OSU surveys sea floor animals to facilitate ORE growth

OSU researchers conducting the survey (Photo: OSU)

Oregon State University (OSU) researchers have conducted a study into the relation of sediment and animal life on the sea floor which could simplify the development of wave and wind renewable energy sites in the Pacific Northwest.

A team of Oregon State University researchers have used a 500-pound device with jaws to grab squares of sediment from the ocean floor at eight sites off the coasts of northern California, Oregon and Southern Washington.

OSU said the scientists found that the relationship between sediment characteristics and animal life was consistent across the sites they sampled, which could be of interest for renewable energy companies as it could allow them to reduce collections of marine animal life to characterize a potential development site.

That type of analysis is costly and time intensive because it involves identification work by humans, according to OSU.

Instead, companies could primarily conduct sediment analysis, most of which can be automated.

Once the sediment analysis is done, it could be cross-referenced with the findings of the Oregon State team to predict the marine animals likely to be found at a site and potentially determine impacts, OSU said.

The research, led by Sarah Henkel, a marine biologist at Oregon State’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, involved collecting sediment from 137 spots ranging in depth from about 160 to 360 feet, depths currently targeted for wave energy development.

It was funded by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Oregon Wave Energy Trust.

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