Latest news from the UO

  • The UO again lands in the top 20 for Peace Corps volunteers

    First published in Around the O on March 21st, 2019. Ducks are flying further than just south for the winter this year: The University of Oregon ranked No. 17 on the Peace Corps’ annual list of top colleges and universities, with more than 44 Ducks serving internationally. The UO has made the list for more than 10 years, with 1,326 alumni serving since the program's conception in 1961. With more than 6,000 past volunteers, Oregon was the fourth-highest volunteer producing state per capita, according to Peace Corps spokesperson Carla Koop. The Peace Corps has various volunteer positions in more than 60 countries worldwide. Volunteers are sent to communities who request help on specific projects, which can include education, business, agriculture and more. UO family and human services alumna Jessica Gudgell is currently serving as a health volunteer in Peru and feels her time at the UO helped her decide to get involved and serve in the corps. “There is a big emphasis on service among the alumni and in the curriculum at the UO, and the Eugene community has so many amazing service organizations and opportunities to serve,” Gudgell said. “The family and human services program gave me an opportunity to get involved in the community and work in public health while I was studying.” According to Peace Corps director Jody Olson, the work that volunteers from universities and colleges around the country do is invaluable. “We have seen time and again that the colleges and universities that produce the most Peace Corps volunteers focus on cultivating global citizens in addition to promoting scholarship,” Olson said. “I am proud that so many graduates of these esteemed institutions leverage their educations to make the world a better place. They bring critical skills to communities around the world and gain hands-on, life-changing experience along the way.” The Peace Corps top colleges and universities ranking is divided into five categories assessing total current volunteers at small, medium, large and graduate schools. A fifth category is awarded to top volunteer-producing universities since the start of the organization in 1961. The UO is in the large colleges category with more than 15,000 undergraduates. This year’s ranking placed the UO in a three-way tie with University of Arizona and Virginia Tech, all with 44 current corps volunteers. To see the full list of top-producing colleges and universities, visit the Peace Corps website. Students can learn more about the Peace Corps by connecting with UO campus representative Denise Silfee. Her office is in Hendricks Hall, Room 220. She can also be reached by email at pcorps@uoregon.edu. Silfee is a returned volunteer who can share insights about her Peace Corps experience in Thailand. —By Bryan Dorn, University Communications

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  • UO professor emeritus receives Congressional Gold Medal

    First published in Around the O, George Wickes, a UO Professor Emeritus in English, was recently awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his role as a cryptographer and intelligence officer in the Office of Strategic Services. U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio presented the medal to the 96-year-old Wickes at a ceremony in the Wayne L. Morse U.S. Courthouse this week. Wickes served at the end of World War II and in Vietnam from 1945 to 1946. “It’s terrific to be honored today,” Wickes said. “It was an honor to serve in the Army and as a professor at the university.” DeFazio lauded Wickes for his bravery and contributions to the nation. “I wish that I would have taken a course in the English department during George’s time at the UO,” said DeFazio, who received a master’s from the university in 1977. “It’s an extraordinary honor for me, on behalf of the U.S. House of Representatives in Congress and the American people, to give George the Congressional Gold Medal for his service.” The ceremony was attended by five dozen former colleagues and students of Wickes, who lives in Eugene. They applauded as DeFazio rewarded Wickes with the bright gold medal. The Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are the highest awards presented to civilians in the United States. Paul Peppis, a UO English professor and director of the Oregon Humanities Center, spoke about Wickes’ “generosity of spirit” and “willingness to share wisdom, experience, hospitality and friendship.” “George represents the ideal scholar who guides you to succeed,” Peppis said after the ceremony. “His literary knowledge is immense and he’s incredibly humble. He taught me the value of mentorship and respecting those who came before you.” The OSS was the first organized effort by the U.S. to implement a centralized system of strategic intelligence and was the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency. After his service with the OSS, Wickes went to graduate school on the G.I. Bill, earning a master’s degree at Columbia University and a doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley. While writing his dissertation, Wickes directed Fulbright programs in Belgium and Luxembourg. He taught at Duke University for three years, then moved to Claremont, California, to become one of the seven founding faculty members of Harvey Mudd College. After 12 years teaching humanities at Harvey Mudd, he came to the UO as a visiting professor of English in 1970. In his 2006 memoir, Wickes said he immediately knew Eugene was where he “wanted to spend the rest of my life. Except for travelling, of course.” Wickes officially retired from the UO in 1993 but continued to teach until 2015. After his retirement, he taught at French universities as a Fulbright lecturer, inaugurated the UO English department’s faculty exchange program with the University of Tubingen in Germany, and taught in several European cities through the UO’s overseas program. He is the author of numerous books, including “Americans in Paris,” “The Amazon of Letters,” “The Memoirs of Frederic Mistral” and three collections of Henry Miller letters, all of which he donated to the Knight Library, where they are available to view through Special Collections and University Archives. —By Jess Brown, University Communications

