HMSC Currents

OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center Staff Newsletter

HMSC Currents

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.


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.


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.


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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Marine Mammal Institute in the news

January 30th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Aging whales: Scars reveal social secrets <> (BBC News)

Professor Ari Friedlaender, a marine ecologist from Oregon State University, said that the animals’ long-term associations and complex social structures could mean that the impacts of “disturbing them or removing individuals might have significant consequences”.

Western Aleutian Steller Sea Lions potentially falling prey to sleeper sharks <> (KTOO)

These are not your ordinary wildlife tags. They are sophisticated pieces of equipment that record temperature, light and other factors throughout an animal’s entire life cycle. They float to the surface after the animal dies and transmit that recording by satellite to Oregon State University ecologist Markus Horning.


For more information about the OSU Marine Mammal Institute, based at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, OR, see


Whale Cove Protected as part of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge thanks to a diverse partnership

January 26th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

whale-cove-mapDepoe Bay OR –The land around Whale Cove on the central Oregon Coast is now a protected part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge thanks to a partnership between the property owner and federal, state, and nonprofit organizations. The 13.97-acre property in Lincoln County is two miles south of Depoe Bay, and surrounds the oldest marine reserve in Oregon where all marine life is protected. The site will be managed for its natural resource values and to protect Whale Cove’s ecology. The cove provides scenic views from nearby Rocky Creek State Park and US Highway 101.

The deal closed on December 31, 2014 thanks to support from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), Federal Highway Administration, (FHWA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the nonprofit North Coast Land Conservancy, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), and property owners Bryce and Beebe Buchanan. The property was valued at $2,250,000; however, the owners donated $1,150,000 by reducing the sale price for the property, accepting $1.1 million. The Buchanans originally purchased this portion of Whale Cove to conserve it; previous to their owning it there were multiple high-density development proposals for the land. The FHWA awarded a Scenic Byways Grant for $650,000 in 2008 to purchase the property. OPRD provided $450,000 in matching funds through Bandon Biota, an Oregon business. Neal Maine with The North Coast Land Conservancy played a pivotal role in applying for the federal funding and negotiating a deal with the Buchanans. ODOT coordinated the scenic byways funding, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to take ownership of the property and manage the site in perpetuity.

Photo courtesy Bryce Buchanan

Photo courtesy Bryce Buchanan

“Seldom do you find an Oregon citizen like Bryce, who not only intentionally buys land for the purpose of conservation, but then has the patience and fortitude to work for more than a decade with multiple government agencies to achieve the goal of preservation,” says Neal Maine with the North Coast Land Conservancy.

“We are grateful to the partnerships that have resulted in this new addition to Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge.” said Rebecca Chuck, Refuge Manager for the USFWS “Refuge designation will provide an undisturbed upland buffer to the marine resources of the cove in addition to added protection for the nesting seabirds and marine mammals.

As part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Whale Cove will protect habitat for nesting seabirds including black oystercatcher, pigeon guillemot, pelagic cormorant, and western gull along with bald eagle and many species of songbirds. The cove also provides resting and pupping habitat that is used by over 100 Harbor Seals year-round. People will be able to enjoy the scenery from the nearby state park viewpoint, and by paddling in from Depoe Bay. USFWS staff and volunteers will focus on removing invasive plant species, especially English ivy, to improve the forested areas for wildlife.

Photo courtesy Bryce Buchanan

Photo courtesy Bryce Buchanan

Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 762 acres of coastal rocks, islands and headlands along 320 miles of the Oregon coastline. The refuge provides nesting habitat for most of Oregon’s 1.2 million nesting seabirds, and a large percentage of Oregon’s seal and sea lion population use the refuge to rest and produce their young.

For more information, contact Dawn Harris, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 541-867-4550



Newport Schools Science Fair – January 29

January 23rd, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

INMS student Sonya Cutler (right) poses with her project and her teacher Chloe Ruffin at the 2013 Science Fair.

INMS student Sonya Cutler (right) poses with her project and her teacher Chloe Ruffin at the 2013 Science Fair.

