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Energy Matters

Terra - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 11:00am

By Nick Houtman

It’s not hard to find controversy in the energy business. As the United States has again become one of the world’s leading oil and gas producers, proposals for new facilities generate hearings, protests and lawsuits. Advocates and opponents square off over facilities such as pipelines and oil, gas and coal terminals. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has ramped up the production of oil and natural gas along with worries about groundwater, earthquakes and air pollution.

Hilary Boudet leads research on the use of energy data for conservation purposes.

Even proposals to tap renewable sources such as wind and geothermal hot spots bring worries about wildlife, quakes and noise.

Hilary Boudet is used to tense discussions about energy and technology. “I grew up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one of the ‘secret cities’ of the Manhattan Project. We always took visitors to see one of the world’s first nuclear reactors, which played a key role in U.S. efforts to create an atomic bomb,” says the assistant professor of sociology at Oregon State University.

“But there was this difference between the pride that people had who grew up there and the perception of contamination. People outside the city would joke with us about glowing in the dark.”

Fossil fuel production is expected to reach record levels in the United States this year. In 2016, the U.S. met about 86 percent of its energy consumption with production from domestic sources.

As a college student, Boudet majored in environmental engineering and political science at Rice University in Houston. In her first job — a stint with the environmental and regulatory arm of ExxonMobil — she got an insider’s view of how energy projects are described and debated by industry and the public. “I learned a lot about how companies in the oil and gas industry think about these issues, what makes them do more or do less in this area,” she says.

But as informative as it was to work for big oil, she wanted to dig deeper into the decision-making process. So in a Ph.D. program at Stanford, she delved into the politics around 20 proposals to build large energy facilities in the U.S.

Decision Time

Boudet is affiliated with Oregon State’s School of Public Policy and continues to explore the ways in which people engage with energy development. She and her students interview and survey people struggling with contentious issues, such as a proliferation of natural-gas wells or proposals to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. They document the views of those who participate in campaigns — both for and against these developments — or of those who happen to live in close proximity to the facilities. They have zeroed in on an important question: Why do some communities readily accept these facilities, while others vehemently oppose such efforts?

Energy politics, she and her colleagues have found, revolve around factors such as access to the levers of power, the nature of a perceived threat and the potential for economic benefit. For example, Boudet has shown that if local politicians have the final say on traditional energy proposals, opponents tend to be more influential than if the political process gives final authority to distant regulators. Yet, the opposite appears to be true for wind energy proposals.  And, while the risks posed by a particular project factor into opposition efforts, they are largely in the eye of the beholder. Different communities and individuals within them assess risks and benefits differently, depending on their demographic characteristics, worldviews, political leanings, lived experiences and the surrounding context.

“I have two theoretical homes for my research,” says Boudet. “One is the literature on social movements and on why and how people mobilize. This tradition comes out of sociological studies of civil rights and other movements of the 1960s. The other one is the literature on locally unwanted land uses — LULUs— which comes out of urban planning. I draw on these two fields of study to understand how and why people become active.”

Girl Scouts for Conservation

With deep knowledge of how the public navigates these issues, Boudet has turned to another aspect of our relationship to energy. Along with engineers at Stanford and the University of California, Santa Barbara, she is leading a project: Smart & Connected Kids for Sustainable Energy Communities. Boudet and her colleagues are partnering with an organization not generally known for its energy expertise — the Girl Scouts. The researchers are taking advantage of technology such as “smart meters” (see sidebar) that track household electricity use and a cell phone app that helps homeowners track which devices are powered on. The project will combine these tools with educational programs that teach girls about the so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and energy conservation.

Lauren, left, and Jenna participated in the Girls Learning Environment and Energy program of the Girl Scouts. Through a project led by Hilary Boudet at Oregon State, Girl Scout troops are learning to use smart meter technology to save energy. (Photo courtesy of Hilary Boudet)

Using actual household energy data, Boudet and her colleagues will work with Girl Scout troops and high school students in Fremont, California, to identify ways to reduce energy consumption. Other partners include Ohlone Community College, the City of Fremont and Chai Energy, a company that markets an app for home energy management. The project has received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation

“Children are a critical constituency for energy-saving programs,” Boudet says. “When they adopt energy-saving behaviors at an early age, they are more likely to continue those behaviors as they grow up and move into adulthood.”

Smart Energy
The days of meter readers are gone. No longer do utility companies send people to record data from the power meter on the side of a customer’s house. So-called “smart meters” record the flow of electricity hour by hour or minute by minute and transmit data back to the utility. The devices have been widely adopted in Europe, North America, Japan and Australia. While utilities see the potential for reduced labor costs and more efficient operation, concerns have been raised about privacy and the potential for data to be misused.

Such measures reflect a promising frontier in the drive for energy efficiency. While the number of homes in the United States has risen by almost 50 percent since 1980, residential energy use has climbed only modestly, less than 10 percent over that time, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The hope is that smart meters and appliances will help households save money and reduce their energy footprint.

In 2016, Boudet published a paper in the journal Nature Energy showing that girls who participated in an educational program known as GLEE — Girls Learning Environment and Energy — mastered energy conservation practices and successfully shared them with their families. “By adopting energy-saving behaviors now and engaging family and community members in such efforts, children can play an important role in bringing about a more sustainable future,” she adds.

The new project expands on that effort and builds on the organization’s traditional values, says Jean Fahy, a Girl Scout program director in Alameda, California. “Girl Scouts have always been concerned about the outdoors and the environment. I feel that the work that Hilary has done has already influenced many Girl Scouts throughout the country. We’re honored to be working with her. It’s very powerful for the girls to be learning from her to be responsible citizens.”

Boudet and her team will engage more than 1,500 active Girl Scouts in the Fremont area, but ultimately, it’s about empowering families, adds Fahy. “With the smart meter, families can download the app, and the girls will be coming back from their meetings and sharing with their families. It’s not just the girls who are learning from this. As a family, they’ll be sharing those results.”

Boudet hopes that, as in her hometown of Oak Ridge, children will feel proud of using science and technology to achieve a better life. The project “has the potential to attract the hearts and minds of households and community members,” she has written. And if people from outside the community want to know if participants glow in the dark, it may be from the feeling generated by a lifelong passion for science, technology, math and engineering.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Game Changer

Terra - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 10:09am

By Nick Houtman

If you sit down to play Wayfarer with Jeremy Banka, it would pay to read up on the rules in advance. You can choose your character: Knight, Cryomancer (a character with icy powers), Mage (magician) or a Mechanized Armored Pilot. You can assemble playing cards to provide your character with offensive and defensive powers such as the ability to cast spells or use weapons to attack your opponent. Once play begins, you’ll need to know how to make counter moves and wield your assets to drive the enemy from the arena.

Jeremy Banka

Banka, a senior in graphic design and the University Honors College, developed every detail of Wayfarer: the table-top playing surface, an instruction manual and more than 200 playing cards. His creative typography, character drawings and color palette steep players in the spirit of fictional combat and provide everything needed to make decisions as the game proceeds. More than each character’s identity and skill level, the cards give the game an emotional charge — whether it comes from brute strength, skill, agility or magic power.

The graduate of Rex Putnam High School in Milwaukie traces his inspiration to Magic the Gathering, a game designed to be an ice breaker between science fiction fans, gamers and artists at gatherings such as Comic-Con. Banka also drew on Dungeons and Dragons and multiplayer online video games.

“These games have characters with a strong sense of identity and role,” says Banka. “I think they are an amazing social conduit. The players bring their own materials, and because each player is building his or her own deck, each has enough to supply half the game.”

One of the common gaming problems he set out to solve is the length of time it takes to become familiar with the rules. “Wayfarer uses visual design to communicate clearly. The cards are fast to read,” says Banka. “Information is laid out in consistent ways, so people can take up the game quickly.”

Over a typical 15-minute session, Wayfarer can be competitive or cooperative. Players can go head-to-head with allies to control space and drive their opponents out of the arena, or they can go jointly on a quest to solve a problem. Ultimately, the game is about telling a story, says Banka, whether it delves into the struggle between two characters or journeys through an unknown landscape in search of treasure.

Banka’s interest in graphic design stems from a subject many people find less than thrilling: grammar. For him, the structure of language opened a window on communication, syntax and linguistic differences. In high school, he even invented his own language, which he called Srailese, with an alphabet and about 1,000 words.

“What I found most captivating about ‘con-langing’ (constructed language), was the development of the letter forms. I think of myself more as a typographic designer than a graphic designer,” he adds. “Instead of thinking downward from the page, I think outward from words.”

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

The Oregon Ocean Acid Test

Terra - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 9:38am

By Jim Yuskavitch

On a cold, windy afternoon last November, Dick Vander Schaaf stood on the beach at Cascade Head near Lincoln City anxiously scanning the outgoing tide. He leaned on a shovel he hoped he wouldn’t have to use.

Dick Vander Schaaf of The Nature Conservancy checks an ocean acidification sensor at Cascade Head. Vander Schaaf participates in a citizen science network developed by Francis Chan, marine ecologist at Oregon State University. (Photo: Jim Yuskavitch)

He was looking for a black and white PVC tube that had been bolted to a rock in the wave-tossed intertidal zone. Inside the tube was a sensor for measuring water temperature and pH, the chemical yardstick of acidity.

The tube had reportedly been buried in up to a yard of sand by wave action, and Vander Schaaf, the associate coast and marine conservation director for The Nature Conservancy, Oregon office, wasn’t keen on having to dig for it.

Then his face brightened. “There it is!” he called. Wading in knee-deep water, he brought the tube and its contents safely back to dry land. He would send the sensor and its stored data to Francis Chan, an associate professor and senior researcher in Oregon State University’s Department of Integrative Biology. Oregon’s coastal waters, says Chan, are a world hotspot of ocean acidification.

Chan has been monitoring pH levels off the Oregon coast for the past two years. Working with a network of volunteers like Vander Schaaf, he has seven monitors strategically placed in the intertidal zones at the state’s five marine reserves — Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Otter Rock, Cape Perpetua and Redfish Rocks. Ocean acidification is a growing influence on Oregon coastal waters, Chan has found, along with indications there may also be some “safe zones” for marine organisms susceptible to its effects.

Sometimes called “climate change’s evil twin,” a phrase coined by Oregon State’s Jane Lubchenco, ocean acidification is an insidious and unseen effect of rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere. The oceans have always absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere, but as levels of the greenhouse gas have climbed, primarily the result of fossil fuel burning, the oceans have taken in ever-higher amounts, leading to shifts in ocean chemistry.

Organisms from oysters to corals are considered sensitive. Over the past 200 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, average ocean-wide pH has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1. That may not sound like much, but on the pH scale, it amounts to a nearly 30 percent increase in acidity. Other researchers have found that highly acidified water can cause calcium shells made or used by many marine creatures to be harder to build or to dissolve. The net effects may be felt up and down the food chain. Animals in the intertidal and near-shore zones, including economically important species such as oysters and crabs, may be at risk.

A Path to Lower pH

Francis Chan (Photo: Jim Yuskavitch)

Chan arrived at OSU in 2001 to conduct post-doctoral research on ocean hypoxia — water with low oxygen levels — and has since become an expert on the subject, including its intensity, duration, where it occurs and how it impacts marine organisms. His interest in biogeochemistry (the study of the physical, biological, geological and chemical processes in the environment) led him to start the Oregon coast ocean acidification monitoring study in 2016. Chan is also affiliated with PISCO (the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans), a research collaborative including OSU, Stanford University and the University of California at Santa Cruz and at Santa Barbara. PISCO scientists study the near-shore ocean environment from Baja California to British Columbia.

“The ocean may look the same, but the water is changing, especially on the Oregon coast,” says Chan. Here’s why the Oregon coast is particularly vulnerable to acidification and thus an important place to study ocean chemistry.

A Deep-Ocean Conveyor Belt
The summer sun can warm your face, and the air can feel hot, but if you’ve ever been swimming along the Oregon coast, you know how cold the water can get. It gets especially chilly when north winds blow and push warmer surface water to the west. In its place, currents from deep in the ocean rise along our beaches and bays to replace it. This water — delivered by a process that scientists call upwelling — isn’t just colder; it also carries more nutrients that can fuel ocean life. On the downside, it has less oxygen and tends to be acidified. Like the proverbial slow boat to China, it can take decades for deep ocean currents to travel to the West Coast. When it last touched the atmosphere at the start of its journey, CO2 levels were lower than they are today. In the future, the water upwelling along our coast will carry the memory of the annual increases in CO2.

Much of Oregon’s coastal water originates in the North Pacific off Japan in two cold, deep-water currents. One takes about 10 years to reach Oregon, while the second takes a more circuitous path and nearly 50 years to deliver its water here. Because cold water can hold higher concentrations of CO2 than warmer water, these currents start off with increased CO2 levels. As they slowly flow toward the U.S. West Coast, biological activity by organisms living in that water layer — zooplankton, phytoplankton and other microorganisms — continually generates CO2 until, by the time the water rises to the surface off the Oregon coast, its CO2 level has increased dramatically. Once that water is finally exposed to the atmosphere after decades in the deep, it begins absorbing even more of the greenhouse gas. “Together, those two are putting us through some chemical

Science in Action

In addition to collecting data, Chan also involves coastal community residents in the research. One of his goals is expanded public awareness about ocean acidification and local adoption of solutions. Beginning with volunteers from the Redfish Rocks Community Team — a group of Port Orford residents who act as stewards for the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve — he has expanded his volunteer network of citizen scientists to include other marine reserve community teams, The Nature Conservancy and the Surfrider Foundation.

“Francis gets credit for identifying the need to reach out to community groups and identify people who would be able to help,” says Tom Calvanese, manager of OSU’s Port Orford Field Station, who helps coordinate the Redfish Rocks Community Team volunteers.

Charlie Plybon of the Surfrider Foundation installs a sensor in the intertidal zone at Otter Rock. (Photo: Surfrider Foundation)

Using their local knowledge, these citizen scientists help Chan pick the best locations in the intertidal zones to place the monitors. During the spring-to-fall field season, they remove the sensors every four weeks and send them to Chan, who downloads the data. Chan installs a new sensor in its place and sends it back to the volunteer. Because everything is self-contained, the citizen scientists don’t have to worry about making mistakes that might compromise the data.

“The monitoring is helping us find out things about ocean acidification on the coast that we didn’t know before,” adds Calvanese. “It’s an example of the benefits of a partnership between the university and the community.”

One of the lessons they have learned is that ocean acidification is not uniformly spread in Oregon’s coastal waters. The headlands and bays, continental shelf and other features both above and below the water’s surface affect currents and chemistry, feeding more acidic water to some parts of the coast and not to others. Chan’s sensors have detected some of the lowest coastal pH levels off the Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve. In contrast, the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve appears to be less affected by ocean acidification.

Looking for Refuge

That’s important because, in addition to monitoring ocean acidification levels over time, Chan wants to know if protected marine areas might help mitigate some of the future impacts. “We want to know if there are some marine reserves that might act as refuges for fish and other organisms,” says Chan. This kind of information is also being provided to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to help it better manage the nearshore environment.

Another component of Chan’s research, and equally important, is public outreach. Chan wants to share the results of his research so more people understand ocean acidification and other changes that are happening to our oceans. He wants science to empower citizen action. “There is so much skepticism about science these days,” says Charlie Plybon, Oregon program manager for the Surfrider Foundation, one of Chan’s partner organizations. “The more we can energize people with science, the more scientific information we can bring to the public, the better.”

Francis Chan installs sensors in the intertidal zone at Otter Rock. (Photo: Surfrider Foundation)

The Surfrider Foundation has developed a website about ocean acidification on the Oregon coast and Chan’s research. The Redfish Rocks Community Team is developing a K-12 curriculum about ocean acidification, producing a film on the subject and conducting teacher training. OSU is also at work on teaching curriculums and helping scientists better communicate their research to the public.

Back on the beach at Cascade Head, a marine reserve that Chan has found to be less affected by ocean acidification, Vander Schaaf, sensor in hand, watched the now incoming tide splash against the rocks. “The conservation importance of refugia with lower ocean acidification effects can’t be overstated,” he says. “The ocean acidification monitoring may give us the opportunity to put measures in place in these areas to help conserve the organisms and habitats there.”

Human activities continue to affect the very chemistry of the ocean, but Chan and his network of volunteers are on the forefront of citizen science. Using the knowledge they create, they are looking for strategies to help protect the ocean and its creatures from this profound and growing environmental challenge.

Jim Yuskavitch is a freelance writer and photographer. He lives in Sisters.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Power in the Plumbing

Terra - Wed, 01/31/2018 - 5:18pm

Talk about hydropower usually turns to megastructures such as dams, reservoirs and spillways. With help from Oregon State engineering researchers, an Oregon startup company is developing a system to generate carbon-free electricity from a previously untapped water source: the pipes under our streets.

InPipe Energy’s prototype turbine (lower right) undergoes testing at OSU’s Hinsdale Wave Lab. (Photo: Carolyn Stanley)

InPipe Energy is taking advantage of the difference in pressure between the major arteries of water distribution networks and the smaller branches that feed homes and businesses. Water suppliers routinely use valves to reduce pressure from high to low, but the energy produced in that step dissipates like heat from a campfire.

In a community the size of Corvallis, enough energy might be available in the water system to power the equivalent of 200 homes, says Gregg Semler, company president and CEO.

After installation costs, “this is free energy,” adds John Parmigiani, Oregon State professor of mechanical engineering who led a project to test InPipe Energy’s technology. “The idea is to use some of that water to spin a turbine and produce electricity. Water is returned to the system at the right pressure for consumers. They would see no difference in their water pressure. It’s drop-dead simple.”

With financial support from Oregon BEST, which supports clean technology research, Parmigiani and Nick Aerne, engineering graduate student, worked with InPipe Energy to design and construct a prototype system at the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Laboratory on the OSU campus. They installed hydropower turbines in a loop parallel to a normal distribution line. At water pressures similar to those found in municipal water systems, they measured power output at startup, under continuous operation and at shutdown. The turbines achieved efficiencies between 60 and 80 percent.

Gregg Semler, InPipe Energy CEO

“This test proves that InPipe Energy’s hydropower system is safe, reliable, efficient and can be a valuable tool to help water agencies reduce their operating costs and carbon footprint,” Semler says. “We’re using existing infrastructure to produce renewable energy. It’s predictable and low cost and has no environmental impact. Oregon BEST’s investment provided us the capital we needed to build and test our prototype and helped us achieve this critical commercialization milestone.”

Operations in the nation’s water infrastructure, including pumping and purification, consume about 6 percent of the total energy used in the United States. In California, where big agriculture distributes vast amounts of water for irrigation and food processing, the energy used approaches 20 percent.

Parmigiani and his students are continuing to look at improvements in the technology. Meanwhile, InPipe Energy is in discussions with water agencies and industrial companies on the next phase of commercialization.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

The Giving Trees

Terra - Wed, 01/31/2018 - 5:02pm

By Steve Lundeberg

Anthony S. Davis has witnessed, in real time, the wide and ruinous reach of deforestation.

“In Haiti, for example, it’s terrifying to watch the floodwaters churn down the streets, full of trash,” says Davis, professor of forest engineering, resources and management in the Oregon State University College of Forestry. “There’s no time for people to clear the streets of the wares they’re selling, their baskets of T-shirts or soaps – it’s all just floating down, mixing with the water from the sewer, on into the ocean, and there’s no stopping it.

“For me,” Davis adds, “the way to decrease the devastating impact of these floods starts with planting trees in the mountains.”

In Notsé, Togo, students gather tips from Oregon State professor Anthony Davis on working with native tree seeds for seedling production. (Photo courtesy of Anthony S. Davis)

The associate dean for research and international programs came to OSU in 2016 and is one of the drivers of the College of Forestry’s leadership role in reforestation efforts around the globe – from the Caribbean to Africa, from the Middle East to South America. The work is critical because each year, though about 30 percent of the Earth is still forested, about 25,000 square miles, one-fourth the area of Oregon, lose their forest cover through agriculture, logging and even international conflict.

“When countries are at war, tanks move across borders, and that often results in fires,” Davis says. “When the Lebanese army did drills on the Syrian border, 5- and 6-year-old trees that were growing extremely well were burned from sparks created by tanks. And of course in a conflict setting, getting rid of trees on your opponent’s side means fewer places for them to hide.”

Deforestation carries a broad range of negative environmental consequences, including habitat loss for the 80 percent of the Earth’s animals and plants that live in forests. It disrupts the water cycle and results in large temperature swings in areas where highs and lows had been moderated by forest canopy. It
accelerates climate change, since fewer trees mean more carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere.

Davis and colleagues are on a mission to get trees back where they belong, to thwart ecological damage and, in turn, to improve human lives. Their partners in this ambitious effort include the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other universities. Together, they conduct research to understand and teach best practices in planting, vegetation control, forest management and agroforestry.

Seeds of Knowledge

Davis’ interest and expertise lie in seedlings. Growing up in Canada’s Maritimes, he studied at the University of New Brunswick, worked at a nursery after graduation and found himself consumed with basic questions: Why do we grow tree seedlings, and how do they grow?

At the Sabha nursery in Mafraq, Jordan, nurserywomen grow seedlings for planting in the Badia, a semiarid region of eastern Jordan. (Photo: Anthony S. Davis)

After graduate school at Purdue, he joined the faculty at the University of Idaho, where he was the director of the Center for Forest Nursery and Seedling Research. In 2011, thanks to connections abroad, he began working with people in disparate locales like Haiti and Lebanon. “Haiti is extremely hilly, and about half the country gets by on subsistence farming,” Davis says. “But only a quarter of the land is even suitable for farming, so they’re farming on twice as much land as can possibly grow crops successfully. And when it rains, the soil just washes downhill from all the tilling, digging and planting.”

A century ago, more than 60 percent of Haiti’s 11,000 square miles were forested; now that figure is less than 2 percent, in a nation where the majority of domestic energy production comes from wood charcoal.

The main tree species in Haiti is Pinus occidentalis, commonly known as Hispaniolan pine for the Caribbean island Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic. The tree is native only to Hispaniola. “Our program in Haiti is very much working in small communities with motivated partners, trying to provide science-based support to others to grow trees and scale up projects,” Davis explains. “We’re getting more and more support, and next year we’ll have funding for science-into-practice programs.”

A major milestone came in 2015 with the establishment of a small native-plant nursery in Kenscoff, a town of about 50,000 in southeastern Haiti.

A Question of Survival

At about the same time Davis was starting his work in Haiti, he received a group of visitors from Lebanon on a tour sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service. They asked him to come to their country and help transform reforestation practices. Like Haiti, Lebanon has a long track record of cutting down trees.

“The Bible, in many ways, is a historical record of deforestation in the Middle East,” Davis says. In Lebanon, he participates in a $17 million USAID effort to support the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative through 10 different nurseries run by nonprofits and private parties. The focus is around 18 different tree species, including the native, highly symbolic Cedrus libani, the cedar of Lebanon.

“We’re changing when and how and where seeds are collected, how long they’re grown for, when they’re grown, when they’re transported, and the way they’re transported and tended afterward,” Davis says. “It’s been a complete sea change in terms of seedling survival. We use science, the biology of the tree, to guide what we plant and when, where and how it’s planted.”

In Lebanon, the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative’s Majd Kashan, left, works with Anthony Davis to identify key factors in improving Cedar of Lebanon seedling survival. (Photo courtesy of Anthony S. Davis)

Similar projects are underway in other parts of the Middle East and Africa. In arid, overgrazed Jordan, the focus is on getting native shrub species to grow in a way that’s cost-effective and biologically successful. In Armenia, a small-scale nursery project uses the methods developed in Lebanon. In reforestation initiatives in Morocco and in Togo on the continent’s Gulf of Guinea coast, OSU students have opportunities for leadership and collaboration with scientists and environmental leaders.

Last fall, Davis hosted a six-person contingent from Morocco to visit forests, nurseries and research facilities across Oregon. Morocco has a sizable forest resource and is aiming to expand its reforestation efforts around cork oak, argan (aka Morocco ironwood) and Atlas cedar.

“They’re looking to increase the number of seedlings they produce from 40 million to 60 million over the next six years, and we’re helping them figure out how to get there,” Davis says. “What’s the right mix of species, how do they deal with changing climatic conditions, and how do we make sure what they’re growing is actually going to be sustainable?”

Helping Davis with the Moroccan effort is OSU colleague Carlos Gonzalez-Benecke. The two met in late 2015, when the latter had just moved to OSU from the University of Florida and Davis was still in Idaho. Gonzalez-Benecke had spent the early part of his career studying reforestation. He moved on to the whole forest cycle, focusing on the biological principles behind responses to management.

Managing vegetation – weed control – is crucial for getting a new tree plantation up and running properly, says Gonzalez-Benecke, the director of OSU’s Vegetation Management Research Cooperative. “If you do not do vegetation management, you have mortality and reduction in growth, and the rotations are delayed.”

Morocco has a large reforestation program, Gonzalez-Benecke notes, “but in many cases it ends in failure. They’ll have to replant, say, three times. Reforestation is a whole chain of activities, planting technique, the season when you’re planting. We have to be polite. Our objective is to help people, not to impose our ideas.”

A Chilean, Gonzalez-Benecke helps the college maintain a strong connection to his native country as well. “We’ve hosted students and faculty, and now we’re going there,” he says. “We plan to repeat that every year.”

Partners in Africa

Badge Bishaw

The college has ongoing collaborations with universities in eight different African nations including Ethiopia, home to Corvallis’ sister city, Gondar. In the northern part of the country, the city straddles the Lesser Angereb River, which suffers from deforestation across the watershed.

OSU senior instructor Badege Bishaw collaborates with the Corvallis-Gondar Sister Cities Association and South African and Ethiopian universities in an integrated watershed management and agroforestry program. The goal is to address food security and land degradation in the Angereb watershed. To date, 2 million seedlings have been planted.

“In most developing countries, forests are very important, particularly as a source of energy for heating and lighting,” says Bishaw, who received his undergraduate degree in plant sciences from Addis Ababa University and has been at Oregon State since earning his Ph.D. from the College of Forestry in 1993.

OSU professor Badege Bishaw provides expertise for reforestation efforts in his native Ethiopia. (Photo: Badege Bishaw)

“Deforestation to address immediate needs has led to environmental degradation, soil erosion, loss of wildlife. It’s a chain reaction, and we need to get back to these countries and do this reforestation work through partnerships with universities, other research institutions and extension programs,” Bishaw adds. “With agroforestry, people can grow trees and at the same time produce food crops.”

What the Oregon State efforts often boil down to, Davis says, is simply “using science to figure out low-tech ways to help communities around the world solve problems.

“It’s wonderful to see deforested nations turn things around and start to conserve their own natural and genetic resources,” says Davis. “In a place like Haiti, there’s that linear connection between deforestation, dictatorships, lack of shade, lack of habitat for native birds, lack of fuel.

“What if it got to the point where that country could grow more biomass for producing charcoal, for fuel wood, to  have that shift where people are grabbing their resources back? That’s the kind of goal that motivates me.”

Steve Lundeberg is a news writer in the OSU Department of News and Research Communications.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Charged for the Long Haul

Terra - Wed, 01/31/2018 - 4:35pm

By Nick Houtman

The promise of renewable energy stems from a simple fact: When the wind blows, a river flows and the sun shines, electrons move. But between the devices that harness nature’s power and electricity’s final destination stands the battery, a critical but troubled technology. We need batteries to store energy until it’s needed, but like people, they decline with age.

At eChemion’s lab in the Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Institute, Kevin Lewis, left, director of operations, and Jacob Tenhoff, senior lab engineer, are developing longer lasting redox batteries. (Photo: Karl Maasdam)

Now eChemion, a Corvallis startup company, has leveraged research in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University to extend battery life and to reduce cost. The anticipated worldwide expansion of renewable energy systems is expected to generate annual sales in this market of $2.7 billion by 2020.

These are not the batteries that power a cell phone or flashlight. eChemion specializes in energy storage systems known as redox batteries. They consist of stacks of electrodes (the charged surfaces that enable batteries to transfer electrons) in a tank filled with a liquid. “These systems are used in a variety of energy applications, from utility networks to the side of a house,” says Bill Kesselring, the company’s CEO. “They store energy from solar and wind or other sources. They can be as big as several shipping containers or as small as a refrigerator.”

The company emerged from work by Alex Bistrika, a Ph.D. student in chemical engineering who was advised by Alex Yokochi, former OSU engineering professor now at Baylor University. Bistrika’s success in exploring the chemical and electrical properties of graphite, a form of pure carbon, paved the way for the company’s technology, says Kesselring.

“The initial research created an understanding of what’s needed in redox flow batteries and the energy storage and power generation business. What we’re experts at is taking cheap graphitic material, designing an application-specific treatment and making it perform equal to or better than the state-of-the-art, highly designed graphitic material that’s out there. And we do it for less than half the cost.”

As a client of the Advantage Accelerator, eChemion focused on what it was particularly good at doing and how it could meet the needs of utilities and other potential customers. The company is manufacturing products in OSU’s ATAMI (Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Institute) building at the HP campus and looking for opportunities to grow.

“If it weren’t for ATAMI and the Advantage program, we wouldn’t be here,” says Kesselring. “We’re like a family. We participate in roundtable discussions with other startups. We help each other. We all want to see each other succeed.”

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Speaking of Technology

Terra - Wed, 01/31/2018 - 3:55pm

By Raymond Malewitz, Associate Professor, School of Writing, Literature and Film

Ray Malewitz

My research on the relationship between digital technologies and politics often takes me to future dystopian worlds. Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, for example, is a novel in which citizens of a social-media-saturated world are incapable of managing complex social and political problems. While I have grown accustomed to such fictional narratives, I am nonetheless taken aback by the cautionary tales they offer for our world.

Last October, representatives of Google, Facebook and Twitter testified before Congress that Russian agents had targeted millions of Americans in a coordinated digital propaganda campaign. In spite of such revelations, the companies insisted that they were not responsible for the distribution of fake news. Echoing Mark Zuckerberg’s defense of Facebook as a “tech company, not a media company” a year earlier, a Google representative insisted, “We are not a newspaper. We are a platform that shares information.”

Both comments indirectly refer to a 1996 statute that legally separated “interactive computer service[s]” from the third-party content they display. The larger history of this legislation presents us with an occasion for rethinking our own evolving relationships to media technologies and the information we believe we control.

In 1996, the internet was a very different cyberspace: its dial-up users devoted less than an hour a month to web browsing, Amazon was still a digital bookstore and the top two most visited sites on the internet were AOL and Webcrawler, a search engine that encouraged users to “Search before you surf!” through its novel full-text search options. In February of that year, Congress established a set of laws that would govern this strange new medium. Packaged in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the statute invoked by Facebook and Google in recent months: U.S. Code 230. The code made sense at the time. If, Congress insisted, the internet “offer[s] a forum for a true diversity of political discourse,” then such websites were instrumental to preserving this diversity. Indeed, they reasoned, “these services offer users a great degree of control over the information that they receive” and promised “even greater control in the future as technology develops.”

Has this prediction — as bold as any in science fiction — come true? Websites can now confidently predict what stories we will like, what products we will buy and what answers we want to receive from our questions. We therefore have, in a sense, a great deal of control over the information we receive. However, this increased agency is clearly not ours alone: We now share it with technologies that not only present but also increasingly curate the content we consume. Moreover, because this curation depends upon our previous web behaviors, social media tend to reinforce rather than test our existing opinions and prejudices. This tendency can arrest our development and, as the exaggerated title of Shteyngart’s novel suggests, limit our ability to critically evaluate our world and its many challenges. To avoid its super sad conclusion, we should take steps now to change how we encounter and engage with the information technologies that surround — and increasingly create — us.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Back to Basics

Terra - Wed, 01/31/2018 - 3:45pm

By Cynthia Sagers, Vice President for Research

There is a sweet spot for science, those examples of discoveries inspired by the need to solve practical problems. In human health, agriculture, technology and other fields, researchers have gone back to basics to relieve suffering and advance human well-being. Donald Stokes described these endeavors in his book, Pasteur’s Quadrant.

Examples of such work abound at Oregon State. Crops from wheat and potatoes to hazelnuts, blueberries and grass seed power the state’s exports and provide a lifeline for rural communities. Cross-laminated timber panels — first made in the United States for building purposes at the D.R. Johnson Lumber Company in Riddle — stem from a partnership between the firm and OSU.

Kaichang Li

Last fall, professor Kaichang Li received a national award at the Library of Congress for creating a widely used soy-based adhesive for the plywood industry. The Golden Goose Award originated with a congressman from Tennessee and counts Oregon Representative Suzanne Bonamici among its supporters.

Also last fall, Fortune magazine named 1984 OSU graduate Jen-Hsun Huang its 2017 Businessperson of the Year. The CEO of Nvidia led the development of the company’s powerful computer chips for video processing purposes. Nvidia has turned its attention to the artificial intelligence industry, supporting the growth of robotics, self-driving vehicles and other autonomous systems. The company has an estimated market value of $125 billion.

More than 150 years ago, the politicians who created the land grant university system understood the power of research that connects curiosity and invention to social problems. Higher education at that time was generally reserved for the elite. Land grant schools were created to empower people from modest backgrounds with broad-based training in the agricultural, mechanical and liberal arts as well as the military sciences. The idea has paid off in spades.

Co-founder Rich Carter, left, and Rajinikanth Lingampally, senior scientist with Valliscor, LLC

For proof, look no further than the track record of the Oregon State University Advantage program: 70 companies launched, 107 jobs created, $4.6 million in revenues and another $2.3 million in equity investment. Among the companies formed are Beet (solar cells), Inpria (semiconductors), Valliscor (chemical manufacturing) and eChemion (batteries). They may not be household names, but they employ our neighbors and connect Oregon with what economists call the “traded sector,” businesses that generate products for an international marketplace.

If you look under the hood of this economic engine, you’ll discover what makes it run: curiosity, creative inquiry, the courage to follow clues wherever they lead and the ability to translate discoveries into solutions for real problems. Human ingenuity is a powerful force, but it needs careful tending and support.

Louis Pasteur’s discoveries in microbiology saved millions of lives. He leveraged fundamental knowledge to find cures for rabies and other diseases. Likewise, by delving into the chemical structure of soy proteins, Kaichang Li created a nontoxic adhesive as tough as the threads that anchor mussels to wet rocks in a pounding surf.

“To know how to wonder and question is the first step of the mind toward discovery,” said Pasteur. Solving daunting problems — climate change, species extinction, infectious disease, food security — requires no less than a commitment to impact in the light of basic science.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Eugene | Happy Hour for MPH and PhD Public Health Alumni

Health & Wellness Events - Wed, 01/31/2018 - 2:35pm
Wednesday, January 31, 2018 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Want to meet other MPH or public health PhD graduates in the Eugene area? Come have a drink on us as we gather for a casual happy hour.

Appetizers provided. One free drink to anyone who registers in advance. Details and registration 

CC Master Gardener Board Meeting

Gardening Events - Wed, 01/31/2018 - 6:11am
Thursday, January 4, 2018 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM

Master Gardener Online

Gardening Events - Wed, 01/31/2018 - 6:11am
Monday, January 22, 2018 12:00 PM

The Oregon State University Master Gardener™ Program is an Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service program that educates Oregonians about the art and science of growing and caring for plants.

This program also facilitates the training of a highly educated corp of volunteers. These volunteers extend sustainable gardening information to their communities through education and outreach programs.

Option 1: An Alternate Route to Becoming a Certified Oregon State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer (open to Oregon residents only) Would you like to become a Master Gardener Volunteer? FIRST, contact your local Extension Office to find out what live training they offer - this is the best route to becoming a Master Gardener.If the timing of the live training doesn't work for you, this Instructor-led Online Training is an excellent alternative. 

Option 2: Certificate of Home Horticulture The same training Master Gardeners receive in Option 1, for those who want the training but do not want to become a Master Gardener Volunteer.


You can learn more at  - https://pace.oregonstate.edu/catalog/master-gardener-online   

Creating Your Own Food Business Series

Small Farms Events - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 2:02pm
Monday, January 29, 2018 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM


The aim of this Southern Oregon four-part series is to help you transform your passion for food into an artisan and value-added food business. You will learn critical, useful and time saving information needed to launch a successful food business. Location:  Except for the ‘Kick Off’ onJan. 10, all other classes will be held at OSU Extension, Auditorium (SOREC-569 Hanley Rd. Central Point)

 Read more: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/sorec/recipe-to-market-series 

Part 1,  Jan. 10”Kick Off” at The Café at Medford Food Co-op, 945 S. Riverside Av. Medford
A panel of local business owners who are successfully producing, processing and selling a food product will share their experiences. Taste local artisan foods and network with others. (5:30 to 7:30 pm; FREE)

Part 2, Jan. 29: Launch a Successful Food Business. Location: Southern Oregon Research & Extension Center Auditorium. Instructor: Sarah Masoni, Product and Process Development Manager at the OSU Food Innovation Center. Sarah has a passion for assisting food entrepreneurs. Product Development, Laws, Labeling, Licensing and more. (9:00 am to 3:00 pm; $45- includes lunch)  Register for this class only HERE

Part 3, Feb. 03: Building Your Food Brand. Location: Southern Oregon Research & Extension Center Auditorium 
Discuss the pros and cons of various marketing and distribution channels, branding, logo development and using social media to create a buzz about your product. (1:00 to 3:30 pm; $20)  Register for this class only HERE 

Part 4, Feb. 12: Developing Your Business Plan and Financing.  Location: Southern Oregon Research & Extension Center Auditorium    
The Rogue Community College Small Business Development Center along with other local business advisors will answer important questions, including, 1)What type of business structure is best for me? 2) How should I approach budgeting and recordkeeping?  3) What different types of financing are available to me? Bring your own questions, too. (5:30 to 8 pm; $20Register for this class only HERE 

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Oregon Cheese Guild: Cheese maker education day

Small Farms Events - Sat, 01/27/2018 - 2:34pm
Friday, January 26, 2018 - Saturday, January 27, 2018 (all day event)

What: Cheesemaker Education Day is the west coast’s premier educational conference for the artisan cheese industry.

When: January 26 & 27, 2018

Where: Oregon State University, 115 Wiegand Hall, 3051 SW Campus Way, Corvallis, OR 97331

Who: Creamery owners and cheesemakers from Oregon, the NW, California, further afield; people interested in starting a creamery business, others related to the artisan cheese industry, and students. In addition to the seminars, there will be a small trade show for cheese industry vendors.

Cost: Tickets are $85, and include all seminars, lunch, coffee breaks, and reception.  First ticket $30 for Oregon Cheese Guild members, additional tickets $55.  After January 24 and at the door, tickets are $110. Hands-On Cheesemaking with Marc Bates and Gianaclis Caldwell on Friday, Jan. 27 from 1:00-4:30 is a $50 additional ticket.

Accommodations: Group rate of $129+tax at the Hilton Garden Inn adjacent to campus.  Call 541-752-5000 for reservations. Discounted rates are good until Jan. 7. 

Registration: http://oregoncheeseguild.org/cheesemaker-education-day/

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

The Sturm and Drang of implementing new programs of self-management support in primary care: lessons learned

Health & Wellness Events - Fri, 01/26/2018 - 2:37pm
Friday, January 26, 2018 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

CPHHS research seminar. Lawrence Fisher, PhD, Professor, Family Community Medicine, UCSF School of Medicine

Larry Fisher's primary research activity addresses the social, behavioral, self-management support and care system factors that affect the management of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes among adults through the Behavioral Diabetes Research Group in the Department of Family & Community Medicine at UCSF.

In collaboration with a multidisciplinary group of medical, developmental, and methodological specialists, Dr. Fisher has been studying how to address behavioral change, weight loss, medication adherence, disease management, and particularly depression and distress among type 1 and type 2 adults.

New projects test active interventions in primary care to re-configure panel management, outreach and care delivery to patients with chronic disease. Studies include longitudinal observational studies and active multi-arm interventions around behavioral change and implementation support for primary care system innovations.

Dr. Fisher has become impressed with how stress, depressive affect, disease management, and glycemic control operate together over time. These studies will help us learn more about the causal linkages among mood, disease management and glycemic control over time so that treatment programs, primarily in primary care where most patients with diabetes are seen, can be initiated.

