Latest news from the UO

  • House passes updated Phase IV COVID relief bill

    October 7, 2020 07:42 pm On Thursday, October 1 the U.S. House approved HEROES Act 2.0, an updated version of the Phase IV COVID-19 emergency relief bill (the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act) passed in the House this past May, on a 214-207 vote. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) summary of key policy provisions and funding of interest to APLU institutions included in the $2.2 trillion package is available here. Of note to higher education and the UO, the HEROES 2.0 draft legislation: Provides $39 billion to institutions of higher education, approximately $2 billion above what is included in the HEROES Act, but far below the higher education community’s updated request of $120 billion to cover reopening costs, address substantial institutional losses and expenses, and provide support to students; Includes $3 billion in research relief funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and an additional $1 billion for NIH to expand COVID-19 research; Appropriates $2.9 billion to the National Science Foundation (NSF) to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including to fund research grants, extension of existing research grants, cooperative agreements, scholarships, and fellowships; Does not include research relief for all research agencies; Includes $208 billion in state stabilization funds for education, with most of the funding going to K-12 education. The bill allocates 13 percent of funds, or approximately $27 billion, for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). The CARES Act allocated $16 billion; and Maintains the change allowing households to claim full-time students below the age of 24 and adult dependents, receiving the $500 qualifying child amount for each dependent. Lawmakers have yet to reach an agreement on consideration of the measure in the US Senate. The status of negotiations are changing by the minute.

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  • Funding from NIH helps study find a connection between childhood obesity and environment

    First published in Around the O on October 6, 2020. Examining disease transmission among African buffalo might seem like an odd way to help identify causes of obesity among humans, but tools developed through the study of the large beasts gave a team of UO researchers the foundation to examine people. Hannah Tavalire of the university’s Prevention Science Institute, along with several of her colleagues, developed a complicated model to determine the roles nature and nurture play when it comes to kids and their weight.  Nature — that is, genetics — plays a larger role, but nurture is also substantially responsible for whether a child has obesity. “Especially in younger children, we saw a big effect of genetics, which is expected early in life, but also there’s this pretty powerful impact of home environment,” Tavalire said. When she was working toward her doctorate, Tavalire developed a model that broke down the heritability of disease traits in wild animal populations. That’s where the African buffalo come in. It turns out that the genetic variability in populations of wild species is similar to that of humans’ family structures and can be modeled in a similar way. Even working with pairs of twins, it’s hard to filter out irrelevant factors that muddy the data because genetic similarity is inextricably linked to shared environment when children are raised together. However, another study at the UO — the Early Growth and Development Study, which includes the UO’s Leslie Leve as one of its founders — includes families with adopted children. Using the unique families of that study for the data, Tavalire’s statistical approach now allowed for comparisons. “That allowed us to tease apart nature versus nurture by comparing related siblings who were reared apart,” said Tavalire, the study’s lead author. “We were able to apply a more flexible statistical method to our dataset.” “Hannah developed this statistical analytic strategy among buffaloes that was perfect for this tough situation to analyze,” added Elizabeth Budd, a College of Education Evergreen Assistant Professor, part of the Health Promotion and Obesity Prevention Initiative and a member of the research team. “The design is unique because it is one of the only designs where you can separate the shared environment from the genetics.”

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  • UO team uses NSF grant to identify what could be world's oldest tropical peatland

    First published in Around the O on October 6, 2020. A University of Oregon-led research team has identified tropical peatland in Indonesia that is twice as old and much deeper than previously thought. The findings, published in Environmental Research Letters, provide new insights about the climate of equatorial rainforests, especially during the last ice age, said study co-author Dan Gavin, a professor of in the Department of Geography. At an inland site on Borneo, near the northern city of Putussibau, researchers found peatland that formed at least 47,800 years ago, according to radiocarbon dating. The site is 18 meters deep, roughly the height of a six-story building. In the research, numerous soil probes were taken from two inland and three coastal sites associated with the Kapuas River in the West Kalimantan province.