NEWPORT – The public is invited to attend the annual Newport Schools Science Fair, which will take place on Thursday, January 29th from 4:30pm to 7:30pm at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. Projects from 15 Newport middle school classrooms will be on display alongside the Visitor Center’s many hands-on interactive exhibits.  This year’s Science Fair event will feature wind energy investigations from Newport Intermediate School’s 6th graders, wave energy design models from 7th and 8th graders at Newport Prep Academy, and a variety of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) projects from 7th and 8th graders at Isaac Newton Magnet School. Independent Projects from other area K-8 students will be on display as well. In all, more than 400 Newport students are ready to share their findings with the community at the Science Fair!

A notable feature of the Newport Schools Science Fair has been the involvement of professional scientists from the community who serve as ‘science mentors’, making weekly visits to classrooms to advise students as they work on their science and engineering investigations. This unique partnership gives students a chance to learn from and be inspired by local adults working in STEM fields, and it gives the mentors an opportunity to share their love for science with the next generation. The 27 science mentors who participated this year include staff from Hatfield Marine Science Center (OSU, EPA, ODFW, NOAA), the NOAA MOC-P facility, Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, Oregon State Parks, Central Lincoln PUD, and the City of Newport.

The Newport Schools Science Fair is coordinated by Oregon Sea Grant and is supported by Oregon Coast STEM Hub partners. The Oregon Coast STEM Hub seeks to improve opportunities for students and teachers to engage in STEM learning, prepare local students for STEM careers and promote STEM literacy among all citizens.

Hatfield Marine Science Center is located at 2030 SE Marine Science Drive in South Beach. There is no charge for admission to the Science Fair event, so be sure to stop by. For more information, contact .



The Choice to Learn Science

January 15th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

While Jenny East was teaching outdoor school on Washington’s Bainbridge Island, she asked young students to draw a picture of a scientist. What she got back was disappointing, but not surprising.

Jenny East, a Marine Resource Management master’s student studying Free-Choice Learning

Jenny East, a Marine Resource Management master’s student studying Free-Choice Learning

“Mostly they were males in white lab coats with crazy hair, and things were blowing up,” she said.

Since then, East has focused on changing prevailing perceptions of science, especially in the marine sciences. A second-year student in Oregon State’s Marine Resource Management program, East argues that science isn’t confined to people with a Ph.D. and a lab coat. Instead, making inferences about our world can happen anywhere and by anyone, with some of the most rewarding scientific pursuits occurring at our leisure. It’s a concept called free-choice learning, which East describes as the kind of learning that is so natural, you lose track of time.

“Nobody is forcing you to do it. It’s intrinsic reward,” she said. “You’re using your leisure time or free time to make a choice as to how you spend your day. Free-choice learning is also site specific, whether at a museum, on a boat, on a hike or wherever.”

Working with free-choice learning expert and Associate Professor Shawn Rowe, East is conducting research at the Hatfield Marine Science Center to implement new exhibits to understand how and why visitors discover science during their free time.

“In the past few years, I have become interested in how people learn science, particularly outside of the classroom environment,” she said. “For example, people choose to attend aquariums, museums and science centers in their leisure time. My research explores how they make meaning of science information in these settings.”

Read more…


January 2015 Hatfield Educator Newsletter from Oregon Sea Grant

January 12th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Sea Grant logo SCALEABLENews from Oregon Sea Grant’s Marine Education Program!

Oregon Sea Gant’s Marine Education Program is dedicated to increasing marine science literacy across the full spectrum of education, both in the classroom and in daily life, for people of all ages and backgrounds. Learn all about spring field and classroom opportunities below.

Registration opens today – Monday, January 12, 2015.

Home School Day – “Ocean Private Eye”, Friday, March 20, 2015 from 10:00 to 4:00

Come explore the ocean and its inhabitants in an entirely new way!  Look, draw, write, experiment and more all guided by the 5 times magnified view of a jeweler’s loupe.  See a shell as never before, watch a barnacle feed and make form and function connections with what you know about your own environment.   Students will be divided by grade level, $30.00 each.  Pre-registration is required and will begin Monday, January 12th and space is limited! Combine this event with “Sleeping with the Sharks” at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Careers in Science Investigation – Friday, April 3, 2015, 9:30 to 3:30

High school students come spend the day interacting with researchers, doing hands-on activities and explore behind the scenes as they investigate a wide range of careers in marine science.  Pre-registration is required and will begin Monday, January 12, 2015.

