This refers to a PREVIOUS SW, held February 6, 2016
Please see this page for the most recent Sound Waters information
C.17 Understanding the Columbia River Estuary through sensors, innovation, and collaboration Joseph Needoba

The Lower Columbia River Estuary is a dominant natural, cultural and economic resource in the Pacific Northwest. The economic importance of the Columbia River is evidenced by its central role in energy production, shipping, forestry, tourism, and fishing – as well as supplying water for agriculture throughout the watershed and carrying wastewater away from population centers.

Extending over 140 miles between Bonneville Dam and the Pacific Ocean, the Columbia estuarine ecosystem is a patchwork of sloughs, flood zones, and saltwater marshes that comprise the primary habitat for migrating juvenile salmon and other threatened animals such as the Columbian White-tailed deer.

Stewardship of the ecosystem is a complex undertaking owing to the multitude of stressors imposed by diking, hydropower operations, pollution, climate change, and changing ocean conditions – to name a few. A key component of the management strategy is science-informed decision making, as has recently been demonstrated by the ongoing Columbia River Treaty negotiations between U.S. and Canada. Learn how a new network of underwater sensors is providing continual information on water quality in the lower Columbia estuary and offers to enhance our abilities to protect this vital ecosystem.

aerial view of the Columbia River

Copyright: By aselfcallednowhere (Own work)

[CC BY-SA 3.(], via Wikimedia Commons

View of the Columbia River estuary near Astoria, OR

This class will focus on the science of water quality and ecosystem health of the Columbia River estuary. A central concept is the use of sensor networks to observe biological and chemical changes in the aquatic environment that occurs over daily (or shorter) time scales and across gradients in salinity and habitat type. This monitoring approach captures high-resolution variability in ecosystem function that has led to improved understanding of ecological “hotspots” in the estuary. In this session we will explore important regional science issues including coastal hypoxia and acidification, juvenile salmon food-web dynamics, and chemicals of emerging concern.

Participants can expect to leave the session with a better appreciation of these environmental issues and how sensors and sensor networks are improving the ongoing environmental stewardship efforts in the Columbia River estuary. Data access – data from the National Science Foundation Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction (CMOP) will be presented during the class.

All data is publically available and can be accessed on the CMOP website ( and through the NANOOS data explorer (

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