Winter/Spring 2023 Beginning Undergraduate Researcher Support Program

Step 1: Review the faculty project summaries (see below).
Step 2: Once you have found a project that interests you, email the project mentor (see guide to writing emails to faculty here) to set up a time to connect and learn more about the project. NOTE: Only contact 2 faculty mentors at a time. If you haven't heard back in 4 business days, followup with a second email.
Step 3: Meet with potential faculty mentors to discuss the project and potential acceptance into their lab.
Step 4: Attend an informational workshop (Wednesday, Nov. 16th from 6-7pm in Stand Ag 162 and on Zoom) or schedule a 1-on-1 meeting with CAS Student Engagement Coordinator, Rachel Jones, to learn more about the program and conducting undergraduate research.
Step 5: Apply to the Beginning Undergraduate Researcher Support Program, indicating your preferred projects. Application opens Nov. 7th and closes Nov. 28th @ 11:59pm.
 
Fossil plants of western North America

Faculty Mentor Names:

Gar Rothwell (rothwelg@science.oregonstate.edu); Ruth Stockey (stockeyr@science.oregonstate.edu)

 

Faculty Mentor Department:

Botany and Plant Pathology

 

Research modality:

In-person lab/field

 

Project Abstract:

Evolution of the plant kingdom is documented by the fossil record, which has been incompletely sampled up to the present. Student research projects focus on the identification, preparation, description, and interpretation of fossil plant specimens. Projects focus on information that is new to science and that research students can complete as the author of a scientific publication.

 

Project Description:

Available projects include plant organs from 50 to 150 million year old deposits that occur in Mesozoic and Paleogene rocks. Plant organs available for study include stems, leaves, cones, flowers, fruits, and seeds that are preserved at the cellular level, and that can be studied using classical plant anatomy techniques. Students work one-on-one with faculty researchers to master techniques, become conversant with plant structure and relationships, with the interpretation of scientific data, and with the writing and publication of a scientific paper. Activities include fossil preparation using rock saws, grinding and smoothing equipment, thin section preparation equipment, and microscope slide preparation equipment. Students learn scientific image capture techniques by participating in specimen photography, and graphics preparation. Students also learn how to structure and prepare a scientific paper for publication by working in collaboration with experienced scientific researchers.

 

Description of Work Environment:

Work will be conducted in a laboratory setting, and also may include the opportunity to participate in field collection of fossils.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

Students will be responsible for the preparation of fossils using rock saws, with the initial preparation of anatomical thin sections, and with the identification of plant parts. Students are expected to become proficient with fossil plant preparation techniques, to make anatomical sections of plant fossils, and make microscope slides of specimens selected for detailed study. Students also will learn plant photography, photographic plate preparation, and are expected to participate in the preparation of figures for publication of data. Students also are expected to become acquainted with, and participate in the preparation of a scientific manuscript for publication.

 

Skills:

A basic understanding of plant structure and relationships, a willingness to commit to a regular work schedule, and the ability to carry tasks through to completion.

 

Learning Outcomes:

Students will strengthen their background in organismal botany, plant structure, plant development, and plant reproduction. They will learn scientific study skills, including how to recognize important scientific questions, how to address those questions, how to search the published literature for background information, how to record data, how to structure and write a scientific paper, and how to publish the results of a scientific study.

 

Expected start and end date:

January - June 2023

 

Anticipated hours per week:

4-6

Unraveling some of the mysteries of feline reproduction

Faculty Mentor Name:

Michelle Kutzler (Michelle.kutzler@oregonstate.edu)

 

Faculty Mentor Department:

Animal and Rangeland Sciences

 

Research modality:

Hybrid of remote and in-person

 

Project Abstract:

In the United States, pet cats are more than twice as common as pet dogs. However, much less research is dedicated to pet cats. Feline reproduction is significantly different than all other domestic animals species. Published research is desperately needed in this area.

 

Project Description:

This project focuses on reviewing and analyzing completed data sets in feline reproduction. The first data set involves analysis of an ovarian protein (SPRASA) in cats of different ages. The second data set involves analysis of causes of neonatal mortality in purebred cats. After reviewing the project with Dr. Kutzler, the student will work with Dr. Kutzler to analyze the data sets and perform a pertinent literature review. Then the student will work with Dr. Kutzler to write a scientific manuscript that will be submitted to a peer-reviewed Veterinary Journal.

 

Description of Work Environment:

The work will primarily be done on a computer. The student may choose to use the desktop computer in the laboratory or their own personal laptop computer at home.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

For the first three to four weeks, the student will be working closely with Dr. Kutzler to review and analyze data sets and perform a pertinent literature review. In the following weeks, the student will work closely with Dr. Kutzler to write a peer reviewed manuscript and submitted to a Veterinary Journal.

 

Skills:

Good oral and written communication skills are needed for communicating with Dr. Kutzler as well as writing the scientific manuscript. Preference will be given to students who have completed a technical writing class.

 

Learning Outcomes:

The student will learn many facets of cat reproduction as well as how to perform a literature review using many scientific online search engines. The student will also learn how to write and submit a peer-reviewed scientific manuscript to a Veterinary Journal.

 

Expected start and end date:

January 9 - May 31, 2023

 

Anticipated hours per week:

5-10

Determining acaricide resistance in Willamette Valley hop yards

Faculty Mentor Name:

Navneet Kaur (Navneet.Kaur@oregonstate.edu)

 

Faculty Mentor Department:

Crop and Soil Science

 

Research modality:

In-person lab/field

 

Project Abstract:

The two-spotted spider mite, Tetranychus urticae (Koch), is a critical arthropod pest species in hop production regions of the Pacific Northwest USA (O’ Neal et al. 2015; Piraneo et al. 2015). Mite outbreaks, particularly in drought years, and poor control using certain groups of acaricides, have seriously concerned hop growers in the Willamette Valley. Currently registered acaricide products for mite control in hops include abamectin (IRAC 6), bifenazate (IRAC group 20D), bifenthrin (IRAC group 3A), hexythiazox and extoxazole (IRAC group 10A and 10B), fenpyroximate (IRAC group 21A), spirodiclofen (IRAC group 23), and acequinocyl (IRAC group 20B) (Walsh 2020, PNW Insect Management Handbook). Conservation of biological control agents, cultural control, and population monitoring are important components of integrated pest management (IPM) plans in hops; still, foliar acaricide applications remain a vital management tool to prevent economic loss or reduce the risk of loss to an acceptable level. To date, multiple studies conducted using mite populations from PNW indicated that T. urticae had developed acaricide resistance using multiple mechanisms in different growing regions (Adesanya et al. 2019; Wu et al. 2018). The development of acaricide resistance often results in a greater frequency of acaricide applications in commercial settings, increasing non-target beneficial arthropods and disrupting the benefits of using an IPM approach. Thus, there is a critical need to proactively screen local T. urticae populations for their response to different groups of acaricides to help producers make informed decisions for pest management in their hop yards.

