Terra in Print: Winter 2011

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Welcome to the Winter 2011 issue of Terra magazine

My dad navigated merchant ships across the high seas long before his profession became dependent on satellites and GPS. All Karel Houtman needed to know his location was a clear sky, a sextant and a chart. He always felt more comfortable at sea than on land and would steer his way unerringly across the nearly 5,000 water-to-the-horizon miles from Oakland, California, to Yokohama, Japan. For him, driving from home to the grocery store along streets crowded with cars and traffic signs was a journey through a strange land.

Stranger still might be the notion that he could sail on an ice-free Arctic Ocean. As the summer ice pack thins and shrinks, scientists suggest that may be possible in a few decades. Some think it will take less than 10 years.
Karel grew up in The Netherlands and liked to watch ships steaming out to sea. He was less than a block from his California home when he died of a heart attack in 1990. If I could talk to him today, I would tell him of other changes to our oceans: more than half of the world’s monitored coral reefs dead or in decline; coastal regions beset by low-oxygen and increasingly acidic water; legendary fisheries that pale against their former abundance; rising wave heights and sea levels that threaten the foundations of coastal communities and ports.

Because I work at a university that focuses on solutions, I would also tell him about signs of hope: research partnerships among scientists, fishermen and government agencies; marine protected areas across the world; recovering whale, seal and sea lion populations; visionary national leadership based in science and collaboration.

It takes a lot more than a sextant to navigate through these and other challenges. As stories in this issue of Terra demonstrate, ocean-observing technology has advanced beyond anything my dad could have imagined. With access to up-to-the-minute information about ocean conditions, fishermen will be able to make a living and avoid threatened fish populations. Shippers can save fuel by running with ocean currents and not against them. Engineers will be able to design structures that protect public safety.

If we had a GPS to show us the way, we would probably hear that familiar refrain: “recalibrating route.”

— Nick Houtman, Editor

A day in the life of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana

A day in the life of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana

Healthy People, Terra Blog, Winter 2011

In June 2010, as OSU scientists were monitoring whales and toxins (see Down to the Gulf) and as clean-up crews frantically worked to minimize damage from the Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, Justin Bailie, a photographer from Seaside, Oregon, was documenting the impact on Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. His slideshow demonstrates residents’ strong […]


Lines in the Water

Lines in the Water

Earth, Features, Healthy Economy, Healthy Planet, Multimedia, Student Research, Winter 2011

As fishermen, scientists and coastal communities spar over Oregon’s system of marine reserves, OSU researchers and their partners are developing the science. One of their first testing grounds is Port Orford’s Redfish Rocks.


New Courses Explore Ocean Cultures

Departments, Healthy Planet, New Terrain, Winter 2011

Centuries before modern science, humans traveled, exploited, contemplated and celebrated the seas as explorers, fishermen, whalers, merchants, poets, storytellers, musicians and philosophers. Two new courses sponsored by OSU’s Spring Creek Program and Environmental Leadership Institute will delve into this ancient human-ocean relationship. Inspired by the university’s upcoming symposium, Song for the Blue Ocean: Science, Art […]


Shellfish on Acid

Shellfish on Acid

Departments, Earth, Healthy Planet, New Terrain, Stewardship, Winter 2011

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter, “You’ve had a pleasant run! Shall we be trotting home again?” But answer came there none — And this was scarcely odd, because They’d eaten every one. — Lewis Carroll The Walrus and the Carpenter Whether or not you’re a fan of gulping down raw oysters doused with Tabasco, recent […]


Winter Storms Lead to Spring Bloom

Winter Storms Lead to Spring Bloom

Departments, Earth, Healthy Planet, New Terrain, Winter 2011

If you separate predators from their prey, you get more prey. Now that simple relationship has been used to explain one of the most important annual events in the ocean: the North Atlantic spring phytoplankton bloom. Since the 19th century, oceanographers have sought to explain its origins and have settled on the wintertime mixing of […]


Surprise in the Sargasso

Surprise in the Sargasso

Departments, Earth, Healthy Planet, Winter 2011

Microbes are masters of adaptation. In some of Earth’s most extreme environments — Antarc- tica’s frigid ice fields, Yellowstone’s sulfuric hot springs, Crater Lake’s lightless depths, the oceans’ deep-sea basalts — Stephen Giovannoni has discovered thriving communities of bacteria. As the holder of the Emile F. Pernot Distinguished Professorship in Microbiology, he has discovered some […]


Run Silent, Run Deep

Run Silent, Run Deep

Departments, Earth, Healthy Planet, Multimedia, Winter 2011

For more than half a century, oceanographers have ventured out of Newport to measure, probe and monitor the Pacific Ocean off the central Oregon Coast. And since the 1950s, these seafaring researchers have recorded about 4,000 “profiles” of the near-shore waters — surface to bottom measurements of temperature, salinity and oxygen levels that begin to […]


Dolphins Hunt Together

Departments, Earth, Healthy Planet, Winter 2011

Watch spinner dolphins corral their quarry and work together to feed in these animations. Kelly Benoit-Bird used acoustic data of dolphins feeding at night near Hawaii. She reported her findings in the following journal article: Benoit-Bird, K.J. & Au, W.W.L. 2009 “Cooperative prey herding by a pelagic dolphin, Stenella longirostris.” Journal of the Acoustical Society […]


Genius of the Sea

Genius of the Sea

Departments, Earth, Healthy Planet, Winter 2011

Kelly Benoit-Bird studies ocean organisms smaller than a microchip and bigger than a luxury motor home — the tiniest crustaceans to the mightiest cetaceans. In effect, she studies just about anything that swims or drifts in the sea: copepods and krill, diatoms and dinoflagellates, siphonophores and salps, spinner dolphins and Humboldt squid, Pacific sardines and […]


Down to the Gulf

Down to the Gulf

Earth, Features, Healthy Economy, Healthy Planet, Winter 2011

Bruce Mate didn’t wait long. Within days of the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, he was on the phone with officials from the U.S. Minerals Management Service. He and other OSU researchers are analyzing consequences of the largest spill in U.S. waters. Meanwhile, Oregon photographer Justin Bailie was on the scene in Terrebonne Parish.


Raised Voices

Raised Voices

Departments, Healthy Economy, Innovation, Multimedia, Stewardship, Winter 2011

Fishing is hard enough. The weather, changing ocean conditions and the fickleness of fish make it tough to track your quarry let alone catch them. Now competition for space in the ocean — an oxymoron in an environment defined by its seemingly limitless expanse — poses new concerns along the West Coast. In the future, […]


OSU Marine Science by the Numbers

OSU Marine Science by the Numbers

Earth, Healthy Planet, Winter 2011

Critical Mass 350 OSU faculty engage in marine research and outreach activities. 120 OSU and 180 state and federal researchers collaborate on ocean science at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. Research Grants Nearly $100 million in 2008-09, or 37 percent of OSU research expenditures, was directly tied to marine-related issues. Education 828 M.S. […]


Smooth Sailing

Smooth Sailing

Healthy Economy, Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Winter 2011

For the past decade, Oregon State University has boasted an oceanography program ranked among the top five in the nation, and its broad spectrum of marine and coastal research has an international reputation that few institutions can match. OSU Marine Science by the Numbers 350 OSU faculty, nearly $100 million in research, more than 150,000 […]


From Research to Retail

From Research to Retail

Departments, Healthy Economy, Innovation, Stewardship, Winter 2011

Gilbert “Gil” Sylvia spent childhood summers riding a bus through the lake-studded military base where he lived, hauling buckets of live fish from pond to pond. He and his buddies were trying to alter the balance of species for one reason: to boost their own catches. They never guessed that by dumping sunfish, bass and […]


Plankton Planet

Plankton Planet

Departments, Earth, Features, Healthy Planet, Winter 2011

On a South Pacific research expedition, Angelicque White and Ricardo Letelier encountered a surprise: An intense red tide surrounded the ship. (Photo: Angelicque White)


Undersea Eruptions Led to Massive Landslide

Undersea Eruptions Led to Massive Landslide

Earth, Healthy Planet, Winter 2011

An erupting undersea volcano near Guam in the western Pacific continues to reshape the seafloor. In March 2010, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and OSU led another in a series of expeditions to NW Rota-1 in the Mariana Arc. Eruptions have been practically continuous since first discovered in 2003, says Bill Chadwick, […]


Lionfish Outcompete the Natives on Coral Reefs

Lionfish Outcompete the Natives on Coral Reefs

Departments, Earth, Healthy Planet, Winter 2011

Lionfish memo to coral reefs in the Bahamas: There’s a new predator in town. Native to the South Pacific, the invasive lionfish is reducing the abundance of native fishes on coral reefs in the Bahamas (see “Deep Ecology,” in Terra, spring 2008). OSU zoologist Mark Hixon leads a team of graduate students and other collaborators […]


Hope Rides on Tagged Gray Whale

Hope Rides on Tagged Gray Whale

Earth, Healthy Planet, Winter 2011

An electronic tag attached to a single western gray whale may lead to conservation of one of the world’s most endangered whale populations. Bruce Mate, director of Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, affixed the tag to the animal, a male known as “Flex,” last summer off Sakhalin Island, Russia, in the western Pacific. Mate […]


Tipping Point

Tipping Point

Departments, Earth, Features, Healthy Planet, Winter 2011

In the summer, you may have to go 20 miles out to sea to find it, but close to the seafloor, near the edge of Oregon’s continental shelf, is a preview of the future: water as acidic as what the world’s oceans may be like in 50 to 100 years. “The future of ocean acidification […]


Sea Change

Sea Change

Healthy Planet, Terra Blog, Winter 2011

My dad navigated merchant ships across the high seas long before his profession became dependent on satellites and GPS. All Karel Houtman needed to know his location was a clear sky, a sextant and a chart. He always felt more comfortable at sea than on land and would steer his way unerringly across the nearly […]


Balance of Power

Balance of Power

Departments, Healthy Economy, Perspectives, Terra Blog, Winter 2010, Winter 2011

By Kate Sinner, Director of Federal Relations Renewable ocean wave energy seems like a natural. It promises jobs for Oregon and carbon-free power for the nation. It can reduce our dependence on foreign oil and contribute to economic development. But before we can realize that potential, we need to be careful to find a balance. […]


After the Spill

After the Spill

Departments, Healthy People, Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Student Research, Winter 2011

The 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico brought up bad memories for Sarah Allan. The Oregon State University Ph.D. student, who grew up in southeast Alaska, was a child in 1988, when the Exxon Valdez struck a reef and dumped millions of gallons of crude into another rich marine ecosystem, Prince William Sound. […]


Yellow tang study shows marine reserve benefit

Yellow tang study shows marine reserve benefit

Features, Healthy Planet, Stewardship, Winter 2011

Marine ecologists at Oregon State University have shown for the first time that tiny fish larvae can drift with ocean currents and “re-seed” fish stocks significant distances away – more than 100 miles in a new study from Hawaii.


Uncharted Waters

Uncharted Waters

Earth, Healthy Planet, Summer 2010, Winter 2011

It may come like it did the last time, in the middle of a cold and blustery January night. Suddenly the ground will begin to shake, windows will shatter, bridges collapse, the electricity will go out and parents will frantically try to find a flashlight and dig sleepy kids out of bed, ignore everything else […]