The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Centre at Oregon State University aims to close key gaps in understanding the technical, ecological, and human dimensions of wave and wind energy development. The Henkel lab investigates benthic conditions and biological communities on the shelf in order to establish an understanding of baseline habitat characteristics, species distributions and abundances against which potential project-induced changes may be assessed. We also aim to develop an understanding of temporal and spatial variability in benthic conditions and species to inform the intensity of sampling needed for future studies. Under baseline conditions, infaunal invertebrates showed little temporal variability but had high spatial heterogeneity related to grain size and depth. Conversely, fish exhibited little spatial variability across the limited depth ranges of the study; however, strong seasonal and interannual trends were detected. Thus, different sampling regimes will be required to adequately assess the range of what is ‘normal’ for each group before potential impacts can be assessed.