HMSC Visitor Center switches to summer hours

HMSC Visitor CenterNEWPORT – Oregon Sea Grant’s popular Visitor Center at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center  switches to its summer schedule this Memorial Day weekend, open from 10 am to 5 pm seven days a week.

With an ever-changing array of high-tech exhibits based on ocean and coastal science, hands-on activities including a tide-pool touch tank, videos and presentations on topics ranging from marine mammals to coastal hazards, and a central tank featuring a lively giant Pacific octopus whose three-times-a-week feedings are a favorite of visitors, the Center is a great place to spend a few hours on the central Oregon coast.

There’s no admission charge, but visitors are encouraged to make a donation (suggested at $5/person, $20/family) to help support our animals, our exhibits and our programming.

On Saturdays, you can sign up for behind-the-scenes tours of the animal health wing to learn how our aquarists and volunteers care for the fish and invertebrates in our living exhibits. Later in the summer, guided outdoor tours introduce visitors to the natural wonders of the Yaquina Bay Estuary. And frequent special events include marine animal dissections, talks by ocean scientists, and more.

Visitors also have the opportunity to contribute to science: The Center is the nation’s leading laboratory on free-choice learning, the study of how people learn in aquariums, museums and other non-classroom activities. We use our exhibits to measure how people interact, what they enjoy and what they learn.

The center is managed by Oregon Sea Grant, which also uses it as home base for a lively k-12 marine education program that includes summer science camps, high school career days, and age-appropriate science programs for children from pre-school up. And our bookstore is a great source for books, posters, apparel and games with an ocean theme.


Free choice learning on tap in Newport

Shawn Rowe NEWPORT –  Dr. Shawn Rowe, Oregon Sea Grant’s marine education learning specialist, is the scientist on tap at Rogue Ales’ Brewer’s on the Bay this Friday evening, talking about how people learn science outside the conventional classroom.

The event, part of the Science on Tap series sponsored by the brewpub and OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, is free and family-friendly. Doors open at 5:30 pm; food and beverages are available for purchase.

Rowe heads the Free-Choice Learning Lab at the HMSC Visitor Center, where he is working under a $2.6 million National Science Foundation grant to create  a state-of-the-art laboratory to study how people learn about science in aquariums, museums and other venues. The grant is the largest single research award to Oregon Sea Grant in its 40-year history and among the largest ever made to a Sea Grant program nationwide.

Dr. Shawn Rowe’s team is exploring the use of networked computers, face-recognition , real-time evaluation tools and other emerging technologies to get a deeper understanding of  what and how visitors learn in places like the HMSC.

Speaking with Rowe will be Nancy Steinberg, a biologist and longtime public outreach specialist who is currently involved in the Yaquina Bay Ocean Observing Initiative, an effort to make Newport a hub for ocean observing science in the Pacific Northwest.



Sea Grant research: learning-based tourism could spur major growth in travel industry

Children learn about octopuses at HMSC Visitor CenterNew research suggests that major growth in the travel, leisure and tourism industry in the coming century may be possible as more people begin to define recreation as a learning and educational opportunity — a way to explore new ideas and cultures, art, science and history.

But in a recent study published in the Annals of Tourism Research, John Falk, Oregon Sea Grant Professor of Free-Choice Learning, says that increasingly affluent and educated people around the world are ready to see travel in less conventional ways, and that lifelong learning and personal enrichment can compete favorably with sandy beaches or thrill rides.

“The idea of travel as a learning experience isn’t new, it’s been around a long time,” said John Falk, an international leader in the free-choice learning movement. Falk is among a group of Sea Grant professionals focusing their research on how people learn in their free time – through travel, in museums and aquariums, and through other experiences outside conventional classrooms.

At OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Dr. Shawn Rowe and colleagues are working under a $2.6 million National Science Foundation grant to create a Free-Choice Learning Laboratory, using high-tech tools to observe and analyze use of the Center’s public aquarium exhibits and what people take away from them.

Falk, meanwhile, holds one of two Free-Choice Learning professorships established by Sea Grant with the OSU Department of Science and Mathematics Education, which has developed a masters’ degree program in the emerging discipline.

Writing in the Annals of Tourism Research, Falk and his partners from the University of Queensland, Australia explore travel as part of a  “life-long and life-wide” learning experience, tracking the history of travel-for-learning back through the centuries, and examining how the experience has grown and changed in recent times.

“You’re already seeing many tour operators and travel agencies offer educational opportunities, things like whale watching, ecotourism,” Falk is quoted as saying in an article about the new research published today in Science Daily. “The National Park Service does a great job with its resources, teaching people about science, geology and history. The push for more international travel experiences as a part of formal education for students is an outgrowth of this concept.

“We’re convinced this is just the beginning of a major shift in how people want to spend their leisure time, and one that could have important implications for intellectual and cultural growth around the world.”

Learn more:

Oregon Coast Quests featured in Oregon Coast Today

Oregon Sea Grant’s popular “Oregon Coast Quests” are the subject of an article in the October 28, 2011, edition of the weekly newspaper Oregon Coast Today.

Free-choice lab launches blog

Welcome Oregon Sea Grant’s Free-Choice Learning Lab to the blogosphere!

The lab, based at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, employs cutting-edge research tools and technologies to study informal science learning. The knowledge will be put in practice in the form of  new and improved exhibits in the HMSC Visitor Center, which is managed by Sea Grant.

The blog,  launched last week, will to record the work of graduate research assistant Harrison Baker and other graduate students as they design, build, test and refine the new exhibits.

