness in early childhood (OSU Cascades)

 

Editor’s Note: FY15 research totals for OSU colleges and OSU-Cascades are posted online.

College of Agricultural Sciences: http://agsci.oregonstate.edu/story/osu%E2%80%99s-college-agricultural-sciences-receives-494-million-research-grants 

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences: http://ceoas.oregonstate.edu/features/funding/

College of Education: http://education.oregonstate.edu/research-and-outreach 

College of Engineering:  http://engineering.oregonstate.edu/fy15-research-funding-highlights

College of Forestry: http://www.forestry.oregonstate.edu/research/college-forestry-receives-near-record-grant-awards-fy-2015

College of Liberal Arts: http://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/cla-research/2015-research-summary

College of Pharmacy: http://pharmacy.oregonstate.edu/grant_information

College of Public Health and Human Sciences: http://health.oregonstate.edu/research 

College of Science: http://impact.oregonstate.edu/2015/08/record-year-for-research-funding/

College of Veterinary Medicine: http://vetmed.oregonstate.edu/research-highlights

OSU-Cascades: http://osucascades.edu/research-and-scholarship 

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Cynthia Sagers, vice president for research, 541-737-0664; Rich Holdren on OSU research trends, 541-737-8390; Brian Wall on business spinoffs and commercialization, 541-737-9058

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Surface chemistry research

Masters students at OSU worked to improve the performance of thin-film transistors used in liquid crystal displays. (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University)

OOI mooring

The Oregon shelf surface mooring is lowered to the water using the R/V Oceanus ship's crane. (photo courtesy of Oregon State University). Wave Energy

The Ocean Sentinel, a wave energy testing device, rides gentle swells near Newport, Ore. (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University) Hernandez3-2

An undergraduate student at the Autonomous Juarez University of Tabasco, Mexico, is working with cage culture of cichlids in an educational partnership with the AquaFish collaborative Support Program. (Photo: Tiffany Woods)

Global water analysis re-thinks key part of the hydrologic cycle

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A global analysis of how water moves through the ground and is taken up by plants may overturn the way scientists understand a key part of the hydrologic cycle.

It has been assumed for more than a century that once water enters the ground, it becomes part of a well-mixed pool. From there, the theory goes, water flows into groundwater below, remains trapped in soil particles, or is withdrawn from the soil and sent back into the air by plants.

However, by analyzing the chemical signatures of water at 47 sites on six continents, researchers have discovered that the notion of a well-mixed pool in the ground is wrong. In fact, they report in a letter in this week’s edition of the journal Nature, water in plants comes from a compartment in the soil that is separate and disconnected from water that flows elsewhere.

“This is a new interpretation of the hydrologic cycle,” said Jeff McDonnell, co-author and a courtesy professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. McDonnell is the former Richardson Chair in Watershed Science at Oregon State and a professor and associate director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan.

The findings are based on analyses of chemical isotopes — different versions of an element — of hydrogen and oxygen at locations representing tropical and temperate environments including forests, grasslands and deserts. The work builds on previous research that McDonnell published with colleagues at Oregon State and at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (led by Renee Brooks) in Corvallis.

If they are confirmed, the findings would require revision of computer models that are used for irrigation, in-stream flows and climate analysis as well as for other purposes, said lead author Jaivime Evaristo, a Ph.D. student working with McDonnell at Saskatchewan. “All existing models of water flows — many, if not most of which, are being used in a wide range of water resource management purposes — are predicated on the assumption that the waters underneath our feet are well mixed, as though they are in one, huge tank,” said Evaristo. 

It is not yet known what the implications will be for water management practices in forested watersheds or on farms. The work suggests that trees do not use water that would otherwise make it to streams that serve towns and cities. In addition, knowing that plants have a preference for taking water from some parts of the hydrologic cycle and not others may affect the way fertilizers are applied to farmland.

“Fast flowing water and all that is dissolved in it will eventually recharge the ground and make its way into the streams. Nutrients (from fertilizers) will only be useful for plants if they are retained by the soil,” said Evaristo. “Down the line, this new knowledge will translate into redefining how we view and model water flows for practical purposes.”

