Fisheries and Wildlife News

Researchers scout Dillingham area for Aleutian tern nesting sites

Misty rain sprinkles the tundra on a mid-May morning as Kelly Nesvacil pounds stakes into the spongy ground by the Lily Pond near downtown Dillingham. It’s a reliable haunt for Aleutian terns, which are notoriously hard to track down. She is here because she, like many biologists who study seabirds, wants to know, where have the Aleutian terns gone?

In recent years, the population count at their known nesting grounds in Alaska has declined dramatically.  However, biologists are unsure whether the number of these birds is declining or whether they have lost track of the colony sites. Nesvacil, a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and her team are in Dillingham to attempt a new strategy for a more accurate tern count.

Even as Nesvacil anchors a bow net, a handful of terns wheel overhead, cackling to each other and swooping low over the pond. The bow net is a spring trap, an oval ring with a net stretched across. She folds the ring in half so that it forms a crescent. With the press of a button on her remote control, the trap springs back to its oval shape. If one of the seabirds were standing within the net’s circumference, it would be trapped but not harmed. There are decoys around the traps to make them more visible to the researchers and a Bluetooth speaker singing out tern calls to attract the birds.

Once they catch a tern, they will put a radio tag on its leg and release it. That is standard procedure for nesting terns, but the team is trying something new for this species. They are tagging the terns before they nest.

“The hope is if we catch them before they nest then we might be able to find new colony sites or places we didn’t know about, and that can help us kind of put into perspective other colony counts as well,” says Nesvacil.

Read the full article at

How Whales Became the Biggest Animals on the Planet

Whales are big. Really big. Enormously big. Tremendously big.

Fin whales can be 140,000 pounds. Bowhead whales tip the scales at 200,000 pounds. And the big mama of them all, the blue whale, can reach a whopping 380,000 pounds — making it the largest animal to have ever lived.

But for as long as whales have awed us with their great size, people have wondered how they became so colossal.

In a study published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a team of researchers investigated gigantism in baleen whales, the filter-feeding leviathans that include blue whales, bowhead whales and fin whales. The marine mammals became jumbo-size relatively recently, they found, only within the past 4.5 million years. The cause? A climatic change that allowed the behemoths to binge-eat.

Read the full article at 

Kill A Juniper Tree, Save A Sage Grouse

The chicken-sized sage grouse’s decline has happened over the same stretch of time that’s seen western juniper and pinyon pine trees spread out across the bird’s sagebrush ecosystem. Reasons for the trees’ expansion include fire suppression,  overgrazing and changing climate conditions.

As the stands grow more dense, they outcompete sagebrush. They also serve as perches for birds of prey.

That’s bad for the greater sage grouse. 

These trees are one of the problems with the birds’ habitat. A new study out of Oregon State University found — when you cut down encroaching conifer trees — the sage grouse population grows by 25 percent.

“We are tremendously excited,” said study co-author Christian Hagen, an avian ecologist at Oregon State University. “The arrow is pointing in the right direction. The grouse are finding these areas where the juniper was taken out much more quickly than we anticipated.”

The birds’ population did not increase in a control area where juniper and pinyon trees continued to slowly creep across the ecosystem.

The researchers collected data from 2010-2014 in southeastern Oregon, northeastern California and northwestern Nevada. Sage grouse habitat ranges across 173 million acres in the West. 

Read the full story and watch the video at

Tracking a bighorn sheep-killer

There's a bighorn sheep killer on the loose, and it's not a natural predator. Instead, it's a bacterial disease —Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae — a respiratory disease that can cause a die-off for sheep of all ages if a herd is infected.

California bighorn sheep don't just live in the Golden State — they also live in Oregon, inhabiting some of the most rugged environments in the state. But even in high altitudes over rocky terrain, they can't outrun this respiratory disease.

The pneumonia has killed wild sheep in Oregon and other Western states over the past few decades, and is considered the largest risk to wild sheep populations, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Oregon State University researchers have taken on the study of a range of aspects of the California bighorn sheep herd in the state to gain insight into the animal's risk of contracting this killer bacterium known as M. ovi (pronounced "m-ovee"). The researchers are monitoring sheep movement, how the animals use their habitat and their survival rates. The disease can spread through contact between domestic sheep and bighorn sheep, or from bighorn to bighorn.

While California is part of the bighorn sheep's name, Oregon counts 3,700 of these animals in 32 different herds in the state. They live in central and southeast Oregon. ODFW traditionally captures and relocates California bighorn sheep around the state each year, to improve genetic diversity and restore the species to its historic range in Oregon.

But the relocation is on hold this year while wildlife managers learn more about M. ovi, in part through the OSU work.

Read the full article at

Engagement with nature contributes to overall life satisfaction

Looking to improve your overall life satisfaction? Try regularly hiking in a forest or otherwise engaging with the natural environment.

And then, for good measure, look for ways to build your trust in the scientists and policymakers involved in managing the forest where you like to hike.

New research at Oregon State University empirically demonstrates that a variety of mechanisms for engaging nature significantly contribute to a person's overall well-being.

Chief among those, the study found, was whether people believed their surrounding environments were being managed well -- for the earning of income and the underpinning of cultural practices as well as for the pursuit of recreation.

"Whether people feel like things are fair and they have a voice in process of making decisions and whether governance is transparent -- those are the foundations of why people even can interact with nature," said lead author Kelly Biedenweg of OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Biedenweg, an assistant professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and collaborators from Colorado State University and the University of Georgia analyzed results from more than 4,400 respondents to an online survey conducted in the Puget Sound region of Washington state.

Read the full article at

Ravenous Blue Whale Swallows Nearly an Entire Shoal of Krill in One Mouthful

Blue whales are the largest and heaviest animals on the planet, spanning up to 25 metres and weighing around 140 tonnes.

And the gigantic ocean-dwellers boast an appetite to match, swallowing as many as half a million calories in a single mouthful.

Now, scientists off the coast of New Zealand have captured drone footage of a particularly voracious “bluey” tucking into a hearty lunch.

In one long motion, the whale turns on to its side, pumps its flukes, opens its mouth and swallows nearly an entire mass of krill.

Read more and watch the video at

Bees compete for flowers with elk, deer, and cattle

Native bees play a key role in ecosystems by pollinating plants, but on many landscapes in the West, they may face competition from elk (Cervus elaphus), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and cattle (Bos taurus) that eat some of the same flowering plants on which bees forage for nectar and pollen. A team of researchers is trying to determine what impact grazing might have on native bees.

The decline of honey bees has made a lot of headlines in recent years, said Sandy DeBano, associate professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University, but native bees provide the same sort of pollination services for ecosystems that honeybees provide for agriculture, and many of those species are struggling.

“Some of our native pollinators are declining or becoming extinct,” DeBano said, so it made sense to look at what competition bees may have for the flowers they rely on for nectar and pollen to feed their larvae.

Read the full article at

Lawsuit claims border wall would be bad for animals

Criticism of President Donald Trump's proposed “big, beautiful” wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has largely focused on how bad it would be for people: It could cost many billions of dollars, divide families and send a bad message to the people the country wants to do business with south of the border. But a new lawsuit makes the case that the proposed border wall wouldn't be good for animals, either.  

The lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group in Tucson, Arizona, and U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva, whose district includes areas of the Arizona border, claims the proposed 2,000-mile border wall and the federal government's existing border security enforcement plan violate federal environmental laws protecting wildlife and natural resources. U.S. Department of Homeland Secretary John Kelly and Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan are named as defendants. 


WATCH: Life through the eyes of a humpback whale

In a series of intimate photos released by the Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Organisation (WWF), scientists have attached cameras to a number of humpback whales to help unlock the mysteries of their life in Antartica.

Revealing a huge amount of information, scientists have been able to discover where, when and how the whales feed and get insight into their social lives.

The gathered data will enable better protection of whale feeding areas.

The researchers used suction cups to attach non-invasive digital tags – which contain sensors and a ‘whale cam’ – onto the backs of humpback and minke whales.

As the whales plunge, audiences can go below the surface with them and experience a day in the life of an ocean giant, including the various ways they feed on krill.

Read more and watch the incredible video at

OSU Bighorn sheep research sheds light on killer disease

CORVALLIS, Ore. - With their ability to climb steep rocky mountain areas, California bighorn sheep live in some of the most rugged environments Oregon has to offer.

No matter how high they go, the wild sheep can’t elude Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae – the bacteria now widely thought to be primarily responsible for fatal infectious pneumonia in bighorns.

Respiratory disease has killed numerous wild sheep in Oregon and other Western states over the past few decades and is considered the largest risk to wild sheep populations, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Once a herd is infected, an all-age die-off can occur, and the disease remains chronic in the population.

Now, Oregon State University researchers are studying several aspects of the California bighorn sheep herd in the state – including movement, habitat use and survival – to gain insight into the animal’s risk for contracting the killer strain known as M. ovi (pronounced m-ovee). The disease spreads through contact between domestic sheep flocks and bighorn sheep, or from bighorn to bighorn.

Oregon is home to about 3,700 California bighorn sheep in 32 different herds in Central and Southeast Oregon.

ODFW traditionally captures and relocates California bighorn sheep around the state each year to improve genetic diversity and restore this rare species to its historic range in Oregon. But these relocation efforts are on hold this year while wildlife managers learn more about M. ovi, partly through the work being done at OSU.

Often, the first contact with a particular strain of pneumonia kills bighorn of all ages, according to OSU wildlife biologist Clint Epps. Some adults survive, but then as the infection persists their lambs die every year. A bighorn herd might not recover for decades.

Wildlife managers strive to keep wild and domestic sheep and goats separate to avoid transmission of the disease.

“There is a high-stakes need to understand where the pathogen is likely to enter a bighorn population and where it’s likely move after that,” Epps said. “In the past few years, wildlife agencies in the West have made decisions to remove certain individual animals, or all individuals in the herd, to prevent the spread of disease.”


Nesting boxes invite birds to hatch babies in home gardens

It would be nice to say, “Hang a birdhouse and they will come,” but attracting wild birds to nest in your yard isn’t quite so easy.

Don’t get discouraged if your nesting box doesn’t draw birds the first year, said Dana Sanchez, wildlife specialist for Oregon State University Extension Service. Move it to a new spot and put up more than one to give birds a choice.

It’s most important to get the size of the entrance hole correct, she added.

“The entrance diameter is really crucial so that target species can get in, but also to diminish the opportunity for birds to be attacked by predators and competitors,” Sanchez said. “Non-native birds such as house sparrows and starlings are notorious for taking up residence in nest boxes intended for native birds. And some native birds will bully out other native birds.”

Home check

Don’t hang it and forget it. Check the box regularly to see if birds are being stalked by predators. If so, you can add a block of wood with the same size hole at the entrance to create a tunnel that makes it difficult for other birds, squirrels, rats and cats to reach the babies. Other discouragements include a metal collar around the tree or post where the box is affixed or any number of baffles that you can buy or build. As always, the advice for cats is to keep them inside.


Skin and Bones

... rows of brightly colored tropical birds, preserved by the taxidermist’s art, lying silently on their backs.

He gently lifts one out, cradling the specimen in his hands. Roughly a foot long, it has a pair of elongated streamer feathers extending from the tail, a beautiful light-blue breast and a wickedly hooked beak. A tag identifies it as a racket-tailed roller, collected in the Belgian Congo in 1955.

Although it’s been dead for more than half a century, it still retains the form and color it had in life.

Konstantinidis explains the preservation process.

“You take the intestines and everything out, and you degrease it, get all the fat out, and then you stuff it,” he said. “If you do it right, they stay perfect forever.”


Ecologist Special Report: World's rarest dolphin heading towards extinction

Even as government-funded scientists detail its decline and opposition Labour and Greens call for net bans - which opinion polls show most Kiwis support - the ruling National Party, headed by a fishing magnate, denies there is any problem. CHRISTOPHER PALA reports ...

The scientists had no idea that 30 years later, fishermen's nets would have reduced New Zealand's Maui dolphin to some 60 individuals - down from 2,000 or so in the 1970s, making it the world's rarest dolphin

When Liz Slooten and Steve Dawson graduated from university in New Zealand in 1982, they became interested in the country's diminutive endemic dolphins, about which only six scientific papers had been written. A summation of all that was known about them was all of four pages long.

The New Zealand coastal dolphins, which have relatives in Chile, Argentina and South Africa, are the world's smallest. They are friendly to people, fight rarely and have sex often. One sub-species, which hadn't bred with the others for 16,000 years, according to a mitochondrial DNA analysis, is called the Maui's dolphin.


Anomalous ocean conditions in 2015 may bode poorly for juvenile Chinook salmon survival

According to researchers from Oregon State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ocean conditions were historically bad in the spring of 2015, when migrating yearling fish that will comprise the bulk of this spring's adult Chinook salmon run first went out to sea. In fact, Pacific Decadal Oscillation values – which reflect warm and cold sea surface temperatures – suggest it was one of the warmest nearshore oceans encountered by migrating Chinook salmon dating back to at least 1900.

The lack of food for the salmon in 2015 may have resulted in significant mortality that will show in this year's run of Columbia River springers. One way or another, it will provide new information on fish survival and whether juvenile salmon prey data can help resource managers predict future returns.

Results of the research, which was funded by the Bonneville Power Administration and NOAA, have just been published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.

About 80 percent of a typical spring Chinook run on the Columbia River come from fish that went out to sea as yearlings two years earlier, according to lead author Elizabeth Daly, a senior faculty research assistant with the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resource Studies, jointly operated by OSU and NOAA out of the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

"When juvenile salmon first enter the ocean, it is a critical time for them," Daly said. "They are adjusting to a salt-water environment, they have to eat to survive, and they have to avoid becoming prey themselves. When we sampled juvenile salmon in May and June of 2015, the fish were much smaller and thinner than usual, and many of them had empty stomachs. There just wasn't anything for them to eat."


Traffic Noise Drowning Out Frog Mating Calls

Chances are you’ve heard the Pacific chorus frogs’ call before. Its classic “rib-bit” is featured in basically any movie that needs frog noise.

The Pacific chorus frogs’ call is ubiquitous in the Northwest. But the amphibians are having more and more trouble hearing themselves. 

Traffic is drowning them out.

During mating season the chorus of “rib-bit” “rib-bit” “rib-bit” attracts the females to ponds where they mate.

“So if he’s got a nice, deep, sexy voice they’ll find him more attractive,” said Danielle Nelson, a doctoral student at Oregon State University. “If he calls more often, they’ll find him more attractive.”

Females can sort through up to eight frogs at once, when they’re looking for a partner. 

Nelson found that Pacific chorus frogs don’t adjust their “rib-bits” to the noise level around them. 

Read the rest at

Teaching and Learning Spotlight: Rebecca Hutchinson

LIFE@OSU and the Center for Teaching and Learning are introducing a new semi-monthly series highlighting the stories of successful teaching on campus. Faculty featured in the series have all utilized CTL resources in order to better enhance their classroom experiences. For more information about CTL:

This month’s featured faculty member is Rebecca Hutchinson, assistant professor with the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

What (or who) drew you to teaching? 

My teaching career actually started in high school when I started offering piano lessons to children. My first college course (taken while in high school) was Piano Pedagogy, which was taught by the professor I took individual piano lessons from as well. I continued giving lessons through the first part of college and enjoyed it immensely. My piano teacher and my teaching experiences were definitely an inspiration for things to come. I also served as a teaching assistant in both undergrad and graduate school, which I also found rewarding. 

Read the full article.

Study finds less lead exposure in black powder cartridges; Day-old chicks; Life cycles; Club news

Researchers from the Oregon Department of Fisheries [and Wildlife] working out of Oregon State University recently published a study showing that bullets used in black powder muzzleloading rifle cartridges experience less fragmentation on impact than high-velocity rifle bullets. The study suggests that black powder projectiles scattering fewer lead fragments in wild-killed game, presenting on consumption a reduced risk of secondary lead poisoning. The reduced poisoning risk might extend to scavenging animals that eat carrion containing lead fragments.

Pennsylvania’s inline muzzleloader deer season ran Oct. 15-22. A statewide season for flintlock sporting arms closed last week, and a special flintlock season in three Wildlife Management Units, including the Pittsburgh area’s 2B, continues through Jan. 28.

Hunters value bullet fragmentation. The bullet makes a small entrance wound, but shards of lead spread through the animal’s body and exit through a large wound, ensuring a clean quick kill. Human consumption of food with lead shards, however, has been proven to increase the risk of poisoning.


An Antarctic ecologist says humpback whales will be fine in 2017! Everything else, not so much

The consequences of climate change in the poles can be a hard sell for disinterested Earth residents. Sympathy for polar bears afloat shrinking ice platforms to the north and dwindling penguin populations to the south only goes so far, and dense academic papers on the other end of the spectrum remain impenetrable for those without marine biology degrees.

But that’s not for want of trying: To educate the world about the precipitous nature of these dangers, some scientists are trying to bring their research to a larger audience’s attention.

Antarctic scientist Ari Friedlaender believes in the power of storytelling to effect change. Personal narratives can often drive more empathy for understanding the hardships and consequences of global warming than hard stats and figures, so Friedlaender has dedicated as much energy to his creative endeavors as his academic pursuits.

As an ecologist, he has visited the Antarctica more than 25 times to develop a comprehensive research program that has been instrumental for understanding whale behavior. But as a concerned human, he also produces content with National Geographic and takes photographs of the ethereal surrounds to try and raise awareness for the plight of both the whales and continent at large. “When the conditions are right and the habitat is what it should be, these animals are absolutely magical,” he says. “But when it’s gone, it’s gone.”



"Eve" and descendants shape global sperm whale population structure

Although sperm whales have not been driven to the brink of extinction as have some other whales, a new study has found a remarkable lack of diversity in the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA within the species.

In fact, the mitochondrial DNA from more than a thousand sperm whales examined during the past 15 years came from a single “Eve” sperm whale tens of thousands of years ago, the researchers say.

Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Molecular Ecology.

While the exact origins of this sperm whale “Eve” remain uncertain, the study shows the importance of her female descendants in shaping global population structure, according to Alana Alexander, a University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute researcher who conducted the study while a doctoral student at Oregon State University.

“Although the male sperm whale is more famous in literature and cinema through ‘Moby Dick’ and ‘In the Heart of the Sea,’ the patterns in mitochondrial DNA show that female sperm whales are shaping genetic differentiation by sticking close to home,” Alexander said.


How drones are helping scientists study future whales

The sight of a 50-foot whale breaching is breathtaking. Water slides down the whale's back as it leaps above the surface, shooting spray in the air and then crashing back into the water. The powerful ocean giants make their own waves with mighty, mid-air twists and turns.

Every now and then, a powerful spray blasts into the air from the creature's blow hole. The average onlooker just sees a cloud of vapor, but marine biologists view it as important genetic material.

Researchers at Ocean Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to conservation efforts, are using drones capture the breathtaking image with aerial photography — as well as the genetic material in petri dishes.

Ocean Alliance created the "Snotbot," a drone they designed to capture both images of the whales and live biological samples of the "snot" the animals exhale through their blow holes. The team mounted petri dishes to the drone's base so that when the drone hovers above a breaching whale, the propellers create a vortex. This pushes the whale's spray down into the sample trays.


In One Ear: Who goes there?

Marine biology fans take note: Scientists from Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center are hearing what they call “crazy” calls from the depths of the Mariana Trench, according to a story on ( The trench, which is in the western Pacific Ocean, is one of the deepest ocean areas known to man.


Whales Are Now Part of the Climate Change Conspiracy

God help us. It’s bad enough that 97 percent of climate scientists, Big Solar, the wind energy lobbyists, electric car manufacturers and the weather itself are conspiring to fool the gullible sheeple of the world into believing that anthropogenic climate change is real.

Now whales are getting in on the action, too— probably for all that sweet, sweet krill.



OSU pitches whale plates

If you wanted to create a new Oregon license plate background before the start of 2016, your task was deceptively simple: convince the Legislature to pass a bill to make the Department of Motor Vehicles create the plate. The payoff: Your cause would receive the proceeds from the extra fees charged for people who wanted the specialty plates.

The new Portland Trail Blazers plate that went on sale in September was created this way, as were a couple of dozen other Oregon plate designs.

But, as the result of a law the Legislature passed in 2015, the process for creating a new plate is now regulated by the DMV. Read more...

Study links hunters' ammo with lead exposure to wildlife

Hunters may minimize lead exposure to wildlife, especially such scavengers as golden eagles that feed on carrion, through choosing proper types of ammunition, a new study noted. 

"Choosing an ammunition type, such as .22-caliber solid bullets, that creates substantially fewer fragments can be a way to minimize lead exposure to scavengers and other wildlife," said Collin Eagles-Smith, co-author of a study on links between ammo used by hunters and lead exposure to wildlife. 

Some pests "are really an economic threat to farmers, and shooting them is one method to control their numbers," said Ealges-Smith, an ecologist from the US Geological Survey (USGS) and a courtesy assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife at Oregon State University (OSU). 

"Picking up every last carcass is not realistic, but there are choices people can make regarding ammunition that may result in smaller amounts of lead in the carcasses left behind," the researcher was quoted as saying in a news release from the OSU this week. 

The study was conducted by a team of researchers who used a new bullet-fragment recovery technique known as "digestion" to look at how much lead remained in the 127 ground squirrel carcasses from alfalfa fields in southern Oregon and northern California and how that is correlated with the type of bullets used.  Read more...

New tagging Tech Delivers the Goods on Whale Behavior

A new study out of Oregon State University (OSU) praises a type of high-tech tag now being used to track whales, one that offers researchers better information, over longer periods of time, than prior tracking devices.

The tag, dubbed "Advanced Dive Behavior" (ADB), improves "by several orders of magnitude" the ability to track whales as they feed and exhibit other behaviors, according to OSU researchers writing in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

According to the study's authors, the ADB tags can deliver up to seven weeks of constant data – depth of dives, how long the whales stay underwater, their reactions to man-made noise, and their responses to changes in water temperature.

The tag provides "a broad picture of whale behavior and ecology that we've never had before," said the study's lead author Bruce Mate, in a statement. Read more...

An Interview with Ecologist Ari Friedlaender on his Work in Antarctica

During the course of his more than 25 trips to the continent, he has developed a long-term ecological research program that has led to many important discoveries about whales in that polar region.

He is an associate professor at Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, and he is featured in a new National Geographic documentary titled CONTINENT 7: ANTARCTICA.

The next episode airs on Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 9pm CT on National Geographic channel.

Listen to the full interview at

Less fragmentation in muzzleloading and black powder cartridge rifles

A new study found that traditional bullets for muzzleloading rifles and black powder rifle cartridges fragment less upon impact and may leave far fewer lead fragments in game than a modern high-velocity rifle bullet.

The findings suggest that hunters using those styles of guns may have a reduced risk of secondary lead poisoning from consuming game meat, and that there may be a reduced risk to scavenging animals as well, compared to ammunition for modern rifles that also contain lead.

Results of the study, by researchers in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University, have been published in the Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management.

Bullet fragmentation has been well-described in many modern, high-velocity rifles, but not for black-powder cartridge rifles or muzzleloading firearms, said Clinton Epps, a wildlife ecologist at Oregon State and co-author on the study.

"There is a lot more complexity to the lead versus non-lead ammunition discussion than many people realize and the black powder/muzzleloader niche of hunters needs to be included in the conversation," Epps said.

Read the full article at

The Mystery of Seahorse Key's Missing Bird Colony Veers Into Strange Territory

The first thing Captain Kenny McCain noticed at Seahorse Key was that something was wrong with the sky. It was a drizzly morning in April 2015, the first break in a freak spring squall that had lashed Florida’s Gulf Coast for two days. Captain Kenny, as he’s known around Cedar Key, the Big Bend fishing town where his family has lived for seven generations, had motored his skiff three miles to the outermost island of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. He was planning to check on the facilities of the Seahorse Key Marine Laboratory, to see how the University of Florida research station had weathered the storm.

Captain Kenny knows the island better than most. After 24 years as an officer of the refuge, he left the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 2014 to take up with the lab, shuttling students and scientists out to the wild, 165-acre island they shared with an alarmingly dense population of cottonmouth snakes and some 10,000 to 20,000 colonial nesting birds. He was a half-mile from the dock when he noticed something that made him change course: The skies above Seahorse were eerily empty.

Swinging his boat around to the island’s west side, he pulled in next to a mangrove-shrouded peninsula, typically the epicenter of the Seahorse Key rookery. He killed the motor and was stunned by silence. Two days earlier, the chatter of pelicans, cormorants, and maybe 10 different species of wading birds had been all but deafening. Now the only sound he heard was the rhythmic swoosh of waves against the beach.

When deputy refuge manager Larry Woodward answered his cell phone that afternoon, he recognized Captain Kenny’s drawl. “Got a problem out at Seahorse,” he heard Kenny say. “You ain’t got no birds out here.”


Tool to Avert Blue Whale Collisions Could Aid Other Sea Mammals


Scientists have long used satellite tags to track endangered blue whales along the West Coast, learning how the largest animals on the planet find enough small krill to feed on to support their enormous size.

Now researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, Oregon State University and the University of Maryland have combined that trove of tracking data with satellite observations of ocean conditions to develop the first system for predicting locations of blue whales off the U.S. west coast. The system, called WhaleWatch, produces monthly maps of blue whale “hotspots” to alert ships to sites of increased risk of encountering the whales.

NOAA Fisheries has begun publicly posting the maps on its West Coast Region website each month. A new scientific paper published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology describes the development of the WhaleWatch system and the methodology behind it.

“We’re using the many years of tag data to let the whales tell us where they go, and under what conditions,” said Elliott Hazen, a research ecologist at NOAA Fisheries Southwest Fisheries Science Center and lead author of the new paper. “If we know what drives their hotspots we can more clearly assess different management options to reduce risk to the whales.”

