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News Article | December 1, 2015
Site: www.scientificamerican.com

Every night a mysterious layer rises from the murky depths of the ocean, as though the seafloor has suddenly become detached and is floating to the surface. This cloud-like specter is ubiquitous, and so dense that during World War II it confounded the U.S. Navy's sonar, leading to the belief that enemy submarines might be able hide within it. This enigmatic “deep scattering layer”, so named for the way it deflects sonar pings, turned out to be slightly more innocuous than enemy camouflage. It's zooplankton. The deep scattering layer is a stampede of sea monkeys whose combined biomass renders their nightly trek to feed on phytoplankton near the surface the largest animal migration on the planet. During the war, the Navy funded covert research operatives aimed at discerning sea monkey from submarine. Today, research on the migration of zooplankton is as important as ever because researchers now recognize the critical importance of these organisms in the global carbon cycle. As to whether or not these salty sea critters could still hide an enemy in their ranks? That remains open to interpretation. For nearly two centuries oceanographers knew that zooplankton rose higher in the water column at night. The discovery goes back to the expeditions of the HMS Challenger  in the late 1800s. “We knew that something was going on at nighttime,” says Dr. Deborah Steinberg, Professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. What no one appreciated was the vast expanse of this nightly sojourn. “The Navy would have been aware of it, but there were no acoustics in the 1800s,” says Dr. Steinberg. “It wasn’t until the 1940s they realized how widespread it was, when they could detect this layer of migrating organisms with sound.” Using sound, or sonar, scientists discovered this migration was a global phenomenon, one that occurs across the world’s oceans, in estuaries and in fresh water lakes. Animal migrations call to mind the annual trips of birds, monarch butterflies, or old people: massive flocks seeking greener pastures or a warm respite from winter weather. When it comes to sheer biomass and relative distance traveled however, birds, butterflies and grandparents have nothing on the zooplankton that make up the deep scattering layer. In terms of biomass, their migration is the largest on the planet, and they make that trek each night. “It’s like walking 25 miles to breakfast every morning,” says Dr. Steinberg. At their largest, zooplankton are but a dozen or so millimeters. Scaling their body size to that of a human and considering the viscosity of sea water, their trek is like a nightly marathon through pudding. Dr. Steinberg adds, “It’s a long way to go for a little critter.” Dr. Steinberg’s research focuses on the ecology of zooplankton. She explains that during the day, zooplankton avoid predation and save energy by slowing down metabolism in the dark, chilly waters of the deep ocean. Once the sun sets, “they come up under the cover of darkness so they can eat in peace,” she says. Dr. Steinberg’s experiments often take her to the high seas, where she and her team catch the critters in the deep scattering layer to study. They use nets reminiscent of those used to catch butterflies, but enormous and designed to be towed through the water behind the ship. “I can always tell who the migrators are,” Dr. Steinberg says describing the organisms concentrated in the plankton net. “They just look like they’ve come from the deep sea.” Because the red end of the light spectrum is rapidly lost with increasing depth through the water column, blood red is a common color for the creatures that spend their time in the abyss. Despite the sinister coloration of zooplankton, their tiny stature and loopy swimming patterns make them seem anything but menacing. Should Dr. Steinberg be worried that an enemy lurks in their midst, trailing stealthily behind her research vessel? Could sea monkeys actually be used to camouflage a submarine? “There’s always been a fear that that could be done,” concedes Dr. Kelly Benoit-Bird, Professor at Oregon State University. She is an expert in using acoustics to study the ecology of marine organisms and co-author of a perspective piece about this topic that will appear in the upcoming issue of the Annual Review of Marine Science. In the review, Dr. Benoit-Bird and co-author Dr. Gareth Lawson of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution describe how acoustic techniques have been used to study marine life since researchers first used echo sounders to detect fish in the late 1920s. Sonar and other acoustic tools experienced a surge of developments during World War II, when the vastness of the deep scattering layer was discovered and the ability to discern friendly sea creature from foe became a critical challenge. Despite the new sonar machines developed for war ships, for a time it remained impossible to resolve the mysteries of what the deep scattering layer contained. Historical texts detail how Admiral John S. Thatch, commander of the Atlantic Task Force following World War II, reputedly sent many frantic SOS signals complaining that a 200-foot thick cloud-like layer was confounding the sonar resolution of his ship. These days acoustic techniques have come a long way. “Certainly there have been advances in technology and computing power, and we can record at higher resolutions, but the physics is the same,” says Dr. Benoit-Bird. Modern acoustic techniques still can't discern a single sea monkey from amidst an army of them, but what they can now detect is still pretty nifty. In their review article, Drs. Benoit-Bird and Lawson show how with current technology acoustic scatter plots that can discern whales, schools of fish, individual squid, and even sea birds diving to catch fish—all using only sound beams and modern computing power. The dominant feature in the plots rendered by acoustic queries into the benthos is still that dense, impenetrable cloud of the deep scattering layer. Today, the Navy is still interested in teasing apart what they call the “bioclutter” in the ocean. “A lot of our work is funded by the Office of Naval research,” explains Dr. Benoit-Bird. “They don’t tell you what to do but they’re aware of what you're doing.” While defense tactics are undisputedly important, it’s the immense biogeochemical impact of the organisms in the deep scattering layer that motivates the research of oceanographers using these acoustic techniques today. The daily migration of zooplankton helps remove carbon from the atmosphere and surface waters and then sequesters it deep in the ocean where it can remain for centuries, preventing it from warming our planet as a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. In today's world, that looming threat of climate change is perhaps a more worthy adversary than skulking submarines. This is what provides the impetus for today’s zooplankton migration research. According to Dr. Benoit-Bird, the research goal of the acoustics field is figuring out one thing, “Where is the carbon going, not where is the enemy going.”


News Article | October 5, 2016
Site: www.fastcompany.com

Whether you give your employer appropriate notice and thank them for their leadership, or quit in a rage never to be heard from again, the way in which you choose to resign can reveal a lot about you, your employer, and the work environment. While much has been written about when someone should quit their job, why someone should quit their job, and even the socially acceptable etiquette for quitting, there has been very little research into how people actually went about resigning, at least not until now. Anthony Klotz, an assistant professor in the College of Business at Oregon State University, studies the ways people leave their jobs. He recently found that the way that as many as 48.9% of employees quit their jobs was received positively by employers, but the majority was not. Another 36.2% quit in a way that was perceived as negative, but not necessarily damaging to the employer, and 14.9% chose to resign using a method that could potentially inflict damage. "For much of employees’ work lives, they possess relatively little power and control over their situation at work. However, once employees decide to leave, that power balance shifts," Klotz says. "As such, the resignation is one of the few times that employees are free to express themselves without fearing termination," he adds, suggesting that employers consider the way in which employees resign as a "diagnostic tool" for measuring employee satisfaction. The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, was conducted in four parts. The first two interviewed 53 MBA students who had recently quit their jobs and 202 supervisors who had overseen a resignation within the previous three months. The third study asked 240 former employees how their thoughts and feelings toward their former employer informed their decision on how to resign, and the final study of nearly 500 managers explored how they responded to various resignation styles and scenarios. In his initial studies Klotz found that there were seven common ways in which people resign, listed in order of their frequency: By the book (31%). These resignations involve a face-to-face meeting with one’s manager to announce the resignation, a standard notice period, and an explanation of the reason for quitting. Perfunctory (23.5%). These resignations are similar to "by the book" resignations, except the meeting tends to be shorter and the reason for quitting is not provided. Avoidant (12.7%). This occurs when employees let other employees such as peers, mentors, or human resources representatives know that they plan to leave rather than giving notice to their immediate boss. Grateful goodbye (10%). Employees express gratitude toward their employer and often offer to help with the transition period. Bridge burning (8.6%). In this resignation style, employees seek to harm the organization or its members on their way out the door, often with verbal assaults. In the loop (7.9%). In these resignations, employees typically confide in their manager that they are contemplating quitting, or are looking for another job, before formally resigning. Impulsive quitting (6.3%). Some employees simply walk off the job, never to return or communicate with their employer again. This can leave the organization in quite a lurch, given it is the only style in which no notice is provided. Klotz explains that while the perfunctory and avoidant methods still allow the organization to fill a talent gap, managers generally view it as negative method of resignation, as they are kept in the dark about the employee’s reasons for quitting. In total, less than half of all employees quit in a manner that is viewed positively by managers, while more than 51% choose a method that is perceived as negative. Unsurprisingly, Klotz found that workers who felt their employer had treated them fairly were more likely to resign in a positive way, while those who reported having a negative experience were more likely to choose a harsher resignation style. "If they see a rash of negative resignations, it is a signal that employees are being treated poorly, and they should investigate and find the cause," he says. However, Klotz notes, "When a company notices that in general their employees leave in a positive and grateful manner, they can take that as one sign that employees feel like they are treated relatively well." In his previous roles as both a manager and an employee, Klotz admits it was difficult to determine how best to resign, or how to feel about those who submitted their resignation to him. "I couldn’t discuss it with many people because I wanted it to remain confidential," he says. This understandable lack of transparency around resigning can often lead to confusion on how to choose the appropriate method. Klotz encourages managers and HR professionals to investigate how their employees chose their method of resignation, and what it says about the organization as a whole. In his own research Klotz found that management is quick to chalk up a negative departure to a bad apple, but it’s rarely that simple. He says, "What our results suggest is that employees who resign in these negative ways often do so in response to being treated unfairly by their organization or being abused by their supervisor."


News Article | December 22, 2016
Site: www.greencarcongress.com

« Honda R&D and Alphabet’s Waymo enter discussions on technical collaboration on full autonomous vehicles | Main | Volkswagen Group receives all approvals from KBA for NOx fixes for EA189 TDI engines » The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced the award of up to $40 million, subject to appropriations, to design, permit, and construct an open-water, grid-connected national wave energy testing facility. The facility will be constructed in Newport, Oregon, by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University and will support innovations in wave energy technologies capable of harnessing the significant wave energy resources along United States coastlines. The new test facility, called the Pacific Marine Energy Center South Energy Test Site, will be constructed with a combination of federal and non-federal funds. The planned facility, to be completed by early 2020, includes four grid-connected berths where researchers can test full-scale wave energy conversion device concepts. Prototype testing is essential to gather critical performance data to address technical risks, lower costs, and inform future designs to accelerate the commercialization and deployment of mass-produced wave energy technologies. The pre-permitted site was designed to meet the DOE specifications as well as industry and community needs, letting researchers focus on the technological challenges inherent in testing—instead of permitting and regulatory matters. The site is expected to be a flagship test facility for wave energy converters globally, playing a critical role in advancing wave energy technology into commercial viability. Recent studies estimate that America’s technically recoverable wave energy resource ranges between approximately 900–1,230 terawatt hours (TWh) per year, distributed across the coast of Alaska, the West Coast, the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. For context, approximately 90,000 homes can be powered by 1 TWh per year. This means that even if only a few percent of the potential is recovered, millions of homes could be powered by wave energy as the technology progresses.


News Article | December 19, 2016
Site: www.rdmag.com

A space-based sensor that can "see" through fog, clouds and darkness has given scientists their first continuous look at the boom-bust cycles that drive polar plankton communities. The decade-long set of images reveals that phytoplankton cycles are more tied to the push-pull relationship between them and their predators than was initially thought, according to a study published today in the journal Nature Geoscience. Phytoplankton are the foundation of the ocean's food web. Commercial fisheries, marine mammals and birds all depend on the blooms, said the study's lead author, Michael Behrenfeld, an expert in marine plankton at Oregon State University's College of Agricultural Sciences. "It's really important for us to understand what controls these boom-bust cycles and how they might change in the future," Behrenfeld said, "because the dynamics of plankton communities have implications for all the other organisms throughout the web." Phytoplankton also influence Earth's carbon cycle. Through photosynthesis, they absorb a great deal of the carbon dioxide near the ocean's surface. That, in turn, allows carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to go into the ocean. The satellite-mounted LIDAR instrument, dubbed Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization, or CALIOP, uses a laser beam to map the ocean's surface and immediate subsurface. CALIOP monitored plankton in the Arctic and Antarctic ocean waters from 2006 to 2015. CALIOP'S measurements reveal that, as the phytoplankton growth accelerates, the blooms are able to outpace the organisms that prey on them. As soon as that acceleration stops, however, the predatory organisms catch up and the bloom ends. Imagine two rubber balls--one red, one green--connected by a rubber band, Behrenfeld said. "Take the green ball--which represents the phytoplankton--and whack it with a paddle," he said. "As long as that green ball accelerates, the rubber band will stretch, and the red ball--which represents all the things that eat or kill the phytoplankton--won't catch up with the green ball. But as soon as the green ball stops accelerating, the tension in the rubber band will pull that red ball up to it, and the red ball catches up." This finding, he said, goes against the commonly held belief that blooms begin when phytoplankton growth rates reach a threshold rate, and then stop when growth rates crash. Instead, blooms start when growth rates are extremely slow, and then stop when phytoplankton growth is at its maximum but the acceleration of the bloom has hit its peak. It's only then that the predatory organisms catch up and the bloom terminates. The study also reveals that, in Arctic waters, the year-to-year changes in this constant push and pull between predator and prey has been the primary driver of change over the past 10 years. The situation is different in the southern ocean around Antarctica, where changes in the ice cover held more sway. "The take-home message," Behrenfeld said, "is that, if we want to understand the production of the polar systems as a whole, we have to focus both on changes in ice cover and changes in the ecosystems that regulate this delicate balance between predators and prey." The capabilities of space-based LIDAR, he said, open the door to even more-detailed measurements of plankton communities. For example, the CALIOP instrument, good as it is, was engineered to take measurements of the atmosphere and does not have the resolution necessary to capture detailed information below the ocean's surface. A higher-resolution instrument, now being developed at NASA but not yet deployed on a satellite, could collect subsurface samples at finely spaced depths as the laser pulse penetrates through the water column, allowing scientists to see the vertical structure of plankton blooms. That would reveal more about how plankton are being influenced by the ocean's currents and its other physical properties, Behrenfeld said. The instrument could also determine what fraction of the signal is from the scattering of light versus the absorption of light. "We can use the scattering information to quantify the concentration of the plankton, and we can use the absorption to say something about the plankton's physiology--in other words, the health of the cells," said Behrenfeld. The CALIOP sensor is mounted on the CALIPSO satellite (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation), jointly owned by NASA and France's space agency. Other participating institutions include the University of Maine, the University of California and Princeton University.