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Jeffrey McDonnell, 306-966-8529

Jaivime Evaristo, 306-966-2828

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Mack Creek

Mack Creek flows through the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest east of Eugene, Oregon. (Photo: Tom Iraci)

Regulatory, certification systems creating paralysis in use of genetically altered trees

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Myriad regulations and certification requirements around the world are making it virtually impossible to use genetically engineered trees to combat catastrophic forest threats, according to a new policy analysis published this week in the journal Science.

 

In the United States, the time is ripe to consider regulatory changes, the authors say, because the federal government recently initiated an update of the overarching Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, which governs use of genetic engineering.

 

North American forests are suffering from an onslaught of threats including local and imported pests, as well as the impacts of a shifting climate. These threats pose “a real and present danger” to the future of many of our forest trees, notes Steven Strauss, a distinguished professor of forest biotechnology at Oregon State University and lead author on the analysis.

 

“The forest health crisis we’re facing makes it clear that regulations and certification policies must change to consider catastrophic losses that could be mitigated by using advanced forest biotechnologies, including genetic engineering,” Strauss said. “With the precision enabled by new advances in genetic engineering – and their ability to make changes more rapidly and with less disruption to natural tree genetics than hybrid breeding methods – they can provide an important new tool.”

 

In their analysis, Strauss and coauthors Adam Costanza, of the Institute of Forest Biosciences in Cary, North Carolina, and Armand Séguin of Natural Resources Canada in Quebec, argue that new regulatory approaches should be implemented in the United States and globally that focus on the product, not the process – and consider need, urgency and genetic similarity of modifications to those used in breeding.

 

The researchers note the striking discrepancy between the speed at which pests and changing climates are affecting trees and modifying both natural and planted forests, and the onerous and slow pace of modifications to certification policies and regulatory review of genetically engineered trees that could be used to help fight these threats.

 

“If we have a technology that can help stop a forest health crisis, we should also have a regulatory system that can respond in a time frame that can make a difference, and certification policies that do not impede such efforts,” said Costanza, who is president of the non-profit Institute of Forest Biosciences.

 

All major sustainable certification systems for forestry ban genetically engineered trees and will not certify any land as sustainable if genetically engineered trees are grown at all – even if the trees are being used solely for research or are designed to help stop a forest threat.

 

The authors stress that they are not advocating for separate regulations for genetically engineered trees. Rather, they call for an approach that would give agencies the option to fast-track field research for products intended to address forest health problems or that use methods that modify natural genes and thus are comparable in scope to those of conventional breeding.

 

“Obviously, these changes will take time and require wide-ranging input,” said Strauss, a professor in OSU’s College of Forestry, “but we need to start now. We depend on forests for so many ecological, social and economic values – and all of these are being threatened.”

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Steven Strauss, 541-737-6578, steve.strauss@oregonstate.edu 

As U.S. border enforcement increases, Mexican migration patterns shift, new research shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – When enforcement increases along the U.S.-Mexican border, fewer Mexican immigrants cross into the United States, both legally and illegally. But increased enforcement has another effect, new research shows – it alters traditional settlement patterns and leads more Mexican immigrants to settle in states beyond the borders.

 

“Mexicans recently have been settling in parts of the U.S. where historically they have not lived in large numbers,” said Todd Pugatch, an assistant professor of economics in the College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University. “The concentration of Mexican immigrants in traditional settlement areas such as California and Texas has declined substantially in the last 30 years.”

 

Research by Pugatch and Sarah Bohn of the Public Policy Institute of California showed that for every 1,000 additional border patrol agents assigned to prevent unauthorized migration to a U.S. state, the state’s share of Mexican immigrants declined by nearly 22 percentage points during the period from 1994 to 2011. The findings were published today in the journal Demography.

 

“We’re not looking at whether the total number of immigrants goes up or down,” Pugatch said. “What our paper is showing is how, at a given time, immigrants are dispersed. It’s like squeezing a balloon. The total amount of air is the same, but the shape is changed.”

