HMSC Currents

OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center Staff Newsletter

HMSC Currents

How Oceanography Saved the World

August 6th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

HMSC50thColorWe are gearing up for our big HMSC 50th Anniversary Celebration tomorrow! Friday August 7, starting at 3pm with a talk by NOAA Chief Scientist and OSU Alumnus Dr. Rick Spinrad in the Visitor Center Auditorium – How Oceanography Saved the World. Can’t join us in person? Tune in online on Adobe Connect.

After the talk, we’ll convene in a BIG TENT outside for the BIG 5-0! Speakers include:

Dr. John Byrne, Former NOAA Administrator and Emeritus OSU President, OSU Dean of Oceanography AND HMSC Director

OSU President Ed Ray

Michele Longo Eder, OSU Trustee and an active member of the Oregon Coast’s fishing community

State Representative David Gomberg

plus Rick Spinrad, Janet Webster, Jack Barth, Bob Cowen, HMSC Grad Student Marisa Litz. We’ll also hear a submission to the Congressional Record from Senator Ron Wyden, read by his staff, Fritz Graham, congratulating HMSC on fifty years!

Don’t miss the premiere of a new video as well as a slideshow of historic photos.

HMSC will host a reception in the Visitor Center afterwards, with food, special activities, memorabilia and historical exhibits. All are welcome!

Again, that link to the live broadcast of Rick Spinrad’s talk is at: https://oregonstate.adobeconnect.com/_a827349107/hmsc-fw407/

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HMSC Researchers studying Oregon’s “resident population” of gray whales

August 4th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Florence van Tulder looks for whales at Boiler Bay near Depoe Bay.

Florence van Tulder looks for whales at Boiler Bay near Depoe Bay.

Every year, some 20,000 gray whales migrate between the breeding lagoons of Baja, Mexico, and the bountiful feeding grounds off British Columbia and Alaska, often passing close to shore along the Northwest coast – creating a popular tourist attraction.

For some reason, however, about 200 of these whales annually cut short their northern migration, opting instead to cavort along the coastline from northern California to Washington throughout much of the summer. Although they don’t live year-round off the Northwest coast, they are known informally as Oregon’s “resident” gray whales.

The research team at Port Orford

The research team at Port Orford

Scientists don’t know as much as they’d like about our ocean-dwelling neighbors, thus a team of researchers from Oregon State University, led by master’s student Florence van Tulder, aims to learn more. She is leading a project this summer to spot gray whales that like to frequent the Oregon coast, track their movements and behavior, and compare them with photo archives in an attempt to identify individual whales.

As part of the study, the OSU researchers will also monitor activities of commercial, charter and recreational fishing boats – as well as whale-watching vessels – to determine if they have an effect on the whales’ behavior.

“Our goal is not to curtail boat use in waters near whales, but to develop a list of best-practices that we can share with the fishing and whale-watching industries,” said van Tulder, who is a student in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. “We’d like to learn more about these whales and better understand how and where they feed along the Oregon coast.”

For the next several weeks, van Tulder and her research team will set up viewing locations at two popular waysides – Port Orford and Boiler Bay State Park near Depoe Bay. There they will use a surveyor’s instrument called a theodolite to track and map the movement of individual whales at a fine scale as they forage. The data collected will tell them how the whales use different areas, how they search for food patches, and how they interact with vessels.

During the team’s first week at Boiler Bay, they spotted a whale with overlapping spots on its tail that they nicknamed ‘Mitosis.’ The whale did a quick “drive-by” and left the study area, but returned two days later and foraged for more than three hours in one small area of just a few hundred yards. The following day, Mitosis arrived again and didn’t stay as long, but covered a much broader area.

“We think the reason they’re attracted to these foraging hotspots along the Oregon coast is an abundance of mysid shrimp,” van Tulder said. “During summer months, the mysid can be really dense, from the seafloor to the surface, and really close to the shore. We want to know if this wealth of foraging is enough to get them to disrupt their migration north. Or is there some other mechanism at work that makes 200 whales act differently than the other 20,000? That’s what we hope to find out.

“There’s also the question of how they even locate the shrimp,” she added. “Gray whales don’t use echo-location, so how do these whales search for and find dense prey patches? It may be possible that this knowledge is passed along from mother to calf among this population subset.”

Gray whale surfacing

Gray whale surfacing

Gray whales are one of the few endangered species success stories, scientists say. The population of eastern gray whales has recovered from the exploitation of 20th-century whaling to become robust. Their near-shore migration has spawned a new industry of whale-watching along the Oregon coast that in 2009 was worth an estimated $29 million – a figure likely higher today.

Leigh Torres, an OSU whale specialist with the Marine Mammal Institute who is van Tulder’s mentor for the project, said the work done this summer by the student research team will help scientists learn more about how the whales use their habitat – and interact with humans.

“There is still a lot we don’t know about these whales, so the fine-scale tracking of their feeding behavior, with concurrent tracks of vessels, will be very enlightening,” Torres said. “We’d like to know more about how gray whale foraging strategies differ between the two study sites or when there is a dependent calf, or multiple whales are around.

“We’re also interested in how the whales behave when there are boats in the vicinity,” Torres added. “Are there behavior differences based on boat traffic and composition? Whales might react to some boats, but perhaps not others based on speed, approach, motor type, etc. We hope to give back to the whale and fishing industries what we’ve learned so they can establish their own guidelines about how close to get to whales so they can maintain a profitable business and the whales can continue to utilize the habitat.”

The researchers also are interested in whether other gray whales may be joining the group of 200.

“It’s possible that other gray whales historically did what this population subset is doing now, but got away from it for some reason,” she said. “Or it may be that some whales are just opportunistic and want to stick around and chow down on the shrimp. With a long-term study, we hope to find out.”

van Tulder and her research team will alternate between Port Orford and Boiler Bay through mid-September and welcome interaction from the public.

By Mark Floyd, 541-737-0788, mark.floyd@oregonstate.edu

Sources:  Florence van Tulder, 206-491-1166, vantuldf@onid.oregonstate.edu; Leigh Torres, 541-867-0895, leigh.torres@oregonstate.edu

This article is available online at: http://bit.ly/1IKqJb0

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OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center to turn 50 years of age

July 28th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

NEWPORT, Ore. – Fifty years ago this summer, Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center opened its doors as a fledgling research and education facility envisioned to help the depressed central Oregon coast economy revive.

Today it stands as one of the most important and unique marine science facilities in the country, bringing together a plethora of scientists from different agencies to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing the world’s oceans, educating a new generation of students about these issues, and reaching out to inform the public about their impacts.

This month, OSU and the Hatfield Marine Science Center will commemorate their half century of success with a celebration and reception on Friday, Aug. 7, at the center. The public is invited.

“This is an opportunity to look at the past and honor the people and events that have made the Hatfield Marine Science Center such a special place,” said Bob Cowen, director of the center. “It’s also a time to celebrate the future, as OSU is launching its Marine Studies Initiative and working on plans to expand the center and its capacity.”

