marine science and the coast

Coastal hazards, geology focus of HMSC series

NEWPORT - Winter visitors to the Oregon coast can learn how the coast was formed - and how it is still being formed - in a series of exhibits, lectures and special events at Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Visitor Center in Newport.

"Coastal Hazards" is the focus of displays, exhibits, special events and lectures taking place at the center through March. The HMSC Visitor Center is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays all winter. Admission is free, although donations are suggested.

The Coastal Hazards activities kick off Saturday, Jan. 29, with a pair of talks by Eugene fossil expert Dr. William Orr, along with an opportunity for visitors to bring in their own fossils and beach finds for identification.

Orr is a University of Oregon professor of oceanography, geology and paleontology, and director of the Thomas Condon State Museum of Fossils in Eugene. He has written 80 articles and collaborated with his wife, Elizabeth, on six books, mainly on the geology of the Northwest.

Beginning at 1 p.m., Orr will talk about how scientists believe Oregon's Coast Range was created, and how that history ties to monster earthquakes still possible today. The lecture, "Oregon's Coast Range Rising to the Occasion," will focus on the geologic forces at work in the Coast Range.

At 7 p.m. on Saturday, Orr will discuss "Oregon Fossils and Volcanics: Yin and Yang," a talk about how the high quality and diversity of fossils found in the region may be the result of the volcanic activity over the last 400 million years.

Visitors are invited to bring in fossils and other items they've found on the beach for identification by HMSC marine educators that Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Local fossil and rock enthusiasts will also have their collections on display.

Through March, the Visitor Center will feature exhibits and hands-on science activities focused on coastal geology. Displays include photographs of ancient stumps and snags from uplifted trees uncovered during extreme coastal erosion, samples of local rocks and fossils, tsunami hazards maps of the Yaquina and Siletz Bays, and earthquake hazard maps. Films on tsunamis, undersea volcanoes and fossils will be shown regularly in the HMSC auditorium.

For more information call 541-867-0271.


Hatfield Marine Science Center, 541-867-0271

OSU's Lubchenco to deliver May 9 Byrne Lecture

CORVALLIS - Jane Lubchenco, a world-renowned environmental scientist, will discuss "Uncharted Seas: Navigating the Future of the Oceans" on Tuesday, May 9, at the Construction and Engineering Auditorium in Oregon State University's LaSells Stewart Center.

The lecture, which starts at 7:30 p.m., is free and open to the public. It is the latest in a series of John V. Byrne lectures on ocean science and public policy sponsored by Oregon Sea Grant and the OSU College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.

Lubchenco, an OSU Distinguished Professor of Zoology and Wayne & Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology, is internationally known for her efforts to increase understanding of the natural dynamics of Earth's ecosystems. She is involved in global efforts to find new approaches to improving human health, prosperity and well-being without disrupting the function of ecological systems upon which life depends.

Her research has focused on the evolutionary ecology of individuals, populations and communities; biodiversity, conservation biology, and global change, and related subjects.

Among her many activities, Lubchenco chairs the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program, an advanced leadership and communications training program for environmental scientists. She is co-chair of a National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis working group on "Developing the Theory of Marine Reserves," a member of the National Science Board and chair of its Task Force on the Environment, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lubchenco is the fourth lecturer in the Byrne series, named after John Byrne, OSU president from 1984-95. A marine geologist, Byrne was the first head of OSU's Oceanography Department (1972) and subsequently served as dean of research, acting dean of the Graduate School, and vice president for research and graduate studies.

Oregon Sea Grant and COAS established the lecture series to increase public awareness and discussion of current scientific and public policy issues concerning the ocean and atmosphere and related subjects.

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Jane Lubchenco, 541-737-5337

Testing continues at OSU fish lab; fact sheet now available

CORVALLIS - A multi-agency task force looking for the cause of an unusually high rate of cancer in trout at an Oregon State University research laboratory this spring is continuing to investigate the problem.

A fact sheet has been published to help area residents better understand the situation and what steps the task force is taking to address it.

