COMES Newsletter - Fall 2021

A Note from Christina:

As the days get shorter and the sun slides toward the south, we’re getting used to the current “new normal” at the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station. This includes more people regularly in person at HMSC and at the Seafood Research and Education Center – observing all required COVID measures along the way.  We’re cautious, but excited to see more people around. Looking ahead, we are planning and preparing for a few virtual and in-person events. As a direct result of ongoing work being done by OSU faculty (including Dr. Susanne Brander) and connections made through the OSU Government Relations Office, the honorable Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) will be joining the Pacific Northwest Consortium on Plastics upcoming fall teleconference at the end of October.  He will give remarks on recent and future efforts to reduce plastic pollution, as well as its impacts in the environment. Dr. Jae Park is offering Surimi School USA as a webinar for the first time November 30 – December 2, and he already has a record number of participants registered. In addition, as current President of Pacific Fisheries Technologists, my team and I are working hard to plan our upcoming conference, scheduled to take place in Newport February 20-23, 2022.  Finally, COMES recently got approval from the College of Agricultural Sciences to begin our search for a joint OSU/Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife position – the Marine Fisheries Scientist.  This position will contribute to fisheries management planning in Oregon and will represent our state on the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, among other things.  Pandemic-time can sometimes feel like wading through molasses, but we do keep moving forward no matter what.  Stay healthy and safe, and enjoy learning about what we’ve been up to!


Christina A. Mireles DeWitt
Interim Director, Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station

Dr. Christina DeWitt Named 2021 IFT Fellow

Dr. Christina A. Mireles DeWitt, Director of the Seafood Research and Education Center and Interim Director for the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station, was recently named as one of 11 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Fellows for 2021.  Each year, IFT members are nominated by their peers and evaluated based on contributions to the field of food science, innovative research and/or methods, and impacts on academia, industry, and service.  Nominees must have been non-student IFT members for at least 15 consecutive years.

Of Dr. DeWitt, the IFT Fellows Class of 2021 web page states, “In advancing food science and technology, Christina A. Mireles DeWitt has conducted innovative research, contributed to new academic and career programs, cooperated in a key role with nine team partnerships among academia/industry/agency, provided leadership and outreach to 10 countries, and is co-editor in chief of a peer-reviewed aquatic food journal. DeWitt has obtained $6.87 million in competitive grants and contracts of which $3.1 million has directly supported her research program. She has provided education to 1,098 undergraduate and graduate students in food science and technology curricula that included the following courses: Introduction to Food Science, Food Analysis, Food Chemistry I and II, Processing Dairy Foods, and Seafood Technology. In addition, she has provided leadership for over 40 workshops/trainings engaging 1,600+ industry and agency stakeholders for improved seafood processing practices. Internationally, she has helped develop over 250 seafood safety trainers in seven different countries.”

Please enjoy this short video clip where Dr. DeWitt answers the question “How can we ensure food science principles are applied in developing countries in a way that enables local production of safe, affordable, nutritious food that is efficiently utilized?”

For more about IFT and the IFT Fellows award, visit their website.

Dr. Kathleen O'Malley Contributes to NOAA Fisheries Findings

In August 2021, NOAA Fisheries announced “…12-month findings on two petitions to list populations of spring-run Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) as threatened or endangered Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESUs) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to designate critical habitat concurrently with the listings. We have completed a comprehensive analysis of Oregon Coast and Southern Oregon and Northern California Coastal spring-run Chinook salmon populations in response to the petitions.  Based on the best scientific and commercial data available, including the ESU configuration report, we have determined that listing the Oregon Coast and Southern Oregon and Northern California Coastal spring-run Chinook salmon populations as threatened or endangered ESUs is not warranted. We determined that the Oregon Coast and Southern Oregon and Northern California Coastal spring-run Chinook salmon populations do not meet the ESU policy criteria to be considered ESUs separate from the Oregon Coast and Southern Oregon and Northern California Coastal fall-run Chinook salmon populations. We also announce the availability of the ESU configuration report that was used to inform our determination.”

For additional information, links to 90-day and 12-month finding reports in the Federal Register, and supplemental documents, please visit NOAA Fisheries.        

Two of Dr. Kathleen O’Malley’s reports, “Evaluating the genetics of naturally produced Chinook salmon captured in the lower Rogue River (OR) fishery,” and “An evaluation of ‘early’ and ‘late’ run alleles in Rogue River Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha),” were cited in the ESU configuration report.  She was also a co-author on a third cited report: Ford M, Nichols K, Waples R, et al., “Reviewing and synthesizing the state of the science regarding associations between adult run timing and specific genotypes in Chinook salmon and steelhead.”

This is an excellent example of the ways in which COMES’ research supports our federal agency partners by providing scientifically sound data to inform policy decisions.


Introducing Neil Thompson, USDA-ARS Research Geneticist
As we mentioned in our last newsletter, COMES is very excited about the expansion of the USDA-ARS program in Newport.  Dr. Neil Thompson is the newest ARS hire, and he is pleased to be returning to Oregon in his position as Research Geneticist with the growing Pacific Shellfish Breeding Center (PSBC).

Dr. Thompson is a life-long water lover who grew up fishing and swimming in Massachusetts. He has always been interested in biology, and he got his first genetics experience as an undergraduate working in an avian Malaria parasite laboratory.  Dr. Thompson earned his Ph.D. in OSU’s Department of Integrative Biology, advised by Dr. Michael Blouin.  During and following his doctoral study, Dr. Thompson worked at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center studying domestication in salmon and steelhead.

Following his time at OSU, Dr. Thompson was awarded a fellowship to work at the NOAA-Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) to research the genetics of endangered winter-run Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River.  He successfully developed genetic tools for winter-run Chinook management and conservation programs. In addition, he explored the genetics of life history expression in Chinook and what kind of genetic variation occurred between spring- and fall-run Chinook salmon. The latter study has implications for ESA status and conservation, in that it looks at whether fall-run and spring-run are distinct populations or part of a spectrum of the same population – this affects how Chinook salmon are categorized and listed.

Dr. Thompson was drawn to the Research Geneticist position at USDA-ARS specifically because it blends experimental biology and genetic analysis in an applied discipline – working directly with the shellfish industry to ‘build a better oyster.’  He is learning some new things working with shellfish, and he is very happy to be working with industry on improving the Pacific oyster.  The Molluscan Broodstock Program has made great strides in improving growth and yield of the Pacific oyster for industry partners – all using family trees and paper records to determine breeding profiles for each spawn.  As the new PSBC becomes active, USDA-ARS will bring genetic/genomic tools into the research – implementing genomic selection by genotyping the animals which allows researchers to more directly account for inbreeding and improve desirable traits more efficiently.

Dr. Thompson indicated that the importance of continuing to build a robust aquaculture program within USDA-ARS/OSU is partly that the available yield from wild-capture fisheries has plateaued.  Seafood is and will continue to be an important protein source as the human population grows, and aquaculture is going to be a critical part of meeting that demand.  In addition, Dr. Thompson noted that shellfish breeding as a discipline is relatively new – it’s exciting to be part of something where there is so much yet to learn and so many new discoveries to be made. Of course, that can also be a challenge, because sometimes there is no previous research to refer to for guidance. Another challenge is that most shellfish aquaculture takes place in complex environments (bays, estuaries, other natural environments), as opposed to the controlled environment of hatcheries or pond/tank-based facilities. Disease, ocean acidification, and other climate-change related issues abound, so the research has to adapt to address those as well.

When asked about the future of the PSBC, Dr. Thompson indicated that he expects the research to focus strongly on developing resistance to ocean acidification and disease, specifically Ostreid Herpesvirus 1 (OsHV-1) and Vibrio.  If resiliency could be enhanced to allow for even a slight improvement in survival in the face of these challenges, it would be a huge win for industry.  Dr. Thompson is also courtesy faculty with the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences, and he looks forward to mentoring graduate students once he gets established in his position.

Although Dr. Thompson is thrilled to be back in a place where there is ample water to play in, he likes frozen water just as much.  When I asked him for a fun fact, his answer was that he was a ski-racer as a kid in New England and that he was once clocked going 70 MPH during a downhill ski race.  We are so glad to have Dr. Thompson on board collaborating with COMES, and we look forward to seeing where his clearly courageous determination takes the quantitative genetics aspect of the PSBC in the coming years.
Simonich Visits COMES-Newport, SREC*

Dr. Staci Simonich, Executive Associate Dean in the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences, oversees the 13 Oregon Agricultural Experiment Stations as part of her duties in the Dean’s Office. This summer she undertook the incredible task of visiting each of the experiment stations, touring them, meeting faculty, staff, and constituents, and getting a feel for the research conducted at each station.  As part of her tour, Dr. Simonich visited both COMES-Newport and the COMES-Seafood Research and Education Center in Astoria.

Executive Associate Dean Simonich was accompanied by both Dr. Dan Edge (Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs) and Dr. Joyce Loper (outgoing Associate Dean of Research) on her visits to Newport and Astoria.  Newport highlights included seeing all the new space in the Gladys Valley Marine Studies Building (GVMSB), visiting briefly with faculty and staff now housed there, and learning a bit more about Dr. Taylor Chapple’s shark-tagging research. The group also got the first look at COMES’ new (used) 22’ Arima Sea Legend, which will be used for research.  In addition, we were able to take a look at Dr. Susanne Brander’s future aquaria space in the east wing of the 900 Building at HMSC, pre-renovation – this is a great example of HMSC, CAS, and the faculty working together to upgrade lab space to support new and exciting research directions in COMES. The group was joined by COMES Advisory Board members Terry Thompson (Board Chair, Commercial Fisherman) and Dave Wright (Pacific Seafood, Retired) for a lively lunch at Local Ocean, where they discussed stakeholder concerns and the role OSU could play in helping to address them.

The following day, the Deans’ group headed north to Astoria for a day at the Seafood Research and Education Center (SREC).  It was Executive Associate Dean Simonich’s and Associate Dean Loper’s first visit to the SREC, and they were greeted by faculty, staff, and students.  They toured the lab spaces and the pilot plant, and learned more about what is involved with managing the whole facility and attending to the needs of tenant organizations.  That evening they attended dinner with COMES Advisory Board Members Andrew Bornstein (Bornstein Seafoods), Dave Nisbet (Goose Point Oysters/Nisbet Oyster Company), and Walt Postlewait (Craft3), who also shared their thoughts on challenges and opportunities facing the fishing and seafood industry, as well as ideas for OSU collaboration.

The Coastal Food Systems & Conservation Strategic Advantage area, as identified by CAS and Dean Alan Sams, has renewed and strengthened the College’s interest in the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station, and we are very pleased that Associate Executive Dean Simonich, Associate Dean Edge, and Associate Dean Loper were able to come learn more about what we do first-hand.  We look forward to hosting representatives from the CAS Dean’s office again in the future!

* This visit took place in July 2021 during the short time when there were were no indoor or outdoor mask requirements in place for OSU or the state of Oregon.

Shellfish Aquaculture in COMES - Larval Mortality and Experimental Research Design

We continue our introduction to the work currently being done in Dr. Chris Langdon's and Dr. Carla Schubiger's (College of Vet Med) Aquaculture lab with a look at a few of the threats to the survival of oyster larvae, and how research experiments are designed to explore possible solutions.  USDA-ARS will continue this work with the Pacific Oyster as the transition from the Molluscan Broodstock Program to the Pacific Shellfish Breeding Center (PSBC) takes place over the next few years.

Your guide for both of these videos is David Madison, former Faculty Research Assistant in the Langdon/Schubiger Labs.



Dr. Taylor Chapple's Research Indicates Growing White Shark Populations Off California Coast

Live Science reports that "The great white shark population off Northern California's coast is healthy and growing, a new study finds. 

A survey of the great whites (Carcharodon carcharias) off the northern coast finds a stable adult population and a slight uptick in the number of subadult sharks, totaling 300 individuals. Researchers used a seal decoy to lure the apex predators to their boats so they could photograph and count the sharks. 

The findings are great for the region.

'Robust populations of large predators are critical to the health of our coastal marine ecosystem," study co-author Taylor Chapple, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University, said in a statement. "So our findings are not only good news for white sharks, but also for the rich waters just off our shores here....'" (Read More)

Brander in the News

Dr. Susanne Brander’s work on two projects has made the news recently, and her expertise was sought to contextualize a third. 

Dr. Brander co-chaired the California Ocean Science Trust working group that recently issued a report titled Microplastic Pollution in California: A Precautionary Framework and Scientific Guidance to Assess and Address Risk to the Marine Environment, which “…suggests proactive measures need to be taken to prevent further damage to ocean habitats by microplastics.” In a statement to Forbes, Dr. Brander said ““Microplastics have been found in all corners of the world…the best approach to protecting ocean health is to curb pollution at its source.” (The Next Threat for California’s Ocean Habitats: Microplastics, Forbes, May 2021).

In addition, Dr. Brander’s 2019 research on the impacts of microplastics on striped bass in Chesapeake Bay continues to inform current research on this topic. (Picture of Chesapeake microplastics grows clearer, Bay Journal, June 2021).

Finally, when asked to provide comment on a recent study about microplastic abundance in the salt marshes of southeastern New England and the possibility that microplastics are being moved around on a global or regional scale, Dr. Brander said that the study “…’ has me pondering how we can begin to reduce global contamination from fibers….We need to control them at the source, starting with our washers and clothes dryers, and removing them from the biosolids used in agriculture prior to application.’” (Salt marshes keep score on humanity’s plastic problem: Microplastics have been piling up in many areas since the 1950s, Popular Science, June 2021).

