Oregon Coast's Hatfield Celebrates 50 Years of Cutting Edge Research, Cool Octopus
Published 07/30/2015 at 6:04 PM PDT
(Newport, Oregon) – While it's almost always upstaged by its neighboring Oregon Coast Aquarium, the much older Hatfield Marine Science Center is the real powerhouse of oceanic research and landmark discoveries for the region.
It was fifty year ago this summer that Oregon State University opened the Hatfield as an aquarium attraction and a research facility, setting up shop in the downtrodden economy of the central coast and in what was then a bit of a backwater area for Newport – the area known as South Beach.
Now, the Hatfield is on the cutting edge of marine research for the United States, and features a plethora of scientists from diverse fields and agencies that examine the most pressing issues of the world's oceans, as well as educating a new generation and reaching out to inform the public. Major discoveries have been made here regarding whales, undersea volcanoes, the existence of strange life forms near them and of course the geologic and earthquake research that has recently made the news.
Not to mention that awesome octopus that's been known for generations, and the connection the Hatfield may have had in inspiring an episode of "The X-Files."
The Hatfield will celebrate this illustrious half century on August 7 with one big party. It will feature speakers, displays, a historical slide show, and a video featuring faculty, student and community perspectives on the center’s future plans. A reception will follow from 5:30 to 7 p.m.; the events are free and open to the public.
“This is an opportunity to look at the past and honor the people and events that have made the Hatfield Marine Science Center such a special place,” said Bob Cowen, director of the center. “It’s also a time to celebrate the future, as OSU is launching its Marine Studies Initiative and working on plans to expand the center and its capacity.”
Things begin with a special presentation by Rick Spinrad, chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, held in the Visitor Center Auditorium. His talk, “How Oceanography Saved the World,” beginning at 3 p.m., is part of the 50th Anniversary Alumni Speaker Series. He is former vice president for research at OSU – and a former graduate student at the center.
Other speakers include former Oregon State President John Byrne, a former NOAA administrator.
The initial spark of the Hatfield started in the 30's with a fishery research lab on this central Oregon coast bay. That outgrew its space and the new facility (not yet named after senator Mark. O. Hatfield) was dedicated in 1965. Back then, OSU was granted a 99-year lease by the Port of Newport, with part of the agreement that it include a public aquarium to increase tourism.
In 1983, the center was named the Mark O. Hatfield Marine Science Center.
Other interesting moments for the Hatfield:
One of the research ships sometimes docked at the facility helped make among the first discoveries of “extremophiles” in the 80's - organisms that thrived on and lived only in the searing temperatures of undersea volcanic vents. This type of organism was part of the inspiration behind The X-Files' first season episode “Firewalker,” which featured just such a microorganism monster.
Since its opening, generations have always remembered the octopus in the front lobby tank. It has not been the same octopus all these years, however. They only live about two years and the Hatfield replaces as much as once a year.
Event information and links to HMSC archives, historic photos, video and a timeline of landmarks for the Hatfield Marine Science Center can be found at: http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/50th. 541-867-0100.
More on Newport and the Hatfield below and at the Newport, Oregon Virtual Tour.
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