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  • Wayne Morse Center marks 20 years with a series of free events

    First published in Around the O on October 5, 2020. This fall the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics celebrates its 20th anniversary with a series of free online events centered around the idea of a just and inclusive democracy.  Established in 2000 to honor and sustain the fighting spirit and political independence of Oregon Sen. Wayne Morse, the center continues to be active and visible on the issues that Morse championed during his political career, including labor, civil rights and public education. "The Wayne Morse Center enriches the community with vigorous discussion of the most important issues of our day, from climate change to inequality to maintaining the infrastructure of democracy," said Margaret Hallock, founding director of the Wayne Morse Center, who retired in 2015. "Sen. Morse himself was a champion of independent, people-focused politics, and the center trains university students in his rigorous examination of public policy."  UO students benefit from the center's law fellow and graduate research fellowship programs, as well as the Wayne Morse Scholars program, which was founded in 2013 for undergraduates from diverse backgrounds to cultivate political and leadership skills.  "One of the most exciting developments during my 12 years at the center has been the arrival of new programs and new faces that reflect growth in who we serve and connect with," said Dan Tichenor, Philip H. Knight Chair of Political Science and director of the center's Program for Democratic Governance. "The scholars program has brought scores of UO undergrads into the heart of our center's work, joining the law fellows, grad students, faculty and community groups we have long supported." 

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  • UO researcher notes community benefits of U.S. Senate wildfire bill

    September 30, 2020 09:37 am In a press release on September 17, 2020, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced the introduction of legislation to help prevent catastrophic wildfires. The National Prescribed Fire Act of 2020 would support pre-fire season controlled burns as an essential, science-based strategy for reducing hazardous fuels to mitigate the worst effects of wildfire. The legislation would increase the pace and scale of controlled burns, create a technically skilled preseason controlled burn workforce, and give states more flexibility to regulate controlled burns in winter months to reduce catastrophic fires and dangerous smoke in the summer.  University of Oregon Senior Policy Advisor of the Ecosystem Workforce Program and Research Professor Cassandra Moseley was quoted in the press release: “Science has made clear that we need to get more fire on the ground at the right place and time. This bill addresses workforce limitations and fosters interagency collaboration that research has shown are barriers to prescribed fire.” Dr. Moseley is an academic expert in natural resource policy, including forest, wildfire, bioenergy, rural development policy and federal land management. She has studied the changing face of wildfire management in the West and has a particular focus on how natural resource policies affect rural communities, businesses and workers, including migrant forest workers. More about Dr. Moseley’s research can be found here.

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  • UO-led study helps guide physical therapy after injuries

    First published in Around the O on August 21st. Racing into rehab too aggressively after a severe ankle sprain or bone fracture may hinder the ability of blood vessels to regrow and form a healthy network of blood vessels in the affected tissue. That’s the main message from new research that used 3D models made of a water-rich collagen gel cultured with fragments of blood vessels taken from fat. The work, done in a collaboration of scientists from the University of Oregon’s Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, Georgia Tech and three other institutions, is detailed in Science Advances. The work by the nine-member research team revealed fundamental new insights about the effects of mechanically loading tissues trying to reestablish vascularization following injury, said study co-author Robert Guldberg, vice president and Robert and Leona DeArmond Executive Director of the Knight Campus. RELATED LINKS Paper in Science Advances Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact About Robert Guldberg Guldberg Lab About Keat Ghee Ong’s startup Knight Campus leader named to national inventors academy Finding that sweet spot of timing and intensity of rehabilitation, he said, is challenging. “If you get the loading right, you stimulate increased growth,” Guldberg said. “If you get it wrong, however, you can completely inhibit the vessels from branching and growing. Our research has reached a point where we can begin to make suggestions. Our message to physical therapists and clinicians is to not be overly aggressive early on.” Mechanical loading refers to physical stress, such as exercise or physical therapy. The regrowth of a vascular network is key to successful tissue regeneration following injuries or surgical procedures like spine fusion. Blood vessels deliver oxygen and nutrients and remove waste products from tissue. If the process is cut short, fibrosis can set in, resulting in scarring, chronic pain and an incomplete return to full strength. The 3D models, which used fat from rats cultured into a hydrogel, allowed testing of mechanical loading effects on vascular growth, a multistaged process called angiogenesis, in a controlled setting. The models were fitted into two differently sized platens, or framing structures, to study the impacts of compression and shear at different times and intensities. By introducing molecular inhibitors to cell-signaling pathways, the team identified specific biological mechanisms regulating the effects of early or late loading times at low, medium and high levels of deformation applied to vascular networks forming in the gels. The resulting data, the researchers wrote, demonstrated that delayed loading led to longer, more extensively branched microvascular networks than early loading over a wide range of strain magnitudes. High deformations applied early stopped vascular branching and growth. Exactly how the optimal timing seen in the study translates into actual human treatments will require additional study. Next up, Guldberg said, is experimenting with models drawn from human tissue “to build a vascular avatar of the patient to model how repairs progress.” Another team, which includes Guldberg, detailed the creation of modular microcages that could be used as size-adjustable implantable scaffolds for tissue engineering, especially in cases of large tissue defects or injuries. That work appeared online July 23 in Advanced Materials. Eventually, Guldberg said, strategies could emerge from this ongoing research to help guide individualized treatment plans for patients whose recovery programs may vary widely based on their injuries. There may be ways, he added, to develop therapeutic drug treatments in combination with time-varying exercise plans to accelerate tissue regeneration and patient recovery. “Our work is really about guiding physical therapists and clinicians to be able to optimize their treatments of patients after serious injuries to accelerate a patient’s return to being functional and improve their long-term ability to regenerate their vascular tissue health,” Guldberg said. The research also may help guide rehabilitative strategies, such as walking, running, jumping rope or lifting weights, following spine fusion, tendon and bone-repair surgeries where vascular networking needs to be rebuilt, he added. “A continuing challenge, however, is measuring real-time mechanical data in patients,” he said. Guldberg is addressing how to do just that in a partnership with fellow Knight Campus scientist Keat Ghee Ong, who joined the UO last summer. With help from UO’s Innovation Partnership Services, they have launched the Eugene-based Penderia Technologies Inc. The company is developing orthopedic sensors based on Ghee Ong’s research in radio frequency identification technology. Using tiny devices implanted in suture anchors, screws or buttons used for surgical repairs, doctors or therapists could monitor an individual’s progress and chart a specific recovery exercise plan. The National Institutes of Health (grant AR069297) and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (RX001985) supported the research. Five co-authors, including lead authors Marissa Ruehle and E.A. Eastburn, of the Science Advances study are at Georgia Tech, where Guldberg had worked before joining the UO’s Knight Campus in August 2018. Other contributors are at the Atlanta VA Center in Decatur, Georgia, University of Utah and University of Pennsylvania. —By Jim Barlow, University Communications

