COMES Newsletter - Spring 2021

A Note from Christina:

Spring has officially sprung here on the Oregon Coast, and I hope that you are enjoying some sun and warmer temperatures wherever you’re reading this. As I was preparing to write this note, I got word that three of our COMES faculty completed their promotion and tenure processes with flying colors – Dr. Will White and Dr. Steven Dundas have both been promoted to Associate Professor with indefinite tenure, and Dr. Kathleen O’Malley has been granted indefinite tenure – she had already been promoted to Associate Professor. Other faculty and Faculty Research Associates in COMES are submitting dossiers for consideration in 2022, and three students have graduated since our Fall newsletter came out. Dr. Jae Park retired in December…but is, of course, still an active part of the COMES-Astoria Seafood Lab. Many of our faculty and staff also participated in HMSC’s Virtual Marine Science Day in April, reaching over 3000 people between the hours of 10am and 2pm on April 10 – talk about outreach!  As proud as I am of COMES’ many accomplishments during the pandemic, I am certainly looking forward to what everyone hopes will be a more “normal” Fall term and to increasing our in-person interactions with our partners and supporters. For now, please enjoy our Spring newsletter – take care and stay healthy!


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

Dr. Jae Park Retires from OSU
After 28 years with the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station and the Department of Food Science and Technology, Dr. Jae Park retired in December 2020.  Dr. Park has devoted his entire professional career to surimi research and education. Since 1992, he has distinguished himself internationally as the renowned champion of surimi research, education, and technology transfer. Dr. Park founded the OSU Surimi School in Astoria in 1993, and he has since expanded this fish protein technology program globally, training over 6500 people from 45 different countries.

In addition to Dr. Park’s tremendous reach through Surimi School, he mentored and advised 34 graduate students, 4 postdoctoral researchers, and 15 visiting scholars while at OSU. In the Surimi School lineage, Dr. Park represents the second generation (students who trained directly with Dr. Tyre Lanier). Dr. Park’s students are Generation 3, and Generations 4 and 5 are already well established in the world of surimi research (and probably already dreaming of training Generation 6!) It is safe to say that Dr. Park’s surimi lineage is well placed to lead the industry and mentor future generations.

Dr. Park was honored with a number of awards throughout his career, including:

  • Bor S. Luh International Award (2016): Institute of Food Technologists
  • Seafood’s 100 Most Powerful Executives (2012): Seafood Executive/IntraFish
  • American Seafood Partnership Trophy (2011)
  • Harold Macy Award (2011): MN IFT
  • Briskey Award for Faculty Excellence (2009): OSU
  • Award of Excellence of Scientific Paper (2008): Japanese Society of Fisheries Sciences
  • IFT Fellow (2007): IFT
  • International Service Award (1999-2000): OSU
  • Oldfield Jackman Research Team Award (1996): OSU

With a great deal of covert help and secret planning from his family and colleagues, Dr. Park’s surprise virtual retirement party took place late in December via Zoom. Although perhaps not the retirement fête anyone had envisioned pre-COVID, the format enabled over 100 people from all over the world to share memories and stories of Dr. Park, and to ensure that he was properly celebrated as he moves into the next phase of his life.

As you may have noticed, “retirement” is always relative in COMES.  Dr. Park will remain in a part-time academic-wage position in order to continue fundraising for and planning OSU Surimi School, as well as to shepherd his international Surimi Schools into the future. However, he does plan to make much more time for golf, and will no doubt continue to encourage everyone to make their own kimchi.

Dr. Christina DeWitt Honored with Roy G. Arnold Award
Dr. Christina DeWitt, Director of the Seafood Research and Education Center in Astoria (COMES-Astoria), and Interim Director of the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station (COMES-Newport), was awarded the Roy G. Arnold/Agricultural Research Foundation Leadership Award in a virtual awards ceremony held on February 24, 2021. This annual award recognizes a Department Head, Branch Station Director, Center Director, or a faculty member with significant administrative responsibility who demonstrates outstanding contributions to the research mission of OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

Dr. DeWitt leads by example, balancing service to industry, professional service, teaching and advising graduate students, and recruiting and mentoring young faculty.  She is dedicated to ensuring that seafood safety education is available both in the US and internationally, and she is a training expert in U.S. FDA-mandated hazard analysis of critical control points (HACCP). Dr. DeWitt develops training materials and regularly teaches workshops, helping to ensure that the regional and national seafood supply remains safe and fresh from processing through retail. In addition to her work in the U.S., Dr. DeWitt provides international Seafood HACCP Segment II, Seafood HACCP Train-the-Trainer, and seafood sensory trainings when possible.  During her tenure at OSU, she has provided leadership for over 40 workshops and trainings involving over 1600 industry participants. 

Dr. DeWitt has also ensured that industry has ample opportunities to convene with regulatory agencies to solve problems.  Most recently, she organized the Seafood Processing Wastewater Conference for industry in 2018 as a direct response to Oregon DEQ’s new wastewater regulations. This conference was so successful that it was held again in 2019, and it was held virtually with participants from Alaska to California in 2020. In collaboration with Oregon DEQ, the US EPA, and industry, Dr. DeWitt worked to review and recommend new analytical testing procedures for seafood processing wastewater in order to comply with the new regulations. The outcomes of these discussions were a win-win for industry and the agencies alike.

Dr. DeWitt's academic and professional service have also earned recognition. She has served the Institute of Food Technologists-Aquatic Food Products Division in a number of leadership capacities, and she is the incoming 2021 President for Pacific Fisheries Technologists. She also serves as a technical advisor to the board of Positively Groundfish, a non-profit dedicated to elevating consumption of groundfish species, and has also served as co-Editor-in Chief of the Journal of Aquatic Food Product Technology for the past four years.

Finally, as a professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology, Dr. DeWitt has advised over 20 M.S. and Ph.D. students and has sat on over 50 graduate committees over the course of her career at OSU. Many of these students have gone on to high-level positions in seafood processing companies.  She has also mentored a number of postdoctoral scholars and visiting scientists over the years.

As Dr. Robert McGorran, professor and former head of the Department of Food Science and Technology said in his nomination letter, “Coincidentally, Dr. DeWitt’s career parallels that of Dr. Roy Arnold, in that both received their Ph.D. degrees in Food Science from Oregon State University, pursued their early careers at other universities, then returned to OSU in key leadership positions in the College of Agricultural Sciences.” Everyone at the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station is so glad that Dr. DeWitt came back to OSU, and we are very proud of her accomplishments and her award!


USDA-ARS Expands at HMSC, Partnering with COMES

For about 25 years, the Molluscan Broodstock Program (MBP) has been an integral part of Dr. Chris Langdon’s aquaculture research in OSU’s Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station at HMSC. However, all good things must come to an end – Dr. Langdon is preparing to retire in a couple of years, and a new home needed to be found for the industry-critical research provided by MBP. Gabrielle Serra (Director of Federal Government Relations, OSU), Gil Sylvia (Former Director, Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station), Margaret Pilaro (Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association), Dave Nisbet (Goose Point Oyster/Nisbet Oyster Co.), Alan Sams (Dean, OSU College of Agricultural Science ), Joyce Loper (Associate Dean for Research, OSU College of Agricultural Science) and many others worked tirelessly to ensure a solid future for this effort.  They lobbied Congress for additional funding to expand the capacity of USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at HMSC. Senator Jeff Merkley (OR) championed this effort in Congress, and MBP will now become part of the Pacific Shellfish Breeding Center (PSBC), a newly expanded USDA/ARS Shellfish Genetics and Breeding program at HMSC.

Immediate USDA-ARS changes include a slightly expanded shellfish ecology program led by Dr. Brett Dumbauld, and a shellfish breeding and genetics initiative headed by Research Geneticist Dr. Neil Thompson.  Dr. Thompson was hired late in 2020 and has returned from California to Oregon where he originally undertook his Ph.D. research on salmon genetics with Dr. Mike Blouin at OSU. Recruitment for a second research geneticist is ongoing, and a shellfish biologist will also be hired in the coming years.

