OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

hatfield marine science center

OSU Board of Trustees and committees to meet Oct. 18-20

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Board of Trustees will hold a retreat on Wednesday, Oct. 18, to discuss tuition affordability, student access and academic excellence as priorities of the university’s strategic vision. The retreat is open to the public and will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Library Seminar Room of the Guin Library at the Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC), 2030 S.E. Marine Science Drive in Newport.

The following committees will meet on Thursday, Oct. 19, in the Guin Library Seminar Room. These meetings are open to the public:

·         The Executive & Audit Committee will meet from 8 to 10:30 a.m. to review the board’s fiscal year 2017 assessment of OSU President Ed Ray; amendments to board policies and the committee’s charter; the committee’s 2018 work plan; and the Office of Audit Services progress report. The committee also will receive a report on the university’s compliance and ethics program, an annual update from the Office of General Counsel, and a risk management report on hazard response and planning.

·         The Academic Strategies Committee will meet from 10:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. to discuss topics including the 2017-18 academic agenda, student athletics, student success efforts, and Title IX gender-based violence prevention, support and response initiatives. The committee also will hear a research report and consider the committee’s 2018 work plan.

Following the committee meetings, the Board will tour research labs at HMSC that underscore the global impact of OSU’s research, teaching and outreach.

The board will meet again on Friday, Oct. 20, in Corvallis. The meeting is open to the public and will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Horizon Room of the Memorial Union, 1500 S.W. Jefferson Way. The board will consider the FY2017 presidential assessment, amendments to board policies and committee charter, and the 2018 board work plan. The board will also hear reports on the university’s efforts to advance equity, inclusion and social justice; OSU’s Vision 2030 statement; the recent legislative session; and board governance.

The board will hold an executive session on Friday, Oct. 20, pursuant to Oregon Revised Statutes 192.660(2)(e) and 192.660(2)(f), ORS 192.501(6), ORS 502(9), ORS 40.225 to conduct deliberations with persons designated by the governing body to negotiate real property transactions and to consider information or records exempt by law from public inspection. Following the executive session, the board will reconvene to consider approval of the acquisition of real property.

The board takes public comment at each board meeting. Commenters must sign up prior to the public comment period of the meeting. Commenters may register by email before the meeting by contacting Marcia Stuart at marcia.stuart@oregonstate.edu or may register at the meeting itself. There is also a public comment opportunity before the board votes on each action item listed on the board agenda.

The agendas and meeting materials will be posted as they are available at http://oregonstate.edu/leadership/trustees/meetings. Accommodation requests should be made at least 48 hours in advance to the Office of the Board of Trustees, Marcia Stuart, 541-737-3449.

Media Contact: 

Sean Nealon, 541-737-0787

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Climate change, population growth may lead to open ocean aquaculture

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new analysis suggests that open-ocean aquaculture for three species of finfish is a viable option for industry expansion under most climate change scenarios – an option that may provide a new source of protein for the world’s growing population.

This modeling study found that the warming of near-shore surface waters would shift the range of many species toward the higher latitudes – where they would have better growth rates – but even in areas that will be significantly warmer, open-ocean aquaculture could survive because of adaptation techniques including selective breeding.

Results of the study are being published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“Open-ocean aquaculture is still a young and mostly unregulated industry that isn’t necessarily environmentally sound, but aquaculture also is the fastest growing food sector globally,” said James Watson, an Oregon State University environmental scientist and co-author on the study. “One important step before developing such an industry is to assess whether such operations will succeed under warming conditions.

“In general, all three species we assessed – which represent species in different thermal regions globally – would respond favorably to climate change.”

Aquaculture provides a primary protein source for approximately one billion people worldwide and is projected to become even more important in the future, the authors say. However, land-based operations, as well as those in bays and estuaries, have limited expansion potential because of the lack of available of water or space.

Open-ocean aquaculture operations, despite the name, are usually located within several miles of land – near enough to market to reduce costs, but far enough out to have clean water and less competition for space. However, aquaculture managers have less control over currents, water temperature, and waves.

To assess the possible range for aquaculture, the researchers looked at three species of fish – Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), which grows fastest in sub-polar and temperate waters; gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata), found in temperate and sub-tropical waters; and cobia (Rachycentron canadum), which is in sub-tropical and tropical waters.

