Category Archives: University of Oregon


Faces on product labels appeal to lonely people

People who are lonely are more likely to buy products that have faces on the label, a new study suggests.

“Visuals can fill a void for consumers experiencing a lack of social connection,” says Bettina Cornwell, professor of marketing at the University of Oregon. “When people see faces in branding materials, their likability for that brand goes up.”

The findings, which appear in the European Journal of Social Psychology, are rooted in our fundamental need to belong and our desire to form and sustain relationships. When people lack these social connections, they often attempt to fill the void in other ways, including through what they buy.

“Seeing a face in a brand visual increases a consumer’s liking of the brand, especially if they feel lonely.”

“Previous research linked our need for social connection with consumer behavior and judgment, but very little was understood about the role that visuals play in social connection and brand likability,” says lead author Ulrich R. Orth of Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel in Germany.

“Our study builds on prior research by demonstrating that seeing a face in a brand visual increases a consumer’s liking of the brand, especially if they feel lonely.”

The face on the label doesn’t even need to be smiling, researchers say. Consumers imagine humanlike characteristics in nonhuman visuals, a process also known as anthropomorphism.

Loneliness can enhance people’s tendency to exhibit “wishful seeing” and is most apparent in the case of faces.

“A lack of interpersonal relationships motivates people to actively search for sources of connection,” Cornwell says. “Individuals who are lonely are more likely to find faces in visuals because they so greatly desire this social connection.”

faces on wine bottle labels
(Credit: T. Bettina Cornwell)

For one of the studies, researchers created a set of 18 drawings that included both non-face images and ones that clearly depicted human faces. They also developed fictitious brand names and slogans to accompany the mock advertisements. Participants were then asked to answer questions about the brand, the images, and themselves.

How loneliness makes us sick

The findings showed a significant effect on brand likability when respondents saw a face on the label. There was also a clear link between high rates of loneliness, the tendency to imagine a face in a non-face drawing, and likability of the brand.

The researchers then turned to wine bottles to dive deeper into the findings. Forty-five different labels were ranked on a scale of 1 to 7 based on how clearly a face could be detected in the brand’s imagery.

They also controlled for measures like familiarity and personal wine preference. The results mirrored those of their first study: Consumers were more likely to favor brands that used faces on their labels.

The findings could be put to good use and not just leveraged to sell products to lonely consumers. There are important public policy implications about consumer vulnerability and valuable lessons for organizations that are helping people, communities, and society, Cornwell says.

Some ads make us think products ‘sound big’

“Charities and nonprofits can extract important information from these findings that will help them serve their communities. If they choose to use a face over another image, they will be more likely to connect with individuals and share their mission with others.”

Source: University of Oregon

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Team identifies genes that let pipefish dads get pregnant

A detailed genome of the snakelike gulf pipefish offers a new way to explore an ancient fish family that includes seahorses and sea dragons.

Genetic changes in this group have generated bodies with vastly different features. Comparing the genome with other vertebrate organisms may help scientists learn about basic aspects of human biology, such as how skulls develop and change shape and how the genome that people mostly share with other vertebrates can be tweaked to create new structures, says Susan Bassham, a senior research associate in the lab of University of Oregon biologist Bill Cresko where the research was done.

Seahorse heads are perfectly shaped to kill

A paper detailing the genome appears in the journal Genome Biology. The gulf pipefish—abundant in seagrass beds of the Gulf of Mexico—has the species name of Syngnathus scovelli. It belongs to the family known as Syngnathidae, which dates back at least 50 million years.

“…they are so weird looking in terms of their unique body plans.”

“This group of species has novelties that are not well understood from an evolutionary genetic standpoint,” says Clay Small, one of the paper’s lead authors and a postdoctoral fellow in Cresko’s lab in the Institute of Ecology and Evolution.

“The family Syngnathidae is a very good model for studying these derived structural features because they are so weird looking in terms of their unique body plans. Ultimately, we are interested in identifying genetic changes that are related to the evolution of these novel features in this whole family.”