COMES Now Has a Boat!

Thanks to generous support from the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences, COMES now owns a boat! The nearshore research vessel was purchased primarily to help facilitate Dr. Taylor Chapple’s increasing shark research along the West Coast.  He plans to use this vessel not only to continue his study of the seasonal presence and behavior of white sharks in coastal waters off Oregon, but also to begin conducting research on salmon sharks from Alaska to California.

This 22’ 2003 Arima Sea Legend features a 150 Mercury ETech outboard. Cruising speed is an efficient 24knts. The boat is a stable platform with a large 8’6” beam, providing plenty of room for equipment or up to 8 people. The skip tower and small cabin provide protection from the elements and ample dry storage. The vessel is equipped with a radar system, plotters, and 2 sounders to safely navigate and support research. The vessel is easily trailered, weighing in at about 6,000lbs with the trailer. 

Although I believe Dr. Chapple is off tagging sevengill sharks as I write this, the Sea Legend will be available to be rented by other researchers soon – more to come on that in a future newsletter.

 Aquaculture and Dulse "Craveable in the Future"

According to the Portland Business Journal, aquaculture and meat alternatives are among four growing food business opportunities.  They say that, "...Oregon is in the early stages of more diversified growth in aquaculture, thanks in part to a new collaboration between Oregon State University (OSU) and the Oregon Aquaculture Association.

According to Gil Sylvia, emeritus professor, Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station at OSU, their team has received a nearly $700,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to provide software tools for investors interested in starting aquaculture businesses in Oregon. This is on top of the $450,000 grant from Business Oregon, a state agency that promotes investment in areas considered to have high potential for growth.

“These new funds will enable us to advance aquaculture innovation in Oregon by providing micro-targeting, spatial mapping and financial analysis tools that enable potential investors to scope, assess and create innovative solutions leading to growth,” said Sylvia. “We’re providing ways to explore energy, micro-climates, water flows and other factors that will make aquaculture more effective.'”

In addition, Oregon Dulse CEO and Founder (and COMES collaborator) Chuck Toombs weighs in on the importance of this nutrient packed red seaweed for humans and...for cattle? (read more)




Genetic analysis reveals differences in mate choice between wild and hatchery coho salmon

NEWPORT, Ore. – "A new study of the genetic profiles of wild and hatchery coho salmon demonstrates important distinctions in how the two types of fish form mating pairs.

These findings by Oregon State University researchers provide new insight into subtle differences between wild and hatchery fish that could lead to changes in how hatchery fish are mated to promote the success of hatchery fish and conserve and protect wild fish.

'Genes can give us insight that we could not perceive using human sensory perception. I can see differences in size and color, but genes give us information about things we can’t see, hear or feel,' said Heather Auld, a post-doctoral research associate at Oregon State University’s Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station and the study’s lead author.

'If we can learn more about how natural origin fish mate in the wild, and if that differs from how hatchery fish mate in the wild, we can potentially gather new information to improve mating strategies applied in hatcheries.'

The researchers’ findings were published recently in the journal Integrative Organismal Biology.

Wild coho salmon are listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act throughout much of their range, including along the Oregon Coast and lower Columbia River, due to overfishing, pollution, other losses associated with their freshwater habitat and poor ocean conditions related to climate change...." (read more)

See also: Genetic analysis reveals differences in mate choice between wild and hatchery coho salmon - Hatchery Feed and Management

Student News

We have so much student news to share!  From graduates, to summer students, to awards, late spring through summer have been very busy!

Recent Graduates

Kenya Shani Bynes, M.S., Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences – Spring 2021

  • Dr. Michael Banks, Advisor
  • Thesis - Influence of Oceanographic Conditions on Copepod (Calanus pacificus) Genetic Expression)

Katherine Lasdin, M.S., Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences – Spring 2021

  • Dr. Susanne Brander, Advisor
  • Thesis - Characterizing microplastic ingestion in Black Rockfish (Sebastes melanops) along the Oregon coast

Anna Bolm, M.S., Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences – Summer 2021

  • Dr. Susanne Brander and Dr. Jessica Miller, Advisors
  • Thesis - Identifying environmentally relevant abundances and characteristics of internalized microplastics in Northern California Current zooplankton

Lorne Curran, M.S., Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences – Summer 2021

  • Dr. Michael Banks, Advisor
  • Thesis - Population differentiation in two Northeastern Pacific marine species

John Dickens, M.S., Marine Resource Management – Summer 2021

  • Dr. Susanne Brander, Advisor
  • Thesis - Of Mysid and Menidia: The impact of micro and nanoplastics on the behavior of estuarine indicator species

