OSU Extension Blogs

OSG specialist to serve up Pacific albacore in Washington, D.C.

Sea Grant - Mon, 06/06/2016 - 10:14am

NEWPORT – Kaety Jacobson, Oregon Sea Grant fisheries specialist, is packing her bags – and then some – for a trip to the nation’s capital to take part in the 41st annual NOAA Fish Fry.

Thanks to a donation from the Oregon Albacore Commission, Jacobson will travel with 250 lbs of fresh-frozen albacore tuna loin portions – and a recipe for tuna poke, a Hawaiian-style marinated tuna salad, courtesy of Newport’s Local Ocean Seafoods restaurant.

The Fish Fry, a popular summer event sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association runs Wednesday, June 8th from 6pm – 9pm at the Herbert C. Hoover Main Commerce Building on 14th St. and Constitution Avenue.  The event promotes public understanding of aquaculture and sustainable marine fisheries.

Sea Grant programs from around the country were invited to take part during our 50th anniversary year to showcase the variety of sustainable seafood from in the nation’s ocean and Great Lakes states.

The post OSG specialist to serve up Pacific albacore in Washington, D.C. appeared first on Breaking Waves.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

POISONOUS PLANTS-Risks to Grazing Livestock

Small Farms Events - Sat, 06/04/2016 - 2:34pm
Saturday, June 4, 2016 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
  This class is designed to help livestock owners identify poisonous plants and manage the risk of animals consuming toxins.
A) Economic impacts of plant poisoning;
B) Keys to identifying local toxic plants;

C) Assessing potential harm to your animals;
D) How, why and when plant poisoning occurs;
E) Common sense pasture/farm management
Instructor: Author, Shirley Weathers. Field Guide to Plants Poisonous to Livestock, Western U.S., will be available at the class

REGISTER ON LINE:  https://secure.oregonstate.edu/osuext/register/1022

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Postcard from Dalarna County, no. 2

Tree Topics - Sat, 06/04/2016 - 1:39pm

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry and Natural Resources Extension agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

Dalarna County was the seat of a very old and important copper and iron mining industry, an early source of wealth and power for Sweden.  We visted the Falun copper mine, active since the 10th century and a UNESCO world heritage site.

Preparing to head down into the Falun Copper mine.

Why is that part of our forestry tour?

Forest products were a critical part of early mining industry, which needed massive amounts of charcoal and round wood to extract and process the metals. Forestlands near the mine were hard pressed to provide these products.  The mine is also the birthplace of world’s oldest stock company, which eventually became large forest and paper corporation Stora Enso.

Over-exploitation of forest resources by the mid-16th century led to a series of perhaps the world’s oldest forest protection rules.  In 1607 King Charles IX issued a ban on logging and charcoal production within a one-mile radius of the Falun mine (using the old Swedish mile, about 7 English miles). It was named the “Peace Mile” in hopes it would reduce disputes over unregulated charcoal production.

However it was not until 1754 that the surveyor Johan Brandberg finished measuring 112 points around the circumference of a the circle, marking each with stones.

from: http://www.fredsmilen.se/RosenGammalKarta.aspx Marker stone number 112 in the Peace mile ring, marked with an arrow.

See old and new maps of the circle drawn by Brandberg at:









The post Postcard from Dalarna County, no. 2 appeared first on TreeTopics.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Grass Anatomy/ Field ID

Small Farms Events - Fri, 06/03/2016 - 2:36pm
Friday, June 3, 2016 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM

ISTRUCTOR: Rachel Werling; OSU Extension

Part 1: (9:00-11:00am) will cover anatomy and Part 2: (12:00-3:00pm) will cover native grasses for landowners in the field  

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Water, Soil and Carbon for Every Farm with Keyline Design: Learning from the world's driest inhabited continent and it’s drought solutions

Small Farms Events - Thu, 06/02/2016 - 2:35pm
Thursday, June 2, 2016 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
FREE  - RSVP please include the number of people coming.
  • Water, Soil and Carbon for Every Farm with Keyline Design: Learning from the world's driest inhabited continent and it’s drought solutions – Australian Permaculture Consultant, Darren Doherty (Regrarians Ltd.)
    • Holistic management, planned grazing and financial planning as a primary drought strategy
    • Keyline farm planning for the structural reconfiguration of the farmscape considering cost-effective drought mitigation
    • Keyline and other regenerative agriculture strategies for soil and production improvements
    • ‘How much water do we actually need?' and 'what are all of the sources of water available to me?'
Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Postcard from Sweden – Dalarna County

Tree Topics - Thu, 06/02/2016 - 1:56pm

Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties


A New Approach

Dalagård farm & forest retreat is a large working forest owned by Cecilia and Leif Öster. These first -generation landowners are developing an active silvo-trouism enterprise to diversify the farm’s income and promote its sustainability. Forest products and hunting leases are other significant income streams.

We enjoyed a wonderful Swedish Mid-Summer style lunch while enjoying the beautiful setting.


Leif explains alternative forest management practices used near the guest complex. This is aimed at balancing the guests aesthetic expectations of forests with broader forest production objectives.

Local trees on display in a small educational arboretum are described for visitors.















A Very Long Tradition

Just down the road from Dalagård, we were welcomed into the home of Karen Perers, an eleventh generation landowner of a small forest & farm property in Dalarna County.


Karin shared insights into how her family and farm has contributed to the community over the centuries delivering first charcoal and firewood and later pulpwood and sawlogs “The family and farm have been producing those wooden things  that the times ask for” across several centuries, she said. A recognized leader, Karin is director of the Board for Melanskog, the large regional landowner cooperative hosting many of our visits in the area.


Karin shows and discusses the first map of the property, along with a modern one, each containing very similar information.


Note year on map heading: 1749.





The post Postcard from Sweden – Dalarna County appeared first on TreeTopics.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Postcard from Scandinavia – Stockholm

Tree Topics - Sun, 05/29/2016 - 9:23pm

Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources agent

Our group of 26 family woodland owners arrived in Sweden this week at the start of the Scandinavia Forestry Tour.

The tour is organized by the Oregon Woodlands Coop along with Washington County Woodlands Association and OSU Forestry &

Woodland owners visiting the Skansen historic museum in Stockholm Sweden

Natural Resources Extension.

The purpose of the tour is to look at forestry practices in this part of the world, meet fellow family forest landowners and focus particularly on the strong role of landowner cooperatives in both Sweden and Norway.

Most of our group is from Oregon, but we have people from four other US states, as well as South Africa rounding out the group.

