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Ohio University


S C H O L A R S H I P, A N D C R E A T I V E A C T I V I T Y | S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 0 9 ]

Poisons on our plates How did dinner become so dangerous? Why foodborne illness is on the rise.







Ohio University

[R E S E A R C H , S C H O L A R S H I P, A N D C R E AT I V E A C T I V I T Y ]



Trick or Treat Mary Reed

Artist Duane McDiarmid’s new work—which brings blogging, ice cream, and performance art to the most unexpected places— prompts questions about society’s love affair with technology.


On the Cover: Digital illustration by Christina Ullman, Ullman Design

Planet Puzzle Deanna Kerslake

Geologist Damian Nance travels the globe to piece together the amazing history of Earth’s continents.

ISSN 1520-4375 Printed on recycled paper.


Birth Pangs Karen Sottosanti

From twilight sleep and natural childbirth to epidurals and cesarean sections, Jacqueline Wolf examines the social history of obstetric anesthesia.




Roderick J. McDavis



Since 2004, faculty, staff, and students at Ohio University have worked hard to develop and execute the institution’s first comprehensive strategic planning process and academic plan, Vision Ohio, which is now embodied in the Five-Year Vision Ohio Implementation Plan. The plan incorporates many of the priorities developed by faculty during the course of discussions about the strategic direction of the university. Faculty felt strongly that the true measure of the plan is the degree to which it will strengthen undergraduate education and advance selected areas of graduate education, research, and creative activity. The initiative originally stemmed from both the leadership of President Roderick J. McDavis, who announced a set of goals for Ohio University in his 2004 inaugural address, and a directive from the Board of Trustees to create a multi-year road map capable of aligning the ambitions and resources of the university.  Ohio University is completing its first year of the five-year plan, which provided $5.4 million in base funds on the Athens and regional campuses and $2.15 million in one-time-only funds on the Athens campus. Strategies were selected for funding based on their contribution to academic excellence and revenue growth and the likely breadth and depth of their impact.  Accountability measures and metrics were put in place to ensure that the investments made would bring about the agreed upon results. Enhancing research and graduate education is a cornerstone of the Vision Ohio plan. Goals include making strategic investments in targeted graduate and professional programs, including boosting enrollment and enhancing the academic quality of select areas; strengthening research and creative activity in certain areas, such as by building faculty and staff expertise in grants, ethics, and entrepreneurship; increasing external funding, including growing our federally financed research spending per capita 2 percent for the next five years; and boosting the contributions to innovation and commercialization of technologies by increasing the number of invention disclosures filed and the number of licenses and start-up companies associated with university intellectual property. We are meeting these goals this year by expanding our training of faculty researchers, increasing the marketing and licensing of more university research-based technologies, and selecting our target areas for graduate education and research through a year-long Centers of Excellence review process. In addition, we launched the Graduate College in fall 2008 to better coordinate the university’s efforts to recruit high-quality graduate students in select areas of focus. We are pleased with our progress in year one of Vision Ohio and look forward to following Ohio University’s road map to excellence into the next decade.

[c o v e r s t o r y ]



2 | ANTHOLOGY Reports in Brief Cleveland Amory. Gender differences in healing. Rural HIV care. Pedal power for Africa. Lucasville prison riot documentary. Health impact of obesity. Assessing brain damage in stroke victims. Crime scene clues.

36 | THE FINAL WORD Faculty Profile

34 | EXTRA CREDIT Student Research


History of a diverse southeastern Ohio community. New tech tools for film producers.

Closeup on Research Ancient forecast.

Poisons on our Plates Meghan Holohan

As salmonella lurks in our peanut butter and e. coli taints our spinach, environmental health researcher Michele Morrone examines the rise of foodborne illness and the lack of industry safety nets in America.

Lynn Harter on the importance of storytelling in medicine.

37 | IN THE WORKS New Projects 2009 Student Research and Creative Activity Expo.



[a n t h o l o g y ]



[crusading with humor ] BIOGRAPHY REVEALS PASSIONS OF AUTHOR CLEVELAND AMORY A television critic, animal rights activist, and author, Cleveland Amory was a jack of many trades, and yet his legacy is relatively unknown. Marilyn Greenwald, an Ohio University professor of journalism, is trying to change that with a new biography on Amory coming out this spring. Cleveland Amory: Media Curmudgeon and Animal Rights Crusader, to be published by the University Press of New England, discusses the dynamic life of Amory with special focus on his careers as a writer and activist. The book is Greenwald’s third biography since 1999. She also published books on New York Times editor Charlotte Curtis and Leslie McFarlane, a young adult fiction writer who authored The Hardy Boys books. “The people I find interesting aren’t necessarily household names,” Greenwald says. “It’s like an independent movie; these people aren’t blockbusters, but I think readers do find them interesting.” Greenwald began researching Amory after completing the McFarlane biography in 2004. She first learned of the author because of his role as a prominent critic for TV Guide in the late 1960s and 1970s. She read some of his reviews, intending to distribute them to the “Review and Criticism” class she teaches at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. After learning about the animal rights work he did later in his life, she became further intrigued. His activism included creating the organization The Fund for Animals, which has since merged with The Humane Society of the United States. “As he got older he became obsessed with animal activism, and that became his main job in his 50s,” Greenwald says. “He did some writing, but he turned all profits over to the charity he founded. So it’s the story of someone who was a true believer and gave up a successful career for a cause.” Greenwald notes that Amory used some innovative techniques to further that cause. He was one of the first people to use celebrities such as Mary Tyler Moore and Angie Dickinson—whom he met through his work at TV Guide—in animal rights advertisements. One particularly admirable aspect of Amory’s work was that he didn’t like to use overzealous protest strategies to convince people of his beliefs, Greenwald notes. Instead he favored tactics that appealed to their common sense and funny bone. “In his activism he used humor—he knew you couldn’t be a boring speaker about these things,” Greenwald says. “For example, he didn’t like people wearing fur, but he didn’t believe in throwing paint on someone—that’s too radical. He would say something like, ‘That fur makes her look really fat!’ to someone walking down the street instead.” One of Amory’s most defining moments in animal rights arrived unexpectedly one Christmas Eve when he befriended a stray cat that he adopted and named Polar Bear. “He ended up writing a book about the cat called The Cat That Came for Christmas,” Greenwald says. “It became this phenomenal best seller, such a best seller that he wrote two more and they became the cat trilogy. And of course he became a millionaire again, and he plunked all the money into his animal cause.” Greenwald explained that one of Amory’s biggest accomplishments was the creation of an animal sanctuary, Black Beauty Ranch, in Dallas, Texas. Not to be confused with a zoo, an animal sanctuary simply gives abused animals a place to live, access to fresh food and space to run freely. Amory had Polar Bear buried on the grounds of the ranch, and his own ashes were scattered there after he died in 1998. KELLY KETTERING

[ right ] Television critic and author Cleveland Amory was passionate about animal rights.



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2 | Animal advocate

5 | Prison riot

3 | Female healing

6 | Obesity and disease

4 | AIDS care

6 | Diagnosing damage

4 | Pedal power

6 | Mystery solved

Illustration: Christina Ullman, Ullman Design


[ slow fix ] WOMEN TAKE LONGER TO RECOVER FROM BROKEN WRISTS Women’s muscles may require longer, more intensive rehabilitation after bed rest and cast immobilization, according to a recent Ohio University study. The researchers suggest that the difference might be linked to how sex-specific hormones regulate the growth of muscle mass. “Our findings may have important implications for how women are treated for fractures, including more and/or different rehabilitation methods,” says lead study author Brian Clark, an assistant professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Osteopathic Medicine. He conducted the work with Ohio University researchers Richard Hoffman and David Russ, as well as Todd Manini of the University of Florida. According to a 2003 World Health Organization report, women are four times more likely than men to experience forearm fractures requiring cast immobilization, and almost 50 percent of women will experience a bone fracture at some point in their lives.  In the recent study, the researchers set casts to the non-dominant wrists and hands of 10 healthy volunteers—five men and five women—for three weeks. Wrist muscle strength was measured prior to placement of the casts, weekly during immobilization, and one week after cast removal. Researchers also used electrical stimulation to induce muscle contractions, which showed how well the participants’ nervous systems were able to activate their wrist muscles.  Results showed that men and women lost muscle strength at similar rates during immobilization. But within one week of cast removal, the men’s strength returned almost to pre-cast levels, while the women’s strength levels remained 30 percent lower than normal.  As the researchers saw no difference in the nervous system’s ability to activate wrist muscles in men and women, they conclude that the slower restoration of strength in women is more likely due to different rates of muscular strength-building. “Our findings indicate that more work needs to be done to confirm and understand the reasons for these sex differences, the extent to which they occur, and the underlying mechanism,” says Clark, who has started work on the next phase of the research. RICHARD HECK



[ anthology] REPORTS IN BRIEF


[ living with AIDS ]


DO PATIENTS SEEK MENTAL HEALTH CARE? In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a new method to calculate the yearly incidence of new HIV/AIDS cases in the United States. This method estimated that 56,300 new individuals were infected with HIV in 2006—a number substantially higher than the previously reported 40,000, which was the consistent figure for nearly a decade. This new, more accurate statistic has prompted government and HIV-related health care facilities to expand services in HIV care and treatment infrastructure. But in order to make these care services effective, policy makers need to know how patients use existing services and what is working or lacking. To help answer these questions, Tania Basta, assistant professor of community health services, studies the connection between general care, mental health care, and quality of life for individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Basta’s study of 617 individuals living with HIV/ AIDS in Georgia, published in AIDS Care, found that more African Americans and Latinos sought mental health care services much later in the care and treatment process compared to Caucasians. These individuals may have sought out medical services, HIV treatment education, substance abuse treatment, or visited their case managers before seeking any mental health care. “There is often a stigma around seeking mental health care among minorities, because one is thought to be ‘crazy’ if they do so,” Basta says. Breaking the stigma early in the treatment process is crucial, she says. “We know that when a person is diagnosed with HIV, they have greater levels of anxiety and depression,” Basta says. “Mental health care needs to be an early component of the treatment process, because it tends to lower risky behavior and improve overall health.” Basta acknowledges that the lack of specialists in rural areas such as southeastern Ohio can make it difficult for people to access proper mental health care, but she maintains that it’s a crucial part of the care process. DEANNA KERSLAKE

Timothy Cyders’ design for a human-powered utility vehicle is easing transportation difficulties in Meri, Cameroon, and has the potential to positively impact people around the globe. Cyders, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, focuses his studies on “appropriate technology,” which considers environmental, economic, and cultural factors as they relate to the end user. A textbook example of the concept, Cyders’ design accounts for the lack of materials and mechanics in the rugged terrain of Cameroon. The mostly metal, pedal-powered vehicle has three wheels and a large storage space in back to haul goods or people. His goal was to design and implement a vehicle that could be made, maintained, and modified by local mechanics. “Any African community has broken-down vehicles by the side of the road,” says Cyders, who first visited Africa in 2006 as an Ohio University undergraduate on an Engineers Without Borders trip to Maase-Offinso, Ghana. “Some just need a small part that is easily replaceable in the United States.” Last summer, on Cyders’ fifth trip to Africa, he helped local mechanics produce an alpha prototype. The prototype took 180 hours to construct, but Cyders expects subsequent units to require 80 to 90 hours. The mechanics will be able to modify the vehicle to make it stronger, more compact, or lighter, as they see fit. “The end goal for appropriate technologies is for them to no longer need me so they can stand on their own two feet,” Cyders explains. Although each vehicle eventually will be produced in the equivalent of less than four days, the design process required an estimated 2,000 man hours and $14,000. A $5,224 Student Enhancement Award from the Vice President for Research partially offset Cyders’ costs, and he funded the remainder himself.  Cyders, who has since graduated, collaborated with a local Peace Corps volunteer and the non-governmental organization Heifer International, which provides farmers with animals and equipment. He hopes the organization pursues implementation of his design, the plans for which are freely available to anyone through a General Public License. Cyders is continuing his work on some new developments for human-powered machines, as well as opensource software solutions for engineers working in developing communities. GINA BEACH

[ above ] Timothy Cyders helped develop a human-powered utility vehicle for the rough terrain of Cameroon.

