Pioneering Oregon State whale researcher invests in graduate students

Bruce Mate

Bruce Mate, the director of Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, and his wife Mary Lou have named the institute as a major beneficiary of their estate. This commitment, valued at $800,000, builds on Mate’s 40-year career
in scientific research and education.

A world-renowned expert in marine mammal research, Mate is best known for pioneering the use of satellite-monitored radio tags to track threatened and endangered whales, allowing discoveries about whale migration routes, habitats and behaviors.

The couple’s bequest will add to the Mary Lou and Bruce R. Mate Marine Mammal Institute Fellowship, an endowment to support graduate students at the institute.

“OSU attracts extremely well-qualified graduate school candidates,” Mate says. “The research needed to get an advanced degree in science today can be incredibly expensive. But I’ve worked long enough now to see multiple generations of my students go on to do wonderful things, including creation of terrific opportunities for others. A great education makes a huge difference for students.”

From his laboratory at Oregon State’s Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) in Newport, Mate has tracked by satellite the movements of humpback, blue, gray, pilot, right, fin, bowhead and sperm whales, as well as manatees and dolphins. A professor of fisheries and wildlife and holder of the endowed Marine Mammal Research Professorship, Mate has been featured on the Discovery Channel, PBS, BBC, National Geographic and other science programs.

Mary Lou Mate has long been supportive of her husband’s research, often taking leaves of absence from her career as a registered nurse to work with him, and she became a part-time research assistant after retirement. For almost 30 years, she has co-hosted annual expeditions for donors to San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja, California, to visit gray whales.

The Mates are also among a growing group of faculty who have made $25,000 commitments to support the Marine Studies Initiative. About $2.5 million remains to be raised for the planned $50 million building in Newport.

“It is inspiring when the people closest to the university — our faculty and staff — personally invest in our mission. I’m deeply grateful to Bruce and Mary Lou,” says President Ed Ray. “While Oregon State is blessed with many faculty who give generously in their lifetime, this is an extraordinary example of legacy giving.”

For more information about the Marine Mammal Institute, visit

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