Crater Lake closure follows Sea Grant invasives workshop

Diver in Crater Lake (US Parks Service photo)This week’s closure of Crater Lake to divers follows National Parks Service participation in a recent Sea Grant-sponsored workshop on the legal and regulatory challenges to keeping two significant invasive species out of waterways in western states.

The NPS announced the immediate, temporary closure on Wednesday, saying it needed time to establish protocols to minimize the risk of contaminating the pristine lake with invasive species. The service anticipates that the protocols will be in place before the beginning of the 2013 season, and will require divers to take precautionary measures before entering the lake.

The 1,943-foot-deep Crater Lake, the centerpiece of a 249-square-mile national park in the southern Oregon Cascades, is  considered the deepest lake in the United States, and the ninth deepest lake in the world. Its relative isolation, along with rigorous management of the surrounding Crater Lake National Park watershed, has helped make it one of the cleanest, as well.

Of immediate concern to the park – and to representatives of state and federal agencies and Western states’ attorneys general who attended last week’s workshop in Phoenix, AZ – are highly invasive zebra and quagga mussels, already a plague in many US waters and just beginning to show up in the West.

The fast growing mussels can rapidly colonize on boats and other recreational water gear, and  can be easily spread from one waterway to another. Once established, they can foul docks, piers, water intakes and power systems, and – of more direct concern in Crater Lake – alter entire ecosystems by outfeeding and outbreeding native species.

While the mature mussels are easy to see and – with some effort – remove, their  larvae start life at a microscopic size, making them difficult to detect and destroy.

The  Phoenix meeting, convened by Oregon Sea Grant, the National Sea Grant Law Center and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, engaged state, federal and local agencies – including representatives of the attorneys general of all 15 Western states –  in a discussion of legal and regulatory frameworks that might help keep the invaders out of Western waters where they have yet to appear – or have just begun to show up. In addition, participants talked about how they might educate the recreational public about the problem, and protocols for decontaminating gear when it’s hauled out of one body of water and transported to another.

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OSG seeks part-time videographer

CORVALLIS – Oregon Sea Grant is seeking a versatile videographer with TV production-level experience – from scripting to shooting to post-production –  to fill a part-time opening on our small professional communications team.

Oregon Sea Grant produces a variety of video products, from short online features and mobile apps to DVD collections, on a wide range of ocean and coastal science and natural history topics. Our ideal videographer is an independent self-starter with an interest in Sea Grant’s marine science, education and public engagement mission, and the ability to manage multiple projects from start through completion.

While based on the OSU campus in Corvallis, the successful candidate will travel often to the Oregon coast to shoot and conduct interviews in sometimes challenging settings.

Candidates should be adept with Macintosh computers, and with digital and electronic video editing equipment, including internal and external computer drives, recording devices, NTSC and computer monitors. Professional experience with Apple Final Cut Pro/ Avid Media Composer, Adobe Photoshop, and with DVD authoring software is required.

The deadline for applications is Sept. 11, 2012. For more information, and to apply, visit the OSU Jobs site.

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Lincoln teachers gather for ocean literacy symposium

Newport's bayfront is among the living classrooms for this week's ocean literarcy symposiumNEWPORT – At least 350 school teachers, administrator, scientists and guests will gather in Newport Wednesday for the second annual Lincoln County K-12 Ocean Literacy Symposium, “Understanding the Ocean’s Influence on You and Your Influence On the Ocean.”

The Aug. 29 symposium, part of the Lincoln County School District’s annual Improvement Days for school teachers and administrators, is sponsored by Oregon Sea Grant, OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Lincoln County School District.  Originally aimed at Lincoln SD teachers, the symposium has been expanded this year to teachers from Tillamook County and the Linn-Benton-Lincoln Education Service District.

After convening at Newport High School in the morning, participants will fan out to the HMSC, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Newport bayfront, Yaquina River estuary and other locations for hands-on breakout sessions exploring a variety of marine science topics, curricula and teaching tools. Topics range from ocean conservation to coastal tsunami hazards, spanning disciplines such as biology, oceanography and marine engineering, and include ocean-related activities and lessons for all grade levels and academic specialties, from science to music and physical education.

The goal is to build understanding among coastal students of the essential principles of ocean literacy:

  • The Earth has one big ocean with many features
  • The ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of the Earth
  • The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate
  • The ocean makes Earth habitable
  • The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems
  • The ocean and humans are inextricably connected
  • The ocean is largely unexplored

The symposium grew out of a three year,  $900,000 per year Math-Science Partnership grant from the US Department of Education, administered via the state of Oregon Department of Education. The project teamed the Lincoln County School District with scientists, informal science educators and science education faculty at several academic, non-profit and government science institutions to develop, implement, and evaluate teacher professional development and student learning experiences that focus on ocean literacy and aquatic and marine science.

