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College of Engineering

Environment Events - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 2:34pm
Friday, May 20, 2016 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM
The Undergraduate Engineering Expo is one way we prepare students for responsible citizenship and global competitiveness. Our undergraduate students will share their work through the use of models, demonstrations, and posters with industry partners, alumni, the media, prospective students, their peers, other academic institutions, and the general public. Attendees will have the opportunity to interact directly with individual students, ask questions, and exchange ideas.

CPHHS Research Seminar

Health & Wellness Events - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 2:34pm
Friday, May 20, 2016 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

"Using Policy to End the Tobacco Use" Michael Tynan, Public Health Analyst, Office on Smoking and Health, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Michael Tynan is a public health analyst at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health. He works with states and communities to identify, enact and evaluate tobacco control interventions, with an emphasis on tobacco taxes, smoke-free policies and retail licensure.   From 2013-2016 Michael was the Policy Officer of the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division, where he was also the deputy incident manager for OHA’s Ebola planning and managed the public health and safety rulemaking process for the adult use marijuana market.  He has testified frequently before Congress and state legislatures, and has published articles about tobacco use and tobacco control policies in the American Journal of Public Health, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Nicotine & Tobacco Research, and other leading journals

Michael Tynan's LinkedIn profile

This college-wide research seminar, is Co-Sponsored by the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs; the Center for Healthy Aging; the Hallie Ford Center; the Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods Nutrition and Preventive Health; and the Center for Global Health. The seminar series provides a forum for faculty in the College of Public Health & Human Sciences and other researcher to present and discuss current research in public health and human sciences in an environment conducive to stimulating research collaboration and fostering student learning. Faculty and students from the Division of Health Sciences and other colleges, research centers and institutions are encouraged to participate. 

Public Health and Human Sciences Virtual Mixer

Health & Wellness Events - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 6:11am
Tuesday, May 24, 2016 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM

Connect virtually with fellow College of Public Health and Human Sciences (CPHHS) alumni and current students at the comfort of your desk. Free and open to all CPHHS alumni and friends.

Details and registration.

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.

The post Changes in the Wind appeared first on Terra Magazine.

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.

The post Facing Cascadia appeared first on Terra Magazine.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Start Smart

Environment Events - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 2:36pm
Thursday, May 19, 2016 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM

Leadership Academy Pillar: PURPOSEFUL or PROFESSIONAL (member's choice)

Start Smart is a program of the AAUW and is specifically designed for college students about to enter the employment market. The Start Smart workshop is a great professional development opportunity for women to learn how to determine what employers are paying for the job you want when you graduate and how to negotiate to be paid what you are worth doing that job.  Participants get nuts-and-bolts, real world information, learn about salary resources they can use, and have the opportunity to discuss these dynamics in roundtables with professional women. 

Registration is required and should be completed HERE

Forest Stewardship

Forestry Events - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 2:36pm
Thursday, May 19, 2016 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Speaker: Dayne Barron, BLM

We live in a fire-prone environment, but how can we manage fire risk on the landscape with so many landowners. Dayne Barron from the Bureau of Land Management joins us to discuss how small woodland owners and their public land neighbors can work together to promote resilient landscapes, Fire-Adapted Communities and a safe and effective wildfire response.

View flyer for more details.

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.

The post Coral Bleaching Goes Viral appeared first on Terra Magazine.

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.

The post Microbeads Pose Pollution Threat appeared first on Terra Magazine.

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.

The post Difficult Choices appeared first on Terra Magazine.

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.

The post OSU Opens Port Orford Field Station appeared first on Terra Magazine.

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.

The post A Research Ship for the 21st Century appeared first on Terra Magazine.

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.

The post Acidification Likely to Intensify appeared first on Terra Magazine.

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.

The post Acidic Seawater Threatens Shellfish appeared first on Terra Magazine.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Speed Friending

Environment Events - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 2:36pm
Tuesday, May 17, 2016 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Leadership Academy Pillar: INCLUSIVE

Talk with people from around the world and make a new friend! Have some free pizza too!

Registration is required - space is limited.
US Students: http://bit.ly/spdfrndus
Intl Students: http://bit.ly/spdfrndintl

Members who are interested need to:

  1. Sign up at the registration page here (NOT the Academy Portal).
  2. Email Dr. Scott Paja at: scott.paja@oregonstate.edu indicating that you have attended.
  3. Upon verification of your participation following the project, you will receive access to complete a brief survey reflection via the Academy Portal as required for all Academy events
  4. You will receive a credit towards completion of the Academy visible on your account in the Academy Portal.


