Category Archives: Uncategorized

History repeated…but more interesting

Hiking Colca Canyon in Peru

Following a devastating period of violence during Pablo Escobar’s reign, Colombia has become one of the safest countries in South America. In rural Alaska, “mammoth hunters” seek out tusks make jewellery out of mammoth ivory. Opal Whiteley, the diarist and naturalist from the 1920s, became famous for allegedly fabricating much of her writing. The pre-code movies of the early 1930s included some pro-fascist films. Film preservationists hope to ensure the survival of some of the most rare films. While these topics may be familiar to history buffs, they remain unknown to the average magazine reader. Victoria Drexel hopes to tell, or retell, these stories in a way that will grab the attention of the airport traveler looking for some entertainment at 30,000 feet.

Growing up, Victoria’s mother taught her the importance of research and knowledge from a young age. She and her brother memorized flashcards that their mom made of historically important people, places, and events. During her high school and college years, Victoria developed a love for old movies. She started her college days at Florida State University as a film major with aspirations of becoming a screenwriter. She left with a bachelor’s degree in english with plans to travel. After two years in Spain, Portugal, and South Korea, Victoria came to Oregon State’s Master’s of fine arts program to focus on her writing.

Salmon fishing in the Chukchi Sea in NW Alaska

The art of long form magazine articles, or any writing for that matter, involves much more intricacy than many readers realize. The research process must be done properly to effectively utilize the available sources of information. Sentence structure must be practiced and refined to balance the objective details with exciting storytelling. Victoria has spent two years honing these skills and she is now combining them with her love of old movies and world travel. The result is history retold without the boring textbook dialogue, a change we can all appreciate.

Next time you’re in the airport, looking for something to read on that plane ride, keep an eye out for a magazine story by Victoria Drexel. I bet it’ll shine some light on a topic you never knew you’d love. And tune in this Sunday, March 12th at 7pm PST to hear more about Victoria’s writing.

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.

Happy New Year 2017!

Happy New Year from all of us at Inspiration Dissemination! It’s been a great year with fantastic guests on our program. We’ll be back on the air January 15th with Joe Donovan, who’s working on his MFA in Creative Writing! Stay tuned and stay inspired!

Word butt describing guest research in 2016

A word cloud of research descriptions from our guests in 2016

Mosquito soup in the Brazilian rainforest

Fieldwork in the Brazilian Amazonia meant continuously trying to outsmart their savviest opponents…ants!

Fieldwork in the Brazilian Amazonia meant continuously trying to outsmart their savviest opponents…ants!

Deforestation in Brazil due to cultivation of monoculture crops, such as soybean, has profoundly impacted wildlife populations. In the lab of Taal Levi in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, wildlife biologist Aimee Massey has adopted a quantitative approach to studying this impact. During her first and second year of graduate school, Aimee traveled to Brazil for fieldwork and data collection, collaborating with researchers from Brazil and the UK. During this trip, she collected 70,000 biting flies, including mosquitoes and sandflies, by engineering 200 fly traps constructed from 2-liter soda bottles, netting, and rotting beef. Aimee installed biting traps throughout 40 individual forest patches, which are regions delineated by their physical characteristics, ranging approximately in size from the OSU campus to the state of Rhode Island.

Who knew fieldwork could be such a balancing act?!…especially when trying to avoid poisonous insects and thorns. Let’s hope the next branch Aimee reaches for is not of the slithering snake kind!

Who knew fieldwork could be such a balancing act?!…especially when trying to avoid poisonous insects and thorns. Let’s hope the next branch Aimee reaches for is not of the slithering snake kind!

Subsequent DNA analysis on biting flies provides a relatively unbiased source of wildlife tracking, since mosquitoes serve as a repository of DNA for the wildlife they have feasted upon. DNA analysis also provides information regarding diseases that may be present in a particular patch, based on the bacterial and viral profile. For example, sandflies are carriers of protozoa such as leishmania, which cause the disease leishmaniasis. To analyze DNA, Aimee uses bioinformatics and metabarcoding, which is a technique for assessing biodiversity from an environmental sample containing DNA. Different species of animals possess characteristic DNA sequences that can be compared to a known sequence in an online database. By elucidating the source of the DNA, it is possible to determine the type of wildlife that predominates in a specific patch, and whether that animal may be found preferentially in patches featuring deforestation or pristine, primary rain forest.

Learning about human/wildlife interactions while drinking tea with camel’s milk in Laikipia, Kenya.

