Author Archives: Kristen Finch

A very Hungry Caterpillar, a very Tenacious Scientist

Tyria jacobaeae (cinnabar moth) caterpillars chowing down on Senecio triangularis at Marys Peak summer 2014

Tyria jacobaeae (cinnabar moth) adult Photographer: Eric Coombs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our guest this week is Madison Rodman who recently finished her Master’s degree in Botany and Plant Pathology. Growing up as the daughter of crime lab scientist and an ecologist in North Dakota, Madison told us that there was not a singular moment when she knew she wanted to do science; she always loved the outdoors. It is no surprise that Madison is a go-getter and a very organized scientist herself, but her science story is less than typical. Madison’s first research experience involved hiking through the jungles of Thailand surveying for tigers! While wildly adventurous, this trip taught Madison that field work is not all rainbows and tiger stripes, but that there are venomous snakes in the jungle and tigers are good at hiding. What drew Madison to this field trip was the opportunity to see the organism in its habitat, but she also realized that all the lovely jungle plants were hiding in plain sight and waiting to be surveyed as well.

Madison Rodman poses with her research organism Senecio triangularis summer 2016

Upon returning to Minneapolis to continue her undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota, Madison focused on Plant Biology and realized that plant-insect interactions were something that interested her. She applied for a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Michigan, and spent the summer investigating the impact of atmospheric CO2 levels on plant chemistry and how changes in leaf defense chemistry affects herbivores. This was the pièce de résistance of a science project combining: whole organism science, plant-insect interactions, and climate change biology. Things were really coming together for Madison, and she knew she wanted to go on to graduate school and continue studying plant-insect interactions.

Manipulative experiment in action near Big Lake summer 2015

 

She did just that, and much much more, at Oregon State. Madison defended her Master’s thesis this winter, through which she studied the risk of a biocontrol agent, the cinnabar moth, on a native plant, Senecio triangularis, or arrow-leaf groundsel. These biocontrol caterpillars, will chomp the European tansy ragwort, an invasive weed, to the ground and look pretty cute doing it, but in some parts of Oregon they have recently switched to feeding on the native arrow-leaf groundsel. The good news: the tansy buffet is in low supply; the bad news: arrow-leaf groundsel is on the menu. How risky is the annual feeding of cinnabar moth caterpillars on arrow-leaf groundsel populations? Can caterpillar feeding have negative effects on the reproduction and survival of arrow-leaf groundsel? Both the arrow-leaf groundsel and the cinnabar moth are here to stay, but this native plant might be in trouble as annual temperatures continue to rise. You’ll have to tune in to hear more about the cinnabar moth and Madison’s field work in the high Cascades and Coast Range of Oregon. We promise it is all rainbows and moths…

Madison in her native habitat near Mount Hood summer 2016

Also at Oregon State, Madison has also been able to practice and boost her teaching skills through the Graduate Certificate in College and University Teaching (GCCUT) program. She has always loved communicating science, from being an undergraduate teaching assistant at U of MN to intern at Wind Cave National Park. Madison hopes to stay involved in teaching and community outreach after grad school when she relocates to Minnesota. We’re so excited to present her perspective on graduate school and share her science story.

Tune in to KBVR Corvallis 88.7FM this Sunday February, 5 at 7 pm PST to hear Madison’s story and learn about plant-insect interactions. You will not want to miss her take on graduate school, biocontrol, and beyond.

Not a local listener? Don’t fret, you can stream this episode live at www.kbvr.com/listen.

Inspiration Dissemination is happy to announce its addition to the KBVR archive as a podcast! Listen to this episode whenever and where ever you have internet access. Link TBA.

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.

Blood Quantum: A Pass-fail Exam With No Questions

“What are you?” is a common question asked in the United States. Few people when asked say, “American,” simply because they might be of European descent. No matter how recently their ancestors migrated to the United States, 200 years ago, 100 years ago, some European Americans would still say, “Italian,” “English”, or “German.” This question of ancestry now becomes a fun conversation about history and ties to peoples an ocean away.

