marine science and the coast

NOAA taps OSU as cooperative institute for satellite studies

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has given a five-year grant of at least $2.5 million to Oregon State University to establish its first Cooperative Institute for Oceanographic Satellite Studies.

OSU's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences will administer the grant, which could expand to as much as nearly $21 million. COAS has become an international leader in the use of satellite technology to study the world's oceans, and its advanced computing network for marine research is one of the most sophisticated of its kind in the world.

The grant establishes a partnership between the university and NOAA to develop a wide-ranging research program that will help the federal agency improve its operations, according to Mark Abbott, dean of the OSU college.

"What the institute will do is allow our faculty to collaborate more closely with NOAA to create a focal point for satellite-based oceanographic research," Abbott said. "The use of satellites to study the oceans, coastlines and climate has tremendous potential, and we've only begun to scratch the surface of that research."

"We will be able to create an enormous baseline of data that will have implications for climate modeling and prediction, a better understanding of El Nino and La Nina influences, tsunami and storm research, and the impact of currents and erosion on the coast and coastal communities," he added.

Among the goals of the new Cooperative Institute for Oceanographic Satellite Studies (CIOSS):

  • Promote greater use of satellite oceanographic data in ocean and climate research projects;
  • Develop technology and techniques supporting the highest quality environmental prediction and assessment products;
  • Improve the use of satellite oceanographic data in environmental prediction models;
  • Promote the availability of satellite-derived environmental data and information through full and open access and exchange; and
  • Provide national and global leadership in civilian oceanography through the development of new satellite oceanographic sensors, applications and education.

Ultimately, the public will reap the benefits of the new cooperative institute through increased knowledge of the world's oceans and climates and how they interrelate, officials say.

"The goal of this institute is to help unlock some of the mysteries of the climate and ocean that will lead to better forecasting and monitoring products through increased use of data," said Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

OSU President Tim White emphasized the role of CIOSS in improving our understanding of coastal oceans. "This new institute will continue our long partnership with NOAA and bring the power of remote sensing to the study of our nation's coastal ocean and its links to the deep ocean and atmosphere," he said.

A division of NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service funds four other cooperative institutes in atmospheric sciences, but the program at OSU is the first with an emphasis on the coastal ocean.

Abbott said the initial focus of the institute's research would be the California Current system, which roughly parallels the West Coast of the United States within 500 miles of the coast and greatly influences the weather of a huge area.

"Some of the prediction models and products that we develop for that system will have applications to other coastal regions of the U.S. and the world," Abbott said.

The five-year grant will provide funds of at least $500,000 each year. However, additional proposals to NOAA could increase this amount to $5 million annually in the final four years of the grant. The grant is renewable for another six years, after which OSU will have the opportunity to compete again for the funding for another extended period.

The National Research Council has rated OSU's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences as one of the top five oceanographic institutions in the nation.

Story By: 

Mark Abbott, 541-737-5195

OSU appoints new director of Marine/Freshwater Biomedical Center

CORVALLIS - After serving for the past several years as deputy director, David Williams, professor of environmental and molecular toxicology, assumed directorship of the Oregon State University Marine/Freshwater Biomedical Sciences Center on Jan. 1.

Williams replaces George Bailey, who will remain with the center to concentrate on his research.

Bailey, distinguished professor of environmental and molecular toxicology, has been director of the center since its inception in 1985 following a $1.8 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Williams, who has been at the center since 1987, said he expects the center will continue to grow and develop new areas of research using aquatic models. He said there are nine principal investigators, 20 postdoctoral trainees, nine undergraduate and 34 graduate students currently associated with the center. Center investigators were successful in attracting more than $7 million dollars in extramural research funding in 2001 alone.

"Our goal is to identify productive avenues of research and develop new models in order to continue as leaders in the utilization of aquatic species in biomedical research," Williams said. "The center is extremely fortunate to have strong institutional support and close ties to other related programs, including the Environmental Health Sciences Center, The Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology and the Linus Pauling Institute".

Williams is in the process of moving into a newly renovated lab on the fourth floor of Weniger Hall on the OSU campus and the lab next door will be renovated for Bailey. The center's offices will also move to the fourth floor of Weniger Hall.

