Free-choice lab launches blog

Welcome Oregon Sea Grant’s Free-Choice Learning Lab to the blogosphere!

The lab, based at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, employs cutting-edge research tools and technologies to study informal science learning. The knowledge will be put in practice in the form of  new and improved exhibits in the HMSC Visitor Center, which is managed by Sea Grant.

The blog,  launched last week, will to record the work of graduate research assistant Harrison Baker and other graduate students as they design, build, test and refine the new exhibits.

Under the direction of Dr. Shawn Rowe, Sea Grant’s Free-Choice Learning program specializes in conducting and applying  research on the  learning that happens when people choose to visit science museums, zoos, and aquariums in their leisure time, making specific and conscious choices about what they learn. The program was recently awarded a $2.6 million, five-year, National Science Foundation (NSF) grant – the largest ever received by Sea Grant –  toward the creation of  the new lab, which will employ the Visitor Center’s exhibits as tools for studying how people learn in a free-choice environment.

Debris from Japanese tsunami slowly making its way toward West Coast

Debris from Japanese tsunami floats in Pacific in mid MarchA massive trail of debris from the devastating tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 is slowly making its way across the Pacific Ocean en route to the West Coast of the United States, where scientists are predicting it will arrive in the next two to three years – right on schedule.

The mass of debris, weighing millions of tons and forming a trail a thousand miles long, will likely strike Oregon and Washington, according to models based on winds and currents.

But new accounts of where the trail has progressed suggest that at least some of that debris may peel off and enter the infamous “Garbage Patch,” a huge gyre in the Pacific where plastic and other debris has accumulated over the years, according to Jack Barth, an Oregon State University oceanographer and an expert on Pacific Ocean currents and winds.

“Recent reports of debris are from farther south than the axis of the main ocean currents sweeping across the north Pacific toward Oregon,” said Barth, a professor in OSU’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. “This means a fair amount of debris may enter the patch. We should still see some of the effects in Oregon and Washington, but between some of the materials sinking, and others joining the garbage patch, it might not be as bad as was originally thought.”

Read more from OSU News & Research Communications

(Photo courtesy of  US Pacific Fleet gallery on Flickr)

Sea level rise, increasing storms and the Pacific coast

Storm waves hitting central Oregon coastNEWPORT – Oregon State University geoscientist Peter Ruggiero will speak at the Hatfield Marine Science Center tonight (Oct. 25) on “The Role of Sea Level Rise and Increasing Storminess in PNW Coastal Change and Flood Hazards.”

The talk starts at 7 pm in the Hennings Auditorium at the HMSC Visitor Center.

Ruggiero is part of a team of scientists from OSU and the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries who have been studying increased storm activity and resulting wave height off the Oregon coast, and its effects on erosion, flooding and other hazards.

This past January, the team published an assessment suggesting that maximum heights could be as much as 40 percent higher than previous record levels, especially in the stormy winter months of December and January.  The report said that the cause of these dramatically higher waves is not completely certain, but “likely due to Earth’s changing climate.”

Combined with the effects of sea level rise, higher maximum waves could have implications for erosion, flood control, property damage and development regulations up and down the Pacific Northwest coast.

Ruggiero’s team has received support for its work from Oregon Sea Grant (2008-2010) and from the NOAA Climate Program.

Crayfish – native or invaders?

American Signal CrayfishInvasive crayfish are spreading in Oregon, and Sea Grant’s Sam Chan has put together a handy photographic guide to distinguishing three common invasive varieties from American signal crayfish, which is native to the state.

A recent KTVZ report on the invaders prompted several commenters to ask for photos to distinguish them from the native species, so Chan, Sea Grant’s aquatic invasive species specialist and chair of the Oregon Invasive Species Council, is offering the guide as, developed this past summer by his student interns, as a printable .pdf.

Download the .pdf here.


Cooperative marine resource institute to remain at OSU

Oregon State University will continue to host and lead a federal federal/academic research partnership to study marine resources in the Pacific Northwest, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced yesterday.

The award means that NOAA will continue funding the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resource Studies (CIMRS), which was established at Oregon State in 1982, for at least five and up to 10 more years.

Following a competitive application process, NOAA chose Oregon State to continue to administer the CIMRS partnership,  which focuses on marine resources such as hydrothermal vents, seafloor volcanoes, marine mammals, and marine ecosystems. Research will also seek to improving protection and restoration of these marine resources.

Based – along with three NOAA labs – at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, CIMRS is one of 18 NOAA cooperative institutes nationwide. The agency funds cooperative institutes at universities with strong research programs relevant to its mission.

Read more:

Largest ocean science project in history to launch off Oregon coast

Benthic testNEWPORT – News these days from the Oregon State University seems to have taken its cue from Jules Verne. There’s talk of underwater gliders, ocean observatory platforms and coastal profilers. This, however, is no sci-fi plotline, but the Ocean Observatories Initiative, the largest ocean science project ever funded by the U.S. government – and a big chunk of it is happening right here off our coast.

Scientists from the country’s leading oceanography institutions are at work on a five-year construction project that, when finished, will give instant access to anyone able to click a mouse to information from the surface waters to the very depths of the sea.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Bob Collier, OSU’s program manager. “It’s not going to replace the old way of going out to sea and making measurements, but it is going to add to them so we can better understand the ocean. It’s not only happening here. There are installations going on around the U.S. and around the globe. We’ve gotten to the point across the nation where we need to have eyes on the ocean 24/7 in order to answer some of the most important questions.”

Read more:

John Byrne to headline Heceta conference

Dr. John Byrne at recent NOAA dedication in NewportDr. John Byrne, president emeritus of Oregon State University and former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will tie together themes that emerge at the seventh annual Heceta Head Coastal Conference in a presentation called “Discovery, Learning and Engagement for Tomorrow’s World.”

Dr. Byrne is a late addition to this year’s conference, which takes place Oct. 28-29 at the Florence Events Center in Florence, and will speak at 3:15 on Saturday. He will link together the themes raised by other presenters, and explore the kind of research needed in a future with a changing climate and more than seven billion people, with an emphasis on engaging society to apply the knowledge gained through research.

For more information, and to register for the conference, visit

Marine educator blogs from shipboard

Bill Hanshumaker, Sea Grant’s marine educator at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, is blogging from sea off the Pacific coast this week as he travels with scientists seeking to learn more about seafloor geology and earthquakes.

The team is traveling aboard OSU’s R/V Wecoma with a crew from the Cascadia Initiative, an onshore/offshore seismic and geodetic experiment that studies questions ranging from megathrust earthquakes to volcanic arc structure to the formation, deformation and hydration of the Juan De Fuca and Gorda plates.

The team takes advantage of an Amphibious Array of 60 ocean-bottom sensors installed with funding from the 2009 US Recovery Act to improve undersea earthquake monitoring and advance our understanding of geologic processes in the seismically active region off the coasts of Oregon, Washington and Northern California. The system also includes onshore GPS stations and earthquake monitoring instruments. Participating institutions include Columbia University, IRIS, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and UNAVCO, a nonprofit consortium of universities supporting geoscience research and education.

This is the third major research cruise over the past decade for Dr. Hanshumaker, who has been educating the public about science for 16 years at the HMSC Visitor Center, and before that, at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.  In 2005 and 2006, he joined  the Sounds From the Southern Ocean cruises with a team led by NOAA/OSU researcher Bob Dziak, who is also one of the principle investigators on the current project.

As he’s done on previous research voyages, Bill is blogging about the voyage, the research and the research team, this time from

Shipboard blogging can be a challenge, thanks to a hectic research schedule and unpredictable Internet access, but Bill is posting as time and conditions permit, and also plans to share the experience with Visitor Center audiences on his return to Newport.

Register for the Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning Science Workshop

Registration is now open for the OSU Marine Council and Oregon Sea Grant sponsored Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning Science Workshop. The workshop will be held November 29-30 at the OSU Alumni Center, and is open to all Oregon academic faculty. You can find out more information, register for the workshop, and register to give a brief presentation about your research at the following website:

YouTube: Putting on a Survival Suit

Clip from survival suit video Immersion suits, also called survival suits, have helped saved hundreds of lives, largely because they provide protection from hypothermia. However, the protection of a survival suit is only good if it’s on; and during at-sea emergencies, there may be only seconds to put the bulky items  on. This video shows the proper techniques for donning immersion suits and entering the water.

This video is one of a growing number of short explanatory or information videos on the Oregon Sea Grant YouTube Channel.