Learning about human/wildlife interactions while drinking tea with camel’s milk in Laikipia, Kenya.

Aimee completed her undergraduate studies at University of Maine, where she quickly discovered she wanted to study biology and chemistry in greater depth. She planned to attend med school, and was even accepted to a school in her junior year; however, an introductory fieldwork course in Panama spent exploring, doing fieldwork, and trekking made a deep impression on her, so she decided to apply to graduate school instead. Aimee completed a Masters degree in environmental studies at the University of Michigan, during which time she spent 4 months at the Mpala Research Centre in the middle of the Kenyan plateau, just north of the Masai Mara. Following completion of her Masters degree, Aimee spent a year as a research assistant at the University of New Hampshire working with small mammals. Before beginning her PhD studies at OSU, Aimee spent two months in Haines, Alaska doing fieldwork with her future PI, Taal Levi. After she finishes her PhD, Aimee plans to focus on conservation work in New England where she is originally from.

Having fun after fieldwork; Aimee’s eulachon fish catch of the day in Haines, Alaska. One is better than none!

Having fun after fieldwork; Aimee’s eulachon fish catch of the day in Haines, Alaska. One is better than none!

Tune in on October 23rd, 2016 at 7PM on the radio at 88.7FM KBVR, or stream live, to hear more about Aimee’s adventures in Brazil, and why her graduate work is shaping our understanding of how deforestation impacts biodiversity.

 

Safety is No Accident

It is no accident that traffic signs are painted with reflective paint to increase visibility at night. It is no accident that some pedestrian crossings in Corvallis are equipped with lighted signals that make noise. And, it is no accident that colored bike lanes are being introduced in Portland to increase driver awareness of cyclists.

Masoud presenting at Cookies and Clubs event as the Vice President of OSU ITE student chapter, Corvallis, Sept. 2016.

Masoud presenting at Cookies and Clubs event as the Vice President of OSU ITE student chapter, Corvallis, Sept. 2016.

But, accidents happen. The city of Portland anticipates that 25% of all daily trips will be accomplished via bicycle by the year 2030, and as bicycle transportation grows in popularity nationally, bicycle fatalities are also on the rise. Recently, the Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium (PacTrans) teamed up with a group of researchers from Oregon State University to examine the interaction between cyclists and truck motorists in downtown areas. Cyclists are very vulnerable to trucks entering the bicycle exclusive lane, and truck drivers have large blind spots and great inertia. What does a bicyclist do when a truck is in the bike lane? How does a bicyclist react to different configurations of traffic control devices, why do bicycle-truck accidents happen, and what should be done to reduce bicycle fatalities? These are the questions being investigated by PhD student, Masoud Ghodrat Abadi, with the Hurwitz Research Program.

Masoud presenting his research on traffic signal control at Engineering Graduate Research Expo, Portland, Mar. 2016.

Masoud presenting his research on traffic signal control at Engineering Graduate Research Expo, Portland, Mar. 2016.

Did you know Oregon State University has a cycling and driving simulation lab? We do, and we are one of six in the world! In the lab, a cyclist mounts a stationary bike, dons a pair of goggles that track eye movement, and pedals the bike in front of a screen that provides a 180 degree field of vision. The screen shows a virtual world where the cyclist encounters hazards, and their reactions are monitored. For automobile drivers, the experience is the same except of course the driver sits in a car that tilts as they navigate through the virtual reality. The whole time, Masoud is collecting data, and analyzing the interaction between drivers and cyclists.

Masoud presenting his research at PacTrans PhD Student Research Symposium, Seattle, Aug. 2016.

Masoud presenting his research at PacTrans PhD Student Research Symposium, Seattle, Aug. 2016.

Although the literal definition of Transportation Engineering is, “the application of technology and scientific principles to the planning, functional design, operation and management of facilities for any mode of transportation in order to provide for the safe, efficient, rapid, comfortable, convenient, economical, and environmentally compatible movement of people and goods.” It is simply the science of making transportation safe and saving lives. We humans need flashing lights, clear signs, and noises to help us avoid accidents. We are not perfect. For Masoud, this intersection between the physics of traffic and human psychology is gripping. Growing up, Masoud always had a talent for math and physics. It was no surprise that he would eventually pursue Engineering. Later when he was earning his Master’s in Transportation Engineering, he found that his field combined his research interests and his fascination with human behavior. This fascination is also influenced and satisfied by his love for teaching. Masoud is constantly learning about effective teaching and how to improve student performance. Masoud comes from a family full of teachers and a nourishing atmosphere at home. For this reason, he decided to pursue a PhD in Transportation Engineering because he wants to become a university professor and “teach for life,” which is rather appropriate considering the research he is pursuing could saves lives.