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Photo: Courtesy of Timothy Cyders


[ crime scene ] DOCUMENTARY FOLLOWS AFTERMATH OF DEADLY OHIO PRISON RIOT In April 1993, 450 inmates in the Lucasville Prison in southern Ohio rioted for 10 days, protesting the conditions and administration of the facility. Nine prisoners and one correctional officer were killed in what would become the longest riot in United States history. Though the event received heavy media coverage in Ohio, the national press was focused on the government’s siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, and the anniversary of the Rodney King verdict. “The Shadow of Lucasville,” a new hour-long documentary film by Ohio University graduate student Derrick Jones, puts the uprising back in the spotlight and examines the fate of the inmates implicated in the incident. Through interviews with activists, lawyers, and prisoners, Jones explores the stories of inmates that haven’t been covered by the mainstream media. Many of the convictions, which have resulted in five men currently on death row, were based only on testimony, he says. There were no fingerprints or DNA evidence, he notes, and it was next to impossible for the inmates to fight the state prosecution, which had unlimited resources. Jones originally became interested in the Lucasville Prison incident when his mother performed in a play about the turbulent events. The production, which included former inmates in the ensemble, was based on a book by activist Staughton Lynd, who has written extensively about the riots. “I’m really drawn to ordinary people doing extraordinary things, or who live in extraordinary circumstances,” Jones says. The filmmaker hopes to release the film in late 2009, using a $20,000 award from the Princess Grace Foundation-USA, which supports emerging

artists. Letters of support have been collected from PBS stations in Athens and Toledo that are interested in viewing the final product for a possible airing, says Jones, who recently was selected to participate in the Cannes International Film Festival’s student program in May. Jones would like to help raise the profile of the inmates’ cases, and ideally, would like to see retrials of those who may have been unfairly convicted. At the very least, however, the filmmaker hopes to give viewers a greater sense of the injustices of the legal system. “Whether people agree or not about the death penalty,” he says, “everyone should acknowledge that innocent people shouldn’t be put to death.” SAMANTHA STRAHOTA

[ top ] Overall view of cell block L-6 as authorities found it following the riot at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio. The riot resulted in more than $40 million in damage to the prison. [ i n s e t ] Derrick Jones on location filming for his documentary, “The Shadow of Lucasville.” Top Photo: The Columbus Dispatch Archives; Inset Photo: Courtesy of Derrick Jones perspectives


[ anthology]



Illustration: Christina Ullman, Ullman Design


[hear t risk] LEPTIN MAY CAUSE OBESITY-RELATED CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE Obese people who don’t have high cholesterol or diabetes might think they’re healthy—despite the extra pounds. But new Ohio University research suggests that obesity raises levels of the hormone leptin, which can be as big a threat to the cardiovascular system as cholesterol. Tadeusz Malinski and colleagues have published the first study to directly observe how high levels of leptin can create a cascade of harmful biochemical changes in the body. Leptin, a peptide hormone produced by fat cells, helps regulate body weight by acting on the hypothalamus to suppress appetite and burn stored fat. But an excess of fat in the body can produce too much of the hormone, which, in turn, can lower levels of bioavailable nitric oxide. Nitric oxide, produced by the endothelial cells, supports healthy cardiovascular function by relaxing blood vessels and maintaining good blood flow, explains Malinski, who has developed special nanosensors that can detect levels of the substance. In addition, Malinski found that the high levels of leptin stimulate greater production of superoxide. It reacts with nitric oxide to create peroxynitrite, a very toxic molecule that can impact DNA replication and damage endothelial cells in the vascular system. “Now that we know the exact molecules responsible for the damage, we can design a method to mollify the effect of obesity on the cardiovascular system,” says Malinski, the Marvin and Ann Dilley White Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Sciences. ANDREA GIBSON

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While working as a neuropsychologist in Russia, Maria Ivanova was frustrated that there was no consistent way to assess the abilities of her patients suffering from aphasia, a language disorder caused by damage to the brain. When an opportunity came along to study the problem with Brooke Hallowell, an aphasia expert at Ohio University, Ivanova jumped at the chance. Now, three years later, Ivanova and Hallowell have developed one of the first standardized language assessment tools for Russian speakers with brain damage. This test can assess a patient’s ability to process verbal stimuli, or go from “hearing” to “understanding,” and compare it to normal benchmarks. “Without these standardized tools, we couldn’t objectively describe the individual’s functioning,” says Ivanova, a doctoral student in the School of Hearing, Speech, and Language Sciences. The test itself is simple. The participant is shown a paper with images in each of the four corners. One corner may hold a blue square, one a green square, one a blue circle, and one a green circle. Participants listen to a statement such as “the blue square.” They point to it and move on to the next group of images. The tasks get more complicated as the number of shapes increases, and the length of the commands get longer, requiring understanding of adjectives and spatial relationships. “As difficulty increases, we study when the errors start appearing to find out at what point language comprehension begins to break down. Does it start to be impaired when you have two objects? Does it break down when you add adjectives? Or is it the length of the command?” Ivanova explains. When clinicians know how comprehension is impaired, they can start the appropriate therapy targeted to the patient’s needs, Ivanova says. Though more study on the effectiveness of the test to index gains made with different language treatments is needed, initial findings will be published in two journals, says the student, who has earned several competitive national awards. After graduation, Ivanova plans to return to Russia to continue her work and eventually hopes to start a Russian scientific journal dedicated to research in the field of speech-language pathology. She’s also made some lasting connections to Ohio University. Ivanova facilitated a new collaboration between the institution and her previous employer, the Center of Speech Pathology and Neurorehabilitation in Moscow, to create synergies between the center’s vast clinical resources and the research expertise of Ohio University. DEANNA KERSLAKE



[ left ] Fatty acids have a unique chemical pattern that shows researchers whether they came from a person or a plant. Photo: Courtesy of Glen Jackson


[ above ] Research by Maria Ivanova and Brooke Hallowell may help Russian doctors assess levels of a language disorder caused by brain trauma.

In the absence of evidence such as bones, clothing, or strands of hair, forensic investigators can verify whether a body decomposed at a site indoors by looking for traces of lingering fat deposits, a new study finds. While examining the scene of a 30-year-old death, Ohio University scientist Glen Jackson and students Carolyn Zimmermann and Ünige Laskay discovered adipocere—fatty acids primarily made up of calcium salts—in a dry, airy building. Until this study, researchers had reported finding this evidence of human decomposition only in moist, anaerobic environments, such as when bodies are stored for extended periods in grave sites or submerged in water.

The scientists studied a strange white stain on a concrete floor where a body had decomposed in the 1970s. The stain, which is in the shape of a woman’s figure, had puzzled custodians who tried to clean and remove it. The team collected samples of residue from within the light-colored stain, a dark area immediately surrounding it, and an area of the concrete floor across the room, as a control sample. After observing the samples under a microscope and conducting a mass spectrometry analysis in the lab, the researchers determined that the stain was produced by degradation of the skin or fatty tissue from

Photo: Rick Fatica

the decomposed body and chemicals from a phosphoric acid-based cleaner called Franklin Blu-Lite, which custodial staff had used at least once on the floor. The fatty acids have a unique chemical pattern that tells researchers whether they came from a mammal, such as an animal or human, or a plant, Jackson explains. That finding could be useful for forensic investigators looking for evidence at crime scenes, adds Jackson, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry who is funded by the National Science Foundation. ANDREA GIBSON




Photo (this page):; “Trickster” photos: Courtesy of Duane McDiarmid


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4“Trickster” raised its “sails” in Utah’s Antelope Island desert, confronting visitors to the park with a conundrum of red billowing fabrics, ice cream, and portable technology in a natural and scenic environment.

stor y by MARY REED

was thinking about ice cream.” Artist Duane McDiarmid is telling one of his favorite stories, the one about how, as an 18-year-old, he found himself hunting lizards with Aborigines in the desert Australian outback. He was thrilled to be having an authentically primal experience. But when the thought of ice cream entered the young American’s consciousness, it was a moment of epiphany: Ice cream was probably not what the Aborigines were thinking about. McDiarmid realized that, as a member of modern society, he could never really be like the Aborigines. Thus began his decades-long exploration, through art, of how modern society has shaped humanity. perspectives


“Trickster” will be at the Santa Fe Art Institute in May 2009, and McDiarmid will take it into the field after that. He is currently working on more fabric art to be displayed outdoors and recently performed a new work, “American Rococo,” in Snowmass, Colorado, and on the Owl Creek Pass in the Rockies. “Trickster” was funded by Ohio University (College of Fine Arts faculty research grant, support from the Aesthetics Technology Lab, a Baker Fund grant, and Russ College of Engineering and Technology purchase of electronic components for engineering students) and donations from Sundanzer of El Paso, Texas (the freezer), and Spinergy of Colorado Springs, Colorado (supplies).

