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Terra + Spring 2016

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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The post Terra + Spring 2016 appeared first on Terra Magazine.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Out of the Mud

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.”

The post Out of the Mud appeared first on Terra Magazine.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Doubling Down on Marine Studies

Wed, 04/13/2016 - 2:07pm

LEADERS AND SCIENTISTS from across Oregon State University are tackling key problems facing the ocean, coastal communities and people who depend on a healthy, thriving marine environment.

Our researchers are innovating multi-disciplinary approaches to conservation of threatened species from whales to seabirds to tropical fish. They are investigating the technical, environmental, and social dimensions of marine renewable energy; delving into the complex molecular to global processes underlying ocean acidification; developing next-generation pharmaceuticals from marine and terrestrial ecosystems; implementing creative strategies to manage invasive lionfish; working to mitigate beach erosion and helping coastal communities adapt to a changing climate.

Together with our partners in local, state and federal agencies, as well as with local and regional industry, OSU’s Marine Studies Initiative will coordinate and strengthen our commitment to enhancing the coast and broader Oregon economy and environment.

In this issue of Terra+, OSU’s research e-newsletter, you’ll read about the exciting blue whale research of assistant professor Leigh Torres in our Marine Mammal Institute. You’ll get the latest news about the risks of ocean acidification and the recommendations of a West Coast scientific panel co-chaired by OSU marine ecologist Francis Chan.

Then in mid-May, be sure to watch for the spring issue of Terra magazine, which will give you a rich and colorful overview of Oregon State’s stellar record in marine research.



The post Doubling Down on Marine Studies appeared first on Terra Magazine.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

A West Coast Wake-Up Call

Wed, 04/13/2016 - 10:24am
Cascade Head, Oregon coast (Photo courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)


THE OCEAN CHEMISTRY ALONG THE WEST COAST of North America is changing rapidly because of global carbon dioxide emissions, and the governments of Oregon, California, Washington and British Columbia can take actions now to offset and mitigate the effects of these changes.

That is the conclusion of a 20-member panel of leading West Coast ocean scientists, who presented a comprehensive report on Monday outlining a series of recommendations to address the increase in ocean acidification and hypoxia, or extremely low oxygen levels.

“Ocean acidification is a global problem that is having a disproportionate impact on productive West Coast ecosystems,” said Francis Chan, an Oregon State University marine ecologist and co-chair of the West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science Panel. “There has been an attitude that there is not much we can do about this locally, but that just isn’t true. A lot of the solutions will come locally and through coordinated regional efforts.”

Ocean acidification and hypoxia are distinct phenomena that trigger a wide range of effects on marine ecosystems. They frequently occur together and represent two important facets of global ocean changes that have important implications for Oregon’s coastal oceans.

Among the panel’s recommendations:

  • Develop new benchmarks for near-shore water quality as existing criteria were not developed to protect marine organisms from acidification;
  • Improve methods of removing carbon dioxide from seawater through the use of kelp beds, eel grass and other plants;
  • Enhance coastal ecosystems’ ability to adapt to changing ocean chemistry through better resource management, including marine reserves, adaptive breeding techniques for shellfish, and other methods.

“Communities around the country are increasingly vulnerable to ocean acidification and long-term environmental changes,” said Richard Spinrad, chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and former OSU vice president for research. “It is crucial that we comprehend how ocean chemistry is changing in different places, so we applaud the steps the West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science Panel has put forward in understanding and addressing this issue. We continue to look to the West Coast as a leader on understanding ocean acidification.”

At Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, researchers study Pacific oysters, which are sensitive to increasing acidity in the ocean. (Photo: University Extension)

Chan said regional awareness of the impact of changing ocean chemistry started in Oregon. Some of the first impacts were seen about 15 years ago when the state began experiencing seasonal hypoxia, or low-oxygen water, leading to some marine organism die-offs. Then the oyster industry was confronted with high mortality rates of juvenile oysters because of increasingly acidified water. It turns out that Oregon was on the leading edge of a much larger problem.

