Despite storm OSU remains on National Mall

WASHINGTON, D.C. Day three of the ten-day Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall was cancelled after OSU’s tent and at least nine others were damaged by a massive thunderstorm that swept across the capital on Friday night.

On Saturday morning the 16-foot long plexiglass wave tank, borrowed by OSU from Howard University to demonstrate tsunamis, stood on two tables peeking out from under a frayed blue tarp amid a field of debris. Around it laid bent pieces of metal tent tubing, soggy “Powered by Orange” tee shirts, and muddied posters that describe OSU extension and outreach activities.


OSU's demonstration area after a severe thunderstorm came through Friday night.

“I was shocked when the festival representative called this morning and said, ‘well, the wave tank is fine but you’ll need you to stay away for the day while we find you a new tent’,” said OSU Director of University Events Shelly Signs. Signs heads up the team of paid staff and volunteers that has traveled from Oregon to demonstrate OSU research and extension activities. These include tsunami education activities, Sea Grant-related surimi and fisheries research, and projects by the 4-H Tech Wizards—an OSU Extension program that provides after-school tech-related activities for underrepresented youth.

The annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival was created in 1967 to examine and showcase different aspects of American and global culture. To mark the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s signing of the Morrill Bill that called for the creation of land-grant universities, Smithsonian invited land-grant universities from around the country to set up exhibits that showcase activities connected with their mission. The program, called “Campus and Community“, features exhibits and activities from 28 U.S. land-grant institutions.

By Sunday, OSU’s tent had been replaced and Signs and her team were busy making tsunamis, rolling out surimi and firing off air-propelled rockets. At tables in front of the wave tank, children and parents snapped together Legos trying to create structures that could withstand the six-inch wave the machine generates. OSU researcher Jae Park and his wife stood by a glass-topped freezer that displayed numerous brands of surimi and spoke to festival goers about how the product utilizes parts of fish that were once discarded (Park’s research and his Astoria-based Surimi School got early support from Oregon Sea Grant). On nearby tables children used surimi molds and rolling pins to make artificial crab and pressed shrimp shapes out of clay.


Smithsonian volunteer and young festival attendees watch to see which structures will withstand the tsunami.

In Reunion Hall, just across from the OSU tent, 4-H Tech Wizards program manager Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas showed one young festival goer how to connect a motor to a solar cell. Behind him teacher Miguel Angel Cholu Hernandez tested the latest batch of air-propelled rockets that had been made at their table.

Despite losing a day, Signs seems happy with the way things are turning out. “People are learning about how to build structures that are less susceptible to tsunamis, they’re learning sustainable food practices and are seeing the great things that the Tech-Wizards are doing,” she said. “Plus we’ve had an opportunity to build community with all of the other land-grant communities that are also participating. I’d say this is a success.”

To see more photos of the event please visit:

(Rhett Register is a former Corvallis reporter and freelancer now living and working in Washington, D.C., where he is a researcher for National Geographic Travel magazine.)

OSU grad student wins NMFS fellowship

Susan PiacenzaSusan Hilber Piacenza, an Oregon State University PhD candidate, has been awarded a prestigious National Marine Fisheries Service fellowship to study population dynamics of threatened and endangered sea turtles.

The fellowship, will provide $115,000 over the next  three years to support Piacenza’s work on the green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas. The turtle, considered threatened or endangered in most US and Mexican waters, appears to be recovering in other parts of the world.  “Not only is this good news for green sea turtles,” Piacenza said, “but it also represents an invaluable opportunity to study what happens to a large vertebrate population as it recovers from serious population decline.”

So far, signs of positive population growth among C. mydas colonies in Hawaii and Florida has been inferred from nesting beach surveys. What’s missing – and what Piacenza plans to study – is broader data on what happens to the animals after they hatch, and throughout their lives, and how that information fits into population estimates and trends.

The research could be useful to biologists and managers seeking to understand how populations of other threatened and endangered animals change over time, and as a population comes back from the brink. Solid, data-driven forecasting could also help scientists and the public understand how different conservation and management strategies might affect threatened animal populations.

Piacenza is working with researchers at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center Turtle Program in Miami, FL, and the Pacific Island Fisheries’ Marine Turtle Research Group in Honolulu, HI. Her PhD adviser in the OSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife  is Dr. Selina Heppell.

The award is one of five population dynamics fellowships nationwide by NOAA/NMFS this year, and the first ever to an OSU graduate student. Piacenza’s application was sponsored by Oregon Sea Grant.

Learn more about the NOAA/NMFS Fellowships

Apply now for summer science communication fellowship

If you’re a senior undergraduate or graduate student interested in a career in science communication, you have until June 25 to apply for a summer Science Communication Fellowship with Oregon Sea Grant in Corvallis, OR.

Under the mentorship of communications director Joe Cone, the fellow  will have an opportunity to work with our professional communications team, developing and writing stories for the lay public – primarily for print, but potentially for Web, video or audio projects as well.

The fellow is required to maintain minimum enrollment requirements for their program of study during the summer months (undergraduates 1 credit, graduates 3 credits).

The fellowship is intended to run from approximately July 1 to October 1, 2012, with the possibility of extending into fall term.

For information about stipends, requirements and how to apply, visit the Oregon Sea Grant Website.

Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars program

2011 Summer Scholar Sara Duncan samples water in the Yaquina estuaryApplications due April 17, 2012 for the Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar program for undergraduates. The program will place students in a natural resource management agency and is designed to help prepare undergraduate students for graduate school and careers in marine science, policy, management, and outreach.


