Located in Newport, Oregon, the Hatfield Marine Science Center is a marine research facility and museum showcasing an aquarium collection and a variety of exhibits related to aquatic life and marine science. The history of specialized marine research facilities at Oregon State University dates back to 1939, when Roland Dimick opened the Yaquina Bay Fisheries Laboratory within the school’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.
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The facility operated from 1939 to 1965, when increased federal funding was approved for the university to be able to utilize the city’s former Yaquina Bay Ferry docks, abandoned since 1936. In 1965, the new Yaquina Bay Science Center opened to the public, drawing an attendance of more than 50,000 visitors. Public visitor demand soon led to the construction of a dedicated visitor center facility for housing permanent public exhibits. In 1983, the facility was renamed the Hatfield Marine Science Center in honor of Oregon Senator Mark O. Hatfield, a longtime friend and supporter of the university. Additional buildings were added to the facility throughout the later part of the 20th century, and in 1997, the visitor center underwent an extensive renovation and expansion.
Permanent Exhibits and Collections
Today, the Hatfield Marine Science Center is operated as a marine research and educational facility for Oregon State University, known internationally for its research initiatives and marine crisis responses, including its in-depth investigation of a piece of a Japanese dock broken off during a 2011 tsunami that washed ashore in the Newport area the following year. A portion of the dock now stands outside the facility’s visitor center as a memorial to the project and to the power and energy of the Pacific Ocean. The Center is the home of the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station and regularly works with staff from regional and national organizations such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The facility’.Visitor Center serves as its public museum facility, offering a variety of exhibits related to aquatic life and marine science. Live aquatic animals are showcased in several tidepool touch tanks, allowing visitors to have up-close experiences with animals such as abalone, sea stars, sea urchins, and a number of fish species. Center volunteers are on hand at all times at the touch pool to answer questions about the facility’s animals and other questions about marine wildlife. The facility’s mascot octopus greeter is visible from a large tank at the entrance to the exhibit area, with periodic feeding times showcased daily. A.Ornamental Fish Health exhibit also displays three tanks of exotic colorful ornamental fish species, offering information about fish management, health, and environmental sustainability.
A number of exhibits allow visitors to interactive with hands-on activities, including the Tsunami Wave Tank, which encourages participants to create their own miniature tsunami waves using a computerized system and see if LEGO structures will withstand their forces. The Erosion Tank allows visitors to observe beach erosion patterns and think critically about preventive sustainability measures. A video documentary is also showcased within the Science for Sustainable Fisheries exhibit, which details the recent commercial fishing industry efforts to recover lost crabbing gear on the Oregon coast. Details scale models created by local artisan Duke Rider represent boats used within the expedition, and exhibit information details sustainability practices and proposed initiatives.
Ongoing Programs and Education
For visitors wishing to observe the Center’s octopus mascot from home, the Center’s website hosts an OctoNews cam offering live glimpses into the tank’s north and south sides. Cameras are hosted 24/7, though feeds may be darkened during off hours for the Center to allow the octopus to rest. As octopus mascots are rotated regularly due to age and reintegration into ecosystems, the Center continually accepts octopus donations from fishers and crabbers who accidentally catch animals during excursions.
In addition to standard visitor admission, the Hatfield Marine Science Center offers a variety of curriculum-incorporated guided tours and educational programming for elementary and secondary school groups. All educational programming is focused on increasing marine science literacy and developing STEM skills for participants of all ages. A variety of themed lab and field experiences are offered for school field trip groups, with topics focusing on different aspects of marine biology, ecosystems, animal biology, and other science topics. Homeschool day programming is offered periodically, allowing K-12 homeschool students to explore topics related to engineering, physics, and conservation. Sleeping With The Sharks overnight experiences, day and summer camps, and career day events are also offered for families and student groups. Annual public special events include an Oceanus and Shark Day event which allows visitors to explore the museum with pay-what-you-can donation admission.
2030 SE Marine Science Dr, Newport, OR 97365, Phone: 541-867-0100