News Article | September 7, 2016
Site: phys.org

The mutualistic relationship between tree roots and ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi has been shaping forest ecosystems since their inception. ECM fungi are key players supporting the growth, health and stress tolerance of forest trees globally, such as oak, pine, spruce, birch and beech, and help boost the productivity of bioenergy feedstock trees, including poplar and willow. The most common ECM fungus is Cenococcum geophilum, found in subtropical through arctic zones and especially in extreme environments. It is also the only mycorrhizal fungus in the Dothideomycetes, a large class comprised of some 19,000 fungal species, many of them plant pathogens. To learn more about what ectomycorrhizal characteristics are dominant in Cenococcum geophilum, a team led by researchers at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, and including researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, compared its genome with the genomes of close relatives Lepidopterella palustris and Glonium stellatum, neither of which are ECM fungi. The study was published online September 7 in Nature Communications. They found specific adaptations in the C. geophilum transcriptome—the set of its messenger RNA molecules that reflects actual biochemical activity by the fungus —that could help their hosts be more resistant to drought stress, a finding that could be useful in developing more plant feedstocks for bioenergy amidst the changing climate. As part of a comparative genomic analysis done through the Mycorrhizal Genomics Initiative (MGI) headed by study senior author Francis Martin of INRA, the DOE JGI sequenced C. geophilum and its close relative Lepidopterella palustris, and annotated both of these genomes and another close relative, Glonium stellatum. "We showed that the genome of C. geophilum, the only known mycorrhizal symbiont within the largest fungal class Dothideomycetes, acquired the same genomic adaptations to the mycorrhizal lifestyle over generations as the previously sequenced ectomycorrhizal basidiomycetes," Martin said. "These include a strikingly reduced number of plant cell wall degrading enzymes (PCWDEs) and a large set of symbiosis-induced lineage-specific genes, including dozen of mycorrhiza-induced small secreted effector-like proteins (MiSSPs)."Unlike free-living saprotrophs, fungi that get their nutrients from decomposing organic matter in forest soils and so require PCWDEs, Cenoccocum has come to rely heavily on its hosts for its carbon nutrition. Noting that the root tips of C. geophilum are highly resistant to dessication, one of the team's key findings is that two of the three most highly induced C. geophilum genes in symbiosis code for water channels. "The regulation of these water channel genes is fine-tuned under drought conditions and they might therefore play a key role in drought adaptation of host plants," said first author Martina Peter of the Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL. "C. geophilum population genomics should shed light on the mechanisms of host and environmental adaptation," the team wrote in their paper. "It should facilitate the identification of drought-adapted C. geophilum strains, which can be used to efficiently support their host trees threatened by the forecasted increase in drought periods in many parts of the world." Both Peter and Martin noted that credit for the success of the work and of the Mycorrhizal Genomics Initiative goes to the "tight collaboration" between their teams, the DOE JGI, Joey Spatafora at Oregon State University and Pedro Crous CBS Fungal Biodiversity Centre (Utrecht, Netherlands) as well as with Bernard Henrissat of CNRS and University of Aix-Marseilles. "The intersection of genomics and evolutionary biology, as carried out in the MGI and the 1000 Fungal Genomes (KFG) Project, can inform our understanding of the biological principles intrinsic to mycorrhizal symbiosis," said Martin. "By combining genome sequences with rigorous physiological and ecological studies, we are entering a time where linking the presence, composition and abundance of soil mycorrhizal communities with important soil processes and forest productivity at an ecosystem scale is possible." Explore further: How scavenging fungi became a plant's best friend


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

In August 2015, University of Delaware oceanographer Andreas Muenchow and colleagues deployed the first UD ocean sensors underneath Petermann Glacier in North Greenland, which connects the great Greenland ice sheet directly with the ocean. Petermann Glacier is the second largest floating ice shelf in the northern hemisphere. Located approximately 16 to 2,300 feet below the glacier, the five ocean sensors are connected to a weather station at the surface, creating the first cabled observatory on a floating, moving, and rapidly melting Greenland glacier. The researchers recently reported in the journal Oceanography that sensor data from August 2015 to February 2016 confirms that that the floating ice shelf is strongly coupled, or tied, to the ocean below and to Nares Strait, and temperatures vary with the tides and seasons. Specifically, the paper found that the same water that has been measured in the fjord is under the glacier, lending credence to the idea that the continuity of the glacier depends on the conditions outside the glacier in the fjord. This water is warming an average of 0.03 degrees Celsius per year, with temperatures at the deepest ocean sensors sometimes exceeding 0.3 degrees Celsius or 33 degrees Fahrenheit, Muenchow said. These temperature values are consistent at various water depths, and match data from a 2003-09 study in adjacent Nares Strait, which connects to both the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. "This correlation tells us this is the same water and that this is what's causing the melting of the glacier, which could influence sea level rise," said Muenchow, an associate professor of oceanography in UD's School of Marine Science and Policy, which is housed in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE). The scientists theorize that warmer Atlantic water will continue to arrive inside Petermann Fjord and below the ice shelf from Nares Strait in the next one-to-two years. Co-authors on the paper include Keith W. Nicholls, an oceanographer with the British Antarctic Survey; Peter Washam, a UD doctoral student; and Laurie Padman, a senior scientist at Oregon State University.


News Article | October 27, 2016
Site: phys.org

The culprit, researchers say, is the influx of exotic annual grasses such as cheatgrass that establish after wildfire removes the native plant community, including sagebrush, the plant upon which sage-grouse are dependent for survival. Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Great Basin of North America is a vast landscape that is larger than 75 percent of the countries worldwide. It is comprised primarily of a "sagebrush sea" that is threatened by this cycle of wildfire and cheatgrass, according to Christian Hagen, a senior research associate at Oregon State University and a co-author on the study. "Our modeling indicates that there are long-lasting effects from wildfire that negate increases in sage-grouse population growth that typically occur after years of higher precipitation," said Hagen, a researcher in OSU's Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. "So even when we have a good precipitation year in the Great Basin, the sage-grouse don't recover as they once did because the habitat to support them has been lost to cheatgrass." The study area encompassed the hydrographic and vegetation boundaries of the Great Basin and included parts of six western states: Nevada (43 percent of the area), Utah (17 percent), Idaho (16 percent), Oregon (14 percent), California (10 percent) and Wyoming (less than 1 percent). "Wildfire is increasing in the region because the invading cheatgrass is much more prone to burn and re-establishes orders of magnitude quicker than the native sagebrush," Hagen said. "That isn't necessarily news – Aldo Leopold recognized that more than a half-century ago. But the impact on an indicator species like the sage-grouse had not been so clearly documented." Sagebrush has slow growth rates and does not re-sprout after wildfires; it must re-establish from the seed bank. This delay in succession opens the door for cheatgrass to establish. The researchers say that understanding "R&R" – resilience to wildfire and resistance to cheatgrass – is key to focusing the right land management practices in the right places. Cheatgrass hails from warmer regions of Eurasia and generally does not persist in relatively cold and moist climates. Colder, moist soils tend to be the most productive ecological sites in the Great Basin, and these sites promote the growth of perennial bunch grasses, native forbs and shrubs – plants that tend to be more resilient to fire, and resistant to invasive grasses. These also are some of the most productive sites for the sage-grouse. The sage-grouse is a large gallinaceous, or ground-feeding, bird that can be an indicator for ecological health in sagebrush ecosystems because it requires distinct ecological states to meet its diverse life-history needs. Thus, the population dynamics of the species are considered an ideal metric for assessing disturbances to sagebrush disturbance. The sage-grouse has been considered several times for protection under the Endangered Species Act, the most recent of which triggered massive changes to land management policy on millions of acres of public land. The cycle of habitat decline is linked to the introduction of cheatgrass to the ecosystem, the researchers say. Land management practices led to a burning regime as often as every 2-3 years, which allowed fast-growing cheatgrass to establish at the expense of slow-growing sagebrush. "If you can imagine an area the size of a football field infested with cheatgrass, but surrounded by native vegetation," Hagen said. "If a lightning strike sets the cheatgrass on fire, it likely will consume some of the native vegetation and the burned area doubles or triples, and by next year the cheatgrass infestation has spread. "It's a classic positive feedback loop that promotes cheatgrass and becomes a negative situation for native plants – and ultimately, for sage-grouse." The key to reversing this decline, the researchers say, may be to further enhance fire prevention and suppression effectiveness in targeted areas of intact sagebrush that have the highest densities of breeding sage-grouse. The study shows that 90 percent of sage-grouse are concentrated on less than 10 percent of the Great Basin. "Our study illustrates a path toward stabilizing sage-grouse populations through highly focused wildfire management," Hagen said. "New federal wildland fire policies and priorities in sagebrush steppe, combined with improved collaboration with rural communities through rangeland fire protection associations, greatly increases the odds of curbing population declines due to fire." Explore further: Q&A: What is a sage grouse and why is the bird imperiled? More information: Peter S. Coates et al. Wildfire, climate, and invasive grass interactions negatively impact an indicator species by reshaping sagebrush ecosystems, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2016). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1606898113


News Article | December 19, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- A space-based sensor that can "see" through fog, clouds and darkness has given scientists their first continuous look at the boom-bust cycles that drive polar plankton communities. The decade-long set of images reveals that phytoplankton cycles are more tied to the push-pull relationship between them and their predators than was initially thought, according to a study published today in the journal Nature Geoscience. Phytoplankton are the foundation of the ocean's food web. Commercial fisheries, marine mammals and birds all depend on the blooms, said the study's lead author, Michael Behrenfeld, an expert in marine plankton at Oregon State University's College of Agricultural Sciences. "It's really important for us to understand what controls these boom-bust cycles and how they might change in the future," Behrenfeld said, "because the dynamics of plankton communities have implications for all the other organisms throughout the web." Phytoplankton also influence Earth's carbon cycle. Through photosynthesis, they absorb a great deal of the carbon dioxide near the ocean's surface. That, in turn, allows carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to go into the ocean. The satellite-mounted LIDAR instrument, dubbed Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization, or CALIOP, uses a laser beam to map the ocean's surface and immediate subsurface. CALIOP monitored plankton in the Arctic and Antarctic ocean waters from 2006 to 2015. CALIOP'S measurements reveal that, as the phytoplankton growth accelerates, the blooms are able to outpace the organisms that prey on them. As soon as that acceleration stops, however, the predatory organisms catch up and the bloom ends. Imagine two rubber balls--one red, one green--connected by a rubber band, Behrenfeld said. "Take the green ball--which represents the phytoplankton--and whack it with a paddle," he said. "As long as that green ball accelerates, the rubber band will stretch, and the red ball--which represents all the things that eat or kill the phytoplankton--won't catch up with the green ball. But as soon as the green ball stops accelerating, the tension in the rubber band will pull that red ball up to it, and the red ball catches up." This finding, he said, goes against the commonly held belief that blooms begin when phytoplankton growth rates reach a threshold rate, and then stop when growth rates crash. Instead, blooms start when growth rates are extremely slow, and then stop when phytoplankton growth is at its maximum but the acceleration of the bloom has hit its peak. It's only then that the predatory organisms catch up and the bloom terminates. The study also reveals that, in Arctic waters, the year-to-year changes in this constant push and pull between predator and prey has been the primary driver of change over the past 10 years. The situation is different in the southern ocean around Antarctica, where changes in the ice cover held more sway. "The take-home message," Behrenfeld said, "is that, if we want to understand the production of the polar systems as a whole, we have to focus both on changes in ice cover and changes in the ecosystems that regulate this delicate balance between predators and prey." The capabilities of space-based LIDAR, he said, open the door to even more-detailed measurements of plankton communities. For example, the CALIOP instrument, good as it is, was engineered to take measurements of the atmosphere and does not have the resolution necessary to capture detailed information below the ocean's surface. A higher-resolution instrument, now being developed at NASA but not yet deployed on a satellite, could collect subsurface samples at finely spaced depths as the laser pulse penetrates through the water column, allowing scientists to see the vertical structure of plankton blooms. That would reveal more about how plankton are being influenced by the ocean's currents and its other physical properties, Behrenfeld said. The instrument could also determine what fraction of the signal is from the scattering of light versus the absorption of light. "We can use the scattering information to quantify the concentration of the plankton, and we can use the absorption to say something about the plankton's physiology--in other words, the health of the cells," said Behrenfeld. The CALIOP sensor is mounted on the CALIPSO satellite (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation), jointly owned by NASA and France's space agency. Other participating institutions include the University of Maine, the University of California and Princeton University.