Summer Family Programs – Monday – Thursday, July 6-9, 2015, 9:00-11:30 and 1:30-4:00 daily

Choose from two sessions (AM or PM) each day.  Sessions are 2.5 hours long and you can come to one, all eight or any combination you want!  All programs are designed for children age 4 and up and adults.  Each family must include one adult.  The cost is $15.00 per person per session and pre-registration is recommended.

Summer Day Camps – Monday – Thursday, July 13 – August 6, 2015, 9:00 to 3:00

Campers ages 8-18 come spend four days doing hands-on activities, taking field trips to local habitats and explore behind the scenes.  There are four different camps, one per age group, with differing themes.  Pre-registration is required and will begin Monday, January 12, 2015.  Check out the website for camp dates and descriptions for each age group.




Check out our new look and streamlined pages.  As always, please let us know if you see errors or have suggestions to make the site more user friendly.  Please check any bookmarks or links that you have to ensure the URL did not change.

Shark Day – Saturday, January 24, 2015, 10:00 to 4:00  (New Date)

Join us for a day celebrating sharks!  Explore shark themed exhibits, biofacts and films.  There are over 30 species of sharks that can be found off the coast of the Pacific northwest.  At 1:30 Dr. Bill Hanshumaker will be conducting a dissection of a salmon shark.  Organ and tissue samples will be removed and utilized in several ongoing research investigations.

Fossil Fest – Saturday, February 21, 2015, 10 to 4

Bring in your fossils and agates to show off and identify with other beachcombers.  Explore exhibits and meet the North American Research Group, Dr. William Orr and Guy DiTorrice “The Oregon Fossil Guy”.

Whale Watch Week:

Saturday, March 21 through 29, 2015, Open every day 10:00 to 5:00

Come visit the center during the gray whale migrations to see marine mammal displays or come for a special presentation in the Hennings auditorium daily at 1:30pm.

Marine Science Day – Saturday, April 11, 2015, 10 to 4

The Hatfield Marine Science Center is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary!  Join thousands of residents and tourists who come explore the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center during Marine Science Day. Visitors experience a behind-the-scenes peek at the cutting-edge research, education and outreach in marine sciences that makes this marine laboratory unique.  There’s something for everyone at this free family-friendly public event.

Questions or Comments?  Contact me at:

Kathryn Hawes
Marine Education Coordinator
2030 SE Marine Science Dr
Newport, OR 97365
Phone: 541-867-0233

Fax: 541-867-0320



STEM Pub Talk at Nana’s, Jan 14

January 12th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

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“Big Data” challenge seeks techie solution to science problem

December 15th, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

NEWPORT, Ore. – Hatfield Marine Science Center researchers studying the marine food web have literally tens of millions of photographic images of small marine organisms called “plankton” to identify – a task that would take two lifetimes to finish manually.

Their hope is that the data science community can develop a computer algorithm that can do it automatically.

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Click on image for video about National Data Science Bowl competition.

This week, Booz Allen Hamilton, a management and technology consultant firm, and Kaggle, the leading online data science competition community, announced the launch of the inaugural National Data Science Bowl to seek a solution to this “big data” challenge.

They are offering prize money totaling $175,000 to the creators of the top three algorithms – the largest such purse designated for a Kaggle competition benefitting social good. More information on the National Data Science Bowl is available at:

The 90-day competition will not only provide the data science community a chance to flex its creativity and brain power, it hopefully will solve a challenge facing marine science researchers who need to process massive amounts of data in hours, not decades. The winning algorithms will be donated to Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore., for use by the scientific community.

“The National Data Science Bowl was born from the realization that, in order for the data science community to grow and thrive, it must be given opportunities to use its talents to benefit both business and society,” said Josh Sullivan, vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton’s Strategic Innovation Group. “We are extremely honored to partner with leaders such as Kaggle and the Hatfield Marine Science Center for this initiative.”

Robert Cowen, director of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, admits the task is daunting. In the summer of 2014, center researchers embarked on an 18-day expedition funded by the National Science Foundation to study interactions between larval fishes, their planktonic prey, and their predators in the Straits of Florida. With their specially designed imaging system, the In Situ Ichthyoplankton Imaging System (ISIIS), they collected 32 terabytes of images of plankton, fish and jellyfish.

