Written by Ann Marie Murphy. Photos by Stephen Ward, Extension and Experiment Station Communications.

 

Pacific Seafood
Tour of Pacific Coast Seafood’s Tongue Point processing operations.

The inaugural Clatsop County Commercial Fisheries Tour welcomed—and enlightened—a hundred guests in Astoria on May 31, 2017. The goal of the first-ever community organized fisheries tour was to educate local, state and federal elected leaders about the economic value of and sustainable management practices used by the seafood processing and fishing industries. The event provided a forum for open dialogue and relationship building among community leaders, fishermen, seafood processors, and other stakeholders involved in the commercial fishing industry.

 

The fisheries tour audience learned:

  • Fishing is a meaningful way of life.
  • North Coast fisheries inject millions of dollars into the state’s economy.
  • Labor shortages and housing availability for seasonal workers are critical issues facing the industry.
  • Newer net and trap technology let non-target fish to escape, virtually eliminating bycatch.
  • Federal, state and industry cooperation—and using the best science available—ensure long-term sustainable commercial, cultural and recreational fisheries.

 

The goal of the fisheries tour is to help decision-makers understand the industry and its issues.”  Patrick Corcoran, Oregon Sea Grant and OSU Extension Service county leader for Clatsop County

 

Amanda Gladics
Amanda Gladics, Oregon Sea Grant Extension, welcoming guests at the inaugural Clatsop County Commercial Fisheries Tour, May 31, 2017.

The fishing community on the North Coast identified the need for better-informed community leaders and came together to educate, inform and connect with elected officials, including Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, government agency staff, local bankers, and other local decision-makers. OSU Extension in Clatsop County played an indispensable role in the event, but it was a community effort. In addition to Amanda Gladics, coastal fisheries Extension faculty member with Oregon Sea Grant; Patrick Corcoran, Oregon Sea Grant; and Lindsay Davis, OSU Extension – Clatsop County; other steering committee members included Andrew Bornstein, Bornstein Seafoods; Hiram Cho, Pacific Coast Seafoods; John Corbin, Buck & Ann Fisheries; Kurt Englund, Englund Marine & Industrial Supply; Kevin Leahy, Clatsop Economic Development Resources, Chang Lee, Great Ocean Da Yang Seafood Inc.; and Scott McMullen, Oregon Fishermen’s Cable Committee.

 

“The steering committee wanted to show that the fishing industry is a vital, driving force of our North Coast economy,” said Amanda Gladics. “The OSU Extension Service served to convene the steering committee and worked with them to refine and prioritize their goals. OSU Extension in Clatsop County also supports an annual forestry tour, now in its 27th year, that served as a model for the fisheries tour. It was really satisfying to facilitate this community-led learning experience and see such a positive response from community leaders.”

 

Paul Kujala
Paul Kujala, Skipanon Brand Seafood, talks about the groundfish fishery.

The regional and global connections of Clatsop County’s commercial fishing sector were highlighted during the opening presentations and as participants visited WCT Marine & Construction Inc., a marine repair facility, Pacific Coast Seafoods’ temporary processing facility at Tongue Point, the Great Ocean Da Yang Seafood Inc. processing facility, and over lunch at Englund Marine and Industrial Supply, a marine supplier. Questions posed by the audience deepened the understanding of the issues:

Q: Are we getting new fishermen?

WCT Marine & Construcvtion Inc.
Touring Marine repair and boatyards with WCT Marine & Construction Inc. Construction Inc. hosting.

A: It is harder to find good crew and there is not enough demand for a community college fisheries degree program. People can make a good living, but crewing or working in canneries is hard work.

Q: How do we sustain our fleet?

A: Educate high school counselors that fisheries is a good job. All the fisheries commission will start going to job fairs.

Q: What do we need to do to build the ship repair and new vessel construction businesses in Astoria?

A: Substantial commitments are needed from the state, county, port and city to improve the port. For Tongue Point to be a regionally competitive ship repair facility, the port would need to install a boatlift, deepen waters, address contamination issues and replace sewage infrastructure. There is nothing else on the North Coast like J&H and WCT Marine, but from the port’s perspective, the investment economics do not pencil out (the port currently loses $260,000/year and a boat lift costs $4 million).

 

WCT Marine & Construction
Community leaders, business owners, and politicians tour marine repair and boatyards with WCT Marine & Construction Inc.

Presenters highlighted Oregon’s major fishing sectors: Dungeness crab, pink shrimp, groundfish, albacore tuna, and salmon.

 

Dungeness crab is the backbone of Oregon fisheries. It experienced a record $60 million harvest in 2017. It takes about four years for a Dungeness crab to reach harvestable size. Strict guidelines ensure small and female crabs are returned to the ocean to safeguard future harvests.

  • The Oregon crab fleet has 424 boats.
  • Crab Season typically runs from December to August.
  • There are six major ports running the length of the Oregon Coast.

To learn more about the crabbing industry and its importance to Oregon, visit OregonDungeness.org.

 

Amanda Gladics and Willie Toristoja
Amanda Gladics (left) and Willie Toristoja, yard superintendent for WCT Marine & Construction Inc.

Did you know that Oregon has a shrimp fishery? The Oregon Trawl Commission provides leadership to the shrimp and groundfish fisheries. Trawling is a method of fishing that involves pulling a fishing net through the water behind one or more boats. There are more trawlers in Oregon than anywhere else on the West Coast, and most of those are located between Astoria and Warrenton.

 

Fisheries are well-managed for the long-term, for the future. Every person is accountable for everything he or she catches. The transition was difficult, but depleted fisheries are being rebuilt so they can be fished again. It’s a real success story.”  Scott McMullen, Oregon Fishermen’s Cable Committee

 

According to commission Executive Director Nancy Fitzpatrick, the Oregon Albacore Commission and the Oregon Salmon Commission have started providing canned fish, recipes and a few other ingredients to Central Oregon school kids to create a greater “farm” to table connection. Started in Seaside, Oregon, the program serves as a model for schools statewide.

  • The Oregon albacore fishing fleet has 350-500 boats.
  • Albacore fishing season runs from June to October.
  • There are 17 ports running the length of the Oregon Coast.

 

Clatsop Commercial Fisheries Tour, May 2017. Photo: Stephen Ward
Clatsop Commercial Fisheries Tour, May 2017

A strong U.S. dollar creates competitive challenges. The majority of Oregon’s catch ships overseas—to Africa, Ukraine, Nordic and other countries. Investing in automation helps drive down costs and offset the shortage of labor, reducing the need for labor in processing plants by up to two-thirds, or more. The loss of container shipping out of the Port of Portland forces processed fish from Oregon to be transported to Tacoma or Seattle, increasing costs.

 

Steve Fick. Photo: Stephen Ward
Steve Fick, Fishhawk Fisheries, describes the importance and challenges of managing salmon fisheries in the Columbia River Basin.

The Columbia River Basin, which spans two countries, seven states and 13 federally recognized Indian reservations, is the largest freshwater contributor to the Pacific Ocean. Natural resource management throughout the basin is essential to healthy fisheries and to the livelihoods of 150,000 Oregon workers. Cultural and recreational aspects of salmon and other fisheries need to be respected and understood.

  • The Oregon salmon fishing fleet has 350-450 active fishing boats.
  • Salmon fishing season typically runs from April to October.
  • There are 17 ports running the length of the Oregon Coast.

 

Congresswoman Susanne Bonamici
Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, U.S. House of Representatives provides a policy update to fishery tour audience.

“We need to use the best available science,” stated Steve Fick, Fishhawk Fisheries, to the lunchtime audience. “If you have healthy salmon stock, then you have healthy wildlife populations. And healthy industries that provide living wages and contribute to the local, county and state tax base…and the ripple of revenue injections into the economy.”

 

For another fisheries outreach experience, this time for the public, save July 14 and September 15 as days to “Shop at the Dock & Beyond” in Warrenton. Join Oregon Sea Grant to learn about local commercial fisheries, how to buy seafood directly from fishermen, and for a behind the scenes tour of Skipanon Brand Seafood cannery. View a PDF of the event: dock_shop_NorthCoast. Newport offers a “Shop at the Dock” experience, too. Here’s the Newport summer schedule: dock_shop_2017_3.

We are profiling faculty and staff involved the outreach and engagement work featured on the University Outreach and Engagement blog. Please say hello to Amanda Gladics, Coastal Fisheries Extension Faculty, Oregon Sea Grant and Extension Service – Clatsop County, Coast Region.

 

Amanda Gladics, Oregon Sea Grant's Extension fisheries management specialist in Astoria, Oregon.
Amanda Gladics, Oregon Sea Grant’s Extension fisheries management specialist in Astoria, Oregon.