Species in the Syngnathid family have long snouts, which help their suction-like feeding behavior. They have bony body armor. They lack pelvic fins, ribs, and teeth and have evolved unique placenta-like structures in males for the brooding of developing offspring.

Tiger tail seahorses, too

The publication of the gulf pipefish genome comes less than a week after the genome of another family member, the tiger tail seahorse, appeared in the journal Nature.

“Having this pair of papers published almost simultaneously moved genomic analyses of this remarkable group of fish ahead tremendously,” says Cresko, a professor of biology.

Why sequence this fly’s genes? Because it’s not special

The two genomes show that losses and changes in specific genes or gene functions may be responsible for evolutionary innovations, Small says. Through evolution, the pipefish and seahorse genomes have lost genetic elements compared to distant fish ancestors. These likely explain some changes in body alignment and the loss of pelvic fins, which correspond to legs in the human vertebrate lineage, he says.

Pregnant males

A big part of Small’s efforts focused on the ability of male pipefish to gestate embryos in their brood pouch. The gulf pipefish, Bassham says, provides an example of one of the most elaborated placental structures found in the males of various pipefish species.

Some 1,000 genes are expressed differently in the pouch during a male’s pregnancy to control developmental processes, nutrient exchange, stability, and immunity, the researchers report.

In a comparative analysis between pregnant and nonpregnant male pipefish, Small found a family of genes that behaved unusually. This gene family, patristacins, contains some members that turn on during pregnancy and others that are suppressed during pregnancy. The group of genes is likely unique to Syngnathid fishes, and they behave similarly in seahorses.

The team also found that gulf pipefish have two chromosomes fewer than most ray-finned fish. “By looking at the patterns of where genes lie in the genome, it’s very likely this difference resulted simply from the fusion of four of the ancestral chromosomes into two,” Bassham says. “Most fish have 24 chromosomes, but the gulf pipefish has 22.”

How do we get these ‘novelties’?

“Fish are vertebrates. We are vertebrates,” she says. “We share large swaths of our biology with these fish. We’d like to understand how evolution occurs, and some of the most exciting aspects of evolution happen when novel features appear in an evolutionary lineage.

Comb jellies have evolved totally different brains

“Novelties can happen multiple ways,” Bassham says. “Sometimes it involves a loss of a structure that creates a new way of life. In other cases, it might be an evolution of a new body part that wasn’t there before. Where did that tissue come from? How did it come into being? What was modified to make it? Or what developmental gene pathways were changed to allow for it?”

Other coauthors are from University of Oregon, Oregon Health & Science University, and Texas A&M University. The National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation supported the research.

Source: University of Oregon

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Metafluid experiment gives water new consistency

Watching a pan of water as it is agitated up and down brings to mind ripples of waves churned by rocks plopping into a lake. In a new study, however, it’s water being transformed into the same consistency as wine, for example, or molasses.

Why do that? Imagine taking a fluid and making it do the work that now requires another material. But don’t look for a converter to turn your tap water into syrup for pancakes anytime soon.

In physicist Eric Corwin’s lab at the University of Oregon, researchers created a simple large-scaled system in which the waves they generated represented molecules that would be present in a microscale material. What they did provided a scientific proof-of-concept that appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

(Credit: U. Oregon)

The research shows that the surface of water can be altered to form a two-dimensional metafluid with independent control of effective internal temperature, molecular movement, and viscosity so that it takes on the quality of something else. A metafluid is a fluid engineered to have properties not found in nature.

In Corwin’s fluid, the behavior of the fluid is derived not from the microscopic properties of atoms and molecules but rather the macroscopic surface waves, called Faraday waves—named after British scientist Michael Faraday, who first described nonlinear standing waves in a paper published in 1831.

The random interactions of the surface waves on a vibrating dish of water act like a fluid containing properties that are wholly different from those of the underlying water. This metafluid provides independent control of effective internal temperature, molecular movement and viscosity, something impossible in conventional fluids.

Why food coloring droplets ‘dance’ around

“For us, right now, this is a very nice scientific platform for doing future experiments,” says Corwin, who also is a member of the University of Oregon’s Materials Science Institute. “What we might be hinting at here, for the future, is that if you can satisfy some basic criteria then you can construct a completely programmable material.

“We don’t want to just make materials; we want to understand how to make materials do what we want them to do.”

The thermal behavior of the everyday world comes from the constant, random motion of atoms and molecules. However, this same sort of constant, random motion is achievable in a macroscopic system such as the water in Corwin’s experimental design.

What happens, says lead author Kyle Welch, a doctoral student in Corwin’s lab, is that the Faraday waves interact and collide with one another, creating chaos as some slow down or change directions. “A test particle, floating on the surface, will experience these collisions, causing drag and diffusion properties usually only found in everyday thermal fluids,” he says.

To actually make water flow like wine one would need to change the properties of individual molecules. In Welch and Corwin’s system, the researchers easily changed the properties of the surface waves, resulting in easily controllable temperature and viscosity for a secondary metafluid.

See drops of water ‘trampoline’ higher and higher

Their success in a large-scale system doesn’t provide a roadmap to direct technological applications, Corwin says, but it does point toward possibilities for future research.

“Even though the waves are not molecules,” Corwin says, “all of the little waves are acting the same, as if they are in thermal equilibrium. They run around and collide with our tracer particles, causing them to diffuse. If we grab hold of the particles and try to move them, they resist that motion precisely the way that an equilibrium thermal system would.”

The finding of the research, Welch says, suggests that the behavior seen in these experiments using water is perhaps universal.

“If you build a system that has the right kind of randomness you can unlock a functionality that a conventional fluid would not have,” Welch says. “Material scientists have done amazing things—making alloys and mixing components together to get novel properties—but we’d like to get to a point where we can turn a knob and make a material turn into something new so that it can do something different.”

Alexander Liebman-Pelaez of Reed College, who worked in Corwin’s lab while participating in the university’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program, is a coauthor on the paper.

The NSF supported the research through a career award to Corwin.

Source: University of Oregon

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Are antihistamines worth it before a big workout?

woman runs past green

To cope with high pollen levels during vigorous exercise—like running the Boston Marathon—should an athlete pop a couple of antihistamines or no?

There’s no definitive answer yet, but new research finds that 795 (about 27 percent) of 3,000 genes activated after vigorous exercise become blunted in their responses during a three-hour recovery period if exercisers had taken strong doses of antihistamines.

John Halliwill, a professor in the department of human physiology at the University of Oregon, discovered in 2005 that naturally occurring histamines in the body relax blood vessels, increasing blood flow that aids post-exercise recovery. That emerged from his original focus on why some people, including athletes, pass out after vigorous physical exertion. He later found a link between an overactivation of two histamine receptors to drops in blood pressure.

Listen to Halliwill’s personal take on using antihistamines during extensive exercise:


The new study expands that research to a wider genetics level. Researchers sequenced RNA, molecules essential for making proteins and sending signals among genes, with state-of-the-art equipment in the university’s Genomics Core Facility.

“We were looking for pathways associated with the growth of new blood vessels,” says Halliwill, director of the Exercise and Environmental Physiology Lab. “We saw evidence of that, but we also saw gene expression associated with glucose uptake by muscles, restructuring of muscle in response to exercise, immune responses, and intercellular communications.”

Allegra and Zantac

In the research, 16 physically fit and active young adults performed an hour of knee-extension exercise at a pace of about 45 kicks per minute. Biopsies were done before exercise and three hours after to obtain samples from the quadriceps, the skeletal muscles on the side of the thighs.

Eight participants took 540 milligrams of fexofenadine (Allegra) and 300 milligrams of ranitidine (Zantac) at nearly three times the recommended dosages of the over-the-counter antihistamines. Together they target the two histamine receptors involved in both allergic reactions and exercise-recovery responses.

[Air pollution is no barrier to exercise]

Blood flow, blood pressure, and heart rate were monitored during the exercise. During the three-hour recovery window the research team was able to study early signs of gene expression; they found that 88 percent of the 795 genes affected by the antihistamines mostly responded with lower levels of expression.