All of this research adopts a social context perspective for understanding how social systems (the patient’s social context and the primary care system) affect chronic disease management.

The college-wide research seminar is Co-Sponsored by:

Co-Sponsored by the Health Promotion and Health Behavior Program

The seminar series provides a forum for faculty in the College of Public Health & Human Sciences and other researchers to present and discuss current research topics 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.

Art & Science!

We also encourage you to attend this Friday’s Music A La Carte to enjoy a Friday with both Art & Science!

This free, lunch-hour concert series has been a tradition at Oregon State University since 1969 and features a variety of OSU music ensembles, faculty and student musicians, as well as regional, national and international guest artists.

The concerts take place in the beautiful Memorial Union Lounge, beginning at 12 pm and lasting for approximately 45 minutes.

Orchard Management Series

Small Farms Events - Thu, 01/25/2018 - 2:39pm
Thursday, January 25, 2018 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Thursday, January 25:  Nutrient Management

6-8 PM at the Linn County Extension office in Tangent, OR (just off Hwy 34)

This class will identify what nutrients are needed by plants, discuss how to assess soil nutrients to better understand what is available to plants, the role of plant tissue sampling in diagnosing nutrient deficiencies in tree fruits, and how to manage soil nutrients to ensure your fruit trees have access to what they need.
Instructor: Jeff Choate, OSU Extension Lane County

Contact Melissa Fery at 541-730-3538 to register for this class.



Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Dry Farming Forum

Small Farms Events - Wed, 01/24/2018 - 2:35pm
Wednesday, January 24, 2018 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM

Amy Garrett, OSU Extension Service
Dr. Alex Stone, OSU Vegetable Cropping Systems Specialist
Panel of farmers

Learn the basics of growing without irrigation for your garden or
farm. Studies in Western Oregon show melons, tomatoes, and
squash grown without irrigation actually surpass the quality and
taste of those grown with irrigation.
Presentations will include information on dry farming practices,
the Dry Farming Collaborative, research on dry farmed winter
squash, and how farmers in Western Oregon are using dry farming
principles in their production.

Register on-line or pay at the door

Register here: http://bit.ly/2B8Otpl

Or at the Extension Office, 1134 SE Douglas Ave. Roseburg OR 97470



Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

February events to showcase OSU’s and Oregon Sea Grant’s marine research and outreach

Breaking Waves - Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:00am


By Tiffany Woods

CORVALLIS, Ore. – As part of its 150th anniversary, Oregon State University will highlight its decades of marine-related research and public outreach Feb. 12-24 with a variety of free tours and talks on campus and along the coast.

The Sea Grant Festival will showcase OSU’s and Oregon Sea Grant’s marine research and outreach. (Photo by Tiffany Woods)

The OSU150 Sea Grant Festival will take place in Corvallis, Portland, Newport, Port Orford, Coos Bay and Astoria. It will include presentations by scientists, tours of the Hatfield Marine Science Center, a taste test of fresh versus frozen fish, and screenings of an OSU-produced documentary about coral reefs. Information about the events is online. Some have limited capacity and require registration.

Some of the talks and tours will be offered by people who either work for Oregon Sea Grant or whose work has been funded by the program, which has been based at OSU since 1971.

“Oregon Sea Grant works on many issues facing our coast, from engaging with the fishing industry to helping communities prepare for hazards,” said the program’s director, Shelby Walker. “We serve as a neutral third party, bringing people together and providing the science and information they need to make informed decisions. We also fund marine-related research at universities throughout Oregon, have more than a dozen Extension specialists along the coast and in Corvallis, and operate the public education wing of the Hatfield Marine Science Center.”

The post February events to showcase OSU’s and Oregon Sea Grant’s marine research and outreach appeared first on Breaking Waves.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Food Science Camp 2013 and Erik Fooladi

Bringing Food Chemistry to Life - Fri, 07/19/2013 - 12:44pm

We participate in the Oregon State U Food Science Camp for middle school students.

Part of the STEM [science technology engineering math] Academies@OSU Camps.

We teach about bread fermentations, yeast converting sugars to CO2 and ethanol, lactobacillus converting sugar to lactic and acetic acids, how the gluten in wheat can form films to trap the gas and  allow the dough to rise. On the way we teach about flour composition, bread ingredients and their chemical functionalities, hydration, the relationships between enzymes and substrates [amylases on starch to produce maltose for the fermentation organisms]; gluten development, the gas laws and CO2′s declining solubility in the aqueous phase during baking which expands the gas bubbles and leads to the oven spring at the beginning of baking; and the effect of pH on Maillard browning using soft pretzels that they get to shape themselves..

All this is illustrated by hands on [in] activities: they experience the hydration and the increasing cohesiveness of the dough as they mix it with their own hands, they see their own hand mixed dough taken through to well-risen bread. They get to experience dough/gluten development in a different context with the pasta extruder, and more and more.

A great way to introduce kids to the relevance of science to their day to day lives: in our case chemistry physics biochemistry and biology in cereal food processing.

We were also fortunate to have Erik Fooladi from Volda University College in Norway to observe the fun: http://www.fooducation.org/

If you have not read his blog and you like what we do here: you should!


endless pasta


Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Good Cheese, Bad Cheese

Bringing Food Chemistry to Life - Wed, 07/10/2013 - 12:25pm

pH, colloidal calcium phosphate, aging, proteolysis, emulsification or its loss and their interactions lead to optimum melting qualities for cheeses. A module in this year’s food systems chemistry class.

This module was informed by this beautiful article “The beauty of milk at high magnification“ by Miloslav Kalab, which is available on the Royal Microscopical Society website.


Of course accompanied by real sourdough wholegrain bread baked in out own research bakery.

Inspired by…

“The Science of a Grilled Cheese Sandwich.”

by: Jennifer Kimmel

in: The Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science of Food and Cooking

Edited by Cesar Vega, Job Ubbink, and Erik van der Linden


Categories: OSU Extension Blogs