How long have you worked with OSU Extension Service? I started with OSU Extension Service last July, but I have been working or studying at OSU in some capacity since 2007.

What’s the best part of the work you’re doing? Getting to work with such a variety of people and feeling really connected to my community.

What work accomplishment are you most proud of? My recent research into albatross bycatch reduction in longline fisheries on the West Coast was incorporated into guidance that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided to NOAA Fisheries and will be incorporated into fisheries management policy. It was really satisfying to see research that was driven by fishermen’s questions result in common sense policy that will work better for fishermen and save seabirds.

What area of research is of particular interest to you? My research background is in marine ecology and fisheries bycatch reduction, and I’m still interested in food web ecology and fisheries management research. I’m finding myself more and more interested in social sciences as we face the challenge of managing coupled human-ecological systems like fisheries.

Would you rather be completely invisible for one day or be able to fly for one day? Having spent the last 9 years working with birds in some capacity, I would definitely rather fly for a day.

What is something uplifting happening in the world right now? I think there are so many uplifting things happening in the world – especially if we focus our attention locally. Here in Astoria, we just had our second Pride parade along the Riverwalk a few weeks ago. I got to march with the North Coast Food Web and it was really inspiring to see a small, coastal community like Astoria embrace love in all its forms.

What food do you know you shouldn’t eat but can’t help yourself? Fancy COFFEE!!!! Good coffee is irresistible.

What is your favorite holiday? Spring Equinox – I love Oregon’s spring, and the equinox always is about the time where I really notice the days getting brighter.

Do you prefer summer or winter activities? Summer. I like to run, and it’s less fun to run in the rain and dark.

What is a fashion trend you are really glad went away? Oversized skater pants.

Do you engage in social media? If yes, what’s your favorite social media platform (for work and/or play)? I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but I’m the most active on Twitter @agladics. I generally just lurk and like on Facebook. I use Instagram for posting pictures of food, travel, and chickens.

Do you have any pets? How long have you and your pet(s) known each other? I have three chickens: Ophelia, Sprite and Butterbean. We’ve had Ophelia (a drama queen and alpha hen) for four years, and Sprite and Butterbean since February 2016.

 

Written by Gregg Kleiner and Tiffany Woods for Oregon Sea Grant (April 17, 2017)

 

Editor’s Note: This story is a great example of outreach and engagement work: co-creation of solutions, cross-disciplinary collaboration, applied research, building community capacity, partnerships, and more.

 

Crab fishing. Photo by Oregon Sea Grant.
Crab fishing. Photo by Oregon Sea Grant.

West Coast crabbers and faculty with Oregon State University and Sea Grant programs in Oregon and Washington have been exploring ways to reduce injuries at sea.

The effort is part of the Fishermen Led Injury Prevention Program, which was funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

“The ideas are generated by the fishermen, and the goal is that the solutions are voluntarily embraced and are not imposed,” said Laurel Kincl, the leader of the project and an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

Gathering research

To gather the suggestions as well as build rapport with the fishermen, nine community members with ties to the fishing industry were contracted, including several fishermen’s wives. Kincl and others then trained them to conduct outreach, engagement and research.

As part of the project, in the fall of 2015, the nine community members surveyed 365 crabbers in Washington, Oregon and California about the types and number of injuries they may have experienced during the 2014-15 crabbing season. The crabbers reported 65 injuries, 36 of which required them to take time off work or change how they worked. Of those 36, sprains and strains were the most frequent, with 13 incidents. Out of the 36 injuries, hands, arms and shoulders were the most commonly injured body parts, with 17 reports. Nine of the 36 injuries occurred while handling gear on deck, and seven happened while hauling in gear.

When asked what they thought contributed most to injuries, fishermen gave answers that included not paying attention, weather and sea conditions, inexperience, unsafe vessels or gear, a lack of training, and poor physical shape. When asked what they thought was the most important thing for staying safe, responses included having a good captain and crew, being aware, taking care of oneself, avoiding fatigue and having a well-maintained boat and gear.

Co-created solutions

Fishermen suggested the need for a fishing-specific first aid and CPR course. As a result, a wilderness medicine expert was invited to the Oregon towns of Newport and Astoria in the fall of 2016 to train fishermen on how to treat medical conditions and at-sea injuries such as cuts, broken bones, dislocated shoulders and hypothermia.

