Research at Port Orford

Oregon's rocky south coast is where the majority of Oregon's kelp forest habitats are found. The Station supports coastal, intertidal, and subtidal research and the study of these ecosystems and their rich biodiversity.

Photo: Brandon Cole

Gray Whale Ecology, Behavior, and Health

Since 2015, the GEMM Lab has conducted research in Port Orford, Oregon. The team focuses on the ecology, behavior, health, and conservation of marine megafauna including cetaceans, pinnipeds, seabirds, and sharks. 

Their aim is to fill knowledge gaps about species ecology, health and distribution patterns so that conservation efforts can be more directed and effective at reducing space-use conflicts with human activities.

The team works closely with partners and stakeholders to fully understand issues and needs, and prioritize communication of our work and findings through a variety of formal and informal outlets.

Learn more about the GEMM Lab and their projects HERE

Marine Reserve Monitoring

The Port Orford Field Station supports the ongoing research that occurs in the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve. The reserve was established in 2012 and monitoring has occurred since 2010. Juvenile fish recruitment research is conducted in partnership with ODFW to monitor the abundance and diversity of juvenile fishes in and around the marine reserve. SMURFs (Standard Monitoring Units For the Recruitment of Fishes) are deployed every year and sampled regularly. Samples are then brought back to the field station to be processed and sorted by size and species complex. 2022 sampling was conducted by two undergraduate interns based out of the field station. For more information about the marine reserve and the research occurring go to

Coastal Trophic Ecology

Aaron Galloway is an Associate Professor at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, the marine lab of the University of Oregon. Dr. Galloway leads the Coastal Trophic Ecology Lab (CTELab), which is generally focused on trophic inferences in marine benthic food webs, with an emphasis on algae-invertebrate interactions. To do this work, the group often uses fatty acids as trophic biomarkers, paired with underwater natural history, scuba diving, lab and field experimentation, and modeling. Dr. Galloway is one of the original partners of the Oregon Kelp Alliance (ORKA), and has conducted regular subtidal diving research in the Port Orford area in close collaboration with partners at the Port Orford Field Station since 2016. 

Photo: Erik Urdahl

Rocky Intertidal Ecology

PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans) conducts research at two sites near the Port Orford Field Station. This work is carried out by the Menge Lubchenco Lab At OSU. The lab explores top-down/bottom-up community dynamics of the rocky intertidal, with current research investigating the geographic scale of consequences related to sea-star wasting disease on intertidal communities in Oregon and California. To learn more about the work PISCO and the Menge Lubchenco lab are doing click here.


Purple Sea Urchin/Dulse Co-culture

To address the ongoing issue of kelp forest degradation and the emergence of sea urchin barrens an Oregon Sea Grant research project is underway to explore the commercial viability of harvesting purple urchins from urchin barrens and fattening them to marketable size in land based tanks. Urchins are collected from urchin barrens that are part of a kelp forest restoration project, and stocked in land based tanks at the Port of Port Orford and the Port of Bandon. The urchins are fed dulse and their growth is measured each week. Water quality tests are also performed. This ongoing research is supported by the Port Orford Field Station, and is now in its second year.


Ocean Acidification Monitoring

Researchers and the Redfish Rocks Community Team have teamed up to monitor changing pH conditions at the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve. The collaboration was created by OSU and the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO). The project is led by Dr. Francis Chan who is the Director of the Cooperative Institute for Marine Ecosystem and Resources Studies (CIMRS). Durable low cost sensors are able to be deployed and collected by citizen scientists that are then sent to Dr. Chan for data analysis. Monitoring ocean acidification can help illuminate the challenges Oregon's nearshore environments are facing due to changes in ocean chemistry. To learn more about this research check out Oregon Surfrider’s storymap here!


 Coquille River Snag Survey 

Jim Rivers, Professor of Forestry at Oregon State University has been working on a project assessing the ecological importance of standing dead trees known as snags. Snags are a critical component of wildlife habitat and contribute broader ecosystem services. The project adopted a retrospective approach by surveying snags created across a 20-year period. This research is evaluating how snag persistence fluctuates due to method of creation and local environmental conditions and is measuring contemporary snag characteristics associated with use by wildlife. The assessment is focused by quantifying snag use by woodpeckers which are a keystone species and reliable indicators of forest health. To learn more about Jim Rivers go to his website. Read more about the project here and access the publication here!

Seabird Predation by River Otters

In response to rapidly declining populations of Leach's storm-petrels at certain near-shore colony nesting islands on the southern Oregon coast, the Seabird Oceanography Lab initiated a collaborative project with the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge to study the impacts of native terrestrial mesocarnivores (primarily river otter) on vulnerable seabird populations. This is a unique predator-prey system that has been sparsely described in the past, and we aim to approach this research primarily from a carnivore behavior perspective. Using a combination of remote camera trapping, carcass surveys, and scat analysis, we hope to characterize the role that Leach's storm-petrels play in the diets of coastal river otters in Curry County. By continuously sampling at seabird islands, coastal areas, and inland rivers, we will explore seasonal and geographic variation in the foraging behavior of this generalist predator species. Results from this work will shed new light on predator behavior across a habitat gradient and will be used to guide future predator management decisions by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service at colony islands throughout Oregon.