Helen Bailey, WhaleWatch project leader at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and coauthor of the paper, describes WhaleWatch as an innovative combination of satellite technology and computer modeling that will help protect whales by providing timely information to the shipping industry. NASA helped fund the project, which draws on ocean observations from NASA and NOAA satellites.

Read the full article at

With America's fisheries rebounding, we can't turn back (Opinion)

Jane Lubchenco and Brad Pettinger

In the last 20 years, one of the country's most valuable natural resources has transformed from a national disaster to a great American recovery story. But unless you're a fishery scientist or a fisherman who suffered through the near collapse of a fishery, you've probably never heard the story.

We lived it.

We've been working along the West Coast for 40 years and can attest to the catastrophic collapse of a once massive groundfish fishery. We know fixing it was hard and messy. But we also know that troubled fisheries in the United States and around the world should look to our success and others for lasting solutions.

In the early 2000s, the fishery was in terrible shape. A number of rockfish species were becoming significantly overfished. As long-lived species, their recovery was expected to take decades. Level of discards of "bycatch" -- accidental catch that occurs when fishing for target species - was high. This led to the fishery being declared a 'federal disaster.' Fish, fishermen and the communities that relied on them were suffering, and it was clear that if the system hadn't yet hit rock bottom, it soon would.

Read the rest of the article at

Marine Incentives Programs May Replace 'Doom And Gloom' with Hope

Incentives that are designed to enable smarter use of the ocean while also protecting marine ecosystems can and do work, and offer significant hope to help address the multiple environmental threats facing the world's oceans, researchers conclude in a new analysis.

Whether economic or social, incentive-based solutions may be one of the best options for progress in reducing impacts from overfishing, climate change, ocean acidification and pollution, researchers from Oregon State University and Princeton University say in a new report published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

And positive incentives - the "carrot" - work better than negative incentives, or the "stick."

Part of the reason for optimism, the researchers report, is changing awareness, attitudes and social norms around the world, in which resource users and consumers are becoming more informed about environmental issues and demanding action to address them. That sets the stage for economic incentives that can convert near-disaster situations into sustainable fisheries, cleaner water and long-term solutions. 

Read the rest of the article at

Rockfish siblings shed new light on how offspring diffuse and disperse

The study conducted in the OSU College of Science sheds new light on how rockfish, a group of multiple species that contribute to important commercial and recreational fisheries in the Northwest, disperse through the ocean and "recruit," or take up residence in nearshore habitats. Previously it was believed rockfish larvae dispersed chaotically to wherever currents carried them.

"When you manage populations, it's really important to understand where the young are going to and where the young are coming from -- how populations are connected and replenished," said Su Sponaugle, a professor of integrative biology based at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center. "This research helps us better understand what's possible about offspring movement. We don't know fully by what mechanisms the larvae are staying together, but these data are suggestive that behavior is playing a role." Read more at

Continent 7

Associate Professor Ari Friedlaender, OSU Marine Mammal Institute, will be featured in an upcoming documentary series about Antarctica, Continent 7, which premieres Tuesday, Nov. 15, on the National Geographic Channel. Friedlaender’s whale tagging research will be featured in all six episodes. A sneak preview can be viewed on the Nat Geo Channel website

Rapture of the deep

But this isn’t just any old fish. This is Bathylychnops exilis.

“It’s a deep-sea fish with a really bizarre visual adaptation. It’s got four eyes in two sockets,” Sidlauskas explains with a delight that borders on the indecent. “The retina will form two different images so it can see things coming from above it or below it.”

This particular example, dredged up in 1980 by a trawler’s net in 400 meters of water off the Oregon coast, is just one of more than 300,000 specimens in the Oregon State Ichthyology Collection. Housed in the basement of Nash Hall on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis, it is the largest collection of preserved fish specimens in Oregon and one of the largest on the West Coast, and the ponytailed Sidlauskas is its enthusiastic curator. Read more...


World’s largest marine reserve hailed as diplomatic breakthrough

After years of unsuccessful talks, 24 nations and the European Union agreed on 28 October to create the largest marine reserve in the world, around twice the size of Texas, in the Southern Ocean off the coast of Antarctica.

The international deal takes effect in December 2017 and will set aside 1.55 million square kilometres of the Ross Sea, a deep Antarctic bay 3,500 kilometres south of New Zealand, from commercial fishing and mineral exploitation. It is the first time that countries have joined together to protect a major chunk of the high seas — the areas of ocean that are largely unregulated because they do not fall under the jurisdiction of any one nation. Read more...

Rare window on the lives of young albatrosses

A new study provides the first direct estimates of the population size and annual survival of young birds in Oahu’s Laysan Albatross population, giving important new insights into the demographics of these “prebreeders.” Read more...

Excess wildfire, cheatgrass affecting sage-grouse—targeted actions needed

Larger, more frequent wildfires across the Great Basin have contributed significantly to a decline in greater sage-grouse, according to a new study that also indicates that if this trend continues unabated, it could reduce the population of this indicator species to 43 percent of its present numbers.

The culprit, researchers say, is the influx of exotic annual grasses such as cheatgrass that establish after wildfire removes the native plant community, including sagebrush, the plant upon which sage-grouse are dependent for survival.

Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Great Basin of North America is a vast landscape that is larger than 75 percent of the countries worldwide. It is comprised primarily of a "sagebrush sea" that is threatened by this cycle of wildfire and cheatgrass, according to Christian Hagen, a senior research associate at Oregon State University and a co-author on the study.


Study documents staggering loss of wildlife following Amazon 'Rubber Boom'

Researchers for the first time have documented the killing of millions of animals in Brazil's Amazon Basin for their hides following the collapse of the Rubber Boom in the 20th century, causing the collapse of some aquatic species.

Yet despite the harvest of many terrestrial animals, most land-based species appear to have survived the carnage.

Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Science Advances.

"There was a massive international trade in furs and skins taken from the Amazon in Brazil during much of the 20th century, yet surprisingly no previous studies documented the exploitation of the animals or the resilience of the ecosystem," said Taal Levi, a wildlife ecologist at Oregon State University and co-author on the study.

Beginning in the late 19th century, roughly half a million colonists entered the Amazon region to extract rubber across all the major river basins. An immense fleet of steamships was built for transport and trade and a network of river merchants purchased forest products from extraction industries. When rubber prices collapsed in 1912 because of competition from Malaysian plantations, the enterprises that did not go bankrupt sought other products.

Thus began the international trade in Amazonian animal hides, which persisted for decades until protective laws were established. Read more...

ODFW Commission begins wolf, cougar management plans review

Information on the review process was scheduled to be presented to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission at its meeting Oct. 6-7 in La Grande.

In the background is an intriguing study, now in its third year, on wolf-cougar interaction in the Mount Emily Wildlife Unit of the Blue Mountains outside of the city.

Cougars and wolves compete for the same prey, primarily deer and elk. Cougars far outnumber wolves in Oregon — the state has an estimated 6,000 cougars and a minimum of 110 wolves — but are thought to be at a disadvantage because they are solitary animals while wolves hunt in packs. Read more...

Study of whale poop provides vital data to OSU researchers

Whale poop is providing Oregon State University researchers with a treasure trove of information.

For the last two summers, researchers have been scooping the poop of these animals that can be more than 40 feet long and weigh more than 30 tons.

Marine ecologist Leigh Torres has been heading up the pilot project.

In a small, inflatable boat, Torres and her team follow the whales off the coast, waiting for the big moment.

"When it happens somebody yells out 'POOP!' and we all spring into action," said Torres. "Somebody gets on the net and drags it through the water and it's a really exciting moment on the boat where we're all sort of trying to coordinate our actions in order to get the best sample possible." Read more...

A taste of marine research aboard the Oceanus

Several coastal high school students and teachers had an experience recently that they won’t soon forget. They took part in a cruise aboard Oregon State University’s research vessel Oceanus. Read more...

Plan for new OSU facility in tsunami zone being questions by local leaders, professors

University president Ed Ray believes the new facility can be built to sustain a 9.0 earthquake and the tsunami that follows. He hopes to become an example to the world in doing so.

There's a growing number of people who think the university is crossing a line they should not cross, though.

No one will soon forget the devastating images from Japan in 2011, moments after one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded in the country's history brought down cities in seconds. The massive 40-foot tsunami that arose in its shadow demolished what was left.

"In my mind, we need to really approach this as the worst case could happen," Chairman of Oregon's Seismic and Safety Commission Jay Wilson said.

State leaders say they are trying to learn from what happened to Japan so they can prepare and protect Oregon's coastline for when the big one hits here.

Part of that is encouraging coastal developers to build outside of a newly identified tsunami inundation zone, which is why Wilson tells FOX 12 he was dumbfounded by what Oregon State University is trying to do.

 "We have a standard grant program in the state where any given school has to go through all of these hoops to get a million dollars and they're excluded from doing anything in a tsunami zone," Wilson said. "And, here the legislature gave $25 million in bonds to put a school in a tsunami zone without there even being a plan in place."

Ray wants to construct a new Marine Studies Initiative building at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, in part with state funding.

So, Wilson wrote a letter to Governor Kate Brown questioning the OSU project, and once Oregon State University geologists and geophysics professors got wind of what was going on, they too tried to get administrators to think twice.

"Frankly there's nobody in the world, not at OSU or anyone, who has experience of building a school in a tsunami zone. It's simply not done," OSU marine geologist Chris Goldfinger said. "The idea that they're going to show the world and showcase how it's done, I think is foolish."

Goldfinger was one of 23 professors who wrote and signed a letter to President Ray. Read more...

Oregon State's newest marine center necessary in the tsunami zone (Opinion)

By Bruce Mate

Contrary to what you may have heard, Oregon State University can save more lives — and advance coastal safety — by building its next marine studies facility within a tsunami zone in Newport.

I was assigned to work at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport in 1975. As a marine biologist, working so close to the Pacific Ocean was a dream.

Plate tectonics was a new concept then, and few people thought about earthquakes and tsunamis. Today, we know much more about these events, but opinions vary on what to do about them.

Along the Oregon coast, quakes larger than magnitude-8 occur every 320 to 500 years, with larger events (greater than magnitude-9) every several thousand years. Recent earthquakes in similar geologic regions, including Japan, have brought the dangers into better focus. Read more...

Salmon trucking success could open miles of historical spawning habitat

For the past several years, technicians have been trucking spring Chinook salmon above Foster Dam in Sweet Home to see if they would spawn, and if their offspring could survive the passage over the dam and subsequent ocean migration to eventually return as adults some 3-5 years later.

A new study examining the genetic origin of adult spring Chinook returning to Foster Dam offers definitive proof that the offspring survived, potentially opening up miles of spawning habitat on the upper South Santiam and other river systems.

Results of the study have been published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

"With a little human assistance, it is now clear that we can restore natural production to areas above some dams and there is prime habitat on some river systems, such as the North Santiam above Detroit Dam," said Kathleen O'Malley, an Oregon State University geneticist and principal investigator on the project. "This could really contribute to the long-term population viability in some river systems." Read more...

Beached New Jersey humpback: What are we doing to protect whales?

"We can make recommendations for what we think will help these whales," Bruce Mate, director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, told The Christian Science Monitor’s Noelle Swan in 2014. "But this is as much about political process as it is about biological process."

That said, whale conservation actually has come a long way in terms of policy. Humans have hunted whales for some 5,000 years, but the advent of factory ships made whaling a competitive industry in the 18th and 19th centuries. By the 1930s, overexploitation was so rampant that the League of Nations considered sanctions against the practice. Those measures, which took years to pass, were largely ignored. Read more...

Native Plants are Deer Deterrents: "Keep Wildlife in the Wild"

"Deer are looking for the highest quality food and our yards often offer the best smorgasbord," said Dana Sanchez, a wildlife specialist for Oregon State University Extension Service. "When taking loving care of our plants – watering well and and fertilizing – we're producing a really superior plant compared to what's in the natural environment. They are more tender and have more nutrition and water content."

In the wild, deer and native plants evolved together, so plants developed defenses like waxy leaves or prickles that make them more adapted to surviving grazing. Even when they do get nibbled, natives are more likely to survive than the succulent plants in our gardens.

"We're often selecting plants from other parts of the world that didn't get to learn through evolution about the herbivores in our ecosystem," Sanchez said. "They're 'naïve.' Even roses that have prickles don't have them around the beautiful blossoms, which the deer just snap off. They easily take what they want." Read more...

News and Views Summer 2016 Edition

Here is the web version of News and Views Summer 2016! A print version of this newsletter is available. Just email with your request and mailing address 

PBS, Alaska Public Media, & Michelle Fournet

Michelle Fournet had a few short movies made about her dissertation work this summer and wanted to share them with the department. The first one, produced by PBS and Alaska Public Media just came out and they did a really nice job. Check it out!

Puget Sound Has New Climate Refugees. They're Pelicans.

