OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

college of agricultural sciences

Study finds less fragmentation in muzzleloading and black powder cartridge rifles

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study found that traditional bullets for muzzleloading rifles and black powder rifle cartridges fragment less upon impact and may leave far fewer lead fragments in game than a modern high-velocity rifle bullet.

The findings suggest that hunters using those styles of guns may have a reduced risk of secondary lead poisoning from consuming game meat, and that there may be a reduced risk to scavenging animals as well, compared to ammunition for modern rifles that also contain lead. 

Results of the study, by researchers in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University, have been published in the Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management.

Bullet fragmentation has been well-described in many modern, high-velocity rifles, but not for black-powder cartridge rifles or muzzleloading firearms, said Clinton Epps, a wildlife ecologist at Oregon State and co-author on the study. 

“There is a lot more complexity to the lead versus non-lead ammunition discussion than many people realize and the black powder/muzzleloader niche of hunters needs to be included in the conversation,” Epps said.

To study the fragmentation, the researchers evaluated a traditional .54 caliber round ball and a modern-designed .54 caliber conical bullet for muzzleloaders and two types of .45-70 caliber black powder rifle cartridges, and compared them with a modern, lead-core high-velocity bullet (Remington Core-Lokt) for a .30-06. 

They found that the modern .30-06 bullets retained a mean 57.5 percent of their original mass, with the remaining 42.5 percent fragmenting. Mean mass retention for muzzleloader and black powder cartridge bullets ranged from 87.8 percent to 99.7 percent.

“We tested penetration and fragmentation for each bullet type in both water and ballistics gel,” said Dana Sanchez, an OSU wildlife Extension specialist and lead author on the article. “Obviously, these kinds of artificial tests cannot replicate conditions in the field, but the striking differences in fragmentation suggests follow-up tests on game animals harvested in actual hunting situations may be warranted.” 

Muzzleloaders use black powder, typically made from charcoal, potassium nitrate and sulfur, and loaded from the muzzle using loose components rather than self-contained cartridges. Traditional hunting bullets for muzzleloaders are round balls made of pure lead and wrapped in a cloth patch to engage the rifling. Because of their low velocity and low potential for expansion, most states require muzzleloaders to have larger (greater than .45) calibers than modern high-velocity rifles.

“The speed of a bullet is a key factor in fragmentation, although there are other variables,” said Epps, who is a rifle builder, ballistics specialist and a hunter. “Black powder cartridges and round balls don’t go as fast, so they have to use a bigger bullet, which tends not to break apart as much.” 

Muzzleloader hunting is popular in many states, especially in the Midwest and the South, where special seasons allow hunters to use this method in addition to traditional rifle and archery hunts. Oregon has special muzzleloader tags for deer, elk and pronghorn antelope. Hunting with muzzleloaders and black powder rifles remains a comparatively small niche among hunters and the researchers emphasize that their study was solely intended to provide information on fragmentation that had been missing.

Oregon allows use of both lead and non-lead ammunition in big game hunting. And while non-lead ammunition choices for modern firearms are increasingly more available, Epps said, “non-lead options for muzzleloaders and other older-style firearms are still limited and may not function well in all rifles.” 

David Taylor, a graduate student in OSU’s Department of Integrative Biology, also was an author on the study and conducted the field work as part of an undergraduate project funded in part by the Undergraduate Research, Innovation, Scholarship and Creativity program at Oregon State.

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Clint Epps, 541-737-2478, Clinton.epps@oregonstate.edu; Dana Sanchez, 541-737-6003, dana.sanchez@oregonstate.edu

Despite evolutionary inexperience, northern sockeye manage heat stress

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Sockeye salmon that evolved in the generally colder waters of the far north still know how to cool off if necessary, an important factor in the species’ potential for dealing with global climate change.

Sockeyes, which spawn in fresh water and spend two to three years in the Pacific Ocean, range from southern Alaska south to the Columbia River.

