Many OSU Extension programs expand community capacity to help address a critical local or statewide need. A prime example of this is the Seed to Supper program, a partnership between OSU Extension and the Oregon Food Bank.
The poverty rate in Oregon – 16.2% – remains above the national average and more than 600,000 Oregonians lived below the poverty line, an official definition that some believe is outdated and underestimates what it takes to truly make ends meet. Personally, I can’t imagine a family of four making ends meet with a household income of $24,230. According to a 2015 Oregon Center for Public Policy fact sheet, poverty is higher than in the 2007–2009 Great Recession. Children and communities of color are more likely to live in poverty.
The goal of Seed to Supper is increased food security of low-income audiences by providing training in beginning vegetable gardening. In other words, helping people learn to grow their own food to stretch limited budgets and increase access to healthy, low-cost foods.
Seed to Supper is a series of five or six free vegetable gardening classes offered in English and Spanish and taught by Extension-trained Master Gardeners or those with a strong horticultural background. The number of people attending Seed to Supper classes is well on its way to reaching 1,000. Course topics include garden site and soil development, garden planning, planting, garden care, harvesting, and container gardening. Participants learn where to get free and reduced-cost soil, compost, seeds, starts, trellis materials, mulch, tools, garden space and OSU Extension gardening publications.
Seed to Supper classes must be offered free of charge to all participants and program guidelines indicate classes should be hosted by community-based agencies that serve primarily a low-income audience.
Started in Linn and Benton counties, the program has expanded around the state and most recently was adopted by Yamhill County. Survey data from the first cohort indicates that 92% reported a reduction in their food bill and an 80% increase in consumption of vegetables. Having developed a garden in a 12-by-12-foot community garden plot, I know how empowering it is – accompanied by a great sense of satisfaction – to create a meal from the fruits (so to speak) of my labor.
“I absolutely loved this class! It is such an amazing resource . . . It gave me confidence and know-how to really give a vegetable garden a go for the first time and I plan to continue it.”
“Almost every meal has had food from our garden.”
“My granddaughter and I now do some gardening together . . .”
“[Seed to Supper] gives people a sense of control over their food sources.”
[Editor’s note: This article appears in the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Confluence, Oregon Sea Grant’s quarterly newsletter.]
A dozen fourth- and fifth-grade Girl Scouts splash in the shade-dappled shallows of Rock Creek, southwest of Corvallis, trying to scoop up tiny aquatic insects with small dip nets and deposit them into plastic dish tubs.
They’re learning about their watershed—and getting a taste of what it’s like to be a scientist—thanks to Oregon Sea Grant’s StreamWebs program. The statewide program provides educators with field equipment, data sheets, lesson plans and training so they can teach students how to collect data about the health of waterways. It also provides an online database where students can enter and analyze the information they gathered.
“What’s special about StreamWebs is it’s a way for teachers to extend students’ field experience into the classroom,” said the program’s coordinator, Renee O’Neill.
Between August 2014 and July 2015, more than 350 students participated in the program and more than 70 educators were trained on how to use the resources that StreamWebs provides, O’Neill said. During that same period, StreamWebs loaned scientific testing equipment 650 times to educators, she said.
The equipment, contained in plastic totes, can be checked out online and picked up from the Oregon Sea Grant (OSG) office in Corvallis or the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. Each tote—called a kit—addresses specific learning objectives. There’s a kit with equipment to measure the temperature, pH, turbidity and dissolved oxygen of water. There’s another with measuring tapes, ropes and soil augers so kids can document the vegetation in a designated space and characterize the soil along riparian areas. Tubs of rubber boots and clipboards can even be checked out. Lesson plans and handouts for recording data are available on the StreamWebs website, as are two new videos produced by OSG that show how to use the kits for studying water quality and macroinvertebrates.
The kit the girls at Rock Creek are using is the one for collecting macroinvertebrates, such as caddisflies, mayflies, crayfish, snails and water striders. The girls are being instructed by Guillermo Giannico, a fish ecology and watershed specialist with OSG Extension and a researcher with Oregon State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. They bring their catch to a card table Giannico has propped among the streambank rocks, and use hand lenses and an identification sheet to name what they’ve caught. “I got a stonefly nymph,” one girl exclaims, pointing at the tiny animal’s distinctive tail appendages—and then: “I got another stonefly! I am the queen of stoneflies!”