“Histamine, a substance that we typically think of negatively and is most often associated with seasonal allergies, is an important substance contributing to the normal day-to-day response to exercise in humans,” says study leader Steven A. Romero, who is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

In their conclusion, the study coauthors note that the research highlighted only a small fraction of genes likely involved in signaling pathways influenced by the activation of histamine receptors during recovery.

It’s up to the athlete

A key question is whether people should avoid taking antihistamines when they exercise. It’s too early to make that call, Halliwill says. For now, he says, people should use their own judgment about choosing to take or avoid antihistamines when performing when they know they will be exposed to allergens.

[Even tiny doses of running can extend lifespan]

“There are a lot of redundancies in physiological systems,” he says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if blocking histamine receptors ends up being overcome by something else, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if we can demonstrate that some responses to exercise training do become blunted if you take high doses of histamine blockers.”

The study available in the Journal of Physiology. The NIH and American Heart Association supported the research.

Source: University of Oregon

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Just the ‘terrible twos’ or signs of real trouble?

serious toddler

Some parents worry about whether their child’s early behavior is just the “terrible twos” or actions that will escalate to aggression, stealing, and fighting over time.

Now, researchers have found new clues identifying which children may be at risk for the worst antisocial outcomes and the source of these early problems.

The scientists focused on “callous-unemotional” (CU) behaviors, which include lack of empathy, lying, and little emotion. For example, a child who bullies others despite the consequences or how the victim feels.

“These are signs for parents and doctors to watch out for, as they may signal more than just the terrible twos,” says Luke Hyde, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.

[How to stop kids from becoming little bullies]

When these kinds of behaviors aren’t corrected, children could get into trouble with the law later in life. While most children grow out of the terrible twos to become well adjusted, research has shown that most career criminals started their antisocial behavior during their toddler years.

Callous-unemotional behaviors are very distinct from other behavior problems, says Jenae Neiderhiser, professor of psychology at Penn State. “If we can identify these kids early, we may have a better chance of intervening in a child’s development.”

Beyond identifying behaviors as early signs of trouble, the new study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, sheds light on the origins of the behaviors. Decades of research have shown that harsh and negative parenting is linked to the development of antisocial behavior.

“The challenge in this research has been knowing the true origins of these behaviors because parents both take care of their child and provide their child’s genes. So it’s been difficult to know if we’re seeing that parenting causes CU behaviors, or is just a sign of the genes being passed to the child,” Hyde says.

Nature vs. nurture

To examine the role of nature versus nurture, researchers followed 561 families in the Early Growth and Development Study, an adoption study which documented biological mothers’ history of severe antisocial behavior, as well as adoptive parent and child behaviors. Observations of adoptive mother positive reinforcement took place when the child was 18 months of age, and at 27 months, researchers examined the child’s behavior.

The team found that the biological mothers’ antisocial behavior predicted callous-unemotional behaviors in their children who were adopted as infants, despite having limited or no contact with them. That is, the behaviors were inherited.

However, researchers found high levels of positive reinforcement by adoptive mothers helped to mitigate callous-unemotional behaviors in their adopted children.

“These findings are important because they mean that treatment programs that help parents learn to be more positive can help to stem the development of CU behaviors,” says Rebecca Waller, a research fellow at the University of Michigan.

[Callous little kids may have behavior trouble later]

The team will be following this group of children through early adolescence to determine if these behaviors still persist from toddlerhood.

“The really exciting take-home message from this study is that small, day-to-day positive interactions that parents have with their young children can make a huge difference in children’s development,” says Leslie Leve, a professor at the University of Oregon.

“Even when a child has inherited a very challenging set of behaviors, hearing ‘good job’ or receiving a pat on the back can help protect that child from developing serious problems stemming from their inherited difficulties.”

The National Institutes of Health supported the work. Researchers from University of Pittsburgh, Yale University, George Washington University, and Wayne State University are study coauthors.

