El Niño winter could bring higher temperatures, less snow to PNW

El NinoA developing El Niño pattern is likely to bring higher temperatures – and less snow – to Oregon and the Pacific Northwest this winter, according to scientists at the OSU-based Oregon Climate Service.

Kathie Dello, the OCC’s deputy director said this year’s El Niño will likely be “moderate.”

“Where we really see the signal is in the temperature,” Dello said. “So, that’s bad for skiers because the temperature needs to be cool enough for the precipitation to fall as snow.”

The past two winters were categorized as La Niñas (lower temperatures, more precipitation) in the Northwest, and the Cascades received a significant amount of snow, setting winter snowfall records at popular mountain ski slopes. Mount  Bachelor was hit with so much snow at one pointthis past January that the ski area had to shut down for a day.

Dello said it 2012 saw one of the driest Decembers on record for the Northwest. “December was rough last year because everyone expected all this snow – skiers love La Niña,” Dello said. “It was happening, it just wasn’t happening the way we like it in the Northwest.”

The El Niño predicted for this year is expected to be in effect for the next three months, said Dello, citing forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. That means the weather could change later in the winter.

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Registration now open for the 2012 Heceta Head Coastal Conference

2012 Heceta Head Coastal Conference

October 26 & 27 — Florence Events Center, Florence Oregon

Registration Now Open: http://www.hecetaheadconference.org/

Oregon’s Ocean: Bringing the High Seas Home

The Pacific Ocean is a dynamic place full of activity and motion.  But what does that mean for Oregonians? This year’s conference will look closely at connections between Oregon’s Ocean and the rest of the globe. We’ll examine the important science, economics, and policies affecting things that float, swim, drift, stowaway, steam, and bob across the Pacific to Oregon’s shores, and vice versa!

Speakers include the First Lady of Oregon, Cylvia Hayes, Representative Arnie Roblan, and researchers and natural resource managers from around the state.

Click on the above link to view the preliminary program agenda and to register.



Fish protein coating could be key to lower-fat fried foods

ASTORIA -Researchers at OSU’s Seafood Research and Education Center have come up with a fish protein coating they say significantly reduces the fat content of fried shrimp and other fried seafood dishes.

The protein solution is based on surimi, the minced and washed fish that’s transformed into a paste that can be formed into a variety of products, including popular imitation “crab.” The Astoria-based seafood center pioneered the science of producing tasty, protein-rich surimi, and is known world-wide for its annual Surimi School for seafood processors.

In Asia, surimi forms the basis of popular fried dishes – dishes which have an unusually low fat content (approximately 2 percent. That piqued the interest of Dr. Jae Park, head of OSU’s surimi research and education efforts.  With a grant from the Seafood Industry Research Fund (SIRF), Park’s team has been working on a project that turns some of that protein into a solution which can be used to coat other seafood products – and which appears to keep fried fish from absorbing so much fat.

“After doing some initial tests with typical fried US products like chicken nuggets and French fries, we saw that the fried surimi product was consistently low in fat,” said Dr. Jae Park, professor at OSU’s Department of Food Science and Technology and OSU Seafood Research and Education Center (Astoria, OR). “We thought if it’s the fish protein that is minimizing the fat uptake, how can we use that on other fried seafood to get the same results?”

After two years of research, Park and his team have developed a fat blocker solution from surimi protein that has successfully reduced the fat content of fried shrimp.

“Typically when you fry chicken nuggets or fish, you get a fat content of about 16 percent and 10 percent respectively,” explained researcher Angee Hunt. “When we fried the breaded shrimp by coating it with our fat blocker solution, the treated shrimp had 15 to 20 percent less fat compared to untreated shrimp.”

The scientists believe that the fish protein creates a protective layer around the food to reduce the fat uptake and retain the moisture, without altering the taste or texture of the product.

Oregon Sea Grant was an early supporter of surimi research by Park and other scientists at the Astoria lab.

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Newport, Reedsport chosen as finalists for wave-energy test facility

New wave energy test platform and WetNZ testing deviceCORVALLIS, Ore. – The communities of Newport and Reedsport, Ore., have been chosen as the two finalists for the possible location of the Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC), a planned $25 million, “grid-connected” wave energy testing facility in the Pacific Northwest.

Officials at the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, or NNMREC, at Oregon State University said these locations offer the best advantages in cost, distance to shore and other factors.

Committees will now be formed in Newport and Reedsport to conduct more detailed local site analysis before a final decision is made.

After funding is complete and the site is established, PMEC, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and other organizations, will feature four test berths connected to a regional electrical grid, able to test individual, utility-scale or small arrays of wave energy devices. Completion of this facility is not expected for several years after funding is finalized. But when done, officials said it will provide jobs and economic growth while attracting researchers from all over the world who will use it to test their wave energy technologies.

“We’ve carefully weighed a number of factors and decided that Newport and Reedsport have the most advantages for this project,” said Belinda Batten, a professor at OSU and director of NNMREC.

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Admin update: Feedburner still working, for now

It appears that the Feedburner blog subscription service is still working, although some of its features have been down for a week. If you are still receiving these updates, there is no immediate need to change your subscription to Breaking Waves. We are pursing other options in the event the service does disappear.

Admin note: RSS feed moving from FeedBurner

Google is discontinuing its Feedburner service, which we’ve used for several years to distribute the RSS feed to subscribers of our blog(s).

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Our apologies; we chose Feedburner because it greatly simplified things for subscribers. We regret that Google has chosen to discontinue the product.

Fragment of Japanese dock to anchor tsunami interpretive trail at HMSC

NEWPORT, Ore. – A section from a huge dock that ripped loose from its moorings in the northern Japanese city of Misawa during the massive earthquake and tsunami in March of 2011 will become part of an exhibit at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, just a few miles from where it washed ashore in early June of this year.