 

Project Description:

The research objectives of this project are: 1. Determine the extent of resistance development in field-collected populations of Tetranychus urticae in commercial hop yards in the Willamette Valley 2. Communicate research findings, educate growers on the importance of resistance management, and provide information about pesticide rotations, modes of action, etc. Acaricides are one of the cornerstones of effective mite management efforts in hop production systems. However, extensive usage of a limited number of acaricide modes of action for a prolonged period could expedite the accumulation of resistance-associated genes in populations. Therefore, it is essential to communicate research findings and highlight the importance of resistance management through extension publications and outreach. The chapter on hops pests in the PNW insect handbook will be updated to include information about pesticide rotations, mode of action, etc., which can help prevent the loss of effectiveness of acaricides in mite control. The results of the project will also be communicated during Oregon Hop Commission and grower meetings and discussions with the Commission’s Research Committee. Results also will be extended to other Pacific Northwest hop industry organizations (i.e., the Hop Research Council and US Hop Industry Plant Protection Committee) in addition to extensive one-on-one communications with growers and consultants. Relevant Literature: 1. Abbott WS. 1925. A method of computing the effectiveness of an insecticide. Journal of Economic Entomology 18:265–267. 2. Adesanya AW, Franco E, Walsh DB, Lavine M, Lavine L, Zhu F. 2018. Phenotypic and genotypic plasticity of acaricide resistance in populations of Tetranychus urticae (Acari: Tetranychidae) on peppermint and silage corn in the Pacific Northwest. Journal of Economic Entomology 111: 2831-43. 3. O’Neal SD, Walsh DB, Gent DH, Barbour JD, Boydston RA, George AE, James DG, Sirrine JR. 2015. Field guide for integrated pest management in hops. U.S. Hop Industry Plant Protection Committee, Pullman, WA. 4. Piraneo TG, Bull J, Morales MA, Lavine LC, Walsh DB, Zhu F. 2015. Molecular mechanisms of Tetranychus urticae chemical adaptation in hop fields. Sci Rep 5:17090 5. Walsh DB. 2021. Hop Pests. In: Kaur, N., editor. Pacific Northwest Insect Management Handbook [online]. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University. https://pnwhandbooks.org/insect/agronomic/hop 6. Wu M, Adesanya AW, Morales MA, Walsh DB, Lavine LC, Lavine MD, Zhu F. 2019. Multiple acaricide resistance and underlying mechanisms in Tetranychus urticae on hops. Journal of Pest Science. 92: 543-55.

 

Description of Work Environment:

Some fieldwork in commercial hop yards for mite collection, a lot of greenhouse on campus, and laboratory experiments. PI, Navneet Kaur, and the Faculty research assistant, Alison Willette in the extension entomology program will be available to meet with the mentee at least once a week.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

Field work to collect mite populations from commercial hop yards. Lab maintenance of mite colonies on bean plants in the lab/greenhouse space. Assist in Potter spray tower assays for acaricide resistance evaluation under laboratory conditions.

 

Skills:

To effectively communicate in written, oral, and graphical form. To have hands-on experience with biological research methods and tools. To have a good understanding of the primary literature in entomology and to be able to critically evaluate information in primary research articles.

 

Learning Outcomes:

Students will learn to develop the experimental design, follow standard operating procedures, set up experiments, and keep records by conducting this research in the laboratory and in the field.

 

Expected start and end date:

Winter term 2023 and Summer 2023

 

Anticipated hours per week:

5-8

Modeling and mapping forage species using expert knowledge, field data, and climate and soil GIS spatial data layers

Faculty Mentor Names:

David Hannaway (david.hannaway@oregonstate.edu), Linda Brewer (linda.brewer@oregonstate.edu)
 

Faculty Mentor Departments:

Crop and Soil Science, Horticulture

 

Research modality:

Entirely remote/virtual

 

Project Abstract:

This project (MatchForage) is expanding an existing commission-funded out put (MatchClover) that optimizes grower selection of forage species based on soil, climate, and forage species response to soil and climate factors. The MatchForage tool is based on GIS overlays, with the user-facing page allowing for indication of use, intended management level, etc.

 

Project Description:

The goal of this project is to expand existing selection tools to optimize land manager choice of forage species. The tools are the product of modeling and mapping activities that incorporate climatic, soil, and plant tolerance characteristics into high-resolution spatial data overlays. Appropriate forage selection is key to high productivity and persistence of forage stands and to the sustainability of forage-livestock systems. Our team seeks an engaged student member who will work as a key team member to contribute to these goals by identifying yield data, contributing to data overlays, and improving websites.

 

Description of Work Environment:

Flexible work location for the computer-based work: can be home/dormitory and/or campus computer labs. Initial work orientation to include in-person meetings with faculty mentor and team members. Weekly project discussions regarding skill development, clarification of tasks, and progress reports will be a combination of in-person and video conferencing, email and telephone contact.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

 

Skills:

Required for hiring:

  • Introductory level biology/plant physiology knowledge.
  • Search skills (library, internet, researcher interviews, etc.).

Acquired through project:

  • Spreadsheet development and polynomial graphing skills.
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a group.
  • Ability to generate steady project outputs.
  • Willing to learn how to edit Drupal websites.

 

Learning outcomes:

  • Explain how appropriate selection of forage species is essential to economic and environmental sustainability.
  • Discuss climatic and soil factors important in forage selection.
  • Describe the modeling and mapping process. • Demonstrate competence in website editing.
  • Demonstrate increased understanding of the land grant system, and awareness of extension specialist roles, nationally and internationally.

 

Expected start and end date:

January 1 - June 30, 2023 (or depletion of funding)

 

Anticipated hours per week:

Up to 20  **Note: The faculty mentor will pay student for hours worked beyond program stipend ($750) at a rate of $15/hour

Ultrasound analysis of AMH-mediated ovarian follicle development

Faculty Mentor Name:

Cecily Bishop (cecily.bishop@oregonstate.edu)

 

Faculty Mentor Department:

Animal and Rangeland Sciences

 

Research modality:

Hybrid of remote and in-person

 

Project Abstract:

This is a collaborative effort between researchers at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and Oregon State University to investigate the contribution of exogenous administration of Anti-Müllerian Hormone to fertility preservation. Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) is a peptide hormone essential for non-steroidal growth of ovarian follicles, an essential step in the generation of follicles competent for mammalian ovulation. Low serum AMH levels are correlated with reduced follicular development and infertility in humans. Using a non-human primate model (rhesus macaques), animals will undergo continuous ovarian infusion of AMH in an attempt to increase the pool of growing ovarian follicles. At various stages of infusion and ovarian development, ovarian follicle growth will be monitored by 3-dimensional ultrasound and quantified using image analysis.

 

Project Description:

All animal work will be conducted and collected by staff at the Oregon National Primate Research Center. Student will work with Dr. Cecily Bishop to analyze the 3D/4D ultrasound images using ImageJ in order to collect accurate counts of follicles from each ultrasound session and quantify approximate size of follicles. Students will further participate in laboratory meetings with Dr. Bishop’s research group at OSU as well as joint remote meetings between Dr. Adam Krieg’s and Dr. Mary Zelinski’s laboratories at ONPRC to present their results in a mentored, multidisciplinary environment.

 

Description of Work Environment:

Computers and cloud software are provided on campus in Bishop research group - no additional computing resources are required.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

Students will undergo training sessions by Dr. Bishop's research group in use of ImageJ in ultrasound analyses. After 3-4 hours of in-person training sessions students will be expected to work independently to analyze these images with supportive mentoring available when needed. Once a week students will join the Bishop laboratory meeting in person, and separately joint Zelinski/Krieg meeting remotely.

 

Skills:

Required for hiring:

  • Proficiency in Excel and Word
  • Technically sophisticated enough to be confident in use of ImageJ after 3-4 hours of training.
  • Familiarity with OneDrive cloud is a bonus.

Acquired through project:

  • Basics of ultrasound image analysis
  • Correct data analysis techniques, including appropriate statistical analyses and study design.

 

Learning Outcomes:

 

Students will become proficient in ultrasound image analysis, as well as correct data analyses techniques, statistical analyses and study design for translational animal experiments (using animals to inform physiological processes in humans).

 

Expected start and end date:

January 9 - June 16, 2023

 

Anticipated hours per week:

5

Family dog animal-assisted intervention for children with developmental disabilities

Faculty Mentor Names:

Monique Udell (monique.udell@oregonstate.edu); Megan MacDonald (megan.macdonald@oregonstate.edu)


Faculty Mentor Departments:

Animal and Rangeland Sciences; Kinesiology

 

Research modality:

Hybrid of remote and in-person

 

Project Abstract:

We are doing a research study examining the use of the family dog in animal-assisted interventions for children with disabilities. We are specifically evaluating a novel imitation-based approach (the “Do As I Do” dog training method) to fostering a therapeutic partnership between children with developmental disabilities and their family dog. We believe that incorporating the family dog in a dog-assisted intervention will improve physical activity and social wellbeing for children with disabilities, as well as strengthen the bond between the children and their dogs, which may benefit both species.

 

Project Description:

Volunteers interact regularly in person with children with developmental disabilities between the ages of 10-17 years, dogs of all ages, sizes, and breeds (no aggressive dogs are allowed), and adult caregivers/parents. During the school year, we run a 10-week session in the winter and the spring in Corvallis. We have summer sessions in Corvallis, Portland, and Seattle that run for either 4 weeks or 10 weeks. Students are welcome to participate at any of those locations. Generally, each session consists of 1 week of RA training, 1 week of pre-intervention participant assessment, the 2- or 5-week intervention, and then 1 week of post-intervention participant assessment. The assessments are surveys and behavioral assays of the kiddos, the dogs, and the parents. The intervention is 10 hours of dog training, dog handling instruction, and dog body language education provided to the kiddos, spread across 2 or 5 weeks depending upon term and location. The post-intervention is a repeat of measures from the first assessment (the study is a within-subjects repeated measures design). Research assistants participate in every aspect of the project.

 

Description of Work Environment:

In-person activities take place in the Oldfield Animal Facility on the OSU campus during winter, spring, and the Corvallis summer session. The summer Portland location is OSU Extension Education in Beaverton, and the Seattle summer location is a private dog training studio in Ballard.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

(Prior to beginning, RAs must complete training and paperwork, including a criminal background check, to be onboarded to our IRB and IACUC ethics protocols. This process should begin at least 6 weeks prior to their start date.)

Every day can be a little different, especially as we move through the different components of the study session. In the first week, RAs become familiar with the surveys and behavioral assays, learn about how to interact with the participants and brush up on their dog training skills. We generally have two training sessions, one where RAs work on training skills with only people, and one where they work with a live volunteer dog.

During the assessment week, RAs perform one or more of the following roles:

  • Setup/Teardown (everyone does this)
  • Dog entertainer (keeping the dog occupied while the owners complete their paperwork)
  • Scribe (person who writes down data collected during behavioral assessments)
  • Dog handler (person who helps administer the dog behavior assessment)
  • Extra person (necessary to play roles in the dog behavior assessment)
  • Videoing RA (videos the 10 minute attachment assessment)
  • Unfamiliar RA (participates as a “stranger” in one of the attachment assessments).

The dog behavior assessment consists of asking the dog to do a series of activities and exposing the dog to some mild stressors that mimic things the dog would encounter in everyday life (e.g., a realistic stuffed dog or a sudden sound). RAs conduct this assessment in groups, with a scribe, a handler, and an extra person. Dogs that show any signs of aggression or who are unduly anxious will be excluded based on this assessment.

The attachment assessment is a modified Strange Situation originally used with babies and their mothers that has been adapted to measure attachment between dogs and their owners. For this assessment, the Videoing RA, the child, and the dog go into a designated room for two minutes, then the child and the RA leave the room and the dog is alone for two minutes, after which the RA and the child return and are in the room again for four minutes. This assessment is repeated at various times, replacing the child with the parent and then with a stranger (the unfamiliar RA). RAs participating in the intervention will generally work in pairs together with one child and their dog for 10 visits lasting about 50 minutes each. During these sessions, the RAs educate the child about dog handling, dog body language, basic positive-reinforcement-based dog training techniques, and the Do As I Do dog training method. Depending on the number of RAs and the number of participants, some RAs may work alone, and some RAs may have more than one kiddo/dog pair that they work with per day. RAs are also involved in paperwork management, video editing, video coding, and data entry.

 

Skills:

Preferred: We prefer RAs that have experience with dog handling and dog training. Experience working with children and/or people with developmental disabilities and with simple video is a plus.

Acquired: Students will acquire or improve dog training skills.

 

Learning Outcomes:

Students will learn about elements of conducting experimental applied research.

 

Expected start and end date:

Winter 2023: January 9th through March 17th

Spring 2023: April 3rd through June 9th

 

Anticipated hours per week:

5  **Note: The faculty mentor will pay student for hours worked beyond program stipend ($750) at a rate of $15/hour

Need to breed snap beans with high biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) efficiency

Faculty Mentor Name:

Jim Myers (james.myers@oregonstate.edu)

 

Faculty Mentor Department:

Horticulture

 

Research Modality:

In-person lab/field

 

Project Abstract:

Snap bean cultivars vary in efficiency in their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen through symbiosis with rhizobia bacteria. Because snap beans are bred under high nitrogen conditions, selection for the traits that maintain a high degree of efficiency for biological nitrogen fixation may be lacking in contemporary snap bean cultivars. This study will examine cultivars that vary in year of release for ability to nodulate and fix nitrogen. In some treatments, snap beans will be inoculated with incompatible rhizobia strains to see if inappropriate nodulation will happen, and whether this is correlated with date of release. The data derived from this work will be critical to develop a breeding program for improved biological nitrogen fixation in snap bean.

 

Project Description:

Snap beans are the vegetable cousin to dry beans and share the same basic reproductive biology. There are differences; nutritionally, snap beans have lower protein and carbohydrates but possess certain vitamins that dry beans lack. Snap beans have been selected for low fiber, stringlessness, and thick, succulent pods. Snap beans are valuable in crop rotation because they are a legume, and as with most legumes, form symbioses with nitrogen fixing Rhizobium bacteria. They can potentially add nitrogen to the soil for other crops to use, but full potential for this trait may be lacking in modern cultivars.

In most agricultural systems, snap beans are managed as if they do not have the ability to fix their own nitrogen, mainly because of their short duration in the field. The crop attains harvest maturity before the symbiotic process has time to establish and contribute nitrogen in any quantity to plant growth. When selection for a trait is relaxed, such as in modern agriculture where fertilize is applied in abundance, the trait may be reduced in expression or entirely lost. The situation is alarming because we are beginning to see snap bean cultivars bred in fertilizer-intensive conventional production systems that completely lack the ability to form nodules and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Companies describe these as “responsive to nitrogen”. We don’t know the extent of this situation, but there are at least three cultivars sold commercially that exhibit this trait.

In addition to cultivars that have completely lost the ability to fix nitrogen, various cultivars may exhibit quantitative differences in biological nitrogen fixation (BNF). There may be various causes for this, but one particular cause of a reduction in BNF efficiency may be the attenuation of the ability to discriminate against inappropriate nodulators. Various strains and species of Rhizobia will only perform well when matched with specific legume hosts. For example, rhizobia strains specific to forage legumes are incompatible with grain legumes and vice versa. The rhizobium strain may be able to induce nodulation, but won’t fix atmospheric nitrogen and transport it to the plant. Instead, it becomes a parasite on the plant. Leguminous species have evolved the ability to sense inappropriate nodulation and slough off nodules that are not providing BNF functionality. This ability may be lost when selection is relaxed and such seems to be the case in soybeans. Kiers et al., (2007) demonstrated that modern soybean cultivars had lost the ability to discriminate against ineffective nodulators compared to older unimproved cultivars. They attributed the loss to breeding modern cultivars under high nitrogen conditions. Because of a similar situation in snap bean breeding, we suspect that modern cultivar are less discriminating against inappropriate nodulators.

There are at least two reasons to reverse this trend. First, breeding snap beans that are early and efficient nodulators could reduce the amount of nitrogen needed in production systems, and secondly snap beans bred for organic production systems need the ability to establish symbioses early and rapidly fix nitrogen because nitrogen is often limiting, especially early in the season before the microbial community has had a chance to convert inaccessible nitrogen into forms that are available to plants.

