marine science and the coast

OSU Creates New Institute Based on Success of Marine Mammal Program

NEWPORT, Ore. – Building on the success of its marine mammal research and outreach program, Oregon State University has created a new Marine Mammal Institute, and announced plans to expand its faculty and broaden the scope of its research in ecology and conservation.

The new institute will be a focus of campus fund-raising efforts that would nearly double its endowment of more than $7 million, say officials of the OSU Foundation.

OSU’s research in the study of threatened and endangered whale species has been internationally recognized over the past three decades, primarily through the pioneering studies of Bruce Mate, who directs the institute. Mate was the first scientist to use satellites to track whales, and specialized tags developed at Oregon State by his team have led to new discoveries and a wealth of data on blue, gray, humpback, bowhead, right, fin, sperm and other whale species.

“Creating an institute to further the university’s research on marine mammals is a reflection of the excellence of the faculty and the relevance of their work,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “This is a signature program that continually provides critical information about marine mammals that can help humans peacefully co-exist with them.”

The new institute already is experiencing success. The Oregon Community Foundation has approved a grant of $200,000, contingent upon the university raising $400,000 in matching funds, and an anonymous donor has provided a gift of $50,000.

During the past year, the OSU program achieved significant growth with the hiring of Scott Baker, a cetacean geneticist and scientific delegate to the International Whaling Commission, who will serve as the institute’s associate director, and Markus Horning, a pinniped ecologist from Texas A&M University. Their addition widens the focus of the institute beyond satellite tagging of large whales to encompass new technology for the study of all marine mammals, including seals, sea lions and dolphins.

Future plans include boosting the donor-supported endowment and hiring additional faculty with backgrounds in marine mammal behavior and physiology, as well as expertise in physical oceanography, acoustics, engineering, veterinary medicine and other specialties.

“With the addition of Dr. Baker and Dr. Horning, our work will now include research in every ocean in the world,” Mate said.

“We’re certainly not shifting our focus away from critical research that investigates the migration routes and habitats of endangered whale species,” Mate added. “We want to apply similar energy and passion to the study of other marine mammals and the ecological issues surrounding them.”

Public interest in marine mammal research and outreach continues to expand as do issues relating to conservation of rare and threatened species. Baker has been involved in recent international efforts to curtail the illegal exploitation of protected whales. Using molecular methods to identify the species of whalemeat sold in commercial markets in Japan and Korea, he has documented the sale of products from humpback, western gray, fin, sei, Bryde’s and sperm whales.

By developing more general methods for DNA identification of all whales, dolphins and porpoises, Baker helped to discover the first new species of cetaceans described in 15 years – Perrin’s beaked whale, a rare and enigmatic species known only from a handful of stranded specimens.

Baker is now working to describe the genetic diversity and abundance of recovering populations of humpback whales worldwide. Working with regional collaborators throughout the North and South Pacific Oceans, his laboratory will undertake analysis of thousands of genetic samples collected from living whales and help to integrate this information with the photographic sighting records of these naturally marked individuals.

Horning's recent work, funded by NOAA and the National Science Foundation, has focused on endangered Steller sea lions in Alaska, and Weddell seals in Antarctica. The dramatic decline of Steller sea lions over the past three decades, and their subsequent listing as endangered, has had a significant impact on the fishing industry and coastal communities in Alaska. Horning is using specially developed tracking devices to monitor Stellers throughout their entire lives, a first in the study of marine mammals.

Horning spent much of this fall in Antarctica, collecting data on muscle physiology and diving performance for a study of aging in Weddell seals.

"In many declining species, a shift toward older animals in the populations has been observed," Horning said, "yet we know next to nothing about the constraints imposed by old age, and possible adaptations to aging in marine mammals.”

One of OSU’s goals in creating the Marine Mammal Institute is to foster more collaborative research – not only with other Oregon State scientists, but with specialists from around the world. Already the institute has received a grant of $750,000 from the Joint (petroleum) Industry Program, Office of Naval Research and the Minerals Management Service for a collaborative project with OSU oceanographer Kelly Benoit-Bird, a specialist in acoustics and marine community behavior, to study sperm whales and squids in the Sea of Cortez off Mexico.

The expansion of collaborative research should broaden the scope of the institute’s research potential by attracting more federal research dollars to Oregon, Mate said. Much of the funding for the program has come from private donations and additional private support is critical for future expansion.

During the last three years, OSU’s marine mammal program got a boost from the donation of three large fishing vessels from West Coast fishermen. Those vessels have a combined value of $1.7 million and private donations to the Marine Mammal Endowment allowed one of the boats to be retrofitted for research. This summer, it was used in the Bering Sea for two months and off California on blue whale research.

Mate said the institute hopes to refit the other two boats, creating a mini-fleet of research vessels for OSU scientists.


Story By: 

Bruce Mate,



ASTORIA - Tuna or not tuna? That is the question. With albacore season in full swing off the West Coast, and school lunch season fast approaching, many people are asking: How safe is our tuna? It's a question that focuses on very different levels of mercury found in albacore tuna harvested in different parts of the world.

According to Michael Morrissey, director of Oregon State University's Seafood Lab in Astoria, Ore., the answer has to do with how big the tuna is and where it was caught.

OSU researchers at the Seafood Lab have found that small, troll-caught albacore tuna from the West Coast of the U.S. contain less than half the level of mercury found by a recent government study of brand-name canned albacore.

In addition to lower mercury levels, the OSU researchers found that West Coast albacore have higher levels of omega-3 oils than most canned tuna. Omega-3 oils help protect humans against heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

In the OSU study, sponsored by the Oregon Albacore Commission and the Western Fishboat Owners Association, Morrissey and colleagues tested 91 albacore tuna caught in waters from southern California to British Columbia. The average mercury concentration was 0.14 parts per million, well below the limit of 1.00 part per million set by the Food and Drug Administration.

Morrissey said he hopes the results of the study will ease consumers' concerns and help them understand the difference between locally-caught albacore and the fish in the can.

Throughout most of the U.S., there are just two choices of tuna, and they're both canned. Typically, "light" is skipjack, a small tuna caught in oceans throughout the world, and "white" is albacore, usually caught in the southern Pacific Ocean in more tropical waters.

For locals on the West Coast, there's a third choice. Smaller white albacore tuna are caught during late summer and early fall when their annual migration brings them within range of local fishing boats.

"It's impossible to look at a can of tuna and decide how big the fish was," Morrissey said. "But with locally caught albacore, you get reduced levels of mercury and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. That's good news for consumers."

A recent study by the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency warned pregnant and nursing women and young children against eating more than six ounces once a week of canned "white" albacore tuna because of mercury levels in the fish.

However, most studies of mercury levels in canned tuna have been done on the major brands using albacore caught in the southern Pacific, according to Morrissey. These are larger fish, up to 60 pounds, and their mercury level averages 0.36 parts per million.

Morrissey and his fellow researchers, Tomoko Okada and Rosalee Rasmussen, found that albacore typically found off northern California, Oregon and Washington are smaller -10 to 24 pounds - and averaged less than half the level of mercury reported for canned albacore in the EPA study.

Morrissey speculated that because larger fish tend to be older and eat more fish, they tend to bioaccumulate more mercury, which would account for the higher levels found in the larger southern Pacific albacore tuna. The EPA study found that the smaller "light" skipjack tuna was within the safe range, with average mercury levels of 0.12 parts per million.

The West Coast tuna fishery is made up of small boats and local crews using surface hook-and-line gear. The albacore are sold fresh off the boat in many coastal ports or from local fish markets and specialty canneries for about $3.50 to $4 a can. In 2001, the Oregon albacore fishery was valued at $7.5 million, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Mercury is a neurotoxin that is most dangerous to unborn babies, infants and young children. Although mercury occurs naturally in trace amounts throughout the world, pollution from the burning of fossil fuels concentrates mercury in lakes, rivers and oceans, where it accumulates over time in the flesh of long-lived predatory fish.

Story By: 

Michael Morrissey, 503-325-4531, Ext. 2


ASTORIA - Oregon sardines are packed with protein and healthful oils useful in the prevention of atherosclerosis, heart attack, depression and cancer. Yet, despite their obvious health benefit, sardines are generally used for fertilizer or bait, not as a source of human nutrition.

Researchers at Oregon State University's Seafood Laboratory in Astoria want to change that by developing new markets for sardines as food and neutraceudicals. Since the 1930s, when sardines fueled Cannery Rows from California to Washington, the Pacific sardine went from boom to bust, and now is booming again. But the fish being caught these days are not your grandfather's sardines. Oregon sardines are much bigger than those little fish packed in tins of mustard sauce.

They're up to 10 inches long, and they pack a nutritional punch, brimming with omega-3 oils. It's the oil and the protein in sardines that interest researchers at OSU's Seafood Laboratory.

According to Michael Morrissey, director of the OSU Seafood Lab, the amount of oil in sardines increases from 10 to 25 percent of their body weight as the fish pack on fat during the summer months. As a result, sardines caught in August can provide more than twice the omega-3 oils than those caught in June. Market demand is increasing for high quality fish oils and omega-3s for use as nutritional supplements.

Morrissey is working to isolate and concentrate the omega-3 oils in Pacific sardines. He is experimenting with a new procedure to extract fish oil from fish flesh by shifting the pH level of the processed fish to extremes of acidity or alkalinity. The procedure uses no heat, so both the fish oil and the protein maintain high quality throughout the extraction process.

Jae Park, a food scientist at the Seafood Lab, is using the same procedure to extract more and higher quality fish protein from sardines.

A few years back, Park and others at the Seafood Lab helped develop the technology to transform another undervalued fish, Pacific whiting, into surimi, a versatile fish protein used in a variety of delicacies that mimic crab, lobster or ham. That technology helped transform Pacific whiting into one of Oregon's largest fisheries, contributing $15-20 million annually to the Oregon economy.

Park has utilized the pH shift process to extract more protein of higher quality from Pacific whiting, and remove the fish smell from the final product. Now he's testing that process on sardines. The end product would be a fish protein isolate that could be used as an ingredient in a variety of seafood products, including fish sauce and surimi.

The Seafood Lab's sardine research is good news for coastal communities in Oregon, where the cyclical nature of fisheries forces the fishing industry to stay flexible and seek new opportunities.

Pacific sardines supported the United States' largest commercial fishery from the 1910s through the 1940s. Then sardine stocks entered a steep decline. Fossil evidence suggests that Pacific sardines have experienced such boom-and-bust cycles about every 60 years over most of the last two millennia, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The Pacific sardine fishery has been rebounding since the mid-1990s, according to Morrissey. Schools of fish are located by airplane and harvested by purse seining vessels. Several seafood processing plants at the mouth of the Columbia River have invested in new blast freezer systems specifically for the sardine fishery.

"The Pacific sardine fishery represents an important economic boom for Oregon, as a new fishery that can provide new, value-added processing in coastal communities," Morrissey said.

Story By: 

Michael Morrissey, 503-325-4531 Ext. 2

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.


Jim Johnson, 541-737-8954


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.

Story By: 

Bob Collier, 541-737-4367


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.

Story By: 

Philippe Rossignol, 541-737-5509


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."

Story By: 

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.

Story By: 

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.

Story By: 

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.

Story By: 

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