The dock, which became an instant tourist attraction for several weeks, has since been dismantled. But a piece of the huge structure has been saved and will be on display at the HMSC by early next year.

The City of Newport is providing initial funding for the project and Mayor Mark McConnell hopes donations will fill the gaps. When finished, the dock section will be mounted outside of the HMSC Visitor Center, accompanied by educational signage as well as a memorial plaque. The exhibit is being developed by Oregon Sea Grant, which manages the Visitor Center, and will serve as the start of an eventual interpretive trail built along the tsunami evacuation route from the OSU center to higher ground.

“That would certainly be fitting,” said McConnell, who visited Sendai, Japan, last summer. “The devastation we saw in Japan was incredible. You realize when you see it first-hand that you can’t plan or build for an event of that magnitude, but you can prepare for it by educating yourself about the risks and creating strategies for safe evacuation.

“The exhibit will be a reminder that the tragedy in Japan could just as easily happen here,” he added.

Shawn Rowe, an OSU free-choice learning specialist based at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, said the focus of the planned exhibit’s educational effort will be on tsunami awareness, the risk of invasive species from the tsunami debris, and how the dock got here in the first place.

“It is a good opportunity to broaden public awareness about such issues,” said Rowe, who works for Oregon Sea Grant. “This was a unique event. Certainly, materials float over from Japan quite often. But rarely, if ever, have we seen a confluence of circumstances that led to the dock arriving in Newport, Ore.”

Fishing floats, logs and debris arrive on the West Coast from Asia with some regularity, but rarely does a structure this large that had been anchored for years in an inlet in Japan – and thus accumulating local seaweeds and organisms – rip loose and journey across the ocean.

“What was surprising to us is that so many of the plants and animals that were attached to the dock survived the 15-month journey across the Pacific Ocean,” said Jessica Miller, an OSU marine ecologist who has studied the dozens of plant and animal species on the dock. “What we don’t yet know is whether these species have established themselves in local waters with the potential to become invasive.”

Mark Farley, who manages the HMSC Visitor Center for Sea Grant, said the dock section will be delivered to Newport in the next few weeks, and work on the foundation for the display and signage will continue into the early part of 2013.

“Our hope is to have the exhibit open to the public by the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami next March,” Farley said.

For more information on donating to the Japanese dock exhibit at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, visit the HMSC Visitor Center website , or call Mark Farley at 541-867-0276.

Sea Grant researchers create model for analyzing invasive species threats

Boat encrusted with quagga mussels (Photo by Sam Chan)by Jeffrey Basinger, 2012 Sea Grant Communications Fellow

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A team at Oregon State University has developed a statistical model that aims to predict which non-native species might become invaders – and arm resource managers to prevent their spread.

Led by economist Munisamy Gopinath and funded by Oregon Sea Grant, the project includes two essential elements for identifying invasive species: how they travel to non-native locations, and whether they could survive and thrive in the new environment. The model also calculates the economic impacts involved in managing the invasive species.

The model is a large, but simple equation. Species that invade waterways often “hitchhike” via recreational travel. Information on where, how, and why people travel to water bodies, along with environmental factors such as temperature, precipitation and elevation, are entered into the equation. The result is a “risk of introduction” that allows resource managers and policy makers to identify species that pose a threat of invasion.

“Not all species are invasive,” said Gopinath, a professor in the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and director of OSU’s graduate program in applied economics. Only transplanted species with specific characteristics that match with specific habitats will thrive, cause harm to the environment, economy and human health – and earn the “invasive” moniker.

“They may not sound like a big deal,” Gopinath said, “but all you have to look at is the quagga and zebra mussels’ invasion,” which caused serious ecological and economic damage to the Great Lakes region and recently began turning up in Western states, much to the alarm of resource managers. “Their invasion in the late 1980s was without fanfare. When these mussels quickly colonized, native mussels lost out, and in addition, water infrastructure became contaminated causing billions of dollars in damages.”

With the information the model provides, policy makers and resource managers could focus resources, along with education and outreach, to specific species and locations before invasive species are introduced, or take hold on a system.

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New blog chronicles science on – and under – ice

Deep Sea and Polar Biology, a new blog by a pair of Oregon State University scientists, chronicles their work trying to understand the role those extreme environments play in storing and releasing carbon into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The writers – post-doctoral scholar Andrew Thurber and graduate student Rory Welch – are writing and posting terrific photographs of the polar landscape and their under-ice dives in Antarctica, near the McMurdo Research Station, located on the southern tip of Ross Island. They’re also running an occasional “ask a scientist” feature for students around the country who want to learn more about their work.

Thurber,  a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Scholar based in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, is studying the trophic linkages between microbes and metazoans in marine habitats and how that impacts ecosystem function, or how animals that eat bacteria can impact how the world works.

Welch, a graduate student in the Microbiology department at Oregon State University, is studying an unusual group of predatory bacteria, Bacteriovorax, that prey exclusively on other gram negative bacteria.

In the introduction to their blog, they write:

“Most of the world experiences drastic seasonal variation in the amount of food that is available throughout the year. In deep-sea habitats as well as the poles a single or sometimes few pulses of food provide nourishment for the entire year. Now you may wonder what that means to you? Why does it matter what happens in the deep, dark ocean or far away in a frozen waste land? The answer is that these communities decide how much of the carbon that we are putting into the atmosphere stays in the ocean, only to be released again and how much is buried for geologic time periods (meaning largely beyond the age of humans). However, we know very little about how the biology of how these habitats actually function, what makes them decide whether they break down and release the carbon and nitrogen or bury for, as far as humans are concerned, ever? Quite simply, that is the goal of this research.”