The objective of this work is to document differences in BNF ability, and to investigate whether inappropriate nodulation is a factor contributing to differences.

Questions to answer:

  • Are all bean cultivars capable of BNF?
  • Are there differences in bean cultivars in BNF efficiency?
  • Are some cultivars more prone to ineffective nodulation?
  • Are there trends over time in loss of ability to discriminate against ineffective nodulators?

 

Description of Work Environment:

Work will take place primarily in an OSU greenhouse and a laboratory in ALS. An extension of the project may be carried out in the field at the OSU Vegetable Research Farm.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

Student will be responsible for obtaining supplies with input from advisor. We have the seed needed for the experiments but would need to order inoculum. Student and advisor would jointly plan the experiments and set up experimental design. Student would prep the pots, plant and inoculate the trials. Student would be responsible for caring for the plants as they grow, and harvesting at appropriate stages to measure growth, and collect nodulation data. The student and advisor together would analyze the data. Student writes up the study and prepare a poster and presentation.

 

Skills:

Experimental design, knowledge of biological nitrogen fixation, plant culture and production.

 

Learning outcomes:

  • Learn how to set up an experiment with valid statistical design.
  • Become an expert on BNF in legumes.
  • Learn production techniques for large seeded legumes.

 

Expected start and end date:

 

January 1 – June 15, 2023

 

Anticipated hours per week:

10 **Note: The faculty mentor will pay student for hours worked beyond program stipend ($750) at a rate of $13.50/hour

Evaluating the effects of soil type and fertilizer application rates on nitrate leaching potential in annual ryegrass

Faculty Mentor Names:

Eliza Smith (eliza.smith@oregonstate.edu), Abigail Tomasek (abigail.tomasek@oregonstate.edu)
 

Faculty Mentor Department:

Crop and Soil Science

 

Research modality:

In-person lab/field

 

Project Abstract:

Nitrogen (N) fertilizer is required to obtain optimal seed yields for annual ryegrass and other cool-season grasses produced in the Willamette Valley. Nitrogen fertilizer applications that exceed OSU recommended rates for specific grass crops may lead to water quality concerns from leaching of nitrates to surface water and groundwater, depending on the crops’ N uptake potential. While field trials allow for the simulation of actual conditions, individual field variability and reliance on consistent management practices between fields introduces large variability that make correlations between management practices and environmental effects difficult. To address this, we will use a controlled greenhouse experiment to determine the N uptake and leaching potential in annual ryegrass. Annual ryegrass will be planted in three soil types representative of the Willamette Valley, and five rates of ureasul fertilizer will be applied to the pots with four replications. Leached water from simulated precipitation events be collected and analyzed for nutrient concentrations. At the end of the experiment, the ryegrass and soil will be destructively sampled to determine the amount of nitrogen stored in the soil profile and the amount that was taken up by the ryegrass. Results will be analyzed to characterize the potential for annual ryegrass N uptake and leaching in different soil types under varying N application rates. These findings will be considered in the context of current literature and understanding, and will be used to guide future on-farm studies.

 

Project Description:

This project is a greenhouse experiment investigating nitrogen uptake and leaching in annual ryegrass. Annual ryegrass will be grown in 60 pots for 6 months (January to June 2023), with periodic rain-simulation leaching events as well as soil and plant sampling for nitrogen content. The student will help with maintaining the greenhouse pots by watering, weighing pots to determine moisture loss, assisting with leaching and sampling events, and weeding the pots. The student will also be responsible for helping with setup and cleanup for sampling events, including washing lab dishes, labeling tubes and vials, and folding filter paper.

 

Description of Work Environment:

Work will be on the OSU Corvallis campus, with approximately 70% greenhouse work in the West Greenhouses on campus (access from SW Orchard Ave between SW 35th St. and SW 30th St.) and 30% lab work in the Agricultural & Life Sciences Building.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

The student will participate in a variety of activities including the following: weighing trial pots, watering trial pots, weeding, collecting samples (water, soil, seed, biomass), sieving soil, processing samples, washing lab dishes, and data entry.

 

Skills:

Pre-existing skills needed: Attention to detail Ability to work well with others Ability manage time efficiently when working independently Ability to lift a pot that weighs up to 30 lbs. from waist height and carry it about 30 feet to a scale and back, and repeat 60 times. Ability to sit or stand for up to 4 hours at a time while processing samples or washing dishes. This job will involve exposure to soil, dust, fertilizer, and plants (alfalfa and grass).

Skills acquired during the research project: Taking water samples Taking soil samples in a greenhouse environment Taking grass seed moisture measurements Assisting with manual grass seed harvest Lab dishwashing

 

Learning outcomes:

  • General lab safety and etiquette
  • General greenhouse safety and etiquette
  • How to take water samples
  • Lab dishwashing workflow for nutrient management and water quality work
  • Common practices for greenhouse fertility and water quality trials

 

Expected start and end date:

January 9th (first day of winter term) – June 16, 2023 (last day of finals for spring term). Will discuss with the student if they plan to leave town for spring break (March 25-April 2, 2023).

 

Anticipated hours per week:

6-8 hrs/week. Flexible schedule, but the student will be expected to visit the greenhouse on campus to water 3 days/week. There will also be sampling events that happen throughout the trial that will require a larger chunk of hours at once. The faculty mentors will coordinate these work times with the student based on their class schedule.

**Note: The faculty mentor will pay student for hours worked beyond program stipend ($750) at a rate of $13.50/hour

Phosphorus transport potential from manure application to varying soil types

Faculty Mentor Name:

Abigail Tomasek (abigail.tomasek@oregonstate.edu)

 

Faculty Mentor Department:

Crop and Soil Science

 

Research Modality:

In-person lab/field

 

Project Abstract:

Oregon has a wide variety of soil types and climatic conditions, which greatly affects the nutrient transport dynamics across the state. With increasing fertilizer prices, manure can be viewed as a valuable nutrient source, transforming a waste product into an asset. However, improper applications of manure can lead to nutrient loading in groundwater and surface water. This project will use a rainfall simulator and a representative soil type from three regions of Oregon (Western coastal, the Willamette Valley, and the Columbia River Gorge) to determine the phosphorus retention potential of these soils under varying manure application rates. Five rates of dairy manure will be applied to the soils- a control with no additions, and four increasing rates. Runoff and infiltration samples will be collected from the rainfall simulator and phosphorus concentrations will be measured in the water. Soil samples will be collected and analyzed for phosphorus at the end of the experimental runs.

 

Project Description:

Surface covers can lessen erosion by reducing detachment and movement of soil particles. Phosphorus is largely sediment-bound, meaning increasing erosion and transport of soil particles can increase phosphorus loading to nearby surface waters. This has water quality implications since phosphorus can lead to eutrophication (nutrient enrichment) and the formation of harmful algal blooms. The application rate of manure can impact these processes and impact erosion, and therefore water quality. This study aims to determine the effects of manure application rates on erosion potential and phosphorus transport through the application of 4 different manure rates and a control on three varying soil types representative of distinct agroecosystems across Oregon. Simulations will be run incrementally over time to determine the effects of time since manure application on transport. This study is being replicated in four regions across the United States (Alabama, North Carolina, New York, and Oregon), and the student will have the opportunity to compare the results from the Oregon soils to the other regions. This study was first run in North Carolina. Results showed that with increasing manure application rates, erosion reduction rates decreased, and these values continued to decrease over time since application. Conversely, higher application rates linearly increased dissolved phosphorus content in the runoff. Results from this study will provide insight into the phosphorus dynamics from manure application and could provide guidance on best practices for manure application. Manure can provide valuable nutrients to fields to increase crop growth, and land application turns a waste product into an asset. Similarly, organic operations heavily rely on manure to provide necessary nutrients since synthetic fertilizers are not permitted.

