Category: Landmark Place
GPS Coordinates: 44.40595, -123.7508531
Hidden at the end of a long winding road between Waldport and the rural community of Alsea is the Oregon Hatchery Research Center (OHRC). It is a picturesque facility perched on banks of the Fall Creek and surrounded by forested mountains and scattered farms. Prior to 2005, this facility was one of many Oregon hatcheries designed to help mitigate the human impact on wild fish populations by supplementing them with reared stock.
“As we are working with the questions related to wild versus hatchery fish, this seemed like a prime location for the work,” Joseph O’Neil told the Oceanscape Network during a visit to OHRC in November 2014. Joseph is the senior technician and education and outreach coordinator for OHRC.
One of the major reasons OHRC was established was to determine how hatchery reared fish were affecting wild fish populations and the general environment. Although hatchery fish had been placed into the wild for decades, no one had really investigated the impact of this program.
Over the past decade, OHRC has gained an international reputation as a unique research facility in a near-pristine environment. Among its impressive resources are large indoor laboratories and artificial outdoor streams which allow scientists to replicate natural conditions such as shade, water flow, stream debris and substrate. In order to be as unobtrusive as possible, fish can be monitored remotely using a sophisticated camera network designed to filter out water reflection and distortion and provide high resolution images of the fish.
“This facility has now hosted around one hundred different studies,” Joseph said. Among the most noteworthy were investigations into how fish navigate using the Earth’s magnetic fields and how migrating salmon transport beneficial marine proteins into freshwater streams.
Since projects like these are frequently long-term, scientists from all over the world may visit OHRC for extended periods of time. To help make them more comfortable, the facility has a large onsite dormitory complete with kitchen, laundry and recreational facilities. If researchers want to observe fish in a native habitat, Fall Creek is close by and a series of nature trails allow access to the surrounding wilderness.
When not assisting with experiments, Joseph educates local students about Oregon’s fish species, migration patterns, watersheds and global climate change. Through partnerships with a variety of non-profit, governmental and educational organizations, OHRC’s reach extends far beyond its isolated location on the edge of Fall Creek.
OHRC is located at 2418 E Fall Creek Road, Alsea, Oregon. The center can be contacted at (541) 487-5510 and more information is available by clicking here. The center is jointly operated by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.
Related Feature: Life At The Hatchery Research Center