This is my first electronic post card from the tour, where I will try to share some of the things we are seeing and learning here.


Old traditional buildings at Skansen Museum


View of Stockholm




The post Postcard from Scandinavia – Stockholm appeared first on TreeTopics.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Summer hours start at HMSC Visitor Center

Breaking Waves - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 10:58am

NEWPORT – Summer hours start Tuesday, May 31 at our Visitor Center at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center.

From then until Labor Day, the Visitor Center will be open from 10 am to 5 pm seven days a week, with new exhibits, trained interpreters, animal feedings and programs designed to engage people of all ages in exploring and learning about Oregon’s dynamic coast and ocean.

To find out about upcoming activities, events and special programs, bookmark the Visitor Center’s home page.

The Center is operated by Oregon Sea Grant, and also houses our Marine Education program, which sponsors many summer day camps, classes and special activities for K-12 learners and families.

The post Summer hours start at HMSC Visitor Center appeared first on Breaking Waves.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

The Blue Economy

Terra - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 4:46pm

IN THE FALL OF 2002, as the Klamath River dwindled in the wake of a dry summer, dead fish began piling up in eddies and small tributaries. Over a two-month period, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists counted more than 34,000, mostly adult chinook salmon that had died on their way upstream to spawn. The actual number was undoubtedly higher. In most sections of the river, crews were unable to tally all the floating carcasses from day to day.

Commercial salmon landings had been declining in prior years, and on top of a continuing drop in Pacific groundfish (species such as rockfish, cod, whiting and sole), the news from the Klamath seemed like another swipe at a once thriving West Coast industry. Contentious debates erupted among fishermen, farmers, tribal leaders and politicians about water management, fishery stock assessments and emergency relief for coastal communities.

By 2006, as salmon runs in the Klamath continued to plummet, groundfish cutbacks had already hit those communities hard. And when the commercial salmon season was closed in California and most of Oregon in 2008, fishermen in the two states took another $30 million hit.

By then, Oregon State University researchers were working on a long-term approach to a solution. “We had been asked if there was something we could do to address the salmon problem on the Klamath,” says Gil Sylvia, an Oregon State University economist and director of the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station in Newport. “This is a fast-growing animal with a lot of uncertainties about it — so many stocks, so much complexity. Why aren’t we using more advanced methods to manage it?

“So one afternoon, a group of us developed a plan that became the basis for a program we call ‘Fish Trax.’ The idea is to enable fishermen to target healthy stocks — fish from rivers with strong runs — and to avoid weak ones, so fishermen can change the way they harvest rather than getting kicked off the water with total area closures. That’s the goal,” he adds.

The traditional maritime economy was clearly struggling, but programs like Fish Trax — which depends on genetics, digital data and collaboration among people who did not always see eye-to-eye — point the way to a new relationship with the ocean. Its proponents in community development and environmental policy are calling it the “blue economy.”

In an Ocean Week speech on Capitol Hill in 2009, Jane Lubchenco laid out the goals: “Americans want clean beaches, healthy seafood, good jobs, abundant wildlife, stable fisheries and vibrant coastal communities … . This collection of services depends on healthy, productive and resilient ocean and coastal ecosystems.”

As the newly appointed administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Oregon State marine biologist went on to define the characteristics of a “blue economy.” In short, fisheries, seafood production, recreation and other uses of the oceans would be joined at the hip with social sciences and ecology. Ecosystem services, climate change and ocean acidification would be factored into decisions about catching fish, allocating water and dedicating the ocean for specific activities. Renewable energy companies and scientists would share the waves with trawlers and crabbers.

Fishing — a legendary mix of grit, skill and luck — would remain a critical component of the “blue economy” but would become more reliable and predictable. A disaster with a salmon run would be mitigated by science-based restoration efforts. And it would all depend on innovative technologies, such as acoustics, digital mapping, ocean-observing systems and data management.

Despite its struggles, the traditional marine economy is a powerhouse. In Lincoln County alone in 2012 (the most recent year for which data are available), fishing and marine science jobs contributed $230 million to personal income, according to the county’s Economic Development office. Tourism added another $135 million.

Education and research are adding jobs in Newport, the county seat and home to Oregon State’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, NOAA’s Pacific fleet headquarters and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s new Coastal Discovery Center. “When it comes to marine science and education,” says Gil Sylvia, “when you look at what’s been invested along the Oregon coast, there’s been over a $2 billion investment in the last decade. It’s much bigger than people understand.

“And when you talk about the ‘blue economy,’ you have to define what you mean by ‘blue,’” he adds. “A lot of it is traditional maritime, the fishing and seafood industry. For example, Seattle is the largest seafood city in the United States when you’re talking about large fishing vessels and processors, but most of the fish are landed in Alaska.”

The Right to Fish

Migratory fish like salmon, which are subject to a thousand threats in rivers and at sea, pose a daunting challenge to those who aim to align fishing with ecology. But things don’t get much simpler with more sedentary species, such as rockfish. Studies of their reproduction are ongoing.  And then there’s uncertainty about the future of the ocean. How will warmer temperatures and acidic waters affect the coastal food web?

“Over time, we know rockfish recruitment (successful reproduction) can vary widely from year to year,” says Kirsten Grorud-Colvert, assistant professor in integrative biology at Oregon State. She studies rockfish under an annual permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service and must estimate the number of young fish she will catch. In her research along the Oregon coast, she uses devices that look like bags of garden fencing and are known as SMURFs — Standard Monitoring Units for Recruitment of Fish.

“From year to year, it’s tough to predict. Rockfish are so episodic in their recruitment,” she says. “This year we saw a species that we haven’t seen recruit much over the last five years — they have just been trickling in — go off the roof.”

Some species of rockfish can live more than 100 years, and as they grow, so does their reproductive potential. A 15-inch vermilion can produce about 150,000 eggs when it spawns. That might seem like a lot, but the real champions are the big old females. A 25-inch fish can produce more than 1.7 million eggs.

“Incorporating that into management is tricky,” says Grorud-Colvert. “Having areas like marine reserves where these older larger females can live is a powerful complement to other management approaches.”

She and other scientists are documenting the impacts of marine protected areas (MPAs), widespread globally but a relatively recent development along the Oregon coast (see “The Bounty,” Page 28). In Science magazine last fall, Grorud-Colvert and Lubchenco reported that MPAs now cover 3.5 percent of the surface area of the world’s oceans. More than five decades of research, the researchers reported, shows that fully protected MPAs, aka marine reserves, effectively increase the diversity and size of fish populations and enhance some commercial fisheries outside the boundaries.

However, just producing more fish may not be enough. In a paper in the journal Oceanography, Oregon State graduate student Allison Barner joined Lubchenco and other scientists in raising another possibility: Combine marine reserves with rights-based fisheries management, processes for giving individuals or communities exclusive rights to harvest fish in waters adjacent to a reserve. This arrangement even has a name: Territorial User Rights for Fisheries (TURF)-Reserve. The result would be that, in exchange for protecting the reserve, fishing communities would reap the benefits by being able to catch the bounty spilling over into their fishing grounds.

TURFs have not been proposed for the Oregon coast, but the idea is likely to raise hackles in fisheries management circles. Gil Sylvia calls it “politically combustible.” Paul Klarin of the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development says the seas have long been treated as a public commons with open access. He leads planning for Oregon’s coastal waters, efforts captured in a map showing areas dedicated to specific uses: fishing, marine reserves, energy production, navigation and underwater cables (more trans-Pacific cables land in Oregon than in Washington or California).

The rules are different in federal waters, which extend 200 miles off the coast. Starting in 2011, a type of rights-based fisheries management known as individual transferable quotas — rights given to individual fishermen and capped at a total maximum harvest — were allowed under U.S. law.

Since then, the scientists say, the Pacific groundfish industry has shown signs of improvement. Revenues have risen more than 12 percent (not including whiting, Oregon’s largest single fishery). And 21 species have moved from “avoid” to “good alternative” or “best choice” under the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, which advises eco-conscious consumers on fish to buy.

Data in DNA

Data are the currency of the “blue economy.” Satellites scan the sea surface daily, and sensor arrays on buoys and underwater gliders send information continuously to labs on land. The result is an ever-changing picture of temperatures, waves, winds, currents and water chemistry (see “Enduring Vigil”).

“Fishermen need to make decisions every day,” adds Sylvia. “Are we going to fish? Where are we going to fish? How are we going to fish? Data can be invaluable.”

Some of the most powerful clues come from marine organisms themselves. In their DNA are patterns that reveal how whales are related to each other, whether or not corals can adapt to a changing environment and where salmon were born. If you’re a salmon fisherman, being able to distinguish one stock from another — those from the Klamath River, the Sacramento or the Rogue — could make the difference between holds that are empty or full when you return to the dock.

“Fishermen need to make decisions every day,” adds Sylvia. “Are we going to fish? Where are we going to fish? How are we going to fish? Data can be invaluable.”

Through a research program known as CROOS (Collaborative Research on Oregon Ocean Salmon), Sylvia and his colleagues at the Oregon State marine experiment station are developing Fish Trax to provide that information. They aim to enable salmon fishermen to know where and when to target specific runs of fish, in effect to trace fish from rivers of origin to the sea. Salmon from each river tend to follow similar patterns as they move, and by analyzing the genetic fingerprints of captured fish, scientists can see where the animals tend to go.

“Fish Trax created (Internet) portals for fishermen to access their own data. They can ask things like ‘which stocks of fish did I catch at this depth in this location over a two-year period?’ And they can query the database and find out,” he says. However, that is just the beginning.

Fish Trax provides information to others as well: seafood processors, salmon hatchery managers, businesses and the public. “I see traceablity as a way to share information with the marketplace and to improve and standardize quality,” says Sylvia. “And to use that information in selling and marketing the product. It’s a powerful tool for doing that. We can do it today because we have digital information systems, which are part of the ‘blue economy.’ These systems open up immense possibilities.”

When the idea was first proposed, the reception was mixed. “The fishing industry loved it, but they were torn,” says Sylvia. “They worried about how the information would be used by managers. Could new knowledge be used to regulate the industry in unanticipated ways?”

Things came to a head during a meeting at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in 2006. Scott Boley, an Oregon State graduate and respected industry leader who died in 2007 (the Fish Trax website is dedicated to him), let people know that, while he had his doubts, the industry could benefit from it. “‘I’ve lost sleep over this. But things are so bad, I don’t see how it couldn’t but help us in the long term, to change this fishery around,’” Sylvia recalls Boley saying. “That was it. That profound statement got the agencies on board too, even though they had their doubts.” Sylvia and his team are continuing to develop Fish Trax with support from NOAA.

In its land-and-sea-grant mission, Oregon State brings together fishermen, agency managers, elected officials, scientists and engineers to create a “blue economy” for the future. “We get the luxury of looking five or 10 years down the road,” says Sylvia. “Industry doesn’t always have that luxury, but we do. It’s our job to plant and test ideas.”

The post The Blue Economy appeared first on Terra Magazine.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Changes in the Wind

Terra - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 4:27pm

When Peter Ruggiero meets with people in coastal communities to discuss climate change, he asks them to consider what they like most about where they live. And then he asks them to imagine the future.

“We get people to think about the positive aspects of the coast, what they like about working and playing along the coast,” says Ruggiero, a geomorphologist (a scientist who studies land forms) at Oregon State University. “And then, in light of problems like sea-level rise and other climate hazards, we start thinking about strategies that can get them to their ideal,” how the community might maintain its cherished values.

Climate change can be a daunting, difficult subject, but the thing is, says Ruggiero, this exercise helps people approach it with a sense of purpose. “We’ve found this actually moves the needle. People become more optimistic and less pessimistic about climate change.”

Signs associated with a changing climate are starting to appear along the West Coast. Salmon struggle in warming waters. The ocean is becoming more acidic. Fisheries have been closed by prolonged algal blooms, aka “red tides.” Rising seas and winter storms increase flooding and erosion.

The science may be complex, but the consequences are straightforward: If we continue to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, these problems are likely to worsen. However, this isn’t just a doom-and-gloom story. Scientists are making strides in understanding the climate system and working with communities to use that knowledge to respond and adapt.

A Breath from the Past

A snowmobile traverses the slick white surface of a vast glacial ice sheet. In the distance, snow-covered peaks rise to a nearly pristine firmament of crisp blue under a sun that never sets. A team of scientists unloads gear at a makeshift camp and starts the arduous task of drilling slowly into the ice.

The lead researcher is Ed Brook. The location is Taylor Glacier in Antarctica. The Oregon State geoscientist specializes in the climate of the distant past and is enamored with very old ice. For him, the key to understanding our future lies preserved in what the ice contains: bubbles of ancient air.

Melting glaciers and crumbling ice sheets are contributing to sea-level rise across the globe, says Oregon State geologist Peter Clark. (Photo: Oregon State University)

Carbon dioxide found in old ice reveals a simple pattern: CO2 concentrations in the air go up during warm periods and down during cold ones. Brook’s research has revealed a serpentine-like exchange of carbon between the atmosphere, ocean and land.

“Studying the past tells us how the world works, but the past isn’t completely prologue to the future,” says Brook. “There just isn’t a recent episode of dumping thousands of gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere in such a short period.”

Air in old ice reveals that in the past 800,000 years, CO2 hasn’t risen above 300 parts per million. Often, as during one of Earth’s many ice ages, it’s been much lower. Current levels are about 400 parts per million and rising. This carbon traps heat and is expected to lead to higher temperatures.

The past may not be a prologue to our future, but work by Brook and other paleoclimatologists tells us a great deal about the climate system and how it occasionally “tips” from one regime to the next. In a paper published last year in the journal Nature, Brook and several OSU colleagues documented 18 such “abrupt” climate changes over the past 68,000 years.

Climate change could be reaching a tipping point, says Oregon State professor Alan Mix. (Photo courtesy of Alan Mix)

Like Brook, Alan Mix has traveled to far-off places to extract cores, but he is devoted to a different material: sediment from the seafloor. In addition, the Oregon State geochemist loves old cartoons, specifically Wile E. Coyote.

The ever-optimistic cartoon character is infamous for pursuing — but never capturing — a certain speedy roadrunner. His predatory pursuits frequently send the carnivore over a cliff where he remains suspended in midair until, noticing his predicament, he promptly plunges to the canyon floor. This, says Mix, is what a climate tipping point looks like.

Tipping points happen when the climate moves from one state of equilibrium to another, as it did when the Earth emerged from the last ice age. These changes, says Mix, often happen quickly, geologically speaking, and tipping points may occur before outward signs are noticeable.

“There may be tipping points that are loops, and the climate can get back up,” says Mix. “Or the tipping points may be one-way tickets, and the climate never gets back up. That’s when the coyote gets squished at the bottom. Of course the coyote always gets back up.”

But climate, he adds, is not a cartoon coyote. “If we cross the tipping point and lose the ice sheets, they won’t return, at least for a very long time,” says Mix. “For human purposes, global warming is pretty much permanent.”

In a study published last year in the journal Science, Mix and his former graduate student Summer Praetorius demonstrated what might have triggered a tipping point corresponding to the abrupt end of the last ice age.

Using radiocarbon dating of fossilized microorganisms found in ocean sediment cores, the researchers demonstrated that the warming of the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans some 15,500 to 11,000 years ago occurred in a coordinated, synchronized fashion. As a result, they say, the global climate tipped over an edge. Ice melted and sea levels rose. Both are occurring today as well.

Warming Oceans and Rising Sea Levels

It’s the year 2100. Unchecked carbon emissions have led to a world that’s considerably warmer than it was just a century earlier. Policymakers in 2016 had set their sights on this year when thinking about the future. However, there isn’t anything magical about the date. Climate change isn’t stopping. Carbon in the atmosphere continues to heat things up, and sea levels are still rising.

“One thing that the (paleoclimate) record does inform us about, as far as global warming, is an idea of what we call sensitivity — how sensitive sea level is to a given amount of warming,” says Peter Clark, a paleoclimatologist who holds the title of distinguished professor at Oregon State.

Clark was one of two coordinating authors on a comprehensive analysis of sea-level rise and climate change for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading climate research organization. Last winter, he made headlines with an article in Nature Climate Change.

Using climate models for the next 10,000 years, he and his co-authors, including Mix, outlined a sobering message: Even if humanity meets its goals of lowering carbon emissions, a substantial amount of atmospheric carbon that was already released will hang around, some of it for tens to hundreds of thousands of years. The loitering carbon will continue to trap solar radiation, warming the planet and leading to melting glaciers and ice sheets and to rising sea levels.

Clark offers the analogy of boiling a pot of water on the stove. Turning on the burner applies heat to the water, but the water doesn’t warm right away. It takes time. In a similar fashion, greenhouse gases are warming the atmosphere. The question is how long it will take the oceans to rise and by how much, as air and water temperatures increase.

Melting glaciers and ice sheets and warming ocean waters (water expands as it heats up) all contribute to sea-level rise, but each unfolds at a different pace: glaciers over tens of years; warming water over hundreds to thousands of years; and ice sheets over several thousands of years. All lead to a long period of sustained and accelerating coastal flooding.

“This century we could see sea level rise by 1 meter (3.3 feet),” says Clark. “Over the following 2,000 years, we could see it rise continuously as high as 3 meters (10 feet) per century.”

Warming oceans don’t just affect rising sea levels. Collectively since 1970, our planet’s oceans have absorbed roughly 90 percent of the extra heat produced by human-caused warming. This, however, is a global aggregate. Tying regional warming events to climate change can be trickier.

Citizen Science vs. the “Blob”

Skipjack tuna, normally found in the balmy waters of the tropics, are reeled in by fishermen off the southeast coast of Alaska. Ocean sunfish and a thresher shark — more outsiders — are also hooked. Meanwhile, seabirds on the Pacific Northwest coast, normally chunky Cassin auklets, arrive en masse and emaciated.

Waves threaten a structure in Neskowin during a storm in 2008. (Photo: Armand Thibault). Storms erode shorelines and pose a risk to homes. (Photo: Oregon Sea Grant).

Starting in late 2013, an expanse of exceptionally warm water more than twice the size of Texas and approximately 300 feet deep appeared off the West Coast, stretching from Oregon to Alaska. The “Blob,” as it came to be known, is believed to be the culprit behind a series of peculiar occurrences, including the reeling in of tropical fish off Alaska.

“However you slice it, the ‘Blob’ is extremely unusual,” says Oregon State professor Philip Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute.

The underlying meteorological cause, he adds, is believed to be a prominent ridge of higher-than-normal pressure that effectively parked itself off the West Coast, keeping the winds modest and the skies clear and giving the ocean ample time to soak up the sun. This ridge has been implicated in the historic drought in the West over the past few years. But while the drought is widely believed to have climate change’s fingerprints all over it, says Mote, the connection between the “Blob” and climate isn’t so clear.

To study that relationship, Mote and his colleagues are doing what most climatologists do: They’re running a series of computer models. Essentially colossal video game simulations of the Earth, these models tend to be bulky — “computationally expensive” — and, therefore, require powerful super computers to run them, or, as Mote and his colleagues would learn, a lot of average computers.