 

Description of Work Environment:

The project will include on-campus laboratory work and occasional field work in the Willamette Valley for sample collection. The student will work with the rainfall simulator in running simulations and collecting samples, and will help with laboratory analysis of collected samples. The project may involve interaction with dairy manure.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

The student will help a graduate student in filling simulator pans to the correct volume, running the rainfall simulator, collecting and filtering water samples, preparing water samples for laboratory analysis, and entering laboratory data into excel. The student will learn the basics of performing a simple literature review to frame the results from their project in the context of the larger research data. They will learn how to look at environmental data, compare values, and run basic statistics to evaluate the effects of manure application rates on phosphorus transport.

 

Skills:

Acquired skills: The student will learn how to collect water and soil samples, analytical procedures, and an introduction to statistical analysis of environmental samples. They will also gain interdisciplinary research experience since the project includes aspects of soil science, water quality, and hydrology.

Preferred skills: Basic chemistry, experience with excel, and an interest in field work. This project will require the student to get their hands dirty and potentially will involve interaction with dairy manure.

 

Learning outcomes:

How to work effectively as a member of a research team, how to collect water and soil samples, laboratory analytical procedures for water and soil samples, basic statistical analysis, and how to do field work (and if they enjoy it)

 

Expected start and end date:

January 9 - March 18, 2023

 

Anticipated hours per week:

10 **Note: The faculty mentor will pay student for hours worked beyond program stipend ($750) at a rate of $13.50/hour

Evaluating potassium fertilizer needs in alfalfa and potassium soil testing methods for Oregon soils

Faculty Mentor Names:

Eliza Smith (eliza.smith@oregonstate.edu), Amber Moore (amber.moore@oregonstate.edu)

 

Faculty Mentor Department:

Crop and Soil Science

 

Research Modalitiy:

In-person lab/field

 

Project Abstract:

Fertilizer application rate trials are commonly used to establish or re-establish nutrient recommendations based on soil test values. The current potassium (K) fertilizer recommendations for alfalfa crops grown in Oregon are based on research done over 20 years ago. Since then, OSU agronomists have speculated that the actual K needs of alfalfa may be lower than the current recommended numbers. Alfalfa has high K fertilizer needs, so an adjusted recommendation will ensure that growers are getting optimal forage yields and quality while reducing fertilization costs. The OSU Soil Fertility research program will conduct a controlled greenhouse experiment with two soil types representative of alfalfa growing regions in Oregon and five K fertilization rates. Alfalfa plants will be harvested throughout the trial and analyzed for K content, and soil will be sampled at the end of the trial to see what fertilizer remains.   Objectives:
  1. Evaluate how K application rate and regional soil type impact alfalfa yield, K uptake, and forage quality in a greenhouse trial
  2. Determine if soil K thresholds for alfalfa need to be adjusted

 

Project Description:

This project is a greenhouse experiment investigating potassium uptake in alfalfa. Alfalfa will be grown in 40 pots for 6 months (February to July 2023), with periodic harvest events as well as soil and plant sampling for potassium content. The student will help with maintaining the greenhouse pots by watering, weighing pots to determine moisture loss, assisting with sampling events, and weeding the pots. The student will also be responsible for helping with setup and cleanup for sampling events, including washing lab dishes, weighing soil, and labeling tubes and vials.

 

Description of Work Environment:

Work will be on the OSU Corvallis campus, with approximately 70% greenhouse work in the West Greenhouses on campus (access from SW Orchard Ave between SW 35th St. and SW 30th St.) and 30% lab work in the Agricultural & Life Sciences Building.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

The student will participate in a variety of activities including the following: weighing trial pots, watering trial pots, weeding, collecting samples (water, soil, biomass), sieving soil, processing samples, washing lab dishes, and data entry.

 

Skills:

Pre-existing skills needed: Attention to detail Ability to work well with others Ability manage time efficiently when working independently Ability to lift a pot that weighs up to 30 lbs. from waist height and carry it about 30 feet to a scale and back, and repeat 40 times. Ability to sit or stand for up to 4 hours at a time while processing samples or washing dishes. This job will involve exposure to soil, dust, fertilizer, and plants (alfalfa and grass).

Skills acquired during the research project: Taking soil samples from a greenhouse experiment Assisting with manual alfalfa harvest and processing biomass samples Lab dishwashing

 

Learning outcomes:

  • General lab safety and etiquette
  • General greenhouse safety and etiquette
  • Lab dishwashing workflow for nutrient management
  • Common practices for greenhouse nutrient management trials, including soil and biomass sampling

 

Expected start and end date:

January 9th (first day of winter term) – June 16, 2023 (last day of finals for spring term). Will discuss with the student if they plan to leave town for spring break (March 25-April 2, 2023).

 

Anticipated hours per week:

6-8 hrs/week. Flexible schedule, but the student will be expected to visit the greenhouse on campus to water 3 days/week. There will also be sampling events that happen throughout the trial that will require a larger chunk of hours at once. The faculty mentors will coordinate these work times with the student based on their class schedule.

**Note: The faculty mentor will pay student for hours worked beyond program stipend ($750) at a rate of $13.50/hour

Evening Grosbeak distribution and their cryptic call types in Oregon

Faculty Mentor Name:

Douglas Robinson (douglas.robinson@oregonstate.edu)
 

Faculty Mentor Department:

Fisheries, Wildlife, & Conservation Sciences

 

Research Modality:

In-person lab/field

 

Project Abstract:

Evening Grosbeaks are a bird species generating national concern for their large populations declines over the last 50 years. Within that species are at least 5 populations that have distinctive calls identifiable by spectrographic analysis. The degree to which these populations move seasonally and overlap in time and space has yet to be fully resolved. In Oregon, one type (1) is highly migratory while little is known about the other type (2) and even its range in Oregon. This project will collect recordings of grosbeaks in Oregon and determine the distribution and seasonal abundance by collecting original data and analyzing data in public databases.

 

Project Description:

The project will involve searching for Evening Grosbeaks and recording their calls across the annual cycle, starting with summer 2023. When grosbeaks are discovered, information on numbers of individuals present, tree species on which they are foraging, and recordings of their calls will be made. Through spectrographic analysis of the calls, identification of calls will be made and then those data will be archived in public databases. Data already existing in public databases will also be analyzed. Together, the goals will be to create a distribution map of the grosbeak call types, identify geographic areas of high concentrations of grosbeaks and map those distributions onto habitat cover types. We will focus on determining the fine-scale distributions of call types in Oregon but will utilize the public database information to create a North American distribution map. We will also prepare written and video tutorials to engage and education the public (birders) to record Evening Grosbeaks and share their recordings with public databases.

 

Description of Work Environment:

Field work will be the Oregon Coast Range, extending on some trips to southern Oregon and the Siskiyous. Analysis of recordings will occur in the lab on the Corvallis campus.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

The student will:

  1. Discuss and design geographic sampling strategy.
  2. Conduct field work to find grosbeaks and record their calls.
  3. Count grosbeaks and determine precise locations so habitats can be identified as well.
  4. Analyze sonograms to identify call types.
  5. Create written and video tutorials on how to record bird calls and deposit them in public databases.

 

Skills:

Bird identification, use of GPS units to determine locations, counting protocol implementation, identification of call types via sonogram analysis, gathering foraging and habitat identification data, writing tutorials for the public, downloading data from public databases and sharing similar data with public databases.

 

Learning outcomes:

  1. Discuss and design geographic sampling strategy.
  2. Conduct field work to find grosbeaks and record their calls.
  3. Count grosbeaks and determine precise locations so habitats can be identified as well.
  4. Analyze sonograms to identify call types.
  5. Create written and video tutorials on how to record bird calls and deposit them in public databases.