American white pelicans are conspicuous birds. With their long orange bills and their nine-foot wingspan, they stand out, even at a distance.

Sue Ehler easily spots a squadron of them through her binoculars from over a mile away, coming in for a landing on Puget Sound’s Padilla Bay.

“They’ve got that pure white. It just shines like a bright light out there. More than the other white birds,” Ehler says. 

Ehler visits this estuary in Northwest Washington every other week from spring to fall with her friend and fellow citizen scientist and retired biologist Matt Kerschbaum. They’re volunteers with the Skagit Heron Foraging Study, tracking the health of the largest breeding colony of great blue herons in the Pacific Northwest.

Ehler and Kerschbaum were among the first to notice the pelicans.

“It was like seeing aliens arrive,” says Ehler, a seasonal biologist with a degree in ornithology. “It’s unprecedented for them to be here, so something really unusual is happening.”

White pelicans are different from brown pelicans, a more common summer visitor to coastal Washington. The white pelicans’ range stretches across much of the country but not into Western Washington. Read more...

OSU announces location for new marine studies building in Newport

Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray announced Aug. 3 that a new $50 million center for global marine studies research and education will be built at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

The 100,000-square-foot facility is an integral part of OSU’s ambitious Marine Studies Initiative, designed to educate students and conduct research on marine-related issues – from rising sea levels and ocean acidification to sustainable fisheries and economic stability.

“Following broad consultation with numerous individuals and groups, as well as analysis of several separate reports, I have determined that the Hatfield Marine Science Center is the best site for Oregon State’s new Marine Studies Initiative building,” Ray said.

“Throughout the evaluation process, which included two upland sites, the safety of those who work, study and visit this building and HMSC during a potential catastrophic seismic event has been my overriding concern.”

Ray said that he believed the new facility can be built to sustain a 9.0 earthquake and an associated tsunami. He also concluded that the new building can provide a safe, accessible, vertical roof-top evacuation alternative for those who are injured, disabled or otherwise unable to reach the preferred evacuation site on nearby Safe Haven Hill. Read more...

Killer whale attacks sea turtle in Galapagos Islands: Video from cruise

We weren't even supposed to be here. But our walk exploring the island of Fernandino has suddenly transformed into a chase at sea.

We had been exploring the volcanic coast of this Galapagos island on a relaxing stroll, being careful not to step on the hundreds of marine iguanas lying in the sun and watching sea lions frolic in the shallows. But then our guide, Javier, interrupts his nature talk with an exclamation: "Look, killer whale!"​ Read more...


Central Oregon Coast program helps you buy the freshest seafood

Newport-based Kaety Jacobson, a Sea Grant fisheries specialist with the Oregon State University Extension Service, said if you’re even thinking about buying that day, you are urged to not only bring cash but a cooler with ice. She added comfortable shoes with good traction are a must, as the tours cover some distance on working commercial fishing docks. read more...

NW ag, forestry, fisheries pack economic punch

The study, commissioned by Northwest Farm Credit Services and performed by extension economists at Oregon State University and the University of Idaho, found agriculture, forestry and fisheries account for 10.6 percent of all jobs in the five-state region and 12.2 percent of all sales in 2015.

“We knew intuitively how vital these industries are to the Northwest and wanted to quantify their contributions to the regional economy,” said Phil DiPofi, NWFCS president and CEO.

“This study affirms the significant impact producers have on the financial strength of our region,” he said.

Agriculture is the front runner in economic impact, claiming about 70 percent of total sales and jobs within the region’s natural resources sector with more than $120.1 billion in direct and related sales and 621,518 jobs in 2015.

It also accounted for 8.3 percent of total sales in the region and 7.5 percent of all jobs, the economists found.

Forestry accounts for nearly 24 percent of sales in the natural resources sector and 21 percent of the jobs. Direct and related sales in the industry totaled nearly $42 billion and provided 189,000 jobs in 2015. Read more...


There's a Whole New Threat to Florida Reefs Damaged by Pollution and Overfishing

Florida's coral reefs are already in big trouble. Scientists around the globe have noted serious problems for the delicate but vital ecosystems, especially from "bleaching," a process that occurs when high heat and sunshine cause devastating effects. 

But that's not the only threat reefs in the Sunshine State face. A Florida Keys study has found a new and alarming problem: Bites from natural reef inhabitants such as parrotfish are also killing corals weakened by overfishing and pollution. 

Even worse, the study published earlier this month in the journal Naturefound that the weakened coral die at a rate of up to 80 percent during the warmest months of the year. In other words, this could be a very bad summer for the state's marine ecosystem. 

The four-year study, which was conducted on a coral reef off the coast of Key Largo, was authored by a team of researchers from Oregon State University, University of Florida, North Carolina-based SymbioSeas, and University of California–Santa Barbara, including Andrew Shantz, who recently earned a PhD from Florida International University. Read more...

Climate change may bring this tiny unsung oyster back to plates

Pacific oysters are sort of the jocks of the oyster world: they're big, robust, loved by all. On the other end of the spectrum are Olympia oysters: small, slow to mature, their unique qualities appreciated by a loyal few (who affectionately call them "olys").

While Pacifics are the signature oyster of the West Coast, grown in the tens of millions, Olympias are only grown in small numbers by select farms and rarely represented on restaurant menus. What most people don't know is that the Olympia is the only native West Coast oyster. The Pacific oyster is actually a relative newcomer, originally from Japan.

For the last hundred years, the Olympia has been overshadowed by its more popular cousin. However, a recent study from Oregon State University has found that in one significant respect, the Olympia tops the Pacific--and it could have big implications for the future of oyster cultivation and consumption. Read more...

Sperm Whales Have an "Eve"

All of the sperm whales in the world descended from just one female who lived tens of thousands of years ago. That surprising result comes from an examination of the mitochondrial DNA of more than 1,600 sperm whales from all over the world. Fittingly, researchers have named her Eve.

Mitochondrial DNA is only passed from mother to child, explains the study’s lead authorAlana Alexander, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Kansas, who conducted the research while she was a doctoral student at Oregon State University (OSU).

Alexander initially tested the samples at the behest of the nonprofit whale conservation organization Ocean Alliance. The organization had previously shown that sperm whales carry toxic levels of heavy metals in their bodies, and they sought the help of OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute to confirm that each of the samples in that study had come from a different whale.

Yet while carrying out this fairly routine analysis, Alexander stumbled upon signs of Eve’s intriguing genetic legacy.

“Previous papers had suggested that sperm whales maybe had low mitochondrial diversity,” Alexander says. But her assumption had been that this low diversity was an accidental side-effect of not having enough data. Read more...

Weasels are Built for the Hunt


At birth, the least weasel is as small and light as a paper clip, and the tiny ribs that press visibly against its silvery pink skin give it a segmented look, like that of an insect. A newborn kit is exceptionally underdeveloped, with sealed eyes and ears that won’t open for five or six weeks, an age when puppies and kittens are ready to be weaned.

A mother weasel, it seems, has no choice but to deliver her young half-baked. As a member of the mustelid clan — a noble but often misunderstood family of carnivorous mammals that includes ferrets, badgers, minks and wolverines — she holds to a slender, elongated body plan, the better to pursue prey through tight spaces that most carnivores can’t penetrate. Bulging baby bumps would jeopardize that sylphish hunting physique.

The solution? Give birth to the equivalent of fetuses and then finish gestating them externally on mother’s milk.

“If you want access to small environments, you can’t have a big belly,” said William J. Zielinski, a mustelid researcher with the United States Forest Service in Arcata, Calif. “You don’t see fat weasels.”

For Dr. Zielinski and other mustelid-minded scientists, weasels exemplify evolutionary genius and compromise in equal measure, the piecing together of exaggerated and often contradictory traits to yield a lineage of fierce, fleet, quick-witted carnivores that can compete for food against larger celebrity predators like the big cats, wolves and bears.

Researchers admit that wild mustelids can be maddening to study. Most species are secretive loners, shrug off standard radio collars with ease, and run close to the ground “like small bolts of brown lightning,” as one team noted. Now you see them, no, you didn’t. Read more...

Meet the Southern Oregon Flyfishers Scholarship winner, Tyler Johnson

Interview with Tyler Johnson, Southern Oregon Flyfishers scholarship winner

What drew you to Oregon State and the Department?

I knew that Oregon State had one of the best fisheries and wildlife departments in the Northwest, if not the country. I have always loved the state of Oregon. So when I moved out here in 2012, Oregon State was a no brainer as the school I should attend to complete my fisheries degree.

Tell us a little bit about your background.  Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Idaho. I lived all over the state but spent the lion's share of my life there in the Boise area. My parents lived 30 minutes outside of any major town. I graduated from Marsing High School in a graduating class of around 28 students. Marsing itself had a population of ~800 people. I certainly got the small town experience. Growing up, my parents were avid outdoor enthusiasts, so camping, fishing, and hunting always have had a place in my life.


Tell us a little about your interest in fisheries and wildlife.

As I stated previously, I spent a lot of my childhood outdoors. Catching lizards and collecting bugs were common pastimes for me as a child (and still are today). I think all this time spent outdoors sparked a lot of my curiosity in fisheries and wildlife. My mother worked for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game helping with their chinook salmon programs, so even when I was young I would occasionally spend time at hatcheries and weirs. I guess being interested in fisheries and wildlife runs in my blood. After high school I obtained an internship doing high desert plant surveys for the Bureau of Land Management. After being in and out of school I worked for IDFG and eventually as a contractor for Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. I've spent the last 6 to 7 years ageing different structures from different species of fish to give population and recruitment information that can inform management of the given species. This has all served to fuel my passion for the natural world and fostered a want to protect and understand it.    

What will you do with the scholarship?

I don't think it's any big secret that college is expensive. I have been in and out of college since high school often, primarily due to the cost. Currently, I am working full time for PSMFC in the NOAA fish ageing lab in Newport as well as attending school full time to make school financially viable. This scholarship will go towards making ends meet and reducing the debt burden I am taking on to attend school.  

What opportunities will this scholarship provide for you that you might not otherwise have gotten to experience?

This scholarship will allow me to spend less time focusing on finances and devote more time towards learning from my classes. Having more breathing room also means that I can spend more time doing the activities that help me connect with why I am getting a fisheries and wildlife degree in the first place, like camping, fishing, hiking, etc. 

What are your hobbies and other interests?

I spend a large amount of my free time fishing. Growing up in Idaho, I had been primarily exposed to trout fishing in high mountain streams. Being able to fishing off the jetty and beach has been a pretty big change and a ton of fun. I try to go camping a few times a year and am considering hiking to the top of South Sister this summer. When I'm not outside I enjoy video games, painting, and netflix. I keep a few planted aquariums. One is a 75 gallon with pumpkinseed sunfish and another is a 4 gallon with some tiny rasboras. 

What are your plans for next year?

Next year will be more of the same. I plan on continuing to work full time as I enjoy my current job a great deal and feel the work is impactful and rewarding. I will continue to attend OSU through the ecampus and work towards my degree. I am also weighing options for extensive internship during summer 2017.  

What are your long-term career goals?

While working in Idaho, I was lucky enough to coauthor a paper regarding precocial life histories of male chinook salmon. This experience was not only rewarding on a professional and academic level but also on a personal level. It allowed me to get a taste of what research in the fisheries field is like. I plan to go on after my bachelors to get my masters so that I may be able to have ample opportunities to help better understand the natural world. I would like to stay in the Pacific Northwest if at all possible and am leaning towards a career in fisheries, preferably with a research focus. 

If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

This is a tough one. I am torn between something that can swim and something that can fly as I believe either of those would be an interesting experience. I think I might have to go with a Great Gray Owl. That way I could not only experience what it's like to fly but also have night vision and excellent hearing. That's three super powers for the price of one!  

What else would you like us to know?

I would like to acknowledge how grateful I am for being selected for the scholarship. Additionally, I would also like to point out that I'm not sure I would have been able to attend Oregon State if it were not for the ecampus. The ecampus has allowed me to learn from where I am around my work schedule. I'm sure it does the same for a lot of the students taking classes through it, and I just wanted to stress how important it is to nontraditional students like me. 

Meet the creatures which migrate a REALLY long way

If you think your commute to work, school or college is tough, spare a thought for the Arctic tern.

The tiny sea bird has been named the creature with the longest known annual migration after scientists tracked it from Northumberland to Antarctica - and back. That's 59,700 miles.

But it's not alone in making *really* long journeys.

There are plenty of other species which travel the globe to find food, escape harsh weather conditions or breed. Read more... (pictures in article)

World Oceans Day: Coral reefs falling victim to overfishing, pollution fueled by climate change

Coral reefs are declining around the world because a combination of factors -- overfishing, nutrient pollution, and pathogenic disease -- is becoming deadly when combined with higher ocean temperatures, researchers have concluded.

A study published this week in Nature Communications, based on one of the largest and longest field experiments on this topic, suggests that the widespread coral deaths observed in recent decades are being caused by a combination of multiple local stressors and global warming.

