Today, HMSC is abuzz with activity. Research, outreach, and education thrive. Collaborative research is the Center’s greatest strength, and research topics are as diverse as the sea itself: ecology of salmon, marine mammals, sea birds and larval fish; impacts related to wave energy, marine reserves, climate change and aquaculture; undersea volcanoes, faults and hydrothermal vents; and many more. Similarly, research tools range from the newest and most innovative — genomics, remote sensing, satellite tags for wildlife tracking and remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) for underwater exploration, to tried and true — nets, waders, seawater tanks and World War II-era hydrophones. Regardless of the tools, HMSC scientists consistently publish at the cutting edge of their respective fields.
Collaborative research is conducted in every hall and laboratory at HMSC, supported by prestigious grants from the National Science Foundation and funding from a plethora of federal and state agencies, private foundations, and industry. Even the Visitor Center (VC) serves as a research laboratory. Dr. Shawn Rowe heads up the Free-Choice Learning Lab at the Visitor Center, where he and his colleagues study the learning process in informal educational settings. The VC is Rowe’s laboratory, with cameras, microphones, and interactive kiosks to help collect data on visitors’ interactions with the exhibits and with each other. Elsewhere on the HMSC campus, Dr. Rob Suryan, a faculty member in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, works with USFWS staff in their coastal wildlife refuges to study seabird populations. Dr. Louise Copeman, a faculty member from the highly collaborative Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies, works closely with Dr. Bill Peterson of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center on questions of oceanic food web dynamics.
HMSC researchers reach well beyond the walls of the center, working with industry, as in Project CROOS (Collaborative Research on Oregon Ocean Salmon), a partnership between west coast fisherman, resource managers and scientists. Project CROOS uses genetic identification of salmon stocks, providing managers with data collected by fisherman to help reduce bycatch of weak salmon stocks and keep fishermen fishing and salmon fisheries sustainable. HMSC faculty collaborate all over the world, from Antarctica to the South Pacific to Alaska, on sea life ranging from plankton to blue whales. There are examples of cutting-edge interdisciplinary research in every hallway in HMSC’s maze of buildings; some are described in the section “Hot Topics.”
HMSC is not just about theoretical research: the Center’s staff is often called to respond to real-world events in real-time. After the devastating earthquake and tsunami of 2011, a massive dock from Japan, which had broken loose and traveled across the Pacific Ocean, garnered international media attention with its 2012 arrival on a Newport beach. HMSC researchers and resource managers from OSU and state and federal agencies responded to determine the risk of species invasions from the dock itself and any other tsunami debris that had washed up on Oregon’s beaches. In addition to inspiring a range of research projects, the dock is serving an educational and cultural purpose: one corner of it now stands as a memorial outside of the Visitor Center, reminding guests and staff alike of the power of the sea.
Another recent milestone in HMSC’s history is the addition of new neighbors. Adding to the cluster of marine science institutions in South Beach near the HMSC campus, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration moved its Marine Operations Center – Pacific (MOC-P) from Seattle to Newport in 2011. Five NOAA vessels now call Newport home, and the facility provides coordination and administration for the entire Pacific NOAA fleet. The Oregon Coast also benefits from new additions to the marine education community, with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s (OMSI) new field camp joining long-established educational programs by Oregon Sea Grant at HMSC and the Oregon Coast Aquarium nearby. The Oregon Coast Community College’s (OCCC) innovative Aquarium Science Program, unique in the nation, trains a pipeline of highly qualified aquarists for research and education.
The Cutting Edge: What Lies Ahead for HMSC...