Our Research

Our research projects are organized into research themes.

Current research themes:

Ocean floor


Marine Ecosystems and Habitats

Research in this theme emphasizes ecosystem monitoring by both new and established tools and approaches; large-scale environmental and small-scale process studies for understanding ecosystem health, habitat function, and environmental change; modeling and forecasting activities that make extensive use of current and past ecological, environmental and socio-economic data.




Protection and Restoration of Marine Resources

Research conducted under this theme is multidisciplinary in nature, combining the areas of social sciences, fishery resource economics and stock assessment, spatial planning, and genetics for managed   species! in marine as well as estuarine habitats.


JASON deployment



Seafloor Processes

Research conducted within this theme assesses the effects of seafloor spreading-center activity, volcanism and hydrothermal systems on the physical, chemical and biological components of the world oceans through the use of the most advanced technologies in the area of acoustics, seafloor imaging, and physical, chemical, and biological oceanography.




Hydrophone deployment


Marine Bioacoustics

Research in this theme involves the use of acoustic monitoring in coastal and deep-ocean environments as an efficient survey method for gathering information from remote areas of the global oceans.



We have three research groups:

West Coast Fisheries

Cheryle holding a salmon


Oceanographic and habitat conditions significantly affect, and can even govern, the productivity of Northwest salmonids and groundfish. This research program focuses on the effects of ocean variability, habitat and human activities (including, in the case of groundfish, fishing patterns and regulations) on distributions, health and marine survival of salmonids and groundfish. Fishers have known for generations that specific habitat features favor high abundances of unique marine resources and that fish stocks respond clearly and sometimes suddenly to shifts or fluctuations in climate or fishing patterns.




Thus, it is critical that fishery scientists and oceanographers determine which physical and biological processes influence fish distributions, growth and survival, so that when the ocean enters a different climate state, or fishing practices change, or natural watershed conditions are restored, scientists are able to state to what degree any factor is responsible for shifts in growth and survival or possibly why certain species! and stocks are most affected. Projects in the research program are funded by NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Bonneville Power Administration, and NSF.


Research in marine ecosystems and habitat includes the study of marine lipids. Lipids are important biochemical components of marine food webs and can elucidate predator-prey relationships, improve  food sources for aquaculture, and facilitate an understanding of larger scale oceanographic processes. These combined approaches further our understanding of how climate change and oceanographic processes at lower trophic levels may affect food quality and condition of commercially important fish and invertebrates.


Summer Activities

researchers on boat

June 20, 2014: Our researchers just left for sea to conduct oceanographic surveys in order to answer questions on the ecological effects of the Columbia Plume on our fisheries.  

For those of you new to the survey, the plan is to conduct physical and biological sampling at 6-8 stations on each of 8 transects, that are spread out from the northern tip of WA to central OR.  If you are inspired enough to locate the transect that are mentioned, they are so named relative to geographical features on the coast line.  The survey is scheduled as below:

June 20: Father and Son 
June 21: La Push
June 22: Queets River
June 23: Grays Harbor
June 24: Willapa Bay
June 25: Columbia River
June 26: Cape Meares
June 27: Newport
June 28: port in Astoria

Keep track of our friends at sea here (updates and photos).

Seafloor Processes

axial volcano This multidisciplinary project seeks to quantify the effects of submarine volcanic and hydrothermal activity on the ocean. Continuous acoustic monitoring of spreading centers in the world’s oceans allows investigators to detect and study the chemical, physical, geological and biological effects of tectonic activity on the global ocean and to follow free-ranging populations of large cetaceans.


The Vents Program research teams comprise federal employees, OSU/CIMRS researchers, and outside collaborators from other government agencies and several universities both in the U.S. and abroad. Research activity over the past year has focused on submarine volcanic systems, including mid-ocean ridge! spreading centers such as the Juan de Fuca Ridge off the Washington-Oregon coast, and subduction zone systems such as the Mariana volcanic arc in the western Pacific.


A wide range of research tools are used for this work, including submarine hydrophones to detect earthquake and volcanic activity, multi-beam sonar systems for detailed mapping of seafloor bathymetry, instrument packages deployed from surface ships for detecting and mapping water-column hydrothermal plumes, and submersibles (both manned and robotic) for direct observation and sampling of seafloor hot spring systems. Funding for this research comes from NOAA and its Ocean Exploration Program, and from other agencies such as the National Science Foundation.