Lastly, Masoud would tell you to wear a helmet and stop listing to music while you bike. Everyone can learn to be safe.

Please tune into 88.7 FM KBVR Corvallis this Sunday at 7 pm to hear more from Masoud Ghodrat Abadi. You can also stream the show live.

Religion and Spirituality at Work

Most adults spend the majority of their time at the workplace and organizing their lives through or around their occupations. While work is often portrayed as not personal or political, social science research continues to highlight how gender, race, and sexuality play an important role in organizing work and occupations. Recently, scholars are beginning to demonstrate that like gender, race, and sexuality, religion and spirituality are also deeply rooted in occupations and their organizations, the identities of workers, and the interactional dynamics at work. This week we ask, how does religion and spirituality shape work, and vice versa, and what do identities (gender, race, and sexuality) and inequalities have to do with it?

andres-lopez

Our guest this week, Andres Lazaro Lopez PhD student in Applied Anthropology, is interested in the interplay between religion/spirituality and intersecting identities (gender, race, class, and sexuality) at and around work, especially for queer professionals. Andres’ focus is on Lived Religion, which centers on people’s choices about their relationship with religious practices, the spiritual language and communities that help filter the meaning of the religions they engage with, and the actual daily uses that result from both. How do people bring religion to work? How do individuals and groups make spiritual meaning out of their work and workplaces? What makes a location, activity, or object sacred? This is based on the idea that religion and spirituality is not contained within or limited to activities within a church or its organizations.

Growing up with two older masculine heterosexual brothers, Andres learned about code switching at an early age – how to use language and behavior differently for varying groups and audiences. As a young person making sense of his queerness, the practice of code switching taught him how masculinity and sexuality can shape interactions. His background led to his Bachelor’s in Sociology from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. His senior thesis was an empirical analysis of how college-aged men felt restricted by their masculinity.

After a short break from academia, Andres earned a Master’s degree in sociology from the University of Missouri – Kansas City. This is when the topics of religion and masculinity became intertwined for Andres; he studied the largest men’s ministry organization in the U.S., asking why men would join an all-men’s religious ministry and what motivated them to be regular participants.

Andres’ life has certainly shaped his career path. Now in the Oregon State program of Applied Anthropology, Andres is truly forging his own path in the field by approaching the intersection between identities, culture, and inequalities, and how they affect the performance of gay men in and around professional work. Tune in Sunday September, 11 at 7 pm to hear more or stream the show live.

Can You Hear Me Now?

A mutation in the otoferlin gene causes inherited hearing impairment. The otoferlin gene codes for the massive otoferlin protein, which is in the part of the inner ear called the cochlea. Otoferlin is responsible encoding the sound and proposed to act as a calcium sensor for neurotransmission in inner hair cells of the cochlea. Murugesh Padmanarayana, PhD student in Biochemistry and Biophysics here at OSU, has been working on functional characterization of this protein in order to understand how it works and what it does to encode sound faithfully.

A photo of Murugesh in the lab.

A photo of Murugesh in the lab.

Why is it important to know the function of a protein and the functions of all of its parts? Different parts of proteins perform different tasks, and otoferlin’s most important parts are called C2 domains that bind calcium, lipids and other proteins. If there is a mutation in the otoferlin gene that affects the C2 domains, it abolishes neurotransmitter release and no sound will be detected. Murugesh has discovered that it is possible that only two functioning C2 domains are enough to rescue hearing. This is ground breaking because if only two parts are really necessary for hearing than proteins that look and act like otoferlin but are smaller may be able to restore hearing function to a person with inherited hearing impairment. Otoferlin at its complete size with six C2 domains is far too big to be administered through gene therapy. Murugesh hopes that his research may lead to further development of this protein as a potential treatment for inherited hearing impairment.

Murugesh came from a small village called Bagoor in India. There he is one of the few people to have attempted to or succeeded at obtaining a graduate degree, but Murugesh was a good student and he pushed himself to go farther. He graduated with a bachelor’s in Pharmacy from Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences in India. After college, Murugesh worked at a pharmaceutical company for two years where he decided to pursue a career in medicinal chemistry. Murugesh left India and earned a master’s in Drug Design and Biomedical Science from Edinburgh Napier University in the United Kingdom where he was first involved in research. After working for two years in the protein science department of Agilent Technologies, he decided he wanted to return to graduate school for a PhD.