The fact sheet is available by calling John McEvoy, Linn County Health Department, 541-967-3821; Robert Wilson, Benton County Health Department, 541-766-6841; or Duncan Gilroy, Oregon Health Division, 503-731-4015.

The Department of Environmental Quality recently tested the lab's well water and found no contaminants. Testing of tissues from the affected fish revealed no clues either, said Larry Curtis, chair of the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology at OSU and chair of the task force.

"It is very possible that what has triggered the two episodes that we know about is intermittent - and conceivably related to seasonally high water," Curtis said. "We may have a better shot at identifying the contaminant if we get a period of unusually wet weather."

In December of 1998, a contaminant killed thousands of rainbow trout in the OSU research lab, located one mile east of Corvallis off Highway 34. This spring, researchers at the lab discovered a number of symptoms in the fish, including high mortality, altered growth, anemia and other physical deformities. After conducting autopsies, they discovered cancerous tumors at a rate 100 times higher than normal.

The university immediately notified the Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Health Division, and the Linn and Benton county health departments. A task force comprised of representatives of those agencies and OSU was formed.

"It may be quite a while before we have the information we need to fully evaluate the potential health risks," said Grant Higginson, health officer with the Oregon Health Division in Portland. "Until more facts are known, we are encouraging people with private wells in the area to consider using bottled water for drinking and cooking, as a precaution."

The task force is continuing to investigate the water source and fish tissues. Scientists also are studying the shallow aquifer that provides well water to the area.

Gilroy, state toxicologist for the OHD, coordinated the publication of the fact sheet.

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Duncan Gilroy, 503-731-4015

Researchers track path of tidal energy

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The moon's gravity imparts tremendous energy to the Earth, raising tides throughout the global oceans. What happens to all this energy is a question that has been pondered by scientists for more than 200 years, and has consequences ranging from the history of the moon to the mixing of the oceans.

Richard Ray of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and Gary Egbert of the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University studied six years of altimeter data from the TOPEX/POSEIDON satellite to address this question.

Their findings, reported in the June 15 issue of Nature, show that about 1 "terawatt," or 25 to 30 percent of the total tidal energy dissipation, occurs in the deep ocean. The remainder occurs in shallow seas, such as on the Patagonian Shelf. A terawatt is enough energy to light 10 billion 100-watt light bulbs.

"By measuring sea level with the TOPEX/POSEIDON satellite altimeter, our knowledge of the tides in the global ocean has been remarkably improved," said Richard Ray, a geophysicist at Goddard. The accuracy is now so high that this data can be used to map empirically the tidal energy dissipation. The deep-water tidal dissipation occurs generally near rugged bottom topography such as seamounts and mid-ocean ridges.

"The observed pattern of deep-ocean dissipation is consistent with topographic scattering of tidal energy into internal motions within the water column, resulting in localized turbulence and mixing", said Egbert, an associate professor at OSU.

One important implication of this finding concerns the possible energy sources needed to maintain the ocean's large-scale "conveyor-belt" circulation and to mix upper ocean heat into the abyssal depths. It is thought that 2 terawatts are required for this process. The winds supply about 1 terawatt, and there has been speculation that the tides, by pumping energy into vertical water motions, supply the remainder. However, all current general circulation models of the oceans ignore the tides.

"It is possible that properly accounting for tidally induced ocean mixing may have important implications for long-term climate modeling," Egbert said.

In the past, most geophysical theories held that the only significant tidal energy sink was bottom friction in shallow seas.

Egbert and Ray find the sink is dominant, but it is not the whole story. There had always been suggestive evidence that tidal energy is also dissipated in the open ocean to create internal waves, but published estimates of this effect varied widely and had met with no general consensus before TOPEX/POSEIDON.

The TOPEX/POSEIDON mission, a joint U.S.-French initiative, is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Office of Earth Science, Washington, DC. The satellite was launched in August 1992, and it continues to produce sea level measurements of the highest quality. For supporting images: ftp://geodesy.gsfc.nasa.gov/dist/ray/Lynn/.


