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Facing Cascadia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Coral Bleaching Goes Viral

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

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

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

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

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Microbeads Pose Pollution Threat

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

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

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

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

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Difficult Choices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

OSU Opens Port Orford Field Station

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

A Research Ship for the 21st Century

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Acidification Likely to Intensify

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

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

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

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

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Acidic Seawater Threatens Shellfish

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

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

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Terra + Spring 2016

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

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

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

Exclusive video
Aerial drone may show blue whale calf nursing.

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

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

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

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

  Pulled from the Headlines

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

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

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

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

Visit the Terra Website

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

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

New Research Enterprises

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

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

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

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

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

Out of the Mud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Food Science Camp 2013 and Erik Fooladi

Bringing Food Chemistry to Life - Fri, 07/19/2013 - 1:44pm

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 - 1:25pm

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

February 2011- Nutrition Education Volunteers taking “vacation”

Family Food Educators of Central Oregon - Tue, 02/01/2011 - 9:24am

I’m back from maternity leave and getting resettled into some new responsibilities.  We had a staff member leave us, so Glenda and I are having to pick up the work load until we find someone new, or our responsibilites change.  Being a new mom is lots of work too, so I’ve gone part time (24 hours aweek) but am still trying to get everything done… that being said, we’ve decided to put our nutrition education volunteering on hold, until I have a managable workload.

We look forward to being able to start things back up in the summer or fall of 2011.  Thanks so much and since a few of you have been asking, here’s a photo of our boy.  He is 5 months old today!

Bundled out in the cold!

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs