Science at Sea

Oregon Coast Educators and Students Engage in Science at Sea Activities
By Tracy Crews

Toledo High School teacher Ben Ewing holds the SS Dolphin which was built by Coos Bay middle school students and will be launched from the R/V Thompson over Memorial Day weekend.

Toledo High School teacher Ben Ewing holds the SS Dolphin which was built by Coos Bay middle school students and will be launched from the R/V Thompson over Memorial Day weekend.

Educators from Oregon will be taking part in a buoy deployment and research cruise off the Washington Coast to learn about how the changing ocean conditions impact ocean life in the Pacific Northwest. The deployment will occur over the Memorial Day weekend in NOAA’s Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, from the University of Washington research vessel Thomas Thompson.

Ben Ewing of Lincoln County School District and Cindy Bryden from Haystack Rock Awareness Program will join other educators from Washington and use this opportunity to learn more about the oceanographic research that is addressing several critical issues impacting Pacific Northwest coastal and inland waters. Educators will incorporate the research and their own cruise experiences into their classrooms and education programs.

The primary purpose of this cruise is to deploy a moored buoy system with sensors to monitor ocean and weather conditions off the coast. A Seaglider, an autonomous underwater vehicle, is part of the observing array and will be deployed as well. These observing instruments are part of a larger observing system known as NEMO (Northwest Enhanced Moored Observatory). While at sea, the team will conduct water and plankton sampling as part of Washington Ocean Acidification Center monitoring for ocean acidification.

In addition to supporting the research at sea, Toledo High School teacher Ben Ewing will be deploying the SS Dolphin, a five foot unmanned sailboat built by Sunset Middle School students in Coos Bay. This student-built sailboat is equipped with a GPS unit (Global Positioning System) so Oregon students and the public can track its journey across the Pacific. Funded by the Oregon Coast Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Hub, the SS Dolphin is the second student-built boat to be deployed in the Pacific Ocean by research vessels this school year. Plans are currently underway for Hatfield Marine Science Center researchers to deploy a third student-built boat at the Marianas Trench near Guam in June.

Based at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, the Oregon Coast STEM Hub is one of six regional STEM Hubs funded by the Oregon Department of Education. With over 50 active partners, the Oregon Coast STEM Hub serves coastal teachers, students and communities along the Oregon coast, connecting them with regional resources and providing world-class STEM experiences.


Track the boat online here: (Zoom into the Pacific NW)


Tracy Crews is the Project Manager for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.  You can reach her at

Irish Transition Students Visit Hatchery

Guest Contributor: Monika Robinson

Members of the “Irish Transition Program” at Waldport High School have been very busy! The program’s name comes from the school’s mascot (Irish) and its focus on preparing students with developmental disabilities for life after graduation. With the help of their teacher, Learning Specialist Monika Robinson, the students have been working on developing job skills. Last month, the team visited the Oregon Hatchery Research Center (OHRC) in Alsea to learn about the salmon cycle and to practice their job strategies. The Oregon Coast STEM Hub provided funds for the transportation and associated costs for the students’ upstream visit.

Irish Transition students remove invasive species from a dry stream bed

Irish Transition students remove invasive species from a dry stream bed

OHRC is a world-class research facility charged with developing and perfecting programs to improve fish hatchery practices and investigate all things relating to propagating salmon and steelhead.  The motivated students from the Irish Transition Program toured the Center’s grounds and then used hand-operated gardening tools to practice their job strategies.  The class dedicated themselves to clearing invasive species from one of the dry experimental streambeds, which they accomplished despite the persistent rain.

The trip to OHRC provided students with an opportunity to relate some of the activities they have been doing in class to a much larger professional scale operation. Irish Transition students have been raising salmon eggs in their classroom at Waldport High using the ODFW’s Salmon Trout Enhancement Program (STEP) “Egg to Fry” protocol. Two new chillers donated by Alsea Sportsman’s Association (ASA) support classroom aquariums where the students have placed eyed eggs in gravel. The students are keeping daily records of fish development, taking pictures with school iPads, and examining specimens under microscopes. When the hatched fry grow to be a little over an inch long, the students will release them into the Alsea River.

JPEG[4]The Egg to Fry program and the trip to the hatchery not only provide Irish Transition Special Education students with hands-on STEM learning experiences, but these activities also connect them with STEM professionals in the local community.

“Community connections for these students are very important, to both socialize them with the world at large and to let them experience one of the many real work activities available to them following graduation,” Robinson said.

She thanks several community members for helping to make the field trip such a successful learning adventure for her students, including Ryan Couture and Alex Powell, from OHRC; Christine Clapp from ODFW; and Chuck Pavlik from ASA.


Monika Robinson is a Learning Specialist at Waldport High School in Waldport, OR.