Gary Egbert, 541-737-2947

Global fisheries conference at OSU to host Newport session

CORVALLIS - The International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade (IIFET) is holding its 10th biennial conference at Oregon State University July 10-14 in Corvallis - the organization's first meeting in the U.S. since its initial conference in Alaska in 1982.

More than 500 participants from 45 countries are expected for the conference, which will look at issues ranging from fishery stocks to subsistence whaling. Conference details are available on the web at http://osu.orst.edu/Dept/IIFET/2000

On Friday, July 14, the conference will come to OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport for a special colloquium on the "History of the West Coast Fishing Industry." This event will feature presentations by prominent members of the Oregon and West Coast industries and associated organizations. The schedule follows:

  • 9 a.m.: Opening remarks, Barry Fisher, Midwater Trawlers Cooperative
  • 9:15 a.m.: Joe Easley, commercial fisherman and administrator, Oregon Trawl Commission. An overview of the trawl fishery on the West Coast from it's start in San Francisco Bay, up to the start of the joint ventures in the late 1970s.
  • 9:30 a.m.: Barry Fisher, commercial fisherman and president, Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, Newport. The groundfish sector just before and after the Magnuson Act: structural changes in the fleet, how it fishes and what it catches; some East Coast - West Coast comparisons.
  • 9:45 a.m.: Ralph Brown, commercial fisherman, Coos Bay and PFMC member. Fishing under the federal management structure: the mid-1980s to the present.
  • 10 a.m.: Discussion, followed by coffee.
  • 11 a.m.: Susan Hanna, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at OSU. Setting the fishery management stage: comparing the West Coast with other regions.
  • 11:15 a.m.: Jim Branson, former executive director, North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The Alaska fisheries and their management: pre-statehood, under state management and post-Magnuson Act.
  • 11:30 a.m.: Bob Schoning, former director of the Oregon Fish Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service. More than 50 years of government fisheries service, then and now: state, federal and international levels.
  • 11:45 a.m.: Clinton Atkinson, former director, Montlake Fisheries Lab and former fisheries attaché to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. The evolution of links with international fisheries: markets, treaties, research and fleets.
  • Noon: Discussion, followed by lunch. Following lunch, those who wish to pursue discussion begun in the morning may adjourn to Room 9 in the Hatfield Marine Science Center. The main session will continue in the auditorium.
  • 2 p.m.: John McGowan, former vice president of the Columbia River Packers Association and president of Bumble Bee Seafoods. The history of fish processing, especially canning, of Alaska, Washington and Oregon salmon and tuna.
  • 2:15 p.m.: Paul Heikkila, commercial fisherman and Coos County Extension agent. Ninety years of salmon trolling.
  • 2:30 p.m.: Lee Wiegardt, Wiegardt Brothers Oyster Company, Willapa Bay, Wash. The history of West Coast oyster production, processing and marketing.
  • 2:45 p.m.: Nick Furman, administrator, Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission and Oregon Albacore Commission. Development of crab and albacore fisheries of the West Coast (tentative).
  • 3 p.m.: Discussion, followed by coffee.
  • 4 p.m.: Zeke Grader, executive director, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, San Francisco. History of seafood processing in California and Oregon.
  • 4:15 p.m.: Christopher DeWees, California Sea Grant program, Davis, Calif. The California fisheries: a historical perspective.
  • 4:30 p.m.: General Discussion

Sponsored by OSU and its Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station (COMES), the Friday event is offered free to Oregon fishermen. However, space is limited so pre-registration is required by July 6. To register, call Pam Garland at 541-754-9080. As part of pre-registration, participants may purchase a box lunch for $10, or plan to bring along a sack lunch, enabling them to have an opportunity to interact informally with the international visitors and speakers.

For more information contact Ann L. Shriver, IIFET executive director, at 541-737-1416 or by e-mail fax at Ann.L.Shriver@orst.edu.