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  • UO's Tykeson Hall offers new twist on tradition

    Office 52's building will offer students easy access to advisory, career services to help develop 'soft' skills First published on the portlandtribune.com, COURTESY: OFFICE 52 ARCHITECTURE - The 64,000-square-foot Willie and Donald Tykeson Hall, currently under construction in the historic district of the University of Oregons Eugene campus, will create a center where students can connect with advisory and career services. For years, the University of Oregon's College of Arts and Sciences' programs and services have been spread across the school's Eugene campus. But then administrators decided it was time to create a central location to provide a focused roster of support services. Slated to be completed this summer, the 64,000-square-foot Willie and Donald Tykeson Hall represents what may be a first-of-its kind approach in the world of higher education. In addition to flexible classroom and lecture areas, the building will contain space for administrative and advisory services, counseling and tutoring, offices, and shared meeting rooms. The goal is to provide students enrolled in the university's liberal arts programs with more than just the specific skills necessary to excel in their chosen degree areas. The services in the new building also will ensure students have a solid foundation of the "soft" skills such as communication, creative thinking and problem solving that employers say they're having trouble finding in job candidates. "From the very beginning we'll he helping ... students understand there's a suite of career skills they need to be thinking about," said Andrew Marcus, who developed the new approach while serving as the Tykeson Dean of the arts and sciences college. "Having this integrated career and academic advisory (approach) from day one ... will help students understand they are building a portfolio beyond college." COURTESY: KELLY JAMES - Andrew Marcus, right, shows the family of the late Donald Tykeson a rendering of the 64,000-square-foot build that will be named in honor of the telecommunications pioneer and his wife, Willie, center. The $31 million building where those services will be located, which is slated to open in the fall, will be named after Donald Tykeson and his wife, Willie. Donald was a Eugene broadcasting pioneer and a founding board member of C-SPAN. The couple donated $10 million to the project before he died in July 2017. "The University of Oregon is going way further than any other school as far as bringing all of the academic aspects together," said Isaac Campbell, principal of OFFICE 52 Architecture, the Portland firm that designed Tykeson Hall. Winning ways Even though OFFICE 52 is a small firm with just 10 employees — including Campbell and his partner, principal Michelle LaFoe — the firm had earned a big reputation in the world of higher education design even before its selection for the UO project. Campbell and LaFoe started OFFICE 52 in 2010. The two architects had always wanted to work together, and they found they both were ready for a change that would allow them greater choice in the types of projects they worked on. "We wanted to focus on what we were really good at," Campbell said. The partners also decided to keep the firm small so that, along with running the business they would have a chance to be hands-on when it came to actually working on projects. The firm already had several modest-sized projects to its name when it received an invitation to participate in a competition to design Scott Hall, a 109,000-square-foot building that serves as the home of the nano-bio-energy technology program in Carnegie Mellon University's College of Engineering in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Campbell, LaFoe and their team looked at what Carnegie Mellon administrators were considering when it came to siting the building. The Office 52 team felt there was a better solution, and used that as the basis of their presentation. "Our entire proposal was a complete rethinking and that won it for us," Campbell said. The finished building, which features a unique exterior of dichroic glass, has since gone on to win several awards, including a recent honor from Gray magazine. The success of its work on the Carnegie Mellon project has opened doors for OFFICE 52. However, because the entire staff tends to collaborate on projects, the firm is careful about the work it pursues. The Tykeson Hall project caught the team's interest because it represented a new direction for the University of Oregon, a willingness to think outside the box that Campbell felt meshed well with the OFFICE 52 approach to designing projects. Material matters Tykeson Hall sits on an L-shaped site that formerly served as a surface parking lot in the heart of the campus' historic district, which is composed of buildings built in the early 20th century, up to the 1930s. University administrators originally planned to have the building follow the shape of the property. The OFFICE 52 team, working with Rowell Brokaw Architects as the architect of record proposed a smaller footprint for the building, which would then allow the