Source: University of Michigan

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Like rivers on land, melting water erodes Greenland’s ice

Meltwater channels in Greenland

To get a clearer idea of how Greenland’s ice sheet is responding to climate change, scientists are taking a closer look at the drainage channels of water as it melts during the summer.

The work suggests the resulting erosion on the ice sheet shapes landscapes similarly to, but much faster than, rivers do on land.

“How fast is the ice sheet melting, and how much the melt will contribute to rising sea levels are important questions,” says Leif Karlstrom, a professor in geological sciences at the University of Oregon. “It is important to quantify the melt rate, but that is not easy.

“Our study allows us to use geometric characteristics of the channel network—their patterns on the landscape—as a diagnostic tool.”

Projections on sea-level rise, such as those done with remote sensing or satellite observations, he says, have been difficult to determine accurately because melt rates vary widely each year, based on such factors as summer temperatures and elevations across the ice sheet.

Like rivers on land

In the study, Karlstrom and Kang Yang of the University of California, Los Angeles, analyzed high-resolution satellite imagery from NASA digital elevation models that let them see the slope of the ice sheet and underlying bedrock. They focused on stream channels at four levels of the ice sheet, from 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) to 1,600 meters (5,249 feet), of southwest Greenland.

Geometrical characteristics of these streams—called supraglacial channels because they occur on the ice surface—mimic features often found for rivers on land. Such similarities of erosion patterns on ice and land, despite having different mechanisms, came as a surprise, Karlstrom says.

Listen to Karlstom describe the similarities


On the ice sheet surface, erosion occurs as meltwater streams carve drainage channels by melting underlying ice. On land, rivers carve drainage channels by pushing and plucking sediment as they flow toward the sea, cutting down as the land surface uplifts due to tectonic activity.

Geologists who study geomorphology—how landscapes form—now have a virtual real-time model to test theories of landscape evolution, Karlstrom says. River erosion on land occurs over millions of years, but streams on the ice sheet carve their routes much more rapidly. In the study, researchers documented daily incision by flowing meltwater of up to 10 centimeters (4 inches).

“It’s lower elevations at the margins of the ice sheet that experience the most melt,” Karlstrom says.

River erosion stops each year when freezing temperatures return. Frozen channels from previous years remain visible, providing a yearly history of erosion patterns much like tree rings reflect age, he says.

In addition to using glacial melt to test theories of land-based geological processes, the researchers suggest an application to studies of other planets. The study, which NASA supported, appears in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Source: University of Oregon

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3D-printed flower shows how ‘Dracula orchids’ trick bugs

Using a 3D printer, scientists have unlocked the mystery of how plants called Dracula orchids use mimicry to attract flies and ensure their survival.

The research, done in the last unlogged watershed in western Ecuador, is a win in the field of evolutionary biology and helps provide information that should benefit conservation efforts. The approach could also be applicable to studies of other plant-pollinator systems, researchers say.

Tobias Policha: The view of the fly

“Mimicry is one of the best examples of natural selection that we have,” says Barbara “Bitty” Roy, a biologist at the University of Oregon. “How mimicry evolves is a big question in evolutionary biology. In this case, there are about 150 species of these orchids. How are they pollinated? What sorts of connections are there? It’s a case where these orchids plug into an entire endangered system.”

Dracula orchids grow in Central America and northwest reaches of the Andes Mountains in South America. The Dracula label literally means “little dragon” because of a face-like feature in the flowers. Some observers say they see Count Dracula as a bat that appears in vampire depictions in literature and the movies.

[These 3D copper objects are smaller than a human hair]

“Dracula orchids look and smell like mushrooms,” says Tobias Policha, an adjunct instructor and plant scientist in the Institute of Ecology and Evolution and lead author of the study that is published online in the journal New Phytologist. “We wanted to understand what it is about the flowers that is attractive to these mushroom-visiting flies.”

The researchers closely studied 22 orchids, looking piece-by-piece, to determine where specific scents are produced in the flowers and which ones possibly lure pollinators—in this case 11 species of fruit flies that thrive among wild mushrooms that grow near the orchids.

