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!
Climate change has begun to show its effects around the world in the form of warming temperatures, increased major weather events, and shrinking global sea ice. Unfortunately, one of the hardest hit species on earth is likely to be the corals, a marine animal, yes I said animal, whose beauty is well documented. Ocean acidification is limiting calcification, a process used for coral growth, and warming ocean temperatures is causing bleaching of once vibrant coral reefs. However, there is good news for everyone who appreciates tropical oceans, the diversity of ocean life, or just plain old natural beauty. Although it’s still uncertain how corals will be able to adapt to the rapidly changing ocean environment, coral scientist Katherine Dziedzic is optimistic about the future of coral.
Katherine is a fourth year PhD student in Integrative Biology. Her research in the Meyer lab is helping to pinpoint some bright spots in coral adaptation. With the help of many collaborators around the world, Katherine is trying to find the survivors in the coral community, identify the genes theses corals are using to adapt, and then “teach” the rest of the corals how to thrive in a warmer ocean. Katherine is using a research method first developed for human disease studies called genome wide association studies (GWAS) to determine the genetic variants that are most highly correlated with bleaching corals . Recent results have been promising and Katherine is hoping to narrow in on a potential gene, or genes, of interest. Unfortunately, progress to save the coral is slow going because much of the coral research has not been translated into action, despite the reefs’ charismatic depiction in nature documentaries.
A well-functioning national research program should function as a giant cycle to support government policy. Research improves knowledge, knowledge informs policy decisions, policy decisions lead to new areas of research. However, there are often large gaps between the scientific community, the policy makers, and the general public. Katherine hopes to help bridge the gap between science and policy decisions once she finishes her PhD work. She has completed a graduate certificate in marine resource management and plans to use her knowledge base in coral research to help governmental organizations take better care of our precious ocean resources.
If you want to hear about how Katherine got into coral research, you can listen to Katherine’s episode of Inspiration Dissemination from about two years ago. However, this time we’ll talk to Katherine about what she’s discovered about coral adaptation and her ongoing transition from PhD student to science policy advisor. Tune in Sunday, 12/4 at 7pm (PST) on KBVR-FM!
We depend on the humble soil beneath our feet to grow the cotton in our shirts, feed the world with fruits and vegetables, and growing all the commodities necessary to make beer and whisky alike! Given the range of functions soils have on earth it’s no surprise soils themselves have very different colors, sizes, and even smells! If we look closely at soils, especially their horizons resembling layers of a cake, they can be read to ascertain how nutrients got there, how long those nutrients can last for the plants above, and what to do if an area needs to be remediated.
Even though humans rely on soils for our health and comfort, we too often take soil for granted. But our guest reminds us exactly how essential soils are to life! Vance Almquist is a PhD student joining us from the Crops and Soil Science Department, in the College of Agricultural Sciences, and focuses on how soils develop in wildland environments, as well as how to read soils in order to understand its historical record keeping. Vance is also known as a soil pedologist, or someone who studies soil genesis, its transformations, and specializes in how to read the language of soil horizons. You might ask, ‘why do we need to know the history of a soil in order to use it?’
Human society developed in the ‘Cradle of Civilization’, an area known as the Fertile Crescent because (as you guessed it) the soils were extraordinary fertile! To practice higher-level agriculture, early settlers built levees to block the floodwaters. But when they prevented the annual floods soils were no longer getting enough nutrients, salts started to build up, and eventually it lead to a collapse of civilizations. If only they understood the soils’ history, they would’ve know the annual floods are essential to maintaining their prosperous way of life. If we know how soils develop, and how to read them, these are the kinds of problems we can avoid in the future.
Vance grew up in Utah and before yearning to be a soil scientist he worked at a brewery, trained dogs, and is a master forklift driver. High school was never terribly fun because nothing really challenged him, but he continued to enroll in classes at the local community college. He was really turned onto botany because he always went mushroom hunting as a kid and he saw the practical application of knowing which plants we share the world with. Then he realized how soil science was at the intersection of biology, chemistry, and physics. Here he found his calling because he also noticed how much our economy was overlooking the usefulness of soils and wanted to continue to explore this idea further in graduate school.
Not only can understanding soils avert disasters, but ranges of scientific disciplines are dependent on soils. A botanist can be interested in finding rare flowers, a hydrologist is interested in finding out how much sediment is mucking up the streams, and a meteorologist wants to know how much CO2 is released into atmosphere. Specific soil properties are needed for certain plants to grow, some soils erode faster than others, and soils can become a source, instead of a sink, of CO2 emissions! Soils are integrators of many scientific disciplines and I hope you join us to discuss this with Vance. You can tune in on Sunday November 20th at 7PM on 88.7FM or listen live here.
If you wander forests of the Oregon Coast Range you might encounter a strange sight: exclosures made of timber and steel-braided wire, standing in a clear-cut forest. These exclosures, which stand 100-feet long, 50-feet wide and 8-feet high, are the research and work of Thomas Stokely, a PhD candidate in the department of Forest Ecosystems & Society in the College of Forestry. The exclosures were constructed to study the impact of deer and elk grazing on tree growth, and to address a larger research question in forestry management: What does intensive forest management mean for biodiversity?
To study the impact of deer and elk on commercial tree growth, Thomas constructed constructed 28 stands in which a team of researchers manipulated the intensity of herbicide spray treatments in each area (non-sprayed, light, moderate and intensive herbicide treatments). For six years, under the direction of his adviser Matthew Betts, Thomas and has measured plant communities, arthropods, herbivory and plantation development inside these exclosures and in open plots where wildlife is allowed free access.
The exclosure research in the Oregon Coast Range relates to Thomas’s goals as a scientist who’s invested in understanding how industry impacts biodiversity. “As the world population grows, we need more resources,” he said. “We want to value the product, but we also value biodiversity and wildlife habitat. Is there a way we can manage for both timber production and wildlife habitat? If so, what role do biodiversity and wildlife play in the management of natural resources? If management alters biodiversity or excludes wildlife, what are the implications for ecosystem functioning?” These are questions that continue to drive his research and his career path.
Thomas has been interested in plant-animal interactions and the environment since he was a child. Growing up on a horse farm in southwest Missouri, he watched horses grazing and wondered about their relationship with the habitat in and around the farm. He first considered studying the policy side of humanity’s relationship with the natural world, but political science wasn’t a good fit—he wanted to pursue a more hands-on approach to studying biodiversity. After reading about the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone, he knew he wanted to work directly with land and habitat management. He earned a BS in environmental science at University of Missouri before coming to Oregon State. Upon completing his PhD, Thomas plans to work in applied ecology where he hopes to use science to guide land management and conservancy practices.
Tune in to hear our conversation with Thomas Stokely on Sunday, November 13th at 7:00 pm on 88.7 FM KBVR Corvallis or listen live online.
“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.
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.
Did you know us humans have a background army of microbes that work to keep us healthy, turns out these microbial cells outnumber human cells 10 to 1 in a healthy human body! The human microbiome is beginning to be elucidated that shows most of these microbes have a mutualist relationship such as helping us to digest food or producing anti-inflammatories that our human genome can’t produce. Similar to humans, other mammals are expected to have a similar microbiomes that can contribute to a healthy species. However this area of research is in it’s infancy, our guest is spearheading this effort and pushing the boundaries of avian-microbe interactions in tropical environments that can help us understand what contributes to a healthy bird population.
Felipe found his way to these avian-microbe questions while pursing a masters degree at a Chamela biological field station in Mexico. He noticed that some young birds he found in termite-associated nests were dirty and grimy, but they were very healthy! How could this be? His curiosity continued to drive his motivation to pursue a PhD in the Biology Department at the University of Oregon. Yes that’s right he’s a duck, but science holds no grudges because all that really matters is what kind of knowledge this research can produce.
His passion for the outdoors started young while growing up visiting small towns in the seasonal dry jungles of Mexico. He recalls playing with his siblings but would always stop and look at cool rocks, or to show his friends all the creepy crawly insects he found! Only recently did he discover his siblings thought this was annoying because he was more focused on observing his surroundings than playing games with them; sound like a scientist in the making!
He is now in his 5th year of his project but has run into a sort of barrier; his research interests are the boundaries of where other researchers have ventured. If he is successful he will be one of few who will assess how nesting behavior influence bird-biomes in a tropical setting. Pushing boundaries may sound glamours but it comes at a cost, literally, because few agencies are willing to fund such a new exploration he’s chosen to pursue other means of obtaining funding.
Experiment.com is a way of combining a grant submission easily understandable to the public, and they can fund your work similar to a kickstarter. As Bill Gates said, “This solution helps close the gap for potential and promising, but unfunded projects.” Felipe’s campaign to raise enough money to help process 500 samples collected from the Mexican jungles has just started and will continue until the end of November. You can learn more about his project on his Facebook page. If you’re interested in this ‘crowd-sourced’ version of research funding you can read about how the process works.
