Science Pub

Science Pub Eugene: Archaeology and Science at the Paisley Caves

With Dennis L. Jenkins, PhD, RPA, Senior Research Archaeologist II and Director of the Northern Great Basin Prehistory Project at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon

$5 Suggested Donation

Luther Cressman’s 1938-1940 excavations at the Paisley Caves in south central Oregon discovered exciting evidence suggesting that people may have lived there as early as the Late Pleistocene, some 12,000 to 15,000 years ago.  However, it was not until recent developments in Ancient DNA testing that he was proven correct. This presentation explains the scientific processes and results of archaeological and paleogenetic investigations at the Paisley Caves, bringing the audience the most up-to-date information about the evidence for the association of humans and Pleistocene animals in Oregon’s high desert country more than 14,000 years ago.  Dating of camel and horse bones, artifacts, twigs, and dried human feces containing Native American DNA between 12,900 and 14,500 years ago indicates that people lived in the caves and apparently hunted mammoth or mastodons, camels, horses, and other animals at the end of the Pleistocene (Ice Age) period. This colorful slide show takes the audience through the scientific processes involved in proving the case for pre-Clovis (>13,500 years) human occupations at the world famous Paisley Caves.


Dennis Jenkins is a Senior Research Archaeologist for the Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon where he received his PhD in 1991. A native Oregonian, he was raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where he earned his BA (1977) and MA (1981) in anthropology at UNLV. He has taught and directed the UO’s annual Northern Great Basin archaeological field school in central Oregon since 1989. His research focuses on the first colonization of the Americas, obsidian sourcing and hydration, prehistoric shell bead trade, and prehistoric settlement-subsistence patterns of the Northern Great Basin. He is an active researcher with publications in such prestigious journals as Science and Nature. He has made 11 appearances in television documentaries aired on History Channel, National Geographic, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Canadian Broad Casting, the Archaeology Channel and Danish TV. Jenkins has authored, co-authored, and edited 8 books, 42 journal articles, chapters, reviews, and published papers, and more than 35 professional reports. He has presented 65 papers at professional conferences and served as conference and symposium chairs for the Great Basin Anthropological Conference and Northwest Anthropological Conference. He is internationally recognized for the identification of ancient human DNA in Pre-Clovis coprolites more than 14,000 years old, currently the oldest directly dated human remains in the Americas, at the Paisley Caves in the Summer Lake basin of south-central Oregon. 

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Science Pub Hillsboro: The Genetics of Birdsong

With Morgan Wirthlin, PhD Candidate, Graduate Student, Dept of Behavioral Neuroscience at OHSU

$5 Suggested Donation

Every spring, young songbirds around the world learn to sing by imitating their parents – at first awkwardly, but later with astonishing accuracy – in a process remarkably similar to how babbling infants learn to speak. Some can even learn to imitate other species, including their human owners. Why is it that so few animals possess this complex ability, whereas others, such as dogs, struggle to imitate, despite understanding up to 1,000 human words? And how can learned behaviors, which change drastically over our lifetimes, be encoded in our genes, which largely stay the same?


Neurogeneticist Morgan Wirthlin looks for critical clues to the evolution of vocal behaviors by studying the brains and genomes of songbirds, parrots, and hummingbirds, as well as a strange group of birds found deep in the Amazon. In this talk, Morgan will describe what this research can tell us about the mechanisms behind our own ability to speak and sing.


By studying the brains and genomes of songbirds and other birds, Morgan Wirthlin has become an expert on the genetic mechanisms that underlie vocal behavior. Morgan is a PhD candidate in OHSU’s Department of Behavioral Neuroscience who has worked to integrate the fields of neuroscience and genetics, recently leading efforts to analyze the genomes of songbirds and parrots. Prior to pursuing science, Morgan studied classical music and composition. Ever fascinated by the search for new sounds, Morgan maintains a healthy interest in listening to and producing avant garde music.

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Science Pub Corvallis: The Life of a Dead Tree


With Mark Harmon at OSU College of Forestry and Oregon artists Leah Wilson, Bob Keefer, Andries Fourier and David Paul Bayles

$5 Suggested Donation

We may value forests most for timber, wildlife and scenic beauty, but the real treasure may lie largely hidden in the soil. It’s there among the insects, fungi and other ground-dwelling organisms that tree growth is fostered and maintained through the rot and recycling of dead trees.


Speakers at the November 9 Corvallis Science Pub will combine the science of tree decomposition with the creative vision of artists who explore the life that emerges from trees after they die. Mark Harmon, professor and holder of the Richardson Chair in Forest Science at Oregon State University, will present the results of nearly 30 years of decomposition research at the H.J. Andrews Forest in the Cascades east of Eugene.