This program will focus on genetics, breeding and improved production technologies for the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas. The research will focus on improving traits that industry growers value, such as growth, disease and stress tolerance, allocation of reproductive effort, triploid survival, shell shape, and shell and meat color.  In particular, disease outbreaks continue to be a major concern, including outbreaks of microvariants of the Ostreid herpesvirus that have caused mass mortalities on shellfish farms in Europe and Oceania. The PSBC will accelerate the pace of improvements by 1) coordinating efforts among programs, 2) applying new genetic tools and increased resources, 3) testing new strains more widely, and 4) advancing production methodologies.  There will be a transition as Dr. Langdon prepares for retirement, but substantial investment for the ARS shellfish program includes funds to support OSU’s continued collaboration on oyster genetics, breeding, and ecology.

We will provide updates through this Newsletter and our website as the USDA-ARS Pacific Shellfish Breeding Center comes online.  For more on MBP and its history with Dr. Langdon, check out the videos below.

Dr. Jung Kwon Secures Funding for Innovative Research
As a branch experiment station in the College of Agricultural Sciences at OSU, COMES is invested in working with industry to maximize sustainability while to working to address worldwide food insecurity. After securing direct financial support from several seafood industry associations and partnerships, Dr. Jung Kwon and her team have recently received a grant from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) to conduct research that seeks to address both of these issues.

The project is titled “Rethinking seafood by-product: A path to provide sustainable nutrition and improve resource utilization.” As Dr. Kwon says in the executive summary for the project, “Consumption of seafood is encouraged as a critical part of a nutritious diet as the scientific evidence supports various health benefits of consuming seafood. Yet, seafood products are associated with a high rate of underutilization and waste, utilizing only 30-40% of harvested resources for human consumption. This means the loss of significant nutritional content retained in the discarded materials during processing, in particular high-quality proteins.”

The research will extract and purify protein isolates from seafood processing waste and assess their nutritional efficacy and functionalities.  If successful, the project will go on to develop “…multiple prototype products including dietary supplement products, novel food products, and food aid fortification formulations,” says Kwon.  These products may, over time, be introduced into the marketplace as a means of supplementing human nutrition needs as the population grows.

In order to be eligible for this type of grant, FFAR requires matching funds and project support from outside entities – in this case the seafood industry.  This requirement was even more challenging in 2020, in that the collaborations had to be forged and funding commitments made at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many companies were facing financial challenges of their own.  Dr. Kwon attributes her success in securing such support to both an ongoing need within the seafood industry to more efficiently utilize harvested resources, and to the ability of the industry to see beyond the current crisis and into a stronger, more sustainable future if this project is successful.

When asked what her hopes are for this project, Dr. Kwon said, “I believe the project, if successful, will provide far-reaching benefits not only to the stakeholders in the seafood sector including fisheries, processors, aquaculture producers, and seafood suppliers but also to the broader food supply chain as well as the global population. The success of the proposed project will push forward the notion of a sustainable food system to the next level. A success case can inspire and propagate similar innovative efforts to transform our entire food system. The outcome of the project will create a platform where diversification of food product is more readily possible and accepted.”

The FFAR grant will fund this research until the end of 2023, and we will keep you updated on what Dr. Kwon learns through this innovative project!

An Overview of the Molluscan Broodstock Program

A few months ago, HMSC Strategic Initiatives Manager Mark Farley spent some time documenting Dr. Chris Langdon and his aquaculture work with the Molluscan Broodstock Program.  Below you will find an introduction with Dr. Langdon, and a "deep dive" into the oyster rearing process with Faculty Research Assistant Blaine Schoolfield.

Aquaculture - Molluscan Broodstock Program

Aquaculture - Oyster Research Hatchery Technical Tour

Dr. Susanne Brander's Plastics Research in the News

Dr. Susanne Brander's research on the effects of micro- and nanoplastics on our environment, on the aquatic food we eat, and on the water we consume is a new area of study for COMES, but it is one that is critical to the conservation and utilization of marine resources. We invite you to explore the links below to learn more about Brander's work with the Pacific Northwest Consortium on Plastics, the most common sources of nanoplastics in our environment, and her most recent findings on the presence of plastics in drinking water.