area in front of the building to be turned into greenspace. The area also would provide a connection to nearby Chapman Hall, which houses UO's Honors programs. An 80-year-old brick structure, Chapman boasts details made of terra cotta, the last time that material was used on a building on the campus. COURTESY: OFFICE 52 ARCHITECTURE - The upper central floors of Tykeson Hall will contain counseling and advisory services while the lower floor will feature The Commons, an event area that will open onto an exterior green space. University administrators were set on having the new building also be made of brick. Campbell and his team, however suggested minimizing the amount of brick on the exterior of Tykeson Hall in favor of using terra cotta as the main exterior material. "Terra cotta has been used (in the past) on campus buildings as a decorative element, (but we) used it as a primary material and as a rain screen," Campbell said. "It's a new interpretation that parallels the university creating a new way of approaching education." The main four-story portion of the building will house administrative and support services. The terra cotta exterior features a muted palette of five glazes in hues simultaneously drawn from the tones of terra cotta details on surrounding buildings as well as from a careful study of colors from the Oregon landscape, according to Campbell. "The terra cotta portion houses all of these disparate pieces that are being brought together and are being restructured and rethought in a new way," he added. "It's a new material for a new program." Stretches of glass on the main part of the building also offer views into public gathering areas and an event space that will be called The Commons. "The Commons ... is a space that flows out onto the terrace on the west side of the lawn," Campbell said. "It's meant to be transparent and open, and invites people into the building." Honoring tradition The design team didn't completely bypass the use of brick, though. In order to create a smooth transition between the four-story main part of Tykeson Hall and the shorter Chapman Hall, a two-story brick portion that will house offices and classrooms runs along the outside of the new building. With an eye toward continuing the balance between old and new, OFFICE 52 developed a unique pattern for the brick that Campbell calls Norman Cross Bond. COURTESY: OFFICE 52 ARCHITECTURE - The exterior of Tykeson Hall features a five-color glaze palette of terra cotta, left, along with a unique brick pattern that was developed by OFFICE 52 Architecture. "As far as I know, it's never been done this way," he said. "It's a repeating pattern acknowledging everything else on campus, but we're doing it in a modern way. The 78,000 bricks, made from clay and shale from Oregon and Washington, were fabricated locally. The building also will feature a slat ceiling and wall panels in main public spaces made from Pin Oak trees harvested from the project site. Some custom furniture also is being made from Port Orford Cedar trees from the site. Additional custom-made furniture will feature materials certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The project, which is targeting gold-level certification in the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, is expected to use 34 percent less energy than outlined by Oregon's energy code. The building is being billed as the first in the Pacific Northwest to combine post-tensioned concrete slab construction with a hydronic system. The highly efficient system features hydronic radiant floor and wall heating and cooling systems with active chilled beams. Fortis Construction is on target to finish the project by this summer, roughly two years after work on the building began. COURTESY: KELLY JAMES - Willie Tykeson examines a model of Tykeson Hall during the 2017 groundbreaking of the project. Tykeson and her late husband, Donald, contributed $10 million toward construction of the $34 million building. Meanwhile, the university is already beginning to ramp up the staff it will need to start introducing students to concentrated services that will be in the new building in the fall. The majority of the university's 21,000 undergraduates will be required to participate in the new program, Marcus said. Although specifics about how soft skills such as independent thinking and strong communication will be incorporated into basic classes such as math and composition are still being developed, the university has already begun beefing up its current staff of seven advisors with 23 additional positions, who will begin working with students in the new program this fall. Marcus, who retired from his position as a dean and now is a professor of geography at UO, already has talked with leaders at other universities from around the country who are eager to see how the new approach at Tykeson Hall will pan out. "I think there are going to be a lot of positive ripples from it," Marcus said. "I think it's going to be transformational for the students. I think it will be a place that will provide inspiration for other (universities)." email: sbasalyga@pamplinmedia.com Twitter: @PortlandBizTrib Facebook.com/BizTrib Instagram: @PortlandBizTrib