Study guide available for Ocean Frontiers film

A new university-level discussion guide, developed by the National Sea Grant Law Center, is now available for the  documentary film, Ocean Frontiers: The Dawn of a New Era in Ocean Stewardship.

The film features a profile of Port Orford, Oregon, where commercial fishermen and other community members are teaming with scientists to understand and protect the region’s marine fisheries.

The Sea Grant Law Center describes Ocean Frontiers as “an ideal communication tool to help audiences understand key principles of ecosystem-based management and coastal and marine spatial planning. These complex topics come to life and are easy to grasp through the stories and people featured in Ocean Frontiers.”

This discussion guide was produced for Green Fire Productions by the National Sea Grant Law Center with the assistance of the Ocean and Coastal Law Committee of Vermont Law School’s Environmental Law Society to help professors incorpo­rate Ocean Frontiers into the classroom. The guide is available for download here:

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Wave energy test platform deployed off Oregon coast

Ocean Sentinel DeploymentOne of the first public wave energy testing systems in the United States began operation this week off the Oregon coast near Newport, and will allow private industry or academic researchers to test new technology that may help advance this promising form of sustainable energy.

Ocean Sentinel is a $1.5 million device developed by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, or NNMREC, at Oregon State University. The device was towed to the Center’s designated testing site 2 miles offshore from Yaquina Head on Sunday by OSU’s R/V Pacific Storm, and attached to a battery of mooring anchors that will keep it in place.

It’s a major step forward for the future of wave energy, and should do its first testing within days, when the “WetNZ” device developed by private industry joins it at the testing site.

The creation of this mobile wave energy test facility has been needed for years, experts say, and it will be used by many companies and academic researchers in the quest to develop wave energy technology, measure and understand the wave resource, and study the energy output and other important issues.

“The Ocean Sentinel will provide a standardized, accurate system to compare various wave energy technologies, including systems that may be better for one type of wave situation or another,” said Sean Moran, ocean test facilities manager with NNMREC.

“We have to find out more about which technologies work best, in what conditions, and what environmental impacts there may be,” Moran said. “We’re not assuming anything. We’re first trying to answer the question, ‘Is this a good idea or not?’ And if some technology doesn’t work as well, we want to find that out quickly, and cheaply, and the Ocean Sentinel will help us do that.”

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Western states meet to tackle invasive mussels

Invasive quagga musselsPHOENIX, AZ – State legal and law enforcement officials and environmental scientists from the 15 Western states will meet in Phoenix next week to explore legal and regulatory ways of limiting an invasion of non-native mussels that can clog water systems, foul power plants, harm the environment and cost billions of dollars in damage and control wherever they spread.

Their focus: On forging a uniform approach to education, inspection and regulation to encourage recreational boat inspections in the West to prevent the spread of invasive zebra and quagga mussels.

The Aug. 22-23 meeting, convened by Oregon Sea Grant, the National Sea Grant Law Center (both programs of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and hosted by the Arizona Dept. of Fish and Game, is expected to draw representatives from the attorneys general of all 15 Western states, along with state and federal fish and wildlife officials and biologists who specialize in marine invasive species.

Zebra mussels, native to southern Russia but accidentally introduced to many other areas around the world, were first detected in Lake St. Clair, near Detroit, in the late 1980s, likely imported in the ballast-water of ocean-going ships. By clinging to the undersides of docks, boats and anchors, they rapidly spread through the Great Lakes region, the East Coast and the Southeast. Although small, the mussels grow rapidly, and can quickly colonize almost anything underwater – from boat hulls and anchors to municipal and industrial water intakes, hydroelectric systems and other facilities. The cost of managing these pests in the Great Lakes alone has been estimated at more than $500 million a year.

The related quagga mussel, another prolific breeder whose filter-feeding habits has been shown to change entire ecosystems, has followed a similar invasive path since showing up in Lake Erie in 1989, and is now found from the Great Lakes to the Northeast.

Within the last few years, isolated infestations of both species, which can survive for days to weeks out of water  have begun to show up in Western recreational and irrigation waters in California and Arizona, moist likely transported on recreational boats and trailers. Efforts to control the spread by educating boaters have met with mixed success, and state-by-state differences in legal and regulatory frameworks hinder the states’ ability to require and conduct inspections.

The Phoenix meeting will look at the impacts of invasive mussels on local economies and infrastructure, the challenges to effective control, and a 100-plus-year-old federal law – the Lacey Act – which could give states a tool for approaching the problem.

Sessions include discussions of state authority to stop boats for inspection, quarantine and decontamination, what programs and laws have been successful in Western states, public attitudes about invasive species education and enforcement, and how cash-strapped states can fund such programs.

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Register now for Master Naturalist program

Registration is open now for the Oregon Master Naturalist online education and training program, training Oregonians in the state’s natural and cultural history, geology and ecology, and in the skills needed to help interpret those things for the public.

