Apogee: CEOAS at the top of its game

Hard-core: CEOAS helps set amazing ocean sampling record

Collecting, analyzing and archiving marine sediment cores has long been a … core … skillset at CEOAS. Recently, Paul Walczak and Chris Fanshier, CEOAS research assistants and corers extraordinaire in the NSF-funded Marine Sediment Sampling Group, took their talents on a cruise aboard the research vessel Neil Armstrong operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and contributed to an astounding record. While conducting research on the microbial communities in the sediments of the deepest part of the Puerto Rico Trench, nearly five miles below the ocean’s surface, the science party successfully collected the deepest core ever in the Atlantic Ocean, and possibly in any ocean.

The multi-institutional science team on the cruise was seeking to better understand how microbes below the seafloor have adapted to vastly different environmental conditions present across the entire depth range of the trench. In addition, Walczak and Fanshier conducted engineering studies on coring processes in order to inform the design of future research vessels.

The record-setting core collection was made using a jumbo piston coring system designed specifically for deployment and recovery from the U.S. academic research fleet ships R/V Neil Armstrong and R/V Sally Ride. This system was adapted from the original long (piston) core system developed at Woods Hole in 2007. After this expedition, the long corer will be transferred to OSU MARSAM, which supports coring operations throughout the U.S. academic research fleet.

“There were definitely some tough challenges collecting this core,” Walczak says. “We had to account for the heave of the ship, and we needed to make sure the acoustic trigger mechanism that releases the coring tube worked at that depth.”

The coring system the team used has some unique features that assist with such deep-water operations, including a new camera system with a pressure- and scratch-resistant sapphire lens and synthetic ropes that stretch less than traditional wire cables. 

“Collection of this core was a great accomplishment for that specific project, but beyond that, it was a great learning experience, and proof that we have the capability to collect cores in a wide range of environments,” Walczak says.

Melbourne Global climate strike on Sep 20, 2019. Photo: John Englart, Flickr

A hidden challenge of climate change: Human migration

As climate change takes hold of the planet, the public is increasingly aware of many of its impacts, from sea-level rise to drought to ocean acidification. But one outcome hasn’t received as much public attention: climate change-drive human migration. CEAOS Associate Professor David Wrathall is shedding light on this issue as a lead author for one chapter in the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which explores the human dimensions of climate change.

“One of the key questions about climate change is where people will no longer be able to live because it is too dangerous,” Wrathall says. “Climate change is rendering places uninhabitable. It is a complex problem, and it is already happening in many areas. Wildfires in 2020 displaced more than 4,000 people in Oregon. Many of those people are migrating right now as they look to rebuild their lives.”

Climate-induced migration can be in response to extreme events like wildfires or flooding, but also a method for addressing climate-related changes in livelihood, such as shifts in agricultural productivity.

The IPCC Working Group II report, “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability,” is a major update on the human dimension of climate change. The report is authored by several hundred scientists from around the world; Wrathall served as a lead author on one of its 18 chapters.  

The report addresses the root causes of people’s vulnerability, with an emphasis on the poorest and most vulnerable developing countries and the most vulnerable people in wealthy, industrialized societies.

“In order to address vulnerability, it will be necessary to make our societies, communities and economies more inclusive and equitable,” he says. “We’ll have to make a seat at the decision-making table for the people who have historically been left out.”

Farewell, Oceanus! Oregon State sunsets a ship

On November 21, 2021, the National Science Foundation-owned research vessel Oceanus, operated by Oregon State University, returned to port in Newport, Oregon from her very last research cruise. The oldest ship in the U.S. academic research fleet was officially retired after nearly 45 years of supporting science at sea, having been operated first by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and then, for her final decade, by Oregon State.

In a sendoff appropriate for Oceanus’ many years of service, a retirement party of sorts was held in May of 2022 at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. While the weather was wild, giving those who toured the ship a taste of the conditions familiar to seagoing oceanographers, the ceremony was warm, reverential and a little bittersweet. Marine Superintendent Kaya Johnson awarded the Order of the Ancient Albatross, the honorific traditionally held by the oldest operating ship in the academic fleet, to University of Rhode Island, the operators of one of Oceanus’ sister ships, R/V Endeavor.

With Oceanus retired, the scientific community at Oregon State now eagerly awaits the arrival of the brand-new R/V Taani, now under construction in a shipyard in Louisiana.

Don’t miss the video that captures Oceanus’ retirement party.

Kiev, Ukraine

Eyes on Ukraine: Jamon Van Den Hoek on the promise and perils of watching the war via satellite

In the midst of Russia’s spring 2022 invasion of Ukraine, it is critical for the world to have some idea of what’s happening on the ground there. As he writes in a recent issue of Fast Company magazine, CEOAS geographer Jamon Van Den Hoek believes that satellite imagery can be critical for monitoring this or any war, but it has serious limitations as well.

“It’s helpful to think of a satellite image as a prism that both clarifies and distorts,” he writes. Satellites can give a good idea of what’s happening over time, and can cover large geographic areas, giving insights into the extent, severity and timing of damage. And of course, the use of satellite monitoring in wartime sacrifices fewer human lives than sending in government or NGO staff.

But Van Den Hoek stresses that satellites have significant blind spots when it comes to documenting war. For example, the angle and resolution of satellite imagery means that observers might only be able to discern damage to larger buildings, or to the tops of buildings. In addition, the most visible types of destruction – to buildings, roads and other human-built infrastructure – might not be the only damage. Most importantly, human casualties are not generally detectable by satellites. But also unseen by these eyes in the sky are “…broader environmental consequences, such as pollution of Ukraine’s water and air and the destruction of croplands and agricultural infrastructure needed for production, transportation, and storing of food,” Van Den Hoek writes.

The media’s use of single satellite images also obscures deeper meanings, he writes. “A single image can offer a visual anecdote from a moment and place within a war’s complex chronology but says little about the human cost of the damage, let alone the intent behind the damage.” He argues for continued, but informed, use of these technologies in this conflict and future conflicts.

Career capstone: CEOAS’ Dudley Chelton elected to National Academy of Sciences

Dudley Chelton’s 40 years as a scientist at Oregon State University have earned him an armada of accolades. Now, as a capstone to his career, the professor emerit has received perhaps the most distinguished scientific honor: election into the National Academy of Sciences.

Chelton, an oceanographer in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, is one of 150 members elected this year in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

“Membership in the NAS is a widely recognized sign of enduring excellence and impact in scientific research, an honor well-deserved by Dudley,” says Tuba Özkan-Haller, interim dean of CEOAS.

Chelton joined the OSU faculty in 1983. His research examined the mysteries of large-scale oceanic eddies that arise from instabilities of ocean currents, probed the low-frequency variations of ocean circulation that affect climate variability and broadened understanding of ocean influences on the overlying winds. His use of satellite imagery to observe these global processes brought him international acclaim and helped to revolutionize studies of ocean-atmosphere interactions. These studies have been made possible by the highly successful collaboration between scientists and NASA engineers over the past 40 years.

Chelton’s previous honors include being named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and of the American Meteorological Society. He is among a handful of OSU-affiliated faculty members to be elected to the academy. Others include former CEOAS Dean and Professor Emerit G. Brent Dalrymple, who was elected in 1993; University Distinguished Professor Jane Lubchenco, who was elected in 1996, and CEOAS courtesy faculty member Dawn Wright, who was elected in 2021. 


Photo at the top of the page: Crew on the WHOI-operated research vessel Neil Armstrong prepare to deploy a sediment corer to the seafloor of the Puerto Rico Trench. Photo by Paul Walczak

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