For American Indians this question carries much more meaning, and “What are you?” becomes a loaded question. American Indians have much more, “American,” blood purity than those of us whose families have lived here for a century or two, but instead of simply stating, “American Indian,” they carry identification cards that list their blood quantum for a particular tribe.

The picture belongs to Marty Two Bulls Sr. Our source.

The picture belongs to Marty Two Bulls Sr.
Our source.

Blood Quantum is the practice of quantifying purity of blood as a measure of tribal membership for American Indians. This form of assessment was first used for the Dawes Allotment Act of 1887 which required tribal members to prove that they had one half or more tribal blood purity to be legally recognized as an Indian; the federal standard has since been lowered to one quarter blood quantum. Indigenous people receive benefits of health and education among other things, and blood quantum is a tool for the federal government and for the tribes to decide who can claim these benefits. You may not realize that blood quantum is an ever-diminishing characteristic due to colonization and assimilation. Over time tribes become more and more intra-related and marriage more and more challenging. Thus, the responsibility of the government to native tribal peoples continues to decrease. Ask yourself: Is this by design? In some ways blood quantum protects tribes and the government from supporting people who fraudulently claim American Indian rights, but blood quantum also fractionates communities and can be used as a tool for lateral oppression.

How do you assess your membership to a particular culture? Lineage? Language? Participation in cultural practices? Unfortunately, at present lineage is all that matters for tribal membership. Our guest this week, Max Sage, Masters student in the department of Applied Anthropology, is interested in how American Indians respond to these and other questions about blood quantum. He is investigating their specific knowledge about blood quantum and how blood quantum has shaped their identity and their tribal experience.

For Max, himself a member of the Oneida tribe, these questions have personal significance, and he has been aware of blood quantum since his childhood. “How much native are you?” is a common question. He can precisely answer this, but Max wants to move away from blood quantum. For Max, tribal membership is more than blood, it is support for culture and preservation of culture throughout life. Max, like many American Indians, now face hard choices when it comes to growing their culture. For example, who to love comes with heavy consequences of blood quantum and the membership of his future family in his tribe. Many American Indians across the USA face similar choices: assimilate or isolate. Disenrollment is also occurring across tribes, and blood is called into question before tribal participation.

Max’s research is his life, and his work to illuminate how people identify as American Indian is deeply rooted in his personal experience. He is driven to help grow Indigenous cultures in a meaningful way, and his own ties to his culture motivate his current exploration. For Max, this task doesn’t stop at OSU. Max hopes to continue his work by pursuing a PhD and JD in Native American Policy at the University of Arizona where he will continue to be an ally to all Indigenous peoples.

Tune in to hear our conversation with Max Sage Sunday November, 6 at 7 pm on 88.7 FM KBVR Corvallis or stream the show live.

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?

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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.

We Answer to the Nucleotide Chain Gang

This week on Inspiration Dissemination our featured guest is our very own Zhian Kamvar aka DJ CATGAG the co-host and co-founder of our weekly broadcast. Before his radio and phytopathological fame, Zhian was an eager biologist and a DJ by a different name! All will unfold during this week’s episode, but I will supply some teasers to get the oospore rolling.

Zhian got interested in biology while in high school in California where he wanted to become a mortician…yes we all were very surprised (but not really) to learn this. Like any aspiring mortician, Zhian used the internet to find out how he should focus his studies and achieve his goal. Anatomy and Physiology were high on the list. Zhian was fascinated with many aspects of human biology particularly respiration and circulatory processes that “just happen.” For example, the human heart pump blood throughout the body 80 times per minute with no conscious intention of the individual. That was only the tip of the iceberg and his enthusiasm continued to grow while in his first genetics course in college at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. This is when everything changed for Zhian and he decided to forgo his dream of becoming a mortician and focus on genetics. After a rough start at scaling the learning curve, Zhian aced Advanced Genetics and began an undergraduate research project investigating the that genes are responsible for making cultivars of corn grow and develop differently. A pivotal and proud moment for Zhian was presenting a poster at a national conference; this was only one of the many conferences that would follow.