The center will continue to promote research and training activities that utilize aquatic research models to investigate environmentally related human diseases. Current research focuses on the study of cancer and neurotoxicology.

"We have several exciting studies under way and we recently submitted a grant proposal to the National Cancer Institute to study chlorophyllin using trout as a model," Williams said. "During the last funding cycle we added neurotoxicology research as a focus. The neurotoxicology unit has been doing outstanding work."

The Neurotoxicology Research Core links the laboratories of a natural products chemist, a synthetic chemist, a neuropharmacologist, and a cell biochemist into a cohesive program to discover and describe the properties of new neurotoxins from marine microalgae.


David Williams, 541-737-3277

Extension-sponsored video receives Telly Award

"Coming Home Was Easy" explores the history and culture of trolling through the recollections of 15 fishermen and women grounded in outdoor experience. Their stories are honest, funny, and profound.

Featuring scenes of contemporary fishing, historic footage and photographs taken by the trollers themselves, and music by Pacific Northwest folk artists, the video was produced by Jim Bergeron and Lawrence Johnson. The Clatsop County Oral History Fund sponsored the interviews. Margaret Hollenbach, a cultural anthropologist and writer for Pacific Fishing magazine, wrote the script.

"Coming Home Was Easy" shows how, through a combination of adaptation and what the filmmakers call just plain stubbornness, trollers continue their way of life into the 21st century.

The Telly Awards program was founded in 1980, giving recognition to outstanding film and video productions, non-network TV programming and non-network and cable TV commercials.

Since its inception, the Telly Awards has become a well-known national competition; more than 10,000 entries are received each year. Judges rate each on a 10-point scale, and any entry receiving a score of 7 to 8.9 is a finalist and receives a Bronze Telly. All entries receiving 9 or higher are judged "winners" and receive Silver awards.

Winners in last year's competition included entries from the U.S. Postal Service, Nabisco, Coca-Cola, The Weather Channel, MTV and the Cartoon Network.

"Coming Home Was Easy" is available on videotape ($25 plus $3.50 postage) from Oregon Sea Grant Communications, Oregon State University, 322 Kerr, Admin. Bldg., Corvallis, OR 97331-2131.

Bergeron, an OSU graduate, went on teach high school and oceanographic technology at Clatsop Community College, as well as commercial fisheries courses at Kodiak Community College. After working in the fishing industry for several years, he took the position of Extension Sea Grant agent at Astoria, a position he held 27 years, until retiring in January 2002.

Johnson has been making documentary films and videos since 1983. His work in history and culture has received many awards. He writes and produces programming for museums across the country.


Extension Sea Grant, 541-737-8935

Seals on the beach: Leave them alone

NEWPORT - Tamara McGuire knows why people try to "rescue" baby seals from the beach, even though the action actually endangers them.

"They're adorable," she said.

McGuire is the new coordinator for the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Working out of Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center, she responds to any report of a marine mammal washing up on the Oregon coast, alive or dead, and coordinates volunteers who watch the beaches for such events.

At this time of year, the biggest problem is people trying to rescue seal pups that don't need rescuing, despite their apparent helplessness.

Seals give birth to their pups on Oregon beaches in the spring. At times, the mother seal will give birth to a pup that is not fully developed and must leave it ashore for periods of time while the pup completes its development and the mother hunts for food. The mother will return to nurse the pup at night, when there are no people about. Pups will often spend as long as a week on the beach before they have developed enough to go to sea with their mothers.

The animals are so cute, and appear so helpless, that people just feel compelled to try to help them, McGuire said. But if they do, there's a good chance the young animal, cut off from its mother, will die.

Picking the animals up drastically increases the chance that the animal will not survive, she said.

Every year, people pick up pups and try to take them to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Marine Mammal Stranding Network at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center, or the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. It is not uncommon for seal pups to end up in motel bathtubs as well-meaning rescuers try to find someone to save it.

The reality is, there is no facility on the coast that will take the animals. It's actually against state law to harass stranded seal pups, and that includes removing them from the beach for their "protection."

In late March McGuire got a call about a pup that appeared abandoned at Salishan Spit, so she went to investigate. Until then, she said, she never really understood the impulse to try to help the infant seals. When she found it motionless on the beach, she at first assumed it was dead.