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“’Trickster’ is a primal, almost campfire-like discourse about what we do with this almost magical technology. We can do this amazing thing: give ice cream out in the desert. But is that the right amazing thing to do?” D U A N E M c D I A R MID

wenty years later, McDiarmid is now an associate professor of sculpture at Ohio University. His latest work, “Trickster,” has been exhibited in another desert, Antelope Island in Utah’s Great Salt Lake. The piece is made of a welded-steel frame on wheels with a red canopy and “sails,” a solar-powered freezer, and a computer. It weighs more than 1,000 pounds and, when outstretched, reaches 26 feet long by 21 feet wide by 16 feet tall, or the size of a small sailboat. McDiarmid made the piece with the help of students in Ohio University’s Russ College of Engineering and Technology, who primarily worked on the computer interface (viewers can blog on “Trickster” when they happen upon it) and the solar installation. The purpose of the freezer? To give out ice cream in the desert, of course. Explaining “Trickster” as a work of art is a different matter. Here are a few ways viewers have described it: “the mother-gypsy ship,” “a ship in the desert,” “a ghost ship.” “Trickster” is meant to bring people together randomly, in an unexpected physical space, and let them interact directly with the piece—and perhaps interact directly with one another. McDiarmid debuted “Trickster” on uninhabited Antelope Island, placing it remotely enough for the surprise factor yet accessible enough (it’s near Salt Lake City) so that people would happen upon it. Near the junction of a bike path and a hiking trail, more than 100 people visited “Trickster” over a four-day period in May. (This estimate is based on the number of ice creams removed from the freezer.) While McDiarmid and his crew tried to avoid hovering around the piece, during setup a number of people did approach with interest. Most had questions, uncertain about whether to open the freezer or log on to the computer. Some didn’t hesitate to act, whether by taking an ice cream or blogging on the computer. Word spread about the free ice cream. Later, McDiarmid was able to gauge reactions to “Trickster” by reading the blog posts. “We stumbled upon this thing … not sure how to describe it,” wrote one woman. “It looked like a huge metal cart, and it was all covered in beautiful fabric … in the middle of nowhere.” While McDiarmid has no formal artist’s statement about “Trickster,” like most artists, he has plenty to say about his work. “‘Trickster’ is a primal, almost campfire-like discourse about what we do with this almost magical technology,” he says. “We can do this amazing thing: give ice cream out in the desert. But is that the right amazing thing to do?” In short, McDiarmid uses “Trickster” to examine modern

society’s love affair with technology and what it is doing to our humanness. “The generation before me knew life only through direct experiences, but the current generation of people—a lot of what they know is through indirect experiences, given the level of media today with the Internet, television, etc.,” he says. McDiarmid uses the technology of “Trickster” to prompt a conversation among its viewers about certain issues. To McDiarmid, these issues are the “excessive privilege” of Westerners in the 21st century and the absurdity of many of our decisions, both individually and collectively. Calling himself someone who has an affection for human foibles, a social critic but not a finger pointer, McDiarmid says, “In a way, we’re all tricksters and we (all) make bad decisions for ourselves.” WHAT’S IN A NAME? The trickster is an archetypal figure in mythology throughout the world; it is a character who lives outside of our normal laws of society or laws of nature. A trickster is always clever and sometimes supernatural, but ultimately embodies human virtues and vices. Coyote is probably the best-known trickster in American mythology, but McDiarmid is most fascinated by the Northwest Native American trickster, Raven, who stole light and brought it to the human world. Raven made mistakes along the way and suffered personal consequences for those mistakes, yet through this act he changed the world. Kathryn Stedham, executive director of Spiro Arts, a nonprofit Park City, Utah-based artist residency program and workshop center where McDiarmid resided in May 2008, sees a work like “Trickster” as, while not necessarily shaping the world, at least helping shape the way we see the world. She says “Trickster” is a catalyst for viewers to deal with their own comfort or discomfort. “We’re taught to always do the correct thing,” Stedham says. “When we see ‘Trickster,’ what is the right thing? We have to be okay with not knowing how to interact. You encounter it and you have to find your way with it.” Stedham interacted with “Trickster” in the field and saw others do so as well. She describes the teenage girl whose father refused to approach the piece, counseling his daughter that it might have something to do with a cult. She also saw young kids jump off of their bikes and run toward “Trickster” when they found out it contained free ice cream. “Which says a lot about kids,” she says. Like McDiarmid, Stedham also describes “Trickster” as a dialogue, and of course the computer blog on “Trickster” is the perspectives

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most obvious manifestation of this. On-site bloggers left the following messages: Congrats the trickster has the magic of a coyote, the stealth of an elephant and the brevity needed in life; I’ve got my popcorn … I’m listening; This is so cool!!! Shawn Rossiter is another person who visited “Trickster” in the field. He is the editor of 15 Bytes, the online magazine for the visual arts in Utah. On his blog, Rossiter takes a stab—albeit indirectly—at another question “Trickster” inspires: Is it sculpture? Rossiter describes “Trickster” at one point as an Arabian-nightsstyled-lunar-lander sculpture. “McDiarmid’s piece might be more appropriately called serendipitous art,” Rossiter writes on his blog. When he visited “Trickster,” Rossiter brought along some friends—adults and children—but didn’t tell them what to expect so they could have the intended “Trickster” experience. “Just the fact that it shouldn’t have been there and was there, that was enough to, well, to create as an adult a feeling of wonder and excitement that a child has before they grow up and become jaded like us,” he says. Rossiter says “Trickster” evokes that “you had to be there” feeling among those who tell others about it. He says this is something Mormon missionaries can relate to when they go into the world to share their religion. “You can tell somebody about it but it isn’t as exciting for them. It’s the same sense as trying to explain a religious experience,” he says. Rossiter thinks McDiarmid has accomplished something similar to what the Mormons accomplished: making the desert bloom. Ask McDiarmid to categorize “Trickster,” and he will decline to narrow it down: He describes it as participatory sculpture, expeditionary art, a performance object (this term is usually used to describe props and devices used in live art or performance pieces), and experiential sculpture. McDiarmid notes that sculpture has always been a practice open to new and unusual art forms, and much performance art comes out of sculpture departments. Indeed, McDiarmid’s best-known work to date, “Refuge, Refugee, Refuel, Refuse, Refuse,” had him bathing himself in used motor oil as a comment on our collective complicity in tragedies such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He considers “Trickster” to be a performance piece as well. “In the fine arts, performance art can include people doing ordinary things if the context is framed so that we don’t view them in an ordinary way,” he says. A widely exhibited piece of McDiarmid’s that also confronts modern society’s woes, “Betula chalyb ferruginous,” features very realistic-looking trees made of recycled pipe with faux Latin names 12 | s p r i n g

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and informational plaques similar to those used for arboretum trees. The idea, McDiarmid explains, is that we could put these trees in places where we’ve spoiled the landscape. The “natural habitat” of the Betula tree is urban and industrial waste sites. “I really tried to make it as aesthetically pleasing as I possibly could to sort of make the point that even an artist at their best is going to fall short,” he says, “You’re just going to, because nature can outperform imitation.” “Trickster” and these similar field installations bring into focus another question: Where does art belong, physically, in our world? “Not everyone was happy about it being there,” McDiarmid readily admits, referring to at least one ranger who thought it was inappropriate to bring “Trickster” to the island. (It should be noted that McDiarmid had full official support from Antelope Island State Park.) McDiarmid also remembers a comment he heard under the breath of a scout master who brought a group of Boy Scouts onto the island when “Trickster” was there. The artist recalls the man saying, “What a shame it is that we bring them out here and they won’t remember the antelope and bison, but they’ll remember the ice cream.” To that, McDiarmid replies, “Touché—they got it.” GOOD, BAD, UGLY In its intended environment—against a blue sky, atop parched earth (and preferably, with the wind blowing)—“Trickster” could be described as pretty. Making an attractive piece of art is a bold move for someone who makes his living as an academic artist in a time when serious art seemingly must be ugly and/or ironic. “Prettiness is out of fashion; it’s seen as not being serious,” McDiarmid says. “There has been a tendency in the arts for a while towards austerity.” But he rejects the notion that anything that is not strictly essential should be eliminated. “I am not a reductivist to begin with—I tend to add rather than take away things if none other than to disarm or welcome people.” Based on reactions from the art professionals who have seen “Trickster,” McDiarmid hit his mark. “(‘Trickster’) visually did the job that an artwork should do, which is that it’s visually stunning enough to make you want to look and then it can engage you,” says blogger Rossiter. “A lot of contemporary artists, they have these long statements explaining everything, and the art is visually weak.” This sort of deconstruction is central to the art world, and helping students deconstruct art is big part of what McDiarmid does as an educator. At Ohio University, he teaches art foundation courses and courses in the undergraduate and graduate sculpture curriculum. He says he primarily teaches students that art isn’t just eye candy, but that art is imbued with meaning. “Words are very good at tying down specific meanings, but visuals are good at tying down contradictory meanings,” he says, returning to a theme of “Trickster.” “In other fields, there’s very little room for contradiction, but humanity is full of contradiction because we’re not purely rational.” McDiarmid had the opportunity to have an art seminar of sorts with non-art students—those engineering students working on “Trickster.” One was Patrick Dunham, who traveled to Antelope Island with McDiarmid and the “Trickster” entourage. “As a piece of engineering, it doesn’t make sense,” Dunham says about the project, noting that there are much more practical uses for his engineering skills, such as keeping life-saving medicines cooled to a required temperature. “Ice cream isn’t what you need in the desert.” To that, McDiarmid might say, touché—he got it, too.

4McDiarmid worked with students in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology to design the computer interface—which allowed viewers to blog on “Trickster”—and the solar installation. perspectives

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stor y by MEGHAN HOLOHAN illustrations by CHRISTINA ULLMAN

Michele Morrone explains why Americans should be afraid of the rise of foodborne illness and the lack of industry safety nets In October 2003, Dr. Marcus Eubanks was working at an emergency room outside of Pittsburgh. Within a few days he treated eight people with Hepatitis A—a high number of cases for a rural hospital. Fearing it was an epidemic, he notified the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Health officials soon learned that all eight patients ate at Chi-Chi’s Mexican restaurant in the Beaver County Mall in Monaca, Pennsylvania. The restaurant voluntarily closed, but it was too late to stop the outbreak. For a few months in 2003, western Pennsylvanians lived in fear of contracting Hepatitis A. More than 600 people became ill and four people died. Reports of food poisoning seem all too common. Salmonella-tainted peanut butter sickened 628 people; a cruise ended prematurely when passengers contracted the Norwalk virus; E. coli-tainted bagged spinach caused a massive recall. In her new book Poisons on our Plates: The Real Food Safety Problem in the United States (Praeger Publishers), Ohio University researcher Michele Morrone explores the reasons why 76 million Americans suffer from food poisoning each year. “What are you afraid of? Terrorism? Cancer? Flying in an airplane? What about bacteria? If you are like most Americans, you probably are more afraid of dying from cancer than dying from diarrhea. There are real reasons that this is the case, including the fact that cancer is more exotic than diarrhea and less familiar to us; most of us perceive diarrhea as curable and cancer incurable,” Morrone writes in the introduction of the book.

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he number of annual cases of food poisoning is on the rise, reports Morrone, an associate professor of environmental health and director of environmental studies at Ohio University. The Chi Chi’s incident illustrates just one cause: food imported from foreign countries with less stringent sanitation standards. The restaurant’s scallions originated at a Mexican farm. The farm’s bathrooms didn’t have proper drainage, and the waste often flooded into the fields. After picking the scallions, employees put them on ice made from unclean water and stored them in a dirty facility. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, foreign imports make up about 15 percent of all food in the U.S. supply, and the agency expects that percentage to increase. Yet there are not enough food sanitation professionals to provide thorough inspections. As threats such as bioterrorism and the avian flu increase, public health funds are spread thinner, Morrone explains. When it comes to imports, Morrone points to China as a cause for concern. Though the American public has been fixated on toys contaminated with lead paint and tainted dog food, the researcher argues that we should be equally on alert about seafood imports. “These imports are one of the biggest concerns—especially when it comes to shellfish,” she says. “If the fish or shrimp are not being raised in sanitary water, some pathogens like bacteria and viruses infect the fish.” The United States receives about 12 percent of its seafood from China. In June 2007, the United States banned five types of farm-raised seafood from the country after discovering that farmers gave the fish illegal antibiotics, which have been linked to cancer. Farmers often raised these fish in water contaminated with raw sewage. In January 2008, China admitted it struggles to keep its water clean.