The 50th anniversary celebration will begin at 4:30 p.m. just outside the Hatfield Marine Science Center, located south of the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport. The celebration will feature speakers, displays, a historical slide show, and a video featuring faculty, student and community perspectives on the center’s future plans. A reception will follow from 5:30 to 7 p.m.; the events are free and open to the public.

Earlier in the day, a special presentation by Rick Spinrad, chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will be held in the Visitor Center Auditorium. His talk, “How Oceanography Saved the World,” which begins at 3 p.m., is part of the 50th Anniversary Alumni Speaker Series. He is former vice president for research at OSU – and a former graduate student at the center.

Other speakers include former Oregon State President John Byrne, a former NOAA administrator.

Event information and links to HMSC archives, historic photos, video and a timeline of landmarks for the Hatfield Marine Science Center can be found at: http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/50th.

By Mark Floyd, 541-737-0788, mark.floyd@oregonstate.edu

Sources: Maryann Bozza, 541-867-0234, maryann.bozza@oregonstate.edu; Bob Cowen, 541-867-0211, robert.cowen@oregonstate.edu

This article is available online at: http://bit.ly/1MvUeA6 An aerial view of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in its infancy, the late 1960s, is available at: https://flic.kr/p/wh6uPg

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Northwest residents should channel fear of earthquake into pragmatic action

July 23rd, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A national news article suggesting that everything in Oregon west of Interstate-5 “would be toast” in a major Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake certainly drew attention to the seismic reality facing the Pacific Northwest.

The concern, though, is that people are focusing on the most draconian or extreme scenarios, experts say, which can lead to a sense of fatalism. The reaction illustrates the state of earthquake and tsunami preparedness – or lack thereof – in the United States, said Patrick Corcoran, a Sea Grant education and outreach specialist at Oregon State University who works with coastal communities on disaster preparedness.

It’s a matter of feast or famine.

“The Cascadia Subduction Zone has shifted from a science project to a social studies project,” Corcoran said. “We need to find a sweet spot between fear and action. What I try to do is temper the tendency of people to toggle between the poles of ‘it won’t happen here’ and ‘it will be so bad that there’s no use worrying about it.’”

Oregon has been taking some of the first serious steps toward earthquake mitigation, said Scott Ashford, dean of OSU’s College of Engineering and chair of governor-appointed task force on preparation. Recent legislation has resulted in a large increase in funding for K-12 and emergency facility seismic retro-fitting, as well as the creation of a new position – the state’s first Chief Resilience Officer.

Oregon is also working on some of the first tsunami building codes, which likely will be implemented over the next few years.

Oregon State University scientists have been warning Pacific Northwest citizens for more than a quarter of a century about the potential of a major earthquake in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. The subduction of a tectonic plate beneath North America has the potential to trigger an earthquake ranging from  magnitude 8.0, as happened in Chile in 2010, to 9.0 (or greater), which took place in Japan in 2011.

Scientists believe that a magnitude 9.0-plus earthquake, which Corcoran calls “the largest of the large,” would likely trigger a tsunami that could devastate coastal communities, while the earthquake could destroy infrastructure throughout western Oregon and Washington, including roads, bridges, water and sewer lines, and the power grid.

However, he added, the more probable scenario is an earthquake on “the average side of large,” where the damage is less. The best response isn’t necessarily to flee the region, Corcoran said, but to become pro-active in preparing for a disaster.

As residents in Japan, Nepal, Chile and other countries have done, Northwesterners need to learn to live with the realistic threat of an earthquake and tsunami – not ignore the threat and hope they don’t happen.

The best approach, Corcoran says, is to prepare for the “most likely next event” – and that doesn’t necessarily mean the destruction of western Oregon as we know it.

“We don’t insist on the worst-case scenario with driving vehicles,” Corcoran said. “We don’t have a zero-tolerance for car fatalities. We try to do our best to identify and mitigate the risks, but we assume a great deal of risk. We don’t require that all cars be able to hit a brick wall at 100 miles per hour and have passengers unharmed. That’s impractical. We need to consider a similar approach with earthquakes.”

Chris Goldfinger, a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and a leading expert on the Cascadia Subduction Zone, estimates that the chances of a major earthquake off the coast from northern California to just south of Astoria are about 24 percent in the next 50 years. “South of Cape Blanco, Ore., the chances increase to about 37 percent,” he added.

Goldfinger said the furor in news reports and on social media about western Oregon becoming “toast” have been misconstrued. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has to prepare for a worst-case scenario as the starting point for its planning, he said, but that doesn’t mean that experts think western Oregon will be destroyed.

So, how big will the next Northwest earthquake be? No one knows. Thus outreach specialists like Corcoran say the prudent thing to do is plan for a range of events. “Discussing the range and likelihood of the next event can bring some air into the room.”

Corcoran said preparation helped save 90 percent of the 200,000 people in the inundation zone during Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The Northwest has a much smaller coastal population, he added. On the other hand, Japan was much more prepared for disaster.

“We have to prepare commensurate with the risk,” Corcoran said. “Our society tends to be dismissive of preparation, especially evacuation drills. They are silly, they are embarrassing and it’s usually raining. The only people who actually do drills are high schools and hospitals because they are required to. But drills save lives, as they learned in Japan.”

Communities and individuals can prepare for natural disasters by understanding that they eventually will happen. Once you accept that and actually expectit, Corcoran said, preparation becomes second nature. Strap down water heaters, learn where the shutoff valve for natural gas may be in your house, and have several days of food and water available, he added.

People on the coast living in inundation zones should identify areas of high ground near their homes, work and recreation areas. “Work locally to make them accessible,” Corcoran said, “then conduct practice drills on how to get to them.”

OSU engineering dean Ashford is spearheading an initiative called the Cascadia Lifeline Project that is organizing public utilities, transportation agencies, and others to begin work on how to prepare for life after a major earthquake. Communities need to think about restoring vital services after an earthquake, including power, water, sewer and others.

Ashford testified to Congress in May about the need for public agencies, private businesses and individuals to develop the resilience to withstand an earthquake. He urged Congress to support three federal initiatives:

  • Invest in more resilient transportation networks that will be critical to rescue, relief and recovery efforts following a natural disaster;
  • Partner with states to require seismic resilience of federally regulated utilities that transport liquid fuel through pipelines and supply the majority of a state’s population, such as in Oregon;
  • Invest in applied research to improve earthquake resilience.

“It will take 50 years for us to fully prepare for this impending earthquake,” Ashford said. “We can’t simply go out and replace all of our existing infrastructure. But we can start now, and we can begin to find ways to better retro-fit, replace or repair things after an earthquake.”

Corcoran said most people are not tuned into long-term threats like300-year earthquake cycles. Since people in the Pacific Northwest only recently learned about this major recurring natural disaster, it is natural for some to feel blindsided by the knowledge and not fully embrace it, he added.

Recent media attention has wakened some people to the idea of an earthquake, but it is critical to channel that awareness into positive action, he said.

“As good as our local emergency officials are, they will be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the circumstances when a major earthquake takes place,” Corcoran said. “Preparation must begin with the individual, then focus on mutual aid among neighbors, and finally on public aid and assistance. Businesses, too, must support the safety of their employees and customers.”

By Mark Floyd, 541-737-0788, mark.floyd@oregonstate.edu

Sources: Pat Corcoran, 503-325- 8573, Patrick.corcoran@oregonstate.edu; Chris Goldfinger, 541-737-5214, gold@coas.oregonstate.edu; Scott Ashford, 541-737-5232, scott.ashford@oregonstate.edu

This article is online at: http://bit.ly/1CSxtmK

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Help Us Celebrate 50 Years On August 7th!

July 14th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Fifty years after OSU dedicated the Marine Science Center, Oregon State University will honor the past with a special 50th Anniversary Celebration, and look to the future with OSU’s Marine Studies Initiative.

Join us! Friday, August 7 at 4:30 pm on the HMSC campus.  The Celebration will feature distinguished speakers, a historical slide show and a new video celebrating HMSC’s bright future. The Celebration, located outdoors in front of the HMSC Visitor Center, will be followed by a reception in the Visitor Center from 5:30pm to 7pm.

Don’t miss our 3pm Alumni Presentation, “How Oceanography Saved the World”  by OSU Alumnus and NOAA Chief Scientist Rick Spinrad! This special event will be in the Visitor Center Auditorium.

All are welcome! Events are free and open to the public. Download a flyer here, and see our website at hmsc.oregonstate.edu/50th for updates.

Pass the word! Please post or forward. For more information contact Maryann Bozza at 541-867-0234 or maryann.bozza@oregonstate.edu. We look forward to seeing you on August 7th!

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OSU researchers discover the unicorn – seaweed that tastes like bacon!

July 14th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Chris Langdon has been growing and studying dulse at Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport Oregon for decades and is now working with the Food Innovation Center in Portland on creating healthy and appealing dishes. . Photo by Stephen Ward, OSU Extension and Experiment Station Communications.

Chris Langdon has been growing and studying dulse at Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport Oregon for decades and is now working with the Food Innovation Center in Portland on creating healthy and appealing dishes. . Photo by Stephen Ward, OSU Extension and Experiment Station Communications.

NEWPORT, Ore. – Oregon State University researchers have patented a new strain of a succulent red marine algae called dulse that grows extraordinarily quickly, is packed full of protein and has an unusual trait when it is cooked.

This seaweed tastes like bacon.

Dulse (Palmaria sp.) grows in the wild along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines. It is harvested and usually sold for up to $90 a pound in dried form as a cooking ingredient or nutritional supplement. But researcher Chris Langdon and colleagues at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center have created and patented a new strain of dulse – one he has been growing for the past 15 years.

This strain, which looks like translucent red lettuce, is an excellent source of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants – and it contains up to 16 percent protein in dry weight, Langdon said.

“The original goal was to create a super-food for abalone, because high-quality abalone is treasured, especially in Asia,” Langdon pointed out. “We were able to grow dulse-fed abalone at rates that exceeded those previously reported in the literature. There always has been an interest in growing dulse for human consumption, but we originally focused on using dulse as a food for abalone.”

The technology of growing abalone and dulse has been successfully implemented on a commercial scale by the Big Island Abalone Corporation in Hawaii.

Langdon’s change in perspective about dulse was triggered by a visit by Chuck Toombs, a faculty member in OSU’s College of Business, who stopped by Langdon’s office because he was looking for potential projects for his business students. He saw the dulse growing in bubbling containers outside of Langdon’s office and the proverbial light went on.

“Dulse is a super-food, with twice the nutritional value of kale,” Toombs said. “And OSU had developed this variety that can be farmed, with the potential for a new industry for Oregon.”

Toombs began working with OSU’s Food Innovation Center in Portland, where a product development team created a smorgasbord of new foods with dulse as the main ingredient. Among the most promising were a dulse-based rice cracker and salad dressing.

The research team received a grant from the Oregon Department of Agriculture to explore dulse as a “specialty crop” – the first time a seaweed had made the list, according to Food Innovation Center director Michael Morrissey.

That allowed the team to bring Jason Ball onto the project. The research chef previously had worked with the University of Copenhagen’s Nordic Food Lab, helping chefs there better use local ingredients.

“The Food Innovation Center team was working on creating products from dulse, whereas Jason brings a ‘culinary research’ chef’s perspective,” said Gil Sylvia, director of the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. “The point that he and other chefs make is that fresh, high-quality seaweed is hard to get. ‘You bring us the seaweed,’ they say, ‘and we’ll do the creative stuff.’”

Several Portland-area chefs are now testing dulse as a fresh product and many believe it has significant potential in both its raw form and as a food ingredient.

Sylvia, who is a seafood economist, said that although dulse has great potential, no one has yet done a full analysis on whether a commercial operation would be economically feasible. “That fact that it grows rapidly, has high nutritional value, and can be used dried or fresh certainly makes it a strong candidate,” he said.

SeaweedThere are no commercial operations that grow dulse for human consumption in the United States, according to Langdon, who said it has been used as a food in northern Europe for centuries. The dulse sold in U.S. health food and nutrition stores is harvested, and is a different strain from the OSU-patented variety.

“In Europe, they add the powder to smoothies, or add flakes onto food,” Langdon said. “There hasn’t been a lot of interest in using it in a fresh form. But this stuff is pretty amazing. When you fry it, which I have done, it tastes like bacon, not seaweed. And it’s a pretty strong bacon flavor.”

The vegan market alone could comprise a niche.

Langdon, a professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at OSU and long-time leader of the Molluscan Broodstock Program, has two large tanks in which he can grow about 20-30 pounds of dulse a week. He has plans to up the production to 100 pounds a week. For now, they are using the dulse for research at the Food Innovation Center on dulse recipes and products.

However, Toombs’ MBA students are preparing a marketing plan for a new line of specialty foods and exploring the potential for a new aquaculture industry.

“The dulse grows using a water recirculation system,” Langdon said. “Theoretically, you could create an industry in eastern Oregon almost as easily as you could along the coast with a bit of supplementation. You just need a modest amount of seawater and some sunshine.”

The background of how Langdon and his colleagues developed dulse is outlined in the latest version of Oregon’s Agricultural Progress at :http://bit.ly/1fo9Doy

By Mark Floyd, 541-737-0788, mark.floyd@oregonstate.edu

Sources: Chris Langdon, 541-867-0231, chris.langdon@oregonstate.edu;  Chuck Toombs, 541-737-4087,chuck.toombs@oregonstate.edu; Michael Morrisey, 503-872-6656, Michael.Morrissey@oregonstate.edu;  Gil Sylvia, 541-867-0284,gil.sylvia@oregonstate.edu

This release is available at: http://bit.ly/1dYy766

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Oregon Legislature approves funds for new building at HMSC

July 8th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

OSU makes plans for expansion at Hatfield Marine Science Center

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon Legislature has approved $24.8 million in state bonding to help fund a new building at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport that will be a centerpiece for research and education on critical issues facing coastal communities.

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 9.49.55 AMThe $50 million, 100,000-square-foot facility is an integral part of OSU’s ambitious Marine Studies Initiative, designed to educate students and conduct research on marine-related issues, from rising sea levels and ocean acidification to sustainable fisheries and economic stability.

