OSU Researchers Investigate Glacial Crack

A key glacier in Antarctica is breaking apart from the inside out, suggesting that the ocean is weakening ice on the edges of the continent. A nearly 225-square-mile iceberg broke off from the glacier in 2015, but it wasn’t until Ohio State University researchers were testing some new image-processing software that they noticed something strange in satellite images taken before the event.

The Pine Island Glacier, part of the ice shelf that bounds the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is one of two glaciers that researchers believe are most likely to undergo rapid retreat, bringing more ice from the interior of the ice sheet to the ocean, where its melting would flood coastlines around the world.

In the images, they saw evidence that a rift formed at the very base of the ice shelf nearly 20 miles inland in 2013. The rift propagated upward over two years, until it broke through the ice surface and set the iceberg adrift over 12 days in late July and early August 2015.

They reported their discovery in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

FanQuake: Where Geology Meets Football

While it wouldn’t be the first time sports and science scored a goal together, the Ohio State University as found an usual way to integrate itself into Buckeye’s football all while getting the fans involved.

Basically, the new project measures the seismic activity created by stomping Buckeye’s fans.

With the assistance of Miami University and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, a School of Earth Sciences team began the project during the 2016 football season. They conceived of the program as a way to help students better grasp some abstract geological concepts.
The team wanted Ohio State to be the first university to measure fan quakes, and with a stadium that seats at least 30,000 more people than the Seahawks’ (104,944 versus about 70,000), they knew they’d record some big seismic activity.

The general concept is pretty simple: As fans jump up and down, the vibrations under the stands are measured by seismographs, the instruments used to measure the power of earthquakes.

Researchers created the FanQuakes Magnitude Scale, which converts data from shaking fans into the perceived magnitude of a natural earthquake if it occurred about six miles underground, beneath the stadium. The FanQuake Magnitude Scale is an essential part of the teams interaction with fans and students.

The largest fan quake they recorded so far was triggered by Curtis Samuel’s touchdown catch at the beginning of the second half versus Nebraska on Nov. 5. The shaking lasted more than two minutes and reached a FanQuake Magnitude of 5.2. Another notable play in the same game, Damon Webb’s interception and touchdown in the first quarter, generated a 5.1-magnitude quake.

The researchers are hoping football will make learning about seismology fun. They’re also looking forward to measuring fan quakes generated during the Nov. 26 game with rival University of Michigan.

OSU Scientists Unlock Relationship Between Stress, Anxiety and the Spleen

Researchers discovered that an abundance of white blood cells in the spleen can send messages to the brain which trigger behavioral changes after mice endure repetitious stress. The behavioral change comes in the form chronic anxiety. Researchers say that this study only reinforces the idea that the immune system is a relevant target for treatment of mental health conditions.

The goal of the study is to fully describe the relationship between the immune system and stress in animals that experience “repeated social defeat” so doctors may improve the well-being of patients who suffer from chronic psychological stress.

In this study, researchers determined that the immune cell changes persisted for almost a month after the mice experienced the stress. Stem cells move from the bone marrow to the spleen and become white blood cells, making it a reservoir of inflammatory cells which can cause anxiety and other cognitive problems. One researcher described the spleen’s reservoir of white blood cells as “stress memory”.

In their previous work, Ohio State researchers have documented an increased prevalence of long-term anxiety and depression in mice exposed to chronic stress, a model that has been compared to post-traumatic stress disorder in people.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

OSU STEP Living-Mentoring Program Rated a Success

The STEP effort and the recently completed North Residential District are part of a renovation of the north side of campus that includes 10 new buildings as well as a new approach for students and faculty to learn and teach. The Board of Trustees witnessed the success of that effort with a presentation at its November meeting.

The $370 million North Residential District added 3,200 beds for student living, new dining options and lots of green space. But it also added an educational opportunity.

STEP encourages students to work with a faculty member who serves as the student’s mentor. Approximately 2,500 students and 135 faculty members participate in the program. They work in cohorts of 20 students per teacher.

One STEP success story is Daniel Rodriguez. The fourth-year communications major is also an author. Rodriguez used a STEP grant to self-publish a book of poems and short stories entitled The Peregrine Muse. He has sold 200 copies.

STEP and the North Residential District are now recognized as a national model on how student housing and education can be combined.

New OSU Study in Family Oriented Substance Abuse Treatment

OSU researchers participated in a-first-of-its-kind study to examine the effectiveness of family therapy for mothers who are substance users. Mothers in therapy for drug and alcohol use recover faster if their children take part in their treatment sessions.

Researchers found that women who were in family therapy – which included their 8- to 16-year-old children – showed a quicker decline in alcohol, marijuana and cocaine use over 18 months compared to mothers who were in individual therapy.

Family therapy is likely more helpful to moms battling most substance use issues than individual therapy because it deals with the family stresses that contribute to drug and alcohol use.

The researchers hoped that assessing differences in the mother-child interaction before and after treatment would help them determine whether changes in these family dynamics were the key to the success of family therapy, but the results did not confirm that link. Researchers still believe the link is there, but that there weren’t enough subjects in the study to prove it.

Preliminary data from upcoming studies by the researchers suggests that family therapy is not only good for the mothers – it helps their children’s mental health, as well.