Marina owners, users, team up to clear Fernridge lake of boat-fouling invader

Photo by Roger BaileyEUGENE –  The Fern Ridge Reservoir just west of Eugene, Ore., is a popular recreation spot for boaters and swimmers during the spring and summer months. The marina attracts freshwater sailors and provides ample fishing opportunities for anglers. There’s only one problem: An invasive species is steadily taking over the lake, and the worse it gets, the less welcoming the lake becomes.

The invader, known as Eurasian watermilfoil, is an aquatic plant that forms tangled mats as it grows. Eurasian watermilfoil tends to show up in shallow waters where it can access sunlight. These thick tangles are obstructive enough to stop boat motors from working, and they can prevent kayakers from maneuvering through the water.

Not only is the milfoil an obstacle, but it also saps oxygen from the water and can cause fish to suffocate. As the fish decay at the bottom of the lake, the smell can get pretty strong.

For boaters  like Scott Coleman, the owner of Underway LLC and manager for the Orchard Point Marina, it’s a worrying problem. “Specifically in this marina, if this plant really got going and clogged up the marina, then you wouldn’t be able to get your boat through here,” Coleman says. “And, it would be no fun to swim in.”

Last year, Coleman and a band of concerned marina users decided to take action. After consulting with Tania Siemens, WISE Program coordinator, and Sam Chan, invasive species specialist at Oregon Sea Grant, the boaters created a management plan that could correct their core problem: standing water.

Read more about their efforts in OSG’s Watershed and Invasive Species Education blog

(Photo by Roger Bailey)

Student ROV design and engineering regionals set for May 4

Student launches an ROV during last year's Oregon Regional competitionLINCOLN City – More than 100 junior high, high school and college students will converge on the Lincoln Community Center this Saturday (May 4) to compete in the Oregon Regional Marine Advanced Technology ROV Competition – and a chance to advance to the international finals.

Teams from Albany, Astoria, Corbett, Corvallis, The Dalles, Eddyville, Lincoln City, Salem, Toledo, Portland and Waldport are expected for the competition which runs from 8:30 am to 4:30 p.m. at the community center, 2150 NE Oar Place. The event is open to the public.

Competing teams, ranging from 6th grade to college age, have designed and built tethered underwater robots known as remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs. The annual competition is sponsored by Oregon Sea Grant, the OregonCoast STEM Center, and the Oregon Chapter of the Marine Technology Society, and is intended to encourage Oregon students to learn and apply science, technology, engineering and math skills.

Full-scale ROVs are widely used in scientific research,  ocean exploration, homeland security, the offshore oil and gas industry, and other industries.  This year’s contest highlights the role ROVs play in the installation, operation, and maintenance of ocean observing systems,  collections of high-tech instruments above and below the waves that provide around-the-clock information about what is happening in the ocean. Via fiber optic cable, the data collection equipment continuously communicates information to scientists, engineers and technicians who use it to understand and make predictions about the ocean, coast, and ocean resources. Ocean Observing Systems provide critical information on climate change, toxic algal blooms, tsunamis and other ocean hazards.

Competing teams must pilot their ROVs to perform a variety of underwater mission tasks, from installing a simulated power and communications “hub” and scientific instruments in order to complete a seafloor ocean observatory to removing bio-fouling organisms from instruments and performing maintenance on moorings.

The winning team will advance to the 12th annual MATE International ROV Competition, June 20-22 in Federal Way, Wash.

The regional MATE program, one of 22 such competitions around the world, is supported by local sponsors including the Marine Technology Society, the Oregon Coast Regional STEM Center, OSU’s Pre-College Programs, Northwest Aquatic and Marine Educators, the Siletz Tribe Charitable Funds, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Pro-Build, Advanced Research Corporation, and the NOAA Officers Family Association. Local marine technology professionals volunteer as judges for the competition, evaluating the students’ ROVs, poster displays, and engineering presentations.

Audubon highlights OSG’s work to educate about marine invaders

Red-eared slider, another classroom invader

The latest issue of Audubon, the magazine of the National Audobon Society, reports that in the 1970s an Alaskan high school science teacher purchased red-legged frogs from a supply house in the Pacific Northwest. Once the amphibians were no longer needed, the educator released them. Four decades later, studies show that frogs that have decimated local Alaskan amphibian populations have genetic ties to those found in Washington’s Columbia Basin. …

Oregon Sea Grant Extension specialist Sam Chan, a biologist who researches invasive species at Oregon State University, is leading a collaborative project with U.S. and Canadian researchers to educate teachers about the dangers of letting aliens loose. In one survey of nearly 2,000 teachers, Chan’s team found that schools had released dozens of well-known invasive species, like crayfish, waterweeds, mosquito fish, and red-eared slider turtles (above).

Learn more:

Follow the clues to coastal adventure and learning

Oregon Sea Grant has published a revised Quests book – The Oregon Coast Quests Book: 2013-14 Edition. Quests are fun and educational clue-directed hunts that encourage exploration of natural areas. In this self-guided activity, Questers follow a map and find a series of clues to reach a hidden box. The box contains a small guest book, a stamp pad, a unique rubber stamp, and additional information about the Quest site. Participants sign the guest book to record their find, and make an imprint of the Quest Box stamp in the back of their clue book as proof of accomplishment. Then the box is re-hidden for the next person to find. The location of the clues and box remain a secret so others can share the fun. Oregon Coast Quest clues and boxes stay in place year-round.

This new edition of the Oregon Coast Quests Book contains 26 Quests in three counties (Lincoln, Coos, and Benton), including six brand-new Quests and one in both English and Spanish.

