OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

marine science and the coast

First coordinator hired for Oregon State University Master Naturalist Program

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Jason O'Brien must adapt to an entirely new ecosystem this month after leaving Iowa State University to become the first coordinator of the new Master Naturalist Program at Oregon State University.

But O'Brien looks forward to the challenges he faces in learning about Oregon's natural resources in what he calls a dream job. "When it comes to people, Iowa and Oregon have a lot of similarities," he said, "primarily because the land is the basis of how we make a living."

Prior to his arrival in Oregon, O'Brien was interim ISU Extension wildlife specialist and director of the Iowa NatureMapping Program.

O'Brien will "put wheels under the program" that has been under development for more than a year and a half, according to Jim Johnson, program leader of the OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension program. O'Brien will start training the first volunteers next spring.

The Master Naturalist program is similar to the popular OSU Master Gardener program in that individuals receive training from university experts and volunteer their services to the community.

Volunteers will help with education at schools and interpretation at nature centers, Johnson said. Stewardship projects might involve planting trees or removing invasive plants, and volunteers can do "citizen science" with research projects such as water-quality monitoring.

"The Master Naturalist program is a great fit in Oregon," Johnson said, "and funding is secured for three years. People like to have an organized way to help the environment, and this is a good way to do it," he said. Funding agencies are the Oregon Department of Forestry and four OSU Extension Service programs: Forestry and Natural Resources, Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, 4-H Youth Development and Sea Grant.

Other organizations that have expressed interest in becoming advisers and partners include the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Siskiyou Field Institute in Cave Junction and the Oregon Zoo in Portland.

In addition, OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport received funding from the National Science Foundation to start work on the coastal regional program.

The statewide program is expected to have training for everyone, as well as by eco-regions such as the coast, Klamath-Siskiyou and eastern Oregon regions.

The OSU Master Gardener program began in 1976 and trains more than 800 people a year. The first 24 volunteers in the newly formed Climate Masters program trained last winter. Other OSU programs are the Master Woodland Manager, Master Food Preservers, Master Recyclers and Master Watershed Stewards.

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Jim Johnson, 541-737-8954

OSU OCEANOGRAPHERS PARTNER TO BOOST ADULT EDUCATION

CORVALLIS - Oceanographers from Oregon State University are partnering with several other organizations on a year-long project to boost adult education in Oregon and introduce marine sciences into the curriculum offered in adult basic education programs held at community colleges and elsewhere.

The OSU College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences will launch the project this Sept. 8-11 with the first of three professional development workshops that will be held on campus and at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

The initiative is called "The Ocean Science and Math Collaborative Project."

"This is a collaborative project designed to integrate ocean sciences into the science, math and critical thinking curriculum of Oregon adult education," said OSU professor Marta Torres, a co-director of the project. "We hope to expand it on a regional basis next year taking advantage of Oregon's involvement in an adult education consortium that includes several other states."

OSU will initially work with 15 adult basic education instructors from Oregon community colleges. They represent diverse instructional programs, including workplace training, workplace education, adult education, GED preparation, English to speakers of other languages, family literacy and tribal education. The instructors will work with the OSU scientists and partners to develop new tools for incorporating ocean sciences into their curriculum - and making it relevant to adult learners.

"Ultimately, the instructors will be the ones delivering the message to the adult learners," said Robert Collier, an OSU professor and co-director of the project. "These learners may be people who left school early and are seeking GEDs, they may be working adults looking for more education as an avenue to change careers, or they may be recent retirees or other adults who are simply looking for a challenge.

"Adult learners have different needs than K-12," Collier added. "The information has to be age-neutral, yet interesting in a real-world sort of way."

OSU has one of the top oceanography programs in the country and elements of the university's marine science research will provide some of those "real world" examples, he said.

Partnering with OSU's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences are the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development; the OSU-based Oregon Sea Grant program; the Western Center for Community College Development; OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center; and the National Institute for Literacy.

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Bob Collier, 541-737-4367

NEW INITIATIVE TO STUDY IMPACT OF OCEANS ON HUMAN HEALTH

CORVALLIS - Researchers at Oregon State University have joined forces with other universities and agencies in a new three-year, $18 million "Oceans and Human Health Initiative."

This program has been established by Congress and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to create three regional research centers that will analyze ways in which human activities can have an impact on ocean ecosystems, and how those systems, in turn, can affect human health.

Philippe Rossignol, an OSU professor of fisheries and wildlife, will lead OSU's participation in this initiative, which will be coordinated through the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Wash. That regional center will focus its efforts on infectious diseases, biotoxins, and chemicals that can directly affect human health through consumption of seafood.

"There are a range of concerns we have about toxins, parasitic microorganisms and other health issues that can arise from eating seafood, and it appears that these risks are expanding," Rossignol said. "The presence of PCBs in salmon, for instance, are a serious concern, and the EPA recently noted that about one-third of the freshwater lakes in the nation have unhealthy levels of mercury contamination.

"This is an innovative new program that is targeting the study of some fisheries scientists to human health problems," he said. "We're going to get a lot of experts from different institutions involved and see what we can learn in this area."

Other participants in the Seattle-based center include the University of Washington, the Marine Mammal Center, Washington State University, Institute for Systems Biology, University of California at Davis, and Alaska Fisheries Science Center. This group will examine the risks and benefits of eating different seafood products, try to understand how key "stressors" affect human health, and improve the forecasting and mitigation of threats to human health from contaminated seafood.

Elsewhere in the nation, similar centers of study will be set up at the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, S.C., and the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich.

"These centers will start an entirely new approach to ocean research," said U.S. Sen. Ernest Hollings of South Carolina, when the program was recently announced. "The oceans have a major impact on our daily health and we need to learn a great deal more about what ocean pollution is doing to both marine creatures and our food supply. I'm also convinced that we haven't even begun to know the good that can come from our oceans."

Funding from the program will go to external grants, a distinguished scholars and traineeship program, internal research, and education and outreach.

According to Rossignol, OSU's participation may expand in the future as more projects are developed. Initially, it was spawned by a recent study done by OSU and NOAA scientists that explored the complex way in which toxins or other disturbances in an ecosystem can be manifested in ways that are not apparent or easily observed.

"As a model system, we looked at the way in which salmon, parasites, predators and toxins interact in a natural marine ecosystem," Rossignol said. "A toxic disturbance may increase the death rate of one or more species, but that effect is not immediately obvious because some species can compensate for the toxic impact and mask the real, underlying affect."

The researchers developed a "theory of hot subsystems," or ways to better predict which components of larger ecosystems most accurately reflect the damages that are being done, and which approaches could best predict such things as human health impacts.

Collaboration is expected among the new centers being developed to study these issues, officials said. Scientists will also work with new research centers in related areas set up by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

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Philippe Rossignol, 541-737-5509

OSU RECEIVES GRANT AS PART OF OCEAN OBSERVATORY PLAN

CORVALLIS - Scientists are creating a series of ocean observatories off the West Coast of the United States and Canada, employing networks of sensors on the seafloor and in the ocean that will provide real-time data with interactive capability - a development that will open the doors for a new era in oceanographic research.

Creating such an interconnected system - which must rely on optical networks, wireless transmission and computer grid technology - is a considerable challenge, especially considering the enormous amounts of data that will constantly be streaming ashore.

Oregon State University has received a grant to begin developing the software that will help make that system work - and become accessible to scientists and educators from around the world.

On Thursday, the National Science Foundation announced a four-year, $3.9 million grant to the University of Washington, the University of California-San Diego, and several partner institutions - including OSU - to build the Laboratory for the Ocean Observatory Knowledge Integration Grid, or LOOKING.

"The easiest way to visualize the project is to compare it to a huge telescope looking into the ocean," said Mark Abbott, dean of OSU's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, who will lead Oregon State's portion of the project. "You have to be able to adapt the system to measure biological, physical or chemical processes in real time.

"That will enable scientists to constantly monitor the ocean off our coast," Abbott added, "and when we notice an unusual situation - like an underwater volcanic eruption, or a hypoxic event - we can deploy sensors, such as underwater robots, to study the phenomenon first-hand."

The LOOKING project is part of NSF's growing focus on ocean observation. In 2001, the federal agency began its Ocean Observatories Initiative and the second five-year phase of that effort, beginning in 2006, will be funded through a proposed $245 million appropriation. The series of observatories will be managed and operated by ORION, the Ocean Research Interactive Observatory Networks program. Jack Barth, an OSU professor of oceanic and atmospheric sciences, is on the ORION steering committee.

Several new observatories are planned during the next few years, including the North East Pacific Time-series Undersea Networked Experiments observatory off the coast of Oregon and Washington. NEPTUNE, the prototype for the multi-faceted network of sensor arrays, should be operational in 2007.

