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Or maybe Woods Hole is the OSU of the East?

Posted September 8th, 2009 by simmonto

Lori Tobias of the Oregonian articulated in print what many have been whispering behind the scenes for some time now: The ascent of Oregon State University’s marine, oceanic, atmospheric and near-coastal science programs in recent years is transforming the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center and Newport, Ore., into the “Woods Hole of the West.”

That comparison might have seemed outlandish years ago — as Tobias notes, “Woods Hole is the largest nonprofit ocean research organization of its kind in the world.” But with OSU riding a wave of marine science accomplishments that includes recent announcements of a major new seafloor mapping project, a key role in the mammoth $386.4-million Ocean Observatories Initiative and helping to land the relocation of the NOAA Pacific Fleet from Seattle to Newport, folks seem to be getting more comfortable with such a characterization.

Fueling the upbeat feelings for Hatfield/Newport is the seemingly good possibility that Hatfield may be chosen for a new federally funded Marine Mammal/Marine Genomics Building. The work of OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute, already housed at Hatfield, is well known: Institute Director Bruce Mate was featured prominently earlier this year in a National Geographic Channel documentary on the blue whale, which last spring became the channel’s highest-rated documentary program ever. Colleagues Scott Baker and Markus Horning, like Mate, are developing international reputations for the excellence of their research and scholarship on whales, seals, genetics of marine mammals and more.

In describing the impact of Hatfield, Tobias summed it up nicely through the words of one of the faculty members working there:

“The amount of science here is mind boggling,” says Gil Sylvia, a marine resource economist and superintendent of the Coastal Oregon Marine Experimental Station. “It spans everything. Agencies here are studying where fish stocks are located in the ocean, how fish age and how that relates to their migration. We study oceanographic conditions and the relationship to fishery productivity. We are helping map the bottom of the ocean. We study underwater volcanoes and earthquakes.

“It’s huge and incredibly diverse, touching on everything from applied work to very, very fundamental science work.”

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