These forces greatly weaken corals and allow opportunistic pathogens to build to such levels that corals cannot survive.

"We need to know how human activities are affecting coral reef ecosystems," said David Garrison, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Division of Ocean Sciences, which supported the research through an NSF Dimensions of Biodiversity grant.

The Dimensions of Biodiversity program is co-funded by NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences and Division of Environmental Biology.

"Coral reefs are among the most sensitive indicators of the health of the oceans," Garrison said. "This report is a major contribution toward understanding how reefs will fare in the future." Read more...

Student Housing Planned

NEWPORT — Oregon State University is investigating its own student housing options for Hatfield Marine Science Center’s expansion to avoid adding to Newport’s lack of affordable units.

Hatfield Executive Director Bob Cowen told the Newport City Council on Monday, June 6, that the university wants to initially construct an apartment building to accommodate 150 beds, and later add another for a total capacity of 300 people. Read more...

Eddies enhance survival of coral reef fish in sub-tropical waters

Swirling eddies in the ocean have long been thought to be beneficial to organisms such as larval fishes residing within them because of enhanced phytoplankton production. However, direct evidence for this hypothesis has been hard to come by.

A new study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), which sequentially sampled tropical fish from their larval stages to their settlement in reefs, confirms the critical role of these oceanographic features.

Researchers found that young fish reared in nutrient-rich eddies in the Straits of Florida grew faster and had a survival advantage compared to their counterparts outside eddies, and were more likely to populate nearby reefs because of their more robust upbringing.

"Eddies upwell nutrients and provide a high-productivity environment that gives larval fishes growing there a head start on survival," said Su Sponaugle, a marine biologist and principal investigator on the study who is affiliated with both Oregon State University and the University of Miami. "In cooler springtime waters, when larval fish are growing more slowly, the difference between fish raised inside or outside of eddies is small.

"But by August, when warm waters elevate fish growth rates, food becomes scarce and larval fishes residing inside eddies are more likely to survive."

The study is important because it provides resource managers and fish population modelers with valuable new data, said Robert Cowen, director of Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center, and a co-author on the PNAS paper. Read more...

Pygmy blue whales deepen their moans

From 2002 to 2012, the frequency of one part of the whales’ calls steadily fell, marine bioacoustician Jennifer Miksis-Olds reported May 25 at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America. But unexpectedly, another part of the whales’ call stayed the same, she found.

“I’ve never seen results like this before,” says marine bioacoustician Leanna Matthews of Syracuse University in New York, who was not involved with the work. Miksis-Olds’ findings add a new twist to current theories about blue whale vocalizations and spark all sorts of questions about what the animals are doing, Matthews said. “It’s a huge mystery.”

Over the last 40 to 50 years, the calls of blue whales around the world have been getting deeper. Researchers have reported frequency drops in blue whale populations from the Arctic Ocean to the North Pacific.

Some researchers think that blue whales are just getting bigger, said Miksis-Olds, of the University of New Hampshire in Durham. Whaling isn’t as common as it used to be, so whales have been able to grow larger — and larger whales have deeper calls. Another theory blames whales’ changing calls on an increasingly noisy ocean. Whales could be automatically adjusting their calls to be heard better, kind of like a person raising their voice to speak at a party, she said.

If the whales were just getting bigger, you’d expect all components of the calls to be deeper, said acoustics researcher Pasquale Bottalico at Michigan State University in East Lansing. But the new data don’t support that, he said.

Miksis-Olds and her colleague, marine bioacoustician Sharon Nieukirk of Oregon State University in Newport, also discovered that the ocean didn’t seem to be getting any noisier: Average daily sound levels at two of the frequencies of the whales’ calls — 100 and 60 hertz — didn’t increase over the decade she studied. So the noisy ocean theory doesn’t seem to explain why the whales’ are making deeper calls either. Read more...

A chat with Lauren Coe, the recipient of the 2016 William Q. Wick Scholarship award

















Lauren Coe was recently awarded one of this year’s William Q. Wick Memorial Scholarships. Bill Wick (B.S. ‘50, M.S. ‘52) was a national leader in Extension Sea Grant and the Director of the Oregon Sea Grant program from 1973 to 1990.


What drew you to Oregon State and the Department?

I have been riding horses since I was 3 years old, and I have always been an animal lover.  After 8th grade, I began volunteering at the Oregon Zoo in the ZooTeen program and continued to do that for the next 5 years.  This was a great opportunity to learn about and educate zoo visitors about the animals and their conservation, as well as shadow zookeepers to see how they worked and what their responsibilities were.  I have known that I want to work with animals, but this experience provided me with a change to also work with conservation programs and figure out that I wanted to continue doing so as a career.  I grew up in Beaverton, so having a great having a program like Fisheries and Wildlife close by at Oregon State University was really appealing.  I was drawn to the program in part because it was based on conservation.


Tell us a little about your interest in fisheries and wildlife.

I am very interested in the wildlife aspect of the degree and being able to build my own specialization in conservation biology.  In the future, I want to work with wildlife research programs and Fisheries and Wildlife provides me with that opportunity.


What will you do with the scholarship?

Having this scholarship allows me to work fewer hours, which helps with balancing my schoolwork and extracurricular experiences.  The scholarship will also allow me to have the time to learn course material and enjoy the classes even more now that I can focus more of my time on it.


What are your hobbies and other interests?

I rode for OSU’s IHSA equestrian team last year, and riding horses is still a significant  part of my life.  I am also in the Sigma Kappa Sorority and have taken on a leadership role as Vice President of Scholarship.  This allows me to help guide other members academically and connect them to university resources.


What are your plans for next year?

I am in the Honors College so I will be working on an undergraduate thesis with Dr. Taal Levi over the next couple years. I would ideally like to do a research project involving wildlife genetics. I am also extremely excited about my internship with the San Diego Zoo this summer, where I have dreamed about working for a very long time.


What are your long-term career goals?

I am very interested in conservation education and wildlife genetics.  I like working with education programs and also exploring the research side of conservation.  From my previous experience, I really like working with zoos and captive breeding programs and plan on turning my passion for saving wildlife into a career.


If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

My favorite animal is probably a horse.  Riding horses has been a significant part of my life and I couldn’t imagine it without them. They are really intelligent animals and working with them requires skill and hard work.


What else would you like us to know?

More people should know about the Fisheries and Wildlife program at OSU.  It is such a unique program and the professors in the department really care about students’ success. I’m really glad I found it because there is such a nice diversity with disciplines, which allows students to build the major around their interests.

As interviewed and reported by Dr. Ari Friedlaender, May 2016


And the Walrus said "Coo Coo Cachoo!"

Toledo wildlife artist Ram Papish created the mural, which displays two donated walrus tusks protruding from a paper mache walrus head that seamlessly transitions into a two-dimensional acrylic painting. A wood and metal frame under the paper mache provide support for the head, which features whiskers made from turkey quills. Other painted animals in the mural include Stellar sea lions, a California sea lion, a harbor seal, and Pacific herring. Oregon Sea Grant commissioned the piece as a way to display the two tusks, which were donated, along with seven others by the Lee A. Hotchkiss Trust in December 2015.

Read more and check out the photos here...

Thousands of cormorants abandon their nests


Officials say thousands of cormorants abandoned their nests on East Sand Island in the Columbia River and they don’t know why. Reports indicate as many as 16,000 adult birds in the colony left their eggs behind to be eaten by predators including eagles, seagulls and crows.

The birds’ mysterious departure comes after the latest wave of government-sanctioned cormorant shooting. It’s part of a campaign to reduce the population of birds that are eating imperiled Columbia River salmon.

Amy Echols, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the contractors who monitor the birds for the Corps reported May 16 that the East Sand Island colony had been significantly disturbed.

“The disturbance resulted in nest abandonment and the loss of all the cormorants’ eggs by avian predators like seagulls, eagles and crows,” she said. “We don’t know yet what the cause of the disturbance was.”

Officials didn’t see any evidence of a coyote or any other four-legged predator, but they did see 16 bald eagles on the island.

“Bald eagles are known to significantly startle and disperse nesting colonies,” Echols said. “We don’t know if that magnitude of bald eagles could have done this.” Read more...

Naming Celebration for Lamprey Creek honors fish's historical impact

David Harrelson banged a drum Saturday afternoon alongside the trickling Lamprey Creek n a blessing ceremony honoring the creek and the fish it will forever be named after.

“There is an obligation between people and fish. In order to fulfill the obligation, we have to know these animals and find a place for them in our society,” Harrelson, a tribal member of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, said following the blessing. “This naming ceremony is immensely important, and so is respecting place and one’s ancestors. I value this a great deal.”

The 3-mile-long tributary of Oak Creek had no official name until last August, when it was christened Lamprey Creek  by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names at the request of a group of local residents. On Saturday, the celebration — known as the Lamprey Creek Awakening — called attention to the Pacific lamprey, an eel-like migratory fish that was an important food source for Native Americans in the Northwest.

The ceremony at the closed Fire Station No. 5 also honored the researchers dedicated to restoring local lamprey, which is now in steep decline throughout the region.

“Today is a marvelous day,” said Carl Schreck, professor of Fisheries at Oregon State University. “We’re honoring a fish with the name. But I think more importantly, we’re recognizing forever that these animals are an important part of our environmental ecosystem. It elevates our ecological consciousness and recognizing how important it is to preserve ever cog in the wheel to have our ecological machine working.”

In addition to the ecological impact, Ward 8 City Councilor Frank Hann said the naming of Lamprey Creek provided a connection to the area’s past, present and future, and honored the “powerful impact culturally, spiritually and nutritionally for those who lived here for thousands of years.” Read more...

An interview with Brianna Houston - Recipient of the 2016 Vivian Shriver Thompson Award

Brianna Houston is the recipient of the 2016 Vivian Shriver Thompson Award, a scholarship established to recognize academic accomplishment and leadership. I recently caught up with the hard-working Brianna to find out more about her story. Here is what I learned.


What drew you to Oregon State University, and the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in particular?

In-state tuition and Oregon State’s amazing veterinarian program is what drew me to the University, however it’s my passion for animals and wildlife, as well as biodiversity conservation that drew me to Fisheries and Wildlife, rather than strictly Animal Sciences.

Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up?

I’ve kind of grown up in a lot of different places. I lived in Idaho for a while when I was younger, where I learned my passion for animals. I told my mom that I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was three years old. I lived in Portland for a while with my mom and grandparents, which is when my brother was born (I was about seven). Then we moved to southern Oregon, Medford specifically, where my mom got her first official teaching job. My mom single-handedly raised my brother and me - I think this is where I get my determination from. She has taught me to be strong, independent and to always go after what I want; she’s the only one who has supported me with my dream the whole way through. With her support, I graduated high school a year early at seventeen and went to the University of Vermont for my first year of college. Now I’m here. (Brianna smiles)

Tell us a little about your interest in fisheries and wildlife.

I’ve always had a passion for animals. I’ve never wanted to be anything but a veterinarian. Like all young kids, I’ve also always loved exotic animals, but I think my passion is a little different. While I do love these animals, I realize the need for us to do something. I realize that we won’t have any of these animals if we don’t respect them as roommates on our earth. I realize that the world is built on these animals- they are part of the delicate ecosystem just as much as we are. My passion for animals lead me to everything else that comes with them- biodiversity conservation, global warming, deforestation, conservation management…. All of it really. Without fisheries and wildlife, we have no earth, we have no home. 

How will you use this scholarship award?

This scholarship is making it possible for me to finish my final year as a Fisheries and Wildlife and Animal Science major. Before getting news of the scholarship, I was contemplating if I would even be able to attend the full year or if I would have to postpone graduation another term because of finances.

What opportunities will this scholarship provide for you that you might not otherwise have gotten to experience?


What are your hobbies and other interests?

I love being outside. Hoop dancing is actually my favorite pastime if anyone knows what that is. I like doing yoga, hiking, camping and recently I started learning to fish. Sometimes I like just being lazy and curling up with the pets and watching Netflix. On the weekends, if I don’t have too much homework, I volunteer at a place called Wildlife Images which is an animal rehabilitation center and an amazing experience.

What are your plans for next year?

Moving back to Corvallis area to finish my senior year of classes and then graduate hopefully! I’ve moved around so much the last several years that it will be great to be back and settled in one spot.

What are your long-term career goals?

After I graduate, I want to continue on to vet school (ideally here, because they’ve got a great program) and then I want to go on to work with zoos and conservation facilities as a veterinarian. My long-long term career goal is to open my own conservation center, but that is still a long ways away and I have a lot to learn before I get to that point.

If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

Definitely a cat. For one, I love cats but also I just relate best to cats. Cats are misunderstood creatures; they are so loyal and loving but it takes a lot to gain their trust. I guess that’s a lot like me. Cats are also just cool- they’re sleek, quiet, beautiful, stealthy and dangerous.

Any final words?  

Thank you! I work hard and am passionate about my dream, so I can tell you right now that this scholarship won’t go to waste. I’ve been working too hard and too long for this for it to not happen; this scholarship has been a blessing that removed a financial roadblock that would have otherwise kept my dream from happening. All I can say is thank you to everyone who gave me this opportunity.