To order the Quests Book…

WISE blog: Watershed resources for teachers

WISE logoWelcome the newest member of the Oregon Sea Grant blogging family, WISE, the Watershed & Invasive Species Education blog.

Amy Schneider, a graduate student and science writer at the University of Oregon, is working with WISE program coordinator Tania Siemens to develop up-to-date, high-value content to help teachers learn about emerging watershed issues, which they can then use to engage their students in science learning and community action.

The blog is just the latest teacher tool to emerge from the WISE program, which enlists teachers across Oregon in teacher trainings, a STEM-based curriculum, and on-going engagement in a community for learning and teaching about emerging watershed issues.

Since the program started in 2007, more than 70 teachers have gone through WISE training, reaching more than 4,500 students who have completed at least 50 watershed stewardship projects.

Learn more:

National Science Foundation hosts Free-choice Learning Lecture

John Falk and Lynn Dierking, Oregon Sea Grant Professors of Free-choice Learning, are giving an invited lecture April 11 at the National Science Foundation headquarters in Arlington, VA. Their joint lecture, “An Ecological Approach to Understanding Lifelong STEM Learning: A Story in Two Voices” is part of the Distinguished Lecture Series hosted by the NSF Directorate for Education and Human Resources.

Using examples from their own research, Dierking and Falk plan to “discuss how they reframe STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Math] learning research to better acknowledge and describe STEM learning as a cultural activity: a set of activities situated within a complex ecological community that affords myriad opportunities for STEM experiences of widely varying content, depth, quality, and accessibility.”

Falk and Dierking, internationally-known experts in free-choice learning (how people learn in out-of-school settings), serve in other leadership roles at OSU: Falk as director of the Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning; Dierking as Associate Dean for Research in the College of Education. They are professors in the College of Education.

Dr. John Falk

Dr. Lynn Dierking

Live fish, crabs, survive post-tsunami trip aboard Japanese boat

Oplegnathus-fasciatus-WDFW-photox250Scientists at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center are examining a handful of Japanese fish that may have survived a nearly two-year trip aboard a small fishing boat torn off the Japanese coast by the 2011 tsunami.

The fish – Oplegnathus fasciatus, known as Barred knifejaw or Striped beakperch – were found in the bottom of a Japanese boat that washed ashore at Long Beach, WA on March 22. The vessel is one of a growing number of large items cast to sea by the Japanese tsunami that have made their way across the ocean to Pacific Northwest shores.

Sam Chan, Oregon Sea Grant’s invasive species specialist, said the fish species normally are found only as far east as Hawaii. Scientists aren’t yet sure whether the fish traveled all the way from Japan, or if they somehow got onboard the derelict vessel as it crossed the ocean. “Either way, it’s an interesting case of organisms ‘rafting’ across the ocean,” Chan said.

OSU’s Jessica Miller, a marine fisheries ecologist with the HMSC-based Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station, as four of the fish and is examining their stomach contents and otoliths (specialized bones found in the ears of fish and other species) for insight into what the fish had been eating and the environmental conditions they encountered during their transit. The fifth fish is on display at the Seaside Aquarium.

Learn more:


Explore behind the scenes at HMSC Marine Science Day

NEWPORT, Ore. – Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center invites public to explore its marine science labs and Visitor Center,  “behind the scenes”  on Saturday, April 13, when the Newport facility hosts its annual Marine Science Day.

The free event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will feature scientists and educators from OSU, Oregon Sea Grant, federal and state agencies, Oregon Coast Aquarium, and the nearby NOAA Marine Operations Center-Pacific. It is a chance for the public to explore one of the nation’s leading marine science and education centers.

An full schedule of events is available at:

In addition to a varietyof marine science presentations, two research themes will be highlighted. One is the science behind bycatch reduction devices, which will be featured by researchers from NOAA Fisheries, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, OSU, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, and Foulweather Trawl, a Newport netmaker.

Marine Science Day visitors will see actual bycatch reduction devices and have an opportunity to view videos showing how fish are excluded or retained, depending on their size, swimming ability or other characteristic. Other research will highlight genetics or other tools used to distinguish between wanted and unwanted catch. Scientists will be on hand to answer questions and discuss their research.

“Visitors will learn not only about the problem of bycatch but also about the solutions, which range from simple and elegant to complex and cutting-edge,” said Maryann Bozza, program manager of the center. “All of the different HMSC research displays on bycatch reduction will be grouped together.”

A second theme will be wave energy, highlighting the efforts of the OSU Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center to improve and facilitate testing of wave energy devices and evaluate their potential effects on marine habitats. HMSC’s Sarah Henkel, a senior research assistant professor in the OSU Department of Zoology, will present an update of wave energy developments on the Oregon Coast.

Henkel’s talk begins at 3 p.m. in the Visitor Center auditorium.

Among other highlights of Marine Science Day:

  • Visitor Center activities will include new wave energy exhibits, the recently dedicated Japanese tsunami dock exhibit and a new interactive wave tank.
  • The center’s new octopus, named “Miss Oscar,” will be featured in a 1 p.m. interpretive talk and octopus feeding demonstration.
  • Visitors can take self-guided tours through the facility’s marine research labs, library and classrooms, where scientists will have interactive exhibits explaining their research. Guided tours of HMSC’s seawater facilities and aquatic animal husbandry laboratory will also be offered.

A number of educational activities for children and families will be available, presented by Oregon Sea Grant, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

The OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center is located at 2030 S.E. Marine Science Drive in Newport, just south of the Highway 101 bridge over Yaquina Bay.