Oregon State officials plan to begin construction on the new building in 2016/17 and open as early as 2018. The OSU Foundation will raise an additional $40 million in private funding for the Marine Studies Initiative – $25 million to match state funds for the new building and another $15 million to support related programs. Donors have pledged more than 75 percent of the total to date.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown will need to sign the legislation before it becomes official.

“This is an investment that will benefit not only higher education, but the research needs and the economic vitality for the entire coast,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “The support and leadership of the coastal legislators has been invaluable.”

Coastal legislators include senators Betsy Johnson, Arnie Roblan, and Jeff Kruse; and representatives Wayne Krieger, Caddy McKeown, Deborah Boone and David Gomberg.

“This new building is essential to the university’s goals of expanding education and research on marine-related issues,” said Bob Cowen, director of the Hatfield Marine Science Center. “There are so many critical issues facing coastal communities today – from economic stress tied to variable fish stocks to concerns over tsunamis, ocean acidification, rising sea levels, erosion and others.”

“The expansion is long overdue,” added Cowen, who is co-leader of the Marine Studies Initiative. “Although we’ve added a couple of buildings earmarked for state or federal agencies, it’s been decades since Oregon State has added capacity at the Hatfield Marine Science Center campus.”

Cowen said one area of focus for expansion will the overarching theme of coastal resilience.

“Geology students may come here to study coastal erosion, oceanography students may explore sea level rise, engineers might look at options for coastal buildings that are resistant to tsunamis or tidal surge, and sociologists could lead the way on how communities respond to a disaster,” Cowen said.

The new facility will be located adjacent to the Guin Library on the HMSC campus, which is just east of the Highway 101 bridge over Yaquina Bay in Newport. The location places the facility in close proximity to critically important saltwater laboratories and other HMSC research facilities. It is within the tsunami inundation zone, OSU officials say, though careful consideration went into the siting.

“We are very much aware of the various geological hazards the Pacific Ocean presents and we choose to use the siting as an educational and design opportunity,” Cowen said. “Our focus is on life safety. We believe we can be a model for anticipating a seismic event, and for how to live safely and productively in a tsunami zone. We want to be a showcase for earthquake and tsunami preparedness.”

OSU’s Marine Studies Initiative has set a goal to teach 500 students at the Hatfield center by 2025, and expand research at the facility, which is run by Oregon State and shared by several agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The multiple agencies, along with Hatfield’s saltwater research laboratories and ship operations, make it one of the most important marine science facilities in the country – and the combination provides unique opportunities for OSU students.

“One of the goals of the Marine Studies Initiative is to really broaden various disciplines across the university,” said Jack Barth, associate dean of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and co-leader of the Marine Studies Initiative. “We’ll still focus on fisheries, marine biology, ocean processes and other science-related issues, but we see some exciting areas into which we could expand including economics, social and public policies, ocean engineering and others.

“In fact, the new marine studies degree will be housed in the College of Liberal Arts,” Barth added.

HMSC50thColorCowen said the new facility will enable OSU to expand its teaching and research capacity at Hatfield by 20-25 faculty members. On the research side, principal investigators will work with graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and technicians, further expanding the center’s capacity. “Right now, OSU has about 12-14 research faculty on-site,” Cowen said, “so we’re talking about a significant increase.”

The new building will have several large spaces that will accommodate scientific talks and community workshops focused on marine issues.

The Hatfield Marine Science Center celebrates its 50th anniversary in August. More information on the event is available at http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/50th

 

By Mark Floyd, 541-737-0788, mark.floyd@oregonstate.edu

Sources: Bob Cowen, 541-867-0211, robert.cowen@oregonstate.edu; Jack Barth, 541-737-1607, barth@coas.oregonstate.edu

This article is available online at: http://bit.ly/1UAIvCK

 

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The OSTRICH is back! Plankton Lab’s 2015 cruise is underway…

June 15th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

ostrich-logoFollow HMSC’s Plankton Lab (aka the Sponaugle-Cowen Lab) on their 2015 OSTRICH research cruise!

Find their Cruise Blog at http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/ostrich

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Science on Tap! Wed, June 10 at Rogue Ales in South Beach

June 3rd, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Antarctica_cover_972x792pxScientist and photographer Dr. Ari S. Friedleander will present at the Hatfield Marine Science Center’s Science on Tap on Wednesday, June 10 at 6pm. The presentation will introduce his first book, Unframable, a collection of photographs from Antarctica in the context of his work as a marine mammal ecologist.

The event will take place at Rogue Ale’s South Beach waterfront location, Brewer’s on the Bay, in the downstairs Board Room. Doors open at 5:15pm, and the presentation will begin at 6pm. The family-friendly event is free open to the public, and early arrival is recommended, as seating is limited. Food and beverage will be available for purchase from the regular menu.

Friedleander’s talk will explore Antarctica through images and experiences from over 25 trips made since 1997. His long-term ecological research program in Antarctica has led to many important discoveries about whales. While scientific research has driven his work to date, Friedleander also uses photography as a medium to shed light on some of the unique aspects of the Antarctic, its inhabitants, and the threats that this fragile ecosystem now faces.

Ari S. Friedlaender is an Associate Professor at Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute. He grew up in Connecticut, earned his PhD from Duke University and was a Research Professor at the Duke University Marine Laboratory before moving to Oregon in 2013. His research interests are in using tag technology to study the underwater behavior of marine mammals. Specifically, Friedlaender is interested in the foraging behavior of baleen whales and how these animals are affected by environmental and human-caused changes to their ecosystems.

The OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) is an interagency campus in Newport, Oregon with a mission of research, education and outreach in marine sciences through collaborative partnerships. For more information on the event, call 541-867-0234 or visit the HMSC website at hmsc.oregonstate.edu.

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Researchers think Axial Seamount off Northwest coast is erupting – right on schedule

April 30th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Credit: Bill Chadwick, Oregon State University

Credit: Bill Chadwick, Oregon State University

NEWPORT, Ore. – Axial Seamount, an active underwater volcano located about 300 miles off the coast of Oregon and Washington, appears to be erupting – after two scientists had forecast that such an event would take place there in 2015.

Geologists Bill Chadwick of Oregon State University and Scott Nooner of the University of North Carolina Wilmington made their forecast last September during a public lecture and followed it up with blog postsand a reiteration of their forecast just last week at a scientific workshop.

They based their forecast on some of their previous research – funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which showed how the volcano inflates and deflates like a balloon in a repeatable pattern as it responds to magma being fed into the seamount.

Since last Friday, the region has experienced thousands of tiny earthquakes – a sign that magma is moving toward the surface – and the seafloor dropped by 2.4 meters, or nearly eight feet, also a sign of magma being withdrawn from a reservoir beneath the summit. Instrumentation recording the activity is part of the NSF-funded Ocean Observatories Initiative. William Wilcock of the University of Washington first observed the earthquakes.

One of three bottom-pressure/tilt instruments in the summit caldera at Axial Seamount that is connected to the OOI Cabled Array network. This instrument measured vertical movements of the seafloor during the recent volcanic eruption. Credit: National Science Foundation/Ocean Observatories Initiative, University of Washington, Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility.

