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Ocean Technology & Innovation

New and innovative tools, models, and technologies help us learn, discover, and understand complex marine environments and address emerging needs associated with the long-term sustainability of our ocean. Researchers develop new technologies and methods in unmanned systems, artificial intelligence, and Omics to guide transformative advancements in the quality, timeliness, and safety of marine and coastal science products and services.

Innovations in Technology and Techniques in the past five years:

Marine Ecosystems & Habitat


  • The Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute uses drones to assess the health and behavior of Oregon’s gray whale population. Aerial footage combined with hormone analyses from fecal samples provide a picture of the interplay between oceanographic conditions and whale health.

  • The Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute has been a pioneer in developing satellite tags to track migration patterns of large whales. It was through these tags that the longest migration of a mammal was recorded. MMI tag technology continues to be developed and now includes devices that can determine an animal’s fine-scale behavior.

  • Using newly developed genomic technology, researchers at the OSU Marine Mammal Institute are estimating the age of living whales and dolphins using DNA extracted from a skin biopsy sample. This “epigenetic clock” is currently being used to estimate the age of beluga whales from endangered population in Cook Inlet, Alaska. Based on this success, the methods are now being used for aging samples from the critically endangered Māui dolphin, a subspecies of Hector’s dolphins from the North Island of New Zealand.

  • Advances in analyses of environmental (e)DNA now offer an alternative for detection and identification of rare, cryptic, or vulnerable cetacean species. The OSU Marine Mammal Institute first initiated a study of eDNA from killer whales  in the coastal waters of the Salish Sea in 2015. This project demonstrated the potential to detect eDNA from the passage of killer whales. With the success of sampling inshore waters, we are now applying these methods to species in the open ocean.

  • Condition screening histology technique to assess physiological effects of fish larvae exposed to Ocean Acidification conditions.

  • Tagseq, a novel form of gene expression analysis applied to copepod RNA samples taken from the Newport Hydroline to provide new information to better assess physiological and productivity status in relation to environmental conditions.

  • Salmon fisherman were equipped with Samsung GSI tablets using software we developed to efficiently gather at-sea catch, effort and associated environmental data.

Protection & Restoration of Marine Resources


  • Electronic monitoring through use of video equipment & mitigation options to reduce seabird bycatch in West Coast at-sea hake fisheries.

Seafloor Processes


  • ​Hydrate sampler: A new gas-tight sampler was designed, built, and used for the first time to collect small samples of methane hydrate on the deep seafloor with a remotely operated vehicle and keep the sample hermetically sealed at high-pressure until it can be chemically analyzed. This sampler was developed to test whether methane gas released from the ice-like hydrate can be chemically distinguished from free methane gas.

Marine Bioacoustics


  • Continued development of a pseudo-real-time, portable, battery-operated under-ice acoustic winch system for bio-acoustic and water column monitoring (conductivity, temperature, depth) in remote polar areas.

  • Continued development of mobile autonomous platforms for acoustic detection of marine mammal sounds, including optimization for detecting both low-frequency species (e.g., fin whales) as well as high-frequency ones (e.g., dolphin and porpoise species).

  • Development of new statistical methods, and corresponding code, for estimation of animal population density using mobile autonomous platforms.

  • New and first methods to determine hormone status of whales from the whale fecal samples.

Coastal Mapping & Monitoring


  • We develop and vet standard operating procedures that will enable efficient, cost-effective use of unmanned aircraft systems for mapping nearshore waters in support of a range of NOAA programs.

  • The Cycle Slip (CS) simulator is an independent MATLAB routine, which adds CSs to a GNSS observation file for an experimental purpose.

Coastal & Marine Natural Infrastructure


  • A dune conceptual model that considers the relative importance of dune ecosystem services in natural and managed systems and a new numerical modeling framework to better understand the evolution of beaches & dunes.

  • Timevarying Emulator for Short- & Long-Term Analysis of coastal flooding (TESLA-flood) is a methodology for producing robust estimates of coastal flooding risk while accounting for dependencies of local Total Water Level (TWL) components on the fundamental drivers of large-scale climate.


Pacific cod larvae are photographed under a microscope to determine physiological changes caused by ocean acidification. Tom Hurst with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center is working with colleagues at CIMRS and CEOAS to evaluate larval fish sensitivity to elevated carbon dioxide levels.


A new gas-tight hydrate sampler designed to attach to an ROV to collect samples of methane hydrate in the SW portion of the Coquille Bank in 620 meters of water. Large bubbles pour out of the seafloor when the sediments are disturbed.


CIMRS, PMEL, and Hatfield Marine Science Center researchers are measuring the characterizing the coastal soundscape of Oregon, describing the variation in reproductive and stress hormones in gray whale fecal samples, evaluating trends in gray whale body condition, assessing annual variation in prey availability and quality for gray whales, and evaluating the relationships between ambient ocean noise levels and gray whale health.

Photo credit: Oregon State University.


Members of the NCCOS valuing ecosystem services from natural infrastructure at Pacific City, Oregon.

Photo credit: Steve Dundas, Oregon State University

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