Not a Leadership Academy member?  Submit your application today!

(All OSU engineering students in good academic standing are eligible to apply)

Weed Watcher Trainings

Forestry Events - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 2:36pm
Tuesday, May 17, 2016 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Worried about invasive plants and other weeds? Our FREE Weed Watcher workshops will train you to identify the species of most concern now and report them. Meet these plants up close and personal in our Speed Dating round, and take home a free weed id guide. All workshops run from 6-8pm and include a light snack. Please RSVP at www.swcd.net/workshops-education/weed-watchers/ or via Facebook.

A Cross-Disciplinary Discussion of Clean Water Access in the World Today

Health & Wellness Events - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 2:36pm
Tuesday, May 17, 2016 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Talk for Water is a Cross-Disciplinary Discussion of Clean Water Access in the World Today.  In conjunction with the Corvallis Sister Cities Association's "Walk for Water", Oregon State University professors and CSCA members are organizing a “Talk for Water,” which will assemble some of OSU’s water experts to discuss their research, highlighting how clean water access poses problems in both low-income countries and here in the U.S.


Molly Kile, Assistant Professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, will discuss her collaborative research on the determinants and outcomes of consuming arsenic-contaminated water in Bangladesh and the U.S.

John Selker, Professor of Biological and Ecological Engineering, will explain how the Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (www.TAHMO.org) he co-directs is collecting and sharing needed climate observation data in 12 countries across the African continent.

Todd Jarvis, Assistant Professor and Senior Researcher in Geography, and Associate Director of OSU’s Institute for Water and Watersheds, will address how Oregon’s experience with developing volcanic rock aquifers to the point of potential depletion might provide a cautionary tale for those interested in developing groundwater in Ethiopia.

Kenny Maes, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, will discuss how developing measures of household water insecurity can be useful in both low-income countries like Ethiopia and the U.S.
Moderated by Larry Becker, Professor of Geography and Director of OSU’s Environmental Sciences Undergraduate Program.


OSU Humanitarian Engineering Program
OSU Anthropology Program
OSU School of Language, Culture and Society
OSU Environmental Sciences Program
OSU Africa Initiative
OSU Geography Program
OSU Center for Global Health
Corvallis Sister Cities Association

This event is free and open to the public.

The Corvallis Sister Cities Association (CSCA) will hold its annual “Walk for Water” on Saturday, May 21, to support access to clean water in Corvallis’ sister city of Gondar, Ethiopia.

For more information visit Sister City Annual Walk for Water

Pasture & Grazing Management Class

Small Farms Events - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 2:36pm
Tuesday, May 17, 2016 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM

This class is for the small acreage landowner who is managing pasture for grazing animals.  Pastures under controlled grazing have less wasted forage, especially in the spring, and plants have an opportunity to rest and recover between pasture rotations, leading to increased forage production.  In this class we will cover topics such as how grass plants grow, rotational grazing systems and pasture fertility. 

Register at:  https://secure.oregonstate.edu/smallfarms-events/register/131

Please contact Chrissy Lucas at 541-766-3556 or Chrissy.Lucas@oregonstate.edu with questions.
Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Forestland classification process

Forestry Events - Mon, 05/16/2016 - 2:39pm
Monday, May 16, 2016 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM

A formal classification project is underway to review and determine which lands in Yamhill County are considered forestland and thus are provided wildland fire protection through the Oregon Department of Forestry. To facilitate this process, the Yamhill County Commissioners authorized and appointed a Forestland Classification Committee comprised of members of the public, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Oregon State Extension Office.                                       

The committee will examine all lands within Yamhill County, classifying lands as "forestland" or "not forestland” according to fire risk potential, vegetation type (fire fuel), community structure, and proximity to other forestland. The committee's efforts will help resolve issues pertaining to ODF’s fire suppression role on forestlands and adjacent lands, and will become the basis for assessing the lands for the costs of wildland fire protection.

Yamhill County landowners and the public are invited to come to the classification meetings to learn more about the history, process and current status of the project. The next meeting is scheduled for May 16, 2016 at 10:00 A.M. at the OSU Extension Office (2050 NE Lafayette Ave) in McMinnville.  The meeting after that is scheduled for June 6th, location is still to be determined.

Upon completion of its work, the committee will present the results of the forestland classification project, identifying forestland in the county to be assessed for fire protection by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

For more information about the project, interested persons may go online to fgdfire.com