News Article | August 22, 2016
Site: news.mit.edu

Lithium-air batteries are considered highly promising technologies for electric cars and portable electronic devices because of their potential for delivering a high energy output in proportion to their weight. But such batteries have some pretty serious drawbacks: They waste much of the injected energy as heat and degrade relatively quickly. They also require expensive extra components to pump oxygen gas in and out, in an open-cell configuration that is very different from conventional sealed batteries. But a new variation of the battery chemistry, which could be used in a conventional, fully sealed battery, promises similar theoretical performance as lithium-air batteries, while overcoming all of these drawbacks. The new battery concept, called a nanolithia cathode battery, is described in the journal Nature Energy in a paper by Ju Li, the Battelle Energy Alliance Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT; postdoc Zhi Zhu; and five others at MIT, Argonne National Laboratory, and Peking University in China. One of the shortcomings of lithium-air batteries, Li explains, is the mismatch between the voltages involved in charging and discharging the batteries. The batteries’ output voltage is more than 1.2 volts lower than the voltage used to charge them, which represents a significant power loss incurred in each charging cycle. “You waste 30 percent of the electrical energy as heat in charging. … It can actually burn if you charge it too fast,” he says. Conventional lithium-air batteries draw in oxygen from the outside air to drive a chemical reaction with the battery’s lithium during the discharging cycle, and this oxygen is then released again to the atmosphere during the reverse reaction in the charging cycle. In the new variant, the same kind of electrochemical reactions take place between lithium and oxygen during charging and discharging, but they take place without ever letting the oxygen revert to a gaseous form. Instead, the oxygen stays inside the solid and transforms directly between its three redox states, while bound in the form of three different solid chemical compounds, Li O, Li O and LiO , which are mixed together in the form of a glass. This reduces the voltage loss by a factor of five, from 1.2 volts to 0.24 volts, so only 8 percent of the electrical energy is turned to heat. “This means faster charging for cars, as heat removal from the battery pack is less of a safety concern, as well as energy efficiency benefits,” Li says. This approach helps overcome another issue with lithium-air batteries: As the chemical reaction involved in charging and discharging converts oxygen between gaseous and solid forms, the material goes through huge volume changes that can disrupt electrical conduction paths in the structure, severely limiting its lifetime. The secret to the new formulation is creating minuscule particles, at the nanometer scale (billionths of a meter), which contain both the lithium and the oxygen in the form of a glass, confined tightly within a matrix of cobalt oxide. The researchers refer to these particles as nanolithia. In this form, the transitions between LiO , Li O and Li O can take place entirely inside the solid material, he says. The nanolithia particles would normally be very unstable, so the researchers embedded them within the cobalt oxide matrix, a sponge-like material with pores just a few nanometers across. The matrix stabilizes the particles and also acts as a catalyst for their transformations. Conventional lithium-air batteries, Li explains, are “really lithium-dry oxygen batteries, because they really can’t handle moisture or carbon dioxide,” so these have to be carefully scrubbed from the incoming air that feeds the batteries. “You need large auxiliary systems to remove the carbon dioxide and water, and it’s very hard to do this.” But the new battery, which never needs to draw in any outside air, circumvents this issue. The new battery is also inherently protected from overcharging, the team says, because the chemical reaction in this case is naturally self-limiting — when overcharged, the reaction shifts to a different form that prevents further activity. “With a typical battery, if you overcharge it, it can cause irreversible structural damage or even explode,” Li says. But with the nanolithia battery, “we have overcharged the battery for 15 days, to a hundred times its capacity, but there was no damage at all.” In cycling tests, a lab version of the new battery was put through 120 charging-discharging cycles, and showed less than a 2 percent loss of capacity, indicating that such batteries could have a long useful lifetime. And because such batteries could be installed and operated just like conventional solid lithium-ion batteries, without any of the auxiliary components needed for a lithium-air battery, they could be easily adapted to existing installations or conventional battery pack designs for cars, electronics, or even grid-scale power storage. Because these “solid oxygen” cathodes are much lighter than conventional lithium-ion battery cathodes, the new design could store as much as double the amount of energy for a given cathode weight, the team says. And with further refinement of the design, Li says, the new batteries could ultimately double that capacity again. All of this is accomplished without adding any expensive components or materials, according to Li. The carbonate they use as the liquid electrolyte in this battery “is the cheapest kind” of electrolyte, he says. And the cobalt oxide component weighs less than 50 percent of the nanolithia component. Overall, the new battery system is “very scalable, cheap, and much safer” than lithium-air batteries, Li says. The team expects to move from this lab-scale proof of concept to a practical prototype within about a year. “This is a foundational breakthrough, which may shift the paradigm of oxygen-based batteries,” says Xiulei Ji, an assistant professor of chemistry at Oregon State University, who was not involved in this work. “In this system, commercial carbonate-based electrolyte works very well with solvated superoxide shuttles, which is quite impressive and may have to do with the lack of any gaseous O in this sealed system. All active masses of the cathode throughout cycling are solid, which presents not only large energy density but compatibility with the current battery manufacturing infrastructure.” The research team included MIT research scientists Akihiro Kushima and Zongyou Yin; Lu Qi of Peking University; and Khalil Amine and Jun Lu of Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.


News Article | December 13, 2016
Site: phys.org

The team of researchers from UGA's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory is the first to study vertebrate and invertebrate scavenging of invasive species on an island. The state of Hawaii has the highest number of endangered and threatened native species in the U.S., and this study, published recently in the journal Ecosphere, could inform efforts to manage invasive populations in Hawaii and similar island ecosystems threatened by invasive species. "It is essential to know where nutrient resources flow in a highly invaded ecosystem," said wildlife ecologist Olin E. Rhodes Jr., director of the SREL. "We wanted to see what was eating the invasive species that have significant populations on the island," said team leader Erin F. Abernethy, an alumna of SREL and UGA's Odum School of Ecology, now at Oregon State University. "And, we wanted to identify the percentages of carcasses eaten by invasive vertebrates and invertebrates." What they found, said Abernethy, "indicates a positive feedback loop. The more non-native species invade an island, live and reproduce and die, the more nutrient resources they create for other invasive species through carcasses—synergistically refueling off of one another and further invading the ecosystem." The team set up 647 individual invasive carcasses of amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and birds on camera traps across three diverse landscapes on the island. A small percentage of the carcasses were also fitted with transmitters to allow the researchers to see if they were consumed after being removed from the camera's view. The camera images revealed significant scavenging by invasive vertebrates. Although scavenging by vertebrates was only 10 percent higher than that of invertebrates, the researchers were surprised at their lack of discrimination about what they scavenged. "We anticipated that vertebrates would quickly find and remove large carcasses, but we discovered that the vertebrates were skilled at acquiring all types of carcasses," Abernethy said. "They were adept and highly efficient at finding the smallest of resources—locating carcasses of coqui frogs, a small frog native to Puerto Rico—and geckos that only weighed a few grams, before invasive invertebrates had the opportunity to get to them." Abernethy said that despite their small size, these animals represent a significant food resource. Previous research on the island indicates coqui frogs number 91,000 per 2.47 acres. Invasive vertebrates removed 55 percent of the carcasses in this study. The mongoose and the rat proved to be the most formidable scavengers. They removed the most carcasses and were observed more frequently. The mongoose was the only species in the study to participate in cannibalism—feasting on mongoose carcasses. The invasive invertebrate scavenger community, which included yellow jackets and fly larvae, removed 45 percent of the carcasses. This left no carcass resources for the native species on the island—the owl and hawk. Few in number on the island, these animals were not seen by the team during the study. Explore further: Most island vertebrate extinctions could be averted, new study concludes More information: Erin F. Abernethy et al. Carcasses of invasive species are predominantly utilized by invasive scavengers in an island ecosystem, Ecosphere (2016). DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.1496


News Article | October 28, 2016
Site: phys.org

The bear population of each area is too small to prevent inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity in this endangered species. Inbreeding can pass on too many deleterious recessive traits, and lack of genetic diversity makes a population vulnerable to catastrophic events such as the introduction of a disease. Local land trusts have set out to help by acquiring land to create corridors through which animals might gradually migrate between the two preserves. At the same time, they have been designing corridors for also endangered wolverines and lynx. Now, researchers at Cornell, Georgia Tech and the U.S. Forest Service have found that when a corridor includes areas that are hospitable to two species, the cost is far less than it would be to create separate corridors for each one. This also means more animals can be helped within the same limited budget. "This work opens up new directions in terms of understanding tradeoffs for different species," said Carla Gomes, professor of computing and information science and director of the Cornell Institute for Computational Sustainability. "The land trusts have very limited resources. Now that we can get synthesis rather than just optimize for one species, it's economically more efficient." Gomes and colleagues began by creating optimization programs to design corridors just for grizzly bears, later applying the same techniques for other animals. Now they have updated their systems to work with multiple species, most recently trying it out with bears and wolverines. Given the suitability of every available parcel of land, along with the purchase price, a computer can evaluate, in a "smart way," many possible combinations of connected parcels to find a route that best satisfies all the animals' needs at the lowest total cost. Gomes is co-author of a paper, "Trade-offs and efficiencies in optimal budget-constrained multispecies corridor networks." published in the Sept. 27 online edition of the journal Conservation Biology. Cornell-related co-authors include Bistra Dilkina Ph.D. '12, now assistant professor at the School of Computational Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech, and Richard Bernstein, a staff programmer in the Institute for Computational Sustainability. Also participating are authors at the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. "We were very fortunate to come across Carla and Bistra." said Michael Schwartz, director of the National Genomics center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation, an agency of the U.S. Forest Service, who is also a co-author of the paper. "I've talked to many land trusts and they are very enthusiastic to use this. This puts it in an economic framework that people can use in Western Montana or upstate New York." Schwartz and colleagues in the Forest Service oversee 210 million acres of western land. They have collected genetic samples from more than 200 wolverines in the wild. "What got me interested is that I've seen our data being used to justify purchases," he said. In the computer analysis, each parcel of land is assigned a "resistance score" that represents the difficulty a particular animal might have dwelling in that environment – and conversely, how much it might be attracted there. Bears, for example, like canopied forest. Wolverines prefer land that has snow on the ground into early spring. Both of them want to avoid predators, and none want to run into humans. The latter takes care of itself in the optimization process, Gomes notes, because land near towns is more expensive. The computer's job is to evaluate many possible combinations until it finds a group of connected parcels that offer the lowest total of resistance scores and purchase prices. The computer scientist's job is to design an algorithm that will accomplish this in a reasonable amount of processing time – which gets harder as the number of species whose scores must be evaluated increases. In tryouts, the researchers found there are many "tradeoffs," like accepting parcels that have higher resistance scores but are less expensive, or deciding to weight one species over another for ecological reasons or just to satisfy human preferences. (Bears seem to be more charismatic.) The problem is common in computer science, Gomes said, using, for example, the same algorithms that might be used to route data packets around the Internet. The research paper describes new methods to deal with optimization problems that might otherwise require too much computer time to solve. One answer, Gomes explained, is for the computer to take a "reasoned approach," skipping combinations that start off looking worse than what was already available. Sustainability work often pays back with new insights for common problems in computer science, Gomes pointed out.


News Article | December 15, 2016
Site: www.csmonitor.com

A North Atlantic right whale swims with her calf in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the United States near the border between Florida and Georgia, Feb. 2009. —Below the surface of the world's deepest waters, above the Mariana Trench, researchers have discovered a strange sound they say could be a new baleen whale call. Baleen whales are known for their distinctive songs. This particular sound, which researchers nicknamed the Western Pacific Biotwang, lasts between 2.5 and 3.5 seconds and includes five separate parts with a dramatic range of frequencies, from a low 38 hertz to a "metallic finale" of 8,000 hertz. The findings were published in the The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America by researchers from the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resource Studies, a partnership between Oregon State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s very distinct, with all these crazy parts,” Sharon Nieukirk, a senior faculty research assistant in marine bioacoustics at Oregon State University and the lead author of the study, said in a university press release. “The low-frequency moaning part is typical of baleen whales, and it’s that kind of twangy sound that makes it really unique. We don’t find many new baleen whale calls.” The Mariana Trench, which runs between Japan and Australia, plunges to depths of about 36,000 feet and is the deepest known part of any ocean on Earth. Until recently, scientists assumed that these murky depths were quiet, but in a separate study this spring, a research team discovered that it was actually abuzz with sound. “You would think that the deepest part of the ocean would be one of the quietest places on Earth,” Robert Dziak, a NOAA research oceanographer and chief scientist on the project, said in a March statement. “Yet there really is almost constant noise from both natural and man-made sources.” The hydrophone they lowered seven miles underwater picked up everything from whale calls and ships passing overhead to earthquakes and typhoons. In the newest study, the sound was recorded by a passive acoustic ocean glider, an instrument designed to travel on its own for months at a time. When Dr. Nieukirk’s research team analyzed the sound, the found that it was similar to what they call the “Star Wars” sound – a call produced by the dwarf minke whale, a type of baleen whale that lives off the northeast coast of Australia, near the Great Barrier Reef. Considering the sound’s resemblance to the minke whale call, the researchers have tentatively concluded that this sound too, comes from a minke whale, which live in most oceans around the globe, and which use a variety of distinct calls. In the Atlantic, they emit low-frequency "pulse trains," while minkes in the North Pacific make what scientists call "boing" noises. “We don’t really know that much about minke whale distribution at low latitudes,” Nieukirk said in a release. “The species is the smallest of the baleen whales, doesn’t spend much time at the surface, has an inconspicuous blow, and often lives in areas where high seas make sighting difficult. But they call frequently, making them good candidates for acoustic studies.” Still, there are some complications with this theory. Baleen whale calls are typically heard in conjunction with their winter mating season, but the Western Pacific Biotwang has been recorded throughout the year. “We need to determine how often the call occurs in summer versus winter, and how widely this call is really distributed,” Nieukirk added. But she believes that more data will help all answer the remaining questions, and hopes that her team will be the ones to continue the research. “Our hope is to mount an expedition to go out and do acoustic localization, find the animals, get biopsy samples and find out exactly what’s making the sound,” she said. “It really is an amazing, weird sound, and good science will explain it.”


News Article | December 13, 2016
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

Researchers from the University of Georgia have found that invasive species on Hawaii Island, or the Big Island of Hawaii, may be especially successful invaders because they are formidable scavengers of carcasses of other animals and after death, a nutrient resource for other invasive scavengers. The team of researchers from UGA’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory is the first to study vertebrate and invertebrate scavenging of invasive species on an island. The state of Hawaii has the highest number of endangered and threatened native species in the U.S., and this study, published recently in the journal Ecosphere, could inform efforts to manage invasive populations in Hawaii and similar island ecosystems threatened by invasive species. “It is essential to know where nutrient resources flow in a highly invaded ecosystem,” said wildlife ecologist Olin E. Rhodes Jr., director of the SREL. “We wanted to see what was eating the invasive species that have significant populations on the island,” said team leader Erin F. Abernethy, an alumna of SREL and UGA’s Odum School of Ecology, now at Oregon State University. “And, we wanted to identify the percentages of carcasses eaten by invasive vertebrates and invertebrates.” What they found, said Abernethy, “indicates a positive feedback loop. The more non-native species invade an island, live and reproduce and die, the more nutrient resources they create for other invasive species through carcasses—synergistically refueling off of one another and further invading the ecosystem.” The team set up 647 individual invasive carcasses of amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and birds on camera traps across three diverse landscapes on the island. A small percentage of the carcasses were also fitted with transmitters to allow the researchers to see if they were consumed after being removed from the camera’s view. The camera images revealed significant scavenging by invasive vertebrates. Although scavenging by vertebrates was only 10 percent higher than that of invertebrates, the researchers were surprised at their lack of discrimination about what they scavenged. “We anticipated that vertebrates would quickly find and remove large carcasses, but we discovered that the vertebrates were skilled at acquiring all types of carcasses,” Abernethy said. “They were adept and highly efficient at finding the smallest of resources—locating carcasses of coqui frogs, a small frog native to Puerto Rico—and geckos that only weighed a few grams, before invasive invertebrates had the opportunity to get to them.” Abernethy said that despite their small size, these animals represent a significant food resource. Previous research on the island indicates coqui frogs number 91,000 per 2.47 acres. Invasive vertebrates removed 55 percent of the carcasses in this study. The mongoose and the rat proved to be the most formidable scavengers. They removed the most carcasses and were observed more frequently. The mongoose was the only species in the study to participate in cannibalism—feasting on mongoose carcasses. The invasive invertebrate scavenger community, which included yellow jackets and fly larvae, removed 45 percent of the carcasses. This left no carcass resources for the native species on the island—the owl and hawk. Few in number on the island, these animals were not seen by the team during the study.