You’ll have to tune in to hear the current state of his research as well as how this new funding venture could provide him the avenue to finish his PhD! You can listen October 30th 2016 at 7PM on the radio at 88.7FM KBVR Corvallis, or stream live.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How do you connect the dots between sunscreen, coatings on reading glasses, and medicine? Nanoparticles! More and more the potential uses of nanotechnology are moving forward. For example the use of nanoparticles in sunscreen (i.e. zinc dioxide) helps to increase its protective coverage time and its ability to block harmful UVA rays. Another emerging field of nanotechnology hopes to decrease the economic burdens of growing enough food for a booming world population. Matt Slattery joins us from the College of Agricultural Sciences Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology to discuss his flourishing endeavor to ensure that technology does not outpace environmental safety.
Growing food takes a serious amount of commitment, time, and money; and one of the major factors dictating a successful harvest is the timing and effectiveness of the pesticides applied to a crop. Over a billion (1,000,000,000) lbs of the active ingredient in pesticides are applied in the USA alone (EPA)! With the help of nanotechnology we can decrease the necessity of repeated pesticide application and still get the same level of productivity from the land. When pesticides are applied, they generally have a very short residence time, and are only effective in fighting pests for a week or two. However, by encapsulating pesticides in multi-layered nanoparticles that slowly releases a small quantity of pesticide over time, you can get a far more consistent application instead of the boom-and-bust strategy that’s currently used. Another major benefit of nanoparticle delivered pesticides is that farm workers are less exposed to the chemicals because application of the pesticide is less frequent and safer. This encapsulation method is not just for an agricultural application but has the potential to be used in any platform that needs a “time-release” delivery, but much work is still required to make sure we really understand how they interact with the environment.
To no surprise, it takes someone special to merge multiple scientific disciplines into one research project, and our guest fits the bill! Matt has always been interested in science, but it was the interdisciplinary nature of environmental toxicology that requires the understanding of how chemistry, physics, and the environment can affect the biology and health of an organism. His first experience with the contamination of the Puget Sound in Bellingham, while attending Western Washington University, was a catalyst that launched him to eventually work with the Lummi Tribe. There he joined the discussion of how salmon as a major source of food, as well as their cultural foundation, could be damaged by bioaccumulation from the contaminated estuary. This intersection of science and outreach convinced Matt he wanted to pursue a higher degree, but he decided to go abroad for a short time before putting his nose to the grindstone!
You’ll have to tune in to hear where Matt’s explorations led him, and how nano-technology is becoming an increasing popular method for chemical delivery across scientific disciplines and industries. You can listen on October 16th 2016 at 7PM on the radio at 88.7FM KBVR, or stream live.
When I think of mining, the first thing that comes to mind is the classic gold rush miners from the mid-1800s. Someone that looks a lot like Stinky Pete from Toy Story 2. I don’t mean to imply that this is, or isn’t, what a miner looks like. However, this does say something about the general lack of thought about mining practices. The EPA certainly isn’t as ignorant about mines as I am; in fact, as of 2014, they had designated over 1,300 sites around the country as superfund sites requiring extensive cleanup efforts. Tullia Upton is also thinking about mines much more deeply than the average person, and she is uncovering some alarming information.
During a road trip through southern Oregon, Tullia was bummed when she was told it was unsafe to swim in a local river, so she decided to dive a bit deeper, figuratively of course. She learned that this area has become dangerously polluted due to waste products of the Formosa mine.
Mining practices involve extensive digging and extracting of heavy metals which are normally buried in a reducing environment deep down within the earth’s sediment. The process of digging up these heavy metals leaves behind a staggering amount of unused material, known as tailings. Mining also exposes the metals to oxygen and allows them to leach into soils and the watershed. Due to runoff from the tailings and other waste at the Formosa mine, there is now an estimated 18 mile dead zone where no organism can live. The full extent of the damage being done to the local watershed has not been thoroughly mapped though.
As she learned more about the dangerous metals coming from the mine, Tullia immediately got involved as a volunteer and secured research funding to study the pollution occurring at the Formosa mine. Tullia hopes to map the full extent of runoff from the Formosa mine and provide a better picture of the mess for the EPA, and other scientists, working on the cleanup process. When she finishes her Ph.D. here in Environmental Sciences, Tullia hopes to move on to a post-doc and eventually run her own research lab.
Tune in this Sunday, October 9th at 7pm PST to hear more about mine pollution and Tullia’s unique journey to grad school at OSU.
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.
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.
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.
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.