Spring 2007

Plowing New Ground

Spring 2007 cover
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Start over.

Turn over a new leaf. Spring is a time for renewal, for moving ahead. It’s a powerful time, conveying hope and optimism. Salmon return to spawn, birds fly north to nest and people plant crops with an eye on the weather.

These and other signs can feel bittersweet. Fewer salmon are returning, a result of development on land and possible changes at sea. Changing wind patterns are associated with the seasonal appearance of low-oxygen water along the coast, creating a “dead zone.” Oregon’s diverse and productive agricultural sectors face both opportunity and risk as potential sources of new fuels and products to replace foreign oil.

Nevertheless, a sense of optimism and renewal underlies OSU research. How else to explain students who come here to study these and other problems that beg for solutions? In this issue of Terra, read about Patrick Luke who, after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and working on commercial fishing boats, has come to Corvallis to study fisheries management. His goal: to help repair the weakening bond between people and fish.

Science can create the basis for solutions that enable us to renew communities and economies. In the College of Veterinary Medicine, Luiz Bermudez and his team are discovering details about Johne’s disease, which is incurable and is blamed for about $1.5 billion in annual losses to the U.S. dairy industry. Their work is already yielding new ideas for reducing that cost.

Research on potential bioproducts and biofuels thrives on the hope that solutions can be found to our dependence on oil and other fossil energy sources. Algae-generated electricity, new ethanol-based technologies, extruded wood-plastic composites and dandelion-based latex are some of the ideas that are under scrutiny at OSU.

Our cover story suggests that, ironically, renewal sometimes comes from an “ecology of fear.” By controlling populations of deer, elk and other browsers, wolves and cougars enable streamside ecosystems to thrive. We may have these top predators to thank for some of our spring riches.

Nick Houtman, Editor