News Article | October 26, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Researchers at Oregon State University have found that a specific detoxification compound, glutathione, helps resist the toxic stresses of everyday life - but its levels decline with age and this sets the stage for a wide range of age-related health problems. A new study, published in the journal Redox Biology, also highlighted a compound - N-acetyl-cysteine, or NAC - that is already used in high doses in medical detoxification emergencies. But the researchers said that at much lower levels NAC might help maintain glutathione levels and prevent the routine metabolic declines associated with aging. In that context, the research not only offers some profound insights into why the health of animals declines with age, but specifically points to a compound that might help prevent some of the toxic processes involved. Decline of these detoxification pathways, scientists say, are causally linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, some of the primary causes of death in the developed world. "We've known for some time of the importance of glutathione as a strong antioxidant," said Tory Hagen, lead author on the research and the Helen P. Rumbel Professor for Health Aging Research in the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU. "What this study pointed out was the way that cells from younger animals are far more resistant to stress than those from older animals," said Hagen, also a professor of biochemistry in the OSU College of Science. "In young animal cells, stress doesn't cause such a rapid loss of glutathione. The cells from older animals, on the other hand, were quickly depleted of glutathione and died twice as fast when subjected to stress. "But pretreatment with NAC increased glutathione levels in the older cells and largely helped offset that level of cell death." Glutathione, Hagen said, is such an important antioxidant that its existence appears to date back as far as oxygen-dependent, or aerobic life itself - about 1.5 billion years. It's a principal compound to detoxify environmental stresses, air pollutants, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and many other toxic insults. In this study, scientists tried to identify the resistance to toxins of young cells, compared to those of older cells. They used a toxic compound called menadione to stress the cells, and in the face of that stress the younger cells lost significantly less of their glutathione than older cells did. The glutathione levels of young rat cells never decreased to less than 35 percent of its initial level, whereas in older rat cells glutathione levels plummeted to 10 percent of their original level. NAC, the researchers said, is known to boost the metabolic function of glutathione and increase its rate of synthesis. It's already used in emergency medicine to help patients in a toxic crisis, such as ingestion of poisonous levels of heavy metals. It's believed to be a very safe compound to use even at extremely high levels - and the scientists are hypothesizing that it might have significant value at much lower doses to maintain glutathione levels and improve health. "I'm optimistic there could be a role for this compound in preventing the increased toxicity we face with aging, as our abilities to deal with toxins decline," Hagen said. "We might be able to improve the metabolic resilience that we're naturally losing with age." Also of interest, Hagen said, is the wide range of apparent detoxification potential offered by glutathione. Higher levels of it - boosted by NAC - might help reduce the toxicity of some prescription drugs, cancer chemotherapies, and treat other health issues. "Using NAC as a prophylactic, instead of an intervention, may allow glutathione levels to be maintained for detoxification in older adults," the researchers wrote in their conclusion. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon.


News Article | November 14, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Researchers at Oregon State University and other institutions have discovered an important link between the immune system, gut bacteria and glucose metabolism -- a "cross-talk" and interaction that can lead to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome when not functioning correctly. The findings, published today in Nature Communications, are one example of how different mammalian systems can affect each other in ways not previously understood. A better understanding of these systems, researchers say, may lead to new probiotic approaches to diabetes and other diseases. The research also shows the general importance of proper bacterial functions in the gut and the role of one bacteria in particular -- Akkermansia muciniphila -- in helping to regulate glucose metabolism. This bacteria's function is so important, scientists say, that it has been conserved through millions of years of evolution to perform a similar function in both mice and humans. "We're discovering that in biology there are multiple connections and communications, what we call cross-talk, that are very important in ways we're just beginning to understand," said Dr. Natalia Shulzhenko, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, and one of the corresponding authors on this study. "It's being made clear by a number of studies that our immune system, in particular, is closely linked to other metabolic functions in ways we never realized. This is still unconventional thinking, and it's being described as a new field called immunometabolism. Through the process of evolution, mammals, including humans, have developed functional systems that communicate with each other, and microbes are an essential part of that process." It had been previously observed that an immune mediator -- one type of interferon, or signaling protein called IFN-y -- can affect the proper function of glucose metabolism. IFN-y helps fight several pathogens and infections, but a decrease in its levels can lead to improvement in glucose metabolism. However, this actual process has not been understood. "Before this, no one had a clue exactly how IFN-y affected glucose tolerance," said Andrey Morgun, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Pharmacy and also a corresponding author on the study. "The involvement of microbes had not really been considered. But with the help of a statistical model and an approach we call a transkingdom network, we were able to pinpoint some likely bacterial candidates." The bacteria A. muciniphila, was found to play a critical role in this communication process - in their study, the scientists called it a "missing link." Research showed that mice specially bred with reduced levels of IFN-y had higher levels of A. muciniphila, and significantly improved glucose tolerance. When IFN-y levels increased, A. muciniphila levels declined, and glucose tolerance was reduced. Similar observations were also made in humans. It's been observed, for instance, that athletes who are extremely fit have high levels of the gut bacteria A. muciniphila, which is a mucus-degrading bacteria. The research makes clear that two systems once believed to be functionally separate -- immunity and glucose metabolism -- are, in fact, closely linked, and the bridge can be provided by gut bacteria. There's probably more than one bacteria involved in this process of communication and metabolic control, researchers said. The gut harbors literally thousands of microbes that appear to function almost as a metabolically active organ, emphasizing the critical importance of gut bacterial health. Bacteria-mediated communication, of course, is just one part of complex human systems -- issues such as proper diet, exercise, and appropriate weight control are all still important, the researchers said. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health. Other collaborating researchers were from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, University of North Carolina, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Duke University Medical Center. Co-first authors were Renee Greer of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Xiaoxi Dong of the OSU College of Pharmacy.


News Article | December 13, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Aiken, S.C. - Researchers from the University of Georgia have found that invasive species on Hawaii Island, or the Big Island of Hawaii, may be especially successful invaders because they are formidable scavengers of carcasses of other animals and after death, a nutrient resource for other invasive scavengers. The team of researchers from UGA's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory is the first to study vertebrate and invertebrate scavenging of invasive species on an island. The state of Hawaii has the highest number of endangered and threatened native species in the U.S., and this study, published recently in the journal Ecosphere, could inform efforts to manage invasive populations in Hawaii and similar island ecosystems threatened by invasive species. "It is essential to know where nutrient resources flow in a highly invaded ecosystem," said wildlife ecologist Olin E. Rhodes Jr., director of the SREL. "We wanted to see what was eating the invasive species that have significant populations on the island," said team leader Erin F. Abernethy, an alumna of SREL and UGA's Odum School of Ecology, now at Oregon State University. "And, we wanted to identify the percentages of carcasses eaten by invasive vertebrates and invertebrates." What they found, said Abernethy, "indicates a positive feedback loop. The more non-native species invade an island, live and reproduce and die, the more nutrient resources they create for other invasive species through carcasses--synergistically refueling off of one another and further invading the ecosystem." The team set up 647 individual invasive carcasses of amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and birds on camera traps across three diverse landscapes on the island. A small percentage of the carcasses were also fitted with transmitters to allow the researchers to see if they were consumed after being removed from the camera's view. The camera images revealed significant scavenging by invasive vertebrates. Although scavenging by vertebrates was only 10 percent higher than that of invertebrates, the researchers were surprised at their lack of discrimination about what they scavenged. "We anticipated that vertebrates would quickly find and remove large carcasses, but we discovered that the vertebrates were skilled at acquiring all types of carcasses," Abernethy said. "They were adept and highly efficient at finding the smallest of resources--locating carcasses of coqui frogs, a small frog native to Puerto Rico--and geckos that only weighed a few grams, before invasive invertebrates had the opportunity to get to them." Abernethy said that despite their small size, these animals represent a significant food resource. Previous research on the island indicates coqui frogs number 91,000 per 2.47 acres. Invasive vertebrates removed 55 percent of the carcasses in this study. The mongoose and the rat proved to be the most formidable scavengers. They removed the most carcasses and were observed more frequently. The mongoose was the only species in the study to participate in cannibalism--feasting on mongoose carcasses. The invasive invertebrate scavenger community, which included yellow jackets and fly larvae, removed 45 percent of the carcasses. This left no carcass resources for the native species on the island--the owl and hawk. Few in number on the island, these animals were not seen by the team during the study. Further information about the study, including differences in scavenging activity among the three sites, can be found at http://onlinelibrary. . Additional authors on the study include James C. Beasley and Kelsey Turner, SREL, Aiken, South Carolina, and Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, Athens, Georgia.; Travis DeVault, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, NWRC, Sandusky, Ohio; and William Pitt, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, Virginia.


News Article | November 28, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Incentives that are designed to enable smarter use of the ocean while also protecting marine ecosystems can and do work, and offer significant hope to help address the multiple environmental threats facing the world's oceans, researchers conclude in a new analysis. Whether economic or social, incentive-based solutions may be one of the best options for progress in reducing impacts from overfishing, climate change, ocean acidification and pollution, researchers from Oregon State University and Princeton University say in a new report published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And positive incentives - the "carrot" - work better than negative incentives, or the "stick." Part of the reason for optimism, the researchers report, is changing awareness, attitudes and social norms around the world, in which resource users and consumers are becoming more informed about environmental issues and demanding action to address them. That sets the stage for economic incentives that can convert near-disaster situations into sustainable fisheries, cleaner water and long-term solutions. "As we note in this report, the ocean is becoming higher, warmer, stormier, more acidic, lower in dissolved oxygen and overfished," said Jane Lubchenco, the distinguished university professor in the College of Science and advisor in marine studies at Oregon State University, lead author of the new report, and U.S. science envoy for the ocean at the Department of State. "The threats facing the ocean are enormous, and can seem overwhelming. But there's actually reason for hope, and it's based on what we've learned about the use of incentives to change the way people, nations and institutions behave. We believe it's possible to make that transition from a vicious to a virtuous cycle. Getting incentives right can flip a disaster to a resounding success." Simon A. Levin, the James S. McDonnell distinguished university professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University and co-author of the publication, had a similar perspective. "It is really very exciting that what, until recently, was theoretical optimism is proving to really work," Levin said. "This gives me great hope for the future." The stakes are huge, the scientists point out in their study. The global market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is about $3 trillion a year; more than 3 billion people depend on fish for a major source of protein; and marine fisheries involve more than 200 million people. Ocean and coastal ecosystems provide food, oxygen, climate regulation, pest control, recreational and cultural value. "Given the importance of marine resources, many of the 150 or more coastal nations, especially those in the developing world, are searching for new approaches to economic development, poverty alleviation and food security," said Elizabeth Cerny-Chipman, a postdoctoral scholar working with Lubchenco. "Our findings can provide guidance to them about how to develop sustainably." In recent years, the researchers said in their report, new incentive systems have been developed that tap into people's desires for both economic sustainability and global environmental protection. In many cases, individuals, scientists, faith communities, businesses, nonprofit organizations and governments are all changing in ways that reward desirable and dissuade undesirable behaviors. One of the leading examples of progress is the use of "rights-based fisheries." Instead of a traditional "race to fish" concept based on limited seasons, this growing movement allows fishers to receive a guaranteed fraction of the catch, benefit from a well-managed, healthy fishery and become part of a peer group in which cheating is not tolerated. There are now more than 200 rights-based fisheries covering more than 500 species among 40 countries, the report noted. One was implemented in the Gulf of Mexico red snapper commercial fishery, which was on the brink of collapse after decades of overfishing. A rights-based plan implemented in 2007 has tripled the spawning potential, doubled catch limits and increased fishery revenue by 70 percent. "Multiple turn-around stories in fisheries attest to the potential to end overfishing, recover depleted species, achieve healthier ocean ecosystems, and bring economic benefit to fishermen and coastal communities," said Lubchenco. "It is possible to have your fish and eat them too." A success story used by some nations has been combining "territorial use rights in fisheries," which assign exclusive fishing access in a particular place to certain individuals or communities, together with adjacent marine reserves. Fish recover inside the no-take reserve and "spillover" to the adjacent fished area outside the reserve. Another concept of incentives has been "debt for nature" swaps used in some nations, in which foreign debt is exchanged for protection of the ocean. "In parallel to a change in economic incentives," said Jessica Reimer, a graduate research assistant with Lubchenco, "there have been changes in behavioral incentives and social norms, such as altruism, ethical values, and other types of motivation that can be powerful drivers of change." The European Union, based on strong environmental support among its public, has issued warnings and trade sanctions against countries that engage in illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. In the U.S., some of the nation's largest retailers, in efforts to improve their image with consumers, have moved toward sale of only certified sustainable seafood. Incentives are not a new idea, the researchers noted. But they emphasize that their power may have been under-appreciated. "Recognizing the extent to which a change in incentives can be explicitly used to achieve outcomes related to biodiversity, ecosystem health and sustainability . . . holds particular promise for conservation and management efforts in the ocean," they wrote in their conclusion. Funding was provided by OSU and the National Science Foundation.