One of three bottom-pressure/tilt instruments in the summit caldera at Axial Seamount that is connected to the OOI Cabled Array network. This instrument measured vertical movements of the seafloor during the recent volcanic eruption. Credit: National Science Foundation/Ocean Observatories Initiative, University of Washington, Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility.

“It isn’t clear yet whether the earthquakes and deflation at Axial are related to a full-blown eruption, or if it is only a large intrusion of magma that hasn’t quite reached the surface,” said Chadwick, who works out of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport and also is affiliated with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. “There are some hints that lava did erupt, but we may not know for sure until we can get out there with a ship.”

In any case, the researchers say, such an eruption is not a threat to coastal residents. The earthquakes at Axial Seamount are small and the seafloor movements gradual and thus cannot cause a tsunami.

“I have to say, I was having doubts about the forecast even the night before the activity started,” Chadwick admitted. “We didn’t have any real certainty that it would take place – it was more of a way to test our hypothesis that the pattern we have seen was repeatable and predictable.”

Axial Seamount provides scientists with an ideal laboratory, not only because of its close proximity to the Northwest coast, but for its unique structure.

“Because Axial is on very thin ocean crust, its ‘plumbing system’ is simpler than at most volcanoes on land that are often complicated by other factors related to having a thicker crust,” said Chadwick, who is an adjunct professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “Thus Axial can give us insights into how volcano magma systems work – and how eruptions might be predicted.”

Credit: Bill Chadwick, Oregon State University

Credit: Bill Chadwick, Oregon State University

Axial Seamount last erupted in 2011 and that event was loosely forecast by Chadwick and Nooner, who had said in 2006 that the volcano would erupt before 2014. Since the 2011 eruption, additional research led to a refined forecast that the next eruption would be in 2015 based on the fact that the rate of inflation had increased by about 400 percent since the last eruption.

“We’ve learned that the supply rate of magma has a big influence on the time between eruptions,” Nooner said. “When the magma rate was lower, it took 13 years between eruptions. But now when the magma rate is high, it took only four years.”

Chadwick and Nooner are scheduled to go back to Axial in August to gather more data, but it may be possible for other researchers to visit the seamount on an expedition as early as May. They hope to confirm the eruption and, if so, measure the volume of lava involved.

Evidence that was key to the successful forecast came in the summer of 2014 via measurements taken by colleagues Dave Caress and Dave Clague of Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and Mark Zumberge and Glenn Sasagawa of Scripps Oceanographic Institution. Those measurements showed the high rate of magma inflation was continuing.

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MATE ROV: A Teacher’s Reflection

April 29th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

The MATE Competition (see last posting) in North Bend was a huge success! See the Oregon Coast Stem Hub‘s blog for a teacher’s reflection on the event at http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/oregoncoaststem/

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MATE ROV Competition this Saturday!

April 24th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Oregon Competition Helps Students Learn about Polar Science and Technology with Underwater Robots

April 23, 2015— The Oregon Coast Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Hub, in conjunction with the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center, has issued an icy challenge to Oregon students. On Saturday, April 25th, 38 teams of elementary, middle school, high school, and college students from across Oregon will compete in an underwater robotics competition in North Bend, Oregon that focuses on the use of these vehicles in scientific research and the offshore oil industry in the Arctic Ocean.

An annual event, the Oregon Regional MATE ROV Competition encourages students to learn and apply science, technology, engineering, and math skills as they develop underwater robots – also known as remotely operated vehicles or ROVs – to complete missions that simulate real-world problems from the ocean workplace.

Established 4 years ago, the Oregon Regional MATE ROV Competition continues to expand in both team numbers and geographic area from which teams hail, with teams traveling from as far as Klamath Falls and Astoria to attend.

The competition theme changes every year. This year’s contest highlights the role of ROVs in scientific research and the offshore oil industry in the extreme environment of the Arctic. Like scientists who work in polar conditions, students will pilot their ROVs under a simulated ice sheet where they will count and sample organisms, deploy scientific instruments, and collect iceberg data. They will also pilot their ROVs to complete tasks from the offshore oil industry, including inspecting pipelines and testing deep-sea oilfield equipment. In addition to their ROV missions, student teams must also create a poster and be interviewed by engineering judges.

The competition promotes the development of entrepreneurship and leadership skills by requiring students to organize themselves into a company structure with each student taking on a specific role. It transports students from the classroom into the business world, where the student-run, simulated companies design, manufacture, and market their student-built underwater robots. The process requires students to manage a project and budget, brainstorm innovative solutions, and work as a team – all important 21st century workforce skills.

The Oregon Regional MATE ROV Competition is supported by numerous partners and over 50 volunteers, who serve as divers, judges and support staff. This year’s competition is sponsored by the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, which is a collaboration of over 50 coastal partners focused on providing world-class STEM opportunities for coastal teachers and their students. Additional support comes from the MATE Center, the Marine Technology Society, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), Oregon Sea Grant, the Sexton Corporation, Oregon State University, the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, and the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

The Oregon Regional Competition is one of 24 regional contests held around the world whose efforts are coordinated by the MATE Center. Top teams from the upper level divisions will earn the opportunity to compete in MATE’s 14th annual international ROV competition, which will be held June 25-27, 2015 at the Marine Institute of Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

The public is invited to attend the competition and cheer for their local teams. The Oregon Regional MATE ROV Competition will be held from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm on Saturday, April 25th at the North Bend Community Pool and North Bend High School. For more information, please contact the Oregon Coast STEM Hub at OregonCoastSTEM@oregonstate.edu.

For information contact: Tracy Crews, Oregon Coast STEM Hub Manager

541-867-0329

OregonCoastSTEM@oregonstate.edu

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Winner of the Inaugural National Data Science Bowl Announced

March 25th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

MCLEAN, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–After 90 days of intense competition, in which the data science community applied its skills to effect change on a global scale, a team of deep learning specialists has won the inaugural National Data Science Bowl. The competition, co-sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton and Kaggle and created with data from oceanographers at Oregon State University Hatfield Marine Science Center, challenged participants to create an algorithm that automates an ocean health assessment process, which would have taken marine researchers more than two lifetimes to manually complete.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 2.12.32 PMThe Hatfield Marine Science Center, the data provider and beneficiary of the event, has received more than an estimated four-million dollar ‘in kind’ donation of analytics research through the participants’ submissions. Team Deep Sea from Ghent University developed the most effective algorithm to automatically classify more than 100,000 underwater images of plankton, marking a major step forward for the marine research community, as plankton populations are key indicators of ocean health. The work by the seven-person team of graduate students and post-doctoral researchers automated the classification process for the first time in history. Together, they beat more than 1,000 other teams and achieved better results than 15,000+ competing submissions in quickly and accurately distinguishing 121 distinct categories of oceanic organisms.

Through their work, they have enabled the rapid analysis of data sets with a digital size equivalent to 400,000 3-minute YouTube videos, enough to watch continuously for over 800 days. Team Deep Sea’s work therefore represents major advances for both the marine research and data science communities.