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  • LCC, UO receive state grants to support veteran students

    First published in the Register Guard on August 19th. University of Oregon and Lane Community College are among 14 public colleges that received thousands of dollars in grants from the Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs this week.  The grants are designed to expand Campus Veteran Resource Centers and other services for student veterans to help them successfully transition from military service to college, and again into the civilian workforce and community, according to a release from the department.  Colleges received a combined total of $900,000 in grants, ranging from $25,830 to $79,830.  LCC received $78,615, the largest grant out of the two Eugene-area colleges and the second-most of any of the recipients across the state. UO received $31,581 for its services. All 14 colleges that applied were granted money.  Some of the projects to be funded with the grants include establishment of peer mentor programs to increase retention of veteran students, partnerships with community organizations to help transition to the workforce, and training for faculty and staff in military culture and unique needs of student veterans.  Link: https://www.registerguard.com/story/news/2020/08/19/lcc-uo-receive-state-grants-support-veteran-students/3396210001/

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  • Study shows what’s below ‘recent’ Cascade eruptions

    First published in Around the O on August 14th. Volcanic eruptions in the Cascade Range have occurred more often than commonly thought over the last 2.6 million years, and they’ve left subsurface signatures that tie them to current magmatic activity, University of Oregon researchers report. In a study in the journal Geology, a team led by UO doctoral student Dan O’Hara catalogued almost 3,000 volcanoes associated with the Cascades. The paper merged information on surface volcanic vents and data on the structure and composition of the crust to a depth of 12 miles. Clear connections between surface and subsurface signs of past eruptions were identified. The National Science Foundation-supported project shed fresh light about the complex and time-evolving patterns of rising magma in the region, said study co-author Leif Karlstrom, a professor in the UO Department of Earth Sciences and Oregon Center for Volcanology. That activity, he said, stretches far beyond the 11 well-known major volcanoes lining the Cascade Arc. “Anyone who has ever flown between San Francisco and Seattle has probably marveled at the massive stratovolcanoes lined up between Northern California and southern British Columbia,” Karlstrom said. “Remarkably, these landforms represent less than 1 percent of the volcanoes in the Cascades that have erupted in the geologically recent past.” The research team used freely available satellite-derived 3D digital terrain models to update estimates of eruption rates and synthesize subsurface observations over recent decades. The team mapped where signs of active magma in the crust correlates with edifices on the surface. Edifices refer to the main portion of volcanoes built by erupted lava, rock projectiles, mud and debris flows, and mixture of rock fragments, gas and ash. The modeling associated these edifices with underlying seismic velocities, heat flow, gravity and deformation that are sensitive to the influence of magma. It showed where surface vents seem to overlie currently active magma transport structures in the crust. “Previous studies have analyzed single volcanoes or volcanic clusters with satellite data, but this is the first study to constrain volcano geometries over an entire arc in a self-consistent manner,” O’Hara said. “We estimate that volcanic edifices represent about 50 percent of total volcanic output during the time period we examined.” The findings of the new study will help guide more in-depth studies of distributed volcanic vents and assessements of hazards and risks to people and infrastructure, said co-author David W. Ramsey of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington. Distributed volcanic vents are associated with small cinder cones that cover much of the central Oregon Cascades and areas such as the Boring Lava Field in Portland and the Medicine Lake volcano in California. “This research used a consistent methodology to analyze volcanic vents spanning the entire U.S. Cascade Range,” Ramsay said. “It helps to highlight recently active volcanic vents, particularly in Central Oregon and Northern California, and shows that the locations of potential future eruptions are not limited to the snow-capped stratovolcanoes on the horizon.” The region’s major stratovolcanoes, which stretch along the junction of the Juan de Fuca and North American plates, are Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, Three Sisters, Crater Lake/Mount Mazama, Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak. O’Hara, who grew up in a small Pennsylvania town near the Allegheny Mountains, came to the UO to study earthquakes, but an invitation from Karlstrom redirected his focus. He holds bachelor’s degrees in geology and computer science from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. —By Jim Barlow, University Communications