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  • UO graduate school programs rank among the nation’s best

    First published on Around the O on March 12th. U.S. News & World Report has released its 2020 rankings for the top graduate schools, and programs in the University of Oregon’s College of Education and School of Law continue to be listed among the best in the nation. The College of Education ranks No. 5 among the public institutions and 14th in the country overall for education graduate programs. The college’s special education program comes in as one of the premiere places in the nation for the category with a No. 3 ranking. It also ranks second among public institutions. The College of Education’s total funded research moved up to $49.1 million, making it the No. 7-ranked school in the nation in that category. That’s a jump from $41.1 million and a 10th-place finish last year. Three School of Law programs rank in the top 10, with the environmental law and natural resources law program jumping to No. 8 in the nation, up three slots from last year. The conflict and dispute resolution program moved up one spot to seventh overall. Legal research and writing came in ranked No. 5, down two spots from last year. “Our core mission is to foster excellence, innovation and inclusion when it comes to access for our graduate programs,” said Janet Woodruff-Borden, vice provost and dean of the UO Graduate School. “I’m excited that these rankings reflect some of the gains we are making to provide a great graduate school experience.” The law school moved up to No. 83 overall, up two slots from 85, its ranking a year ago. Several graduate programs in the College of Arts and Sciences continue to be recognized, including clinical psychology, No. 25; earth sciences, No. 31; and psychology, No. 45. UO programs in the College of Design and the Lundquist College of Business were also included among the rankings. “As a top-tiered research institution, we continue to work hard at the University of Oregon to find ways to offer the very best in graduate education” said Jayanth Banavar, provost and senior vice president. “We are proud to have these excellent academic opportunities for our graduate students recognized.” To see a complete list of the rankings, visit U.S. News & World Report’s website. —By David Austin, University Communications   https://around.uoregon.edu/content/uo-graduate-school-programs-rank-among-nations-best  

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  • Legislative Session Reports: Week 7 update; co-chair’s budget released

    Legislative Session Reports: Week 7 update; co-chair’s budget released Week seven of the Oregon legislative session ended with some important budget news. The co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means released their recommended budget for the 2019-2021 biennium. This budget, based on all current revenues projected to come into state coffers and the economic forecast, had some good news and bad news for public higher education. The good news: Overall operating funding for public universities increased by $40.5 million from the base version of the Governor’s Recommended Budget, which had kept funding completely flat for universities. Additionally, the co-chairs directed the Subcommittee on Education to review appropriate funding levels for the Sports Lottery program and all Public University State Programs. Sports Lottery was zero-ed out in the Governor’s budget. The UO receives about $1 million each biennium from that program to fund scholarships for student athletes and graduate students. The UO’s State Programs include the Labor Education Research Center, the law school’s Clinical Legal Education program, the Dispute Resolution program, and the TallWood Design Institute. Additionally, there are State Programs that all universities benefit from, including the Engineering & Technology Sustaining Fund, which funds research, innovation, and workforce development. The UO received $1,134,500 in FY19 from this program, which was eliminated in the Governor’s base budget. As the Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact gets up and running and the UO continues to advance its research portfolio, we expect to continue to receive more funding from the ETSF, which is distributed through a formula. The bad news: Despite a $40.5 million increase, this funding is not nearly enough to protect students from too-high tuition increases and cuts to the University’s workforce, programs, and services. Oregon’s seven public universities need a collective $120 million increase in operating funds (which would bring the total to $857 million—still below pre-recession funding levels) in order to keep tuition increases for resident undergraduate students to less than 5%. Because of the way the state’s funding formula is set up, the UO would receive an increase of just about $200,000 in operating funds at the co-chair’s budget. Don’t forget that the Joint Committee on Ways & Means is taking their show on the road (literally) and traveling to Coos Bay, Pendleton, Redmond, and Portland over the next three weekends to hear directly from the public about the budget. If you can attend one of these hearings to testify in support of higher education funding or hold signs supporting universities and colleges, click here for more information. In other news: Aside from budget news, the Capitol was busy this week. Wednesday was a solemn day with the state funeral for Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, who passed away of brain cancer last week. We are grateful to Secretary Richardson for his decades of service to the people of Oregon. The Legislature continues to debate important public policy that would impact the UO, including: Accelerated credit (SB 800) Campus safety Regulation of athlete agents (SB 686) Regional Accelerator Innovation Networks and a state matching fund for federal research grants universities’ apply for (SB 418 & HB 5524) Common Applications (SB 624) Hazing policies at universities (HB 2519) Funding for veteran’s services on college campuses (SB 35) And more!