To learn more about the Summer Scholars experience, visit our Sea Grant Scholars blog.

Oregon Sea Grant fellowship opportunities

Oregon Sea Grant is soliciting applications for several current fellowship opportunities.

The NOAA Coastal Management Fellowship has just been posted,

two NMFS Fellowship opportunities are open,

and there are two additional NOAA opportunities.

Please visit our fellowship website for more information.

Drug Take-Back keeps old pills out of the waterways

Part of the haul at Corvallis prescription drug TakeBack Event

Part of the haul

CORVALLIS – Oregon Sea Grant Scholars have helped Corvallis  police and public works and Allied Waste  employees collect more than 550 pounds of old, unused and expired prescription drugs for safe disposal – drugs which otherwise might have wound up in the hands of abusers, or poisoning local waterways.

Student interns and research assistants who work with Sea Grant water quality specialist Sam Chan volunteered for the third National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, Oct. 29, which netted more than 188 tons of unwanted or expired medications at 5,327 collection sites across the country.

The event is sponsored by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, primarily to keep drugs out of the the crime and drug abuse stream.

But the Sea Grant students were interested in different streams: The ones that receive the outflow from local sewage plants, and seepage from local landfills.

According to the Association of Clean Water Agencies in Oregon, a San Francisco study showed that nearly 40 per cent of medications purchased in that city go unused. Many get tossed in the trash or flushed down toilets, making their way into the environment where they pose both environmental and human hazards.

The student interns participated in the Corvallis event to learn about drug take-back programs as part of a Sea Grant needs-assessment that meant to guide future investments in research, outreach and public education. Pharmaceuticals are becoming a growing issue for water quality and ocean health, and are increasingly emphasized as areas of concern by Sea Grant’s parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Sea Grant Extension teamed with Corvallis Public works to inform those who dropped off medications about how proper drug disposal can protect the drinking water supply and the aquatic environment.

“It was great to be able to engage and educate people on why Sea Grant was at the event,” said Jennifer Lam, a Sea Grant professional intern. “People were interested in learning that disposing of their medication properly not only protects their families from accidental poisoning, but also prevents these drugs from affecting fish and other aquatic organisms.”


Sea Grant Scholars with Corvallis police and public works employees

Sea Grant Scholars with Corvallis police and public works employees

Science Communications Fellowship

Announcing the availability of the Oregon Sea Grant Science Communication Fellowship.  The Fellow will focus on science writing at Oregon Sea Grant Communications, working in a professional office dedicated to communicating science to non-specialists.

For more information:

Malouf scholarship deadline announced

Oregon Sea Grant is accepting applications for the fourth annual Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholarship, open to graduate students enrolled at any college or university in Oregon working toward a degree  in a  field compatible with Oregon Sea Grant’s mandate and areas of interest.

Relevant fields could include (but are not limited to) biological, geological, physical and chemical sciences; marine resource management and policy; marine resource economics; social sciences; engineering; geology; education or public health.

This annual scholarship is intended to support the efforts of students focusing on marine-related   research, education or public engagement. The program is named for Robert Malouf, Oregon Sea Grant director from 1991-2008.

Applications for the 2011-2012 scholarship are due by 5 pm June 17.  The scholarship will provide up to $10,800 dispersed in 12 monthly payments beginning September 1, 2011

Read more information

Sea Grant Summer Scholars accepting applications now

2010 Summer Scholars get acquainted on the OSU Challenge CourseOregon Sea Grant is accepting applications from undergraduates for the Summer Scholars program.

This 10-week program places high caliber junior and senior undergraduate students from around the country with federal, state, and local public agencies to provide students with hands-on experience under the mentorship of a career professional, with a goal of  preparing them for graduate school and careers in marine science, policy, management, and outreach.

Participants gain  professional skills, agency workplace experience, and real-life practice in marine resource science, policy, management, and outreach and support agency programs and initiatives.

The 2011 Summer Scholars will be placed in Oregon in Lincoln, Coos, and Benton Counties, where they will assist host agencies with field work, lab work, analysis, natural resource policy research, public education, outreach and community engagement efforts.

The program is open to any undergraduate student who will have completed two years of study by summer 2011, and who is currently enrolled in any U.S. college or university may apply. Students of color, from first nations, non-traditional students, and those from other diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply. We seek students with a variety of interests including marine science, biology, ecology, zoology, environmental science, journalism, education, political science, or economics.

More information and application guidelines available here. The deadline to apply is April 1.

More fellowship opportunities

Oregon Sea Grant is accepting graduate and postgraduate student applications for two prestigious Washington, D.C. fellowships:

The NOAA Coastal Management Fellowship (application deadline Jan. 28, 2011) was established in 1996 to provide on-the-job education and training opportunities in coastal resource management and policy for postgraduate students and to provide project assistance to state coastal zone management programs. The program matches postgraduate students with state coastal zone programs to work on projects proposed by the state and selected by the fellowship sponsor, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Services Center. This two-year opportunity offers a competitive salary, medical benefits, and travel and relocation expense reimbursement. Read more …

The Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowships (application deadline Feb. 18, 2011)   provides a unique educational experience to students who have an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources. The program matches highly qualified graduate students with hosts  in the legislative and executive branch of government located in the Washington, D.C. area, for a one year paid fellowship. Read more …

Meet some of our current and recent fellows.