-As interviewed by Dr. Joe Ebersole, Courtesy Assistant Professor

Starfish baby boom gives hope amid wasting disease

For the past two years, a mysterious wasting disease has devastated starfish living along the West Coast, turning countless individual animals into goo. But now, a record number of surviving starfish babies is giving some researchers reason for cautious optimism.

The Oregon coast currently has a thriving community of juvenile starfish (or sea stars), with some places seeing populations with as many as 300 times the typical number, researchers said. That’s welcome news, as up to 90 percent of sea stars in Oregon showed signs of the deadly wasting disease from June to August 2014, reports a new study published May 4 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Good Eats Fuel Galaxy Of Brittle And Basket Stars

The high starfish numbers don’t mean the deadly disease is gone, however, the researchers said. Another round of the wasting illness could kill the juvenile sea stars, including the purple ochre (Pisaster ochraceus), known as a “keystone” species because of its influence on the marine ecosystem, the researchers said. [In Photos: Sick Sea Stars Turn to Goo]

“When we looked at the settlement of the larval sea stars on rocks in 2014 during the epidemic, it was the same or maybe even a bit lower than previous years,” study lead author Bruce Menge, a professor of marine biology at Oregon State University, said in a statement. “But a few months later, the number of juveniles was off the charts — higher than we’d ever seen.”

NOAA looks for answers in the mysterious Mariana Trench

From April 20 to July 10, NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer, a former Navy ocean surveillance vessel repurposed for scientific research, is conducting three separate expeditions around the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument (MTMNM) and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a US commonwealth in the Pacific ocean. Through the 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas expedition, NOAA wants to collect more data on the area so they can better protect the deepest part of the planet.

“Despite decades of previous work in the region, much of the Monument and surrounding areas remain unexplored,” NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research says in a press release. “In the coming months, we expect to explore bottomfish habitats, new hydrothermal vent sponge communities, and seamounts, as well as subduction zone and trench areas.” Read more...

'Eve' and descendants shape global sperm whale population structure

In fact, the mitochondrial DNA from more than a thousand sperm whales examined during the past 15 years came from a single "Eve" sperm whale tens of thousands of years ago, the researchers say.

Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Molecular Ecology.

While the exact origins of this sperm whale "Eve" remain uncertain, the study shows the importance of her female descendants in shaping global population structure, according to Alana Alexander, a University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute researcher who conducted the study while a doctoral student at Oregon State University.

"Although the male sperm whale is more famous in literature and cinema through 'Moby Dick' and 'In the Heart of the Sea,' the patterns in mitochondrial DNA show that female sperm whales are shaping genetic differentiation by sticking close to home," Alexander said.

Working in the genetic lab of Scott Baker, associate director of Oregon State's Marine Mammal Institute, Alexander combined DNA information from 1,091 previously studied samples with 542 newly obtained DNA profiles from sperm whales. The new samples were part of a global sampling of sperm whale populations made possible by the Ocean Alliance's "Voyage of the Odyssey," a five-and-a-half year circumnavigation of the globe, including some of the most remote regions of the world. Read more...

Meet Ameyalli Manon-Ferguson - recipient of the 2016 Jim and Bonnie Hall Diversity Scholarship!

Ameyalli Manon-Ferguson, a Junior in our department, recently received the 2016 Jim and Bonnie Hall Diversity Scholarship. A lifelong Oregonian, Ameyalli also has ties to two very different cultures and places.  Her father’s family comes from Mexico City, while her roots on her mother’s side lie in rural Montana at the edge of Yellowstone National Park.  As such, she has experienced life as part of the third largest metropolis on the planet, and as part of a community of less than fifty people.   She traces the origin of her passion for wildlife and conservation to her early exposure to the marvelous biodiversity in Yellowstone, the opportunity to attend the Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School in Salem, and to the influence of the Native American community’s worldview with its strong emphasis on environmental stewardship.  Through these experiences, she too has come to value “taking care of the Earth, since it takes care of you.“ 

Ameyalli came to OSU undecided about her future direction, but knowing that she planned a career in research and that our school would be a great choice for any field of science.  She initially considered a major in Zoology, but upon touring Nash Hall, reading the posters, meeting other students, and realizing the potential of a career in conservation biology, she gladly seized on Fisheries and Wildlife as her academic home.

Faced with the high cost of tuition, books and living expenses, it has often been difficult for Ameyalli to make ends meet. She has worked three simultaneous jobs, and has at times dropped classes from her schedule in order to save on tuition. Thus, she plans to devote the scholarship entirely to tuition costs, and is looking forward to the freedom to take whatever classes she wishes next year without worrying about how to pay.  Our Mammalogy and Ichthyology classes top her list of priorities. Given the deep cultural importance of fishes and fishing for many of Oregon’s tribes, and her personal enthusiasm for research on big cats, she views both classes as crucial to her long term goal of working on wildlife conservation in partnership with the Native American community locally and throughout the world.   In so doing, she hopes to help preserve endangered human cultures at the same time that she works to protect the endangered wildlife that such cultures often value deeply. 

While working towards her long term goal, Ameyalli still finds time for independent research and volunteerism. She currently assists Maanav Kamath, a graduate student in the Levi lab, in a study of jaguar ecology and conservation in Brazil. She is getting lots of experience tagging videos from camera traps, and hopes to participate in Amazonian fieldwork someday.  Next year she will begin a position at the Eena Haws Longhouse, and she has also been accepted into the College of Agricultural Sciences Leadership Academy.

For recreation, Ameyalli enjoys outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking, skiing, and rockclimbing.  The last has been a particular passion since she was three, and led her to respond that she’d like to be a mountain goat if she could be transmogrified into any animal in the world.  In a similarly adventuresome spirit, she recently tried indoor skydiving, and hopes to take the training necessary to someday leap from an airplane for real.  

To conclude our interview, Ameyalli expressed her sincere gratitude to Jim and Bonnie Hall for establishing this scholarship, and indicated that she hopes one day to set up a scholarship fund of her own in reciprocity.   In so doing, she will pay this gift forward and let other students go to their first choice colleges, or help them avoid dropping out for financial reasons.  Given her achievements to date, I predict that she will be able to help create the bright future that she envisions for herself and others.  We will all be better for it. 

Above: Ameyalli on a recent Trip to Yellowstone.

As reported by Dr. Sid (Brian Sidlauskas) on April 29, 2016. 

To contribute to the Jim and Bonnie Hall Scholarship Fund, or any of our other scholarships please visit this page.

OSU researchers: DNA of sperm whales lacks diversity

NEWPORT, Ore. - Sperm whales lack a diversity of DNA inherited with their mothers, with 1,000 samples examined over the past 15 years sharing DNA from the same whale, researchers said this week in the journal Molecular Ecology.

The researchers call that common ancestor an "Eve" sperm whale, according to Oregon State University.

"Although the male sperm whale is more famous in literature and cinema through 'Moby Dick' and 'In the Heart of the Sea,' the patterns in mitochondrial DNA show that female sperm whales are shaping genetic differentiation by sticking close to home," said Alana Alexander, a University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute researcher who conducted the study while a doctoral student at Oregon State University.

Alexander conducted her research in the genetic lab of Scott Baker, associate director of Oregon State's Marine Mammal Institute.

She combined DNA information from 1,091 previously studied samples with 542 new DNA profiles from sperm whales from a global sampling of sperm whale populations made by researchers on a five-and-a-half year circumnavigation of the globe.


Undamming this major U.S. river is opening a world of possibility for native cultures and wildlife

Flowing over 250 miles to from the high desert of southern Oregon through the Cascades Mountains before emptying out into the Pacific Ocean in northern California, the Klamath River and its Coho and Chinook salmon and steelhead runs were vital to Native American tribes for thousands of years before settlers arrived.

But within decades of their arrival there would be half a dozen dams constructed on the river, effectively blocking salmon and steelhead migrations on what was once the third-highest salmon producing river on the West Coast. The river that was fabled for its millions of salmon each season saw significant decreases following dam construction.

But now after nearly a century, an agreement has finally been reached to remove four dams on the Klamath River by 2020 as the first step towards restoring the salmon and steelhead migrations in the Klamath basin.

The deal to carry out one of the largest dam removal projects in U.S. history was reached after years of effort by diverse stakeholders including the local Native American tribes, county, state and federal agencies, irrigators, farmers, and conservation and fishing groups.


Just how screwed are we when it comes to coral bleaching?

Last week, scientists delivered the news that more than 90% of Australia's Great Barrier Reef is suffering from bleaching. Researchers flew in helicopters and small planes over 911 of the individual reefs that comprise the Great Barrier Reef and found that only 68 of them had escaped bleaching entirely. Many of the rest have turned a ghostly white. "It's like 10 cyclones have come ashore all at once," said Terry Hughes, a researcher at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University and head of Australia's National Coral Bleaching Task Force.

The problem is not limited to Australia's coastal waters, either. Reefs in the Caribbean bleached last summer, with mot of the damage being observed around South Florida and into the Keys. Last fall, reefs around the Hawaiian archipelago suffered a similar fate. But what is actually going on with these oceanic habitats at a cellular level to make them turn stark white? We’ve heard a lot about rising water temperatures stemming from climate change, and Hughes was one of the scientists who co-signed a full-page newspaper ad in Queensland, Australia calling for immediate government action to protect the Reef.


Bizarre jellyfish is spotted in the depths of the Mariana Trench...May be an entirely new species

It's one of the most hostile places on Earth and extends seven miles (11km) below the waves at its deepest point, but the Mariana Trench is full of secrets.

A deepwater exploration mission of the area has spotted beautiful, unknown jellyfish with two types of tentacles as well as a number of other bizarre animals just one week into the study.

The orb-like jellyfish was spotted on a dive at a location named Engima Seamount at a depth of 12,139ft (3,700 metres).


How Dwindling Fish Stocks Got a Reprieve


“My wife told me to sell the boats,” says Brad Pettinger, a longtime trawl fisherman in the Pacific Northwest. “But I said, honey, who’s gonna buy them? At that time we just didn’t have anything.”

The “anything” was fish to catch. Fifteen years ago, America’s vast $50 million Pacific groundfish fishery, which stretches some 1,200 miles from Southern California to the Canadian border, collapsed.

Several critical species — from the spiky, orange canary rockfish to the large lingcod — had dropped to below one-quarter of their natural, un-fished levels. Sharp restrictions were brought in, and the fishery was officially declared an economic disaster. Many fishermen found themselves stranded and facing bankruptcy. “It was a perfect example of too many trawlers chasing too few fish,” says Pettinger, who is now director of the Oregon Trawl Commission. “It was a dark time.”


Dolphins have a language that helps them solve problems together

Bottlenose dolphins have been observed chattering while cooperating to solve a tricky puzzle – a feat that suggests they have a type of vocalisation dedicated to cooperating on problem solving.

Holli Eskelinen of Dolphins Plus research institute in Florida and her colleagues at the University of Southern Mississippi presented a group of six captive dolphins with a locked canister filled with food. The canister could only be opened by simultaneously pulling on a rope at either end.

The team conducted 24 canister trials, during which all six dolphins were present. Only two of the dolphins ever managed to crack the puzzle and get to the food.

The successful pair was prolific, though: in 20 of the trials, the same two adult males worked together to open the food canister in a matter of 30 seconds. In the other four trials, one of the dolphins managed to solve the problem on its own, but this was much trickier and took longer to execute. Read More...

New Job Posting: Instructor/Curator in Fisheries and Wildlife

Oregon State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife ( invites applications for a full-time Instructor / Curator. We seek an energetic, enthusiastic colleague with a passion for biological collections to help advance our nationally and internationally recognized teaching, research and outreach programs. Our interdisciplinary, collaborative department works throughout the Pacific Northwest and the world in diverse environments, and has long focused on understanding vertebrate biology and biodiversity as a foundation of effective conservation and management. Our Corvallis location affords easy access to Oregon’s diverse habitats and natural resources, including the Pacific Ocean, the deepest lake in the United States, extensive networks of rivers and streams, progressive urban and agricultural areas, mountains and high deserts.

The successful candidate will teach three to four Ecampus or summer session courses per year on topics related to zoology, taxonomy, systematics, ecology, evolution, natural history, conservation and curation; manage and curate OSU’s collections of fishes (, mammals, birds and aquatic Invertebrates, train and direct undergraduate collections assistants, produce scholarly work related to research, curation or outreach using natural history collections, and provide service to the department, university and profession.

To apply, please submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae, brief statements detailing your interest and experience in teaching, curation, and promoting diversity (one page each), and contact information (email and telephone) for three professional references at (posting number P00199UF). The position requires a master’s degree in vertebrate zoology, ichthyology, mammalogy, ornithology, museum studies, or a related field. A more detailed position description, including other minimum and preferred qualifications, also appears on that site. Applications must be received on or before Sunday, May 8th to be considered. 