“The excitement and participation that the National Data Science Bowl generated during its inaugural competition was inspiring,” said Booz Allen Hamilton’s Josh Sullivan, a senior vice president in the firm’s Strategic Innovation Group. “This was an extremely difficult problem to solve; and through hard work, perseverance and ingenuity, the participants had a massive impact on the marine research community. The National Data Science Bowl was born from the realization that, in order to thrive, the data science community must be given opportunities to use its talents to benefit both business and society. It’s also a testament to the growing importance of data science across all disciplines that, most recently, received mainstream attention from the White House with President Obama’s appointment of the country’s first Chief Data Scientist.”

“The quality of submissions and types of ideas being discussed by our community were truly amazing,” said Anthony Goldbloom, Kaggle’s founder and CEO. “The winning team used a cutting edge deep learning approach to create their winning model. Currently, even basic machine learning techniques are not widely used in the marine sciences and this competition has done a tremendous amount towards further exposing researchers in the field to its benefits.”

“We were originally drawn to this competition because of the vital social cause it supported,” said Team Deep Sea member Pieter Buteneers. “What we found was a truly life-changing opportunity to collaborate as a team and build something great together, and we are proud to have competed against such a high-caliber field of data scientists.”

For researchers at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, the algorithms will serve as critical tools for assessing ocean health. A large and thriving plankton population is crucial for driving some of the planet’s most life-sustaining processes. They cycle nearly half of the carbon absorbed by the Earth’s ocean each year as well as form the foundation for marine food webs. They are extremely susceptible to changes in ocean temperature and chemistry, making them a key indicator of broader ecological health. The algorithms created through the National Data Science Bowl will allow rapid assessment of their populations, enabling the marine research community to monitor ocean health at an unprecedented speed and scale. These types of real-time insights have not been possible through manual identification and analysis and represent an important step forward in understanding as well as protecting the environment.

We’re excited to receive the winning algorithms from the National Data Science Bowl and to test and validate these proofs of concepts in our own labs,” said Hatfield Marine Science Center Director Bob Cowen. “Our hope is that we will be able to expand upon this research and, eventually, make it an open source tool for the marine research community.”

For more information about the winning teams and to apply to participate in a future National Data Science Bowl, please visit www.datasciencebowl.com.

About Booz Allen Hamilton

Booz Allen Hamilton is a leading provider of management consulting, technology, and engineering services to the US government in defense, intelligence, and civil markets, and to major corporations and not-for-profit organizations. Booz Allen is headquartered in McLean, Virginia, employs more than 22,000 people, and had revenue of $5.48 billion for the 12 months ended March 31, 2014. In 2014, Booz Allen celebrated its 100th anniversary year. To learn more, visit www.boozallen.com/datascience. (NYSE: BAH)

About Kaggle

Kaggle is the leading platform for developing highly sophisticated predictive models and recruiting top data science talent. Through its competitions, Kaggle has built the world’s largest community of data scientists, with over 40,000 active participants. They compete with each other to solve complex data science problems, and the top competitors are invited to work on the most interesting and sensitive business problems from some of the world’s largest companies.

About the Hatfield Marine Science Center at Oregon State University

The Hatfield Marine Science Center is a research and teaching facility of Oregon State University that is located in Newport, Oregon, on the Yaquina Bay estuary – immediately adjacent to the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. It plays an integral role in programs of marine and estuarine research and instruction; as a laboratory serving resident scientists, as a base for far-ranging oceanographic studies and as a classroom for students.

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New research reveals low-oxygen impacts on West Coast groundfish 

March 25th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

CORVALLIS, Ore. – When low-oxygen “dead zones” began appearing off the Oregon Coast in the early 2000’s, photos of the ocean floor revealed bottom-dwelling crabs that could not escape the suffocating conditions and died by the thousands.

But the question everyone asked was, “What about the fish?” recalls Oregon State University oceanographer Jack Barth.

“We didn’t really know the impacts on fish,” Barth said. “We couldn’t see them.”

Scientists from NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center and Oregon State have begun to answer that question with a new paper published in the journal Fisheries Oceanography. The paper finds that low-oxygen waters projected to expand with climate change create winners and losers among fish, with some adapted to handle low-oxygen conditions that drive other species away.

Generally the number of fish species declines with oxygen levels as sensitive species leave the area, said Aimee Keller, a fisheries biologist at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and lead author of the new paper. But a few species such as Dover sole and greenstriped rockfish appear largely unaffected.

“One of our main questions was, ‘Are there fewer species present in an area when the oxygen drops?’ and yes, we definitely see that,” Keller said. “As it goes lower and lower you see more and more correlation between species and oxygen levels.”

Deep waters off the West Coast have long been known to be naturally low in oxygen. But the new findings show that the spread of lower oxygen conditions, which have been documented closer to shore and off Washington and California, could redistribute fish in ways that affect fishing fleets as well as the marine food chain.

The lower the oxygen levels, for example, the more effort fishing boats will have to invest to find enough fish. “We may see fish sensitive to oxygen levels may be pushed into habitat that’s less desirable and they may grow more slowly in those areas,” Keller said.

Researchers examined the effect of low-oxygen waters with the help of West Coast trawl surveys conducted every year by the Northwest Fisheries Science Center to assess the status of groundfish stocks. They developed a sturdy, protective housing for oxygen sensors that could be attached to the trawl nets to determine what species the nets swept up in areas of different oxygen concentrations.

The study combined the expertise of fisheries scientists such as Keller who assess fish stocks with oceanographers such as Barth who track ocean conditions to look at the relationship between the two.

“Initially, we would tell them where the low oxygen was, and they would trawl within areas ranging from low to high oxygen,” explained Barth, a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “Later, oxygen sensors were deployed on all tows during the groundfish survey. They would look at the catch and the species richness.

“We tried to get it down to the individual species level, where we could tell which fish correlated with which oxygen levels.”

Low-oxygen waters appear off the West Coast in two ways, Barth said. The first is the eastward movement of deep, oxygen-poor water that laps up against the West Coast. The second occurs when wind-driven upwelling brings nutrients to the surface, fueling blooms of phytoplankton that eventually die and sink to the bottom. Their decay then consumes the oxygen, leaving what scientists call hypoxic conditions where oxygen levels are low enough to adversely affect marine organisms.

The scientists examined the effects of varying oxygen levels on four representative species: spotted ratfish, petrale sole, greenstriped rockfish and Dover sole.

Spotted ratfish and petrale sole were the most sensitive to changes in oxygen levels, with their presence declining sharply as the amount of oxygen dissolved in the water declines. But greenstriped rockfish and Dover sole were largely unaffected by dissolved oxygen levels.

Dover sole is adapted to low-oxygen waters, with gill surface areas two to three times larger than other fish of similar size that allow it to absorb more oxygen from the same amount of water. Dover sole also are among a few fish species that can reduce their oxygen consumption to very low concentrations, probably an adaptation to low-oxygen conditions.

The research is continuing, with trawl survey vessels carrying oxygen sensors on all of their tows since 2009, Keller said. Further data should provide insight into the response of additional fish species to low oxygen conditions, Keller said.

This article is available online.