Via a project at Oxford University called ClimatePrediction.net, thousands of citizen-science volunteers have lent Mote and his fellow researchers their computers’ processors to run simulations during their machines’ idle hours. “If you only run a climate model once, you can’t be sure that your answers are repeatable,” says Mote. “For this project, we’ve effectively run our model tens of thousands of times.”

These multiple runs allow Mote to dutifully search for a climate culprit behind the “Blob.” But citizen science has another benefit, says Li Sihan, a graduate student of Mote’s who is using ClimatePredicition.net in her research. “People often put scientists in a bubble or shrine. Or they do the opposite and deny our results without understanding how we came to them. With this project, people can see the models running on their computers, and that’s exciting.”

The effect of the “Blob” on sea life comes as a kind of proof of concept of an idea that fisheries biologists have been concerned about for decades: Warming oceans are expected to impact many species of fish, including salmon.

A recent analysis of juvenile Chinook salmon in the Pacific shows a strong relationship between warmer waters and salmon health. The study’s results, published in the journal PLOS ONE, take issue with a long-held assumption: Juvenile fish will eat less in warmer waters. The researchers found the opposite.

“What we found is that, during warmer periods, there is less food for juvenile salmon,” says Elizabeth Daly, a senior faculty research assistant with the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies, jointly run by OSU and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “With less food, you would expect that we would find less food in the stomachs of salmon, but that wasn’t the case. We found that juvenile salmon are eating substantially more than in colder periods.”

This is counterintuitive, admits Daly and her co-author, Richard Brodeur of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center. Basically, the extra food isn’t doing the fish much good. In warmer temperatures, the metabolism of the fish ramps up, forcing them to consume more calories. This amounts to a metabolic tax on the animals. And because food is scarce in warmer waters, the fish have to burn more calories to get more calories. That amounts to another tax.

“It’s this vicious cycle that leads to animals growing slower,” says Daly. “And the longer they stay at this smaller size, the more at risk they are to predators.”

Daly’s and Brodeur’s work complements that of Bill Peterson, a NOAA fisheries biologist and courtesy professor at OSU. Peterson has shown that copepods, microscopic crustaceans at the bottom of the food chain, have fewer fats and are less nutritious in warm periods. The chain reaction up the food chain could affect juvenile salmon, something Peterson says is happening due to the “Blob.”

Adapting to Higher Seas

Normally prominent at low tide, the beach is nowhere to be seen. There’s only the ocean and the wave, which builds slowly at first and then comes crashing in, whacking the side of the small, three-story seaside hotel, missing by mere inches the white plastic chairs on the first floor balcony. Now it’s a clean run up Hawk Creek to the Salem Avenue bridge, which the wave quickly overwhelms with a tempestuous gush of white water. For the town’s residents, the bridge is the only access to the highway and to safety.

This incident of flooding was caught on video in the coastal community of Neskowin during a recent winter, but it could also be a glimpse into the town’s future.

Since the mid-1960s, Neskowin has been losing roughly two meters (6.5 feet) of its beach a year to the Pacific Ocean, making the town of about 400 one of several erosion “hot spots” along the West Coast. Neskowin’s loss has been pinned on large El Niños and on increasing wave heights, both of which — and there’s disagreement among scientists here — might or might not be connected to climate change. But for the residents of Neskowin, placing blame isn’t as important as better planning.

To ward off the Pacific’s incoming assault, community members armored their homes, placing rock barriers called riprap between their beachfront houses and the waves. But they soon realized these walls weren’t going to be enough. Many were concerned about rising sea levels. To learn more, they reached out in 2009 to the scientific community, starting with Oregon Sea Grant and Peter Ruggiero.

Property owners and local officials formed the Neskowin Coastal Hazards Committee, which was coordinated by Sea Grant specialist Patrick Corcoran (See “Facing Cascadia“). They consulted with Ruggiero and other scientists who presented the latest findings about wave heights, sea levels, erosion and other threats to coastal properties.

After wrestling with the science and accounting for the needs and values of the community, the committee produced a 300-page adaptation plan, which describes Neskowin’s ocean-related vulnerabilities and techniques for addressing them. In 2015, after review and revision by Tillamook County, the state Land Use Board of Appeals upheld the Neskowin plan. The guidelines were set by the science, but community members identified what factors — sea-level rise, population growth, housing, beach access — mattered most to them.

Far from being disheartened by the choices that lay before them, the Neskowin group was surprisingly optimistic. “People realize there are options,” Ruggiero says. “Do you throw more rock out there or do you retreat from the coastline? There are huge decisions that people on the coast are going to have to make, but the decisions they make today will make a real difference in the future.”

In his research, Ruggiero has tracked wave heights and beach erosion, which got him thinking seriously about what the West Coast might look like as climate changes. He realized that those planning for the future would need to account for many uncertainties.

Working with Oregon State bioengineering professor John Bolte and a computer model known as Envision, Ruggiero and teams of students have created multiple scenarios — including lessons learned in Neskowin — for exploring alternative futures in Tillamook County (See “Difficult Choices“). The researchers are conducting a similar project in Grays Harbor, Washington.

It’s impossible, Ruggiero says, to know how much sea-level rise to expect by the end of the century. Projections range from a few inches to several feet. It all depends on how much CO2 and other greenhouse gases will be emitted in the future.

Seawalls may work for a while, but as Peter Clark’s work suggests, they are not a long-term solution in the face of continuous sea-level rise. That’s why the question of climate tipping points is so important. Oregon State research around the world — in Antarctica, Greenland and the deep oceans as well as the Pacific Northwest — will help determine if and when such a point is reached. It is already helping Oregonians on the coast and elsewhere make decisions about the world they leave for future generations.

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Facing Cascadia

Terra - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 4:04pm
Patrick Corcoran, Oregon Sea Grant Extension

IN JAPAN, NEARLY 20,000 PEOPLE DIED in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The tragic aftermath struck home in the Pacific Northwest, which faces a similar risk from the Cascadia subduction zone. But we often forget the silver lining. In Japan, there were nearly 200,000 people in the inundation zones, so 90 percent of the people effectively evacuated those areas before the tsunamis arrived.

We can have the same success in the Pacific Northwest if we ever walk the resilience talk the way the Japanese do. But we are a long way from that standard today. People, institutions and communities that understand these risks and take sustained efforts to build resilience to them will not only adapt and survive — they will thrive.

As a hazards outreach specialist with Oregon Sea Grant, I help communities build resilience to coastal natural hazards. These include storms, floods, landslides, fires and our looming catastrophe, the Cascadia earthquake and tsunamis. To prepare as individuals and communities, we must reach the Cascadia standard — if we’re ready for that, we’re prepared for anything. But that’s a high bar, which requires our best thinking. And the clock is ticking.

In my work, I consider the underlying factors that make a community vulnerable, and I explore ways to minimize them. This isn’t hazard response, which focuses on what to do during a disaster. Nor is it hazard recovery, which deals with the aftermath. The question for hazard resilient communities is not, “How many fatalities should we plan for?” but “How can we plan so fewer people will die?”

Residents of the Pacific Northwest are the only population on the planet to learn so recently (about 25 years ago) that they are subject to a recurring natural disaster the magnitude of Cascadia. This hazard has literally fallen into our laps. If our ancestors had known about Cascadia in 1800, they would have settled this country differently. But they didn’t, and now we have many of our valuable things in vulnerable places, especially on the coast.

Too often, I find that people do not want to know. Consciously or not, Northwest people and institutions are going through Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of death and dying — denial, anger, depression, bargaining with the devil and acceptance/moving on. Manifestations of these behaviors are everywhere: putting valuable things in vulnerable places (denial), being upset about one’s property being in an inundation zone (anger), sadness over lost property value (depression), seeking clever engineering solutions to justify unwise decisions (bargaining with the devil).

But there are also signs of adapting to the realities of the landscape and re-establishing a long-term presence. For example, Waldport High School relocated to higher ground (acceptance and moving on).

Going forward, we may always have some of our valuables in the tsunami zone. Lately I work less with communities on the physical phenomenon — the nature of the geological risk — and more on the psychological, emotional and social impediments to preparing for this event. A key first step is for people to understand enough about the physical phenomenon to actually expect it to happen during their lifetimes or that of their children. Once people actually expect to experience a long, large earthquake, they will naturally prepare for it. People will imagine the scenario, its impact and what they want their loved ones to know and do. Once people actually expect a tsunami to arrive on the beach 15 to 30 minutes after a long, large earthquake, they will naturally think about the impact and what they want their loved ones to know and do.

We have no system in place to consider a community’s vulnerability to Cascadia, nor for building resilience to it. A promising solution is to take our risk management approach to its logical extreme. We can expect this to occur and imagine the impacts of Cascadia to people and things. We can view Cascadia from a systems perspective (transportation, health care, water, energy, food), start adapting to it as a matter of policy and build resilience over time. By actually expecting this to happen, we will naturally come up with adaptations and strategies for thriving in Cascadia.

Patrick Corcoran lives in Astoria and works in the Clatsop County Extension office. As a coastal hazards specialist with Oregon Sea Grant and an associate professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, he works with communities to help them anticipate and prepare for catastrophic events.


  1. Find out from the local emergency management office if there are evacuation routes identified for the community.
  2. Plan to evacuate to high ground or inland, away from the coast and outside of the tsunami zone.
  3. Map out evacuation routes to safe places from the home, workplace or other places people visit frequently.
  4. Practice using evacuation routes, including at night and in bad weather.
  5. Find out about the evacuation plans of local schools.

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Coral Bleaching Goes Viral

Terra - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 2:11pm

WHEN TROPICAL WATERS WARM or get polluted, coral reefs may take drastic measures. They can expel the algae that provide them with stunning colors — and vital nutrients. So-called bleaching events have been documented across the globe with increasing frequency and can be fatal to the corals.

Oregon State University researchers have discovered a new twist: Viral infections blossom as bleaching events unfold. “This research suggests that viral infection could be an important part of the problem that until now has been undocumented, and has received very little attention,” says Rebecca Vega-Thurber, microbiologist in the OSU College of Science.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has estimated that by the end of last year, almost 95 percent of U.S. coral reefs were exposed to ocean conditions that can cause corals to bleach.

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Microbeads Pose Pollution Threat

Terra - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 2:05pm
Photo courtesy of The 5 Gyres Institute

DOING SOMETHING AS SIMPLE as washing your hair may raise a new threat to aquatic health. Many personal-care products have been formulated with plastic beads the size of a sand grain — known as microbeads — which add a gritty texture. Microbeads are designed to be flushed down the drain.

An analysis by a team of researchers, including Stephanie Green, a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow in the College of Science at Oregon State University, concluded that 8 billion microbeads were being washed down drains in the United States on a daily basis. “We’re facing a plastic crisis and don’t even know it,” says Green.

With growing awareness of this problem, a number of companies have committed to stop using microbeads in their “rinse off” personal care products. In January, Congress passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act.

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Difficult Choices

Terra - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 1:51pm
Waves crawl up against the lower level of a structure in Neskowin, Oregon, during a storm in January, 2008. (Photo: Armand Thibault, Neskowin)

MANY SEASHORE DWELLERS face a tough question: How should they protect their property from rising seas and pounding waves? They can try to keep the surf at bay by building walls, or they can adjust to the slow but steady encroachment of the ocean.

Such choices are becoming particularly acute on the West Coast. For decades, winter storms have claimed roads and homes close to the water’s edge, especially those built on soft soils. As sea levels rise, accelerating erosion poses a challenge to existing as well as to new development.

In Tillamook County, homeowners and policymakers have been wrestling with this issue with assistance from faculty and students at Oregon State University. Through a program known as the Tillamook County Coastal Futures Project, they are exploring the long-term consequences of the rules that define how and where development can occur.

To prime their thinking, researchers and participants developed six scenarios — descriptions of policy options and the outcomes in the year 2100 — and showed the results with maps, charts and illustrations. Each scenario was analyzed through the lens of future population growth as well as ocean conditions that reflect potential changes in climate, El Niño and ocean waves.

The Tillamook County Coastal Futures Project posed six scenarios for responding to sea-level rise. (Illustration courtesy of Peter Ruggiero)

“We had a diverse group of people,” says Peter Ruggiero, Oregon State coastal geomorphologist. “Some people favored policies that protected infrastructure, and some favored policies that affected recreation or habitat. The scenarios emphasized the tradeoffs between them.”

One scenario called “Status Quo” assumed that beaches, homes and businesses would be maintained using existing local, county and state policies. Another known as “Laissez Faire” allowed property owners to protect their homes and businesses regardless of state law and local zoning. A third, “Realign,” assumed that development would retreat landward as seas rise. A fourth, “Neskowin,” mirrored policies adopted by that southern Tillamook County community, approved by Tillamook County Commissioners and eventually upheld by the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

Through each scenario, participants could visualize changes in things they care about such as beach access, the number and locations of structures and the extent of shorelines armored with concrete or rock walls. The estimated costs associated with each scenario were also presented.

