We engage the Portland, Oregon scientific and technical community to enhance the health of the scientific research enterprise, provide opportunities for the next generation of scientists and engineers, and promote the public's understanding of science and technology. We are comprised of faculty and students from several colleges and universities in the Portland area, as well as colleagues in local business, industry, federal and state agencies, and medical centers. We focus many of our programs on enhancing the experiences of students at all levels. Many of our members are retired scientists and engineers who have relocated to the Portland area and find a community of interests through the activities of the chapter.

Save these dates!

Saturday, 28 February 2015: Oregon Academy of Science annual meeting at University of Portland; deadline 16 February.

Tuesday, 03 March 2015: chapter lecture by Robert Butler on Animating Cascadia Earthquake Risk

23-29 March 2015: Sigma Xi global Student Research Showcase, online only; deadline 16 March.

Thursday, 16 April 2015: Sigma Xi chapter's 11th annual Student Research Symposiumdeadline for poster abstracts is Friday 10 April.

Thursday, 30 April 2015: Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer Debra Fischer on Searching for other Earths: the next frontier for exoplanet science 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015: Chapter Annual Meeting and Banquet, lecture by Todd RosenstielHow to Green a Continent: the surprising role of moss in engineering  a warming Antarctica


Animating Cascadia Earthquake Risk
Robert F. Butler
Professor of Geophysics
Department of Environmental Science
University of Portland
Tuesday, 03 Mar 2015, 7:30 pm
Smith Memorial Student Center 238
Portland State University
Parking free after 7 pm in Structures 1 and 2 | campus map
TriMet access via MAX Green and Yellow Lines and Portland Streetcar
The lecture is free and open to the public

On March 11, 2011 at 2:46 PM local time, a magnitude 9.0 megathrust earthquake struck off the east coast of Honshu, Japan.  This massive earthquake and resulting tsunami that swept onshore in Japan within 30 minutes devastated northern Honshu.  On January 26, 1700 at about 9 PM local time, a great Cascadia subduction zone earthquake caused widespread destruction from northern California to western British Columbia and generated a tsunami that, as Native American groups retell, “put the canoes in the trees.”  Similar to the modern example, that tsunami caused damage and deaths across the Pacific in Japan where it is known as the Orphan Tsunami of 1700 AD.  These mirror-image natural disasters separated by 311 years raise Earth science education and emergency preparedness questions of enormous human consequence.  EarthScope’s Plate Boundary Observatory array of GPS receivers is measuring the compression of the “leading edge” of the North American continental margin as it stores elastic energy that will be released in the next Cascadia megathrust earthquake.  The discovery of Episodic Tremor and Slip has provided new insight into the dynamics of subduction zone plate boundaries.  Development of a coordinated GPS and seismic monitoring network holds great promise for Cascadia Earthquake Early Warning.  In Japan, Chile, and California, considerable progress has been made in earthquake engineering as these regions approach earthquake resilience.  How can we translate and disseminate earthquake science for novice learners to advance public understanding of earthquake hazards and develop a regional commitment to build an earthquake resilient Cascadia?  One pedagogical approach is to animate plate tectonic and earthquake processes by compressing time from centuries to seconds and scaling dimensions from 100s of kilometers on and beneath Earth’s surface to centimeters on a computer screen.  Example animations of ghost forests as records of the 1700 earthquake, EarthScope GPS observations, and the concept of Cascadia Earthquake Early Warning, will be presented. 

Dr. Butler received his B.S. degree from Oregon State University in 1968 and his PhD degree in Geophysics from Stanford University in 1972.  Following a two-year post-doctoral position at the University of Minnesota, he was a faculty member in the University of Arizona Department of Geosciences from 1974 to 2004 where he was recognized as University Distinguished Professor in 2003.  He moved to the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of Portland in 2004 for an encore career in geoscience education.  

From 2004 to 2010, Dr. Butler was Director of Teachers on the Leading Edge, a professional development program for secondary Earth science teachers featuring EarthScope discoveries and Cascadia earthquake and tsunami hazards and mitigation.  He is currently a Principal Investigator and Lead Instructor of the Cascadia EarthScope Earthquake and Tsunami Education Program, a teacher professional development program for K-12 Earth Science teachers, parks interpreters, and emergency management educators in Cascadia Coastal Communities.  With Tammy Bravo and Jenda Johnson, he is a co-author of Incorporated Research Institutes for Seismology (IRIS) Recent Earthquake Teachable Moments (http://www.iris.edu/hq/retm).  With Jenda Johnson and a series of technical advisors, Dr. Butler has written and directed numerous animations of plate tectonics, earthquake, and tsunami processes (http://www.iris.edu/hq/programs/education_and_outreach/animations). 

Dr. Butler is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America.  In 2013, he was named the Outstanding Educator in Science and Mathematics, Higher Education by the Oregon Academy of Science.  In 2014, he received the Fred Fox Distinguished Service to Science Education Award from the Oregon Science Teachers Association.

Sigma Xi Student Research Showcase (global, online)

Students are invited to submit research project descriptions for a chance to participate in the Student Research Showcase, a global and innovative research presentation competition. (Please note: the online global Showcase is distinct from our chapter's local Student Research Symposium.)

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society hosts the showcase to help students develop their skills in presenting research online, an increasingly important skill in our digital-driven world. Participants present a personal video, written abstract and technical slideshow. They receive feedback from judges, who are professional researchers, and can earn up to $500 for top presentations in graduate, undergraduate, and high school divisions.

The Student Research Showcase will be held March 23-29, 2015. March 16 is the final deadline for presentation submission, registration, or to volunteer as a judge.  Students can earn pre-approval to present by submitting their research project description to meetings@sigmaxi.org.


Judging categories include Biochemistry, Cellular & Molecular Biology, Chemistry, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Geo-Sciences, Human Behavioral & Social Sciences, Math & Computer Science, Physics & Astronomy, and Physiology & Immunology.

Want to learn more about the Student Research Showcase?  Watch an interview with Kathryn Peiman, 2014 graduate division winner:  http://bit.ly/1ycIE3B

Need advice on how to present your research?  Join our Google Hangouts featuring professional science communicators Joe Hanson (February 27th) and Dennis Meredith (March 6th):  http://bit.ly/1C31Ljs

Members can also volunteer to serve as a competition judge at: https://www.sigmaxi.org/meetings-events/volunteer

Please also encourage your students to participate in this event that will engage young researchers from across the globe.


Five local students won Grants-In-Aid of Research from Sigma Xi in 2014: Christine Kendrick (Portland State University), Eve Wiggins (Willamette University), Zecong Fang (Washington State University - Vancouver), Sydney Gonsalves (PSU), and Timea Deakova (PSU). Their projects, and the nature of Sigma Xi's GIAR awards, are described in Student research grants.


At Sigma Xi's Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference in Glendale AZ, 4-9 Nov 2014, the Chapter was well-represented by Linda Mantel (NW Regional Representative), Erik Tucker (Chapter Delegate), and five student presenters: Amy Truitt, Brittney Davidge, Adrienne Godschalx, Dierdre McAteer, and Thai Tran (top row of photos). Adrienne's research poster presentation earned a medal.
Linda Mantel, Thai Tran, Erik Tucker, Brittney Davidge, Dierdre McAteer, Adrienne Godschalx, Amy Truitt.     Adrienne receives award.


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