Questions about the position can be directed to the chair of the search committee, Dr. Brian Sidlauskas, at

Link to posting:

Study finds lack of diversity in Fisheries Scientists

According to the 2010 United States Census, 51 percent of the people in the U.S. are women. That same year, a study of Ph.D. students in the biological sciences documented that 52 percent of the students pursuing doctorates were women – roughly the same percentage.

However, the new study by researchers at Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service found that roughly even split soon disappears – in both federal government positions and in academic institutions. The researchers found that 74 percent of federal fisheries scientists or managers are men, as were 73 percent of the university assistant professors, 71 percent of associate professors and 85 percent of full professors.

The lack of diversity is even more pronounced when analyzed by race. In 2010, the U.S. population was 64 percent white, and participation in biological sciences Ph.D. programs was 69 percent white. Yet only roughly 10 percent of all fisheries science, manager and faculty positions were occupied by minorities. Read more...

Pygmy blue whale study reveals important nursing area


A pygmy blue whale foraging ground 40km north of Farewell Spit may also be an important area for nursing blue whale mothers and their calves, a study has revealed.

During the research conducted in January and February by a team of international scientists and funded by National Geographic, five mother-calf pairs were sighted all within 8km of each other on the same day.

What is believed to be the very first aerial footage of a breastfeeding mother and her calf was also captured.


‘How We Save Whales from Space’: The Whale Trail’s next event

Join us for this rare Seattle appearance by renowned whale researcher Bruce Mate. Bruce will demonstrate how his teams use satellite-monitored radio tags to identify critical habitats and migration routes of endangered whales to protect them. His talk will focus on western and ENP gray whales, right whales, and contemporary issues for blue whales during the last few years of warm water as examples. Read more...

Study shows forest thinning changes movement patterns, habitat use by martens

Scientists who for the first time used global positioning system (GPS) telemetry to monitor the movements of reclusive Pacific martens have discovered that these fierce, tiny mammals tend to avoid open stands of trees resulting from forest thinning.

That could put conservation efforts to protect martens at odds with modern forest management, but the researchers say there is a prescription that may work for both interests: maintaining forest thinning at lower elevations, which are less favored by martens, and preserve more high-elevation forests – which are at less risk for catastrophic wildfire – as complex, marten-friendly stands.

Results of the research, which was conducted in northern California, have just been published in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

"There are two main reasons that martens avoid open forests," said Katie Moriarty, a post-doctoral research biologist with the U.S. Forest Service, who conducted the research as a doctoral student at Oregon State University. "Martens eat a lot of food – up to a quarter of their body weight a day. It would be like you eating 100 hamburgers. They need downed logs and dense sapling cover to hunt successfully. Read more...

If we grow things in seawater that's nutritious, we'll have an endless supply of food

Professor Chris Langdon came to OSU in 1986 from the University of Delaware to work on oysters. Seaweed had not been part of his research until he started examining it as feed for abalone about 20 years ago.

It was then that Langdon and his team of researchers looked at different strains of dulse seaweed (Palmaria mollis) found from Alaska to mid-California.

A graduate student noticed that in one tank, a mutated strain of the dulse collected from Puget Sound, had a different shape. Its leaves were broader than the others and it grew much faster. The other samples that were gathered from San Luis Obispo didn't show the same growth rates and the leaves were much finer.

"It was an accidental discovery," Langdon said. "It's like a lot of plants, where there's a natural mutation and they change their morphology. Read more...

Oregon State University Bird Nerds Club Spring Break

From March 19-22, 2016, 8 student members of the OSU Bird Nerds and 2 Willamette University students took part in this four-day field trip to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Steens Mountain, Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, Chickahominy Reservoir, Silver Creek, Silvies Flood Plain, and the surrounding region. It was made possible thanks to a generous grant from the Oregon Birding Association’s Oregon Fund for Ornithology, as well as a generous grant from the Audubon Society of Corvallis. OSU Bird Nerds sincerely thanks both of these wonderful organizations for their support of our students. We would also like to thank Duncan and Caryn at Malheur Field Station for their hospitality and great information. What an amazing facility! Read more (and check out the photos!)...

This is a Summer Job?

How do you roast cottonseeds to make the best tasting spread? How many baby oysters can grow in a 1-liter jar? Can you really make rubber out of dandelion sap?

Every summer, a dozen Oregon State University undergraduates explore questions like these. Through the College of Agricultural Sciences’ Experiential Learning Internships, they’re matched with like-minded scientists at one of OSU’s eleven Agricultural Experiment Station branch centers, located in every corner of the state.

It’s a pretty sweet summer job— several cuts above clerking in a store or caddying at the local golf club. But it’s more than a job, these students say. As they work with AES researchers on reallife science projects, they gain valuable research skills and career experience.

Learn more about it!

Oregon State University Scientists Show How They See in the Dark

They look remotely through cameras on underwater vehicles, directly while diving and from 200 miles above with satellite images, said Maryann Bozza, program manager at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center.

The scientists use sensitive instruments to hear restless underwater volcanos.

“You’ll be able to listen to them here,” Bozza said. “They roar.” Read more...

Grad student Theresa Kirchner shares her experiences in Antarctica

Now and then – a personal account of an expedition to Antarctica

This is an account of my participation in an expedition to Antarctica over three weeks in winter term 2016 onboard the ecotourism ship Akademik Sergey Vavilov, for course credit (that’s right) towards my Master’s degree in Wildlife Science at Oregon State University.

‘…no voyage, no salty yarn;

only different, less stimulating paths toward a career’.

- Robert Cushman Murphy

Personally, I have never really been into history. I have a lot of things to do and to occupy my mind with, and living in the past is not one of them. Similarly, I have never really cared much for philosophy. I have always pictured philosophers as old men with oversized heads sitting somewhere in a dark room thinking about things, instead of experiencing them. Maybe owing to this ignorance, I find it absolutely astonishing that over 2000 years ago, Greek philosophers (in my ignorant mind sitting somewhere in a basement in ancient Greece) were able to use logic (and clairvoyance?) to conjure up an entire continent. Read more... (more photos inside!)

Photo by Theresa Kirchner 



Grad student Natalie Mastick tells us about her adventures in Antarctica

(Photo by Natalie Mastick)

My name is Natalie Mastick, and I am a graduate student completing my masters in Wildlife Science. I double majored in my undergraduate career, which kept me busy enough to miss out on the opportunity to study abroad—something I’ve regretted ever since. However last quarter I got to have an experience that not only made up for that missed opportunity, but completely surpassed my expectations of what a study abroad program could be.

(Photo by One Ocean Expeditions)

This winter quarter I had the opportunity to study abroad in Antarctica through the Fisheries and Wildlife Department. The course was a twelve-credit hybrid of an Antarctic Governance and Policy course and an Antarctic Research and Ecology course. The first five weeks of the course took place in Corvallis, where we read intensively on the governance of Antarctica and how the Antarctic Treaty System functions, as well as the issues the Antarctic faces as a place of science. Then we all headed to Punta Arenas, Chile, a city very close to the southern tip of South America, where we met and then flew to the Falkland Islands, from which we caught our vessel to cross the Drake Passage.

(Photo by Natalie Mastick)

For three weeks we learned and researched on an eco-tourism cruise ship around the Antarctic Peninsula. We each developed our own research projects, which we conducted on board and on land. Every day we traveled to a new place on or around the Peninsula, and had opportunities to go on shore to observe penguin, fur seal, and elephant seal colonies, as well as the unique geology of the Peninsula and ruins of old whaling and sealing stations.

(Photo by Natalie Mastick)

While we traveled around the Peninsula, we saw whales from afar and watched albatrosses soar behind us. We also had opportunities to go out on Zodiacs with the rest of the passengers to get closer to icebergs, glaciers, and whales. As a graduate student studying humpback whales, I was excited and anxious to see some humpbacks in Antarctica. The abundance however, was staggering. We came across more humpbacks, and all wildlife, for that matter, than I was expecting. They were also more curious than I’ve ever seen elsewhere. More than once, while we were stopped in a Zodiac, a humpback came within five meters of our boat, taking everyone on board’s breath away.

(Photo by Natalie Mastick)

Not only did we get to see the wildlife the Southern Ocean had to offer, we were also surrounded by experienced and wise people that shared their knowledge about the history, ecology, geology, and glaciology of Antarctica. That was nearly as inspirational as the setting itself. I worked with a retired collections curator for the California Academy of Sciences, a department that I worked in nearly ten years after he had left it. I also learned from one of the first women to work at New Zealand’s Scott’s Base, as well as researchers from the Australian Antarctic Division and Stony Brook University. The course instructors, Michael Harte of CEOAS and Ari Friedlaender of FW [Department of Fisheries and Wildlife], were both very knowledgeable and informative about all things Antarctic. I also learned from the photographer in residence on board, who shared her wisdom to help me get better photos of everything I may not get the opportunity to see again.

(Photo by Natalie Mastick)

Overall, the course was an incredible experience. I learned more than I could have expected about the Antarctic and the people that work to keep it a place of beauty and science. It was a great, immersive opportunity to conduct a research project and learn by doing. While we experienced the bad with the good—we got a taste of the seas that make the Drake Passage infamous, we experienced the snow, and we felt gale force winds—I would not have wanted it any other way. We lived in Antarctica for a month, which is something I never thought I would get the opportunity to do and something that I will never forget. 

(Photo by Natalie Mastick)

Don't Flush 'Em! Oregon's Water Not Tested For Pharma

Oregon’s water is tested for suspended solids, certain chemicals, heavy metals, but not for pharmaceuticals. With prescription drug use on the rise --way too often-- unused meds end up in the landfill or flushed down the toilet. KLCC’s Tiffany Eckert reports on how Lane County agencies are stepping up their message of what to do with unwanted drugs.

Sarah Grimm is the waste reduction specialist for Lane County Public Works.

She's seeing a problem in her industry: pharmaceutical meds being flushed down the toilet.

Grimm: “I continue to get reports from citizens who’ve heard from either a pharmacy or a health care provider telling them, ‘Oh well, if they don’t work for you, just flush em.” Read more...

Watershed Restoration Workshop - Register today!

Watershed Restoration Workshop Page

During the first day, trainees will be introduced to a transparent and flexible decision making tool that was developed in Coos Bay, Oregon under the coordination of Drs. Guillermo Giannico and Jon Souder (OSU) with support from Sea Grant. Some of the main collaborators in the development of this tool included Drs. Phil Roni, Tim Beechie and George Pess (NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, USA), and Dr. Gordie Reeves (U.S. Forest Service). The “Coos Bay Prioritization Approach” (as it is commonly referred to) involves ample public consultation at various stages and has been adopted during the past eight years by several watershed councils in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.   

On the second day of this workshop, Dr. Phil Roni, will cover the key steps needed to evaluate the effectiveness of single and multiple restoration projects at various scales both spatial (reach, watershed, province) and temporal. Trainees will also learn successful  effectiveness monitoring strategies, efficient and effective protocols, how to select parameters and estimate adequate sample sizes (i.e., number of years and/or sites) to detect relevant restoration responses or “signals”. Hands on exercises will include monitoring plan development, sample size estimation, and how to summarize and analyze effectiveness monitoring data.

Registration fee for this two-day workshop is $450.00.  You can choose to attend just one day of the workshop for $290. 

Spring 2016 Departmental Seminar Series: Climate Impacts on Fish, Wildlife, and their Habitats

PDF of schedule

March 30th

Dr. Nicole DeCrappeo
Department of the Interior Northwest Climate Science Center, Corvallis, OR “Moving Past Acceptance: Developing Relationships, Tools, and Actions to Respond to Climate Change in the Northwest”


April 6th

Dr. Brooke Penaluna
Pacific NW Research Station, U.S. Forest Service, Corvallis, OR
“Stream characteristics buffer fish populations to the effects of land use and climate change”


April 13th

Dr. Tom Wainwright
Newport Research Station, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Newport, OR
“Salmon & climate: managing for an unknown future”


April 20th

Dr. Bruce Marcot
Pacific NW Research Station, U.S. Forest Service, Portland, OR
“Big Changes in Cold Places: Projected Responses of Bird and Mammal Habitats to Climate Change in Northwest Alaska”


April 27th

Dr. Erica Fleishman
Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis, CA
“Reconciling statistical rigor and biological inference in models of occupancy”


May 4th

Dr. Karen Thorne
USGS Western Ecological Research Center, San Francisco Bay Estuary Field Station, Vallejo, CA “Coastal futures: marshes or mudflats?”


May 11th

Dr. Abigail (Abby) Lynch and Dr. Laura Thompson
USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, Reston, VA
“Documented impacts of climate change on North American wildlife and inland fishes”


May 18th

Dr. Maureen (Mo) Ryan
Conservations Science Partners, Seattle, WA
Dr. Meghan Halabisky
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
“New methods for understanding climate impacts on freshwater wetlands: from 
resurrecting history to modeling the future”


May 25th

Dr. Manuela Huso
USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, Corvallis, OR
“Measuring effects of wind power and solar power development on wildlife” 


June 1st

Dr. Meade Krosby
Climate Impacts Group, College of the Environment, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
“Informing wildlife management in a changing climate: Taking a co-production approach to produce science that’s credible, useful, and used”

Potential MH370 debris found in Mozambique is causing confusion with Marine Biologists

The first confirmed piece of debris was a flaperon found last July in Reunion, which showed a large growth of barnacles suggesting it has been in the water a long time. Read more...