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  • Bill would help cities take part in UO sustainability program

    First published in Around the O on March 8th 2019. A bill making its way through the Oregon Legislature would help more cities take part in the UO’s Sustainable City Year Program by creating a new state matching fund. House Bill 2594 would put $300,000 in the fund to help cities, particularly smaller communities in rural areas of the state, that otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate in the sustainability program. Sustainable City Year pairs cities with students and faculty members in the College of Design, College of Business, School of Journalism and Communication, School of Law, and the College of Arts and Sciences for a large-scale, intensive, year-long partnership to tangibly move forward on paths toward a more sustainable future. “Many Oregon communities, especially those in rural areas, could benefit from a partnership with SCYP but cannot fully afford to participate,” said Marc Schlossberg, professor of city and regional planning and co-director of the Sustainable Cities Institute. “SCYP partners must meet several standards, including buy-in from local political leadership and staff, interest in a range of community improvement issues, and having financial skin in the game.” The House Education Committee held its first public hearing on the bill Feb. 25. Committee members will now decide whether to hold a work session on the bill before sending it to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, which reviews all budget requests. The bill is sponsored by state Reps. Julie Fahey, a Eugene Democrat, and Marty Wilde, a Democrat representing portions of Lane and Douglas counties.   The Sustainable City Year Program “directly connects students and cities, allowing students to learn and cities to improve,” Wilde said during the public hearing. “Students study the city and find ways it can improve in terms of sustainability. Cities benefit from the added capacity and new perspective. Students benefit from the real-world experience they can apply beyond college.” Each year, the program works in a different community and matches community-identified project ideas with up to 35 university courses, more than 20 faculty members and 500 students across more than 12 disciplines giving 40,000 hours of effort. Developed in 2009, the model has been adopted by more than 25 other universities across the United States and is being disseminated globally with the help of the United Nations. To date, the Sustainable City Year Program has worked with the cities of Gresham, Salem, Springfield, Medford, Redmond and Albany. Last year it piloted two new expansions of its model, including partnering with Portland transit agency TriMet on its proposed 12-mile Southwest Corridor light rail project and with a smaller Oregon city, La Pine. “We were very impressed by the both the quantity and quality of the work produced,” said Albany Mayor Sharon Konopa. “Student recommendations have subsequently been incorporated into plans for our parks system and the Albany waterfront, the parks and recreation department’s business practices, community engagement objectives and other city activities. By increasing our capacity and bringing in fresh ideas, student efforts helped save the city money and make more informed decisions about some of Albany’s significant challenges.”   https://around.uoregon.edu/content/bill-would-help-cities-take-part-uo-sustainability-program

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  • Report: UO boosts the state economy by more than $1 billion