"Then it raised its head and looked at me. They're adorable, with those deep brown eyes. And they make a cry to keep in contact with their mother."

She left the newly born pup on the beach under the assumption that the mother was nearby at sea and would continue caring for it.

In another recent incident at Gold Beach, a ranger, going down a trail ran into a visitor coming up the trail with a pup under its arm. He explained the situation and helped the visitor return it to the spot where it was found.

During the next few weeks McGuire expects to begin receiving dozens, perhaps hundreds, of similar calls. If visitors to the beach find a stranded seal pup, she said, the best thing for them to do is leave it alone - and make sure other people and dogs keep away from the young animals. There is nothing more to do, and nothing else that legally can be done.

"If you really want to help, if you just can't walk off and leave the animal alone, call the hotline," McGuire said.

The coastal hotline was set up to report live or dead marine mammals, or harassment of marine mammals by people or their pets. The number is 1-800-452-7888.

The Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network also responds to seals, sea lions, dolphins and whales that wash up on the beach, attempting either to care for them or, in the case of dead animals, determining the cause of death. In a recent case, she said, a young gray whale washed ashore north of Newport, a crab pot and length line wrapped around its tail. Such cases are important to document, she said.

The funding for McGuire's position comes from a one-year, renewable federal grant administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, specifically set up for marine mammal protection.


Tamara McGuire, 541-867-0446

OSU Institute Gets Grant from Irwins to Study Whales in Southern Hemisphere

NEWPORT, Ore. – The Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University will begin studies in 2008 in both the southern and northern hemispheres on a variety of whale species to improve information on their habitats and stock identity, which could eliminate the need for killing whales solely for gathering research data.

Funding for the project, which will use high-tech, non-lethal methods, will be provided primarily through grants from Terri Irwin, wife of internationally recognized wildlife advocate Steve Irwin (the “Crocodile Hunter”).

Japan has been a focal point in recent years for harvesting whales for scientific purposes – a practice that has put the country at odds with many in the scientific community and the public at-large. The Japanese whaling fleet had planned to kill up to 50 endangered humpback whales this year, but in the wake of international protests, officials there announced they would suspend their harvest of humpback whales, but will continue with plans to kill 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales.

Both humpback and fin whales are listed on the Endangered Species List in the United States, and considered “vulnerable” in the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Redbook.

“Very few people in the scientific community believe that the best way to study these amazing animals is to kill them,” said Bruce Mate, director of OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute and an internationally recognized expert in whale migration and behavior.

Terri Irwin, who announced the research plans in an interview with Australian journalists, has been a vocal opponent of Japan’s harvesting of whales for scientific data. “We can actually learn everything the Japanese are learning with lethal research by using non-lethal research,” she said.

Mate said the new project will identify migration routes, critical habitats and ranges of the whales – factors that ultimately will improve population estimates and help resource managers identify stocks.

“Marine mammal researchers worldwide have not agreed on population estimates for most southern hemisphere whale populations,” Mate said. “We hope that the data we collect will determine for the first time which whale stocks were most affected by historic whaling at specific sites – and allow us to estimate where we are in the recovery of those specific depleted populations.”

A side benefit of the research, Mate added, will be the identification of “hot spots” of whale feeding and breeding activities that could be better protected against inadvertent impacts from human activities.

Much of the OSU research will involve the use of satellite-monitored radio tagging, pioneered by Mate, to track migration, feeding, breeding and calving activities. Another integral component of the research will focus on whale genetics and hormone data, collected in a non-lethal manner, which will identify specific population stocks. Scott Baker, associate director of OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute, will conduct those studies.

The contributions by the Irwin family from Australia Zoo and Wildlife Warriors Worldwide will fund research at the OSU Marine Mammal Institute for several years, Mate said. Though details are still being developed, research will be conducted annually in both the southern and northern hemispheres, focusing on species depleted due to whaling.

“I have confidence that the research we are sponsoring will demonstrate how advanced technology can replace harvest-based data,” said Terri Irwin.

More information on OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute is available online at: http://mmi.oregonstate.edu.html.