Four artists — Leah Wilson, Bob Keefer, David Bayles and Andries Fourier — will discuss their efforts to understand the life of dead trees through the visual arts. They are all participating in a project, The Afterlife of Trees, organized by the Corvallis Arts Center in partnership with the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature and the Written Word at Oregon State. The show is scheduled to run at the Arts Center from January 15 to February 25.

Sponsors of Science Pub include Terra magazine at OSU, the Downtown Corvallis Association and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
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Science Pub Corvallis: The Cascade Earthquake In Our Future

With Chris Goldfinger, PhD, Professor of Geology and gGeophysics at Oregon State University

$5 Suggested Donation

When “The Really Big One” ran in The New Yorker in July, the potential for a catastrophic earthquake in the Pacific Northwest captured national attention. The story opens with a minute-by-minute account of the 2011 Tohoku quake in Japan through the eyes of Chris Goldfinger. On this side of the Pacific, the Oregon State University geologist has led studies pinpointing the years and locations of past ruptures along what scientists call the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a 700-mile-long fracture under the Pacific Ocean just off the Northwest coast.


At the Corvallis Science Pub, Goldfinger will describe the 13-year research effort that led him to identify 19 major breaks along the Cascadia in the last 10,000 years. The magnitude of these events ranged between 8.7 and 9.2 on the Richter Scale, “really huge earthquakes,” he says. The earthquakes increase in frequency southward with additional 8.0-8.7 quakes, averaging about every 350 years at Newport. In the far south, near the California-Oregon border, he has found that quakes tend to occur about twice as often as they do in the north, about every 240 years. The Tohoku earthquake registered as a 9.0. 


Following publication of The New Yorker story, Goldfinger discussed the risks associated with a Cascadia earthquake in The Oregonian. He specializes in processes that deform the Earth’s crust and how they affect the severity and likelihood of quakes. In addition to his work in the Northwest, he has investigated subduction zones in other parts of the globe. In 2007, he led a study of an Indian Ocean subduction zone near Indonesia, which had ruptured in 2004 in a 9.15 event, the third largest ever recorded. It generated tsunamis that killed an estimated 230,000 people in 14 countries. Goldfinger is a graduate of Humboldt State University and received his master’s and Ph.D. at Oregon State. He is a professor in the OSU College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

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Science Pub Corvallis: Designing Robots to Walk and Run

With Jonathan Hurst, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Oregon State University

$5 Suggested Donation

Robots already build cars, perform household chores and explore the oceans, but these machines are not ready to walk safely among humans. Neither can they undertake tasks in unpredictable situations such as looking for survivors in collapsed buildings after an earthquake. In this talk, Jonathan Hurst will describe efforts at Oregon State to take robotic systems to this next level.


Hurst is an associate professor of mechanical engineering and a leader of OSU’s growing robotics program. Working with OSU students and with colleagues at the University of Michigan and Carnegie-Mellon, he designed a robot known as ATRIAS, the first machine to reproduce human-like and animal-like ground reaction forces and center-of-mass motion for a bipedal walking gait. The researchers derive inspiration from the locomotion of birds.


Hurst’s research is supported by the Defense Advanced Projects Agency, the National Science Foundation, and the Human Frontiers Research Organization. He received his Ph.D. at Carnegie-Mellon and came to Oregon State in 2008.

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Science Pub Portland: Deep-Sea Hot Springs

With Anna-Louise Reysenbach, PhD, Professor of Microbiology in the Biology Department at PSU

Doors Open @ 6PM | $5 Suggested Donation
Most of the biodiversity of life on Earth is microbial. These microscopic organisms occupy almost any conceivable habitat where there is available water, energy and carbon for growth. They live in some of the most salty, cold, hot, nutrient-starved, dry and acidic places on this planet, and they form critical partnerships with many other organisms, including us. At deep-sea vents, microorganisms form the base of the food web, fueling the chemosynthetic-based ecosystem. Here, as the very hot hydrothermal fluids mix with the cold seawater, minerals precipitate out a solution to form mineral deposits called ‘chimneys’. These porous rocks provide habitats for a plethora of new heat-loving microbes, thermophiles.
Using a combination of genomic, ecological and microbiological approaches, Dr Reysenbach will provide insights into how the geology and geochemistry at the deep-sea vents helps drive the diversity of microbes in these systems, and has led to the discovery of many novel branches on the Tree of Life. Many of these organisms have potential medical and industrial applications, and help inform us better when looking for signs of life elsewhere in the Solar System.
Dr. Reysenbach is a microbial ecologist whose research focuses on life in high temperature environments. Her work has taken her to many of the terrestrial and deep-sea hot springs around the world. She has led deep-sea research expeditions using the submersible, Alvin or remotely operated vehicle, Jason to work on the microbes that inhabit the high temperature deep-sea vents. She is internationally known for her research using a combination of genomic and microbial culturing approaches to explore the diversity of microbes in these extreme environments. She has published her research in journals such as Nature and Science, and has participated in several documentaries for BBC, NOVA, OPB among others. She has served on NASA’s Planetary Science Subcommittee and the National Research Council, and serves as an editor for several scientific journals. Her research has been funded by NSF and NASA. Dr. Reysenbach has a Ph.D. from University of Cape Town, South Africa and is Professor of Microbiology in the Biology Department at Portland State University.

