Sea Grant names new boater outreach coordinator

Jenny EastJenny East has been named Oregon Sea Grant’s new, full-time Extension boater outreach coordinator to work with recreational boaters on Oregon’s north coast, the Columbia River and in the Portland metro area.

She will work with the Oregon State Marine Board to inform boaters about the location and use of dockside “pump and dump” facilities for properly disposing of onboard toilet waste, part of the state’s ongoing efforts toward cleaner waterways.

East, who started Dec. 15, is temporarily working out of OSU’s Lincoln County Extension office in Newport, with plans to relocate soon to the Washington County Extension office in Hillsboro.

Whale Watch Week at the Visitor Center

A grey whale breaches in a Mexican lagoon (photo courtesy of NOAA)

A grey whale breaches in a Mexican lagoon (photo courtesy of NOAA)

NEWPORT – The Visitor Center at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center will be a busy place the week after Christmas, with special exhibits and daily programming celebrating the annual southward migration of grey whales off Oregon’s coast.

The California grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus) is one of the world’s largest mammals, spending its life off the western coast of the US, Canada and Mexico. In the summer, they feed in Alaska’s Bering Sea; in the winter, they move to breeding grounds off Baja California to bear their young. Oregon State Parks celebrates their migratory seasons with winter and spring Whale Watch Weeks, placing trained volunteers at coastal parks and viewpoints to help visitors spot these huge animals as they move near shore.

The Visitor Center, operated by Oregon Sea Grant, will be open daily Dec. 26-31, from 10 am to 4 p.m. with a daily presentation on marine mammals at 1:30 p.m., as well as family activities, films and exhibits about marine mammal research. State Parks plans to post daily statistics about the number of whales spotted off the Oregon coast.

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Selina Heppell named to head OSU Fisheries & Wildlife

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Selina Heppell, an Oregon State University conservation biologist, has been named head of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

She is the first woman to hold that position in the department’s 80-year history.

Heppell succeeds former department head W. Daniel “Dan” Edge, who earlier this year was named associate dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. A faculty member in fisheries and wildlife since 2001, Heppell has served as associate and interim head of the department.

“Selina has provided terrific leadership during her term as interim head of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and I am delighted that she will continue to lead the department, which is one of the best in the nation,” said Dan Arp, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “She is a distinguished researcher and teacher with a demonstrated commitment to excellence.”

Heppell will lead one of the largest natural sciences programs at OSU, with more than 600 registered undergraduate majors in Corvallis and online, 180 graduate students and eight degrees and certificates. There are about 140 (non-student) employees in the department, which brought in about $7.4 million in research grants and contracts in 2015.

Heppell has served as principal investigator on several recent Oregon Sea Grant research projects on topics such as the 2012 invasion of Humboldt squid into Oregon and Washington waters and developing better tools for fisheries stock assessment. She also serves on the science advisory board for a successful coastal citizen science project, the long-term Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST).

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Meet Montgomery

Montgomery, the HMSC Visitor Center's newest octopus
Meet Montgomery, the new resident giant Pacific octopus at the Hatfield Marine Science Center Visitor Center in Newport.

He was introduced to visitors last week and is proving to be a gregarious, active animal – especially at feeding times (Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 1 pm.

Next week is the perfect time to stop by the Visitor Center, get in out of the rain and say hello to our new octopus. Dec. 26-31 is  Winter Whale Watch Week, and we’ll be open from 10 am to 4 pm daily with special activities, exhibits and films!

New methods find bacterial infection, not virus, associated with 2009 harbor seal deaths


Harbor seals (Photo by Dr. Brandon Southall, NMFS/OPR, courtesy NOAA Photo Library,

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A study by microbiologists at Oregon State University has concluded that an unsuspected bacterial infection, rather than a viral disease, was associated with the stranding and death of seven harbor seals on the California coast in 2009.

The research, made with a powerful investigative method called “meta-transcriptomics,” found a high incidence of infection in the seals with the bacterial pathogen Burkholderia, and provides the first report in the Americas of this bacteria in a wild harbor seal.

The bacteria probably did not directly cause the death of the seals, researchers say, but this provides further evidence of the increase in emerging marine pathogens, and the need for improved monitoring and study of zoonotic diseases that could affect both human and wildlife populations.

In light of these findings, OSU researchers also remind the public that they should not touch stranded or dead marine mammals.

The research was recently published in PLOS ONE, in work supported by Oregon Sea Grant and the National Science Foundation.

“We now have improved tools to better identify new diseases as they emerge from natural reservoirs, and can record and track these events,” said Rebecca Vega-Thurber, an assistant professor of microbiology in the OSU College of Science. “It’s becoming clear there are more pathogens than we knew of in the past, and that some of them can move into human populations.

“This is why it’s increasingly important that we accurately pinpoint the cause of these diseases, and understand the full range of causes that may factor into these deaths.”

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Sea Grant Scholar’s video reveals remarkable feeding system of marine tunicates

Keats Conley, a PhD student at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, and 2014-15 Oregon Sea Grant Malouf Scholar, studies the feeding preferences of pelagic tunicates, animals that serve as a key link between minute, lower food-chain organisms, such as bacteria, and commercially important fishes.

It turns out that tunicates, whether stationary and anchored to rocks or mobile (such as the jellyfish-like salps), all use an ornate mucus mesh to feed on much-smaller creatures, including bacteria.

Check out the video Keats made to describe what she’s learned:

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Study: Warmer water makes for smaller juvenile salmon

Juvenile chinook salmon: warm water means smaller fishA new analysis of juvenile Chinook salmon in the Pacific Ocean documents a dramatic difference in their foraging habits and overall health between years of warm water and those when the water is colder.

The study found that when the water is warmer than average – by only two degrees Celsius – young salmon consume 30 percent more food than during cold-water regimes. Yet they are smaller and skinnier during those warm-water years, likely because they have to work harder to secure food and the prey they consume has less caloric energy.

Results of the research, conducted by researchers from Oregon State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are being published this week in the journal PLOS One.

“When young salmon come out to sea and the water is warm, they need more food to keep their metabolic rate up, yet there is less available food and they have to work harder,” said Elizabeth Daly, an Oregon State senior faculty research assistant with the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies, a joint program of OSU and NOAA.

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OSG announces 2016-18 funded research

Oregon Sea Grant will support eight research projects by scientists at three Oregon institutions during 2016-18, on topics ranging from sea-level rise to invasive jellyfish. The grants are funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as part of a biennial appropriation from Congress to Sea Grant programs around the country.

The grants will go to eight principal investigators at OSU, Oregon Health & Science University, and the University of Oregon for research into ocean and coastal issues.

“Oregon Sea Grant is committed to supporting the science needed to address challenges facing our coastal communities and ecosystems,” said Sea Grant director Shelby Walker. “These projects reflect a broad array of issues important to the future of coastal Oregonians, communities and our environment.”

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Fellowship, scholarship deadlines near

Students in marine science and policy-related fields: Application deadlines are coming up in January for a number of graduate and undergraduate fellowships and scholarships offered by NOAA and administered by state Sea Grant programs. You need not be an Oregon resident to apply, but the opportunities are open only to US citizens. For complete application information, visit our Website.

Oregon Sea Grant-sponsored scholars have gone on to great jobs in ocean and coastal research, policy-making and administration, and in the non-profit sector. Check out our map to see where some of them are today.