“It was a wakeup call for the region, which since has spread up and down the coast,” says Chan, an associate professor in the Department of Integrative Biology in OSU’s College of Science.

California responded to this call, and in partnership with Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, convened a panel of scientific experts to provide advice on the issue. The panel worked with federal and state agencies, local organizations and higher education institutions to identify concerns about ocean acidification and hypoxia, then developed a series of recommendations and actions that can be taken today.

“One of the things all of the scientists agree on is the need for better ocean monitoring or ‘listening posts,’ up and down the West Coast,” says Jack Barth, a professor and associate dean in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and a member of the panel. “It is a unifying issue that will require participation from state and federal agencies, as well as universities, ports, local governments and NGOs.”

Barth said one such “listening post” has been the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery in Netarts Bay, Oregon, which was able to solve the die-off of juvenile oysters with the help of OSU scientists George Waldbusser and Burke Hales, who both served on the 20-member panel. Together, they determined that the ocean chemistry changed throughout the day and by taking in seawater in the afternoon, when photosynthesis peaked and CO2 levels were lower, juvenile oysters could survive.

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. These nutrients fertilize the water column, trigger phytoplankton blooms that die and sink to the bottom, producing even more carbon dioxide and lowering oxygen further.

“We’re just starting to see the impacts now, and we need to accelerate what we know about how increasingly acidified water will impact our ecosystems,” says panel member Waldo Wakefield, a research fisheries biologist with NOAA Fisheries in Newport and courtesy associate professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

“There’s a lot at stake. West Coast fisheries are economic drivers of many coastal communities, and the seafood we enjoy depends on a food web that is likely to be affected by more corrosive water.”

Last year, OSU researchers completed the deployment of moorings, buoys and gliders as part of the Endurance Array – a component of the $386 million National Science Foundation-funded Ocean Observatories Initiative, created to address ocean issues including acidification.

These and other ocean-monitoring efforts will be important to inform policymakers about where to best focus their adaptation and mitigation strategies.

“The panel’s findings provide a road map to help us prepare for the changes ahead,” says Gabriela Goldfarb, natural resource policy adviser to Oregon Governor Kate Brown. “How Oregon and the West Coast address ocean acidification will inform those confronting this issue around the country and world.”

“With the best scientific recommendations in hand from the science panel, we now have the information on which to base our future management decisions,” adds Caren Braby, marine resource manager at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “These are practical recommendations natural resource managers and communities can use to ensure we continue to have the rich and productive ecosystem Oregonians depend on for healthy fisheries, our coastal culture and economy.”

Mark Floyd is a news writer for Oregon State University

The post A West Coast Wake-Up Call appeared first on Terra Magazine.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

The Internet of Things

Wed, 04/13/2016 - 10:23am


OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY HAS JOINED THE WORLD’S technology leaders — including LG, Microsoft, and Qualcomm — to advance the collaborative development of the “Internet of Things.”

The “Internet of Things” (nicknamed IoT) is a network of devices that exchange information — anything from sensors in public and private buildings to full-scale “smart cities.”

“Simply put,” writes Jacob Morgan in Forbes magazine, “this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig.”

In sum, Morgan says, “If it has an on and off switch, then chances are it can be a part of the IoT.”

The number of connected devices is predicted to increase by another 30 percent in 2016, according to Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company.

For all these devices to connect and communicate seamlessly, there needs to be a common underlying technology. Toward that end, OSU is part of the AllSeen Alliance, a coalition of more than 200 companies and technical supporters that develop standard interfaces for “Internet of Things” projects.

Officials at the OSU College of Engineering’s Center for Applied Systems and Software (CASS) became interested in the “Internet of Things” as a key technology for student employees to master. The center’s expertise in open-source technologies — source code that is open to the public to improve and change — was the basis for the collaboration with the AllSeen Alliance. That group’s primary software is an open-source framework called AllJoyn that allows devices and apps to communicate with one another.