Once back at a computer, students can upload their findings onto the StreamWebs website so that they and others—including the public—can analyze the health of various watersheds over time. On the website, an interactive map of the state pinpoints where data have been collected. For example, clicking on the pinpoint for D River shows that students at Taft High School in Lincoln City recorded an average pH of 5.9 on Nov. 18, 2014, and 6.76 on May 23, 2016. Site names are also listed alphabetically from Agate Beach to the Zigzag River. Since the program’s inception, 850 people have created accounts on the website, O’Neill said. Between August 2015 and July 2016, about 120 people contributed data, 503 data sheets were uploaded, and 41 new locations were entered, she said.
“The site makes it more like doing real- life science,” said Emmet Whittaker, a science teacher at Lebanon High School who uses StreamWebs in his classroom. “[Students] see how the data can be used over time [and] how they can be shared with other scientists.”
Written by Kevin Leahy for The Daily Astorian, published on November 16, 2016.
[Editor’s note: The outreach and engagement work of OSU Extension Service takes many forms. In this case it’s taking part in a Clatsop County tour showcasing stream restoration and forest best practices for the 26th annual Clatsop Forestry Economic Development Committee leaders tour. This article appeared in The Daily Astorian and features the efforts of Valerie Grant, a new OSU Extension forestry and natural resources faculty.]
More than 100 attendees braved the elements for the 26th annual Clatsop Forestry Economic Development Committee leaders tour this year, including state Rep. Deborah Boone.
The day started out bright and early with an introduction by committee Chairman Kevin Leahy at the Barbey Maritime Center, reinforcing that this sector continues to be 30 percent of our Clatsop County economy, and is 12 percent of our county employment. Leahy also noted that $23,500,000 was distributed from Oregon Department of Forestry to Clatsop County in 2016 from timber harvests that support schools, law enforcement, Clatsop Community College, roads, and more.
From there the group was transported by bus to the Walooski Fish Stream Enhancement Collaborative Project, where Tom Clark from Lewis & Clark Timber/Greenwood Resources, Brook Stanley from the North Coast Watershed Association, Troy Laws from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Jeff Van Osdol from Big River Construction shared the public/private partnership success that included a fish habitat and stream enhancement project, and invited all the attendees to walk down the stairs and across the wood bridge specifically built for the Leaders Tour for an “up close and personal” walk through the culvert where salmon are swimming through for the first time.
Next, the two full school buses headed to the Clatsop Ridge Logging Operation & Reforestation to hear about the “active harvest operation” project from speakers Mark Gustafson, owner of Gustafson Logging, and Sam Sadler of Lewis & Clark Timber and Greenwood Resources.
A box lunch was paid for by the employer members of the Clatsop Forestry Economic Development Committee and was provided to all attendees. Presentations were given at the Netul Landing, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Interim park Superintendent Marcus Koenen and rogram specialist Carla Cole presented project updates on the park properties on both sides of the Columbia River.
Forestry committee member Valerie Grant, Oregon State University Extension’s new forester, shared her background and priorities within the three-county area that she covers [emphasis added].
Participants were asked to share reflections on this tour and past ones. It was mentioned that the forestry tour was under way Sept. 11, 2001, and the lifelong memory of where you were when 9/11 happened will always be with them.
And Sara Meyer, a longtime tour participant and member of the local American Association of University Women chapter choked up when she said it was so exciting to see so many women in this traditionally male-dominated field.
Column author Kevin Leahy is the executive director of Clatsop Economic Development Resources.
To connect with underserved communities and encourage them to experience the great outdoors, Extension in Linn and Benton counties collaborate with community partners to produce “Get Outdoors Day.” Tune into this month’s video to learn how the event is relevant, fun and friendly to hundreds of kids and the Latino community.
Is there a project you think should be featured in a First Monday video? Reply by posting a comment or emailing email@example.com.
Outreach and engagement work connects the university with communities to find ways to address wicked problems. By their nature, wicked problems are not easily solved. Making progress requires innovative thinking and different ways of looking at an issue. Many perspectives are necessary. Because people learn in different ways, conveying to stakeholders and community the work that needs to be done and the desired outcome in relevant and meaningful ways requires creativity and open minds.
“There is no one approach to solve the urgent problems of today and tomorrow. They demand the inspiration and genius of multiple disciplines and multiple perspectives. Collaboration across the arts and science directly advances [OSU’s] strategic goal to create transformative learning experiences for all Oregonians” (OSU SPARK initiative website).
