Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Newportal Blog

A gateway to oceanographic adventures from the Newport Line and beyond

Blog Entries for April 2017

Nearshore Phytoplankton

By Xiuning Du
April 17, 2017

Left side: diatom species Chaetoceros decipiens, cell 9-84μm wide, cosmopolitan species, relatively more abundant in the sample we examined. Right side: Skeletonema costatum, cell 2-21 μm in diameter, cosmopolitan species common in coastal regions, often forming blooms in spring.

Under the Yaquina Bridge at Newport, the Public Fishing Pier sits in close proximity to the entrance of Yaquina Bay and extends well into the primary tidal channel. Because the water that flows beneath the pier during flooding tides is strongly influenced by the open coast, coastal ocean phytoplankton species are commonly seen in the lower Yaquina estuary especially during the upwelling season (April to October).

Even though it feels like spring on land, we are still encountering storms from the south, signaling that the physical spring transition has not yet occurred in the ocean.

Diatom Chetoceros socialis, the other relatively more abundant species in the sample, forming large colonies, individual cell only 4-15 μm wide, commonly seen in the coastal waters.



But what are the marine phytoplankton doing?

We recently took a plankton sample to collect phytoplankton and zooplankton for the annual Hatfield Marine Science Day (on April 8th). In this tow, we observed a diverse set of diatoms forming long chains or colonies. These are diatom species that are commonly seen in the coastal waters off Newport and the abundance of these diatoms was relatively low (not blooming yet).  

We encountered gale force winds on the day when we collected this sample, and coastal surface currents from High Frequency radar showed very strong northward flow (50 cm/s). With the strong winds and the incoming tide, it is not surprising that offshore marine species (including potentially toxic algae such as Pseudo-nitzschia) were delivered into the Yaquina Bay on this day.

Diatom Stephanopyxis nipponica, cells 24-36 μm in diameter, northern temperate species, commonly seen off Newport.

Here we present photos of some of the relatively abundant species that we identified from the net tow sample at the Pier. Note that the records here are only a qualitative reference. By comparing the sample we collected in Yaquina Bay to samples we’ll collect when we sample the ocean in the coming weeks, we shall see: first, how coherent the distribution of phytoplankton community composition is between the very lower estuary of the Bay (the Pier) and the coastal waters offshore, and second how the phytoplankton assemblage changes once the upwelling season begins.

Pseudo-nitzschia australis cells present! Averaging 100 μm in length and in relatively low abundance. We do not know if these cells are toxic. This potentially toxic species has been seen in waters off Newport since mid-March (but were highly toxic in spring/summer 2015 and in autumn 2016). We’ll be watching how the numbers change in the following days from our next sampling cruises.
Diatom Odontella longicruris, cells 15-110 μm wide, warm to temperate species.
Diatom Rhizosolenia setigera, cells 4-20 μm in diameter, cosmopolitan species, commonly seen off Newport.

Tagged: NH Line

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Marine Science Day

By Samantha Zeman
April 10, 2017


Kids and adults learning about the impacts of dams.

The halls are no longer full of families and children. The classrooms are not packed with visitors. It's been a couple days since Hatfield Marine Science Center opened its doors to the public for Marine Science Day on April 8th. Marine Science Day is an all-ages event that introduces the public to the scientific work happening on the Hatfield campus. From undersea volcanoes to plankton, scientists presented their work using videos, activities, interactive displays, and live animals. It was exciting to see all of the different agencies and OSU programs interacting with the public; it reminded me of the integrative and collaborative nature of the Hatfield campus.

Prerequisite photo of researcher with posters, activites, and microscope. Finding photo opportunities was difficult as tables were usually swamped with visitors.

This was my first year attending and my first year presenting. As a participant, I was stationed at my table, committed to teaching everyone about the diversity of gelatinous zooplankton on the Oregon coast. I was nervous about my display. Was it engaging enough? Was it informative? I realized pretty quickly that one key aspect of my booth was my presence and ability to communicate. I was genuinely enthusiastic to teach people about jellies on the Oregon coast and why studying them is important.  I was also eager to answer people’s questions, listen to their thoughts, and have an informal discussion about marine science. And once I was done, I could point them to one of the other 50 science displays scattered around the campus.

As a researcher, it can be easy to become engrossed in methods and data.  We live and work in a coastal community and it’s important to step outside the lab. Events like Marine Science Day allow me to put aside the jargon and tell people why the work I do at Hatfield is important. Marine Science Day may come once a year to HMSC, but scientists here are always looking for ways to reach the public. Check out the other happenings and events going on at HMSC.  

Jellyfish drawing on South Beach. Perhaps someone inspired by talks at Marine Science Day?

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Physical Spring Transition?...Not Quite Yet

By Jennifer Fisher
April 7, 2017

The Oregon coast is presently being hit by strong southerly winds and high seas. This morning, winds have been blowing steadily out of the south at 45 miles per hour with gusts up to 63 miles per hour, signaling that the physical spring transition has not yet occurred off Newport.

The physical spring transition is marked by the change from southerly winds that brings downwelling and storms to our coast during winter to northwesterly winds that drives upwelling circulation along our coast. The onset of upwelling generally occurs around April 15, but at times it can occur earlier or later. Upwelling brings cold nutrient rich water to the upper ocean. The nutrient rich water interacts with sunlight and phytoplankton blooms occur, thereby fueling productivity along our coast.

Along with the winds, the coastal currents also change from primarily poleward during the winter to equatorward during the summer delivering different suites of zooplankton to the Oregon shelf, which we call the biological spring transition. During the upwelling season, the zooplankton are normally comprised of lipid rich copepods that fuel a productive food chain for upper trophic levels. However, over the past three years during the Warm Blob and El Niño, this biological spring transition did not occur, and lipid rich copepods have been absent.

We are watching to see when the physical spring transition occurs and if this year the copepod community will finally change back to a more ‘normal’ summer community of lipid rich zooplankton. As soon as the seas settle, we will head out to sample and report back on what we find.


Tagged: NH Line, Warm Blob, El Niño

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