Zhian seems very normal and boring, but wait!

Zhian poses with a petri dish containing a cultured specimen of the plant destroyer Phytophthora syringae. (Photo Credit: Lindsey Thiessen)

During his time at Truman State University, Zhian stumbled upon and promptly crashed into a gig as a radio DJ for the Truman State College Radio Station-KTRM “The Edge”. Zhian’s shows hosted the metal, vinyl, and classical genres. One of Zhian’s shows was a morning show called “Up Late with a Vampire,” a classical music hour for your morning commute in nowhere Missouri. Thus began our own DJ CATGAG’s life as a radio DJ subjecting us to his diverse musical taste. Zhian is not only a music connoisseur, from the common to the obscure, but also Zhian made and produced some of his own music, OH YES we have samples to play this Sunday! First, Zhian mixed electronic tunes as…wait for it…DJ Poopslice! Then his sound truly took form as Not Jeremy Jones where he explored harsh noise and “poplematic” (problematic pop) music.

Also, worth mentioning that after graduating from Truman State Zhian took a solo trip to Daegu, South Korean where he taught English for 3 years. In South Korea, Zhian did a lot of reading in his free time and decided he really missed participating science and research. He decided it was then time to apply to graduate school.

Zhian demonstrating functionalities of his software package, poppr, to a workshop at the American Phytopathological Society meeting in 2015 (Photo Credit: Sydney Everhart) (From twitter: https://twitter.com/SydneyEverhart/status/627546826246221824)

Zhian demonstrating functionalities of his software package, poppr, to a workshop at the American Phytopathological Society meeting in 2015 (Photo Credit: Sydney Everhart) (From twitter)

Lucky for us, (and I mean that sincerely) he was accepted to Oregon State University Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. Zhian is part of the lab of Nik Grünwald where he studies the population genetics of plant destroyers in the genus Phytophthora, specifically Phytophthora syringae and Phytophthora ramorum (this one is the pathogen responsible for Sudden Oak Death). These organisms are fungi-like and usually reproduce asexually, but they do have sex when conditions are good. His dissertation focuses on diversity of Phytophthora populations. Basically, if a population is very diversified than the effect of the pathogen on the plants involved is going to be harder to manage; whereas a population of clones may be taken out uniformly. In addition to interpreting population genetics, Zhian has been working to develop software tools that will help others to analyze data to study the genetics of other organisms. His R package called poppr allows users to analyze and visualize the distribution of genetic diversity in a population. Zhian does very great work, and we are sad to know that soon he will finish his dissertation and leave the Inspiration Dissemination team.

This is an episode you will not want to miss. Tune in at 7 pm on Sunday, August 14 to KBVR Corvallis 88.7FM or stream the show live.

James and the Giant Beetle Question

A very handsome beetle.

A very handsome beetle. credit: Carabidae of the World

James Pflug, fourth year PhD student, grew up in rural Missouri turning over rocks, catching and collecting insects. Messin’ with bugs is his favorite activity, and his parents encouraged him to pursue this passion as a career. Good thing too, because James is now working at Oregon State University Department of Integrative Biology with advisor David Maddison. In the Maddison Lab, James studies carabid beetles (ground beetles), specifically vivid metallic ground beetles. According to James, this beetle group is composed of the “most handsome” beetles. James is one of many scientists, phylogeneticists, around the world working to sort out the family tree of this group. This is not just a who-is-related-to-who question, but really a how is subgroup A of beetles related to subgroup B, and how do subgroups A and B related to other beetle subgroups?

James spends many days identifying boxes of ground beetles.

James spends many days identifying ground beetles.