“Our main effort was to develop an approach where the stakeholders could see the impact of each decision-making context on property and coastal resources,” says Ruggiero.

One significant finding, he adds, was a surprise. Zoning decisions made now will have dramatic effects on what coastal communities look like in 2100. In fact, the differences exceed the range of uncertainties associated with climate change.

“We found for some scenarios that the influence of different policies had more impact on the variability of these things that people care about — such as the number of houses impacted — than even the massive uncertainty associated with sea- level rise,” says Ruggiero. “It tells people that even under a 1.5-meter (5 feet) sea-level rise by the end of the century, there are still decisions that we make now that can change the coastline.”

With support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Tillamook project has entered a second phase to explore impacts on so-called ecosystem services, the benefits associated with beaches, sand dunes and other landscape features.

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

OSU Opens Port Orford Field Station

Terra - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 11:50am
Tom Calvanese, station manager for OSU’s new field station for students, divers and scientists, checks scuba tanks.

STUDENTS, DIVERS AND SCIENTISTS can explore the spectacular waters of the southern Oregon coast through a new Oregon State University field station in Port Orford. An outgrowth of efforts to support research at the nearby Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve, the station provides space for experiments and classes as well as a fill station for scuba tanks.

“People have a comfortable place to stay and access to wet and dry labs and classroom and office space where they can work,” says Tom Calvanese, station manager.

The station will support the Marine Studies Initiative with facilities for education and research on marine ecology, economy and social and scientific issues, he adds. Student research projects underway or completed have focused on the impact of catch shares on the local fishing fleet, juvenile rockfish and the foraging behavior of gray whales. Since 2011, Calvanese has been studying the movement of adult rockfish in the reserve.

The station is located at 444 Jackson Street and includes a house used formerly as a bed and breakfast. Additional funding was provided by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Travel Oregon and the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance.

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

A Research Ship for the 21st Century

Terra - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 11:47am
Architectural design by Glosten Associates Inc.

OUR VIEW OF THE OCEANS IS EXPANDING RAPIDLY: Underwater gliders patrol the Pacific, moored buoys monitor hot spots and satellites view swirling currents from near-Earth orbit. But, says Clare Reimers, we still need ships to put people on the water, to conduct the kind of science that requires a human touch.

Reimers, a professor of oceanography at Oregon State University, is the lead scientist in a National Science Foundation-funded project to design and build the next generation of coastal research vessels. “We’re getting a much better understanding of the ocean by combining direct observations and experiments with constant monitoring through satellites and other means,” she explains.

As chair of the Fleet-Improvement Committee of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (a nonprofit organization of 62 academic and national laboratories), Reimers has helped to make long-term plans for the nation’s academic research fleet. It includes four classes of global and intermediate ocean-going ships as well as regional and coastal vessels.

In 2010, the need for a new regional ship became acute during the Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Demian Bailey was coordinating research ship activities for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) when he ran into a problem. “We needed data in near real time so we could tell vessels where to sample. We also needed it for our models of the oil plume trajectory and to provide the public with answers they were demanding,” he says. But the ships did not have that capability. Oceanographers had to make their best guesses on how to proceed.

Bailey is now the project manager for the Regional Class Research Vessel initiative at Oregon State. In addition to new sensors and more efficient energy systems, the new vessel will stream data in near real time to scientists anywhere. “We’re looking at these ships kind of like satellites,” he says. “We’re creating a new form of connectivity to shore. We call it ‘data presence.’ We’re going to be providing researchers a wide variety of high-quality, processed data in real time from the atmosphere through the water column down below the seafloor.”

Designers expect the new ship to use 15 to 30 percent less fuel than today’s vessels of comparable size, such as the Oceanus at Oregon State, which was built in 1975. While at sea, it will be able to stay in a single location — a capability known as dynamic positioning — through the use of computer controlled propulsion and satellite-based navigation.

The ship will also have state-of-the-art handling systems for deploying and recovering a wide range of oceanographic instruments and sampling devices, including remotely operated underwater vehicles that can tie to the vessel’s navigation system.

“We’ll always need ships,” Bailey adds. “We’ll always need people on the water. These ships will be very efficient, versatile and stable. That means they’re safer, and scientists can work longer. They can work when it’s rougher.”

Reimers, Bailey and their team of maritime engineers are working with Glosten Associates Inc., a naval architectural firm in Seattle. Over the next year, they plan to identify shipbuilding yards that could compete for constructing up to three of the new vessels. One will be located in Newport. The aim is to award a contract in 2017.

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Acidification Likely to Intensify

Terra - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 11:32am
Photo: Blaine Bellerud/NOAA Fisheries West Coast

WEST COAST WATERS are likely to see continued impacts from acidification, warming temperatures and low-oxygen conditions. That’s the conclusion of a report in the journal BioScience co-authored by Francis Chan in the Oregon State College of Science.

“The changes really stem from the basic impact to physiology, no voodoo involved,” says Chan. “We need to look at ocean acidification not just as one stressor, but that it’s going to be affecting organisms in the context of other things.”

Chan is co-chair and one of five OSU scientists on the West Coast Acidification and Hypoxia Science Panel, which advises policymakers on increasing acidity in coastal ecosystems.

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Acidic Seawater Threatens Shellfish

Terra - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 11:30am

THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST, famous for its delectable fried oysters and succulent steamed clams, is one of several coastal “hot spots” where shellfish are subject to “acidification” — seawater whose chemistry is becoming corrosive because of greenhouse gases. Along with shellfish producers in New England, the Gulf of Mexico and East Coast estuaries like Chesapeake Bay, Oregon’s shellfish industry is at risk, warn OSU researchers George Waldbusser and Burke Hales. Their research has helped Northwest oyster hatcheries rebound from larval die-offs. “Ultimately, however, without curbing carbon emissions, we will eventually run out of tools,” Waldbusser says.

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Terra + Spring 2016

Terra - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 3:31pm

Mother Whales Meet Seafloor Drilling
Pygmy blues face industrial hazards in a New Zealand gulf

In New Zealand there shines a gulf the color of indigo where whales live. Geographically, it glistens at the nexus of two islands and two seas. Politically, it sits at a different nexus, the classic clash of nature and commerce. Read More

Exclusive video
Aerial drone may show blue whale calf nursing.

