Category Archives: Uncategorized

Welfare, TANF, and Higher Ed: Students thrive when we remove the barriers

In 2023, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) distributed aid to nearly 20,000 families, and approximately 40,000 individual recipients in the state of Oregon (FY2023 TANF Caseload). The families and individuals who receive TANF often face unseen difficulties and obstacles, especially related to higher education. This week on ID, we speak with Terese Jones, a recent PhD graduate in Human Development and Family Sciences. Terese’s dissertation work centered around TANF recipients, the challenges they face with higher education, developing a pilot program to address these challenges, and assessing the outcomes. 

Terese’s research identifies many common obstacles that TANF students face, a few of which are a lack of information about resources, stigma surrounding the use of these resources, and practices and procedures that discourage students from using these resources. In the program she developed, she sought to eliminate some of these barriers. For example, she removed a requirement that certain students receiving assistance needed to provide a state issued form that tracked their class attendance, which had to be signed by their professors. This change was the most positively received component of the program among the participants because it eliminated a significantly embarrassing and uncomfortable experience for the students.

Terese found that eliminating some of the barriers the students identified allowed them to expand what is called “possible selves” which refers to the futures that students can imagine and identify as possible for themselves. Students who initially sought to become phlebotomists changed their career trajectory towards nursing when they realized they would have the support to do so. Additionally, the participants also expanded their “public selves” which refers to how they see themselves within their community/public life. Many of these students saw themselves going back to their communities as health professionals, addiction and counseling professionals, and social service and welfare professionals. 

Terese says that she found herself relating to these students because she also has a background of poverty that drove her through her higher education journey. She is now continuing her work in a position at LBCC, where she is developing more programs centered around deep poverty in Linn-Benton county with the hopes of making a difference in the lives of people in our community. To learn more about Terese and her work, check out this week’s episode of ID. Also take a look at some of the resources Terese provided below!

Emergency Financial Assistance — Vina Moses Center

Family Support Program – Corvallis Public Schools Foundation (

South Corvallis Food Bank

Full cream: The power of milk on infant development

Our upcoming guest is Jillien Zukaitis, a first year PhD student in Nutrition, College of Health. Her lab, fondly referred to as the ‘Milk Lab’, studies at all things milk. With a clinical background as a dietitian, Jillien now couples her practical experience with translatable research.

Partnering with OHSU, Jillien assesses the composition, nutritional value, and potential health benefits of human milk on the development of preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This involves analyzing various proteins and peptides in the different types of milk fed to these infants and seeing how they are digested to isolate their roles in infant health and development. One way she does this is by isolating milk peptides from infant stomach and intestine and testing these on macrophage cells, examining the immune function of some of the peptides identified. By assessing the processing methods, milk types, and milk contents, she aims to discern what milk is best to feed infants. She plans to compare these results against other sources of nutrition such as infant formula in the future.

One innovative element of her research is through use of an in-vitro “digestion machine” known as SHIME (The Simulator of the Human Intestinal Microbial Ecosystem), which essentially mimics the entire digestive process from start to finish, allowing valuable insights at each stage involved. This revolutionary machine is one of the few in the USA and is right here at OSU!

To learn more about her research, passion to improve the lives of infants, and the unorthodox pathway that led her to pursuing her PhD, tune in to our prerecorded conversation on KBVR 88.7 FM this Sunday, May 12. You can listen to the episode anywhere you listen to your podcasts, including on KBVRSpotifyApple, or anywhere else!

Translating language and transferring knowledge

Native English speakers enjoy a distinct privilege in academic publishing due to the outsize impact of the English language on global publishing and media. But how has the dominance of English impacted the research of non-native speakers? What is the role for non-English language scholarship, particularly in the post-colonial era? These are some of the questions that Danlu Yang, our next guest, investigates in her graduate research.

