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Overly acidic water is a common problem in southeastern U.S. lakes, and left alone, this can have huge negative impacts on aquatic ecosystems. Essentially, fish and invertebrates don’t particularly enjoy the low pH levels that come with acidic water and can’t survive at a pH below 4. To get around this issue, calcium carbonate is added to water to help maintain a pH that is more preferable to aquatic creatures (usually, around pH 7).

So, what does acidic water in southern ponds have to do with the west coast?  More than you think, but it’s on a much, much larger scale.

It’s called: ocean acidification. Similarly to overly acidic ponds in the southern U.S., when the pH level drops in the marine environment many organisms are negatively impacted. But, in contrast to a lake or pond, there is no quick fix for low pH levels in the ocean. Dumping massive amounts of calcium carbonate in the open ocean isn’t an option (can you imagine how much calcium carbonate that would take?  A lot.).  But, it is an option on a much smaller scale, and something similar is currently used by a hatchery in Oregon.

Through my fellowship, I’ve become familiar with a lot of great work being done in Oregon to try to better understand ocean acidification, and the impacts on the marine environment. And, believe me, it’s a lot — which is awesome because ocean acidification is a big problem. For example, did you know that the west coast ecosystem is particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification (see #12 of this fact sheet)? Or that free swimming sea snails, call Pteropods, have shells that are dissolving in acidic environments (check out this graphic; these strange looking little guys also happen to be salmon food)?  Or that ocean acidification impacts on west coast oyster larvae have been compared to ‘a canary in a coalmine’ (see this TEDx video)? Needless to say, ocean acidification is something that can’t be ignored. Fortunately, Oregon is at the forefront of some really cool research in order to better understand the impacts of ocean acidification, and strategies to combat it. Some current projects include, investigating how sea grass could provide a refuge for shellfish in more acidic conditions, or understanding the impacts of ocean acidification on native oysters, along with exploring how terrestrial factors influence oxygen levels in estuaries.  Plus, an Oregon hatchery is home to a unique partnership between researchers and shellfish growers that arose from a massive oyster die-off a few years ago.

In 2007, Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery, located on Netarts Bay, had a catastrophic oyster die-off caused by ocean acidification (you can read the backstory here). In order to understand the causes and find solutions, researchers and the shellfish industry teamed up to develop a collaborative partnership that continues today. The hatchery combats acidic water with their own version of an antiacid, called soda ash.  Adding soda ash to hatchery systems helps increase the pH and buffers the water against acidity. This solution works most of the time, except during the annual summer upwelling, in which no amount of buffering can combat the low pH levels associated with this event. For this reason, Whiskey Creek Hatchery continues to work towards better understanding the science and ecological impacts behind ocean acidification.  And, since the 2007 die-off, the hatchery has hosted numerous research efforts to better understand ocean acidification and hypoxia.  In-fact, some of their current projects include: addressing and mitigating early warning signs of ocean acidification on oyster larvae, along with working to improve juvenile oyster survival rates.

Also, on the policy front, there is a lot of great support in Oregon to research, manage and ultimately, better understand this issue. Last summer, Governor Kitzhaber announced that Oregon is teaming up with California to form a panel that focuses on the extent, causes, and effects of ocean acidification along the Pacific coast. Five researchers from Oregon were selected to be on the West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Panel.  The goal of this panel is to bring together experts from across the West Coast to tackle the complex issues of ocean acidification and hypoxia, and hopefully this will lead to some creative research efforts, management or policy options.

Even with all this ongoing work, there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding ocean acidification and hypoxia.  For example, we are only in the early stages of understanding the degree of impact that acidic conditions can have on ecosystems, fisheries, the economy, and even, human health. But, we do know that we are facing a future with lower pH levels and higher CO2 levels that will likely be less than ideal—at least for some species, and in some environments. Although, how this will ripple throughout the ecosystem is difficult to predict, although the more we know, the better off we’ll be.

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Portland State University sustainability professional’s wrote a great article about the workshop! Have a look here:

http://www.pdx.edu/esm/news/psu-researchers-bridge-gap-between-marine-scientists-and-policy-makers

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Happy summer!