“We found that all three species would shift farther away from the tropics, which most models say will heat more than other regions,” said Dane Klinger, a former postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University and lead author of the study. “Production of Atlantic salmon, for example, could expand well into the higher latitudes, and though the trailing edge of their range may face difficulties, adaptation techniques can offset those difficulties.

“Further, in most areas where these species are currently farmed, growth rates are likely to increase as temperatures rise.”

Open-ocean aquaculture is not without risk, the researchers acknowledge. The recent escape of farmed Atlantic salmon in Washington’s Puget Sound alarmed fisheries managers, who worry that the species may breed with wild Chinook or coho salmon that are found in the Pacific Northwest. Introduced species and populations also have the potential to introduce disease to native species. “A key unresolved question is how large the industry and individual farms can become before they begin to negatively impact surrounding ecosystems,” Klinger said.

The authors say their modeling study was designed to assess the potential growth rates and potential range for the three fish species, based on climate warming scenarios of 2-5 degrees Celsius (or 3.6 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit).

The study also found:

  • Seabream will have the greatest potential for open-ocean farming in terms of area, but the fish will grow at a slower rate than with salmon or cobia;
  • Cobia has the second largest potential area for growth, just ahead of salmon;
  • For all species, depth of water is the greatest constraint to development, followed by suitable currents;
  • Other factors dictating success include environment, economics (feed, fuel and labor), regulations and politics, ecology (disease, predators, and harmful algal blooms), and social norms.

“Offshore aquaculture will continue to be a small segment of the industry in the near-term, but there is only so much you can do on land and there are not enough wild fish to feed the world’s population,” Watson said. “Assessing the potential is the first step toward reducing some of the uncertainties for the future.”

Watson, who is on the faculty of OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, did his research while at Princeton University.

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James Watson, 541-737-2519, jrwatson@coas.oregonstate.edu;

Dane Klinger, dhklinger@stanford.edu

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aquaculture

Collaborative project between researchers, fishermen aims to reduce West Coast seabird bycatch

ASTORIA, Ore. – A collaborative project between researchers and the West Coast sablefish fishing industry is showing promise for reducing the number of seabirds caught in longline fishing gear, in particular several albatross species including one threatened with extinction.

The combination of using streamer lines (also called bird-scaring lines) to protect longline fishing gear from seabird attacks on baits, and setting hooks at night when the birds are less active can significantly reduce seabird mortality, the researchers say.

Results of the study were just published in the journal Fisheries Research.

“The project was a great example of collaboration between researchers and industry,” said Amanda Gladics, a coastal fisheries specialist with the Oregon Sea Grant program based at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “The fishermen invited us out onto their boats and provided us with a lot of insights.

“It was their idea for us to explore whether fishing at night could prevent albatross bycatch on the U.S. West Coast – and it turned out, that was the case. We were thrilled to find that albatross bycatch could be reduced without increasing bycatch of other non-target species or reducing target catch, as can sometimes occur.”

Incidental mortality of seabirds in longline fisheries has been an international conservation concern for decades, with estimates of 160,000 seabirds killed in longline fisheries annually. With 15 of 22 species threatened with extinction, albatrosses are especially vulnerable to bycatch mortality. They don’t begin breeding until they are five to 10 years of age and produce only one egg every year or every other year, Gladics said.

“Most of the mortality takes place when the birds attempt to forage on the baited hooks when fishermen deploy longlines,” she said. “In addition to the environmental impacts, there can be an economic cost as well. Losing baits to birds can be costly, and serious economic harm can occur if excessive seabird bycatch triggers a fishery closure.”

The sablefish industry in Alaska addressed the problem in part through the use of streamer lines, which are the most commonly used seabird bycatch mitigation measure worldwide. The technique runs a 300-foot line from the vessel’s mast or another high part of the vessel to a towed object like a float. A series of rubber tubes hanging down every 15 feet or so creates a visual barrier that prevents birds from attacking the bait.

However, there is a catch, the researchers discovered.

Some fishing boats use floats to keep their baits off the seafloor to conserve baits and protect their catch from damage caused by scavengers. For those that did use floats, streamer lines were less effective at preventing seabird attacks. In fact, albatross attack rates were 10 times higher on longlines with floats compared to those without.

