OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

marine science and the coast

OSU prof named deputy head of NSF’s Office of Polar Programs

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University oceanographer Kelly Falkner will leave the university after 19 years to take a leadership position with the National Science Foundation, where she will be the new deputy head of the Office of Polar Programs.

A professor in OSU’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Falkner will begin her new role with NSF on Jan. 3.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, because I’ve had a great career at OSU and I’ll miss my excellent colleagues, the students, and the supportive staff here,” Falkner said. “But I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to take my polar interests into broader community service.”

Falkner is familiar with the National Science Foundation. In 2007, she took a two-year leave from OSU to serve as the agency’s first program director for integrated Antarctic research. Her stint was so successful, her NSF colleagues named a glacier after her. “Falkner Glacier” is an east-flowing valley glacier stretching four miles long through the Mountaineer Range in Victoria Land.

The irony is that Falkner hardly had any experience with Antarctica when she took the assignment. Most of her work centered around the Arctic, where she has spent much of her career studying how various sources of water entering the Arctic contribute to ocean circulation – and how changing circulation patterns relate to the other major environmental changes in the north.

She also has coordinated OSU contributions to the NSF-funded North Pole Environmental Observatory for several years.

In her new role, Falkner will join the NSF Office of Polar Programs, which manages and initiates the agency’s funding for basic research and operational support in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The office supports individual investigators, as well as research teams and United States participation in multi-national projects.

“Kelly brings enormous talent, insight and energy to everything she does and all of us here at COAS will miss her – as a scientist, teacher, leader and colleague,” said Mark Abbott, dean of OSU’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. “But the nation will be gaining a leader in an important area of research – how the polar regions are connected with the rest of the planet. We know she will do well.”

OSU faculty have taken on a variety of leadership positions with federal agencies in recent years, most notably when zoologist Jane Lubchenco was named administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last year. Among the OSU oceanographers in leadership positions are:

  • Mark Abbott, dean of the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences (COAS) is a member of the National Science Board;
  • Michael Freilich, a COAS professor, is director of the Earth Sciences Division at NASA;
  • Timothy J. Cowles, COAS professor, is program director for the Ocean Observatories Initiative, the National Science Foundation’s signature research project on climate change;
  • Jim McManus, COAS professor, recently served as associate program director of the chemical oceanography program at the National Science Foundation.

And Kelly Benoit-Bird, an associate professor in COAS, received a fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation – popularly known as a “Genius Award.”

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Kelly Falkner, 541-737-3625

OSU’s Bruce Mate joins Russian scientists to track endangered whale

NEWPORT, Ore. – A team of scientists from Russia and the United States has successfully tagged and is tracking by satellite a whale from one of the world’s most endangered populations – a western gray whale off the coast of Russia’s Sakhalin Island.

There are only about 130 western gray whales left, scientists say, and only about 30-35 of them are mature, reproductively active females. The project is important because although the whales’ feeding grounds in the Russian Far East are known, details of their migration routes and breeding grounds are not.

This is the first time an individual whale from a critically endangered species has been tagged and tracked using telemetry, according to Greg Donovan, head of science for the International Whaling Commission (IWC) based in Cambridge, U.K., which is coordinating the project.

“Tremendous care was taken to select a healthy adult male,” Donovan said. “Although the risks associated with such tagging are minimal, we wanted to take absolutely no chances with females or young animals. The information we expect to get from this study is vital to international conservation efforts to preserve this population, as is the collaboration between governments, international organizations, international scientists, industry and other stakeholders.”

The tagged whale, known as “Flex,” has been seen regularly in the Sakhalin area in summer since it was photographed as a calf in 1997. The team has been following its movements via satellite with data beamed from the transmitting tag.

The tagging component was led by Bruce Mate, director of Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute and a pioneer in the use of satellites to track whales since the late 1970s.