Microplastics - Produced by the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences

Nanoplastics - Produced by the Pacfic Consortium on Plastics and the Marine Studies Initiative

For more on the Pacific Northwest Consortium on Plastics, visit their website.

Genetic Markers Show Pacific Albacore Intermingle Across Equator but Remain Separate Stocks

In a paper recently published in Evolutionary Applications, Dr. Kathleen O'Malley, State Fisheries Geneticist, and Dr. Felix Vaux, Postdoctoral Research Associate (now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand) demonstrate that out of the thousands of genetic markers found in any individual Albacore, only seven dozen of those are required to tell which side of the equator the fish came from. Not only do these findings provide important information for management agencies, they also provide new information about the population structure of this vitally important global commodity. 

This research arose from conversations with and support from commercial fishermen associated with the American Fishermen’s Research Foundation, Western Fishboat Owner’s Association and the Oregon Albacore Commission, and was conducted in collaboration with Dr. John Hyde of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service. (Read more...)


Dr. Steve Dundas on the Economics Governing Coastal Armoring Trends

"Peter Ravella and Tyler Buckingham [of the American Shoreline Podcast Network] have Dr. Steve Dundas on the show to talk about his use of applied economics to model the potential future armoring of private property on the Oregon coast. Dr. Dundas is a professor of Applied Economics at Oregon State University, and works at the OSU Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station. We discuss the current armoring situation on the Oregon coast, including the ramifications of the State's "Goal 18," which values the preservation of unarmored shorelines, and how a weakening of the laws preventing armoring could result in spillover effects resulting in a much faster armoring of the shoreline than previously thought. Where does this lead, and what can the rest of the American Shoreline learn from this interesting research in Oregon? Find out here. Its interesting and wonky, only on ASPN!"

Listen to Podcast

Dr. Gil Sylvia Leads Oregon State University Team Awarded Competitive NOAA Aquaculture Grant

Oregon State University 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.

Researchers from several Oregon State entities – including the College of Agricultural Sciences, Oregon Sea Grant, the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, the Institute for Natural Resources, and OSU Libraries and Press – will work closely with the nonprofit Oregon Aquaculture Association on the three-year grant from NOAA’s National Sea Grant Office.

“We expect the investment and educational tools we are developing will advance the rate of aquaculture investment in Oregon and along the West Coast and serve as a model for other states,” said Gil Sylvia, a marine resource economist at Oregon State and the principal investigator on the grant. (Read More...)

Dr. Christina DeWitt a Panelist in Farm 2 Fork Webinar

Dr. Christina DeWitt and Alan Ismond (Aqua-Terra Consultants) teamed up in February to present a webinar titled A Successful Partnership for Increasing Seafood Sustainability for the Farm 2 Fork series presented by OSU's Department of Food Science and Technology. This webinar details the development of the Seafood Wastewater Workshop offered by the Seafood Research and Education Center in Astoria.  For more information and to watch the webinar, visit the Farm 2 Fork website.

Newest COMES Postdoctoral Scholars Present in HMSC Seminars

The two newest postdoctoral scholars in COMES-Newport, Dr. Zoe Almeida and Dr. Samreen Siddiqui, both jumped right in, giving back to back HMSC Seminar sessions earlier this year.

Dr. Almeida works with Dr. Jessica Miller and collaborators from NOAA researching how marine heat waves affect early life stages of Pacific Cod in the Gulf of Alaska. She is using information from otoliths to determine how environmental conditions affect Pacific Cod growth and survival during their first year of life.

She completed her Ph.D. at Ohio State University, where she focused on how early-life environments affect Lake Erie Walleye throughout individuals' lives. Using meta-analysis, laboratory experiments, analyses of long-term data, and simulation modeling, she examined how the environments an individual experiences during development can continue to affect that individual, their cohort, and their population as a whole.