News Article | February 21, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered that a subset of genes involved in daily circadian rhythms, or the "biological clock," only become active late in life or during periods of intense stress when they are most needed to help protect critical life functions. The findings, made in research done with fruit flies and published today in Nature Communications, are part of a unique stress response mechanism that was previously unknown. These genes may help to combat serious stresses associated with age, disease or environmental challenges, and help explain why aging is often accelerated when the biological clock is disrupted. This group of genes, whose rhythmic activity late in life had not previously been understood, were named "late-life cyclers," or LLCs, by former OSU graduate student and lead author of the study, Rachael Kuintzle. At least 25 such genes become rhythmic with age, and the function of some of them remains unclear. "This class of LLC genes appear to become active and respond to some of the stresses most common in aging, such as cellular and molecular damage, oxidative stress, or even some disease states," said Jadwiga Giebultowicz, a professor in the OSU College of Science, co-senior author on the study and international expert on the mechanisms and function of the biological clock. "Aging is associated with neural degeneration, loss of memory and other problems, which are exacerbated if clock function is experimentally disrupted. The LLC genes are part of the natural response to that, and do what they can to help protect the nervous system." The increased, rhythmic expression of these genes during times of stress, scientists said, are another example of just how biologically important circadian rhythms are, as they help to regulate the activity of hundreds of genes essential to the processes of life. And as aging brings with it a host of new problems, the LLC genes become more and more active. According to David Hendrix, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Science and College of Engineering, and co-senior author on the study, some LLC genes are known to play roles in sequestering improperly "folded" proteins or helping them refold. This could help prevent formation of protein aggregates that can lead to age-related neurodegeneration. "Discovery of LLC genes may provide a missing link, the answer to why the disruption of circadian clocks accelerates aging symptoms," Hendrix said. The study also showed that intense stress at any point in life can cause some of the LLC genes to spring into action. "In experiments where we created artificial oxidative stress in young fruit flies, the LLC genes were rhythmically activated," said Eileen Chow, an OSU faculty research assistant and co-author. "Some of these same genes are known to be more active in people who have cancer. They appear to be a double-edged sword, necessary during times of stress but possibly harmful if activated all the time." Circadian rhythms, which are natural to an organism but synchronized by the light/dark cycle of a 24-hour day, are so important to life that the same genes controlling biological processes have been traced from fruit flies to humans, retained through millions of years of evolution. These genes are found throughout the nervous system and peripheral organs, and affect everything from sleep to stress reaction, feeding patterns, DNA repair, fertility and even the effectiveness of medications. People with routine disruptions of their circadian rhythms and sleep patterns have been found to have a shorter lifespan and be more prone to cancer. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.


News Article | November 10, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Multispectral imaging technology continues to recover new insights from the field diaries of 19th-century explorer David Livingstone. A team of scholars and scientists who worked on the Livingstone Spectral Imaging project will present their research in public talks in the United Kingdom in November. While stranded in Central Africa, Livingstone composed letters, diaries, maps and sketches on scraps of paper using inks made from local berries. His writings and drawings document the Central African slave trade, social dynamics among local populations and geographical information. "Because of the poor quality of the ink, the works probably had only been read by Livingstone himself," said Roger Easton, professor in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science at Rochester Institute of Technology, who imaged the Livingstone documents. Easton is a member of a team of scholars and scientists, led by Adrian Wisnicki, assistant professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Megan Ward, assistant professor at Oregon State University, that has assembled a digitally processed archived dedicated to the explorer. Livingstone Online: Illuminating Imperial Exploration archives more than 7,500 digital documents of original material. To make Livingstone's writings readable, advanced spectral imaging and analysis was conducted by a team that included Easton and Keith Knox, retired scientist from the U.S. Air Force Research Labs. The team of four scholars and scientists will present the results of the David Livingstone Spectral Imaging project--including both the technical aspects of the imaging and the results of the scholarly studies--in talks at the University of Edinburgh on Nov. 14, the University of Oxford on Nov. 16 and Queen's University in Belfast on Nov. 18. For more information, contact Roger Easton at easton@cis.rit.edu.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

CORVALLIS, Ore. - A new study about the overwhelming importance of "superspreaders" in some infectious disease epidemics has shown that in the catastrophic 2014-15 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, about 3 percent of the people infected were ultimately responsible for infecting 61 percent of all cases. The issue of superspreaders is so significant, scientists say, that it's important to put a better face on just who these people are. It might then be possible to better reach them with public health measures designed to control the spread of infectious disease during epidemics. Findings were reported this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers concluded that Ebola superspreaders often fit into certain age groups and were based more in the community than in health care facilities. They also continued to spread the disease after many of the people first infected had been placed in care facilities, where transmission was much better controlled. If superspreading had been completely controlled, almost two thirds of the infections might have been prevented, scientists said in the study. The researchers also noted that their findings were conservative, since they only focused on people who had been buried safely. This suggests that the role of superspreaders may have been even more profound than this research indicates. The research was led by Princeton University, in collaboration with scientists from Oregon State University, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Imperial College London, and the National Institutes of Health. The concept of superspreaders is not new, researchers say, and it has evolved during the 2000s as scientists increasingly appreciate that not all individuals play an equal role in spreading an infectious disease. Superspreaders, for instance, have also been implicated in the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in 2003; and the more recent Middle East respiratory syndrome in 2012. But there's less understanding of who and how important these superspreaders are. "In the recent Ebola outbreak it's now clear that superspreaders were an important component in driving the epidemic," said Benjamin Dalziel, an assistant professor of population biology in the College of Science at Oregon State University, and co-author of the study. "We now see the role of superspreaders as larger than initially suspected. There wasn't a lot of transmission once people reached hospitals and care centers. Because case counts during the epidemic relied heavily on hospital data, those hospitalized cases tended to be the cases we 'saw.' "However, it was the cases you didn't see that really drove the epidemic, particularly people who died at home, without making it to a care center. In our analysis we were able to see a web of transmission that would often track back to a community-based superspreader." Superspreading has already been cited in many first-hand narratives of Ebola transmission. This study, however, created a new statistical framework that allowed scientists to measure how important the phenomenon was in driving the epidemic. It also allowed them to measure how superspreading changed over time, as the epidemic progressed, and as control measures were implemented. The outbreak size of the 2014 Ebola epidemic in Africa was unprecedented, and early control measures failed. Scientists believe that a better understanding of superspreading might allow more targeted, and effective interventions, instead of focusing on whole populations. "As we can learn more about these infection pathways, we should be better able to focus on the types of individual behavior and demographics that are at highest risk for becoming infected, and transmitting infection," Dalziel said. Researchers pointed out, for instance, that millions of dollars were spent implementing message strategies about Ebola prevention and control across entire countries. They suggest that messages tailored to individuals with higher risk and certain types of behavior may have been more successful, and prevented the epidemic from being so persistent. Lead author on the study was Max Lau at Princeton University. Support and funding was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the UK Medical Research Council.


News Article | December 12, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Scientists have known for decades that small changes in climate can have significant impacts on the massive Antarctic Ice Sheet. Now a new study suggests the opposite also is true. An international team of researchers has concluded that the Antarctic Ice Sheet actually plays a major role in regional and global climate variability - a discovery that may also help explain why sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere has been increasing despite the warming of the rest of the Earth. Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Nature. Global climate models that look at the last several thousand years have failed to account for the amount of climate variability captured in the paleoclimate record, according to lead author Pepijn Bakker, a former post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University now with the MARUM Center for Marine Environmental Studies at the University of Bremen in Germany. The research team's hypothesis was that climate modelers were overlooking one crucial element in the overall climate system - an aspect of the ocean, atmosphere, biosphere or ice sheets - that might affect all parts of the system. "One thing we determined right off the bat was that virtually all of the climate models had the Antarctic Ice Sheet as a constant entity," Bakker said. "It was a static blob of ice, just sitting there. What we discovered, however, is that the ice sheet has undergone numerous pulses of variability that have had a cascading effect on the entire climate system." The Antarctic Ice Sheet, in fact, has demonstrated dynamic behavior over the past 8,000 years, according to Andreas Schmittner, a climate scientist in Oregon State's College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and co-author on the study. "There is a natural variability in the deeper part of the ocean adjacent to the Antarctic Ice Sheet - similar to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or El Niño/La Niña but on a time scale of centuries - that causes small but significant changes in temperatures," Schmittner said. "When the ocean temperatures warm, it causes more direct melting of the ice sheet below the surface, and it increases the number of icebergs that calve off the ice sheet." Those two factors combine to provide an influx of fresh water into the Southern Ocean during these warm regimes, according to Peter Clark, a paleoclimatologist in OSU's College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and co-author on the study. "The introduction of that cold, fresh water lessens the salinity and cools the surface temperatures, at the same time, stratifying the layers of water," Clark said. "The cold, fresh water freezes more easily, creating additional sea ice despite warmer temperatures that are down hundreds of meters below the surface." The discovery may help explain why sea ice has expanded in the Southern Ocean despite global warming, the researchers say. The same phenomenon doesn't occur in the Northern Hemisphere with the Greenland Ice Sheet because it is more landlocked and not subject to the same current shifts that affect the Antarctic Ice Sheet. "One message that comes out of this study is that the Antarctic Ice Sheet is very sensitive to small changes in ocean temperatures, and humans are making the Earth a lot warmer than it has been," Bakker said. Sediment cores from the sea floor around Antarctica contain sand grains delivered there by icebergs calving off the ice sheet. The researchers analyzed sediments from the last 8,000 years, which showed evidence that many more icebergs calved off the ice sheet in some centuries than in others. Using sophisticated computer modeling, the researchers traced the variability in iceberg calving to small changes in ocean temperatures. The Antarctic Ice Sheet covers an area of more than 5 million square miles and is estimated to hold some 60 percent of all the fresh water on Earth. The east part of the ice sheet rests on a major land mass, but in West Antarctica, the ice sheet rests on bedrock that extends into the ocean at depths of more than 2,500 meters, or more than 8,000 feet, making it vulnerable to disintegration. Scientists estimate that if the entire Antarctic Ice Sheet were to melt, global sea levels would rise some 200 feet. Other authors on the study include Nicholas Golledge of Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand and Michael Weber of the University of Bonn in Germany.


News Article | October 26, 2016
Site: www.medicalnewstoday.com

Researchers at Oregon State University have found that a specific detoxification compound, glutathione, helps resist the toxic stresses of everyday life - but its levels decline with age and this sets the stage for a wide range of age-related health problems. A new study, published in the journal Redox Biology, also highlighted a compound - N-acetyl-cysteine, or NAC - that is already used in high doses in medical detoxification emergencies. But the researchers said that at much lower levels NAC might help maintain glutathione levels and prevent the routine metabolic declines associated with aging. In that context, the research not only offers some profound insights into why the health of animals declines with age, but specifically points to a compound that might help prevent some of the toxic processes involved. Decline of these detoxification pathways, scientists say, are causally linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, some of the primary causes of death in the developed world. "We've known for some time of the importance of glutathione as a strong antioxidant," said Tory Hagen, lead author on the research and the Helen P. Rumbel Professor for Health Aging Research in the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU. "What this study pointed out was the way that cells from younger animals are far more resistant to stress than those from older animals," said Hagen, also a professor of biochemistry in the OSU College of Science. "In young animal cells, stress doesn't cause such a rapid loss of glutathione. The cells from older animals, on the other hand, were quickly depleted of glutathione and died twice as fast when subjected to stress. "But pretreatment with NAC increased glutathione levels in the older cells and largely helped offset that level of cell death." Glutathione, Hagen said, is such an important antioxidant that its existence appears to date back as far as oxygen-dependent, or aerobic life itself - about 1.5 billion years. It's a principal compound to detoxify environmental stresses, air pollutants, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and many other toxic insults. In this study, scientists tried to identify the resistance to toxins of young cells, compared to those of older cells. They used a toxic compound called menadione to stress the cells, and in the face of that stress the younger cells lost significantly less of their glutathione than older cells did. The glutathione levels of young rat cells never decreased to less than 35 percent of its initial level, whereas in older rat cells glutathione levels plummeted to 10 percent of their original level. NAC, the researchers said, is known to boost the metabolic function of glutathione and increase its rate of synthesis. It's already used in emergency medicine to help patients in a toxic crisis, such as ingestion of poisonous levels of heavy metals. It's believed to be a very safe compound to use even at extremely high levels - and the scientists are hypothesizing that it might have significant value at much lower doses to maintain glutathione levels and improve health. "I'm optimistic there could be a role for this compound in preventing the increased toxicity we face with aging, as our abilities to deal with toxins decline," Hagen said. "We might be able to improve the metabolic resilience that we're naturally losing with age." Also of interest, Hagen said, is the wide range of apparent detoxification potential offered by glutathione. Higher levels of it - boosted by NAC - might help reduce the toxicity of some prescription drugs, cancer chemotherapies, and treat other health issues. "Using NAC as a prophylactic, instead of an intervention, may allow glutathione levels to be maintained for detoxification in older adults," the researchers wrote in their conclusion. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon.