CASS will run tests for AllJoyn, verify that all functions run correctly before each quarterly release cycle, and practice to adjust to new tools and requirements. This project will provide student employees an opportunity to work with cutting-edge software that will be deployed to millions of devices.

Rachel Robertson is strategic communications coordinator for the Oregon State University College of Engineering.

The post The Internet of Things appeared first on Terra Magazine.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Writing Instructor Wins Oregon Book Award

Wed, 04/13/2016 - 10:22am

DAVID BIESPIEL, AN INSTRUCTOR OF ENGLISH and creative writing at Oregon State University, won an Oregon Book Award for  A Long High Whistle, a collection of essays from his now-discontinued poetry column in The Oregonian, believed to be the longest running poetry column in any newspaper. This is the second Oregon Book Award for the poet and critic, who won previously for The Book of Men and Women in 2011.

Oregon novelist and essayist Brian Doyle, who won for his young adult novel Martin Marten (St. Martin’s Press), was also a finalist this year for Children and Other Wild Animals, published by the Oregon State University Press.

Two other books published by OSU Press also were finalists for this year’s Oregon Book Awards, which were announced in April. They were Field Guide to Oregon Rivers by Tim Palmer of Port Orford (general nonfiction); and Morning Light: Wild Flowers, Night Skies and Other Ordinary Joys of Oregon Country Life by Barbara Drake of Yamhill (creative nonfiction).

“The amazing slate of finalists this year is a testament to Oregon’s rich and vibrant literary community,” said Tom Booth, associate director of the OSU Press.

The Oregon Book Awards and Fellowships honor the state’s finest accomplishments by Oregon writers who work in genres of fiction, drama, literary nonfiction, poetry, graphic literature and literature for young readers.


The post Writing Instructor Wins Oregon Book Award appeared first on Terra Magazine.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Mother Whales Meet Seafloor Drilling

Wed, 04/13/2016 - 10:00am
A pygmy blue whale surfaces in front of an oil rig in the South Taranaki Bight. (Photo: Deanna Elvines, Cawthron Institute, New Zealand)


IN NEW ZEALAND THERE SHINES A MILES-WIDE 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. All across New Zealand, a longstanding conflict rages between greens (conservationists, marine biologists, environmental activists) and industrial interests over the impact of seafloor drilling and mining on wildlife in the gulf.

Alarmed by the ecological risks posed by drilling and mining in the indigo gulf, whale researcher Leigh Torres is collecting data at warp speed hoping to head off harm to the giant marine mammals she studies.

“These human activities have the potential to impact whales through habitat degradation, habitat displacement, acoustic interference and ship strikes,” says Torres, an assistant professor at Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute.

Torres’ latest research expedition in January and February (see slide show), funded in part by National Geographic Explorer, went viral when her team’s rare footage of a mother-calf pair showing nursing behavior hit social media (see video at right). “Remarkable” is Torres’ term for the density of mother-calf pairs she observed during the expedition. Her findings so far suggest that the gulf is “an important area for mothers to raise their calves during the critical seven-month lactation period before weaning.”

A Mother’s Milk

The gulf — or “bight” as the Kiwis call it — separates the north and south islands of New Zealand and, through Cook Strait, links the South Pacific Ocean with the Tasman Sea. Once upon a time, it bore the sweet name “Mothering Bay” for the southern right whales that, by the hundreds or even thousands, birthed and suckled their young in its summer waters. But in the era when blubber was coveted for lantern oil and baleen for buggy whips, southern right whales were hunted to near oblivion.