That is an amount of data equivalent to 9 million MP3 songs, or enough music to listen to nonstop for 52 years.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 11.22.02 AMPlankton are the fundamental biological building blocks of ocean ecosystems, yet scientists don’t know as much about them as they would like, including their diversity, interactions with other marine organisms, what triggers their blooms, and how they respond to climate change.

Advancing scientific knowledge about these tiny organisms begins with identifying and cataloguing them, Cowen pointed out.

“Many economically important animals – including fishes, crabs and other shellfish – are part of the plankton in their early life stages,” he said. “Much of what we study relates to understanding the relationship between larval fishes and their planktonic prey and predators.”

Ultimately, what scientists are interested in “is what drives variation in year-to-year population abundances of key fish species,” said Su Sponaugle, co-principle investigator on the project and a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at OSU.

Jessica Luo, a doctoral student from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences working with Cowen and Sponaugle at the Hatfield Center, said what the researchers need from the data science community is akin to “facial recognition” software for planktonic species.

“At a minimum, we’re aiming for an automatic classification system that can identify organisms to the class or order level, in general groups like fish or shrimps,” she said. “But with distinctly shaped or transparent organisms, we think it might be possible to get down to the genus or even species level. It will be difficult, because plankton are of all different sizes, shapes and orientations, and are moving in all different directions.”

Kelly Robinson, a post-doctoral researcher at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, said scientists would benefit greatly from an automated system that could provide near real-time data of plankton abundance and diversity while aboard ships.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 11.16.41 AM“From a resource management perspective, it is less effective to analyze plankton abundance and diversity from four years earlier if the resource that depends on plankton responds rapidly to environmental change,” she said. “The current process of manually identifying organisms is time-consuming and laborious.  The ocean is changing rapidly and there is an urgency to learn as much as we can about plankton interrelationships to help ensure the health of our marine environments.”

For the competition, participants will be given access to nearly 100,000 underwater images and tasked with developing an algorithm that will identify and monitor them at a scale never before attempted. If successful, it will open up new doors to researchers and vastly improve the ability of resource managers to apply science to decision-making.

“The algorithms resulting from this competition will be applied to millions of images taken in a variety of marine environments, allowing cross-comparison and analysis at an unprecedented scale,” Cowen said.

By Mark Floyd, 541-737-0788;

Sources: Bob Cowen, 541-867-0211;; Jessica Luo, 650-387-5700;; Kelly Robinson, 253-232-3899,

This article is available online at:


Scientists prepare for another wave of tsunami debris, possible invasives

December 8th, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

NEWPORT, Ore. – Scientists monitoring incoming tsunami debris were taken aback last spring when some 30 fishing vessels from Japan washed ashore along the Pacific Northwest coast – many of them covered in living organisms indigenous to Asia.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 10.11.23 AMIncidence of wayward skiffs and other tsunami debris subsequently declined sharply over the summer because of seasonal shifts in the winds. Now, those winds and currents have returned to their winter-spring pattern and scientists are expecting more items to wash ashore – even though it is nearing four years since a massive earthquake and tsunami shook Japan.

Blue mussels have been found on literally every boat that has washed ashore and some 200 different species overall have been documented on tsunami debris, according to John Chapman, an Oregon State University marine invasive species specialist at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center.

“The crustaceans and bivalves are of particular concern because they could introduce new diseases, and compete with, displace or otherwise affect our oyster or mussel populations,” Chapman noted.

Just last week, a tote with numerous mussels washed up at Seal Rock – a sign that debris will still be arriving over the next few months. Of particular concern are boats and large objects that wash ashore carrying a variety of living organisms – including some new species that were not aboard the now-infamous dock that landed on Agate Beach near Newport, Ore., in June of 2012.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 10.12.21 AM“We continue to find new organisms that we have never seen before,” Chapman said. “There isn’t as much diversity aboard the Japanese fishing vessels as there was on the dock, but each new species that we haven’t seen before is a cause for concern.

“No one can predict if these new species may gain a foothold in Northwest waters – and what impacts that may have,” he added.

Chapman and OSU colleague Jessica Miller have examined roughly a dozen boats that have washed ashore from the southern Oregon coast to the central Washington coast. Most of them were similar in style – long, narrow skiffs up to 30 feet in length, with no motors. As they drift from Asia to the West Coast of North America, they pick up a variety of organisms along the way.

