Coastal Environmental Research 


Scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency laboratory in Newport, Oregon, conduct research to assess the effects of stressors like pollution and climate change on coastal ecosystems, and how that affects public health, the economy and people’s well-being. Located on the Hatfield Marine Science Center campus in Newport, Oregon, our facilities include flowing seawater, large experimental mesocosms, cutting-edge analytical instruments, boats, and hovercraft, all used to support our coastal environmental research.

The videos below provide a glimpse into our coastal environmental research.

    EPA’s Pacific Ecological Systems Division

    Formally, the Newport lab is part of EPA’s Pacific Ecological Systems Division (PESD) in the Office of Research and Development. PESD’s mission is to provide the research to assesses the condition of freshwater, terrestrial, and estuarine ecosystems, and how environmental condition affects beneficial uses of those ecosystems. Our team provides scientific leadership for national and regional-scale ecology and develops the scientific basis for assessing the condition of ecosystems and their response to natural and anthropogenic stresses. 

    Specific research projects at the EPA Newport facility include: 

    • Ocean acidification affects estuarine water quality and changes in estuarine chemistry can alter shellfish development. 
    • Nutrient and fecal pollution affect estuarine water quality and ecosystems.  PESD research focuses on tracking co-pollutants to estuarine systems using stable isotopes to identify nitrogen source and microbial source tracking. 
    • Researchers economically measure and account for the services provided by aquatic ecosystems to people and the economy. These methods determine the value of maintaining seagrass to support healthy fish habitat and methods to determine the cost of rising ocean temperature on shellfish along the Oregon coast. 
    • A modeling methodology for producing habitat maps for harvested clams was developed and validated for Pacific NW estuaries. The habitat suitability models were developed from existing natural history literature on the environmental tolerances of each clam species. 
    • Researchers recommend geophysical technologies to understand the geology and hydrogeology which govern the transport of the contaminants through groundwater.  
    • Microbiologists study the role of coastal bacteria in human health and marine ecosystem health through a synthesis of microscopy and molecular-based methodologies. 

    The Salmon River estuary is located about 25 miles north of Newport on the Oregon coast, just south of Cascade Head which is visible at the mouth of the estuary. This estuary is notable for the extensive tidal wetlands and meandering tidal channels branching from the main stem of the river.

    These EPA scientists are conducting experiments in a Yaquina Bay salt marsh to measure the exchange of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous) between marshes and the estuarine waters that inundate the habitat daily.

    EPA scientists investigate if changes in the abundance of seagrass affect populations of juvenile crabs and fishes in Oregon estuaries. Seagrasses are sensitive to nutrient pollution and increased water temperature. This project seeks to understand if nutrient pollution consequently harms Dungeness crab and finfish fisheries.

    This scientist is measuring the volume of macroalgae that was covering a site on an estuarine tide flat where bay clams occur. EPA scientists are investigating whether algal blooms that fueled by nutrient pollution can harm shellfish fisheries.

    As part of an EPA study on how changes in seagrass abundance affects populations of crabs and fishes in Oregon estuaries, this researcher is identifying and measuring finfishes captured in a trawl seine net.

    These EPA scientists are measuring how below-ground microbial processes affect the transformation and movement of nitrogen and carbon in salt marsh soils. Those processes are key to understanding how salt marshes contribute to the long-term storage of carbon (carbon sequestration) and the reduction of nutrient pollution in estuaries.


    Ted DeWitt, Branch Chief
    Pacific Coastal Ecology Branch
    Pacific Ecological Systems Division

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