    First published in Around the O. From money brought in by students, visitors and research grants to spending on employment, supplies and construction, the UO remains an economic engine not just in Lane County but statewide, a new report shows. The university’s estimated economic footprint in Oregon was $2.2 billion in fiscal year 2017-18, according to UO economist Tim Duy, who has been producing the study for the university since 2010. That figure captures the total amount of economic activity associated with the university, which ripples outward to shape the state’s economy. However, what’s also notable is the share of economic activity generated from money that flows into Oregon from outside the state through university activities, such as federal research grants and spending by students and visitors from outside Oregon, spending that wouldn’t happen without the UO. Seen through that lens, spending by the university, students and visitors, combined with construction spending, had an economic impact of $1.2 billion. Of that, an estimated $781 million came from outside the state, injecting 15,387 jobs with $577 million in payroll into the state’s economy. Absent the influx of resources from out of state, the UO would essentially be recirculating Oregonians’ money within Oregon. While there is a benefit to that, the influx of money from beyond Oregon’s borders has a greater effect. “The University of Oregon acts as a trade-sector firm in our economy, drawing in revenue from outside the state in the form of tuition and research grants. This funding substantially contributes to the Oregon economy,” said Duy, who also is senior director of the Oregon Economic Forum. Looking at the university using a narrower definition of economic impact, the UO spent $561 million related to students and grants that came from outside its borders, generating an economic impact of $1.1 billion, including $438 million in pay associated with 11,794 jobs. Student spending After the economic boost generated by the university itself, new economic activity generated by student spending represents the second-largest contribution to the university’s effect on Oregon’s economy. Students spent $261 million on rent, food, books and supplies, and other goods; roughly half of that came from out-of-state students. That out-of-state spending generated an economic impact of $226 million statewide in the past fiscal year and supported 2,243 jobs that paid $55 million to workers. Boosted by an academic reputation that extends beyond Oregon, enrollment of nonresident students rose from 47.7 percent to 49.1 percent as the percentage of total tuition and fees from nonresidents students hit 67 percent. “A larger percentage of nonresident students boosts the economic impact of the University of Oregon because it represents a larger draw of resources from out of state,” Duy wrote in his study. Construction spending Perhaps the most visible element of the university’s economic benefit can be found high in the sky with the construction cranes that have popped up around campus in recent years. It’s been said the number of construction cranes that dot a city’s skyline represent a barometer of an area’s economic health. Using that measure, the UO is in fine shape. At times over the past year, cranes could be found on construction sites for Willie and Donald Tykeson Hall, the Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, Hayward Field and, more recently, University Health Center renovations. In all, construction spending generated an economic impact of $196 million in 2017-18, with $72 million in payroll that supported 1,537 jobs. Welcome to Oregon Thanks to campus tours, commencement ceremonies, athletic events, concerts and conferences, the UO also gives a healthy boost to Oregon’s tourism industry. One only has to look on the edges of campus to see the number of lodging establishments and eateries that seek to house and nourish the many people who have the UO campus as their destination. Spending by visitors equaled $27 million, generating an economic impact of $51 million with 475 jobs and earnings of $15 million. But the university’s benefits to the economic health of Lane County and Oregon extends beyond dollars and cents, Duy added. “I think it is important to remember that the amount of spending associated with the university is really just one of the ways that we contribute to the local economy,” he said. “For example, the traditional consistency of that spending across the business cycle also helps stabilize the local economy, and that stability in turn should increase the willingness of firms to expand in the region.” Duy is author of the University of Oregon Statewide Economic Indicators, Regional Economic Indicators and the Central Oregon Business Index. He has published in the Journal of Economics and Business and is also a member of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors and the State Debt Policy Advisory Commission. He also produces the monthly UO Index of Economic Indicators, which tracks state and regional prosperity. Duy’s economic impact study is one of several tools the university uses to measure the UO’s contributions to state and regional economies. The Oregon Impact interactive map demonstrates the fiscal and community impacts of the university on the state by geographic and legislative districts. The map is a collaborative effort between Campus GIS and Mapping, Institutional Research, and Government and Community Relations. —By Jim Murez, University Communications

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  • Meet the ocean creatures that use a mesh of mucus to catch their food

