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Coastal Sciences Division

Marine Sciences Laboratory

PNNL's Marine Sciences Laboratory (MSL), located at the mouth of Sequim Bay in Washington State, is the U.S. Department of Energy's research and development capability focused on helping the nation achieve its needs for sustainable energy, a sustaining environment, and robust security in coastal environments.

Over half of our 15,000 square feet of research laboratories are connected to the Bay via a supply system that delivers 200 gallons per minute of seawater, fully treats it after use to remove chemical and biological components, and returns it to the Bay. MSL's unique location also places it within one of the cleanest airsheds in the world, providing the ultratrace background for our work in measurement and signature sciences.

Research at MSL is supported by approximately 85 staff with expertise in biotechnology, biogeochemistry, ecosystems science, toxicology, and earth systems modeling, as well as a scientific dive team supporting in-water research and testing. Research includes work on

  • algal biofuels
  • climate change and ocean acidification
  • biofouling/biocorrosion
  • detection and signature development
  • environmental monitoring/measurement system development and testing
  • quantifying transport, fate, and effects of chemicals in marine environments
  • and coastal risk/hazard prediction and analysis.
Sustainable Ocean Energy

Sustainable Ocean Energy

Researchers at MSL produce tools and discoveries that enable sustainable energy from coastal environments for our nation, including renewable electricity, biofuels, hydrocarbons, and nuclear energy. Our science and engineering programs are directed towards:

  • Developing, testing, and deploying predictive tools supporting facility siting, operation, and emergency response
  • Developing, testing, and deploying effective environmental measurement technologies
  • Developing and testing technologies to improve energy production and environmental performance
  • Quantifying and guiding mitigation of adverse environmental impacts
Environmental Systems Performance

Environmental Systems Performance

MSL researchers are delivering integrative science, modeling, and analytical tools that guide actions to prevent and reverse ecosystem declines. Our programs focus on linkages between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, including:

  • Research on nutrient, contaminant, and carbon transport and cycling processes within the land-ocean interface
  • Multi-scale population, community, and earth systems modeling linking environmental systems to climate, engineered systems, and landscapes
  • Adaptive environmental management within a quantitative systems framework
Measurements and Signatures

Measurements and Signatures

Researchers at MSL engineer innovative approaches to address the greatest challenges in detecting and responding to national and global threats. Our programs focus on developing efficient and effective ways to acquire data from environmental media (air, water, sediment and biota) and translate those data into actionable intelligence. These include:

  • Ultratrace detection for high fidelity sensing and forensics
  • Applied biofouling and biocorrosion research
  • Maritime systems and operations development and testing
  • One scene from the animation shows the mother humpback diving below the floating platform to forage while the calf stayed near the ocean surface.

    New Animation Explores Possible Encounters between Humpback Whales and Floating Offshore Wind Farms

    A new animation depicts the marine mammals’ scale and movements relative to floating offshore wind farms. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is using the animation to discuss development of the farms along the Pacific Coast with a wide variety of stakeholders.

  • George Bonheyo leads PNNL’s biofouling research

    PNNL Scientists Keep Biofouling at Bay

    For the commercial maritime shipping industry, biofouling is the leading cause of aquatic invasive species transport. Researchers at PNNL are leading research to mitigate biofouling and its impacts on the environment and industry. In recent years, scientists at PNNL's Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim, WA have earned an international reputation for leading research to address this challenge.

  • Ron Thom

    Thom Elected President of Washington State Academy of Sciences

    Ron Thom, staff scientist emeritus at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim, Washington, has been elected president of the Washington State Academy of Sciences.

  • Wave energy devices

    Finding Energy Opportunities in the Blue Economy

    What if you could directly harness ocean energy to bring power where it didn't exist before? In a first-of-its-kind assessment, researchers from PNNL, working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, have identified and assessed 12 markets that could benefit from marine energy.

  • In rural southwest Washington state, new culverts replace a tide gate and reconnect a wetland to the Grays River and Columbia River estuary.

    Restoring Salmon Ecosystems on the Columbia River

    The once "Mighty Columbia" now is channelized and fragmented, with infrastructure cutting off much of the river from wetlands—and affecting salmon migrations. A PNNL-led research team has shown that reconnecting former wetlands, with new culverts, improves the base of a healthy aquatic food web and aids in salmon restoration.

  • Seawater yields first grams of yellowcake

    Seawater yields first grams of yellowcake

    For the first time, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and LCW Supercritical Technologies have created five grams of yellowcake — a powdered form of uranium used to produce fuel for nuclear power production — using acrylic fibers to extract it from seawater.

  • Zhaoqing Yang

    Scientist Named to Editorial Board of Journal of Coastal Research

    Zhaoqing Yang, Chief Scientist at PNNL's Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim, Washington, was elected to the Editorial Board of the Journal of Coastal Research.

Marine Sciences Laboratory

Research Areas

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