Michael Milstein, NOAA Fisheries, 503-231-6268

Mark Floyd, OSU, 541-737-0788

Jack Barth, 541-737-1607, barth@coas.oregonstate.edu

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OSU scientists host and participate in international seabird forum

March 12th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 9.50.44 AMThe early career scientist committee of the 2nd World Seabird Conference presents Meet the Masters: an online question and answer webinar, connecting senior seabird scientists with their early career counterparts. The featured scientists for this MtM session are Rob Suryan and Leigh Torres of Oregon State University, with Amanda Gladics, also of HMSC-OSU, co-hosting.
Check out the YouTube video which was streamed live on Mar 10, 2015:

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OSU to help lead $20 million disaster resilience center

March 11th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A team of Oregon State University researchers will help lead the Community Resilience Center of Excellence, a five-year, $20 million initiative to help communities improve resilience to natural disasters.

The center will be based at Colorado State University, and is a partnership of 10 institutions, funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

It will develop computer tools to help local governments create resiliency in buildings and critical infrastructure, lessen the impact of extreme weather and other hazards, and recover rapidly in their aftermath.

“Engineering plays a big role in how resilient the built environment is in response to a variety of hazards,” said Daniel Cox, professor in the OSU School of Civil and Construction Engineering and associate director for the center. “The research at the center will help communities engineer and improve critical systems by providing them with the tools to make well-informed decisions.”

The primary goal of the center will be creation of the NIST-Community Resilience Modeling Environment. Built on an open-source platform and encompassing all forms of natural disasters, this computer model will incorporate a risk-based approach to decision-making and enable quantitative comparisons of different resilience strategies.

OSU civil and construction engineering associate professor Michael Scott and assistant professor Andre Barbosa will assist with the project, providing expertise in structural engineering and computer modeling.

Scott has helped create OpenSees, a software framework for developing models to simulate the performance of structural and geotechnical systems in earthquakes; Barbosa has conducted extensive research on reliability and risk-based analysis of civil infrastructure systems.

“In civil engineering, we learn a lot from past disasters and mistakes,” Cox said. “So it’s really important that we go out and collect uniform data. OpenSees and other predictive programs will provide a strong framework for us to build a comprehensive data collection and computer modeling tool.”

The center also includes experts from the University of Illinois, University of Oklahoma, Rice University, Texas A&M University, the University of Washington, the University of South Alabama, California Polytechnic University in Pomona and Texas A&M-Kingsville.

This project continues OSU’s dedication to improve resiliency in the built environment.

Recent OSU efforts include leading the Cascadia Lifeline Program, a research initiative with government and private industry to help improve critical infrastructure performance during an anticipated major earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone; and involvement with the Oregon Resilience Plan, an initiative to mitigate damage from that earthquake and the resulting tsunami.

By Michael Collins, 541-737-1207 or Michael.collins@oregonstate.edu

Contact: Dan Cox, 541-737-3631 or dan.cox@oregonstate.edu

This story is available online: http://bit.ly/1BbfkgA

 

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Warm winter wraps up – concern about low snowpack continues

March 10th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

CORVALLIS, Ore. – If it seemed like Oregon has had a lot of unseasonably warm days this winter, well, it’s because we have. Now the focus is on a very low snowpack – and the implications that may have later this year.

The meteorological winter – which is comprised of December, January and February – recently wrapped up and depending on where you live in Oregon, it was one of the warmest – if not the warmest – winters on record.

“It has been a very, very warm winter – almost historically so,” said Philip Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Center at Oregon State University. “On one hand, the warm temperatures have made for a rather pleasant winter. On the other hand, the snowpack situation has been atrocious, and that really raises concerns for water levels in many streams later this summer.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s seasonal outlook calls for “significantly enhanced likelihood” for a warm spring – especially in western Oregon and western Washington – and a “somewhat reduced likelihood” for a wet spring.

“That’s not a hopeful outlook for the kind of late recovery of snowpack that we have seen in some previous low-snow winters,” Mote noted.

How warm has this winter been? Mote said that each winter month was warmer than average at almost every recording station in Oregon. More than a hundred high temperature records were broken in Oregon – just in December. Another 114 high temperature records were broken in February.

Overall, Mote said, this should go down as the second warmest winter for the Pacific Northwest behind 1933-34, according to data from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. That was the Dust Bowl era – and 2014-15 wasn’t far behind. NOAA reports that parts of eastern and southern Oregon were more than eight degrees warmer than average for the meteorological winter.

Along the coast, temperatures in some places reached the low 70s, amazingly mild for mid-February.

In many other places in western Oregon, temperatures in the 60s were not uncommon. In fact, Roseburg reported 12 days of 60-degree-plus temperatures in February alone, according to National Weather Service data.

Although temperatures were warm, it wasn’t unusually dry, Mote said.

“The precipitation levels were unremarkable – just a bit lower than usual,” he pointed out. “However, a lot more of the precipitation fell as rain instead of snow – and that could have a major impact down the road. California, Oregon and Washington hardly have any snow – less than 10 percent of normal in some basins.”

On a regional basis, the winter temperatures looked like this:

  • Astoria: December was 4.4 degrees warmer than average; January was 2.5 degrees warmer; and February was 5.1 degrees warmer.
  • Eugene was 4.6 degrees warmer than average in December, 2.9 degrees warmer in January, and 5.3 degrees in February. Eugene reached a high of 62 degrees in December, 68 in January (a record for the month), and 65 in the month of February, which had five days of temperatures in the 60s.
  • McMinnville recorded a record high temperature of 66 degrees on Feb. 17, breaking the old mark of 65 set in 1996.
  • Portland was 3.7 degrees warmer than average in December, 2.0 degrees warmer in January, and 5.4 degrees warmer in February. The Rose City had seven days of 60-degree-plus weather in February alone.
  • Roseburg was 6.1 degrees warmer than average in December, 3.5 degrees warmer than average in January, and 4.8 degrees warmer than average in February. Roseburg had a total of 12 days of temperatures in the 60s in February.
  • Pendleton wasn’t as warm as the rest of the state early in the winter, but February was 5.5 degrees warmer than average and Pendleton recorded a high of 66 degrees on Feb. 6.
  • Salem set a new record high for February on Feb. 16, when the mercury reached 66 degrees, breaking the old record of 65 set in 1902.

More weather information is available on the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute website at: http://occri.net/. The institute is housed in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

By Mark Floyd, 541-737-0788; mark.floyd@oregonstate.edu

Source: Phil Mote, 541-913-2274; pmote@coas.oregonstate.edu

This article is available online at: http://bit.ly/1BtWxMs

 

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OSU to outfit undersea gliders to “think like a fish”

March 6th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University researchers have received a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation that will allow them to outfit a pair of undersea gliders with acoustical sensors to identify biological “hot spots” in the coastal ocean.

They also hope to develop an onboard computing system that will program the gliders to perform different functions depending on what they encounter.

In other words, the scientists say, they want to outfit a robotic undersea glider to “think like a fish.”

“We spend all of this time on ships, deploying instrumentation that basically is designed to see how ocean biology aggregates around physical features – like hake at the edge of the continental shelf or salmon at upwelling fronts,” said Jack Barth, a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and a principal investigator on the project. “But that just gives us a two-week window into a particular area.