Under the direction of Dr. Shawn Rowe, Sea Grant’s Free-Choice Learning program specializes in conducting and applying  research on the  learning that happens when people choose to visit science museums, zoos, and aquariums in their leisure time, making specific and conscious choices about what they learn. The program was recently awarded a $2.6 million, five-year, National Science Foundation (NSF) grant – the largest ever received by Sea Grant –  toward the creation of  the new lab, which will employ the Visitor Center’s exhibits as tools for studying how people learn in a free-choice environment.

Oregon Sea Grant receives $2.6 million NSF grant for learning research

Oregon Sea Grant director Stephen Brandt announced the award of a $2.6 million, five-year, National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to support the creation of a free-choice learning lab at the Hatfield Marine Science Center Visitor Center in Newport. The grant is the largest single research award to Oregon Sea Grant in its 40-year history and among the largest ever awarded to a Sea Grant program nationwide.  Free-choice learning is the study of how people learn across the lifespan and across contexts where they have choice and control over that learning.

“Studying how people learn is critical to Sea Grant because it can help us to understand how best to communicate with the diverse public audiences who rely on us for research and education related to ocean and aquatic issues,” Brandt said.

The research project will be led by Shawn Rowe, a faculty member in both Sea Grant and the OSU College of Education.

Read the entire OSU news release.

Oregon Sea Grant free-choice learning researcher, Shawn Rowe, is leader of the new NSF research grant that will spawn new learning innovations at the Hatfield Marine Science Center (pictured), where 150,000 visit each year.


Hatfield legacy lives in OSU leadership in marine sciences

Hatfield-DedicationNEWPORT, Ore. – The passing Sunday of former U.S. Senator and Oregon Governor Mark Hatfield prompted an outpouring of remembrances of the political legend and his contributions to the state, including Newport, where Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center bears his name.

Hatfield was supportive of the development of the center, which officially opened in June 1965 during his second term as Oregon governor. During his five terms as a U.S. senator, Hatfield steered critical federal funding to Newport for buildings and programs. In 1983, the center was officially named the Mark O. Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC).

Today, more than 300 scientists and staff members work at HMSC’s 49-acre campus. In addition to faculty researchers and students from OSU and visiting researchers from other academic institutions, the campus is home to representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, as well as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. It is also home port for the OSU research vessels Wecoma and Elakha.

In addition to its research labs, the facility is home to the HMSC Visitor Center, managed by Oregon Sea Grant as a public aquarium, marine education center and living laboratory for the study of free-choice learning.

“The Hatfield Marine Science Center is a living legacy, one that will serve Oregon, Oregonians, our nation and our world for generations to come,” OSU President Edward J. Ray. “I can think of no finer tribute to Mark Hatfield’s lifetime of public service.”

(Read more from OSU  News & Research Comunication)

Sea Grant seeks new Education Program leader at HMSC

Oregon Sea Grant is seeking applicants for a full-time position to lead marine education and visitor programming at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science center in Newport, on the central Oregon coast.

The position, an annual appointment with reappointment at the discretion of the Sea Grant director, provides leadership, development and management of Sea Grant’s marine education programs and visitor services. The program leader is responsible for the popular HMSC Visitor Center and its bookstore, K-12 education and teacher services, public programming, exhibitry and aquarium support. He or she reports to the Oregon Sea Grant Director and serves on the Sea Grant leadership team.

The new director will replace Nancee Hunter, who is leaving to pursue a doctoral degree.

A Master’s degree in education or a field closely required to the position duties is required; a PhD is preferred. For more information and application instructions, visit the OSU Jobs site. Application deadline: July 10, 2011.

Sea Grant’s Rowe honored as “emerging scholar”

Sea Grant's Shawn Rowe conducting teacher-scientist workshopShawn Rowe, Oregon Sea Grant professor of Free-Choice Learning, has been honored by his professional peers at Oregon State University with the Phi Kappa Phi “Emerging Scholar” award for 2010-2011.

The award is given annually by the OSU chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, the faculty honorary society, to an assistant professor who “has conducted outstanding research or creative work in the arts, sciences, or professional fields, especially while at OSU.”

Rowe, who is based at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, is an assistant professor and Oregon Sea Grant marine education specialist who has helped shape OSU’s efforts in the field of science and math “free-choice learning” – the learning people do outside formal academic settings. That work has included working with graduate students to design and test the effectiveness of aquarium education exhibits, bringing public school teachers together with scientists to increase their science and math teaching skills, and engaging with ocean scientists and OSU and across the US to help them more effectively communicate with the public.

Much of his research has been conducted at the Sea Grant-managed HMSC Visitor Center, which serves as a living laboratory for developing science-based exhibits and programs, and observing and testing how visitors respond and what they learn.

Most recently, Rowe has served as lead investigator on the Oregon Coast Aquatic and Marine Science Partnership, which gave 32 Lincoln County teachers an opportunity to design new field projects for their students through  workshops with working scientists. One result: 77% of 8th-grade students taught by participating teachers met or exceeded the Oregon standard for science knowledge and skills, compared to 54% in classes taught by teachers who had not participated in the program.

In nominating Rowe for the award, David Hansen, Sea Grant Extension program leader, cited his work on a bilingual family learning project, his participation in a climate change community-engagement project,  and his leadership in the National Science Foundation-funded regional Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence.

“Dr. Rowe is making important contributions to the science of public engagement at local, regional and national scales,” Hansen wrote.

The award was presented earlier this month on the OSU campus in Corvallis.

Read more about Shawn Rowe’s work.

Visit Shawn’s Web pages