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Archive for marine mammals

New edition of Confluence now available

Posted by: | October 11, 2016 Comments Off on New edition of Confluence now available |

The fall/winter 2016 edition of Oregon Sea Grant’s semiannual newsletter, Confluence, is now available online. Articles you’ll find in this issue:

  • Guidelines help boaters enjoy watching whales without disturbing them;
  • University of Oregon study reveals why hypoxia hasn’t affected Coos Bay;
  • Simulator helps coastal residents prepare tsunami evacuation strategy;
  • Students get their feet wet in watershed science with StreamWebs;
  • Oregon Sea Grant helps prepare coastal kids for high-tech jobs; and
  • When human health affects environmental health.

You can download a free PDF here.

Oregon Sea Grant's semiannual newsletter

under: citizen science, climate, coastal hazards, Columbia River, Confluence, courses, classes and workshops, earthquake, ecology, engineering, environment, HMSC Visitor Center, k-12 teachers, kids, marine animals, marine education, marine mammals, ocean literacy, Oregon Sea Grant, outreach and engagement, people, public communication, publications, science education, Sea Grant Scholars, social science, STEM education, tsunami, whales
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Leigh Torres: Racing whales

Posted by: | February 4, 2016 Comments Off on Leigh Torres: Racing whales |

“… Our task was to find them, pace them, and let them continue their remarkable behavior without disturbance, while also documenting the behavior and collecting our photos and biopsy samples. Tricky. With a truly team effort, and help from the whales when they slowed down occasionally, we succeeded.

We paced the whales nearby, watching them explode through the water side by side. So close they could have been touching each other.”

— Dr. Leigh Torres, featured in National Geographic’s Explorers Journal blog

Leigh Torres holds a joint position with OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute and Oregon Sea Grant Extension. Her research focuses on 50 blue whales in the South Taranaki Bight, some of New Zealand’s busiest and most industrialized waters, seeking to learn how many whales are there, how important it is as a feeding area for them, and to what population of whales  they belong.

Follow Dr. Torres’ work in the MMI’s blog, complete with video of the racing whales.

under: marine mammals

“Stranded” seal pups probably aren’t

Posted by: | May 23, 2014 Comments Off on “Stranded” seal pups probably aren’t |

Seal pups rest on shoreNEWPORT – Around this time each year, many baby seal pups find their way to Oregon’s beaches … and each year, well-meaning people  put the young animals in danger by trying to “rescue” them.

The word from the experts: Keep your distance, keep your dogs on leash – and whatever you do, don’t touch. The pups are simply waiting for their mothers to return from hunting for food.

“It is perfectly normal for seal pups to be left alone on the beach in the spring,” said Oregon State University biologist Jim, who coordinates the statewide Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network headquartered at OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. “Newborn pups typically spend several hours each day waiting for their mothers to reunite with them.”

“Adult female seals spend most of their time in the water, hunting for food, and only come ashore periodically to nurse their pups,” Rice said. “But the mothers are wary of people and unlikely to rejoin a pup if there is activity nearby.”

Rice urges beach goers to stay at least 50 yards from any pup they spot on the beach – and to make sure children and dogs do, too. Approaching the young animals can cause life-threatening stress, and will almost certainly keep their mothers from rejoining them.

Harbor seals on the Oregon coast give birth from March through June, with a peak in mid-May, and authorities have grown accustomed to reports of “stranded” baby seals as more summer visitors come to the coast. Such reports are unnecessary unless an animal appears to be injured or in distress – or if you spot someone bothering or harassing the animals. In such cases, Rice urges a call to the Oregon State Police at 1-800-452-7888, Rice said.

Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, people harrassing these animals – even out of a misplaced desire to help – risk being fined. The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits interference with seal pups and other marine mammals on the beach.

Learn more:

under: beach safety, marine animals, marine mammals, Posters

Spring Break brings Whale Watch Week to Oregon coast

Posted by: | March 18, 2013 Comments Off on Spring Break brings Whale Watch Week to Oregon coast |

Gray Whale - photo courtesy of M. SpieringSpring Whale Watch Week coincides with spring break for most Oregon schools and universities, and that makes March 23-30 a great time to head for the coast and look for whales.

Hundreds of giant gray whales, including females and their new calves, travel past Oregon on their way to their spring and summer feeding grounds off Alaska. Many come fairly close to shore, and it’s not unusual to see their spouts – and sometimes the animals themselves – as they swim northward.

OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm during Whale Watch Week, with special marine mammal programs and activities.

Trained volunteers will be stationed at prime whale-watching spots in coastal parks to help visitors learn how to spot the animals, and to share what they know about their life history, biology and migratory habits. Look for the “Whale Watching Spoken Here” signs.

Learn more:

  • Whalespoken.org, the official Oregon Parks & Recreation whale-watch site, includes maps showing the best whale viewing areas along the coast.
  • Free .pdf downloads of Oregon Sea Grant’s popular Gray Whales brochure, in English and Spanish versions.
  • Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, a multidisciplinary program dedicated to the study of whales and other marine mammals.
under: events, HMSC Visitor Center, marine animals, marine education, marine mammals, whales

Science on Tap: Ocean science and good beer in Newport

Posted by: | March 7, 2012 Comments Off on Science on Tap: Ocean science and good beer in Newport |

Steller sea lionsNEWPORT – Oregon State University marine mammal researcher Markus Horning  steps to the bar for this month’s Science on Tap lecture, with The secret lives or seals: Using high-tech marvels to pry into ocean depths.

The talk, co-sponsored by the Hatfield Marine Science Center and Rogue Ale, starts at 6 pm  March 15 at Brewers on the Bay, on the South Beach waterfront south of the Yaquina Bay Bridge. Admission to the family-friendly event is free, and food and beverage will be available for purchase from the pub’s menu.

Horning, a pinniped ecologist with OSU’s Newport-based Marine Mammal Institute,   studies seals and sea lions in Oregon, Alaska and the Antarctic using telemetry – the science and technology of remote measurement via such devices as satellite-linked data recorders and tags.

The technology allows Horning and other scientists to monitor rarely observed aspects of marine mammal life in remote locations around Alaska and the Antarctic. Using advanced monitoring technology, researchers are able to follow the life – and death – of individual animals in the Bering Sea or under the Antarctic ice.

In recent research, the high-tech tools have helped show that more juvenile Steller sea lions are falling to predators than had been thought, casting doubt on prospects for the animals’ ability to recover from recent population decline in Alaskan waters.

Learn more:

(Photo: Steller sea lions, courtesy of NOAA’s National Ocean Service)

under: ecology, events, lectures, marine mammals, research

Volunteers sought for Whale Watch Week

Posted by: | November 10, 2011 Comments Off on Volunteers sought for Whale Watch Week |
Gray Whale breaching (photo courtesy of NOAA)

Gray Whale breaching (photo courtesy of NOAA)

NEWPORT – If you love whales, enjoy meeting people and don’t mind spending some time outdoors on a blustery winter day, Oregon’s winter Whale Watch Week wants you.

Volunteers are being sought for training as interpreters and whale-spotting guides at state parks up and down the Oregon coast for the annual event, which takes place this year from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1.

Gray whales can be seen off the Oregon coast year-round, but their numbers peak during their twice-yearly migrations between feeding grounds in Alaska’s Bering Sea and calving lagoons in Baja California. The full round trip  is more than 10,000 miles (16,000 km), the longest known migration for any mammal.

During the peak of the southward migration each winter, as many as 30 whales an hour can be seen off coastal headlands and viewing areas. Gray whales can grow to 40 feet long and 70,000 pounds, and their migrations often bring them close enough to the coast to be spotted by the naked eye, if you know what to look for.

Whale Watch Weeks, started in the late 1970s by Oregon Sea Grant educators at the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center, has grown to a twice-yearly program administered by Oregon State Parks from its Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay. During the winter and spring weeks, as many as 450 trained volunteers take turns at two dozen of the most popular coastal whale-watch sites, helping visitors spot whales and teaching them about the lives and habits of these giant marine mammals.

Volunteer training for Winter Whale Watch Week will take place on Sat., Dec. 10 at the HMSC Visitor Center in Newport. Dr. Bruce Mate, OSU marine mammal specialist, will preside. Additional training sessions for Spring Whale Watch Week will take place in January and February.

under: brochures, courses, classes and workshops, events, HMSC Visitor Center, marine mammals, outreach and engagement, science education, whales

Study of Pacific predators shows importance of biological “hotspots”

Posted by: | June 23, 2011 Comments Off on Study of Pacific predators shows importance of biological “hotspots” |

Blue WhaleNEWPORT, Ore. – An unprecedented decade-long study of apex predators in the Pacific Ocean found a wider range of distribution among some species than previously thought, unknown relationships between other species, and the importance of biological “hotspots” to the survival of most of these sea creatures.