 

Pugatch studies the effect of Mexican immigration on labor markets in the U.S., as well as the economic effects of migration by people from developing countries. This research is part of a broader effort to understand more about the decisions involved in migrating to and settling in a new country, he said. The researchers focused on Mexico because the largest share of U.S. immigrants is from there.

 

“The decision to migrate to another country is one of the biggest decisions a person can make,” Pugatch said. “They are leaving behind their family and friends in search of a new life. Often the decisions have to do with economic opportunities, but that is not the whole story.”

 

To better understand how border policy affects migration, Pugatch and Bohn compared data on Mexican immigrants’ residential locations in the U.S. to Border Patrol staffing information. They used data on historical border crossing patterns to connect border enforcement to each U.S. state.

 

Their research showed that increased enforcement in a state resulted in a lower share of Mexican immigrants two years later. Because border enforcement budgets are set two years in advance, this finding helps address concerns about whether the enforcement caused the decline in immigration, or a surge in immigration sparked increased enforcement, Pugatch said.

 

Surges of border patrol agents responding to unanticipated increases in immigration could not be set two years in advance, which strengthens the argument that border enforcement has driven the long-term changes in Mexican immigration patterns, he said.

 

Pugatch and Bohn found that the concentration of Mexican immigrants to traditional destinations such as California and Texas was virtually unchanged between 1980 and 1990, with 90 percent of immigrants settling in five states. However, between 1990 and 2000, that number dropped, with the top five states pulling in only 76 percent of immigrants. From 2000-2010, the number fell again, to 71 percent.

 

“Our estimates imply that if border enforcement had not changed from 1994 to 2011, the shares of Mexican immigrants locating in California and Texas would each be eight percentage points greater, with all other states’ shares lower or unchanged,” Pugatch said.

 

The study also indicates that immigrants cross in different locations along the border in response to border enforcement changes. That, in turn, leads them to different destinations within the U.S., Pugatch said.

 

While the traditional destinations lost shares, states such as Illinois, New York, Florida and Georgia drew larger shares of immigrants to their communities. The findings indicate that border enforcement policies have an effect on whether people enter the U.S. as well as on where they end up settling in the U.S., he said.

 

The researchers don’t address the larger questions about whether immigration is positive or negative, or whether current policy is effective. Rather, they believe that understanding how border enforcement efforts affect the decisions of immigrants provides valuable information to law- and policymakers grappling with immigration policy work.

 

For example, if immigrants from the same area prefer to live in close geographic proximity to one another, border enforcement could also affect where immigrants entering the country legally choose to reside, Pugatch said.

 

“Policymakers at every level have concerns about how immigrants change social and economic conditions in a community,” Pugatch said. “If we can better understand why people end up the places they do, we can better prepare.”

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Todd Pugatch, 541-737-6628, todd.pugatch@oregonstate.edu

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This map shows how states' shares of Mexican immigrants changed from 1994 to 2011:

Migration Change Map 1 - Actual

This map shows how migration to the U.S. would have looked if border enforcement patterns had not changed during this period. Only Texas and California would have seen an increased share of Mexican immigrants: Migration Change Map 2 - Hypothetical

Todd Pugatch Todd Pugatch

A single wave of migration led to population of the Americas, genetic research shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A single wave of migration from Siberia brought people across the Bering Land Bridge and into the Americas no more than 23,000 years ago, with the group later splitting into two branches, a new study of ancient and modern genetic information has found.

Using genetic data from ancient and modern sources, researchers found that the ancestors of present-day Native Americans entered the Americas in one initial wave and then divided into two groups, known as Athabascans and Amerindians about 13,000 years ago.

The results were published this week in the journal Science.

The findings also indicate that the initial migration of Native American ancestors likely followed a route along the Pacific coast as they spread into the Americas. The northern branch, which included Amerindians as well as Athabascans, remained only in North America, while the southern branch, made up only of Amerindians, spread along the Pacific Rim through North and South America.

Researchers say the findings, which match closely with archaeological evidence from the period, clearly answer a much-debated question about how and when the Americas were first populated and counters ideas that migration to the Americas initially occurred in two waves.

“This means the Paleo American model is essentially dead,” said Loren Davis, an associate professor of anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University and co-author on the study. “There was no founding population that was replaced by a later influx of Native Americans. Nearly all native peoples in the Americas can trace their genetics to that first wave of migration.”

“It’s really exciting because these findings provide new archaeological implications for us to explore.”

The genetic study was led by Maanasa Raghavan and Eske Willerslev of the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

To determine the origins of today’s Native American people, researchers sequenced genomes from present-day individuals from the Americas, Siberia and Oceania and compared their genetics to those from ancient specimens from both branches of the migration.

Davis worked with the research geneticists to identify skeletons from northwestern Mexico that were tested as part of the study. The unusual skull shape of some of the skeletons was one factor that led some researchers to believe there were two waves of migration to the Americas, he said.

“Now we’re seeing that the metrics of skulls matters less than the genetics,” Davis said. “Our study shows that the skeletal morphology of ancient Americans doesn’t indicate the presence of different genetic populations unrelated to modern Native Americans.”

With the new findings in hand, Davis is looking at new avenues of archaeological research, including searching for evidence of when and how the original group of migrants split. One source of information is the types of stone tools used by the two groups, he said. There are two known traditions of tool-making that separate the two groups: the Western-Stemmed and Clovis Paleoindian traditions. The two technological traditions use different strategies to create stone tools, Davis said.

“The two genetic groups became the basic nexus for all the later Native American people,” Davis said. “This split between the two tool-making technologies may have been happening at the same time the two groups divided.”

Davis’ next project involves looking offshore for sites that may once have been home to early settlers in North America. Such sites were likely submerged in the post-Ice Age sea rise. Working with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Davis developed a predictive model to identify the potential distribution of archaeological sites submerged along the coast of the United States, in part by reconstructing the landscape and ancient river drainages that once existed during times of lower sea levels. In September, he and others will begin working offshore to find those sites.

“The implications of this study are significant for the archaeological problems I’m pursuing,” Davis said. “The study’s conclusion that the initial migration of Native American ancestors probably followed a Pacific coastal route of entry meant that we’re on the right track to make significant discoveries here in the Pacific Northwest.”  

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Loren Davis, 541-250-6304, loren.davis@oregonstate.edu

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Researcher Loren Davis

Paisley cave

OSU faculty to receive $4.6 million in grants for early childhood learning research

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers in Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences have been awarded $4.6 million in federal grants to study how to better prepare at-risk children for school.

OSU-Cascades researcher Shannon Lipscomb will receive $1.5 million to develop and test a program to help teachers improve the school readiness of preschoolers who have been exposed to trauma. The four-year grant is the largest research grant ever awarded to a faculty member at OSU’s branch campus in Central Oregon.

OSU researcher Megan McClelland will receive two grants totaling $3.1 million to continue and expand her work in the area of self-regulation skills among preschool children. Self-regulation skills help children pay attention, follow directions, stay on task and persist through difficulty. Children with stronger self-regulation are more likely to do well in school and graduate from college compared to children with weaker self-regulation.

The grants were announced today by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Educational Sciences. In all, 15 Early Learning Program grants were awarded; OSU received three of the grants and was the only Oregon institution to receive funding from that program.

A priority of the U.S. Department of Education is to enhance learning and development for children with high needs through early learning programs.

“Research shows the importance of high-quality, early learning experiences for children's later success not only in school but also in other key aspects of life such as avoiding criminal behavior,” said Lipscomb, an assistant professor in the human development and family sciences program at OSU-Cascades.

Lipscomb will use her grant to develop and test a program to help teachers improve the school readiness of preschoolers who have been exposed to trauma. Selected teachers will participate in online classes to gain knowledge about childhood trauma and how to promote learning and development in children exposed to trauma.

Regular video coaching sessions will help teachers take their understanding and incorporate it into practices in the classroom with children.  A benefit to the online and video implementation is its ability to reach teachers in rural areas, where professional development programs may not be available.

