COMES Newsletter - Spring 2022

A Note from Christina:

I’ve been thinking lately, as most of us have over the last 2+ years, about just how much can change in very short periods of time.  The difference is that this year things seem to be looking brighter and opening up! I have been honored to serve as President of Pacific Fisheries Technologists (PFT) through the pandemic and, after delaying a year, COMES was pleased to host the 2022 PFT Conference in Newport in February. This conference was a welcome return to in-person activities for those able to travel, and was offered as a hybrid event for those unable to attend in person due to changing COVID conditions. We had a total of 87 participants from Alaska to Mexico, as well as from across the United States. Dr. Jae Park gave the Keynote, and Dr. Jung Kwon was instrumental in organizing the conference program. Sue Hansell, Craig Holt, and Alison Storms managed logistics, transportation, and technology for the event.  Although a hybrid format presented some challenges, we also had participants that we would likely not have had otherwise. This was particularly true for students participating in our poster and oral presentation competitions - PFT was especially pleased to be able to give its largest monetary awards ever to the competition winners! Over half of our students participated virtually, which certainly speaks to the increased accessibility of the hybrid format.

COMES faculty and students will be undertaking more travel in the coming months, which is an exciting change for all of us. International travel has even opened up – I’ll be traveling to India to conduct Seafood Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) training in April, followed by Seafood HACCP Train-the-Trainer training in June. The training effort is supported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration through its partnership with the Joint Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition. We also have COMES faculty and students traveling to Ireland, the Netherlands, and Canada in the coming months for research and conferences. We have all missed having these opportunities, and we are committed to conducting them safely in hopes that they can continue to happen without further pandemic interruptions. Of course, we always have plenty to do wherever we are, as you’ll see below – enjoy!


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

COMES' White Co-Lead PI for Project Assessing Ten-Year Review of Oregon's Marine Reserve Program

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC), under the direction of an executive order from the Governor and with extensive input from the community, ocean users, and other stakeholders, began work in 2008 on what would become the Oregon marine reserves program.  As a result, five marine reserve sites were established between 2012 and 2016 – Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Otter Rock, Cape Perpetua, and Redfish Rocks. Larger areas adjacent to some of these marine reserves have been designated as marine protected areas (MPAs). In an effort to allow protected species to recover and enhance ecosystems, the marine reserves were developed specifically as no-take/no ocean development zones (with the exception of removal of animals or seaweed for research purposes assessing the efficacy of the program). Rules for adjacent MPAs are site-specific, some allowing some types of fishing but all prohibiting ocean development.  You can find more about the development of the marine reserves in “How Oregon’s Marine Reserves Were Established,” where you can also find the Chronicle of the Marine Reserve Planning Process.

When the marine reserves were officially established in 2009, one of the provisions was that ODFW would conduct an extensive 10-year review of the efficacy and productivity of the reserves. ODFW would then issue a report to OPAC.  This report is also public, and can be found online -  The Marine Reserves Synthesis Report 2009-2021.

A further requirement set forth by the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) of OPAC was that ODFW’s report would be reviewed by an interdisciplinary, Oregon-university based group of scientists who would evaluate the findings and issue a final report.  We are very pleased that this project will be co-led by COMES’ Dr. Will White and Dr. Kelly Biedenweg of the OSU Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences (FWCS). Dr White, Dr. Biedenweg and a team of scientists representing OSU, University of California, Santa Barbara, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Florida State University, California State University Northridge, and University of California, Davis were awarded this project through a competitive RFP process, and they have recently begun their work reviewing the report.  Members of this team represent the disciplines of ecology, fisheries, oceanography, economics, social science, and marine conservation policy.

Based on criteria developed by STAC, Dr. White, Dr. Biedenweg, and their team will be using a range of quantitative and qualitative approaches to evaluate the scientific integrity of the following aspects of ODFW’s report:

  1. An assessment of social, economic, and environmental factors related to the reserves and protected areas;

  2. Recommendations for administrative actions and legislative proposals related to the reserves and protected areas;

  3. Any other scientifically-based information related to the reserves and protected areas that they deem relevant or material.

The team’s assessment will also address the following major determinations put forth in the ODFW report:

  1. Were the Marine Reserves and associated MPAs effectively designed and implemented to achieve the goals set forth in OPAC’s 2008 Ocean Marine Reserve Policy Recommendations?


  1. Did ODFW successfully execute the legislative mandates set forth regarding Marine Reserve implementation?

The team’s assessment is slated to be delivered to STAC by early Fall 2022, with possible continued involvement by Dr. White and Dr. Biedenweg through Spring 2023.

Banks' Marine Fisheries Genomics, Conservation, and Behavior Lab in the News for Two Salmon-related Projects

Salmon Magnetic Sense Could Involve Magnetite Crystals in Specialized Receptor Cells in Their Noses, Research Says

The Science Times states "It is a widely known fact that several animals like butterflies, birds, and salmon have a unique, innate magnetic sense that allows them to accurately navigate to breeding and feeding grounds by using the Earth's magnetic field. However, up until today, scientists have always struggled to determine the exact mechanisms at play for magnetic perception to work.

Today, researchers published a study that outlines a new possible theory that surprisingly involves magnetite crystals that form in specialized receptor cells in salmon and other animals that root in ancient genetic systems. They were developed by bacteria and passed on to animals thousands of years ago via evolutionary genetics...." (Read More)

Choosing a Mate - Wild vs. Hatchery Coho Salmon

The March/April 2022 issue of Hatchery International provides insight into the first stage of the mate-choice study the Banks lab is doing.

"Animals that are bred and raised in captivity often differ from their natural origin counterparts. For example, they can have lower reproductive success, perhaps due to a lack of information on the various factors that affect mate choice. This is because in a captive context, 'who mates with who' is often mediated by people rather than the animals themselves. One group of species to which this applies is Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus), which is frequently reared in hatcheries. Although there are many positive aspects to rearing Pacific salmon in this way, their reproductive success could be reduced compared to those that live in their natural environment...." (Read More)

What IS "Fresh Frozen" Fish, Anyway?

COMES' Dr. Christina DeWitt and Andrew Bornstein (Bornstein Seafoods and the COMES Advisory Board) made this short video with Positively Groundfish to explain why today's fresh frozen seafood is very different than you might think.



Invasive Species Travel Across Oceans on Plastic Debris

Dr. Jessica Miller was recently featured in this VICE News segment about the hazards of plastic and other debris crossing oceans - and bringing invasive species with them.



Tillamook Bay Habitat Restoration Yields Unexpected Outcomes

Graham Shaw (M.S., Marine Resource Management 2021) and his advisor, Dr. Steven J. Dundas, had the opportunity to collaborate with NOAA and the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership to look at the economic impacts of an ecological restoration project in Tillamook Bay, Oregon.  Although the Southern Flow Corridor Restoration Project was originally intended to increase salmon habitat and decrease flooding, the ancillary economic and ecological benefits were both surprising and exciting to everyone involved.  Mr. Shaw and Dr. Dundas recently discussed the project with The Jefferson Exchange, a program on Jefferson Public Radio (a service of Southern Oregon University) in a segment titled "The ecological restoration project that exceeded expectations.”

The full NOAA report is also available – Socio-Economic Impacts of the Southern Flow Corridor Restoration Project - Tillamook Bay, Oregon.

Update on Kwon's Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research Grant Project

As we mentioned in the Spring 2021 COMES Newsletter, Dr. Jung Kwon of COMES’ Seafood Education and Research Center and a team of researchers at OSU recently secured a competitive $333,777 Seeding Solutions grant from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR). Industry partners on the project include Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, OSU, OSU Food Innovation Center, Pacific Seafood Group, Seafood Industry Research Fund, Trident Seafoods and West Coast Seafood Processors Association, all of whom provided matching funds or in-kind support for a total investment of $667,570.

This exciting project, focuses on using high-protein seafood processing byproducts to help meet human health and nutrition needs while reducing food waste. It has been profiled on the FFAR website, in Capital Press and in The Astorian. You can also listen to Dr. Kwon and Tim Kurt, Scientific Program Director with FFAR, discuss the project in a segment titled “Seafood lab researchers aim to make more food from fish” on Think Out Loud, a program on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Students in the Field

Victoria Quennessen, Ph.D. Student – Dr. Will White’s Lab
Project - Studying Survival of Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) in Relation to Climate Change in Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Vic spent much of winter term 2022 in Fernando de Noronha, Brazil working with an exciting collaborative team studying green sea turtles. She describes their work as follows:

