Interactions between physical, chemical, and living components are the core of marine ecology. Explore HMSC labs on the cutting edge of ecological studies in marine systems.
The Seabird Oceanography Lab (SOL) at Oregon State University is involved in research focusing on seabird ecology, movement ecology, oceanography, and integrated ecosystem studies while providing research and educational opportunities for students.
Research applications range from colony- and vessel-based observational studies to deploying state of the art electronics to study individual foraging, dispersal, migration, and behavior patterns of seabirds. These biologging data are often integrated with in-situ and remotely-sensed measures of prey resources or their proxies or related to human activities (e.g., fishing) or threats. In addition to environmental "bottom-up" studies, we also study the "top-down" effects of predators on seabird population dynamics and life histories.
Conservation aspects of the research include species restoration, population assessment, and monitoring, seabird-fishery interactions, identification of marine important bird areas, and marine spatial planning.
The Sponaugle-Cowen Plankton Ecology Laboratory conducts basic and applied research on the ecology of marine fishes and the dynamics of their early life history stages. They are especially interested in the processes underlying the growth, survival, and dispersal of early life stages, leading to successful settlement and recruitment to the benthic populations. Most of their work has focused on marine fishes in a variety of systems but especially those on tropical coral reefs. Some of their interdisciplinary efforts have focused on identifying the physical and biological processes creating a temporal and spatial pattern in offshore larval distributions and overall larval supply. Other efforts have been directed at identifying the linkages between the pelagic life of larvae and subsequent recruitment of juveniles to the reef. The lab's overarching goal is to better understand the events occurring in the pelagic larval stage that influence population replenishment and connectivity. The data they collect is not only relevant to ecology and oceanography, but also are useful for quantifying overall population replenishment, designing and evaluating marine reserves, and interpreting future environmental changes.
The Western Ecology Division (WED) conducts innovative research on watershed ecological epidemiology and develops tools to assist stakeholders achieve sustainable and resilient watersheds. Research focuses on terrestrial, freshwater, and coastal systems and how they are connected. Scientists develop tools to monitor and predict the condition of these systems and their contributions to human well-being nationwide, with a special focus on the Pacific Northwest.
WED leads innovative research and predictive modeling efforts that link environmental conditions to the health and well-being of people and society. WED advances research and tools for achieving sustainable and resilient watershed and water resources. WED advances systems-based research to predict the adverse effects of chemicals and other stressors across species and biological levels of organization through the development and quantification of adverse outcomes pathways across multiple scales.
The Marine & Anadromous Fisheries Ecology lab studies how animals move throughout rivers and oceans (their transport, dispersal, and migration) and how that movement affects their growth and survival. Headed by Jessica Miller, researchers in the lab focus primarily on economically and ecologically important species, mostly those found along the west coast of the United States. Their research often relies on the examination of animal hard parts, including scales, otoliths, vertebrae, and shells. Referred to as "biogeochemical markers," these structures are rich stores of data about individuals that allow researchers to determine how environmental variation and climate change can affect the life histories of fish and invertebrates, with an eye towards how that information can inform management. All of this research comes together to inform sound conservation and management strategies of our marine resources.
Jessica’s lab also had the opportunity to study hundreds of coastal species that arrived on Agate Beach in Newport, Oregon, after the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. Many organisms that crossed the Pacific Ocean on the tsunami debris arrived on beaches along the west coast of North America and the Hawaiian Archipelago alive, which provided Jessica and her colleagues with the unique opportunity to look at how marine debris could disperse organisms around the globe in the future and evaluate some of the potential ecological impacts of such events.
The Benthic Ecology lab seeks to elucidate how global climate change and human activities affect marine species at the molecular, organism, and population-level as well as affect community structure and ecosystem functioning. They investigate the ecological effects of wave energy development on benthic communities. Within this context, the lab explore two main issues: (1) how reduction in wave energy will affect communities and species inshore of wave capture devices, and (2) how the introduction of novel ‘habitat’ provided by wave capture devices and associated structures affects communities and species within an array of wave energy capture devices. The lab is also engaged in other research about human impacts on benthic systems.