University Outreach and Engagement is one of six units – along with the Colleges of Science, Education, Liberal Arts, Honors College, and the OSU Library and Press – supporting SPARK, a year-long collaborative initiative to celebrate arts and science. “Through SPARK, OSU hopes to elevate the relationship between the arts and science, their critical interplay with each other, and the rich partnerships and collaborations that make it possible.” Charles Robinson, who has a joint appointment with University Outreach and Engagement, College of Liberal Arts and Graduate School, is leading the SPARK initiative.
An approach to increase success with wicked problems might be “design thinking.” Ask, imagine, design, create, evaluate, refine, and share is the model. Sound familiar? This is art and science at work. Watch this engaging design thinking video (below) created by OSU’s College of Education. Even though the video is focused on helping teachers help students be successful in the classroom, the approach is applicable in many aspects of outreach and engagement work. It is 17 minutes well spent.
Have you used design thinking in your outreach and engagement work? Do you think the design thinking model would work with community problem solving? Share your comments below.
An Outreach and Engagement partnership is being built one step at a time with the League of Oregon Cities (LOC). LOC is a governmental entity formed by an intergovernmental agreement by Oregon’s incorporated cities (a direct quote from the LOC website). Founded in 1925, LOC works with its member cities to help local government better serve the citizens of Oregon. Introduced to LOC by Vince Adams and Lena Etuk through their work on the Rural Communities Explorer, Scott Reed, Lindsey Shirley and Patrick Proden, metro region administrator, continue to deepen the relationship.
The results so far? Sponsorship of the League of Oregon Cities’ 2016 conference and an article in the October 2016 issue of Local Focus, their monthly magazine. The issue focused on how universities – Oregon State University, Portland State University and University of Oregon – are helping Oregon cities. Proden and Maureen Quinn, Extension Family and Community Health Program, attended the late-September conference on behalf of University Outreach and Engagement, both indicating it was well worth their time to attend.
The article, titled “OSU Extension Service: Helping Communities Envision and Create a Better Future,” was collaboratively written with Patrick Proden. It was an exercise in squeezing the substantial, 100-year story of Extension and its impact in Oregon into a mere 1,500 meaningful words (plus a few pictures and a graphic).
By Mark Floyd, News and Research Communications, Oregon State University
Editor’s Note: A lot of fascinating work is being done by Extension faculty. This is one story that might surprise you. Be sure to watch the mesmerizing video! Leigh Torres, Oregon SeaGrant Extension, specializes in the spatial and behavioral ecology of marine megafauna including marine mammals, seabirds and sharks. The following was distributed to news media on October 4, 2016.
A lot of people think what Leigh Torres has done this summer and fall would qualify her for a spot on one of those “World’s Worst Jobs” lists.
After all, the Oregon State University marine ecologist follows gray whales from a small inflatable boat in the rugged Pacific Ocean and waits for them to, well, poop. Then she and her colleagues have about 20-30 seconds to swoop in behind the animal with a fine mesh net and scoop up some of the prized material before it drifts to the ocean floor.
Mind you, gray whales can reach a length of more than 40 feet and weigh more than 30 tons, making the retrieval of their daily constitutional somewhat daunting. Yet Torres, a principal investigator in the university’s Marine Mammal Institute, insists that it really isn’t that bad.
“We’re just looking for a few grams of material and to be honest, it doesn’t even smell that bad,” she said. “Now, collecting a DNA sample from a whale’s blow-hole – that’s a bad job. Their breath is horrendous.”
Being a marine pooper-scooper isn’t some strange fetish for the Oregon State research team. They are conducting a pilot project to determine how gray whales respond to ocean noise – both natural and human – and whether these noises cause physiological stress in the animals. Technology is changing the way the researchers are approaching their study.
“New advances in biotechnology allow us to use the fecal samples to look at a range of things that provide clues to the overall health and stress of the whales,” Torres said. “We can look at their hormone levels and genetically identify individual whales, their sex and whether they are pregnant. And we can analyze their prey and document what they’ve been eating.
“Previously, we would have to do a biopsy to learn some of these things and though they can be done safely, you typically don’t repeat the procedure often because it’s invasive,” she added. “Here, we can follow individual whales over a four-month feeding season and pick up multiple samples that can tell us changes in their health.”
The study is a pilot project funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Acoustics Program to determine the impacts of noise on whale behavior and health. Torres, who works out of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon, focuses on gray whales because they are plentiful and close to shore.
“Many marine mammals are guided by acoustics and use sound to locate food, to navigate, to communicate with one another and to find a mate,” said Torres, a faculty member in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and an ecologist with the Oregon Sea Grant program.