Story By: 

Bruce Mate,
541-867-0202; 541-272-1175 (cell)

Wave Tests Measure Forces of Hurricane Flooding

CORVALLIS, Ore. – It’s flood season in the Pacific Northwest, and one house is being particularly hard-hit – large waves are lapping at its door, over and over again.

This modest wood-frame structure, however, is at the Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory at Oregon State University, only about three feet high, and can be rebuilt after it collapses, time after time.

From it, experts are learning much about just what happens when a structure is battered repeatedly by waves, especially the type found in hurricane storm surges. At some point in the future, that knowledge may translate into better building codes or improved construction standards that could reduce both the physical damage and loss of life from these catastrophic events.

“When we toured the areas near the beaches that suffered the most damage from Hurricane Katrina, it was apparent that much of the greatest physical damage came not from the wind but from the storm surge,” said Rakesh Gupta, a professor of wood science and engineering in the OSU College of Forestry. “These waves are very powerful, and most wood structures simply can’t resist those kinds of forces.”

In the end, Gupta said, it may never be economical and practical to build wood structures capable of withstanding a 10-20 foot wall of water driven by a hurricane. But that’s not a foregone conclusion, he said, and researchers will only know the possibilities once the data is all processed. Improved building concepts may go a long way toward reduce storm-surge damage to all types of buildings, he pointed out.

The storm surge from Hurricane Katrina in some places came inland almost a mile, causing enormous damage. Storm surges from hurricanes or other major storm events can vary greatly depending on the severity of the storm, topography, wind speeds, barriers, tide levels and many other factors.

“We have a fairly good understanding of the forces on homes caused by conventional flooding, but not these more powerful storm surges,” Gupta said. “In this study, we’re measuring those forces very carefully, how they are being transferred, and will be able to use that data to consider different construction approaches.”

On the small model, four sensors determine loads on the structure and one measures the amount of deflection. The research, done by the Hurricane Katrina Woodframe Damage Assessment Team, is funded by the National Science Foundation, one part of larger efforts to understand and reduce building damage from severe weather events.

Gupta, an expert in timber engineering and mechanics, has done related work in understanding the forces on structures from earthquakes, windstorms, and other issues.

Editor’s Note: Gupta and graduate student Jebediah Wilson will continue their tests on the wood frame home in one of the wave basins at the Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory on Thursday and Friday of this week. Media interested in still or video photography can contact Gupta directly during that period at cell phone 541-760-8786.

Story By: 

Rakesh Gupta,

New National Map Shows Relative Risk for Invasion of Zebra and Quagga Mussels

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The spread of two invasive alien freshwater mussel species – the zebra mussel and the quagga mussel – appears to be controlled in part by calcium levels in streams and lakes and a new risk assessment based on water chemistry suggests the Great Plains and American Southwest could be next in line for invasion.

Results of the study were published this week in the online version of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, a journal of the Ecological Society of America.

The research team that developed the analysis notes that nearly 60 percent of the country, including the Plains states and the Southwest, is in a high-risk ecoregion, based on calcium levels greater than 28 milligrams per liter of water. About 21 percent of the country – including New England, most of the Southeast, and the western portions of the Pacific Northwest – are at low (12-20 mg) or very low (less than 12 mg) risk for invasion. And in about 19 percent of the country, surface waters have highly variable calcium levels and conditions may change from one lake or river to another, based on geology.

“The good news is that many of these high-risk areas don’t have a lot of lakes,” said Thom Whittier, a faculty research assistant in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “However, these mussels seem to be working their way west and becoming established in places where they’ve never been seen.”

Until 2007, neither mussel species had been found in the western United States, but well-established quagga colonies were discovered earlier this year in Nevada’s Lake Mead, and downstream in Lake Havasu and Lake Mojave, as well as the Colorado-California aqueduct. By this fall, they had been found in several reservoirs in San Diego and Riverside counties in California, as well as in Arizona, Whittier said.

Both of these invasive mussel species require more calcium than most native mussels and have difficulty becoming established in low-calcium areas. Unlike most freshwater mussels, these invasive species release their eggs into the water where they are fertilized and the larvae – called veligers – float for up to a month.