 

Expected start and end date:

January 9 - June 16, 2023

 

Anticipated hours per week:

3  **Note: The faculty mentor will pay student for hours worked beyond program stipend ($750) at a rate of $15/hour

Ecology and management of invasive slugs and snails

Faculty Mentor Names:

Rory Mc Donnell (rory.mcdonnell@oregonstate.edu), Casey H. Richart (richartc@oregonstate.edu)


Faculty Mentor Department:

Crop and Soil Science

 

Research Modality:

In-person lab/field

 

Project Abstract:

Potential projects include the optimization of novel attractants for use in both trapping, and attract-and-kill strategies. We have found that slugs and snails find a very wet bread dough mix to be highly attractive, and we would like to optimize this attractant by exploring different types of flours and yeasts. We are also exploring the use of algal-based permeable gel beads (hydrogels) to both attract and deliver fatal doses of molluscicides to invasive and pestiferous slugs and snails.

 

Project Description:

For the bread dough project, review this Open Access publication. We will be expanding on this concept: https://www.mdpi.com/2075-4450/12/4/328/htm The previous referenced paper is also important to understand the hydrogel experiments. This research is in collaboration with Jia-Wei Tay at University of Hawaii at Manoa. See this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVMql2xClBk and this page as an example of what we are trying to replicate for pest slugs and snails: https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=27502

 

Description of Work Environment:

Projects will be primarily conducted in a laboratory environment.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

Students will meet with Associate Professor Rory Mc Donnell 2-3 times per term. Students will meet weekly with Faculty Research Associate Casey H. Richart, Ph.D. who will be available during research activities. Students will meet with AP Mc Donnell and FRA Richart mid-Winter 2023 to discuss potential research projects and formulate a research plan. Students will meet weekly with FRA Richart who will facilitate issues of needed equipment, space, methodology, etc.

 

Skills:

We expect awardees to form a professional, working alliance with AP Mc Donnell and FRA Richart. This includes a commitment to their research, regular communication, and an adherence to schedules and deadlines.

 

Learning outcomes:

Students will gain experience with basic scientific experiments with multiple treatments, replicates, positive and negative controls, and appropriate statistical analysis.

 

Expected start and end date:

February 13 - June 4, 2023

 

Anticipated hours per week:

5

Soil, water, and vegetation assessment - Oak Creek Watershed in the Willamette Valley

Faculty Mentor Name:

Carlos Ochoa (Carlos.Ochoa@oregonstate.edu)

 

Faculty Mentor Department:

Ecohydrology Lab - Animal and Rangeland Sciences

 

Research Modality:

In-person lab/field

 

Project Abstract:

An integrated understanding of ecohydrological relationships and land use information that can be used to develop adaptive management practices for achieving or maintaining resilience in natural and agricultural ecosystems.

 

Project Description:

A proper understanding of surface water and groundwater interactions and how they can be impacted through agriculture-related practices become critical to properly addressing concerns related to water quality. The need for better information regarding water quality issues in river systems in the state has been discussed by different stakeholders, including producers, state and federal agency personnel, and researchers. Watershed-riparian systems can provide ecosystem services such as water quality, biodiversity, aesthetic beauty, and wildlife habitat, to mention a few. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) elevated the awareness of the concept of “ecosystem services,” documenting that the set of ecosystem services may be compromised if the ecological integrity of the ecosystem is at risk. Optimizing ecosystem service benefits requires identifying ecological functionality and quantifying the resulting services from competing for land practices over time and larger scale. A systems-based approach is used to assess ecological and hydrological relationships occurring in the Oak Creek watershed.

 

Description of Work Environment:

Mostly monitoring and assessment fieldwork in areas near campus and also includes data entry and some lab analysis of soil, water, and vegetation.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

  • Assist with the sampling of water, soils, and vegetation
  • Help install monitoring equipment (e.g., weather stations, soil moisture sensors)

 

Skills:

  • Field monitoring, data entry, and organization.
  • Basic calculations of water levels, soil moisture, and water quality parameters.

 

Learning outcomes:

The student learns how different ecohydrologic processes can be altered through different land use practices.

 

Expected start and end date:

January - June 2023

 

Anticipated hours per week:

4   **Note: The faculty mentor will pay student for hours worked beyond program stipend ($750) at a rate of $14/hour

Evaluating sensors to improve irrigation management practices

Faculty Mentor Name:

María Isabel Zamora Re (maria.zamorare@oregonstate.edu)

 

Faculty Mentor Department:

Biological and Ecological Engineering

 

Research Modality:

In-person lab/field

 

Project Abstract:

Oregon produces more than 220 ag commodities, of which many require irrigation for viable production. Facing a changing climate exacerbated by drought conditions, producers in Oregon are pressured to optimize irrigation management practices and conserve water. This project consists of testing different sensors – publicly available as well as newly developed – to improve irrigation management decision-making. Testing may include soil-, plant-, and weather-based sensors across important agricultural commodities in Oregon. Data collection, analysis, and a sensor comparison will be performed to determine the sensors’ advantages and disadvantages for growers to integrate and implement in their operations.

 

Project Description:

In the face of a changing climate, increasing agricultural demand for freshwater must include improvements in irrigation management solutions in order to optimize water resources. Inadequate irrigation management decisions may result in under or over-water applications, which consequently can result in crop water stress, or increase nutrient leaching, and therefore affect crop growth and yield. This project consists of an evaluation of multiple sensors (i.e., soil-, plant-, and weather-based sensors) to be performed across important agricultural crops in Oregon. Sensors may include dendrometers, soil moisture sensors (e.g., tensiometers, volumetric water content), and/or remote sensing evapotranspiration (ET) estimates (e.g., OpenET) for determining consumptive water use across specialty crops such as hazelnuts and blueberries. In a research site located either at –the OSU Lewis Brown Farm, or the North Willamette Research and Extension Center (NWREC), the student will be involved in different ongoing research projects involving sensors and collaborate with other undergraduate or graduate students. For instance – the student will collaborate with OPEnS Lab undergrad students to deploy and test dendrometers along with other soil moisture sensors. The student will be involved in sensor deployment, data collection, analysis, and evaluation of the efficiency of the sensors for irrigation management decisions. Pictures of crop phenological stages will be correlated with sensor data for determining crop water use during the growing season.

 

Description of Work Environment:

The project will include field work in the OSU Lewis Brown Farm and/or in the North Willamette Research and Extension Center (Aurora, OR). This project will require the student to get their hands dirty and be in the field under different weather conditions.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

The student will be responsible for field data collection, analysis, and efficiency evaluation of the sensors for irrigation management decisions. The student will be involved in the deployment, monitoring, and maintenance of field sensors. To test the dendrometer, the student will work collaboratively with a team of undergraduate students from the OPEnS Lab who are developing and improving the dendrometer prototype. The student will collect field data from sensors on a regular basis, correlate them with pictures of the phenological stages of the crop, and will determine the efficiency of the sensors for irrigation management.

 

Skills:

Acquired skills:

  • Proper sensor installation
  • Research field data collection and analysis
  • Analytical and computational procedures
  • Interdisciplinary research experience - the project includes aspects of soil science, plant physiology, and technological/mechanical aspect of the sensors.

Preferred skills:

  • Experience working with sensors in agriculture/irrigation
  • Experience with Excel
  • Interest in irrigation fieldwork - This project will require the student to get their hands dirty and be in the field under different weather conditions.

 

Learning outcomes:

The student will learn about sensors used in the industry, as well as newly low-cost sensors developed by students, for irrigation management, water savings, and the avenues for potential stakeholder adoption on larger scales. The student will learn the basics of performing a simple literature review to frame the results from their project in the context of the larger research data. Science communication skills and the ability to inform complex data to stakeholders will also be acquired.