“We're ultimately investigating the probability of turtle populations to survive in the face of climate change, since sex ratios are determined by temperatures - warmer nests produce more females, and we don't know how many males are too few males for the population to survive in the long run. Here in Fernando de Noronha, besides having access to the nesting females, we also have access to the males and the breeding grounds, which will help us discover the relationship between sex ratio and reproductive success (we hope!). When we finally get access to our data, I will also be using computational simulations to try to understand how different kinds of adaptations, both genetic (variability in the gene that determines the switch point between a nest developing more female vs. more male hatchlings) and behavioral (if males mate with more females, or travel further to mate, etc.) will affect their survival probabilities.

As a side note, while the females lay eggs, they enter a kind of hypnotic state. We take advantage of this to tag them (if they're not tagged already), paint a number on them to make them easier to ID in the water during dive transect and capture surveys, take genetic samples, deploy a temperature logger in the nest attached to a stake so we can find it again, and measure her carapace, or shell (curved maximum width and length). We use the red lights to prevent scaring other turtles away if they come up while we're processing one, since the light doesn't travel as far as white light. 

Also, importantly, we've got fantastic collaborators for this project!

We're being housed and much of the research is being conducted in partnership with Projeto TAMAR, a Brazilian non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of sea turtles (tartarugas marinhas) in Brazil.

We're also collaborating with Dr. Mariana Fuentes and her Ph.D. student Armando Santos as the sea turtle ecology experts on the project. They're from the Marine Turtle Research Ecology and Conservation Group at Florida State University.

Finally, we're collaborating with Dr. Lisa Komoroske, her postdoc Dr. Blair Bentley, and Ph.D. student Estefany Herrera as the sea turtle genetics experts on the team. They're in the Molecular Ecology lab out at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Will [White] and I are serving as the computational modeling / simulations folks to round out the team.”

You can learn much more about this project in on April 9, 2022 as part of HMSC's Marine Science Day - check out the virtual exhibit for Dr. Will White's Lab!

Jess Schulte, Ph.D. Student – Dr. Taylor Chapple's Lab
Project - Studying Broadnose Sevengill Sharks (Notorynchus cepedianus)

This photo captures the exact moment that Jess Schulte, a first year Ph.D. student, caught her very first shark. As part of Taylor Chapple’s Big Fish Lab, her research will investigate the movement and foraging ecology of a top coastal predator – the broadnose sevengill shark (Notorynchus cepedianus) – to eventually incorporate shark predators into models that help with management. After pulling this shark up (located in Willapa Bay, WA), Jess and the team took tissue samples and then tagged the shark with an acoustic tracker which will be used in ongoing movement analysis. Jess has already started getting tag readings back and will be starting analysis on the data this fall.

This spring and summer, Jess will be continuing her research – tagging more sevengills while also collecting stomach contents to understand their foraging ecology. 

Decrease in Basking Shark Sightings in California Current Ecosystem

Dr. Alex McInturf, a postdoctoral scholar in Dr. Taylor Chapple’s Big Fish Lab, recently published a paper on the status of basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) in the California Current Ecosystem.  This study was conducted when Dr. McInturf was a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Davis with a team of researchers from that institution and from NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

Science Daily states “About the size of a small school bus, the basking shark is the second largest fish in the ocean and is found in temperate and tropical waters across the globe. In the mid-1900s, basking sharks were observed by the thousands each year off California's coast. Now they are rarely seen at all in this region, called the California Current Ecosystem, or CCE.

A study...confirms a striking decrease in basking shark sightings in the CCE after the 1970s and 1980s and examines what is driving their presence and distribution.”

When asked about the population decline in the CCE, Dr. McInturf said “They are a rare sight... We want to know why the declines are happening. Is it climate change? Human-induced pressures? What environmental cues do they respond to and how might that change in the future?"

You can find the full paper in Frontiers in Marine Science.  Dr. McInturf has also provided a helpful infographic about the decline in basking shark populations in the CCE.

Upcoming research

Dr. McInturf’s research has also led her to study basking sharks in Ireland, where they remain more populous in spite of an historically much more active shark fishery off Achill Island. She also told me that “...the sharks [in Ireland] also have not changed seasonality in the same way they did here - they’ve always been seen in the summer.” This leads her to wonder why basking sharks in the CCE have altered their seasonal patterns while those in Ireland have not.  In an effort to keep answering questions about changes in basking shark populations worldwide, Dr. McInturf will be heading to Ireland later in the spring to continue her research – and we hope to have an update in a future newsletter.

News from Dr. Brander's Lab

As always, it’s very busy in Dr. Susanne Brander’s Ecotoxicology and Environmental Stress Lab.  A recent study investigating the impacts of microplastic particles from car tires indicates that both the particles and the chemicals used to treat the rubber have a strong negative impact on estuarine and freshwater organisms.  Dr. Brander and Dr. Stacey Harper were recently featured in a segment titled “Oregon State University scientists find tiny tire particles can harm aquatic life” on Think Out Loud, Oregon Public Broadcasting.  This research is also featured in San Francisco Estuary News, Salon, and New Atlas.

Dr. Brander was also recently consulted for an op-ed in Environmental Health News titled “Scientists: US needs to support a strong global agreement to curb plastic pollution.”  The piece from February 2022 states, “On Monday, world leaders will gather at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi to negotiate a global treaty to address plastic pollution” and that “Voluntary, optional or market-led solutions will not suffice to solve this complex, global problem.”

According to Reuters, the outcome of the UNEA meeting is that, “United Nations negotiators have agreed a roadmap for a global plastic treaty that would address plastic production and design, according to a draft resolution seen by Reuters, in what delegates said was a key step to agreeing an ambitious deal.”  The UN aims to have a binding treaty in place by 2024.

Finally, Dr. Brander’s lab will be moving from its current home in Corvallis to its permanent spaces at  HMSC in April 2022.  Dr. Brander’s facility will be split between the shared lab space on the second floor of the Gladys Valley Marine Studies Building and a newly refurbished aquaria space in the 900 building.  We are very excited about her arrival!

HMSC's Marine Science Day 2022 is April 9th!

For the second year, Hatfield Marine Science Center is excited to present Marine Science Day in a virtual format.  The event will take place live from 10am-2pm on Saturday, April 9, 2022, but exhibits will continue to be accessible online for a year.

The event will feature live talks, keynotes, exhibits available for virtual tours, and the very popular KidZone.  Participating COMES-Newport labs include:

  • Aquaculture - Dr. Chris Langdon
  • 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, Conservation, and Behavior - Dr. Michael Banks
  • Marine and Anadromous Fisheries Ecology Lab - Dr. Jessica Miller
  • State Fisheries Genomics Lab - Dr. Kathleen O'Malley

COMES is also pleased to announce the return of shark dissections as part of Marine Science Day, now led by Dr. Taylor Chapple and the Big Fish Lab!

Shark Dissection: A Deep Dive INSIDE Sharks with the Big Fish Lab – 1:15-2:00pm

Have you ever wondered what makes a shark tick? Did you know that some species of sharks are actually warm-blooded (like us) while other species are cold-blooded (like snakes)? Join us as we take a deep dive inside a shark with The Big Fish Lab.

Our team of scientists will be conducting a shark dissection live. We will be exploring the anatomy and physiology of sharks and answering your questions about how sharks work. We’ll talk about what they have in common with other fish and animals and also the unique characteristics that make them the highly effective apex predators of the world’s oceans. So, get your questions ready to enter a new world of shark exploration with us.

COMES-Newport is, as always, honored to be a part of such a vibrant research community – we encourage you to explore all the aspects of Marine Science Day from the comfort of your own home!

Have You Seen a Shark? We Want to Know About It!

The Big Fish Lab is soliciting sightings reports for sharks in Oregon waters. These data will contribute to a variety of different projects examining the distribution, diet, and behavior of numerous species, including white sharks, salmon sharks, sevengill sharks, and others. If you have seen a shark, you can report it via the Big Fish Lab website here: If you aren’t sure what kind of shark you have seen, we also have a shark ID key available on our reporting page. Finally, if you have experience on the water and would like to get further involved in our research, please let us know. In addition to sightings data, we use numerous approaches to track these animals and address important questions about their role in local food webs. You can reach out to with any questions or inquiries.