“We’ve been surprised at the tenacity of some of these coastal Asian organisms that are arriving on the tsunami debris because the middle of the ocean isn’t the most biologically productive place for coastal species,” Miller said.

Among some of the species the Oregon State biologists have encountered over the past year are bat stars, which are sea stars that look like they have bat wings; striped knifejaw, fish that were found alive in at least one boat; and numerous small crustaceans.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 10.15.22 AMTeams of scientists from around the North Pacific region, including Chapman and Miller, have identified more than 165 species that were aboard the original dock, and another 40-50 species that were found on other debris items, including boats. The rate of incoming debris should be slowing, the researchers say, but the arrival of so many boats last spring suggests that the threat is not over.

Invasive marine species are a problem on the West Coast, where they usually are introduced via ballast water from ships. OSU’s Chapman is well aware of the issue; for several years he has studied a parasitic isopod called Griffen’s isopod that was introduced from Asia. Griffen’s isopod infests mud shrimp in estuaries from California to Vancouver Island and is decimating their populations.

The OSU researchers are working with other scientists on the West Coast, who are attempting to genetically identify all of the species arriving on tsunami debris using genomic sampling – work led by Jon Geller of Moss Landing Marine Laboratory. Geller and his students also are collecting samples of marine life in Northwest coastal and estuary communities to look for evidence that non-native species may have established.

“We’re also doing a lot of old-fashioned looking,” Chapman said. “But new species can be difficult to identify if you aren’t searching for them directly in the first place. So we’ve identified three species that are particularly abundant in Asia, appear highly suited for invading the open coast, and would be readily apparent to searchers looking in the right place.”

These species include a hydroid, Eutima; a fly, Telmatogeton; and an amphipod crustacean, Caprella cristibrachium.

By Mark Floyd, 541-737-0788

Sources: John Chapman, 541-867-0235; Jessica Miller, 541-867-0381

This release is available online at:


Autopsies from space: who killed the sea lions?

November 25th, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

By Markus Horning, Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Oregon State University

A decade ago, we set out to unravel deep ocean crime scenes we weren’t even sure existed. The crime? Endangered Steller sea lions were rapidly disappearing in parts of Alaska. Their numbers dropped by 80% in three decades, yet only rarely did anyone see or sample dead sea lions. Live sea lions studied in the summer when they haul out to breed seemed healthy and had healthy pups.

We wanted to know when, where, and why sea lions die. To unravel the mystery, we needed information from those animals that we don’t see, those that might not breed, those that might never come back ashore. So we developed a special monitoring tag that could send us data about the sea lions we can’t directly observe…

…read more at The Conversation

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Teachers Dive into STEM Using Underwater Robots

November 19th, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

WALDPORT —On a frigid Saturday morning on the Oregon Coast, a group of over thirty educators from across the state huddled around a pool,Katie Sard and Kara Allen gazing with pride at the underwater contraptions they had just created. From Port Orford to Seaside, teachers braved the icy roads to participate in a day long workshop designed to provide them with the skills they would need to teach their own students how to build Remotely Operated Vehicles or ROVs.

Waldport High School was the scene of this unique training which was supported by the Oregon Coast Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Hub and the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center. During the day-long workshop, participants learned about the growing field of Marine Technology and how ROVs are being used off the Oregon Coast to monitor Marine Protected Areas (MPS), lay cable and install instruments for the Ocean Observing Initiative (OOI), and conduct research on deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Teachers then worked in small groups with seasoned mentors and students from Lincoln County, who shared their expertise and encouragement, as the new crop of teachers learned how to splice wires and solder circuit boards. According to Kama Almasi, a 7th-12th grade teacher in Waldport, “The kid-teachers were fabulous and inspiring!”