News Article | December 7, 2016
Site: www.biosciencetechnology.com

In a towering forest of centuries-old eastern hemlocks, it's easy to miss one of the tree's nemeses. No larger than a speck of pepper, the Hemlock woolly adelgid spends its life on the underside of needles sucking sap, eventually killing the tree. The bug is one in an expanding army of insects draining the life out of forests from New England to the West Coast. Aided by global trade, a warming climate and drought-weakened trees, the invaders have become one of the greatest threats to biodiversity in the United States. Scientists say they already are driving some tree species toward extinction and are causing billions of dollars a year in damage - and the situation is expected to worsen. "They are one of the few things that can actually eliminate a forest tree species in pretty short order - within years," said Harvard University ecologist David Orwig as he walked past dead hemlocks scattered across the university's 5.8-square-mile research forest in Petersham. This scourge is projected to put 63 percent of the country's forest at risk through 2027 and carries a cost of several billion dollars annually in dead tree removal, declining property values and timber industry losses, according to a peer-reviewed study this year in Ecological Applications. That examination, by more than a dozen experts, found that hundreds of pests have invaded the nation's forests, and that the emerald ash borer alone has the potential to cause $12.7 billion in damage by 2020. Insect pests, some native and others from as far away as Asia, can undermine forest ecosystems. For example, scientists say, several species of hemlock and almost 20 species of ash could nearly go extinct in the coming decades. Such destruction would do away with a critical sponge to capture greenhouse gas emissions, shelter for birds and insects and food sources for bears and other animals. Dead forests also can increase the danger of catastrophic wildfires. Today's connected world enables foreign invaders to cross oceans in packing materials or on garden plants, and then reach American forests. Once here, they have rapidly expanded their ranges. While all 50 states have been attacked by pests, experts say forests in the Northeast, California, Colorado and parts of the Midwest, North Carolina and Florida are especially at risk. Forests in some states, like New York, are close to major trade routes, while others, like in Florida, house trees especially susceptible to pests. Others, like New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine, are experiencing record warming. "The primary driver of the invasive pest problem is globalization, which includes increased trade and travel," Andrew Liebhold, a Forest Service research entomologist in West Virginia. "But there are cases where climate change can play an important role. As climates warm, species are able to survive and thrive in more northerly areas." The emerald ash borer, first found in 2002 in Michigan, is now in 30 states and has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees. The gypsy moth, discovered in 1869 in Boston, is now found in 20 states and has reached the northern Great Lakes, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Native bark beetles have taken advantage of warming conditions and a long western drought to rapidly range from Mexico into Canada. An outbreak in Colorado spread across 3.4 million acres of forest from 1996 to 2013, according to the Forest Service, and in California 100 million-plus trees have died in the Sierra Nevada since 2010. Though small, bugs can easily overwhelm big trees with sheer numbers. "They drain the resin that otherwise defends the tree," said Matt Ayres, a Dartmouth College ecologist who worked on the Ecological Applications study. "Then, the tree is toast." Forest pests in the era of climate change are especially concerning for timberland owners, said Jasen Stock, executive director of the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association. "We're dealing with pests we've never been around before, never had to manage around before," Stock said. "It's something we're going to be dealing with forever." Urban forests, too, are at risk from outbreaks. In Worcester, Massachusetts, a city of about 180,000, an Asian longhorned beetle infestation in 2008 resulted in the removal of 31,000 trees. "You would leave for work with a tree-lined street, and you come back and there was not a tree in sight," recalled Ruth Seward, executive director of the nonprofit Worcester Tree Initiative. Most trees have since been replaced. Though trees can die off quickly, the impact of pests on a forest ecosystem can take decades to play out. Dead hemlocks, for example, are giving way to black birch and other hardwoods. Gone are favorite nesting spots for two types of warblers, as well as the bark that red squirrels love to eat, Harvard's Orwig said. The birds won't die off, he said, but their ranges will be restricted. "It's a great example of how one species can make a difference in the forest," Orwig said. As pests proliferate, scientists seek to contain them. Among the methods are bio controls, in which bugs that feed upon pests in their native lands are introduced here. Of the 30 states with emerald ash borer outbreaks, the USDA says 24 have released wasp species to combat them. Some scientists worry about introducing another pest; others complain they aren't effective because they can't eat enough of the fast-breeding pests to make a difference. "With all bio controls, the hope is to create balance - balance between predator and prey," said Ken Gooch, forest health program director for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. On a research farm in Syracuse, New York, are rows of 10-foot chestnut trees tweaked with a wheat gene to make them resistant to chestnut blight, a fungus that came from Japan more than a century ago and killed millions of trees. Genetic engineering could likewise be applied to fight insects, said William Powell, a State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry professor directing the chestnut research. An alternative strategy, also a slow one, is to plant trees 50 or 100 miles away from their normal range so they can escape pests, or adapt to a more favorable climate, said Steven Strauss, a professor of forest biotechnology at Oregon State University. "Mother Nature knows best," he said. "It's assisted migration." To stop the next pest from entering the country, researchers like Gary M. Lovett, of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York, propose measures such as switching from solid wood shipping material that can harbor insects and restricting shrub and tree imports. Nonetheless, Lovett said new pests are inevitable. "We have this burgeoning global trade," he said, "so we will get a lot more of these."


News Article | November 29, 2016
Site: www.24-7pressrelease.com

RENTON, WA, November 29, 2016-- Brian Thomas has been included in Marquis Who's Who. As in all Marquis Who's Who biographical volumes, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility and prominence in a field are taken into account during the selection process.Throughout his life, Mr. Thomas strived to quietly make a positive and substantial impact. From his childhood in Tacoma, WA to his retirement in Renton, WA he has left a trail of incremental improvement in government, technology and community.As a youth he worked in a wide range of jobs from foundry worker, meter reader, and ground keeper ultimately graduating from college with an engineering degree, attending law school and, later received an MBA.He joined the U.S. Coast Guard shortly after graduation from Oregon State University and served as a Civil Engineer and Operation Officer on a CG Cutter. Joining the CG Reserves he retired with the rank of Captain. He was instrumental in restructuring the CG Reserve to make it more responsive to national emergencies. After his service with the CG he was Deputy Director Designate of the Department of Transportation in Region 10 for the National Defense Executive Reserve in the Pacific NW.Employed at Puget Sound Power and Light Co., now Puget Sound Energy, he ascended from Senior Sales Engineer to head the research department. He had an integral part in bringing wind energy and fuel cells to the notice of industry as Chair of the Renewable Energy Committee of the Electric Power Research Institute and Chair of the Edison Electric Institute Research Management Committee. He was also on the Advisory Board of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden. CO and the Electrical Engineering Advisory Committee at Oregon State University.Elected in 1998 to his local school board he served 4 years until he was elected to the Washington State House of Representatives where he served for 8 years. Representative Thomas championed charter schools, open government and tax reform. He served as Chair of the Finance Committee for 6 years and was prime sponsor of many successful tax reform bills, as well as the Chair of the School Construction Task Force and a member of the State Forecast Council.Retiring from military service, political office and industry, he continues his active participation in Rotary and Freemasonry. As a 33˚ Scottish Rite Mason he continues on the Washington State Board of Early Life Speech and Language, dedicated to helping children with speech challenges.He is also very active in Friendship Force International having been President of the Seattle-Tacoma organization and has traveled on behalf of FFI to over 20 countries promoting peace and understanding.The local community recognizes Mr. Thomas as having been a Trustee of the King County Municipal League, a Director of the Preston Arboretum, a Cub and Boy Scout leader and an active participant in community affairs.Mr. Thomas now focuses his business attention on his winery and vineyard in Manson, WA and investing in growth businesses in the Pacific NW.Mr. Thomas has been featured in 19 editions of Who's Who in the West, 10 editions of Who's Who in America, seven editions of Who's Who in American Politics and one edition of Who's Who in the World.About Marquis Who's Who :Since 1899, when A. N. Marquis printed the First Edition of Who's Who in America , Marquis Who's Who has chronicled the lives of the most accomplished individuals and innovators from every significant field of endeavor, including politics, business, medicine, law, education, art, religion and entertainment. Today, Who's Who in America remains an essential biographical source for thousands of researchers, journalists, librarians and executive search firms around the world. Marquis now publishes many Who's Who titles, including Who's Who in America , Who's Who in the World , Who's Who in American Law , Who's Who in Medicine and Healthcare , Who's Who in Science and Engineering , and Who's Who in Asia . Marquis publications may be visited at the official Marquis Who's Who website at www.marquiswhoswho.com


PubMed | at Oregon State University, Oregon Health And Science University, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Pendleton. OR. and Oregon State University
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Environmental justice (Print) | Year: 2014

Indigenous cultures perceive the natural environment as an essential link between traditional cultural practices, social connectedness, identity, and health. Many tribal communities face substantial health disparities related to exposure to environmental hazards. Our study used qualitative methods to better understand the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) members perspectives about their environment and its connections with their health including views on environmental health hazards. Three 90-minute focus group sessions with a total of 27 participants were held to elicit opinions on meanings of health and how the environment interacts with health. A systematic text analysis was used to derive themes across focus groups. Participants expressed a holistic view of health that included environmental, physical, mental, spiritual, and social components. A healthy natural environment was identified as an essential component of a healthy individual and a healthy community. Participants also described many environmental health concerns including second-hand smoke, outdoor smoke, diesel exhaust, mold, pesticides, contaminated natural foods, and toxic wastes from the Hanford nuclear site and methamphetamine labs. Many believe the identified environmental hazards contribute to diseases in their community. The natural environment is an important resource to CTUIR members and plays an integral role in achieving and maintaining health. Knowledge about the values and concerns of the community are useful to the tribal and federal governments, health professionals, environmental health practitioners, and community members who seek to achieve sustainable and healthy rural Native communities.


News Article | December 10, 2015
Site: www.cemag.us

Researchers have developed a new three-drug delivery system for cancer treatment, especially metastatic melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer — and shown that the system may have particular value with cancers like this that often spread through the lymphatic system. The new technology takes advantage of nanoparticles that can migrate to, and increase the effectiveness of an attack on cancer cells in the body’s lymph nodes. This can also reduce the development of drug resistance and the broader toxicity often associated with this type of chemotherapy. The findings were made with laboratory animals, and just published in the Journal of Controlled Release by researchers from the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University. The work was supported by an OSU startup fund, and a provisional patent has been granted for this technology. “Melanoma can be a very difficult cancer to treat because it often metastasizes and travels through the lymphatic system,” says Adam Alani, an assistant professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy, and lead author on this research. “Melanoma has a high mortality rate because the lymph nodes tend to act as a haven for cancer cells, and allow them to resist treatment through chemotherapy,” he says. The new OSU research, however, was able to combine three anti-cancer drugs at the same time into a nanoparticle delivery system. After injection, these nanoparticles primarily migrated to lymph nodes, acted in a synergistic manner that was more powerful than any one drug could be separately, and were able to maximize their impact in those locations while minimizing the development of drug resistance and overall toxicity. Laboratory mice treated with this approach all survived. The therapy caused no apparent negative effects, and at least one type of the nanoparticles migrated effectively to distant lymph nodes, where the drugs significantly reduced the number of melanoma cells. More research with animals, experiments with more aggressive forms of cancer, and eventually human clinical trials will still be needed for any treatment is available for use. This could become an important advance in the treatment of any type of cancer that tends to move through the lymphatic system, Alani says. This includes melanoma, but also breast, head and neck, prostate, pancreatic, lung and gastric cancers. Up to 80 percent of melanomas metastasize through the lymphatic system, the researchers said in their report, and the tumor cells even secrete growth factors to further streamline their progress. The enlarged lymphatic vessels “act as a freeway for the metastatic cells to gain access and spread to distal lymph nodes and organs,” they wrote in the study. The major drawback of existing therapies, they say, is the inability to deliver therapeutic concentrations of drugs to the lymphatic system without creating systemic toxicity. Use of drugs one at a time also tends to breed resistance to them. The nanoparticles used to carry these cancer drugs are stable, increase the drug circulation time, and can deliver multiple drugs in a single step to the desired target, the research showed. They offer a novel therapeutic option for effective melanoma treatment, the scientists wrote in their conclusion. Other collaborators on this research included Kingston University in London and Pacific University in Hillsboro, Ore. Release Date: December 9, 2015 Source: Oregon State University


News Article | November 14, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The first global assessment of marine kelp ecosystems shows that these critically-important habitats have exhibited a surprising resilience to environmental impacts over the past 50 years, but they have a wide variability in long-term responses that will call for regional management efforts to help protect their health in the future. The findings were published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists noted that kelp forests have a remarkable ability to recover quickly from extreme damage, but they can still be overwhelmed in some instances by the combination of global and local pressures. This points to the need for regional management efforts that carefully consider local conditions when trying to offset human-caused impacts from climate change, overfishing and direct harvests, researchers said. Kelp forests, the largest species of algae in shallow, coastal waters almost everywhere except the tropics, are a globally important foundation species that occupy almost half of the world's marine ecoregions. Often harvested directly, they help support commercial fisheries, nutrient cycling, shoreline protection, and are valued in the range of billions of dollars annually. The new research was conducted by an international team of 37 scientists who analyzed changes in kelp abundance in 34 regions of the planet that had been monitored over the past 50 years. "Kelp forests are cold-water, fast-growing species that can apparently withstand many types of environmental disturbances," said Mark Novak, an assistant professor of integrative biology in the College of Science at Oregon State University, co-author of the study, and an organizer of the international group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis that conducted this research. "The really surprising thing in this study was how much region-to-region variation we found, which is quite different from many other ecosystems. Thus, despite global threats like climate change and ocean acidification, the battle to protect our kelp forests of the future may best be fought locally - in the U.S., by states, counties, even individual cities and towns." These forests can grow fast, tall, and are highly resilient - but also are often on the coastal front line in exposure to pollution, sedimentation, invasive species, fishing, recreation and harvesting. Even though "they have some of the fastest growth rates of any primary producer on the planet," the researchers wrote, there are limits to what they can take. In their study the scientists concluded that of the kelp ecosystems that have been studied, 38 percent are in decline; 27 percent are increasing; and 35 percent show no detectable change. On a global scale, they are declining at 1.8 percent per year. Where kelp resilience is eroding and leading to declines in abundance, impacts to ecosystem health and services can be far-reaching, the researchers wrote in their report. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the University of California/Santa Barbara, and the state of California.


News Article | August 22, 2016
Site: cen.acs.org

Drinking water contamination from perfluorinated chemicals is a known concern for communities near industrial sites in the U.S. where the chemicals were once produced. Contamination that extends beyond the reach of production facilities is coming from other sources, experts say. Researchers are now pointing to military bases, civilian airports, and wastewater treatment facilities as sources of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in ground and surface waters. Xindi C. Hu of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and colleagues report drinking water supplies of some 6 million U.S. residents exceed the lifetime health advisory levels for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) set by the Environmental Protection Agency in May (Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett. 2016, DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.6b00260). Hu and her colleagues examined EPA’s national drinking water contaminant data for a suite of PFASs and analyzed 16 industrial sites, 664 military fire training sites, 533 civilian airports, and 8,572 wastewater treatment plants. They show a statistical association between the number of these facilities in an area and the concentration of PFASs in its drinking water. “This study gives weight to what many of us had suspected for many years, which is that there is a very significant contribution of non-industrial sources of these chemicals to contaminated water supplies,” says Christopher P. Higgins, an environmental chemist and professor at Colorado School of Mines and co-author of the study. The Department of Defense late last year began investigating contamination at military training sites where aqueous film-forming foams containing PFOS and related fluorochemicals that can degrade to PFOA or PFOS had been used for fire training exercises. In addition, the authors note that wastewater treatment plants are unlikely to remove PFASs through standard treatment methods. “The authors are to be commended for taking EPA data and interpreting it for the public and decision makers,” says Jennifer A. Field, an environmental chemist at Oregon State University who was not involved in the work. Military bases and airports are more abundant than manufacturing sites, Field adds. “This issue has the potential to touch every state.”