Currently, they are investigating potential bioaccumulation of metals and organic compounds from the Georgia Pacific paper mill outfall in benthic organisms. The lab is also are investigating the success (in terms of providing ecosystem services such as habitat and sediment accumulation) of a replanted native eelgrass bed as compared to longer-standing reference beds.
The Marine Mammal Institute's Whale Telemetry Group (WTG) has pioneered the development of satellite-monitored radio tags to study the movements, critical habitats, and dive characteristics of free-ranging whales and dolphins around the world. Since the first deployment of a satellite tag on a humpback whale off Newfoundland, Canada, in 1986, the WTG has tagged a total of 462 whales from 11 different species. This work has led to the discovery of previously unknown migration routes and seasonal distribution (wintering and summering areas), as well as descriptions of diving behavior.
The WTG primarily focuses on endangered whale species whose distribution, movements, and critical habitats (feeding, breeding, and migration areas) are unknown for much of the year. Decision-makers use this valuable information to manage human activities that may jeopardize the recovery of endangered whale populations.
The objectives of the WTG’s telemetry studies are to (1) identify whale migration routes; (2) identify specific feeding and breeding grounds, if unknown; (3) characterize local whale movements and dive habits in both feeding and breeding grounds, and during migration; (4) examine the relationships between whale movements/dive habits and prey distribution, time of day, geographic location, or physical and biological oceanographic conditions; (5) provide surfacing-rate information that can be useful in the development of more accurate abundance estimations, or assessing whales’ reactions to human disturbance; (6) characterize whale vocalizations; and (7) characterize sound pressure levels to which whales are exposed.
We investigate the ecology, behavior, and physiology of pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walrus). Pinniped stocks and population trends are analyzed about predator-prey interactions, anthropogenic (man-made) and natural variations in environmental conditions.
We focus on pinniped diving and foraging behavior about reproductive strategies. Of particular interest are the effects of physiological constraints on behavioral plasticity, and how these influence the ability of pinnipeds to respond to environmental changes.
Our research is carried out in many locations in Oregon, California, and Alaska, and as far away as Antarctica.
A key aspect of our work involves the development and application of innovative research approaches and new technologies to study animals that spend the majority of their life outside of our sphere of direct observation. Examples include infrared and 3D remote imaging, as well as development of life-long satellite transmitters to monitor health, condition and vital rates in inaccessible species such as the Steller sea lion in Alaska.
The GEMM Lab focuses on the ecology, behavior, health, and conservation of marine megafauna including cetaceans, pinnipeds, seabirds, and sharks. We aim to fill knowledge gaps about species ecology, health, and distribution patterns so that conservation efforts can be more directed and effective at reducing space-use conflicts with human activities.
We work closely with partners and stakeholders to fully understand issues and needs, and prioritize communication of our work and findings through a variety of formal and informal outlets.
The Marine Resources Program (MRP) is ODFW’s home for management of fish and wildlife species and habitats in the ocean, bays, and estuaries. Based in Newport with field offices in Astoria, Charleston, and Brookings, MRP staff are responsible for the monitoring, sampling, research, and management of commercial and sport marine fisheries and associated marine habitats. In addition to our fisheries-focused work, MRP is engaged in a wide variety of research, management, and policy actions about all aspects of ocean use and conservation.
The Heppell lab is a diverse group of ecologists working on both basic and applied research in the fields of marine ecology, conservation biology, population ecology, and fisheries science. Their students work from the Oregon Coast to the Colombian Pacific to the Gulf of Alaska, specializing in habitat assessment, species interactions, population distribution, and the response of populations to human perturbations. Lab members play active roles in finding solutions to local, regional, and international conservation and management problems.