In his spare time Murugesh loves three antidepressants: nature, reading, and biking.

In his spare time Murugesh loves three antidepressants: nature, reading, and biking.

Murugesh contacted professors from 15 schools, based on their positive reply he applied to 7 schools, and we are fortunate that he chose Oregon State University and the Biochemistry and Biophysics Department where he works with Dr. Colin Johnson. Murugesh will continue working in protein biochemistry or protein engineering after his time here at OSU.

We are so thrilled to have Murugesh on the show this weekend, and we are excited to talk to him about his research with protein otoferlin. Be sure to listen to KBVR Corvallis 88.7 FM at 7 pm on Sunday, August 21 to hear from Murugesh, or stream the show live.

Hungry, Hungry Microbes!

Today ocean acidification is one of the most significant threats to marine biodiversity in recorded human history. Caused primarily by excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the decreasing pH of the world’s oceans is projected to reach a level at which a majority of coral reefs will die off by 2050. This would have global impacts on marine life; when it comes to maintaining total worldwide biodiversity, coral reefs are the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on the planet.

Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that ocean acidification might proceed at levels even faster than those predicted. Large resevoirs methane hydrates locked away in deep sea ice deposits under the ocean floor appear to be melting and releasing methane into the ocean and surrounding sediments due to the increasing temperature of the world’s oceans. If this process accelerates as waters continue to warm, then the gas escaping into the ocean and air might accelerate ocean acidification and other aspects of global climate change. That is, unless something– or someone– can stop it.

The area of the seafloor Scott studies lies several hundred to a few thousand meters below the surface–much too deep (and cold!) to dive down. Scott gets on a ship and works with a team of experienced technicians who use a crane to lift a device called a gravity corer off the ship deck and into the water, lowering it until it reaches the bottom, capturing and retrieving sediment.

The area of the seafloor Scott studies lies several hundred to a few thousand meters below the surface–much too deep (and cold!) to dive down. Scott gets on a ship and works with a team of experienced technicians who use a crane to lift a device called a gravity corer off the ship deck and into the water, lowering it until it reaches the bottom, capturing and retrieving sediment.

This is where methanotrophs and Scott Klasek come in. A 3rd year PhD student in Microbiology at Oregon State University, Scott works with his advisor in CEOAS Rick Colwell and with Marta Torres to study the single celled creatures that live in the deep sea floor and consume excess methane. Because of their importance in the carbon cycle, and their potential value in mitigating the negative effects of deep sea methane hydrate melting, these methanotrophs have become a valuable subject of study in the fight to manage the changes in our environment occurring that have been associated with anthropogenic climate change.

 

Here Scott is opening a pressure reactor to sample the sediment inside. Sediment cores retrieved form the ocean floor can be used for microbial DNA extraction and other geochemical measurements. Scott places sediment samples in these reactors and incubates them at the pressure and temperature they were collected at, adding different amounts of methane to them to see how the microbial communities and methane consumption change over weeks and months.

Here Scott is opening a pressure reactor to sample the sediment inside. Sediment cores retrieved form the ocean floor can be used for microbial DNA extraction and other geochemical measurements. Scott places sediment samples in these reactors and incubates them at the pressure and temperature they were collected at, adding different amounts of methane to them to see how the microbial communities and methane consumption change over weeks and months.

Most people don’t wake up one morning as a kid and say to themselves, “You know what I want to be when I grow up? Someone who studies methanotrophs and the threat of warming arctic waters.” Scott Klasek is no exception, in fact, he went into his undergraduate career at University of Wisconsin, Madison expecting to pursue an academic career path in pre med. To learn all about Scott’s research, and the twists and turns that led him to it, tune in this Sunday, April 10th, at 7pm to 88.7 KBVR FM or stream the show live!

 

 

No show on February 21st

We will not have a show on February 21st, 2016 due to a broadcast of a Women’s Basketball game.

Tune in on February 28th, 2016 to hear a whale of a tale from Fisheries and Wildlife Student, Samara Haver.

No Show This Week

We will not have a show on January 17th, 2016 due to the broadcast of OSU Women’s basketball game. Tune in on January 24th as we interview History of Science Ph. D. student, Edwin Wollert.