Gorgeous new footage may shed light on one of the mysteries of the largest animal that ever lived: How do blue whales nurse? Read More

The Internet of Things
OSU is part of a coalition of more than 200 companies and technical supporters that develop standard interfaces for “Internet of Things” projects. Read More

A West Coast Wake-Up Call
The West Coast is a hotspot for acidification because of coastal upwelling, which brings nutrient-rich, low-oxygen and high carbon dioxide water from deep in the water column to the surface near the coast. Read More

Writing Instructor Wins Oregon Book Award
David Biespiel, an OSU instructor of English and creative writing, won an Oregon Book Award for a collection of essays from his long-running poetry column in The Oregonian. Read More

  Pulled from the Headlines

Every day, breaking news from OSU researchers makes headlines around the world. Here’s a handful of recent examples:

Picking grapes for perfect pinot means hitting the sweet spot for aroma. Biochemists Michael Qian and Fang Yuan of OSU found four aromatic compounds that hold the key to great pinot noir. Read about it in The Economist.

Hatchery and wild steelhead have stark genetic differences, a new study by Michael Blouin of OSU confirms. Get the details in Newsweek.

Fear of large predators keeps smaller animals in check. OSU forest ecologist Bill Ripple is cited in a story in The Washington Post.

Visit the Terra Website

Watch for the next issue of Terra magazine, which will give you a sweeping look inside the university’s extensive marine research program. You’ll visit a Corvallis lab where massive ocean-sensing equipment is designed and built. You’ll journey with us to the Pibilof Islands in the Bering Sea where vast colonies of seabirds and fur seals raise their young. You’ll learn about research underway in Oregon’s five marine reserves and hear from the fishermen who are impacted. Another story takes you to the iciest places on the planet, where scientists are collecting clues about climate change. You’ll read about the “blue economy” in Oregon and beyond and get an introduction to OSU’s fledgling Marine Studies Initiative. All of this is packaged with stunning photos and creative design to enhance your reading experience.

If you’re not yet receiving the print version of Terra magazine, email us at terra.magazine@oregonstate.edu to request a free subscription. These stories also will be available online at www.blogs.oregonstate.edu/terra in late-May.

New Research Enterprises

Oregon State University is Oregon’s leading public research university, receiving $308.9 million in research funding for fiscal year 2015. Here we highlight a few of our most recent grant-funded projects:

Dunes and Coastal Ecosystems
The National Science Foundation has awarded $385,000 to Oregon State University for a study on the influence of intertidal sandbar welding on dune growth. Coastal dunes play an important role in coastal communities and ecosystems by helping to conserve native species, defend against flooding and boost local economies by attracting tourists.

Ambitious Math and Science
The National Science Foundation has awarded nearly $1.4 million for a project called Ambitious Math and Science Teaching Fellows. The goal of the project is to support every student across racial, ethnic, gender and linguistic boundary to learn key ideas within a discipline that will in turn enable authentic problem solving.

Metals Manufacturing
The Oregon Metals Initiative has awarded $27,500 to Oregon State University for a study on corrosion and strength optimization of multi-tool alloys.

Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331
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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Out of the Mud

Terra - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 6:35am
Artist’s rendering of how the Newport Ship might have appeared under sail. (Image courtesy of Toby Jones)

In 2002, the Welsh city of Newport was rocked by the discovery of a wooden ship buried in more than 20 feet of mud along the river Usk. Contractors had been digging a foundation for a new arts center when they struck solid oak timbers. A plan to dispose of the wood and get on with the construction project met with public protests and vigils, says Oregon State University alumnus Toby Jones.

So progress on the arts center slowed for a few months while archaeologists worked to retrieve what is now recognized as the most important 15th century ship in Europe. Jones, who grew up in Corvallis and received his bachelors in history from Oregon State in 2001, has become the curator of the project to document and analyze the Newport Ship.

“The ship is an amazingly well-preserved merchant vessel and is absolutely unique,” he says.

He will describe what he and his research team have learned about Medieval ship construction, trade and even 15th century forest management in the 2016 George and Dorothy Carson Memorial Lecture at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 27 in Milam Auditorium. The presentation is free and open to the public.

The Newport Ship before removal of timbers from a construction project along the Usk River. (Image courtesy of Toby Jones)

As an undergrad, Jones was considering a career teaching ancient history when a trip to Europe caused him to change plans. He was spending the summer in a language school in Germany. During a break, a backpacking trip through Greece and Turkey led him unexpectedly to the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. “It was incredible. People were diving on these ancient shipwrecks in the eastern Mediterranean in this blue water,” he says, “and I decided that’s what I wanted to do. I could already dive. My parents had a marine biology business, so I grew up around that.”

After graduating from OSU, Jones attended the graduate Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University. In 2004, he had just received his master’s when he was hired to conduct a one-year pilot study cataloging and documenting the remains of the Newport Ship. Now, 12 years later, he is deep into the ship’s history through research on the more than 1,000 artifacts — seeds, pottery, coins, fish bones, leather shoes, wine casks, pollen, insects, plants — as well as the timbers themselves. He and his team have worked with specialists at universities across Europe to identify the origins of these materials.

The ship is as long as three double-decker buses and almost 20 feet tall. “The archaeologists were actually walking on the timbers when they found it. In most other ship projects,” he says, “the wood is like wet cardboard. Here it was like knocking on an old door.

“It’s such a massive amount of material and huge timbers, it takes time,” he adds. “You can’t rush the conservation work. You have one chance to do it right. Then it’s all gone. The payoff will come when we get it on display. Hundreds of thousands of people a year will come and see it.”

On a model of the Newport Ship, Toby Jones adjusts ribbands by eye.

The ship may hold particular interest for woodworkers. The timbers show lines made with awls and axes where shipbuilders made cuts. The iron nails have long since rusted away, but the depressions made by the shipwrights’ hammers are still clearly visible.

The researchers have determined that the ship was built in the Basque country of northern Spain and spent much of its time on trade routes between the Iberian Peninsula and Britain. Almonds and millet and pomegranate seeds were abundant in the ship’s bilges.

The oak timbers also tell a story about how the forests were managed. The trees from which they were cut were grown and pruned in a dense forest to produce long, straight logs for construction purposes. “This is happening a hundred years before the ships are built, two or three generations before the wood is harvested, by people who won’t see any benefit from it,” Jones says.

Archaeologists discovered a silver French coin embedded in the keel of the Newport Ship.

While the timbers show evidence of highly skilled joinery, the builders also took pains to put luck on their side. Embedded in the beech keel, Jones and his team discovered a couple of years ago, was a silver French coin emblazoned with a cross. The coin was produced over a two-month period in 1447. Archaeologists found it when they were painstakingly cleaning the wood.

“The attention to detail is amazing,” Jones says. “They took so much pride in their work.”

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs