Marine and Coastal Research Laboratory

The Triton Initiative is led by PNNL’s Marine and Coastal Research Laboratory (MCRL), which was previously known as the Marine Sciences Laboratory, located at the mouth of Sequim Bay on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Sequim Bay links a small, relatively undisturbed embayment to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the body of water separating the United States and Canada, to the Pacific Ocean. MCRL is DOE’s only marine research facility.

PNNL maintains a variety of vessels, facilities, and equipment to enable research, provide a platform for development of instrumentation and data collection, and support software design and data analysis and the evaluation of potential impacts to marine systems.

MCRL’s location on the water provides many research benefits, such as:

  • direct studies of environmental impacts on marine species and habitats
  • use of flowing seawater in controlled laboratory settings
  • testing of innovative marine sensors in natural settings
  • multiple sites for deployment of MRE devices in energetic settings

Visit MCRL’s website for more information here. 

Facilities, Vessels, and Equipment 

MCRL offers many resources that support Triton, including the following:

  • a research pier and floating dock with integral power and data connections
  • a scientific dive team
  • flexible wet and dry laboratory spaces that support a variety of marine research studies
  • an advanced on-site wastewater-treatment system and Washington Department of Ecology permitted discharge
  • large outdoor experimental tanks
  • flowing water at any temperature or salinity
  • electronics labs for sensor and platform development
  • a mobile office trailer configured with electrical outlets, lighting, Wi-Fi, HVAC, and desk space
  • research vessels
    • R/V Strait Science—28-foot research vessel with A-frame and davit
    • R/V Desdemona—high-performance 33-foot research vessel with davit
    • A 23-foot SAFE boat
    • A 20-foot Sun Tracker pontoon boat with covered deck
    • MCRL can lease larger vessels if needed and has a standing contract with the University of Washington-Applied Physics Laboratory for hiring their 58-foot research vessel, the R/V Jack Robertson


The MSL boat crew preparing for the field.


The SAFE boat in Sequim Bay.


The Dive Team

PNNL has an experienced scientific dive team comprising MCRL staff involved with scientific research dedicated to supporting a wide variety of projects in underwater environments. The divers’ experience includes the following:

  • habitat and species assessment and data collection
  • underwater sampling
  • equipment deployment
  • underwater video and photography

The team uses advanced equipment including standard SCUBA and closed-circuit rebreathers equipped with full-face masks that allow underwater communication between divers and shore-side or vessel personnel in addition to a variety of underwater scientific and video and photographic equipment. The team works under the auspices of a PNNL Diving Control Board and can perform both scientific and light commercial dives; the latter is for installing, maintaining, and retrieving scientific equipment.


MSL divers ready to go!


Scientists at PNNL have expertise in marine technology/engineering, biotechnology, biogeochemistry, ecosystems science, toxicology, and Earth systems modeling. 

Read more on expertise below.


Permitted Sites

MCRL has multiple permitted sites for coastal research and instrument deployment in Sequim Bay, the Sequim Bay channel, and Clallam Bay. These sites offer diverse environments ranging from a quiet, low-energy environment inside Sequim Bay, increased exposure to currents in the Sequim Bay channel, and a higher-energy wave environment at Clallam Bay. Preliminary research began in Sequim Bay, but with a growing need to test equipment and perform research in different marine environments, the work has expanded to Clallam Bay.  

Environmental Conditions in Sequim Bay: 

  • Water depths up to 12 m in channel
  • Water depths up to 32 m in bay
  • Peak current speeds up to 2 m/s

Follow the links below to download the PDF reports for bathymetric data and the distribution through the channel (measured by a vessel-mounted acoustic Doppler current profiler).


Find Us: 

Marine and Coastal Research Laboratory
1529 W Sequim Bay Road
Sequim, WA 98382