How do you figure out how beetles are related to each other? Well, DNA of course! Just as you could have your own genome analyzed to understand your ancestry, James is collecting beetles from around the world, analyzing their genomes, and interpreting their ancestry. Scientists have already developed a variation assay to tell you what percent European, Asian, or Native American you may be, and James is working to develop the same thing for ground beetles! This will be a huge step forward for beetle phylogenetics AND think of all the beetles who will now know where their family originates! Just kidding about the latter, but you get the idea.

James started getting serious about bug study during his time as an undergraduate working in the Enns Entomology Museum at the University of Missouri. Almost as though he was in the right place at the perfect time, a position presented itself in the research lab of the museum’s curator, Robert Sites. Together with Arabidopsis researcher, Chris Pires, Sites was interested in the phylogenetics of biting water bugs, and they needed James to work in the lab. James got hands on experience extracting DNA from insects and performing next-generation genome sequencing and analysis. This experience, in time, was his ticket into the Maddison Lab at OSU where he is currently using next-generation sequencing techniques to understand the evolutionary history of ground beetles.

James performing DNA Isolation in the lab.

James performing DNA Isolation in the lab.

In addition to unpacking and reassembling the genome of ground beetles, James is committed to science communication. James knows that good science communicators are good teachers and they attract people to science and instill excitement for topics that might seem a bit dull on the surface, like beetle family trees. From personal experience, James is a captivating speaker who makes beetle phylogenetics thrilling and aesthetically pleasing. Fuzzy carabid beetles are handsome. Check out James’ blog, Beetlefacts.org, to learn more about this stunning group of beetles. They are truly diverse in habitat, appearance, and diet!

Tune you radio to 88.7 FM KBVR Corvallis this Sunday, May 1 at 7 PM to hear more about James’ research and journey to graduate school. Not from ‘round here? Stream the show live!

Workshop-Around the World

Twenty years in the future, U. S. A.

 Civilization has changed dramatically in the aftermath of a plague. Communication is limited and travel is prohibited for most. Two sisters are separated by thousands of miles, one in San Francisco and one in Pittsburgh. They want desperately to reunite, but traveling across the country is nearly impossible nowadays.

 Brooke, or Book-book as her sister Lane calls her, just wants to go, anywhere, a step forward is a step closer to Lane. She can’t get a travel permit, what will she do? She boards a train west, an unauthorized passenger on a train going…somewhere. Conditions on the train are inhospitable to say the least, but what did she expect. She arrives at her destination, a labor camp. This train was not restricting passengers, and now Book-book is a prisoner. Forward yes, but now Brooke is trapped and no closer to reaching Lane.

 Conditions are worsening in San Francisco. People are desperate to the point of violence. Lane is not alone; not alone like Book-book. Now she has a choice. Does she follow her partner and flee the city for their own safety? How will Book-book find her?

The above was inspired by conversation with Mackenzie Smith about her novel-in-process.

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A group photo of some of the writers who participated in the creative writing workshops at the National University of Timor-Leste in Dili. Mackenzie Smith (center).

We are hanging in suspense this week on Inspiration Dissemination as our guest, Mackenzie Smith, first year M. F. A. in Creative Writing, briefly described novel she is writing, tentatively titled, The Clearest Way into the Universe. For Mackenzie, this novel, which she plans to use as her thesis project, started out as a short story she wrote before coming to OSU. Now she is wrapped in this novel, “chewing” over the fine details as she rides her bike, browses the grocery store, and chats with colleagues at workshop. Her message for students and young writers is, “writing is a process of thinking.”

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A “kudos wall” at the launch party and reading in Timor-Leste where audience members left compliments and words of encouragement for the writers.

Mackenzie really is writing all the time and she is no stranger to workshops. She is a former Luce Scholar in India and Fulbright Fellow in Montenegro where she ran writing workshops and hosted story clubs. She just returned from Timor-Leste where she co-organized a writing workshop that resulted in an online zine featuring original compositions from Timorese writers. Additionally, Mackenzie is the Non-fiction editor for a literary magazine Print-oriented Bastards.

