How Oregon State’s library is leading the digital revolution.

Michael Boock
Michael Boock

When Oregon State became the first university to join Flickr Commons, a public domain photo archive, word traveled fast on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. And the buzz was positive. Likewise, the library faculty is the world’s first to pass an open-access mandate for their own scholarly work. And its open-source search tool, LibraryFind, is the first of its kind in the nation.

Clearly, Oregon State University is right out in front of the digital information revolution.

“The driving idea at OSU Libraries is to make information retrievable wherever people are searching,” says Michael Boock, head of Digital Access Services for OSU Libraries. “Our goal is to make all of our collections findable through the Internet.”

The idea that everyone from an OSU student working on a term paper to a cattle rancher in Central Oregon to a schoolgirl in central Africa can access its collections via the Internet is something Oregon State wants to celebrate. And that zeal for open access — especially universal access to taxpayer-funded research — will be visible all over campus. During Open Access Week, experts from OSU Libraries will be staffing “traveling tables” to answer questions about implications for author rights, peer review and traditional academic publishing models. Mid-week, a panel of experts from OSU and University of Oregon will talk about each of their groundbreaking efforts to make an entire unit’s research output freely available online upon publication.

Capping off the week’s events is a presentation by nationally known public-domain advocate Carl Malamud. As the founder of, Malamud is an impassioned champion of making all publicly funded information — including databases, court decisions and research findings — free and easily accessed by anyone.

“Research is the raw material of innovation, creating a wealth of business opportunities,” says Malamud, noting that government information is a form of essential infrastructure, right along with highways and electrical grids. What he terms the “Internet wave of transformation” will, he insists, help ensure the health of a democracy that is indeed of, by and for the people.

Oregon State is embodying that idea. Another innovation is that all OSU master’s theses and doctoral dissertations are submitted electronically to the university’s own ScholarsArchive. Last year, the online graduate papers were downloaded 100 times each, on average. In contrast, paper versions typically are checked out from the library rarely, if ever. In just three years, grad-student studies that would otherwise have languished on library shelves have been downloaded nearly a half-million times.

OSU also joined 17 other U.S. research universities in a letter to Congress earlier this month, encouraging passage of bipartisan federal legislation (the Federal Research Public Access Act) to guarantee speedy public access to research findings funded by agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. The National Institutes of Health already requires public access to its funded research projects.

Boock sums up the push this way: “We want to put the content where the people are.”

Geosciences student Julia Rosen will be blogging about ice core research in Greenland.

To read about Julia Rosen’s research and day-to-day experiences on the ice sheet, read her blog, Transmissions from the Ice Sheet.

Julie Rosen is blogging and studying ice cores
Julie Rosen is blogging and studying ice cores

Remote is one way to describe where geosciences Ph.D. student Julia Rosen is going. Cold would be another appropriate adjective. But neither is quite vivid enough to capture the atmosphere at the North Greenland Eemian Ice Core Drilling Project (NEEM) camp, where Rosen will be spending three weeks this summer, trying to help complete a picture of long term, global climate change.

At 77.45°N, NEEM is more isolated than Rosen has ever been. The drill site is located on top of 2,500 meters (1.5 miles) of ice, hundreds of miles from the nearest piece of ice-free land. In order to go, Rosen had to undergo extensive physical and mental evaluations, and ensure that her wisdom teeth were removed — there’s no dentist around the corner from the snow pit where she’ll be working.

The intensive preparations, however, will be worth it. Rosen is title to NEEM as a part of an international ice coring team aiming to retrieve a core that reaches back to earth’s previous interglacial period, the Eemian. As a member of geosciences professor Ed Brook’s lab, Rosen is planning on using samples from that core to analyze levels of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. Knowing that can help Rosen map past levels of the greenhouse gas, records of which are currently less available than those of the more abundant carbon dioxide and methane.

“There is still no complete history of nitrous oxide measurements in ice cores,” says Rosen. “My goal is to generate a high-resolution, accurate history of nitrous oxide through the previous interglacial period. I also hope to make isotopic measurements of the nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the nitrous oxide molecule to help constrain how the sources of the gas have changed over time.”

Getting a good nitrous oxide record will not only help reconstruct a picture of past climate change, but the data can also be used to develop climate models that can be used to predict future climate changes, as well. Models, Rosen says, should be able to accurately reproduce past climate changes if they will be used to predict the future. A history of nitrous oxide can be used either as an input for models that simulate global climate or as a target for biogeochemical models to reproduce.