“Using floats puts the longline more than twice as far behind the boat before it sinks beyond the diving range of albatrosses – to the point where bird-scaring lines just don’t reach,” Gladics said. “With the hooks at the surface for longer, the birds have more time to hone in on the bait.”

Gladics said some of the West Coast sablefish boats reported that they already fished at night to prevent bird attacks and fishermen suggested that night fishing should be explored as a seabird bycatch mitigation option for the fleet.

In response the authors examined over a decade of data collected by NOAA Fisheries at-sea observers, and found that when hooks were set at night, after civil dusk, albatross bycatch was 30 times lower and target catch was almost 50 percent higher compared with daytime fishing – a classic win-win, the researchers said.

“The combination of night fishing for vessels that use floats or going without floats on the longlines and using bird-scaring lines provide two options for helping fishermen reduce bycatch,” she said. “However, a single ‘one size fits all’ solution won’t work for all fishermen and all boats, so developing multiple seabird avoidance options that are specific to the region is crucial – and that requires collaboration between researchers and fishermen.”

The research was funded by The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, NOAA Fisheries, Washington Sea Grant and Oregon Sea Grant.

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Amanda Gladics, 503-325-8573, Amanda.Gladics@oregonstate.edu

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(Photo at left is available at: https://flic.kr/p/YNwkVj)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Amanda Gladics

Are blue whales finding new "microphone channel" to communicate in?

NEWPORT, Ore. – For the past two decades, scientists have documented a gradual lowering of the frequency of blue whale calls and they haven’t been sure why – or even whether the phenomenon is intentional.

Other baleen whales in the North Pacific have been recorded in recent years generating vocalizations that are missing the “overtone” portions of their calls. Again, scientists are unsure why.

A new study published this week in Scientific Reports may shed some light on these mysteries. A group of acoustic researchers at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center recorded a blue whale call, then created a model to replicate that sound based on a series of controlled air bursts from the animal’s vocal cords.

In other words, they showed that whales can control the frequency of their calls by blowing air through their vocal cords at a faster or slower rate.

“Our study shows that blue whales in particular – and perhaps other baleen whales in general – may be making their harmonious sounds in a much different way than previously thought,” said Robert Dziak, an acoustics scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and lead author on the study. “It was long thought that they generated their calls mostly by resonating sound in large chambers or cavities in their upper respiratory system.

“But this implies that the frequency of the whale’s calls are dictated by the size of the animal – the lower the frequency, the bigger the animal. We show that blue whales can make these low frequency sounds, and even change frequency in the middle of their call, by pulsing air through their vocal cords.”

“That also suggests that the change in the frequency might be cognitive. They are choosing to make it higher or lower in response to some sort of environmental stimulus.”

One theory is that as blue whale populations recover from commercial whaling, there are more of them and the lowering of frequency and other unusual characteristics of the calls are related to changes in population. It also is possible that an increase in ambient noise off the Pacific Coast plays a role, noted Joe Haxel, an Oregon State University acoustics specialist at Hatfield Marine Science Center.

“We conducted a year-long study of sound off the Oregon Coast and at times it can be really noisy out there,” Haxel said. “In addition to vibrant natural sounds – especially waves breaking on the beach – a few long-term studies have documented a substantial increase in ocean noise over several decades from expanding container shipping traffic.

“It may be possible the whales are modulating their vocalization frequency in response to an increase in human-generated noise. They are essentially trying to find a radio channel that has less static to communicate in.”

Dziak and his colleagues have created similar acoustic models to replicate the sounds of icebergs scraping across the seafloor as well as the explosions from undersea volcanic eruptions. To recreate the sound of a blue whale, they began using a clear call from a blue whale off Yaquina Head near Newport that they recorded using an undersea hydrophone that was part of a study to monitor the environmental impacts of wave energy.

They then developed acoustical models of the whale sound and incorporated anatomical respiratory system models of blue whales, the largest animals to have ever lived on Earth.

“We tried to envision a mechanism whereby whales could gradually lower the frequency of their calls through time, or produce calls with unusual harmonic structure, by only resonating sound in their upper respiratory chamber – and it was physically impossible,” said Dziak, who has a courtesy appointment in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

“Only when we pulsed air through the process of opening and closing the vocal cords did we get a way to produce sounds that can change frequencies in mid-call as well as remove overtones. And this method produced models that matched the natural Yaquina Head blue whale call very, very closely.

“Lower-frequency sounds can be produced at lower intensity by the animal than high-frequency sounds and yet low-frequency sound still travels further,” Dziak pointed out. “Those factors may also play a role in the vocalization changes over the past two decades.”

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Bob Dziak, 541-867-0175, robert.p.dziak@noaa.gov;

Joe Haxel, 541-867-0282, joe.haxel@oregonstate.edu

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Tail of the whale
A blue whale off the California coast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Public meeting set Thursday on Marine Studies Building at Hatfield Center

NEWPORT, Ore. – Oregon State University will host an informational public meeting this Thursday, June 15, to update local residents on plans for a new Marine Studies Building at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

The meeting will run from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in Hatfield’s Visitor Center. A 45-minute presentation and question-and-answer session will be followed by a reception and displays. The Hatfield Center is located at 2030 S.E. Marine Science Drive in Newport, just southeast of the Highway 101 bridge.

The presentation will also be streamed live over Adobe Connect at http://oregonstate.adobeconnect.com/hmsc-fw407/

Oregon State University has launched a Marine Studies Initiative – a new research and teaching model to help sustain healthy oceans and ensure wellness, environmental health and economic prosperity for coastal communities.

“A component of the Marine Studies Initiative includes the construction of a research and teaching facility – the Marine Studies Building on the HMSC campus – and student housing at another location in Newport,” said Steve Clark, vice president for university relations and marketing.

“This public meeting in Newport is an opportunity to hear how the university will ensure that the design, engineering and construction of the Marine Studies Building and student housing meet or exceed the earthquake and tsunami performance and safety commitments that OSU President Ed Ray has made.”

Presentations will be made by­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ Bob Cowen, director of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, and Tom Robbins, project manager and architect with Yost Grube Hall Architecture.

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Steve Clark, 541-737-3808, steve.clark@oregonstate.edu; Bob Cowen, 541-867-0211, Robert.Cowen@oregonstate.edu

Acidified ocean water widespread along North American West Coast

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A three-year survey of the California Current System along the West Coast of the United States found persistent, highly acidified water throughout this ecologically critical nearshore habitat, with “hotspots” of pH measurements as low as any oceanic surface waters in the world.

The researchers say that conditions will continue to worsen because the atmospheric carbon dioxide primarily to blame for this increase in acidification has been rising substantially in recent years.

One piece of good news came out of the study, which was published this week in Nature Scientific Reports. There are “refuges” of more moderate pH environments that could become havens for some marine organisms to escape more highly acidified waters, and which could be used as a resource for ecosystem management.

“The threat of ocean acidification is global and though it sometimes seems far away, it is happening here right now on the West Coast of the United States and those waters are already hitting our beaches,” said Francis Chan, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University and lead author on the study.

“The West Coast is very vulnerable. Ten years ago, we were focusing on the tropics with their coral reefs as the place most likely affected by ocean acidification. But the California Current System is getting hit with acidification earlier and more drastically than other locations around the world.”

A team of researchers developed a network of sensors to measure ocean acidification over a three-year period along more than 600 miles of the West Coast. The team observed near-shore pH levels that fell well below the global mean pH of 8.1 for the surface ocean, and reached as low as 7.4 at the most acidified sites, which is among the lowest recorded values ever observed in surface waters.

The lower the pH level, the higher the acidity. Previous studies have documented a global decrease of 0.11 pH units in surface ocean waters since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Like the Richter scale, the pH scale in logarithmic, so that a 0.11 pH unit decrease represents an increase in acidity of approximately 30 percent.

Highly acidified ocean water is potentially dangerous because many organisms are very sensitive to changes in pH. Chan said negative impacts already are occurring in the California Current System, where planktonic pteropods – or small swimming snails – were documented with severe shell dissolution.

“This is about more than the loss of small snails,” said Richard Feely, senior scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. “These pteropods are an important food source for herring, salmon and black cod, among other fish. They also may be the proverbial ‘canary in the coal mine’ signifying potential risk for other species, including Dungeness crabs, oysters, mussels, and many organisms that live in tidepools or other near-shore habitats.”

Previous studies at OSU have chronicled the impact of acidified water on the Northwest oyster industry.

Chan said the team’s observations, which included a broad-scale ocean acidification survey via ship by NOAA, did not vary significantly over the three years – even with different conditions, including a moderate El Niño event.