The roughly 40-hour course, offered only online, is a new offering from Oregon State University Extension, tying together elements of older Extension “master” programs, including the former Sea Grant Extension Master Watershed Steward program. It’s intended to train and certify people as knowledgeable volunteers for natural resources programs, agencies, organizations and other groups in their communities.

Participants can become a certified Oregon Master Naturalist after completing approximately 40 hours of instructor-led online instruction and a minimum of one Ecoregion Specialization – in–person courses, currently under development, that will be offered at various locations throughout the state. Once certified,  Oregon Master Naturalists fulfill volunteer and continuing education responsibilities each year to maintain certification.

For complete information about registration and fees, visit Oregon Master Naturalist Online.



Forums to discuss wave energy sites

OSU Ocean Sentinel testing berth with WetNZ wave energy buoy in background

OSU Ocean Sentinel (right) and WetNZ buoy (background) sit in Port of Toledo Boatyard awaiting deployment at sea. (Photo by Pat Kight, Oregon Sea Grant)

Possible locations for a new “grid-connected” wave energy testing facility off the Oregon coast will be the topic of discussion at community forums next week in Newport, Reedsport and Coos Bay.

Dubbed the Pacific Energy Center, the facility would connect offshore energy-generating devices to the electric grid in what’s expected to be the final step of testing whether it’s feasible and cost-effective to generate power from ocean waves.

The free public forums, sponsored by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) at Oregon State University, will take place from 5:30-7:30 pm at

  • The Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport (Aug. 20)
  • Pacific Auditorium in Reedsport (Aug. 22)
  • Coos Bay Public Library, Coos Bay (Aug. 23).

Funded in part by the US Department of Energy, NNMREC is taking the lead in testing the scientific, technical and practical aspects of generating electricity via the movement of the ocean’s waves. A partner program at Washington State University is doing the same with tidal energy devices.

Within a week, the OSU-developed Ocean Sentinel testing platform is expected to be deployed to a designated testing zone two miles off Yaquina Head, on the central Oregon coast – and with it, its first test subject, a wave-energy generation buoy dubbed “WetNZ.”

The Ocean Sentinel is equipped to test multiple generating devices at once and transmit the data back to NNMREC labs for analysis. It is not, however, set up to feed generated energy into the power grid. For that, underwater cable is required.

That would be the job of Pacific Marine Energy Center, still several years in the future and awaiting final approval of a $4 million DoE grant for detailed study and design work. Meanwhile,  the process of finding a suitable site is under way. Locales under consideration are off Newport, Reedsport, Coos Bay, and Camp Rilea near Warrenton, all of which have characteristics that could make them suitable for the project.

“We’ve already been talking with community leaders and other officials for some time about this project, and now we want to broaden the discussion, hear more viewpoints,” said Kaety Hildenbrand, Oregon Sea Grant’s marine fisheries Extension specialist and one of the organizers of the community meetings.

“The purpose of these forums is to help people understand what we’re trying to do, and listen to their interests, questions and concerns,” said Hildenbrand, who has worked with coastal communities on energy siting issues for several years. Much of her work focuses on the effects such large-scale uses of ocean space can have on local communities, economies and people, many of whom earn a living through fishing and other more conventional uses. “One part of our goal is simple. We want to find a good fit, a situation where most residents want this facility and feel positive about it.”

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Teachers and classrooms may spread invasive species

4th-graders show off a rusty crayfish that came in a science curriculum kit. The species is invasive in Oregon, and thanks to Sea Grant's work with companies that supply the kids, is no longer being provided.

One in four teachers who use live animals for classroom science projects report that they’ve released the animals into the wild when the projects are done, according to a new Sea Grant study – and the practice may be helping to spread some nasty invasive species.

The study, led by Oregon Sea Grant Extension’s invasive species expert Sam Chan, was presented at this week’s national meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Portland.

“Live organisms are a critical element for learning and we don’t want to imply that they should not be used in the classroom,” said Chan. “But some of our schools – and the biological supply houses that provide their organisms – are creating a potential new pathway for non-native species to become invasive.

“We need to work through the whole chain and educate both the teachers and suppliers about the potential damages – both environmental and economic – that invasive species may trigger,” added Chan,  former chair of the Oregon Invasive Species Council.

The study surveyed nearly 2,000 teachers in Florida, New York, Indiana, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, California, Connecticut, British Columbia and Ontario. Conducted primarily by researchers from Sea Grant programs in those states, it also included focus groups and interviews with teachers, curriculum specialists and biological supply house owners and managers.

The researchers found teachers using as many as 1,000 different organisms in the classroom, including many frequently listed species identified as known or potential aquatic invaders,  including elodea, crayfishes, amphibians, mosquito fish, red-eared slider turtles and other aquatic plants and snails.

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(Photo credit: Jennifer England, Franklin Elementary School, Corvallis)