Marine Studies Initiative promotes interdisciplinary studies

The Hatfield Marine Science Center, located at 2030 SE Marine Science Drive in Newport, Ore.

Angelina Macca, Practicum Contributor

College of Liberal Arts introduces non-science-focused marine studies degree.

Marine studies is more than science research, it involves work done by people from all disciplines at a university, state and federal level.

“I started going to the Hatfield Marine Science Center when I was five years old and ever since I was that old, I was fascinated with the ocean,” Jack Barth, executive director of the Marine Studies Initiative, said. “What’s great about it is I went through elementary school, middle school, high school education, went to college, went to university and many years later ended up working back where I first got my exposure to the ocean.”

The Marine Studies Initiative promotes interdisciplinary studies for students at Oregon State University through the Oregon Sea Grant, focusing on collaboration and innovative research, Barth said.

“The Marine Studies Initiative is a campus- wide initiative that builds on our strengths at Oregon State University and marine natural sciences,” Barth said. “It’s an opportunity for the whole campus to get involved in marine-related work.”

Barth said the Marine Studies Initiative has a strong connection to the coast by working out of the Hatfield Marine Science Center located in Newport, Ore. The Hatfield Marine Science Center is a leading marine laboratory that stands out with its collaborative research and educational programs for students and coastal communities.

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has their Pacific fleet now based out of Newport because of the quality of science that is going on there and what Newport as a city was able to offer them to call Newportt their home port. Its this big thriving amazing place,” Scott Heppell, associate professor of fisheries, said.

Additional efforts are made by OSU’s Sea Grant to reach out to the community and provide marine science education where people can see, touch, feel and experience what is going on, Heppell said.

“There is no higher education on the coast, so this is a way to reach out to the coastal community to give students a chance to get into higher education,” Barth said. “Students might go into a community college and link up to Oregon State University and we are trying to build that whole pathway of high school to community college to a four year university.”

Cynthia Leonard, a Marine Studies Initiative academic advisor, said the Marine Studies Initiative is a distinct program that blends the natural and social sciences, business, engineering, education, the arts and humanities.

“Whether you’re an engineer, art major, sociologist, whatever you may be, you can have an impact on how we manage or conserve the oceans,” Leonard said.

“It is a tremendous opportunity for students who are going into a wide variety of careers relating to oceans, coasts and people,” Heppell said. “Students will get a very different education in a field station where all of that is going on.”

The College of Liberal Arts will be the home of a Marine Studies major and minor where students of all disciplines can focus on a marine based education, Barth said. The program will be available to students in fall 2019.

“It was an intentional decision by the Marine Studies Initiative to make sure the Marine Studies degree being created is run through the College of Liberal Arts,” Heppell said. “The intention was to make it a studies program that isn’t necessarily science-focused.”

Heppell said no other university he is aware of in the U.S. has an interdisciplinary marine studies program like that proposed here at OSU, which sets it apart from other four-year universities.

The Hatfield Marine Science Center is in the process of constructing a new educational building for the use of students in Newport, Barth said. The building will consist of a 300-person auditorium, an innovation lab for student research and design, graduate student study rooms and a vertical tsunami evacuation space in case of a seismic event.

The new building in Newport is set to be completed in fall 2019 to coincide with the launch of the marine studies major and minor, Leonard said.

“We want to get people out to the coast and get them experiencing it hands on,” Leonard said.

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