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Science Pub Portland: Physics of Rock n’ Roll

With Christine McKinley, Licensed Mechanical Engineer, Musician, and Writer

Doors Open @ 5PM | $5 Suggested Donation

Christine McKinley is a licensed mechanical engineer, and the author of Physics for Rock Stars (Perigee/Penguin 2014.) She is convinced that understanding the laws of motion and energy are a sure route to a rock star life.


As she does in her book, she will make the case at OMSI that rock stars need an understanding of physics not only to understand feedback and harmony, but also to execute a proper stage dive and microphone throw.


Further, Christine insists that secret agents and runway models need a good grasp of physics to be truly great. As a bonus, she will explain how a solid understanding of the periodic table is the key to a sane and satisfying dating life.


Sure, it sounds scientifically obsessive but Christine will convince you of all of this at OMSI on December 15th. She will also play a song on her electric guitar, and bring her “rock star” cutout for your pictures. 


Christine McKinley is a licensed mechanical engineer, musician, and writer. She hosted Discovery Channel’s Under New York and two seasons of Brad Meltzer’s Decoded on History Channel. Her musical about physics and Catholic school Gracie and the Atom won a Portland Drammy for Original Score. Her book Physics for Rock Stars (Perigee-Penguin) was published in 2014 has been translated into Korean and Chinese. Her second book will be published in 2017. 

Dinner will be available in our restaurant, Theory, or from the Empirical Café. Guests can check-in at the theater entrance to reserve a seat before grabbing dinner and drinks. Food and drink are welcome in the theater. Parking is free for the event. Doors open at 5pm.
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Science Pub Portland: Cancer Genome

With Dr. Christopher Corless, MD, PhD, Chief Medical Officer for the Knight Diagnostic Laboratories

Doors Open @ 5PM | $5 Suggested Donation

Cancer – perhaps the most scary diagnosis one can face. With the aging of the U.S. population, cancer is becoming ever more prevalent; practically everyone knows someone who has been affected. What is being done to combat this deadly disease? Over the past decade, a whole new class of cancer therapeutics has been developed, acting more like ‘smart bombs’ than the traditional, highly toxic chemotherapies. This shift in therapeutic approaches has been driven by a revolution in DNA sequencing technologies, which have revealed a far more complex picture of cancer than was ever suspected. What was formerly “lung cancer” is now more than 20 different diseases, each offering new possibilities for interfering with tumor growth. In this talk, Dr. Christopher Corless will illustrate how modern sequencing is being used to molecularly classify tumors of all types, and how this information can serve in ‘personalizing’ the care for individual patients.

Dr. Corless currently serves as the Chief Medical Officer for the Knight Diagnostic Laboratories. His clinical interests include liver transplant pathology, gastrointestinal pathology and genitourinary pathology. Dr. Corless has been board certified in anatomic pathology since 1993. He received both his M.D. and Ph.D. from the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, in 1988.

Dinner will be available in our restaurant, Theory, or from the Empirical Café. Guests can check-in at the theater entrance to reserve a seat before grabbing dinner and drinks. Food and drink are welcome in the theater. Parking is free for the event. Doors open at 5pm.
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Science Pub Hillsboro: Understanding Wine Terroir

With Elizabeth Tomasino, PhD, Assistant Professor of Enology, Dept. of Food Science & Technology at Oregon State University & member of the Oregon Wine Research Institute

$5 Suggested Donation
Is it reasonable to say that food products from different regions can be distinguished from one another? Many producers believe this and so some items are marketed as originating from a specific region, such as Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. This suggests that geographic origin produces quality attributes that cannot be duplicated in other locations.
In this talk Elizabeth Tomasino will describe the factors that are important to wine terroir, including specific examples of Oregon terroir and how these compare to other famous wine terroir. She will also provide insight on a consumer’s view of terroir and how it relates to quality.
Elizabeth Tomasino, Ph.D. specializes in wine chemistry and sensory analysis, specifically determining the relationships between wine composition and sensory perception. Additionally she works on understanding and defining terroir from a sensory perspective. She received her doctorate from Lincoln University in New Zealand and has worked for E&J Gallo, Yalumba Winery (Australia) and Robert Mondavi Winery. Currently she is an assistant professor of enology at Oregon State University and core member of the Oregon Wine Research Institute. She also runs the OWRI sensory panel. Her work allows her to interact with the wine industry in Oregon but also around the world and allows her to explore many different types of science. 

This Science Pub is part of a food science series at all four Science Pub locations in September, and was made possible by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

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