Leigh Torres assists with the deployment of a Marine Autonomous Recording Unit (MARU), developed by the Cornell Bioacoustics Research Program. This hydrophone, and four others, will remain in the South Taranaki Bight for two years recording blue whale vocalizations. (Photo: Callum Lilley, New Zealand Department of Conservation)

Now called South Taranaki Bight, the gulf is named for snowcapped Mount Taranaki (“shining peak” in the Maori language), a Mount Hood lookalike rising from the northern shore. Whaling is gone in these waters. Yet human extraction goes on. And another once-hunted species — the blue whale — faces new threats in the bight, which Business Day recently described as the “jewel in the crown” of New Zealand’s petrochemical industry. Instead of seeking whale oil, companies like Origin Energy and OMV NZ Limited are exploring the seafloor for crude oil and natural gas. Others are scouring the fragile seabed for minerals like iron sands.

“The South Taranaki Bight is New Zealand’s most industrially active marine region, with seven active oil and gas platforms, significant seismic exploration for new petroleum deposits, drilling of new oil rigs, seabed pipeline, potential seabed mining for iron sands, and vessel traffic,” Torres says. “These human activities must be carefully managed to avoid direct, indirect and cumulative impacts on blue whales. Good management depends on robust science.”

Jet Propelled

Robust science is Torres’ mission in New Zealand’s indigo gulf. Just a few years ago, scientists didn’t know much about blue whales in the bight. The general view was that they were transients, just passing through. But after poring over decades of old whaling records, Torres found evidence of an historically high density of blues in the region.

So in 2014, she and her team made an exploratory study. The blue whales they found — a subspecies called pygmy blues — were indeed lingering long in the prey-filled bight, devouring enormous quantities of krill. Here, then, was preliminary evidence that blues use the gulf as a seasonal foraging ground, not just as a highway to somewhere else.

But how extensive was their presence? How many blues were there? Was this truly a nursery where calves were born and suckled? No one knew. So this past winter (which is summer in New Zealand), she and her team went back.

Aboard the research vessel RV Ikatere — a 45-foot jet-propelled catamaran with a “flying bridge” for whale spotting — they gathered extensive biological, behavioral and photographic data. They took 4,000 photos to ID individual blues. They collected tissue biopsies and fecal samples for genetic and hormonal analysis. And, by launching a drone equipped with a camera, they captured stunning video of a mother and calf swimming together, the calf drifting again and again beneath its mother, suggesting suckling. The video flew around the world on social media.

Leigh Torres at sunset off the northwest coast of New Zealand’s South Island after a long day working with blue whales. (Photo: Kristin Hodge, Cornell University)

Torres and her team also deployed five bright-yellow underwater hydrophones called “MARUs” (marine autonomous recording units) anchored to the floor of the gulf, where they will stay for two years. Designed and built by Cornell University’s Bioacoustics Research Lab — one of the partners on Torres’ research team — the hydrophones already are recording whale calls and songs around the clock.

There’s little doubt now that pygmy blues not only forage for krill in South Taranaki Bight but also raise their young in the indigo waters, Torres says. Anecdotally, fishermen and pilots have insisted that they’re seeing blues in the gulf all year-round.

Still, many questions remain to be answered. Planning is underway for another expedition in 2017.

“It’s urgent that we fill these knowledge gaps,” Torres says. “Protecting these whales and their habitat depends on collecting solid data, as quickly as possible, to inform environmental managers and other stakeholders about blue whale ecology in the region.”

For firsthand accounts from the field, check out Torres’ blog at the Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna Lab at OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute.

Lee Sherman Gellatly is associate editor of Terra magazine and editor of Terra+.


The post Mother Whales Meet Seafloor Drilling appeared first on Terra Magazine.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Hello world!

Fri, 04/08/2016 - 11:19am

Welcome to blogs.oregonstate.edu. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

The post Hello world! appeared first on Terra Magazine.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Hello world!

Fri, 04/08/2016 - 11:19am

Welcome to blogs.oregonstate.edu. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

The post Hello world! appeared first on Terra Magazine.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs