OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Oregon Sea Grant delivers federal dollars for ocean research, outreach efforts

01/28/2010

CORVALLIS -  An ambitious plan to research, understand and inform the public about marine issues ranging from climate change to invasive species will receive nearly $14 million in federal and state dollars via the Oregon Sea Grant Program over the next four years.

“We're proud to be able to continue supporting an integrated program of coastal science serving Oregon,” said Stephen Brandt, director of the Oregon Sea Grant Program headquartered at Oregon State University. “The research projects, in particular, address some of the critical issues facing Oregon and the coast, and reflect our ongoing commitment to supporting research that addresses current issues of human health and safey, social progress, economic vitality and ecosystem sustainability.”

Oregon Sea Grant recently received the first of four $2.3 million biennial grant installments from its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Half of that money will go to support  the 10 research proposals – among 60 submitted - that made it through Sea Grant's  rigorous, competitive grant program for 2010-2012. The federal dollars are expected to leverage at least $1.2 million a year in state matching funds.

Grant proposals were reviewed both for their scientific strength and importance and their relevance to Oregonians, said Brandt. Reviewers included scientific peers from across the county as well as members of Sea Grant's citizen advisory council, representing a range of coastal interests.

Nine of the funded research teams are based at OSU; the tenth involves scientists at Western Oregon University. Several involve state and federal research collaborators. The grants will support research into such issues as:

  • The implications of climate change in shifting populations of marine organisms, from tiny organisms that threaten the survival of wild salmon to predatory Humboldt squid.
  • The identification of bioactive compounds, which might have use in human medicine, from organisms in deep-sea hydrothermal vents.
  • Development of a means of predicting oxygen-starved “dead zones,” and their implications for the ocean food web and commercial fisheries.
  • Improved methods of forecasting near-shore waves and their effects on Oregon's coast, and, in a separate project, a look at how local variations in sea-floor geography, river currents and other factors might amplify or reduce the damaging effects of tsunami waves.
  • The use of Oregon's proposed marine reserves as a laboratory for developing a new framework for assessing the human costs and benefits of such zones, taking into account  ecosystem benefits as well as economic costs.
  • A predictive method for analyzing the risks and economics of early detection and rapid-response efforts to control the spread of invasive species.
  • Continued support for ongoing research into oyster disease and salmon habitat restoration, areas pioneered by earlier Sea Grant funding.

Although the grants – ranging from $35,000 to $117,000 per year - are modest by some standards, Sea Grant's steady support of timely, relevant marine research in Oregon over more than 40 years has made the program “an incredibly powerful force,” said John Cassady, OSU's vice president for research.

“Through their vision and foresight, they seeded early studies on wave energy and on the ecological impacts of invasive species. With its educational and research programs, Oregon Sea Grant has increased the awareness of coastal hazards and of ways to mitigate those hazards. They have been a hugely valuable resource to Oregon's fishing communities,” Cassady said. “In innumerable other ways, Sea Grant has, time and again, demonstrated that its programs return value to the state that is many times greater than the initial investment."

The balance of the NOAA funds will support Sea Grant's ongoing education, outreach and public engagement activities on the coast and throughout the region, from marine education programs at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center to engaging and informing coastal communities and policy makers on the scientific underpinnings of issues such as marine reserves  and community preparedness for tsunamis. A number of graduate student fellowships in marine science and policy will also be funded under the Sea Grant Scholars program.

Oregon Sea Grant is one of 32 National Sea Grant College Programs, all based at universities in coastal and Great Lakes states and funded under NOAA. The Oregon program, in operation since 1968, has long supported research at OSU and other institutions of higher education in Oregon; it also conducts marine Extension and education programs, and manages the Visitor Center at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

For more news about science, marine education and related activities on the Oregon coast, subscribe to “Breaking Waves,” the Oregon Sea Grant news blog, at: http://seagrant.oregonstate.edu/blogs/.