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  • UO and OSU to work together on glacier melting research

    First published in Around the O on August 24th.  Efforts to study how glaciers melt where they meet seawater, using an approach pioneered by University of Oregon oceanographer Dave Sutherland and colleagues at Oregon State University, have been bolstered with a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Advancing the research, to be done at Alaska’s LeConte Glacier near Petersburg, about 110 miles southeast of Juneau, could deliver scientists a refined method to improve projections of glacier loss worldwide amid anticipated sea-level rise in a warming climate. "We will explore the physics of the ice-ocean interface, that small boundary layer right where the fjord and glacier front meet,” said Sutherland, an associate professor in the UO’s Department of Earth Sciences. “You can imagine that’s a hard place to get data from, as icebergs crash down and ocean currents are swirling around." Wyden, Merkley Welcome $2.2 Million in Glacier Study Grants for OSU, UO The four-year grant begins Oct. 1. It provides $1.96 million to support advancements to Oregon State’s autonomous boat operations and data-collection tools that will be vital for the high-risk project to observe tumultuous waters as close as possible to the face of the tidewater glacier. The grant also covers the mentorship and participation of students, two early career women scientists and K-12 educational outreach. The UO’s portion of the grant, $253,192, will help cover expenses for underwater imagery, Sutherland said. The funds also will support Sutherland’s graduate student Nicole Abib, who is exploring the calving of glaciers as melting produces freshwater that flows out near the ocean surface and drives a return flow that draws in deep warmer ocean water toward the glacier. In July 2019, a Sutherland-led team published results of the first field tests that produced findings counter to a long-used theory on melting under glaciers. The findings, in the journal Science, suggested that melting was potentially occurring at two orders of magnitude, or some 100 times, faster than predicted. "This NSF award provides an exciting new opportunity to leverage OSU's strength in oceanography and robotic technologies to make the first direct measurements of ice melt beneath the dangerous calving ice cliffs of a tidewater glacier" said OSU oceanographer Jonathan Nash, who is the grant’s principal investigator. "These observations are a key element necessary to better predict the severity of sea level rise driven by our changing climate. Never before have measurements like this been possible." Imagery will be done using multibeam sonar mounted on a small, remotely operated vehicle to be used in conjunction with the deployment of a first-of-its-kind network of coordinated underwater acoustic, optical and unmanned sensors. The UO’s part of the project will begin in the second year of the grant, Sutherland said. The ultimate goal of the project, he said, is to determine if small spatial changes in the glacier’s shape or small time variations in ocean currents near the glacier’s face are what ultimately control the large-scale response to ocean forcing. In addition to Nash and Sutherland, the project also involves glaciologist Erin Pettit, coastal engineer Meagan Wengrove and numerical modeler Eric Skyllingstad, all at OSU, and oceanographer Rebecca Jackson at Rutgers University. The NSF grant was announced in a joint statement issued by U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon. —By Jim Barlow, University Communications   https://around.uoregon.edu/content/uo-and-osu-work-together-glacier-melting-research

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