HMSC Currents

OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center Staff Newsletter

HMSC Currents

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

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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

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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.


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

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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

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



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

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 (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.


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,


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:


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

Contact: Dan Cox, 541-737-3631 or

This story is available online:



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: The institute is housed in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

By Mark Floyd, 541-737-0788;

Source: Phil Mote, 541-913-2274;

This article is available online at:



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,;

Kelly Benoit-Bird, 541-737-2063,;

Geoff Hollinger, 541-737-5906,

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


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: