SeaFest celebration marks 40 years of OSU's Hatfield Center


NEWPORT - A coastal celebration called SeaFest, growing in popularity every year, will return to Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center this June 24-25, coinciding with the center's 40th anniversary.

This fourth annual SeaFest provides a chance for Oregonians to take an in-depth look at one of the nation's most sophisticated marine science research facilities, visit the university's two research ships (the Wecoma and Elakha), see dozens of exhibits created just for the event, and inspect the popular aquarium displays featuring sea stars, anemones, sea urchins and Roxy, the giant Pacific octopus.

"SeaFest is the one time of year when the public gets to interact with scientists at the center and tour the labs and facilities used for research," said George Boehlert, director of the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

This year, SeaFest will begin on Friday, June 24, with a special kick-off event in the Visitor Center, featuring an evening lecture, alumni reunion, and the unveiling of a new historical exhibit highlighting changes at the OSU center over the past 40 years. A special lecture by deep-ocean explorer and pioneer Don Walsh, followed by a reception and reunion, highlights the Friday activities.

The day-long festival and open house begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 25, and continues until 5 p.m.

"Over the past three years, more and more people from across the region have discovered this event, which is very popular with families," said Ken Hall, program manager at the Hatfield center and coordinator of SeaFest. He predicts this year's attendance will top 5,000 people.

"It is becoming a big community event," Hall added, "and a draw for people to come to the coast, so we have added more activities, exhibitors, food and entertainment to the mix."

Still, says Hall, what people love most about SeaFest are the back wing tours, hands-on displays and activities that make learning about the marine and coastal environment a fun experience.

The Hatfield Marine Science Center is Oregon State University's 49-acre coastal campus in Newport where scientists from OSU and other federal and state agencies conduct research focusing on marine and coastal issues.

Co-sponsoring SeaFest with OSU are the university's partner agencies at the Hatfield Center: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Special topic lectures in the Hennings Auditorium are scheduled throughout the day, including a presentation by one of the world's leading experts on tsunami hazards, OSU's Harry Yeh, who will speak on "Lessons learned from the Indian Ocean Tsunami and its application to the Oregon Coast." His talk begins at 2 p.m.

Other lecturers include Michael Morrissey, director of OSU's Seafood Laboratory in Astoria, who will discuss new tastes and trends in seafood products (11 a.m.); Rick Bartow, a Yurok artist and musician, who will explore "Salmon Spirituality and Water" (noon); and Kelly Benoit-Bird, an OSU oceanographer, who will discuss her research on acoustic and optical techniques in studying marine creatures.

More than 30 community organizations and local artisans are participating with displays and activities ranging from craft-making to crab-shaking, Native American storytelling, games for kids, and beach and boating safety demonstrations.

The exhibits will include information on fish behavior, invasive species, hydrothermal vents, odd deep-sea creatures, ocean health and several other topics.

Always popular, a search-and-rescue exercise with U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and vessels on Yaquina Bay is planned for mid-afternoon, conditions permitting.

Visitors will also be able to walk out to the dock to visit the research vessels Wecoma and Elakha, which are used for near-shore and deep-water oceanographic research in the Pacific. Researchers from OSU's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences will be on hand to demonstrate the use of oceanographic sampling gear, and answer questions about research conducted onboard.

Persons interested in learning more about SeaFest 2005 can find information online at the OSU website: http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/seafest/ or by calling 541-867-0212. Website information will be updated as activities are added to the schedule.