    First published on theconversatoin.com on May 2nd 2019. All animals must eat to survive. If you’ve heard the term “grazer” before, it may bring to mind familiar farm animals, such as cows or sheep munching on pastureland. But the ocean has its own suite of grazers, with very different — even bizarre — body forms and feeding techniques. Instead of teeth, one group of these invertebrates uses sheets of mucus to consume huge quantities of tiny plant-like particles. In our new paper, my colleagues and I suggest a new categorization for this overlooked group: “mucous-mesh grazers,” in recognition of their unusual feeding strategy. Unlike the mucus in our noses, which appears amorphous and blobby, the mucous sheets of these ocean grazers can be structured into ornate meshes and nets. These mucous sheets can function like a filter to ensnare food as small as bacteria. The grazers themselves are mammoth in comparison: up to 10,000 times bigger than their food. If people ate food that small, you’d be picking salt and sugar grains off your dinner plate. Marine biologists like me used to think mucous grazing was a “catch-all” feeding strategy – the idea was these guys would just chow down on whatever their mucous sheet caught. But recent technological advances are helping us understand that mucous grazers can be picky eaters. And what they consume — or don’t — influences ocean food webs. Ornate filtering meshes (amplified 1,000 times and stained bright green in this image) capture particles much smaller than the grazers themselves. Kelly Sutherland, CC BY How does mucous-mesh grazing work? Mucous-mesh grazers include salps, pyrosomes, doliolids, pteropods and appendicularians. They are typically centimeters in length, roughly spanning the size of your fingernail to the size of your hand. Some form colonies comprised of many individuals in long chains that can be much longer. These creatures are large and watery compared to their hard-bodied planktonic counterparts. If you stepped on one, it would squish, not crunch. A mostly water body enables them to grow large quickly. Mucous-mesh grazers are free floating and suited to the open ocean. They live far from shore, where food is scarce and often small. The tiny holes and fibers of their mucous meshes enable them to capture microscopic particles, which they subsequently swallow, sometimes along with the mucus. A chain of salps filtering tiny food particles through an internal mesh. Unlike spiders that spin their feeding webs, these grazers have a special organ, called an endostyle, that secretes their mucous mesh. Depending on the grazer, the mucous mesh can be located either inside or outside the body. One group, for example, secretes a mucous bubble big enough for the animal to live inside like a house. Another group, nicknamed sea butterflies, secrete mucous webs that attach to their wing-shaped feet. These mucous webs range in size from an inch to over 6 feet. Location of the mucous mesh for different groups of grazers. The mucous mesh is colored according to the ways grazers drive flow through or across the mesh. ‘MW’ shows the mucous web of a sea butterfly, or thecosome pteropod.Caitlyn Webster/www.bywebbie.com, CC BY Historically, scientists assumed mucous-mesh grazers ate anything that passed through the mucous sieve — similar to a strainer in the drain of the kitchen sink catching everything of a certain size that flows in. Recent research by my lab and others challenges this assumption and shows that their feeding may be highly selective. The mucus might capture certain food particles perfectly, while completely rejecting other particles on the basis of their size, shape or surface properties. For example, when presented with a mixture of rod-shaped and spherical food particles – differently shaped but otherwise similar in size – one species of mucous-mesh grazer preferentially swallows the spherical particles. Particles of different size and shape (spherical and rod) from the dissected gut of a mucous-mesh grazer, the appendicularian Oikopleura dioica. Keats Conley, CC BY That’s a bit like choosing tater tots over French fries: They’re both made of potatoes and are roughly the same size but they have different shapes. The mucous grazers’ food “choice” is passive, though, having to do with how differently shaped prey orient in seawater and intercept the mesh. Grazers can “pick” prey, but prey may also be able to have some say in the matter — either passively or actively. For instance, some bacteria have Teflon-like surfaces and don’t stick to the mucous meshes, so they’re almost never consumed. How all of the different prey properties might influence grazing has been underappreciated until recently. Understudied but not unimportant Oceanographers are interested in how material moves through the ocean and how the process could be mediated by organisms. Mucous mesh grazers might be an overlooked piece of the cycle. The fact that they don’t capture all prey equally has important consequences for how carbon moves through the ocean. After mucous grazers feed, they package undigested food particles into mucus-bound fecal pellets or other castoff material. Repackaging prey particles with sticky mucus concentrates small prey into larger aggregates, which makes them sink more quickly. This ultimately moves organic material to the ocean depths, potentially storing it for years or even centuries. At depth, this material is unavailable to the majority of marine organisms that live near the surface. The ‘salpatron’ allows researchers to conduct feeding studies underwater. Gitai Yahel/Ayelet Dadon-Pilosof (www.gitaiyahel.com), CC BY-ND Until the past decade or two, scientists didn’t have technological tools to watch what was happening with mucous-mesh grazers in their native habitat at the appropriate tiny scales. Because these organisms are quite fragile, now researchers in my lab and others use scuba diving or robots to directly observe them underwater. These close, careful observations using high-speed cameras and underwater microscopes or doing feeding studies in the natural environment have shown us how they select certain particles and reject others. High-speed underwater camera. B. Gemmell, S. Colin, J. Costello, CC BY-ND Further advances will combine underwater methods with recent developments in imaging and genetic sequencing to shed light on the role of mucous-mesh feeders in shaping the structure of the ocean’s microbial community. Underwater imaging allows for undisturbed observations of these fragile creatures. Researchers can watch how individual particles behave on the mesh and whether they are ultimately captured. Genetic sequencing used in the context of feeding studies helps scientists identify and distinguish the groups of tiny microbes that are often invisible to the naked eye. Knowing which particles are consumed and which aren’t tells us about the impact that the mucous grazers have on ocean food webs. Changing oceans, changing impact Picky eating by mucous-mesh grazers may have profound implications for biogeochemical cycles, particularly in light of shifting ocean conditions. Environmental factors like ocean temperature, availability of nutrients and the type and amount of prey present influence when and where mucous grazers appear, how long they stick around and their impact on ocean food webs. Pyrosome bloom off the Oregon coast in February 2018. Image was taken at about 60 m depth where there was a layer of pyrosomes, probably actively feeding on small particles. K. Sutherland/H. Sorensen, CC BY-ND A more tropical species of mucous-grazing pyrosomes (Pyrosoma atlanticum) provides a case study. Typical in warmer waters as far north as Southern California, they confounded scientists and fishermen alike when they appeared off the Oregon coast in 2014. No one knows why the pyrosomes appeared, but ocean temperatures warmed around the same time. Like other mucous-mesh grazers, the fine pyrosome filter allows them to graze on the smaller particles that are associated with warmer, less nutrient-rich surface water – prey too small for most other animals to catch. Along with other researchers along the West Coast, my lab is actively working to understand why the pyrosomes appeared, how they might affect the marine ecosystem, and if they will persist. Grazers in the ocean are inherently more challenging to study than those than on land; we continue to learn more about who they are through what they eat. https://theconversation.com/meet-the-ocean-creatures-that-use-a-mesh-of-mucus-to-catch-their-food-95749  