Another fisherman suggested looking at the design of banger bars, which are metal bars that are welded to the tables where crabs are sorted. Crab pots are hoisted over and slammed against the bars to force the crabs onto the table.

“Some say the bars make it easier on fishermen’s wrists and backs if positioned correctly,” said Kaety Jacobson, a marine fisheries Extension specialist with Oregon Sea Grant and a partner on the project. “But there’s not a standard design, so crabbers make their own – if they use them at all. We’re pretty sure someone has come up with the ideal banger bar, so we’re trying to find that design and share it with the community.”

The research team is considering using fishermen-focused Facebook pages, like the Oregon Sea Grant Fisheries Extension Facebook page, to ask for information about the use, design and benefits of the bars. With this information, she said, Sea Grant could create a publication on what a banger bar is and why fishermen use them. It could also include photos or schematics of designs that work better.

Also because of fishermen’s feedback, Jacobson and the nine community members will interview experienced deckhands and boat captains about what makes a good crew, how to size up a boat to see if it’s safe, and what safety-related language fishermen should look for when signing a contract to become a crew member. Jacobson and her team plan to share this information with novice or aspiring crewmembers.

“We’ll put these findings in an infographic or factsheet that we’ll post on social media or mail out so that fishermen looking for work can have that resource,” she said.

Importance to Oregon

During the 2015–16 season, fishermen in Oregon landed just over 14 million pounds of Dungeness crab, which they sold for a record $51 million, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Dubbed the official state crustacean, Dungeness crabs make up the most valuable single-species commercial fishery in Oregon.

Based on a press release by , Oregon Sea Grant
Joe Phillips, of fishing vessel Triggerfish, shows off an albacore tuna during Oregon Sea Grant’s Shop on the Dock tour in Newport.

Engagement takes many forms, and in this case wears the dual banners of education and economic development.

In Newport, Ore., Oregon Sea Grant created a consumer seafood education and shopping program called Shop on the Dock.

Shop on the Dock is an opportunity for coastal visitors and residents to learn what seafood is in season on the Oregon coast, meet the people who catch the fish and learn how to tell when the seafood they buy is of high quality. Oregon Sea Grant staff lead the tours, describe the fisheries and help those who want to navigate the process.

The 90-minute tours have taken place for the past four years on several dates in July and August. The tours are free and on a first-come, first-served basis. Tours again will be offered in 2017.

Those who plan to buy seafood direct from the fishermen are asked bring cash and a cooler with ice. Comfortable shoes with good traction are important, as the tours cover some distance on working commercial fishing docks.

Newport-based Kaety Jacobson, a Sea Grant fisheries specialist with the Oregon State University Extension Service, compares the tours to “going down to the docks with a friend who knows the seafood – and knows the fishermen.”

Don’t forget about the Oregon Sea Grant app called Oregon’s Catch. The app identifies locations along the entire Oregon coast where people can buy fresh and frozen seafood caught by Oregon fishermen.

Written by Pat Kight and Tiffany Woods for Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Confluence

 

[Editor’s note: Involving youth and teachers in citizen science evolves into interests in natural resource careers, stronger connections to the natural world, and fuller student experiences. Oregon Sea Grant offers many opportunities for citizen scientists, as this story exemplifies, and it also exemplifies community engagement.]

 

A dozen fourth- and fifth-grade Girl Scouts splash in the shade-dappled shallows of Rock Creek, southwest of Corvallis, trying to scoop up tiny aquatic insects with small dip nets and deposit them into plastic dish tubs.

They’re learning about their watershed—and getting a taste of what it’s like to be a scientist—thanks to Oregon Sea Grant’s StreamWebs program.

The statewide program provides educators with field equipment, data sheets, lesson plans and training so they can teach students how to collect data about the health of waterways. It also provides an online database where students can enter and analyze the information they gathered.

“What’s special about StreamWebs is it’s a way for teachers to extend students’ field experience into the classroom,” said the program’s coordinator, Renee O’Neill.

Between August 2014 and July 2015, more than 350 students participated in the program and more than 70 educators were trained on how to use the resources that StreamWebs provides, O’Neill said. During that same period, StreamWebs loaned scientific testing equipment 650 times to educators.

The equipment, contained in plastic totes, can be checked out online and picked up from the Oregon Sea Grant (OSG) office in Corvallis or the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. Each tote—called a kit—addresses specific learning objectives.There’s a kit with equipment to measure the temperature, pH, turbidity and dissolved oxygen of water. There’s another with measuring tapes, ropes and soil augers so kids can document the vegetation in a designated space and characterize the soil along riparian areas. Tubs of rubber boots and clipboards can even be checked out.

