Dreams, morality and touch: OHSU’s 2017 ‘Brain Awareness’ lectures delve into them all

Morality, responses to touch and dreams — what do these things have in common? The brain.

To learn more about what current neuroscience has to say about each of these brain phenomena check out the upcoming “Brain Awareness” lecture series presented by Oregon Health and Science University’s Brain Institute.

This year’s (2017) series will begin March 20 with “The Criminal Brain,” in which Dr. Octavio Choi will explain research that suggests certain brain regions influence moral reasoning, possibly affecting why some people live lawfully while others fall into cycles of criminality. Choi also will explore the implications of this research on assumptions about punishment of criminal behavior. Choi is a director at Oregon State Hospital and a psychiatry professor at OHSU.

Gain insights about the inner workings of your brain in the upcoming “Brain Awarness” lectures.  Freeimages.com

Then on March 27, David Linden will delve into “Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind,” explaining how our touch receptors work, often in complex and counterintuitive ways, and how they influence our social interactions and health. Linden is a neuroscience professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Finally, on April 4, Robert Stickgold will present “Sleep, Memory and Dreams: Putting It All Together,” exploring what our brain does while we sleep and what the scientific reasons may be for why we dream. Stickgold is a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School.

All lectures will run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Portland’s Newmark Theatre. Ticket prices range from $17 to $50 and can be purchased online.

For more information on the lecture series and other neuroscience-related activities and events, go to the OHSU Brain Institute website.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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Science on Tap talk explores the neuroscience of love and pleasure

Love, infatuation, commitment and addiction — the brain chemistry involved in these four experiences may have more in common than you think.

How does neurochemistry affect your behavior around the people and things you love? Find out at the March 2017 Science on Tap talk. Freeimages.com

To learn more about that chemistry and what neuroscientists know regarding how the brain sorts pleasure from discomfort, check out the March 18 Science on Tap event, featuring Oregon Health and Science University neuroscientist Larry Sherman.

Sherman’s talk, “The Neuroscience of Pleasure,” will outline how neurochemical changes in the brain can affect our behavior, including who, what and how we love.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. in Alberta Rose Theater. Doors will open at 6 p.m. Cost is $15 general admission or $10 for students with ID.

For tickets and more information, go to the event page on Via Productions’ website. Via produces the Science on Tap series.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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Portland area listed among cities with best pay for STEM jobs

The top 25 metro areas for pay in STEM fields — those that involve science, technology, engineering and math — for 2017 includes places such as San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle and now Portland.

That’s according to a recent analysis by Smart Asset, a New York-based company that provides tools for assessing various aspects of personal finances.

The Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro area came in at No. 11 on the list, behind various Bay Area cities and other metro areas but ahead of Seattle and Los Angeles.

This February 2017 screen shot of SmartAsset.com shows the Portland area's ranking. Smart Asset/Science In Portland

This February 2017 screen shot of SmartAsset.com shows the Portland area’s ranking. Smart Asset/Science In Portland

Average page for the Portland area for STEM professions was $74,470, with an annual rate of increase of 3.4 percent. Both figures placed the local area ahead of the national average.

To read more about the analysis, click the hotlink above. Alas, Smart Asset only gives additional details on the top 10 metro areas. Perhaps next year, the Portland area might crack the top 10.

Last year (2016), the local metro area didn’t make the top 25 list at all. Fingers crossed that this year’s ranking may be an indicator of favorable times ahead for those who work in STEM careers and for an expansion of local STEM-based industries.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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Oregon’s silverspot butterflies inch toward more reintroductions

Butterflies might be the puppies of the insect world, at least in terms of public acceptance. Even folks who are the most creeped out by our Arthropoda friends may find beauty in these frequent fliers. (Fireflies, too, but alas, we have yet to welcome them west of the Rockies.)

Aside from their aesthetic value, butterfly species play an important role in our ecosystems, whether that be as pollinators or prey items for other animals. As such, there is good reason to intervene when they’re struggling and help conserve them.

