Newport Hydrographic Line Team

Eyes on a dynamic ocean


For the past 26 years, in rain or shine, scientists on the Newport Hydrographic Line Team have been heading out to sea twice a month to sample the waters off the central Oregon coast. That’s a lot of time at sea! We use the water and plankton samples collected to characterize the ocean conditions and food web structure in the Pacific Northwest.

Plankton, the tiny drifters of the sea, form the base of the marine food web. By quantifying plankton samples, we can describe the health of the marine ecosystem and forecast salmon returns, rockfish recruitment, green crabs, and marbled murrelet success, to name a few.

Our monitoring is just one piece to the global puzzle of how our oceans are changing. Having such a long-time series allows us to see how biological communities respond to unusual events—like pyrosome blooms—giving us a glimpse of these changes. We are the eyes on the water! Oceans have no boundaries; our local efforts help inform the global scientific community. We collaborate with a number of marine researchers tackling broad-scale questions about ocean acidification and hypoxia, harmful algal blooms, biodiversity, and microplastics.

A sea butterfly. It has a spiral shaped translucent shelled with obaque wing-like flaps on its backside.
Limacina helicina (sea butterflies), left, are touted as the canaries in the coal mine for ocean acidification. Their delicate, aragonite shells are first responders to increases in water acidity making them a useful indicator for changes in water chemistry.

Check out our lab's work with pyrosomes that was featured on OPB.

Map of the Newport Hydrographic Line as is stretches from the shore out into the ocean.

If you head out to Nye Beach and look west, you will be "looking" at the Newport Hydrographic Line. We sample seven stations across the continental shelf, with our furthest offshore station being 25 nm. Two or three times a year, we go all the way out to 200 nm (!) to sample the offshore ecosystem.

We analyze ocean conditions from data collected along the Newport Hydrographic Line and other surveys to develop "stoplight" tables that can forecast salmon returns. The colors for each indicator reflect ocean conditions for salmon growth and survival (green = good; yellow = fair; red = poor). Check out the different amount of green and/or red in certain years. (NOAA fisheries) View full-size chart


Check our websites to learn more about the Newport Hydrographic Line and our ocean ecosystem indicators!

Our Newportal blog contains real-time data from our cruises and important updates.

And for more plankton fun, follow us @zoop_troupe on Instagram.