“The highly acidified water was remarkably persistent over the three years,” Chan said. “Hotspots stayed as hotspots, and refuges stayed as refuges. This highly acidified water is not in the middle of the Pacific Ocean; it is right off our shore. Fortunately, there are swaths of water that are more moderate in acidity and those should be our focus for developing adaptation strategies.”

The researchers say there needs to be a focus on lowering stressors to the environment, such as maintaining healthy kelp beds and sea grasses, which many believe can partially mitigate the effects of increasing acidity.

Further, the moderately acidified refuge areas can be strategically used and managed, Chan pointed out.

“We probably have a hundred or more areas along the West Coast that are protected in one way or another, and we need to examine them more closely,” he said. “If we know how many of them are in highly acidified areas and how many are in refuge sites, we can use that information to better manage the risks that ocean acidification poses.”

Managing for resilience is a key, the researchers conclude.

“Even though we are seeing compromised chemistry in our ocean waters, we still have a comparably vibrant ecosystem,” Chan said. “Our first goal should be to not make things worse. No new stresses. Then we need to safeguard and promote resilience. How do we do that? One way is to manage for diversity, from ensuring multiple-age populations to maintaining deep gene pools.

“The greater the diversity, the better chance of improving the adaptability of our marine species.”

Chan, a faculty member in the College of Science at Oregon State University, was a member of the West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Panel appointed by the governments of California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

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Francis Chan, 541-737-9131, chanft@science.oregonstate.edu

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ocean acidification 2

Acidification is threatening tidepool organisms

ocean sensors 2

A sensor at the Oregon coast.

OSU to hold public forum May 24 in Corvallis on new building at Hatfield Marine Science Center

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A community forum regarding Oregon State University’s engineering and construction plans for a marine studies building on the Hatfield Marine Science Center campus in Newport will be held Wednesday, May 24, in Corvallis.

The meeting will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on OSU’s Corvallis campus in LaSells Stewart Center’s Agricultural Sciences Room. The meeting also will be live streamed at: ­­­­­http://bit.ly/2rjRmC5

Oregon State University has launched a Marine Studies Initiative, a new research and teaching model to help sustain healthy oceans and ensure wellness, environmental health and economic prosperity for coastal communities.

“A component of the Marine Studies Initiative includes the construction of a research and teaching facility – the Marine Studies Building on the HMSC campus – and student housing at another location in Newport,” said Steve Clark, vice president for university relations and marketing.

“The workshop is an opportunity to hear how the university will ensure that the design, engineering and construction of the Marine Studies Building and student housing meet or exceed the earthquake and tsunami performance and safety commitments that OSU President Ed Ray has made.”

The workshop will include an update on the work of a project oversight committee, as well as updates by the project’s architect and the chair of an independent, third-party technical peer review panel, Clark said.

The meeting also will include an opportunity for attendees to ask questions.

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Steve Clark, 541-737-3808, steve.clark@oregonstate.edu

New video shows how blue whales employ strategy before feeding

NEWPORT, Ore. – Blue whales didn’t become the largest animals ever to live on Earth by being dainty eaters and new video captured by scientists at Oregon State University shows just how they pick and choose their meals.

There is a reason for their discretion, researchers say. The whales are so massive – sometimes growing to the length of three school buses – that they must carefully balance the energy gained through their food intake with the energetic costs of feeding.

“Modeling studies of blue whales ‘lunge-feeding’ theorize that they will not put energy into feeding on low-reward prey patches,” said Leigh Torres, a principal investigator with the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State, who led the expedition studying the blue whales. “Our footage shows this theory in action. We can see the whale making choices, which is really extraordinary because aerial observations of blue whales feeding on krill are rare.”

“The whale bypasses certain krill patches – presumably because the nutritional payoff isn’t sufficient – and targets other krill patches that are more lucrative. We think this is because blue whales are so big, and stopping to lunge-feed and then speeding up again is so energy-intensive, that they try to maximize their effort.”

The video, captured in the Southern Ocean off New Zealand, shows a blue whale cruising toward a large mass of krill – roughly the size of the whale itself. The animal then turns on its side, orients toward the beginning of the krill swarm, and proceeds along its axis through the entire patch, devouring nearly the entire krill mass.

In another vignette, the same whale approaches a smaller mass of krill, which lies more perpendicular to its approach, and blasts through it without feeding.