In Oregon, conservation efforts are underway to boost the numbers of one of our native butterfly species, the Oregon silverspots. Science In Portland has written about the silverspots, their conservation and the Oregon Zoo’s involvement in the effort previously.

Recently, SIP received an update on the silverspots regarding additional reintroductions from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office. The following is what FWS sent in a press release. FWS is seeking public comment on a proposal regarding reintroduced silverspot populations; deadline for submitting comments is Feb. 21, 2017:

An Oregon silverspot butterfly drinks from a flower on Mount Hebo, Oregon. ©Oregon Zoo/ photo by Kathy Street

An Oregon silverspot butterfly drinks from a flower on Mount Hebo, Oregon. ©Oregon Zoo/ photo by Kathy Street

“Threatened Oregon Silverspot Butterfly on Flight Path to Reintroduction

“Collaborative efforts would expand populations on Nestucca NWR, Saddle Mountain

“PORTLAND, OR – Imagine walking through an open meadow along the Oregon coastline and you are surrounded by butterflies with wings of yellow-orange fluttering all around you. This enchanting scene is closer to becoming a reality as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners are moving forward with a proposal for re-establishing two populations of the threatened Oregon silverspot butterfly.

“The locations identified for potential reintroduction, both within the butterfly’s historical range, are Saddle Mountain State Natural Area in central Clatsop County and the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge in southern Tillamook County. Saddle Mountain State Natural Area, owned and managed by the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department, has high numbers of nectar and violet plants and should be to the butterfly’s liking. Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge has been actively restoring habitat for silverspots in preparation for their return.

” “The collaborative work by several partnering conservation organizations to restore the butterfly’s habitat at Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge began back in 2010,” Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Project Leader Kelly Moroney said. “I’m excited to see all the hard work of those involved in restoring the coastal prairie habitat coming to fruition with the reintroduction of the butterfly in the early part of next year. It’s extremely rewarding to be a part of this effort to bring back a native species to its coastal ecosystem on our refuge.”

“The Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System plays an essential role in helping protect and conserve our nation’s most at risk species, including recent local conservation successes with the greater sage-grouse, Columbian white-tailed deer and Oregon chub.

“At one time, the Oregon silverspot butterfly was widespread among 20 distinct locations from northern California to southern Washington. Only five populations currently remain, four in Oregon and one in California. The species gained Endangered Species Act protections in 1980 when it was listed as threatened. More recently, concern for the species has increased due to dramatic declines observed in 2014 and 2015 at all four existing Oregon sites. The Service is working with our partners at the Oregon and Woodland Park Zoos, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and the U.S. Forest Service to reverse this trend, including this effort to reintroduce new populations.

“To increase the likelihood of success, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to designate these populations as experimental to provide surrounding landowners with assurances the reintroductions will not impose economic or regulatory restrictions on their properties.

” “If we can successfully establish two additional self-sustaining populations of Oregon silverspot butterflies, it will contribute greatly toward meeting the recovery goal of 10 populations in six distinct areas” said Paul Henson, the Service’s Oregon State Supervisor. “By designating the new populations as experimental, we can alleviate concerns of adjacent landowners apprehensive about having an endangered species on their land, thereby encouraging conservation.”

“The Service is partnering with the Oregon Zoo and Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, which are providing Oregon silverspot pupae for the reintroductions through their imperiled species recovery programs. Each year, a small number of female butterflies are collected from the wild and brought to zoo conservation labs, where they lay large numbers of eggs. The eggs hatch into tiny larvae, which are kept safe over the winter and released the following year to augment wild silverspot populations. These programs substantially increase the number of offspring surviving to adulthood.

” “We are honored to be able to play a key role in recovering this species from the brink of extinction,” said Dr. Don Moore, Oregon Zoo director. “Pollinators like butterflies are vital for ecosystem health and, ultimately, for our own health.”