News Article | November 23, 2015
Site: motherboard.vice.com

Every morning, Steve Cronin kicks off his day with 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation. For breakfast, he mixes grass-fed organic unsalted butter, MCT oil, and organic coconut oil into his morning tea. He follows this up with a rotating regimen of smart drugs, or “nootropics” that he prepares and encapsulates himself. But sometimes, in order to create the next video for his YouTube channel’s growing fan base, Cronin needs to change up his routine. Experimenting, as well as closely observing and documenting the experience, is important for the future of the nootropic community. Cronin has been experimenting with smart drugs since he was 19, when he was struck with a mysterious illness that doctors couldn’t figure out, later diagnosed as chronic Lyme disease. Now 27, he estimates that he’s tried at least 40 different types. “My audience is looking for information to help them make smart decisions about nootropics use,” he said in an email to Motherboard. “I want to be adept in seeking out information and be hyper-responsible with use, so that I can provide the community with my subjective experiences that can help inform their decisions.” The word “biohacking” has become an umbrella term for a lot of different practices, from implanting RFID chips into your hand to experimenting with new drugs in the hopes of altering your brain. These so-called “smart drugs” are also known as nootropics. The psychologist and chemist C.C. Giurgea is credited with coining the term, which comes from the Greek nous, or “mind,” and trepein meaning “to bend.” Giurgea synthesized his first smart drug, called piracetam, in 1964. Although he did not claim to know the mechanism, he believed it boosted brain power and began exploring the idea of nootropics. (Piracetam is not approved for use as a medical drug in the US or a dietary supplement.) “A nootropic drug is characterized by a direct functional activation of the higher integrative brain mechanisms that enhances cortical vigilance, a telencephalic functional selectivity, and a particular efficiency in restoring deficient higher nervous activity,” he wrote in 1982. Giurgea’s hope was that these drugs could enhance cognition, counter the effects of aging, help children with speech disorders and other maladies, and treat post-traumatic stress. “The nootropic line of research is by now multifaceted to deepen the neurochemical and neurophysiologic comprehension of nootropics' mode of action,” he wrote, “to make clearer their clinical differential profile; to enlarge the nootropic framework to some other existing drugs, clinically if not pharmacologically related to piracetam; and to find new, more potent, and possibly more selective nootropic agents.” There’s no single way that nootropics work, as the range of types of drugs is extremely broad. Some drugs like L-theanine are used simply as over-the-counter supplements, but others like Adderall are pretty strictly controlled substances in the United States. The community interested in nootropics is growing for a number of reasons, from the movie (and subsequent TV show) Limitless, to the growing subreddit dedicated to nootropics. Companies are taking notice of this popularity, and the number of nootropic suppliers has boomed as well. Since there are so few drugs that can be legally sold for the specific use of cognitive enhancement, it’s hard to pin down just how many drugs are out there. Nootropic information site Nootriment lists over 120 different drugs, and the r/nootropics subreddit hosts a research index of over 200 products with potential cognitive effects. Cronin’s specific “stack” (what users call their nootropic routine) involves a mixture of choline and Aniracetam, a compound with potential use as an antidepressant, every other day of the week. “Theoretically, these two produce a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine which has a lot to do with focus and seems to have an increase in the feeling of focus for a lot of people,” he said. Alternating the regimen is key if a user does experience some of the potential side effects these drugs have, he said. While they’re not severe, symptoms like headaches can hinder the effectiveness of a drug like Modafinil, an Adderall-like drug referred to as a “wakefulness promoter” that is only available in the United States with a prescription for shift work disorder and narcolepsy. On the days he doesn’t take Aniracetam and choline, Cronin takes Modafinil, which he describes as having a tenth of the effect of something like Adderall regarding focus and motivation, but with fewer side effects. Aside from exercise and a low-carb diet, Cronin also takes a large amount of magnesium before bed, something that for him induces a relaxing, anti-anxiety effect. Cronin first got sick in 2007. The disease manifested itself in a variety of ways for months, from serious cognitive symptoms to occasional pain throughout his body. “It depleted me of my brain power,” he said. “I was walking around in a haze with tons of brain fog. I felt fatigue, derealization, confusion, forgetfulness, problems with perception of time, daily headaches, pain behind the eyes and forehead.” He went to doctor after doctor, he told Motherboard, before he finally got an accurate diagnosis: chronic Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, often transmitted to humans by ticks, that leads to a wide range of symptoms including temporary facial paralysis, numbness or weakness, memory problems, heart problems, hepatitis and more. Chronic Lyme, according to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, is a form of the disease that results from lack of treatment or misdiagnosis in the initial stages. This experience taught Cronin that doctors weren’t “these massive degree holders... who are all knowing and powerful,” in his words. After rounds of intense antibiotics, doctors told Cronin that he was about 80 percent of the way to full health. As for the final 20 percent? His thinking still felt sluggish at times, and the doctors weren’t encouraging. “Sorry, that’s just how it is, forever…or until we figure it out,” he paraphrased them saying. Fast forward to 2015. Cronin finished a master’s degree in Transpersonal Psychology at Naropa University. Transpersonal psychology is a niche of developmental psychology that concerns Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and specifically the top of the pyramid: self-actualization. In Maslow’s words, self-actualization is the idea that “what a man can do, he must do” in every aspect of life, fulfilling every ounce of one’s potential. Most of Cronin’s videos take place in his home, which shifted about a month ago when he moved from Houston to New York City. Not much changed in the videos since he moved: the bland home office background is a little different, but Cronin still kicks off every video with a high energy introduction that often involves lots of hand motions and direct eye contact with the camera. He speaks with a combination of the persuasive vigor of an infomercial spokesman and the wild zeal of a street preacher, but he never comes across as a fraud. Steve Cronin never seems dishonest or fake, and whether he’s talking about a “Chaga Mushroom Drink” or Integral Theory, his passion is evident. Nootropics are sold as dietary supplements and therefore aren’t evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The lack of FDA quality control means that there aren’t many legal ways to stop customers from being ripped off or misled. An FDA spokesperson told Motherboard that, under the the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, each company is individually responsible for evaluating its products’ safety, as well as the claims made about the supplements’ effect on the human body. The FDA will only remove a dietary supplement from the market if it’s established that “such products are adulterated (e.g., that the product is unsafe), misbranded (e.g., that the labeling is false or misleading) or not manufactured under Good Manufacturing Practices.” This lack of oversight is why Cronin’s reviews have helped many beginners find their footing in the nootropic community. Cronin often interacts with his fans in the comments of his videos, where he gets everything from detailed questions about specific drugs to compliments about his energetic presentation. “I have always had an interest in enhancing the ability of the human mind—things like increasing focus, productivity, and overall mental ability,” said Zach, a computer science student at Oregon State University who only recently discovered nootropics. Zach wanted to stay away from drugs like Adderall and their negative side effects, and his search for alternatives led him to YouTube channels like Steve Cronin’s. “[Steve’s] enthusiasm and personal mission is what keeps me tuned into his videos. He is very informative, which is quite helpful.” Steve’s storytelling ability was huge for Zach too, as it was more than just spitting out facts and data. “It’s very important when painting the overall picture of smart drugs and their effectiveness.” After six months and over 100 videos, Cronin’s subscriber count went from a few hundred to over 2,700. It's now over 3,000. That might seem small, but as is the case with many of YouTube’s niche groups, the nootropic community is active and vocal. Cronin’s channel is big enough within the community that companies regularly send him their products, hoping to get a positive review. Not all Cronin’s experiences have been positive, however. A smart drug called Noopept, meant to improve short-term memory, actually did the opposite. “I had a period of about four hours where my short term memory was severely affected to the point where within about 60 seconds of doing something I couldn't remember if I did it,” he said. “Even simple things like locking the door or eating, I couldn’t remember.” “There are so many smart drugs and they affect people in so many different ways, you’re rolling the dice in terms of if they’ll help you or not,” he said. Cronin finds the positives outweigh the negatives, however, and he feels it’s important to share both kinds of experiences on YouTube. For now, his channel is one of the only ways to get information about nootropics a potential user wants to try. The question of whether nootropics actually work, and in what ways, is still an open one. For now, word of mouth—or “crowdscience,” as Cronin calls it—is the best resources nootropics fans have. Cronin is convinced that the effects are real based on his own experience and from talking with others in the community at conferences like the Biohacker Summit. “The idea of crowdscience, in my opinion, will help identify the ‘gateway’ nootropics that provide intense and acute experience for most people faster than a collection of upcoming scientific studies,” he said. Dr. Martha J. Farah, director of the Center for Neuroscience and Society at the University of Pennsylvania, is one of the few researchers in the field of “neuroethics,” shorthand for what she calls “the ethical, legal and social implications of neuroscience.” In a recent article for Science, Farah calls into question the lack of research regarding cognitive enhancement, including nootropics. “The majority of studies on enhancement effectiveness have been carried out on small samples, rarely more than 50 subjects, which limits their power,” she wrote. “The only large-scale trial we may see is the enormous but uncontrolled and poorly monitored trial of people using these drugs on their own.” Farah also noted that nootropics can have widely varied effects on individuals. “Enhancements may differ in effectiveness depending on the biological and psychological traits of the user, which complicates the effort to understand the true enhancement potential of these technologies,” she wrote. One of Cronin’s favorite drugs is Modafinil, which many have likened to the fictional pill in Limitless. Modafinil is regulated by the FDA and has had a few positive, yet inconclusive studies support its claims of boosting cognitive function. But as far as actually achieving the movie’s smart drug-induced state of higher consciousness, Cronin is pretty skeptical. “In terms of being able to make hundreds of thousands of dollars a day because you’re on a drug, that’s not something I see happening,” he said. “That’s probably best left to science fiction and fantasy realms.” Lit Up is a series about heightening—and dulling—our sense of perception. Follow along here.


News Article | April 14, 2016
Site: phys.org

According to the 2010 United States Census, 51 percent of the people in the U.S. are women. That same year, a study of Ph.D. students in the biological sciences documented that 52 percent of the students pursuing doctorates were women – roughly the same percentage. However, the new study by researchers at Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service found that roughly even split soon disappears – in both federal government positions and in academic institutions. The researchers found that 74 percent of federal fisheries scientists or managers are men, as were 73 percent of the university assistant professors, 71 percent of associate professors and 85 percent of full professors. The lack of diversity is even more pronounced when analyzed by race. In 2010, the U.S. population was 64 percent white, and participation in biological sciences Ph.D. programs was 69 percent white. Yet only roughly 10 percent of all fisheries science, manager and faculty positions were occupied by minorities. Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Bioscience. "It is clear that the fisheries science culture is one dominated by white men," said Ivan Arismendi, an Oregon State University research faculty scientist and lead author on the study. "There has been a lot of concern expressed in recent years about diversity, but the numbers don't seem to reflect that concern. It is important to begin turning the process today because the hiring we're doing now will last a generation." Brooke Penaluna, a research fish biologist with the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station and co-author on the study, said the reasons for the disparity are not completely clear. "We are graduating women on a 50-50 basis in the biological sciences, but the hiring rate is not keeping pace with the degree rate," Penaluna said. "For some women, it may be the biological clock butting up against the timetable of career advancement. That doesn't explain the disparity among minorities. "We need to look more closely at possible institutional biases. Women, for example, have fewer professional publications and are not asked as often by senior-level scientists to publish. And some federal positions may be in geographic locations that are not attractive to all candidates. We need to create environments that are welcoming so people want to stay – and those conversations can be uncomfortable." The authors suggest diversity training and a diverse composition of search committees at both the federal and academic institution levels, as well as increasing the pool of female and minority candidates, and programs to insure their success and career advancement. Explore further: Study finds shade, cover can reduce predation by birds on trout


News Article | December 2, 2015
Site: www.cemag.us

Engineers at Oregon State University have made a fundamental breakthrough in understanding the physics of photonic “sintering,” which could lead to many new advances in solar cells, flexible electronics, various types of sensors, and other high-tech products printed onto something as simple as a sheet of paper or plastic. Sintering is the fusing of nanoparticles to form a solid, functional thin-film that can be used for many purposes, and the process could have considerable value for new technologies. Photonic sintering has the possible advantage of higher speed and lower cost, compared to other technologies for nanoparticle sintering. In the new research, OSU experts discovered that previous approaches to understand and control photonic sintering had been based on a flawed view of the basic physics involved, which had led to a gross overestimation of product quality and process efficiency. Based on the new perspective of this process, which has been outlined in Nature Scientific Reports, researchers now believe they can create high quality products at much lower temperatures, at least twice as fast and with 10 times more energy efficiency. Removing constraints on production temperatures, speed, and cost, the researchers say, should allow the creation of many new high-tech products printed onto substrates as cheap as paper or plastic wrap. “Photonic sintering is one way to deposit nanoparticles in a controlled way and then join them together, and it’s been of significant interest,” says Rajiv Malhotra, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the OSU College of Engineering. “Until now, however, we didn’t really understand the underlying physics of what was going on. It was thought, for instance, that temperature change and the degree of fusion weren’t related — but in fact that matters a lot.” With the concepts outlined in the new study, the door is open to precise control of temperature with smaller nanoparticle sizes. This allows increased speed of the process and high quality production at temperatures at least two times lower than before. An inherent “self-damping” effect was identified that has a major impact on obtaining the desired quality of the finished film. “Lower temperature is a real key,” Malhotra says. “To lower costs, we want to print these nanotech products on things like paper and plastic, which would burn or melt at higher temperatures. We now know that is possible, and how to do it. We should be able to create production processes that are both fast and cheap, without a loss of quality.” Products that could evolve from the research, Malhotra says, include solar cells, gas sensors, radiofrequency identification tags, and a wide range of flexible electronics. Wearable biomedical sensors could emerge, along with new sensing devices for environmental applications. In this technology, light from a xenon lamp can be broadcast over comparatively large areas to fuse nanoparticles into functional thin films, much faster than with conventional thermal methods. It should be possible to scale up the process to large manufacturing levels for industrial use. This advance was made possible by a four-year, $1.5 million National Science Foundation Scalable Nanomanufacturing Grant, which focuses on transcending the scientific barriers to industry-level production of nanomaterials. Collaborators at OSU include Chih-hung Chang, Alan Wang, and Greg Herman. OSU researchers will work with two manufacturers in private industry to create a proof-of-concept facility in the laboratory, as the next step in bringing this technology toward commercial production. Release Date: December 1, 2015 Source: Oregon State University


