Monthly Archives: January 2017

Diving for Discovery

Jon and others looking at the way that light passes through an obsidian artifact

Jon Krier was six-years-old when he found his first skull. He was on a walk with his mother in Wales, Alaska where his father worked as a surveyor. “She immediately told me to put it down,” he said. But he couldn’t shake his fascination: Where did the skull come from? Why did it have so many holes? Years later, after interviewing an elder, he learned that the area was the site of an ancient battle between the Siberian Yupik and Iñupiat tribes. Jon’s curiosity into humanity’s past grew throughout his childhood as he wandered the plains of Alaska, conducted experiments with the science kit that he toted around, and dissected animals he found.

After a detour in the security field in his twenties, Jon returned to college to study his passion, archaeology. He’s currently a Master of Arts candidate in Applied Anthropology; his primary research focus lies in helping locate former settlements along the Oregon coast and the Bering Sea. Under the direction of his advisor, ecological anthropologist Drew Gerkey and archaeologist Loren Davis, Jon uses geographic information systems to recreate ice age landscapes as far back as 20,000 years. The goal of this project is to predict the location of underwater archaeological sites off of the Oregon coast, as well as his childhood home along the Bering Sea.

Jon volunteering at the 2014 Connley Caves Field School, where he’s been volunteering for the last three years.

These predictive models are a potentially important key in locating possible underwater sites. Coastlines have shifted over the last 20,000 years, making it difficult to find and excavate former coastal settlements. If located, these sites can preserve important artifacts of the lives of our coastal predecessors.

Jon is also invested in employing native historical and cultural knowledge in his research. For a recent project, “20,000 Year of Isostatically Adjusted Paleoshorelines for Northern Oregon: the Tillamook Peninsula,” Jon worked with Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde to incorporate traditional knowledge into his research. The Tribes’ input included identifying place names and culturally important locations into the models. This helped researchers understand the cultural, geographic and natural resources of the area.

Jon inspects an artifact he found on a survey.

To learn more about Jon’s research and his journey to graduate school, tune in to hear our conversation on Sunday, January 29th at 7:00 pm on 88.7 FM KBVR Corvallis or listen live online.

Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds

Panorama of the whitebark pine seedling at the Dorena Genetic Resource Center (USFS)

Did you know that whitebark pine is the highest elevation tree here in the Pacific Northwest? If you have driven the Rim Road of Crater Lake National Park, you may have noticed a huge gnarly tree lovingly known by few as the “Grandmother” whitebark pine. These trees withstand harsh winds and cold temperatures, giving them a krummholz or “crooked wood” appearance. Some grow nearly horizontal.

Zolton’s favorite whitebark pine at the rim of Crater Lake

As one of the few tree species that grow at high elevations, whitebark pine acts as an ecosystem foundation species, making it possible for other plants, fungi, and animals to utilize higher elevation environments. Growing together, a population of whitebark pines form ecological islands and promote biodiversity in subalpine areas. For example, the Clark’s Nutcracker and whitebark pine have been coevolving for eons. The Clark’s Nutcracker is the only bird that can break open the pine cones of whitebark pine. While the bird eats some of the seeds, it also cashes them and can disperse the seeds many miles away. Other species such as rodents and bears eat the seeds as well.

Much more research is needed to fully understand the ecological importance of whitebark pine in its characteristic ecosystem. However, recently whitebark pine research is focused on another interaction, that of whitebark pine with an invasive plant pathogen, white pine blister rust. Since the 1900s, this pathogen has dramatically reduced populations of whitebark pine and other 5-needle pines of North America. This means that whitebark pine populations and the biodiversity islands it forms at high elevations are in trouble.

Zolton with his experimental seedlings at Dorena.

Fortunately, some populations show natural resistance to the pathogen, and our guest, Zolton Bair from the department of Botany and Plant Pathology, is comparing the transcriptomes, the collection of genes expressed as RNA, of resistant and susceptible trees to understand tree defense against white pine blister rust. Be on the lookout for his dissertation defense this year!

As a teenager, Zolton loved collecting and identifying mushrooms. Through a class called magical mushrooms, mischievous molds he realized that fungi are very important to humans as food, medicine, and can be problematic for farmers. He became interested in plant pathology after conducting undergraduate research in a mycology lab that focused on the spread of fungal spores between agricultural fields.

Experimental plot: Keep off!

You do not want to miss this week’s episode of Inspiration Dissemination with our guest Zolton Bair. Tune into KBVR Corvallis 88.7 FM this Sunday January, 22 at 7 pm to hear about Zolton’s journey from barefoot mushroom hunting in Virginia to studying plant pathology here at Oregon State, and we promise you won’t be disappointed to learn more about the awesome tree story of whitebark pine.

Not a local listener? Follow this link to stream the show live.

Why do we care? An examination of pop culture icons.

Celebrities are the center of modern pop culture in the U.S. and around the world. We look to these people for clues about what to wear, what music to listen to, where to spend our money, and even what to believe. These icons have become larger than life; their influence on the world around them stretches beyond their daily interactions or even the time frame in which they lived. What is it that captivates us about these characters and what is it like to live a life in the spotlight? img_3356Joe Donovan, a student in the creative writing program here at Oregon State University, is interested in the inflated influence of pop culture icons on society.

From an early age Joe has been an active writer. He recounts journaling frequently as a young student in middle and high school. During his college years, at Willamette University, Joe was influenced by a fantastic english professor who helped him to refine his craft. Joe came to Oregon State University to further perfect his writing style and he has found plenty of inspiration under the tutelage of his advisor, Elena Passarello.

Joe’s work today focuses on three icons in pop culture; Prince, an egyptian puppet named Abla Fahita, and Flo the Progressive insurance lady. His writing on Prince plans to examine the early life of Prince, specifically his birth in 1958 during the peak of Sputnik hysteria. Many people may not have heard of Abla Fahita before, but this puppet’s influence grew great enough that the Egyptian government is investigating its encouragement of terrorist attacks. Joe hopes to shed some light on how a satirical puppet can shape international policy. The third essay Joe is working on examines the rise of Flo the Progressive insurance lady. How did a failed actress become one of the most recognizable characters in current pop culture? After ten years on the air, how does actress Stephanie Courtney separate real life and Flo life? All of these characters represent simple characters who have had a surprising influence on the world, and Joe hopes to share some thoughts on how they rose to fame.

Keep an eye out for Joe’s stories in the future, I guarantee they’ll be worth the read. Also, tune in on Sunday at 7pm (PST) on 88.7 KBVR to hear Joe’s take on these Icons of pop culture.