"The first step is to put sensors on the Juan de Fuca plate and begin observing sea vents and other seafloor phenomena," Abbott said. "That data will be transmitted through fiber optic cables formerly used by telephone companies. Here at OSU, we'll be creating the software to help make these data accessible and useable by a wide range of researchers and educators."

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Mark Abbott, 541-737-5195

OSU aquaculture program gets $2.15 million grant

CORVALLIS - An international aquaculture program at Oregon State University has received a $2.15 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to manage a global research portfolio that includes a dozen other U.S. universities and 16 international institutions.

OSU's Aquaculture Collaborative Research Program - or Aquaculture CRSP - is one of nine such programs funded by USAID that focus on nutrition and income generation through improving food production and managing natural resources in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia. The CRSPs also work with U.S. agricultural and agribusiness on applications from the research.

The OSU-led consortium will focus its research this year on aquaculture development in coastal and inland areas, with emphases on production technology, watershed management, and human health, nutrition and welfare, said Hillary Egna, program director since 1989.

"The environment for foreign assistance has been difficult in light of the federal budget," Egna said, "so the fact that our program continues to thrive underscores the relevance of our work."

Major research sites this year will include Mexico, Honduras, Peru, Brazil, Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as outreach activities in neighboring countries.

In Asia, the OSU Aquaculture CRSP is sponsoring research in five countries. In addition to evaluating new species for aquaculture potential, research also will look at pond management practices and water treatment systems to deal with effluent, and genetic studies of tilapia, a popular fish.

Research in Africa includes aquaculture assessment in Tanzania and Ghana, a series of workshops in various countries, and a new multidisciplinary watershed project in Kenya.

Eleven countries in the Americas will include CRSP research with projects ranging from the analysis of local fish markets, to pond assessment efforts, to feed and larvae research on over-fished indigenous species.

In addition to managing international aquaculture research programs, the OSU Aquaculture CRSP sponsors research projects in OSU's Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and elsewhere in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Egna said the CRSPs have a mandate to support aquaculture capacity building and training. Since its inception in 1982, the OSU program has supported more than 2,000 students in obtaining degree and non-degree training.

The $2.15 million in funding marks the seventh consecutive year of funding the OSU program has received from USAID under the current grant. The program received three previous multi-year grants as well.

More information on the program is available at http://pdacrsp.oregonstate.edu, or by calling Danielle Clair at 541-737-6416.

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Danielle Clair, 541-737-6416

Ocean management, research must look at big picture

SAVANNAH, Ga. - The world's oceans desperately need the type of large-scale, ecosystem-based management that has gained broad support in the terrestrial areas of the U.S., researchers said today - the marine equivalent of seeing the forest instead of the trees.

But the cohesive management of activities affecting "large marine ecosystems" such as the western coastal waters of the United States should be based on integrated knowledge and a research base that is far more comprehensive than what exists today, said Jane Lubchenco, the Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology at Oregon State University, speaking Friday at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America.

"Too often in the past we have managed activities on the basis of a local problem or a particular species, rather than the larger ecosystems," Lubchenco said.

"And in some cases, even when we've tried to look at the big picture we didn't have sufficient understanding to do it well. In view of the rapid rate of change in marine ecosystems, it's now essential that we manage activities that affect oceans in a more holistic sense and develop the research programs to inform those decisions."

In her ESA presentation, Lubchenco cited the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, or PISCO, as a pioneering and successful attempt to begin to create the knowledge base that could make marine ecosystem-based management possible.

PISCO, a collaborative effort of OSU and three other universities, is using grants totaling $30 million from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and others to study the near-shore regions of the Pacific Coast over a period of years. It could form a model for more programs of this type, Lubchenco said.

"The type of data we're producing through PISCO research - which links physical, biological, climatic and other information through time and large ocean areas - is generating quite a bit of enthusiasm from many scientists," Lubchenco said. "We've had researchers come to us from Maine, Alaska, Chile and England, and ask how they could create similar programs for other marine ecosystems.

"Clearly, we have a powerful approach here that could serve as a prototype," she said.

Two major national reports on the state of U.S. waters and the global oceans are coming out this year - one released in June from the Pew Oceans Commission and another expected toward the end of the year from the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.

"The two commissions are highlighting many similar issues," Lubchenco said. "These include the need for marine ecosystem-based management, better stewardship of oceans, regional governance, a better scientific knowledge base and improved education of the public."

These and other efforts, she said, demonstrate the benefits of management based on large marine areas of the oceans. A large marine ecosystem is a cohesive area defined by ocean currents and similar marine plant and animal life - such as the Gulf of Mexico or the California Current Ecosystem on the western coast of the U.S. Effective management of activities affecting such large areas will require new mechanisms to integrate the wide variety of factors influencing the ecosystem, such as fishing, mining, agriculture, forestry, and coastal development.

Problems to be addressed include collapsing fisheries, invasive species, the impacts of climate change and pollution.

"It is becoming increasingly obvious that coastal oceans are affected by both land-based and ocean-based activities," Lubchenco said, "and we need new ways to understand how various activities affect the status of coastal marine ecosystems and the benefits they provide to humans."

Oceans pose a special challenge, Lubchenco said, because they have a wide range of natural variability, are directly affected by climatic forces, and are far more complex than has been appreciated in the past. Only a comprehensive body of research studying many issues over a wide range of space and time will provide the type of information needed to answer critical questions, she said.

Just recently, for instance, have PISCO scientists begun to document how the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a 20-30 year ocean cycle, can affect everything in the ocean from algal blooms to upwelling, mollusks and salmon. One of the great management challenges, she said, is to incorporate an understanding of cycles like this into the decisions about coastal development, fisheries and more.

"It's true that we already know much more about our ocean ecosystems than is being reflected in our management of them," Lubchenco said. "It's also true that there's still a lot to learn, and for that we need broad-scale research programs over huge areas and many years, linking ocean and terrestrial processes, physical events , and biological and social consequences."

With that type of knowledge, enlightened policies and coordinated management, Lubchenco said, it's reasonable to believe that both oceans and the terrestrial systems to which they are closely linked can produce a wide variety of products and services for generations to come.

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Jane Lubchenco, 541-737-5337

New OSU, OCCC education program to train "Aquarists"

NEWPORT - Educators from Oregon State University and Oregon Coast Community College have jointly developed one the nation's first educational programs to train "aquarists," responding to a need for more experts with practical, applied knowledge in ornamental fish health and care.

The first class in this two-year, associates degree program at OCCC will begin this September. It has been supported by a new $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and other fund-raising efforts that provide a total of about $1 million to get the program under way. A large number of private companies in aquarium and marine science have also provided support.

"A national survey we did showed that there's a significant need for trained individuals to work in aquarium science who may not have bachelor's degrees in biology but have a solid background in ornamental fish health, aquarium design and operation, and many other topics," said Dr. Tim Miller-Morgan, an assistant professor of veterinary medicine at OSU. He is a Sea Grant Extension veterinarian and a co-developer of the program, along with Jane Hodgkins and Bruce Koike at OCCC.

It's anticipated that employment opportunities for graduates with these skills should be strong, the educators say. The first class will have a maximum of 25 students, and a few positions are still open.

"This aquarium science program will be a true signature program for Oregon Coast Community College," said Hodgkins. "Strong local partnerships with OSU and the Oregon Coast Aquarium have made this possible, and the program should be of great value to the aquarium and ornamental fish industry.

"They are looking for employees with practical, applied skills who can maintain healthy fish populations and the systems that support them," she added. "Those are the skills our graduates will have."

One of the directors and teachers in the new program will also be Koike, who has a master's degree in fisheries science from OSU and extensive experience in public aquariums, including service as director of animal husbandry at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Students in this program will learn about the captive biology of fish and invertebrates, aquarium system and exhibit design, communication skills, fish and invertebrate health management, nutrition and reproduction, and other topics. There will be an emphasis on laboratories and "hands-on" skills, and the program will include a 10-week internship in aquarium practice and operation.

Most of the courses will be taught at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

More information about the program can be obtained on the web at http://www.occc.cc.or.us/aquarium/index.htm.

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Dr. Tim Miller-Morgan, 541-867-0265

Corvallis teacher joins Arctic research crew

CORVALLIS - Summer vacations are usually a routine excursion to a favorite Cascade lake or a week along Oregon's beautiful coast. But Gerhard Behrens, a third grade teacher at Adams Elementary School in Corvallis, is taking his summer vacation to the limit as he joins an Oregon State University crew aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy to the Nares Strait near Canada and Greenland.

Behrens will be aboard the icebreaker from July 21 through August 15 with researchers from the United States, Canada and Japan as they conduct research to understand how much seawater and ice flow south through the Nares Strait. The amount and timing of these flows affect North Atlantic waters and global ocean circulation, which is influenced by temperature and salinity. The 5-year, $3.5 million research project involves about 50 scientists from several research institutions and the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU.

Behrens was asked to join the cruise because of his interest in piloting science materials for the Corvallis School District.

"I've known Kelly Falkner, the lead investigator, for the last 12 or 13 years, and have had a lot of contact with the scientific community through the Science Education Partnerships program," said Behrens. SEPS is a local Corvallis program developed by OSU, Hewlett-Packard and Corvallis science teachers that uses community scientists to help teachers provide a quality science education for all students.

Behrens' job aboard the Healy hardly likens to standard vacation fare, but is a critical outreach component of the project.

"My primary job is to maintain a website with text and photographs so people can follow what is happening with the cruise on a day-to-day basis," said Behrens. "And I'm a big gopher - filling and marking bottles, collecting data, and watching monitors."

Anyone interested in tracking the progress of the study throughout the summer can log on to http://newark.cms.udel.edu/~cats/. Behrens will also have e-mail access during his trip. From July 21 through July 31, contact Behrens at gbehrens@sci.uscoastguard.net. From August 1 through August 15, he can be reached at gbehrens@bkr2.rdc.uscg.gov.

Behrens says he is anxious to return and inform his students about what it takes to become a scientist.

"When I come back, I can preach the gospel of the Arctic, and what scientists do in the field," said Behrens. "I want to let my students know what skills it takes to be a scientist - personal skills in addition to the math and science. Good scientists need to be able to look for patterns."

Behrens said he is looking forward to the research cruise with great anticipation and excitement.

"I'm looking forward to the sense of adventure every day," he said. "I have no idea what the Arctic is going to look like or what it's going to be like on a ship for that long. And I have some trepidation about motion sickness and being physically uncomfortable."

Behrens underwent rigorous preparation for the cruise. He spent two days in Anchorage, Alaska, this summer participating in survival training.

"We learned how to take care of ourselves in perilous situations, especially aircraft debacles," said Behrens. "We learned how to escape the vessel, and prepare ourselves mentally and physically."

Behrens is fascinated by the scope of the questions involved in the research cruise, and said he is enthusiastic about relating the study to his third grade students when he returns.

"The real emphasis in the science curriculum is going through a scientific process, how to ask a question," he said. "What I do with students is encourage the question. It doesn't necessarily have to be a big question, but some kind of question. COAS scientists are at the far end of the scale asking global questions. But it's important for younger students to ask any kind of question. As they get older, their questioning becomes more sophisticated, but to begin the questioning process is really important."

 

Source: 

Gerhard Behrens

New research sheds light on Earth's largest animals

HONOLULU - Blue whales, the planet's largest animals, travel much farther and faster than scientists ever thought, searching for fertile marine upwelling zones that provide their diet of krill and help them grow as large as a hundred feet long and weigh in at a staggering 100 tons.

These and other findings on blue whales will be presented on Thursday, Feb. 14, by Oregon State University marine mammal expert Bruce Mate at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union's Ocean Sciences division in Honolulu.

Since 1993, Mate and his colleagues have tagged one hundred blue whales off the California coast and tracked their movements by satellite.

They found that blue whales travel rapidly from one feeding area to another, and continue to feed throughout the entire year. Other whales, including grays and humpbacks, stop feeding during their late fall migration and while at their winter breeding grounds --- areas that, in comparison to their summer feeding areas, are "biological deserts," Mate said.

"These blue whales move fast," said Mate, who directs the Marine Mammal Program at Oregon State University. "They are like a streak. They can't afford to waste a lot of time in low-density food zones, so they really move from one high productivity area to another."

During the strong El Nino of 1998, about half of the blue whales Mate saw were visibly emaciated. Their rapid movement in search of food and their normally huge fat reserves are adaptations that help them survive such events, Mate pointed out.

The feeding habits of these California blue whales in fact dictate much of their behavior, Mate said. Like other whale species, they begin migrating southward in the fall, but individual whales stop when they encounter good feeding zones and may stay there for weeks at a time, whereas many other whales species migrate en masse and do not make such stops. Even the blue whales' winter destination and likely calving area --- a region off Central America called the Costa Rica Dome --- is a fertile upwelling site rich with krill.

By contrast, most gray whales head to the warm waters of lagoons along the Pacific coast of Baja California for calving, while humpbacks head to Hawaii. The warm waters in these areas help conserve body heat of newborn calves, but neither location has much in the way of food for the adults.

Much of these data about blue whales is new, Mate said. Despite being the planet's largest animals, little was known about the migration and winter habits of blue whales until scientists developed new technologies to study them.

Many of these new tools --- including the tags --- were developed at Oregon State University.

"In the old days, we would tag a whale and have to follow it by boat to stay within five miles, because that's how far the signal traveled," Mate said. "If it got out of range, that was it. And we could only track one animal at a time.

"Now we receive data on 15-20 blue whales simultaneously, as well as several other species," he added. "The technology is getting better all the time. It isn't unusual now to track whales via satellite for 4-5 months, and we tracked one blue whale for 307 days before the batteries were exhausted. That provides a lot of data."

Of the hundred whales Mate has tracked, 45 have provided significant long-term data. Those 45 whales traveled a composite 230,000 kilometers and dove some 2.5 million times. "One animal migrated more than 10,000 miles," he said.

The data that comes out of studies like these is significant, Mate says, because it tells scientists and resource managers where whales spend much of their time, where critical feeding and reproductive areas are located, and how much time they spend at the surface - all of which are important in estimating the population size. "Many of the productive areas for the California blue whales are just 30 miles or so offshore from San Francisco and Santa Barbara, where there is a lot of ship traffic," Mate said. "But shipping doesn't seem to have much of an effect."

Last year, Mate tagged a mother blue whale in the Sea of Cortéz and waited for her and her calf to return to California. They never did, staying off the coast of central Baja California. "That goes to show you, there are a lot of mysteries remaining," Mate said. "It was thought that all of the whales in the Sea of Cortéz were 'California whales.' The fact that a mother and her calf stayed down there is interesting; if those movements are typical, it may suggest that we've been underestimating calf production and perhaps the entire population."

This spring, Mate is planning to tag more blue whales in the Sea of Cortéz. Scientists estimate that there are about 2,100 blue whales off the coast of California each summer, which is about 25 percent of the world's population and the largest concentration on the planet. These whales will grow as large as 85 feet and 80 tons, while blue whales in the southern hemisphere may reach 100 feet and 120 tons.

An estimated 7,000-8,000 true blue whales are thought to live throughout the world. Mate's research is funded by the Marine Mammal Endowment at Oregon State University and by the Office of Naval Research.

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Bruce Mate, 541-867-0236

OSU scientist to lead cruise to Arctic in July

CORVALLIS - Oregon State University oceanographer Kelly Falkner is leading a 28-day international research expedition aboard the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy this summer to study the role the Arctic Ocean plays in the global water cycle.

The cruise, which begins July 21, will include researchers from the U.S., Canada and Japan who are seeking to better understand how much seawater and ice flow south through the Nares Strait. The amount and timing of these flows affects North Atlantic waters and global ocean circulation, which is influenced by temperature and salinity. Over the past decade, scientists have observed significant changes throughout the North Atlantic. The head of Nares Strait sits at the confluence of major water mass boundaries within the Arctic that have recently been observed to shift, possibly in response to changed atmospheric pressure patterns.

The five-year, $3.5 million project involves about 50 scientists from several research institutions. During the cruise, researchers will take water samples and place instruments on the seafloor in Baffin Bay, Kane Basin and Kennedy Channel. The instruments will measure ocean currents, sea level, temperature and salt content over a three-year period.

To study conditions that may have occurred over several decades, researchers will collect bivalves and water samples along the Canadian and Greenland sides of the Nares Strait. Clams lay down their shells in distinct annual layers; the chemical composition of those layers can offer clues to the environmental conditions that existed at that time.

To study flows that occurred hundreds or thousands of years ago, scientists will collect four sediment cores from the seafloor in North Baffin Bay. Analysis of the sediment cores should reveal environmental conditions over time. In addition, researchers will attempt to collect detailed maps of the seafloor in this area.

Falkner, an associate professor in OSU's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, is involving local citizens in the research project. A new Canadian territory created in 1999 called Nunavut, which means "our land," covers 2 million square miles of Canada, and is home to 29,000 people in 26 communities. Falkner has visited the area, and engaged a first-year local college student, Pauloosie Akeeagok, to assist with the clam retrieval portion of the project.

"Pauloosie is a hunter, and is familiar with the behavior of walrus and eider ducks, both of which eat clams," said Falkner.

Akeeagok will assist in locating these wildlife and the clam beds, said Falkner, who also is seeking participation from the Greenland community.

"We hope to learn about the environment from its local residents, whose people have a long and rich history in the region, as we share our observations of it with them," said Falkner.

Source: 

Kelly Falkner, 541-737-3625

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