Danlu is a second year master’s student and anthropologist in the Applied Anthropology Graduate Program at OSU, working with Prof. Shaozeng Zhang. Her main subject of study is a collaborative project dedicated to translating anthropological research between Chinese and Portuguese. Contributors to this project come from four countries and include anthropologists, editors, and other researchers and community members . Danlu is conducting an ethnographic study of the people involved in this translation project. She is herself highly multilingual, able to speak Chinese, English, Portuguese and Spanish. This gives her a unique vantage point to document how individuals produce and transfer knowledge across cultures and languages. Danlu is also interested in what motivates anthropologists to study rural China and what is gained when local knowledge is able to be expressed without English as an intermediary.

To hear more about Danlu’s experiences and personal background, visit her Linkedin profile and tune in Apr 28th at 7PM to KBVR 88.7 FM or wherever you get your podcasts!

Wind Farms and Fisheries

30 by 30. No, not the critically acclaimed ESPN documentary series — the phrase refers to the Biden Administration’s goal for the US to produce 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power generation by 2030. To support this target, large scale construction projects are planned off the coast of Oregon and the rest of the West Coast. Here to tell us about the potential effects of this planned construction on marine life is our guest this week, Margaret Campbell.

Margaret is an MS student in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences on fisheries working with Prof. Will White on population dynamics.  She uses theoretical and historical modeling approaches to forecast the impact of wind farm infrastructure on fisheries. One such model quantifies offshore parcels in terms of their distance from high-quality fish habitats and projects the redistribution of fish biomass when particular parcels are closed for construction. Margaret also employs a species distribution model to predict the population dynamics of fish like ling cod, yellowtail rockfish, and dover sole. She compares the predictions with fishing industry logbooks and oceanic sensors. Numerous environmental, tribal, and commercial groups have an interest in wind farm placement and Margaret hopes that her research will help these stakeholders respond to a changing coastline.

Before coming to OSU, Margaret attended the University of Maine, where she was involved with the NOAA Sea Grant program and earned a bachelor’s in marine science and history. She has gained experiences in diverse areas of marine biology, including estuary surveys, otolith analysis, phycology, and aquaculture. To hear more about her research and offshore wind generally, tune in to KBVR 88.7 this Sunday or listen wherever you get your podcasts!

The Spectacular Humpback Whales of Bahia De Banderas

Several species of humpback whales coalesce off the coast of Mexico to breed every Winter. Near Puerto Vallarta, in Bahia de Banderas (Banderas Bay), whale watching tours are abundant and the primary mode of transportation in this area is by water taxi. Water traffic is busy and this causes a unique risk for humpback whales in this region, particularly the Central American humpback which is endangered and the Mexican humpback which is threatened. These whales are at risk of boat strikes or entanglements in fishing nets, which could potentially be a factor in their low population growth rates. This is the central issue at the center of Charlene Perez Santos’ research. Charlene is a first year Masters student at OSU, working within the Marine Mammal Institute. Her work focuses on tracking humpback whale movement via satellite tags and comparing them with sea vessel routes in Bahia de Banderas in relation to habitat use and exposure to human impacts. 

Charlene has had a passion to work with marine mammals since day one. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where she also attended the University of Puerto Rico. While completing her bachelor’s degree in marine biology and  wildlife management, she sought out any opportunity she could to engage in research. Despite her passion for marine mammal research, she got involved in research experiences involving a variety of sea-adjacent animals and non-adjacent animals (including anoles) simply to gain as much experience as possible. Charlene was also the first Puerto Rican to receive the coveted NOAA IN FISH internship, which led to her establishing connections at OSU and eventually starting in the grad program here. 

Tune in Sunday, March 3rd to listen to Charlene’s interview live, or catch it online and learn all about humpback whales, navigating the science community as a Latina woman, and chasing your dreams.

Plankton: The smallest of organisms require the largest of boats

Did you know that jellyfish are plankton? That’s right, they’re not just abstruse microscopic organisms (although many of them are). For example, did you know that the size difference between plankton members is on an order of magnitude similar to the size of a human compared to the size of Earth? These are just a few of the fun plankton facts our upcoming guest has in store for us.