In addition to the hands-on training, participants in Saturday’s workshop received ROV kits to take Kama Almasi and WHS Studentback to their classrooms and use with their own students. The goal of the workshop being to engage hundreds of 6th -12th grade students in designing and building their own underwater robots. Each teacher who participated in the workshop will have the opportunity to bring their top 1 or 2 student teams to the Oregon Regional MATE ROV competition which will be held on the Oregon Coast in April of 2015. This statewide competition is one of 23 regional contests supported by the MATE Center and numerous other partners. Qualifying participants will earn the chance to represent Oregon at MATE’s International ROV Competition which will take place at the end of June in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

For more information contact Tracy Crews at or see

Testing ROVs in Pool


Sea star wasting on Pacific Coast linked to virus, scientists report

November 18th, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Researchers have linked sea star wasting disease, which has ravaged west coast sea star populations this year, to a virus. See the Oregonian for more:

Purple ochre sea star  affected by Sea Star Wasting Syndrome.  Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Cerny-Chipman, Oregon State University

Purple ochre sea star affected by Sea Star Wasting Syndrome. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Cerny-Chipman, Oregon State University


LED lights shown to reduce eulachon bycatch

October 25th, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Researchers have discovered a simple but extraordinarily effective means of keeping threatened eulachon out of fishing nets trawling for pink shrimp: light up their escape route.

Scientists with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife found that LED lights attached to the trawl lines illuminate the escape path under the net, allowing eulachon and other species that enter the net to find their way back out.

Read more on the NOAA Fisheries website.

Left: A pink shrimp haul without the use of LED lights shows Eulachon bycatch. Right: The results of LED lights hung on the trawl lines. LEDs have significantly reduced bycatch of threatened Eulachon as well as other fish by showing where the fish can escape the net.

Left: A pink shrimp haul without the use of LED lights shows Eulachon bycatch. Right: The results of LED lights hung on the trawl lines. LEDs have significantly reduced bycatch of threatened Eulachon as well as other fish by showing where the fish can escape the net.


2014 Tsunami Evacuation Drill for South Beach Peninsula

October 21st, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized


Photo by Barb Dudley

Employees of the Marine Science Community on Newport, Oregon’s South Beach Peninsula participated in a tsunami evacuation drill on IMG_0152IMG_0154IMG_0149 October 17, 2014. The evacuation drill, conducted annually as part of the statewide Great Oregon Shakeout, involved over 100 participants from 6 different state and federal agency employers, the Oregon Coast Aquarium as well as others from local neighborhoods and businesses including Rogue Brewery and the Port of Newport marina. Tremendous support from Newport Police and Fire including the Newport Police Volunteers allowed a brief closure of Highway 101 for participants to cross to Safe Haven Hill at the southwest corner of the Yaquina Bay Bridge. According to Bob Cowen, Director of the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center, the closure allows participants to avoid crossing under the bridge, emphasizing the significant danger of being near or on the bridge after an earthquake. Many participants noted the improvements to the Hill made by the City of Newport, including open space at the assembly area on top and improved trails on the northeast and southwest sides. A FEMA grant secured by the City’s Community Development Department will complete the improvements in summer 2015, which will include a storage unit which may be used as a supply cache by the organizations planning to evacuate to this assembly area.

Photo by Barb Dudley

Photo by Barb Dudley

To learn more about how to prepare for earthquakes and tsunamis on the coast of Oregon, see, and attend the Prepare Together in 2014 emergency readiness fair sponsored by your local public safety and community volunteer agencies. The readiness fair will be held at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds, Newport, Saturday, October 25, 11:00am – 2:00pm and is open to the general public at no charge. Saturday, October 25, 2014, 11:00am – 2:00pm Readiness Fair: 11:00am – 2:00pm Cascadia Presentation: 11:30 am – 12:30pm Lincoln County Fairgrounds 633 NE 3rd St., Newport Contact Lincoln County Emergency Management for more info: (541) 265-4199


Study: Could sleeper sharks be preying on protected Steller sea lions?

October 15th, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

NEWPORT, Ore. – Pacific sleeper sharks, a large, slow-moving species thought of as primarily a scavenger or predator of fish, may be preying on something a bit larger – protected Steller sea lions in the Gulf of Alaska.

A new study found the first indirect evidence that this cold-blooded shark that can grow to a length of more than 20 feet – longer than a great white shark – may be an opportunistic predator of juvenile Steller sea lions.

Results of the study have just been published in the journal Fishery Bulletin. The findings are important, scientists say, because of management implications for the protected Steller sea lions.15356259249_df395528c2_z

For the past decade, Markus Horning of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University has led a project to deploy specially designed “life history transmitters” into the abdomens of juvenile Steller sea lions. These buoyant archival tags record data on temperature, light and other properties during the sea lions’ lives and after the animals die the tags float to the surface or fall out ashore and transmit data to researchers via satellite.