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Ann Shriver, 541-737-1416

OSU hosts world fisheries conference

CORVALLIS - The world's fishery experts will explore deep topics ranging from subsistence whaling in Neah Bay, Wash., to ocean farming off Bangladesh during the 10th biennial conference of the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade (IIF ET).

From July 10-13, hundreds of fishing industry leaders, researchers, educators, policy makers and regulators from 45 countries will fill the CH2M HILL Alumni Center and the LaSells Stewart Center at OSU for "Microbehavior and Macroresults." The title refl ects the conference theme: The ways that individual choices shape the fisheries industry's reality.

Whether they are made by fishing fleets on the open sea, or by consumers at a fish market, these choices can have a global effect on the ecology and the economy of the world's fishing industries, communities, fisheries and future, said Richard Johnston, IIFET founder and an OSU fisheries economist.

To deepen the understanding of this decision-making process, IIFET has invited non-fishing industry presenters such as biologists, ecologists, legal scholars, historians and social scientists to this 2000 biennial conference.

The conference schedule offers both formal and informal seminars where these representatives can address topics such as "Compliance: Why Do People Obey the Law?" and "Property Rights: Design Lessons."

Fishing industry leaders and government policy-makers will present views on developments in food marking and how they relate to management decisions.

One multi-session seminar examines the history and cultural importance of subsistence whaling to some North American indigenous peoples. Among those expected to make presentations is film producer Sandra Osawa. A member of the Makah Nation, Osawa will of fer cultural perspectives regarding the controversy sparked by the Makah's resumption of a ceremonial whale hunt.

Equally topical is the complex task of helping historic fishing communities make basic economic transitions where fisheries have declined.

Other seminars will focus topics such as eco-labeling and organic labeling; using aquaculture to produce food and medicine the health benefits of eating seafood.

A full listing of the topics, speakers schedule and abstracts of specific presentations is available at the IIFET web site.

Ann Shriver, an OSU resource economist who has been IIFET director since 1987, said that while IIFET's business matters are headquartered at OSU, its activities as a neutral international forum exist worldwide. Through this forum, academics, industry and government fisheries experts can freely exchange information vital to shaping sound global resource management and trade decisions.

IIFET grew from a discussion more than 20 years ago between Johnston and several other fisheries economists about the difficulties of uniting government and fisheries experts together at an international forum to discuss fisheries matters of mutual inter est.

"We needed a neutral setting in which we could talk to each other without shouting," he said, smiling.

After the discussion, Johnston took a sabbatical leave and spent much of his time exploring what was needed to make such a forum a reality. With assistance from both OSU Sea Grant and Alaska Sea Grant, Johnston worked to organize a nine-member core commi ttee that keeps the lines of ocean fisheries communication open.

The first conference was in Alaska, but all other IIFET conferences have been held every two years in places such as Morocco, Norway, Paris and Taiwan.

Back for the first time to its origins, this 2000 biennial gathering at OSU highlights the expansion of IIFET's global fisheries information exchange.

"This conference will be only the first conversation in what we hope to be a continuing discussion," Johnston said. Follow-up activities to the conference will include a website links, collaborative research, a new journal, working papers and computer di scussion groups.


Richard Johnston, 541-737-1427

Fate of the coasts is topic of Portland conference

PORTLAND - The state of the coasts and what changes in population, climate, and environment are likely to bring in the next 100 years is the focus of "Coasts at the Millennium" the seventeenth biennial conference of the Coastal Society.

Designed for everyone from researchers to public officials to community members, the conference runs Sunday, June 9, through Wednesday, June 12, at the Portland Marriott Downtown. For more information, see the conference web site or contact conference coordinator, Laurie Jodice, at jodicel@oce.orst.edu or 541-737-1340. Registration is available at the door. Fees are $105 for single-day registration or $315 for the entire conference.

"The conference is aimed at coastal and ocean management professionals, public officials, citizen activists and others interested in learning more about the challenges facing coasts and the people who live, work, and visit there," said James Good, an Oregon State University professor of oceanic and atmospheric sciences and conference co-chair.

