Corvallis Science & Nature: River Cleanup, Oregon’s Bees, OSU Hurricane Injustice Findings 

Our Native Bees 

A bumblebee visits a wildflower this past summer in the Coast range. Photo by Ian Rose.

As a region of both growers and eaters, the Willamette Valley depends on pollinators, and public awareness of the importance of insect pollinators is growing. But when we think of bees helping our fruits, vegetables and flowers to grow, many of us still often think of honeybees, which were introduced from Europe, before the 600 species of native bees from right here in Oregon.  

On Tuesday, Dec. 6, Oregon Master Gardeners presents a webinar to help introduce gardeners, growers and nature lovers to some of our amazing native bees. “Take a Walk on the Wild Side: Native Bees of Oregon” is hosted by OSU horticulture professor Andony Melathopoulos, along with master gardener and certified melittologist (bee expert) Susan Albright. The webinar starts at 7 p.m. over Zoom. Register here.  

Help Clean Up the Willamette’s Coast Fork 

Before the Willamette River reaches Corvallis, it collects water from two main watersheds – the 115-mile Middle Fork east of Eugene, and the 40-mile long Coast Fork around Cottage Grove. Next Tuesday, Dec. 6, Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah, along with Willamette Riverkeeper, are looking for help cleaning up and restoring a stretch of the Coast Fork just above the meeting of the two forks. Volunteers will collect trash and debris and help remove invasive plants like knotweed and blackberry, helping to clean the river and make space for native plants and animals.  

If you’re interested in helping with this important restoration work, click here to register. Volunteers are advised to wear waterproof boots and dress for the weather. Bring cutting tools if you have them, but tools will be provided if you don’t. The organizers will provide trash bags, non-latex gloves and trash-pickers, as well as snacks, tea and coffee.  

OSU Study: Environmental Justice and Hurricane Harvey 

In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas and Louisiana as a Category 4 storm, causing over 100 deaths and $125 billion in damage, especially devastating Houston. Like all major storms that hit the so-called Chemical Coast of the Gulf of Mexico, Harvey also spilled tons of pollutants from industrial plants. This week, a study led by Oregon State University researchers in the journal Environmental Research looks at not only the legacy of some of those chemicals, but the unjust distribution of their effects on communities of color.  

After the storm passed, hundreds of silicone wristbands were distributed to Houston residents to monitor their chemical exposure. These wristbands were then analyzed for 1,530 different contaminants, including about 450 potential endocrine-disrupting chemicals (pEDC), compounds that either mimic, block or otherwise affect human hormones. They are known to cause a number of health problems, from cancer and thyroid disease to birth defects and neurological conditions. 

This study looked not only at the overall contamination picture, but also broke the results down by gender, race, ethnicity and neighborhood, to show exactly who was most likely to experience the worst of the pEDC contaminants. Not surprisingly, the researchers found that “individuals with higher EDC exposure were more likely to identify as Black/African American or Latino, live in the neighborhoods of Baytown or East Houston, or be less than 19 years old.” The study points out that not all of the chemical exposure was due to the storm. Communities in lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color in cities like Houston are also more likely to have products containing pEDC’s in their homes, so exposure is likely higher for marginalized communities even before disaster strikes.  

Studies like this help to understand how environmental injustice affects people and neighborhoods, and can hopefully guide policy to help decrease these health burdens on the most vulnerable people. 

By Ian Rose 

Do you have a story for The Advocate? Email