The field program, dubbed Tagging of Pacific Predators – or TOPP – looked at 23 species from 2000-09 and included researchers from multiple institutions.

Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Nature.

“One thing that quickly became apparent is that there are many similarities among top predators in the California Current System,” said Bruce Mate, a former Sea Grant specialist who directs the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University and co-authored the study. “There is a strong overlap in territory, for example, between blue whales and tuna. Blue whales eat krill; the tuna eat fish that eat the krill.

“But the krill, and the ocean conditions that promote its abundance, are key to both species,” added Mate, who directed the cetacean portion of the TOPP study. “When there are hotspots of krill or other food, the apex predators need to find them.”

Read more from OSU News & Research Communication…

(Photo credit: Bruce Mate/OSU News & Research Communication)

under: journal articles, marine mammals, marine science, news, Oregon State University, research

Seal pups on the beaches: Leave them alone

Posted by: | April 5, 2011 Comments Off on Seal pups on the beaches: Leave them alone |

Seal pups rest on shoreNEWPORT, Ore. – The arrival of spring has brought a number of young seal pups onto Oregon beaches, where they are at-risk from well-meaning coastal visitors who want to “rescue” them.

Oregon State University marine mammal biologist Jim Rice is urging the public to refrain from touching or approaching the seal pups, which in most cases are not orphaned or abandoned, he pointed out. They frequently are left on the beach by their mothers, who are out looking for food.

“Seal pups being left alone on the beach in the spring is perfectly normal,” said Rice, who coordinates the statewide Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network headquartered at OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. “Newborn pups typically spend several hours each day waiting for their mothers to reunite with them.

Read more from OSU News & Research Communications

Download our “Seal pups rest on shore” poster (.pdf)

under: environment, marine education, marine mammals, Posters

Spring Break is Whale Watch Week…

Posted by: | March 16, 2010 Comments Off on Spring Break is Whale Watch Week… |
Gray Whale (NOAA photo)

Gray Whale (NOAA photo)

… and a great opportunity to head for  the Oregon coast and get some expert help spotting gray whales as they migrate northward to their summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas off Alaska.

OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center will be open from 10 am-5 pm daily for Whale Watch Week, March 20-27, with special whale-related programming every day.

Meanwhile, the state Parks and Recreation Divisions “Whale Spoken Here” program will have trained volunteers stationed at 26 state parks and rest areas along the coast to provide information about the giant marine mammals and help visitors spot them.

Get ready for Whale Watch week and learn more  about the whale migrations by downloading the free Oregon Sea Grant brochure, “Gray Whales,” in .pdf format:

under: events, HMSC Visitor Center, marine mammals, publications, whales

Whale Watch Week is coming up

Posted by: | December 21, 2009 Comments Off on Whale Watch Week is coming up |

Gray whaleVolunteers take their positions at state parks up and down the Oregon Coast next Saturday to help visitors look for migrating gray whales during the annual Winter Whale Watch Week, Dec. 26-Jan. 1.

The program, launched by Oregon Sea Grant’s Don Giles in 1978 and now coordinated by the Oregon State Parks and Recreation’s Depoe Bay Whale Center, draws thousands of winter visitors to the coast each year, armed with binoculars in hopes of spotting some of the giant marine mammals as they migrate south to their  breeding grounds off Mexico’s Baja California.

To learn more about whales and their migrations before you head to the coast, download the free Sea Grant publication, Gray Whales, from our Web site, in English and Spanish language versions, as a printable .pdf or a fast-loading text version. Also available: A Watching Whales fact sheet with tips for spotting the animals – and how to tell a whale spout from a wave –  is also available.

When you need to warm up, stop by OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Visitor Center, open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. every day of Whale Watch Week except Jan. 1  with special programs and activities, including a daily marine mammal program in Hennings Auditorium featuring hands-on baleen, skulls and other whale “biofacts”.  The Center is also a great place to find out where whales are being seen – they’ll be keeping a running list of reported sightings and locations.

For more information, including a list of parks where volunteers will be stationed, visit the Whale Spoken Here Web site.

under: events, HMSC Visitor Center, marine mammals, publications, whales

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