Posted by: | June 12, 2014 | 1 Comment |

Hello Sea Grant readers,

It’s been an exciting (and busy) term, both in Corvallis and on the road.  I went to two weeklong conferences in April/May, which were interesting but very different experiences.  The first was the Marine Energy Technology Symposium (METS) in Seattle, which was held in conjunction with the Global Marine Renewable Energy Conference (GMREC).  The GMREC/METS conference focused heavily on the mechanical and industrial side of marine renewable energy.  I learned a lot about the history of the marine renewable industry, recent progress in the industry, and well as the major setbacks and obstacles.  The second conference was the Environmental Interactions with Marine Renewables (EIMR) conference, in Stornoway, Scotland.  Scotland was beautiful, and we had unexpectedly great weather for the entire week (!), which was wonderful.  The conference focused on the impacts of marine energy devices on the physical environment, on the wave climate, and on marine organisms and ecosystems.  Although the main focus of the conference was marine biology/ecology, I met several other wave modelers looking at the far-field effects of WEC arrays and tidal turbines.  I was really excited to have the opportunity to discuss goals, methods, and model issues with other researchers with a similar focus, and I came back with a lot of new ideas and new contacts.

Now that I’m back in Corvallis, I’m trying to get myself ready for a summer spent in front of my computer, writing my thesis and a journal article (or two).  I plan to defend my thesis in mid-September.  It’s almost hard to believe I have already been in Corvallis for 2 years! I love Corvallis and I am sad to leave, but I am really excited about the next step.  I was recently awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to do a yearlong study on coastal evolution and coastal hazards in Dakar, Senegal, which I plan to start in October.  With writing and defending my thesis, moving overseas, and starting the Fulbright, I expect the next 6 months to be a whirlwind!

Before any of that, though, we have another important event: the 2014 WORLD CUP.  I am so excited!!

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you out cheering on team USA!

under: Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholar

Hi.

I haven’t introduced myself here yet, I’m Sarah Close. I am one of Oregon Sea Grant’s Knauss Marine Policy Fellows for 2014. I come to Washington, D.C. via Oregon State University, where I finished my Ph.D. in the Zoology department (now Integrative Biology) in January, just a few short weeks before starting my fellowship. I am an ecologist by training and spent my years at OSU traipsing around the rocky intertidal on the Oregon coast as a member of Bruce Menge’s lab. It’s hard not to miss spending time on the Oregon Coast, but I suppose you could view working in D.C. as a different type of field work.

I am spending my Fellowship year working as a Climate Adaptation Analyst in the Climate Program Office (CPO) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In this role, I work for the Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program, which supports regional research teams that work with federal, state, local, and tribal partners and stakeholders to enhance preparedness and resilience to climate variability and change.

As you may know if you’ve been following the Sea Grant Scholars Blog for awhile, the Knauss Fellowship is a year-long position. I knew this short timeframe would be a challenge going in, especially since my Ph.D. took me five and a half years! In doing the math recently, it occurred to me that I am already almost a third of the way through my fellowship. That’s terrifying. But it’s also a good opportunity to reflect on the experience so far. To say I have learned a lot is a huge understatement. I am amazed every day at how much there is still to learn, but I find myself understanding the context around me better as each week passes. I am, little by little, piecing together an understanding of the science policy landscape from where I sit.

For me, the Knauss Fellowship is a great fit and I am excited to see where the next two-thirds of my fellowship take me. I’ll try to keep posting more about my experiences as a Knauss Fellow as the year goes on, so please let me know if you have any questions about the program! (any aspiring Knauss-ers out there?)

under: Knauss Fellow

Last Friday, on a beautiful sunny day in Corvallis, decision makers and researchers came together in communication. The workshop was a great success! Through a series of mini-presentations, open group discussions, and one-on-one meeting opportunities, members from a variety of organizations worked to open lines of communication, share information, and generate applied research projects. There was an overall excitement in the room in working towards a common goal of mutual understanding.

The workshop team learned quite a bit about what went well, and where we can improve to make events such as this an even greater success. Of course, one workshop can only start this process, we are excited to explore ways to continue this work and further foster communication within and between the decision making and research sectors.

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The sun is starting to emerge in western Oregon, and that makes this the perfect time to have a workshop on inter-sector communication…Right? Well that’s what those of us on the INACaMMP project team believe anyhow. It has been in the making for more than a year, and now the workshop is less than 2 weeks away! With the intended goals of coordinating and opening lines of communication to initiate iterative research project development between decision makers and scientists, we will be conducting a series of interactive activities during this 1 day session.

While the workshop has been designed around research results from initial phases of the INACaMMP project, there will also be ample opportunity for participants to discuss various issues most pressing to coastal and marine policy and management. In conducting this workshop, the project team aims to address decision makers’ needs to 1) Infuse research into their policy and management decisions and 2) Use this scientific data to communicate the reasoning behind their decisions with the public. We will also be working to fulfill scientists’ needs to 1) Demonstrate stakeholder and societal relevance in their research and 2) Translate basic research in a way that can be used in policy and management decisions. Finally, we will be addressing the national and state commitments to work with an Ecosystem Services framework in attempts to approach natural resource management in a more holistic manner.

By exploring a variety of interactive opportunities, we will investigate how to best design a workshop intended to generate applied and inter-sector research projects. I am very much looking forward to understanding participant feedback from the workshop and posting some of the findings to this blog. Most excitingly, I am anxious to see what projects and connections might begin at the workshop!

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SRGP Workshops

Posted by: | May 12, 2014 | No Comment |

This week, the IFA’s Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program (SRGP) will be starting a series of workshops aimed at helping Oregon residents maneuver through the Benefit-Cost Analysis tool that is used by communities to receive SRGP funding.   Coming up, there will be workshops in Aloha, Salem, Grants Pass, Gresham, and Pendleton.

For more information about these workshops, click here: http://www.oregon4biz.com/calendar.php?site=IFA&site_category=general

For more information about the SRGP, click here: http://www.orinfrastructure.org/Learn-About-Infrastructure-Programs/Seismic-Rehab-Program/

under: Geoff Ostrove, Natural Resources Policy Fellow

As a West Coast Sea Grant fellow I work on a wide variety of projects for two agencies (DLCD and ODFW) and the Office of Governor Kitzhaber. I’ve had to rely on a number of resources in order to get (and stay) up to speed on the diverse array of state and national ocean policy issues. One of the most valuable resources has been the wealth of institutional knowledge provided by former Sea Grant fellows. Todd Hallenbeck was a Sea Grant fellow from 2011-2013 and was my predecessor. He worked with the Governor’s Office to support the West Coast Governors Alliance on Ocean Health (WCGA), particularly in the realm of providing regional data management and decision support tools. Since Todd’s fellowship ended, I was curious about how it prepared him for the work he’s currently doing as a project manager for the WCGA’s West Coast Ocean Data Portal. Todd was awesome enough to answer a few questions and share a little bit about his current work, since the completion of his fellowship.

How did your background tie into the work you did during your fellowship?

Nothing could really prepare me for the wide variety of tasks that I was responsible for during my fellowship. I really had no experience in the policy realm that I found myself in. My background in GIS certainly helped me understand the issues involved with sharing and using data, but that work also exposed me to a whole new world of web GIS. I would say that my desire to see best available information and geospatial data used in the policy context of marine planning helped ground my background in the fellowship work. Both in the Oregon marine planning process as well as the Regional Data sharing work, it was all driven by my firm belief that when you have access the right data and tools, you can make the right decisions that have the most benefit to society.

What was your favorite part of your fellowship?

I really enjoyed working with a wide range of people both in Oregon and across the country. The work exposed me to folks from all over who were working in completely different capacities, from fisherman to data managers to biologists. Yet despite all these seemingly differing perspectives, everyone that I worked with shared that same desire to see the oceans protected and managed sustainably.

Now that your fellowship is done, what is your current position?

I started my own business, Sustainable Ocean Solutions LLC, and am providing project management and data networking consultation to the West Coast Ocean Data Portal Project. It’s a little isolating working from home but I get to maintain contact with a variety of steering committees, working groups, and contractor staff so I never feel like I’m working on this project alone. Also it means I get to live in the San Francisco Bay area, where my family is from.

Since you got an awesome job opportunity in another part of the country—what was your favorite part about living and working in Oregon?

I truly loved living in Portland. It really is a unique city that has so much to offer. The music, the comedy, the food, the biking. I really found a place and a community there that was a big part of why I was so sad to leave. I also found myself out at the coast very often. The rugged and rocky nature of the Oregon coast is unlike anything I had ever seen. I really liked surfing and hiking amongst the coves and headlands. I will miss Oregon and hope to visit it often.

under: Uncategorized

Winter update!

Posted by: | March 26, 2014 | 1 Comment |

Hello again and happy spring!

In my last post, I talked a bit about my research on the environmental impacts of wave energy converters (WECs).  In this post, I’d like to give you a few updates on how my work is progressing and where it is heading next.

