Whale Watch Week at the Oregon Coast

NEWPORT – Spring Break is Whale Watch Week on the Oregon Coast, and our Visitor Center at the Hatfield Marine Science Center is a great place to learn about the gray whale migration (and get in out of the cold).

We’ll be open from 10 am to 4 pm daily with marine mammal presentations at 1:30 pm, updated statistics about whale sightings off the Oregon coast, marine mammal-themed films, children’s activities and more!

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Five years after Japanese tsunami, concern over invasives still exists

Sam Chan tells visitors to the washed-up Japanese dock about invasive species that may have hitched a ride

Oregon State University Natural Resources Leadership Academy (NRLA) Agate Beach, tsunami debris field trip, June 21, 2012.

Five years after a massive earthquake struck Japan and triggered a tsunami that is still washing debris onto the West Coast of the United States, scientists are unsure whether any of the 200-plus non-native species that hitchhiked over on that debris have gained a foothold in Northwest waters.

Four separate findings of barred knifejaws (Oplegnathus fasciatus) – a fish native to Japan – have been reported over the past three years, and Mediterranean blue mussels have been ubiquitous on tsunami debris. Yet no populations of non-native species that arrived with the tsunami debris are known to have established reproductive populations.

“Maybe we dodged the bullet, although it is still too early to tell,” said John Chapman, an Oregon State University invasive species expert who has investigated tsunami debris along the Pacific coastline. “It is possible that we have not yet discovered these reproductive populations, or that some species from Japan may be cross-breeding with our own species.”

Scientists have not had adequate resources to look extensively up and down the Pacific coast for evidence of establishment by non-native species – especially along long stretches of rugged shoreline.

The magnitude-9 earthquake that struck Japan on March 11, 2011, was the largest in that country’s history and generated a tsunami that had waves estimated as high as 133 feet. The power of these two events, combined with the growth of human settlement over the past two to three centuries, created a new paradigm, said Samuel Chan, Oregon Sea Grant’s expert in aquatic ecosystem health and invasive species.

“A tsunami 300 years ago, or even just 60 years ago, would not have created as much marine debris that became a vehicle for moving species across the Pacific Ocean that could become invasive,” Chan said. “What makes these major tsunami-driven events different in modern times is the substantial human industrial infrastructure that we have built along the Pacific coast.”

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Corvallis Science Pub examines consequences of Pacific warming

Laurie Weitkamp, a fisheries biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will discuss the consequences of Pacific Ocean warming at the Corvallis Science Pub on Monday, March 14

Weitkamp, of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Newport, specializes in the estuarine and marine ecology of Pacific salmon and the factors that affect their survival.

Science Pub is free and open to the public. It begins at 6 p.m. at the Old World Deli, 341 S.W. 2nd St., in Corvallis. The events are sponsored by OSU’s Terra magazine, the Downtown Corvallis Association and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

In the spring of 2014, a body of water several degrees warmer than the surrounding ocean appeared in the Pacific off the Oregon coast. A year later, one of the largest El Niños in recorded history began forming at the equator and has been changing weather around the world.

Weitkamp will describe these two phenomena and their physical effects at sea and on land in the Pacific Northwest. She will also highlight the many changes observed in marine ecosystems from Alaska to Mexico during the last year.

Celebrating 50 years of Sea Grant across the US

50th-feature-photo-1_0This week marks the start of Sea Grant’s 50th anniversary year, highlighting how the program has been “putting science to work for America’s coastal communities” since the 1960s.

The goal is to raise awareness of Sea Grant programs across the nation and our efforts to apply research and community engagement tactics to bring about positive results for coastal communities in the areas of healthy coastal ecosystems, resilient communities and economies, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture and environmental literacy and workforce development.

As one of the first three Sea Grant programs established in the years just after Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Sea Grant College and Program Act as a way of directing federal resources to pressing problems in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes communities, Oregon Sea Grant has helped lead the way.

We’re taking this anniversary as an opportunity to showcase some of the people, programs and partnerships that are bringing about positive change on Oregon’s coast. We’ll be sharing stories about how Sea Grant works with a variety of stakeholders on pressing topics ranging from earthquake and tsunami preparedness to helping coastal communities and businesses prepare for and adapt to a changing climate.

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