Flagship Research Programs

Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) Earth Ocean Interactions 

The PMEL Earth-Oceans Interactions (EOI) Program has two main areas of research: hydrothermal vents and methane seeps. The work on hydrothermal vents is primarily focused in less explored areas of the Pacific whereas the work on methane seeps has been mostly along the Cascadia continental margin (offshore CA, OR, WA). Both are somewhat exploratory and involve discovering and characterizing new vents on the seafloor and their unique ecosystems. EOI has researchers in two cooperative institutes. CIMRS uniquely provides the following scientific capabilities:

  • The Newport Helium Isotope laboratory provides important gas chemistry data on field samples that help discover and interpret the origin, setting, and character of seeps & vents. This capability is relatively rare because there are just a few labs across the country that can perform these types of analyses.

  • CIMRS personnel have expertise in bathymetric mapping with multibeam sonar systems, which are used for mapping both the seafloor and bubble plumes in the water column (used to identify methane seeps). Newport EOI researchers also have an extensive database of seafloor mapping data from the Cascadia Margin, NE Pacific, and the Mariana regions (our main working areas), and we collaborate with many outside groups in constantly expanding this coverage and sharing data.

  • The addition of Dr. Jeff Beeson in 2020 adds another unique CIMRS capability: interpreting sub-surface geological structure using multi-channel seismic data. This creates new avenues for future collaborations with USGS and BOEM on the Cascadia Margin.

In the next decade, this program intends to retain vents and seeps as the main research priorities, but the geographic focus of this work may gradually move northward towards Alaska and the Arctic in future years. In addition, CIMRS is well-positioned to contribute to the government priority of more complete mapping of the US EEZ, particularly related to our work identifying and characterizing methane seeps on the Cascadia Margin. The added capability of multi-channel seismic data interpretation is another potential new area of CIMRS research, and opens up new areas for external collaboration.
 

Key researchers: Bill Chadwick, Tamara Baumberger, Susan Merle, and Jeff Beeson

Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) 
Ocean Acoustics Program

The PMEL Ocean Acoustics Program records and measures geophysical, biological, meteorological, cryogenic (ice), and anthropogenic sound sources throughout the global ocean using innovative acoustic technologies and sensor platforms. Its goals are to acquire long-term data sets of the global ocean acoustics environmental, and to identify and assess acoustic impacts from human activities and natural processes on the marine environment.

  • The Ocean Acoustics Program seeks to understand the complex lineages associated with the flow of energy and material from the mantle into the overlying oceans by detecting submarine volcanic events. Also, autonomous hydrophone arrays deployed in remote ocean regions globally provide information on tectonic and volcanic events.

  • Researchers capture acoustic recordings with time series of video images of the seafloor and water column in the southern Mariana Trench to capture longer-term data sets and provide baseline information for soundscape characterization and seafloor biotic community.

  • The CIMRS Bioacoustics Laboratory specializes in the collection and analysis of marine acoustic data by developing instruments for data collection as well as analysis techniques. CIMRS engineers have two decades of experience studying bioacoustic signals globally. They are experts in developing platforms for acquiring acoustics data, software tools to analyze bioacoustics data sets, species identification based on the analysis of marine mammal vocalizations, monitoring anthropogenic noise and its potential effects on marine mammals, and rare species identification in remote areas of the ocean.

Key researchers: Bob Dziak, Joe Haxel, Angie Scrember, Haru Matsumoto, and Holger Klink

Alaska Fisheries Science Center - Ocean Acidification
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CIMRS researchers are studying the effects of ocean acidification on Pacific fisheries.

  • Researchers are conducting laboratory studies to evaluate larval fish sensitivity to elevated levels of carbon dioxide. The research includes developing computer models to better predict how ocean acidification may affect Pacific cod and pollock larval survival, growth to maturity, and adult fish populations in the Bering Sea through time.

  • Researchers are studying the overwintering ecology of commercially important Alaskan groundfish species (e.g., cod and walleye pollock) to understand the effects of climate variability on juvenile growth and survival and how these effects are realized in winter survival and Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea populations.

  • Researchers are studying the ecology and energetics of Arctic fish and crab species, two keystone species integral to Arctic ecosystems. The study will better predict how these species will respond to changing temperature and productivity scenarios using a combination of laboratory and field experiments.

  • Researchers are examining the range of effects of ocean acidification on the energetics, morphology, sensory biology, and behavior of Alaskan groundfishes.

  • Researchers are sampling hydrography and plankton along the Newport Hydrographic Line (see flagship program listed on this web page - 25 years of data), along continental shelf waters during juvenile salmonid surveys in May, June, and September (22 years of data), and monitoring of hydrographic conditions, nutrients, chlorophyll, zooplankton, and krill along the southern Oregon and northern California coast (23 years of data). This information contributes to regional salmon forecasting.

Key researchers: Tom Hurst, Louise Copeman, Jessica Miller, Jennifer Fisher

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Northwest Fisheries Science Center - Newport Hydrographic Line Ecosystem Monitoring

The Newport Hydrographic (NH) Line 20+ year time-series informs our understanding of the connectivity between changes in ocean-climate and ecosystem structure and function. It is the only long-term, high-frequency dataset of its kind for the California Current, providing fortnightly to monthly data collection to monitor and study climate variability and climate change through physical, chemical, and biological oceanographic metrics. Data are distilled into ocean ecosystem indicators used to:
 

  • Characterize the habitat and survival of juvenile salmonids.
     

  • Inform Pacific Fishery Management Council coastal pelagic species Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation.
     

  • Inform critical and emerging issues, such as marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, hypoxia, and harmful algal blooms.

 

Ocean ecosystem monitoring from the NH Line is known for the high frequency, longevity, and scientific rigor of the sampling, and the near real-time availability of the data that enables managers to anticipate effects of changing ocean conditions on fisheries. The NH Line received the 10th POMA Award at the 2017 PICES Annual Meeting for significant advancement of marine science in the North Pacific through long-term ocean monitoring and data management.

The Contributions of the Newport Hydrographic Line Project

Assess ecosystem status and trends.

Characterize ecological interactions within and among species.

Characterize habitat and ecosystem processes, climate variation, and organism viability.

Use physiological, biological, and behavioral information to predict population-level processes.

Implement ecosystem-based management.

Ensure safe seafood for healthier populations.

Understand how climate influences ecosystem variability.

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National Ocean Service - CCE group LIDAR and Geodetic Survey
  • Scientists within Oregon State University's College of Civil Engineering use bathymetric LIDAR for benthic habitat mapping, producing seafloor reflectance images from return lidar waveforms in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Habitat maps produced from these data inform management of coral reef ecosystems.

  • New technologies and techniques that enable the National Geodetic Survey and its customers require more accurate and efficient Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) positioning, including GNSS-derived heights. Outcomes will significantly improve the ability to use GNSS positioning capabilities.

Key researchers: Chris Parrish, Mike Olsen, Jihye Park

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National Ocean Service - Valuing Ecosystem Services

CIMRS researchers are valuing ecosystem services resulting from natural infrastructure investments in coastal environments. The work leverages existing hazard risks along the U.S. Pacific NW Coast to assign a dollar value to these ecosystem services and generate estimates that inform potential ancillary benefits related to natural infrastructure designed for coastline stabilization.​

Key researchers: Steve Dundas, David Lewis, David Kling, Peter Ruggerio, Can Cox, Sally Hacker, and Chris Parrish

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