Lesson plans and handouts for recording data are available on the StreamWebs website, as are two new videos produced by OSG that show how to use the kits for studying water quality and macroinvertebrates.

The kit the girls at Rock Creek are using is the one for collecting macroinvertebrates, such as caddisflies, mayflies, crayfish, snails and water striders. The girls are being instructed by Guillermo Giannico, a fish ecology and watershed specialist with OSG Extension and a researcher with Oregon State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. They bring their catch to a card table propped among the streambank rocks, and use hand lenses and an identification sheet to name what they’ve caught.

“I got a stonefly nymph,” one girl exclaims, pointing at the tiny animal’s distinctive tail appendages—and then: “I got another stonefly! I am the queen of stoneflies!”

Once back at a computer, students can upload their findings onto the StreamWebs website so that they and others—including the public—can analyze the health of various watersheds over time.

“The site makes it more like doing real- life science,” said Emmet Whittaker, a science teacher at Lebanon High School who uses StreamWebs in his classroom. “[Students] see how the data can be used over time [and] how they can be shared with other scientists.”

On the website, an interactive map of the state pinpoints where data have been collected. For example, clicking on the pinpoint for D River shows that students at Taft High School in Lincoln City recorded an average pH of 5.9 on Nov. 18, 2014, and 6.76 on May 23, 2016. Site names are also listed alphabetically from Agate Beach to the Zigzag River.

Since the program’s inception, 850 people have created accounts on the website, O’Neill said. Between August 2015 and July 2016, about 120 people contributed data, 503 data sheets were uploaded, and 41 new locations were entered, she said.

 

Written by By Pat Kight and Tiffany Woods

[Editor’s note: This article appears in the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Confluence, Oregon Sea Grant’s quarterly newsletter.]

Girl Scouts use turkey basters and magnifying lenses to collect and view aquatic insects at Rock Creek near Corvallis. They were learning about the health of the creek through Oregon Sea Grant's StreamWebs program. (Photo by Pat Kight)
Girl Scouts use turkey basters and magnifying lenses to collect and view aquatic insects at Rock Creek near Corvallis. They were learning about the health of the creek through Oregon Sea Grant’s StreamWebs program. (Photo by Pat Kight)

A dozen fourth- and fifth-grade Girl Scouts splash in the shade-dappled shallows of Rock Creek, southwest of Corvallis, trying to scoop up tiny aquatic insects with small dip nets and deposit them into plastic dish tubs.

They’re learning about their watershed—and getting a taste of what it’s like to be a scientist—thanks to Oregon Sea Grant’s StreamWebs program. The statewide program provides educators with field equipment, data sheets, lesson plans and training so they can teach students how to collect data about the health of waterways. It also provides an online database where students can enter and analyze the information they gathered.

“What’s special about StreamWebs is it’s a way for teachers to extend students’ field experience into the classroom,” said the program’s coordinator, Renee O’Neill.

Between August 2014 and July 2015, more than 350 students participated in the program and more than 70 educators were trained on how to use the resources that StreamWebs provides, O’Neill said. During that same period, StreamWebs loaned scientific testing equipment 650 times to educators, she said.

The equipment, contained in plastic totes, can be checked out online and picked up from the Oregon Sea Grant (OSG) office in Corvallis or the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. Each tote—called a kit—addresses specific learning objectives. There’s a kit with equipment to measure the temperature, pH, turbidity and dissolved oxygen of water. There’s another with measuring tapes, ropes and soil augers so kids can document the vegetation in a designated space and characterize the soil along riparian areas. Tubs of rubber boots and clipboards can even be checked out. Lesson plans and handouts for recording data are available on the StreamWebs website, as are two new videos produced by OSG that show how to use the kits for studying water quality and macroinvertebrates.

The kit the girls at Rock Creek are using is the one for collecting macroinvertebrates, such as caddisflies, mayflies, crayfish, snails and water striders. The girls are being instructed by Guillermo Giannico, a fish ecology and watershed specialist with OSG Extension and a researcher with Oregon State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. They bring their catch to a card table Giannico has propped among the streambank rocks, and use hand lenses and an identification sheet to name what they’ve caught. “I got a stonefly nymph,” one girl exclaims, pointing at the tiny animal’s distinctive tail appendages—and then: “I got another stonefly! I am the queen of stoneflies!”