“Water quality is the top issue for Chinese aquaculture,” Ding Xiaoming, the director for aquaculture in the fisheries bureau, told The New York Times. Even though the Chinese government identified dirty water as a problem for its seafood farmers, the FDA warning stressed the dangers of the antibiotics—not the water. While these can cause cancer, scientists have known for hundreds of years that dirty water causes diarrhea and other stomach ailments. But the problem with food safety isn’t limited to imports; the USDA manages to check only 16 percent of meat farms and processing plants in the United States. According to an article in the International Herald Tribune in January 2009, the USDA has vacancies in 30 percent of its positions, which impedes its ability to carry out inspections. There are just as many examples of domestic products hosting pathogens, such as homegrown green onions that sickened 100 people and the E. coli-tainted spinach that sickened 205 and killed three. Both incidents happened in 2006. Occurrences of foodborne illnesses also are increasing because of the industrialization of agriculture and the food supply system. One example is the E. coli-infected spinach, which grew on a sprawling 37,000 acre-farm. On the edge of the fields, feral pigs infected with the bacteria were defecating on the crops. Another vulnerability in agribusiness is egg farming, Morrone says. Chickens in so-called factory farms live in close quarters, which are littered with feces, bugs, and dead chickens (all of which can spread pathogens). If one chicken contracts Salmonella, the whole farm could become infected. Farmers thought they could prevent the spread of these diseases by feeding their animals antibiotics, but this practice can create antibiotic-resistant super bugs. “We can’t handle food the way people a generation ago did,” Morrone says. “This is not the same food supply that existed 50 years ago.” Two government agencies—the FDA and USDA—are charged with protecting the public by inspecting food. But the way the two divide up their duties can be illogical, critics say. According to the International Herald Tribune article, for example, the FDA inspects frozen cheese pizzas while the USDA inspects frozen pepperoni pizzas. And the FDA devotes most of its resources to regulating pharmaceuticals. Americans should be concerned not only about the difficulties of managing and inspecting the global food system that puts dinner on our plates, Morrone notes, but the fact that once pathogens get in the system, they can spread quickly. The microscopic size of these bugs makes it easy for people to spread them without realizing it. An outbreak of the Norwalk virus occurred every month in 2007, Morrone found. One bartender with the virus sickened partygoers, even though he didn’t serve food. Food poisoning causes more than 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths a year. Without proper intervention, the United States is vulnerable, yet officials rarely stop to think about the impact of food on security. “I think the contribution (of Poisons on our Plates) was particularly important because it redefines the scope of what we mean by environment or security,” says Peter Liotta, executive director with the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy


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at Salve Regina University, who edits the book series on politics and environment. The Council on Foreign Relations reports that with the current level of surveillance, it would be easy for a terrorist group to infiltrate food sources. Even without a terrorist threat, the agency has stated that U.S. food sources are unsafe. The more Americans worry about other issues, though, the less likely the government is to protect its people from tainted food sources. Frequently the government reacts to a crisis instead of being proactive. “We need more of an emphasis on public health prevention on all levels of government,” Morrone says, “and we have unfortunately turned our attention away from non-sexy pathogens on our food.” WH Y W O R RY ?

or Morrone, Chinese seafood serves as a perfect example as to why she wrote Poisons on our Plates. Americans are more afraid of anything that might be linked to cancer and substances such as antibiotics than microbial pathogens that lurk in dirty water. “Really my interest was not so much in food safety as much as it was trying to understand why people are afraid of one thing more than another,” she says. Morrone’s interest in fear started when she was earning her doctoral degree at Ohio State University. For her dissertation, she examined public opinion regarding a proposed radioactive waste site. No matter how many scientists testified at public hearings that the waste site would not impact people’s health, residents tearfully admitted they did not want the site in their neighborhood. They believed radioactive waste would sicken or kill them. She sees countless examples of this when it comes to food poisoning. People fear the unknown more than pathogens such as Hepatitis A, Salmonella, or E. coli. “Bacteria are less exotic; people get complacent about bacteria,” she says. Emotions trump reason in many situations, and the media feed into this, Morrone found. Few media outlets want to report about diarrhea and vomit when they can focus on Mad Cow Disease, which purportedly causes permanent brain damage. Often, the media don’t wait until all the research is in—and needlessly scare the public, she argues. Mad Cow Disease might not be the public health threat once feared. In the book, Morrone describes Alar as a classic case of public fear overcoming facts. Beginning in 1963, apple farmers used Alar on their crops to extend the life of the fruit. Alar is also a component of rocket fuel. She recounts a 60 Minutes episode from 1989 that changed how Americans thought about apples. “The most potent cancer-causing agent in our food supply is a substance sprayed on apples to keep them on the trees longer and make them look better,” the announcer intoned. Actually Alar itself wasn’t the problem. Its byproduct, UDMH, was considered the carcinogenic agent. Yet at the time, there was no evidence UDMH caused cancer. That didn’t put a dent in public opinion, however. After the 60 Minutes report, Americans feared Alar. Even Meryl Streep became involved in the controversy, testifying before Congress about the dangers of the substance. Within a year, it was almost impossible to find any trace of Alar on apples.

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“People listen to celebrities—they trust Streep more than they trust a scientist,” Morrone says. Twenty years after the damning report on Alar, there is still no evidence that Alar causes cancer. The Alar example shows how fear skews public agendas. Instead of devoting more resources to inspecting fish from China, agencies dedicate money to the “scare of the week” because of pressures from the general public and mass media, Morrone says. “Generally speaking, I am more concerned about the microbes than the chemicals. There is really little debate about (the effects of) microbes,” she says. “The main problem in the United States is that our food safety system is not well equipped to address these causes and, until recently, the American public did not seem to care.” That could change, however. The recent Salmonella outbreak in peanut butter is finally starting to put microbiological contaminants under the public microscope, Morrone notes. B O O S T I N G F O O D S A FETY

ith the number of major foodborne outbreaks increasing, the government has started examining the problem. After lawmakers called for an overhaul of the FDA, the organization launched a plan in 2007 to reduce the amount of tainted food in the United States. As part of the plan, the FDA hopes to add 130 food safety officials and extend its presence in foreign countries to ensure that food originates


at clean farms. During the first year, the FDA held meetings to flesh out the plan. With a new strategy in place, food safety might increase, but one barrier remains. The U.S. government does not require companies to recall tainted food products. Any food recall is voluntary, says Morrone. Businesses don’t have to pull infected food off the shelves, and there is no penalty imposed on companies that produce these products. The FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn of tainted food, but infected food sits on the shelves if the company doesn’t issue a recall. Because such measures are often associated with profit loss and lawsuits, many companies don’t have much incentive to participate in a recall. Chi-Chi’s cooperated, but the expense of the Hepatitis A outbreak contributed to the closure of the chain. Years after shutting its doors, Chi-Chi’s has yet to settle all of its lawsuits. Even with the FDA’s new plan, lawmakers recently criticized the agency and considered forming a new entity. Morrone doesn’t think this is the solution. “There was a science advisory committee that examined the FDA food safety system and found that it’s dangerous. (The FDA) uses management by crisis. The report was damning,” Morrone says. “I don’t think you scrap the whole thing. Look at where the resource needs are the greatest and fund them. Even though the food safety system is convoluted, I think with the right funding, it could be effective.”

Every time Michele Morrone’s children (now 15 and 17) ordered a hamburger in a restaurant, she would cut it open to see if it was properly cooked. “I don’t think my children ever ate a whole hamburger,” she jokes. Morrone knows that E. coli, Campylobacter, Listeria, and Salmonella lurk in undercooked ground beef. The grinding process exposes the meat to additional bacteria. While Poisons on our Plates explores the problems of microbes in food, Morrone also offers suggestions for home chefs to make sure their foods are free of dangerous pathogens. Everyone should have a thermometer and know at what temperature to cook meat. “You should not rely on the ‘looks done’ type of approach,” she says. “Cooking temperatures are based on science—(researchers) inoculated meat with bacteria and saw what temperature it takes to kill them.” Sometimes people contaminate their food by not properly washing their hands. After touching raw meat, it’s important to wash hands with warm soap and water. Never re-use an unwashed cutting board and knives that were used on raw meat—they could harbor as many contaminants as the uncooked product. While botulism is rare and often associated with home canning, it can still affect canned goods. Don’t purchase canned goods if they are bulging or misshapen. Be wary of bagged spinach and lettuce marked “triple washed,” which suggests that there is no need to rinse the vegetables before eating. In 2006, the plastic bags provided a breeding ground for E. coli, and people across the nation were sickened after eating the spinach inside, Morrone says. The spinach outbreak also highlights the paradox of having fresh produce available year-round. Because the spinach came from several different farms and was processed in numerous plants, investigators took longer to identify the cause of the contamination. Morrone suggests that buying local might be a way to avoid some illnesses, but she stresses that it’s always important to thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables, regardless of their origin. “As a consumer you need to make sure that you make your food as safe as possible before you eat,” she says. “Buying local is one tool in the prevention toolbox.”


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When German geophysicist Alfred Wegener gave a talk to fellow scientists in 1912, he created an uproar. He argued that, over the course of millions of years, the continents had moved, slowly shaping Earth’s geology and biology. Wegener challenged the accepted scientific theory that sunken land bridges between the continents had allowed animals and plants to disperse across the globe. He proposed that long ago, a single, giant land mass had existed and since broken up—a “supercontinent” that he dubbed Pangaea or “all lands.” Wegener’s colleagues thought he was crazy, says Ohio University geologist Damian Nance. No one imagined that it was possible that the Earth’s massive continents could drift, collide, and break apart again like giant jigsaw puzzle pieces. Though today the theory of continental drift has become well accepted, scientists such as Nance still know what it’s like to be standing in Wegener’s shoes. In fact, in the same room where Wegener once made scientific waves in Frankfurt, Nance and his colleagues recently continued to make a case for their own theories on the effects of continental drift, including research on the formation of ancient mountain ranges and the Rheic Ocean—the sea that closed to form Wegener’s proposed Pangaea.

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text and photography by JENN ACKERMAN


4When scientists Damian Nance and Tom Worsley first published their supercontinent cycle paper in 1982, it was not well-received. “They thought we were crackpots!” Nance recalls.


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fig 1 how they move

forming Eurasia

The Pangaea Conundrum The land that would make up Pangaea existed entirely on one tectonic plate in a shape similar to the video game character Pacman, with an ocean called Tethys located in the “mouth,” Nance explains. As the Tethys Ocean began to close due to subduction (when one plate slides under the other into the underlying mantle) the mouth shut, ultimately making the continent “eat itself” as the land subducted under the other end of its own plate. This put strange stresses on the outer edges of the continent and caused cracks and breakage that may explain various geographical features of the affected areas now scattered throughout the entire world.