Elena Conser is a third year PhD student in the Plankton Ecology Lab. She really, really, loves plankton – marine organisms that are unable to swim against the current and are thus, at the whim and mercy of their environment (of which Elena attributes a sort of philosophical solace in). More specifically, she looks at zooplankton, animals that live in the plankton. These organisms form the basis of marine food webs, and Elena’s research aims to better understand planktonic communities and their food webs. She does this off the coast of Oregon, in an oceanographic region called the ‘Northern Californian Current’. This area is extremely productive for plankton growth and supports several economically important fisheries. It is also characterized by upwelling and periods of low oxygen, prompting Elena to investigate the structure of zooplankton communities here and how they may shift in response to environmental change.

To study plankton, Elena employs cutting-edge technology off large research vessels. She uses an imaging system known as ‘ISIIS’ (In-Situ Ichthyoplankton Imaging System) to view plankton in their natural environment, something that has not previously been possible in her field. The data collected with this system is processed using deep learning and computer vision to capture and identify plankton. Through this, Elena is also able to attain information on what plankton are where, how big they are, and how many there are. Elena couples her imagery data from ISIIS with biological samples of ichthyoplankton (larval fish), collected at different depths using nets. Using the ear bones (known as ‘otoliths’) from these physical samples, she can age larval fish much like how trees can be dated through their rings. She does this on English sole, a common flatfish occurring in the Northern California Current, to better understand the development from larval to juvenile stage.

Elena always knew of the importance of the ocean, which led her to studying marine science, biology, and applied math at the University of Miami in Florida. Here she worked with a larval fish scientist and became curious about the importance of plankton communities. This curiosity led her back to her roots in Oregon to pursue plankton research with developing technology. Her research is indeed at the intersection of oceanography, ecology, and computer science. She is excited to continue tackling questions that have never been able to be answered until now. To hear more on the importance of plankton and the interesting questions Elena is asking, tune in to KBVR 88.7 FM this Sunday, February 25th, or shortly thereafter where you get your podcasts!

Overturning myths about poverty through storytelling

“The individual who grows up in this culture has a strong feeling of fatalism, helplessness, dependence and inferiority” says Oscar Lewis, expounding upon his theory of the “Culture of Poverty” in a 1966 essay. According to Lewis, people who grow up in poverty take on a particular mindset of hopelessness that pervades every aspect of their lives. Elliot Laurence (he/they), our next guest, largely sees the “Culture of Poverty” as a myth and seeks to tell stories that express a broader view of being poor in America. Elliot is a first year Master of Fine Arts student in creative writing and fiction, who draws on his own experience of growing up in poverty and continued financial precarity as a source of inspiration for writing.

Elliot says he is most inspired by people who “make it work”, such as single parents managing to make rent from paycheck to paycheck and overworked social services providers. Harmful stereotypes of poor people often suggest that they are lazy and content to live off government assistance. But as Elliot points out, the tangle of paperwork and compliance that the American welfare state imposes on the poor is anything but a cushy lifestyle. So too are the ways that poor families must make ends meet.   One of Elliot’s short stories centers around a young child from a poor family who collects aluminum cans and bottles to exchange at the recycling center for meager sums of money. They want to depict everyday moments like this to push back against the common representation of poverty as something to gawk at, as exemplified in media like “The Florida Project” and “Shameless”. As he sees it, poverty fiction could be any genre, including sci-fi or fantasy, with background themes of material insecurity setting the scene.

Elliot’s personal story is interwoven deeply in his approach to writing. Born to a single mother in St. Louis, Missouri as the second of five children, he grew up playing an older sibling role. Elliot joined the Air Force at the age of 17, following the well-worn pipeline from poor neighborhoods to the military. Elliot is transgender, and years of trans activism in the hostile environment of Missouri later attracted him to the more accepting Pacific Northwest. He continues to be a guardian for his teenage sister, all while balancing the MFA curriculum, a teaching assistant position, and jobs as a daycare worker and Doordasher.

To hear excerpts from his writing and about how his identity as a mixed-race, transgender veteran has informed his fiction, tune in this Sunday, February 11th at 7PM on KBVR 88.7 FM or shortly thereafter wherever you get your podcasts!

Artificial, Intelligent–Safe?

