Estuary and Mud Flats

The Oregon coast contains a large number of estuaries, both bar built and drowned river mouth, that act as environmental filters and host a variety of animal, fish and bird species. Many of our estuary and mudflats are locations of on-going research. The South Slough Estuarine Research Center is an important Hatfield partner and is an excellent resource for any Oregon based ecology research.

Rocky Intertidal

The rocky intertidal zone is a key feature along the coastal region of the California Current ecosystem. The Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network and the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans have done extensive research work in Oregon's rocky intertidal zone.

Sandy Beach and Coastal Dunes

The Oregon coast contains the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America and one of the largest expanses of temperate coastal sand dunes in the world. Major stretches of the beach in the Pacific North West have shifted from accretion to erosion dominated shorelines. The U.S. Geological Survey is conducting a comprehensive monitoring effort to study the change.

Marine Protected Areas

Oregon has five marine reserves; Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Otter Rock, Cape Perpetua, and Redfish Rocks. These marine reserves were created to conserve marine habitats and biodiversity. They also serve as living laboratories where we can learn about Oregon’s nearshore ocean environment and the effects that protections — no fishing and conservation — have over time on the marine environment. This research is helping inform how we can best manage our coastal waters into the future. Find out more about the science being conducted by the ODFW Marine Reserves Program and their partners.

For research access (pdf) to Oregon's Marine Reserves, contact Cristen Don at ODFW.

Coastal Forests and Rivers

The Oregon Coast Range has the highest percentage of forested land in the state (90 percent). The close proximity to the Pacific Ocean results in mild temperatures and high precipitation in the Coast Range, resulting in excellent growing conditions.

A recent analysis by researchers at Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Services Pacific Northwest Research Station suggests that old-growth covered an average of 48 percent of the Coast Range over the past 3,000 years and that forests containing trees greater than 80 years old covered an average of 71 percent of the land.

Aquatic scientists have studied the effects of timber harvest on fish habitat for decades. They have learned that throughout the past century and a half, logging, road building, and related activities damaged salmon freshwater habitats. Gordon Reeves, a fish biologist with the U.S. Forest Service Aquatic and Land Interactions (ALI) Team, investigates the impact of forestry throughout the Pacific Northwest, from Alaska to Oregon.

Oregon State University maintains the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, a long-term ecological research living laboratory.

Open Water and Continental Shelf

A key research feature off the Oregon coast is the Newport Hydrographic Line. The line was seasonally sampled between 1961-1971, and again in 1997 to current - creating a rich longitudinal dataset. The sampling line extends 200 miles from Yaquina head and is comprised of X sampling stations.  The 60+ year rich and consistent data set includes both physical and biological data. A key feature of this portion of the coast is the seasonal upwelling and downwelling cycles.

Scientists from around the Northwest have conducted research programs near the Newport Line to take advantage of the regular sampling.

Read about the history of the Line in this article.


24 of the 110 estuaries in the Washington/Oregon/Northern California ecoregion contain eelgrass habitats - Yaquina Bay being the closest to the Hatfield Marine Science Center and Netarts Bay near Tillamook.

Eelgrass has become an interesting focus in ocean acidification and blue carbon research. Eelgrass absorbs carbon dioxide and methane—both climate-warming greenhouse gases—and store them in their root systems, altering the carbon chemistry of the system.


Oregon’s waters do not have a great diversity of hard and soft coral species when compared to tropical areas, but the volcanic geography of the coast created numerous rocky reefs. One of the best known is the Orford Reef, located several miles offshore from Port Orford on the South Coast.