Dr. Siddiqui is an ecotoxicologist working as Postdoctoral Scholar in Dr. Susanne Brander's lab. She recently completed her Ph.D. at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, and she has an interdisciplinary background including big data analysis, modeling using R, and Arc GIS.

Her research at OSU will focus on Inland Silverside pesticide and plastic exposures along the salinity gradient.

Student News

As always, COMES students have been quite busy!  Three students have graduated since our last Newsletter:

  • Kevin Nelson, M.S., Food Science and Technology - December 2020
    Dr. Christina DeWitt, Advisor

Thesis - Determination of Total Nucleotides, Nitrogenous Bases and Degradation By-Products with Respect to Various Processing and Preservation Techniques for Alaska Pollack (Gadus chalcogrammus) and Yellowfin Sole (Limanada aspera)

  • Keala Pelekai, M.S., Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences - March 2021
    Dr. Jessica Miller, Advisor

Thesis - Evaluation of Pacific Lamprey Entosphenus tridentatus anatomical structures as records of age and isotopic histories

  • Stanley Piotrowski, M.S., Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences - March 2021
    Dr. Kathleen O'Malley, Advisor

Thesis - Characterizing Neutral and Adaptive Genetic Diversity of Rainbow and Redband Trout in the Klamath Basin Before Dam Removal

In addition, Hillary Thalmann (M.S., Dr. Jessica Miller's lab) recently received two exciting awards:

  • The Savery Outstanding Master's Student Award, sponsored by the OSU Agricultural Research Foundation
  • Best Student Oral Presentation for her virtual presentation on the effects of marine heat waves on juvenile Pacific Cod at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium (Thalmann, H. L., Laurel, B. J., Miller, J. A. 2021. Too hot to handle: Effects of thermal variability on juvenile Pacific Cod foraging and growth in Gulf of Alaska nursery habitats. 2021 Alaska Marine Science Symposium)

Finally, Dr. Jung Kwon will be welcoming two new graduate students into her lab in the coming months - Woojae Jung (Ph.D. starting Spring 2021), and Bryan Gaspich (M.S. starting Summer 2021).

Hatfield Marine Science Center's Marine Science Day Went Virtual

From 10am-2pm on Saturday, April 10, HMSC hosted its first ever virtual Marine Science Day event due to continued COVID-19 restrictions prohibiting large events.  It was an overwhelming success, with over 3000 people attending live talks, keynotes, touring the exhibits, and playing in the Kid Zone, all from the comfort of their own homes.  One of the great things about this format is that HMSC will be leaving all of the content up and accessible for a full year, so if you missed it you can still "attend!"

COMES was well represented at the event - our exhibits and talks are linked below, but we strongly encourage you to take a look at all the Marine Science Day content offered if you haven't. It's an excellent representation of the many facets of work being done at HMSC, and COMES-Newport is very lucky to be part of such a vibrant and exciting research community!

Live Talk - Dr. Taylor Chapple

COMES Exhibits

Aquaculture - Dr. Chris Langdon

The Big Fish Lab - Dr. Taylor Chapple

COMES Overview - Interim Director Dr. Christina DeWitt

Fisheries Oceanography and Population Dynamics Lab - Dr. Will White

Marine Fisheries Genomics - Dr. Michael Banks

Marine and Anadromous Fisheries Ecology Lab - Dr. Jessica Miller

State Fisheries Genomics Lab - Dr. Kathleen O'Malley


COMES Newsletter

Writer/Editor - Alison Storms

Layout and Content Compilation - Alison Storms

Other Contributors - Robert McGorran, Chris Langdon, Neil Thompson, Brett Dumbauld, Jung Kwon, Mark Farley, Blaine Schoolfield, Kathleen O'Malley, Felix Vaux, Craig Norrie, the American Shoreline Podcast Network, Steve Dundas, OSU College of Agricultural Sciences Communications, Oregon State University Research Newsroom, the Department of Food Science and Technology, and Hatfield Marine Science Center.