McClelland, the Katherine E. Smith Healthy Children and Families Professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences on the main OSU campus, will receive $1.6 million to improve a measure called the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task, which assesses school readiness. The new research will look at ways to improve the assessment, such as expanding the range of the assessment and broadening the use of the task.

McClelland’s second grant, for $1.5 million, will focus on intervention activities using music and games to help preschoolers strengthen their self-regulation skills. The grant will allow McClelland and her research team to improve existing intervention activities that have shown to improve children’s self-regulation and academic achievement and to develop new games that promote those skills.

“Both of these grants will allow us to increase and extend our work in ways we haven’t been able to before,” McClelland said.

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Megan McClelland, 541-737-9225, megan.mcclelland@oregonstate.edu; Shannon Lipscomb, 541-322-3137, Shannon.lipscomb@osucascades.edu

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Megan McClelland

Megan McClelland

Shannon Lipscomb

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Rising fossil fuel energy costs spell trouble for global food security

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Ongoing efforts to feed a growing global population are threatened by rising fossil-fuel energy costs and breakdowns in transportation infrastructure. Without new ways to preserve, store, and transport food products, the likelihood of shortages looms in the future.

In an analysis of food preservation and transportation trends published in this week’s issue of the journal BioScience, scientists warn that new sustainable technologies will be needed for humanity just to stay even in the arms race against the microorganisms that can rapidly spoil the outputs of the modern food system.

“It is mostly a race between the capacity of microbe populations to grow on human foodstuffs and evolve adaptations to changing conditions and the capacity of humans to come up with new technologies for preserving, storing, and transporting food,” wrote lead author Sean T. Hammond, a postdoctoral researcher and interdisciplinary ecologist in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University.

Hammond developed the analysis with colleagues at the University of New Mexico, Arizona State University and Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos in Mexico.

The authors note that increased energy use in food-preservation systems does not always prolong shelf life. For example, drying and canning tend to use less energy than freezing, which requires ongoing energy consumption. Moreover, as cities expand and food is produced by fewer people, dependence grows on fossil-fuel transportation systems. The cargo ships, trucks and trains that carry most of the world’s food run almost exclusively on oil.

“Getting food from the field to your table is a matter of production, storage and transportation,” said Hammond. “It sounds trivial to say that, but if there’s a problem with any of those – a drought, problems with roads or problems keeping foods cool and dry for storage during transport – the system breaks down and people starve.

“More people moving to cities means there are fewer people working to produce food, which means we need to use more energy in the form of machinery to grow and harvest things,” Hammond noted. “Problems with bridges, rail and port infrastructure increase the time needed to transport food and lead to even more energy needed to keep food from spoiling while it is transported.”

Technological advances in preservation and transportation systems have improved the diversity and nutritional qualities of food over what was available to pre-industrial societies. Nevertheless, it’s been estimated that up to 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is lost or wasted. The estimate is lower in developing countries, about 10 percent, due to different diets and cultural norms.

In their analysis, Hammond and his colleagues considered the growth of microorganisms on food products as temperatures increase in storage; the shelf life of foods such as fish, potatoes, strawberries and wheat; the amounts of energy used in preservation methods; and historical advances in the transportation of different foodstuffs.

“As humans push up against the limits of the finite Earth,” they wrote, “food security is a major concern.” To meet future needs, decreasing numbers of farmers, ranchers and fishermen will need to become more efficient and productive. In short, they will need to produce more food per acre and use less fossil-fuel energy, Hammond and his co-authors write.

Innovations that use other energy sources will be required in preservation, storage and transportation systems. The issue is particularly acute in tropical areas where higher average temperatures and humidity translate into faster rates of food spoilage than in temperate climates.

“We can transport any food, even foods that spoil quickly like fish or fruits, to any point on the surface of the planet before it goes bad,” Hammond said. “That’s pretty amazing, but I think we need to question whether we should. Maybe the local-food movement is less of a trend in modern society and more of a necessity.”

Researchers conducting the analysis received support from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the James S. McDonnell Foundation.

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Sean T. Hammond, 415-828-1674

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Sean T. Hammond

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Illustration by Trevor Fristoe

Scottish explorer David Livingstone’s writings, drawings now available through online archive

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Students, researchers and the public will have extraordinary access to the drawings, letters and field diaries of Scottish explorer David Livingstone through an expanded digital archive and new website that is launching today.