“If there isn’t enough calcium in the water, you probably aren’t going to get zebra or quagga mussels,” Whittier pointed out. “If you have sufficient calcium, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a problem. These mussels also need colonies in still water to maintain populations over the long term. In rivers, this means there needs to be an invaded upstream lake, canal or reservoir to supply new larvae.”

Zebra mussels were first found in the lower Great Lakes in the late 1980s, likely introduced to the United States through ballast water in large ships. Over the next dozen years, they spread rapidly throughout parts of the eastern U.S. and are now found in all of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, and in large portions of the St. Lawrence, Ohio, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Hudson and Cumberland rivers. They also are found in numerous inland lakes in the New York and the upper Midwest.

Quagga mussels were introduced to the Great Lakes at about the same time, but spread more slowly and initially settled in deeper water. Because they spread slowly, they have received less attention from the public and from researchers. But now quagga mussels are found in all of the Great Lakes and in shallower waters, and appear to be replacing zebra mussels.

The spread of invasive mussels from one lake to another can occur via connecting waterways – or through recreational boaters, according to Alan Herlihy, an OSU research professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

“If people put their boat into a lake with these mussels one weekend, then take their boat out and put it into a different lake the next weekend, they may be transporting live mussel larvae or adults,” Herlihy said. “There are indications that adult mussels can live for many days out of water – especially if the weather is cool and wet.”

These invasive mussel species have caused millions of dollars in damage and untold ecological damage, the researchers point out. When the veligers eventually settle out of the water column, they often attach in large numbers to all sorts of human structures, including water intakes – which they quickly clog – as well as boats, buoys, motors, and engine cooling systems.

They also attach to, and weigh down, native freshwater clams and mussels, crayfish and even large aquatic insects like larval dragonflies. When they attach to native clams and mussels, the researchers say, these invaded compete directly for food.

“These mussels are extraordinarily prolific,” Whitter said. “A female zebra mussel may produce a million eggs a year, and when they establish a colony, they are hard to get rid of. They also filter huge volumes of water, and by consuming phytoplankton, they can dramatically change the aquatic food web of the lake, reservoir or river.”

The research team – which also includes Paul Ringold, an ecologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Sue Pierson, a geographer with Indus Corp. in Corvallis, Ore. – used calcium concentration data from more than 3,000 river and stream sites across the contiguous U.S. for its study. Most of the reported occurrences of zebra and quagga mussels are in regions the researchers had classified as high-risk based on calcium levels.

Some sightings have occurred in low-risk areas, but these usually were in rivers that drain high-calcium regions. Ancient seabeds are high in calcium, the researchers say, while basaltic rock, like that found along much of the West Coast, has low calcium levels.

“If there isn’t enough calcium in the water it probably won’t kill the mussels outright,” Herlihy said, “but they don’t seem to grow well. And once they’re established, they’re horribly difficult to eradicate. Preventing their spread is without doubt the best way to go with zebra and quagga mussels.”

Some states have implemented boat washing stations at certain lakes and rivers, the researchers pointed out.

“As scientists, when we do our research, we scrub and disinfect our boots, our nets and all of our equipment,” Herlihy said. “We take this threat seriously.”

Story By: 

Thom Whittier,

Multimedia Downloads

Zebra Mussels
Zebra Mussel risk map

Extreme Tides in November, December Provide Hazards – and a Challenge for Scientists

NEWPORT, Ore. – A series of extremely high tides, directly followed by strong “minus” tides, may provide more than a curiosity of nature along the Oregon coast this November and December.

The resulting tidal surge – especially if accompanied by a strong storm – can create danger for boaters and beachcombers – and threaten oceanfront homes with erosion and high water, according to ocean experts at Oregon State University.

And strong tide changes create an interesting dynamic at river bars – the creation of unpredictable, sharp-breaking waves that have claimed the lives of numerous boaters in Oregon.

“The Oregon coast is a dynamic place and when you get a combination of storms, extreme tides and high waves mixed in with a strong river current, it can get pretty wild,” said Tuba Ozkan-Haller, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences and an expert on nearshore and beach processes.

“The Columbia River is a great example of that,” she added. “There’s a reason why the mouth has been called the ‘graveyard of the Pacific Ocean.’ But it isn’t alone. In conditions like these, most of the bars and mouths of rivers in Oregon can be a hazardous place to be.”

Tidal measurements vary along the coast, but high tides reaching 10.0 feet at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport are considered quite strong. On Friday, Nov. 23, the predicted high tide is 10.3 feet at 10:04 a.m.; and on Saturday (10:48 a.m.) and Sunday (11:33 a.m.), the high tides are projected to reach a lofty 10.6 feet.

Ocean water surging inland can carry high onto beaches, especially if the tidal impact is exacerbated by a strong storm, which increases the chances of coastal erosion. But it is the outgoing tide that concerns Ozkan-Haller, who has been studying the effects of where tidal currents meet ocean waves.

“When ocean waves come into shore, they eventually reach shallower water and shoal up,” she said. “They get shorter and steeper, and they can break offshore – typically off the mouths of bars. When the outgoing tide is strong, the impact on the waves can be quite significant. It can create a real problem for boats – not just recreational fishermen, but large, ocean-going cargo ships as well.”

And that is the challenge nature is throwing in November. Those huge 10.6-foot high tides are followed on Saturday and Sunday by -2.1 and -2.2 (minus) tides. That is nearly a 13-foot difference between high and low tides, Ozkan-Haller pointed out.

In her studies, Ozkan-Haller has found that even a modest 4-meter wave rolling toward the Oregon coast will grow to five meters as it begins to shoal. When it comes up against an average outgoing tide, it will grow to six meters. The stronger the tides, she says, the greater the impact on wave heights. Throw a storm, or high swells into the mix, and modest waves can become intimidating.

What the researchers haven’t yet discovered is how and when those tide-induced waves will break, she said.

“We’ve been working with bar pilots on the Columbia, who are desperate for some kind of predictive capability for waves breaking at the mouth of the river,” Ozkan-Haller said. “Bar pilots have to make a decision about leaving Portland 6-8 hours before reaching the bar and once they go, they’re committed. Many of the larger ships are too big to turn around, and there may not be enough room downriver to anchor safely.

“Making those decisions is an art based on experience and the observation of other pilots,” she added. “We’re trying to help add some research-based science to their extraordinary art.”

Scientists have capably demonstrated an ability to create models that predict when there will be whitecaps off the coast and when waves will break because of shallow water. However, preliminary attempts to predict when current-induced waves will break haven’t been successful and Ozkan-Haller and colleagues are seeking funding to initiate a project focusing on the Columbia River.

It’s a complicated world off the Oregon coast. And when surging high tides are followed by extreme minus tides, the turbulent nearshore processes become even more pronounced.

“A major tidal exchange doesn’t always end in catastrophe,” Ozkan-Haller said. “The Oregon coast has seen a lot of extremes over the years. But these are very high tides, followed by very low tides – and if a storm should happen to hit, it could be interesting.”

And if nothing happens in November, stay tuned. The same scenario will repeat itself in December.

Date High Tide/Time Low Tide/Time

Friday, Nov. 23 10.3 feet (10:04 a.m.) -1.6 feet (5:09 p.m.)

Saturday, Nov. 24 10.6 feet (10:48 a.m.) -2.1 feet (5:57 p.m.)

Sunday, Nov. 25 10.6 feet (11.33 a.m.) -2.2 feet (6:45 p.m.)

Monday, Nov. 26 10.3 feet (12:21 p.m.) -2.0 feet (7:35 p.m.)

Saturday, Dec. 22 10.5 feet (9:30 a.m.) -1.7 feet (4:59 p.m.)

Sunday, Dec. 23 10.6 feet (10:30 a.m.) -2.0 feet (5:48 p.m.)

Monday, Dec. 24 10.6 feet (11:20 a.m.) -2.0 feet (6:35 p.m.)

Tides Based on NOAA Predictions

A chart of tide table predictions for 2007 and 2008 is available on the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center website at: http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/weather/tides/tides.html.

Story By: 

Tuba Ozkan-Haller,

Scientists Mull Ecological Impacts of Wave Energy Projects

NEWPORT, Ore. – As public interest in wave energy technology increases, scientists are beginning to explore potential ecological implications that may arise from the creation of wave energy parks along the West Coast.

A recent workshop at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center raised many questions, participants say, and outlined important areas of research and outreach to address.

“Right now, the wave energy technology is ahead of the related ecological research,” said George Boehlert, director of the Hatfield Center and a professor of fisheries and wildlife at OSU. “It is important to begin addressing these questions because the potential benefits from a clean, renewable energy source like ocean waves are enormous.”

The workshop afforded many scientists their first exposure to planned deployments of wave energy-collecting devices and the technology that will make it possible.

“The extraction of wave energy has the potential to alter patterns of currents and sand transport in the nearshore environment,” said Paul Komar, professor emeritus in OSU’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. “In our discussions, however, we outlined some interesting approaches that may address this issue.”

A full report on the scientists’ initial analysis of ecological challenges relating to wave energy will be available early in 2008, Boehlert said.

More than a dozen different wave energy projects are in the research and development phase along the West Coast, and new technologies developed by researchers in OSU’s College of Engineering and elsewhere suggest that wave-generated electricity may be feasible both technologically and economically. OSU is recognized as the country's top academic center for wave-power research. The university is building a national wave-energy research and demonstration facility off the coast and an indoor lab to simulate ocean conditions.

The State of Oregon recently made a $4.2 million investment aimed at developing “responsible wave energy,” according to Gail Achterman, director of the Institute for Natural Resources at OSU and the university’s representative on the board of the newly formed Oregon Wave Energy Trust.

“Responsible development means assuring that the ecological effects are understood and addressed, and that coastal communities are fully engaged in the decision-making process to assure that wave energy development complements existing ocean uses,” Achterman said.

Boehlert points out that potential ecological impacts of wave energy may depend on the size, location and structure of the “parks” that would house a series of buoys.

“Ecological sensitivity is greatest closer to shore – say, out to an ocean depth of about 40 meters – and that also is a critical area economically in terms of crabbing and other fisheries,” Boehlert said. “Whether that aligns with the optimal locations for a wave energy facility is something that will have to be determined.”

Among the other questions posed by researchers:

• Will the size of wave energy parks affect local water circulation and currents, as well as the migration of crab, salmon and whales?

• Will the noise from the buoys have an impact on marine creatures depending on acoustics, from herring to whales?

• What impact, if any, will energy parks have on species that use electromagnetic field sensing for orientation or feeding, including salmon, crab, sturgeon, sharks and rays?

• Can the buoys and mooring lines be constructed to avoid entanglement of seabirds above the surface, and turtles, whales and other creatures underwater?

“Many of these questions are similar in nature to concerns raised when large electrical power lines started criss-crossing the terrestrial landscape,” said Greg McMurray of the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development and a member of the workshop steering committee. “The connectivity issues are similar, but the animals’ life histories and their habitats are a bit different.”

Boehlert says the workshop was intended to develop a general conceptual framework of the physical and biological relationships that can be applied to evaluate specific wave energy projects. The next step, he says, is to synthesize their discussion and create a research agenda that can address some of the concerns.

“It’s important to note that the scientists are not taking a stand ‘for’ or ‘against’ wave energy development,” Boehlert pointed out. “As ecologists, we strive for better understanding of the potential impacts of change, whether they are human-induced or natural.”

The Hatfield Marine Science Center workshop was supported by numerous state and federal agencies, industry and others.

More information about the workshop is available at http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/waveenergy.

Story By: 

George Boehlert,

OSU's Newport Center hosts talk on El Nino and global warming

NEWPORT - "Erosion of the Oregon Coast: The Roles of El Nino and Global Warming" is the topic of a talk on Saturday, Feb. 22, at Oregon State University's Mark O. Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

The 60-minute talk by Paul Komar, emeritus professor of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU, is free and open to the public and starts at 1:30 p.m. The center is located at 2030 S. Marine Science Drive. For information, call 541-867-0271.

Komar is the author of numerous books and articles dealing with beach processes and sedimentation, including a 1998 work, "The Pacific Northwest Coast: Living With the Shores of Washington and Oregon."

His latest research focuses Oregon coastal erosion, longshore current and sand transport on beaches, and modes of sediment transport in rivers. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan and his doctorate at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

Komar's lecture is offered in conjunction with the Hatfield Marine Science Center's traveling exhibit, "The Big One: Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest."


OSU HMSC 541-867-0271