Ten years ago, such a study would not have been possible, Torres acknowledged. In addition to new advances in genetic and hormone analyses, the OSU team uses a drone to fly high above the whales. It not only detects when they defecate, it is giving them unprecedented views of whale behavior.
“We are seeing things through the drone cameras that we have never seen before,” Torres said. “Because of the overhead views, we now know that whales are much more agile in their feeding. We call them ‘bendy’ whales because they make such quick, sharp turns when feeding. These movements just can’t be seen from the deck of a ship.”
The use of small, underwater Go-Pro cameras allows them to observe what the whales are feeding upon below. The researchers can identify zooplankton, benthic invertebrates, and fish in the water column near feeding whales, and estimate abundance – helping them understand what attracts the whales to certain habitats.
Joe Haxel and Sharon Nieukirk are acoustic scientists at the Hatfield center who are assisting with the project. They deploy drifting hydrophones near the whales to record natural and human sounds, help operate the overhead drone camera that monitors the whales’ behavior, and also get in on the fecal analysis.
“Gray whales are exposed to a broad range of small- and medium-sized boat traffic that includes sport fishing and commercial fleets,” Haxel said. “Since they are very much a coastal species, their exposure to anthropogenic noise is pretty high. That said, the nearshore environment is already very noisy with natural sounds including wind and breaking surf, so we’re trying to suss out some of the space and time patterns in noise levels in the range of habitats where the whales are found.”
It will take years for the researchers to learn how ocean noise affects whale behavior and health, but as ocean noises continue increasing – through ship traffic, wave energy projects, sonar use, seismic surveys and storms – the knowledge they gain may be applicable to many whale species, Torres said.
And the key to this baseline study takes a skilled, professional pooper-scooper.
“When a whale defecates, it generates this reddish cloud and the person observing the whale usually screams “POOP!” and we spring into action,” Torres said. “It’s a moment of excitement, action – and also sheer joy. I know that sounds a little weird, but we have less than 30 seconds to get in there and scoop up some of that poop that may provide us with a biological gold mine of information that will help protect whales into the future.
Healthy communities are important to our quality of life. Vince Adams, extension educator and coordinator of the Rural Communities Explorer (RCE), joined Scott for this month’s First Monday video. RCE is a web-based tool that provides demographic and economic indicators about all–rural and urban–communities in Oregon and should be used by Extension and community leaders as a resource to identify areas of community strengths and challenges. Vince announced that a new more intuitive RCE interface will launch at the end of October.
Let us know how you have used RCE in your community work by commenting on the blog.
Congratulations to Marilyn Lesmeister for sharing her thoughts on innovation on the O&E blog. The Innovator’s Dilemma, by bestseller author Clayton Christensen, will be heading her way. Thank you, too, to the others that shared how they focus on innovation. Click here to read all the comments.
Oregon State University’s distance education program has been named the nation’s best online college in terms of value by ValueColleges.com, an organization that provides in-depth analysis and rankings on affordability and quality in higher education.
Oregon State Ecampus ranks first on a list of the Top 50 Best Value Online Colleges for 2017. The rankings assess online bachelor’s programs based on tuition costs, reputability, and return on investment using data from the website Payscale.com.
In its evaluation, the organization noted that Ecampus delivers the most online undergraduate major and minor programs in Oregon, and that OSU is a leader in STEM research and boasts the Carnegie Foundation’s highest research activity classification.
“This ranking speaks to our mission to provide learners with access to a high-quality Oregon State education,” said Ecampus Executive Director Lisa L. Templeton. “The value comes in the form of highly engaging programs that give our students opportunities for career advancement.”
All Ecampus students pay the same tuition rate no matter where they live. Ecampus serves adult learners in all 50 states and more than 40 countries by delivering 21 undergraduate degrees and 27 graduate programs online.
During the 2015-16 academic year, more than 19,000 OSU students took at least one Ecampus class.
Oregon State has developed a reputation as a leader in online education, having been ranked in the top 10 by U.S. News & World Report each of the past two years. In 2014, Ecampus won the Online Learning Consortium’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Development for Online Teaching – one of the industry’s most prestigious awards.
Two days on the road in Central Oregon with more than 50 new OSU faculty confined to a bus can be a daunting prospect. But the team that planned the tour, led by Jeff Sherman, pulled it off with aplomb.