Research by Oregon State University revealed that sockeyes at the northern edge of that range, despite lacking their southern counterparts’ evolutionary history of dealing with heat stress, nevertheless have an innate ability to “thermoregulate.”

Thermoregulation means that when their surroundings warm up too much, the fish will seek cooler water that precisely meets their physiological needs. A study conducted by an OSU researcher at an Alaska lake during a heat wave shed light on sockeyes’ ability to find the water temperatures they need.

Multiple earlier studies had demonstrated thermoregulation behavior among sockeye salmon at lower latitudes, but northern populations’ behavioral response to heat stress had largely gone unexamined.

While it may seem obvious that any fish would move around to find the water temperature it needed, prior research has shown thermoregulation is far from automatic – even among populations living where heat stress is a regular occurrence.

“Often what’s happened has been counterintuitive, so we had no idea what to expect,” said Jonathan B. Armstrong, assistant professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences’ Department of Fish and Wildlife, the lead author on the study. “About 40 million sockeye return to Bristol Bay every year. These huge salmon runs are a big part of the regional culture and economy, so how these fish respond to climate change will have very real effects on people’s lives. It’s encouraging that the sockeyes showed this innate capacity to respond.”

Results of the research were recently published in Conservation Physiology.

Armstrong and his collaborators at the University of Washington worked in 2013 at Little Togiak Lake – one of five major lakes in the Wood River watershed that drain into Bristol Bay, a fishery that produces nearly 70 percent of all the sockeye salmon caught in the United States. Bristol Bay is close to the 60-degree latitude that marks the northern boundary of the sockeyes’ primary range.

Adult sockeye salmon return to the Wood River system from the Bering Sea in early summer, then mature and develop secondary sexual traits before spawning later in the summer or at the beginning of fall.

During the time between entering fresh water and spawning, the fish group together in their lake’s epilimnion – the upper, warmer level of water in a thermally stratified lake. Usually the fish congregate, or stage, near tributary inlets and along shorelines.

During a staging period of unusually warm weather – maximum daily air temperatures hovered around 80 degrees for a week, the second-warmest heat wave on record – researchers used a seine to capture fish and outfitted 95 of them with devices that logged water temperatures at 20-minute intervals.

What they learned from the 40 recovered temperature loggers was that when the epilimnion temperature rose above about 12 degrees Celsius, or about 53 degrees, the fish thermoregulated by moving to tributary plumes or to deeper water.

By swimming away from the rising temperatures, the fish expended 50 percent less energy during the warmest conditions – 64 to 68 degrees – than they would have had they stayed put.

“The hotter it is, the more energy they burn, but these fish don’t just want the coldest water possible,” Armstrong said. “If they were cars looking for maximum fuel efficiency, they’d just find the coldest water, but instead it’s a Goldilocks sort of thing - they’re looking for not too warm, not too cold.

“They want their system to go fast enough for them to go through maturation before they spawn, where they go from these silver torpedoes to these crazy, exaggerated beasts of sexual selection with a red body and green jaws.”

Armstrong noted the broader message of the study is what it says about the ability of animals to exploit the kinds of diversity of temperature and diversity of habitat found in ecosystems that are intact and not heavily developed.

“There’s all this diversity and connectivity up there,” Armstrong said. “Fish have lots of options for coping with warming or environmental change in general.

“When we develop watersheds, we often simplify habitats and take away these options. In our research we are constantly stumbling across new and interesting ways that fish and wildlife thrive by exploiting diversity in temperatures, often at small spatial scales that would be very easy to overlook. This study is one more example of how all the little details matter, and they could be what save animals from climate change, or at least reduce the impacts.”

Media Contact: 

Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039 

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sockeye salmon

Sockeye salmon

The golden drool: Study finds treasure trove of info in saliva of foraging bears

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The rivers and streams of Alaska are littered in the summer and fall with carcasses of tens of thousands of salmon that not only provide a smorgasbord for hungry brown bears but are also the newest database in the arsenal of wildlife biologists.

A new study, published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, documents the ability of researchers to gather DNA from residual saliva on partially consumed salmon to the point that they can even identify individual bears from the genetic samples. The discovery should provide a significant boost to research on the population and health of brown bears, which can grow to a size of 1,500 pounds. 

“In the past, population estimates have been largely based on visual observations and on the analysis of fecal samples,” said Taal Levi, an assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife at Oregon State University and co-author on the study. “We found that using bear saliva is not only easier and cheaper as a research tool, it is more effective.”

In their study, the researchers examined 156 partially consumed salmon carcasses of lakeshore-spawning sockeye salmon in the Chilkoot watershed and stream-spawning chum salmon at Herman Creek in the Klehini watershed – both near Haines, Alaska. They also swabbed a total of 272 brown bear “scats,” or fecal samples, from those same locations. 

They found that the saliva collected from the salmon carcasses delivered a higher rate of genotyping success, allowing the researchers to identify individual bears more accurately and quickly than the fecal samples, and required significantly less labor.

“Bears love salmon because they are such a rich food source, and fortunately for us, the way they consume them lends itself to genetic monitoring,” said the study’s lead author, Rachel Wheat, who conducted the research as part of her doctoral dissertation at the University of California, Santa Cruz. 

“When salmon are plentiful, bears rarely eat the entire fish. In some cases, they only eat the brain, and we’ve found that swabbing along the edges of the braincase gives us the best results for extracting DNA,” Wheat said. “We also had success with swabbing inside distinct bite holes, and in the muscle tissue where the bears have stripped the skin off the salmon.”

The researchers were able to get brown bear genotypes for 55 percent of all the salmon carcasses sampled for saliva, compared to 34 percent for the scat samples. 

From a purely cost-savings perspective, the saliva sampling proved cheaper. It costs the researchers roughly $370 per bear to genetically identify individual animals using scat samples; the cost with saliva samples dropped to $118.

“This advance will help allow us to more effectively – and more economically – study one of the largest bears on the planet,” Wheat said. 

Levi agreed and also noted that the method does not have to be restricted to bear research. It could be adapted to other species, as well.

 “Many predators leave saliva on food remains,” he said. “We feel this type of saliva sampling could become an important tool for wildlife population monitoring.”

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Taal Levi, 541-737-4067, taal.levi@oregonstate.edu; Rachel Wheat, 719-439-3397, r.e.wheat@gmail.com

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Bear with salmon (Photo by Jennifer Allen)

Bear with salmon

Chum salmon (Photo by Rachel Wheat)

Chum salmon

Fall Creek hatchery to hold annual festival on Nov. 5

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon Hatchery Research Center will host its annual Fall Creek Festival on Saturday, Nov. 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the hatchery, located 13 miles west of Alsea on Highway 34.

The festival, which is free and open to the public, features a day of art workshops – scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. – as well as children’s activities and tours. Registration is required because space is limited; lunch will be provided for registered participants.

To register, call 541-487-5512 and state workshop preferences, or send an email to oregonhatchery.researchcenter@state.or.us

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to see wild coho and Chinook salmon spawning in Fall Creek,” said David Noakes, an OSU professor of fisheries and wildlife.

The workshops include:

  • Water color painting
  • Fish printing
  • Bird house construction
  • Grocery bag stenciling
  • Wind chime construction
  • Nature journal illustration

The center is jointly operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

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David Noakes, 541-737-1953, david.noakes@oregonstate.edu

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Excess wildfire, cheatgrass affecting sage-grouse; targeted actions needed

BEND, Ore. – Larger, more frequent wildfires across the Great Basin have contributed significantly to a decline in greater sage-grouse, according to a new study that also indicates that if this trend continues unabated, it could reduce the population of this indicator species to 43 percent of its present numbers.