I am interested in how the presence of WEC arrays will change the wave climate at the shoreline.  I use a numerical model called SWAN to determine the changes in the nearshore wave height, wave direction, and wave-induced forces as a result of offshore WEC arrays.  I started with an idealized coastline, with the goal of developing general conclusions on the nearshore effects of WEC arrays that could be used as guidelines in the preliminary design and development of future arrays.  To do this, I simulated changes in the nearshore wave climate on generic planar beaches for a range of wave conditions, array configurations, and array locations.  I am currently applying the same model to two permitted wave energy test sites along the Oregon coast, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) North Energy Test Site (NETS) and the NNMREC South Energy Test Site (SETS) in Newport.  The analyses of the SETS and NETS sites will help determine if the generalized conclusions made in the first part of the study are applicable to sites with more complicated bathymetries (underwater topographies).  Additionally, these analyses will provide relevant, site-specific data that can be used in larger environmental assessments of the NETS and SETS test sites.

Things are coming along nicely, albeit a bit slower than expected.  Numerical modeling is a true test of patience!  Although I expected to move a bit more quickly, I did make a lot of progress this past term, and I was able to submit my first conference paper in January.  The paper was accepted yesterday, which is really exciting.  Additionally, I will be presenting in a few weeks at the Annual Global Marine Renewable Energy Conference (GMREC) and the Marine Energy Technology Symposium (METS), a joint week-long conference in Seattle.  This will be a great opportunity to meet and build connections with a range of researchers and professionals in the field, to share my current research and information on other research being conducted at OSU, and to broaden my understanding of current developments in the field of marine energy.  I’m really looking forward to the conference and I’m excited for a week in Seattle!

Overall, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made this year.  I just finished my last class, and I’m really excited to be able to focus exclusively on my research in the upcoming quarter.  There is still a lot that needs to be done!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy spring break!

under: Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholar

Thar She Blows!

Posted by: | March 18, 2014 | 1 Comment |

Hello Again Sea Grant Readers,

Michelle Fournet checking in with an update about the marine mammals of our Oregon Coast.  In my first blog entry (where I introduced myself as one of the 2013 Malouf Fellowship recipients) I told you a little about the marine mammal survey that I’m conducting along the Oregon Coast. Well I wanted to follow up with a short synopsis of what we’ve seen and who’s been along for the ride.

We’ve been conducting surveys on at least a monthly basis — more when the weather cooperates.  This may seem intermittent, but we had good the good fortune to go out quite a few times during the winter months, allowing us to conduct one of the first ever rigorous marine mammal surveys on our coast during that season. We’re looking for signs of all marine mammals, but I’m particularly interested in odontocete species (dolphins and porpoises).  So far we’ve seen harbor porpoises on nearly every survey, we’ve seen Dall’s porpoise on many of our surveys (including one glorious bow riding event), and we’ve seen at least one species of common dolphin.

I’m interested in these species in particular because they are commonly described as sound sensitive.  Our coastal waters are home to bustling marine industry, the lifeblood of many of our coastal communities.  Vessel traffic, marine research, tourism, sustainable energy development, and more all produce noise.  Sound travels faster and further in the marine environment.  On this one hand this makes sound the ideal sensory modality for marine communication, on the other it also means the ocean is particularly vulnerable to noise pollution.  The input of anthropogenic noise, or man-made noise, may alter the behavior of marine mammal species that rely on sound to navigate, communicate, or forage.

The first step to assessing species resilience (a key tenet in the application of ecosystem based management) is knowing how much these sound sensitive species are currently overlapping with industries that produces noise, and how that overlap is likely to change as we make decisions about how to develop our ocean resources.  All of this research is firmly rooted in the answering the question: who’s there and when?

I’ve been fortunate to expand my research team over the past few months.  We have a number of volunteers from the community of Newport as well as students from OSU staffing the Elakha as she makes her coastal surveys.  In conjunction with a marine bird survey, conducted under the leadership of M.S. student Jess Porquez and her advisor Dr. Rob Suryan of the Hatfield Marine Science Center, we were able to mount a large scale training initiative to get volunteers prepared for their time on the water.

Lastly, in thanks to the Malouf Fellowship, I will be attending the Northwest Student Chapter Meeting for the Society of Marine Mammalogy this coming May.  It will be a great opportunity to present some of the work that I’m pursuing as a grad student, as well as rub elbows with other marine mammoligist students.  Meeting and collaborating with other students in the field is priceless.  We are often facing the same problems, and in collaboration can brainstorm some effective solutions.  Further, it’s always nice to spend a weekend with ocean-minded folk, watch a few whales, and talk shop.

Cheers!

Michelle

under: Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholar
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