ASTORIA - Scientists investigating a variety of questions about the Columbia River's estuary will gather to discuss their research in Astoria this week. The public is invited to the free event.

The first Columbia Estuarine Research Conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, and Thursday, April 20, at the Liberty Theater with speakers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the University of Washington, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the Estuary Partnership and other organizations and institutions.

Sessions will include:

• Estuary Turbidity Maxima

• Lower River and Estuary Ecology

• Habitat Restoration

• Ocean Ecology

• Management Perspectives

"The idea is to get people together and to talk about what everyone's up to," said Robert Warren, executive director of the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce, one of the co-sponsoring organizations. Other co-sponsors include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bonneville Power Administration.

There will be talks about the ecology of the estuary and the fish that use it as habitat, especially salmon, as well as overviews of research on habitat restoration, ocean ecology and the mixing zones of fresh and salt water. The conference will close with representatives of different agencies talking about the management of the estuary.

The conference will focus on whether the science is answering questions to guide policy makers, and participants will also come up with more questions that should be asked, Warren said. Many of the talks will focus on salmon, he said, including how they are affected by the hydropower system and river dredging.

"I would encourage anybody with an interest in the estuary and the ecology of the system to come and sit in on any sessions," Warren said, adding that having locals present could show researchers that there are people living by the estuary that have a great interest in it.

To register for the conference or to view a tentative agenda, visit (cerc2006.pnl.gov); or for more information call Kathi Ruiz at (503) 417-7551.

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