From 2005-11, Horning and his colleagues implanted tags into 36 juvenile Steller sea lions and over a period of several years, 17 of the sea lions died. Fifteen transmitters sent data indicating the sea lions had been killed by predation.

“The tags sense light and air to which they are suddenly exposed, and record rapid temperature change,” said Horning, who is in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. “That is an indication that the tag has been ripped out of the body, though we don’t know what the predator is that did this.

“At least three of the deaths were different,” he added. “They recorded abrupt temperature drops, but the tags were still dark and still surrounded by tissue. We surmise that the sea lions were consumed by a cold-blooded predator because the recorded temperatures aligned with the deep waters of the Gulf of Alaska and not the surface waters.

“We know the predator was not a killer whale, for example, because the temperatures would be much higher since they are warm-blooded animals.” Data collected from the transmitters recorded temperatures of 5-8 degrees Celsius.

That leaves a few other suspects, Horning said. However, two known predators of sea lions – great white sharks and salmon sharks – have counter-current heat exchanges in their bodies that make them partially warm-blooded and the tags would have reflected higher temperatures.

By process of elimination, Horning suspects sleeper sharks.

The Oregon State pinniped specialist acknowledges that the evidence for sleeper sharks is indirect and not definitive, thus he is planning to study them more closely beginning in 2015. The number of sleeper sharks killed in Alaska as bycatch ranges from 3,000 to 15,000 annually, indicating there are large numbers of the shark out there. The sleeper sharks caught up in the nets are usually comparatively small; larger sharks are big enough to tear the fishing gear and are rarely landed.

“If sleeper sharks are involved in predation, it creates something of a dilemma,” said Horning, who works out of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore. “In recent years, groundfish harvests in the Gulf of Alaska have been limited in some regions to reduce the potential competition for fish that would be preferred food for Steller sea lions.

“By limiting fishing, however, you may be reducing the bycatch that helps keep a possible limit on a potential predator of the sea lions,” he added. “The implication could be profound, and the net effect of such management actions could be the opposite of what was intended.”

Other studies have found remains of Steller sea lions and other marine mammals in the stomachs of sleeper sharks, but those could have been the result of scavenging instead of predation, Horning pointed out.

The western distinct population of Steller sea lions has declined to about 20 percent of the levels they were at prior to 1975.

The study was supported by multiple organizations.

By Mark Floyd, 541-737-0788;

Source: Markus Horning, 541-867-0270,

This article is available online at:


Anglers, beachcombers asked to keep an eye out for transponders from Japan

September 25th, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Northwest anglers venturing out into the Pacific Ocean in pursuit of salmon and other fish this fall may scoop up something unusual into their nets – instruments released from Japan called “transponders.”

These floating instruments are about the size of a 2-liter soda bottle and were set in the ocean from different ports off Japan in 2011-12 after the massive Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Researchers from Tattori University for Environmental Studies in Japan have been collaborating with Oregon State University, Oregon Sea Grant, and the NOAA Marine Debris Program on the project.

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The researchers’ goal is to track the movement of debris via ocean currents and help determine the path and timing of the debris from the 2011 disaster. An estimated 1.5 million tons of debris was washed out to sea and it is expected to continue drifting ashore along the West Coast of the United States for several years, according to Sam Chan, a watershed health specialist with Oregon State University Extension and Oregon Sea Grant.

“These transponders only have a battery life of about 30 months and then they no longer communicate their location,” Chan said. “So the only way to find out where they end up is to physically find them and report their location. That’s why we need the help of fishermen, beachcombers and other coastal visitors.

“These bottles contain transmitters and they are not a hazardous device,” Chan added. “If you find something that looks like an orange soda bottle with a short antenna, we’d certainly like your help in turning it in.”

Persons who find a transponder are asked to photograph it if possible, and report the location of their find to Chan at; or to the NOAA Marine Debris Program regional coordinator in their area at They will provide shipping instructions to persons who find the transponders so that the instruments can be returned to the research team.

One of the first transponders discovered in the Northwest washed ashore near Arch Cape, Oregon, in March 2013, about 19 months after it was set adrift. The persons who found it reported it to Chan, who began collaborating with researchers in Japan.