Once back at a computer, students can upload their findings onto the StreamWebs website so that they and others—including the public—can analyze the health of various watersheds over time. On the website, an interactive map of the state pinpoints where data have been collected. For example, clicking on the pinpoint for D River shows that students at Taft High School in Lincoln City recorded an average pH of 5.9 on Nov. 18, 2014, and 6.76 on May 23, 2016. Site names are also listed alphabetically from Agate Beach to the Zigzag River. Since the program’s inception, 850 people have created accounts on the website, O’Neill said. Between August 2015 and July 2016, about 120 people contributed data, 503 data sheets were uploaded, and 41 new locations were entered, she said.

“The site makes it more like doing real- life science,” said Emmet Whittaker, a science teacher at Lebanon High School who uses StreamWebs in his classroom. “[Students] see how the data can be used over time [and] how they can be shared with other scientists.”

By Mark Floyd, News and Research Communications, Oregon State University

Editor’s Note: A lot of fascinating work is being done by Extension faculty. This is one story that might surprise you. Be sure to watch the mesmerizing video! Leigh Torres, Oregon SeaGrant Extension, specializes in the spatial and behavioral ecology of marine megafauna including marine mammals, seabirds and sharks. The following was distributed to news media on October 4, 2016.

torres-boat-2
Leigh Torres, Oregon SeaGrant Extension, whale watching. Photo courtesy of OSU.

A lot of people think what Leigh Torres has done this summer and fall would qualify her for a spot on one of those “World’s Worst Jobs” lists.

After all, the Oregon State University marine ecologist follows gray whales from a small inflatable boat in the rugged Pacific Ocean and waits for them to, well, poop. Then she and her colleagues have about 20-30 seconds to swoop in behind the animal with a fine mesh net and scoop up some of the prized material before it drifts to the ocean floor.

Mind you, gray whales can reach a length of more than 40 feet and weigh more than 30 tons, making the retrieval of their daily constitutional somewhat daunting. Yet Torres, a principal investigator in the university’s Marine Mammal Institute, insists that it really isn’t that bad.

“We’re just looking for a few grams of material and to be honest, it doesn’t even smell that bad,” she said. “Now, collecting a DNA sample from a whale’s blow-hole – that’s a bad job. Their breath is horrendous.”

Being a marine pooper-scooper isn’t some strange fetish for the Oregon State research team. They are conducting a pilot project to determine how gray whales respond to ocean noise – both natural and human – and whether these noises cause physiological stress in the animals. Technology is changing the way the researchers are approaching their study.

“New advances in biotechnology allow us to use the fecal samples to look at a range of things that provide clues to the overall health and stress of the whales,” Torres said. “We can look at their hormone levels and genetically identify individual whales, their sex and whether they are pregnant. And we can analyze their prey and document what they’ve been eating.

whale-fluke
Whale fluke. Photo courtesy of OSU.

“Previously, we would have to do a biopsy to learn some of these things and though they can be done safely, you typically don’t repeat the procedure often because it’s invasive,” she added. “Here, we can follow individual whales over a four-month feeding season and pick up multiple samples that can tell us changes in their health.”

The study is a pilot project funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Acoustics Program to determine the impacts of noise on whale behavior and health. Torres, who works out of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon, focuses on gray whales because they are plentiful and close to shore.

“Many marine mammals are guided by acoustics and use sound to locate food, to navigate, to communicate with one another and to find a mate,” said Torres, a faculty member in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and an ecologist with the Oregon Sea Grant program.

Ten years ago, such a study would not have been possible, Torres acknowledged. In addition to new advances in genetic and hormone analyses, the OSU team uses a drone to fly high above the whales. It not only detects when they defecate, it is giving them unprecedented views of whale behavior.

“We are seeing things through the drone cameras that we have never seen before,” Torres said. “Because of the overhead views, we now know that whales are much more agile in their feeding. We call them ‘bendy’ whales because they make such quick, sharp turns when feeding. These movements just can’t be seen from the deck of a ship.”

The use of small, underwater Go-Pro cameras allows them to observe what the whales are feeding upon below. The researchers can identify zooplankton, benthic invertebrates, and fish in the water column near feeding whales, and estimate abundance – helping them understand what attracts the whales to certain habitats.

