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Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction

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Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction  (Oregon Health and Science University)

Research Focus

Coastal margins sit at the interface between the sea and the land. Home to about half the world’s population, the resources they provide are vital for recreation, transportation and other services. Moreover, they are exquisitely sensitive to such influences as development, climate change and population growth.

The Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction seeks to understand coastal margins well enough to predict changes in the coming decades. “We want to ensure that society can prepare for the impacts of climate change and of increasing use of natural resources, rather than to merely react to them,” says center director António Baptista.

The center disseminates objective information to regulatory agencies, local governments and other policymakers, as well as to the public, to help in their decision-making.

It is based at the Oregon Health & Science University, with a wide range of academic and non-academic partners, including Oregon State University, the University of Washington, Portland State University and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Studies.

Center scientists are directing much of their research on the Columbia River, the largest river in the Pacific Northwest, focusing on areas where the fresh water meets the ocean. The river and its tributaries long have been integral to the region’s economy, and the river has been heavily developed during the past century, particularly as a source of hydroelectric power.

Research Benefits

Supporting the Columbia River estuary research is a system the center calls a “collaboratory,” which brings together sensors and computer models with the people who need the information these technologies produce. The sensor and models’ predictions flow to and from an open-access database, which is available to scientists, managers and laypeople.

The center deploys sensors from a variety of locations: ocean buoys, unmanned vehicles that roam the continental shelf along the coasts of Oregon and Washington, or in piles or docks in the estuary. Several docks literally serve as riverside laboratories, with pumping systems that bring in estuary water.

The researchers are especially interested in learning more about estuaries--partially enclosed bodies of water where freshwater from rivers and streams meets and mixes with salt water from the ocean.  “Estuaries function as natural bioreactors that modulate the impact of rivers on the productivity and health of the oceans,” Baptista says.  “One of our goals is to understand that role for the estuary of a large river.”

Center scientists also want to understand the effects both of the river and the ocean upon ecological hotspots in the estuary ecosystem.

“Predicting ecosystem changes in response to management actions and to changes in global climate change is increasingly necessary for the sustainability of coastal margins,” Baptista says.  “The center’s collaboratory is bringing scientifically sound predictions closer to reality for the Columbia River.”

Education and Outreach

The center supports education and training programs at the graduate and undergraduate level, preparing students for careers in such fields as coastal oceanography, environmental microbiology, biogeochemistry, computational sciences and information technology.  The center also works with several local organizations to sponsor K-12 programs in science, engineering and math, most on weekends and during the summer months.


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  • test of autonomous underwater vehicle
CMOP researchers perform field tests with an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) .
Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction