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Park Blocks: Winter 2013
Author: Kathryn Kirkland
Posted: February 4, 2013

The sex lives of mosses

In a new study published by leading scientific journal, Nature, PSU researchers discovered that female mosses actually produce scents that entice insects called springtails to help spread the plants' sperm. Before this study, led by biology professor Sara Eppley, moss reproduction was thought to depend on individual sperm swimming through a water layer between male and female plants. Eppley and her colleagues study mosses in the PSU Center for Life in Extreme Environments, which received funding from Barbara '75 and Duane McDougall.

 

A rise in rankings

PORTLAND STATE EARNED a top 10 "up-and-coming" rating in the Best Colleges 2013 guidebook published by U.S. News & World Report. The list recognizes universities making "the most promising and innovative changes in the areas of academics, faculty and student life" based on a survey of college presidents, provosts, and admissions deans. "These rankings reflect a growing recognition among our peers that PSU is an urban research university on the rise," says PSU President Wim Wiewel.

 

Studying the origins of life

IT'S A FANTASTIC NOTION that cooperating molecules may have set the stage for life on Earth. Now, chemistry professor Niles Lehman has got them to work together in a test tube, and the science community is impressed. The research was recently published in Nature. When Lehman and his team put six RNA molecule fragments together in a test tube, the fragments quickly assembled themselves into full molecules. By the end of the experiment, the researchers had millions of molecules. The work gives a glimpse into the possible origins of life—in which a primordial soup of RNA molecules cooperated to build ever more complex structures.

 

 

Cyclists make good customers

BUSINESSES NOW HAVE an incentive to encourage bicycling. A Portland State study found that cyclists who arrive at bars, restaurants, and convenience stores by bicycle spend more money per month than people who come by car, mass transit, or on foot. The study, led by civil engineering professor Kelly Clifton, discovered that businesses that provide bike parking and are located closer to low-traffic, bike-friendly streets have measurably more bike customers than those that don't. This suggests that building bike and pedestrian infrastructure could be good for business.

 

 

Unique mission to space

THE UNIVERSITY became part of space history in October when it sent an experiment to the International Space Station on board a SpaceX space craft, the first commercially owned rocket to bring cargo to the station since NASA retired its shuttle program. This is the 50th round of experiments Professor Mark Weislogel and his engineering students have conducted with the station. They have another 50 planned for the future, which they monitor in real time from a lab on campus. The students are able to communicate directly with the astronauts. "Very few institutions have what we have," Weislogel says. Read about Ryan Jenson, a doctoral student involved in this research, on page 25.

 

Award for green leadership

PSU PRESIDENT Wim Wiewel (center) received the inaugural Presidential Award from the U.S. Green Building Council's Center for Green Schools in November for creative leadership in sustainability. The recent addition on campus of the Green Building Research Laboratory for Oregon researchers, and Electric Avenue, a row of electrical car, motorcycle, and bicycle charging stations on Montgomery Street, caught the attention of the council. It also took note of PSU's eight LEED-certified campus buildings. The award was presented at the annual Greenbuild Expo in San Francisco by Rachel Gutter, a green school expert for the council, and Geraud Darnis, a CEO in the building systems industry.

 

 

 


THE MORRISON BRIDGE lights turned Viking green when the University opened its doors to the community for Portland State of Mind in October.


History of Northwest quakes

READING CORE SAMPLES of marsh sediment with their trained eyes, Portland State geologists and archeologists were able to determine that four major tsunamis hit the Pacific Northwest coast in the past 1,300 years. Led by geology professor Curt Peterson, the researchers have fresh evidence that earthquake-generated tsunami waves struck Washington's Olympic Peninsula around 300, 800, 1,100, and 1,300 years ago. The sediment samples were taken in the wetlands between Makah and Neah bays. A layer of clear sand and marine fossils in between layers of dark marsh sediment indicate a tsunami, and radiocarbon testing of the marsh layers date the events. The research was recently published in the Journal of Coastal Research.