Southern right whale study quantifies impact of whaling in New Zealand's waters

The research, published in Royal Society Open Science, highlighted the slow path to recovery from whaling in this area, said the study's lead author, Jennifer Jackson from the British Antarctic Survey.

"It's really easy for us to forget how different our oceans looked before we went in and exploited them," Dr Jackson said.

"There are anecdotes that people in Wellington would complain about the noises that the southern right whales were making in the harbour at night."

In the 19th and 20th centuries, southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) were massacred by whalers in their coastal calving grounds around the New Zealand mainland and while foraging in the waters around New Zealand and south-eastern Australia. Read more...

OSU whale researcher and wife pledge $800,000 endowment for marine graduate students

With the cost of living and higher education on the rise in Corvallis, an Oregon State University researcher and his wife are doing what they can to make the lives of their graduate students a little easier.

Bruce Mate, director of OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute, and his wife Mary Lou are pledging a new fellowship endowment to support graduate students at the institute. The couple are committing $800,000 for the new Mary Lou and Bruce R. Mate Marine Mammal Institute Fellowship.

Bruce Mate said he understands how difficult it can be for a graduate student to make ends meet.

“When we came to Oregon, we arrived as newlyweds with $70 in our pockets,” he said on Friday. “We had to take out loans and my wife worked as a nurse while I went to school. We know how challenging it can be to get an education without this.” Read more...

Scientists Still Worry about Species Tsunami Swept from Japan to Oregon

Debris covered in Japanese writing started washing up on Oregon shores.

There were coolers and tubs and canisters and boats.

Perhaps most famously, a massive dock - 165 ton chunk of concrete and steel - washed up on Agate Beach near Newport in June 2012 having made the 5,000 mile journey across the ocean.

It wasn't alone: the dock - and other tsunami debris - crossed the ocean with hitchhikers aboard.

And some of the plants and creatures that crossed the ocean were of concern to scientists: these non-native plants and fish might pose a danger to Northwest waters.

Five years after the disaster, scientists are still uncertain whether any of the more than 200 species that crossed the ocean on tsunami debris have established themselves in the ocean off Oregon, Washington and northern California, Oregon State University said this week.

In the past 3 years, scientists have found barred knifejaws - a fish native to Japan - 4 times.

Mediterranean blue mussels have been ubiquitous on tsunami debris, the university said.

But so far, there's no evidence any of these visitors have put down roots and reproduced ont his side of the ocean.

"Maybe we dodged the bullet, although it is still too early to tell," said John Chapman, an Oregon State University invasive species expert who has investigated tsunami debris along the Pacific coastline. "It is possible that we have not yet discovered these reproductive populations, or that some species from Japan may be cross-breeding with our own species." Read more...

Scotland's Orkney Islands harness energy from the sea


Humans have long depended on the sea as a source of food and a means of travel. But the world's oceans offer another essential resource: energy. And Scotland's Orkney Islands boast optimal conditions for harnessing the power of currents and tides.

"We've got the tides of the North Sea meeting the tides of the Atlantic Ocean, and as they are filtered through these very narrow channels between the islands, the currents pick up - and that's why we've got the best tidal resource in the world," says James Murray, an engineer with Scotrenewables, a company that's developing marine energy technology.

Ocean waves can also be formidable - averaging 2 to 3 meters (6.5 to almost 10 feet) but swelling to 18 meters in stormy weather. The challenge is to convert that power into electricity.

"To build a piece of machinery that's capable of withstanding that is a big ask," says Neil Kermode, director of the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC), a non-profit research laboratory on Orkney. "You have to design equipment that's flexible enough to react to the waves, yet durable enough to survive them." Read more...

Tiny sea creatures turning tidelines purple at Seaside, other Oregon beaches

Striking purple-blue sea creatures, Velella velella, have washed up by the thousands on on Seaside beach and other stretches of the north Oregon coast in recent days, tourism officials said Monday.

Tiffany Booth of the Seaside Aquarium provided these eye-catching photos, which she took Friday at Fort Stevens State Park and Monday at Seaside.

The small jellyfish-like animals normally live out at sea, floating on its surface. But every spring, thousands get blown by strong westerly winds onto the sands of Oregon, California and Washington and die, Bill Hanshumaker, a senior instructor at the Hatfield Marine Science Center and chief scientist for Oregon Sea Grant, told The Oregonian/Oregonlive last year.

The Velella velellas creating intricate patterns on the beaches near Warrenton and Seaside this week are smaller than those that normally draw beachcombers' eyes, perhaps because they have washed ashore so early in the season.

The Oregonian reported on big Valella velella displays at the Oregon coast in July 2014 and April 2015. Read more...

Tsunami castaways go on display at Oregon coast aquarium

Fishing buoys, fuel drums and even a derelict squid boat were among the tons of debris that floated into Alaska waters after Japan’s 2011 devastating earthquake and tsunami.

A striped beakfish that hitchhiked across the Pacific Ocean via a probable tsunami wreck now swims at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. (Photo by Tom Banse, Northwest News Network – Oregon)

An Oregon aquarium is about to open a display of the disaster’s living legacy on March 11.

Oregon Coast Aquarium assistant curator Evonne Mochon Collura introduced me to some well-traveled newcomers.

“They’re swimming comfortably among the kelp right now,” said Collura.

They looked right at home there. Just looking at them, they’re unusual looking. Not quite tropical, but pretty-looking fish and healthy looking. Read more...

At the Apex

BETH ORNING WALKS ALONG THE RIM OF A STEEP RAVINE, the brittle, rime-crusted grasses crunching under her boots. A chill mist shrouds the surrounding hills, where autumn-yellow larches pierce the deep-green stands of Ponderosa pine like golden spears.

From a holster on Orning’s belt glints a blood-red canister of Counter Assault Bear Deterrent. The pepper spray is standard field gear, just in case she blunders into an aggressive black bear. She stands still for a moment, her gloved hand holding up an aluminum pole fitted with horizontal crossbars. Resembling a ‘50s-era TV antenna, the instrument is in fact a very-high-frequency (VHF) radio receiver. She’s picking up a signal. A cougar, silent and unseen in the thick understory, is emitting a beacon from its tracking collar, placed by researchers two years before.

“She’s close, about a hundred meters to the north,” says Orning, a Ph.D. student studying wildlife biology at Oregon State University. Waiting for her to give the go-ahead is her team of two animal handlers and master houndsman Ted Craddock, a frequent partner in the collaborative big-predator research of Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Craddock’s dog Spur, a “high-tan” coonhound bred and trained for moments exactly like this, is hyper-alert, his nose greedily sucking in the musky scents of this wild place on the edge of the “Blues,” the sprawling mountain range on Oregon’s northeastern flank that includes the Elkhorns and the Strawberries. Read more...

Tohoku tsunami debris, some with invasive life, still turning up on North American West Coast

When debris from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster in northeast Japan first wended its over through the Pacific Ocean’s currents, concerns about potential radioactive contaminants from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster briefly gripped residents of Hawaii and North America’s West Coast.

Fewer paid attention to the living things, such as mussels, barnacles and seaweeds, that clung to the debris, and their capacity to harm marine ecosystems unaccustomed to their presence.

Five years later, debris is still washing up, and scientists have begun to explore whether the invasive species have become established in North America.

“Although there’s a lot of marine debris out there, we generally don’t know when it began its ocean life and we often don’t know where it came from,” said Jim Carlton, professor emeritus at Williams College in Massachusetts and lead principal investigator in a U.S.-Japan project to evaluate species on the debris. Read more...

Intrepid cruisers can sail Antarctica with scientists

Cruisers can have a front-row seat while scientists in Antarctica tag whales, observe marine mammals underwater and collect real scientific data during two upcoming voyages with the Canadian company One Ocean Expeditions.

The polar cruise specialist has unveiled the Marine Mammal Viewing Cruise, designed for intrepid travelers, photographers and wildlife enthusiasts. Departures are March 18, 2016 and March 17, 2017.

Traveling in the Southern Ocean in March provides a perfect opportunity to experience close encounters with a profusion of wildlife that can be seen in this remote corner of the world, says the line. From a seat on a zodiac, passengers can see pods of humpback, minke and orca whales and impressive numbers of seals congregating to feed on massive blooms of Antarctic krill, the keystone species of the Antarctic ecosystem.

Guests can also witness the cruise company's team of expert marine biologists and scientists immersed in an innovative whale-tagging operation for data collection, studying feeding behavior, dive profiles and migration patterns.

The Antarctic Peninsula region is explored during the voyage and the region is the focus of a long-term whale tagging research project that was initiated by Dr. Ari Friedlaender, researcher and professor at Oregon State University. His specialty is foraging ecology and effects of climate change on marine mammals and their behavior relating to environmental variables. Read more...

Dread is vanishing from the animal world. Here’s why that’s a bad thing.

Picture a northern Pacific archipelago: forested islets and sandstone beaches, blue-gray water lapping against a rocky shore. A wave crashes, a gull caws, a raccoon ambles around in the intertidal zone, clambering over slick rocks in search of something to eat.

Now inject terror into the scene: the sound of a hungry dog barking. Suddenly, the landscape is transformed.

This is what Justin Suraci, an ecologist at the University of Victoria, found after spending several years on the Gulf Islands in British Columbia, trying to terrorize some small mammals. It was a silly-sounding project — and Suraci will admit he looked pretty silly doing it — with a sobering result.

Terror turned out to play a critical role in balancing the ecosystem, Suraci said in a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications. It’s the driving force of an emotional drama that plays out on the Gulf Islands and every other landscape in the world without humans ever noticing.

Fear of large predators — not just the predators themselves but the larger, all-encompassing dread of their presence — keeps smaller “mesopredators” in check. It means that those animals spend less time eating and more time worrying about getting eaten. This in turn allows their even smaller prey to flourish, maintaining an ecological harmony that has been honed for millennia. Read more...

What Whales Do at Night

On a Saturday night in April Scott Kraus is getting ready to take out his boat from Sandwich, Mass., to spend the evening on Cape Cod Bay’s calm waters. Kraus, vice president of research at the New England Aquarium, and his two-member crew are not out for a leisure sunset cruise but are on a mission—they want to find out what North Atlantic right whales are doing at night. “It is like pulling an all-nighter in college, without the beer,” says Kraus, who has loaded an arsenal of militarylike night vision tools on the boat, including a high-resolution infrared camera, a light intensifying scope and a mirrorless, low-light digital camera. Kraus has been studying right whales for more than 35 years.

The whales come to this region in late winter and early spring to feed on copepods. Scientists have studied the whales for years but most of what they know about the behavior of these large mammals is derived from daylight observations. “Being out in a small boat amongst whales during the day is a lovely experience,” says Mark Baumgartner, an associate scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “Being out in a small boat trying to track a whale in darkness is slightly terrifying.”

With only 500 remaining worldwide, the North Atlantic right whale population is considered endangered and faces multiple threats. Nearly 83 percent of the whales have become entangled with fixed fishing equipment such as lobster gear at least once. Kraus has been experimenting with colored fishing rope that whales could potentially better see at night. “My concern is what these animals are seeing at night and what they are capable of avoiding,” he says. Read more...

Study: Lovable pika will likely survive warming in Craters of Moon

A recent study by the National Park Service offers good news for one of the species that has become a measure of the threat to biodiversity posed by global warming.

The study shows that the American pika, that loveable little rock-dwelling lagomorph with a high-pitched alarm whistle, is likely to survive, even thrive, in several national parks and monuments, including Craters of the Moon. A relative of rabbits and hares, the pika usually lives in alpine environments with rock fields, like Idaho’s Sawtooths and Yellowstone National Park.

But pikas have been thriving in Craters of the Moon, the high-desert Snake River Plain near Arco dominated by 2,000- to 15,000-year-old lava flows, caves and fissures. Pika numbers are projected to drop, but not wink out. Read more...

Exclusive Video May Be First to Show Blue Whale Calf Nursing

Gorgeous new footage may shed light on one of the mysteries of the largest animal that ever lived: How do blue whales nurse?

National Geographic Explorer and marine ecologist Leigh Torres made the likely discovery of nursing while on a research cruise in the South Taranaki Bight off the western coast of New Zealand. On February 5, the Oregon State University professor got video that she thinks shows a mother blue whale and her calf nursing beneath the waves. 

Although she can't definitely say that's what the pair was doing, the fact that the smaller whale kept alternating between breathing at the surface and swimming under its mother to spend some time at the same spot strongly suggests nursing, says Torres. This would make it the first known footage of nursing in blue whales. Read more...