University of Oregon opened new marine life museum in Coos Bay
When the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, an off-campus branch of the University of Oregon, held the opening ceremony for its new exhibit on May 21, it was no original celebration.
After the opening remarks from a senator, Coos Bay county commissioner, and a University of Oregon professor and director, OIMB Facilities Manager James Johnson cut the kelp instead of a ribbon to the cheering of more than 40 people in attendance, officially bringing the newest addition to the university off-campus exhibition into operation.
The Charleston Marine Life Center is a project nine years in the making, which was funded through grants, donations and leftovers from other projects over the years. It’s located on the university marine lab property overlooking the marina in Charleston, Oregon.
The facility is part museum, part aquarium and part learning lab and gallery, which officials hope will eventually become a destination for visitors of all ages along the southern coast, CMLC Director Trish Mace said.
The new two-story building includes five different exhibits, focusing on coastal ecosystems, deep-water habitats, fisheries, marine mammals, and ongoing marine research. The exhibit ranges from skeletons of large sea mammals such as gray whales and killer whales to a “touch tank,” an aquarium and exhibit with underwater videos from ocean reefs and underwater volcanoes.
“This place has information that’s designed not only for the little kids, but also for adults,” OIMB Director Craig Young said. “We’re not the only ones who are excited about it – the public is tremendously excited about it.”
After the ceremony, the exhibit was open for free and was packed with locals and UO students.
The new museum includes marine specimens collected by university researchers dating back 50 years.
“The center is about the diversity of ocean life,” Mace said in a statement. “We want to introduce people of all ages to the incredible diversity of life in the waters off Oregon, and also to the research being done by faculty and students at the University of Oregon and the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology.”
The building, as an effort to be sustainable, generates all of its power from a wind turbine on the OIMB campus, making it’s the first net-zero building in the area and UO’s first venture into wind power.
Its Facebook page is also active with multiple educational videos taken from the center.
The university marine biology department has been teaching on the Oregon coast since 1924, Young said. He said the Coos Bay area has the most diverse marine life in the whole Pacific Coast, hence the start of the facility.
Young also hopes the center will not only be beneficial to the university and its students, but also helpful to the local community economically and educationally.
The center is open Wednesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The admission fee is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and free for children and students with IDs.
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