The site, Livingstone Online, www.livingstoneonline.org, is the digital home for the documents chronicling the life and work of Livingstone, a missionary, physician and abolitionist best known for his travels in Africa in the mid-19th century.

“The original Livingstone documents are scattered all over the world – in Africa, Scotland, England and in private collections,” said Megan Ward, an assistant professor at Oregon State University and associate director of the Livingstone Online project. “There’s never been a single physical location for these documents. We wanted to come up with a more comprehensive archive.”

The project, directed by Adrian S. Wisnicki, assistant professor of English at the University of Nebraska, is being funded by a three-year, $265,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The website for the digital archive is being hosted by the University of California, Los Angeles.

Livingstone’s work provides insight into globalization, imperialism and the role of the British Empire and life in Africa during that period. Many of the themes prevalent in Livingstone’s work continue to resonate today, said Ward, who teaches and researches Victorian literature. Livingstone is an icon of the era, she said – his work inspired questions of empire throughout the literature of that time.

“He was seen as a great hero then, though the lens of time changes people’s perspective of him and his work,” said Ward, who teaches in the School of Writing, Literature and Film in OSU’s College of Liberal Arts. “He left a complicated legacy. Due to his work to end the slave trade, he has been considered a freedom fighter for Africa, but his exploration also has been viewed as detrimental to Africa and its people.” 

The online archive was established in 2005 then dramatically expanded through a two-year, international collaboration among scholars, digital librarians, museum curators and others across the U.S., Scotland, England and South Africa. The beta version of the new, expanded site is being unveiled this week.

More than 7,500 original images of Livingstone’s writings can be found on the site and the archive is expected to expand to more than 12,000 images by 2016. The archive also includes drawings and illustrations depicting Livingstone’s work and findings.

Wisnicki and Ward have received another, $168,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant so they can use spectral imaging and processing technology to study one of Livingstone’s diaries in new ways.

“He ran out of paper and ink at one point and was writing on newspapers using ink made from local clothing dye,” Ward said.

Over time, the paper became fragile and the writing all but disappeared. The spectral imaging technology allows researchers to see the words that once were there. One illegible diary has already been restored using the technology.

The new grant will allow researchers to more closely examine a second, companion diary that is more legible. Researchers hope to use the spectral imaging technology to reveal other aspects of its history, such as how and when it was written, when pages were added and in what order the pages were assembled. That could provide further understanding of where and how Livingstone documented conflicts between Arab slave traders and the central African people, Ward said. 

The archive of Livingston’s work will serve as a resource for academic researchers as well as for students from elementary school through college. One section of the site contains outreach materials geared to students ages 9-13. Making the site compatible for use with mobile devices, including tablets and smart phones, is in future plans as well, Ward said.

“The digital images give these historical documents new life and make them available to a wider audience,” Ward said. “You can see flies that were smashed in notebooks, funny sketches, even drops of blood.”

To commemorate the launch of the new Livingstone Online site, Wisnicki and Ward are speaking this week at the British Library and the National Library of Scotland.

Story By: 
Source: 

Megan Ward, 541-737-1673, megan.ward@oregonstate.edu

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Lantern slide of Livingstone writing in his diary

Livingstone LanternSlide

Hand-drawn map from Livingstone's Field Diary

Livingstone Map

1871 Field Diary, unreadable

1871 Field Diary Unreadable

1871 Field Diary, spectrally-imaged to improve readability

1871 Field Diary Spectrally Imaged

Scientists release predatory flies to protect eastern hemlocks from insect attack

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Scientists say that a West Coast fly no bigger than a grain of rice may hold the key to survival of a tree that is being devastated by an invasive insect.

The eastern hemlock grows from the Carolinas to Quebec and is threatened by the hemlock woolly adelgid, which is native to Asia and the Pacific Northwest. Through nearly a decade of research, scientists at Oregon State University and the USDA Forest Service have identified a predatory fly that kills the adelgid and may help to curb infestations.