David Kemp, M.S., Food Science and Technology – Summer 2021

  • Dr. Jung Kwon, Advisor
  • Thesis – Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Potential of Alaska Pollock Milt and Roe Hydrolysates

Graham Shaw, M.S., Marine Resource Management – Summer 2021

  • Dr. Steven Dundas, Advisor
  • Thesis - Understanding the Economic Benefits of Tidal Wetlands Restoration

Summer Students

COMES faculty were pleased to host summer interns through four programs this year – Research Experiences for Undergraduates (funded through the National Science Foundation); Sea Grant Summer Scholars; the Vanguarding an Inclusive Ecological Workforce (VIEW) Fellowship (Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences); and the Fisheries and Wildlife Undergraduate Mentorship Program (OSU Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences).  Visit the 2021 COMES Summer Students page for more information on these amazing students and their projects.

Student Awards

Summer is also the time when we acknowledge our HMSC graduate student award recipients each year.  These students are celebrated through HMSC’s Markham Symposium, during which the students present posters and ignite talks.  They also have time to network with other scientists and to discuss research ideas with peers. This is the second year that the Markham Symposium has been delivered in a virtual format.

2021 COMES student award recipients are:

Curtis and Isabella Holt Education Fund

  • Henry Fleener, MS Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Sciences (Chris Langdon, Advisor)

Louis and Maud Hill Coastal Marine Studies Award

  • Henry Fleener, MS Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Sciences (Chris Langdon, Advisor)

Mamie L. Markham Endowment Award

  • Jessica Schulte, MS Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences (Taylor Chapple, Advisor)
  • Geoffrey Walker, MS Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences (Kathleen O’Malley, Advisor)

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Reserves Graduate Student Scholarship

  • Montana McLeod, MS Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences (Will White, Advisor)

Walter G. Jones Fisheries Development Memorial

  • Geoffrey Walker, MS Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences (Kathleen O’Malley, Advisor)
COMES Departures

A few folks have moved on from COMES since our last newsletter, as happens from time to time.

Dr. Matt Hawkyard has a long history of involvement with the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station. He began his career in Dr. Chris Langdon’s lab as a MS student in 2007(!), earned his Ph.D. in 2016, and worked tirelessly as a Research Associate after that.  Matt made great contributions in the areas micro-encapsulated particulate larval diets for use in finfish aquaculture, as well as disease control in finfish aquaculture.  In addition, Matt demonstrated increasing leadership on transdisciplinary aquaculture projects at Oregon State University, including serving on the OSU Aquaculture Committee and working on the Oregon Aquaculture Explorer project with the OSU Institute of Natural Resources.

Matt’s accomplishments at OSU have paved the way for him to continue his success as Assistant Extension Professor and Finfish Nutrition Specialist at the University of Maine’s Aquaculture Research Institute.  He’ll be increasing his knowledge of salmon nutrition in his new position, but also looks forward to having the flexibility to pursue his own research interests.  He has also been granted courtesy faculty status with the OSU Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences, so we look forward to getting to work with him some in the future as well.

David Madison, former Faculty Research Assistant also in the Langdon and Schubiger Labs, has departed for an exciting new position with a pearl oyster aquaculture company in Indonesia. As you can see from the videos above, David was integral to designing experiments that looked at larval mortality in oysters. He will continue to collaborate with the Langdon and Schubiger labs on publications long-distance, and we can't wait to hear about his new adventure.

Sandra Bohn, former Faculty Research Assistant in the State Fisheries Genomics Lab working for Dr. Kathleen O’Malley, has also left COMES for a new opportunity.  Sandra recently took a position as a Data Engineer for a personal genetics startup called SelfDecode. This company provides health information based on a person’s genetics, blood work, and other medical information in order to help individuals improve their overall health.

Finally, Emilee Slaght, former Faculty Research Assistant at the OSU Seafood Research and Education Center in Astoria, has relocated to Washington state.  She took a position as a Scientific Technician with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, where she is helping them collect and evaluate recreational fisheries data.

It is always bittersweet when people leave, but we are thrilled that these four have landed in great opportunities and we thank them for their contributions to COMES while they were here.

COMES Newsletter

Writer/Editor - Alison Storms

Layout and Content Compilation - Alison Storms

Other Contributors - Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Kathleen O'Malley, NOAA Fisheries, Neil Thompson, Christina DeWitt, David Madison, Mark Farley, Taylor Chapple, Susanne Brander, Craig Norrie, Portland Business Journal,, Michael Banks, Heather Auld, Michelle Klampe, OSU College of Agricultural Sciences Communications, Oregon State University Research Newsroom, and the Hatfield Marine Science Center.