News Article | November 10, 2016
Site: www.sciencedaily.com

The rivers and streams of Alaska are littered in the summer and fall with carcasses of tens of thousands of salmon that not only provide a smorgasbord for hungry brown bears but are also the newest database in the arsenal of wildlife biologists. A new study, published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, documents the ability of researchers to gather DNA from residual saliva on partially consumed salmon to the point that they can even identify individual bears from the genetic samples. The discovery should provide a significant boost to research on the population and health of brown bears, which can grow to a size of 1,500 pounds. "In the past, population estimates have been largely based on visual observations and on the analysis of fecal samples," said Taal Levi, an assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife at Oregon State University and co-author on the study. "We found that using bear saliva is not only easier and cheaper as a research tool, it is more effective." In their study, the researchers examined 156 partially consumed salmon carcasses of lakeshore-spawning sockeye salmon in the Chilkoot watershed and stream-spawning chum salmon at Herman Creek in the Klehini watershed -- both near Haines, Alaska. They also swabbed a total of 272 brown bear "scats," or fecal samples, from those same locations. They found that the saliva collected from the salmon carcasses delivered a higher rate of genotyping success, allowing the researchers to identify individual bears more accurately and quickly than the fecal samples, and required significantly less labor. "Bears love salmon because they are such a rich food source, and fortunately for us, the way they consume them lends itself to genetic monitoring," said the study's lead author, Rachel Wheat, who conducted the research as part of her doctoral dissertation at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "When salmon are plentiful, bears rarely eat the entire fish. In some cases, they only eat the brain, and we've found that swabbing along the edges of the braincase gives us the best results for extracting DNA," Wheat said. "We also had success with swabbing inside distinct bite holes, and in the muscle tissue where the bears have stripped the skin off the salmon." The researchers were able to get brown bear genotypes for 55 percent of all the salmon carcasses sampled for saliva, compared to 34 percent for the scat samples. From a purely cost-savings perspective, the saliva sampling proved cheaper. It costs the researchers roughly $370 per bear to genetically identify individual animals using scat samples; the cost with saliva samples dropped to $118. "This advance will help allow us to more effectively -- and more economically -- study one of the largest bears on the planet," Wheat said. Levi agreed and also noted that the method does not have to be restricted to bear research. It could be adapted to other species, as well. "Many predators leave saliva on food remains," he said. "We feel this type of saliva sampling could become an important tool for wildlife population monitoring."


News Article | November 10, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The rivers and streams of Alaska are littered in the summer and fall with carcasses of tens of thousands of salmon that not only provide a smorgasbord for hungry brown bears but are also the newest database in the arsenal of wildlife biologists. A new study, published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, documents the ability of researchers to gather DNA from residual saliva on partially consumed salmon to the point that they can even identify individual bears from the genetic samples. The discovery should provide a significant boost to research on the population and health of brown bears, which can grow to a size of 1,500 pounds. "In the past, population estimates have been largely based on visual observations and on the analysis of fecal samples," said Taal Levi, an assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife at Oregon State University and co-author on the study. "We found that using bear saliva is not only easier and cheaper as a research tool, it is more effective." In their study, the researchers examined 156 partially consumed salmon carcasses of lakeshore-spawning sockeye salmon in the Chilkoot watershed and stream-spawning chum salmon at Herman Creek in the Klehini watershed - both near Haines, Alaska. They also swabbed a total of 272 brown bear "scats," or fecal samples, from those same locations. They found that the saliva collected from the salmon carcasses delivered a higher rate of genotyping success, allowing the researchers to identify individual bears more accurately and quickly than the fecal samples, and required significantly less labor. "Bears love salmon because they are such a rich food source, and fortunately for us, the way they consume them lends itself to genetic monitoring," said the study's lead author, Rachel Wheat, who conducted the research as part of her doctoral dissertation at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "When salmon are plentiful, bears rarely eat the entire fish. In some cases, they only eat the brain, and we've found that swabbing along the edges of the braincase gives us the best results for extracting DNA," Wheat said. "We also had success with swabbing inside distinct bite holes, and in the muscle tissue where the bears have stripped the skin off the salmon." The researchers were able to get brown bear genotypes for 55 percent of all the salmon carcasses sampled for saliva, compared to 34 percent for the scat samples. From a purely cost-savings perspective, the saliva sampling proved cheaper. It costs the researchers roughly $370 per bear to genetically identify individual animals using scat samples; the cost with saliva samples dropped to $118. "This advance will help allow us to more effectively - and more economically - study one of the largest bears on the planet," Wheat said. Levi agreed and also noted that the method does not have to be restricted to bear research. It could be adapted to other species, as well. "Many predators leave saliva on food remains," he said. "We feel this type of saliva sampling could become an important tool for wildlife population monitoring."


News Article | August 22, 2016
Site: www.nature.com

With Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talking about walling off the United States from Mexico, ecologists fear for the future of the delicate and surprisingly diverse ecosystems that span Mexico’s border with the southwestern United States. “The southwestern US and northwestern Mexico share their weather, rivers and wildlife,” says Sergio Avila-Villegas, a conservation scientist from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. “The infrastructure on the border cuts through all that and divides a shared landscape in two.” Trump’s policies tend to be short on detail, but he has talked about sealing off the entire 3,200-kilometre border with a wall that would be 10–20 metres high. “We will build a wall,” Trump says in a video on his campaign website. “It will be a great wall. It will do what it is supposed to do: keep illegal immigrants out.” Constructing a wall “would be a huge loss”, says Clinton Epps, a wildlife biologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis. “We know how important the natural movement of wildlife is for the persistence of many species.” Far from being a barren wasteland, the US–Mexico borderlands have some of the highest diversity of mammals, birds and plants in the continental United States and northern Mexico — including many threatened species. A wall could divide species that make a home in both nations. Bighorn sheep, for example, live in small groups and rely on cross-border connections to survive, says Epps. Other species, such as jaguars, ocelots and bears, are concentrated in Mexico but have smaller, genetically linked US populations. “Black bears were extirpated in West Texas, and it was a big deal when they re-established in the 1990s,” Epps says. Breaking their links with Mexican bears could put the animals at risk again. And birds that rarely fly, such as roadrunners, or those that swoop low to the ground, such as pygmy owls, could also have trouble surmounting the wall. Such a physical barrier would worsen the habitat disruption caused by noise, bright lights and traffic near the border. And a wall would cut across rivers and streams that cross the border, severing a vital link. “When water crosses the border, it unites ecosystems,” says Avila-Villegas. “If we block the water, it affects nature on a much more fundamental level.” Trump is not the first US politician to hit upon the idea of sealing the southern border. In 2006, President George W. Bush authorized the construction of a 1,126-kilometre border wall, of which nearly 1,100 kilometres were completed. The existing barriers are a mixture of 6-metre-high steel walls, ‘bollard fences’ made of steel pipes set upright in the ground about 5 centimetres apart, and lower vehicle barriers that Avila-Villegas says resemble the tank traps set on the beaches of Normandy during the Second World War. Few studies have explored these barriers’ effects on animal populations, and there are not even any reliable baseline data on conditions before the barriers were built. Avila-Villegas has seen photos taken by border patrols of mountain lions running alongside the barriers or trying to climb over them, so he knows that the walls are causing the animals stress. But he has no real way of measuring it. A 2014 study found that the fencing in Arizona seemed to harm native wildlife, but had little impact on human movement (J. W. McCallum et al. PLoS ONE 9, e93679; 2014). In 2009, Epps published a paper setting out some of the potential threats to animal populations posed by Bush’s wall, but he lacked the money to follow up with field studies (A. D. Flesch et al. Conserv. Biol. 24, 171–181; 2009). Now he is not sure such research would be possible, even with sufficient funds. “The border is not a friendly place any more,” Epps says. “I would be hesitant to send a grad student there.” Avila-Villegas has first-hand experience of the difficulties that researchers face there. Ten years ago, he tried to collect some baseline data before Bush’s barriers were built, but gave up for his own safety. “It’s easy to ask why the research hasn’t been done, but that ignores the fact that the border is a war zone,” he says. “I had to stop my field work because of law enforcement and the ­Minutemen” — groups of armed private citizens who have taken it upon themselves to ‘defend’ the border against illegal crossings. And it has not got any easier. “Every time I — a Hispanic male with dark skin and long hair — am in the field, I get patrols, helicopters and ATVs [all-terrain vehicles] coming to check on what I’m doing,” Avila-Villegas says. He spends much of his time trying to promote conservation issues that affect Mexico and the United States by forging links between researchers and ­policymakers in both countries. But his dedication to an open border has also prompted him to take a more personal stand. After a dozen years in the United States, Avila-Villegas has finally applied for citizenship — so that, come November, he can vote against Trump and his wall.


News Article | February 23, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered that a subset of genes involved in daily circadian rhythms, or the "biological clock," only become active late in life or during periods of intense stress when they are most needed to help protect critical life functions. The findings, made in research done with fruit flies and published in Nature Communications, are part of a unique stress response mechanism that was previously unknown. These genes may help to combat serious stresses associated with age, disease or environmental challenges, and help explain why aging is often accelerated when the biological clock is disrupted. This group of genes, whose rhythmic activity late in life had not previously been understood, were named "late-life cyclers," or LLCs, by former OSU graduate student and lead author of the study, Rachael Kuintzle. At least 25 such genes become rhythmic with age, and the function of some of them remains unclear. "This class of LLC genes appear to become active and respond to some of the stresses most common in aging, such as cellular and molecular damage, oxidative stress, or even some disease states," said Jadwiga Giebultowicz, a professor in the OSU College of Science, co-senior author on the study and international expert on the mechanisms and function of the biological clock. "Aging is associated with neural degeneration, loss of memory and other problems, which are exacerbated if clock function is experimentally disrupted. The LLC genes are part of the natural response to that, and do what they can to help protect the nervous system." The increased, rhythmic expression of these genes during times of stress, scientists said, are another example of just how biologically important circadian rhythms are, as they help to regulate the activity of hundreds of genes essential to the processes of life. And as aging brings with it a host of new problems, the LLC genes become more and more active. According to David Hendrix, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Science and College of Engineering, and co-senior author on the study, some LLC genes are known to play roles in sequestering improperly "folded" proteins or helping them refold. This could help prevent formation of protein aggregates that can lead to age-related neurodegeneration. "Discovery of LLC genes may provide a missing link, the answer to why the disruption of circadian clocks accelerates aging symptoms," Hendrix said. The study also showed that intense stress at any point in life can cause some of the LLC genes to spring into action. "In experiments where we created artificial oxidative stress in young fruit flies, the LLC genes were rhythmically activated," said Eileen Chow, an OSU faculty research assistant and co-author. "Some of these same genes are known to be more active in people who have cancer. They appear to be a double-edged sword, necessary during times of stress but possibly harmful if activated all the time." Circadian rhythms, which are natural to an organism but synchronized by the light/dark cycle of a 24-hour day, are so important to life that the same genes controlling biological processes have been traced from fruit flies to humans, retained through millions of years of evolution. These genes are found throughout the nervous system and peripheral organs, and affect everything from sleep to stress reaction, feeding patterns, DNA repair, fertility and even the effectiveness of medications. People with routine disruptions of their circadian rhythms and sleep patterns have been found to have a shorter lifespan and be more prone to cancer.


News Article | December 8, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

CORVALLIS, Ore. - A new study found that traditional bullets for muzzleloading rifles and black powder rifle cartridges fragment less upon impact and may leave far fewer lead fragments in game than a modern high-velocity rifle bullet. The findings suggest that hunters using those styles of guns may have a reduced risk of secondary lead poisoning from consuming game meat, and that there may be a reduced risk to scavenging animals as well, compared to ammunition for modern rifles that also contain lead. Results of the study, by researchers in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University, have been published in the Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management. Bullet fragmentation has been well-described in many modern, high-velocity rifles, but not for black-powder cartridge rifles or muzzleloading firearms, said Clinton Epps, a wildlife ecologist at Oregon State and co-author on the study. "There is a lot more complexity to the lead versus non-lead ammunition discussion than many people realize and the black powder/muzzleloader niche of hunters needs to be included in the conversation," Epps said. To study the fragmentation, the researchers evaluated a traditional .54 caliber round ball and a modern-designed .54 caliber conical bullet for muzzleloaders and two types of .45-70 caliber black powder rifle cartridges, and compared them with a modern, lead-core high-velocity bullet (Remington Core-Lokt) for a .30-06. They found that the modern .30-06 bullets retained a mean 57.5 percent of their original mass, with the remaining 42.5 percent fragmenting. Mean mass retention for muzzleloader and black powder cartridge bullets ranged from 87.8 percent to 99.7 percent. "We tested penetration and fragmentation for each bullet type in both water and ballistics gel," said Dana Sanchez, an OSU wildlife Extension specialist and lead author on the article. "Obviously, these kinds of artificial tests cannot replicate conditions in the field, but the striking differences in fragmentation suggests follow-up tests on game animals harvested in actual hunting situations may be warranted." Muzzleloaders use black powder, typically made from charcoal, potassium nitrate and sulfur, and loaded from the muzzle using loose components rather than self-contained cartridges. Traditional hunting bullets for muzzleloaders are round balls made of pure lead and wrapped in a cloth patch to engage the rifling. Because of their low velocity and low potential for expansion, most states require muzzleloaders to have larger (greater than .45) calibers than modern high-velocity rifles. "The speed of a bullet is a key factor in fragmentation, although there are other variables," said Epps, who is a rifle builder, ballistics specialist and a hunter. "Black powder cartridges and round balls don't go as fast, so they have to use a bigger bullet, which tends not to break apart as much." Muzzleloader hunting is popular in many states, especially in the Midwest and the South, where special seasons allow hunters to use this method in addition to traditional rifle and archery hunts. Oregon has special muzzleloader tags for deer, elk and pronghorn antelope. Hunting with muzzleloaders and black powder rifles remains a comparatively small niche among hunters and the researchers emphasize that their study was solely intended to provide information on fragmentation that had been missing. Oregon allows use of both lead and non-lead ammunition in big game hunting. And while non-lead ammunition choices for modern firearms are increasingly more available, Epps said, "non-lead options for muzzleloaders and other older-style firearms are still limited and may not function well in all rifles." David Taylor, a graduate student in OSU's Department of Integrative Biology, also was an author on the study and conducted the field work as part of an undergraduate project funded in part by the Undergraduate Research, Innovation, Scholarship and Creativity program at Oregon State.

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