“We already have a basic understanding of the ecosystem,” Barth added. “Now we want to get a better handle of what kind of marine animals are out there, how many there are, where they are distributed, and how they respond to phytoplankton blooms, schools of baitfish or oceanic features. It will benefit a variety of stakeholders, from the fishing industry and resource managers to the scientific community.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 2.58.59 PMBarth is a physical oceanographer who knows the physical processes of the coastal ocean. He’ll work with Kelly Benoit-Bird, a marine ecologist, who specializes in the relationships among marine organisms from tiny plankton to large whales. Her work utilizes acoustics to identify and track animals below the ocean surface – and it is these sensors that will open up a new world of research aboard the gliders.

“Our first goals are to understand the dynamics of the Pacific Northwest upwelling system, find the biological hotspots, and then see how long they last,” Benoit-Bird said. “Then we’d like to learn what we can about the distribution of prey and predators – and the relationship of both to oceanic conditions.”

Using robot-mounted acoustic sensors, the OSU researchers will be able to identify different kinds of marine animals using their unique acoustical signatures. Diving seabirds, for example, leave a trail of bubbles through the water like the contrail left by a jet. Zooplankton show up as a diffuse cloud. Schooling fish create a glowing, amoeba-shaped image.

“We’ve done this kind of work from ships, but you’re more or less anchored in one spot, which is limiting,” Benoit-Bird said. “By putting sensors on gliders, we hope to follow fish, or circle around a plankton bloom, or see how seabirds dive. We want to learn more about what is going on out there.”

Programming a glider to spend weeks out in the ocean and then “think” when it encounters certain cues, is a challenge that falls upon the third member of the research team, Geoff Hollinger, from OSU’s robotics program in the College of Engineering. Undersea gliders operated by Oregon State already can be programmed to patrol offshore for weeks at a time, following a transect, moving up and down in the water column, and even rising to the surface to beam data back to onshore labs via satellite.

But the instruments aboard the gliders that measure temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen are comparatively simple and require limited power. Using sophisticated bioacoustics sensors that record huge amounts of data, and then programming the gliders to respond to environmental cues, is a significant technological advance.

“All of the technology is there,” Hollinger said, “but combining it into a package to perform on a glider is a huge robotics and systems engineering challenge. You need lots of computing power, longer battery life, and advanced control algorithms.”

Making a glider “think,” or respond to environmental cues, is all about predictive algorithms, he said.

“It is a little like looking at economic indicators in the stock market,” Hollinger pointed out. “Just one indicator is unlikely to tell you how a stock will perform. We need to develop an algorithm that essentially turns the glider into an autonomous vehicle that can run on autopilot.”

The three-year research project should benefit fisheries management, protection of endangered species, analyzing the impacts of new ocean uses such as wave energy, and documenting impacts of climate change, the researchers say.

Oregon State has become a national leader in the use of undersea gliders in research to study the coastal ocean and now owns and operates more than 20 of the instruments through three separate research initiatives. Barth said the vision is to establish a center for underwater vehicles and acoustics research – which would be a key component of its recently announced Marine Studies Initiative.

The university also has a growing program in robotics, of which Hollinger is a key faculty member. This collaborative project funded by Keck exemplifies the collaborative nature of research at Oregon State, the researchers say, where ecologists, oceanographers and roboticists work together.

“This project and the innovative technology could revolutionize how marine scientists study the world’s oceans,” Barth said.

Mark Floyd, 541-737-0788

Jack Barth, 541-737-1607, barth@coas.oregonstate.edu;

Kelly Benoit-Bird, 541-737-2063, kbenoit@coas.oregonstate.edu;

Geoff Hollinger, 541-737-5906, Geoff.hollinger@oregonstate.edu

About the OSU College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences: CEOAS is internationally recognized for its faculty, research and facilities, including state-of-the-art computing infrastructure to support real-time ocean/atmosphere observation and prediction. The college is a leader in the study of the Earth as an integrated system, providing scientific understanding to address complex environmental challenges

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Fossil Fest, Saturday Feb 21 at HMSC

February 18th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.23.43 AMFossil Fest is scheduled on Saturday, February 21st at the Hatfield Marine Science Visitor Center. “Oregon Fossil Guy” DiTorrace will be joining Dr. William Orr with special auditorium presentations. Mike Full, a local Pleistocene fossil hound and Newport’s own Kent Gibson, will be setting up additional exhibits of amazing fossils. The North American Research Group will be staffing a suite of tables with hands-on activities and fossil displays that the entire family will enjoy. Bring in your own “mystery fossil” for an expert’s identification.

SPEAKERS:

Join Newport’s “Oregon Fossil Guy” DiTorrice at 11:30 in the Hennings Auditorium. He is bringing his Oregon beach collection for hands-on display and will present an updated “Fossils You Can Find on Oregon Beaches” program.

Dr. Bill Orr will present at 1:30 in the Hennings Auditorium. “What was it before it was a Wing”. The talk treats some of the darker aspects of evolution that keep paleontologists awake at night. That is to say issues and items we are hard pressed to explain because, until they are exactly right, they won’t work. I refer of course to the airfoil among other things. To do this I’ll examine many of the separate ways and means that vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals) as well as arachnids and insects fly.

Dr. Orr will also identify fossils for the visitors as well as market some of the books that he and his wife Elizabeth have written over the past 33 years.

DISPLAYS:

Mike Full’s “Willamette Valley Pleistocene Project” captures a glimpse of 50,000 years of prehistory in our own backyard. Giant bison and wooly mammoth fossils will be on display.

Some of Kent Gibson’s are currently in the Smithsonian’s collection. Kent will display a cross-section of fossils found in Lincoln County, including dolphin skulls, scallops, and whale vertebrata.

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Announcing a new blog! What’s Past is Prologue – HMSC History

February 7th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

What’s Past is Prologue – HMSC History, is the Hatfield Marine Science Center’s NEW history blog!

This year – 2015 – marks the 50th anniversary of the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon. Join us as we celebrate this venerable milestone with special events, historical displays and webpages, alumni speakers, oral histories and so much more. We hope you will enjoy ‘honoring the past and celebrating the future’ with us throughout the year.

Visit What’s Past is Prologue for news of events, new web resources and other 50th anniversary news. he first of an interactive series, “Photo of the Week” has been posted and will run through 2015. We hope these photos will inspire you, our readers, to help us capture and share the multitude of stories of the Marine Science Center. We’ll also highlight our bright future, with updates on Oregon State University’s Marine Studies Initiative and plans for expansion at HMSC, OSU’s marine lab for 50 years and counting.

The Photo of the Week and webpages are made possible by many individuals, most notably the OSU Special Collections and Archives, recently retired HMSC Guin Librarian Janet Webster, and Sarah Borycki, 2014 PROMISE intern at HMSC who digitally archived hundreds of photos, articles and other memorabilia from our past 50 years of marine research, education and outreach at HMSC. The cover photo of the Yaquina Bay Bridge is courtesy of HMSC’s Bob Miller.

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