In Brook’s lab, Rosen is also trying to develop the best method to extract nitrous oxide from the tiny bubbles that are trapped in ancient polar ice. She’ll compare “wet” and “dry” methods for extracting gas, which are currently used for methane and carbon dioxide, to determine which, if either, works for nitrous oxide.

Rosen’s interest in ice core research was piqued when she was an undergraduate at Stanford. By nature, she’s a lover of snow and ice. Coupling that with a passion for the environment was a natural fit. “I’ve always been interested in environmental issues, and, to me, climate is the most pressing of them,” she says. “As soon as I found out that ice cores could be used to reconstruct climate, I thought, ‘perfect.’”

And for Rosen, Oregon State was the logical choice when she thought about graduate school. “There are many other great ice core research institutions, but only a few that work on greenhouse gases. This is the place I wanted to come.”

While in Greenland, Rosen will be chronicling her experiences in the blog, Transmissions from the Ice Sheet. Be sure to check out her updates.

Former high school dropout Ngan Nguyen is graduating with her eye on a career in alternative energy.

Ngan Nguyen
Ngan Nguyen

Ngan Nguyen was 15 when she climbed out of her bedroom window after a family argument and caught a ride with some friends to Portland. Unsurprisingly, graduating college was not on her mind. In fact, the idea of college would have seemed ridiculous. Nguyen had dropped out of high school earlier that year, and was title toward a life of cheap apartments, couch surfing and working long hours for low pay in Portland.

It wasn’t promising.

But that wasn’t the life for Nguyen, at least not in the long run. After six months in Portland, she decided to go back to night school. “I don’t remember what drove that decision. I was tired of going out and partying all the time. I actually really enjoyed school. So I went back,” she says.

For the 4 months it took to get her diploma, Nguyen worked at Walgreens in the mornings and Millennia in the Clackamas Mall in the evenings. She did her homework late into the night. “Those jobs barely paid anything. After rent and bills, I’d have about 75 dollars left,” says Nguyen. The teachers at Marshall High School, where Nguyen got her diploma, were understanding of her schedule. They also encouraged her to go to college. “I thought, ‘I’m scraping by,’’ and it sounded like fun,” Nguyen says.

On June 13, Nguyen will graduate from Oregon State with a double major in biochemistry and biophysics and bioengineering, with a degree from the University Honors College. And she’s just getting started. After graduation, she’s staying in Corvallis to work at Beaver Biodiesel, a renewable energy company of which she is co-owner, and where she will also get to use her science and engineering skills. Nguyen is also co-owner of the high-end cosmetics and skin care company, Sulirese, that she and some friends are about to launch.

Nguyen made the most of her time at OSU once she transferred here from Linn-Benton Community College. In her sophomore year, she worked with Professor Tory Hagen and post-doctorate researcher Kate Shay her sophomore year, trying to determine the activation of the protein Nrf2 (which triggers the transcription of a series of antioxidant enzymes). She continued her research throughout that summer with Howard Hughes Medical Institute funding, and used the data for her University Honors thesis. Nguyen also interned at MIT last summer, working in biomedical engineering on sequential drug delivery. When she got back to Corvallis in the fall, she started with Beaver Biodiesel.

Nguyen knows graduate school is in her future – perhaps in biomedical engineering, or chemical engineering in renewable energy. She’s also interested in getting an MBA.

“I’m pretty excited given everything that’s happened,” says Nguyen. “I never would have thought five years ago that I would be in college and have a choice of jobs. I know that things have been the worst and worked out fine. And I’m excited for what the future brings.”

Freshman Emily Pickering will be researching lionfish in the Bahamas this summer — and blogging about it.

Emily Pickering
Emily Pickering

To read about Emily Pickering’s research and day-to-day experiences in the Bahamas, read her blog, A Chronicle of the Invasion.

When you consider Emily Pickering’s lifelong passion for marine biology —childhood trips to Newport to see Keiko the whale; convincing her family, year after year, to see Orcas in the wild off Vancouver Island; becoming SCUBA-certified at age 11 and having 95 dives under her belt by age 19 — it’s unsurprising that she’ll soon count an upcoming research trip to the Bahamas with coral-reef fish expert Mark Hixon among her experiences.

Pickering, a University Honors College student and biology major, is the first freshman ever to accompany Hixon and his group to tiny Lee Stocking Island, where they will spend much of their summer underwater surveying the invasive lionfish — a Pacific species that was introduced into the Atlantic, where it is undergoing a population explosion and rapidly consuming native fishes on coral reefs.

“As a long-time SCUBA diver, Emily is extremely enthusiastic to apply her underwater skills to studying coral reefs,” says Hixon.

Pickering will be title to the Bahamas with grant money from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), which funds undergraduate research. “I was ecstatic when I got the grant,” Pickering says. “Writing it was an amazing experience. I felt so proud of the work I’d done.”

The first time Pickering heard about Hixon’s research at a lecture for incoming Honors students, she thought, “Wow, that could be me.” The fact that she heard about it from another undergraduate, Megan Cook, who had accompanied Hixon to Lee Stocking Island the year before, made working for a world-class researcher seem like a possibility.

From there, it was all about the legwork.

Pickering contacted Cook and asked for her advice. She spoke with biochemistry professor and HHMI director Kevin Ahern, who mentored her throughout the grant process and gave her confidence that she had something to offer Hixon — despite her lack of lab experience and freshman status. And most importantly, Pickering contacted Hixon on her own.

“It was a little intimidating to approach Mark Hixon and say, ‘Hey, I want to work for you,’ but he quickly responded to my calls, and before I knew it, I was in his office talking about his work and being a part of his research team,” says Pickering. Hixon sent Pickering to graduate zoology student Mark Albins, who helped her with the HHMI grant proposal.

“I wrote my version of the proposal and sent it to Mark (Albins). It came back smothered in red ink. But it didn’t matter — I learned so much from the process and from the people I talked to that actually getting the grant almost seemed like an added bonus. It felt good to produce something I had put everything into and that I knew was my best work,”

During her three months on Lee Stocking Island, Pickering will be spending her days helping Albins survey lionfish and with his research on population dynamics. In the free time she has, Pickering will run her own experiments — she’ll be studying lionfish prey preference and digestion.

She will also be blogging about her experiences in the Bahamas, so that readers and students get an idea of what day-to-day life at a research station is like.

OSU researchers journey into the deep ocean to study undersea eruptions.

Northwest Rota-1
Northwest Rota-1

When OSU’s William Chadwick and Robert Dziak traveled to the Mariana Islands northwest of Guam in 2004, they observed something no one had seen before — a live, deep-ocean volcanic eruption from a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV.

They repeated the feat in 2006, gathering video footage of such high quality that their expedition drew national attention. Now, Chadwick (a volcanologist and chief scientist on the project), Dziak (an oceanographer) and an international team of scientists will return to the volcano in a project funded by the National Science Foundation to further study undersea eruptions. Called Northwest Rota-1, the volcano is still showing signs of activity, according to data retrieved from an underwater hydrophone.

”We don’t know if it will be active when we are there, how intense that activity could be, or even whether we will be able to see much,“ cautions Chadwick. ”But if it is active, this will be an extraordinary opportunity to learn more about undersea volcanoes and some of the significant impacts they can have.“

The scientists’ goal in this expedition is to put more science behind their observations.

”What we’ve done thus far has been to capture a brief scientific ‘snapshot’ of an undersea volcano,“ Chadwick says. ”We know a great deal about the impact of terrestrial volcanoes, but very little about those that erupt beneath the sea — from the underwater explosion processes to the chemical impacts on the ocean and the effects on deep-sea ecology.“

Northwest Rota-1 remains the only undersea volcano scientists have witnessed erupting, making it a unique site for research. Chadwick and his team will report their findings on a blog so that science students and classes from middle school through college — as well as the general public — can follow their progress.

Hear the NW Rota volcano erupt:


Claire Rogan is learning what sustainable harvesting means.

Claire Rogan
Claire Rogan

When Claire Rogan tells people she is a logger, she gets a range of reactions — anything from a sense of camaraderie from those who live the same lifestyle, to anger from people who think logging is utterly destructive. But for the Oregon State sophomore and University Honors College student, education has been the key to her understanding of the practice, its focus on sustainability, as well as the way to improvements.

“It’s like mountaintop coal removal in West Virginia,” she says. “People usually don’t say ’this is bad and we should do this instead.’ If you’re going to have a strong opinion about something, you need to go in scientifically and say ’this is why, and this is how.’”