The culprit, researchers say, is the influx of exotic annual grasses such as cheatgrass that establish after wildfire removes the native plant community, including sagebrush, the plant upon which sage-grouse are dependent for survival.

Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Great Basin of North America is a vast landscape that is larger than 75 percent of the countries worldwide. It is comprised primarily of a “sagebrush sea” that is threatened by this cycle of wildfire and cheatgrass, according to Christian Hagen, a senior research associate at Oregon State University and a co-author on the study.

“Our modeling indicates that there are long-lasting effects from wildfire that negate increases in sage-grouse population growth that typically occur after years of higher precipitation,” said Hagen, a researcher in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. “So even when we have a good precipitation year in the Great Basin, the sage-grouse don’t recover as they once did because the habitat to support them has been lost to cheatgrass.”

The study area encompassed the hydrographic and vegetation boundaries of the Great Basin and included parts of six western states: Nevada (43 percent of the area), Utah (17 percent), Idaho (16 percent), Oregon (14 percent), California (10 percent) and Wyoming (less than 1 percent).

“Wildfire is increasing in the region because the invading cheatgrass is much more prone to burn and re-establishes orders of magnitude quicker than the native sagebrush,” Hagen said. “That isn’t necessarily news – Aldo Leopold recognized that more than a half-century ago. But the impact on an indicator species like the sage-grouse had not been so clearly documented.”

Sagebrush has slow growth rates and does not re-sprout after wildfires; it must re-establish from the seed bank. This delay in succession opens the door for cheatgrass to establish. The researchers say that understanding “R&R” – resilience to wildfire and resistance to cheatgrass – is key to focusing the right land management practices in the right places.

Cheatgrass hails from warmer regions of Eurasia and generally does not persist in relatively cold and moist climates. Colder, moist soils tend to be the most productive ecological sites in the Great Basin, and these sites promote the growth of perennial bunch grasses, native forbs and shrubs – plants that tend to be more resilient to fire, and resistant to invasive grasses.

These also are some of the most productive sites for the sage-grouse. The sage-grouse is a large gallinaceous, or ground-feeding, bird that can be an indicator for ecological health in sagebrush ecosystems because it requires distinct ecological states to meet its diverse life-history needs. Thus, the population dynamics of the species are considered an ideal metric for assessing disturbances to sagebrush disturbance.

The sage-grouse has been considered several times for protection under the Endangered Species Act, the most recent of which triggered massive changes to land management policy on millions of acres of public land.

The cycle of habitat decline is linked to the introduction of cheatgrass to the ecosystem, the researchers say. Land management practices led to a burning regime as often as every 2-3 years, which allowed fast-growing cheatgrass to establish at the expense of slow-growing sagebrush.

“If you can imagine an area the size of a football field infested with cheatgrass, but surrounded by native vegetation,” Hagen said. “If a lightning strike sets the cheatgrass on fire, it likely will consume some of the native vegetation and the burned area doubles or triples, and by next year the cheatgrass infestation has spread.

“It’s a classic positive feedback loop that promotes cheatgrass and becomes a negative situation for native plants – and ultimately, for sage-grouse.”

The key to reversing this decline, the researchers say, may be to further enhance fire prevention and suppression effectiveness in targeted areas of intact sagebrush that have the highest densities of breeding sage-grouse. The study shows that 90 percent of sage-grouse are concentrated on less than 10 percent of the Great Basin.

“Our study illustrates a path toward stabilizing sage-grouse populations through highly focused wildfire management,” Hagen said. “New federal wildland fire policies and priorities in sagebrush steppe, combined with improved collaboration with rural communities through rangeland fire protection associations, greatly increases the odds of curbing population declines due to fire.”

The study was led by Peter S. Coates of the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Christian Hagen, 541-410-0238, Christian.hagen@oregonstate.edu

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This photo of a greater sage-grouse is available at: https://flic.kr/p/Nw6T9S

(Photo by Nick Myatt, ODFW)

Study finds local fidelity key to ocean-wide recovery of humpback whales

NEWPORT, Ore. – Humpback whales can migrate thousands of miles to reach feeding grounds each year, but a new study concludes that their fidelity to certain local habitats – as passed on through the generations – and the protection of these habitats are key to understanding the ultimate recovery of this endangered species.

The study documents the local recruitment of whales in Glacier Bay and Icy Strait in Alaska over a 30-year period. The researchers found that contemporary whales that utilize these rich feeding grounds overwhelmingly are descendants of whales that previously used the area.

In other words, the population recovery of humpback whales in the region depends on cultural knowledge of migratory routes passed on from mothers to their calves; it is not a product of whales from outside the area suddenly “discovering” a rich feeding ground.

Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Endangered Species Research.

“Humpback whales are recovering from exploitation on an ocean-wide basis, but ultimately their individual success is on a much more local scale,” said Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University and a co-author on the study.

“Humpback whales travel globally, but thrive locally.”

The study compares records of individual whales returning to Glacier Bay. The first, referred to as the “founder’s population,” included whales documented by a local high school teacher, Charles Jurasz, beginning in the 1970s. Jurasz was one of the first researchers to realize that individual whales could be identified by photographs of natural markings – a technique now widely used to study living whales.

Over the years, other researchers – including the authors of this study – continued to record the return of these whales by photo identification and they later collected small genetic samples to confirm the relatedness between individual whales.

Using a large database maintained by Glacier Bay National Park and the University of Alaska Southeast, the records of the founding population were then compared to records of the “contemporary population” returning to Glacier Bay, more than 30 years after Jurasz’s initial studies. The results were striking.

Of the 25 “founding females” that were also sampled for genetic analysis, all but one was represented in the contemporary group – either as still living, or by a direct descendant, or in many cases, both. Several of the founding females were even grandmothers of individuals in the contemporary population.

“We looked at three possibilities for population increase over a 33-year period including local recruitment from Glacier Bay/Icy Strait, recruitment from elsewhere in southeastern Alaska, and immigration from outside the region,” said Sophie P. Pierszalowski, a master’s student in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and lead author on the study.

“It is clear that the contemporary generation of whales is based on local recruitment, highlighting the importance of protecting local habitat for recovering species, especially those with culturally inherited migratory destinations.”

Humpback whales in the North Pacific were once estimated to number more than 15,000 individuals based on catch data before commercial whaling took a toll, reducing the population to less than a thousand by 1966. Humpback whales were first protected by the International Whaling Commission in 1965, then listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1973.

Since the protection, the oceanic population has increased to an estimated 21,000 individuals based on photo-identification studies and other evidence. The recovery has been slow, in part because humpback whales can live to be 70 years of age and their recovery is driven primarily by local fidelity and recruitment.

“Limiting vessel traffic in important habitats is one way to help protect humpback whales,” Pierszalowski said, “along with maintaining legal distances by vessels, reducing the risk of entanglement with fishing gear, and maintaining stranding networks that have the capacity to quickly disentangle whales.”

OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute is based at the university’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore.

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Scott Baker, 541-272-0560, scott.baker@oregonstate.edu;

Sophie Pierszalowski, 541-737-4523, pierszas@oregonstate.edu

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Photo of mother and calf to the left:

https://flic.kr/p/MbQR5w


 

 

 

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New technologies – and a dash of whale poop – help scientists monitor whale health

NEWPORT, Ore. – A lot of people think what Leigh Torres has done this summer and fall would qualify her for a spot on one of those “World’s Worst Jobs” lists.

After all, the Oregon State University marine ecologist follows gray whales from a small inflatable boat in the rugged Pacific Ocean and waits for them to, well, poop. Then she and her colleagues have about 20-30 seconds to swoop in behind the animal with a fine mesh net and scoop up some of the prized material before it drifts to the ocean floor.

