CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University Press is launching a series focused on nature and the environment, a project supported by a donation from ConocoPhillips, facilitated by former OSU President John Byrne and his wife, Shirley.

The first book in the series, "One City Wilderness: Portland's Forest Park," is by OSU alum Marcy Houle, and offers a comprehensive guide to the city's renowned urban forest. The book, a completely revised edition, will be published this fall, funded by a combination of money from ConocoPhillips and other matching donations.

"Among Penguins: Eccentricity, Hardship and the Wonder of Life at the End of the Earth," by recent OSU alum and internationally known birder Noah Strycker, is another upcoming book in the series. OSU Press acquisitions editor Mary Elizabeth Braun said given the high number of Oregon State University researchers who work in the Antarctic, the book is a natural complement to the press list.

"We want to focus and build upon the list we already have," Braun said. The series will include everything from guidebooks and scientific references to first-person non-fiction works.

"It will be a combination of more science-oriented books with literary pieces, but the emphasis will be more on science and natural history," Braun said.

Funding for the series will come from an endowment created by a $100,000 gift to the OSU Valley Library. The gift is not from the Byrnes directly but is tied to John Byrne's service as a board member of Burlington Resources years ago. When Byrne served on the board in the 1980s and '90s, the CEO at the time created a unique program by which retired board members could direct, upon their death, a $1 million contribution to a college or university of their choice. After the company became part of ConocoPhillips, retired board members were given the option of directing a lesser amount to an institute of higher education while they were still living. The Byrnes selected this option, and chose to direct the funds to OSU. A part of that money was directed to the OSU Library Support Fund.

The Byrnes are long-time supporters of the university's Valley Library, where the OSU Press is housed, as well as passionate birders. Byrne was president of OSU from 1984 to 1995, and also was the first dean of the School of Oceanography, now the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. The OSU Press hopes other donors will contribute to the endowment to continue the series. The endowment is the first of its kind for the OSU Press.

A dedicated endowment allows the OSU Press to publish books that might otherwise be considered too expensive for the press to produce. Braun said books such as David Nunnallee and David James' work, "A Life History of Cascadia Butterflies," can now be printed in a more generous format, allowing for larger reproductions of butterfly photographs.

"It allows us to take on projects we may not have been able to afford before," Braun said.

"Natural history titles have always been OSU Press's bread and butter," said Tom Booth, associate director of the press. "Books on our region's birds, plants, wildlife, and wild places tend to sell very well and over a long period of time. They also take a long time to write - they're often the result of years of fieldwork and research.
"If not for the OSU Press, many of these books would never be published," Booth added. "By supporting the press in its efforts to get noteworthy books into the hands of readers, the Byrne endowment promotes a better understanding of the natural world around us. It's a tremendous gift."

Some of the books in the series, including a field guide to Oregon dragonflies and damselflies, will be helpful to nature lovers exploring the state's many wonders, while a proposed guide to Oregon rivers will have broad appeal. Most of the new titles will be coming out in 2011 and after.

The OSU Press has a long tradition of publishing significant books in the natural sciences, books such as Birds of Oregon, the definitive source for Oregon ornithology, as well as authoritative guides to the region's plants and wildlife.

To learn more about the latest books offered by the OSU Press, see

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Tom Booth, 503-796-0547