Sea Grant tests low power radio during whale watch week


DEPOE BAY - Spring break visitors to Boiler Bay State Park can park their cars, turn on their radios and learn more about migrating gray whales and how to spot them.

Oregon Sea Grant, a marine education, research and extension program at Oregon State University, has teamed up with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to test low-power, AM radio as a means of getting environmental information to state park visitors.

Using a compact transmitter and antenna, the low-power system broadcasts a series of messages within a very limited range - in this case, about the size of the parking lot at Boiler Bay, just north of Depoe Bay on the Oregon coast.

During Whale Watch Week, March 21-28, the Boiler Bay transmitter will air a series of messages describing the biology, natural history and migration patterns of the gray whale. The messages also include information about how to spot the whales as they swim past on their annual migration northward to their summer feeding grounds off Alaska, and about Whale Watch Week activities up and down the coast.

Radios should be tuned to 1200 AM to pick up the broadcasts.

An OSU graduate research assistant will visit the park periodically to survey visitors about the broadcasts, and Whale Watch Week volunteers - on hand at the park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily - will also gather reactions.

State parks officials are considering using low-power transmitters in other parks to provide information about the environment, park activities and visitor safety.

The Whale Watch Week radio spots were written and produced by Oregon Sea Grant, with cooperation from Bruce Mate, marine mammal expert at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center.

The demonstration is the brainchild of Bruce DeYoung, Sea Grant coastal recreation and tourism specialist and a faculty member with the OSU College of Business. DeYoung, a long-time advocate of low-power radio as a public education tool, has encouraged development of similar broadcast systems to teach motorists about Oregon's forests, and to provide boater-safety information on the Columbia River.

Editors: More information about Whale Watch Week is available from Mike Rivers at the Alsea Bay Bridge Interpretive Center, 541 563-2002, or on the World Wide Web at: Note to Editors: This story originally contained a World Wide Web address. The characters used in Web addresses will not telecommunicate in our system. Please call us at 541-737-0801 for the address.