 

Expected start and end date:

May 1 - July 31, 2023 (flexible dates)

 

Anticipated hours per week:

10  **Note: The faculty mentor will pay student for hours worked beyond program stipend ($750) at a rate of $13.50/hour

Pollinator habitat @ Klamath Falls Water Tank

Faculty Mentor Name:

Nicole Sanchez (nicole.sanchez@oregonstate.edu)

 

Faculty Mentor Department:

Horticulture

 

Research Modality:

Entirely remote/virtual

 

Project Abstract:

This project consists of developing a site design plan, budget, and planting list for a public property housing a city water tank. The site design must achieve a balance of providing pollinator-friendly plants appropriate for the area, while recognizing the constraints placed by the City (i.e., low maintenance, neat appearance, low fire risk, and minimal water use after the vegetation is established). Products of the completed project will include a color planting plan, an estimated budget, and recommended sourcing of the plant material included in the design. The student should also be able to provide a logical sequence for the site conversion.

Project Description:

The City of Klamath Falls owns a water tank property in a residential neighborhood, which they are willing to convert into pollinator-friendly habitat. Current vegetation includes a stand of Klamath plum, Siberian elms and a dominant stand of bluegrass and rye. Each year the City maintains this property by cutting back the grasses after they have dried. For the City, this neatens the site and reduces fire hazard but it is visually unattractive as it turns to bare ground and provides little value to pollinators. The property is surrounded by a 6 foot wire fence that excludes deer, but not skunks and raccoons or other small mammals. For the past 4 years, the Water Department has allowed the adjacent landowner to maintain honey bee hives on the property. The Water Department is a willing partner in converting the site to more pollinator friendly habitat. A number of native bee species have been observed adjacent to the property. In addition, the City would like to reduce the overall maintenance costs. The City has also installed a water spigot to irrigate establishing plants but does not want to commit to a permanent irrigation scheme. Adjacent landowners, bee keeper, and local pollinator enthusiasts would like the site to be utilized by native pollinators as an offset to the potential impact created by the nonnative honeybees. Ideally, this would be used as a demonstration project that may then be used as a template for other, similar City owned and maintained properties. Stakeholders desire a planting that includes native plants where practical, and provides blooming plants and nesting space for native bees throughout the season. Recommendations for native plants should include only commercially available plants with suggested sources. While the entire project could be completed remotely, funding is available to support student travel to Klamath Falls to view the property and meet with key stakeholders. The student that chooses this project will work with mentor faculty and president of Klamath Basin Beekeepers’ Association to execute the work. The site design must achieve a balance of providing pollinator- friendly plants appropriate for the area, while recognizing the constraints placed by the City: low maintenance, a generally neat appearance, low fire risk and minimal water use after the vegetation is established. Products of the completed project will include a color planting plan, an estimated budget, and recommended sourcing of the plant material included in the design. The student should also be able to provide a logical sequence for the site conversion.

 

Description of Work Environment:

The bulk of the needed work can be done wherever the student is comfortable and has access to a computer and/ or phone. this work does not need to be completed in a formal environment.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

  • Research the site and principles of designing pollinator-friendly habitat using OSU Extension resources.
  • Develop a planting plan for the site using a combination of affordable and available native and non-native ornamental plants. Planting plan must incorporate need for low maintenance and low water.
  • Develop a scale drawing representing the planting
  • Create a realistic budget for prepping the site, sourcing, and installing the plants
  • Submit a sourcing list of where proposed plants are available, within reason for installation in Klamath Falls, OR

Funding is available to support overnight travel to Klamath Falls from Corvallis for project orientation

 

Skills:

  • Drawing/landscape design/ecological design
  • Understanding of pollination syndromes and pollinator support
  • Research online

 

Learning outcomes:

  • Exploring relationships between recommendations and the real world (e.g., how readily are natives available?)
  • Translating theory into real-world examples that balance ideals with practicalities of economics and availability (e.g., is the best design a mix of every potential pollinator plant, or does the best design focus on a few key plants that provide some pollinator support?)

 

Expected start and end date:

January - March 2023

 

Anticipated hours per week:

5-8

Microplastics in agricultural fertilizers, the role of biosolids

Faculty Mentor Name:

Susanne Brander (susanne.brander@oregonstate.edu)

 

Faculty Mentor Department:

Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences; Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station; Environmental and Molecular Toxicology

 

Research Modality:

In-person lab/field

 

Project Abstract:

Studies have shown that microplastics in agricultural fertilizer can affect soil health, rendering the fertilizer less beneficial to plant growth and soil fertility. Sediments found to have microplastics have different types of bacteria compared to the beneficial bacteria in organic sediments. The goal of this work is to process a subset of samples, to obtain preliminary findings of the composition of microplastics in biosolid samples. The Brander Lab is also evaluating microplastics found in effluent biosolids as well as soil samples taken directly from farms that apply these biosolids. The results produced from this study will inform the future use of biosolids as agricultural fertilizer.

 

Project Description:

The Brander Lab with Oregon State University is looking for a part-time undergraduate researcher to conduct sample preparation of biosolids as part of a broader study supported by the Agricultural Research Foundation (ARF). Studies have shown that microplastics in agricultural fertilizer can carry pathogens and affect soil microbiomes, rendering the fertilizer less beneficial to plant growth and soil fertility. Sediments found to have microplastics have different types of bacteria compared to the beneficial bacteria in organic sediments. The goal of this work is to process a subset of samples, to obtain preliminary findings of the composition of microplastics in biosolid samples. The Brander Lab is also evaluating microplastics found in effluent biosolids as well as soil samples taken directly from farms that apply these biosolids. The results produced from this study will inform the future use of biosolids as agricultural fertilizer. In this role, the student will digest and vacuum-filter sterilized biosolid samples from regional wastewater treatment facilities, with the objective of isolating microplastics and microfibers for characterization using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy. Work will also include mechanical sieving and washing of samples. This position is ideal for students with an interest in Ecotoxicology, Microbiology, Crop and Soil Science, or Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Sciences, and interdisciplinary research more generally. There may be an opportunity to build on this work in the form of an honors project or continuing CAS undergraduate research funding.

 

Description of Work Environment:

The Brander Lab is looking to fill this position for the Winter 2023 term; however, availability for the Spring 2023 term is also acceptable. Work-study students are welcome to apply. This position is based at in the new Marine Studies Building at the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon. The student would ideally work 1-2 days (8-10 hours per week) for the duration of the term. Hours per workday are flexible according to the applicant’s class schedule and availability to travel to and from Hatfield. There is a daily shuttle available that picks up in Corvallis at 6:37AM and 8:37AM, and leaves Hatfield at 3:15PM and 5:25PM which can be partially supported through funding requested from the Marine Studies Initiative.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

Student would be digesting samples from regional wastewater treatment plants using a 10% potassium hydroxide solution followed by density separation using sodium chloride. Digested samples will be vacuum filtered and then examined for potential plastics. Student will work with current laboratory technician to chemically identify a subsample of suspected plastic particles or fibers. All work will be done under chemical or laminar fume hoods. Presentation of findings at an undergraduate-focused OSU event will be encouraged.

 

Skills:

Skills acquired include microplastics processing and extraction via vacuum filtration and chemical analysis using approaches approved by EH&S. The student will also benefit from interactions with graduate students and other lab staff working on related microplastics projects, in terms of exchanging knowledge and feedback on progress. No specific previous experience is needed, however willingness to work with sterilized biosolids and agricultural soil samples is required.

 

Learning outcomes:

The student will learn about the environmental impacts of microplastics and how labs determine what types of ecosystems are impacted, as well as levels of exposure to crops consumed by humans and animals, such as cattle, consumed as meat.