-Dr. Alex McInturf

COMES Research Vessel Now Available for Use

As we mentioned in the Fall 2021 newsletter, COMES now has a research vessel - a 22’ Arima Sea Legend with a 150 Hp Mercury E-tech and 15 Hp Honda trolling motor. This vessel has room for up to 8 people and is equipped with radar, plotters, and a sounder. The vessel is trailer-able. The rental rate is $65 per day plus $75 per hour of engine operation. An operator and/or additional crew are available for additional fees, listed in the OSU Fee Book (Fee #16103). If the renter chooses to operate the boat themselves, prior to renting the vessel for the first time, the operator will have to complete the Motorboat Operator Training Course, or comparable training approved by OSU’s Boating Safety Officer, as well as boat-specific training at a cost of $150.

Additional information about procedures for using OSU vessels for research, as well as about the Scientific Boating Safety Association compliant Motorboat Operator Training Course, can be found on OSU’s New Boater Information page.

For OSU renters, we recommend a using at truck from OSU Motorpool to tow the vessel.

For more information or to inquire about boat availability during your desired time period, please contact Dr. Taylor Chapple

Dulse Featured in 1859 - Oregon's Magazine

In an article titled "We Need Seaweed - Eating Oregon's Dulse Can Save the World," Dr. Chris Langdon and Chuck Toombs share the importance of this sea vegetable.

"True, you might not be interested in eating a clump of seaweed. When you’re hankering for a hefty meal, a red alga poking about in the tide might not be what you had in mind. It’s often called a weed, after all, and who wants to eat weeds? But there are particular strains of seaweed called dulse that you might want to consider. Patented in the labs of Oregon State University, under the guidance of professor Chris Langdon, who has specialized in aquaculture for decades, and promoted by Chuck Toombs, an entrepreneur who is part of OSU’s School of Business, dulse is something you should really get excited about...." (read more)

-reprinted with permission from Statehood Media

What is the Estimated Economic Value of Restoration Action Positively Impacting Oregon Coast Coho?

That's what COMES' Dr. Steven J. Dundas, along with colleagues in the OSU Department of Applied Economics and NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center, sought to determine in a recently published paper titled "Estimating the value of threatened species abundance dynamics." This study combines survey data and a statistical model to estimate economic value for increases in spawning population numbers of Oregon Coast Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). The new methodological approach they developed enables conservation managers to estimate economic benefits from any restoration action that restores habitat for Oregon Coast coho. An application of the method demonstrates that a management change in one Oregon estuary leading to a permanent and instantaneous increase in coho abundance generated over $63 million in economic value to the Pacific Northwest. The paper is freely available (open access) in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.

Student News

Recent Graduates

Duncan Pasewark, M.S. Food Science and Technology (Fall 2021)

  • Dr. Christina DeWitt, Advisor
  • Thesis - The Incorporation of Novel Water-Soluble Potato Protein Extract in Pacific whiting (Merulccius productus) Fillets Through Brine Injection Technology to Improve Quality

Student Awards

COMES' students did very well in the Oral Presentation competition at the Pacific Fisheries Technologists Conference in February, taking two of the three awards:

Rufa Mendez - Second Place

  • Presentation Title - Seaweed Pacific Dulse (Devaleraea mollis): A Promising Bioresource for Health Application
  • Advisor - Dr. Jung Kwon - COMES Seafood Education and Research Center/Dept. of Food Science and Technology

Duncan Pasewark - Third Place

  • Presentation Title - The Incorporation of Novel Water-Soluble Potato Protein Extract in Pacific whiting (Merliccius productus) Fillets Through Brine Injection Technology to Improve Quality
  • Advisor - Dr. Christina DeWitt, COMES Seafood Research and Education Center/Dept. of Food Science and Technology
COMES Newsletter

Writer/Editor - Alison Storms

Layout and Content Compilation - Alison Storms

Other Contributors - Will White, The Science Times, Hatchery International, Positively Groundfish, VICE News, Steven Dundas, NOAA, Jung Kwon, Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, Capital Press, The Astorian, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Vic Quennessen, Alex McInturf, Jess Schulte, Statehood Media, Pacific Fisheries Technologists, Mark Farley, Taylor Chapple, Susanne Brander, Michael Banks, Jefferson Public Radio/Southern Oregon University, Michelle Klampe, OSU College of Agricultural Sciences Communications, Oregon State University Research Newsroom, Oregon Sea Grant, OSU Extension Communications Photo Library, and the Hatfield Marine Science Center.