Over the past three decades, Nance has published and presented hundreds of papers focusing on the gargantuan forces that have shaped Earth over the past billion years. But the contribution to the field of which he is most proud is a theory called the “supercontinent cycle,” which he and colleague Tom Worsley, a retired fellow professor in Ohio University’s Department of Geological Sciences, published in the early 1980s. “It’s a simple idea,” Nance explains. “Earth’s history has been punctuated by a series of single land masses that then break apart—Pangaea being just the latest.” This cyclical creation and break-up of supercontinents is fundamental to Earth’s geological processes, Nance says, and builds on the theory of plate tectonics. Plate tectonics tells scientists how things happen, but the supercontinent cycle can explain when things happen—which may help predict broad Earth processes, he explains. This can allow scientists to discriminate between natural cycles of climate change, for example, versus man-made ones, Nance says. The two Ohio University scientists developed this theory by way of their combined areas of expertise. Worsley was an expert on the oceans, and Nance was an expert on plate tectonics and the movement of continents. Nance’s education at the University of Cambridge—one of the main seats of plate tectonics theory—gave him a perspective on how plate tectonics shaped the evolution of ancient oceans and mountain systems and impacted the modern world. But at the time, these ideas were still quite controversial in the United States, he recalls. When Nance and Worsley first published their supercontinent cycle paper in 1982, it was not well-received. “They thought we were crackpots!” Nance says. But toward the end of the 1990s, evidence began to emerge that supported the theory that there had been other supercontinents, and scientists began to take note. Today, the supercontinents that, 25 years ago, Nance and Worsley had predicted existed—such as Pannotia 600 million years ago and Rodinia 1 billion years ago—are now receiving the most interest among scientific circles. But initially, Nance recalls, “we were very apprehensive. 22 | s p r i n g

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North America Tethys Ocean

Africa South America India



We couldn’t believe it was that simple and that no one had thought of it before.” Scientific evidence kept supporting their idea, however. Their predicted effects of the cycle on sea level matched the geological record for the past 600 million years with an uncanny precision, he says. They also examined episodes of mountain building, which they argued should record times of supercontinent assembly, and episodes of crustal fractures, which they suggested should record supercontinent breakup. Nance says that their observations showed that these events had recurred at approximately 500 million year intervals, for at least the past 2,500 million years. The researchers also looked at the evolution of living organisms. They predicted that the scientific record would show massive extinctions during the periods of proposed supercontinental assembly, due to the loss of shallow marine habitat. They expected to also see a record of the dispersal of new organisms after the breakup, when the shallow marine realm re-established itself as the continental fragments separated and subsided. “All these things, and many others, just seemed to fall into place,” Nance says. However, he feels that he and Worsley may not get credit for presenting this theory for years to come. “It’ll be another 100 years until somebody looks back and thinks, ‘Wow, someone was writing about the supercontinent cycle way back in the 1980s. Who were these guys?” Nance says with a laugh. “No doubt, however, that was my biggest contribution to the field.”



ance has been contributing to the field since the late 1970s, after earning degrees in geology from the University of Leicester and the University of Cambridge in his native England. During his childhood in a quaint Cornish town with a rich history of tin and copper mining, Nance developed an early fascination with rocks. His father once worked at a pottery that used mineral glazes from 19th century mines that made Cornwall famous. At family picnics young Damian could be found exploring old mine shafts

fig 11 subduction


Ocean rift zone Volcanic mountain range Sea floor spreads


Sea floor spreads


Subduction occurs when two tectonic plates converge.


Rocks break and move as a result of the extreme stress, resulting in earthquakes, land folding or breakage, and mountain formation.

Continental plate

2 n otio em Plat

Convection current

Plat em otio n

4 Magma produced by the melting plate rises through breaks in the crust.

Su bd uc tio n

One plate bends and slides under the other.


zo ne

Convection current

Magma rises


The subducted plate plunges into the mantle and triggers melting.

Collision zone

Plate movement According to the theory of plate tectonics, subduction is a process that occurs when one tectonic plate moves under another as the plates converge. This may involve an oceanic plate that slides beneath a continental plate or another oceanic plate. Generally, the denser plate is pushed beneath the less dense plate in this process. The graphic illustrates subduction with an oceanic plate and a continental plate.

Graphics: Christina Ullman, Ullman Design

searching for minerals—a search he would continue long into his adulthood. Nance’s childhood also led him to one inspirational teacher, Bob Quixley, whom Nance says ultimately set flame to his passion for geology. Quixley’s enthusiasm for the topic was contagious and resulted in dozens of kids from the school district going on to take geology in college. Quixley sponsored week-long geology field trips, venturing to places such as north Wales and the south coast of England. Inspired by Quixley, Nance spent four years teaching at a university in Canada before coming to Ohio University in 1980. The university attracted Nance because it valued a balance of research and teaching. “The goal of research is really to keep your teaching alive,” Nance says. “We’re actually doing what we teach.” Nance’s success in both academic areas earned him the 2008 Distinguished Professor Award, which is Ohio University’s highest faculty honor. It carries a lifetime designation that recognizes scholarly accomplishment, professional reputation, and contributions to the university. Nance currently teaches undergraduate and graduate students, and says the key to success is simply sharing his passion for the subject. “I think if you, as a student, get to hear someone who is really enthusiastic about what they do, that can be very contagious,” he says. “And if you’re enthusiastic, learning becomes a joy.” Many of Nance’s students have followed him from the classroom to the field. The scientist has welcomed these young research assistants—not only for their energy, but because his work calls for a large team of geologists on the ground. “It’s a slow business trying to put the geology of an area on a map,” Nance notes.



hough Nance began by simply looking at one piece of real estate and trying to map out its ancient history, he realized that it’s difficult to interpret one area in isolation. In order to define the history of one piece

of land, Nance found himself sometimes having to travel to a different state, country, and continent to find the missing puzzle pieces of areas that were connected millions of years ago. This approach is how Nance, his colleagues, and his students have come to develop maps and theories of how the continents have become what they are today, and what they were like millions of years ago. They’ve learned that seemingly far removed places can provide crucial connections in piecing together the ancient world. However, these large-scale continental connection hypotheses start small, with some simple digging in the dirt. In Nance’s field work in Maritime Canada, for example, tiny crystals helped him reconstruct past geography. Sedimentary rocks on land contain a variety of minerals accumulated from streams. One of these minerals is zircon (popularly known in jewelry as the traditional December birthstone). It’s a very stable mineral and, once crystallized, will survive most of what geology can throw at it, Nance explains. “It is the geological equivalent of a Timex watch—it can take a licking and keep on ticking!” Nance says. It also can be dated because it contains minute quantities of uranium, which is radioactive and decays at a fixed rate. These tiny crystals can help scientists determine the age of the area, as well as its possible origins. The southern half of the province of Nova Scotia, for example, is made up of ancient sediments that contain zircons that are 560 to 640 million years old and 2 to 2.1 billion years old. Only West Africa matches that age distribution, so the sediments are thought to be of African origin. In contrast, the sediments in the northern half of the province contain zircons with a much broader spectrum of ages, the best match for which is the Amazonian region of South America. This led Nance and his colleagues to suggest that northern Nova Scotia was adjacent to South America when the sediments were deposited 600 to 500 million years ago, and merged with North America as the Appalachian Mountains first started to form. Nance’s field work has taken him around the world from Europe, the Australian desert, and the Alps to southern Mexico and rural Russia, where he and a group of international colleagues perspectives

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learned how the Ural mountain range was formed. Majestic landscapes like these fill Nance with a sense of awe, he says, and fuel his passion for the work. “There are occasional moments when you’re sitting in the rocks with a phenomenal panorama in front of you and you just think, ‘Wow, it’s amazing that I get to do this. Most people would give an arm and a leg just to do this, and this is my job?’” he says with a smile. But the geologist stresses that the progress he’s made over the years wouldn’t have been possible without the help of trusted colleagues and graduate students. “Big picture studies like what I do are much bigger than what a single person can handle,” he admits. Colleague Brendan Murphy, a professor of earth sciences at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, has collaborated with Nance since 1986, and the team has published more than 50 papers together. Murphy explains that their work contributes to the field by putting small discoveries into a larger context. “We consider it like a jigsaw puzzle,” Murphy says. “We work on individual pieces, but we like to look back at what the whole jigsaw is trying to tell us. Nance can see something small from the land and extrapolate it into a 3D view at the plate tectonics scale. While most people have difficulty thinking in this way, he has no difficulty whatsoever.”



uch of the scientists’ work has sought to discover how and when mountains formed and how current ranges were connected ages ago. Recently, a good deal of Nance’s research has focused on the Rheic Ocean, a body of water that existed 400 million years ago. Its closing formed the now well-known supercontinent Pangaea. A paper describing the origin, evolution, and significance of this ocean was recently published by Nance and German colleague Ulf Linnemann as the sole article in the Geological Society of America’s journal GSA Today. Though, at face value, the geography and geology of regions from Mexico and Central America to Canada and Turkey all seem different, Nance says they can be explained and connected by the supercontinent’s unique shape and pattern of assembly, though no one before has thought to link them. Continued studies of these regions can help geologists learn more about the nature of Pangaea as a supercontinent. “If we can study why the Rheic Ocean closed, we can learn more about why Pangaea formed how it did,” Nance says. Another of Nance and Murphy’s most recent papers generating buzz in the geology world is “The Pangaea Conundrum,” which looks at some of the peculiarities of Pangaea’s formation. Nance explains that there are currently many sophisticated computer models created by geophysicists explaining how continents break up and come together, but the creation of Pangaea defies these models—and, in fact, did just the opposite of what they would predict. To put these models into context, consider the Earth’s current geological changes. The Atlantic Ocean is slowly widening and the Pacific is closing, which could eventually lead to Asia and Australia crashing into the west coast of the Americas, creating our next supercontinent. Similar continental movements

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were happening before Pangaea was created, but they suddenly switched direction, Nance says. Now the question is, why? Nance’s article, published in the Geological Society of America’s flagship publication, Geology, suggests examining a link between plate tectonics and mantle plumes, fountain-like columns of hot rock that rise from the Earth’s core. The combination of these horizontal movements (continental and ocean plates shifting) and vertical processes (the hot magma plumes shooting up from the Earth’s core) are linked in some way, he says. He suggests that the 180-degree turnaround seen in Pangaea’s creation could have occurred because the magma plumes actually overwhelmed the horizontal plate movement and reversed the motion of events. Though Nance’s article doesn’t attempt to solve this “conundrum,” he hopes the suggestion of this idea will draw interest from the field in understanding the whole process of Earth’s large-scale movements. Ironically, it was this controversial topic that Murphy and Nance delivered on Wegener’s home turf in Frankfurt. Nance, Murphy, and other colleagues also have published a paper in a recent issue of Nature Geoscience that discusses what may have happened to Pangaea following its formation. (The journal recently named it one of the top papers of 2008.) The land that would make up Pangaea existed entirely on one tectonic plate in a shape similar to the video game character Pacman, with an ocean called Tethys located in the “mouth,” Nance explains. As the Tethys Ocean began to close due to subduction (when one plate slides under the other into the underlying mantle) the mouth shut, ultimately making the continent “eat itself” as the land subducted under the other end of its own plate. This put strange stresses on the outer edges of the continent and caused cracks and breakage that may explain various geographical features of the affected areas now scattered throughout the entire world. That includes the development of volcanically active sedimentary basins in northern Europe, western North America, and southern America that radiate outward from the center of the supercontinent, as well as the curious hairpin bending—best seen in northern Spain—of the mountain belt formed by the closure of the Rheic Ocean.



heories on the Earth’s formation and history have long been controversial ideas, and the scientists who have proposed them have faced sometimes career-long battles in winning over critics. Alfred Wegener went to his grave having never received vindication for his theory— though by the late 1960s plate tectonics was well accepted by most geologists. For Nance, globe trotting and problem solving in order to learn more about Earth’s history has been an exhilarating journey of ups and downs, breakthroughs, and dead ends. With his “big picture” work, the myths of mountains are closer to being solved and ancient oceans are being unearthed—but there is still more work ahead, he says. “There is so much still to do; in a dozen lifetimes, there still wouldn’t be enough time,” Nance says. “We’re just scratching the surface.”


4Nance’s success in teaching and research earned him the 2008 Distinguished Professor Award, which is Ohio University’s highest faculty honor. It carries a lifetime designation that recognizes scholarly accomplishment, professional reputation, and contributions to the university.


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hen a woman receives the happy news that she’s pregnant, one of the first questions her family and friends might ask (after “When are you due?” and “Is it a girl or a boy?”) is “Are you going to get an epidural?” This is exactly the sort of question that interests Ohio University historian Jacqueline Wolf.

fig 1.

C H L O RO F O R M In the late-1800s, some physicians feared that the specter of painful labors discouraged middle-class women from having children. These doctors used ether and chloroform to make childbirth more attractive to these women. However, it could make women groggy or unconscious.

fig 2.

E X A M I N AT I O N TA B L E Medical examination tables from over a century ago bear a close resemblance to those used today. Note the leg extentions made from wooden planks and feet stirrups.

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“Birth has become principally a question of pain management,” she writes in her new book, Deliver Me from Pain: Anesthesia and Birth in America (Johns Hopkins University Press). The experience of giving birth, she explains, has been overshadowed by fear of labor pain. In her book, Wolf, an associate professor of social medicine in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, examines the history of the creation, use, and portrayal of obstetric anesthesia, tracing the social and cultural forces that have shaped its acceptance. After the introduction of obstetric anesthesia during the mid-1800s, she says, the use of anesthesia during labor slowly increased. By the 1950s, elaborate combinations of barbiturates, narcotics, and inhalation anesthesia throughout labor had become the norm. Not until the 1970s did some women rebel against what they saw as the unnecessary and dangerous use of drugs during childbirth. Since then, the pendulum has swung back, with many of today’s pregnant women nervously clamoring for epidurals or elective cesarean births. “In the last 25 years,” Wolf says, “women went from idealizing natural childbirth to idealizing surgical childbirth, a complete 180-degree turn.” This type of generational redefinition of the ideal birth sparked Wolf’s interest in the project, she says. For Deliver Me from Pain, her research included women’s personal papers, such as diaries and letters; media sources that included magazines and newspapers; medical journal articles; and documentation of medical procedures in physicians’ case books and the records of charity and state hospitals. What Wolf discovered is startling. Historically, she says, obstetricians have not understood which part of labor is the most painful. The first stage of childbirth begins with a latent phase during which the cervix begins to open. The intensity of contractions builds so slowly during this phase that most women are able to weather them. Next comes the active phase of labor, the very end of which is called “transition.” During transition, the cervix rapidly finishes dilating. Contractions during this time intensify and come quickly, and there is little time to rest. After transition is complete, when the cervix is fully open, the woman enters the second stage of labor, when she pushes the baby out. Women who have had unmedicated labors and were interviewed about their pain claim that their discomfort was most intense during transition. “They said if they had chosen to have medication, that is when they would have wanted it,” Wolf explains. But observers usually have a different impression of what women are going through. “Childbirth is a really intense thing to watch,” Wolf says, noting that the second stage, not transition, “looks and sounds like the most painful part of labor.” Many women say that pushing is relatively painless—and, indeed, often deeply physically and emotionally satisfying. But as City University of New York professor and medical sociologist Barbara Katz Rothman says in Wolf’s book, when she was pushing during the birth of her first child she “heard noises coming out of my throat that I couldn’t believe—like the soundtrack of a horror movie.” The mistaken notion that the second stage of childbirth is the most painful and requires medical intervention has deep roots. Obstetrician James Young Simpson, who first demonstrated the use of chloroform as an anesthetic during surgery in 1847, held the common view that the second stage was agonizing. “The extremity of suffering seems to be beyond endurance,” said Simpson, who maintained that birth was a potentially “pathological” event. Consequently, from the introduction of obstetric anesthesia through the 1960s, obstetricians routinely administered anesthesia to the point of unconsciousness during the second stage of labor, often just as a baby was being born. But the most painful part of labor was long over, Wolf says, and they caused women to miss the births of their children.

fig 2.

“The extremity of suffering seems to be beyond endurance.” — JAMES YOUNG SIMPSON, who maintained that birth was a potentially “pathological” event

A woman gives birth while sitting in a chair, while two women, likely friends, and two men, likely physicians, assist her. (From a book on the history of childbirth, ca. 1887.) Photo: perspectives

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M fig 3.

DECOMPRESSION Two women sit in decompression chambers designed by Professor O.J. Heyns. In the late 1960s, some pregnant women participated in a clinical trial that required them to spend about 30 minutes a day in a plastic bubble covered by an air-tight bag. An air pump would suck air out of the enclosure, creating a mild vacuum that allegedly lowered the atmospheric pressure on the abdomen and the unborn child in order to create a shorter, less painful labor. Photo:

fig 4.

OBSTETRICAL ANALGESIA BED This metal bed was fashioned with chain link handles attached to the base of the bed that a patient could use to pull on for leverage during the second stage of labor. It was also outfitted with a toiletry basin so the patient could be refreshed or bathed at intervals. Photo: Courtesy of Jacqueline Wolf

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any people assume that the use and evolution of obstetric anesthesia came about as medicine discovered new ways to save lives and reduce suffering. But Wolf has a different view. “Obstetric practice is governed more by cultural and social change than by medical innovation,” she says. For instance, Wolf says, the 1840s was “the era of the fashionably sick woman.” American culture saw women as naturally weak and lethargic. So when ether was first used in surgery in 1846, obstetricians saw it as a godsend for their “fragile” patients. “(Anesthesia) might not have been connected with childbirth in another era,” Wolf explains. The use of chloroform during childbirth soon followed. Another force that worked to promote obstetric anesthesia was American nativism. In the 1890s, many Americans were worried about the exploding immigrant birthrate and the declining birthrate among white, native-born Americans. Some physicians thought that painful labors were discouraging middle-class women from having children. “Ether and chloroform were theoretically one way to convince (middle-class) women … to have more children,” Wolf says. A new obstetric anesthetic called twilight sleep came into vogue in the 1910s. Twilight sleep was a combination of morphine (an opiate) and scopolamine (an amnesiac) that, Wolf says, “induced forgetfulness.” Unfortunately, scopolamine also intensified pain and caused delirium. “Women had to be put into restraints when they were under its influence” so they did not hurt themselves or others, Wolf says. Women, who could not recall any of their birth experience due to scopolamine, saw twilight sleep as a way to make childbirth painless, and they lobbied for this new medication, Wolf writes, “reveal(ing) the power of consumers to effect change in medical practice.” Many obstetricians did not want to use this particular drug combination, but their patients demanded it. “The initially affronted obstetric community ultimately used the intricate protocol demanded by twilight sleep to elevate the status of obstetricians and obstetrics, a specialty disregarded by colleagues and laity alike,” Wolf writes. As the years passed, obstetricians used more new medications and combinations of drugs and administered them in an increasing variety of ways. “The drug regimens became much more complicated and severe right through the 1960s,” Wolf says. Starting around 1930, both obstetricians and the general public began to worry that the now large array of medications used during childbirth might harm new mothers and their babies. In the mid-1800s, Wolf says, midwives’ and physicians’ obstetric logs reveal that only 4 to 5 percent of births ran into problems requiring medical intervention. One-half of 1 percent of all births ended with a mother’s death. But by the late 1920s, many births took place in hospitals rather than at home, and the maternal death rate began to rise. Anesthetized, unconscious women could not push, and so obstetricians had to use forceps to pull babies from the birth canal. The use of forceps often left women open to postpartum infections, and before the discovery of antibiotics, those infections were often fatal. Because maternity care in that era was not separated from other hospital wards, new mothers were exposed to unusually dangerous pathogens. The use of forceps and of some medications, such as chloroform, also increased the risk of postpartum hemorrhaging, which was particularly problematic in an era before blood banks. But despite the concerns of the public health community about the rising maternal mortality rate in the 1920s, due at least indirectly to anesthesia use, Wolf writes, the use of anesthesia did not ebb. From the 1940s through the 1960s, the baby boom taxed the resources of obstetricians and hospitals alike. Women, busy with small children at home, also felt the strain. “Labor induction, injectable analgesia, and inhalation and regional anesthesia became particularly popular,” Wolf writes, “because these treatments, taken together, seemed to make labor and birth predictable, systematic, and ‘convenient.’” Hospitals became birthing assembly lines. But the anesthesia that many laboring women received was affecting their babies, Wolf says. An anesthesiologist named Virginia Apgar noticed that most babies of anesthetized mothers were having trouble breathing at birth. In 1952, after she proved that the pain-relieving drugs mothers received during labor crossed the placenta, she invented the Apgar score, a way of categorizing the characteristics of a newborn that helps doctors and nurses identify which babies need immediate respiratory assistance.



y the 1960s and 1970s, many women “protested what they termed the ‘dehumanizing’ aspects of the systemization of obstetric practice,” Wolf writes. During that time period, the women’s movement was helping make changes in American society, and many newly empowered women did not appreciate their wishes being ignored or ridiculed by doctors and nurses. Hospitals had banished husbands from the delivery room, Wolf says, and many women were strapped to the delivery table and forced to accept anesthesia. Often women were not allowed to see their babies until hours—sometimes as long as a day—after birth. Wolf came of age during the 1970s, the era when natural childbirth—that is, childbirth without anesthesia—became popular. “Feminists active in women’s health reform argued that natural childbirth was one demonstration of women’s power and strength and creativity,” says Wolf, as well as a way to protect both mothers and babies from the negative effects of anesthesia. During this time, women wary of authoritarian hospital practices occasionally opted to give birth at home. Wolf attended the home births of many of her friends. When she was pregnant with her daughter Cora, it never occurred to her to use anesthesia during childbirth because, she says, “my role models hadn’t used any kind of pain medication.” By attending each other’s births, she says, women learned from each other what to expect during labor, and many women’s fears were assuaged. But even as natural childbirth gained favor, Wolf says, ongoing social change soon diminished its popularity. Women had always been in the workforce, but after the gains of the women’s movement, in the 1970s and 1980s more women than ever began to work outside the home. And increasingly, more of them were mothers of infants. In the 1950s, only 18.6 percent of women with children under age six worked outside the home. In 1976, 31 percent of women with children under age one were in the workforce, and by 1998, 59 percent of women with children less than a year old were working outside the home. “I’m sure [the percentage] is higher now,” Wolf says. While other industrialized countries provide families with paid maternity leave, subsidized daycare, and universal health care, the United States has no social support system in place to help mothers with young children. “As women find themselves increasingly overwhelmed by both full-time motherhood and full-time jobs,” Wolf writes, “they no longer perceive natural childbirth as empowering.” To many women today, natural childbirth seems like just another job they have to perform. “They think, ‘Why would I want to exhaust myself when I’m already exhausted?’” Wolf says, explaining that many women see labor induction and epidural anesthesia as a way to make birth not only painless but “stress-free” and “relaxing.” Wolf’s explanation is echoed in many of today’s popular pregnancy books, including Vicki Iovine’s The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy. “You have a choice: You can lay on a bed of nails to deliver your baby or you can lay on a bed of downy feathers,” Iovine advises. “Keep this in mind: Those of us who took a little nip from the epidural tap are usually the life of the champagne celebration in our rooms after the baby is born, while our American Gothic counterparts are sound asleep with every capillary in their cheeks broken.” But a desire for a less stressful labor is not the only reason women choose obstetric anesthesia. Although maternal death rates have dropped dramatically over the years because of the advent of antibiotics and blood banking—which suggests that women have much less to fear from childbirth—“ironically, one of the reasons epidurals have become so popular is that women are still so fearful of labor,” Wolf says. At Ohio University, Wolf teaches several classes that involve the history of obstetrics, including “Women’s Health and Medicine in U.S. History.” When she discusses labor with her female students, Wolf says, she sees “complete terror in their eyes. I think it comes from the portrayals of birth they see on television.” Nonfictional shows such as “A Baby Story” show laboring women who are seemingly undone by the intensity of their contractions, while fictional medical dramas portray childbirth as a routinely fatal event. On those fictional programs, Wolf says, “either the baby dies or the mother dies or they both die.” In the 1960s and 1970s, when natural childbirth was on the rise, birth was not shown so graphically on television.

fig 5.

C H I L D B I RT H GUIDES Cathleen Schurr’s book in 1952 provided women with assurance that natural childbirth, without obstetric anesthesia, was possible. Image: Courtesy of Jacqueline Wolf

fig 6.

H O M E B I RT H S Assisted by the home-birth movement, the role of nurse-midwives broadened in the 1960s and 1970s. During the 1970s, natural childbirth became especially popular, and women wary of authoritarian hospital practices occasionally opted to give birth at home. Many times, family and friends were invited to attend these births. Photo:


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fig 7.

Hospitals became birthing assembly lines because treatments made labor and birth systematic and ‘convenient.’

A student physician and nurse care for babies in a hospital nursery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1943. 32 | s p r i n g

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n recent decades, Wolf says, the increasing popularity of the epidural has been accompanied by a steadily rising cesarean section rate. In 1970, barely 5 percent of births were C-sections, but by 1980, the cesarean birth rate had reached 17 percent. Today, the rate is 33 percent. “One in three births ends in major abdominal surgery,” says Wolf, who has already begun writing her next book, a history of C-sections in the United States. “Women should be up in arms.” Wolf says that cesarean birth rates have been rising in large part due to the use of the electronic fetal monitor (EFM), which monitors a fetus’s heartbeat during labor. Edward Hon of Yale University, the inventor of the device, intended for it to be used only when an expectant mother had certain health problems. But even though the monitor had a “high false-positive rate for fetal hypoxia,” physicians eager to use any technology that might increase their patients’ safety started regularly using the EFM. Hon, who was not happy with the way his invention was being used, noted at the time, “They’re dropping the knife with each drop in the fetal heart rate.” Today, the device is used during most births, including low-risk ones. When the EFM shows that a fetus’s heart rate is dropping, many obstetricians recommend an immediate C-section. The problem—according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ own data—is that although doctors are not always sure of the meaning of changes in fetal heart rate, they continue “making medical decisions based on the nebulous data,” Wolf writes. In her book, Wolf outlines other factors that may have contributed to the steep increase in the number of cesarean births: Both the general public and the medical community mistakenly correlate C-sections with safety; a decrease in hospital midwives, from whom residents learned about unmedicated labor; an increase in medical malpractice insurance premiums; and obstetricians’ (mostly unfounded) fears of being sued. Also, Wolf writes, at the same time the cesarean rate initially began to rise, neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) were being installed in hospitals, leading the medical community to “mistakenly associate infants’ improved chances for survival (due to NICUs) with the increase in cesareans.” Cesarean sections are just the sort of technological approach to birth that many women railed against during the 1970s, Wolf says, and they hoped that things would be different if more women became obstetricians. “But just the opposite has happened,” she says. Studies show that a significantly larger percentage of female obstetricians than the public at large favor medical intervention for their own births, Wolf explains, and this seems to influence how they help their patients make decisions about childbirth. But cesarean sections carry much higher risks of infection and hemorrhage than do vaginal births, and in the past, an obstetrician’s skill was partly measured by a low C-section rate, Wolf writes. Since its low point in the 1990s, when one in 10,000 women in the United States died in childbirth, the maternal death rate has increased to 1.3 in 10,000, the first rise in more than 70 years, due to the rising rate of C-sections. Cesarean births carry risks for children, as well. Babies born by C-section have higher rates of asthma. And studies have linked cesarean births to higher infant mortality rates. Still, some women do consider cesareans safer than vaginal births—perhaps because they think C-sections are cut-and-dried procedures compared with what they see as the uncertainties of labor and vaginal birth. Although it appears that women today have many choices when it comes to childbirth, Wolf says, the debate over the use of obstetric anesthesia remains as polarized as ever. She likens it to the debate over abortion and the debate over whether women with children should work outside the home or become stay-at-home mothers. “The discussion becomes so extreme,” she says. “People feel like they are being judged.” In recent years, Wolf writes, some in the medical community have put forth the view that cesareans “epitomized safety and predictability,” co-opting the language of the women’s movement to paint C-sections as a “woman’s choice.” The same language has been used to defend everything from epidurals to labor induction. Wolf believes that women should be free to make their own decisions, but they should be cautious when they hear anesthesia, technology, and invasive treatments couched in the language of “choice.” “I argue that the word ‘choice,’ in relation to birth, is now being used to diminish choices,” she says. “Today, women are given far fewer birthing options.”

fig 7.

F O RC E P S Anesthetized, unconscious women could not push, and so obstetricians had to use forceps to pull babies from the birth canal. The use of forceps often left women open to postpartum infections, and before the discovery of antibiotics, those infections were often fatal.

fig 8.

M O D E R N D E L I V E RY In 1970, barely 5 percent of births were C-sections, but by 1980, the cesarean birth rate had reached 17 percent. Today, the rate is 33 percent. “One in three births ends in major abdominal surgery,” says Wolf. Still, some women do consider cesareans safer than vaginal births— perhaps because they think C-sections are cut-and-dried procedures compared with what they see as the uncertainties of labor and vaginal birth. Photo:


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[ extra credit]




lost and found


ith a dwindling population of 250 to 300 residents, the Ohio town of Blackfork looks deserted, showing no signs of industry or growth. Yet there’s a story to be told. While most of the country struggled with race relations long before the Civil War era, Blackfork thrived as a multiracial community. Undergraduate students at Ohio University Southern are studying the unique communities of Blackfork and Poke Patch in southern Ohio to learn more about the history and legacy of these towns. The students use a research approach called “folknography” created by their mentor David Lucas, an associate professor of communication, to collect information, interview community residents, and make cultural observations. Blackfork began as a melting pot of three distinct groups—Caucasians, blacks, and Native Americans—who identified themselves as one community. The abolitionist movement was strong there, and the rural wetlands became a refuge for runaway enslaved peoples. Ironmasters in southern Ohio, many of whom were abolitionists, held much of the available wealth, including access to transportation routes, company towns, and ironworks. According to the testimony of a Poke Patch resident, enslaved people would cross the Ohio River at night and utilize the network of iron furnaces as stations of the Underground Railroad to escape farther north. However, the success of the iron industry and availability of work gave refugees incentive to stay in Blackfork and Poke Patch. “This was the first real taste of freedom where the bounty hunters weren’t able to pursue,”

Ohio University Southern students trekked through brush and woods to locate the Cambria Furnace in Blackfork, Ohio. Photo: Courtesy of Samantha Kinhan 5

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says Chris Hayes, an Ohio University criminal justice and psychology major who is one of several students involved in the Blackfork research project. At its peak, the population of Blackfork and Poke Patch reached 3,000 to 4,000 and continued to thrive up until the late 1950s and early 1960s. During that time, Blackfork’s local brick and iron industry also enforced equal employment opportunities; many years passed before the government recognized the issue with the amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “Employers were taking care of health care; they were paying employees in company money that in some cases was more valuable than ‘real’ money at the time,” says Hayes. However, it wasn’t simply economic success that made Blackfork special—it was the way in which people of different cultures and backgrounds coexisted and cooperated on a daily basis. “A native once said to me, ‘we’re not black, white, etc. …we’re Americans,’” says Hayes. “Race wasn’t even an issue.” Unfortunately, iron was eventually replaced with steel, which led to an economic collapse. Many people moved north to Cincinnati, Columbus, and Chillicothe. The students also have found evidence that the brick production may have played a role in the towns’ demise as well. Some workers who inhaled the silica used in the manufacturing process died—similar to the problem of “black lung” for coal miners, Hayes notes. Those who remain today often have family lineage that dates back to the 1800s and 1900s, but much of the local history, largely passed on through oral tradition, has been lost over the years. The students hope that the end result of their project—a written historical record—will give something back to the community. They hope to publish a book and post stories and images to the Web when the information gathering is complete. They’ve also helped locate and identify historical artifacts as well. Student team leader Craig Patton, a communication studies and history major, describes the students’ uncovering of the Cambria furnace, a landmark that was well-known by name, but more of a myth to residents. “It’s very difficult to locate; if you asked people, they would misidentify it or wouldn’t be able to locate it,” he says. In another interview, the students were able to identify a gift, an old sword passed down through a man’s family, as a historical artifact. The students are aware that they have limited time to gather histories from the Blackfork and Poke Patch residents, some of whom are 90 to 100 years old. And houses are disappearing or being reclaimed by the woods, Hayes says. “People are moving away and once the people are gone, the stories are gone with them,” he says. However, for the time being, the students are enjoying collecting stories and data.

