Space Station images provide insights into coastal regions

Mouth of the Columbia River, imaged from spaceCORVALLIS  – A prototype scanner aboard the International Space Station is providing scientists with a new set of imaging tools that will help them monitor Earth’s coastal regions for events from oil spills to plankton blooms.

The images and other data are now available to scientists from around the world through an online clearinghouse coordinated by Oregon State University.

Additional details of the project will be announced in a forthcoming issue of the American Geophysical Union journal, EOS, and can be found on the project’s website.

The Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean, or HICO, is the first space-borne sensor created specifically for observing the coastal ocean and will allow scientists to better analyze human impacts and climate change effects on the world’s coastal regions, according to Curtiss O. Davis, an OSU oceanographer and the project scientist.

Read more from OSU News & Research Communications

Visit the HICO website

(Image: Mouth of the Columbia River, from HICO image gallery)

Woods Hole fact-checks ocean radiation

The ongoing Japanese struggle to repair nuclear reactors damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami has people across the Pacific concerned about the potential damage to the ocean from leaking radiation.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, one of the nation’s top ocean research labs, has put together an online fact sheet about ocean radiation issues related to the Japanese disaster.

The Web site discusses different types of radiation from naturally ocurring and manmade sources, the potential for circulation by air and water, and what is known so far about the Japanese radiation releases, as well as likely effects on seafood. The page will be updated as more information becomes available.

Sea Grant director to take part in “rapid response” study of Gulf fish ecology

Stephen Brandt

CORVALLIS, Ore. – An Oregon State University researcher who leads the Oregon Sea Grant program will take part in a rapid response team studying how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is affecting fish and other marine life in the Gulf of Mexico.

The National Science Foundation has announced that the team, including OSU’s Stephen Brandt, will receive $200,000 to support a week-long research cruise this September to collect data about the conditions of fish in the northern Gulf. The new information will be compared with baseline data the team has recorded in multiple cruises of the same region dating back to 2003.Funds come from the NSF’s RAPID program, which supports quick-response research into the effects of natural and man-made disasters and other urgent situations.

Brandt, the director of the Oregon Sea Grant program at OSU, is an oceanographer and freshwater scientist with a long history of studying fish ecology around the world, including the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay and the Adriatic Sea. Before coming to OSU in 2009, he was director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Michigan.

He is part of a research team that has conducted seven research cruises in the northern Gulf of Mexico since 2003, collecting detailed data about temperature, salinity, oxygen, phytoplankton, zooplankton and fish, and analyzing the effects of human activity on marine fish ecology. The result is what Brandt calls “an extremely valuable data set” to compare the possible effects of the BP oil spill on the pelagic ecosystem of the northern Gulf of Mexico. The team also plans to make its historical data available to other Gulf researchers via the NSF’s Biological and Chemical Oceanography Database.

“We’re proposing to conduct the new cruise in September because that’s the same time of year when we conducted our previous studies,” Brandt said. “That will allow us to compare the new data with comparable periods from past years, which should give us a good picture of how the spill is affecting the marine environment.”

Read more …

Squid Search: Understanding the spread of a marine predator

Humbodt Squid necropsyHumboldt squid (aka “jumbo squid”) are large predators that have been turning up in growing numbers in fishermen’s nets off the Oregon coast over the past decade. Now an Oregon State University researcher, with support from Oregon Sea Grant, is working with fishermen and  other partners to develop a database describing the squids’ advance.

Researcher Selena Heppell and her team plan to  focus on the relationship between the expansion of the squids’ northern range and ocean conditions, and the role the animal plays in coastal food webs. Collaborators include collaborate tuna, salmon and hake fishermen, California Sea Grant, the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Oregon Sea Grant Extension, and various departments and faculty at OSU.

Read more about the project in the Heppell Lab blog.

Ocean Observatories Initiative signed

Giving scientists never-before-seen views of the world’s oceans, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership (COL) have signed a Cooperative Agreement that supports the construction and initial operation of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI).

OOI will provide a network of undersea sensors for observing complex ocean processes such as climate variability, ocean circulation, and ocean acidification at several coastal, open-ocean and seafloor locations.

Continuous data flow from hundreds of OOI sensors will be integrated by a sophisticated computing network, and will be openly available to scientists, policy makers, students and the public.

Oregon State University, along with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, will be responsible for the system’s coastal and global moorings and their associated autonomous vehicles.

Read more from the National Science Foundation

Another El Nino year

El Nino graphicWith last week’s NOAA announcement that El Niño is back, scientists, resource managers and coastal dwellers are preparing for a winter of increasing storm activity and potentially diminished ocean productivity in the Pacific – but a possibly milder-than-average Atlantic hurricane season and potentially beneficial rain in the arid American southwest.

El Niño, or the southern oscillation, is a climate phenomenon that occurs every two to five years and has significant effects on global weather, ocean conditions and marine fisheries. While its relative frequency makes El Niño among the most-studied and better-understood large-scale phenomena among climate scientists, it can be a mystery to the rest of us.

Oregon Sea Grant can help unravel that mystery through its short publication, El Niño. Profusely illustrated and written for lay audiences, the eight-page, color publication explains how ocean currents, wind and weather patterns come together in the Equatorial Pacific to create El Niño conditions that affect weather and fisheries from South America to Alaska.

El Niño can be downloaded free of charge from the Oregon Sea Grant Web site:

For more in-depth information, visit NOAA’s El Niño page.

Crabbers collaborate with OSU researchers to monitor ocean temperature, hypoxia

launching a crabpot with a sensor attachedCORVALLIS, Ore. – In a unique, symbiotic relationship, Oregon crabbers are working with Oregon State University researchers funded by Oregon Sea Grant to use their crab pots as underwater monitoring stations where data collectors attached to the pots gather vital oceanographic information.

This information might help crabbers more effectively locate their catch while helping scientists provide answers to challenging research questions, such as why and when hypoxia zones form in coastal waters.

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