“Not a lot is known about western gray whales, so finding out where they migrate to breed and calve will be a tremendous step forward,” said Mate, whose 37-year OSU career has taken him around the world to study threatened and endangered whales.

The scientific expedition was led by Vladimir Vertyankin, of the A.N Severtsov Institute for Ecology and Evoluation of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who has more than 35 years of experience with marine mammal research in the region. Other team members include Grigory Tsidulko of the Severtsov Institute and Amanda Bradford from the University of Washington, both of whom have studied western gray whales for years.

The telemetry program was developed in conjunction with an international team of experts from the International Whaling Commission and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and carried out under a permit granted to the Severtsov Institute.

Vyatcheslav Rozhnov, deputy director of the Severtsov Institute, who advances satellite telemetry in Russian, concurred. “Finding the migration routes and winter grounds of this critically endangered population will allow range states to develop or improve effective measures to protect the whales,” Rozhnov said.

The field team embarked on its expedition in late August to the remote Sakhalin Island region to locate and tag whales. Logistical challenges and bad weather conspired to thwart their efforts, even though some 25 males were sighted and approached. Finally, on the last day of the expedition, the team managed to tag “Flex,” whose movements have since been tracked via satellite on a daily basis.

“The conditions were particularly difficult because of the weather,” said Valentin Ilyashenko, of the A.N. Severtsov Institute for Ecology and Evolution, who is the Russian representative to the International Whaling Commission. “The team had to cope with the remnants of two typhoons and several smaller storms. But the perseverance of the entire group and the international collaboration – especially between U.S. and Russian scientists in the field – has really paid off.

“We should learn new things about these endangered whales that will help national and international efforts to better protect these whales,” Ilyashenko added.

The western North Pacific population of gray whales was greatly reduced by whaling in previous centuries and the whales were feared to be extinct in the mid-1970s. But a population was rediscovered off Sakhalin Island and has been monitored since the mid-1990s.

Mate and his colleagues say there is evidence of a “fragile recovery.” Individual animals can be recognized and identified by sex through photographs and genetic information. However, Sakhalin Island also is the site of major offshore oil and gas activities and efforts are under way to minimize the impacts of industrial development on the whales, which also face threats from accidental entanglement in fishing gear and by heavy ship traffic.

Project team members are hopeful that the transmitter will continue tracking “Flex” for up to a year.

“What we really hope to discover is where these whales migrate to breed and calve,” pointed out Finn Larsen, program officer for the International Union for Conservation of Nature. “It would be nice to have a full year of data, but it is these first 3-4 months that are probably the most critical.”

The project represents a major international collaboration between the International Whaling Commission, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution with the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute.

Funding for the expedition was provided by Exxon Neftegas Ltd. (ENL) and Sakhalin Energy Investment Company, which have sponsored a western gray whale monitoring program off Sakhalin Island since 1997.

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Bruce Mate, 541-867-0202

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Western Gray Whale - Sakhalin Island, Russia
"Flex" shown off Sakhalin Island.

Water issues, extreme weather among concerns in assessment report

CORVALLIS, Ore. – In the not-too-distant future, Oregon will face summer water shortages, an increase in wildfire risk, more extreme weather events, new environmental responses to climate change and myriad economic challenges – and opportunities, according to the first Oregon Climate Assessment Report, released today.

Written by some 70 authors from universities, state and federal agencies and other groups, the report was produced by the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, an Oregon University System entity housed at Oregon State University.

The legislatively mandated report was delivered today to Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Sen. President Peter Courtney, and House Speaker Dave Hunt. The 400-plus page report is available online at: www.occri.net/ocar.

“Oregon faces some significant challenges because of a changing climate and this report synthesizes some of the best available science to gain a glimpse of our future,” said Philip W. Mote, a professor of oceanic and atmospheric sciences at Oregon State who directs OCCRI. “Having said that, there are some clear gaps in our research knowledge that must be addressed – especially the economic impacts of climate change – if we are to help communities, businesses and organizations better prepare for the future.”

Kathie Dello, a research associate with the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, coordinated production of the report with the help of nine lead authors and peer-review panels.

The report examines the potential social, physical and biological responses to an Oregon climate that may increase in average temperature from 0.2 to 1.0 degrees Fahrenheit per decade through the 21st century, the authors note. A key variable to these and other changes are global greenhouse gas emissions that will influence Oregon’s future climate.

“The key ‘drivers’ of emissions are population, consumption and the emission intensity of the economy,” Dello said.

Oregon’s supply of fresh water may be one of the most critical components of climate change. A compilation of different climate models suggests that the state’s average summer precipitation will decline by about 14 percent by the year 2080, but the impacts will vary over time and space, said Heejun Chang, a Portland State University geographer and hydrologist who led the section on freshwater resources.

“In terms of water supply, some lower Willamette River sub-basins – including the Tualatin, Clackamas and Molalla rivers, where population is growing – are more vulnerable to climate change,” Chang pointed out. “And with reduced summer precipitation, summer flow is projected to decline in the Western Cascade regions, which in turn will increase stream temperatures and further stress cold-water fish species.

“The warming by itself makes both floods and droughts likely to occur more frequently in the future,” Chang added. “If you couple hydroclimate and transportation models, it shows that winter floods might occur more frequently, which may damage regional transportation systems in urban areas and landslide-prone areas.”

The Oregon Climate Assessment Report is partly modeled on similar reports produced in Washington and California, but covers new ground, including greater emphasis on the marine environment, on fish and wildlife, and on human dimensions, Mote said.

Increases in ocean temperatures and acidification likely will further disrupt marine ecosystems and could lead to more near-shore hypoxia and so-called “dead zones,” harmful algal blooms, invasive species, and challenges for shellfish and other sea creatures, the report concluded. Oregon’s coastal region also will be subjected to more intense storms and higher waves, creating a greater risk of flooding.

“One unique aspect of this report is the contribution by OSU oceanographers who have led near-shore studies for more than 40 years that have resulted in a remarkably well-sampled coastal region,” Mote said. “There are few places in the world that have such a rich database on coastal oceans.”

Other conclusions in the report:

  • The global mean sea level is expected to rise an estimated one meter by the year 2100, but the rate of sea level rise will surpass the vertical land movement taking place through geological processes along the Oregon coast by the mid-21st century;
  • Also by the mid-21st century, Cascade snowpacks are projected to be less than half of what they were in the 20th century, with lower-elevation snowpacks most vulnerable;
  • Irrigation demands will increase as the climate warms, the authors say. However, warmer weather may created extended growing seasons and greater yields for some crops and opportunities for new crops or varietals;
  • Drawing on research from the University of Washington, the authors say that wildfire is projected to increase in all forest types in the coming decades because of warmer, drier summers and an increase in fuel. “Large fires could become more common in western Oregon forests,” the report concludes.

The authors say the largest data gap facing Oregon decision-makers is economic research. Some preliminary studies, based on individual sectors such as Oregon’s ski industry, have been started, Mote said, but large-scale “macro-economics” research is lacking.

“We know that Oregon’s low-elevation ski resorts will be affected first by changes in precipitation,” Mote said, “and economists could quantify how much they will lose with each week of a shorter ski season. What is missing is detailed analysis of the pros and cons of climate change for the whole of Oregon. If we manufacture fewer parkas, do we make more swimsuits? As we lose some crops, do we grow others?

“Oregon also needs a more detailed look at its infrastructure needs,” he added. “If we have more coastal flooding, for example, how many communities have adequate water and sewage treatment facilities? Adequate road systems?  Those are the kinds of questions that need to be asked next.”

The report includes lead and contributing authors from OSU, PSU, University of Oregon, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of Agriculture and others.

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Philip Mote, 541-737-5694

Survey of Maui’s dolphins off New Zealand finds genetic surprise

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The future survival of the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin, which is found only off the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, may have gotten a boost from the discovery of two Hector’s dolphins among its sparse population.

The more plentiful Hector’s dolphins are found off the South Island of New Zealand but individuals are thought to remain within a limited home range for most of their lifetime. However, genetic analysis of 26 “Maui’s dolphins” by scientists at the University of Auckland and Oregon State University found that two of these individuals were actually Hector’s dolphins, likely originating from the west coast of the South Island.

The discovery is important, scientists say, because previous studies indicate the remaining population of only about 100 Maui’s dolphins has low genetic diversity. The threat of “in-breeding depression” has been a source of concern to the New Zealand Department of Conservation, which conducted the surveys earlier this year.

“The potential for introduction of new genetic diversity through even occasional mating with Hector’s dolphins is likely to be good for the long-term survival of the Maui’s dolphin,” said Rochelle Constantine, a lecturer with the University of Auckland who presented the results at the meeting of the New Zealand Ecological Society today (Nov. 23) in Dunedin, N.Z.

Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, said that limited interbreeding between the two subspecies “might be the best chance of survival for the Maui’s dolphin.”

“Human activity has contributed to isolating these populations through a reduction in the range of Maui’s dolphins,” said Baker, an internationally recognized cetacean expert who coordinated the genetic analysis of the dolphins. “And further isolation is likely to reduce genetic diversity, without occasional genetic interchange with the more abundant Hector’s dolphins.”

The two Hector’s dolphins found with the Maui’s dolphins were both females, Baker pointed out.

The Maui’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui) is the world’s smallest dolphin at about five feet in length and weighing about 110 pounds. They are usually found close to shore in pods of several dolphins and only occasionally range further offshore. Females are not sexually mature until seven to nine years of age and they produce just one calf every two to four years, making population increases a slow process.

“It was quite a surprise to discover the Hector’s dolphins that far north because they were thought to remain quite close to their place of birth most of their lives,” said Becca Hamner, a Ph.D. student from Oregon State University who works with Baker. “This is almost certainly a rare dispersal event, as none of our previous samples of Maui’s dolphins showed evidence of hybridization.

“Further genetic monitoring will be needed to determine if the new emigrants survive and are able to interbreed with the Maui’s dolphins,” Hamner added.

The DNA analysis was done following collection of small skin samples by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation and the University of Auckland. Those samples were compared to a collection of 300 samples from the known range of both Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins around New Zealand.

Funding for the research was provided by the New Zealand Department of Conservation and the United States Marine Mammal Commission.

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Scott Baker, 541-272-0560

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Maui's dolphin
Maui's dolphin

Oregon experiencing spike of leptospirosis, sea lion deaths

NEWPORT, Ore. – A sharp increase in the number of sick and dead California sea lions has been reported along the Oregon coast in recent weeks and necropsies conducted on dozens of the animals suggest that many may have died from leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease found in a variety of animal species and can be transmitted to humans, according to Jim Rice, an Oregon State University scientist who coordinates the statewide Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

“We are now getting calls for multiple sick or dead sea lions daily, which is higher than normal,” said Rice, an OSU Marine Mammal Institute researcher who works at the university’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. “The overall number of sea lions also has risen, so it’s difficult to compare mortality rates from year to year, but certainly we’re seeing an increase in animals that test positive for leptospirosis.”

Rice and his colleagues at the stranding network have sent dozens of dead animals to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. And though not all of the animals have tested positive, many showed clear signs of leptospirosis, which raises concern about human health.

Kathy O’Reilly, who heads the bacterial section of the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, said leptospirosis can be virulent.

“There have been 50 to 100 cases per year in the United States reported to the Centers for Disease Control,” O’Reilly said, “and in 31 percent of the human cases it is traced back to contact with infected rats, and in 30 percent of the cases, it is tracked to infected dogs.”

Dogs can be infected with leptospirosis through contact with stricken seal lions. Rice said coastal visitors should always avoid sea lions on the beach and during outbreaks of leptospirosis should keep their dogs on a leash. The disease can be transmitted by direct contact, or even through contact with damp sand, soil or vegetation contaminated by the urine of infected animals.

Rice said that in 2009, the network had 350 reports of California sea lions stranded on Oregon beaches – either dead or severely ill and presumed to have died. And Oregon is on pace to surpass that total this year, he pointed out.

“Typically, sea lions with leptospirosis are quite emaciated and lethargic,” Rice said. “Those that don’t die on the beach may get washed out to sea and die, or they may move elsewhere. It’s possible that some recover, but these are very sick animals.”

The Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network is a collaborative volunteer effort to respond to reports of sick or dead marine mammals – including whales, seals and sea lions – and report data about the strandings to the National Marine Fisheries Service. It is headquartered at OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute at the Hatfield Marine Science Center and coordinated by Rice.

Partners in the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network include OSU, Portland State University, the University of Oregon’s Institute for Marine Biology, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon State Police, the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation and others.

Persons seeing dead or sick marine mammals on Oregon beaches are encouraged to call the Oregon State Police 1-800-452-7888.

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Jim Rice, 541-867-0446

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Sea Lions

Troubled waters: A fish-eye view of dead zones and oil spills

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Just like oil spills, “dead zones” make news. And they seem to be spreading: Chesapeake Bay, the Oregon coast, Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico. Surprisingly, scientists know little about who wins and who loses when oxygen concentrations drop to near-zero in ocean waters.

At Science Pub Corvallis on Nov. 8, Steve Brandt, director of the Oregon Sea Grant program, will discuss findings from six seasons of subsurface exploration in the low-oxygen waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico. And he’ll share what was different about this year’s cruise, which began after the United States’ largest recorded oil well blow-out was capped in July.

“Recently there has been an alarming increase, in the spatial and temporal extent of low-oxygen conditions in estuarine and coastal waters,” said Brandt. “We call them ‘dead zones’ in the media because we presume there are drastic impacts on living resources such as shrimp and fish.”

In his talk, Brandt will show how low-oxygen conditions, which scientists call “hypoxia,” can affect habitat quality, food webs and growth rates. Some fish, he added, may actually benefit from these conditions.

Science Pub Corvallis begins at 6 p.m. at the Old World Deli, 341 2nd St. in downtown Corvallis. It is free and open to the public. Sponsors include Terra magazine at OSU, the Downtown Corvallis Association and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

Source: 

Steve Brandt, 541-737-6200

OSU scientists to study effects of acidification on shellfish

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University will begin delving into the impacts of ocean acidification on shellfish, launching two National Science Foundation-funded projects that will explore the marine organisms’ physiological responses to corrosive ocean water.

In one study, OSU scientists are seeking to determine the threshold at which oysters, clams and mussels – including those that are commercially important – become adversely affected by acidification. Principal investigator George Waldbusser of OSU’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences and his colleagues also will explore the mechanisms through which those impacts occur.

“We’ll be developing a novel experimental approach to tease apart just what component of acidification is actually affecting the organism,” Waldbusser said. “For example, decreased pH may affect the internal acid-base balance of an organism, but the correlated decrease in calcium carbonate saturation state may also alter the stability of their mineral shells.

“Scientists know very little, to date, about specific modes of action triggered by acidification,” he added.

Waldbusser received a four-year grant of nearly $2 million from NSF to lead the project. He will work with Burke Hales and Brian Haley from the university’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, and Chris Langdon, who directs the Molluscan Broodstock Program at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

They will develop their experimental system at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, which has a large seawater system that makes such research possible.

OSU received a second three-year, $2 million grant from NSF to lead a seven-institution project to monitor ocean chemistry in the California Current System and look at how two marine species – sea urchins and mussels – respond in the wild to different ocean chemistry.