Joe Haxel and Sharon Nieukirk are acoustic scientists at the Hatfield center who are assisting with the project. They deploy drifting hydrophones near the whales to record natural and human sounds, help operate the overhead drone camera that monitors the whales’ behavior, and also get in on the fecal analysis.

“Gray whales are exposed to a broad range of small- and medium-sized boat traffic that includes sport fishing and commercial fleets,” Haxel said. “Since they are very much a coastal species, their exposure to anthropogenic noise is pretty high. That said, the nearshore environment is already very noisy with natural sounds including wind and breaking surf, so we’re trying to suss out some of the space and time patterns in noise levels in the range of habitats where the whales are found.”

It will take years for the researchers to learn how ocean noise affects whale behavior and health, but as ocean noises continue increasing – through ship traffic, wave energy projects, sonar use, seismic surveys and storms – the knowledge they gain may be applicable to many whale species, Torres said.

And the key to this baseline study takes a skilled, professional pooper-scooper.

“When a whale defecates, it generates this reddish cloud and the person observing the whale usually screams “POOP!” and we spring into action,” Torres said. “It’s a moment of excitement, action – and also sheer joy. I know that sounds a little weird, but we have less than 30 seconds to get in there and scoop up some of that poop that may provide us with a biological gold mine of information that will help protect whales into the future.

“That’s not such a bad job after all, is it?”

For a video of the research, click here

Adapted from a story written by Oregon Sea Grant, which will appear in the Fall 2016 edition of O&E—

 

Working Waterfronts map
Map of Coos Bay’s working waterfront

Are you heading to the Oregon Coast this summer? Have you driven the coast highway wondering where you can find fresh seafood, or want to know where the seafood came from, or even if it is in season? We might have just the thing for you!

 

Oregon Sea Grant and OSU Extension Service developed two apps for smartphones and tablets to appeal to tourists and seafood lovers. The goal is to bolster the state’s coastal economies.

 

The first app, Oregon’s Catch, identifies locations along the entire Oregon coast where people can buy fresh and frozen seafood caught by Oregon fishermen.

 

The second app, Oregon’s Working Waterfronts, offers a self-guided tour of waterfronts in Coos Bay, North Bend and Charleston. Through video clips and photos, users get a behind-the-scenes look at local industries and infrastructure—including a lumber mill, seafood processor, Coast Guard cutter, shipyard and tuna troller—and the people who work in and on them.

 

“For tourists, I hope they learn something, stay a little longer, and have a greater appreciation for the Coos Bay area,” says Jamie Doyle, an Oregon Sea Grant specialist with the Oregon State University Extension Service who was involved with development of the apps along with Mark Farley, Cyber Lab manager at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

Oregon's Catch app cover

 

In addition to the app, Oregon Sea Grant produced a fold-out map of the same “stops.” The map will be available at local businesses and other attractions. The developers plan to add tours of other waterfronts in the future.

 

Both apps are free and available for Android and Apple devices. Search for Oregon’s Working Waterfronts and Oregon’s Catch (available at the end of July 2016).

 

Even if you’re not planning a trip to the south coast any time soon, Oregon Sea Grant produced a series of working waterfront videos: http://seagrant.oregonstate.edu/sgpubs/oregons-working-waterfront-tour-series-online-videos

Excerpts from the Spring/Summer 2016 Confluence, an Oregon Sea Grant publication –
drought map May 2015_National Drought Mitigation Center
May 2015 U.S. Drought Monitor Map, National Drought Mitigation Center

Editor’s note: Climate change is perhaps the toughest problem facing our world today. This week’s blog features excerpts from the most recent issue of Confluence, a publication produced by Oregon Sea Grant (OSG). OSG works on issues related to freshwater and marine waterways and climate change is dramatically impacting both.

Oregon Sea Grant has an interesting history and is an integral part of OSU’s community outreach and engagement model. Housed on the OSU campus, OSG is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and funds research conducted at OSU and other universities. Climate change, tsunami preparedness, and wave energy are three areas of research priority.

According to the OSG website, “congress created the NOAA Sea Grant program in 1968 in an effort to bring the kind of national attention and resources to ocean and coastal issues that the USDA’s Extension Service had brought to rural agricultural communities since the early 20th century. In 1971, Oregon was designated one of the nation’s first four Sea Grant states, along with Washington, Texas and Rhode Island. Today Sea Grant programs are found in every coastal state; and Oregon’s is still widely considered one of the very top programs.

