A grueling trip to the Guyana Shield will help make OSU’s insect collection one of the best in the nation.

Arthropods were the reason for a trip to South America for OSU scientists

You know you’re in a pretty remote area when the only people who ever tried to survey it on foot died of malaria. The rivers are filled with deadly electric eels and crocodile stew is a staple dinner dish. Never-before-discovered animal species are, well, all over the place.

Such was the trip to the Guyana Shield by a group of scientists from Oregon State University, the Smithsonian Institution, Conservation International, Guyana and others. They visited one of the world’s most remote, pristine and truly remarkable terrains in the northern jungles of South America.

Traveling there by overloaded small plane, canoe and foot through steaming rain forests was anything but easy. But the end result is significant additions to both OSU’s Arthropod Collection and the Center for the Study of Biological Diversity in Georgetown, Guyana.

“This trip was a huge success,” said OSU entomologist Christopher Marshall, who oversees three million specimens in the university’s collection, which researchers hope to build into one of the best in the nation. “Once mounted and identified, a task that will take several years, many specimens will be sent back to colleagues and collections in Guyana to help build their museums. But many will be retained at OSU to strengthen our holdings as well.”

In the end, Marshall said, it’s believed the expedition will have discovered one or two new species of catfish, one or two new frogs, five or six new species of katydids, several new species of beetles, and maybe some new butterflies. Also documented were several bird species and a sloth that were not known to inhabit that region.

Since the existing OSU collection is about 70 percent species from the Pacific Northwest, the new specimens from a remote corner of the world will greatly improve its diversity.

For an entomologist, the motivation for the trip was obvious. Half of Guyana’s plant species are found nowhere else in the world, perched on massive “tepuis,” or forest-covered rock plateaus that stand thousands of feet above the surrounding flood plains, and have been called the “Lost World.”

“I’ve been to many rain forests, but this was truly different,” Marshall said. “There was just this constant, pervasive realization that you were days away from any real type of help if anything went wrong, and since we were often alone by ourselves in the jungle, you paid pretty close attention to make sure something didn’t go wrong.”
OSU Arthropod Collection

News release with more photos

OSU scientists are the nation’s most cited in agricultural sciences and rank sixth in geosciences, according to new reports.

Scientists from OSU have a great reputation
Scientists from OSU have a great reputation

OSU’s reputation as a national leader in important research areas has received a boost from recently published reports in Science Watch.

The publication reports that over the past four years researchers in the College of Agricultural Sciences, the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences and the Department of Geosciences in the College of Science are among the most cited in the nation.

According to the reports, OSU was ranked No. 1 in agricultural sciences, followed by the Wisconsin, Cornell, Rutgers, California at Davis and Penn State. In geosciences, OSU was the sixth-most-cited, just behind Princeton and ahead of such institutions as MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

“This ranking demonstrates the important work our researchers are doing and their recognition at the top experts in their fields,” said Thayne Dutson, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Dutson, whose work focuses on meat science and muscle biology, and Ronald Wrolstad, distinguished professor of food science and technology emeritus, who examines antioxidant properties of fruit and fruit pigments, are among the most-cited experts in the world.

Geosciences at OSU includes work in the Department of Geosciences in the College of Science and the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences (COAS), with more than 90 faculty doing research in such fields as oceanography, atmospheric sciences, geology, and geography.

Projects include work by Chris Goldfinger (COAS) on underwater earthquakes and seafloor mapping, Robert Duncan (COAS) on clues to solar system history from moon rocks, Alan Mix (COAS) and Peter Clark (geology) on climate history information from cave stalagmites, and Sherman Bloomer (dean of College of Sciences) in a variety of areas, including igneous petrology and geochemistry.

“This is a clear recognition of the outstanding research in oceanography and atmospheric sciences being conducted in COAS, especially in the areas of marine geology, geochemistry, and geophysics,” said Mark Abbott, dean of the college.

Roger Nielsen, chair of geosciences at OSU, said, “This is a tribute to the quality of the work being done by our faculty, graduate students, staff and others at OSU. The important aspect of this rating is that it’s a quality metric. It measures impact of the specific research, not just how many papers we publish.”

Research in the College of Agricultural Sciences

Research in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences

Research in the Department of Geosciences

Science Watch Top-10 lists (PDF)

From seed to market, Organic Growers Club members learn to do it all.

The OSU Organic Growers Club offers something for everyone
The OSU Organic Growers Club offers something for everyone

An Earth-friendly approach to farming has quietly been taking place for the past five years at OSU. Members of the Organic Growers Club use alternative weed and pest controls, including beneficial insects, to produce a wide range of crops.

James Cassidy was one of the first members of the club when he joined as a soil science student in 2001. Now, a soil science instructor and research assistant, he is marketing director for the club.

“The emphasis of the club is on the food, not the politics of organic versus inorganic or any other political issues,” Cassidy says. “We choose not to use chemicals because our customers prefer that. We have nothing against people who use chemicals, but it’s not for us.”

Cassidy says the club offers something for everyone. Members include staff, faculty, and students from various majors. Many participants find something to do in their field because club activities involve agriculture, social sciences, marketing, and other areas. Engineering students helped create the drip irrigation system, for example.

“We bought the system with our earnings. That’s the way we get equipment,” Cassidy says. “I think of it in terms of how many onions it is to buy something. I know how much work goes into onions, and if they sell at three for a dollar, it’s easy to determine how many onions something costs, so we know if it’s worth it.”

At their 3.5-acre farm just east of Corvallis off Highway 34, club members produce more than 50 different crops, including tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, garlic, potatoes, corn, beets, broccoli, beans, and, of course, onions.

The club distributes its goods through a list of about 300 on-campus customers. “I send out a message every Monday during the season to tell people what’s available that week and how much it costs. They order by Thursday, then we harvest that night and deliver the items on Friday.”

Organic Growers Club website

James Cassidy’s departmental page

Suzanne Austin’s undergraduate research internship helps determine why bluebird populations are declining.
Internships help undergraduates succeed
Internships help undergraduates succeed

Working with researcher Tara Robinson, fisheries and wildlife senior Suzanne Austin was involved in a study to examine the population viability of the Western Bluebird.

At issue in Robinson’s research is an effort to determine why young birds often are killed in the nest, and then finding out whether something can be done about it.

Austin’s involvement in the project is part of an OSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife requirement that students must complete two internships before they graduate. After the internships, most students enter their last year of undergraduate study with a refined sense of what they want to learn and what they want to do after they graduate.

“Most of our students are from urban areas,” says Rebecca Goggans, coordinator of the internship program. “They’ve seen a lot of nature shows on TV but don’t know how that translates into a career. So the internship is one of the best ways to give students an experience that allows them to synthesize the skills and theories they learned in class.”

And it seems to be working.

  • Spencer Rearden spent his internship monitoring salmon return in remote Alaskan rivers. He gathered data on the return to help establish quotas for commercial salmon fishing.
  • Jaimie Wisnowski did his internship in Wyoming working on the wolf recovery program in Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
  • Nemesia Herzstein learned during her internship as a naturalist at BLM’s Yaquina Head natural area on the Oregon coast that she not only loves to work with animals but also to teach people about them.

“The internship experience seems to make college much more meaningful for the students,” says Goggans. “They feel like they are at OSU for a reason.”