Rogan is learning how to answer questions about logging and its impacts as a dual-degree major in forest and civil engineering. And as a member of the Student Logging Crew in the College of Forestry, Rogan gets hands-on experience working with a crew sustainably managing stands in the McDonald-Dunn Research Forest. “Pretty much any logging you see in Oregon is sustainably done. People are becoming more aware of working with, not just in, the environment,” says Rogan.

Working with the environment — for Rogan and others — means creating forest health, says Jeff Wimer, who heads the student crew. “We thin, taking out trees that are dead and dying and leaving a stand that will grow healthily,” he says. They also identify stands where growth has stalled and decide whether to harvest depending on the market and demand, the whole time keeping stream and water health in mind. “The majority of loggers love and enjoy the land where they work,” says Wimer. “They wouldn’t be there otherwise.”

The same is true of Rogan. Growing up in rural West Virginia, she always loved being in the woods. She learned the names of trees from her grandfather. She drove a tractor around her family’s small farm, and her parents instilled in her a deep regard for the natural world. She liked math, too, and science and engineering, which is why OSU was ideal. “The forest and civil engineering dual degree was perfect for me. It was exactly what I wanted to do,” she says.

As a member of the logging crew, Rogan learned to run all aspects of a logging operation, from planning to the actual harvest. She learned to set chokers (a chain or cable used to haul logs from the woods) and cut timber. She graduated from using what she calls “a teeny tiny saw” to a 32-inch bar. Rogan appreciated how she wasn’t treated differently on the crew because she is a woman — and still a minority in the field.

For Rogan, the College of Forestry became such a home away from home that she applied to become an ambassador for it. Rogan talks to alumni at events, and helps recruit prospective students. “It’s so much fun for me,” she says. “I love getting to tell students how awesome it is. It’s provided so many opportunities for me.”

National Geographic documentary on Bruce Mate’s blue whale research receives record ratings.

Bruce Mate
Bruce Mate

A blue whale’s heart is the size of a Mini Cooper; its body longer than a basketball court. They are the largest creatures ever to live on our planet, and the sounds they make are equivalent to those of a jet engine. But despite their immensity, blue whales are so rare they remain mysterious. However, Oregon State University’s Bruce Mate and his colleague John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research Cooperative are looking to reveal more about these elusive giants.

People are eager to know more, which is why the National Geographic film, “Kingdom of the Blue Whale,” which aired on the National Geographic Channel on March 8, became its highest-rated nature documentary ever. “Kingdom” follows Mate and Calambokidis on their trek off the coast of California, where they tagged 15 blue whales, to their wintering grounds at the Costa Rica Dome.

bruce-mate-sidebar“It was quite an adventure,” Mate says. “But the more we learn about these great animals the better chance we have to protect them.”

On their trip, Mate and Calambokidis discovered that the Costa Rica dome is a key location for blue whales’ calving, breeding and feeding. They also learned that not all of the whales there came from California. “That suggests that some migrate there from elsewhere and we would like to know where that is,” says Mate. “These are incredibly important finds about blue whales, which we know so little about.”

For more on Mate, see National Geographic’s micro-site on his work and the article on his research in the March issue.

Read about OSU students’ experiences as they travel through the Middle East.

Oregon State student Sarah Sheldrick is among the students who traveled to Israel and Palestine this term. In this photo she stands on the border of Syria.
Oregon State student Sarah Sheldrick is among the students who traveled to Israel and Palestine this term. In this photo she stands on the border of Syria.

Imagine a dry, ancient place that is known mostly for its modern-day political strife and bloodshed. Imagine several sources of water — all precious and needed — that ignore political boundaries. And imagine conflicts over water like we experience in Oregon, between rural and urban users and concerned environmentalists. But imagine them in an area of absolute scarcity, where some people don’t even have enough water to drink.

Then imagine going there to learn how people manage these issues in their day-to-day lives. That’s what a group of 19 Oregon State University students is doing right now, as they travel through Israel and Palestine studying the geography and geology of the Middle East’s water supply and sources, as well as how those factors affect cities, agriculture and, ultimately, politics.

“It felt natural to take the students there to look at these separate issues, and then look at them together,” says geosciences professor Aaron Wolf, who lived in Israel for 10 years, and who is the faculty adviser for the group. “I think all of them will get a much more nuanced view of the region.”