“You visualize people living there and it humbles you,” says Michelle Smith, a senior organizational communication student and team group leader. Along with group discussions and personal interviews, the students have created a Web site,, to document their work and increase interactions with the community. Through the contact page, the group receives leads and information from current residents, as well as people who used to live in Blackfork or have family there. The students continue to regularly visit the sites, attend church, and interview residents, paying for all expenses out of pocket. Students have presented their findings at several venues, most recently claiming top honors at the Ohio University Student Research and Creative Activity Expo last May. To them, Blackfork is not just a historical location, but a model for communal well-being that the United States still struggles with. “We have this tendency to look for differences in people—you’re this color, from this place, and make this amount of money—and this need to find differences has caused us many problems,” says Hayes. “They knew something that we don’t know today, and there is a lot to learn here.” SAMANTHA KINHAN 6Students

interviewed Blackfork and Poke Patch residents as part of “folknographic” research. 6 6Student researcher Michelle Smith explores the crumbling granite blocks of the Cambria Furnace. Photos: Courtesy of Dave Lucas (below) and Samantha Kinhan (bottom)

Photo: Rick Fatica



the final cut


amiliar with iPhoto, iMovie, or Final Cut Pro? They’re all household names for inexpensive digital editing and production software. Could Atrium, senior film production major Wes Cronk’s Honors Tutorial College thesis project, be the next big thing for producers on a budget? “Ten years ago, a computer editing system was an expensive and complicated investment,” says Cronk. “Then companies like Apple came along and released software with similar capabilities for free on any new Mac.” Other companies followed suit, and the abundance of software attracted a flood of inexperienced producers. Cronk’s idea to write his own film production software began in high school when he was putting together one of his first movies. “I sat down and thought, ‘there just has to be an easier way to do this,’” he recalls. Now his high school pet project has evolved into a marketable product that could be the first of its kind within the industry. There are three main steps in film production: pre-production, production, and postproduction. Atrium software currently focuses on pre-production tasks such as budgeting, scheduling, script and re-writes, and other organizational elements. Atrium’s Web-based software is unique; it allows all members of the production team to log into the system, share information, and collaborate. “If, for example, a location manager adds some shooting locations in Atrium, all of that information will be instantly reflected across the board,” says Cronk. Not only will all production crew and cast members be able to track such changes, but Atrium add-ons such as Google Maps integration will provide each user with personalized directions to shoots, as well as the cost of fuel. After his thesis is complete in June, Cronk plans to develop Atrium further to include production and post-production functions as well. One of his long-term goals is to create an iPhone-specific version of Atrium that will allow users to access all of the production information at any time. SAMANTHA KINHAN


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[ t h e f i nal word ]

storied inspiration LY N N H A R T E R O N W H Y S T O R I E S H O L D T H E K E Y T O H E A L I N G


he walls and shelves of Lynn Harter’s office boast drawings from and photos of her 7-year-old daughter. On a recent snow day, her daughter also “decorated” the office couch with a handful of stickers. Harter didn’t mind this impromptu flourish—her daughter’s addition to the décor creates one little story they share, and stories are important, she says. After all, without life stories, what does a person have? For Harter, the university’s first Steven and Barbara Schoonover Professor of Health Communication, narratives are meaningful and necessary parts of a person’s life. She wants to ensure that others remember that, especially those who work in the medical field. With a background in sociology and communication, her interests lie in the role of storytelling in helping people live well. “I envision my scholarship—as a teacher, a researcher, and a citizen—as being about how to help people be resilient in the midst of inescapable illness, suffering, trauma, or disability,” she says. As everyone faces illness to some degree in life, Harter chose to focus her research and teaching on devising and promoting practices that allow people to have a fulfilling life and positive experience during a period of disease. For the past 15 years, she has worked in the field of health communication with a variety of communities. One project included a collaboration with the Passion Works studio to create a process guide that captures how to create a working arts studio in a sheltered workshop that serves a local community of individuals with developmental disabilities. Passion Works Studio: A Guide to Collaborative Art, which was funded by the Ohio Arts Council, is now used by 20 other sheltered workshops across the country. Art provides a storytelling platform for artists with developmental disabilities at Passion Works: They illustrate, paint, and create artwork blossoming from their ideas, life events, and emotions. So how can this practice of self-expression and the importance of stories meld with the traditional medical community? This question stands at the front of Harter’s research and her documentary in progress. Harter and Casey Hayward, assistant professor of media arts and studies, are working on a documentary to help individuals and families faced with pediatric cancer. Harter says their goal is to answer the question “How do you help people live well in the midst of what is often times a terminal diagnosis and—physically—a very excruciating circumstance of one’s life?” The documentary follows Dr. “Pete” Anderson, a pediatric oncologist who practices narrativebased medicine. Dr. Pete is a leading specialist in osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that affects mostly young children and adolescents. At the number-one rated cancer clinic in the United States, M.D. Anderson, he’s created a space to practice medicine differently, relying on the most technologically advanced medicine while focusing on how osteosarcoma is situated in the patient’s and the family’s life. His patients’ stories become a part of their electronic medical records. “Typically records focus on the diagnostic aspects of a patient’s care, but rarely do they include a photograph of a doctor and a patient who go on ski trip together,” Harter says. “That helps that patient realize, even living with an amputated leg, she can still live well, and she can still have a meaningful experience.” Harter and Hayward also incorporate the patients’ stories directly into the documentary, utilizing a newer form of filming called “participatory documentary.” “The key characters help shape the story that’s told,” she says. “It’s stretching us in very interesting ways, but ethically I’m inspired by the knowledge that when you turn over the means of production to people, their creativity can be integrated with yours in exciting ways.” Part of the reason she’s dedicated to this cause as a scholar is because 13 years ago, her

[credits] ISSN 1520-4375 Printed on recycled paper.

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Perspectives: Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity at Ohio University is published twice a year by the Office of Research Communications, part of the Vice President for Research division. The magazine serves its readers by providing information about the research, scholarly, and creative activities of Ohio University faculty, staff, and students, and about the contributions of university research in general through the publication

father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a debilitating form of cancer that affects both the blood and bones. “I had just started my Ph.D. program at the time of his diagnosis. My area of emphasis was health communication,” Harter recalls. “I think that was a huge turning point for me, because what I was living through presented ideas that were also at the heart of who I wanted to become as a scholar.” At the time of her father’s diagnosis he was expected to live for 18 months, but after a stem-cell transplant, radiation treatment, and five years of chemotherapy, he lived to see his daughter get her Ph.D. and the birth of his granddaughter. Thirteen years later, he’s now battling a secondary form of cancer. “This entire experience has motivated me to provide resources for other families who find themselves in similar situations, because my father has taught me how to live well in the midst of multiple myeloma,” Harter says. “He has taught me how to develop meaningful relationships and to do that while managing the corporeal aspects of cancer care. I want to

of accurate and balanced journalistic content that informs, stimulates intellectual discussion, and promotes scholarly inquiry.

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Text, photographs, and artwork may not be reprinted without written permission from the editor. More information about the research program at Ohio University is available from the Vice President for Research, 120 Research and Technology Center,

Comments and queries regarding editorial content should be addressed to Editor, Perspectives, 120 Research and Technology Center, Athens, OH 45701-2979; Phone: (740) 597-2166, E-mail:

[ in the works ] New Projects Under Way UNIVERSITY HOSTS 2009 STUDENT RESEARCH AND CREATIVE ACTIVITY EXPO As a model car that runs on alternative fuel zooms by, a dancer pirouettes through her routine, a student experiments with a virtual reality project, and colorful science posters catch your eye, it’s easy to forget that you’re in the Convocation Center. Each spring, the Convo transforms from an athletic facility to an extensive showcase of research, scholarship, and creative activity by more than 500 Ohio University undergraduate, graduate, medical, and doctoral students. Not your average “science fair,” the Student Research and Creative Activity Expo presents student work on topics that range from costume design and new treatments for diabetes to flying cars and political documentary films. The event allows Ohio University students to present their work to fellow students, faculty, administrators, community members, and middle and high school students. Participants can choose to have their work reviewed by a panel of judges, who award up to $300 in prize money to the top projects in dozens of categories organized by discipline or related subjects. The annual Student Research and Creative Activity Expo will be held on Thursday, May 14. For more information, visit The event is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate College, Office of the President, and Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

help other people figure out how to do that.” Harter approaches her career as an interrelated construct of teaching, research, and citizenry. She teaches her doctoral students her professional beliefs through service learning in the community and engages them in participant observation at Passion Works. Students also can help with the documentary or get involved with one of her other projects, the Osteopathic Mobile Health Clinic. Harter also is an editor for Health Communication, a national academic journal and a premier outlet in her discipline focused on health communication issues. “Ultimately my goal as a teacher, a researcher, a writer, and an editor is to have people stand in the intersection between the cherished stories of a discipline—the theories of a discipline—and the stories of people’s lives,” she says. “It’s at that intersection where theory can be meaningful, and it can be answerable to life.” JESSICA PATTERSON 5Health

communication expert Lynn Harter.

EDITOR Andrea Gibson SENIOR DESIGNER AND ILLUSTRATOR Christina Ullman, Ullman Design ASSISTANT DESIGNER Alix Northrup, Ullman Design INTERNS Deanna Kerslake, Samantha Strahota, Jessica Patterson, Samantha Kinhan, Kelly Kettering

Photo: Maisie Crow

ADVISORY COMMITTEE Gerardine Botte Associate Professor Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Terry Eiler Professor and Director School of Visual Communication


More than 500 students will show their work—from the sciences to the arts.

Photo: Rick Fatica

Karla Hackenmiller Associate Professor Printmaking

2008 CASE, Silver, Visual Design in Print; CASE (District V), Silver, Best Specialized or Unit-Level Magazine; Print magazine 2008 Regional Design Annual, Editorial Design

Gold Medal for Organizational Magazine or Newsletter; CASE, Silver, Research Magazines; AWC Clarion Award, Feature Articles; CASE, Bronze, Best Articles of the Year

Lynne Lancaster Associate Professor Classics and World Religions

2007 CASE (District V) Gold, Research Magazines; CASE, Silver, Research Magazines; CASE, Silver, Visual Design in Print

2002 CASE, Bronze, Periodical Staff Writing; AWC Clarion Award, Feature Articles

2006 CASE (District V) Silver, Research Magazines

1999 CASE, Silver, Best Articles of the Year

Patrick O’Connor Assistant Professor Anatomical Sciences

2003 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards; League of American Communications Professionals

1998 CASE, Silver, Periodical Staff Writing; CASE, Bronze, Special Constituency Magazines

2001 CASE Gold, Research Magazines


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Athens, OH Permit No. 100 Perspectives Magazine Research and Technology Center 120 Athens OH 45701-2979

[ l a s t glance ] CLOSEUP ON RESEARCH

ANCIENT FORECAST A stalagmite in a West Virginia cave has yielded the most detailed geological record to date on climate cycles in eastern North America over the past 7,000 years. The new study confirms that during periods when Earth received less solar radiation, the Atlantic Ocean cooled, icebergs increases and precipitation dropped, creating a series of century-long droughts. A research team led by Gregory Springer examined the trace metal strontium and carbon and oxygen isotopes in the stalagmite, which preserved climate conditions averaged over periods as brief as a few years. The scientists found evidence of at least seven major drought periods during the Holocene era. “This really nails down the idea of solar influence on continental drought,� says Springer, an Ohio University assistant professor of geological sciences. The stalagmites from the Buckeye Creek Cave provide an excellent record of climate cycles, he says, because West Virginia is affected by the jet streams and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. Photo: Courtesy of Gregory Springer


Spring/Summer 2009 issue Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity at Ohio University

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