To test their work in the forest, they turned to odor-free, silicone copies of orchids made with a 3D printer.

The 3D copies—the same shape and size of real ones—allowed the researchers to apply various color patterns and extracts of the various scents. Among the mix of experiments they also used chimeras—3D copies with real and artificial parts—that allowed them to disentangle which parts were attractive. Flies were drawn to the fabricated plants as if they were real.

[Mites fool honeybees with chemical ‘cologne’]

The findings show that the key part of the orchids’ mimicry is the mushroom-like labellum, which is attached to the plant’s narrow reproductive column.

“What the orchid wants the fly to do when it arrives is to crawl into the column, whereupon the orchid sticks a pollinium onto the fly so that the fly can’t possibly get it off,” Roy says. “The fly then goes to another orchid, which then pulls it off.”

A pollinium is gooey package, resembling a saddlebag, and contains an orchid’s pollen. Flies spend up to an hour inside the plant’s reproductive column, which is a snug fit to a select few of the more than 80 species of drosophilid flies that have been identified so far in the area.

Other researchers from the University of Oregon, Cornell University, and Aberystwyth University are coauthors of the study. The 3D versions were made by coauthor Melinda Barnadas, co-owner of Magpie Studio, which fabricates scientific artwork for museums. The National Geographic Society and National Science Foundation supported the work.

Source: University of Oregon

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Big earthquake jolted fish into fast evolution

stickleback fish in hand

A 1964 earthquake in Alaska stranded seawater-native fish in newly formed freshwater ponds on islands.

In just decades, the threespine stickleback went through changes in both their genes and external traits such as eyes, shape, color, bone structure, and body armor to survive in fresh water after the earthquake, report scientists.

The earthquake—9.2 on the Richter scale and second highest ever recorded—caused geological uplift of four to five meters (13-16 feet) and captured the fish in newly formed ponds on islands in the Gulf of Alaska south of Anchorage. Researchers at the University of Oregon studies samples of stickleback gathered from these islands.

The findings, published online early in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are important for understanding the impacts of sudden environmental change on organisms in nature, says biologist William Cresko.

“We’ve now moved the timescale of the evolution of stickleback fish to decades, and it may even be sooner than that,” Cresko says. “In some of the populations that we studied we found evidence of changes in fewer than even 10 years. For the field, it indicates that evolutionary change can happen quickly, and this likely has been happening with other organisms as well.”

Survival in a drastically changed environment is not new for stickleback, which are found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. In the journal PLOS Genetics in 2010, a team led by Cresko documented how stickleback had evolved genetically to survive in fresh water after glaciers receded 13,000 years ago. That was done with a rapid genome-sequencing technique (RAD-seq) created with collaborator Eric Johnson.

The same technology let researchers study the new samples. Genetic changes were similar to those found in the earlier study, but they had occurred in less than 50 years in multiple, separate stickleback populations. Stickleback, the researchers conclude, have evolved as a species over the long haul with regions of their genomes alternatively honed for either freshwater or marine life.

[Mass extinction let tiny fish rule the seas]

“This research perhaps opens a window on how climate change could affect all kinds of species,” says Susan L. Bassham, a senior research associate in Cresko’s lab and coauthor of the 2010 paper. “What we’ve shown here is that organisms—even vertebrates, with long generation times—can respond very fast to environmental change.

“And this is not just a plastic change, like becoming tan in the sun; the genome itself is being rapidly reshaped,” she says. “Stickleback fish can adapt on this time scale because the species as a whole has evolved, over millions of years, a genetic bag of tricks for invading and surviving in new freshwater habitats. This hidden genetic diversity is always waiting for its chance, in the sea.”

The National Science Foundation funded the work. Coauthors of the new study are from the University of Alaska and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Source: University of Oregon

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Core samples uncover Oregon’s frosty past

frost on pine needles

Sediment samples from a valley in the Oregon Coast Range that date back 50,000 years paint a picture of the landscape of the region—and perhaps much of North America—during the last ice age.