 

 

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Belina Maia Do Rosario reads her work in Dili, Timor-Leste at the launch party and reading for the zine, Writing Around Memory and Place.

Mackenzie likes that creative writing allows you to expand upon your interests and experiences. In her novel, Mackenzie brings her experience traveling and conveys the human emotion of uncertainty when making big decisions that affect your future and your familial relationships. Mackenzie writes because, “when people consume a piece of art, they change the way they think, the way they act, and the way they feel. Art can change their lives and a little at a time – art can change the world.”

You won’t want to miss this interview. Hear an except from The Clearest Way into the Universe read by the author and learn more about Mackenzie’s unique and adventurous journey to graduate school by tuning into 88.7 FM KBVR Corvallis or stream the show live at 7 pm on Sunday April, 17.

CSI-Cultivated Squash Investigator: Murder in the Pumpkin Patch

Hannah Rivedal, PhD student in Botany and Plant Pathology, started working with plants before college in her neighborhood greenhouse and plant nursery. She loved growing and caring for plants that were destined to brighten her neighbors’ yards. Hannah believes, “You can’t be in a bad mood when you are holding a bunch of Petunias!” College-decision time neared and as a well-mannered Wisconsin go-getter, Hannah began college at University of Wisconsin, Madison seeking a degree in Genetics with a minor in Japanese which would lead nicely into medical school. All the while, she would travel back to her hometown on holidays and school breaks to work at the greenhouse where she first fell in love with Botany.

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Hannah preparing an experiment in the greenhouses at OSU.

Mid-college Hannah has a revelation after taking a Horticulture class and doing a little volunteer work at the hospital that Pre-med is not the path for her. In total “Hannah-fashion” she takes the reins and sets up informational interviews with eleven academic advisors at UW Madison to try and figure out what she was going to do, and she knows three things: 1) she LOVES plants, 2) she enjoys the challenge of diagnostics, and 3) she loves the reward of getting her hands dirty and working toward a solution. She decided to switch her major to Plant Pathology because it had all of these elements and more! She loves that Plant Path allows her to work directly with growers.

Hannah got her feet wet in “the biz” through undergraduate research in many different labs in the Plant Pathology department, and completed a senior capstone project in a plant disease tolerance lab focused on potatoes. When her college career was nearing an end, Hannah knew that to become a fully-grown Plant Pathologist she would need to continue with a graduate degree.

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Hannah in her natural habitat among her squash seedlings.

Hannah is currently working on many angles of this case under the supervision and guidance of her major advisor, Ken Johnson. Hannah hopes that her research with in Plant Pathology will lead to a position as a Plant Pathologist at an extension station working with growers and conducting research that is tailored to their unique situation.

That brings us to this breaking report: We have a Squash Killer on the loose! Willamette Valley growers want to know what is killing their Winter Squash. Plant Pathogens beware: Hannah Rivedal- CSI (Cultivated Squash Investigator) is on the case!

Victim: Cucurbit species, specifically Winter Squash (Cucurbita maxima), important pumpkin relative responsible for supplying the Willamette Valley and the surrounding region with ‘pumpkin’ soup, seeds, and pie filling. Did you know good’ole Jack-o-lantern pumpkin seeds are not the ones you find in the store? Those are most-likely Winter Squash seeds!

Symptoms: Wilting, crown rot, and root rot. Could cause a 100% yield loss.

Suspects: a soil borne disease that could be Fusarium oxysporum (Wilt pathogen), Fusarium solani (Rot pathogen), Plectosphaerella cucumerina (General wilt pathogen), or a combination.

Here all about it, this weekend on Inspiration Dissemination!

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Hannah posing with some big beautiful Winter Squash Summer 2015.

Tune in on Sunday, March 13 at 7 pm to hear more from our own OSU Squash Sleuth, Hannah Rivedal, or stream the show live at www.kbvr.com/listen.

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Winter squash collected and awaiting diagnosis!