Another transponder was found near the Haida Heritage Site, formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands – the same location where a Harley-Davidson motorcycle floated up on a beach in a shipping container long after being swept out to sea in Japan by the tsunami.

“These transponders have recorded a lot of important data that will help us better understand the movement of tsunami and marine debris throughout the Pacific Ocean,” Chan said. “Everyone’s help in recovering these instruments is greatly appreciated.”

By Mark Floyd, 541-737-0788;

Source: Sam Chan, 541-737-4828;

This release is available online at:


After the Meltdown – Energy Regime Crisis and Environmental Conflicts in Post-Fukushima Japan

September 19th, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Friday, October 10 at 7pm at the OCCC Central Campus at 400 SE College Drive, in Newport

The Oregon Coast Community College Foundation is proud to announce the upcoming Williams Lecture Series, a free bi-annual community lecture created to enliven public discussion, especially on controversial issues. This year’s presentation will feature Nicholas Lougee, Ph. D., a professor and researcher at the University of Oregon. He will present his research of the effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

After the 2011 tsunami, why were environmental organizations not in the lead of mass protests within Japan, demanding an end to nuclear energy in the earthquake- and tsunami-prone nation? Dr. Lougee will present his research findings, which are the first to quantitatively operationalize power structures in Japan and test their impact on the behavior of a large sample of environmental organizations. Lougee will give his lecture on Friday, October 10 at 7pm at the OCCC Central Campus at 400 SE College Drive, in Newport.

Wendy Williams created the Williams Lecture Series in 1993 in honor of her husband, William Appleman Williams, noted historian. Williams was known as the “Father of Revisionist History.” He taught American diplomatic history and foreign policy for over 30 years as OSU. His last teaching assignment was at OCCC, where he taught maritime history. Ms. Williams made a donation to the OCCC Foundation to create a fund for the lectures.

For more information about the Williams Lecture Series, contact OCCC Foundation Executive Director, Bryn Huntpalmer at or 541-867-8531.



Environmental Drivers May Be Adding to Loss of Sea Stars

August 15th, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

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Purple ochre sea star affected by Sea Star Wasting Syndrome. Photo by Elizabeth Cerny-Chipman, a doctoral student in OSU Department of Integrated Biology

The Hatfield Marine Science Center recently hosted a symposium,Sea Star Wasting Syndrome: Status of the Science and Identification of Response Actions. A panel of national experts was gathered for the 2-day event. Stay tuned to HMSC Currents as more information regarding the symposium and Sea Star Wasting Syndrome becomes available.

Posted by: Dylan McDowell, July 24, 2014 on Oregon Sea Grant’s Breaking Waves

NEWPORT – The rapid loss of sea stars along the US west coast may be caused in part by environmental changes, and not solely by a specific pathogen as many had previously thought.

This new hypothesis emerged from a recent symposium on sea star wasting syndrome (SSWS) hosted at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. Oregon Sea Grant enlisted the Center’s support to bring together 40 top researchers from as far north as Alaska and as far south as Santa Barbara, California. The goal was to clarify the science and develop recommendations for further research, monitoring and possible responses to SSWS.

Read the full story on Oregon Sea Grant’s “Breaking Waves” blog…

Learn more

To find out more about SSWS, or to get involved in the monitoring, visit these sites with information on citizen science programs near you:


The Marine Field Methods Course – HMSC Summer 2014

August 12th, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

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Nozomi Sasaki holding a juvenile rockfish caught in the seine during the Marine Field Methods course.

During the summer at HMSC, it’s not only the Visitors Center that gets busy! Summer term Hatfield Marine Science Center students from the FW 499 course, “Marine Field Methods” spent their days learning practical field and sampling techniques before taking their knowledge out into the environment.

The Marine Field Methods is an intensive review of common practices for sampling in the marine environment with real world applications. Students learn to critically evaluate methods for strengths and weaknesses before attempting a field project and to assess functionality for obtaining quality accurate data in order to properly answer a question. Safety, permitting, reporting, data analysis, and plenty of field experiences are all a part of the course!

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Marine Field Methods students prep to snorkel (From left: Zoe Wiggers, Tayler Nichols, and Katie Crooks)