“The primary limiting factor for the Oregon silverspot is lack of its caterpillar host plant, the early blue violet. The butterfly needs these violets to be densely-packed and in high numbers, surrounded by other native nectar plants. This type of coastal prairie habitat was historically maintained by regular natural disturbances such as fire, but now it is very rare naturally and often must be created and managed for it to be sustained, mostly due to invasive species.
The proposed rule [was] published in the Federal Register on December 23, 2016. The proposal and instructions on how to provide comments can be found at www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/. Comments will be accepted through February 21, 2017.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov/pacific, or connect with us through any of these social media channels at www.facebook.com/USFWSPacific, www.flickr.com/photos/usfwspacific/  [ … ] or www.twitter.com/USFWSPacific.”

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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Grant funding and other opportunities available in Oregon archaeology and heritage 

A job, grant opportunities and cemetery awards are up for grabs in Oregon archaeology and historic preservation.

First up, the state Commission on Indian Services is looking to hire a commission assistant, based in Salem. Among the commission’s responsibilities is providing advice and assistance to state agencies regarding the protection and preservation of American Indian cultural resources, including burial, archaeological and religious sites and artifacts. The assistant aids the commission in various clerical and administrative capacities.

Application deadline is Jan. 25, 2017.

A guide is dressed in period costume, ready to answer visitor questions, at Albany's Monteith House Museum. The 1849 pioneer home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of Oregon's cultural and historical heritage. Susannah L. Bodman | Science In Portland

A guide is dressed in period costume, ready to answer visitor questions, at Albany’s Monteith House Museum. The 1849 pioneer home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of Oregon’s cultural and historical heritage. Susannah L. Bodman | Science In Portland

Meanwhile, several grant opportunities are available in Oregon pertaining to historic preservation and archaeology. They are: Preserving Oregon Grants, which fund work on historic properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places and archaeology projects; Diamond in the Rough Grants, which target restoration or reconstruction of building facades that have been heavily altered over the years; Oregon Museum Grants, which support completion of museum projects related to collections care, heritage tourism and education;  Oregon Historic Cemeteries Grants, which fund projects that preserve historic cemeteries; and Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grants, which help with downtown revitalization efforts in communities that belong to the Oregon Main Street Network.

More information and assistance regarding the grants are available from Oregon Heritage, part of the state’s parks and rec agency.

That help includes a free workshop on the   Main Street grants that will be held Jan. 31, 2017, in Cottage Grove. Additional grant workshops and webinars on project planning and grant writing will be offered in March.

You also can meet the funders and learn more about the grant programs at a series of events coming up in February in Astoria, Newport, Coos Bay, Salem,  Portland, Pendleton, Medford, Eugene and Sunriver.

Contact Kuri Gill, Oregon Heritage Grants and outreach Coordinator, at Kuri.Gill@oregon.gov or 503-986-0685 for more information.

Finally, nominations are being accepted  for the 2017 Sally Donovan Award for Historic Cemetery Preservation, part of  Oregon Heritage’s Excellence Awards Program.

The award is meant to recognize an individual, business or organization for outstanding efforts on behalf of Oregon historic cemeteries that lead to their individual preservation or contribute to the overall preservation of historic cemeteries statewide.

Award winners will be announced in early April 2017 and presented on April 26 at the Oregon Heritage Summit in Newberg.

Applications can be found on Oregon Heritage’s website or by contacting  Gill at Oregon Heritage.

Nomination deadline is Feb. 10, 2017.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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OHSU spinoff and vaccine developer acquired by San Francisco biotech company 

Portland-based TomegaVax Inc., a spinoff from Oregon Health and Science University that’s working on an HIV vaccine, was recently acquired by San Francisco-based Vir Biotechnology.

Portland Business Journal reported on the development earlier in January 2017.

You can read their full report online.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

(Editor’s note: One of SIP’s bloggers is now affiliated with OHSU but is not involved with any of these companies nor OHSU’s communications department. Also, the pace of posting on SIP may slow for a while, as work and other life demands have increased for both of its volunteer bloggers.)