The Little Lake site, which is about 40 miles northwest of Eugene, was a frost-covered grassy landscape that had erosion rates 2.5 higher than what is experienced today. A frost-cracking process, rather than rainfall, likely drove the rapid erosion.

Sediment samples

It is possible that non-glaciated terrain across North America was similar, with mean annual temperatures of up to 18 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than modern temperatures.

The scientists recovered core samples—drilled up from 200 feet below the surface—that contained telling signatures of frost. The valley, which is home to the larger Triangle Lake, is the result of a massive landslide 50,000 years ago. Eroding sediment then continued to fill a large lake and transform the valley floor, allowing for the growth of vegetation that today prevents rapid erosion.

Materials in the cores showed “a transition from finely laminated red, brown, and gray lacustrine clay, silt, and sands to coarse lacustrine blue-gray sand deposits” at about 26,000 years ago. Lacustrine soils are those found in fresh-water areas.

[Hidden ice blamed for crazy crater on Mars]

Analyses led by study coauthor Daniel Gavin, a professor in the University of Oregon geography department, found that the older sediment samples contained needles of both Sitka spruce and subalpine fir. This unusual combination of species, Gavin says, suggests a cold parkland setting characterized by patches of forest and open meadow such as that found in southeast Alaska today.

The distribution of such frosty conditions may have stretched from Oregon to Georgia, and efforts to prove that are already under way, says Joshua J. Roering, a professor in the geological sciences department.

“Modern-day erosion and landscape change is slow compared to what it was during cold, dry climate intervals when there were no Douglas firs around and the hills were covered by grassy meadows,” Roering adds. “So using modern climate and geomorphic processes doesn’t help us understand how much of our surroundings were created.

“Rock properties, soil thicknesses, everything that makes the Coast Range grow trees today all may be benefiting from soils produced during that frosty period. This is a humbling discovery.”

Other researchers from the University of Oregon, the University of Alabama, and Cardiff University collaborated on the work, which appears in Science Advances.

Source: University of Oregon

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Red logos may make brands seem less ‘green’

trader joe's bag and plants

The color associated with a brand, such as its logo, can sway how people perceive the ethics of its environmental actions, a new study finds.

“What we’re finding is that color biases the way consumers make ethical judgements,” says lead researcher Aparna Sundar, professor of marketing at the University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business.

“Of course green is one of those colors, but blue is also one of those colors that consumers associate with eco-friendliness.”

In one study, the researchers worked to pinpoint colors that were highly associated with environmentalism. They presented shoppers with a fictitious logo in the color associated with a known brand.

Armed with only an unfamiliar logo, the shoppers in the study considered retailers using Walmart’s blue or Sam’s Club green in their logos to be more eco-friendly than retailers using Trader Joe’s red.

“Interestingly, blue is ‘greener’ than green in terms of conveying an impression of eco-friendliness, despite the frequent use of the word ‘green’ to convey that idea,” says coauthor James Kellaris of the University of Cincinnati.

[Can vowels make or break a brand name?]

Once researchers established a set of eco-friendly colors, they also identified colors perceived to be environmentally unfriendly, such as Target’s red. Sundar and Kellaris then developed additional studies to test whether the colors affected perceptions of the retailer’s environmental friendliness.

They asked respondents to share whether a fictitious retailer, DAVY Grocery Store, acted ethically in various morally ambiguous scenarios, such as when spraying water on produce. Subjects only saw the logo for DAVY, which was either an eco-friendly color or an unfriendly color.

The results show that exposure to a more eco-friendly color in a retailer’s logo influenced consumer judgments, and ethically ambiguous business practices seemed more ethical.

In addition to observed biases in situations of ambiguous ethical practices, follow-up studies within this work found that consumers tended to be more critical of a retailer with an eco-friendly-colored logo when faced with a practice that was definitely ethical or definitely unethical.

While individual differences still play a role in this observed effect of color, Sundar’s research suggests that color used in a logo has far-reaching consequences on consumers’ perceptions of retailers.

The findings appear in the Journal of Business Ethics.

Source: University of Oregon

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