MOCHA: Monitoring Oregon's Coastal Harmful Algae
Integrated HAB monitoring and event response for coastal Oregon

Oregon Coastal HABs: An introduction

Welcome to the MOCHA Oregon Coastal HAB Research homepage. The MOCHA project spanned 2007-2012. Historical data and publication links can be found on this website. The original rationale behind the project and its objectives can be found below. Please follow these links for more information on our:

Background and Rationale: It is now well documented that both the incidence of harmful algal blooms (HABs) and the persistence of individual HAB events are increasing along the coast of Oregon. The major toxins of interest are domoic acid (produced by Pseudo-nitzschia), which causes Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP), and saxitoxin (produced by Alexandrium), which causes Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). Monitoring programs do exist, but are currently only able to detect an event after it has impacted coastal communities. While these programs have been enormously successful thus far in preventing outbreaks of ASP or PSP, recent research suggests that even exposure to low (sub-closure) levels of these toxins could be damaging. An enhanced understanding of the physical and biological processes leading toxic phytoplankton blooms will enable us to better predict their occurrence, and track their progress. One of our approaches is to use signals in remotely sensed sea surface temperature (SST) and ocean color (chlorophyll and MODIS fluorescence) to (1) identify conditions that are favorable to blooms of toxic species, and (2) identify and track the blooms themselves. With an increased understanding of bloom dynamics, we plan to work with NOAA CoastWatch to develop satellite products that can be used by coastal managers to more effectively monitor HABs along the Oregon coast. This is our second grant, we were previously funded by NOAA Oceans and Human health Initiative under "Optical Tagging and tracking of water masses for prediction of human health hazards."

Geographic Scope: Our region of interest is the entire Oregon coast. HAB research off the Washington coast has identified the Juan de Fuca eddy as a potential region of HAB generation. Given what we know about the physical and biological oceanography of the Heceta Bank region (central OR coast), we are focusing our initial in situ work in this area, as a potential analog of the Juan de Fuca eddy. Strong collaborations have been established with the Washington and California groups, and the next year should see increased communication and sharing of results between all west coast groups.

Objectives: Perform a retrospective analysis of existing toxin data in conjunction with satellite and in situ physical/bio-optical data.
Determine the combination of physical and biological precursors leading to the occurrence of toxins in coastal waters and subsequently in coastal shellfish. Identify the time of year at which these conditions commonly occur. Do they occur at the same time every year?
Use this increased scientific understanding to quantify the likelihood of a HAB event based on the physical and bio-optical properties of the coastal ocean off Oregon.
Conduct our own sampling to test and refine these ideas.
Extend this knowledge to a large-scale predictive capability by using the remotely-sensed physical and biological data to predict, quantify and track HABs.
Collaborate with CoastWatch to develop remote sensing products that can be disseminated for early detection and management of HABs.

- Angel White, College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University
- Michelle Wood, Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Oregon
- Bill Peterson, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center/Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies
- Pete Strutton, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania - Matthew Hunter & Zach Forster, Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife
- Morgaine McKibben, College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University
- Dave Foley, NOAA Coastwatch West Coast Node
- Oregon Dept of Agriculture

Funded by:
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research (CSCOR)
Monitoring and Event Response for Harmful Algal Blooms (MERHAB)
Cooperative Institute for Oceanographic Satellite Studies (CIOSS)
Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction (CMOP)

Previously funded by NOAA Oceans and Human Health Initiative

R/V Elakha at sea
Image taken aboard the R/V Elakha during a MOCHA cruise off the Oregon coast.