This project is being coordinated through the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, or PISCO, an OSU-based marine research consortium. Principal investigator Bruce Menge and colleagues from multiple institutions will study urchins and mussels at two sites in Oregon and six sites in California, taking advantage of the differing levels of acidification along the West Coast.

The researchers theorize that these organisms have adapted over time to variations in the ocean chemistry, but the increase in carbon dioxide may be pushing their limit.

“They already may be close to their acclimatization or adaptational capacity,” Menge pointed out, “and thus may have limited ability to respond to additional increases in CO2. For the first time, we will be able to examine the genetics and ecology of these key organisms to see how populations that span over a thousand miles of coastline are coping with changes in ocean chemistry.”

Increasing ocean acidification is a major global concern. Previous OSU research, led by Hales, found that seawater being upwelled from the deep ocean may have last been exposed to the atmosphere some 50 years ago and that its already-high levels of carbon dioxide portend more corrosive oceans in the future.

Their ongoing research also found that the upwelled water is influencing Oregon estuaries, where concern about acidic water has prompted oyster hatcheries to alter their protocols. For example, the Whiskey Creek Hatchery is now drawing water into its tanks during relaxed upwelling periods, or in the afternoon, when acidity levels are lower due to increased photosynthesis.

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George Waldbusser, 541-737-8964

OSU alumnus Warren Washington honored with Medal of Science

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Warren Washington, one of the world’s leading climate scientists and a graduate of Oregon State University, is one of 10 persons named today by President Obama to receive the National Medal of Science.

Washington has a bachelor’s degree in physics (1958) and a master’s degree in meteorology (1960) from OSU. He will return to campus this Nov. 3, when he is a scheduled speaker in a Memorial Union Program Council series on diversity. He also will deliver the keynote speech on Nov. 4 in Portland for the Urban League of Portland's Equal Opportunity Day dinner.

One of OSU’s most distinguished alumni, Washington, who was born in Portland in 1936, has spent his entire career with the National Center for Atmospheric Research and developed an international reputation for his work, according to Mark Abbott, dean of Oregon State’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.

“Warren Washington has been one of the leading lights of modern-day climate modeling,” Abbott said. “He has been a world leader for more than 40 years in the study of the Earth’s climate.”

Washington also served as chairman of the National Science Board and completed two terms. He was nominated by both President Clinton and President (George W.) Bush.

The National Medal of Science was created in 1959 and is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation. Awarded annually, it recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering.

In 2006, Washington received an honorary doctorate from OSU and also delivered its June commencement address.

The 10 recipients of the medal include:

  • Yakir Aharonov, Chapman University
  • Stephen J. Benkovic, Pennsylvania State University
  • Esther M. Conwell, University of Rochester
  • Marye Anne Fox, University of California San Diego
  • Susan L. Lindquist, Whitehead Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Mortimer Mishkin, National Institutes of Health
  • David B. Mumford, Brown University
  • Stanley B. Prusiner, University of California San Francisco
  • Warren M. Washington, National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • Amnon Yariv, California Institute of Technology
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Mark Abbott, 541-737-5195

Scientists plan rapid assessment survey of Oregon estuaries

NEWPORT, Ore. – Scientists from the United States, Canada, Japan and Russia will conduct a “rapid assessment survey” of three Oregon estuaries next week, looking for invasive species such as the marine tunicate, Didemnum vexillum, found earlier this year in Coos Bay and Winchester Bay.

These scientists are here a week before for the annual conference of the International North Pacific Marine Science Organization, which is called PICES. It will meet Oct. 22-31 in Portland.

Nations hosting this conference also host cooperative on-site surveys for introduced species, conducted by scientists from participating countries, according to George Boehlert, director of Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center and one of two United States members on the PICES governing board.

“It provides an opportunity to train scientists on surveying techniques, assess local estuaries for potential problems, and share information on common invasive species,” Boehlert said. “Many of the non-indigenous species on the West Coast originated in Asia, so the opportunity to work with scientists from Japan, Russia and elsewhere is highly beneficial.”

OSU scientist John Chapman, an aquatic invasive species specialist at the university’s Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC), and Thomas Therriault of Fisheries and Oceans in Nanaimo, British Columbia, are coordinating the Oct. 17-21 surveys. The surveys will include Yaquina Bay in Newport; Winchester Bay near Reedsport; Coos Bay; and a 300,000-gallon seawater tank at the HMSC.

Funding for the project will be provided by PICES through a contribution from the Japanese government, which has granted $500,000 to the organization for studies on invasive species and harmful algal blooms. Additional support is being provided by Oregon Sea Grant, a marine science program based at OSU.

This will be the first rapid assessment survey conducted through PICES in North America and also will be the first organized survey of this kind of the Oregon coast, Chapman said. Similar surveys were done prior to PICES conferences in China in 2008 and South Korea in 2009.

The scientists will sample both native and non-indigenous algae and animal species from floats, rocks and pilings, and from previously deployed “settling plates.” Volunteer divers will assist with the collections from sub-tidal areas. Still photos and video images of the collected specimens will be useful in comparing the species to those around the world – and identifying their origin, conference organizers say.

A new project for logging genetic information on different species collected will provide baseline data needed to ensure more continued international research on these invading species.

Preliminary findings from the surveys will be reported at a working group meeting at the PICES conference in Portland Oct. 23-24; final results will be reported at the 2011 PICES meeting in Russia, and will be posted online at the OSU Scholars Archive.

“We don’t have as many invasive species in Oregon estuaries as they do in a port like San Francisco, for example, which has so much shipping traffic,” Boehlert noted. “Nevertheless, these invasive species have the potential to disrupt natural ecosystems and can be costly to contain.”

Among recent invasive species issues in Oregon estuaries have been marine tunicates, which can suffocate bottom-dwelling organisms and foul equipment; a parasitic isopod that is killing mud shrimp up and down the West Coast and thereby reducing potential food sources for juvenile salmon; and green crabs that prey on prized estuary clams.

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George Boehlert, 541-867-0211

New Sea Grant Extension leader takes office Oct. 4

CORVALLIS, Ore. – David Hansen, a former Extension program leader at the University of Delaware, is the new program leader for Oregon Sea Grant Extension at Oregon State University. Hansen’s appointment begins Oct. 4.

He succeeds Jay Rasmussen, who retired earlier this year after serving in the position for 14 years.

Sea Grant Director Stephen Brandt called Hansen “a first-rate choice to lead Sea Grant Extension at a time when time when coastal stakeholders need our services most.

“He brings both the scientific and academic background and the practical experience to help us achieve our goals of using sound science to create a more informed and engaged society around issues important to our coast, our region and our nation,” Brandt said.

Hansen will oversee a marine Extension program including agents, specialists and educators located on campus and on the Oregon coast from Astoria to Gold Beach, working in fields ranging from watershed restoration and fisheries policy to invasive species, climate change and tsunami preparedness. The Oregon Sea Grant program at OSU is one of the largest and most highly regarded of its kind among the 30 Sea Grant programs nationwide.

Hansen will also serve on the Sea Grant leadership team, which coordinates an integrated program of ocean and coastal outreach, education, research and communications. 

The new program leader was educated at the Iowa State, where he earned a master’s degree in forest biology and a Ph.D. in soil science and water resources. He has spent four years as an assistant professor of soil and environmental quality at University of Delaware, and since 2008 has also directed Delaware's Extension  Agriculture and Natural Resources program.

During a recent visit to OSU, Hansen emphasized the need to build strong teams and forge broad coalitions – inside and outside the university – to deepen Sea Grant Extension's “diversity of expertise,” particularly in tight fiscal times.

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Stephen Brandt, 541-737-3396