“We had theorized that blue whales make choices like this and the video makes it clear that they do use such a strategy,” explained Torres, who works out of Oregon State’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon. “It certainly appears that the whale determined that amount of krill to be gained, and the effort it would take to consume the meal wasn’t worth the effort of slowing down.

“It would be like me driving a car and braking every 100 yards, then accelerating again. Whales need to be choosy about when to apply the brakes to feed on a patch of krill.”

The researchers analyzed the whale’s lunge-feeding and found that it approached the krill patch at about 6.7 miles per hour. The act of opening its enormous mouth to feed slowed the whale down to 1.1 mph – and getting that big body back up to cruising speed again requires a lot of energy.

The rare footage was possible through the use of small drones. The OSU team is trained to fly them over whales and was able to view blue whales from a unique perspective.

“It’s hard to get good footage from a ship,” Torres said, “and planes or helicopters can be invasive because of their noise. The drone allows us to get new angles on the whales without bothering them.”

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

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Photo at left: Blue whale feeding on a krill patch.

 

Launching Drone
Launching of the drone.

Oregon State part of new NSF research program in the Arctic

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University and five other universities this week received an award to initiate a new Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) project in the Arctic that will explore how relationships between the land and water affect coastal ecosystems along the northern Alaskan coast.

The project has been funded by a five-year, $5.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation and will join 25 existing and two recently awarded coastal LTER sites that form a network of terrestrial and aquatic biomes worldwide.

Two of the new coastal sites, the Northern Gulf of Alaska and the Northeastern U.S. Shelf, are in very productive regions for fisheries. The third site, The Beaufort Sea Lagoons, is the first marine ecosystem LTER in the Arctic Ocean. The project, “Beaufort Sea Lagoons: An Arctic Coastal Ecosystem in Transition,” is supported by NSF’s Office of Polar Programs.

 “It is a very rich, very important ecosystem and we don’t have a good understanding of how it works,” said Yvette Spitz, one of two OSU oceanographers who are principal investigators with the project. “There are chemicals, nutrients and other organic materials that are transported from the land to the ocean, passing through lagoons along the way.”

“One of the goals of the project is to understand how the transport of these materials is affected by changing precipitation, sea ice and melting permafrost – and what effect that has on biological productivity. These changes are presently occurring and are the most rapid in the Arctic”

Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin are leading the project, in collaboration with researchers at Oregon State, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Texas El Paso, University of Massachusetts at Amherst and University of Toronto Mississauga.

Also participating will be young scientists from the native Iñupiat communities of Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow) and Kaktovik, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“An important aspect of this LTER is the collaboration between scientists and the Iñupiat residents of the Beaufort Sea coast, which will greatly deepen our comprehensive understanding of these ecosystems,” said William Ambrose, director of the Arctic Observing Network in the NSF Office of Polar Programs.

The research will be based in Kaktovik, Utqiagvik, and Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. It will focus on a series of large, shallow (5-7 meters deep) lagoons that play a role in the transition of materials from land to sea.

Byron Crump, the other OSU oceanographer who is a principal investigator on the project, will focus on the smallest but most abundant organisms in the ecosystem – phytoplankton, bacteria, and other microbes.

“The old school of thinking was that bacteria were important in warmer ecosystems but not so much in colder regions like the Arctic,” Crump said. “We’re finding that isn’t true at all. Bacteria and other tiny organisms play critical roles in maintaining the food web that supports everything from krill to whales as well as important fisheries.”

Crump will look at the growth rates and genomic diversity of microbes, while Spitz will develop computer models that will evaluate how microbes, plankton and other small organisms influence the ecosystem and how they will be affected in the future under different scenarios of warming, increased precipitation and changes in groundwater.

Spitz and Crump are faculty members in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

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Yvette Spitz, 541-737-3227, yspitz@coas.oregonstate.edu;

Byron Crump, 541-737-4369, bcrump@coas.oregonstate.edu

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Photo of Beaufort lagoons (left): https://flic.kr/p/Sp3DZ5

 

 

 

Coastal erosion

Coastal erosion is one of the processes researchers will study.

Anomalous ocean conditions in 2015 may bode poorly for juvenile Chinook salmon survival

NEWPORT, Ore. – Fisheries managers have been predicting a slightly below-average run of spring Chinook salmon on the Columbia River this year but a newly published suggests that it may be worse.