Jose Aguilar is not here to help robots take over the world. In fact, the first year PhD student studying artificial intelligence says he’s actually working on the opposite–to ensure that AI systems are safe, and raise alarm when they’re not. 

Aguilar’s research focuses on the theoretical and applied aspects of safe AI. In the theoretical realm, he tries to ensure probabilistically that a model is going to be safe. When that algorithm or model is used in a situation–like autonomous vehicles, for example–his work moves over to the application side. 

And we really need safe AI! Listen to Selene and Jenna’s conversation with Jose to learn more about safe artificial intelligence and how Jose’s background of growing up in Mexico and moving to Oklahoma brought him to OSU. 

Sim like a Fish

Our next guest is Lauren Diaz, a fourth year PhD student in the Department of Fisheries , Wildlife and Conservation Sciences. Lauren is advised by Prof. Jim Peterson and focuses on the population dynamics of freshwater organisms.

Lauren studies rainbow trout, a widespread salmonid with important ties to recreational fishing and a complex life trajectory. The salmonid family of fish includes large species like Chinook salmon that are ecologically important food sources for both marine and terrestrial species including humans. Trout eggs hatch in freshwater but some juveniles undergo significant physiological changes and spend a large portion of their lifespan in the ocean before returning to the rivers to spawn. This ‘anadromous’ form of rainbow trout is called steelhead.

Lauren uses the Stanislaus River in California’s Central valley as a model system for understanding the impact of dams on the life histories of trout. The prominence of agriculture in the Central Valley has left its watersheds full of dams, irrigation systems and other human diversions. Monitoring fish populations throughout this complex network can be challenging due to a lack of standardization in monitoring systems. In response to this uncertainty, Lauren turns to computer simulations to shed light on the population dynamics of rainbow trout. Specifically, her simulations model the decision-making of individual fish in response to environmental stimuli. Lauren tweaks assumptions of the model such as the typical responses of trout to water depth, prey density, other fish, and tree coverage. In this way, population-level patterns emerge from a set of interpretable individual-level rules. Of particular interest to Lauren is the rate at which fish remain in the stream rather than becoming steelhead. Some preliminary evidence suggests that reduced seasonal fluctuations of water levels due to climate change could be suppressing the relative share of steelhead. 

Lauren grew up in Miami, Florida, a place where encounters with tropical wildlife are part of everyday life. She was fascinated by reptiles and amphibians and became known as the “animal person” within her family and eventually studied herpetology during her undergraduate career at the University of Florida and a master’s degree at Clemson. An interest in hellbender salamanders, which live alongside rainbow trout in cool freshwater streams, led her to pursue the PhD at Oregon State. To hear more about her journey and research, tune in to KBVR 88.7 FM on Sunday, January 28th or shortly thereafter wherever you get your podcasts!

Exploding Cheeses and Microbes at Work

For those of us who consume dairy products, we often don’t give much thought to the trials and tribulations that had to be faced to get that product on the grocery shelves. It’s probably a fair assumption to say that most of us have never considered that cheese could explode, but that is the center of Madeleine Enriquez’s graduate research. 

Madeleine (Maddie) is a master’s student in the laboratory of Joy Waite-Cusic, and she investigates dairy microbiology and spoilage, particularly mitigating “gas defects” in cheese. In semi-hard to hard cheeses certain microorganisms can cause build-up of gasses called “gas defects” which can eventually lead to blow-outs of the cheese in its packaging, or significant structural defects within the cheese (think Swiss cheese holes where they’re not supposed to be). Maddie works on practical and easy ways to mitigate these gas defects for small dairy farmers. Some of the variables include aging temperature, bioprotective cultures, or combinations of both. 

Maddie’s interest in this particular area of food science originally stemmed from her grandfather, who was a dairy farmer. She went to the University of Connecticut for her bachelor’s degree in animal science. While there she participated in undergraduate research on dairy farms, particularly focusing on dairy microbiology later in her degree. This eventually led to her coming to Oregon State to further her education in dairy food science. 

If you want to hear more about exploding cheese, making gouda on a weekly basis, and strapping wheels of cheese in for a CT scan, tune in for this episode of ID airing live on Jan 21, 2024.