Tag Archives: Dunegrass

The promise and peril of new plants on Oregon’s sand dunes

In a rapid fire interview Rebecca Mostow, a PhD Candidate in the Integrative Biology Department, connects her research on beachgrass along the coastline of the Pacific Northwest and Dune, the new film adapted from a SciFi book series. The book series envisions a planet with constantly shifting sand dunes, an idea that the books’ author originally had when he visited Oregon’s sand dunes in the 1950’s. During this time period, federal and local agencies were planting a variety of plant and tree species to keep the sand dunes stable; making the lives of coastal communities less … sandy. It worked!

Some people would consider it a real-life example of terraforming. This concept is exemplified by a character in the Dune series named Pardot Kynes, a plant ecologist helping locals adapt to their sandy-desert environment through their knowledge of plants as a sand dune stabilizer. In real life, there have been trade-offs between more stable sand dunes that are helpful for local communities limiting coastal erosion, but at the detriment of two currently threatened birds who depend on sand dunes that are constantly shifting in the winds. We discuss Rebecca’s findings of a new hybridized grass as part of her PhD, an iNatiuralist community science project mapping more of these beachgrasses, and its implications for how to manage ecosystems and communities moving forward. 

Rebecca and her lab have already done lots of SciComm ’s work! See below for more links to their awesome work:

  • Oregon State University press release on Rebecca’s journal article detailing the new hybrid beachgrass.
  • GeekWire story on the overlap between the SciFi series and Rebeccas’s research.
  • A writer-hiker interviewed Rebecca as they explored one of her field sites along Oregon’s coastline. 
  • A local TV story on the implications of the hybrid grass species.

Did you miss the interview on Sunday night? Listen to Rebecca’s interview on your podcast player of choice (episodes released every Monday)!