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Reed College’s Leilani Ganser follows her passion for biology, blogging and policy

Leilani Ganser loves biology, science policy and blogging. This Reed College student runs a blog called Academia in Color, which focuses on the scholarship and experiences of people of color working in academia, where historically they have been marginalized.

Leilani Ganser

Leilani Ganser (photo courtesy of Ganser)

Formerly of Atlanta and Miami, Ganser said she appreciates Portland’s sense of community and small-town feel, even though it’s a substantially sized city. She likes to connect with the local science community through lectures and other casual events. In fact, Science In Portland discovered Ganser during a Women in Science networking event at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in fall 2016.

And she aspires to one day be the director White House Office of Science and Technology.

“I would really like to have a hand in shaping science policy and would love to work as an adviser,” Ganser said.

Read on to learn more about Ganser.

Susannah L. Bodman

1. What is your field of science, and how did you find your way into that field and into science in general? Did you have a teacher, parent, mentor or other who inspired you?

My field of science is biology with a heavy focus on science policy, specifically environmental work. Science was a natural path for me because I had a lot of questions growing up that no one could answer. I was introduced formally when a professor, Sian Evans, brought me to the Dumond Conservancy in Miami, Florida, and showed me science as an arm of advocacy. Since then, I have all of my teachers and professors to thank for showing me a way to combine my passion for science with a knack for problem solving through policy.

2. You’re a student at Reed College. What’s your major or area of study, and what year are you in school? What’s your expected graduation date? And where are you from originally, e.g. your hometown?

I am in Reed College’s class of 2019 with a major focus on biology and political science. I moved to Portland from metro Atlanta, but I connect most closely to Miami, where I lived for 11 years.

3. What have you learned (from course work, internships, projects, etc.) so far that’s excited you in the area of science you’re focusing on? What have you found most challenging?

The best thing I have learned in my career so far is the power of mistakes — both my own and those that are natural. There’s this classic story of penicillin being created after Alexander Fleming noticed a mold on a discarded Petri dish of his was dissolving all of the bacteria on his dish. This story is fascinating, but it’s not uncommon. Adaptations often occur as a result of mutations — mistakes in our genetic code. My own mistakes in my career (dropping the last of a sample I needed to analyze, using the wrong type of buffer and subsequently losing a few fish, and more) have been hard to come to terms with, but it’s empowering to understand that some mistakes become purposeful and impactful in a positive way.

Ganser in the lab (photo courtesy of Ganser)

Ganser in the lab (photo courtesy of Ganser)

4. You also write a blog about people of color in academia. What can you tell us about the blog? How’d you get interested in blogging, and what are some of the most interesting things you’ve learned or most interesting people you’ve profiled? Why do you think blogging is important for people interested in science, research and academia?

I run a blog called Academia in Color that I use to put the scholarly advances and personal narratives of those who have been historically marginalized front and center. I got interested in blogging for passion projects in high school when I started a blog about famous foods in literature for a class project. Since then, though, I’ve read pieces about the importance of blogging in academia as a way to democratize knowledge. One of my favorite posts was a profile I did on Dan-el Padilla Peralta — a personal hero of mine. It felt important to center the narrative of a refugee succeeding in the academy to a wide audience. I was also lucky enough to watch Dan-el speak a couple weeks after that profile.

5. How do you like to connect to the science community around Portland? (“Community” can include peers in your field, other scientists and science fans in the general public.)

Portland has such a strong community. It’s a city with the heart of a small town, and scientists are no small part of that. My favorite thing to do is attend lectures at all of Portland’s fantastic universities as well as the more casual science events — especially those hosted by Science on Tap and National Geographic Live. Bringing science to such an accessible atmosphere has done wonders for encouraging conversation between myself and scientists at other universities or in the private sector, and I’m remarkably thankful for the qualities about Portland that encourage that.

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If you’d like to be featured in one our “Profiles in Science” posts, email your responses to the questions we posted earlier on this blog, along with a photo of yourself, to sciwhat@gmail.com, and we may choose to feature you on this blog.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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