According to researchers from Oregon State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ocean conditions were historically bad in the spring of 2015, when migrating yearling fish that will comprise the bulk of this spring’s adult Chinook salmon run first went out to sea. In fact, Pacific Decadal Oscillation values – which reflect warm and cold sea surface temperatures – suggest it was one of the warmest nearshore oceans encountered by migrating Chinook salmon dating back to at least 1900.

The lack of food for the salmon in 2015 may have resulted in significant mortality that will show in this year’s run of Columbia River springers. One way or another, it will provide new information on fish survival and whether juvenile salmon prey data can help resource managers predict future returns.

Results of the research, which was funded by the Bonneville Power Administration and NOAA, have just been published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.

About 80 percent of a typical spring Chinook run on the Columbia River come from fish that went out to sea as yearlings two years earlier, according to lead author Elizabeth Daly, a senior faculty research assistant with the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resource Studies, jointly operated by OSU and NOAA out of the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

“When juvenile salmon first enter the ocean, it is a critical time for them,” Daly said. “They are adjusting to a salt-water environment, they have to eat to survive, and they have to avoid becoming prey themselves. When we sampled juvenile salmon in May and June of 2015, the fish were much smaller and thinner than usual, and many of them had empty stomachs. There just wasn’t anything for them to eat.”

Two key statistics stand out from 2015, the researchers noted. The California Current system off the West Coast was more than 2.5 degrees Celsius (or 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal, and the juvenile Chinook were smaller and skinnier than during a cold-water year, weighing an average of 17.6 percent less.

When the oceanic waters off Oregon and Washington are cold, young salmon primarily feed on readily available fish prey such as Pacific sand lance and smelts, which triggers their growth spurt. When waters are warmer, there is less food available, and they primarily eat juvenile anchovies and rockfish, which are less-desirable prey than cold-water species.

Daly said 2015 began on a somewhat positive note. Although cold-water larval fish species were absent, the researchers found abundant amounts of other larval fish in January, February and March, the fourth highest biomass in the last 18 years. Thus even in the absence of preferred cold-water species, there was food in the California Current system – at least for a while.

However, by the time the juvenile Chinook salmon migrated to the ocean later that spring, these larval anchovies and rockfish had all but disappeared – making even backup food sources for the salmon scarce.

The researchers theorize that these larval fish died off because they themselves had little to eat. Long-time NOAA biologist Bill Peterson told Daly and her colleagues that the Pacific Ocean off the Northwest coast in early 2015 was devoid of cold-water, lipid-rich copepods, a key element in the food chain. In 2015, it was so warm offshore that virtually no lipid-rich copepods were to be found.

“We think the larval anchovies and rockfish had nothing to eat, so they died off,” Daly said. “So when the salmon entered the ocean later that spring of 2015, the cupboard was bare.”

“During warm years, there is typically less upwelling that brings cold, nutrient-rich water to the surface,” said Richard Brodeur, a biologist with the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center and co-author on the study. “Salmon populations may be able to handle one year of warm temperatures and sparse food. But two or three years in a row could be disastrous.”

“The young salmon may have to travel farther north to find food, and they become highly susceptible to becoming prey themselves because of their weakened condition.”

Preliminary results from 2016 by study co-author Toby Auth suggest that ichthyoplankton biomass was again high in late winter, but it was dominated once more by anchovies and sardines, which normally spawn off Oregon in summer. Juvenile salmon sampled in the spring were small and somewhat thinner than normal, Daly said.

“For the first time, we found that the salmon were eating juvenile sardines in 2016 – a new prey for them,” she noted. “Sardines were spawning off the central Oregon coast for one of the first times because of the warm water. We don’t know the long-term impact this will have on salmon. Hopefully, it can become a new food source for them if waters remain warm.”

As this year’s run of spring Chinook salmon unfolds on the Columbia River, Daly and her colleagues will be watching to see if the numbers of adult fish returning align with predictions of a poor return based on 2015 ocean conditions, prey availability, and juvenile fish size.

It could provide valuable information to resource managers in the future.

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Source: 

Elizabeth Daly, 541-270-1370, elizabeth.daly@oregonstate.edu;

Ric Brodeur, 541-867-0335, Richard.Brodeur@noaa.gov

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