Mind you, gray whales can reach a length of more than 40 feet and weigh more than 30 tons, making the retrieval of their daily constitutional somewhat daunting. Yet Torres, a principal investigator in the university’s Marine Mammal Institute, insists that it really isn’t that bad.

“We’re just looking for a few grams of material and to be honest, it doesn’t even smell that bad,” she said. “Now, collecting a DNA sample from a whale’s blow-hole – that’s a bad job. Their breath is horrendous.”

Being a marine pooper-scooper isn’t some strange fetish for the Oregon State research team. They are conducting a pilot project to determine how gray whales respond to ocean noise – both natural and human – and whether these noises cause physiological stress in the animals. Technology is changing the way the researchers are approaching their study.

“New advances in biotechnology allow us to use the fecal samples to look at a range of things that provide clues to the overall health and stress of the whales,” Torres said. “We can look at their hormone levels and genetically identify individual whales, their sex and whether they are pregnant. And we can analyze their prey and document what they’ve been eating.

“Previously, we would have to do a biopsy to learn some of these things and though they can be done safely, you typically don’t repeat the procedure often because it’s invasive,” she added. “Here, we can follow individual whales over a four-month feeding season and pick up multiple samples that can tell us changes in their health.”

The study is a pilot project funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Acoustics Program to determine the impacts of noise on whale behavior and health. Torres, who works out of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon, focuses on gray whales because they are plentiful and close to shore.

“Many marine mammals are guided by acoustics and use sound to locate food, to navigate, to communicate with one another and to find a mate,” said Torres, a faculty member in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and an ecologist with the Oregon Sea Grant program.

Ten years ago, such a study would not have been possible, Torres acknowledged. In addition to new advances in genetic and hormone analyses, the OSU team uses a drone to fly high above the whales. It not only detects when they defecate, it is giving them unprecedented views of whale behavior.

“We are seeing things through the drone cameras that we have never seen before,” Torres said. “Because of the overhead views, we now know that whales are much more agile in their feeding. We call them ‘bendy’ whales because they make such quick, sharp turns when feeding. These movements just can’t be seen from the deck of a ship.”

The use of small, underwater Go-Pro cameras allows them to observe what the whales are feeding upon below. The researchers can identify zooplankton, benthic invertebrates, and fish in the water column near feeding whales, and estimate abundance – helping them understand what attracts the whales to certain habitats.

Joe Haxel and Sharon Nieukirk are acoustic scientists affiliated with OSU's Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies and the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory at the Hatfield center who are assisting with the project. They deploy drifting hydrophones near the whales to record natural and human sounds, help operate the overhead drone camera that monitors the whales’ behavior, and also get in on the fecal analysis.

“Gray whales are exposed to a broad range of small- and medium-sized boat traffic that includes sport fishing and commercial fleets,” Haxel said. “Since they are very much a coastal species, their exposure to anthropogenic noise is pretty high. That said, the nearshore environment is already very noisy with natural sounds including wind and breaking surf, so we’re trying to suss out some of the space and time patterns in noise levels in the range of habitats where the whales are found.”

It will take years for the researchers to learn how ocean noise affects whale behavior and health, but as ocean noises continue increasing – through ship traffic, wave energy projects, sonar use, seismic surveys and storms – the knowledge they gain may be applicable to many whale species, Torres said.

And the key to this baseline study takes a skilled, professional pooper-scooper.

“When a whale defecates, it generates this reddish cloud and the person observing the whale usually screams “POOP!” and we spring into action,” Torres said. “It’s a moment of excitement, action - and also sheer joy. I know that sounds a little weird, but we have less than 30 seconds to get in there and scoop up some of that poop that may provide us with a biological gold mine of information that will help protect whales into the future.

“That’s not such a bad job after all, is it?”

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Leigh Torres, 541-867-0895, leigh.torres@oregonstate.edu

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Link to: the whale fluke photo

 

 

For a video of the research, click here

 

 

 

 


 

Whale-Aerial-2

Aerial shot of a gray whale.

 

 

 

Torres-boat

Researchers use a drone to monitor whale behavior

 

 

 

 

OSU student receives $132,000 EPA STAR fellowship

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Christina Murphy, a doctoral student at Oregon State University, has received a $132,000 Science to Achieve Results, or STAR fellowship, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Murphy, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at OSU, is conducting research on how best to manage dams to protect salmon.

STAR graduate fellows are selected from a large number of applications in a highly competitive review process, EPA officials say. Since the program began in 1995, the EPA has awarded nearly 2,000 students a total of more than $65 million in funding.

Murphy earned three honors bachelor’s degrees at OSU, in biology, fisheries and wildlife, and international studies, then conducted a Fulbright research project in Chile. She earned a master’s degree at the Universitat de Girona in Spain, and then returned to Oregon State to pursue her doctorate.

“Northwest reservoirs have different hydrologic regimes and changes in timing and magnitude of drawdown,” Murphy said. She is evaluating physical and chemical conditions in the water, as well as phytoplankton, zooplankton, benthic insects, diversity and populations of fish, and habitat availability within reservoirs – both before and after hydrologic changes – in order to inform decisions on dam and reservoir management.

Murphy is focusing her studies on four reservoirs in the upper Willamette basin in Oregon – Blue River, Fall Creek, Lookout Point and Hills Creek.

“The Pacific Northwest relies on hydropower for more than half of its electricity, with high-head dams forming large reservoirs on rivers historically supporting anadromous salmon,” Murphy said. “Improved understanding of the ecological mechanisms and responses of Pacific Northwest reservoirs with respect to water-level fluctuations is critical to ensuring ecologically sound practices for the long-term operation and greening of our hydropower infrastructure.”

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Christina Murphy, 541-505-1393, Christina.Murphy@oregonstate.edu

Salmon trucking success could open miles of historical spawning habitat

NEWPORT, Ore. – For the past several years, technicians have been trucking spring Chinook salmon above Foster Dam in Sweet Home to see if they would spawn, and if their offspring could survive the passage over the dam and subsequent ocean migration to eventually return as adults some 3-5 years later.

A new study examining the genetic origin of adult spring Chinook returning to Foster Dam offers definitive proof that the offspring survived, potentially opening up miles of spawning habitat on the upper South Santiam and other river systems.

Results of the study have been published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

“With a little human assistance, it is now clear that we can restore natural production to areas above some dams and there is prime habitat on some river systems, such as the North Santiam above Detroit Dam,” said Kathleen O’Malley, an Oregon State University geneticist and principal investigator on the project. “This could really contribute to the long-term population viability in some river systems.”

Some past studies have explored whether salmon that spawned above dams could survive as juveniles going back through the dams, but this new study is one of the first to assess whether those fish successfully would return years later as adults.

Beginning in 2007, technicians from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took genetic samples of adult salmon trucked above the dam. During the first two years, most of those adult salmon were reared in hatcheries and released as juveniles, but in 2009 they began using only wild-born fish, hoping to give a boost to that population. Since then, researchers have taken genetic samples from returning adult salmon to see if their parents were among those released above the dam.

The key is the “cohort replacement rate,” O’Malley said. If you release 100 female salmon above the dam, will you get at least 100 females from that population returning as adults to the dam for a rate of 1.0?  The researchers have to sample for several years to determine the success rate of one cohort, since spring Chinook can return as 3-, 4- or 5-year olds.

In 2007, ODFW released 385 hatchery-origin adult salmon and 18 wild-born salmon above Foster Dam, and the cohort replacement rate was .96. In 2008, 527 hatchery-origin fish and 163 wild-born fish were released, and the replacement rate was 1.16.

In 2009, the shift was made to all wild-born fish and ODFW released 434 spring Chinook above Foster Dam. When the researchers completed their genetic analysis for that year they found a cohort replacement rate of 1.56.

“It could be a one-year anomaly, or it may be an indication that wild-born fish are fitter and better able to survive and reproduce above the dams,” O’Malley said. “It is promising, though.”

Dams can limit downstream damage from potential floods, the researchers say, but there is little protection for spawning salmon above the dams. One flood occurred in 2010, and the researchers are just finishing their analysis of that year. Many of the spawning beds were wiped out, thus the cohort replacement rate likely will be lower. Although re-establishment of spawning activity above the dams has the potential to enhance productivity, those efforts are vulnerable to environmental processes.

“One limiting factor is that we don’t know for sure what an appropriate replacement rate is,” O’Malley pointed out. “We know that 1.0 is the bare minimum – one fish dies and another takes its place. But it won’t be clear what a good number will be to sustain and expand the population until we have several years of research.”

Researchers and fisheries managers note that ocean conditions play an important role in determining the number of adult salmon that survive to return and spawn, and can account for a significant amount of inter-annual variability in salmon abundance. It is important to have a population that is sufficiently productive across years in order to survive poor environmental conditions – in the ocean, or in fresh water – in any single given year.

ODFW also has released fish above dams on the North Santiam River and Fall Creek and OSU researchers are using genetics to monitor some of the first returning adults in these systems.

“One reason we think that the South Santiam reintroduction is going so well is that the reservoir is smaller and the dam is lower than in others systems in the Willamette basin,” O’Malley said. “The salmon’s downstream survival rate is likely higher than it may be on other river systems.”

The project is funded by the Army Corps of Engineers.

O’Malley is an associate professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at OSU, who is affiliated with the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station at the university’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

Other authors on the study include Melissa Evans and Dave Jacobson of Oregon State; Jinliang Wang of the Zoological Society of London; and Michael Hogansen and Marc Johnson of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Evans, the lead author, now works for the Fish and Wildlife Department of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in Idaho.

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Kathleen O’Malley, 541-961-3311, kathleen.omalley@oregonstate.edu

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Aerial video of South Santiam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEb5l8lGtb8&

 

 

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Spring Chinook bypassing Foster Dam

 

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Foster Dam trapping operation

OSU names Susan Capalbo as senior vice provost for Academic Affairs

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Susan Capalbo, who heads the Department of Applied Economics at Oregon State University, has been named senior vice provost for Academic Affairs at OSU. She will begin her new duties on Oct. 1.

Capalbo replaces Brenda McComb, who will retire from this position on July 31, and who has served in a variety of leadership positions at the university.

As senior vice provost, Capalbo will support the university’s provost and executive vice president in matters related to faculty development, curricular operations, assessment and accreditation, strategic plan implementation, academic capacity planning, academic initiatives and special projects.

She also will serve on the OSU President’s Cabinet and Provost’s Council.

Among the primary responsibilities for the senior vice provost are leadership and coordination of faculty matters, including shaping faculty hiring, support and development of OSU faculty; oversight of curriculum matters, including curriculum development and review; acting as a liaison with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and the Higher Education Coordinating Commission; and oversight of institutional planning and research.

“Susan Capalbo has been active in leading the development of the university’s updated strategic plan and other university-level initiatives,” said Ron Adams, interim provost and executive vice president. “Susan has an excellent track record as an educator, researcher and mentor. Her work as head of a large and complex department, and leading the strategic plan steering committee, will jump-start her into the role of senior vice provost.”

Capalbo, who has been at Oregon State since 2008, previously was on the faculty of Montana State University and the University of Maryland. Her research focuses on applied economics and policy related to sustainable agriculture and resource management.

She has a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from the University of California-Davis, and a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in economics from the University of Rhode Island.

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Ron Adams, 541-737-2111, ronald.lynn.adams@oregonstate.edu

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