"More than 160 conference participants will make presentations on a broad range of coastal topics, from restoring habitat and cleaning up water pollution on the lower Columbia River, to sustainable hazards mitigation, to the underwater archeological preservation of ancient Alexandria, Egypt," he said.

"Topics will be examined in detail, including technical and interactive sessions."

Three field trips and two special workshops are scheduled for Sunday, July 9. On Thursday, July 13, there will be another workshop on invasive species in ship ballast water.

Speakers include Dee Hock, founder and coordinating director of the Chaordic Alliance, and founder and retired chief executive officer of VISA International. The Chaordic Alliance works to link people and organizations throughout the world to develop more effective and equitable concepts of commercial, political, and social organization .

The conference is also the kick-off for a new regional Cascadia Chapter of the Coastal Society, with a Tuesday evening reception at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Anyone interested in ocean and coastal issues in the Pacific Northwest is encouraged to attend the reception, Good said. Conference sponsors include OSU's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon Sea Grant, Microsoft Corp., the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Puget Sound National Estuary Project and the U.S. Geological Survey. The Coastal Society is an organization of private sector, academic, and government professionals and students working to address emerging coastal issues by fostering dialogue, forging partnerships, and promoting communication and education. More information is available at their web site http://www.thecoastalsociety.org.


James Good, 541-737-1339

HMSC Visitor Center launches new Web site

NEWPORT - The visitor center at Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center has launched a new Web site combining highlights of its public aquarium exhibits and programs with information about the center's marine education programs for students, families and teachers.

The new site can be found at http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/visitor

"We hope our new, improved Web presence will encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to learn more about Oregon's ocean and coastal environment," said Nancee Hunter, director of education for Oregon Sea Grant, the OSU-based research and outreach program, which manages the visitor center.

Among the site's features:

  • A growing gallery of photos and descriptions of marine animals that populate the visitor center's living exhibits;
  • Up-to-date information about marine education classes, programs and tours for K-12 and home-school students, teachers and families;
  • The home base of Oregon Coast Quests, a place-based adventure in the natural and cultural history of the central Oregon coast;
  • A behind-the-scenes peek at the center's animal husbandry program;
  • An "Ask A Scientist" feature that allows visitors to submit questions about ocean and coastal science and have them answered by OSU researchers and Extension experts;
  • A gateway to the popular HMSC Bookstore and its secure online store.

The site was designed by Oregon Sea Grant graphic artist Patricia Andersson and webmaster Pat Kight and implemented by OSU's Central Web Services, with content provided by subject-matter experts and marine educators at the Visitor Center.

The HMSC Visitor Center has acquainted visitors with marine species, marine research and the coastal environment since June of 1965. It serves as the public face of OSU's larger Mark O. Hatfield Marine Science Center, a campus of laboratories and classrooms where scientists and students from the university, along with state and federal resource agencies, conduct research on topics ranging from whale migration and undersea volcanoes to global climate change. The visitor center helps bring their work to the public through exhibits, lectures, seminars and other activities.

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Nancee Hunter, 541-867-0357

The science of ocean observing

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A team of scientists and engineers are about to launch a project to create an ocean observatory off the Pacific Northwest coast. Within the next few years, an array of instruments will stretch from Newport, Ore., and Grays Harbor, Wash., westward, complemented by a fleet of data-collecting undersea gliders.

The footprint of this array will extend into the North Pacific by a fiber-optic cabled observatory on the Juan de Fuca Plate and a permanent open-ocean site in the Gulf of Alaska.

What do scientists hope to learn?

“Once we turn this thing on, the data we gather within a year will be staggering,” said Oregon State University oceanographer Jack Barth. “It will provide information on climate change, ocean biology, winds and currents…on just about everything. We will be able to analyze storms at sea for the first time and actually measure how much carbon dioxide gets washed out from the near-shore to the deep ocean. The possibilities are endless.”

OSU oceanographers leading the project say there are a number of scientific themes that will be central to the observatory. They include:

  • The ocean-atmosphere exchange of energy during high storms and winds, giving scientists better climate change models and storm predicting ability;
  • A better understanding of climate change, especially the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle, and the impacts of climate variability on ocean circulation, acidification, food webs, ecosystem structures, and weather;
  • How the mixing of water, heat and energy affect plankton growth and distribution, and the transport of carbon to the deep ocean;
  • The role of coastal margins in the global carbon cycles and the dynamics of episodic events including hypoxia, harmful algal blooms and El Niño/La Niña;
  • The role of the ocean crust in carbon cycling, heat exchange, and the formation of methane gas and hydrates, as well as the role hydrothermal vents play in ocean chemistry (including acidification) and the unique biological communities associated with them;
  • Tectonic plate dynamics, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and tsunamis.

OSU scientists say the episodic nature of field expedition research will be augmented by a transformative 24/7 capability that will give researchers greater insights into climate change and ocean health, said Mark Abbott, dean of the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.

“We’ve tried to understand the ocean by conducting research for a couple of weeks at a time under different conditions in different locations,” Abbott said. “That’s like trying to understand the weather by going outside every July 10 and drawing grand conclusions. Our knowledge and understand will grow exponentially.”

State Sen. Betsy Johnson, who chairs the Oregon Coastal Caucus, said the announcement of the Ocean Observatories Initiative builds on the research strengths of OSU and its partners in marine sciences.

“The Coastal Caucus is looking forward to the scientific information OSU will generate with this project,” Johnson said. “With the state investments we made last session to conduct ocean floor mapping, our help with the recruitment of the NOAA fleet, and our support for other marine research, it is clear that we are well on the way to achieving a critical mass in oceanic sciences, thanks to the combined effort of the legislature, the governor and the federal government.”

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Mark Abbott, 541-737-5195 

OSU major participant in initiative to create global ocean observatory system

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A cooperative agreement between the National Science Foundation and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership to support the Ocean Observatories Initiative, which was announced today in Washington, D.C., will create a global ocean observing network, part of which will operate off the Oregon and Washington coasts.

The $386.4 million initiative has coastal, regional and global ocean elements and Oregon State University will join the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in leading the coastal element. Woods Hole and Scripps Institution of Oceanography will lead the global element, and the University of Washington will deploy the cabled seafloor network. The University of California-San Diego provides the cyberinfrastructure.

Overall management and coordination for the project is provided by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, a non-profit organization comprised of 95 public and private ocean research institutions.

OSU’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences will coordinate the development and operation of three observatory sites off Newport, Ore., and three sites off Grays Harbor, Wash. OSU researchers will receive approximately $14 million over the next five years to develop and deploy a system of surface moorings, seafloor platforms and undersea gliders that will give scientists an unprecedented look at how the ocean responds to changes in climate.

“Investing in ocean observing and monitoring is precisely what California Gov. (Arnold) Schwarzenegger, Washington Gov. (Christine) Gregoire and I called for in the ‘West Coast Governors Agreement on Ocean Health,’” said Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski. “The Ocean Observatories Initiative demonstrates a successful partnership between the states and the federal government as we begin to unlock the mysteries of the deep ocean.

“The College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU is a national leader in conducting cutting-edge research that has real life applications and with this new initiative the public will learn more about our vast ocean and the effects of climate change,” Kulongoski added.

The Northwest region has drawn considerable interest from scientists because of the increasing frequency of hypoxia (low-oxygen) events leading to biological “dead zones.” Pacific Ocean waters here also experience toxic algal blooms, play a critical role in sequestering atmospheric carbon, and are subject to highly variable biological production that has an impact on the entire marine food web, including salmon.

An observatory network also will help scientists better evaluate local impacts from global issues including ocean acidification, and the sites off Newport and Gray’s Harbor are strategically positioned to provide monitoring of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which has the potential to produce catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis.

“The Oregon and southwest Washington coastal waters provide an ideal laboratory for learning how the ocean responds to variability in climate, whether it is natural or triggered by human activity,” said Mark Abbott, dean of OSU’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.