The group, all of whom are members of the Oregon State Geo Club or Hydrophiles, is blogging about the trip, which includes meeting with stakeholders, as well as with groups like Friends of the Earth Middle East, an organization that makes tremendous progress in water conflict management.

“It’s stuff you never hear about, which is so sad,“ says Wolf. “But day in and day out, there is a huge amount of interaction and cooperation with resource management that nobody here knows about because the conflict supersedes everything.”

Read the Geo Club and Hydrophiles’ Trip Blog.

Taryn Luna is attending the New York Times Student Journalism Institute.

Taryn Luna
Taryn Luna

When Taryn Luna found out she was one of only 20 students nationwide chosen to attend the New York Times Student Journalism Institute in Miami this January, she was stunned. Luna, an OSU junior majoring in New Media Communications, thought the opportunity seemed too good to be true.

Participants at the Institute, which is for members of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, often go on to intern or work at prestigious news organizations like The Washington Post, the Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe and, of course, The New York Times itself.

Although Luna considered it a long shot when she wrote her 500-word essay and sent samples of her work to apply for the Institute, she has no reservations about going. “I’m so excited to work with students who are passionate about doing this for a living,” says Luna.

While at the 10-day Institute, Luna and her fellow students will work alongside veteran journalists from the Times, The Boston Globe and the Time’s Company’s regional newspapers in a newsroom environment. Past participants have been dispatched into Miami to cover presidential speeches and campaign events, the funeral of a famous mob leader, issues such as immigration, and dozens of other stories.

Luna started at OSU as an English major, but soon decided that writing papers on Shakespeare wasn’t for her. She switched majors and joined the staff at the Barometer, where she likes most to cover stories that have an impact, like OSU professor Dennis Hruby’s smallpox vaccine.

“Taryn is exactly the kind of student who will thrive in the Times’ program,” says New Media Communications professor Pam Cytrynbaum, who recommended Luna for the Institute. “It is especially an honor for her to be selected because she isn’t coming from a traditional journalism program, but from our New Media program.”

Throughout her time in Miami, Luna plans on keeping a blog to chronicle her experiences reporting there.

“It’s great that I have Oregon State backing me,” says Luna. “Everyone in the department has been so supportive.”

New Climate Report: Look for more drought and melting glaciers, says OSU’s Peter Clark.

Peter Clark
Peter Clark

To a geoscientist, the movie “The Day After Tomorrow” is an outlandish imagining of abrupt climate change, even down to heartthrob Jake Gyllenhaal’s geeky heroics in the lead role.

But abrupt climate change is not only plausible; it’s likely to occur in this century — even faster in some ways than previous reports have indicated. That’s the conclusion of a recent report by OSU geosciences professor Peter Clark and colleagues for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program.

The report — one of 21 of its kind developed by academic and government agency researchers around the country — specifically identifies faster-than-expected loss of sea ice, rising sea levels and a possibly permanent state of drought in the American Southwest as likelihoods in the near future. It is one of the first reports that describes possible impacts on the North American continent in such detail.

“If the earth warms you can push it to a point where change happens more quickly than expected,” he says. “We’re forcing changes with global warming at a rate the Earth’s climate system has experienced only a few times in history,” says Clark. Generally climate change is understood to have occurred, but is believed to have taken place slowly, over hundreds or thousands of years. But the Earth’s climate — at times — has also changed surprisingly quickly, on the order of decades.

The report evaluated four mechanisms for abrupt climate change that have taken place prehistorically, including rapid changes in glaciers, ice sheets and sea level; widespread changes to the hydrologic cycle; abrupt changes in ocean current patterns; and rapid release to the atmosphere of methane trapped in permafrost or on continental margins.

“All of these have the potential to change quickly due to global warming,” Clark says. The report concluded that we should not expect catastrophic changes in ocean current patterns or abrupt release of methane into the atmosphere, but that rapid change in the other mechanisms may already be in place. “The possibility that the Southwest may enter a permanent drought state is not yet widely appreciated,” says Clark. “Sea ice in the summer is likely to disappear entirely this century. We don’t know how much sea levels will rise, but we’ve concluded it may be more than previously projected.”

The “overarching” recommendation of the report is the need for committed and sustained monitoring of these climatic forces that could trigger abrupt climate changes, the researchers concluded. “We need to monitor the vital signs of our planet,” Clark said.