Drought map intensity key
Drought intensity

“With resident Extension faculty stationed up and down the coast, a core of marine educators and aquarists at the (now Hatfield) Marine Science Center, and capable scientists, communicators and administrators on the OSU campus, Sea Grant has become an important part of OSU’s research and public engagement portfolio.”

Drought map May 2016_National Drought Mitigation Center
May 2016 U.S. Drought Monitor Map, National Drought Mitigation Center

Four new videos produced by Oregon Sea Grant (OSG) show how certain business practices, farming techniques, and riparian management strategies are better poised to tolerate droughts in Oregon. The videos, produced by OSG videographer Vanessa Ciccone in collaboration with John Stevenson, a climate specialist with OSG Extension at OSU, can be found on the OSG YouTube Channel along with other fascinating videos.

 

The short videos form a series called Documenting the Drought: Mitigating the Effects in Oregon. OSG created them in response to the state’s 2015 drought, said Stevenson. “We found that the people and places that did better during the drought were the ones where investment had been made in water conservation and restoration efforts over the past decade.”

 

The conditions that led up to the 2015 drought is described in one video. Another features Frank Burris, the county leader of the OSU Extension Service in Curry County and OSG’s watershed health specialist for the southern Oregon coast, describing riparian restoration projects along Pea and Gallagher Creeks. The projects were prompted by concern over the effects of rising stream temperatures and reduced stream flow on salmon, a mainstay of the region’s recreational fishing economy.

 

If you’ve skied in Ashland, one of the videos may be of particular interest to you. Mt. Ashland Ski Area adapted to sparse winter snowfall by relocating snow and was able to open for 38 days in 2014-15 versus none in the prior ski season. During the summer months, you’re likely to be able to enjoy ziplining, a bungee trampoline, disc golf and concerts, all of which will supplement declining ski-season income.

 

In another video, Bill Buhrig, a crops specialist with OSU Extension in Malheur County talks about planting faster maturing plants as a success strategy for farmers where a full season of water is no longer available. Strategies to conserve water through buried pipelines and gravity systems are described and extend the irrigation season by two to three weeks.

Jenny East
Jenny East, a new boater outreach coordinator with Oregon Sea Grant Extension, holds one of many new signs set to appear along the Oregon coast and Columbia River. The signs inform recreational boaters about the location of pumpout and dumping facilities for sewage. Photo by Vanessa Ciccone

How do you talk with people about a subject matter that is emphatically avoided in polite conversations?

 

That is the question Oregon Sea Grant Extension’s new boating outreach coordinator, Jenny East, has been asking. She’s charged with informing recreational boaters about the location of facilities for properly disposing of their sewage along the Oregon coast and Columbia River and in the Portland-metro area in an effort to keep waterways clean.

 

The breadth of Extension work is, well, breathtaking. This new position takes Extension work in a new direction.

 

“My job is all about finding innovative ways to engage with Oregon’s recreational boaters. The key will be trying different avenues such as face-to-face interactions at events where boaters are, walking the docks, and spending time meeting with marina managers and private industries that provide supplies for boaters,” said East, who is based out of Oregon State University’s Extension office in Washington County.

 

“Through my conversations with boaters I will learn more about how they prefer to receive information. Engagement is a two-way street. It isn’t about me lecturing them, but more a conversation about their connections to the aquatic environment and being proactive about the health of that environment. I am also thinking about how I can get other boaters to be communicators and educators as well.”

 

As part of her job, she will work with the Oregon State Marine Board to post signs showing where recreational boaters can empty their portable toilets and holding tanks. East added that talking about the proper disposal of human waste will take some humor. She’s got a good start. Oregon Sea Grant has produced two light-hearted public service announcements about floating restrooms and dockside stations for emptying porta-potties.

 

Oregon Sea Grant serves the state, region and nation through an integrated program of research, outreach, and education that helps people understand, rationally use and conserve marine and coastal resources. The best available science is applied to timely and important ocean and coastal issues, and they engage with coastal stakeholders to help them reach informed decisions. Sea Grant supports scientific excellence and innovation, fosters new generations of marine scientists and encourages ocean science literacy among people of all ages.

 

Based at Oregon State University and working with scientists, scholars and communities statewide, Oregon is part of the national network of NOAA Sea Grant College Programs.

 

Oregon State is the state’s Land Grant university and is the only university in the U.S. to have Sea Grant, Space Grant and Sun Grant designations.