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Seaside Beach Discovery Program Returns to Get You Really Deep Inside Oregon Coast

Published 7/08/24 at 4:45 a.m.
By Andre' GW Hagestedt, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

(Seaside, Oregon) – Plantkon, amphipods and seaweed, oh my. (Photos Seaside Aquarium)

That's just a preview of what's on tap in front of the Seaside Aquarium most weekends this summer, as the famed Oregon coast attraction brings back its Seaside Beach Discovery Program. Every weekend between now and August 18, you'll find the inner workings of the near-shore environment on display on the actual beach for a few hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

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It's interactive with hands-on activities, and it will literally be an eyeful: sometimes you'll get to use a microscope.

“Seaside Aquarium staff members use several interactive displays, including microscopes, which showcase diverse creatures such as plant and animal plankton, amphipods and seaweed,” said the aquarium's Tiffany Boothe.

Simply look for the big blue tent right in front of the aquarium.

“We have many historical photos to help people compare human and geological changes over time,” Boothe said. “We add shells and other tideline discoveries to reinforce the idea that an ever-changing ocean can lead to important changes for people, plants, and animals.”

One of the longtime favorites at this yearly fun fest is a signpost which points out humans are not the only visitors to these beaches. Countless flying and swimming creatures embark on remarkable round-trip journeys each year, with many utilizing our shoreline as a convenient rest stop for nourishment and respite. The list of them goes on.

Seaside sand under a microscope

Within the aquarium, an array of instruments - including tide tables, wind gauges, thermometers, and a salinity gauge - meticulously track daily (and sometimes hourly) changes in what might appear to be an unchanging beach. These observations create engaging displays on topics such as beach safety, the forces of gravity, lunar influence on tides, sand movement, upwellings, rip currents, and the intricate marine food chain.

Among the really popular features is the tray filled with sand and sea water, which shows you how and why sand levels rise in summer on the Oregon coast and then get sucked away during winter's storms. It's like getting the inside scoop on the inside of the coastline.

Phytoplankton under a microscope

“All of this helps to spark discussions that lead to helping people see the interconnectivity of sand, water, air, plants and animals, the earth, the moon, and humans’ relationships to that process,” Boothe said.

Every morning just before the program begins, staff head out to check and jot down conditions in Seaside. What is the temp of the air and the ocean? Wind speed? They check ocean salinity and tide data. Then comes the real nitty gritty part: they scoop up samples of plankton and the other tiny creatures that inhabit the ocean's edge – and they look for anything unusual.

This is the Oregon coast after all, one of the more dynamic environments in the world. Weird stuff washes up all the time.

“Wide-ranging discussions occur daily with a steady flow of information, questions, and ponderings that keep our displays fresh and evolving,” Boothe said. “Some visitors stop and are gone in under five minutes. Many stay for a half an hour or more.”

The Seaside Beach Discovery Program began all the way back in 1995 – nearly 30 years now. It's always been about getting people to engage with the beach, to really dig into what all this means around them.

“The idea was to try to change people's perspective from being a beach they use to recreate on to a beach as a whole thriving ecosystem,” Boothe said.

2024 Seaside Beach Discovery Program Schedule (The Program is weather depending. If it is too rainy or windy the Program may be canceled or broken down early). Seaside Aquarium

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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