“This project will be transformative in that our ability to observe and monitor the ocean will be constant – 24 hours a day instead of the episodic nature of a week at sea here and there,” Abbott added.

The Ocean Observatories Initiative has been in the planning stages since the year 2000, after more than a decade of discussion within the oceanographic research community. The project is being led by Tim Cowles, an OSU oceanographer serving as director of the Ocean Observatories Initiative program office at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

OSU’s role in the initiative focuses primarily on developing the six sites off Newport and Grays Harbor. Called the Endurance Array, the sites will be spread across the continental shelf at 25 meters, 80 meters and 500 meters on east-west lines from Newport and Grays Harbor.

The sites at 80 and 500 meters off Newport will be connected to a cabled observatory operated by the University of Washington that provides continuous high bandwidth and power to run a variety of oceanographic instruments, said Robert Collier, an OSU oceanographer and project manager for the Endurance Array.

“It will be like having underwater laboratories at each location,” Collier said. “One of the limitations of ocean research has been the lack of power and connectivity. That will no longer be a problem.”

Each of the six sites will have surface moorings, water column profilers and seafloor sensors, Collier said. The basic “core” instrumentation will measure water and air temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen content, carbon dioxide levels, phytoplankton, wave heights, current directions and velocity, and meteorological data, including wind. One instrument will use acoustics to monitor zooplankton size, levels and distribution, giving scientists an unprecedented look at how the biological ocean responds to changes in the physical ocean.

“This is just the beginning,” said Jack Barth, also a professor of oceanography and project scientist with the initiative. “Researchers in the future will be able to bring in their own experiments using new technology. One example is a methane ‘sniffer’ now under development to detect the presence of methane hydrates leaking out from the sea floor.”

Complementing the various moorings and instruments will be a fleet of undersea gliders, which OSU will operate, along with the moored infrastructure. The National Science Foundation funding will allow the purchase of 12 new gliders that will be able to patrol adjacent waters along the Oregon and Washington coast lines and gather additional data.

The first instruments are scheduled to be in the water in late 2012 or early 2013, after production engineering and prototyping, according to Ed Dever, OSU oceanographer and system engineer. The project is designed for a 25-year lifespan.

Cowles said data from the observatory will be shared not only among scientists, but with the public.

“The elements will be linked into a single integrated network through satellite communications, fiber optic cables and sophisticated software,” Cowles said, “all of which will provide data access to scientists, teachers, students and policy makers.”

OSU and University of Washington scientists also are working with the fishing industry to look for ways to maximize the benefits of the data that will be collected and contribute to sustainable fisheries, according to Collier. “We look forward to collaborating with coastal communities and a variety of ocean users to identify the final locations of the moorings and other instrumentation,” he said.

The observatory agreement coincides with the 50th anniversary of the oceanography program at Oregon State, and dovetails with other ocean monitoring efforts the university has conducted over the years with funding from NSF and NOAA.

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Mark Abbott, 541-737-5195 

Multimedia Downloads

Northwest Ocean Observatory
This map of the Endurance Array off the Northwest coast shows mooring sites planned at water depths of 25 meters, 80 meters and 500 meters in two lines – one off Newport, Ore., and the other off Grays Harbor, Wash. Gliders will provide additional cross-shelf sampling. (Map courtesy of the Ocean Observatories Initiative’s Implementing Organizations)

This diagram of the Endurance Array platforms shows how cross-shelf moorings and cabled nodes off Oregon may be deployed, featuring surface moorings and profilers, “Benthic Experiment Platforms” (BEP) and the cabled infrastructure (RSN). A glider will patrol along cross-shelf lines near each moored array. (Diagram courtesy of the Ocean Observatories Initiative’s Implementing Organizations)

OSU Glider

This is one of several autonomous underwater gliders that will continuously sample Pacific Northwest ocean waters as part of the initiative. The tail fin contains a GPS antenna used to determine the location, and a satellite cell phone for sending data to scientists in near real-time. (Photo courtesy of Susan Holmes, OSU)