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  • Reports from week five of the legislative session

    Reports from week five of the legislative session The Oregon Legislature is only five weeks into its session, but bills are moving and lawmakers are taking up an array of issues from affordable housing to climate change. In the last couple weeks, we’ve had lots of University of Oregon students, faculty, and staff at the Capitol engaging on policy bills and advocating for increased operating funding to keep college affordable. Below are some highlights from the session in week five: The Joint Committee on Ways & Means, which consists of the Legislature’s key budget writers, announced their road show dates. The “road show” is when legislators tour the state with the goal of listening to Oregonians about what to include in the state’s budget for the 2019-21 biennium.   If one of these hearings is near where you live, we need YOU to attend. Even if you don’t sign up to testify, it’s important to have people hold signs and offer a strong show of support for higher education.   The four dates and locations are listed below: Coos Bay: Saturday, March 9 – Marshfield High School, Auditorium, 972 Ingersoll Ave. (1:00-3:00 pm) Pendleton: Friday, March 15 – Blue Mountain Community College, Pioneer Hall, Bob Clapp Theatre, 2411 NW Carden Ave. (5:30-7:30 pm) Redmond: Saturday, March 16 – Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, Three Sisters Conference and Convention Center (South Sister), 3800 SW Airport Way (2:00-4:00 pm) Portland: Thursday, March 21 – Portland Community College, Cascade Campus, MAHB 104 Auditorium, 5514 N. Albina Ave. (5:30-7:30 pm)   Jason Younker, Assistant Vice President and Advisor to the President on Sovereignty and Government to Government Relations, came to the Capitol to testify in support of Senate Bill 312, which would allow Native American students who graduated from an Oregon high school to qualify for in-state tuition rates, regardless of if they are from a tribe outside of the state.   HB 2641 had its first public hearing in the House Education Committee, which would provide funding for RAIN Eugene. RAIN is a business incubator started in 2015 and is housed in downtown Eugene at the 942 Olive building—the UO’s facility that provides space for entrepreneurship, start-ups, research and more.   On President’s Day, thousands of students, faculty, staff, and other advocates rallied in Salem to tell legislators they needed to fully fund Oregon’s public education system—from early childhood through college.  

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