 

Expected start and end date:

Winter or Spring quarter (flexible)

 

Anticipated hours per week:

8-10  **Note: The faculty mentor will pay student for hours worked beyond program stipend ($750) at a rate of $13.50/hour

Novel in-situ clay stabilization using polymers

Faculty Mentor Name:

Salini Sasidharan (Salini.Sasidharan@oregonstate.edu)

 

Faculty Mentor Department:

Biological & Ecological Engineering

 

Research Modality:

In-person lab/field

 

Project Abstract:

A decline in groundwater recharge due to increased runoff and excessive groundwater pumping has led to the use of artificial recharge to restore and maintain the water level in aquifers. One of the methods used to recharge these aquifers is the installation of drywells. These gravity-fed wells with perforated linings facilitate groundwater recharge and stormwater infiltration by penetrating layers of soil to access the permeable soil in the vadose zone. Over time, the soil surrounding drywells may become clogged due to the release and mobilization of colloidal clays due to the changes in soil chemistry induced by changes in ionic strength, pH, and ionic composition. Previous studies demonstrated the effectiveness of applying a polymer such as polyacrylamide (PAM) to soil to stabilize soil aggregates, control soil erosion, and increase filtration. The proposed study will investigate the effectiveness of various natural and synthetic green polymers for clay mobilization in soil. The findings from this research will help to enhance the life span of drywells to be used in managed aquifer recharge and achieve groundwater sustainability.

 

Project Description:

A decline in groundwater recharge due to increased runoff and excessive groundwater pumping has led to the use of artificial recharge to restore and maintain the water level in aquifers. One of the methods used to recharge these aquifers is the installation of drywells. These gravity-fed wells with perforated linings facilitate groundwater recharge and stormwater infiltration by penetrating layers of soil to access the permeable soil in the vadose zone. Over time, the soil surrounding drywells may become clogged due to the release and mobilization of colloidal clays due to the changes in soil chemistry induced by changes in ionic strength, pH, and ionic composition. Previous studies demonstrated the effectiveness of applying a polymer such as polyacrylamide (PAM) to soil to stabilize soil aggregates, control soil erosion, and increase filtration. The proposed study will investigate the effectiveness of various natural and synthetic green polymers for clay mobilization in soil. The findings from this research will help to enhance the life span of drywells to be used in managed aquifer recharge and achieve groundwater sustainability.

Unpredictable water availability is the biggest challenge of the twenty-first century, with an estimated 1.1 billion people lacking access to safe drinking water. Extreme weather events are increasingly common, causing prolonged droughts, heat waves, large storms, and catastrophic flooding. Recently, policymakers have focused on groundwater resources to mitigate the pressure on various surface water resources, and groundwater has become an increasingly important source of water supply. However, intensive groundwater withdrawals in the valley have contributed to the depletion of streams, land subsidence, irreversible reduction of storage area, drying up of pumping wells, increased cost of pumping from the deep aquifer, exacerbated seawater intrusion at the coastal basin, disconnected stream‐aquifer systems, and compromised groundwater quality. Concurrently, significant flood events during early winter are a reoccurring problem in many parts of the world. Floods are the costliest type of natural disaster and can cause immense damage to human societies.

In order to adapt to these extreme climate challenges, several strategies are under development to capture excess floodwater and recharge groundwater aquifers for reliable multi-year storage. Successful implementation of this strategy provides an opportunity to mitigate flood damage and groundwater depletion problems simultaneously. Managed aquifer recharge (MAR) is a cross‐cutting technology that has been expanding in popularity and intensity to improve groundwater resources. MAR is the intentional diversion, transport, storage, infiltration, and recharge of excess surface water (snowmelt, streamflow, and stormwater) into aquifers during a wet period for subsequent recovery during dry periods or for environmental benefit. MAR can be accomplished through a variety of approaches such as infiltration basins, aquifer storage and recovery, aquifer storage, transfer, and recovery, flooding land (Flood-MAR), flooding agricultural land (Ag-MAR), and vadose zone infiltration devices like drywells. Physical clogging is the most significant technical challenge in MAR operations, mainly when sites are used repeatedly to recharge water. A clogging layer can develop due to the accumulation of suspended solids within soil pores and biological processes. Sediment accumulation in MAR can significantly reduce the hydraulic conductivity in soil surface and, thus, the infiltration capacity. The total dissolved solids (TDS) concentration of source water determines the rate of clogging. In situ clogging occurs when there is the accumulation of colloid particles deposited between the grain-grain surfaces, hindering flow, and reducing the permeability of porous media. Physical clogging, one of the many factors which reduce the infiltration capacity and lifespan of drywells during recharge, is a result of pore blocking from inorganic and organic suspended solids (e.g., colloids) during their transport and deposition in the recharge water. Therefore, there is a need to develop innovative techniques to minimize the in-situ clogging to promote the wider-scale operation of MAR to attain groundwater sustainability.

One of the main properties of polyelectrolytes is their ability to absorb solid surfaces. Polyelectrolytes have been used for stabilization (dye dispersions) and for flocculation. Colloidal particles deposited on grain surfaces in the vadose zone may serve as carriers that facilitate the transport of pathogens and contaminants. This behavior is primarily due to their large surface area which enhances the sorption of inorganic and organic contaminants. Mobilization of these colloidal particles is influenced by a series of physical and chemical factors that include changes in ionic strength, pH, flow rate, and solution chemistry. As these colloids detach and mobilize through porous mediums, clogging and decreased permeability also alter the sustainability of drywells and injection wells. Practices using the application of water-soluble polymer polyacrylamide (PAM) on soil mediums have been found to control soil erosion, act as a soil conditioner, and stabilize soils among other uses. Similar practices with PAM as a soil conditioner can be applied to mitigate the detachment, release, and mobilization of colloidal particles, specifically for in situ clays. In addition to clay, several biopolymers such as chitosan can provide additional benefits as cheap and environmentally friendly compared to traditional polymers. Therefore, there is a need to identify and optimize novel polymers that can be used to stabilize clay mobilization and improve the life span for vadose zone injection wells.

 

Description of Work Environment:

The student will be primarily working at the Biological and Ecological Engineering Department at Gilmore Hall to conduct bench-scale experiments. However, student will also have the opportunity to travel to field sites (North Willamette Research and Extension Center and Hermiston region) to collect soil samples to test the clay stability.

 

Description of Student Responsibilities:

  1. Student will conduct lab scale batch experiments to optimize the concentration of various polymers
  2. Student will conduct column experiments to optimize the polymer efficacy for in-situ clay stabilization in model river sand.
  3. Student will collect soil samples from field sites where drywells are installed for managed aquifer recharge
  4. Student will characterize the collected soil samples to determine the particle size distribution, zeta potential, clay fraction, mineral composition, and other soil physical and chemical parameters.
  5. Student will optimize the polymer composition to stabilize the clay in a natural soil sample.
  6. Student will collect the data from lab and field experiments, and process them using various software and numerical modeling tools.
  7. Student will report the research findings to lab team members, and supervisor on a daily/weekly basis.
  8. Student will present the finding to the larger research community and write a manuscript or report at the end of the study.

 

Skills:

Knowledge of the flow and transport of particles in porous media, polymer chemistry, interfacial chemistry, and water resources science and engineering is preferred. Experience working in a lab with water quality, soil sampling and characterization, hands-on experience in working with various analytical and automated lab instruments, data collection, processing, and reporting is essential. In addition, effective oral and written communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and critical thinking are skills required to succeed as a researcher. Knowledge of using numerical modeling tools for transport in porous media will be an added advantage.

 

Learning outcomes:

The student will learn physical and chemical processes involving the retention and release of colloidal particles (clay) in saturated porous media. The research will provide knowledge in optimizing novel polymers for in-situ remediation and their translation from lab to field scale application to achieve sustainable groundwater management. The students will have great hands-on experience in running batch and column studies and using soil, water, and colloidal characterization instruments. The students will also have the opportunity to learn data processing using Excel and numerical modeling using HYDRUS 1D.

 

Expected start and end date:

January 9 - June 21, 2023

 

Anticipated hours per week:

20   **Note: The faculty mentor will pay student for hours worked beyond program stipend ($750) at a rate of $14/hour