In the southern Appalachians, hemlocks have been particularly hard hit, including a less-abundant species known as Carolina hemlock. As much as 80 to 90 percent of the mature trees in some stands have been killed. Researchers believe that without intervention, they could suffer the same fate as the American chestnut – a once-common eastern tree that was nearly wiped out by a fungal disease in the early 1900s.

A research team led by two entomologists – Darrell Ross in the Oregon State College of Forestry and Kimberly Wallin with the University of Vermont and the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station – demonstrated that a type of fly in the Pacific Northwest known as a silver fly (species in the genus Leucopis) attacks adelgids on western and eastern hemlocks. And while silver flies in the East are known to prey on a species of adelgids in pine trees, those flies are not known to be attracted to hemlocks.

“Populations of flies in the West search for hemlock trees, and that’s where they find their hosts,” said Ross. “The same species in the East has evolved to look for pine trees. They probably use chemical cues from those trees to find their habitat and their hosts. That’s why it’s useful to take the flies from out here, because they’ll look for hemlock trees and feed on the hemlock woolly adelgid in the East.”

This past spring, scientists with the USDA Forest Service, the University of Vermont and Cornell University released silver flies from the Pacific Northwest in hemlock stands near Grandview, Tennessee, and along the shore of Skaneateles Lake in New York state. The researchers are monitoring the trees for evidence that the flies can successfully reproduce and prey on hemlock woolly adelgids. Early results indicate that the flies are mating, laying eggs and producing larvae that are growing to the adult stage.

“That is as good as we could have hoped for at this point,” said Ross. “It remains to be seen whether they will survive and if their populations will grow to densities that significantly impact the hemlock woolly adelgid populations and, ultimately, the survival of eastern hemlocks. We probably won't have answers to those questions for a year or two.”

“We don’t hope that the flies will eradicate all the adelgids,” added Wallin, but if they could provide a check on the pest’s population size and territorial expansion, it could allow some hemlocks to persist and recover.

The releases were done under a permit from the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Forest Service scientist Albert “Bud” Mayfield and Extension researcher Mark Whitmore of Cornell led the release effort in Tennessee and New York respectively.

“It’s been a decade’s worth of research, first identifying the flies and then looking at their host breadth and then seeing if they would feed on the eastern hemlock woolly adelgid,” said Ross. “Now it’s a matter of waiting and seeing if they significantly contribute to controlling adelgid populations.”

In the West, adelgids and the silver flies that feed on them are difficult to find in the forest. “Where we find them is on street trees and in peoples’ yards and city parks,” said Ross. The Oregon State scientist travels to Washington state to collect silver flies on western hemlocks. He sends boxes of infested branches to Nathan Havill, a Forest Service entomologist in Hamden, Connecticut. In Havill’s lab, research technician Arielle Arsenault rears, collects and sorts the insects in growth chambers before they are released into the wild.

Although some species of adelgids are native to North America and do not pose a threat, the hemlock woolly adelgid currently present in the eastern United States is from East Asia. In the late 1970s, as infestations in Appalachian hemlock stands grew increasingly severe, scientists were unsure about the insect’s origins. In the early 2000s, Havill used genetic techniques to demonstrate that it had been introduced from southern Japan to the vicinity of Richmond, Virginia, in the 1950s.

He also showed that it is native to the Pacific Northwest. There, the insects appear to be controlled by silver flies and possibly by other predators as well.

Other researchers contributing to the project are Ross’ former OSU graduate students Glenn R. Kohler and Sarah M. Grubin. They received assistance from a leading taxonomic expert in silver flies, Stephen D. Gaimari of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Their reports have appeared in Environmental Entomology and other professional journals.

Funding for the research was provided by the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Initiative of the USDA Forest Service.

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Source: 

Darrell Ross, 541-737-6566; Kimberly Wallin, 802-656-2517

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Kimberly releasing in a bag 2 TN release
Kimberly Wallin
hwa on west hemlock
Hemlock woolly adelgids on a hemlock branch
cham larva 9 11-026
Silver fly larvae feed on adelgid eggs