To answer this question, we need to look back as far as 1862, when the first Morrill Act was passed. This Act called for the creation of colleges - land-grants - that would teach courses related to agriculture, science and engineering. In return, these schools would receive some public land, which they could sell (and use the revenue to support the institution) or use for development of a campus. Their mission would be "public scholarship based on scientific research on behalf of the public good and driven by the needs of society." They would do this by combining university-level research, teaching, and extension into a network for acquiring and applying new knowledge to the sciences.
In 1868, Corvallis College was designated “the agricultural college of the state of Oregon”. This designation gave the college its “land grant” – a 35-acre experimental farm in Benton County - and it was jointly administered by private and state interests. In 1885, by agreement, the state assumed full control and Corvallis College became the Oregon Agricultural College.
In 1887, the Hatch Act, a Federal-state partnership of aid to education for improving farming and farmer education, was passed. Under this Act, which greatly increased the total operating budget of the college, the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station was formally established in 1889. Over the years, the station expanded, focusing primarily on crop production and livestock management. (View a list of OSU's Experiment Stations.)
In 1914, the Smith-Lever Agricultural Extension Act created the Cooperative Extension Service. Through the collaborative efforts of educators, researchers, students, and industry, the station became even more successful in assisting the agricultural component of the state.
In 1953, the Oregon Agricultural College became known as the Oregon State College, and in 1961, then-Governor Hatfield signed the legislative act that changed its name to Oregon State University.
On a parallel track, OSU research work in Newport’s Yaquina Bay, focusing mainly on oyster and clam culture, began in 1939. The OSU Seafood Research Laboratory, designed to meet the increasing needs of the seafood industry, was established in 1940.
A few decades later, three needs surfaced: OSU realized it needed a berth for its research vessels, OSU's Department of Fish & Wildlife broadened its marine research, and the City of Newport wanted to expand its economy. The logical solution was the establishment of a marine science center in Newport. Supported by federal and state funds, OSU's Marine Science Center – which was later named for Governor Mark Hatfield – was dedicated in 1964.
In the 80’s, Dr. Lavern Weber (then Director of the Hatfield Marine Science Center) and Capt. Barry Fisher (renowned fisherman and former Professor of Fisheries at Oregon State University), along with Joe Easley and Terry Thompson – recognized both the need for better understanding of our marine environment and the need for more sustainable fisheries. Their leadership led to the creation of an experiment station - a marine station - that would promote a strong working relationship between fishermen, processors, consumers and scientists in furthering these goals.
The Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station, incorporating the OSU Seafood Research & Education Laboratory, was officially established on January 1, 1989.
For staffing, the College of Agricultural Science merged positions in two of its Departments - Fisheries & Wildlife and Food Science & Technology. Through the years, the Station has added faculty/and or graduate students from other OSU departments, including Agricultural & Resource Economics, Microbiology, Veterinary Medicine and Marine Resource Management.
Fisheries research by COMES faculty takes place primarily at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, on Yaquina Bay. Seafood science research is carried out at the Lab in Astoria.
Our faculty collaborates with a variety of partners - including industry, state and federal agencies, foundations, non-governmental organizations, and private corporations, as well as other university faculty - as we follow the path that Dr. Weber and Captain Fisher laid out for us.
In keeping with our mission, we continue to work toward sustainable fisheries, which will help to assure more-resilient communities and a more abundant supply of seafood for the future.
We're also building knowledge for the future through our work with students - several of our graduate students are now serving in leadership positions, furthering these goals.
Tom Gentle discusses the origins of COMES in "The Sea and the Soil" in Oregon's Agricultural Progress
For more information about the Station, see Pearls of Wisdom, in Oregon's Agricultural Progress Magazine