By Peter Madsen • The Bulletin

If you go

What: Discovery Day

When: Oct. 13, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Oregon State ­University-Cascades campus

Cost: free

For more information, visit

In keeping with the for-the-community spirit of Oregon State University’s founding 150 years ago, Oregon State University-Cascades is bringing the classroom to Central Oregon with Discovery Day on Oct. 13.

As part of the university’s Land Grant Festival, which celebrates OSU’s legacy, the Bend campus will host keynote speakers, interactive demonstrations, food and kid-friendly events at its campus in southwest Bend.

University officials are expecting about 1,000 people to attend the first-time event, which organizers hope becomes an annual one.

“OSU-Cascades was born out of a grassroots, community effort, and we wouldn’t be here except for the community that surrounds us,” said Christine Coffin, OSU-­Cascades director of communications. “That is something that is always in the back of our minds.”

Empowered by President Abraham Lincoln, the Oregon Legislature established OSU in 1868 as a land-grant school, which offered low-cost instruction in agriculture, military tactics and engineering. The tradition extends to the OSU-Cascades campus, which opened in 2016, Coffin said.

“We interpret (the land-grant mission) in a very personal way,” Coffin said.

Discovery Day, which is free to attend, will celebrate a kaleidescope of learning.

Speakers and activity leaders are from OSU-Cascades and the OSU Extension in Central Oregon. Presentations will cover topics such as snow ski design, biological discoveries in Central Oregon river fish and the importance of oceanic reef preservation.

Demonstrations will let participants use their hands, such as “The Essence of the Expedition,” a crash course in mountaineering led by students majoring in the Tourism, Recreation and Adventure Leadership program. Participants can learn the finer points of using a bivouac sack and hiking with a 60-pound backpack. Students will also break down the basics of rock climbing in this all-ages demonstration. In others, visitors can experiment with a portable VO2 max-measuring machine and watch a 3D food printer in action. Additional presentations include tours — a three-dimensional one of a human cadaver and a physical one through OSU-Cascades planned 128-acre campus expansion.

For lifelong learners and the currently enrolled alike, Discovery Day highlights may be the keynote talks, presented by four OSU faculty members who represent areas of research where OSU is a national leader. Topics will include climate change implications for Oregon, the evolutionary history of humans’ bond with dogs and “the good, bad and ugly” of forest fires.

‘Puppy love’

Immediately relevant to Central Oregon’s legion of dog lovers, Monique Udell’s talk “Puppy Love: Understanding the Human-Dog Bond,” beginning at 4 p.m., draws on her research as an assistant professor in OSU’s Animal & Rangeland Sciences Department.

Udell is quick to clear up that dogs don’t think humans are just bigger dogs. Owners can forge closer, healthier bonds with their pets by learning more about canines’ evolutionary journey. First, humans can’t take all the credit for dogs’ domestication. There is a lot of evidence that a subpopulation of wild canids, or wolflike animals, exhibited what researchers call hypersocial behavior, meaning that they were able to form bonds longer into life than other wild-type canids, Udell said. These primitive dogs were more or less looking for companionship — or, at least initially, easy scavenging from humanity’s scraps.

“Those animals were able to capitalize on the resources around our settlements, around our civilizations,” Udell said. “That’s really how (three-quarters) of the world’s dogs live today. … They also have this predisposition to seek out the proximity of social companions at a level that is far beyond what we see in other adult animals. Those qualities are inherent to dogs, and they do contribute heavily to this bond and this potential for relationships.”

Oregon’s changing climate

Discovery Day visitors will have the chance to learn about climate change and its local implications. Philip Mote, the director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute housed on the OSU campus, said the public has warmed to his climate change talks. He’ll present “Climate Mysteries in Oregon” at 10 a.m. Many people in Central Oregon already have immediate experience with the human-caused phenomenon.

“One of the interesting dimensions of climate change is how people who live close to the land are experiencing this — farmers, ranchers and Native Americans,” Mote said. “You can pretty easily start a conversation with farmers about what kinds of changes they’ve noticed. Spring is coming earlier; it’s wetter than it used to be; summers are hotter and drier. There is a lot of lived experience that underscores what our thermometers are telling us.”

Nature provided an illustration of climate change during the winter of 2014-15 which was 5 degrees warmer than average, Mote said. The 5-degree change was due partially to greenhouse gases.

Fire is another indicator of climate change. Mote mentioned a recent research paper that demonstrated how, in the past 30 years, fire has burned about twice as much area in the U.S. than if the climate had not warmed during that period.

Mote doesn’t encounter much pushback from the public about climate change, but he does encounter people with “pretty strong preconceptions” on both ends of the climate change spectrum.

“(Some) people come in convinced climate change is a catastrophe, and they may be thinking that the effects are more dire than scientists believe,” Mote said. “I just try to lay out the evidence. Climate change is not going to cause the extinction of the human race. There are profound challenges unfolding, but it’s not the end of the world.”

‘Wildfire’s heat’

Although a raging wildfire might suggest an apocalypse, John Bailey, a professor in OSU’s College of Forestry, makes the case that our beloved forests should burn more often. In his noon keynote talk “Wildfire: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” Bailey will remind attendees that wildfire shouldn’t be categorically feared.

“Fire is a very natural part of the natural world,” Bailey said. “When people walk or ride a mountain bike through the forest they see it for its beauty, for its spiritual value, its recreational opportunities. … When I look at the forest, I also see it as fuel, from either a management perspective or from a wildfire-risk perspective. I see all these things at one time.”

Bailey will talk particularly about ponderosa pine forests, which are naturally adapted to frequent, low-intensity, low-­severity fires that kept fuel levels low and the forest open.

“Those are the things we think keep a forest healthy or resistant. It keeps the ecosystem functioning in place,” he said, explaining how fire influences things like seed germination. Over millennia, fire has been a natural and intrinsic part of the system, he added. But during the past 100 years, land management practices have created a forest density that never existed in such an abundance. It’s crucial that forest managers choose a path to both restore the essential order of forests while also reintroducing fire into the process, Bailey said.

“We’ve got to get over our past fears of fire,” Bailey added. “There is no future without fire and smoke.”

OSU-Cascades is excited to present Discovery Day, an event meant to enrich the community, Coffin said.

“We love the idea of hosting a community event,” Coffin said. “We’re going to learn a lot this year.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7816,