As part of the Engagement Academy of University Outreach and Engagement, a special initiative of the division, the fourth Roads Scholar cohort hit the road before 8 a.m. on September 12, 2016. Faculty new to OSU or new to engagement work from across the university were exposed to the outreach and engagement philosophy of OSU and to the work of Extension in Central Oregon and the Central Oregon Agricultural Research Center (COARC).
At this writing, I am 11-months new to outreach and engagement work and have spent much of that time attempting to internalize and deeply understand what it means to engage communities. As the communication and marketing manager for the Division of University Outreach and Engagement, I spend most of my time trying to tell the story of engagement work, so I was eager listen and learn.
The tour reinforced the fact that outreach and engagement is not a unilateral act. The “expert model” isn’t the way to engage. Rather, the listening and learning part, essential to building trust and relationships, is just as important as the knowledge part of the equation.
At COARC, in addition to learning that the seeds that grow virtually every carrot we eat likely come from Oregon, we heard how central Oregon farmers want better ways to minimize water usage – irrigation changed what can be grown in the region, but with only 11 inches of rain a year, water resources are scarce. COARC is there to test new crops and production methods protecting the farmers and ranchers from risking their incomes and field productivity. That’s a big value to the area; so big, the farmers and ranchers help fund the work of the center.
Heading north to the Warms Springs Indian Reservation, we learned a few – many? – cultural lessons. At the Museum of Warm Springs, we heard from tribal members about the state of education of the tribe’s children, reservation and ceded lands for hunting and gathering of traditional foods, and first nation traditional foods, their importance to ceremonial occasions and threats to availability and access. We even were able to taste the foods (dried bitterroot is surprisingly tasty!). Schooling for K-8 is available on reservation; high school students must travel great distances to attend classes (sadly, graduation rates are below 30 percent). Credit for learning tribal language isn’t available because the Indian elders teaching the courses don’t have the required teaching certification.
In 1855, Joel Palmer, superintendent for the Oregon Territory, received his orders to clear the Indians from the land they had lived on for more than 10,000 years. He did so by negotiating a series of Indian treaties including the one establishing the Warm Springs Reservation. Under the treaty, the Warm Springs and Wasco tribes relinquished approximately ten million acres of land, but reserved the Warm Springs Reservation for their exclusive use. The tribes also kept their rights to harvest fish, game and other foods off the reservation in their usual and accustomed places. Later the Paiutes joined the confederation. Not surprisingly, the way of life of the tribes changed dramatically, and holding onto spiritual and cultural traditions continues to be hard fought. (Source: The Confederated Tribes of Warms Springs)
Hearing the words “we are a conquered people” was sobering. The immediate impulse is to swoop in with solutions, but that isn’t the way of engagement. Extension has worked with the community for years, building the trust necessary to help with nutrition and food safety, rebuild gardening skills for access to fresh fruits and vegetables, manage tribal forests, encourage commercial enterprises, and more.
After a night of luxuriating in a salmon feast, watching young tribal dancers and listening to cultural myths around the wood-burning fire – coyote finds himself in many ticky situations – at Kah-Nee-Ta Resort, we headed to Bend for the opening of the OSU – Cascade Campus.
The final leg of the journey, not counting the beautiful ride back to campus later in the day, included learning about the Upper Deschutes River Coalition (navigating the 4-H high ropes course, or learning about food preservation, gardening and greenhouse, or Juntos were other options). The mission of the coalition is to protect upper Deschutes River communities by restoring and sustaining healthy fire-resistant forests, pure and abundant river flows and wildlife habitat.
OSU Extension, one of many coalition stakeholders, provides access to OSU research, which helps coalition members make decisions about forest management practices, and educates the community about what users are seeing in their managed forest forays. The outreach takes the form of traditional brochures and less traditional beer labels and coasters. Nicole Strong, Extension forester, professor of practice and coalition member, invited other coalition members to share with the Roads Scholars their roles and the importance of the group’s work. It was a proud moment to learn about the crucial and creative role Nicole and OSU play in the coalition.
Last year’s Roads Scholar cohort went to the coast. Where will next year’s tour participants head? Stay tuned…and take advantage of the opportunity!
PS: One of the best parts about being a Roads Scholar this year was the impromptu discussions that took place on the bus. It’s not often one is surround by such interesting people from so many different disciplines, so it was a great pleasure to learn about the outreach and engagement work being done by those on the tour. Another best part was the traditional fry bread and huckleberry jam! Of course the succulent salmon – crusty bits on the outside and buttery on the inside – was wonderful, too.